Sometimes I can spot if a rap album is going to suck just by looking at the cover insert. Up Close and Personal is one of those albums.

OK, I have heard Angie Martinez attempt to rhyme before, so I had more than the insert to clue me in. But still, let’s check out the insert to find clues about the wackness of this album. The cover is a good start – there’s Angie, five layers of make-up caked on, looking contemplatively onto the streets of New York. Inside, there is a collage that looks like the “who’s who” of today’s popular hip hop scene. I can just see Angie’s A&R scheming: “We’ll make her dope by association! If we put in all these pictures of Angie with important rappers, no one will notice that she has no talent herself!” I guess all these pictures also go along with theme of Up Close and Personal. Wow, I really feel I know Angie after seeing her pose with other rappers.

Still, if the music is good, then all of this stuff can be ignored. Well (surprise, surprise) it’s not. You see, Angie is not really a rapper. She is actually a radio personality/gossip queen for Hot 97 in New York. That’s why she is in pictures with rappers. That is why she has these rappers on every song – they’re just kissing a little ass. And the songs turn out to be a real mess. Angie either goes pop or thugged-out, sometimes sprinkling the two together. It’s funny at first to hear Angie posture next to real thugs like Kool G. Rap. But after a couple of tracks, I just feel sick to my stomach.

What the hell was anyone who contributed to this album thinking?