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1 January, 2001@12:00 am

 There are a lot of seemingly invisible people responsible for the various degrees of certain artists’ popularity in this here hip-hop game. One of today’s more integral shadow-players would undoubtedly be Dante Ross. His various A&R and production work (at Tommy Boy and Elektra as well as the SD50′s/Stimulated Dummies with partner John Gamble) throughout the late 80′s and into the 90′s proved invaluable to fans and artists alike – as without his presence in the industry we may of never heard from the likes of Brand Nubian, De La Soul, KMD or Leaders Of The New School. Del The Funkee Homosapien may of never transcended further than the Bay hadn’t it been for the DR-connect at Elektra (his subsequent dropping and resurrection in turn spawned a whole new generation of hip-hop artists). Everlast may of never been cultivated into the pop-folk-hip-hop phenom, while Sadat X may of never had a solo album.

Slowly reemerging within the last few years with a string of solid, yet seemingly overlooked releases (a la Missin Linx, Sadat X, Mr. Voodoo, Tha Dwellas, etc.) his Loud Records distributed imprint steadily began cultivating a name for itself with an updated-contemporary version of the classics that brought the Dummies to the forefront years back. There was always a definite variety in the artistry of SD50 related emcees and groups of the past and some 10 odd years later that basic boom-bap ethic remains intact with little faltering-for the most part.

Stimulated Vol. 1, as read in the liner notes, plays like “a day in the office”. Which can translate into a lot of things. There is definite time to relish while most certainly moments to go out for coffee. While the SD50 production stamp is present in less than half of the album’s 18 tracks, it’s within those songs that the real meat of this release simmers, not to mention the high-caliber of artist paired with Ross & Gamble’s full bodied bounce. It’s hard not to skip over less fulfilling efforts from the likes of Hom, V.O.R., and even Camp Lo when there’s songs like King Tee’s subdued “Quiet As Kept” or Sadat X’s soulful “The Great Dot X”. The Hieroglyphics connection proves highly successful again as both Pep Love (“Crack The Concrete”) and Del (“Del Meets The Dummies”) cultivate energized unique sounding bumpers over rich SD-production. Dilated Peoples and High & Mighty get the nod for well conceived non-Stimulated songs, with the wink to the Expansion Team for their salute “Stimulation”. Granted not all the big boys come through as excepted, De La Soul and The Liks deliver lukewarm zingers which are counterbalanced by surprisingly solid Everlast bangers alongside Xzibit  (“Shroomz Pt. 2″) and B-Real (“Laugh Now”).

Stimulated Vol. 1 is thick. There are moments of monotony but the SD50 code remains very much intact which ultimately carries the album’s weight throughout. Production wise Dante Ross & John Gamble return to the fold with the greatest of ease and hopefully will continue with a more steady flow of work after this release has settled. I would only hope for more of their complete influence musically during the next venture.

  Mixtape D.L.
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