While released as part of Tommy Boy's 20th anniversary reissue series, most tracks on Tommy Boy Essentials are culled from the label's peak years of 1988-1994. All tracks are 12" remixes, one-off singles, and promotional tracks, and most of them were never before issued on compact disc. Highlights include remixes of House of Pain's "Jump Around," Queen Latifah's "Wrath of My Madness," and Prince Rakeem's "Ooh I Love You Rakeem." (Rakeem is better known today as Wu-Tang Clan's RZA; the song included here was his first appearance on record.) Lost classics include Uptown's densely polyrhythmic "Dope On Plastic" and the rare and cryptically titled "Sh.Fe.MC's," a long-sought-after collaboration between De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest that is worth the disc's asking price alone. While rap's long-overdue self-examination of its own past is crippled by the fact that artists and styles seem to have a sell-by date of about 18 months, most of the cuts on Tommy Boy Essentials were judiciously chosen for their longevity. A lack of any liner notes or artist information is disappointing, but to any serious beat hound or student of hip-hop's meteoric development, this CD is a must-have, plain and simple.
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AllMusic Review by John Duffy