Various Artists 

Soundbombing 3

Once a hotbed of quality underground hip-hop, NYC's Rawkus Records has fallen on hard times, dogged by distribution problems, chronically delayed albums, and disgruntled artists. Many fans of the label have been put off by their increasingly "commercial" approach, and cries of "Rawkus fell off" are not uncommon. With the chips stacked against them, the once-mighty team delivers the third edition of their critically acclaimed Soundbombing series, hoping to salvage their rep with another star-studded summer compilation.

DJs Cipha Sounds and Mr. Choc share mixing duties, cutting up contributions from an assortment of artists, big names, and lesser-knowns alike. Collaborations are the name of the game, with standouts like Talib Kweli and DJ Quik's ultra-funky "Put It in the Air," the Cocoa Brovaz with Dawn Penn's raggafied "Spit Again," and "My Life" from Queens thugs Kool G Rap and Capone-N-Noreaga. Unfortunately, the majority of the album suffers from questionable beats and misguided attempts at rowdy club-bangers. Mos Def sounds out of place on the hyperactive "Freak Daddy;" the usually reliable Beatnuts fall short on "The Trouble Is ... " and "Crew Deep," with Missy Elliott, Skillz, and Kandi, shamelessly jacks the beat from "Rapper's Delight." Underground vet RA the Rugged Man comes with some hot back-in-the-day rhymes for "On the Block (Golden Era)," but the chorus sung by little kids sort of kills it.

Whether Rawkus can rebound from their recent difficulties remains to be seen, but this record is little help. Soundbombing 3 isn't a total dud, but it's certainly the worst of the trilogy. Hopefully they'll get their act together and release some good LPs soon (G Rap's The Giancana Story and Smif-N-Wessun's Still Shinin' would be nice), or their days may be numbered.

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