If there's one volume of the Hip Hop Essentials series that is most prone to being called out for containing too many tracks that are either too common or misrepresentative, it's probably this one. Had Tommy Boy relied strictly on the basics, the series would've been criticized for recycling too much, and if the label had gone with nothing but less-recognized material, the series wouldn't have received nearly as much attention. Tommy Boy had to know that the series would not please everyone, so they tried to find a balance between obvious classics and relatively deeper tracks, and they pulled it off pretty favorably. On this disc, the label's desire to find a happy medium is most clear. The inclusions of Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five's "The Message," Salt-N-Pepa's "Push It," and Kurtis Blow's "If I Ruled the World" will repel seasoned rap fans (though no rap fan should be without them); and then there are some questionable choices made with 3rd Bass ("The Gas Face" instead of "Steppin' to the A.M."), Brand Nubian ("Slow Down" instead of "One for All"), Heavy D & the Boyz (who make their first of two appearances), and Ice-T ("Colors" instead of "6 'N the Mornin'," or "New Jack Hustler," or about six others). Absolutely no one should have a problem with A Tribe Called Quest's "Check the Rhime," Schoolly D's "Gucci Time," and the "Native Tongues Decision" version of De la Soul's "Buddy."
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman