XX by Ninja Tune Records (Box Set)
Ninja Tunes Records’ ties are certainly closer to the Electronic scene than to Hip Hop, but the independent powerhouse boasts artists and plenty of fans with feet in both camps. Over the course of two decades their releases have progressed and certainly become more “out there” than the early days of DJ Food’s Jazz Brakes (who is strangely absent here). The four-disc compilation mixes the labels heavyweights like Diplo and British emcee Roots Manuva with some of their lessor knowns. That, combined with a nice selection of album cuts, 12″ and remixes, creates a cohesive representation of what Ninja Tune is and has been all about. Whether you’re playing catch up or playing collector, this set is worth your time.
White Girl Diaries by Koshir
Alaska-born, Montana-based Koshir is breaking new ground with his party-minded records, but perhaps that is for a reason. His album may be called White Girl Diaries, but one listen and its clear it should have been called White Dude Diaries. This LP sounds like it could be the soundtrack to a night of dudes-only bar hopping. Electro-lite production, Auto-Tune and atrocious “lyrics” throughout. Songs like “No Bueno,” “Baby I Go” and “Poe Boy” are difficult listens, from an artist who’s opened for Ying Yang Twins and Too Short. “Killen All Lames” is really the only redeemable ,moment here. This album may be filed in the Hip Hop section, but it’s some of the softest Rap that’s crossed our desk in some time.
Resurrection by Common (Reissue Box Set)
2010 has seen a lot of classic Hip Hop albums being re-released and dubbed “deluxe.” A true fan should never question an excuse to revisit Common‘s seminal sophomore album Resurrection, but is this double disc re-issue worth a second purchase? The album itself is remastered and sounds great, plus it comes great packaging complete with a 24-page book featuring expanded liner notes from Common, No I.D. and Brian Coleman (if you’ve never read Coleman’s Check The Technique: Liner Notes For Hip-Hop, you lose). The other must-have material from this re-issue comes on the second disc. You get all three “Resurrection” remixes plus the instrumentals for two of them. As well as acapellas and instrumentals for “Communism” and “I Used To Love H.E.R..” The value lies in the remixes though, as you get both outstanding Large Professor remixes (“Large Professor Remix” and “Extra P Remix”) and No I.D.’s “Resurrection ’95.” If you’re a collector or a newcomer, borrow a dollar to cop this one.
Mecca & The Soul Brother by Pete Rock & CL Smooth (Reissue Box Set)
Pete Rock & CL Smooth‘s debut full-length gets the deluxe treatment as well. Given that Pete Rock and CL don’t have Common’s profile with todays fans it is much less likely that new jacks have heard Mecca & The Soul Brother, which makes it all the more critical. Truly one of great Hip Hop albums of all-time, the money-earnin’ Mount Vernon duo created one of the true defining moments of this culture. As for this version, it was handled the same as Common’s. Remastered album, second disc with 12″, instrumentals and a capellas, plus a book with in-depth liner notes from the artists, A&R Dante Ross and Brian Coleman. Mecca & The Soul Brother is much more deluxe though. The second disc is 15 tracks deep and packed with some gems that have only been available on vinyl to date (or on bootleg mixtapes), and you get a poster. It includes all three of Pete’s outstanding remixes; “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.),” “Straighten It Out,” and “Lots Of Lovin’,” which easily outdoes the original. Plus you’ve got the rare B-side only “It’s Not A Game” and the even rarer “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.) (Vibes Remix) that was on a promotional EP. Throw in a handful of instrumentals and a capellas and this one is a no brainer for any Hip Hop head.
No Excuses by Chaundon
At some point Little Brother’s extended fam the Justus League became a bit watered down. The “b-team” perception is tough to battle, and it will always prevent good artists from getting their due. The Bronx-bred emcee joined the League after attending school in North Carolina, and after years of guest spots he released his debut in 2008. Carnage was roundly praised, and No Excuses should be no different. For the most part, the album stays away from what most would consider the traditional JL sound, but it doesn’t hurt Chaun at all. “Watch Out,” “Y’all Don’t Want It” , and “The Blacker The Berry” are the true standouts here, but the LP is high quality throughout.