Saturday, June 30, 2007

And This Is the Way… We Rock the House!

This is a good 12" from a good group who's time has unfortunately passed. It's unspectacular - it's essentially a compilation of horn samples, basslines, and Public Enemy wailing sirens you've heard multiple times before... but all mixed into two undeniably agreeable instrumentals. And the lyrics aren't exactly what we used to call "next level:" "the hard rhymer, known for one-liners and puttin' skins in the Lay-Z-Boy recliner." But "This Is the Way We Rock the House" is just a solid hip-hop 12" for anyone who loves hip-hop (casual fans can skip over this and keep waiting for the next Gnarls Barkley).

The Kings of Swing debuted with a minor, late 80's classic called, "Stop Jockin' James" and wound up getting signed to Virgin Records and being produced by The Audio Two and King of Chill in 1990. It was definitely the formula for a nice, hip-hop record, if not a mainstream hit, and they scored bigger big with their single, "Nod Your Head To This." But not big enough for Virgin to back a second album (a shame, of course... but also not difficult to understand from their perspective). A couple years later, though ('93), I caught the Kings of Swing on a local NY hip-hop video show (WNYC 31) showing they were still in the game to win it. They had a black and white video to go with their first single (co-produced by themselves, Ismael “Ish” Allen, and DJ Master Tee, who’d done some stuff with MC Lyte and the First Priority crew) from their upcoming, self-produced album on their own label, K.O.S. (try and guess what it stands for!) Records. And they even changed their names from Sugar Kay and Mike Master to M.K. and Slash Boogie, to go with their new, rugged image. Well, apparently they never got as far as the album, but there were a few nice, hard-to-find 12"s going around of that single.

It was pretty rare, and I hadn't managed to find a copy, until The Sunz of Man's manager discovered a box of them (yeah, that’s about as random as it sounds), and sold them out through the Sunz' website. They had like 6 Sunz of Man vinyl and CD singles and one old Kings of Swing record. Well, I'd been looking for that for like a decade since I first saw the video, so you know I didn't waste anytime. :)

And I wasn't disappointed in the least. As I said, it relied on the familiar, and the Kings may've actually been lyrically regressing at that point (lines about having "more funk than comes out your ass-cheeks" could've just as well been written by Brian Austin Greene or somebody); but both the main track, and the B-side, "The Blunted" can still get your head nodding like they used to, and DJ CoCoa Chanelle steals the show with some nice scratching.

These guys were ahead of the indie 12" boom in the mid to late 90's, and it's a shame they didn't at least drop a few more rare jewels on KOS before calling it a career. Well, I don't know what's become of The Kings, but the Queen has been rather successfully DJing her own show on Hot 97 for some time. She's also apparently venturing into the rapping and production game, suggesting she's "the female version of Dr. Dre" on her myspace page, and hinting at an album, "like how Dre did on The Chronic when he came out and he's rhyming, he's producing, and then he's bringing new artists to the table." I suppose a couple Kings of Swing reunion tracks is too much to hope for... but, then again, if Easy Mo Bee can keep bringing out RIF on his albums, I can remain optimistic. :)


Thursday, June 28, 2007

We Went All Around the Planet, Pitchin', and No One Hit It

This is a nice 12" of a nice song that's not too hard to come by and definitely worth snagging. MC Hammer (of all people) put together a surprisingly nice compilation consisting of mostly talented, underground west coast artists like The B.U.M.s, Paris, Nas (back when he was still underground) and this stand-out posse cut featuring Ahmad, Ras Kass & Saafir, and produced by King Tech. It seemed like a slightly odd choice at the time... both Ras Kass and Saafir had both just made huge names for themselves with classic, lyrical debuts, but Ahmad... was that one hit wonder who made the minor crossover hit "Back In the Days" and then disappeared. Who knew he'd be competing for the illest verse with two legends, much less winning (though an equal case could probably be made for Ras's verse)?

"Gave it all that I had,
Just to have what I got.
Brothers tryin' to be bad,
And they mad 'cause they not
Gonna defeat the rapper
Who's who's got three ways to sack a
Quarterback and slaughter wack
MC's with ease.
These nuts:
whatcha get and a busted lip's
What ya have when you come at me
With busta shit.
Get it right
'Cause I get it night in and night out;
I am but a covering of wack MCs like white out.
Don't doubt
That they just be ok rappers: overrated,
Who hated
That a nigga from the West blew up and made it
...
They think they can defeat
The man that can't be beat;
I do the breast stroke, clown,
While you drown in three feet.
'Beep beep!'
Like robots on Buck Rogers,
Plus I bust
twenty-fifth century rhymes,
So you decline
To battle at any time.
Had skills since I was nine;
Dope rhymes
Are the only weapon that I brought.
I'm never caught,
Or cloned, 'cause biting's never condoned.
From the West side, 4th Avenue,
Crew: Jones."

Speaking of odd choices, by the way, here's the ad that ran for the Street Fighter soundtrack when it came out; definitely made me laugh:

Can you read it (again, AOL takes too much of a liberty shrinking these graphics)? The characters at the top are saying:
"Yo! Kid, did you peep that 'Street Fighter' movie?!"
"I'm sayin', though... that sh!t was wack!"
"But yo!!! Did you check for the album?"
"Man! That sh!t was dope!"

Ha ha! That was the official ad, from Universal Pictures, and they straight up said their movie was wack! I mean, it's certainly true enough, but they had home video sales coming up... what were they thinking?

Ahmad would go on to show his surprising, previously hidden skills on tracks for the Pump Ya Fist compilation and Jason's Lyric soundtrack and eventually make a full-fledged comeback with his crew, 4th Avenue Jones, which was good but not quite as lyrically impressive. Around the time of his best stuff, he also had a song out called "Ahmad Is Like," which I remember thinking was really dope. I asked Ahmad about it a few years later and he said he never put it out. He gave the only existing masters to Tech and Sway at The Wake Up Show, so if it's ever going to get released, it would have to be through them. So, yeah. Get to work on that, guys.

Anyway, back to the twelve-inch. This was the indy 12" (the commercial one was Hammer's duet with Dion Sanders *shudder*), and it featured three dope mixes by three hot, underground producers to match the 3 MCs on the track. One, of course, is the album mic by King Tech... Definitely a cool, slow but hardcore beat that gives you just enough to bob your head while keeping the focus on the MCs. Producer Joe Quixx smooths it out a bit, with an addictive, slow bassline you could just sit and listen to for hours, and a horn sample on the hook that sounds like it could be out of Diamond D's catalog. But it's Fredwreck Nassar's remix that's my personal favorite, taking the jazz feel from Quixx's mix several steps further... it's really nice, and to my mind, the definitive version.

Ahmad and 4th Avenue Jones are still together, though they've gone the Christian rap route these days. Here's their myspace, and here's Ras Kass's. Ras also has an official site at: raskass-central.com, with some good content. Also, Joe Quixx's crew has a website called oaklandfaders.com and, of course, he has a myspace. Fredwreck does, too, as well as an official site at: fredwreck.com. I already covered Saafir's in a previous post, so.... 'till next time: cheers!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Just a Summa Day

Here's another nice summer jam. Coming straight out of the House of Hits in '94, Sah-B put out her first single on Reprise Records on the strength of her cameo on The Lords Of the Underground's hit, "Flow On." With a distinctively high-pitched voice, hardcore flow and clever punchline-style rhymes, Sah-B was definitely creating a buzz, and this attempt at a mainstream crossover release may've been a poor choice for a debut to an audience who would've been hoping for a reprise (no pun intended, but it's there and we're all just going to have to live with it) from just that sort of thing at that time... but it's still pretty nice.


Like you'd expect from a summer jam, this Marley Marl produced song is a relaxed, take-it-easy type record with a brief flute sample, keyboard, light bassline and slow drums. A hook by Avery Moore that goes: "It's just a summer day... come out and parlay. Come out and parlay," sets up Sah-B easy listening rhymes (written by Mawiyah Britton. Sah-B's real name is Sakinah Britton, so who's this? Her sister? Mother?):

"People fake sick just to get the day off,
'Cause it's too hot to work; the heat'll make your head hurt.
The heat sometimes'll make you aggravated;
And those without ACs are really frustrated.
Mosquito bites just gettin' to ya,
And the sweat got your PJs stickin' to ya;
So you jump into the shower,
Stay about an hour,
And throw on the Johnson's Baby Powder."


Here's the cover of the cassingle, so you can see the kind of vibe they were goin' for:

But it's the b-side, "Some Ol' Sah-B Shit" that's the star of this show. Produced by K-Def, with nasty horn samples, intense scratching, a banging piano loop and Sah-B (this time writing her own material) ripping it ill and hardcore, this is Sah-B living up to everything her burgeoning fans were hoping for, and then some. There's a warning on the label, "Attention: Track B1 may not be suitable for on-air/in-store play." Yeah, it sure ain't. And it's better than anything the Lords or any of Marley's other acts managed to come out with at the time; she really just kills it over one of K-Def's best tracks.

Now, here's an ad that ran in a summer issue of Rap Pages:

...Note (if you can... AOL seems to've shrunken it a bit) that it mentions her "forthcoming debut album on Reprise." Sadly, this never materialized. The cassingle credits go a bit further, mentioning, "the Reprise album Some Ol' Sah-B Shit, available on cassette and compact disc (4/2 - 45716)." Now I'm no marketing guru, but surely that title was shooting themselves in the foot. Sah-B did attempt an independent comeback a few years later (of course, as always, you can see all the specifics on my Sah-B page), and continued to appear on the subsequent LOTUG albums, but her increasing attempts to sound more conventional (read: boring) really worked against her.

As far as I can tell, Sah-B's no longer recording (though maybe when LOTUG comes out with another album, she'll return), and I can't find a myspace or anything... Here's K-Def's myspace page, though. And here's Marley's (not to be confused with this, unofficial Marley Marl myspace page).

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Tonight It's Summertime

Well, it's officially summertime, and once again that means it's time for all the hip-hop radio stations and video shows (if there are any left, that is) to break out everybody's favorite seasonal rap (and their last well regarded song), DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince's "Summertime." Once again, everyone curiously opting to overlook my all-time favorite summertime anthem, Doug E. Fresh and the Get Fresh Crew's "Summertime."

Doug E's came out about two year's before Will Smith's, but it's not "Summertime" squatting rights that makes this my favorite - it's just a great f'ing song. Production is handled by The Get Fresh Crew (Chill Will and Barry Bee also get credit for cuts, but I'll be damned if I can hear any in any version of this song) and prolific dance music producer Todd Terry, but they've enlisted the help of the great 45 King for beat-programming and "Doo-Doo"s (dude, that's what the liner notes say... but once you hear the song, you'll know what they're talking about). Dawn Davis and Dave Bernard Wright provide the hook (there's also a childrens' chorus at the end, which is uncredited... a sample, perhaps?). Finger pops, changing piano loops, bouncing bassline... It's upbeat, dancable, jazzy and soulful all at the same time.

There was a video for this at the time, featuring a brief intro by DJ Red Alert over the radio as Doug E arrives and sets up to host a block party. Then it's Doug E rapping with everybody out dancing on the streets of New York on a bright, summer day. They even cut to cute little kids just like the Fresh Prince version would a few years down the road. Doug E kicks the sort of relaxing, easy listening type rhymes you'd expect from a summerday jam:

"Taking a trip down memory lane,
When me and the boys was playing a game
Of ball in the park;
Hangin' out at the block
Parties. You see a pretty girl you like?
She belong to somebody.
It ain't nuthin',
You keep on huntin';
'Cause sooner or later you'll run into someone
You like, or wanna be with,
Maybe just sleep with.
From that point, I think you'll wanna get deep with
Her or him or them,
Without a fear and a doubt.
Because it's summertime;
And that's what summertime's all about."

It winds up with a new piano loop kicking in for the breakdown, and Doug does a fresh human beatbox solo.

Granted, groups like The Sugarhill Gang ("Hot, Hot Summer Day") had touched on summertimesongs before; but to me this was always will be the ideal and pinnacle of hip-hop summertime raps, and it's a shame it hasn't been kept alive as much as it deserves.

Yes, Doug E Fresh has got a myspace page (Chill Will and DJ Barry Bee each have one, too); and he's also got a relly nice website at: dougefresh.com. According to his site, his upcoming album, Global Warming, with guest spots by Big Daddy Kane and Busy Bee, "will be available on June 15th." So far, it's still not available; but hey he's only a week late. Let's hope it does come out soon.

Friday, June 22, 2007

What I Call Produce

Now That's What I Call Produce was an 8-song "bonus disc" EP that came free with Raw Produce's Feeling of Now album from Sandbox in 2004. It's a collection of rare and unreleased tracks from Raw Produce. All the unreleased tracks (and even some of the released ones) later found their way onto Raw Produce's really nifty Selling Celery To Get a Salary compilation, which came out on Pro Se Recordings (Cadence's label) in 2006, but for a long time this was the only way to hear 'em. Well... all that is, except for one (more on that when we get to it). I'm not gonna write much about the previously released stuff, assuming any Raw Pro fan is familiar with this stuff, and this post will be long enough anyway... but I do have some great notes that Pitch wrote for each track that I'll share with you guys as we go.

The first track is "Fruit of Our Labor," which had been floating around on mp3 for years (I don't remember how it first came out on mp3... it's possible I got it from Insomnia and debuted it in my column in the late 90's... or not. I'm really not sure now. hehe), but this was its first proper release (allowing that a freebie bonus disc from a single online vendor counts as a proper release, which it really kinda doesn't). It's from their demo, before even their debut "Make a Mark" 12"... Here, I'll just let Pitch explain it, "from our first demo, it remains one of my favorite Raw Produce songs - points to anyone that can name that opening sound clip." And for the record, I cannot name that opening sound clip. ;)

Secondly we have "Make a Mark," which was first released as the b-side to their "Cycles" 12" in 1995. I'll jump right to Pitch's comments here... "from our first single because a lot of folks don't have it. A pain in the ass to mix." Good song; not as good as "Cycles." 'Nuff said.

The third track is "Who's Right (Remix)." Ok, here's where we talk Japan. See, Raw Produce had been planning to release their first full-length album, The Feeling of Now (unless you count their Refrigerator Poetry EP as a full-length release, which I kinda do... but, whatever. You get the point) for ages. Seriously, it had been announced many years before it finally got released - Insomnia Records sent me a sound clip ofthe title track way back in '98 to promote the album; and it didn't wind up coming out 'till 2004. When they finally started making their comeback (as it were), and it looked like TFoN would finally be released, they made a deal with handcuts Records to put out an alternate version of the album, called Now and Then, in Japan. TFoN wound up getting held up even more, and the Japanese album managed to come out a good year before the US version (which threw the clever play between the titles a little off). Anyway, each album featured some exclusive tracks not featured on the other version (you can check my Raw Pro page for the specific track-listings, of course), and while TFoN featured the song, "Who's Right," NaT had the remix. Pitch says, "from the Japanese release of our record, it's a remix that Cad and I put together for fun."

Now track number four - "I Got a Rhyme" - is the never released one. Probably because it's just, as Pitch says, "a Cadence freestyle - definitely cool." But it's hot. The hook is based off of a fun Common Sense line, "I've got a rhyme; You've got a rhyme. But my rhyme is better than yours" from "Orange Pineapple Juice." Cadence raps over the same track, which has a pretty similar sensibility to Raw Produce's production sound, and kicks some slick, playful wordplay, which is the perfect blend of clever rhymes and a smooth flow that makes the material even better:

"My rhymes are better than
The next half-assed attempt.
MCs are reckless on mics.
I call their number if they slumber,
Servin' breakfast on mics.
But there's no need to get defensive.
The phrase turner Cadence rockin' the mic for my man, Pensive.
Bringing Deep Thoughts like Jack Handy.
Hand me the man of the year lyricist;
This is the way to the gym.
Buildin' and still I'm Poisonin' the Minds of Children.
A slaughter
Crossin' the front lines from South of the border.
Free delivery,
Bringing you the chaos that you ordered;
Hate when MC's are worth less like Canadian quarters.
Sort of insanity,
As if rockin' the mic was an embarrassment;
I came to bring some good old fashioned American arrogance!
I learned it from George - my man W,
Who said, 'I have no morals, fuck this.
I'm bombin' cats; don't let it trouble you.'
That's the example to follow; forget tomorrow.
If your ass can't cash the checks,
There's always trouble to borrow.
Fuck the world, right?
If it's no justice, no peace,
Then blast peace to pieces, then the need for justice will cease.
At least that's the plan,
The plan, the propaganda;
And it's a thin line lyin' between dissent and slander.
hand to hand, I stand to combat the hate;
Make no mistake, Cadence got proirities straight.
'Cause in these days and times of illegally wagin' wars,
Think I give a fuck, kid? My rhyme is better than yours!"


...Then Pitch comes in with some fresh scratching at the end. F'in' nice.

Track five was the first proper, never otherwise released, full song (until Selling Celery, of course): "Green Is the Color." Pitch writes, "from our first demo tape, this song is about naivete and jealousy. Have one of our first cut breaks that we would come back to in 'Mister Dope America.'"

Track six is "Nervous," a nice little number you probably remember from their Refrigerator Poetry EP. Pitch wrote, "my personal unreleased Raw Pro track (actually, it was on the Japanese-only EP) - this is probably one of my favorite overal RP songs."

If six is one of Pitch's favorites, seven is one of mine. "Mister Dope America" originally came out on 12" in 1998. It was (foolishly, IMHO) left off The Feeling of Now domestic release, but did find its way onto the NaT version. Pitch's notes: "the joke that just about no one got, or they got it and didn't think it was funny. Was originally supposed to have Pos from De La Soul on it but he backed out at the last minute. I think this song, and the reaction it to it cause Cad to write the immortal line "'Making real music for the six people who give a fuck.'" Of course, I'm as much a De La fan as anybody, but this is such a classic, I think we're better off without having Pos on the track... though I have to admit, I'm damn curious.

Finally, track eight is "Sink Or Swim," another debut at the time. Pitch wrote, "from our first demo tape, a downright silly song but still kind of fun. We were thinking of excluding it and then said what the hell. Definitely interesting for those interested in the evolution of the RP sound."

Today, sadly, Raw Produce is no more. Pitch has given it up, it seems. Their site, rawproduce.com, is still live at the moment, but it says right on the front page, "this site will gradually fade to black." :(

Cadence is still in the game, at least. He's put out two solo albums to date and produces for artists like Zimbawbee Legit who've got a new album coming out called House of Stone (due out on pH Music/Pro Se Recordings in late summer/early fall*). It's just not as good without Pitch (Cadence's solo output, I mean; not the Zimbawbee Legit album), though personally I think a large part of the blame for that can be put on the fact that he constantly passes the mic to guest rappers (some better than others) on his albums, since Cade is definitely still a very talented MC and producer, and his stuff is always worth checking for. He has a myspace page here (he's also been known to post on the DWG and VE boards). Heck, if we support him enough and he keeps building a following, then maybe he'll even be able to talk Pitch out of retirement down the road. ;)

ERRATA: (updated on 07/02/07) This correction comes from Cadence himself, so I'll just give you guys his exact words, "in the interest of giving credit where it's due, the cuts on 'I Got Rhyme' are from the original Common track. I did it for a mixtape (by a DJ form Canada named Pensive) and the lyrics ended as the cuts began, so I left them in. And Pitch--multi-talented though he is--never laid down a scratch--good bad or otherwise--in his life. Ask him h'ell tell ya the same, he knows my name..."


*
And what's more, it's got a guest appearance by Chubb Rock. =)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

SF12002 x 2?


^Video blog!!
(As always, this is pure, original content created for this blog; not just me posting some random Youtube link.)

Monday, June 18, 2007

Junction Funk part 3

Here's another rare, self-produced cassette from The Hobo Junction. This one came out in '95, right around the same time as their original vinyl, Hobo Junction E.P. The two main tracks off this single have been released elsewhere, but it's the "Intro" to this one that's the exclusive treat. Unlike the one on the "Dirt Hustlin'" tape (see: Junction Funk part 1), this "Intro" isn't just a brief instrumental; it's a full (albeit kinda short) song, featuring Eyecue, Saafir and I think the third MC is King San... could be wrong about that one. Courtesy of Junction producer J-Groove, there's a hard drum track, wailing samples and a looped piano riff that sounds like someone just banger their arm down on all the lower scale keys. Eyecue starts it off:

"Straight, direct, and uncut
Out the lab.
I wanna give you a tape,
But then you know I need the cash.
The whole world
Is gettin' strangled by the balls...
Fuck the studio!
Bored out the house, straight breakin' through the walls."


Then Saafir comes in, with his booming voice, "Hobo Junction soldiers fresh out of boot camp; we take coupons and food stamps!" Definitely a banger.

Anyway, then you've got two tracks that are otherwise available. First there's, "Whoridin'" (spelled here as "Who Ridin'") by The Whoridas featuring Saafir and produced by Big Nous (spelled Big Nouse in the liner notes... guess it took him a little while to settle on a spelling), straight off the EP and later their debut album (also called Whoridin') on Delicious Vinyl.

Then you've got Saafir's "Just Ridin'," which is a vocal and instrumental remix that would eventually get released on vinyl as the b-side to "In a Vest" in '97. It came out again in 1998, as one of the bonus tracks on the Wrap/ Ichiban release of Saafir's Trigonometry album.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Junction Funk part 2

This is the prerelease version of Saafir's second album, The Hit List, that was sent out promotionally a year before the official release. Now, The Hit List was certainly no Boxcar Sessions, but it still had its moments. And this promo version is notable (and worth tracking down) because it features three songs songs with fellow Hobo Junction members that aren't included on the '99 retail version. The first track is "I've Been Through It" with Eyecue and Mahasin. A slow, addictive piano loop provides the backdrop as each MC puts it down for a verse on their "victories through [their] trials and tribulees" over a smooth track.

Secondly, there's "Ridin' Hot," featuring The D.A. aka Daarina and Poke Martian. It's a bumping, faster track to go with the subject matter: "Ridin' hot, with heat between your thigh and the seat. With choppers in the trunk and the car four-deep. All you coke snortin' hoes and you ghetto freaks; ride hot, then, if you 'bout it... but don't sleep."

Finally, there's a nice duet with Eyecue called "Lost In Space." For all the critics who complained that Saafir was hanging up his creativity in favor of mainstream, gangsta rap cliches in order to appeal to a broader audience; this is exactly the kind of track they were missing. Broken flows, hard beats, sci-fi sound effects and off-the-wall metaphorical lyrics like:

"Dramatizations
Of how niggas is lost in space-
Ships with no stamina
In their retina
Parameter: amateurs who try to reverse
The game,
But can't play in the same direction.
Hoes keepin' their marks limp,
While they're constantly chasin' erections into my jurisdiction:
A NO-NO!
Which leads to instant friction;
Runnin' the diction
To you blind cats stuck with sea sickness.
You think you're running shit,
But you've lost the race.
You think the world is yours,
But you lost in space."


Four skits were also removed from the initial version... be thankful for that, at least. For the record, they're entitled: "Straight Slangin' Them," "Imagine That" (this one's actually kinda funny on the first listen), "Funkin' Wit Yo Broad" and "Socked Up."

On the other hand,Saafir did add a couple songs to the final version as well. There's the Clark Kent produced "A Dog's Master," which has some clever lyrics, "Pokerface," which is pretty decent, and most notably, his duet with Chino XL, "Not Fa' Nuthin'," which even wound up being released as a single. To be honest, all three of the new songs are pretty good, too; so I can't declare the promo copy as the *definitive* Hit List.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Junction Funk part 1

This is a pretty rare cassette from the heyday of The Hobo Junction... specifically 1997, and it took me a while to actually track down a copy after I first heard about it. But it was definitely worth the effort, and it remains a nice rare, little jewel in my collection.

It starts off with a brief instrumental "Intro." Right away, you know this is going to be a classic example of the kind of hardcore, low-fi Junction funk you hope for whenever you pick up a Hobo Records release (as opposed to, you know, Saafir's last album): all hard beats, bangin' samples and heavy bass lines. It then rolls right into one of the earliest solo cuts from Eyecue, "Dirt Hustlin'," a phat, autobiographical track produced by Merg One (one of Saafir's aliases), about slanging hip-hop tapes directly to his fans. It's a kind of Hobo Junction anthem, directly relating their approach to the industry; and at one time Dirt Hustlin' was even going to be the title of the first Hobo Junction album (Saafir dropped the name in a few interviews). The song "Dirt Hustlin'" found its way on the Mary Joy Records compilation, Tags of the Times vol. 2, a couple years later... and made it as the b-side to one of the 12"s off of that album, on the reverse of Mr. No-No (another of Saafir's aliases)'s "Scan'dlous." That 12" came with packed with an instrumental version as well, which is not on the tape.

Then, on the flip, you've got "Fatal Thoughts" by Big Nous (it used to be spelled Big Nose, but he changed it early on). Did I say "low-fi" before? 'Cause, yeah. This is the kind of song that could only be released on tape. Definitely not the sort of samples you'd call "crisp" or "clean," this is the kind of bassline that was made to be heard thumping distorted through cheap speakers. Big Nous's distinctive voice fades in and out of the track as he raps about his subconcious; it's kind of a trip, but still straight up hardcore hip-hop, no Divine Styler album #2 pretentious arty crap here. And this time, an instrumental is included.

What are they up to now? Well, Big Nous is finally just about to come out with his debut solo release, called The Illness (and the first single, "The Outcome"). It's already up for sale at: legendaryentertainment.com and should be out already, but I recently contacted them (like, "where's my order?!") and apparently his release has been held up a little in the production stage. The Junction has a myspace page (they've got some nice, new tracks up on their player... definitely worth checking out), and Eyecue also has his own page, with his cousin and fellow Junction MC Rashinel. Saafir has one, too. Besides being Eyecue & Rashinel's label, Daywalka Entertainment now seems to be the official record label for the Hobo Junction as a whole, and their official site can be checked out at: daywalkamusic.com.

Friday, June 15, 2007

SFLO12002!


^Video blog!!
(Once again, this is pure, original content created for this blog; not just me linking something by somebody else.)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Think Big Even If You've Lost Biggy

When Pudgee was due to come out with his second album, King of New York, one of the singles was called "Think Big" and featured Notorious B.I.G. and Lord Tariq. It pretty much only got a limited, white label release (though it's since been repressed as a proper Perspective 12" and is easily found) because the label was folding just as this was coming out. And it probably only saw the light of day at all because it featured Biggy, who's of course a very big name.

It was a dope record and others have written a fair amount about it already (DWG wrote an excellent review of it here), but people generally overlook this second version of "Think Big" that was released three years later on DMD Records. They probably overlook it because Biggy's been removed from the track(!). I've no idea why... some kind of painful label politics must've been involved, I'm sure. But he's been replaced by Sadat X, and hey - he's no one to sneeze at either.

The original Minnesota-produced instrumental has been swapped, too (for sampling issues... explained in the DWG review linked above), and while this mix isn't quite as classic with it's infamous "Womp, Womp, A-Womp" bassline; this one, produced by The Co-Stars (whoever the heck they are), comes with a hard-hitting horn sample that's almost used like a drum track. Again, Sadat's verse is tight (Pudgee's and Tariq's are the same as on the original, and that's not a bad thing), talking about how, "My contract is wack, and my label's even wacker. So now I play the streets, and watch for drug sweeps." So, while this may not be the version everyone's after, it's definitely not a version to be slept on.

...Ok, there is one other drawback. The 12" only features the Radio Edit. This is especially distracting on Pudgee's verse, who's in nasty, hardcore mode and has a curse flipped practically every other word... it's almost like he's rhyming backwards! But the silver lining is that, since this is so over-looked, you can pick the 12" up dirt cheap... Amazon and EBay both even have multiple copies of the CD single (pictured; note the fancy picture cover) for a penny - new. ...Shit's definitely worth a penny, guys. 8)

Monday, June 11, 2007

Where They Are Now

This Is It, Y'all. Mp3s have been floating around the 'net for a while, but the actual record finally just came out: "Where Are They Now," the remixes. In fact, it's a Japan-only limited edition 12" on Ill Will Records (Nas's sub-label imprint), so snatch it while you can.

So, what's the big deal about a remix 12" of a mediocre (at best) Nas song? After all, Hip-Hop Is Dead is just one more in an increasingly long series of dull and disappointing follow-ups to Illmatic, and "Where Are They Now" was one of the worst songs on there. The beat was dope, but very familiar: James Brown's "Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved," which has been used in about a bajillion previous hip-hop records, from Kool G Rap's "Poison," to the most similar that I can think of, Professor Griff's "Pawns In the Game" (let's face it: essentially, this is the instrumental to "Pawns In the Game"). It's still damn good, though; and this beat would be fine - one of Nas's best even, though that's saying very little - if it wasn't for the rhymes. Yes, "Where Are They Now" is another one of those boring, lifeless name-dropping songs; where an MC does nothing but list the names of other MCs in the hopes that some of their "street cred" rubs off on them. 2Pac did it, Big Daddy Kane did it, Bahamadia did it, Edan did it; everybody's done it. It's not original, engaging, entertaining or thoughtful; it's just... a list. It's like when hip-hop albums had those boring shout-out tracks at the end, only here they're right smack in the middle and the artists think it makes them cool or something. Who the heck wants a remix of that?

Of course, most of you reading this already know the punch-line... As I say, this has been on the internet for months. But now the actual record has been released. Why is this such a must-have? Because of the line-up!

"Where Are They Now (90's Remix)" features Redhead Kingpin, Rob Base, Spinderella, Father MC, Monie Love, Mike G of the Jungle Brothers, EST of Three Times Dope, Positive K, Krazy from Das EFX, Mr. DoItAll from Lords of the Underground, Chip-Fu from the Fu-Shcnickens and Dres from Blacksheep! Nas doesn't even rap on this; he just "hosts" it, saying a few words between every couple of verses. Instead he's just found all (well, not all... but a lot) of the MCs he name-dropped on the album cut and gave them eight bars each to shine on this new, massive posse cut. The instrumental keeps the James Brown track, but blends in the instrumentals form each MC's greatest hit - sometimes more than one, even - during their verse (most of the time it works really well, though a few times they don't gel together as well as the rest... for example, "Monie In the Middle" mixes in hot, but trying to get "I Got a Man" in there feels a little awkward).

So, you've got the 90's remix, plus the instrumental, then you flip the record over and damn! "Where Are They Now (80's Remix)," which is formatted the same way and features MC Shan, Raheem of the Furious Five, Doctor Ice and Kangol of UTFO, Kool Moe Dee, Sha Rock of US Girls and The Funky Four + One, Tito of the Fearless Four, Grandmaster Caz, LinQue, Dana Dane, Pebblee Poo (remember? She did "Fly Guy," the answer record to the Boogie Boys' "Fly Girl") of the Masterdon Committee and Just-Ice!

Then there's "Where Are They Now (West Coast Remix)," which gives up on the decidedly east-coast sounding James Brown foundation in favor of a more mellow track for the West Coast MCs: Breeze, Kam, King Tee, Candyman, Threat, Ice-T, Sir Mix-A-Lot and the Conscious Daughters. It's a definite head-nodder, but they've also forgone the technique of blending in each MC's previous hit(s) to the instrumental, which is a little disappointing. Guess they got a little lazy by remix #3, but it's still cool; you won't really miss it.

Now, I say how can you not need this record just looking at those line-ups? And most of the MCs come off well, too (even the ones that don't instill much faith based on their past output). Stand outs for me would be: Redhead Kingpin, Shan, Doc Ice, Kool Moe Dee and Breeze; but I'm sure everybody will have their own favorites. I made two previous posts (here and here), naming what I feel are the two essential, full-length albums of 2007 to date. Well, this would be one of the two essential 12" singles of 2007 (the other being Master Ace & Marco Polo's "Nostalgia;" except, lamely, it only features the clean/edited version), definitely a necessity.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

No Brotherly Love Over Here

I first saw this one in Armand's Records in Philly on cassette around '95 or '96, in their clearance bin. At the time I didn't pick it up, and I've later regretted it and always wondered about it. I was beginning to question if I'd dreamt it (wouldn't be the first dope release that turned out only to exist in my subconscious); but I asked around at the Vinyl Exchange message boards and a couple people knew what I was talking about... turns out it's not even that hard to find; so pick it up if you're interested.

Steady B's "Bogardin'" came out on Feature Recording in 1994... For the record, that would make it post-CEB; and the last record he would release before being convicted of second degree murder and getting life without chance of parole. "Bogardin'" is probably Steady B at his hardcore grittiest. We're actually presented with the remix first, and on this version Steady is joined by Brom of Tainted Mindz (a pretty ill, underground Philly-based crew that released the singles "All In the Flip" and "Killidelphia"), who drops a quick verse. The production is simple but solid: a rumbling bassline, hard drum track, slow horn samples and a scratched in Method Man vocal sample for the hook. Steady drops lyrics like:

"Suckers tryin' to jump in my grave and get comfy;
But I bring the pain like the monthly,
And Bogard like Humphrey.
Lovely,
Suckers need to study,
Observe me;
I keep the tracks dirty,
Filthy;
Comin' out of Philly.
No brotherly love over here;
You get smacked by the nine milly."


Both the lyrics and instrumental are different on the original mix. The beat is switched up, though it's similar in tone... a little simpler without the horns; and the same sample is used for the hook. Unfortunately, only the radio edit is provided for this mix, with the curses covered up by an annoying electronic BRREHHPPP sound.

The B-side (Unfortunately also only presented in Radio Edit form) is a little different. "Let It Go" uses a very familiar loop (heard in Ahmad's "Back In the Day" amongst many others) to slow the pace and let Steady (who's voice still sounds harder than any of his past releases, though... almost like Kool Rock Ski here) introspect and reminisce about coming up in Philly. It's a fitting, albeit often painfully ironic, final song to commemorate a quality career:

"What happened to the good old days?
Can you tell me?
Passed on high school
When I knew they would've failed me.
Gotta blame it on the streets;
That's where they kicked it.
Now I gotta kick it,
'Cause I'm addicted.
...
I give ya what ya want,
'Cause them suckers can't give it.
Comin' with the real,
So don't get it twisted.
Time to throw on the timbos. When I wreck
Flava like this,
All I want is my 'spect.
Steady!
You know me from a long time ago,
When I used to kick the 'Bring the Beat Back'
type of flow.
But now it's '94, and I can still get it up;
And I'm the same nigga
That don't give a fuck.
And I got some brothers that feel the same way;
So you best strap on your vest
When you come to play.
Ok?
Damn!
Who said I wouldn't slam?
It musta been a pig with a heart made of ham.
So all props due to Hip-Hop...
For keepin' me out of the pen
With the use of a pen.
Because sometimes I get evil with my thoughts:
Picturin' me slumpin' judges in court.
I think I better let it go.
(Can't let it go.)
The streets is in my heart
Like a double K.O."


Oh yeah. I was googling around trying to find any info on this record (again, there's essentially none... which is partially why I chose to write about this one), but I did find a tiny scan (from a Japanese online record store) of the original cassingle picture cover I'd seen over 10 years ago:


So, the answer to "where is he now?" is of course an easy one: in a Pennsylvania State correctional institution, and he ain't comin' out (and before anybody says "free Steady B," you might be interested to learn that the Philadelphia police officer who responded to the bank's silent alarm, Lauretha Vaird - a single, African American mother of two children - was the first female Philadelphia Police officer slain in the line of duty). He does still have a myspace page, though, which is maintained by his brother, MB McGlone... there's a great story of how Steady B wrote "I'll Take Your Radio" on there, so definitely have a look.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

The Lost King of New York

Once again, I'm making a blog post in conjunction with an all new artist's page I've been working on. There's a lot of white labels and unofficial releases, so now I've made a page dedicated to sorting it out and celebrating his hip-hop career in general... ladies and gentlemen, Pudgee tha Phat Bastard.

After releasing a very underrated LP and 12" single on Giant Records, the label folded and Pudgee was set to come out on Perspective Records. He released a couple of dope singles ("On the Regular," "Money Don't Make Your World Stop," and a white labeled collabo with Biggy Smalls and Lord Tariq entitled, "Think Big"), but then that label folded, too. Bloody bad luck for a talented MC and song-writer.

Looking at the liner notes for "On the Regular," we can see that his second album was originally going to be titled Niguz fa Life, and then looking at the notes for his next single, we can see that proposed title was dropped in favor of King of New York. With three official singles (well, two official, and one more or less), we already have a good taste of that sadly never released album... apparently promo copies do exist, though; because it was reviewed. ...Yes, this also means a few people, at least, have copies! Collectors, tape traders, hip-hop bloggers... your mission is now laid before you. ;)

Anyway, a bunch of white label 12"s followed over the years, and it's unclear A) how much Pudgee had to do with their release and B) whether these are tracks originally intended for King of New York or if they were recorded later. The review I have mentions a few song titles by name: specifically including "Whatever," "For My Daughter," "Hustler's Anthem" and "Tha Hold Up" and neglects to mention any of the big-name guest stars featured on the white labels (including Digable Planets, DMX... look, just go to my new Pudgee page for the full & proper list), so presumably they were recorded later*. We can be sure, at least, that "Angel Dust" was recorded afterward, as it's a tribute to 2Pac, who was shot in September of 2006, and The Source had already reviewed KoNY in May of '06). So, I'm guessing most - probably all - of the white label releases are post-Perspective recordings.

So, that brings me to this particular one. I'm sticking with my notion of writing about records that there's next to no info online about... no blog posts, not on discogs.com, etc. So here we have "Get Over" b/w "Money & Hoes" a white label release from 2000. as you can see from the scan, there's basically no information on the label, so I've no idea who produced either cut.

Despite it's R&Bish nature (relationship rap, girl singing the chorus, the whole nine... die hard Give 'Em the Finger fans might be disappointed, but I won't begrudge the man a little maturity), the A-side wins on this one. His delivery is still quick and tight, the lyrics are smart and engaging:

"I never considered the fact
I was breaking your heart.
Maybe when it happened,
I was high, I won't lie;
But you know I wanted to die
When you started to cry.
But you see,
I had to stop it before it got any deeper.
...
Said you never wanted to see me again;
And even then,
Ten minutes later you was New Edition
Singin' 'Is this the end?
Can we begin again?'
All you wanted was a chance,
Even if we was friends.
And I'm steady tryin' to think
How I'ma make this right;
Tryin' to make it less lonely,
On those endless nights."


The B-side, "Money & Hoes" is a little blander. It's another take on the subject matter of "Money Don't Make Your World Stop," ("Money don't make you; you make it," he says again) but not as good in any respect. It's not bad, mind you - with a downbeat bassline and slow, scratched-in drum track; and I don't think he's ever released a rap that won't make you listen closer to what he's saying - but it's not up to his usual standard; and the chorus is especially limp. It's the kind of song you'll listen to when you first get it, think, "eh, ok," and then file away in your collection and forget about forever.

Now, before I leave you, I've got one more Pudgee/ white label thing to talk to you guys about. An online catalog that seems to be very accurate (checking against their other detailed white label info they provide that I'm personally sure about), lists two other Pudgee white labels I've never seen or otherwise heard of. Specifically:

1) Pudgee "Say Goodbye" b/w "Can't Get Over You" (catalog #TS0009) 1998

2) Pudgee ft. Pretty Boy "Tell Me You Don't Care" (catalog # TS0013) 1999

I'm not sure if these were ever actually put out, and are just now super rare, or if they were intended for release but it never happened. I did ask Pudgee about them... at the time, I wasn't even sure if they were by him or possibly another artist with the same/similar name, like DJ Pudgee P, though the catalog numbers match up with some of his previous white labels. He apparently hadn't heard about these releases until I mentioned them to him, and answered, "Those are my records but i never released them...WEIRD!" So, I don't know if they in fact exist; but I'll definitely be keeping an eye out. And if anyone reading this has them or knows of any avenues one could run these releases down, I (and Pudgee) would really appreciate it. :)

So, where is he now? He does have a myspace page, and he was recently featured on an mp3-only (BOO!! Press it up, guys... at least on CDR) album by Grand Daddy IU called Long Island's Finest. Apparently he's working on a new album for a new label, called Seven and Seven Entertainment. They have a myspace page, too, but at the moment it's still sealed off as "Private" while it's under construction.


*Update 8/11/7: I just dug up the old Rap Pages review of this album (which gave it an 8 out of 10, by the way, and called it, "a solid, original work that's never afraid to go where less royal MCs fear to tread"). They also don't mention any of the white label song titles or guest stars, and do mention the following song titles: "King of New York," "Talk Behind Your Back," "Whatever," "Make Em Die," "Things Ain't Changed," "Hustler's Anthem," "For My Daughter" and "Money Don't Make Your World Stop."

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Land Of the Lost vs. The Land Of the Found and Over-Explored


Now, I'm not one of those horrorcore fanatics. For the most part, it was a brief, misguided fad that's perpetuated today only by obscure and terrible underground rappers from small towns. For most people, it came and went with The Gravediggaz, and while Big L claimed to've started it with his "Devil's Son" 12" in '93, groups like Esham, Insane Poetry and the ICP had been doing it for a fair few years earlier (the Geto Boys dipped their toes in it as well). I don't mourn the loss of The Flatlinerz' crappy LP, and while I'm mildly curious what happened to Half Pit & Half Dead, I'm pretty well fine with the entire subgenre being dead and buried.

But god damn, I miss the Cella Dwellas! And not the f'ing Dwellas, I miss 'em with the Cella.

When these guys first came out, they were just two super-talented, underground MCs who got signed purely off the basis of their ill, creative lyrics and deliveries. Listen to Phantasm get ill on the old Underground Airplay tapes, kicking wild, inventive rhymes on "Cypha Session III" with MCs like Kool Kim and Lord Have Mercy (another lost music career tragedy... but that's a subject for another post) - that's what NY underground hip-hop was all about when it was at its best.

But LOUD Records sat on these guys for a long time (I remember being quite frustrated as a fan at how long it took for a proper release after first hearing their joint), and by the time they came out, the fad was just about deceased, and everybody was embarrassed by the painfully corny stabs less talented artists took at horrorcore. They were changing their style before their first album was even released (which makes one wonder what great, original Cella Dwella recordings there are locked away in a vault somewhere that we'll never hear), getting into gangsta rap with "The Good Dwellas" parts 1 and 2 and even a radio-friendly love rap, called "Perfect Match." Still, these guys were talented, had a good producer (the up and coming Nick Wiz, with some help from Lord Digga and Megahurtz), and songs like "Advance To Boardwalk" let them show off a bit of their creativity, so Realms 'N Reality, when it was finally released, wasn't so bad. But there's really only three tracks on there that represent the great and original contribution the Cella Dwellas had to bring to the rap game: the great "Mystic Freestyle," "Realm 3," which was ok but the beat was kinda boring, and "Land of the Lost," their debut single which was only thrown on the CD version as a "bonus track" (that's right, it's not even on the LP) because it was already so far removed from their new musical "direction."

A quick divergence, if you will: Their second album, The Last Shall Be First, was even further removed... as a symbolic gesture of this, they even dropped the Cella from their name; now only calling themselves The Dwellas. After getting a bit of notice for their fairly generic, punchline-heavy contribution to the Soul In the Hole soundtrack, "Main Aim," they adopted that style as their own... the entire LP is one basic freestyle rap filled with bland punchlines (this was the mid 90's, let's remember) after another. Only one song, "Ill Collabo," which was released as a single on the strength of guest appearance by Organized Konfusion (hence the title), features the Cella Dwellas in their element, kicking the kind of inventive rhymes they excelled at. Even today, they still have the flows and killer voices to get me excited when I hear about another one of their new, indie 12"s (like "Who Killed the Hip Hop" and UG's solo stuff) but ultimately, their fierce desperation to fit in with their under-talented peers makes each record they put out more boring than the last.
The same thing happened to Cage, AesopROCK and The Atoms Family when they signed to Def Jux... Or just about every old school hip-hop group that gets you excited when they announce their comeback: "oh boy, finally a new record from Whodini (when they became mini-Jermaine Dupris)/ Run DMC (Down With the King was Run DMC disappearing into a sea of guest producers and rappers... sure, the single was good, but only because Pete Rock & CL Smooth were just taking over the scene at the time. they even gave up their signature hats and Adidas in favor of the hoodies and Timbs every nobody was wearing at the time)/ Melle Mel (Die Hard anyone?)/ etc etc etc!" ...only to find they've left us with another lame-ass attempt to sound like the crappiest, most uninspiring MCs of the present day. Attention every MC making a comeback, please have the courage to do what made everybody fall in love with you in the first place, back when you were creative, original and bringing something new to the scene. We have enough no-hit-wonder clones.

Ok, sorry about that... now back on topic: That single was great, though. A mellow, head-nodding jazz sample-laced beat produced by Digga (an underrated producer in addition to being the pretty nice MC everybody knows him as), and The Cella Dwellas taking turns kicking increasingly weird and complex verses steeped in fantasy and even wit... it's the kind of song that really takes you someplace and you can't help but enjoy listening to (unless you're really bent on condemning "corniness"... in which case, as always, it's your capricious loss). Check out this verse; but remember: without hearing UG's fantastic voice and crazy flow, believe me, you'll only be getting a fraction of the appeal:

"Dark clouds form
When I raise my staff in the air;
Lightning strikes my structure
And I disappear.
I leap through portals;
I'm immortal - call me Blacula.
I'm spectacular;
UG the spellcaster!
I move objects by the use of telekinesis;
When I dianoetic rhymes,
MCs regret it.
My... ill... skills... be.. mystical,
A relic from whence wizards fought over orbs of magical crystals.
In my basement,
Humans are used for experiments like rats:
I inject raps
And their brain splats!
I jump from body to body like Quantum Leap;
When I speak,
I rip cheeks, and ya mouth bleeds.
So enter the center of this mystical... inventor.
I change summer to... winter.
I can't control my... temper.
Gusts and winds rip off roofs, and I scream,
'The chemical in my bloodstream makes my blood green!'
Blood hits the screen in my video,
My mind's off course...
I'm from the Land Of the Lost!"


The heck with it. It may be excessive, but here's some more just because I like it:

"In the Land of the Lost,
My identity's feared my many.
I jump in bodies to hide from authorities,
'Cause I'm wanted
For haunting villages;
They turn to ashes!
My tongue lashes
The skin and then the blood splashes!
I incinerate states
When I radiate beams of heat
That originate from dreams in my sleep.
I make willows weep when I sweep
Through the area
Like an epidemic.
My blood type is Kemit.
My DNA (hey!) got mixed with deadly toxics.
My dagger rips
People from their toes to their hips.
The hideous... lurks in the blackness.
Store water in my toe like a cactus;
And my rap rips
Tracks, and conjures up spirits when I'm thinkin':
Relatives, old presidents, Abe Lincoln!"

This 12" is of particular note, too; because of the Radio Edit. Now, there's no curse words in this song, and the potentially offensive lines ("I stick needles in ya body like a chink doin' acupuncture," an irreverent reference to Jesus, and all the violent bits) are left in... so what's so different about this mix? What's the point of it? Well, it's a bit shorter, some lines have been removed from each of the verses. In fact, the vocals have actually been rerecorded, and new lyrics have been added(!). For example, the opening of the song goes from:

"In the Lost Land,
I break many limbs like twigs;
When I take swigs of the red rum,
I get crazy like Briggs.
Then I start the murderin' and mutilatin'
Skin and bones and
Building tomb...stones...!
Stay back!
Lyrics is unhealthy like plaque.
I bomb and weave on a track
Like a flock of bats."


...becomes:

"In the Lost Land,
I light lanterns to explore the corridors,
Then use portals to emerge
To the surface floors.
Stay back!
Lyrics is unhealthy like plaque..."


And an alteration in one of UG's above verses transforms:

"My DNA (hey!) got mixed with deadly toxics.
My dagger rips
People from their toes to their hips."


...into:

"My DNA got mixed with deadly toxics,
So my soul sits on old ships
Sunken by pirates."


There are other curious little changes, too, like theline, "I'm immortal - call me Blacula" has been changed to, "I'm immortal like Dracula." Considering how starved we are for the fun, "horrorcore" Cella Dwellas songs (I count six total: "Land Of the Lost," "Realm 3," "Mystic Freestyle," "Ill Collablo," "Cypha Session III - Has Words" and "4 Da Mind" from Masta Ace's Sittin' On Chrome album), any fan will want to have both versions for sure.

The b-side, "We Got It Hemmed," is their first "we can do it, too" statement (which would later become their entire career)... a respectable but unexceptional take at a straight, no frills rap song. The fact that they took the chorus out of a line from a recently released Nas song as he was just blowing up ("Halftime") perfectly illustrates their desire to jump on the popular bandwagon. It's got another mellow, jazzy beat (this one by Nick Wiz), a little bit of nice scratching at the end (more would have helped), and they ride the beat just as well here as on the previous song, but lyrics like:

"The illest -
Words fill this;
Time to let my rhyme blow like Willus
Jackson's afro.
Diff'rent Strokes for different folks.
And eh-eh-eh-eh,
That's all folks,
Like Porky Pig.
Peace to my nig."


...are at least as corny, and not nearly as inspired. If this is what "real heads" prefer, then "real heads" need to get the "real sticks" out of their "real asses."

By the way, the cassingle version of this release was actually purple. 8)

So, where are they now? Well, following up the handful of indie 12"s mentioned earlier, UG is continuing to do his thing solo, now under the name of Lan Outlaw (I think he held a contest... most forgettable name wins some tickets or something). He's already put out one mix-CD and is about to release his second on his new label, Spaz Out Entertainment. Hopefully there'll be a proper, non-mix release sometime eventually. Now, don't be fooled by the unofficial, fan-made Cella Dwellas myspace page... here's his actual myspace page, and here's his label's official site. The Dwellas still seem to be recording together sometimes, too. Nick Wiz has an exclusive new track from them on his myspace. But, no, it doesn't hail from The Land Of the Lost.

Monday, June 4, 2007

The Second Stand Out Album of 2007?

In April, I made a short post saying that in a very dry year for hip-hop albums that appealed to my personal tastes, I found Sacred Hoop's Go Hogwild album to finally be the first stand out hip-hop album of 2007 (excluding older stuff that's just now getting released, like Ultimate Force or Mikey D & the LA Posse's albums). And, really, it's hot. You should check it out.

Well, now in June, I've found the second stand-out album of the year for me. Finally: some new material that I'll actually listen to more than once or twice before putting it away in favor of some old school 12"s. Awol One and Josh Martinez's double EP, Splitsville, on Camobear Records. I'm gonna keep this write-up short like the last one, but basically you've got two solo EPs (though each artist appears at least once on the other's "EP"), both produced by DJ Moves, buttressed up against each other as one LP. This is quality work from both artists (sometimes it seems each of them can get a bit lazy with their releases, but not here), primarily on the theme of - you guessed it - broken relationships. It's all new material except, interestingly enough, Awol One's cut from Camobear Records' 2004 New Recruits label sampler, "Shake Yer Eywind," seems to have found a home here. I always liked that one anyway. :)

So yeah. Now there's two albums I'm genuinely pleased with... halfway through the year. Hopefully there'll be a couple more before the new year, ey?


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Friday, June 1, 2007

Rapping Is Fundamental

This is the alternate UK 12" of Rappin' Is Fundamental's debut 12", "Rapping Is Fundamental" (the song title has the "g" at the end; the group name does not), touting two original remixes by DJ Streets Ahead (who did a lot of this type of work at the time), not featured on the domestic version. The idea of taking Rappin' Is Fundamental signature stylings and doo-wop sensibilities and trying to turn it into a European dance club hit seems a bit, umm... what's a fitting term... hopeless? And it is. Easy Moe Bee's soulful, sample-based production is replaced on the "Brighton Daze 12" Remix" with a simple, high-tempo drum track that really works against RIF's signature harmonizing - I can't imagine this being an anthem of the UK nightlife scene anymore than I can see any Harlem crate diggers attempting to nod their head to this rhythm.

The second "Ubiquity 12" Remix" uses the same basic track but adds some more instrumental samples/effects, creating more of an original, alternate take on the song. It also takes out all the singing, leaving just the raps (the hook is replaced with a few vocal samples, which would have been helped a LOT if they'd actually been scratched in, but que sera sera). Like the first, it's still misguided and decidedly inferior to the original, but this mix is cool enough to merit some spins for serious RIF fans who've overplayed the original to the point where they'd welcome an alternative.

On the b-side you've got the "Extended Remix" that's also featured on the domestic 12"... The fact that this 12" includes this as well as the two exclusive mixes makes this the one to own in my book (unless you're particularly after the instrumental), even if those mixes are subpar. This remix is by Easy Mo Bee, so already you know it's going to be the best of the remixes; but unfortunately it's not all that different from the LP Version. It strips away a bit of the original music, and drops in a few pieces of familiar, faster bpm breaks in from time to time... but essentially it's the same as the LP version (including the super cheesy introduction with the super villain laugh) but not quite as engaging. I guess the idea for this mix was to make it more dance-floor friendly, too, which - as talented as they are - just doesn't work for these guys. I could see A&M Records and Streets Ahead making this mistake, but Easy really should have known better.

Finally, there's the "Radio Version" which is the same remix as the "Extended Remix," only not the extended length. I think this is the one they made the video for.

Easy Mo Bee has his own site at: easymobee.com, but for all it's fancified Flash animations, there's really not a lot of worthwhile content there. He's also got a myspace page, of course; but perhaps more interesting is the myspace page for his and AB Money (who's also got his own myspace page)'s new label/project - check out the track with AB, Smooth Bee and some others(?) called "VIP." They've also got an official site at: platinumicerecords.com. Whew. That's a lot of links. Doesn't seem to be one for JR, though.