Anthologies are uneven by nature, and in the case of the first Wax Poetics collection, it's especially understandable. Wax Poetics Anthology: Volume 1 collects 31 pieces from the first five issues of the well-loved Brooklyn-based music fanzine, which is devoted to funk, soul, hip-hop, jazz, Latin, and other DJ-beloved styles. Wax Poetics began in 2002 as a quarterly (it's now bimonthly), and its first collection of interviews and artist primers showcases the mixed bag of a title finding its feet. Sometimes the prose is stilted, as with a profile of producer-MC Diamond D; often the interview questions are softballs, like James Brown protégé Marva Whitney being told that her song "It's My Thing" "doesn't really bear any resemblance" to the Isley Brothers hit "It's Your Thing," although the two songs have almost exactly the same lyrics.
Still, the fandom driving the magazine is infectious, and the best pieces are simply essential. Andrew Mason wisely presents his interview with hip-hop producer Prince Paul in as-told-to first-person, and Paul's clear-eyed reminiscences jump off the page. Equally entertaining are the Q&As with former James Brown bassist Sweet Charles Sherrell (capped with a wild tale of the sideman hijacking the Godfather Of Soul's equipment) and pioneering graffiti artist Tracy 168, plus a gripping roundtable on the 1983 graffiti documentary Style Wars, with directors Henry Chalfant and Tony Silver, and graf writers Rammellzee, Lady Pink, Frosty Freeze, and Dez (a.k.a. mix-tape DJ Kayslay). There are also two dense, rewarding pieces by verbal-graffiti stylist Dave Tompkins, and useful overviews of Charles Mingus' short-lived indie label, and the ties between Latin label Fania and the Puerto Rican activists Young Lords.
Still, a large part of Anthology's draw, as with Wax Poetics the magazine, is how gorgeous it looks: Many pieces come with lovingly reproduced album covers and 45 labels, arrayed neatly like so much record-collector porn. Even for those who don't particularly care about obscure Texas funk entrepreneurs like Timothy McNealy, who gets a brief Q&A here, the Wax Poetics crew take such care in presenting them alongside the bigger names that it's easy to get drawn in.