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Sunday, June 27, 2004




So which hip-hop couple do you like? Beyonce & Jay-Z, or Kelis & Nas? Given the brittleness of celebrity engagements, either pair might have split as of this morning, but the choice is pretty distinct: penthouse-paid-for vs. prove-it-all-night.

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I'm not sure if Nas has it over Jay-Z, but Kelis tops Beyonce in terms of stylistic breadth and pure booty-busting pleasure. In terms of exposure, however, the Philadelphia native fell way behind. In the three years-plus that followed her debut her producers, The Neptunes, conquered the world and decided to promote themselves rather than their best singer. That may be why her second album, "Wanderland," didn't get released in the States (though it was made available to us in Japan). Her third album, "Tasty," has made her a star in her own right thanks to the hit single "Milkshake." Moreover, she avails herself of the talents of several other high-profile producers, such as Dallas Austin and Raphael Saadiq, and makes them work for her rather than the other way around.

"Tasty" generates heat, especially on the no-nonsense sex songs like "Stick Up" and "In Public," where Nas provides the counterpoint. The space-funk and science-fiction references that characterized her first two records aren't so obvious, but I think those were The Neptunes' ideas. I prefer this new rockier sound and I think she does, too. If you go, yell out a request for "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Her version is a trip.

July 1, 7:30 p.m., Bayside Jenny, Osaka, 6,500 yen (call Box office, [06] 6576-5640); July 2, 9 p.m., Zepp Fukuoka, 7,000 yen (Fame, [092] 534-7341); July 4-6, 8 p.m., Duo Music Exchange Shibuya, Tokyo, 7,800 yen (Three Vase, [03] 5464-9099).

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