Fly or Die (Virgin)

N*E*R*D 

Fly or Die (Virgin)

It takes N*E*R*D three seconds to prove itself capable of creating a groove out of thin air. That's all the time Chad Hugo and Pharell Williams (aka the Neptunes, who, with rapper Shay, make up N*E*R*D) need to kick off Fly or Die with an unbelievably simple yet irresistible guitar lick on "Don't Worry About It." It may be only one chord, but that guitar packs a punch when the drums kick in and the group cries, She's bad-bad-badass. By the time Williams starts his falsetto squealing, Fly or Die has become Led Zeppelin II with a nasty funk twist. From there, N*E*R*D embarks on a glorious journey into old-school rock and soul. But unlike self-conscious refabricators such as Lenny Kravitz (who guests on one tune), retro N*E*R*D sounds completely natural. The group's debut, In Search Of, sparkled with innovation, quirky production and cheeky wit, but Fly or Die is heavier on several levels. And this time around, Hugo and Williams play all the instruments themselves, giving Fly or Die excellent craftsmanship from top to bottom. Tune in, turn on, rock out.

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