With a line-up that includes cut-and-paste maestro DJ Shadow, innovative rap duo Blackalicious, and the spirited funk styles of Latryx, the Quannum collective is a Bay Area institution. Since its inception in the early '90s, the creative crew has soundtracked a key part of the Bay's independent hip-hop scene, releasing records through the Solesides and then Quannum labels.
5. Blackalicious, "Swan Lake"
Vintage 1994 from Blackalicious's Melodica EP, Chief Xcel and DJ Shadow conspire to loop up a sample of O'Donel Levy's take on "People Make The World Go Round" to craft a slinky, laid-back beat. Gift Of Gab returns the production favor with a suitably nourishing and accomplished rap.
4. Quannum MCs, "Blue Flames"
A good-time posse cut from almost the whole darn Quannum clan -- here, MCs Lateef, Gift Of Gab and Lyrics Born get down over Chief XL's funkafied production. The ad-lib shout-outs on the outro solidify the live vibe.
3. Latryx, "Lady Don't Tek No"
This is about as funked-up as indie rap got during its fertile '90s period. DJ Shadow's beat pulses and squelches along, while rappers Lateef and Lyrics Born drop a sing-songy ode to a super-sassy chick they characterize as "the cutest most purdiest thing you've seen this side of the Bay." All that, and it's available in a lurid orange vinyl pressing to boot!
2. Blackalicious, "Alphabet Aerobics" (The Cut Chemist 2 1/2 Minute Workout)
"Artificial amateurs aren't at all amazing/ Analytically I assault animate things..." So begins the start of rapper Gift Of Gab's feat of verbal dexterity, in which he not just alliterates his way through the alphabet, but keeps up with a steadily speeding-up beat. As thrilling as lyrical nerdery gets.
1. DJ Shadow and the Groove Robbers, "Entropy"
A nearly 18-minute primer on the cut-and-paste proficiency of DJ Shadow, "Entropy" is broken down into a number sections. Blackalicious's Gift Of Gab makes an appearance on the "Count and Estimate" segment, but it's Shadow's scratched-up introduction that sets the tone with witty vocal snippets and raw, almost unadorned drums. The whole shebang stands as an epic statement of Quannum's creativity.