djclue.jpgMixtape albums are strange. Although disc jock–driven projects usually feature rap’s brightest stars, they rarely make much impact on SoundScan. The only one to successfully cash in on the compilation game is DJ Clue, who defied the odds when his ’98 debut, The Professional, was certified platinum. Sales of his 2000 follow-up were equally impressive, surpassing 881,000 units. After a six-year break, the Queens DJ goes for the trifecta with his latest all-star filled romp, The Professional 3.

Nas kicks off the album with a 24-bar intro on the aggressively paced “War.” The track’s brooding keys sit firmly atop a thumping kick and snare combo as a rejuvenated Esco delivers a spirited performance, beaming, “Got a new contract/C’mon, Black/Shit, y’all just gettin’ up on, I’m beyond that.” Jadakiss displays his lyrical prowess as well on the Swizz Beatz–produced “Ugly (Thug It Out),” while Kanye West and Fabolous stunt on the braggadocious “Like This.”

After getting on his New York shit, Clue extends love to Southern dons like Lil Wayne and Rick Ross, who ride out on the bouncy d-boy ode “Clear Da Scene.” Then, Paul Wall, Mike Jones and Bun B rep for their home state on the chopped and screwed “Grill and Woman.” While the aforementioned tracks are definite standouts, not all the cuts share the same distinction. Snoop Dogg’s “Almost Fucked,” with its faux samba rhythms, is unbelievably bad. “I Really Wanna Know You,” Jagged Edge’s cover of Jodeci’s “Come & Talk to Me,” isn’t much better. JE’s weak performance pales in comparison to the classic ’91 original.

Clue manages to bounce back when he takes matters into his own hands, producing Mobb Deep’s hypnotic “The Gold” and “Liberty Bell,” featuring Beanie Sigel, Cassidy and Freeway. But with no consistent flow to the album, The Professional 3 is all rhymes with no real reason. —ROB MARKMAN


Read the rest of XXL’s Critical Beatdown review section in the XXL’s March 2007 issue (#89)