Various Artists

Straight from da Streets, Vol. 1

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In the 1980s and '90s, Priority was one of the top labels for rap compilations. Priority usually didn't provide the type of comprehensive, meticulously detailed liner notes you could expect from Rhino, but its rap compilations often contained their share of essential hits. Released in 1994, Straight from da Streets, Vol. 1 isn't the last word on early-'90s hip-hop, but it does offer many of the classic rap hits from that period. Variety is the rule on this compilation, which ranges from the hyper Florida-style bass music of Tag Team's "Whoomp! (There It Is)" and Duice's "Dazzey Dukes," to the jazz-influenced alternative rap of Digable Planets' "Rebirth of Slick." Northeastern hardcore rap is represented by Public Enemy's "Can't Truss It" and Black Sheep's "The Choice Is Yours," while L.A. gangsta rap is represented by Dr. Dre's "Let Me Ride" and Ice Cube's "It Was a Good Day." And on "Baby Got Back," Sir Mix-A-Lot's ode to women with large derrieres, the Seattle rapper reminds us how distinctive and unique he is. Toward the end, the CD makes an infectious detour into P-funk with George Clinton's "Atomic Dog" and a rare live version of Funkadelic's "One Nation Under a Groove" -- neither are hip-hop, but Priority probably reasoned that the songs deserved to be on a rap compilation because they've been sampled by so many MCs. Ranging from decent to superb, Straight from da Streets is recommended to listeners who looking for a diverse survey of early-'90s rap styles.