Know Your Product: Various Artists, Street Radio Vol. 5 (Architects Recording Studio)
Compilation mixtapes that attempt to give an overview of Baltimore hip-hop, or even simply summarize what’s happening at the moment, rarely come even close to getting it right. But if there’s anybody who has a fighting chance, it’s Architects Recording Studio, who record a huge percentage of the city’s best known rappers, and began teaming with DJ Radio for the Street Radio series in 2005. After a few dormant years with no new installments, the creation of Architects’ new download web site AllBmoreHipHop.com earlier this year was the spark that got the series going again, with Street Radio Vol. 4 over the summer and Vol. 5 following soon after.
DJ Radio is still on board for Street Radio Vol. 5, but DJ 5 Starr handles all the blends and transitions from track to track, which presumably means that at this point Radio’s only role is to be the loudmouth talking over every song, shouting out web addresses and adding “log on, faggot.” If you can get past being berated by the host, though, the mixtape does undoubtedly feature some of the best local hip-hop tracks of the last few months. “Off The Record Part 2,” Bossman’s sequel to his 2004 breakout single, is just as brazenly honest and irreverent as the original, and Tonio: From Da Top’s “17″ is a killer posse cut that reunites the Da Boc Entertainment rapper with past and present labelmates Skarr Akbar, Drop, and Los. Dependable MCs such as Comp and Ogun turn in hot tracks from their latest releases, and Blue and Rockwell’s “Big High” and Tony Bosco’s “Stay Gettin” count among the highlights from lesser-known artists.
For all that Street Radio Vol. 5 has to recommend it, though, it’s hit-to-miss ratio leans too far in the wrong direction, with more than a little dull or plain unpleasant filler. “Getting Money,” the recent local radio hit by Smash, features the rapper’s gravelly voice run through AutoTune in a way that resembles nothing so much as pixelated vomit. The heinously named Deuce Ur Hynest remixes a Kia Shine single that flopped two years ago for no apparent reason, and rappers named Barrz and Barrs that appear two tracks apart don’t work hard to distinguish themselves from each other. Worst of all, though, is when Street Radio shoots itself in the foot by editing one of its best songs, Savage Da Beat’s “Haters,” down to a stingy 90-second snippet to make room for all that other crap.