Rawkus: Best of Decade I: 1995-2005

Artist: Various ArtistsTitle: Rawkus: Best of Decade I: 1995-2005Rating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: aqua boogie

It’s tough to go wrong with a greatest hits compilation from Rawkus Records. Despite any qualms with the storied labels downfall-actually, stumble since they plan an ‘06 resurrection-during their reign the relatively small label released some of the best Hip-Hop around; overground, underground or whatever constricting label you so choose to use. Unfortunately, in spite of a catalog that prominently features rap heros like Common, Black Star and , Rawkus Records: Best of Decade I, 1995-2005 (Rawkus/Geffen), has some glaring omissions that debilitate it from being a true greatest hits.

What’s immediately evident from giving Best Of… an initial listen is how advanced the Black Star tandem of the Mighty Mos Def and Talib Kweli was, and still is, when compared to their contemporaries. Whether its Mos shining on the boisterous, Sean J. Period produced “Universal Magnetic” or Talib’s resounding, Kanye West helmed “Get By”, it’s clear a large part of Rawkus’ success was finding hyper-talented MCs and bankable stars, early. Before Kanye gave Common another classic (read: cop Resurrection), Rashid snapped with Hi-Tek on “The Sun God”, and years later Black Star’s “Respiration” is nothing less than poetry: “So much on my mind I just can’t recline, blastin’ holes in the sky until she bled sunshine, breathe in, inhale vapors from bright stars the shine, breathe out, weed smoke retrace the skyline.”

However, a few acts don't make a label so joints from one time roster spot holders like The High & Mighty (“B-Boy Document ‘99”), Big L (“Flamboyant”) and Pharoahe Monch (“Oh No”) round things out. But in the case of the latter, the hit that made the majors take notice to Rawkus, “Simon Says”, is AWOL; likely due to the label’s crippling failure to clear its Godzilla sample. But what’s most glaringly missing is anything from the likes of Company Flow. Their debut, Funcrusher Plus inspired an entire movement of lyrically dense, sonically bloated followers making the absence of say “8 Steps to Perfection” or “End to End Burners” a total WTF?

Still, the sheer amount of classic singles Rawkus dropped in the past decade speaks for itself. Despite assembling a nice tracklisting of heaters, strong cases can be made for plenty of gems in the discography, besides the aforementioned, including Skillz “Ghost Writer”, Reflection Eternal’s “Fortified Live” or Indelible MC’s “Fire in Which You Burn”. Truth be told, a true Hip-Hop head should have the majority of these joints in their collection anyway, thus so many oversights make this collection less than essential.