Various Artists - Okayplayer: True Notes Vol. 1
From the Okayplayer website:
1. "Okayplayer" is the shorthand name for okayplayer.com. Okayplayer is not a record label. Okayplayer.com is an online community. This community is made up of like-minded recording artists (who keep their official Internet homes here) and visitors to the site."
Okayplayer should get an award just for being the coolest label - er, I mean, 'collective' around. They're the ones everyone wants to hang out with at the party, mainly because they've always got the new shit, and even if it ain't new, it's definitely good shit.
Not that I know what any of that means; I just copied it down from my dog-eared copy of 'Whitey's Guide To Urban Terminology'. What I do know is that ?uestlove, famed Roots crew drummer and record collector extraordinaire, knows more about good music than ANYONE ELSE ON THE PLANET, so it only stands to reason that a collection he puts together is going to reign supreme.
Which is the case in True Notes Vol. 1; you don't need me to tell you that The Roots are going to be as slick as ever, that Blackalicious's Gift of Gab is gonna leave you breathless, that Madlib's gonna produce a beat that's got so much bounce you can run it down a court - these are things we all know to be Hip-Hop Law. No arguing, you. What you don't know is that the mainstays here are simply propping up the lesser-known artists: Skillz drops two impressive tracks (his 'Pastor Skillz' is worth the cost of the CD alone) as do Jean Grae (still the meanest spitter around) and Little Brother, while Aceyalone seductively rocks the aforementioned Madlib beat, and Nicolay & Supastition provide the so-true-it's-funny 'The Williams' ("My bills are so old/I'm starting to call them Williams...").
There's no filler here; even ?uestlove's bookends help make the package complete, as they set the tone to get your head nodding lazily, and there isn't one artist who disappoints in between (a case might be made for Truck & Mac's 'Bang Bang', which is essentially club hip-hop, but it's got enough of a hook that you find yourself grooving to it despite your best efforts to the contrary...); add to the mix some solid contributions from Hieroglyphics, Dilated Peoples and RJD2, and you've got yourself a compilation that rivals your copy of Low End Theory, It Takes A Nation..., Efil4zaggin, or whatever your formative hip-hop album might be.
(It should be noted that almost the exact same crew descended on the comp '2K6: The Tracks' one year later, to similar results. Do yourself a favour and find both of these cds, or I'll come to your house and erase what's on your iPod.)
So, yes: it should surprise no one that this compilation stands head and shoulders above the rest of your usual 'please-pay-attention-to-our-lacklustre-artists' solicitations from the record industry; my only hope is that the Vol. 1 wasn't just tacked on, and that we'll see more material of this calibre from Okayplayer in the future.
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