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There's nothing wrong with being a singles act, but that doesn't stop performers like Fabolous from trying to show they can do more than make radio fodder. For proof, check out Real Talk, which places a couple of first-rate hits alongside some ill-conceived misses. Although the opening track, a spoken-word effort titled "Exodus," has the feel of a major statement, it's basically a canard, because Fabolous doesn't even deliver the material himself; a performer called Black Ice does the deed. Granted, the main man dominates the subsequent action, but his familiar flow can't enliven imagination-challenged material like "Gangsta" and "Ghetto." As for "In My Hood," Fabolous tries to up the drama quotient by importing a children's choir -- a ploy about as fresh as century-old donuts.

On the plus side, "Breath," currently on an airwave near you, uses a piano figure nicked from Supertramp's "Crime of the Century" to ultracatchy effect, while "Tit 4 Tat" is a surefire follow-up thanks to infectious production by the Neptunes. Unlike much of Real Talk, these cuts really are Fabolous. -- Michael Roberts

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