Mastermind Volume 50: Street Legal

The aftermath of the crackdown on Toronto record stores selling mix-tapes is the context in which recent major labels releases by Baby Blue Soundcrew and this effort from seasoned hip-hop DJ Mastermind have arisen. All ironies aside, major label "mix-tapes" can at worst be little more than a showcase of prominent artists on the label issuing the release, or can aspire to exploit greater access to resources. Thankfully, Mastermind has chosen the latter option. Volume 50 is liberally sprinkled with contributions from prominent players in the Toronto hip-hop scene, in the form of production freestyles, original tracks and genuinely funny skits. While the quality control exercised over the inclusion of the Virgin-affiliated roster ensures an acceptable comfort level, it really is the Canadian content that stands out. K-OS throws down rhymes and his affecting vocals alongside the Rascalz's Red One on "Follow Me," while Saukrates and Brassmunk swagger over a throbbing offering from Mr. Attic of Da Grassroots. It's obvious that Mastermind put in some work here, including ingenious pairings like Nefarius and Phife Dawg, "Hold Ya Karna," separating this release from the usual mix-tape fare. (Virgin)