These days, just about anyone with an iMac and a free night can remix, deconstruct or mash-up, but though that access has made the game more democratic, the rules remain the same: Anyone can make a be

These days, just about anyone with an iMac and a free night can remix, deconstruct or mash-up, but though that access has made the game more democratic, the rules remain the same: Anyone can make a beat, but not many can make good ones. Which is why "Back to the Beat," an underground project by Chicago producer Nomadic, is such an eyebrow-raiser. Nomadic's treading dangerously sacred ground in remixing tracks like "The Bridge," "Public Enemy #1" and "The Message," but as he quickly points out in the liner notes, his aspirations aren't to recreate but to revisit the tracks that accompanied his youth. And his sonically buffed-up reshufflings add a modern and surprisingly soulful twist -- gospel-tinged vocals make Audio Two's "Top Billin'" something approaching pretty, descending riffs turn "My Adidas" from sharp braggadocio to elegant string workout and "I Know You Got Soul" becomes a relaxed late-night jam. No, none of these tricks eclipse the originals, but that's not the point: this is a reverent thank-you from a onetime kid whose life was the music. -- Jeff Vrabel

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