THE LABEL Tommy Boy ESTABLISHED 1981 AESTHETIC Before LL ever rocked Def Jam's bells, there was the ''Planet Rock'' of Tommy Boy. With cornerstone releases like Afrika Bambaataa's signature single and De La Soul's 3 Feet High and Rising, Tommy Boy drafted the blueprint that all other rap labels would eventually xerox. By 1989, Warner Music Group had acquired Tommy Boy from founder Tom Silverman, who stayed on in a creative capacity. In 2002, frustrated by his inability to ''take chances on more radical kinds of music'' in today's high-stakes industry, Silverman bought back the label, rechristening it Tommy Boy Entertainment. Armed with developing new artists, Silverman relaunched it as an indie to, as he explains, ''get back to what our original legacy was.'' ESSENCE ''We started out as a DJ-driven label, and that's what we are now,'' says Silverman. '''Planet Rock' was a big dance record, and hip-hop wasn't even a separate genre yet. That's where our roots are. I think there's a place between dance music and hip-hop now that can be very exciting.'' ESSENTIALS The Perfect Beats (1998), a four-disc set of 1980s electro and club classics, and Tommy Boy's Greatest Beats (1998), a collection of the label's hits packaged as five CDs in a small DJ milk crate. EXPECT Glitzy femmes fatales FannyPack (above), who rap like L'Trimm; and Disco D, a dance DJ who specializes in ''ghetto tech,'' a bootylicious mix of Miami bass music and techno.