Latest releases reviewed

VARIOUS Rawkus - Best of Decade 1 1995-2005 Rawkus/Geffen  ***

Like most indie labels, Rawkus came into the world with a fistful of good intentions and not much cash. The good intentions helped jazz fans Jarret Myer and Brian Brater attract such talents as Company Flow, Mos Def, Pharoahe Monch, Talib Kweli and others to their fledgling new-school Def Jam, while a business plan attracted investment cash from Rupert Murdoch's kid James. For a while, Rawkus was an alternative hip-hop hit factory turning out bangers like Umi Says (Mos Def) and Definition (Black Star), which were more backpacker than bling. But the sun couldn't shine forever on their parade, and when Universal gobbled Rawkus, any creative notions left quietly through the back door. This decent, if largely unremarkable, compilation means that the rape of the back catalogue has begun. If you really want to remember a Rawkus decade with fondness, buy Mos Def's Black on Both Sides or the Black Star set instead. www.rawkus.com

Jim Carroll

J DILLA Donuts  Stones Throw ****

Detroit producer J Dilla has long been in the picture, but he's always preferred to linger in the background rather than hog the limelight. Having hooked up the likes of Slum Village, A Tribe Called Quest, Common, De La Soul, the Pharcyde and Q Tip with pedigree breakbeats (and garnered much peer praise in the process), Dilla threw in his lot with Stones Throw in 2003, but ill-health and hospitalisation for a ruptured kidney scuppered him until now. Recorded on a portable sound system while he was in hospital, Donuts is an album that is as deep in soul as it is wide in funk. There are no MCs onboard, just Dilla flicking switches and lovingly putting a unique shape on a thrilling collection of electronic noises, eerie samples and warm, evocative instrumental snatches. It will no doubt prove to be nirvana for beat-diggers, but it's also an instrumental hip-hop album that merits serious respect. What hip-hop should really sound like in Zero Six. www.stonesthrow.com

Jim Carroll