Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Duality of Z-Man

The Bay's Z-Man has dropped two new albums recently. One, The Opening Act, with producer Elon, is brand new. The other, California Brainwashed, isn't quite so new, it's actually dated 2013 on the artwork, but it's been hard enough to pin down that it's still pretty new to most of us. I was only able to get my hands on a copy this week, and you know me, I've been on the case. If I haven't been able to find it... unless you've been able to cop it from him at a show, I don't know how much hope you would've had.

Of course, we're talking CDs here, not vinyl; so maybe just downloading these off ITunes or wherever would be just as acceptable to you guys anyway. Personally, though, I held out for the CDs and I'm glad I did.  8)

So let's talk about 'em! First of all, it's important to say that both of these are raw, traditional Z-Man-style albums. They're what you think of when you think of Z-Man tapes. He's not paired up with a rock band or rhyming over electro club beats or chasing fads to sound like whatever any trendy Community fans are listening to this week. Z-man's been known to experiment pretty far out of the box, and I've enjoyed some of it (Motel Crew) more than others (One Block Radius); but this is Z perfectly in his lane, right where we want him, no more fucking around. Stylistically and instrumentally, these could almost blend into one giant, awesome double album. But there's something in the writing that keeps them fundamentally distinct.

"This ain't no mixtape!" is how California Brainwashed starts out, and that's pretty much its sole theme.It's a full, proper album; but it's just Z being Z. The full bravado on dolo with essentially no guests. On the anthemic "Entertainer," he answers hip-hop's age old question, "how can I move the crowd? Maybe by pullin' out an uzi that wasn't allowed!" There are a couple credited DJs on certain songs, but apart from an interesting scribble-scratch motif Quest lets loose with on "Courtesy of C.A.L.I.," there's not a lot of attention-getting scratching going on here either. The focus is solely on Z-Man talkin' his shit. Being from Cali, being more specifically from the Bay (as the track kicks in he shouts, "sounds like E-40 and the Click should be on this one, huh? But they not... couldn't afford 'em."), smoking weed and more, being hassled by the cops, playing girls and hanging with his boys. All over perfectly underground west coast beats.

The Opening Act, on the other hand, is full of introspection, honesty and self-doubt. As opposed to loudly declaring "this ain't no mixtape," Opening starts out with Z saying, "there's no one in my family who's doin' this except for I. Deep down inside they want me to quit, so I don't look like a... idiot, full grown adult with a kid's dream. No results but I've been doing this since I was fifteen!" Well, it starts that way after the opening skit. This album is full of skits, because it's also a bit of a concept album, following a little narrative of Z going on tour with a big shot, cornball named Short Neck. Z-Man is the titular opening act, and throughout the album he's suffering this indignation. On "Wack Flyers," he laments, "my music's right; at least I think so, but can't seem to catch a break. My voice is annoying; I made a mistake! God damn it, I'm in the wrong racket; I should be rich, instead of criticizing advertisements - who did this shit? Look at these graphics, this is backwards, this don't represent us!" And now, instead of playing girls, he asks himself challenging questions about maintaining an adult relationship while her career out-sails his own on "She's the DJ I'm the Rapper."

Now, this second album's specifically billed as Z-Man and Elon. And the result is that the production is a little more varied, the influences are broader. "American Newjack" has a strong "Chicks Pack Heat" feel to it, which is absolutely a good thing, and "Innercity Dreams" has some spacey keyboard riffs that definitely come out of left field. This album also features some guest MCs, including Luke Sick, Trunk Drank and Opio and Pep Love, which is interesting if you recall that Z-Man was briefly brought into the Hieroglyphics crew, but then briefly parted ways. That was ten years ago, and I believe this is their first reunion; but, no, they don't address it in the song.

Anyway, it would be going too far to say that California Brainwashed is all attitude and The Opening Act is all emo reflection. Both albums give you a full dose of Z. He has a song on the second album called "Bottle At Your Baby" where he raps, "you gonna give me loot when I ask. And no you cannot owe me; you do not know me; you owe me, you're honorin' my part, you're fuckin' phoney as fuck, I'll fuckin' throw this bottle that you gave me at your business partner and your lady holdin' your baby. We rollin' to the ATM so we can pull out gravy for me and my rellies." Shit, both albums have him transforming into The Gingerbread Man. I mean, that's a gimmick that intellectually you'd think should have been played out ten years ago. But just like Humpty Hump, he's just good enough at the cartoon-voiced character you keep you wanting to hear it again every time he drops a new album. But whatever your stance on it, it's definitely not him being meek and artsy.

So you should absolutely cop both CDs, you won't be disappointed by either. But how can you? Well, The Opening Act can be ordered easily enough through accesshiphop (and for under $10, too). But for California Brainwashed, I think the only thing you can do is contact Gurp City directly... and maybe they'll send you a paypal invoice or something? I don't know, but whatever little hoops you have to jump through, it'll be worth it.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Glitch Tape Surprise

I thought I could give my tape player a rest after Demo Week, but apparently not quite yet. This is a brand new release from a group that's a brand new discovery to me. They're called Glitch Mouth, and this is ostensibly their first release. You can find older releases from them online, but they're now calling those demos and this their first official release.

Glitch Mouth is essentially a two-man group, consisting of producer Kid Presentable from Brooklyn and Murmur, an MC from Connecticut. There's also a third person down, the questionably named Sister Snowbunny, but she's only on a couple of songs (literally two), singing hooks and back-up. Don't get me wrong, she's got a great voice and actually sounds quite good when they pull her into the mix. But think of it this way: nobody ever listened to 36 Chambers and thought, the only way this album could possibly be better is if Mary J. Blige would pop in to sing a chorus every two and a half minutes! You know, the occasional sung hook can be a powerful thing, but too much dilutes the hip-hop. And these guys find just the right balance.

So what are Glitch Mouth like? Don't let their weirdo cover art here, or even the group's press photos online, mislead you. It's east coast hip-hop. Vocally, the one guy kinda sounds like Cadence with a really nice rhyme flow, but the Raw Produce comparisons definitely end there. Instrumentally they're pretty forward thinking, with a lot of varied samples and sounds woven together, and none of that jazzy vibe. It's more down the Prince Paul road, without much by way of recognizable samples, except for a recurring theme of soundbites from the old Richard Matheson film Last Man On Earth. And lyrically, they're actually pretty old school and straight forward. Not like Sugar Hill Gang old school, but like... Showbiz & AG? Yeah. If you imagine someone like that produced by Prince Paul, you're at least in the sonic ballpark.

Of course, that's some big names I'm comparing them to: Prince Paul, Wu-Tang, DITC, Mary J... I'm sure if they ever read this they'd think, wow, I'll take that! Well, look. I'm not putting these guys on those guys' level. .But I am saying these guys are good. And stylistically, they echo those greats... You know like MC Rell as compared to Rakim.

I think I can break it down better for y'all by going off on self-indulgent tangent. Maybe I'm cynical, but the impression I get reading most music reviews these days is that the writer listens to something once or several times, and then makes a decree not so much based on his or her own genuine reaction to the music, but more based on what he thinks people should feel about it. So, for example, they might watch a rapper's youtube video and say, "these guys are kind of breaking the mold, or at least mildly leaning against the envelope, and they have a good message - FIVE STARS!" But, then, for their own personal listening enjoyment, they'll never go back and listen to that song again. Like, when I say I love "Ain't No Half Steppin'," I mean I have played that song a million bajillion times over the years, I drive around playing it and rapping the lyrics along with it. And while I don't love every song I give props to on this blog to the same degree I love a real classic like "Ain't No Half Steppin'," I do want to say that if I say I like something on here, I like it more than in that hypothetical, disposable way that seems to be prevalent. That's why you don't see me getting hyped about a new kid every other week and then forgetting about them like so many other blogs... I'm talking about the shit I'm really listening to.

So, that was a long way to go to say this. I'd never heard of Glitch Mouth until I was hit off with this tape. But now I'm telling you this is good to the point where I will definitely be playing this tape more after I hit "Publish" on today's post. And I'm going to be googling around and checking out their older releases, too.

Only one song falls short for me: "Understanding." It's got an interesting enough sound - one of the base samples is a piano riff that reminds me of the Valentina theme song (which I like 'cause I'm a weirdo), and Snowbunny sounds great when they fade her up out of the background. But lyrically, it's a relationship song by somebody who doesn't sound mature enough to be writing relationship songs; so you get lines like, "I never could believe she'd be the one to do me greasy; I couldn't see the writing on the wall... in graffiti, sayin', 'leave, G.' You see, to me, she's even more dreamy than a genie." And seeing that written out, you might think that's not so bad for a silly, pop-rap kind of song like "Party Line" or something, but he's delivering it all in a tragic melancholy "Never Seen a Man Cry Until I Seen a Man Die" tone. But that song's the only weak link.

And yes, I do keep referring to this as a cassette tape. Naturally, it's available in the generic, digital way from all the usual sources. But there's also this limited edition cassette release, which not only features all the songs as the online version, but also has all the instrumentals exclusively on the B-side plus two more bonus instrumental songs. And it's only five bucks, so I seriously recommend heading over to their bandcamp and copping it before it becomes just another mp3-only release; I think you'll be surprised. I'm genuinely glad to have my copy.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Demo Week 2, Day 5: Classic Unknown

Last Demo Week, I set aside one Day for a completely unknown artist, and it's tat time again. The group is called Fertile Crescent... at least I assume it's more than one guy, but I can't really say for sure. But I'll tell you one thing, I'm feeling this substantially more than last Demo Week's unknown demo; and as I said in my last post, better than Day 4's demo. Hell, I'm feeling this tape more than most albums, period. This is actually pretty great.

Pretty much what you see in the photo is all the info I have on this one. On the tape itself, underneath "Fertile Crescent," it also says "sampler." No date (though I know I picked this up in the late 90s), no label, no phone number with a helpful area code. Just the fact that this is, like any demo, meant to represent a varied sample of the kind of music these guys were making.

BUT, thanks to a couple of the guest artists on this tape, I was able to gleen quite a lot about it, though. Evidently, this is some Pittsburgh shit. That first guy, Davu Ayomi, is a Pittsburgh graff writer and he's described as a slam poet online. But he just rappity raps on here (thank goodness). He blends in perfectly with FC, to the point where I can't even tell which verse is his. And Rhesun a.k.a. Sha-King Ce'hum? He's from the Classic 1824 crew; and he's actually still active - he put out a mix-tape as recently as 2010. It could very well be that Fertile Crescent were part of 1924, or at least a directly connected off-shoot. They certainly have a similar sound and seem to share artistic ideologies.The other guests I don't know; but I can tell you Anna Kalantari is an actual female MC, not a hook singer; and she comes off really well. And Stretch, I dunno; he didn't stand out at all; but that's a good thing when working with artists of this caliber.

So if you like Classic 1824, I'd say this will definitely be up your alley. I mean, I actually liked this a little better than some 1824 tapes I heard... Or, at least, you'd really have to break down the comparison song-by-song. FC definitely has some songs that are stronger, but the reverse is also true.

And if, like most of the world, you've never heard Classic 1824? Because that's actually a pretty obscure, underground reference to expect people to get. I know about them myself because some Pittsburgh guys went to a lot of trouble to document a lot of that history online, including interviews and tape uploads, several years ago. Unfortunately, I think their site's dead now:/

Well, then, I think they can be best described as a group that completely lives up to the backpacker, underground intelligentsia of hip-hop that most indie groups talked about but never managed to live. it's definitely heady stuff, but despite a couple science fiction related titles ("2001 Space Odyssey" and I'm sure "Strange Days" is meant to reference James Cameron's goofy little sci-fi flick from the 90s), it's not just a bunch of nerdy comic book references strung together. It's real, substantive, and grounded in reality. And unlike a lot of their contemporaries, their stuff has aged well.

And the production is great, too. East coast, indie sounding... think Rebel Alliance, with some nice samples you haven't heard other places. The low budget does show through a bit.  I'm sure a major label could've polished a lot and beefed up a few thin moments. But that indie vibe helps as often as it hinders. The only thing they're lacking is some sick Skratch Piklz-style DJ to just go berserk on the turntables at the end of every song. It certainly would've sounded right at home amidst this material.

I really want to give this a strong endorsement and recommend everybody seek it out, except, frustratingly, it's Demo Week. Hard to find is one thing, but this shit's never been released in any public capacity as far as I know. And googling around, I can't find a damn thing about these guys or what's come of them (it doesn't help that "fertile crescent" is a ore-existing phrase, referring tot he area of Africa generally considered to be the "cradle of civilization," so it generates tons and tons of hits that have nothing to do with Pittsburgh rap). So I don't know what I can do here but hope maybe somebody who knows more about these guys, or the artists themselves, might possibly come forward and let the world in on the music they've created by releasing it on the indie tip or something. Anything.

Anyway, a lot of my "Weeks" end on Day 5, but not this one. I'll be coming back one more time, with a known group, and in video so you guys can hear it. It's a group I'm quite fond of, have blogged about a couple times before, and backed by a very major hip-hop producer.  Ciao!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Demo Week 2, Day 4: Some G.O.O.D. Unsigned Hype

I was going to feature today's demo(s) back in Demo Week 1, but it was so much to get a grasp on, I just let it slide. But this year, I'm going to tackle it. So here we go!

There was a 90s group out of Waco, Texas called Third Eye Militia. They were kinda like the Visionaries in the sense that it was a group that put out albums (well, one album, called Buried Alive, in 1999). But the membership also comprised smaller, sub-groups, who unlike the Visionaries, never put out any records. They collectively released a 12" single, which I've got, called "The Family" in 1998. The two B-sides of that, "Symbolic Seeds" and "Verbal Elements," focus on two of the Militia's subgroups, Symbolic Elementz and Verbal Seed. Notice how they switched up the words there? That's either slightly clever or arbitrarily and annoyingly confusing depending how generous you're feeling.

Still with me? Here, let me break down the full Militia line-up, maybe that'll help. You had Symbolyc Elementz, which was a sub-group consisting of Tha Symbolyc One and Myth, Verbal Seed, a sub-group consisting of brothers Oneself and Focus, plus solo members Mony Mone and Buttafinga. All six of those guys are MCs, but at least three of them (One Self, Symbolyc One and Buttafinga) also produce. Oh, also Verbal Seed later added another guy named Tree, who was also brothers with Oneself and Focus. And the two guys from Symbolyc Elementz later added a guy from Indiana named Myone, and changed their name to Strange Fruit Project, a group you may've heard of since they've had a number of albums and 12" singles out over the years, and I believe are still recording together to this day. Symbolyc One also released a couple solo albums in the 2000s, and a collaborative album with Braille. Symbolic went on to sign with G.O.O.D. Music, as S1, and shared a Grammy for co-producing "Power," so the line goes from real obscure to major. And the Militia also have, or have had, a strong internet presence over the years, so there's a whole bunch of mp3-only songs, albums and mixtapes scattered around from all these guys, collectively and separately, if you're keen to dig around.

Now, in addition to the album and 12" which were released commercially - albeit underground and independently - I've also got a demo CD by the Third Eye Militia. It includes "Symbolyc Seedz," which is a different spelling but the same song as the one on the 12", and a song called "Anytime, Anyplace," which was included on the Buried Alive album. For the record, so were "Symbolyc Seedz" and "The Family," but not "Verbal Elements," which was exclusive to the 12".

That sounds like a Day 1.5 post, right? Just a little demo featuring songs already available on existing releases. But I'm just throwing that in there 'cause it's an interesting little item I've come across. We haven't even gotten to the demo I'm here to cover today. See, before all of this '98/'99 stuff, one of the Militia's sub-groups, Symbolic Elementz, got featured in The Source's 'Unsigned Hype' column of May '96. Reading that column, I don't seem to have the songs they're writing about ("Style of the Godz," "Mental Ejaculation" or the particularly promising "Acrobatmatics"). But I DO have a Symbolic Elementz demo tape from 1997 called The Dynasty. It features three different songs, all produced by fellow Militia member Buttafinger.

Wow! We finally made it to today's demo! Unfortunately, we're all out of space - so, goodnight!

Just kidding. Actually, this is an interesting mix of styles: Southern, gangsta-rap inspired tracks with backpacker lyrical inspirations. But it's not just that; it's much more fluid and intangible. There's elements of Dre's Aftermath on here... Suave House... Supafriendz. Especially the low budget feel from that last one. Being a 90s project, the punchlines get a little corny ("can you take me away like Calgon?"); but for the most part it's well-rounded and effective. The production on "Temptation Got Me Hostage" "What Dreams Are Made Of" is understated but really effective. The dynamic between the two MCs passing the mic is strong and lively. It almost feels beneath them when they bring the lyrics back to "sucker MCs."

It is all a little too polished and smooth for my tastes, though. It sounds like the kind of thing record labels like more than the actual man on the street. Like the one Supafriendz aspect its really missing is the fun. This is good music with little to criticize about it, but I can't honestly say this is a tape I go back to revisit much. Maybe it's too middle of the road, style-wise; instead of being a jack of all trades they should settle on being a master of one. You can certainly see why these guys have had a long career, but but it'll be fun to contrast with tomorrow's demo, which I like a lot better; but it didn't seem to get them careers...

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Demo Week 2, Day 3: Hurby Luv Bug's Forgotten Clan

Today's demo is a full, unreleased album by the Mau Mau Clan. Now, this isn't to be confused with the Mau Maus, that brief "super group" consisting of Mos Def, MC Serch, Charli Baltimore, Canibus and whoever else. That was a one--off for a Spike Lee soundtrack. It's also no connection to the contemporary punk band, The Mau Maus, the German new wave band from he 80s called Mau Mau, the electronic artist Mau Mau who releases records on Mau Mau Records, DJ Mau Mau, the UK punk band from the 80s known as The Mau Maus, the Italian funk band Mau Mau, Mau Mau Productions, the reggae band Mau Mau from Jamaica, the African rapper Mau-Mau, or the Brazilian funk singer Mau Mau. It's also not any winners of the Most Original Band Name competition, obviously.* But it is connected to a preexisting "Mau Mau" group you might remember: The Mau-Mau Clan Overlords - it turns out they have a whole, unreleased album!

Who? Gentlemen, please cast your recollections back to the album on your left: The House That Rap Built, by Hurby's Machine. In other words, the producer album by Hurby Luv Bug back in 1987, when his groups like Salt-N-Pepa and Kid 'N' Play were just starting. Antoinette had some dope songs on there, and also, uh... a bunch of groups who never went on to do anything else. Including the Mau Mau Clan Overlords. Or so we all thought; but it turns out they came back, or tried to. Is that a good thing? I think so, yeah! Most of that album was fresh, and not as pop rap or corny as you might expect based on some of Hurby's later output. I mean, "Just Go" by Future Shock is, but not the rest of the LP. The Overlords had two solid songs on there, including the title cut and a stronger joint called "Contact Sport." And I think this lost album shows they were capable of substantially more.

For one thing, this album is widely diverse. I think it was meant more as a showcase of the variety of songs they could potentially deliver if a label signed them, rather than an album meant to be released as is. There's an upbeat love song, a track dissing girls, there's a Kid 'N' Play-style dance song that freaks "Got To Be Real," rougher freestyle tracks, even a song called "Uncle Tomic Bomb" that... lives up to its name. It all sounds rich and really well produced, thanks in small part to the fact that Hurby Luv Bug and The Invincibles clearly worked on this project. Steevee-O, the other guy on the Hurby's Machine cover, gets shouted out more than Hurby, but they both do. So while there's no liner notes with this tape unfortunately, I'm convinced they both produced for this.

There are also some guests... a reggae guy chats no a couple hooks, a pair of female MCs (not Salt-N-Pepa, but maybe None-Stop[sic]?) do a little back and forth with the Overlords, and Hallelujah, the Fifth is here! Yeah, "Mischievous" is a fun song greatly bolstered by a collaboration with The Fifth Platoon, who once again sound great. I have to admit, I would've rather found a lost Fifth Platoon album than Mau Mau Clan one, but this is good too, really. I'm really surprised these guys never came out, because clearly the Invincibles made spent some serious time and effort into making this project. I mean, if the album were to come out, I could imagine some of the edgier songs like "Da Niggaz Are Comin'" would've gotten cut off (which would've been a shame, 'cause that's a hot one). But some of these songs could've been singles and handed directly to MTV.

I mean, some songs are better than others, and a few are corny (the hook for one song is sung, "I can't front on my girl, 'cause she knows how to do me")\, just like you'd find on most Invincibles' albums from that period. And by that period, I'm guessing... 1991? That song with the Fifth Platoon has a real Leaders Of the New School vibe, in no small part to the fact that they sample Busta's line from "Case Of the PTA" for the hook. So it has to be at least that new.

I mean, look, this is an Invincibles crew album. if you don't like records by groups like Kid N Play, Joeski Love or Dana Dane, you're not gonna like this. This tape's a little more rugged than Joeski's, but this ain't no "Shook Ones." But if you enjoy any of those albums, especially from that 1990-1991 period, this is good shit. And again, it's really surprising this all stayed shelved and unheard.

It's also a bit odd that this is so many years after The House That Rap Built. Like, they never came out in all that time, but Hurby still kept working with 'em? I was searching around online, though, and I noticed that the Mau Mau Clan are credited with background vocals on Salt-N-Pepa's Very Necessary album. So I'm guessing after Hurby's Machine, they just stayed in the background, working with the Invincibles behind the scenes rather than as recording artists. And these guys are fine as commercial rappers, but they're not ill MCs, so maybe they got into the industry right where they fit in and it all shook out right. But it just goes to show... we have no idea what music is out there that we'll never hear.

*If you're wondering why so many groups would all choose to call themselves the same, unusual thing; it's all in the name's origins. The Mau Muas were a small, African militant group that formed to fight colonialism in the 1950s. Just read the wiki. So you can see why it'd make a pretty great name for a group... Except, dammit people, the name's been taken!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Demo Week 2, Day 2: The Audio One

How about a strictly instrumental demo? We haven't had one of those before! Well, here's one from Gizmo, one half of the famed duo The Audio Two, of course. We all know what happened to Milk Dee after the pair failed to release their mysterious third album, First Dead Indian - he signed to American Records and released a pretty nice EP which featured Ad Rock of the Beastie Boys. Then in the 2000s, he started working with random guys like Eamon and Jason Downs, and he cameo'd on that 50 Cent remake of his.

But Giz? I mean, you'll see him continue to rack up some credits on sites like discogs; but that's just because people can't stop sampling "Top Billin'." But for actually doing new work, I don't think he's done anything since the days of the Two. Where'd he go?

This tape answers that question, at least to a fair degree. He was at least shopping himself as a producer with this tape of his own beats sent out in 1998.

If look closely at the photo, you'll see this tape is ostensibly divided into two sections: Hip-Hop on side 1 and R&B and Hip-Hop on side 2. In fact, side 1 is full of hip-hop beats, over a dozen. And side 2 just has 4 beats, only one of which sounds like it's meant for R&B. I mean, maybe he had ideas of someone singing over one or two of the others - after all, he positively invented the penultimate R&B-singer-over-a-hip-hop-beat track. But only one has the cheerful, soft, only Raven Symone wound be down with this keyboard riff on it. The rest are all pretty dark and clunky.

And how are all these beats? Certainly professionally crafted. There's not a lot of samples, or if there are, they've been filtered to the point of sounding like studio-created sounds, which is what most of them probably are. There's an MC Lute vocal loop on one track to make you feel at home with the Giz you know. But none of it sounds like their classic records; it's clearly meant to have a modern vibe, and is trying to fit in rather than stand out. If I were a label head, this tape would tell me that Giz is a pro, and I might hire him for some in-house work; but I certainly wouldn't go into a bidding war for any of these beats like "my artist needs this!" In other words, Ras Kass wouldn't have to worry about Jadakiss stealing any of this music from him - there's no makings of a hit here.

And as a fan, I can't say I'm bothered than this work wasn't capitalized on and made into full songs. It's like ah, okay, so that's what Giz was up to in 1998. But the world hasn't missed out on any masterpieces.

As you can see, Tracks From Giz came with a business card. "You can ask Giz" is of course a line from "Top Billin'." His production company listed there, Gee Off Productions, is the label Lyte credited for her song "Wonder Years" a couple years ago, so he's clearly still using that. All in all, a pretty interesting little find. Not one that needs to be rescued and delivered to the fans, per se; but a cool one to learn about. And tomorrow we'll get back into full-length demo albums, complete with vocals.  :)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Demo Week 2, Day 1.5: Harmful Venoms

Last Demo Week had a Day 1.5, and so too does this one. Like last time, Day 1.5 is for a minor, disappointing demo, that just barely is maybe worth telling people about, but really isn't compelling enough to warrant a proper "Day." And today's entry receives the .5 status for pretty much the same recent the original did: all the songs on it wound up getting released commercially. So whoop-de-doo, right? But, still, it could be an interesting artifact, especially for serious fans of the artist, so let's have our .5.

It's Deadly Venoms! As in the official, all-girl sub-set of the Wu-Tang Clan. I got this tape during my time at The Source, and it represents the time after their first indie 12", which was really good and had people excited about the prospect of Deadly Venoms... and their eventual major label releases, which weren't terrible but pretty much let the air out of the world's collective enthusiasm. And this is a tape of seven songs from when they were still shopping for a major label home to follow up that 12". All songs that quickly found their way onto their A&M Records album, The Antidote.

Now, granted, The Antidote was pretty much shelved and "lost," making these songs still unreleased. But there were promo copies released, and of course it was all leaked onto the internet. And all of those promo copies, etc were of the full LP, not just these seven songs. It's interesting to see which seven songs they had prepared first, and which were made later... and this tape was nice to have before any of their stuff came out.

But I've listened through it plenty (for a while, it's all that was available, after all) and none of the songs are any different than the ones every Wu fan who cares enough has heard. I remember when I first went back to this tape after the full-album leaked online decades ago, hoping to find some lost LinQue verse that was edited out from the final retail version, or a different beat or an extended intro or anything. But nope. A few of the titles are slightly different; "D-Evils" here is simply "Evils." But that's it. Nothing special.

So there ya go. Check out the photo posted above, and you've probably extracted all their value there is from this tape. But check back for Day 2 and I'll have something meatier again.