Slick With It

Sean Combs and Mary J. Blige may have created the musical sub-genre known as hip-hop-soul. But these days everyone from Ashanti to Britney Spears exploits the sound, usually with disastrous results. Though wildly popular on radio dials and TV screens, the combination of hardcore break beats and smooth vocals has become the stuff of sterile pop. But, with Slick & Rose's debut CD, Objects in the Mirror, the Atlanta-based vocal duo prove that hip-hop-soul can still be true to the game.

Ditching the tired, Diddy-esque samples and cliched vocal arrangements, Sabrina "Rose" Harvey and Nikki "Slick" Ervin opt instead to place jazz-tinged stylings over Pete Rock-flavored beats. This winning formula is in display on tracks like "Space," "Hey You" and "Objects." The pair also forgoes the usual tales of getting crunk in da club in favor of songs about spirituality ("Gods") and a mother's struggle to make ends meet ("Watch U Weary").

And, when it comes to collaborators, Slick & Rose substitutes the usual cast of jiggy MCs with underground dons like Dres tha Beatnik — who provides beatboxed rhythms on "Milk & Honey" and the near-legendary Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest for "U Know U Want It." Pound for pound, Objects is proof positive that hip-hop-soul can be hip without losing its soul.