Tuesday, May 29, 2007
This is The Crash Crew (this blog is being posted in conjunction with a new artists' page on my site - woot!)'s comeback record from 1996. I don't think it went over really well, because it sounds nothing like the classic Crash Crew records of the past. There's no harmonizing, no Sugarhill band... definitely a disappointment to all the fans hoping for a return of the Cool Romantic Amazing Super Heroes they remembered and loved. But, if you can put those expectations aside... if you can say to yourself, "okay, this is just a new, indie rap record from some anonymous group," it's actually pretty tight.
They each (even DJ Daryl C gets on the mic, and they added an unnamed female MC to the mix on the flip) come with hardcore raps - we're talking a LOT of threats of violence, here - and deliveries that would be more at home on Fat Joe's first album than alongside anything else from their past catalog. Here's a sample:
I thank God I'm still breathing.
Day after day, son,
I see my peoples leaving.
Now why the fuck they put me on this Earth
If I can't stay?
That kind of shit
Makes me wanna bust my AK.
No time for babies,
I'd tryin' ta make it on my own;
Stressed the fuck out,
Smoking bone after bone.
And even worse,
They even caught my man for a body:
Jake fucked him up, son;
They caught him in the lobby."
Yeah, that's the other difference you'll notice; these verses are filled with curses (the radio edits replace them with sound effects, which is kinda fresh and kinda corny at the same time), especially the b-side, "Champagne Flights." The production is cool on both tracks; very dark and moody... I prefer the A-side, but the choppy piano loop and slow bassline on the b-side are pretty nice, too. Like I said, if you can get past "this ain't how the Crash Crew is supposed to sound" (I mean, let's face it - "the infrared is gonna hit you between the God damn eyes; steppin' to the Crash Crew - another suicide" - you wouldn't exactly be wrong), the guys can still flow and; all-in-all, you've got a pretty nice, gritty underground 12" here.
Oh and, as to official sites and myspaces... yes, I have one for ya: EK Mike C's myspace page. Be forewarned, it is loaded with glittery flash animations that could implode your browser if you're on an older system.
Saturday, May 26, 2007
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
If you're not as up on your hip-hop history as you really ought to be, Freshco was an upcoming battle MC and former break dancer from Philly who had a pretty decent self-produced 12" ("4 At a Time" b/w "Are You Ready") on Tommy Boy in 1989. That year, he entered and won the World Champion title at the New Music Seminar. And another Philly native, DJ Miz, won the World Champion DJ battle at the same event.. Tommy Boy Records decided to put them together; and they produced and released the classic 12" single "We Don't Play" b/w "Ain't U Frescho?" & "Now Ya Know" in 1990. They toured around, had a video, but sadly, despite critical raves and underground props, Tommy Boy apparently decided that Frescho & Miz lacked the commercial potential to merit release of their full-length album. So Freshco and Miz split up.
Frescho stuck it out in the game for a little while. You can hear him dropping a nice guest verse on Original Flavor's second album, Beyond Flavor, and a quick freestyle on DJ Enuff's Freestyle Collection white label as Freshco da Flowa, both in '93. Then he put out a fairly rare/ sought-after indie 12" in 1995, called "Bring the Funk Thru" b/w "Da Soundz" and "Planet Brooklyn" on Street Level Records. It was booted later, on Empire Records, as "DJ Premier Introduces Freshco," because he produced the one track, "Planet Brooklyn." And that was the last the hip-hop world heard of Freshco.
Until, that is... through the modern day miracle of the internet... he was discovered back on the scene in 2004! Putting aside the Frescho moniker, he put up a nice site at ShawnConrad.com to herald his new musical direction: "Revolutionary Urban Gospel Music!" [his exclamation point] As his bio said at the time, "In October 2003, God suddenly re-awoke Shawn’s rapping abilities. This time, Shawn would use his skills not for the benefit of himself but for the benefit of building God’s kingdom." He put out a full length album called Heaven Yeah! on Dvoted Records, which you can still buy new at CDBaby.com or TowerRecords.com.
Which brings us to today, with Freshco selling the aforementioned CDR on Ebay (just do a search for "Frescho") for $15. Be wary of the excessive shipping costs pork-barreled into the price tag ($10 + another $2 for "sales tax"), though, before you rush onto that BIN button and get blind-sided. But if you do decide to "support the artist" and pay the cost, I can assure you, you won't be disappointed in the music.
You may've noticed, if you clicked the link above, that his ShawnConrad.com site is still active... But it's no longer about his music (though you can still order Heaven Yes! off it). It's been remade into a blog and venue for his new career as a motivational speaker (or as he puts it, "Total Self Development for Life" from a "youthful counselor/speaker who has ... his wisdom filled messages coupled with his non-PhD approach"). It strikes me as being a bit weird, frankly, but maybe I'm just out of my element there.
Finally, you knew it was coming... the question of questions... does Frescho currently have a myspace? You bet he does! And so does DJ Miz! Woot!
Tags: Freshco & Miz
Monday, May 21, 2007
A lot of people get confused about this record since it's clearly marked with a 1995 copyright on the label. That's when the song was recorded, but this 7" record was actually pressed and released in 2002. It was a freebie Brick Records made for Sandboxautomatic.com (back when they sold vinyl), for anyone who ordered $25 or more. Here's the write-up they posted in May of '02 (the same month God Complex member and Brick Records' graphic designer Karma released his solo debut 12", "Art of War" on the Australian label, Nuff Said Records):
"Laid down way back in 1995, these are previously unreleased recordings from the God Complex trio of 7L, Esoteric and Karma, produced by Fresno aka Madsol-Desar (best known for his work with Laster and Last Emperor). Only 500 copies were made of this release (numbered BRK000 - pre-Rebel Alliance!) and the artists have selected Sandbox to be the primary distributor of this highly collectable[sic.] 'big-hole' 45. While we can't guarantee 100% that this will be the only place that will have this record, we can at least say that a) it is not likely you will see this record available anywhere else anytime soon, if ever and b) even if you manage to locate it elsewhere, it is not likely that it will be FREE with only a $25 purchase like our copies are. Once these are gone, well, you know..."
After a quick sound byte from the movie Wild Style, "Bust My Style (Remix)" kicks into one of the hardest, catchiest beats from the God Complex catalog (we know this because Brick Records released an mp3-only album collecting all their material, entitled The Strontium 90 Years, which I believe was meant at one time to get a proper release, but sadly, it never happened). The original version was cool, too... more of a mellow, "intellectual" head nodder, with completely different lyrics... but this remix, with the harder beats and more intense scratching of some Kool Keith vocal samples, is clearly the crowd-pleaser of the two. The MCs go back and forth, with Esoteric (then known as Seamus the God Awful) kicking the complex, SAT word-heavy verses we know and love him for:
"My mind activates
A rapper's fate;
Done at a rate
You cannot calculate.
Skulls get pulverized."
...While Karma kicks something a little simpler and more traditional:
"What's your mentality?
I wonder how you think
You see us when we bust;
Sweat our shit like calories.
You can't challenge me;
It's all a fallacy.
My talents be
Pervertin' your reality.
You can't retort
Once the punks get taught.
It just ain't for show,
Head to toe in the Lo, sport.
I fuck up kids like a pedophile.
All those who sweat a style,
The b-side is "Seek & Destroy," another bid for the more mainstream underground crowd (freebie for Sandbox... makes sense), using a deep bassline, piano loop and slow horn sample on the hook. 7L is scratching between verses again, but this time it's mixed lower, placing it more subtlety in the background of the driving bass and piano lines. The MCs are back to kicking more hardcore battle raps (as opposed to their more lyrically creative output, with more sci-references and what-not, a la "Strontium 90" or "Secret Wars"):
"Seamus is back in line,
Attack the rap track;
Crabs get waxed from behind.
At accelerated rates,
When I calculate
And take scalps of fakes,
I evaluate: They're faulty.
And the God Awful's more disorderly.
A judge stormed on me.
My style's crooked like deformities.
I'm chokin' raps with ropes,
Leavin' kids roped with slit throats,
Quotin' me; I'm schoolin' them like Cliffs Notes.
Rip folks out their cherished whip,
And tell them they will perish quick
From the terror stick of the heretic."
Today, Karma seems to have put his rapping behind him, but he's still down withBrick Records and doing graphic design for a lot of hip-hop artists. Here's his myspace page... and while we're at it, here's Brick Records' myspace, and here's their official (but woefully out-of-date) site: brickrecords.com. 7L & Esoteric have their own website, which is fairly substantive and definitely worth a look (though also out-of-date), at: 7l-esoteric.com, as well as the obligatory myspace page. And finally, producer Fresno has a myspace page, too.
Saturday, May 19, 2007
The first track is a joint from The Babylonianz' unreleased second album, Da Boom Baptism called "Keep It Raw." The Babylonianz were a gangsta rap send-up group consisting of Sole and Pedestrian (a.k.a. Blazefest & Whitefolk, respectively), following directly in the footsteps of Anticon's previous gangsta rap send-up group, Bludd 'N' Gutz. The album was never released because, well... I'll let Pedestrian explain it (from the SoleOne.org forums), "we never released the second album, Da Boom Baptizm, because it wasn't that good. The title track, 'Da Boom Baptizm,' actually came out on an Amoeba compilation. The problem was basically this: between the first and second albums, the Babylonianz were saved by evangelicals and became very conservative politically. For instance,Why Murder [Why?'s Bludd 'N' Gutz alias] joined Whitefolks and Blazefest on 'Attack Iraq,' which was prophetically finished a few months before the war began. The hook: 'You want jihad, come and get it, boy!' anyway, the problem... because every Babylonianz song is drunkenly freestyled, we found it really difficult to stay in character. freestyling in the character of a once thug turned militantly conservative Christian was fucking confusing." Here's a taste of "Keep It Raw:"
"The Palestinian poet,
The Israeli bomber,
Call yo' momma, or Osama,
You better pick someone for drama.
Rappers don't want it 'cause they flaunt it and they gonna (trick!)
Get bent. When I broke it,
Leave a mic and represent 'cause I spoke it (Ch-ch!).
I'm too dope it;
You can't diagnose it.
You better take some Novocaine,
Get over my name: Whitefolk.
I came to Blazefest like a rhyming death threat,
The best bet since death! (What's next?)"
Next you've got two "serious" songs: both unreleased Sole duets with Why? (though "Idiot's Guide," later appeared on Sole's Songs That Went Tin compilation as "Idiot's Guide To the Universe"). These songs came just around the time Why? was moving out of rap and into his more alternative/pop rock singing style, which makes for an interesting mesh of styles when put up against Sole's strictly hip-hop rapping (though he leans towards Why?'s direction on "I'd Rather Broil"), since neither goes for the obvious "I'll rap and he can sing the chorus" formula.
There are no production credits given for any of the tracks, but we know from the Songs That Went Tin notes that "Idiot's Guide" - a pretty cool, mellow track - was produced by DJ Mayonnaise w/ Why?. The lyrics are reasonably solid and straight-forward here, but take a turn to the kind of abstractions which seem to drive non-Anticon enthusiasts up the wall on "I'd Rather Broil," as Why? sings, "I'm going to the movies with a pair of parakeets in my pocket, one of whom has its mouth sewn shut, the other one a whistler; oohhh... Ohhhhh my god, I'm going." while Sole goes on about "the Hillary Clinton foundation posing as lesbian activists, selling tickets." The track's got a cool, heavily distorted bassline and some live guitar... Thanks are due to W_e_s on the SoleOne forums for finding an archived page from the old Anticon site (where the song is titled "I'd Rather Boil") that gives us the production credits: "recorded dec '99. produced by odd nosdam. mixed by an intoxicated why? 'I liked how the bass sounded and we ate brownies, dude.' - why?"
Finally, you get a 36 minute interview, with Sole answering questions that were submitted through the old Anticon.com forums in front of a "studio audience" consisting of some sampled laughter and applause tracks, Odd Nosdam, Baillie, Passage, Alias, Pedestrian and Colin. As the hand-written note that came with the CD explains, "people asked the internet questions as absurd as possible, and I answered as straight as I could. ...We left in between dialogue, and my frustration with the questions in, to give people a more in depth view of what went into the CD." It makes for a pretty weird listening experience... first a question is asked in a funny voice, then Sole stumbles for a while on his writing process or the war in Iraq, while a laugh track is cut into every pause, and his label-mates snicker and interject comments like, "you said Jose One!" Fake questions (like "is my television staring at me?") are thrown in, too, and there's some human beat-boxing and very half-hearted freestyles. After about the twenty-minute mark, your brain starts to warp... and you're only halfway through it.
And these are the kinds of treasures you people are missing out on if you don't buy your music off the internet. You've taken a good first step by reading this blog... now go get a Paypal account!
Monday, May 14, 2007
"Wait a minute," you exclaim, "Everybody knows the Sugarhill Gang is three guys - Wonder Mike, Master Gee and Big Bank Hank!" Yeah, well, guess what. This is '94, and things done changed.
Back in 1985, Master Gee left the group, to release one solo 12" on Atlantic Records (called "Do It," and it's actually pretty good) and ultimately retire from the music scene. He was replaced, in turns, by Kory-O (he was featured on tracks like "Work, Work the Body" before the group initially stopped recording) and another MC who decided o call himself Master Gee: former West Street Mob member Joey Robinson Jr. - son of Sylvia Robinson, president of Sugarhill.
In an interview with AllHipHop.com (click to read the whole thing), Master Gee had this to say about his imposter, "What me and Mike are doing now is working to get out and let people see the real deal, because some people aren't even sure about who's who. They think that this other guy is Master Gee. ... First of all, you're not supposed to use someone else's name. There was never an agreement made between him and I. As far as performing, he didn't write the lyrics, he didn't record the songs. He's not really entitled to say that he's me. There's only one original member performing as the Sugar Hill Gang right now, and that's Hank. The rest are stand-ins and they're duping the public. When people go out to see them, they're not getting the real deal. ... With me stepping away from the group, [The 2nd Master Gee] felt that it was his opportunity to go on the road and take my place. He was involved in all the sessions, but he never performed on any of the hits, 'Rapper's Delight,' 'Apache,' '8th Wonder.' That's all me."
But on this single, Hank isn't the only original member. The line-up here is: Wonder Mike, Kory-O, the 2nd Master Gee and Big Bank Hank... hence the four people on the album cover (by the way, that's the CD single you're seeing pictured above... the 12" single is a plain, white sticker cover, with only text). They've updated their flows and styles somewhat, partially to keep up with the faster beat and partially with the times. It kinda works, though:
"Come get a damage[?] of more delight
Coming from the hyper than hype wonder, the Wonder Mike,
The party rocker, smooth hip-hopper,
Whole house shaker, big fly money maker
In the house. Yeah, you know the sound.
The original, lyrical, biggest on the mic around:
(Sugarhill) back in full effect,
Hits the spot, mic's checked and flexxed - next!
Yo, we took hits and start stackin' 'em...
We're the first MCs to go platinum!
Mad props to the crew first on the scene;
We set it off and went and got the CREAM.
The name's the same, the fame, the aim, the claim;
The tracks are fat, and it's all that.
We gon' take a strip and start pimpin' it.
Stand back as the boys start rippin' it!"
Perhaps even more interesting than the MC line-up is the musical line-up. Continuing Sugarhill's tradition of getting great studio musicians to lay their tracks, the first one is by Kool & The Gang(!), along with George Mena and Reggie Griffin (it's essentially the "Jungle Boogie" instrumental). And despite their label change, they're still produced by Sylvia Robinson, Joey Robinson Jr., and David Gunthrope for West Street Productions. All in all, it's a pretty lively, enjoyable tune, with a catchy hook: "It's the boys from the hill! The boys from the hill! With the pow pow boogie; Never ran, never will!"
Wednesday, May 9, 2007
OK; this is another rarity. Only 150 hand-numbered copies were pressed (plus test-pressings, ey?), and they all sold out before they shipped. So I apologize for posting another record most of ya's won't be able to get their hands on (especially since it's dope, and you'll want it); but, hey - it's still not as rare as his "Stuck Off the Realness" 12". ;)
Godfather Don recorded these songs exclusively for the Stretch and Bobbito radio show in the mid-90's, giving them the only DAT copies. A few of these songs have circulated among tape traders (and more recently file sharers), recorded off the radio. I had a couple of them, and the quality sounded like they were pressed on steel wool.
Well, this year, DWG (who are they? Man, check my links column to the right, already) got in touch with Don, tracked down the original tapes straight from the hands of Bobbito, and pressed up a top quality, mastered vinyl EP of six of those songs.
Don's style is straight New York, hardcore rhymes over great, self-produced beats (you won't recognize any familiar, sampled loops in his catalog); And the songs on this EP are just as good as anything he's ever done (none might quite replace "Seeds of Hate" as my favorite, but they're all on that level). Check the style he kicks on "Inverted," one of his more playfully, lyrically complex joints:
"Rappers get chopped like cheddar.
Let a cannibal test ta
Damaga ya vest.
A Hannibal Lector ravager,
Necks are cut from the crazier,
Above the trachea,
For being lazier.
Inside my Av-i-ah,
To surgically remove wackness..."
Sadly, it seems DWG destroys their masters(!) to all their releases, and so there's no hope this will ever be legitimately repressed. :( As for what he's up to now, I don't have an official website or myspace to link ya, but there's a great, new interview with him on the DWG site, and an interview you won't want to miss with the president of Hydra Records on Unkut (that's also in my links... why aren't you checking my links!?). Apparently, Don has plenty of other unreleased jewels tucked away (indeed, I've heard a few other taped-off-the-radios), so hopefully those will eventually wind up seeing the light of day as well.
Friday, May 4, 2007
There's no date printed on this record, but I'm gonna guess it's from '82 or '83. This Slick Rick's "Summertime Rap," released by Havana Productions is classic old school. The instrumental is provided by a live band - there's a lot of sax, piano, guitar... plenty of solos - though the only credit given is "Musical comment by: Sesy," whatever the heck that means. Is this record really from Havana?
There's very little info to be found about it... this Slick Rick isn't any of the three(!) Slick Ricks to be found on discogs.com, and there's nothing from Havana Productions in the Freddy Fresh book. Probably nobody ever bothered with this record, since it's pretty obviously not Ricky Walters.
It's in English, though, and he hasn't got an accent or anything (unlike the real Slick Rick... heh). The lyrics are primarily a medly of previous rap hits. He kicks verses from "The Breaks," "The Message," "Christmas Rap" and "Rapper's Delight," even to the point of saying, "well, my name is Wonder Mike and I'd like to say hello." The music will sometimes switch up to immitate the songs he's covering, too; but still keeping its own beat. He does, at one point however, kick his own verse:
"Throw your hands in the air,
And wave 'em around like you just don't care.
'Cause I'm Slick Rick, and I'm on the mic,
And I shock the house like dynamite.
I said a one, two... three, four;
I said get... your woman... out on the floor."
This is just a great, really fun old school, true school, gold school... whatever you wanna call it - record that you can't help but get into and enjoy. Don't let the fact that this guy was never a part of The Kangol Crew keep you from checking it out; it'd be your loss.
Thursday, May 3, 2007
1) "Captain Caveman" - I've yet to find this one, whichi s a shame because it's a fun one; but bbatson on the DWG forums reckons, "i remember one at armands in philly years ago. It had sleazy on one side and captain caveman on the flip and was just titled Ricky D." Considering the version of "Sleazy Gynecologist" on the "Lost Tracks" 12" is specifcially dubbed the "Triple X Version," could that mean there's also another version of "Sleazy" out there? A clean version, maybe? Perhaps this was an earlier 12" which only had access to a radio edit. Who knows. When I find it, I'll make a post all about it. :)
2) "He Kills" - (shrug) Still lookin'.
3) "I Own America (Unreleased Version)" - A mix different than either version included on his The Art of Storytelling album. I made a post about this on the Vinyl Exchange boards a few years ago... sadly, that post is long gone (thanks a lot, spam botters!), but someone replied remembering they used to hear it on UK radio... or something. Sadly, my memory is pretty vague, but radio shows winding up with exclusive DATs isn't so unheard of in hip-hop (for example, the Godfather Don tracks that Bobbito had, which were finally jsut released as the Slaves of New York EP about 10 years later... or Ahmad's "Ahmad is Like" - one of his best songs, and the only copy is a master DAT in the hands of the Wake Up Show guys)... Still, in the case of a soon-to-be-album track of a major label artist like Slick Rick, it's hard to imagine Def Jam didn't keep copies as well, and probably distribute them to various people.
Of course, J-Love went about this quest the easy way. It's my understanding he just goes to the artists (or their management)and gets all this exclusive material handed to him (and guess who keeps 100% of the profits). As he explained himself in an interview on his site, "Shit, I mean some artists, if it wasn’t for the mixtapes they would be dead. The radio only plays like 30 to 40 songs a day; in 24 hours you gonna hear the same 30 to 40 songs – so that means that’s 30 to 35 artists, depending if a certain artist has two songs in rotation. So what can the rest do? They have to look for other outlets and mixtapes supply that avenue. The music game is very corny right now so a lot of artists are stuck and don’t know what to do."* It is a sad state. Hopefully someday, artists like Slick Rick will take their profits into their own hands and put out proper releases of their own music, and we won't have to listen to DJs without the talent or inclination ot make creative or original mixes (see my Prologue) keep saying their names over our favorite songs.
*Before I sign off, let me just leave you with more fun (if you enjoy irony) quote from J-Love (also from an interview on his site), describing the current mix-tape scene, "DISGUSTING ....... EVERYONE IS A FOLLOWER OR JUST DOING WHATEVER TO GET MONEY... NO ONE ( EXCLUDING MYSELF) TAKES TIME AND CARES HOW THERE CDS COME TOGETHER JUST ABOUT MAKING A QUICK NAME OR BUCK FOR THEM SELEVS ALOT OF THEM CATS PLAIN OUT SUCK AND LEAVE ME DISGUSTED."
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
So, like I said, we don't know much about where this EP came from, but we can make some educated guesses about the actual songs. Russell Simmons always said in interviews when Slick was locked up that he was holding onto heaps of recordings he'd made before he went to prison... the plan was to slowly release them over time, so that while he was incarcerated, he would still be releasing albums on a semi-regular basis. But then Mr. Walters kept getting allowed out to record new music (he worked on The Ruler's Back while out on bail and Behind Bars while on work release, though he's said both were rushed and compromised), so a lot of the "on file" verses went unused.
As I said, that's partially a guess, but I do know that the third song on side A, "Gambling," was intended for the Behind Bars LP. The Pete Rock produced track was apparently included in press copies, and even named specifically in The Source review. ...Pete Rock also produced "World Renown," which had to have been produced while Rick was in prison. Pete even starts the record by saying, "we're counting the days until you come home." The vocals seem a bit low, and you can kinda guess that Slick Rick wasn't actually rapping to this instrumental when he recorded it, but the production is hot... among Pere's best work.
"A Letter" is kinda cool, with some familiar but still engaging samples including a flute loop for the hook. And "Samson" (a dope track J-Love curiously decided to remove from his mix the second time around) features a fresh harmonica on its hook and a biographical story rap that feels like it could've come right off of The Ruler's Back, alongside "Moses" and "Bond," but it doesn't quite have that over-produced quality that hampered that album a little bit.
The best track for me, though, is "Star Trek." This is definitely vintage Slick Rick - it would sound most at home on The Great Adventures LP - with a modest but addicitive beat, and Slick humming the original Star Trek theme for the hook. It tells a story of the crew of The Enterprise discovering a planet filled with beautiful women, who they immediately offend with their crass, sexual comments.
"Now, in a matter of secs, she went poutin'...
The master came and everybody start bowin'.
'I trust you know it's punishment for your words of lust.'
Said, 'welcome to Earth;' and Spock, 'Aliens-R-Us,'
F'in' around, 'so don't play me like you're deaf''
Couldn't eat no animal, and no sex until we left.
Said, 'who cares? It's better than having your ass had.'
'And don't eat nuthin' from The Tree of Good and Bad.'
Everything back to norm, nice weather, no storm;
Even fed a nigga veggies and made me feel warm.
Time passed peacfully, but how long would it last?
Scotty said, 'I want a hamburger and some fuckin' ass!'"
This might've just gone unreleased for copyright reasons... It's not hard to imagine Paramount Pictures objecting to a Mr. Spock who says, "let's rape the hooker!" But fortunately, this and the other tracks found their way onto a vinyl release eventually. The Ricky D EP is a must-have for any Slick Rick fan, moreso maybe than even some of his official albums. Thank God for the hip-hop heads in Japan.