Usually I keep well away from hip-hop and rap, especially the more commercial side. Most of the best of the genre have either faded (Public Enemy), or tried to cling to former glories (Cypress Hill). Recently, though, groups like The Roots have been going back to the live instrumentation of 70's soul. NERD seem to have caught onto this, and re-recorded their debut album with the help of a live band, giving it a more human feel. Gone are the beats that Neptunes fans are so familiar with, and in is an electric, soulful sound that the original was missing. Opening with the sleazy funk of 'Lapdance', you'd think NERD were yet another commercial "guns-and-hoes" rap group. Not so, look carefully and it's actually a cleverly made statement on politicians who'd do anything for money. The album is confined to one tune either, although for some reason they do revisit 'Lapdance''s riff on 'Brain', a love song to a partner's mind. There's the mellow soul storytelling of former single 'Provider', which is one of a few songs which benefits most from the live instrumentation. Then the poppy-love-funk of 'Run To The Sun', another moment which wouldn't seem out of place if it had been released back in the 70s, the backing vocalists complementing Pharrell William's croon. 'Baby Doll' (which was once sublimely covered by political-garage-funk-punk masters The International Noise Conspiracy on their 'Bigger Cages, Longer Chains' EP) sports one of the best basslines on the albums. Oddly enough for someone as hip-hop-orientated as The Neptunes, the best moments on this albums are when they aren't rapping, Pharrell far better at singing than rapping, as he oozes the soul of the golden days of Motown. Further proof is the saddening 6-minute psychedelia of 'Bobby James' or closer 'Stay Together' which sounds like bouncy 70's soul backed by The Beatles' 'Strawberry Fields Forever'. On paper it sounds insane, on record, it's brilliant. Really, this album is one for fans of The Neptunes (even though as the Amazon reviewer noted they'd probably prefer the original), and people who like the sound of a brilliant modern soul album.