Phife Dawg Ventilation

True to their former name, ex-A Tribe Called Quest members have taken rather different paths in the wake of the group's dissolution. With sound provider Ali plying slick soul with Lucy Pearl, and Q-Tip cashing in his playboy chips, the self-described "world's greatest five-footer" has opted not to deviate from serving up straight-ahead beats and rhymes. The rougher beats, provided by the likes of Hi-Tek, Jay Dee and Pete Rock, spur Phife on to fully explore his Muddy Ranks alter ego, hinting at how he may have been confined within the trio. "D.R.U.G.S.," "Alphabet Soup" and "Melody Adonis" prove how nice he can be when sticking to his strengths and teamed with excellent beats, while a few posse cuts and conceptually oriented tracks come off as mediocre filler. Phife gains points for sticking to his roots and for the passionate viewpoints he dispenses, yet a tighter focus would have elevated Ventilation from its solid but not groundbreaking territory. (Groove Attack)