Given the perpetually sad state of commercial radio, it's reassuring to find DJs intent on being more than slack-jawed conduits for the dictates of their playlists. For proof of their existence, look no further than Farewell Fondle 'Em and We Came From Beyond, a pair of lovingly assembled compilations from influential radio DJs who serve as antidotes to the shameless trend-chasing of Funkmaster Flex and DJ Clue. For more than a decade, Mike Nardone has hosted "We Came From Beyond" on L.A.'s KXLU, playing a crucial role in launching such underground West Coast fixtures as Freestyle Fellowship, Dilated Peoples, and Jurassic 5. But Nardone's vision is too adventurous and expansive to be limited to one region, so while We Came From Beyond tilts predictably toward the West Coast, it also functions as a sort of underground hip-hop all-star game that represents seminal crews with an artist or two apiece. As befits an album rooted as much in hip-hop and community as beats and rhymes, We Came From Beyond closes with "Rob One Rock On," a surprisingly tender tribute that radiates humanity, affection, and sadness over the course of more than 17 melancholy minutes. Never wearing out its welcome or lapsing into trite sentimentality, that song embodies what makes We Came From Beyond both essential and strangely moving. Hailing from New York, Bobbito (a.k.a. DJ Cucumber Slice) has played a similarly influential role in breaking many of the East Coast's most revered underground acts as the co-host of The Bobbito And Stretch Armstrong Show and owner of acclaimed indie label Fondle 'Em Records. Distributed through El-P's Definitive Jux label, Farewell Fondle 'Em pays homage to Bobbito's low-budget, overachieving indie, combining vintage freestyles from the radio show with rare singles and a monster new posse cut, "Fondle 'Em Fossils." Opening with a freestyle from Kool Keith, the porn-loving George Washington of underground rap, Farewell Fondle 'Em lays on the atmosphere so thick that listeners can almost smell the stale blunt smoke and spilled beer. The disc leans heavily toward East Coast hip-hop, but like Nardone, Bobbito seeks out progressive works in unexpected places, augmenting Farewell's roster of East Coast cult superstars with tracks from Africa's Cashless Society and Columbus, Ohio's MHz and Jakki. The vast majority of Fondle 'Em is defiantly low-fidelity, with the notable exception of M.F. Grimm's "Scars And Memories," the last single the label put out. Based largely on the incarcerated, wheelchair-bound Grimm's life, the track eloquently and incisively ponders the meaning of life and the value of suffering, over heavenly production that seems worlds away from the torment chronicled within the song. Eclipsing even the sophistication and depth of "Rob One Rock On," "Scars And Memories" suggests that even in the face of death and imprisonment, the solidarity and hope engendered by hip-hop still matters.

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