Freedom Zone Records, 1998
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/10/2001
Often, greatest hits albums are used as lures to get people interested in catalog albums from an artist. Seeing that I own several such albums, I guess I have no problem with this - besides, this normally is the best way to get the absolute cream of the crop from a group or an artist.
In the case of Seattle's Phat Sidy Smokehouse, their disc Slingin' Hubs, a compilation of three independently-released discs, is not labeled as a greatest hits. In a sense, that's good, since most people would probably rail against such a disc from a group which had never made it to the majors. Ah, but this is also where the band, led by vocalist E-Dog, also does the smart thing. Slingin' Hubs serves as the kind of disc that makes the listener want to discover more from this band - and should be the disc that makes a major label want to snag this highly talented group up in a heartbeat.
The group, which is augmented by a horn section, is a wonderful mixture of "old-school" r&b and hip-hop, with a little funk thrown in for good measure. But don't label this group rap just because this reviewer chooses to hang the "hip-hop" tag; in fact, there is no rap on this disc at all. What I mean by "hip-hop" is there is a lively bounciness to much of the music, creating an absolute groove that is reminiscent of many hip-hop groups I've heard over the years. (Obviously a group like Digital Underground agrees; Phat Sidy Smokehouse has opened for them in the past.)
But I can understand a little bit of hesitancy on the part of consumers and record label execs. We've been down this path before, they all say. 24-7 Spyz. Fishbone. Psychefunkapus. Limbomaniacs. All groups who, for one reason or another, never achieved the kind of success that was once dreamed about.
Baloney. Just slap Slingin' Hubs into the CD player, and hear for yourself why Phat Sidy Smokehouse demands to be taken on their own merits. Lord knows they have plenty of them. Tracks like "Ghetto Life," "Phreaky Deaky" and "Original Mac" have a joyful bounce to their rhythmic backbone, enough to get you up and dancing to the wonderful groove. E-Dog lays down solid vocals throughout, sounding a little bit like a soulful Montell Jordan at times.
And just like that, Phat Sidy Smokehouse can lay down a beat which slows things to a gentle boil, and causes the listener to get sucked into this new-fashioned soul. Tracks like "Don't Do It" and "Changes" all simmer with power and musicianship, and are further testimony to the mastery this group has over its genre.
How down-to-earth is Slingin' Hubs? "E-Dog Epilogue" is a brief thanks to the listener delivered by E-Dog, almost as if he was sitting across the table from you and you had spent the whole disc talking about what the band was up to. It actually is an appropriate finish - though I would have left off the final moments where it sounds like E-Dog fired up a spliff to relax.
Slingin' Hubs is a disc which should renew people's interest in soul, funk, r&b and hip-hop, and could well be an early indication of a future superstar group. Phat Sidy Smokehouse has been working on a double-album, and are hoping to find a record label willing to give them a chance (as well as assistance to get it finished). Here's hoping someone in the industry takes a chance and gives this group the break they deserve - in fact, I challenge any major label to give them a chance. You can thank me later.