For Volume Two, however, Helden has seemingly decided to leave eclecticism in the hands of the likes of The Bang Gang DJs and Girl Talk and opted instead for a strictly old-skool aesthetic, namely vintage acid and hip-house. Being the exact same age as AVH myself, I can still clearly recall those days in college in 1990 when Erik B & Rakim and Fast Eddie pumped the proverbial jam alongside C&C Music Factory and Leila K (sadly absent here): In terms of aiming at the nostalgia jugular, this is a killer album.
Firstly, let's just appreciate the fact that it is always terrifyingly fun to hear Roxanne Shanté sassily rapping her way through pre-Missy Elliot beats all over again, just like it is really terrifyingly fun to be reminded Queen Latifah used to be a playful and curvy ghetto princess inviting you to a house party. "I'll House Ya" and "This is Acid" might be overplayed underground successes, yet here they're fitting Zeitgeist-defining inclusions helping Van Helden to recreate the era's stylistic cross-fertilization. Even Van Helden's own tracks from last year's Ghettoblaster LP ("This Ain't Hollywood," "Playmate," the still mighty "Touch Your Toes"), although all weirdly crammed together at the beginning of the mix's final third, sound totally at home, reminding listeners of the type of contemporary rap-tinged electro-house P. Diddy once threatened to release.
That said, the album's dedication to inflexible stylistic consistency is both its strongest and weakest point: Nothing sounds more like a 1989 vocal hip-house cut than another 1989 vocal hip-house cut. Since the genre remains a peculiar parenthesis in the history of American dance music with no one seriously contemplating the idea of updating its tropes (aside from Tiga with "Hot in Herre" and "Louder Than a Bomb"), and since no other DJ is really playing these vintage tracks for an entire evening nowadays anyway, it seems Van Helden simply carved a momentarily wistful niche for himself in which there is sadly not much room for anyone else.
As successful and totally distinctive as it sounds to current ears, this mix will hardly leave any permanent marks on the younger listeners who weren't there in the first place to appreciate the sub-genre's relevance. As for the older, thirtysomething Van Helden followers, they're no doubt guaranteed a vague, yet pleasing recollection of past clubbing nights as they wonder why they needed to try so hard to impress in the first place. Either way, New York: A Mix Odyssey Vol. 2 is bittersweet proof that some trends are better left alone.
Wed / 26 Nov 2008
01. King Bee - Back By Dope Demand (Funky Bass Mix)
02. Kwamé & A New Beginning - Ownlee Eue
03. Sugar Bear - Don't Scandalize Mine
04. Antoinette - Who's the Boss
05. Eric B. & Rakim - Juice (Know The Ledge)
06. Roxanne Shanté - Go On Girl
07. Queen Latifah - Come Into My House
08. Armand Van Helden featuring Netic - Illin N Fillin It
09. Monie Love - Grandpa's Party
10. Tony Scott - That's How I'm Living
11. Doug Lazy - Let It Roll
12. Tyree* featuring Kool Rock Steady - Turn Up the Bass
13. Fast Eddie - Yo Yo Get Funky
14. Jungle Brothers - I'll House You
15. Maurice - This Is Acid
16. Armand Van Helden featuring Team Facelift - Shake That Ass
17. Armand Van Helden featuring Will 'Tha Wiz' Lemay* - This Ain't Hollywood
18. Frank Ski - Whore's in This House
19. Armand Van Helden featuring Roxy Cottontail & Lacole 'Tigga' Campbell - Playmate
20. Armand Van Helden featuring Fat Joe & BL - Touch Your Toes
21. Armand Van Helden featuring Christian Rich - Ski Hard
22. Fast Eddie - Acid Thunder
23. Freestyle - Don't Stop the Rock
24. Debbie Deb - When I Hear Music
25. Debbie Malone - Rescue Me (Original Version)
26. Nitro Deluxe - This Brutal House
27. Strafe - Set It Off (Walter Gibbons Love Mix)