Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Why, precisely, can’t anyone at something resembling a major label put together a decent historically minded hip-hop compilation? I’m looking at you, Tommy Boy Presents Hip Hop Essentials 1979-91, a projected 12 compilations that on paper (and in the air--I got the first eight) all look exactly the same--namely, like Tommy Boy’s people put all the most obvioius stuff from the Ego Trip’s Book of Rap Lists Top 40 singles onto iTunes and then hit random. Voila! Instant product! What the fuck, people? Does it take a Ph.D to figure out that “Be a Father to Your Child” into “Just Buggin’” into “Fuck Compton" sounds as sloppy as it looks, or that even a minimum of effort in both vault-digging and sequencing would equal something anyone with ears might want to actively listen to instead of filing away or, worse, review by more or less saying, "I'm so glad I got these for free"? Why in hip-hop are rarities the exclusive province of rarities comps and not strewn in with P.E.-De La-L.L.-Biz-Rakim-EPMD-Kane-etc. yes-we-know-they’re-classics, where they might throw things into relief if not in fact offer some? Or if you’re going to just make some party comps then actually make them worth partying to instead of all this perverse too-lame-to-actually-be-jarring song-to-song-transition shit? Do you know how fast you’d get kicked out of a party by hogging the stereo only to run “Microphone Fiend” into “Bonita Applebum” into “Parents Just Don’t Understand”? What the FUCK? (Also, since this is such a “historical” and important enterprise, would it kill someone to have copy-edited the goddamned liner notes? Raquel Cepeda’s for Volume 3 verge on dada, and not just because of the typos--there are words missing in more than one sentence.) Jeff Chang’ll kill me for saying this (and not just because he wrote the notes for one of ’em), but these would’ve been a hell of a lot better if they’d just done them a la Soul Jazz’s Dynamite! series, where the range is so much wider that the random-button effect offers surprises around every corner. I mean, if that’s what you're after, why not just go completely nuts, throw in as many curios as classics, give the thing some dynamic range instead of this “Yep, that’s the way it was back in the day. I know, because I was there, and I saw it, and we believed” junk? We know you believed! Now teach us something we don’t already know.