A brief sample of beats and breaks

SoleSides Greatest Bumps
(Quannum 2000)

If there’s a single release that can effectively get a listener up to speed on the SoleSides project, it’s this one. Not so much a “greatest hits” as a history lesson, this is an epic, 22-track double CD that features early (and very rare) releases from the SoleSides collective. Blackalicious, DJ Shadow, Lateef, Gab, Lyrics Born: They’re all here, and many others, too.

DJ Shadow’s Entroducing…
(Mo’ Wax 1996; re-released, Island 2005)

It is difficult to overestimate the effect of DJ Shadow on the community of hip-hop artists, and Entroducing… is the album that started it all off. His full-length debut for the Mo’ Wax label (now re-released as a deluxe two-CD edition from Island), Entroducing… is an all-instrumental project that ignores genres, focusing instead on rhythm and texture. Considered by many to be the bible of hip-hop sound collage and listed often as one of the most important albums of all time.

Lyrics Born’s Same !@#$ Different Day
(Quannum 2000)

Lyrics Born’s debut full-length album was titled Later That Day… . On one level, Same !@#$ Different Day is a remix of that album. On another, though, it’s an entirely different, and more interesting, album. Lyrics Born’s lyric tracks are taken over by a set of superstar producers including Dan the Automator, Young Einstein and Quannum’s own DJ Shadow.

Blackalicious’ Blazing Arrow
(MCA 2002)

Frankly, there is not a single true misstep in the Blackalicious catalog, but most critics feel that Blazing Arrow is the group’s masterpiece. The music here toys with the idea of pop hooks while maintaining its underground credibility—meaning it’s listenable without losing its edge. Guest spots from Rage Against the Machine’s Zack de la Rocha, Ben Harper and Gil Scott-Heron offer some nice surprises. Xcel and Gab have continued the combination of pop hooks and underground cred on their latest release as well: The Craft.