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Here's a disc that's somehow getting better reviews as a rerelease than it did when it first dropped in 2003. That shouldn't be the case, obviously, but since one-half of the Jaylib duo, the almighty J-Dilla, passed away, critics, pundits, and those who slept on the project the first time around are all of a sudden committing ink to how solid the production and rhymes are — as if the album somehow aged better with time. It's really a testament to how fickle hip-hop writers are, but regardless, Champion Sound might finally get the appropriate praise that an LP of its caliber deserves. Created in 2003 as a series of through-the-mail beats between J-Dilla and Madlib, the two underground production kings decided to rap over each other's beats and crank out a 17-track opus filled with the gritty sounds of Los Angeles and Detroit. Stellar cuts like "The Red," "McNasty Filth," and "The Official" were standouts, but the whole album was a strong showcase for two artists in their prime. It's hard to say both Dilla and Madlib shone at the same time, however, as there are cuts with better production than lyricism and vice versa. Still, Champion Sound was a pivotal album, and considering how both artists are reputed studio rats, it was inevitable that a series of remixes would emerge. So for the rerelease, Stones Throw Records has included 11 previously unreleased tracks and all of the instrumentals that work like audible treats for lovers of reworkings and b-side material. There are 43 tracks here total in the deluxe two-CD set, and fans of the original project have nearly an album's worth of new songs to enjoy. Considering that it's all selling for the same price as it did in 2003, Champion Sound sounds like a champion deal.

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Jonathan Cunningham

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