Clinton Sparks/Various Maybe You Been Brainwashed

With this compilation, Clinton Sparks — the mix-tape DJ, producer, promoter and entrepreneur — showcases his production talent and his ambition for heavyweight status. Sparks wants to be a ubiquitous force in rap and he’s making all the right connections so far, featuring international, commercial and underground stars on his 22-track debut. The way that Sparks works this mix-tape is with beats that are adaptable for his artists, as opposed to a signature distinct sound throughout. This style of production takes away from originality, but the result bangs and has an "oh so necessary” replay value. Sparks reworks pieces of classic break beats and even current hits into his own tracks. "Get Down,” featuring Busta and Rah Digga, has a Beastie Boys-era percussive spine with all the modern cosmetics which Flipmode Squad kill. "Run the City,” featuring P.Diddy, uses the same echo drum noises from "Kick in the Door,” but it still sounds fresh. There are a couple of Mobb Deep heat rocks on this album and a couple of joints featuring Freeway with State Prop Boyz. Two standouts that are completely original are "Hater Bug,” featuring Kardinal Offishall and the compelling "Whatever it Takes” featuring Joe Budden — a six minute bare bones Budden confessional. A good compilation forces one to switch their pick for the disc’s best song and this one does that and more. Clinton Sparks is on the come-up and his first official mix-tape is definitely a keeper. (Landspeed)