Various Artists - Wide Angles      
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written by Philip Oliver    
Hip Hop compilations are difficult things to review because in the past they haven’t been very good, tracks collected and strung together with no regard for track flow or throwaway material that didn’t make an artists album. Over the last year or so it seems there’s been a lot of these independent compilations dropping, from the NY state of Rhyme series to Defenders of the Underworld and steadily the quality is improving so how does ‘Wide angles’ size up?

This end of the millennium gem is executive produced by Richard Elliot & Dai Kurihara and if one thing stands out when you listen to this is that these guys know their music. This is without a doubt the best of those independent hip-hop compilations this year period and why? Well one reason could be the inclusion of 2 tracks from the UK’s Big Kwam. The previously released ‘Verbalize’ appears here in its DJ Spinna format and it pulls no punches with its grimy production and Kwam’s very dope flow. Even better is ‘Kwamanwiz’ where Kwam teams up with Nick Wiz on the boards to bring you something so hauntingly good its time for the NY emcees to be scared of this guy on the mic.

Truth Enola enables us to get ready to welcome De La Soul back in the 2000 with the track ‘Voicetress’. I got an advance of this track before I actually got the album, and I still wasn’t tired of it when it kicked the album off. Produced by Domecracker for Beyond Real, this is truly relaxed, chilled and we already know Truth Enola is very dope, he fits in with that vibe perfectly, he could even be plug 4. Rawkus is represented with the inclusion of ‘Another World’ (Remix) from Black Star that was released earlier this year its actually produced by UK production team The Creators and not Hi Tek as everyone thought, if you ain’t checked it yet you missing out. Pharoahe Monch steps in with the hypnotic ‘Tooley Crew personified’, this could have made one of the best tracks on his album (As its one of the best on here) DJ Spinna lays electronic loops and interesting sound bites for Monch to come with that rejuvenated attack on the mic.

One of my favorite emcees, J-Live represents his corner with ‘Shyste’, if you ain’t heard this already then you got a treat when you do hear it. J-Live flips his verbal gymnastics over some real strange simplistic but dope production, just evidence that J-Live is as great as we’ve always said, now just drop that album will ya? There’s a little Pete Rock influence on two tracks here, obviously Grap Luva has the soul brother #1’s influence in the track he chose to donate, and that’s what makes ‘Touch the sky’ so great. Subterranean who aren’t connected to Pete Rock also display some of that jazzy production on ‘My Style Is Phreaky', ignore the corny title and you will find one of the albums greatest moments, the guitar lick on here is intoxicating. There's even a little R’NB on here from Alice Russell, as she puts her haunting vocals over a straight up hip hop track, no talking bout bills or scrubs here, pure fucking soul.

There are so many good tracks on here I can’t talk about em all and there are very few duds or disappointments, although I was looking forward to something with Natural Elements involvement from L swift and A Butta on ‘Ride this’ which let me down. Its still very good though, I just expect more from this group as they set themselves a high standard with their past material. Listening to this was a pleasure, a late entrant into the top 20 of 1999 without a doubt. Only three words of advice on this album - pick it up.

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