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The Beatnuts 

Our critics' picks in new releases

The Beatnuts are one of the most successful Latino groups in hip-hop history. The original group consisted of three members: Ju Ju, Psycho Les and Kool Fashion. Originally, the trio was a production team that did work for such artists as Cypress Hill and Monie Love. By 1993, they released their first EP, Intoxicated Demons, followed by their '94 debut full-length, Street Level. Even though Fashion (aka Al-Tariq) left the group in '96, The Beatnuts still managed to put out five albums that are considered some of the best ever in underground hip hop.

Even though Classic Nuts Vol. 1 delivers a 12-track sample of The Beatnuts' most popular work, hardcore fans may not consider it a classic. While the CD contains the hits "Watch Out Now" and "Off The Books," it doesn't include many of the group's underground tracks, like "Do You Believe" and "No Equal." But Classic Nuts is still a solid compilation and one that's easy to listen to, even for the casual hip-hop fan.

And The Beatnuts' production, as expected, is superb and heavily rooted in the basics of hip hop; the drum tracks are strong and the samples innovative. "However Whenever" and "Reign of the Tec," their first single, embody their formula completely. This is a collection will keep heads bouncing from beginning to end. It'll also prepare fans for The Beatnuts' all-new LP, due for release later this year.

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