Before the Beastie Boys released `Paul`s Boutique` and before DJ Shadow began diggin` through crates to make `Endtroducing`, there was Steinski. `What Does it All Mean?` is a collection of bootleg mixes by Steinski that range from 1983 to 2006. As a whole, the album is just as important today as `Lesson 1- the payoff mix` was when it hit the airwaves in 1983 and it`s still funny that a record produced by a pair of nerdy white guys remains one the greatest hip-hop singles ever released.
In 1983 Steve Stein ("Steinski") and audio engineering partner Doug DiFranco ("Double Dee") assembled `The Payoff Mix` for a Tommy Boy Records remix contest. Taking the new `Play That Beat Mr. D.J.` and drawing on both DiFranco`s tape-editing skills and Steinski`s encyclopedic knowledge of not just hip-hop but popular music in general, they threw in everything from `Rockit` and `I`ll Tumble For You` to audio snippets of popular movies. The judges, who included Afrika Bambaataa and Jellybean Benitez among others, unanimously selected the mix as the contest winner and distributed copies to radio stations. This was a real coup since Double Dee and Steinski, unlike their new peers, were not actual DJs per se.
Besides containing all three "lessons" (`The Payoff Mix`, `James Brown Mix` and `History of Hip Hop`) it also has the Kennedy themed `The Motorcade Sped On`, the Desert Storm themed `It`s Up To You`, the 911 inspired `Number Three On Flight Eleven` and many more classic Steinski tracks that you may or may not have heard before. Besides becoming part of hip hop history, with the tracks he sampled showing up in loads of other pioneering hip hop artists tracks, Steinski has been named as an important influence to artists such as Coldcut, DJ Shadow, Cut Chemist, the Avalanches, and Girl Talk who are try to take his ideas into the future.
`What Does it All Mean?` literally has a little bit of everything in it, from funk, disco, hip hop to movie clips and more. Part of the fun for me is trying to figure out where all the samples were pulled from. Outside of a few tracks like `I`m Wild About That Thing`, a cheesy track about sex, and `The Big Man Laughs, a scratch heavy track about a man laughing (which likely won`t be getting a lot of repeat plays), the album is a great place for someone with an interest in hip hop and sampling to start their collection. This is truly art and it is great to have these tracks released so younger generations can see where the music they listen to started out. `What Does it All Mean?` really shows how making good music should be more important that what you use to make it. As Steinski once said "The truth of the matter is, the legality of this doesn`t really make any difference to me, I mean, I`m gonna make the records no matter what. It`s like saying, `If you use that color blue in your painting, that`s not legal.` Well, what does that have to do with anything? It would be great if it was legal, it`s too bad it`s not, and so what?". Pick this up and get your bootleg on people!
8 out of 10