various artists: Old School vs. New School

various artists
Old School vs. New School
Jive Electro

THE DEFINITION OF "Old School" seems to slip a few years forward with each passing year. The class of late-'80s/early-'90s hip-hop artists remixed by Late '90s DJs on Old vs. New all postdate Whodini. And since the album's pupils share only Jive's corporate sponsorship, its lax matriculation procedures admit not only the indisputably new-school R. Kelly but the very un-hip-hop Stone Roses. Finding themselves hemmed in by a specific era, the DJs embrace a historical moment when rappers had finally assumed center stage. And instead of following the lead of many recent turntablist compilations that attempt to recreate an idealized hip-hop past when DJs still commanded center stage, each remixer treats his disembodied MC with generous respect.

True, the Bassbin Twins' "A Crate of BDP" does strip KRS-One of his autodidactic history dissertations, transforming him into just another element in the mix. But the resulting track serves to honor his voice's authoritative power. In general, however, sampledelia's cut 'n' paste approach is kept largely in check here, and techno confronts rap in the best post-Amp 2 collision to date. This isn't just because words provide a visceral thrust with a literal meaning, but because rappers can also be used as the key rhythmic component of a track. Even when mostly intact rhymes seem to dominate a given cut, the DJs are in control: Check how Bad Boy Bill's seemingly pro forma house track subtly works against Kool Moe Dee's flow on "I Go to Work."

Or check out the four masterful mixes of A Tribe Called Quest, probably the most revelatory music here, suggesting a variety of sonic alternatives to the bass-heavy minimalism that crew pioneered, while providing a fresh perspective on two of middle school rap's sharpest MCs. Whether riding the funkily accelerated BPMs of Doc Martin's "Footprints," or bristling up against Aphrodite's brittle drum 'n' bass mix of "1nce Again," Tip and Phife have never flowed this fiercely on their original product. But Tribe, and the record they appear on, sound best when Norman Cook punctures his dancehall-inflected "Vampire Mix" of Tribe's "I Left My Wallet in El Segundo," with a florid Mexican trumpet flare. Here he eschews theory, saving all the revelations for the dance floor, where they belong.

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