Various Artists

Heavy Loungin'

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As the East Coast American underground hip-hop scene exponentially grew through the latter half of the 1990s, supply outgrew demand as there was more quality music than labels to support and release it. As an alternative, many artists turned to Western Europe and Japan, where fans and the press were more supportive and open-minded, and there were record companies willing to financially back projects that weren't aiming for MTV domination. One offspring of these intercontinental relationships was an impressive bunch of quality compilations, primarily featuring American MCs but released abroad, including Wide Angles, the Superrappin' series, and Heavy Loungin'. Put together by U.K.-based Fat City Recordings but distributed by German imprint Grooveattack, Heavy Loungin' carries a true multinational flavor, including musical contributions from Canada, Japan, England, Germany, and the U.S.

Reflecting the second half of the title, the songs here have a generally mellow flavor, and can be described as thinking people's hip-hop. The Aboriginals and Abyss sum up the attitude of all MCs present with the chorus of their collaborative effort, "Try These": "Kill kill kill, money money money, drugs and dealers, trigger-squeezing dummies/if you need something different, then try these." Other highlights include the funky drums and clever rhymes on "Can It," the jazz-club vibe "Renaissance" of Midwesterners All Natural and Lone Catalysts, and the Catalysts' revision of Boogie Down Productions' safe-sex classic "Jimmy Hats." Although few of the tracks will blow anyone away or ignite any parties, there genuinely isn't a bad song here -- and for a various-artists compilation such as this one, that's an accomplishment in itself.

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