Yo Quiero Actual Musicians

B-Sides talks to Alejandro Escovedo, explores hip-hop's essential albums

"Anyone who doesn't have this in their collection, their collection isn't complete. And I don't mean hip-hop collection; I mean music collection," says Tom Silverman, founder of pioneering hip-hop label Tommy Boy and the force behind this compilation, which began appearing late last year. (The final volumes are now in stores.)

Forget explaining hip-hop to aliens. Silverman is faced with a tougher job: trying to explain it to today's young fans, who think "old school" means Nas, Jay-Z and Snoop. Silverman says he undertook the project after becoming concerned that the media aren't doing much to keep the record straight about hip-hop's origins. "I'd been really worried, because I'd been going to these VH1 Hip-Hop Presents events," Silverman says. "And it seems to me that they're rewriting hip-hop history in a different way than how it happened."

Each album features a cross-section of releases, so you'll find, for example, a number-one smash like Tone-Loc's "Wild Thing" alongside an obscure old-school classic, such as Masterdon Committee's 1982 single "Funk Box Party." The series features rare photos from hip-hop's past, and the liner notes are penned by music's top chroniclers: authors Nelson George, Jeff Chang, Greg Tate and Brian Coleman. Coleman's introduction to volume five rejects clichés about the kinder, gentler hip-hop of the old days.

"It's overdue," legendary DJ Red Alert says of the compilation. "If people would take time to listen to the hip-hop of the past, they'd see where hip-hop today comes from." — Dan LeRoy

St. Louis Scene Trading Cards
Name: Mario Viele and Maysam Attaran
Birthdates: October 24, 1982;
October 27, 1981
High School: Lafayette High School
Can Be Found: Running the record label Roadhouse Tunes. Maysam plays drums and Mario plays guitar for both the Sex Robots and the Pubes. The two also collaborated on the yet-to-be-released film Mulehorse!, which features music by local bands.
Career Highlights: Maysam is most proud of the newest Sex Robots record, while Mario cites touring with Bunnygrunt (one of his favorite bands) as the cherry on his sundae.
Fun Facts: Mario is a walking encyclopedia of Watergate factoids, while Maysam always wears sunglasses onstage to cope with his stage fright.

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