Various Artists

Soundbombing

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Hitting stores in mid-1997, Soundbombing arrived at a crucial juncture for rap music, just as the deaths of 2Pac and Notorious B.I.G. forced hip-hop to re-examine its priorities, and the commercial dominance of Bad Boy necessitated a smart, socially conscious alternative to P. Diddy's blatantly commercial brand of karaoke hip-pop. An DJ Evil Dee-mixed collection of early Rawkus singles, many of them originally available only on vinyl (in keeping with the company's hip-hop purism), Soundbombing announces Rawkus as the anti-Bad Boy, taking its cues from hip-hop iconoclasts like Ultramagnetic MCs and Brand Nubian rather than the commercial kings of the day. The influence of Kool Keith is felt most heavily early on, with artists like Company Flow and the Indelible MCs paying tribute to Keith's unique brand of bizarre, stream of consciousness hip-hop before Keith himself pops up on "So Intelligent" alongside kindred spirit Sir Menelik. The second half of the disc is dominated by the soon to be famous trio of Reflection Eternal (Talib Kweli and DJ Hi-Tek) and Mos Def, who would soon team up with Kweli to form Black Star. Early Def solo tracks like "If You Can Huhh" and "Universal Magnetic" find the future superstar rocking over uncharacteristically spare, Jay Dee-inspired grooves, while "Fortified Live" and "Freestyle" show off Def and Kweli's burgeoning chemistry. But Soundbombing doesn't really hit its peak until its final track, "2000 Seasons," a somber, melancholy, and unforgettable Reflection Eternal song that offers an early glimpse of the quiet, politically minded b-boy revolution Black Star, Reflection Eternal, Mos Def, and Rawkus would go on to lead over the course of the next few years.

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