Tommy Boy celebrated its status as one of the biggest independent hip-hop labels in 2006 with a first (yet to be followed-up) volume of hits, plus a 12-volume history of hip-hop from the late 70s to early 90s. Yet while its contemporary, Profile, has every reason to celebrate in similar style, this collection is a much more modest way to mark a 30-year anniversary.
Def Jam had major backing and, relatively speaking, the hits to give it a boost from (almost) the start. Tommy Boy had a way of catching trends to ensure their singles rode the charts. On the evidence of this collection, Profile worked in a much weirder vein. Pumpkin And The Profile All-Stars’ Here Comes That Beat! has no real structural logic, triggering samples that pinwheel off, colliding into various exaltations about the beat; Dana Dane lopes along with Nightmares, lifting from Slick Rick but working in altogether less cartoon-like territory.
Profile mined an edgier, harder seam than any of its contemporaries. This is the label that unleashed Run- DMC’s stark beats on the world – and yet it had hits, too. That same group’s take on Aerosmith’s Walk This Way forced hip-hop onto a white mainstream audience that might well have kept its fingers in its ears until Vanilla Ice came along. Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock’s It Takes Two remains an era-defining party anthem; Genius Rap picks up where Rapper’s Delight left off; Twin Hype’s Do It To The Crowd took the label into hip-house; and ex-Tommy Boy pioneer Afrika Bambaataa brought the perfect beat to Profile with Zulu War Chant. That, collectively, these cuts don’t register on the worldwide radar in the way Def Jam, etc, do is more criminal than Slick Rick.