Various Artists, The Roots of Hip Hop (Harte)

I don’t know if all of these songs are the ancestors of hip-hop, but this is a first class collection of vintage blues, gospel and R&B. The album attempts to categorize songs that are themes of modern hip-hop—sex, violence, drugs and gangstas. The CD gets underway with the Katie Webster/Ashton Conroy swamp blues classic, “Baby, Baby,” where Katie tells Ashton in no uncertain terms, “If you got no bread, you gets no meat here,” and to ‘Get your guitar and get!’ Another classic line in the blues genre is in Willie Nix’s, “Just Can’t Stay,” where he tells his woman, “Put something on the bar besides your elbow.” Although it was recorded 80 years ago, one track that is currently especially significant is Rev. J. M. Gates’, “These Hard Times.” Another absolute classic is Little Caesar’s stone cold. “Goodbye Baby,” where Caesar deals with his cheating wife. Local contributions come from Jack Dupree (“Slow Boogie”) and the Shaweez’s mournful, “No One to Love Me.”

But the roots of hip-hop? Any roots of hip-hop collection should contain at least one Louis Jordan number, but he’s missing here. I’ll bet whoever compiled this CD never heard Dr. Horse’s virtual blueprint for hip-hop, “Jack, That Cat Was Clean.” Still, the inclusion of the Soul Stirrers’ “Why I Like Roosevelt,” Richard Berry’s “The Big Break,” and the Treniers’ “Uh, Oh” make this album an intriguing collection worth investigating.