Best Hip Hop Label - 2004
There are a number of record labels that consistently release smart, well-produced underground hip hop -- New York's Definitive Jux, Minneapolis' Rhymesayers, Emeryville's Anticon, to name a few -- but one towers over them all. Run by producer DJ Shadow and the members of Blackalicious and Latyrx since 1992 (when it was called SoleSides), Quannum Projects is the go-to imprint for indie rap. Since morphing into Quannum in 1999, the collective has had a remarkable winning streak, with nary a subpar disc amongst its releases. In the past year, though, Quannum has outdone itself, putting out three records that push the outer boundaries of rap, both musically and lyrically. First came Lifesavas' Spirit in Stone, an LP that offered spiritual hip hop as seen through a bong haze, the consciousness blunted but not stunted. Next, Quannum co-founder Lyrics Born supplied Later That Day, a collection that proved that funky "hott bizness" doesn't have to be mindless and vacant. Finally, Blackalicious' Gift of Gab combined slinky soul with secular spirituality for his first solo LP, 4th Dimensional Rocketships Going Up. The only problem with putting out so many outstanding records is that Quannum keeps raising the bar -- for other labels and itself.