Stereo MCs DJ Kicks

Aside from the odd remix project, British hip-hop outfit the Stereo MCs have kept a remarkably low profile since issuing their Connected album about seven years ago. Best known on these shores for their 1990 "Elevate My Mind" single, they were hastily lumped in with the slew of groups trying to emulate the sound of Native Tongue groups like De La Soul and the Jungle Brothers, with whom the group later worked. However, as their own earlier release, 33-45-78, had attested, the East London-based group had already fashioned their own take on American hip-hop, a point borne out on the selections for this compilation. Group members Rob B and the Head navigate through an absorbing mix of rare groove, moody down-tempo instrumentals and undiluted hip-hop that like the other DJ Kicks compilations values the coherence of the overall sound. Highlights include the deft blending of the Disco Four's "Do It, Do It" against Kool Keith's manic flow on the Ultramagnetic MC's "Poppa Large" alongside the inclusion of Kool G Rap and DJ Polo's decade-old gem "Road to Riches," and 57th Dynasty's raw UK hip-hop. Sprinkled among futuristic cinematic beats and retro breaks, these hip-hop tracks articulate a familial continuum. Naturally, the distilling of these influences manifests itself in the Stereo MCs output and a new track, "Rhino," is presented in three very different instrumental versions, that, as a minor complaint, are bereft of Rob B's peculiar Cockney charm on the mic. (Studio !K7)