Various Artists - The Difference Vol 1  
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written by Ryan Proctor    
A thin line exists between a good compilation and a bad effort. Some labels seem to think they can wear the consumer down into thinking their particular collection of beats and rhymes merits heavy rotation by packing as many cuts as possible onto a compact disc, regardless of the music's actual quality. Thankfully the peeps behind this Official Jointz release have realized that sometimes less really is more. With the album clocking in at just over forty minutes in length, most of the twelve cuts on offer here manage to hit the spot without overstaying their welcome in your headphones.

To be fair though "The Difference Vol. 1" isn't a standard compilation album, but is instead a showcase for producer Domingo who, with the exception of Deacon The Villain's self-produced "Watch Yo Mouth", is behind the boards for the project's duration. In a similar fashion to both volumes of his "Game Over" albums, Domingo has assembled a varied cast of spitkickers here to compliment his diverse selection of sonic creations. Dilated Peoples continue to prove themselves to be one of the most talented groups to emerge within the last decade on the horn-blasting "Certified Official", whilst NYC-underground sensation Rise charts his growth on "From The Child To The MC" accompanied by a driving organ-sample and some deft cuts from DJ JS-1. One of the album's most inspired moments however comes in the form of Punch-N-Words' "Native New Yorker". Hearing an emcee shout-out their city of residence may not exactly be groundbreaking in terms of subject matter, but the pair's playful rhymes mesh perfectly with Domingo's breezy beats, resulting in a track that'll have us all reppin' for the five boroughs during the summer months no matter where we might call home. Elsewhere Craig Mack takes a few more successful steps along the comeback path with "The Ha Ha Ha", an energetic track which bristles with spontaneous energy, whilst KRS-One's "Clear 'Em Out" showcases the lyrics which helped spark the Blastmaster's recent beef with Nelly.

If there's one criticism that could be aimed at this album it's that it offers very little in the way of surprises. What you see is very much what you get. So if you've never been a fan of artists such as High & Mighty or Heltah Skeltah's Sean Price then their contributions to "The Difference" will do little to change your mind. Overall though this release is a relatively solid underground collection which does a good job of mixing both established names with upcoming talent. Official enough for you?

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