Various Fat Beats Compilation Vol. 1

The Fat Beats record store in New York was one of the most important conduits for the independent hip-hop renaissance of the mid-'90s, allowing non-commercial acts and labels like Rawkus to flourish. The store has built on its success, opening stores elsewhere and branching out with projects like this compilation, all the while keeping an ear to the street. Featuring a mix of established artists and new jacks, this compilation aspires to reflect the void that the store itself filled by drawing on both new and previously released tracks. There is a substantial presence of underground vets like Bumpy Knuckles, Afu-Ra and even Grand Puba. Things go even further back with Big Daddy Kane appearing on an unfortunately forgettable 2001 edition of the D&D All-Stars posse cut. Fortunately, the compilation deals with newer acts too; none more impressive than Stones Throw MC Kazi, whose impressively ominous "Average" picks up where his noteworthy appearance on Peanut Butter Wolf's My Vinyl Weighs A Ton left off. Between the veteran artists and new material, the compilation fills the gap in between with a few mid-'90s classics. Saukrates's definitive "Father Time" is a welcome entry and the Juggaknots' "Clear Blue Skies," originally released on Bobbito's Fondle 'Em Records, which deals with a father's negative reaction to his son's interracial relationship, is a recording so essential that it puts other tracks that aren't too shabby on this compilation to shame. (Koch)