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Uprok Mixtape Vol. 1 - Click to view! Ok class, today in Hip-Hop 101 we have our first lesson on mixtapes. In the past, mixtapes were used by DJ's to blend various songs together to show off their mixing ability. Tapes were also used to showcase new artists get the hottest songs into people's hands. More recently, the mixtape has evolved to include freestyles, shout-out's from various artists, and exclusive songs. DJ's like Funkmaster Flex and DJ Clue have further popularized this art by involving some of the biggest names in hip-hop and making their projects available on CD. DJ Maj has brought this expression into Christian circles with two albums designed to expose talented Christian artists. Our case study today is the Uprok Mixtape mixed by DJ Allstar. DJ Allstar is a part of the Wax Musim collective and makes his home in Indiana. He has been a DJ for almost 15 years and brings his experience to a solid lineup of Uprok Records releases over the past year. The elements we will be studying today are transitions, song selection and overall flow.

Transitions: These are a big part of a mixtape. Transitions involve the difficult skill of moving from one song to the next while trying to maintain a consistent beat. In essence a DJ is trying to create a club feel where there are few breaks in the action. Allstar performs well for the most part, moving from an introductory freestyle ("Welcome from Timothy") to Playdough's "Seeds of Abraham." Other smooth works include a shift from Sev Statik's "Over the Influence" beat to Raphi's "Connect." The movement between Sev Statik's "Now" and "Ladies" by the Tunnel Rats demonstrates Allstar's creativity. Here he used an inventive blend of the two beats to end a set of songs, which included "Do That" (KJ-52) and "San Jose" (by Ill Harmonics). There were, however, some poor transitions as certain songs bled into one another. Such was the case with the Tunnel Rats' "Bow Down" and Freddie Bruno's "Occupational Therapy." These two songs lacked a clean break that hurt the overall flow. Allstar also provided introductory scratching at the beginning of Raphi's "Heatwave" that destroyed the pace created by the previous Tunnel Rat song "One's Who Do." Overall, the mixing was very nice with some ingenious moments. However, there could have been improvements in certain areas to provide more consistency to the disc. Grade: B

Song Selection: Very, very impressive. Not much more could be done to showcase the finest in Uprok talent - all of these tracks are hits. The opening three songs ("Seeds of Abraham," Connect" and KJ-52's "Nursery Rhymes") include the hottest artists of 2002. The new singles from Fred Bruno ("Occupational Therapy") and Ill Harmonics ("What We Do") are included as well as the blazing track "Ladies" from the TR camp. Other highlights include a remix of Deepspace 5's "Stick This in Your Ear" (which proves to be better than the original), a new track, "Bonds Like These," from Peace 586 and LPG, and the lead single from Sev Statik, "MIC." Excellent choices all around by Allstar. Grade: A

Overall Flow: Not much complaining can be done in this department either. The disc kicks off with some great songs and catchy beats and then moves into categories of songs based on tempo. The middle portion of the album contains many upbeat songs starting with "San Jose." Then there is a continuous flow of songs into a mid tempo break with tunes like "What's Real" (BK and Associates) and "Bonds Like These." The disc then ends with the dare-you-to-dance tracks "MIC" and "What We Do." There are some continuity problems as the album contains too many interludes near the beginning. Also, the "remix" of "What We Do" contains an off-time beat layered over the original Blake Knight track that just doesn't work at all, leaving a poor taste in your mouth. Grade: A-

As a project designed to expose the incredible talent at Uprok, this album hits its mark. It is a little Tunnel Rat heavy, with 11 of the 25 tracks containing TR members but in the future we will see more diversity. Hopefully, we'll also see some of the mixes tightened up before the next album. Add to that some exclusive tracks and some more obvious remixes and we'll see an improved product. As for now: A-. Well done DJ Allstar.
- Jon Corbin
December 2002
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