Quannum Projects, 2000
There was once a small Bay-area hip-hop label called SoleSides. DJ Shadow and Chief Xcel provided the beats, while The Gift of Gab, Lyrics Born (aka Asia Born), Lateef, and other master freestylers MCed. It was a precarious time, when mainstream hip-hop was becoming commercial and gangster-oriented. All the underground had to compete was insane lyrical skills. According to their Web site, Quannum Projects arose from the ashes of SoleSides. Luckily they’ve seen fit to release a best-of, stuffing select singles and live performances from ’92-’97 into two CDs of monumental rap history. The liner notes by Jeff “DJ Zen” Chang are extensive and humorous, while the music is deep and infectious. You won’t find any sugar-sweet choruses here—just verse after verse of tight rhymes and vicious battling. These tracks are hard to come by by other means. If you consider yourself a hip-hop lover—someone who likes to dig deeper than the latest Puffy record, this compilation is your pot of gold.