David Banner

Also: Goat Horn and Sean Paul.

DAVID BANNER

Certified

(Universal)

David Banner claims to sell crack on track one of Certified and says he doesn't on track 16. Bitching about the paradox misses the point: Everything Banner does on record is a one-man good-vs.-evil throwdown, thriving on conflicts that provide fuel for the V-12 deep beneath his rib cage. After all, the man named himself after the civilian identity of comics' most famous split personality. While 2003's Mississippi bruised your kidneys with the best macro-crunk beats ever, most of Certified—the marching-band apocalypse "On Everything," featuring Twista, excepted—seems dialed down just enough to give Banner's voice a better-lit center stage. And with that spotlight blazing, he throws everyone's expectations off. His M-I-S-S-repping drawl gets called into service for Cali love-fest "Westside," which gives love to N.W.A, expectedly—and to J.J. Fad and Heiroglyphics, less so. He pulls gun-clap/backpack double duty, declaring war on Bush in "Ridin'" (featuring dead prez, an awkward Talib Kweli, and Banner rhyming about being "The new Nat Turner/Spreadin' somethin' to the kids like Sojourner"), and threatens the competition on "Bloody War" ("Strap on my arm/The streets is feeling like Vietnam/Murdering Uncle Toms of crunk like I'm Lil' Jon"). His sex jams range from guilty-conscience wistful ("Thinking of You") to uncompromisingly filthy ("Take Your," which features a blunt and explicit fellatio tangent, plus the always family-friendly Too $hort) to uncompromisingly filthy but really, really funny ("Fucking"). The man who constantly contradicts himself is at least honest half the time. NATE PATRIN

GOAT HORN

Threatening Force

(Basement Metal)

Hearing the music that will ultimately shape your being is a defining moment in life, a rebirth of sorts. The Canadian trio Goat Horn know all about this spiritual awakening, and they want to share it with you. Appropriately enough, with all its sincerity and confidence, Threatening Force sounds like American Idol for unemployed power-metal enthusiasts. "Right Heavy Metal" conveys the exhilaration that comes with the discovery that "harder than rock there is a sound you can't put down." Swept up in the danger and delirium that rode in on the tails of Rob Halford's leather trench coat, singer/bassist Jason Decay pledges his allegiance to operatic darkness when he wails, "I live for heavy metal, and that's just what I do." Indeed. Though listening to Decay's wince-worthy vocals is akin to catching your scrawny older brother in front of the bathroom mirror bleating Iron Maiden's "Number of the Beast" into a hairbrush, there's beauty to behold here nevertheless. At that very moment, in his world, he's on top. Yes, this EP is wrapped in nut-hugging acid-washed jeans and denim jacket (the suburban burnout's tuxedo) and reeks of Spinal Tap, but don't be fooled: Goat Horn know how to shred and incite shameless head-banging. Gawk if you must, but there's some estimable skill on the title track, "Fate Strikes," and "The Last Force"—they dance and demolish with a rhino-stampede rhythm section and inspirational guitars that sing out like choirboys. Somewhere, David St. Hubbins is all choked up. JEANNE FURY

SEAN PAUL

The Trinity

(VP/Atlantic)

By now, we've peeped Sean Paul's party and giddy-up game, but rhymes on his third album are still pretty-boy enticements. The chorus of "Yardie Bone" (featuring singer Wayne Marshall) does indeed make a girl think about Jamaican guys' reputation in bed, promising: "It's a well-known fact/From them get the yardie bone then them must come back." The song's throwback riddim, referencing the late-'80s dancehall of Shabba Ranks and J.C. Lodge's "Telephone Love," softens you and piques your curiosity. "Never Gonna Be the Same," a one-drop dedication with a Mystic Revealers feel, is a sentimental surprise that shows Paul could, indeed, have a sensitive side. And this dancehall don dada they call "Dutty" sounds most sincere in the pot-smoker's ride-out "We Be Burnin (Legalize It Version)," calling for marijuana legalization if for no other reason than, as he puts it on the "Memorize It Version," "The girls that [he's] poking got to [be] smoking." The pimp juice in other tracks runs a bit low, though—most of the disc sounds like it was produced on a tight budget during a hurried afternoon session. The Trinity's skeletal sound crimps Paul's style—his lyrical delivery relies on his superb intonation and timing, not his word choices. The album's cryptic title? "It's been 3 years since this 3rd LP recorded completely in the 3rd world," he riddles in his press release, though the title track's main argument harps on the units he's moved—32 bars of laurel-resting, the come-on call on "God" at the song's start just another one of his empty words, a head-trip to keep you holding on. MAKKADA B. SELAH

 
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