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People From the Sun: Revolution Music (ICDA) 

When People From the Sun were named Best Hip-Hop act at this year's Tucson Area Music Awards, some music fans wondered who the group was. This impressive CD proves MC partners Joe Maciulla and Morgan Butler (both Tucson natives) deserve the award.

The unlikely combination of hard-core rap and positive vibes is surprisingly magnetic. Engineer and producer Butler brings a rich palette of sounds and styles, often trading in unabashed synth-based tracks.

Perhaps the best is the down-tempo vibe of "The Cool" and the hypnotic bleeps and slaps of "Hater Killer." Then again, the '70s R&B groove (with scratching by turntablist Big Brother Beats) of "Music" is a blast of fresh air. And PFTS deliver a credible Wild West theme in "Be the Best": "I'm banging tracks on these hombres, like it's high noon on the dusty street, with words equipped with spurs to rip through beats."

Their raps often represent the 520, unfurling complex narratives that acknowledge both negative and positive aspects. "Criminal" combines sci-fi sound effects and a G-funk groove with such lyrics as, "We ain't got shit in this dusty-ass town except love for the people and drugs by the pound." Then there's "Southwest," which benefits from a rough-hewn guest rap by Big Meridox and boasts the anthemic lyric, "In the AZ get up, Tucson what up / They talking shit about the Southwest, they better shut up."

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