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Chops Virtuosity

With a title this ballsy, sample-shunning Chops's new album better be good-and it is. Bred on a strict diet of Philly soul, the Mountain Brothers' boardsman reaches out to some big names, coaxing energetic verses from Planet Asia on the cartoonish "Niggarachi" and Kanye West on the dainty, piano-dappled "Changing Lines." Indeed, Chops loves his keys, whether employing them as melodic engine or atmospheric accentuation. But when he grips the mic on "U Know Who It Is," the Magnificent Butcher flexes a vocal style far less impressive than his beatmaking skills. Earth to all MCs: enough with the similes!

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