various artists :: Dame Dash Presents Dream Team :: Roc-A-Fella Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

Packaged with the "Paid in Full Soundtrack" that recently appeared in stores, this is a Roc-A-Fella Records selection from Dame Dash to give you a taste of both their established stars and up-and-coming rookies. You know the big dawgs: Jay-Z, Memphis Bleek, Beanie Sigel, Cam'Ron and DJ Clue. The others you may know from singles and cameos: Freeway, Oschino, Sparks, Young Chris, Jimmy Jones, Peddi Crakk and more.

What may really surprise you is the rappers they proclaim as the "newest members" of the Dream Team, because they're not no-names. Chicago legend Twista appears on the opener "Champions," which reinterprets the Queen song it samples into Roc-A-Fella's triumph over the rap industry. "City" is a boombastic hardcore anthem featuring M.O.P., Brownsville's resident hell-raisers and biggest gun-poppers, lifting more heavy metal than Metallica. You might even recognize New Orleans titan Master P on the Diplomats remake of "Bout It Bout It," but he's the only big timer you can safely assume didn't get drafted to The Roc.

Although DJ Clue ostensibly "hosts" this album, his presence is both surprisingly more welcome and less annoying than a certain "old school legend" that appears on the other disc packaged with this compilation. In fact, Clue's introductory shouts before tracks give Dream Team the mixtape style and sound they were obviously aiming for, although the songs found here are a cut above a lot of what gets released on the streets of New York these days. On songs like "One for Peddi Crakk," rappers like Young Chris and Crakk himself display a lot of potential, especially if they can diversify their topic matter beyond braggadocio and drug sales.

There are a few standout tracks that make this album a must have. "Don't You Know" by Jay-Z has made the MP3 and tape trading circuit before, but it's professional inclusion here makes Just Blaze's crispy beats sound that much better. Underrated R&B singer Rell duets with Cam'Ron on "You Know What I Want" and will please both hip-hop and urban contemporary audiences. Heatmakerz lace "I'm Ready" by the Diplomats with a powerful Barbara Mason sample that will give listeners the ghost of a Jay-Z and M.O.P. duet from "The Gift & the Curse." Don't miss "On & Poppin'" by Oschino & Sparks either.

To say this is a brilliant compilation would be a lie, but to say it's mediocre and boring would be equally untruthful. For those who are already fans of the S. Carter empire, "Dream Team" will keep the fires burning even though some heads may have wished for more words of wisdom from Jigga himself. For those who are casual Roc listeners who don't drink Armadale or sport Roc-A-Wear, there's still enough good stuff to justify owning a copy - it's just too bad it had to be packaged with such a mediocre soundtrack.

Music Vibes: 7.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7.5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7.5 of 10

Originally posted: January 4, 2003