Various Artists

Connected [3-2-1]

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The strongest aspect of this album lies in its concept: a diverse collection of urban music, most selections pushing the margins of contemporary musical expectations. According to the liner notes, the music is "predominantly hip-hop and dub, with some soul, cut & scratch, old school, and some new flavor tracks" -- overall, an accurate description. In addition, keeping with the progressive nature of this project, a portion of the proceeds received from the sales of this album will be donated to PAX, an anti-gun violence organization. The first track on this album, "Touch the Stars," is a rap performed by Bay Area MC Blackalicious. The instrumentation over which he rhymes is elemental; a four-count bass loop with diffused snare accents and a futuristic sound effect that jumps in on the one beatChannel Live (of the Boogie Down Productions crew) comes as hard as ever on "Red Rum (Sign O' the Times)." The instrumentation, produced by Tuffy, is eerie and begins with a deep and grating guitar lick. Consistent with the consciousness-raising and apocalyptic lyrics Channel Live is known for, "Red Rum" is on point. The Angel is credited with "Selector (On Tha Otha Side of Midnite)." Featuring Cokni O' Dire, this mostly instrumental, trip-hop-like track is slower in tempo with a dominant droning bassline. "Don't Stop the Reggae Music" is a dancehall cut performed by Spida (of the Refugee Camp) and features the Tarantula Crew. With a refrain inspired by Stevie Wonder's "Don't Stop the Music," this selection is without surprises. Well-known rap group Ultra Magnetic MC's blesses this project with "It's All the Way Live." Produced by member Ced-G, this track uses a familiar sample over which Kool Keith and Ced-G deliver lyrics detailing their verbal capabilities. On the whole, this is a very interesting listen which can serve as a remedy for the monotony that tends to encrust popular urban music releases.

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