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Fashion Expo Round one: Tru Hip-Hop
Artist: Various
Labrl: Syntax Records
Length: 36 tracks on two discs at 140 minutes plus

The title of the first cut on this double CD could describe the project in one word, "Unique." Recording veterans, Sackcloth Fashion put together the basic beats for the whole record and then recruited the best in today's hip hop talent to come into the studio and rap over the rough tracks. The acts picked from the assorted music tracks already laid down by Sackcloth Fashion, then wrote and performed their own rhymes. The pair of brothers that is Sackcloth Fashion took those studio tapes and made the final songs, including 
the breaks and changes. As far as we know, this is a project like no other.

The impressive roster of emcee's and DJ's is one of the stories here. The roll includes Dirt, Future Shock, KJ52, Peace 586 of Freedom of Soul, Grits, Sup the Chemist, and Braille as well as up and coming names such as RedCloud, MarsIll and Sev Statikk, Diz Organ, and OmniPoetics. This double record is all new material so the album is more correctly referred to as a project then a compilation. But the big story is the masterminds behind Fashion Expo. To take so many elements and combine them so well is a testament to the production genius of Sackcloth Fashion. The flow and cohesiveness of the project is amazing, given the many aspects to the final outcome.

The styles are diverse, the beats are myriad, the sampling is manifold, but the result is unified. One of the comments on the promotional material explains that there was a "No Chaff" policy in force while the production team was weeding through the fuel for the record. And honestly I can't find an obvious weed in the bunch. This is a solid two hours of head boppin', finger tappin' fun. Some tunes are more muscular than others, but none are throwaways. Disc one is strong with RedCloud, Absolute, Braille, and Mr. Tru 
collaborating on "Angels" followed by one by Coleon, and then a tight "Dues for Cashews" featuring Playdough at the four spot. Dirt contributes some of his best work on "Matthew," track seven. The disc continues with phat cuts from E-Roc, Future Shock, Lojique, Fros'T, et al. Disc two, while not quite 
as hefty as disc one is no way a light weight. Healthy tunes from Prophetics, Braille, Grits, Trey-Quel and Ajax of Future Shock then KJ52 keep the rhythm and the rhymes full on as disc two begins. RedCloud checks in at cut eight with a very fun song called, "To the Extreme," which takes the very familiar refrain of "Ice, Ice Baby" and changes it to "Jesus Christ, Christ Baby," put over a Neal Young-like sample. Other highpoints are provided by RedFlagUnit, Sup the Chemist, and Sackcloth Fashion. 

Music fans interested at all in hip hop, whether just testing the waters or already full on baptized in the genre, should be seeking out this record. It's the best of what's happening now.

Tony LaFianza  2/6/2001


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