So yeah, we kind of like these lads…
Tom Ewing: Back in 2000, the nascent blogosphere spent a lot of time fretting at some length about whether tracks might appear which married the clean-lined intelligence of “undie” rap with the hooks and thirst for novelty of “mainstream” hip-hop. With its big chorus, Middle Eastern sample and finger-wagging rhymes, this (glorious) song makes me fondly remember those days. Wherever you are, o my partners in awkward earnest discussion, I hope you’re listening now.
Ian Mathers: I freely admit to underrating the astonishing “9Xs Outta 10” here; I was so shaken by its abrupt, gnashing sound that when it came up on the Jukebox I was still getting used to it. It’s more of a 9 than a 7, and if “Hey Playa” isn’t quite as compelling, its cleverness and euphoria are just as strikingly accomplished as its predecessor’s stark menace was. These guys are pretty unstoppable together, huh?
Alex Macpherson: Who knew that alchemising a keening Arabic chant, woozy festival horns, a booming, echoing drumbeat of ridiculous largeness and a sweet, sweet R&B chorus would make for a summer jam this glorious?
Anthony Miccio: I can’t remember a Dogg Pound track or even a Kurupt guest verse for the life of me, which may explain why everything from his collaboration with DJ Quik has left me unmoved, despite appreciating the 2002 foreign vocal loop and bleacher stomp revival.
Rodney J. Greene: Kurupt is all pooped from rearranging time-space and just wants to chill with some broads somewhere sandy. Quik misses the memo and picks up where his compadre left off, giving a brief tour of Hades on the house. He also has the good sense to recognize that hip-hop world-beat filching has spent just enough time in the attic that it can be safely taken out of its box. He serves up a crisp, heavy club stomp topped with a decending Middle Eastern vocal loop, which, in its ambiguity between sun-kissed and sun-bleached, serves both rappers well despite their disparate subject matter. Also noteworthy: the world’s greatest Twitpic caption.
Michaelangelo Matos: I hear this as a quasi-sequel to the Quik-produced “Addicted” by Truth Hurts, only this time the track is lighter and fleeter, with the two MCs exuding real bonhomie via lines like “The sky is grabbable” (when you sound this good it probably is) and “Your poison is my liquor/I’m that — much — quicker.” Or “Quik-er.”
Erick Bieritz: Among DJ Quik’s few peers with two-decade careers, how many are capable of doing something that sounds new? He still sounds like he’s 12 and he can still layer surprisingly complementary layers of unexpected noise over a thumping beat. Good stuff.
Al Shipley: From the moment Quik says “hip hop,” pauses, and finishes his thought with “…is the music of the devil,” you know he’s not going to let this be just a standard thumping club jam, even as it totally works on that level. And when Kurupt keeps drifting into more predictable fare, Quik brings it back to the weird esoteric tip with all that “I’m the voice of great antiquity” shit at the end, and the contrast never fails to amuse me.
Alfred Soto: Dense and danceable, with a brass sample providing an exotic frisson. The rap is just above average though: imagine a 1988 Eric B track with a Fat Boy replacing Rakim.
Martin Kavka: The sample here comes from an episode of the US cable show Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern; it occurs at about 2:10 in http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NIl_TuQAMHc. That’s way cool, but the sample is barely matched to the beat or the vocal hook; during the chorus, the whole track threatens to derail. A lot of care went into making it seem so messy, but I wish I could dance to this, as opposed to just ruminating on the artistry.
Alex Ostroff: This is far from the first rap cut to sample Middle Eastern/North African beats, but it just might be the best. Rather than just interpolating a sitar loop a la Timbo, or tastelessly sampling a muezzin a la Busta, DJ Quik has looped a gorgeous vocal sample that initially seems a bit too gritty to work, and pulls it off anyway. Even more impressively, the sung chorus seems to operate in harmony with the background melismatics. Kurupt rambling about vampires and nightmares is the icing on the cake. And the video’s camels, named ‘Chris Brown’ and ‘Rihanna’, are the cherry on top.
Edward Okulicz: Impressive but hard to love – “9xs out of 10” was seamless and fluid, but this is clumsy and it sounds for all the world like part of the vocals have been mis-synchronised by half a second. Maybe a bit too much has been piled in, it’s quite disconcerting to hear what by themselves are probably quite brilliant fight with each other over the focus.
John Seroff: “Hey Playa” is unique and base, worldly and street, profound and light, lyrically abstract and precisely reductive. It’s a crucible that boils Kurupt down to a horny Candide in an endless oasis. He’s talkin’ loud, ain’t sayin’ nothin’ (“I’m fine/And it’s time/Y’see I’m nothing but a fool/I’m cool/I’m cool and doing/ Whatever I wanna be doing/You and Me/Me and You and”), yet still holding his own with meaningless and oddly pleasurable doubletalk. Quik plays the superego to Kurupt’s id, spinning grandiose rhymes that evoke unlabored comparisons to Edvard Munch and Percy Shelley. Quik is the hyperbolic “voice of great antiquity”, warns that his path offers the company of vampires and fires and threatens to snuff your creativity, your ability to love and the sun, in that order. They are the new world’s Quixote and Sancho Panza on a hajj to Mecca, asking the great questions (“Why not, not why?”) without ceding credibility or ever pretending to give a damn about the answers. All this over handclaps, a sinewy and addictive Chaabi vocal hook and some very oddly backtracked horns. It’s my favorite song on what might be my favorite album this year.
Kat Stevens: Enormous thumping beats like these make me want to slowly drive a convertible through Central London in the sunshine.
Chuck Eddy: 
Martin Skidmore: