Take 'Em to the Cleaners

The bar is set a little lower for hip hop mix-tapes, those self-released offerings that are widely seen as hip hop's liaison with the streets. With these homemade mixes (think Bob Dylan's basement tapes), erratic recording levels and half-baked ideas are not only excused, they're part of the charm. Take 'Em to the Cleaners -- the latest from Tribe Called Quest associate Consequence -- is no exception. The sublime Kanye West-produced "Getting Out of the Game" features a barely touched Al Green sample; "And You Say" revisits the classic Grand Puba track "I Like It" with the help of soul crooner John Legend; and Consequence rubs shoulders with "conscious" MCs Kanye West, Common, and Talib Kweli on the previously released "Wack N*ggas." There's a vinyl-crackling, old-skool vibe throughout that recalls midperiod Native Tongues, and the shoddy sound quality only adds to the allure. While you're not likely to see this being hawked in your local Tower Records (try Amoeba, which has a decent selection of mix tapes), it's more than worth the search.

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