Various Lyricist Lounge Volume 2

Starting as an open-mic night back in 1991, where underground MCs took the stage to spit freestyle rhymes, this second volume inspired by the Lyricist Lounge event seems light years away from its origins. Although the archives of the event have been scoured to bring us sound bites from KRS-One, Q-Tip and an exhumed Biggie freestyle, this edition lacks the cohesive spirit of Volume 1. The teaming of relatively underground MCs with much more established names (including a collaboration featuring Redman with his newly signed associate, Toronto MC Saukrates) are sprinkled throughout and predictably, Rawkus signees Talib Kweli, Hi-Tek, Kool G Rap and particularly Mos Def bring solid contributions. But other inclusions raise eyebrows. The appearance of the marble-mouthed JT Money and DJ Premier's admittedly dope reworking of Macy Gray's "I've Commited Murder" defies explanation. The interlude featuring Planet Asia and Phil Da Agony freestyling over the Madlib remix of Peanut Butter Wolf's "Definition of Ill" is one of the better moments, but its inclusion seems token. And the absence of Shabaam Sahdeeq, further fuelling the rumours of his departure from the label, in favour of Roc-A-Fella MC Beanie Siegel spouting "Get That Dough" provides a particularly telling scenario. (Rawkus)