Various Artists

A Rap Collection

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Although rap music has existed since the late '70s, it is a rather unforgiving and ahistorical genre in which yesterday's records and their performers tend to be discarded rapidly. And the music moved so fast in the late '90s and early 2000s that even the early '90s quickly came to seem "old school" from "back in the day." After all, that was before the deaths of 2Pac and the Notorious B.I.G., which were ancient history by 2001. Giant Records was not known as a major player in rap, but, especially in its deal with Ice-T's Rhyme Syndicate organization, it had access to plenty of rap in the first half of the '90s (not that rappers have ever been hard to find). This compilation surveys the label's roster of 1991-1995, some of it popular stuff at the time (Hammer, Ahmad, Ice-T), plenty of it also-ran even then. What strikes you immediately is how much less sophisticated the percussion tracks are as compared with those common a decade later, then how straightforward the raps are, in part driven by those simple beats. What hasn't changed is the attitude, which remains vulgar and boasting, a tone that can seem hopeful in young rappers and challenging in current ones, but that seems pathetic coming from these has-beens and never-weres. A Rap Collection is given a deliberately unassuming title that suggests its contents are generic, and that's not far wrong, as long as you add the qualification "of the early '90s."

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