Mood music

It’s been said that the one who’s in the middle sees the most. Hip-hop crews from the states that border the Great Lakes have heeded these words, taken notes and waited for the perfect time to grab the spotlight. MCs from Michigan and Illinois have been making waves in the underground and blowing up worldwide for the past two years, and now Ohio representatives are screaming “We got next!”

Leader of that charge is Cincinnati trio Mood, whose 1997 debut LP Doom was an underrated gem. It not only introduced the world to its unique Ohio Valley adaptation of East Coast conscious rap, but featured the debut of Talib Kweli and DJ Hi-Tek, who met in Cincinnati and make appearances here. Prehistoric Sounds also features nearly 20 other MCs and DJs from Mood’s Wanna Battle collective, which explains the confusing album title. What’s not confusing is the old-fashioned boom-bap of the beats provided by Hi-Tek and Jahson. Simple and built around achingly beautiful samples, the tracks have a mystical yet rugged feel. Donte, Main Flow and the other rhymers hold up their end of the bargain with a combination of intelligence, street roughness and spirituality. Tales of hustling and crime are juxtaposed with anti-materialistic anthems (“Millionaires”), conspiracy theories and religious references — all delivered with accents that let you know this isn’t just another New York crew. Every song here is solid or better, remarkable for a compilation featuring this many artists.

Particularly outstanding contributions come from Pittsburgh’s Lone Catalysts, who pay tribute to all the fallen rappers with “Part of the Game,” Cincy duo Five Deez’s “Instruments of the Trade,” and Reason, fighting through depression and suicidal thoughts on the chilling “Bleed.”

Mood was ahead of its time in 1997 and it’s nice to see the group and its crew have kept up the pace.

E-mail Luke Forrest at [email protected].

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