Monday, 11 November 2002

Album Review: Soundbombing Volume 1

Released in 1999, Soundbombing 1 was the first official mix CD from the then fledgling Rawkus label. Listening to the first Soundbombing today comes in stark contrast to the extremely polished, but slightly bland third in the series. Where the most recent release is bloated by some big name stars putting in mediocre performances, this collection is a tight mix of hungry, focused rappers, scratchy, intense production and some highly capable mixing from Evil D.

The standout tracks are those involving perhaps the greatest but most short-lived hip hop collective ever, Company Flow. Lune TNS and Fire In Which You Burn (credited to the Indelible MCs) both find their way onto this mix, and once again remind listeners how much of a shame it is that they split so prematurely. Elsewhere RA The Rugged Man is his usual uncompromising self on Flipside and Till My Heart Stops.

In contrast to the rough and obdurate work of Company Flow and The Rugged Man, Rawkus stalwart Mos Def lends his silky flow to proceedings. His classic cut If You Can Huh remains one of the strongest works in the Rawkus annals and is found towards the end of this mix. Fans of the most underrated man in hip hop will also enjoy his freestyle with Talib Kweli which links sides A and B.

Other impressive moments include the snapping drum and thumping subterranean bass line that backs Empire Staters by B-One, Kool Keith’s familiarly obtuse rambling on So Intelligent and the melodious whistling that accompanies L-Fudge’s Show Me Your Gratitude.

While the mixing for the most part is stylish and unobtrusive, the biggest criticism one can level at this mix is Evil D's insistence on shouting his name every couple of seconds. This reviewer realises that every DJ puts his name on some tracks during a mix; but Evil D pushes the listener's tolerance to the limit, by taking every opportunity to remind the listener that, "Evil D is on the mix" or that "Evil D is in the area." It's more annoying than it sounds. However the quality of the tracks on offer is such that this minor fault does not detract too much from the music.

Overall this is a very worthy purchase for any fans of intelligent hip hop and a worthy reminder of how imperial Rawkus was until the lure of major label dollars became too strong to resist; but if you only ever buy one Soundbombing collection, make it the second one.

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