To Tha X-Treme

Artist: Devin The DudeTitle: To Tha X-TremeRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Jozen Cummings

If Scarface is the king of Houston rap, then Devin the Dude is H-town’s court jester. Both funny and tragic, Devin’s albums about weed, women, and hard luck always make for a laugh-out-loud listen, and on his latest effort, To Tha X-Treme (Rap-A-Lot), the same shtick applies, which is a relief in these times of studio thugs and out-of-touch hip-Pop stars.

While the title suggests a more outrageous Devin, the title track is the antithesis. Here we have Devin rapping about his love for weed over instrumentation fit for a smoking session in a Coup de Ville. The chorus, which is sung in a fittingly Roger Troutman-like twang, sings out, “smoking weed/feeling fine/steady getting blowed/making niggas understand that I’m here to get ‘dro.” When he’s not busy rhyming about his love for Mary Jane, Devin can be heard talking about Jane Doe – one of his many women who either play him (“What?”) or play with him (“Too Cute”).

For all of its redundancy about these two great American pastimes, Devin’s true brilliance is in his ability to never get caught up in the glamour and glitz of the rap game. No lyrics boasting about yachts and parties on an exotic island. Instead, the Dude is a rapper for the people – even if he has gained a number of fans since performing with the likes of The Roots and Dr. Dre.

Ghetto war stories and tales of gunplay are also absent on this disc. Devin would rather talk his way out of a situation with the cops on the hilarious “Go Fight Some Other Crime” where he rhymes as both the suspect and one of Houston’s finest. On past albums production has always been the co-star of Devin’s show. Funky brass bands, and bluesy electric guitars reveal Devin’s southern roots on songs like “Tha Funk,” featuring 8 Ball. But for all of the funky stuff, this opus has more than it’s fair share of chilled out grooves, too many as a matter of fact. Songs like “Don’t Go” and “Anythang” drag so slowly they can cure a mild case of insomnia. Of course part of Devin’s appeal has always been his laid back attitude, but there are moments when it falters on the line of straight up laziness.

Despite a few minor setbacks, To Tha X-Treme has too many shining moments to ignore. While it’s not as good as 2002’s Just Tryin’ ta Live, To Tha X-Treme is one of this year’s better albums. And that’s no joke.