Whether because of the region's thriving DIY and independent scene or its friendly vibes, the West Coast has always been more conducive to elaborate, album-length hip-hop collaborations than the East or the South. Whether it's Daz Dillinger and J.T. The Bigga Figga releasing two joint albums together within months, or Aceyalone switching between solo work and supergroups Freestyle Fellowship, Haiku D'Etat, and A-Team, the West Coast seems to overflow with album-length collaborations. But few projects can match Golden State supergroup Living Legends for size, ambition, or chemistry. Renowned for its live performances, Living Legends unites BFAP, PSC, The Grouch, Murs, Eligh, Scarub, Aesop, Bicasso, and Arata, respected underground figures who have thus far been unable to convert their reputations and prodigious skills into much in the way of album sales or mainstream recognition. Smart, ambitious, and surprisingly consistent, Almost Famous may change that. Joyously embodying many of the strengths of musical and spiritual forefathers like A Tribe Called Quest, Freestyle Fellowship, and Jungle Brothers, Almost Famous segues effortlessly from a stirring ode to hip-hop's life-affirming power ("Gift Wrap") to social commentary ("That Looks Good") to brainy lyrical abstraction. Nine hungry up-and-comers jockeying for room to maneuver doesn't leave much space for cameos, but thankfully, each of Almost Famous' guests adds something vital to the mix, from Slug's witty neuroses to Pep Love's laid-back Hiero vibes. "That Looks Good" channels Labcabincalifornia-era Pharcyde, while the psychedelic "Rabbit Hole" explores the upside-down world of mood-altering substances to the tune of Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit," further solidifying that song's place alongside "Heartbeat" and "Genius Of Love" in The Obvious But Effective Sample Hall Of Fame. Living Legends' grandiose moniker may be ironic and self-deprecating, but Almost Famous should go a long way toward establishing the members of this oversized crew as legitimate underground hip-hop heroes.

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