Various Artists

Hip Hop Essentials, Vol. 3

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With four nods on this third volume, the West Coast factors into Tommy Boy's Hip Hop Essentials series more than ever, indicating the shifting balance of power between the coasts that started in the late '80s. While a number of sources have made the rise of the West Coast synonymous with gangsta rap and nothing else, Tommy Boy helps remind those who forgot that there was also the Digital Underground (the lighthearted side of Parliament/Funkadelic in modernized hip-hop fatigues) and Tone-Loc (whose instant mainstream success uprooted him from his coastal affiliation). A somewhat sly move is the presence of both A Tribe Called Quest's "Bonita Applebum" ("I'd like to kiss you where some brothas won't") and AMG's "Bitch Betta Have My Money" ("Open up ya coach bag, bitch, so I can get laid"), two tracks with wildly divergent views of women. There's a healthy mix of hallmarks (Big Daddy Kane's "Ain't No Half Steppin'") and unexpected selections (at least six tracks are more representative of EPMD than "Gold Digger"). Again, the selective expletive censoring is baffling: "f*ck," "sh*t," "ass," and the "n"-word are removed (most of the time), while anything that could potentially offend gays and women stays. Another potential gripe for listeners is that Eric B. & Rakim's "Microphone Fiend" comes in its extended remix form with an entirely different beat (albeit a perfectly effective one), though it is not indicated in the track list.

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