The Chocolate Industries label is hip-hop’s answer to itself. Possibly the freshest compilation in recent memory, Urban Renewal Program is almost daunting with dopeness. I’ve started putting it under my pillow at night; it gives me hope.
Strangely, the album is more worth buying for the artists showcased than for their new music. It’s an excellent sampler, especially for someone looking to combat blatantly bland and vapid commercial hip-hop, even if some of these tracks aren’t … um, how do they say … bling bling?
Case in point: Prefuse 73 – aka Scott Herren – is the blip-hop messiah as of late, yet the reworking of his classic “Radio Attack” is watered down and not appreciably different from the original.
Herren makes up for it with his production on “Wylin’ Out,” the go-to single, which bridges the gap between up-and-comer Diverse and MC sensei Mos Def. While Diverse is overshadowed by Mos’ persistent, sophisticated flows, his own track, “Time,” shows that this young MC – criticized for biting others’ styles – has mastered his own sound.
For all you Def Jux junkies, El-P makes an appearance alongside Aesop Rock, though sub-par tracks by Mr. Lif and Souls of Mischief tracks saturate the middle of the album.
Caural is one of the most promising of Chocolate Industries’ progeny, producing a Miho Hatori cut as well as his own incredible “Our Solstice Walk.” The album winds down with a Prefuse interlude introducing a massive 10-minute cut from Themselves (Jel and Dose One). Broken into three parts, “Thisboutthecitytoo” is an excellent period to Chocolate Industries’ definitive statement.