Loading the front end of a major motion picture soundtrack is
nothing new for record companies desperate to package cheap,
semi-listenable songs around the lead single. The soundtrack for
Barbershop 2: Back In Business is a prime example in which
not even a buoyant, marketable single can redeem a disc otherwise
filled with absolute slush.

That radio-ready anchor, Mary J. Blige and Eve’s
“Not Today,” is a big-budget, Dr. Dre-produced single.
Fittingly, Dre’s plinking beats mold well with Mary J.
Blige’s robust voice. It’s Eve, however, who steals the
track. Instead of the subdued Eve we’ve seen in UPN sitcoms
and Vin Diesel movies, we get a riled-up version who hurls fiery
indictments to a former lover. It’s a shockingly welcome
return to form.

Clustered around “Not Today” near the top of the
track list are Mya featuring Chingy and an honest-to-god OutKast
song. Not Big Boi. Not Andre 3000. Both of them. After the
mind-blowing separateness of Speakerboxxx / The Love Below,
it’s comforting to hear Andre 3000 and Big Boi together on
“I Can’t Wait”. It’s a bummer the song is
monotonous and lacks the tag-team style of past OutKast hits. Mya
and Chingy do a competent remix of “Fallen,” a song
originally from Mya’s Moodring. The quicksilver shifts
in the melody and arrangement keep the song moving and a little
horn section and a little Spanish guitar prevent the song from
being totally lackluster.

Both the Mya and OutKast tracks seem like their sole purpose is
not to create a total drop-off in quality from “Not
Today.” The rest of album manages that job quite nicely.
Clipse and Mobb Deep both sound horrendously out of place. Like the
Goth kids at cheerleading practice, their songs sound weighted down
and far too dark for this light selection. You know you stick out
like a sore thumb when your stabs at sinister thug-life are
sandwiched between Mya and Floetry. D-12 sticks to their standard
drunken-peon antics.

Weak old-school samples doom the more pleasant cuts on this
soggy, forgettable collection. In the year following the release of
the Bad Boys II Soundtrack, the bar for hip-hop soundtracks
is just too high. Thankfully, the aging star of the Barbershop
movie (and formerly talented MC), Ice Cube, stays away from this
hastily thrown together piece.

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

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