Tommy Boy Classic Cuts



Seminal hip-hop label Tommy Boy has earned the right to cash in on its back catalog. As one of the more adventurous rap labels of the ’80s and early ’90s, the Tom Silverman-led imprint counted techno classics from the likes of 808 State among its early releases as well as, as this comp shows, most of hip hop’s early groundbreaking crossover hits. Sadly, the State is not here for this golden-age-of-hip-hop party, which begins, appropriately enough, with Afrika Bambaataa and the Soulsonic Force’s “Planet Rock,” which of course, kick-started hip hop itself. From there, between the Digital Underground novelty hits (“Humpty Dance”) and the De la Soul life-of-their-own cuts (“Me Myself & I”), the case is made that TB pretty much owned early ’90s hip hop, when it seemed every group was different and, literally, good — even the one-hit wonders such as House of Pain (“Jump Around”). Give or take a few Coolio hits from the mid-’90s (included here) and the label’s more recent successes (Everlast’s “What It’s Like” is conspicuously absent) Cuts gets a little less Classic with each lesser-known R&B crossover and hardcore rap cut. But as a pioneering label that signed acts from both coasts and gave voice to groups who proved rap could not only rival the mainstream but that it could be the mainstream, this comp is not only important, it’s essential, for hip-hop heads and office-party planners alike.

Hobey Echlin writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.