Published May 23, 2014Compiled by Peanut Butter Wolf, Circa 1990-1993 is a loving and comprehensive box set commemorating the 20th anniversary of rapper Charizma's (a.k.a. Charles Hicks) murder in December 1993. It was Charizma's death that gave his production partner Wolf the motivation to create the Stones Throw label, with the inaugural release of the Charizma and Peanut Butter Wolf twelve-inch "My World Premiere" in 1996. That poignant backstory aside, Circa 1990-1993 attests that the duo made a formidable unit.
Fans of the 2001 compilation Big Shots will be acquainted with the playful soul samples, Wolf's gravel-hard beats and Charizma's dexterous and no-nonsense flow (which at times anticipates Nas) on cuts like "Soon To Be Large" and "Ice Cream Truck" that were refreshingly out of step for a West Coast act at the time (both were based in San Jose). The previously unreleased "It's Trendy" is perhaps Charizma's best performance and owes a debt to DJ Premier, but its espousal of individuality is definitely an ideal that Wolf cultivated into making Stones Throw an indie hip-hop institution (check out the documentary Our Vinyl Weighs A Ton). At 40 tracks spread out on four LPs and with a remarkable amount of photographs and paraphernalia, Circa is an immersive and at times exhausting listen, but in celebrating a life cut so tragically short as Charizma's, it documents a potent part of hip-hop history. (Stones Throw)