Who knew the formula was so easy? All it takes to create a timeless hip-hop record is to assemble some of the greatest producers in the game and give them the creative freedom to do whatever they want. That’s how business is conducted at Barely Breaking Even, which kicked off its Beat Generation series about three years ago with Jay Dee’s Welcome 2 Detroit, following it up with primarily instrumental albums from the likes of Pete Rock, DJ Spinna, Marley Marl, Will.I.Am and DJ Jazzy Jeff.
The Beat Generation is a collection of tracks from all the series’ previous releases. It’s an eclectic selection, ranging from Will.I.Am’s spoken word piece “Lay Me Down” to Jay Dee’s funk-inspired “It’s Like That,” each a testament to how brilliant and diverse hip-hop can be. In 17 tracks, The Beat Generation covers more than three decades of hip-hop production, sampling jazz, funk, R&B, break beats and dance music.
There are many highlights, but the standout tracks include King Britt’s “Transcend,” featuring Bahamadia; Marley Marl’s “Three’s Company,” featuring Big Daddy Kane; DJ Spinna’s”Surely”; and the triumphant reunion of Pete Rock and CL Smooth on “Back on the Block.” After one verse it obvious the duo hasn’t lost its chemistry, leaving me with wet dreams for another album.
Still, The Beat Generation really doesn’t do justice to the series, primarily because each album in the series is an exclusive look into the musical minds of some hip-hop’s elite producers. The series transcends your average rap record. BBE is releasing records with art in mind, not chart position.