Hip-Hop musicians have never felt a particular tie to the album format. Some purists might have a problem with that, but in some cases, it can work out quite well. Take, for example, the case of Mos Def, who hasn't put out an album of his own since 1999. Still, devoted fans can find at least an album's worth of material on various compilations if they try hard enough.
One of those compilations is the National Vinyl Association's new release Straight From The Crates: Vol. 1.
In fact, though Mos Def is debatably the most well-known rapper on the album, his effort, "Workin' It Out," is one of the lesser tracks. Though it features a catchy electro-funky beat, Mos' rapping seems uninspired at best, even lifting lines directly from his tracks from the Brown Sugar soundtrack. It's a drawback to the compilation album trend: though it allows hip-hop fans to hear songs from artists they might not otherwise hear from for years, there is often a reason that some of the tracks don't make it on a real album. The real gems on Straight From The Crates: Vol. 1 instead often come from lesser known MCs. Former The Source magazine Unsigned Hype artist Saigon hits hard with his track, "Do You Know." Over an Ayatollah-produced beat, Saigon drops a fiery history of his career laced with witty cultural references. Relative unknown Jon Notty drops fiery lyrics with a passionate flow over a positively catchy beat based on a Joni Mitchell sample.
The West Coast gets its due credit, too. One of the album's standout tracks is "Hard Times," from now nearly old-school act The Pharcyde, featuring Jurassic 5's Charli 2na and Akil. As always, 2na's deep baritone carries the song, making it as infectious a track as any other underground Hip-Hop track in recent memory
All in all, Straight From The Crates: Vol. 1 is a quality addition to the collection of any head with a good mix of MCs and songs that will undoubtedly make you bounce.