Various Strictly Indee

While the album title has that cheesy "indie rock of the '90s" feel, this compilation is actually a good collection of songs by some of hip-hop's most creative individuals. Online underground hip-hop store Below The Surface gathered these previously unreleased songs from amongst the artists on their site and put together one of the better compilations so far this year. There's little arguing over the skills of each and every MC on Strictly Indee, but the whole project wins or loses on the production value. Being heavily dominated by beat master DJ Swindle is a good thing, since the majority of tight songs come courtesy of his production. Swindle keeps things up-tempo and bumping on tracks by Earthlings members Top R. and Boac ("Between The Lines" and "Full Frontal Nudity," respectively), Equipto of Bored Stiff ("Underground Cats") and Kirby Dominant ("Today's a Beautiful Day to be Struck by Lightning"). Although not one of his best, Jel also puts in a good production appearance with "Props 2000," featuring Anticon members Sole, Alias, and the Pedestrian; while Anonymous (aka Anti MC) produces "Louder Damn It" for West Coast Workforce. Although kind of slow, Tommy V's "Memory Lane" - produced by Joe Dubbs - is a touching song dedicated to his lost homies. Not every song on here is necessary, but there are enough good songs to make it worth while, and you might even make a few musical discoveries. (Below The Surface)