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Album review: Flo Rida's 'R.O.O.T.S.'

March 30, 2009 |  5:03 pm

Flo_rida_roots240 From LL Cool J to Jay-Z and Lil Wayne, hip-hop always has prized larger-than-life icons whose alchemy of skills, style and swagger enabled them to scale the Billboard charts. But with rap finally submerged in the waters of the mainstream, it's only inevitable that it would emulate the superstar-as- cipher model pioneered by its pop kin.

"Right Round," Flo Rida's record-shattering, double-platinum first single from "R.O.O.T.S.," boasts production credits from Dr. Luke, the mastermind behind such smashes as Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone" and Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl." Interpolating Dead or Alive's "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)," the song recasts rap as Hot Topic teen pop. It's a smart move. Gone are the illusions of hip-hop credibility that dogged "Mail on Sunday." In its stead, Flo Rida's Atlantic patrons have supplied him with billion-dollar beats, gluttonous hooks and a blinding chrome tint.

With an almost eerie facelessness, the Miami rapper inhabits the songs like Armani suits bought off the rack. He's enlisting a who's who of contemporary hit makers: will.i.am. and Akon ("Available,") Timbaland ("Touch Me,") Wyclef Jean ("Rewind,") Ne-Yo ("Be on You,") and Nelly Furtado ("Jump"). Flo Rida boasts an adroit double-timed flow, but his greatest achievement is his understanding of how to stay in the background, never overwhelming the electro-laced tracks.

Even the title song, a narrative of Flo Rida's gritty rise, is swathed in mammoth R&B hooks, baying ad-libs, dollar-sign synthesizers. There's an almost geometric symmetry to "R.O.O.T.S.' " pop precision, one that lends it a ruthless efficacy and anoints Flo Rida the first anonymous rap superstar.

-- Jeff Weiss

Flo Rida
Atlantic/Poe Boy
Three stars

Albums are rated on a scale of one to four stars.