For decades, cult hero Steinski has reigned as an underground legend of the truest sort. Thanks to the nasty killjoy known as copyright law, Steinski's wildly influential old-school sound collages (known as "Lessons") have been furtively passed from DJ to DJ and hip-hop head to hip-hop head without receiving a legal release. Hell must have frozen over, because Steinski has finally gone semi-legit with Illegal Arts' awesomely essential two-disc career retrospective, What Does It All Mean?


The first disc compiles several of Steinski's "Lessons" along with later projects like "The Motorcade Sped On," an exquisite exercise in flagrant bad taste that transforms the Kennedy assassination into a giddy pop-art cartoon. It's the ultimate act of cultural sacrilege from an irascible sonic outlaw; its smartass spirit pervades the entire project, especially the mind-bending rough mix on the second disc. Mean? posits Steinski as the missing link between the counterculture comedy of Firesign Theatre and culture jammers DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist, both of whom paid Steinski reverent homage by recording "Lessons" of their own. Steinski's prankster aesthetic entails just about everything: James Brown, Groucho Marx, Looney Tunes, old commercials, and anything else that strikes his fancy. Yet it's still hip-hop to the core. No matter how out-there Steinski gets, he never loses the groove. The Steinski myth has grown in the darkness of bootlegs, but this long-overdue release proves that the reality more than lives up to the legend.