Biz Markie The Best of Cold Chillin''

While no one has parlayed the group collective into as much success as the Wu-Tang Clan, predecessors such as the Juice Crew were undoubtedly huge influences on the Staten Island crew, not to mention on hip-hop as a whole. Headed by production svengali Marley Marl, the crew's most famous member may have been Big Daddy Kane, but it's the influence of members Kool G. Rap and Biz Markie that comes into focus on these two compilations. A retrospective of Kool G. Rap's significant contributions couldn't be more timely, given his imminent re-emergence with Rawkus. This compilation culls many of the lisped MC's best hard-boiled and highly influential street narratives. Classic singles, "Poison" (lifted by Bell Biv Devoe for their hit of the same name) and "It's A Demo," are rightfully included, as are later career essentials "Ill Street Blues" and the vivid detail of the underrated gem "On The Run (remix)." This serves as an invaluable introduction to an influential yet often overlooked MC, to whom MCs attempting to accurately depict street life are indebted. While Biz Markie has never been mistaken for possessing the lyrical dexterity of Kool G. Rap, his goofy humour and charisma, not to mention his penchant for recording a few consummate classic party tracks, gave him plenty of respect. While he's best known for the crossover hit "Just A Friend," funky concoctions like "Nobody Beats The Biz" and "Vapors" had already solidified his rep. He also gained notoriety for being prominently sued by Gilbert O' Sullivan, effectively nixing hip-hop's freewheeling, crate-raiding approach. However, there's plenty of his maniacal presence, beat-boxing and utterly woeful harmonising to go around on this career overview, which is guaranteed to put a smile on your face at some point, with the omission of tracks like the scatological ditty "T.S.R.(Toilet Stool Rap)" a minor beef. As well as certifying the creativity of these artists, the two compilations also serve to underline the brilliance of Marley Marl, who is behind a significant number of these irrefutably funky jams on these two releases. (Landspeed)