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Nikki Sixx has lived the life of excess throughout the years, but now his take on sobriety has yielded a highly anticipated book and a soundtrack to accompany it, and wouldn’t you know it, The Heroin Diaries actually turns out to be one of the biggest surprises of the year.

As one of the founding members of Mötley Crüe, Sixx knows how to rock, and his evolution and talent as a songwriter are more evident than ever with his new band Sixx: A.M. It may be the source material that Sixx is pulling from, but the way the album is structured and its searing tinge of regret and hindsight really pull the listener into the depraved world of drug addiction and its self loathing inhabitants.

The album is a mix of rock styles ranging from slow, brooding retrospective to the fast-paced, almost pop. The album’s first single “Life is Beautiful“; actually sounds more akin to 30 Seconds to Mars while Sixx is never able to reach the same screaming pitch as Mars’ front man Jared Leto, the sound alike quality is definitely there. The mix of genres throughout the album all exhibit the transgression of Sixx into the hole of addiction focusing on the neglect of God to save him, the abandonment of those he cared about, and the questioning of why he got high in the first place.

The one thing that distracts is the spoken word tracks leading off, finishing, and transitioning in the middle of the disc. Sixx’s voice over a soft melody in the background seems to be reading directly from the diaries mentioned in the album’s title, but it really breaks up the flow of the album (especially the intermission) and doesn’t really seem to add anything.

It’s hard to call Sixx: A.M. a debut when the members of the band have been around for a long time, but their collaborative effort coupled with the material from Sixx’s Heroin Diaries proves to be an interesting and intriguing combination. The song writing is a long ways away from Crüe’s “Girls, Girls, Girls“; but the tracks here hit a much deeper cord and still manage to be marketable and relevant for anyone recovering from such an addiction. Reading the diaries while listening to the albums should prove to be a horrifying, yet enlightening experience. 

There’s no doubt that underground hip-hop artist Talib Kweli’s debut on a major label is a step in the right direction for the rapper who holds his roots as important as his tenuous relationship with religion, but his latest release, Ear Drum, works against him in many ways and the strive for commercial success while being true to his origins.

Kweli’s ability to hold a steady flow, and his lyrical pairings and masterful rhyming aren’t the biggest problems with this disc, those are the somewhat generic and cliché pitfalls that only seem to hinder the everlasting stagnation of the genre. From name dropping himself and his record label, to general verses about big breasted women and how much God has provided for him. Kweli’s strengths are overshadowed by his inability to bring anything dramatically new to the table.

Never mind some truly bizarre lyrics ranging from silicon posteriors on women to the nutrition quotient of the words he’s spitting at you in a blinding pace, the album presents his best work in the first half dozen tracks and doesn’t pick up anything interesting deep into the disc at track 13 with “Hot Thing”; featuring Black Eyed Peas which is also the most single ready thing on the disc.

The collaborations are inspired and range from the aforementioned to Justin Timberlake, Norah Jones, and Kanye West which brings that bit of marketability and consumer attention to the album only needed that hit single with a well known mainstream artist to propel the album up the charts.

Underground fans of Kweli will no doubt find what they are looking for in Ear Drum, but for casual and indifferent fans weaned into the genre on a steady supply of 50 Cent and Ludicrous, they wont’ be able to find much here that hasn’t already been done. Those hoping Kweli’s label debut would yield a rap revolution receive nothing more than a minor uprising out of the watchful gaze of the public.