Various Artists: The T.U.C. Mixtape (Tucson Underground Cares) (Self-Released) 

When I think of Tucson music, the last genre that comes to mind is desert-grown, below-the-radar hip hop. That has now changed with the release of the Tucson Underground Cares compilation album, which features 20 tracks from local emcees.

There isn't a single wack track here, a rare feat for any comp, but especially for a charity CD. I hate to admit this, but whenever an album's selling point is community philanthropy, it makes me think the artists want to guilt me into buying a disc I wouldn't normally spin more than once. T.U.C. can be purchased for a minimum of $5 via the Bandcamp.com site of rapper Al Basics, but it's easily worth four times that, given all the killer jams included here.

Check out the Southwestern-style, horn-section-and-saloon-piano R&B anthem of DJ validation by The Natives Are Restless called "Not a Hobby," which brilliantly samples John Prine's "Saddle in the Rain." Or consider Post Script's cool, bebop jazz-kissed "I'm Different," featuring Basics, who boasts: "I conduct like Thelonious Monk / When I'm feeling this funk."

A University of Arizona grad by way of New York City, Basics assembled this comp and deserves credit for spotlighting Tucson's until-now-unknown poets—and for putting out a release from which proceeds will benefit Open Inn Inc., supporting homeless and at-risk youth and their families in Arizona.

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