various artists :: INDIEgo Hip-Hop Sampler :: INDIEgo/
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

Unexpected compilations are the bane of any music reviewer. Every once in a while, a great one comes along that exceeds your expectations and delivers an hour worth of quality new, unreleased, or hot music that justifies the time spent checking it out in a pleasant way. More often though, such albums only contain a few gems one has to filter out among the noise; sometimes the gems are not even there to be found no matter how much digging you do.

The "INDIEgo Hip-Hop Sampler" is one of the more curious compilations to cross my review desk. The album consists of 17 tracks featuring rappers largely unknown to the mainstream, although the first two songs by Spaztick Emcee show he has the most potential to gain national recognition given that Chops from the Mountain Brothers and J-Ro from Tha Liks guest on "Party People" and Rasco is on the "Wild, Red, Hot" remix -- Chops and DJ King One producing them respectively. Spaztick's flow is a nasal drip with a smooth mid-octave tint that may remind indie heads of raps from Lexicon or Styles of Beyond. He's definitely gonna make noise in the future.

J. Gram doesn't have any big guest stars on his "You Ain't Know," but his song does show some potential. SOME. His flow is better than average, but beat on his song is uninteresting and the mixdown muddied it up even further. "Beloved" by Traedonya doesn't have this problem, but doesn't really fit into the hip-hop category well even though her short bio describes her as "Hip-Opera." The latter part is right - she sings, and fairly well, but on what's described as a "Hip-Hop Sampler" this song seems out of place.

The Cabin Fever Crew follows this up with the song "Wouldn't it be Fine," and the melodic and slow-loping beat instantly strike one as the kind of music that would be perfectly at home in a Def Jux or Anticon setting. I don't know the Crew from Adam myself, but Zeek-5's opening verse on the track shows his shit comes together nicely:

"I must move with the quickness
I gots to make these slanted eyes my business
Yo what-cha name, where ya from
I come, from under the sore
I keeps it fresh like four, when the temp is minus degree
The lady's lined up but pleased
I'm peepin out this Asian steeze
My eyes they slant too but, I blaze the trees"

Nobodee Fo'Real comes next with a song everybody can relate to: "I Hate My Job." Who can't relate? "Damn I hate my job and they really don't pay shit, damn I hate my job - but brother needs the benefits!" Nobodee has a nice gruff voice and good flow, but needs something a little tighter in beats and mixing to push him up another notch. Dirty Crooks fare a little better musically on their "No Rats" song from the "Famm Entertainment" album, and the rappers are on an unoffensive "we want to get on" indie steez although their flows and voices don't distinguish them a great deal. Undisputed's "Hold it Down" has the same problem as Nobodee Fo'Real's track, which isn't surprising since they both hail from Nu-House Records. Their talent is there, but their beats ain't.

Multiple rappers collide and combine on "From NY to Philly" - Large Amount, Kyle K and Sha-Style among them. This is another song from "Famm Entertainment" which suggest that album itself is probably a decent compilation of various raps from their own roster. "Cornbread" by Psalms Twelve though is something different altogether. As the name itself might suggest, the song and artist have a Southern twist although the rapper's name might wrongly imply something spiritual in nature. He's strictly a rider:

"Cornbread, smoke stack, in the back
Co-gnac, slap bones, slippers on 17's
All chrome, headphone, we smoke, take a toke
Cottonmouth, down South, hospitality
Mississippi, Cajun creole.."

The stream-of-conciousness rap style works well for Psalms Twelve, but he suffers mostly due to his overly ambitious attempt to sound tough when his voice implies an MC who probably hasn't hit puberty yet, and the overly simplistic beat he raps over doesn't give him enough extra depth. Pazelee's "Never Enough" makes up for an underproduced beat prior with a self-made song that is almost OVER-produced in it's lush symphonic arrangement compared to most of the rest of the CD. Sadly, this is another R&B track that really has nothing to do with rap or hip-hop. "Music Theory" by A Flat Productions brings it back to rap, but calling himself "Dr. Dre's apprentice" might be a little overambitious despite a decent track.

The final third of this album starts out with a gospel rap called "Turn it Around" by Kingdom G. This is one of the better produced examples of an increasingly popular form of hip-hop, although the female MC eschews subtlety in getting over their message about Jesus in favor of "preach(ing) the gospel to the nation." This may be too didactic for most. Choc Rawness goes completely in the opposite direction on her "Late Night Creep," another song from Famm Entertainment. She definitely heats it up:

"This sista is abstract, style remain strapped
like war platoons, in your territory real soon
Bow down or be doomed, smoke like the boom
Digest it, I suggest it, don't test it
Wild like boars, I'm smackin the life out of senseless whores
It's Choc Raw, the realest, I know you feel this
No time for games, even players get played"

Big Daddy Doom follows up with the song "Basket Case" from the album "Beneath the Surface." It's another song about a rapper with mental anguish being psycho- analyzed, but this guy may just catch your attention from a raspy growling voice that's about as inappropriate for rap as R.A. the Rugged Man - so wrong that it just happens to be right. Guest rapper Grip (apparently the CEO and founder of "Beneath the Surface") provides a nice counter-balance to Doom's crazy flow. To close, Incision drops "Bounce Dat Thang" to get people "sweating on the dance floor" and The Kamillions proclaim that it's "Our Time to Shine" over a hyperactive techno-esque beat that's intriguing at the start, but then fails to deliver on the promise by devolving into a boring triple time rap rhyme.

Was "INDIEgo Hip-Hop Sampler" an hour well spent? One could argue that about 50% of it was, which is better than average for most of these albums. There are some potential stars throughout this CD, Spaztick Emcee in particular, but most of the rest seem like the unknowns looking for shine this compilation makes them out to be. With strong production and improved flows a few may step up to a higher plateau, but for the rest this album is likely to be the first and last time you'll ever hear of their shit.

Music Vibes: 4 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 4 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 4 of 10

Originally posted: March 25, 2003