Kenny "Dope" Gonzalez


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Kenny Dope does the honors this time for the Harmless label's Life: Styles series, in which prominent producers and DJs curate a disc's worth of favorites, most being obscure or at least not obvious to the average record hound. Following 4hero and Coldcut, Kenny Dope selects nearly 80 minutes of mind-expanding tracks that must amount to the most eclectic and least dance-oriented set he has released commercially to date. For someone who is no stranger to putting together compilations similar in historic spirit to this one -- see 1998's Hip Hop Forever, 2000's Strange Games and Funky Things, 2002's Disco Heat, and 2003's In the House -- it's remarkable that he can continue to disappear deeper and deeper into his record bag and surface without losing the listener on meek curiosities. Life: Styles is simply compiled and sequenced, not mixed, so each track is provided in full. Looking at the first and last contributors in the track listing -- the Jackson 5 and Black Sabbath -- it would be understandable to think this is another slapdash collision of tangents, no different from hitting shuffle on your MP3 player (see some of the weaker discs in the Back to Mine and Under the Influence series for examples). Kenny Dope does indeed move fast from style to style, but his extensive time behind the decks has given him a remarkable ability to connect them all. With rare exception, every selection can be considered a minor revelation for the unfamiliar. Best of all is Phil Upchurch's "Black Gold," one of several variations on the Rotary Connection's "I Am the Black Gold of the Sun"; a windburned Upchurch and company could've recorded it in a dustbowl. The most inspired and daring sequence occurs near the end of the disc, where the acid prog-funk (for kids!) of Stark Reality's "All You Need to Make Music" gives way to Sabbath's "War Pigs" -- the latter possibly included in part as an exclamation point, given the actions of the Bush II administration.

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