The grit and rawness of Stax, shining through.
Daryl Easlea 2009
Stax: The Soul Of Hip-Hop is a most serviceable collection of Stax above- and below-the-radar classics. It’s a simple premise, and one that has been used before elsewhere, a guide for crate diggers to investigate the source of the samples that form the spine of their favourite tunes.
Whether you are familiar with the songs they have been appropriated for or not, the extensive notes tell you where you may have heard them before. Artists and producers such as Cypress Hill, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, Ice Cube and Wu-Tang Clan have all had their fingers on these sweet originals.
We have anthems such as Booker T's insidious, supple Melting Pot (Big Daddy Kane’s Another Victory); William Bell's robust I Forgot To Be Your Lover (Ludacris, Dilated Peoples and Jaheim) and David Porter's melancholic I’m Afraid The Masquerade Is Over (Notorious B.I.G’s Who Shot You and Mos Def’s Brooklyn). Wendy Rene’s brittle ska-influenced After The Laughter (Comes Tears), (used most memorably’ in the Wu-Tang Clan’s Tearz) is one of the many here that stands up beautifully on its own.
It being a US compilation, it doesn't have Isaac Hayes' Ike’s Rap II, which forms the basis for Portishead's Glory Box and Tricky's Hell Is Just Around The Corner. However, Isaac is, of course, here: Hyberbolicsyllabicsesquedalyamistic from 1969 is his premier jam – meandering, aggressive, piano-driven, yet never losing focus. Public Enemy took the piano intro from it for Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos, but that is only a fraction of the story – the excessively repeated groove still demands to be heard.
Unlike many others, these beats have not been overused. The grit and rawness of the label shines through. What you hear is that remarkable craftsmanship, players such as bassist Duck Dunn and drummer Al Jackson underpinning the groove. Packaged well, with extensive notes, this collection of Stax tracks fulfils all the criteria one would expect from a label with such pedigree – and it’s only Volume One.