208 Representatives: 208 Underground Northwest 

There was a New York Times Crossword Puzzle clue last week: Idaho 208. My pop called from NY to ask what that meant. Though he calls me all the time, he couldn't make the connection. He will surely have no trouble with that clue in the future, nor will anyone else, thanks to the compilation disk 208 Representatives, which is a collection of work by emcees and hip-hop artists coming out of 208 Underground Northwest. And for the most part, it's awesome.

Seriously, this is a sophisticated effort with smart lyrics, fun hooks and minimal cheesiness. I half expected to hear Ashanti or some other rising starlet grooving up the choruses, but that's exactly what keeps this from falling into pop culture dregs. Main players on the album P-Dirt and Shipwreck team up with artists like B-Kashz, Dice One and DJ Flow, among others, and you get a snappy little mix that anyone would be proud to blast from their car during the cruise.

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