Various Artists

Hidden Hits, Vol. 1

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Hidden Beach Recordings' Hidden Hits, Vol. 1 is a sampler of unsigned artists assembled by Steve McKeever's custom label, which was put on the map by the success of hip-hop/rap/neo-soul artist Jill Scott. The selections are typical of the mix of African-American styles the label has promoted during its short life. Hidden Beach's company goal is to find ways to make rap and hip-hop acceptable to an older demographic (and thus more broadly popular) by infusing (or diluting) it with elements of soul and smooth jazz. It's a reasonable enough charter, but the compilation and release of Hidden Hits, Vol. 1 (no, none of them are actually hits) suggests that the company is hoping someone else -- radio, reviewers? -- will do its A&R work for it and help decide which of these unknown artists should be signed. Those who wish to take the bait are going to find that, not surprisingly, the compilers are better at identifying acceptable neo-soul performers like J.R. ("I Choose You") and even the French-language act 7Destinee7 ("C'Est Durs"), who tend to come later in the sequencing, than rappers, who are mostly placed up front. Performers such as Critically Acclaimed & Kev Brown ("Wallflower") and jaMal ("Oh No," "Playa") offer little in the way of originality. Hidden Beach is attempting to find a market niche in the overlap of different styles, and when the label succeeds, it does so with a singular artist such as Scott. But sometimes there isn't as much overlap as the company executives would like to believe.

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