Hit Squad - Zero Tolerance (2004)
The "crew" is one of the most essential elements in hip-hop culture, but it is rare for a crew album to match up to the accomplishments of a single artist or unit. However, when your crew is lead by Parrish "PMD" Smith and features such top guns as Redman, Das EFX, Mobb Deep, and Fat Joe, you have a better than average chance of coming together to make a record well worth listening to. Zero Tolerance even features a mini-reunion of EPMD, with PMD and Erick Sermon sharing mike time with Redman and Das EFX over a swinging beat by Havoc of Mobb Deep on "Serious." But this isn't just an orgy of all-star hip-hoppers. Lesser-known talents like K-Solo, Mick Knoxx, and especially Lil Raz fill out major portions of this album. But most impressive is 275, whose loose style on "Callin' Me" over Fury's '70s wah-wah orchestra production is the record's highest highlight. The production is consistent, mostly sample-based but nothing too obvious, and executed by almost as many different technicians as there are tracks. PMD's own console control on "Last Dayz" finds him sharing a standout beat laced with laser-beam synths with 275, but even then it's impossible to call him out as the star of this evenhanded set. A crew record that doesn't rely on the leader's coattails to carry it through? Only a true master of the genre could pull that off.
Click To Download