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Various Artists

After incubating in South Bronx parks, the hip-hop virus became airborne sometime in the late '70s, initially infecting NYC's uptown clubs with thick grooves of funky breaks and big bass before jumping the confines of the Rotten Apple and metastasizing first in New Jersey, then in Connecticut. The beautifully zealous hip-hop archaeologists at Stones Throw -- who have, over the past few years, been responsible for a constant procession of compelling, old-skool funk and hip-hop reissues -- spent years scouring record bins for the lost recordings of Mr. Magic, a.k.a. the king of hip-hop's third colony, Connecticut.

The result of their labors is an album that not only serves as an important historical document but one that remembers what most of us have chosen to forget: that hip-hop was originally a vehicle for escapism rather than a platform for political grandstanding or bloody self-aggrandizing. On "Get Up (and Go to School)," a 12-year-old Pookie Blow gives a measured and lighthearted endorsement of junior high, while Willie Brown and Woodie, the world's first and last hip-hop ventriloquist "duo," deliver the truly odd "Ventriloquist Rap." Kazoo solos ("2001 Kazoos") and paeans to breakdancing ("Million Dollar Legs") just add to the fun. None of the artists made it beyond the confines of Connecticut, but The Third Unheard provides a nostalgic peek at a lost chapter of hip-hop's history. -- Sam Chennault

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