REVIEW: Underground Airplay

Underground Airplay

Artist: Various

Album: Underground Airplay

Label: Lyricist Lounge

Rating: 8 / 10

Reviewer: A to the L

In 1993, Ecko Unltd and the Lyricist Lounge joined together for the first time, in a collaboration of marketing efforts to present hiphop and fashion “hand-in-hand” to the consumer. Each Ecko t-shirt purchased was accompanied by a mixtape called “Underground Airplay”, and for the next few years from its conception, the “one-shirt, one-tape, one-love” philosophy ensured that an underground urban fashion label provided a medium for underground urban acts to showcase thier skills worldwide.

Fast forward to 2001 and view the scenario. The big ass Rhino silhouette, the logo for Ecko, is synonymous with ill hoodies and tees, and the “Lyricist Lounge” compilations 1 and 2 have (with a few exceptions) contained some of the nicest tracks Rawkus have ever released.

Where the previous two “LL” compilations contained full tracks mainly from well known cats, this one has a few important differences:

1) Its a return to the mixtape of old. This time around its DJ Spinbad providing the cuts and scratches.

2) The tracks on here are by artists, who while still familiar, are definitely on the underground tip. No Nate Dogg here then.

3) And most important – there’s no mention of Rawkus Records at all on this cd, or in the liner notes. With the rumours of impending doom due to artist / label creative differences coming from Rawkus Towers, this can only be a good thing.

First off all props have to be given to Spinbad – he’s managed to pull together some hot joints for this, and managed to mix them in a style thats easy on the ear. I find that with some mixtapes, the DJ loses me a little by continually beat juggling and revisiting the same particular phrase on a song. Its very easy to grow bored of this style, (think about it Flex!) but luckily Spin has concentrated on letting the songs speak for themselves.

And what of the songs? What can you expect if you pick this up? Well if you’re into artists like Jane Doe, Casual, Masta Ace, Obie Trice, and the Spitfactory posse then this will be right up your alley. There’s a few recognisable album cuts, but for the most part its new (and usually, exclusive) 12’s.

Standouts cuts on here? Well there’s HOM’s ‘Lounge Promo’ that promises to be “raw like fucking when the rubber comes off”; the bouncy ‘Nuthin’ You Can Do’ by Skeme Team, from their superb “Hidden Agenda” album; and the superb ‘Bisexual’ by female-of-the-moment Jane Doe. Also worth checking out is the diss-exchange between Boogieman and Masta Ace – Boogie’s ‘Just You Wait’ contains a few nice putdowns, but is totally eclipsed by Ace’s album cut ‘Acknowledge’. Its a shame that when thinking of 2001’s diss records most people will overlook the brilliance of this, in favour of Jay-Z’s nice, but still inferior, ‘Takeover’. Other cuts worth a trip to the rewind button include Tahir’s ‘Holiday’, the on-form Primo production on Bahamadia’s ‘Special Forces’, and the absolutely bangin’ ‘Good Luck Bad Luck’ by Richie Balance and Rack Lo.

There’s not really anything negative to say about this. Its nicely mixed, the choice of tracks is perfect… in short – its as near perfect as a mix cd can be. Definitely worth hunting down and picking up. You won’t be disappointed.

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