Review ·

The most interesting thing about KutMasta Kurt's career-spanning collection of remixes and rarities is not that Waxploitation got a cease-and-desist order from the U.S. Olympic Committee that necessitated changing the album's name from Redneck Olympics to Redneck Games. (You have to wonder how members of such a prominent organization learned of the underground hip-hop producer -- did they get put on to last year's slamming Diesel Truckers LP that Kurt put out with longtime collaborator Kool Keith?) No. The most interesting, brain-rattling crumb of curiosity to come out of Games is (hold your breath) it got me to like a Linkin Park song (exhale slowly).

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I know. I didn't want to, and I tried my damnedest to overlook it. But truth be told, Kurt's Ginsu slicing of their hit "In the End" has been getting major burn in my CD changer all week. The way he weaves a driving kick 'n' snare under a chopped piano line that comes from all angles is, like many of the selections here, unavoidably contagious.

It's displayed again on the very next cut, Del and Mr. Lif's "360 Degrees," and in variations throughout the disc. Kurt's style is creative but not groundbreaking; once he finds a formula that works, he's all over it, twisting and fine-tuning it not unlike his role model, DJ Premier. Games finds him showcasing the many artists he's broken bread with over the years, though the force of his tracks overshadows many of them. Only the strong survive, which means (if Kurt were allowed to keep his original album title) guys like Rasco, PMD, Mos Def & Diverse and Dilated Peoples would qualify for the gold for keeping their lyrical heads above water. Other tracks feature top-shelf emcees (Blackalicious, 7L & Esoteric, Motion Man) that don't disappoint but clearly benefit from the producer's upgrade.

But it's Kool Keith who seems to share the most chemistry with the beat-miner, his leftfield flow and confident tone volleying with the scattershot backdrops and not getting lost in the mix. Like Linkin Park, Keith realizes the best Games aren't about winning or losing, just playing along.

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"In the End" mp3

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