September 28, 2006

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Various Artists, Looking Back to Move Forward
Shaman Work Recordings, 2006

And you thought the Great Coffee War was never gonna get ugly. In an admirable response to Barnes & Noble’s tawdry hookups with heartland-pandering popzillas like Sheryl Crow, Borders Books fires back with this Shaman Work retrospective, sold exclusively through the Borders chain. The 18 tracks are swashed in disjointed shades of couch-potato rap and bedroom hip-hop that’s pretty much Hollywood-free, kicking off with MF Doom’s Rhodes-driven “Licorice,” a lounging instrumental from his only-partly-food-obsessed Special Herbs 7 & 8. Doom’s slurred, messy mush-mouth gets the call a few times on this comp, firstly with Chris Kraft on “Hook’s is Extra” once Shaman golden boy CL Smooth is through demonstrating a nicotine-amped variation on the common call-out on “American Me.” New Yorkers Scienz of Life throw in their two J Dilla-riddim cents on “Eatin’ Watermelon,” but Dilla receives a more fitting tribute later through the inclusion of his appearance on Wale Oyejide’s anti-genocide plea “There’s a War Going On.” B-

— Eric W. Saeger