MIMS 

Music Is My Savior (Capitol/EMI)

It sounds utterly conventional, but Shawn Mims' debut is courting plenty of controversy. That's because it teeters fascinatingly on the precipice of several hip-hop fault lines. MIMS demands that New York City regain its rap throne, yet hits a Big Apple sore spot by using Southern-style beats and guest emcees. He speaks movingly to the backpack crowd about how music has changed his life, then angers them by boasting he could "sell a mill saying nothin' on the track." Making a naked appeal to all of hip-hop's geographic constituencies is hardly a new idea (Cleveland's Ray Cash did it last year on "Bumpin' My Music"), but MIMS' No. 1 single, "This Is Why I'm Hot," embodies all his intriguing contradictions. It embodies them so well, in fact, that the rest of the album — which sports the catchy hooks and lackadaisical verses common to latter-day NYC rap — suffers by comparison. But don't overlook "Doctor, Doctor," which suggest a better future for MIMS — and for hip-hop. "Doc hold up/I'm just scratching the surface," he implores. Perhaps, but next time he's gotta scratch a little harder.

More by Dan LeRoy

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