Defining a year by what other musical eras the record companies dug out of their vaults is a dubious exercise--and for the consumer, a costly one. In that spirit, we offer the best reissue of the year, and a list of nine others that provide more pleasure for the ears than pain for the wallet.
various artists Fat Beats and Brastraps: Women of Hip Hop
At last, the dis "I'm deffer than you, heifer" has been digitized for mass consumption. Culling from piles of out-of-print singles and canonizing names like Dimples D and Jazzy Joyce, this three-volume set was the most fascinating and cost-effective collection of the year. (Staggering the purchase of these three separately sold discs over three paychecks beats plopping down $60 for Rhino's 4-CD Nuggets box. And, really, what household doesn't need a disc's worth of Roxanne Shanté disses to share with friends and family?) Sure, the complete history would include Lil' Kim and Foxy Brown, but comprehensiveness be damned. Quality will out, again and again. From Sweet Tee's smooth thuggin' on "It's My Beat" to Rox's wars with Queen Latifah ("You say 'ladies first'/Well, I'm the first lady"), this compilation kicks butt. Even if it's merely a strange chapter in the dubious history of the diva in a man's man's world, it proves that the male DJ and MC (let alone promoter) wouldn't be nothin'--nothin'!--without the woman or the girl. (Jon Dolan)
The Top 10 Reissues of 1998
1.Fat Beats and Brastraps: Women of Hip Hop(Rhino)
2. Albert Ayler,Live at the Village Vanguard: The Complete Impulse Recordings (Impulse!)
3. Robert Wyatt,Ruth Is Stranger Than Richard (Thirsty Ear)