Tha Liks

X.O. Experience (Loud/Columbia)

Although its members insist otherwise, my guess is that Tha Alkaholiks changed their name to Tha Liks mainly to ensure that their new disc, X.O. Experience, wouldn't be rejected out of hand by rack jobbers at Targets and Wal-Marts from sea to shining sea. After all, E-Swift, Tash and J-Ro haven't exactly sworn off demon rum or any related libations. The act's logo consists of a guy squatting in front of a toilet, presumably in order to do the Technicolor yawn; the CD's intro begins with an anti-drinking message that's read by a Teddy Kennedy sound-alike (get the gag?); and the selections include "40 OZ Quartet Part II," with music provided largely by someone huffing on the mouth of an empty bottle. Given that the tune also features assorted belches and the sound of vomiting, you can guess how the container got that way.

Still, even teetotalers will likely get a buzz off Tha Liks, whose eight years in rap's public eye haven't dulled their sense of humor. These guys are happy drunks, not the mean and nasty kind, and they provide a party on plastic that's positively contagious. Alkaholiks graduate Xzibit helps brighten "Bar Code," which is built around the all-purpose chant "Put your bottle to your lips/When I sip, you sip, we sip!"; Busta Rhymes makes up for his spotty recent recordings with a cameo on the bouncy "Bully Foot"; and Defari, King T and Kurupt get with the program as well. The Neptunes, for their part, lend production acumen to "Best U Can," the album's lead single, and while the results are a bit slick by Alkaholiks standards, the tune's so insanely catchy that it hardly matters.

At first glance, X.O. Experience seems like a goof, and considering that its cover and liner send up the look of Jimi Hendrix's Are You Experienced?, that makes perfect sense. But the pleasures it offers shouldn't be shrugged off. At a time when lotsa hip-hop platters are pure attitude, the Liks' latest is completely lacking in pretense. Anyone thirsty for a good time should belly up to the bar.

 
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