Various Artists, Lyricist Lounge Volume One
The late ’90s was the heyday for a certain kind of purist: values-driven, anti-crossover, anti-shiny things, New York-centric rappers, and few albums capture this moment quite like Rawkus’s Lyricist Lounge compilation. “All commercial cats gettin’ murdered,” Cipher Complete spits on the appropriately titled “Bring Hip-Hop Back,” a sentiment that prevails over the course of this hefty, idealistic collection. As hip-hop went global, retrenchment was in, as evidenced by the diversity of talent here: poets Sarah Jones and Saul Williams, veterans Kool Keith, Q-Tip and O.C. and then-newcomers Jurassic 5, Mos Def and Company Flow. This was “underground”-as-political stance — though best to forget that Rupert Murdoch’s son provided the seed money.