Various Artists - True Notes Vol. 1      
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written by Brainiac    
Let me start off by saying this: Compilation CD's almost never work. The consistency of most of them leaves much to be desired. Enter ?uestlove and his Okayplayer brand. What started out as a hugely successful online community w/ boasts some of the most diehard members, has turned into a full fledge record label. Their first offering is fittingly, a compilation CD. Designed to showcase some up and coming talent, as well as Okay Artists, and Non-Okay Artists alike that represent the next movement of hip hop.

This CD can be broken down into two sections. Section one consists of some very good, well produced material. Section two consists of material that can best be described as average. Not bad enough to be awful, but not good enough to be great. In my opinion, that is probably the worst classification that something can get because it causes the listener to have no real opinion of the song besides a casual "Its OK..." (excuse the pun.) The compilation opens up w/ an intro instrumental that sounds as if it was put into a time capsule and sent to us from the year 1994. The beat is very smooth, and is used again at the outro of the CD. Tracks like 'On and On', and 'Shake It' come courtesy of Little Brother and prove that they are far from one hit wonders, while leaving the listener thirsting for their upcoming album. 'On And On' is another amazing 9th. Wonder production that keeps the listener's head nodding while Pooh and Phonte exchange verses about the average LB fan's perception of the group. 'Shake It' is a Spanish influenced song that shows Pooh and Phonte going back and forth on an over used topic that we find on mainstream radio, but yet still managing to keep it fresh and make something new out of it. Take notes mainstream rappers.

Jean Grae, who is unquestionably one of the most underrated female lyricists in the game shines on this cd as well. On track 'Keep Livin' she borrows the classic beat from Face's 'My Block' while she appears to spit lyrics effortlessly about the rough life and the things that people are exposed to, but despite all, keeps living. She spits complex lyrics on this song like "Grew up a child of an alcoholic/ Sister to schizophrenic/ And already inherited one and they both are genetic/ When the sun falls I gets no sleep/ Nights are filled with party and bullsh*t/ Bacardi and full clips". The way hat she just blends her mesmerizing vocals w/ this beat is absolutely flawless. However, it set my standards very high for her next offering "Fall Back" which is found on the cd. Unfortunately, this track falls into the average section of the CD. While Jean doesn't skip a beat lyrically on this track, it just doesn't create the same aura as the prior track does. After two listens, a listener just being introduced to Jean may never listen to this track again. It just doesn't leave the listener hungering to hear more like 'Keep Living' does. However, die-hard Jean Grae fans will be pleased as she provides a lyrical demonstration that all Femcee's should take notes on.

Fans of Hieroglyphics will also be pleased due to "Respect Deez". This beat is very dark, and mysterious. Lyrically, it's the same Hiero crew that we've grown to expect. However, the production is what elevates this track to one of the albums best. I think it is safe to say that both die hard, and casual fans of Hiero will wonder why tracks like this didn't make it onto 'Full Circle'. Okayplayer contest winners Nicolay and Supastition get their chance to shine on the track "The Williams". The concept is fresh and original as it talks about bills, which is something we all can relate to. While it doesn't leave any hope that this duo will crack mainstream success, it solidifies the notion that they will be around for a long time. Roots fan will be pleased "Y'All Know Who". While this track is easily a good four years old, the elapsing time takes nothing from the hunger and intensity that Black Thought brings to this scorching beat. Blackalicious fans who own a copy of the recently released Gift of Gab CD will feel cheated after hearing the scorching track 'Just What Can Happen'. Chief Xcel provides the musical landscape that proves why Gift of Gab is at his finest when with his partner. The way Gift of Gab blends his lyrics over the beat is almost as if his cadence becomes one with the beat. Every time you listen to this song, you will most likely catch something that you didn't catch before. Leaves fans of Blackalicious thirsting for some new full-length material. The section of the compilation that I described as average can be found on tracks like 'K.O. Player' (Aceyalone and Madlib), 'Okay' (Dilated Peoples. Typical Dilated production with sleeper verses by Evidence), "Bang Bang" (Truck and Mac over a dirty south beat which will make you yearn for these northerners to leave it to the pro's), and "Cant Help Them with That" (Baby Black and Adam Bomb). These tracks are not bad, however they lack the replay value and aura of the other half of the CD. Skillz stops through on the track "Take It Back" with his usual braggadocios lyrics that will rapidly grow old on the listener...That is, if they haven't already. He returns on the track 'Pastor Skillz, which displays a refreshingly unique change in subject matter for Skillz. While the track definitely wont have you pressing the replay button, it is definitely humorous, and it proves that there is more to Skillz than just bragging.

Remember when I said that the CD can be divided into two sections? Well, one track on this cd cannot fall into neither section. It is the track "I Do What I Like" which is performed by Dice Raw and produced by RJD2. This is unquestionably the worst material that I have ever heard from either artist. After hearing this simply lazy beat by RJ, it is a painful reminder that he is capable of so much more. The beat couldn't scream "throw away any louder". As for Dice Raw, he has been missing in action since his abysmal debut album, but it is obvious that he hasn't been fine-tuning his lyrical skills. What on earth happened to the Dice Raw from "Thing Fall Apart"? Mr.. "Sting the inside of your mouth like a cold sore" has appeared to turn into a lazy half hearted mc that spits lyrics like "I'm about as raw as they come/ And, they don't get much rawer than this", and "So, I roll one up/ See a bad bit*h, man stoll on up/ Hey ma, I'd really like to date ya/ Knowin down inside I'd like to rape ya." At the end of this song he starts spewing out some of the most senseless rambling that I have ever heard. Its almost as if he didn't already put us through 2.5 minutes of torture. If lyrical mishaps like this continue from Dice, pretty soon we will see a "Wack Dice Raw Bars of The Week" section on this site. Unfortunately for Dice, there is no redemption for him found on this CD. However, the same cannot be said about RJD2 because he gives a vintage RJD2 beat that screams "Dead Ringer" far more than it says "Since We Last Spoke" in the form of "Act 2". Nothing more can be said about this track besides this proves how truly talented and amazing RJD2 really is.

In closing, this compilation is a a very decent effort that boasts some great tracks, as well as some OK tracks. The quality of the great tracks makes this cd a must have because there is at least 8 of them. However, to get to them you must filter through some highly average material. Fans of underground hip hop will not be disappointed because there is virtually something for everyone here. If this is a prelude of what's to come from the Okayplayer family, then it is definitely a good sign. ?uestlove should be giving himself a self high five right now for once again spear heading a job well done.









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