Album Review: What Does It All Mean? 1983-2006 Retrospective by Steinski
Fantastic, Based on 3 Critics
AllMusic - 90 Based on rating 9/10
One of the most unlikely heroes of hip-hop has to be former ad man Steinski, who catapulted himself to street-level fame by entering a Tommy Boy remix contest in 1983 and delivering (with recording studio vet Double Dee) one of the best mastermixes of all time. No matter that this was hardly an "on the fly" turntablist piece worthy of Grandmaster Flash; basically, it came about from boxes of records, turntables, tape machines, and a dozen hours of studio time. The original "Lesson" (aka "The Payoff Mix") was a dizzying trip that took in dozens of track snippets interspersed with all manner of movie dialogue and cartoon samples.
Review Summary: The visionary hip-hop pioneer finally gets an album worth his name.Steinski might just be the most influential artist of the modern era that you've never heard of. I'll spare you the incidental back story (you can find that just fine in Robert Christgau's article "Down By Law: Great Dance Records You Can't Buy") - just know that when Steve Stein and his partner in crime Doug DeFranco made their first remix, they changed hip-hop as an art form. While remixes had previously been played reasonably straight, staying within the realm of black music, "The Payoff Mix" brought in a dizzying array of genres, along with obscure spoken-word samples, pieced together with more care and intellect than anything before them.
It's an irony of musical history that one of the greatest hip-hop singles ever released was produced by a pair of entirely un-hip white advertising men. In 1983, in response to a Tommy Boy Records remix contest, Steve Stein and audio engineering partner Doug DiFranco assembled a masterpiece of editing entitled "The Payoff Mix." 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 borrowed from films.