Various Artists, Lyricist Lounge (Rawkus): Because hip-hop is a singles-driven medium, the only thing worse than a bad, overlong hip-hop album by an artist is a bad, overlong various-artist collection. Though it got me in trouble for saying it at the time, the first Lyricist Lounge collection was just too static and long-winded to be as great as all the purist hip-hop heads said it was — and I still think I'm right. Fortunately, in the tradition of "Evil Dead" movies, the sequel is far superior to the original. Lyricist Lounge 2boils it down to one disc with a who's who of the artistically thriving underground, including artists like Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Dead Prez, Dilated Peoples and Last Emperor, as well as an awesome vintage a capella rhyme by Biggie Smalls. This time around, the album is tight, and it sounds more like an up-to-date best-of mix than a throwaway hodgepodge of leftovers. — Kembrew McLeod

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