Various Artists

Frosh 90's

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Frosh 90's is split evenly between memorable alternative radio moments (Prodigy's "Firestarter," New Radicals' "You Get What You Give") and a brace of singles that helped bring hip-hop straight into the suburbs. Tracks like LL Cool J's bruising "Mama Said Knock You Out" or the Naughty By Nature classic "Hip Hop Hooray" crossed barriers of race, radio format, and video programming to become as ubiquitous as cheesecake fare like Tonic's "If You Could Only See" and the drug rug pop of Spin Doctors' "Two Princes." This makes Frosh 90's one of the only compilations where these entirely opposite songs can coexist, just as they did on that well-used mid-'90s mixtape you played at dorm parties. The album is filled out with a few less popular yet no less resonant ringers. Mark Morrison's "Return of the Mack" recasts the groove of Digital Underground's "Humpty Dance" as knife edge-smooth urban soul from the U.K., while White Town turns in "Your Woman" and proves that every decade needs its own "One Night in Bangkok." While Frosh is packed with era-defining jams, its hidden gem might be the unlikely Bran Van 3000 hit "Drinking in L.A." A spacy mix of Beck-style chopsocky rock and sleepy hip-hop flow, the song seems assembled by aliens from intercepted California sound waves. Its loopy, head-nodding rhythms drift like a restless hangover until finally coalescing around the gospel chorus. "What the hell am I doing drinking in L.A.?" it asks, summarizing the medley of melancholy, frustration, and partying that helped shape the decade's popular culture. Frosh 90's is essential for anyone who ever threw one of those parties, since it allows for the final retirement of that stack of hopelessly scratched and nicked party CDs, their valiant liner booklets washed out, torn, and blistered from too many beers spilled at 14 different addresses.

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