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Nice & Smooth returned for a second album that injected a much-needed and entirely welcome sense of the absurd into the generally far too austere and sincere New York City underground hip-hop community, which has traditionally sacrificed humor for hardcore technique when it comes to rhyming. Greg Nice and Smooth B., however, are often downright silly and goofball on Ain't a Damn Thing Changed. Despite the conscientious-sounding title, there is very little on the album that is concerned with anything other than, first, rocking the microphone, and second, timing the punch line perfectly. There are certainly serious themes tossed out from time to time. The major hit "Sometimes I Rhyme Slow" -- which is simply the track of Tracy Chapman's sober, solemn "Fast Car" matched with the duo's superimposed rhyming -- makes references to guns, violence, and drug abuse, and several of the other songs contain similar allusions. But far more frequently, the album is characterized by a reckless old-school (think Audio Two) sense of fun, with loony, stream-of-consciousness lyrics that are most interested in dropping the other shoe, shouted sing-along choruses ("Sex, Sex, Sex," "Paranoia"), insanely catchy vocal hooks ("Sometimes," "One, Two and One More Makes Three"), and production filled with bouncy beats and cartoonish, electronic keyboards. The ubiquitous presence of fully harmonized (and occasionally out-of-tune) background vocals is another characteristic that gives the album a jarringly whimsical quality that most rap crews at the time would never have come within earshot of. A Partridge Family sample even plays a substantial role in "Hip Hop Junkies," and the theme song to Sanford & Son is the basic track of "Step by Step." Perhaps their sense of humor, to a certain extent, obscures the straight-up rhyming skills that the duo possesses. Greg Nice's abrupt, roughneck dramatics juxtaposed against Smooth B.'s serene, butter-slick delivery strikes the perfect vocal balance, and the posse cut, "Down the Line," which includes Gang Starr's Guru (perhaps the preeminent underground rapper), proves that they can bring it rugged and raw when they so decide. But because the duo is willing to poke fun at themselves and their craft so unsparingly, the album is completely addictive, in the same way that sugar is, because it is an energy boost and instantly brings into relief an entirely different side of rap: one that doesn't take itself so seriously.
Performance CreditsNice & Smooth Primary Artist
Black Flames Background Vocals
Horace Hampton Keyboards
Pure Blend Background Vocals
Technical CreditsGang Starr Contributor
Tracy Chapman Composer
Dwayne Sumal Engineer
"Little" Louie Vega Producer
Greg Nice Producer
Smooth B. Producer
D'Anthony Johnson Engineer
Bass Blaster Contributor