Tommy Boy - Hip Hop 101      
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written by Philip Oliver    
Hip Hop compilations, they never really get it do they? Apart from a few exceptions like ‘Wide Angles’ and ‘Super Rappin,’ they always seem to be grouped tracks for the wrong purpose, not by the category of good music. Well ‘Black Label Presents..101’ may seem like its put together for the wrong reasons, all these artists are on the label known as Tommy Boy (Black label is the underground subdivision of the label) but somehow, it seems to work. So, could the indication of the tracks here mean Tommy Boy could be as dope as it once was?

You should have already worked out that this album is nothing more than an album sampler for all the hip-hop acts on Tommy Boy’s roster. Compared to a lot of hip hop labels, this shows that there is potential brimming in the Black label. You only have to hear Self Scientific returning with the brilliant ‘Best Part,’ its triumphant horns and grinding loop place a sonic backdrop rugged enough for their emcee to catch your ear quickly and bring you into this track. This group is undoubtedly their hottest property at the moment. But, it's not all about new acts, as De la Soul team up with Camp Lo again for ‘So Good.’ Yet again we get the old "The Girls look so good but their mind is not ready" hook but somehow De La manage to wipe those past uses of it away with a track that is sure to appear on ‘Art Official Intelligence.’ My favorites, Natural Elements come through with the incredible ‘Live It Up Part 2,’ this Charlemagne produced cut more than exceeds the original and I have my money on NE releasing one of the best albums this year. Kweli blesses the mic along with Tony Toca for a cut off the forthcoming ‘Piece Maker’ LP, you don’t even have to hear ‘What They May Seem’ to know it’s good track.

Royce 5'9 comes through on ‘I Won't Be,’ now I’ve had this cut for a while and its slowly grown on me but it doesn’t live up to past glories such as ‘I’m The King,’ but he probably just gave this track to the label keeping his best material as a surprise. Defari doesn’t come up with the goods as well as he has in the past for the new track ‘Blast’ which is disappointing but I’m sure its just a temporary thing. De La appears yet again but in the form of their rhyming deejay Maseo with Kovas, like I said when I reviewed this 12" he doesn’t really blow your mind with ‘Words And Verbs’ lyrically but he has enough confidence and mic presence to hold your attention, and that loop is way too infectious. An old favorite in the form of Masta Ace also comes through with ‘Splash’ and proves he’s still overlooked, he couldn’t help it ‘Sittin On Chrome’ was a mistake.

The side is let down by some of the newer artists like Strick and Da Matrix who deliver very mediocre material, even Medina Green left me wanting more but that’s a disadvantage of setting a high standard in the past. If you're looking for quality look no further than the Self Scientific, Maseo, Natural Elements and De La cuts here as these will end up classics in the headphones of you and I in months to go. This album shows Tommy Boy is on the right track but they just haven’t got there yet.

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