Various Artists

#1 Spot

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A label that bases a compilation on its number one singles seems like it's more concerned with patting itself on the back than giving the consumer something useful. In Def Jam's case, #1 Spot serves both causes. Arranged in chronological order covering nearly 20 years, the disc begins with Oran "Juice" Jones' equally dramatic and gut-busting "The Rain" (an inspiration R. Kelly should've thought about taking more to heart for the "Trapped in the Closet" saga) and closes with Ludacris' hulking "Stand Up," the only inclusion with no discernible connection to R&B. Each selection hit the top of Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop chart (a handful did as well on the Pop chart), but there's a definite slant toward the more relaxed side of R&B and pop-rap. After LL Cool J's "I Need Love," the track that follows "The Rain," the disc skips ahead eight years to Montell Jordan's "This Is How We Do It," and from there, the disc rolls through singles from the late '90s and early 2000s, when Def Jam was becoming known for R&B as much as raw hip-hop. (Who could've predicted back in the mid-'80s that the label would go through such a transformation?) The chronological sequencing and stylistic focus -- best exemplified by the back-to-back Neptunes productions, LL Cool J's "Luv U Better" and Jay-Z's "Excuse Me Miss" -- makes the disc that much easier to listen to from beginning to end.

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