It has become annoyingly popular among critics to laud hip-hop albums because they are “old school” and don’t contain references to pimpin’ hos, killin’ sucka niggas and slappin’ bitches. As if having squeaky clean content somehow makes art more valid. Jurassic 5’s vastly over-hyped Quality Control comes to mind. Yes, it’s a nice album, and no doubt it’s Tipper Gore’s favorite rap release of the decade, but I can’t name a single memorable song. Bully for them for being old school, but I’ll take the raunchy antics of Ol’ Dirty Bastard any day of the week, because that lovable crack-head knows how to entertain, and his lyrics damn sure stick in my head (come on, how can you top “I don’t have no trouble with you fucking me / But I got a little problem with you not fucking me”?). For my money, I want something that moves me, compels me, shakes me up, and maybe even offends me a little. If I want old hip-hop, I’ll pick up a Run DMC record. Imagine if these same gangsta-dissin’ white-breads extended their logic to rock music: “Put away those nasty psychedelic Hendrix albums, the now-clean Aerosmith has a new album out. No drugs or wild behavior, it’s just good, honest, rock ‘n’ roll.”
I say all this because—besides my need to vent about the “old school” fixation—I want to make it perfectly clear that I won’t recommend Solesides’ Greatest Bumps simply on the basis that it’s “a refreshing break from the MTV-style gangsta albums that have saturated today’s hop hop market.” Yes, it is a “refreshing change”, but it’s also a compilation of terrific material from one of the best darn independent, experimental hip-hop outfits around. The Solesides crew is composed of the likes of DJ Shadow, Blackalicious, Chief Xcel and so on. Not quite a greatest hits album, as the title would indicate, Bumps is an epic double-CD, 22-track overview of the various artists on the label, ranging from early demos to more recent and polished cuts. This hip-hop journey is packed primarily with thudding, cymbal-heavy drum cuts and freestyle rapping, mostly of the trash-talking-in-good-fun variety. Wacky, amusing stuff like “Don’t you wish I’d never been born, so you could, I don’t know, somehow go back in time and use my rhymes?” Entertaining as it is, 22 songs worth of this stuff would wear thin, but fortunately, there are some memorable changes of pace on the album, from the smooth “Swan Lake” (by Blackalicious) to the zany, hectic spoken word on Latryx and Shadow’s “Latryx (Last Chance to Comprehend)”. And while 22 songs makes for one hell of a long album, no one’s pointing a gun to your head and making you listen to both CDs in a row, right? Now if it was Puffy’s album….
While diehard Solesides fans will no doubt want to hear some of the earliest cuts, much of the album will probably sound familiar. On the other hand, if you’re a big fan you probably already have this album, so who am I to issue warnings? This may serve as a better purchase for those who are looking to get turned on to a bunch of very talented artists who don’t get a whole lot of mainstream exposure or radio play. Whether you want to get away from those icky, mean gangsta rappers, or you just appreciate some damn good rapping, Bumps is a solid purchase. Now get out there and support the indies.