Various The Difference Vol. 1

This hip-hop compilation is a little different from your average affair, and this ultimately works to its advantage. Clocking in at 12 tracks in just over 40 minutes, it's a thankful reprieve from bloated excess, and despite the presence of everyone from hungry MCs to seasoned veterans, the whole affair, save for one track, is helmed by one producer. Domingo (the boards-man in question) is not averse to putting out compilations, having put out volumes of the videogame-inspired Game Over compilations over the past few years. But there's no central theme this time, except tailoring the beats to the MCs in question. A case in point is Dilated Peoples' "Certified Official," which could've contended for a spot on their Expansion Team full-length. Another notable entry from a familiar name includes frequent collaborator KRS-One launching a thinly veiled attack at pop rapper Nelly on "Clear 'Em Out." But the best tracks here belong to lesser names. Rise's assured flow over a Meters-style groove on "From The Child To The MC" houses a lot of promise, while underground mainstays Punch n Words deliver the smoothly beguiling and vivid "Native New Yorker," highlighting Domingo's improving production and best compilation to date. (Official Jointz)