Grandmaster Flash

Essential Cuts

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Essential Cuts is essentially a Grandmaster Flash "best-of" which, as a U.K. import, might be a little harder to find (particularly in the U.S.) than the most widely distributed Grandmaster Flash compilation, Rhino's Message from Beat Street. Although there's some track variation, there's not much difference between them in quality. Some might even prefer Essential Cuts owing to the inclusion of "Adventures on the Wheels of Steel" (which somehow missed the cut for Message from Beat Street) and a slightly longer track listing, Essential Cuts boasting 13 tracks to Message from Beat Street's 11. They both have most of the material that most listeners would agree to be the act's most important recordings: "The Message," "New York, New York," "Scorpio," and "White Lines (Don't Do It)." It's material that also ranks among the most important early rap music of all, particularly "The Message," which set the standard for rap as a vehicle for social commentary. Some might view the inclusion of the conventional soul ballad "Dreamin'" as a misstep, particularly as it comes as the expense of more rap-directed tracks that could have taken its place, such as "Message II (Survival)." Incomplete as it is, however, the anthology will give any listener a good idea of Grandmaster Flash's vital contribution to establishing the rap form in the early 1980s, via both hard-hitting "message" tracks and more fun-loving grooves.

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