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Various Artists 

Om Hip Hop Volume One (Om Hip Hop)

Wednesday, Feb 21 2007
As mainstream hip hop becomes increasingly predictable, the underground continues pushing the genre in creative directions. Intended as a teaser of what listeners can expect from Om Hip Hop's old and upcoming offerings, this 15-song collection is at times reminiscent of the free-flowing, experimental fusion last seen during the acid-jazz era of the early '90s. Om Hip Hop Volume One holds together as an album, yet it's a bit of a hodgepodge stylistically, falling somewhere in between funk, punk, and crunk. Were it not on Om, it might be easy to dismiss this as just another alt-hoppish, backpacker-friendly outing, but the S.F.-based label's background in electronic music crosses over to the beats and rhymes genre, resulting in a clubby, dubby, jazzy aesthetic that offers plenty of delectable lyrical morsels to chew on.

The kickoff track, Zion-I & the Grouch's "Hit 'Em" (featuring Mistah F.A.B.), is a lively introduction to the mood on display throughout this album. Strange Fruit Project's "Get Live," Ladybug Mecca's "Dogg Starr," the One's "Pistol Whipped," and Zeph & Azeem's "Play the Drum" resonate with a playfulness missing from comparable above-ground offerings. Not everything is light and breezy, though: Deuce Eclipse is clearly not joking around on "Que Pasa," where he opines on the hot-button issue of immigration over a Latin-tinged J. Boogie beat, proving that topical relevancy and dance floor swing-ability aren't mutually exclusive terms. — Eric K. Arnold

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Eric K. Arnold


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