Juelz Santana, Jaheim | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Juelz Santana, Jaheim 

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With his tattoos, cornrows, and thug entourage, Jaheim looks tough, but musically he's all about vulnerability, conjuring the spirit of Teddy Pendergrass and Luther Vandross without shying away from his abiding love of hip-hop. On the hit "Put That Woman First," an adaptation of the classic William Bell slow jam "I Forgot to Be Your Lover," he uses the same kind of absurdly prosaic style R. Kelly has turned into an art form to lament all the distractions that have kept him from showing his lover the proper respect. "If it wasn't for the Sunday all-star weekend game, girl," he croons, "I could remember." Jaheim doesn't alter the formula on his latest, Ghetto Classics (Warner Brothers), but he's not always the repentant one either. On the amazing "Daddy Thing" he uses his lover's child to express his romantic devotion, then elucidates the humiliation he feels when the father, freed "from a bid upstate," threatens to reclaim his role.

There's nothing remotely vulnerable about rapper Juelz Santana, the breakout member of Cam'ron's Diplomats crew. On his recent album, What the Game's Been Missing (Def Jam), he sticks to casual tales of drug dealing and getting wrecked, even comparing himself to crack. But Juelz is in love with flow, so much so that he routinely doesn't bother to change the word he rhymes from one line to the next. Sometimes the repetition works brilliantly, as on the recent single "Oh Yes," ingeniously built on a looped sample from the Marvelettes' classic "Please Mr. Postman": "Like, cowabunga, dude / This forty cali-caliber cowabunga you / Bump you like how a bumper do (do) / I'm on the corner, pumping just like a pumper do." Like many hip-hop albums Missing is stuffed with underdeveloped jams that make the record too long, but when Juelz is on, this is as pleasurable as hip-hop gets. T.I. headlines, and Paul Wall, Juelz, and Jaheim open. Fri 4/28, 7 PM, Jo River Center, 300 W. Sibley, Dolton, 708-201-1440 or 312-559-1212, $40.50. All ages.

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