Let’s clear up a few questions before turning the thumb up or down on this one. Underground Airplay, the third CD connected with the legendary Lyricist Lounge, is presented in conjunction with Ecko Unltd., a clothing company?
And though the debate still rages as to what is and is not “real” hip hop, this CD blends talent from across North America in one raw, underground vibe?
And it’s hot?
Fa sho. Understand, we now live in a society where clothing companies make records, artists launch clothing companies, and the question “What is real hip hop?” means squat when you consider the globalization of the world’s most acculturated art form. Underground Airplay is an enjoyable mix CD for that very reason. It takes the best from the West, South, East and North. Obie Trice represents Detroit (“Yo!”). Kardinal Offishall makes the T-dot-O-dot (Toronto) one of a kind on the ragga-tinged “Ol’ Time Killin’.” Even Juice Crew legend Masta Ace squares off in a battle against newcomer Boogieman.
“You that cat in the club that get hit with a bottle/Fuckin’ wit’ me?/You betta off tryin’ to hit Lotto/Don’t answer back/This is hard shit to follow/And you can’t spit, n***a/So, obviously, you must swallow.”
Underground Airplay is an updated reminder of times when rhyme battles didn’t end in fights, when MCs delivered relevant messages (check Mystic’s “Current Events” or Tahir’s “Holiday”) over wicked sound beds. Mos Def honors this tradition by defying his celebrity and returning to his underground roots. The result is sublime when he digs up Cosmo (the “wicky-wicky” man of Newcleus fame) and remakes “Jam On It.” Mos targets the playful nature of old-school rhyme patterns with such pinpoint accuracy, most self-respecting MCs will have to accept the educational value of the tune.
Lyricist Lounge found the talent. Ecko pushed it. Slap it in the Walkman and wear it well. It’s a CD hip hop needs right now.
Khary Kimani Turner writes about music for Metro Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.