Call it what you will – a crap shoot, a coin flip, or even trying to hit the lotto – compilation albums are always a gamble. In some cases you get the best of hip-hop music from artists you don’t know but should, in others you get a cacophony of noise so awful you wouldn’t inflict it on an Al Qaeda terrorist. For up-and-coming record labels though, compilations are often the only viable choice to get a lot of their artists recognized in the shortest time possible; maximizing their window of opportunity before it slams down in their face.

Label head honcho and music producer alike, J. Greede of Greede Records is all about milking that opportunity on “All About the Music Vol. 1.” From the opener to the outro that’s paired with a “Live Ammo Phone Freestyle,” it’s almost 54 minutes of the best his label has to offer. Their roster consists of rappers like Paris Azelle, Lace Payne, and D. One – and each is billed as having their own full length album coming out. The latter kicks things off with the song “It’s Goin’ Down.” Greede’s track is effective – a careful balance of bells with a symphonic backdrop and pounding drum track, although the most effective element may be the scratched Guru line “poet like Langston Hughes and can’t lose” in the chorus. All that’s holding this song back is D himself, who sounds like your run-of-the-mill non-Asiatic MC with a book full of rhymes. Lines like “Hip-Hop has got me by the balls/I’m awake nights, no brake lights in the fast-paced life, blaze mics straight up dawg” aren’t whack per se, but fail to make an impact. The high speed flow is technically effective but it doesn’t give D any time to change up his vocal tone or delivery, further sinking the presentation into mediocrity.

Paris Azelle f/ Evik steps things up a little bit. The former crooners effectively on “Leave it to Me” while the latter provides the guest vocals and rap verses. The R&B stylings of the track are borderline cliche, but the sum of the parts is no worse than a duet between J-Lo and LL or Ashanti and Ja Rule. Lace Payne is up next with “Piece of Mind,” clearly the best track on the comp thus far. Greede provides a slow and haunting guitar melody that would be dope by itself, and Payne lives up to his name by exorcizing evil spirits with his lyrics:

“Scrapin the surface bein chased by demons I can’t shake
I’m drownin my soul, poppin pills to save face
Control freak, out of control speech, I reach further
within myself tell myself no need, to squeeze burners
I black out, pinned against the window like Malcolm
The only thing that I can think of now is how come
I, can’t handle my pain between the lines
I suffer tryin to find, my piece of mind”

Payne’s voice is a pleasant mixture of Freddie Foxxx and Pacewon, albeit slightly less gruff than either. Ironically enough, the following track by Mr. Right & J.B. is “Demons.” This track relies more on pianos and sampled vocal stabs for it’s ominous effect – though the sampled voice is somewhat irritating after the whole length of the song. The lyrics are thoughtful though, especially the chorus in particular:

“What’s the use of hollerin when nobody’ll listen
We victims of these socialistic conditions, got us imprisoned
to livin in neighborhoods, not much different than jail
Caterin to fiends addictions for sales
Tell me this isn’t hell”

After a pleasant “Jaycee Oh Scratch Interlude,” the album comes back to a OVM track titled “Rebels Remix.” It’s hard to discern the point of calling a song “Remix” when nobody’s heard the original, but regardless it’s another decent track by Greede – decent, but not spectacular. The symphonic sample seems too repetitive and short during the verses, with a change-up during the chorus that only makes you wish it was done more often throughout. The song is a combination of braggadociousness and punchlines, and like the track itself is effective enough but not really anything to write home about. D. One is back next with “Follow Me,” a better song for both producer and artist. Greede boils this one down to a bassline and a simple guitar lick, punctuated by claps and kicks that keep your head nodding. D’s raps here do impress:

“Too anxious to finish, the first verse I ever wrote
Some weak shit I would never quote
But those who looked close could notice a hint of hope
… once again, hit the note
{Follow me} – and it’s like that
From then on, it was on, steady makin tighter tracks
White or black, bro, I don’t see a difference
Just keep it live for the listeners, haters keep your distance”

Freshton Flav’s “Discharge” is a decent track, although the MC seems to be imitating DMX and Sticky Fingaz by turns. Greede’s variance between guitar and piano tracks is by now becoming a far too familiar refrain, but Flav got a good one here which makes his rap that much more listenable. A rapped “Evik Interlude” is followed by the song “Be That Girl” by Mohogany featuring D. One. Her vocals aren’t as interesting as Paris Azelle’s though, and D sounds out of place in a crossover R&B style song. Lace Payne returns afterward for the “Corner Standers” track, and his “uh-huh” at the beginning of the track may give some the ghost of Kool G. Rap. They do share one facet of lyricism in common – a gift for personal narrative:

“We all corner store hustlin, murder muggin I’m jugglin blocks
We rock fumblin, runnin from cops swallowin
Alcoholic I’m tolerant, immune to the cuffs
I got a piece of mind abusin the dutch, confusin my rush
Introducin the crush, grind keep my Timbs scuffed
I been rough, ever since my first chin-ups”

Payne is a standout on the album, but El*A*Kwents is also effective on his brief track “Stage Fright” over a slow and somber Greede melody. The album hits it’s official close on “Into the Flow” by D. One featuring Mic Burna, which is a decent enough way to end although Burna seems to flow like he’s a Roc-A-Fella affiliate cribbing notes from Jay-Z. In the end J. Greede’s “All About the Music Vol. 1” was three hands of blackjack; one was a 21 off the draw, one was a winner and the other was a bust – or to put it simply the music and the MC’s combine effectively about 2/3rds of the time. Greede does have some talented rappers, and can put together a track that’s far from embarassing even if they are sometimes repetitive. Nothing on the album will make you groan in pain but only a couple of these tracks will blow you away. Is it worth copping? At the right price, it’s nice enough to at least give you a taste of something new, that you’ve never heard before. It’s not the worst thing you can gamble on.

Various Artists :: J. Greede presents All About the Music Vol. 1
6Overall Score