Tommy Boy Classic Cuts

Jul 23, 2003 at 12:00 am

Seminal hip-hop label Tommy Boy has earned the right to cash in on its back catalog. As one of the more adventurous rap labels of the ’80s and early ’90s, the Tom Silverman-led imprint counted techno classics from the likes of 808 State among its early releases as well as, as this comp shows, most of hip hop’s early groundbreaking crossover hits. Sadly, the State is not here for this golden-age-of-hip-hop party, which begins, appropriately enough, with Afrika Bambaataa and the Soulsonic Force’s “Planet Rock,” which of course, kick-started hip hop itself. From there, between the Digital Underground novelty hits (“Humpty Dance”) and the De la Soul life-of-their-own cuts (“Me Myself & I”), the case is made that TB pretty much owned early ’90s hip hop, when it seemed every group was different and, literally, good — even the one-hit wonders such as House of Pain (“Jump Around”). Give or take a few Coolio hits from the mid-’90s (included here) and the label’s more recent successes (Everlast’s “What It’s Like” is conspicuously absent) Cuts gets a little less Classic with each lesser-known R&B crossover and hardcore rap cut. But as a pioneering label that signed acts from both coasts and gave voice to groups who proved rap could not only rival the mainstream but that it could be the mainstream, this comp is not only important, it’s essential, for hip-hop heads and office-party planners alike.

Hobey Echlin writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].