Various Artists

The Third Unheard: Connecticut Hip Hop 1979-1983

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It took over 20 years, but Connecticut is finally being recognized for its contributions to rap. A long time, to be sure, but understandable when you're in the shadow of New York, ground zero of the hip-hop bomb, and Sylvia Robinson's Sugar Hill Records empire in New Jersey. Plus, New York has never had any scruples about culling talent from the rest of the globe to feed its culture jones. Case in point: Tony Pearson (aka Mr. Magic) is best known as New York's first all-rap radio DJ, but before he was gobbled up by the big city, Magic was the Connecticut rap impresario who made Third Unheard possible. To be fair, it was Connecticut's proximity to New York that allowed them to be among the first to fall sway to the newest form of party music. In the late '70s, Magic was a record store owner and promoter with an ear for disco and funk when he heard Kurtis Blow's "Christmas Rap." The song changed his musical outlook and left Magic determined to release the first rap record from Connecticut. The results were released as "Rappin' With Mr. Magic" and it was clearly the work of an impassioned amateur, but its naïve charm is palpable even 20 years on. And charm is what keeps Third Unheard going. The secret weapon of the comp is 12-year-old Pookey Blow, nephew to Magic, who steals the show with his slurred delivery on "Get Up (And Go to School)" and shows up again with Magic for the highly rated "Earth Break," but he is far from the only bright moment here. From the utterly bizarre and singular "Ventriloquist Rap" of Willie Brown and, yes, his dummy Woody, to the tuneless-yet-still-compelling chorus of the Outlaw Four's disco-rap "Million Dollar Legs," Third Unheard is refreshing for its lack of formula and its exuberance. Topping the history on the disc is a well-researched essay from comp producer Egon in the accompanying booklet, which is packed with photos.

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