The 45 RPM 7″ single never really caught on in Hip Hop. Though the format has gained some minor cachet amongst rap collectors in recent years but the 12″ always reigned supreme, (at least until Serato hit.) Twelves held more music, were easier to scratch and the jukebox culture that popularized 45s was already on the wain by the ’80s. So the concept of Peanut Butter Wolf‘s [click to read] 45 Live mix is an anachronism to say the least. Despite the big holed labels in the cover collage, none of the songs contained within actually saw a 45 release in their time. They were specifically edited to 45 then released simultaneous to this mix in a limited edition Stone’s Throw Records box set (though this is strangely released through Traffic). Wolf even makes note in the liners of how hard it was to cut some of these tracks to appropriate 45 length. It’s a weirdly self limiting and pointless concept that only muddles a great throwback Rap mix.

Wolf‘s selection spans the length of the ’80s, from pre-sampler drum machine and live band work outs and on through the rise of the “Funky Drummer” and Ultimate Beats & Breaks. Though obvious icons like Big Daddy Kane [click to read], KRS-One [click to read], Biz Markie [click to read] turn up near the end of the mix, skews notably in favor lesser known hitmakers of the era – JVC Force, Tricky Tee, T. La Rock. But make no mistake, this is not a “random Rap” compilation. There are a few curveballs – rarities like Universal Two‘s “Dancin’ Heart” and lesser known album cuts from Busy Bee and Cash Money & Marvelous – but  the bulk of the collection is classic raps from classic artists who maybe never made a classic album. Wolf‘s mixing isn’t too aggressive, he lets the tracks breathe, often just fading one into the next. There’s some light scratching and juggling, but nothing that firmly defines his presence. It’s wise to let the song selection stand on its own.

Still the purpose of such a mix is unclear. Long time heads likely already have the bulk of these cuts in their crates (or at least have constructed a similar playlist on their iPods). It’s completely inessential to anybody who actually knows who Dimples D is. But if the mix manages to convince a few modern fans that the golden age of Hip Hop is bigger than just the Juice Crew [click to read] and James Brown loops, then Peanut Butter Wolf has succeeded. Beyond that, 45 Live doesn’t need to exist. But it sure sounds great.