This album came out two decades ago. Here’s what I had to say about it back then (with some minor editing):
If you know who DJ Shadow and Blackalicious are, you might know Quannum Projects is their self-run label. And if you know about Quannum Projects, you definitely want to know about SoleSides, the previous label Shadow and his crew started during their early ’90s college days in the Bay Area.
SoleSides served as a laboratory and launching pad for the ground-breaking, mind-bending early works of Shadow et al. This two-CD set compiles some of the earliest, ground-breakingest and mind-bendingest into a must-have hip-hop set. The enthusiam, playfulness and sheer no-holds-barred invention these wet-behind-the-ears sample-and-rhyme fiends brought to the mic and the wheels of steel nearly a decade ago still puts most contemporary hip-hop to shame. Shadow might be the main attraction here as he takes his first steps into the trancy trip-hop soundscape that became his home. But often as not, verbal gymnasts like Lateef, Chief Xcel and Gift of the Gab steal the show with their superb wordplay and absurd comic relief. King of it has gotta be Lyrics Born, whose 93-second cut Asia’s Verse is a killer blast of stream-of-conscious splatter that’s the verbal equivalent of a Jackson Pollock canvas — and easily the best rap cut you’ve never heard. So now you know.