Beyoncé, look out: Le Toya's in the house. This debut disc by the former Destiny's Child member could make any firmly established diva crazy with envy. Slicing the set up between traditional R&B and hip-hop-lite, the once stuck-in-the-shadows belle of Houston trades on her silky vocals and a knack for musical playfulness; hear it not only on "Torn," the radio hit that propelled this project, but also on the tracks you'd expect least. "Hey Fella," with fellow Houstonian Slim Thugg, is a dirty-flirty come on that'll nudge listeners into winking at strangers, and "Tear Da Club Up" and "Gangsta Grillz" rip into the atmosphere, determined to get Texas booties--booties from anywhere at all, really--shaking. On those two tracks and elsewhere, Le Toya enlists her street smart homeboys--Bun B, Jazze Pha, and Mike Jones--to set the appropriate vibe. But overall, this disc feels like a free-spirited invitation to check out her many musical layers. Detractors may fault Le Toya for latching on to better-known bangers and satisfaction-guaranteed production (hello, Jermaine Dupri!), but a close listen and a look at the credits crushes doubts about her credibility. Destiny may have left Le Toya behind, but the fellas from back home scooped her up; her voice and their presence will vault her to the top. --Tammy La Gorce
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Disc's are also repackaged (labeled refurbished) and suitable for gifts.