Ya Tu Sabe

Artist: N.O.R.E. Y La FamiliaTitle: Ya Tu SabeRating: 2 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Alex Thornton

Part tribute to his heritage and part attempt to capitalize on recent trends, N.O.R.E. has finally released his long discussed Reggaeton side-project Ya Tu Sabe (Roc La Familia/Def Jam). Fitting the party vibe of the genre, N.O.R.E. invites a long list of guests, but despite the high energy, the album fails to excite past the premise, and barely at that.

While the first track, "Soy Un Gangsta," hints that there will be a some traditional American Hip-Hop mixed in, but its placement is deceiving. The next dozen songs are a sequence of vague reinterpretations of the same Reggaeton cadence that, for better or for worse, has popped up in virtually every form of popular music for the last two years. Disappointingly, Ya Tu Sabe does nothing to counteract common criticisms of Reggaeton's uniform sound. With the large group of artists involved in the project, one would expect that someone would have found a way to evolve the genre, but it doesn't seem as if anyone even tried.

"La Familia" has quite a few members, but no strength in numbers. Bigger names like Fat Joe, Daddy Yankee and N.O.R.E. himself drown in a sea of guests, with only the distinct voices of Nina Sky really managing to stand out. Even Diddy and "Pharrellito" end up lost in the shuffle. On "Bailar Conmigo" and "Vente Mami," respectively, the moguls are present just enough to warrant putting their names on the tracklist with adlib-only performances that sound literally phoned-in. Ja Rule has a full verse on "Cuchi," but his appearance is questionable for everyone involved.

While pieces of Ya Tu Sabe would work mixed in to a larger playlist, the package is a scrambled mess that may have come off better had it been released when it was first conceived two years ago. Much of the problem may be Reggaeton's larger saturation in the market than when the idea was conceived, but the project had everything else working in its favor. There probably is still room for a compilation of this sort, but judging by this release, N.O.R.E.'s time will be better spent focusing on his upcoming solo album instead.