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There’s an almost punkish, anti-gloss simplicity to Swizz Beatz’s best work, but the Bronx-born producer has never been a hiphop reactionary. And though his grooves have been behind several huge commercial hits, his motives don’t seem purely mercenary, either. For a while in the late ’90s, as DMX, Eve, Jay-Z, and others rode Swizz tracks into the hearts of wannabe-thugs nationwide, it appeared as if the ubiquitous knob-twiddler might be setting the stage for a long-lasting revival of the East Coast aesthetic, with terse rhythms and simple synth waggles finally returning radio hiphop to the spacious vibe of Marley Marl’s classics. Fat chance: The Neptunes’ slinky-sleazy beats changed the game in a second. In the post ‘Tunes universe, Swizz’s work still projects street-corner self-confidence, but it seems a little tired, too. Styles’ “Good Times,” with its helium-chirpy refrain boasting, “I get high, high, high, high” is a perfect case in point: Most of the swagger is undermined by the Casio-quality instrumentation. Unfortunately, that track is the catchiest thing on Presents G.H.E.T.T.O. Stories, Swizz’s first stab at slapping his own name on a CD spine. The raw material has the makings of a grand variety show, with Swizz calling in a few chits from chart-loving celebrity rappers—LL Cool J, Busta Rhymes, Lil’ Kim, Jadakiss, Fat Joe, and so on—and taking the microphone on a couple tracks himself. (To be fair, he’s a better rhymer than, say, Jermaine Dupri.) But the execution is largely stale, perhaps because most of the guest MCs have no reason to be hungry anymore. Even the one cut with instant appeal as a curiosity—the Ja Rule/Metallica mix-up “We Did It Again”—sounds like nothing so much as two alpha-male alley cats growling over a piece of garbage. You can’t blame Swizz for trying to expand his horizons, but his assembling such an ill-advised combination of collaborators is a sure sign that he’s been getting by on novelty all along. —Joe Warminsky