Steinski - What Does It All Mean? 1983-2006 RetrospectiveOn the way in just a few short days is What Does It All Mean? 1983-2006 Retrospective, the best hip-hop retrospective of the year so far, a two-disc set including some of the best mixes in hip-hop history, all delivered by the ad-man-turned-mastermixer Steve Stein aka Steinski.

Godfather of some of the zanier aspects of turntablism, Steinski created a succession of extra-legal works of studio art -- "Lesson One: The Payoff Mix," "Lesson Two: The James Brown Mix," "Lesson 3: The History of Hip-Hop" -- that quickly became DJ landmarks and some of the most valued bootlegs in rap history.

It all began in 1983. After hearing of a nationwide competition to remix G.L.O.B.E. & Whiz Kid's "Play That Beat Mr. DJ" sponsored by Tommy Boy Records (official title: "Hey Mr. DJ Play That Beat Down by Law Switch the Licks Mastermix Contest"), he hooked up with Double Dee (Douglas DiFranco, a studio engineer) to produce "The Payoff Mix (aka Lesson One)," a track that sprinkled the usual funk breakbeats with a parade of samples from feature films and cartoons, including all manner of pop-culture references. A panel including Afrika Bambaataa, Arthur Baker, and Shep Pettibone awarded it first prize after one listen, and the remix gained even more airplay than the original.

Soul Brother No. 1 was next on the docket, and "Lesson 2 (The James Brown Mix)" introduced Clint Eastwood, Bugs Bunny, and instructional LPs into the mix. By the time of "Lesson 3 (History of Hip Hop)," the third record released by Tommy Boy, offended sample victims began demanding its removal from retail shelves, and for most hip-hop fans, Double Dee & Steinski entered the realm of the legendary.

Twenty years later, though, the aptly named label Illegal Art has brought them all back in a big package that includes virtually all of his short mixes on one disc and his best long mix on the second, Nothing to Fear: A Rough Mix (originally produced in 2002 for Coldcut's Solid Steel show on the BBC).

"The Payoff Mix"
"Lesson 2 (James Brown Mix)"
"Lesson 3 (History of Hip Hop)"