Most collections of rap's pre-history focus either on '70s breakbeat classics or Depression-era talking blues, and three of the best cuts on the entertaining 26-track collection The Roots Of Hip Hop were recorded in 1930. But the rest postdate World War II, when jump blues became R&B and early rock. Gospel appears via a Rev. J.M. Gates sermon and a two-part Soul Stirrers selection praising FDR in ways better than anything sung for Obama so far. But most of these choices are here for their swagger: stray-cat-voiced piano-pumper Dirty Red's ever-so-subtly coded "Mother Fuyer," future "Louie Louie" author Richard Berry's prison-escape setpiece "The Big Break," black comedian Butterbeans in his one-sided comedy routine "Hello, Sue," Dr. Jo Jo Adams' weed-happy "When I'm in My Tea," and so forth. L.A. hambone Little Caesar demands a pre-nup like Kanye ("You Can't Bring Me Down") and commits suicide on wax like Biggie ("Goodbye Baby"). And then there's the jaw-dropper "Uh Oh (Get Out Of The Car)," in which The Treniers refuse to drive a date home unless she puts out, an act just as reprehensible in the '50s as it has been over two decades' worth of retrograde gangsta rap.

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