While the MC still gets the lion’s share of the attention in hip-hop, and, despite the presence of Fatboy Slim songs in nearly every movie trailer last year, electronic music has yet to make a DJ into a mega-celebrity, the art of turntablism still has a place in the world of independent labels. One label pushing the best of the DJs to the spotlight and bridging the gap between hip-hop and electronica is Om Records. Deep Concentration 3 is in one sense a standard label-pushing compilation album, one with exclusive tracks from groups on Om. But in another sense, it feels like something bigger, a quick sweep of what’s going on these days with the art of DJing.
Deep Concentration 3 is bookended by the two tracks that veer most closely to the electronic side: “The Human Condition”, where Ming & FS take a vibraphone-laden, melodic soundscape, pepper it with samples, and then turn it into a rapid-fire dance track and back again, and “Cynicism”, a spaced-out track by the Highlanders. The latter starts with the words “Let’s let the music speak for itself”, and then travels all over the place, from the dance floor to outer space and back down to the streets. The bulk of the song is hyper drum’n'bass, but covered with laser beams, the ravings of a madman and (of course) super-fast scratching and mixing.
The rest of the compilation is comprised of some of the best hip-hop DJs doing what they do best. There’s a wide assortment of record-holding DJs here, like Craze and Infamous of the Allies, plus some who are relatively new. Yet all of them are high-class musicians delivering rock-solid beats and then using them as the base for explorations and demonstrations of the powers of a DJ. Some, like Radar, go for awing listeners with speed, while others, like DJ Revolution and Infamous, start off more methodically but then use their jaw-dropping techniques to leave you wowed. Still others are groups of DJs who play off each other’s talents, like Plagaiwrists and Space Travelers. Then there’s one of the highlights, “Where Will You Run” by T-Rock & Faust, where a hip-hop DJ and a drum’n'bass DJ get together and party; both leave their mark on the track through samples and their turntables, joining together the past, present and future in one blow.
A few MCs show up too, including People Under the Stairs, Planet Asia and Blak Forest. All rank among the best of hip-hop’s newer faces, and thus do nothing but add to the quality of music on the compilation. The result of the compilation on the whole is awe; it’s hard to listen without being surprised and delighted at the musicians’ skills. But at the same time it’s an entirely listenable, entertaining compilation from start to end, both a nice introduction to Om Records and a fantastic exhibition of world-class DJs.