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20 September, 2003@12:00 am

Compilation – no rating given.

Across the map, the global culture of hip hop has been growing almost limitless. And unlike the rap that’s easily carbon-copied via pop-happy songs affecting everyday life especially in the commercial world, Audio Research out of Montreal, Canada since 1997 have been staying focused and poised in keeping their 12″ singles honorable by spinning a distinctive underground East Coast-influenced taste. In fact, if you weren’t made aware of the fact that these emcees and producers originated from Montreal, listening to DJ Craze’s mix here would seem more like a musical download of NYC’s ‘Stretch & Bobbito’ radio show. And that’s a positive thing. Compiling some of their unreleased as well as best selling singles, Audio Research unleashes its debut CD with 3-time World DMC Champion, DJ Craze selecting and blending what the rest of the hip hop world MIGHT have been hibernating on for years to come.

As DJ Craze puts his scratches down in the Intro, bringing back and forth the beat of “Lyrically Exposed”, Audio Research’s first 1997 single by Obscure Disorder, strap on those back-packs or shake those aerosol cans well, and begin to journey across the Northern border. These raps are ice-cold reminders to wake up, and keep your attention span focused on Montreal’s prime in the hip hop scene. And it won’t be that difficult, especially when DJ Serious’ “Snakes” featuring emcee Theo3 queues in, thawing out guitar-loops into perfect unison with the mid-tempo groove that’s now automatically instigating a head nod. The message is a conscious one, delivered through the blunt-stained lips of Theo3 whose smoky lyrics fade giving way to D-Shade’s “Space & Time”, a track that swells your speakers. Gear up for DJ Craze’s smooth blends, sneaking up other tunes like “Under Pressure” produced by Simahlak, again featuring a verbal text lesson by Theo3. Within most of these original cuts, crude scratches perfectly chime in vocal samples throughout their chorus-hooks piling familiar lines from vinyl by the tongues of Q-Tip, Public Enemy, Brand Nubian, Jeru The Damaja, Gang Starr, KRS-ONE, Big L, Rakim, and more. It’s so obvious how New York’s foundation influenced these emcees and producers. DJ Craze’s crates of selections don’t depend on formatted R&B songsters numbing away at your youth. Instead he selects another DJ Serious-produced winner, “Frostbite” featuring raps by Nish Rawks, who goes through the blizzard on the mic so confidently, you will shiver while he walks barefoot over the glacial groove. Even though D-Slave embarrasses your favorite pop icons by putting some rare humor on this LP with his name-calling “Popped” the hardcore gravy gets thicker in the wee hours of the night on Rugged Radio Saturday.

On the bluesy, violin-laced “Mindblowin”, emcee Troy Dunnit slowly boils his flow down to forcefully introduce his skills, an angle most emcees take to make this compilation definitely one of 2003′s best underground mixtapes. This is let’s say, Audio Research’s premier battalion. And you’ve heard the frontline, so it’s onto DJ Craze’s medallion cuts in the latter half, sure to leave no prisoners after combat. Obscure Disorder is still alive, as they survive with “Back to the Lab” produced by Simahlak – undoubtedly one of the illest beats to surface on this album. But then again, Dave 1′s “Cult Leader” featuring emcee Ill Bill pushes even a more sinister and menacing track, so gruesome sounding in its unmeltable feel, Ill Bill’s exploding bark seems to only be able to crack the mic. Naturally, if one never knew a vibrant hip hop scene existed outside of Toronto or Vancouver north of the U.S. border, this debut album from Audio Research solidly places Montreal hip hop on the map, and that’s the frigid truth youth.

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