Thursday, February 21, 2008

Ridin' the Underground Railroad with Big Nous

So, ok, silly rap has its place. But I think I've done enough Tricky Nikki and Fila Fresh love songs for a little while... it's time to just do a post about something dope. Something recent, something hardcore, non-commercial, and something almost all of you have probably slept on.

This is the new single from Big Nous. Well, I say "new," but I guess technically it first surfaced in 2006. But considering its utter lack of promotion or distribution, most people are still only just now finding out about it for the first time. Catacombz carried it for a little while - that's where I got mine - but they had problems getting copies themselves. It took me about 6-7 months to get my copy, with the owner of the company eventually mailing me his personal copy (thanks! I finally got it!). So, yeah. It's pretty underground.

So, yes, this is the same Big Nous from The Hobo Junction. Apparently he's moved to Mount Vernon, NY now (look up Heavy D for us!), but he still represents the Junction and his style hasn't changed... a bit. Honestly, this sounds like it could have been lifted directly from the original Hobo Junction EP from '95. Production, voice, flow... it's all here: classic Big Nous. It only took 11-13 years.

And while this is dubbed a "maxi-single" on the cover, I'd have to say this is at least an EP. The cover lists 7 tracks, but there's actually twelve. First, you've got the main track, "The Outcome," in four versions (street, radio, instrumental and accapella). It's kinda short, essentially two brief verses over a slow rolling, deep track with a couple sample layers. It's pretty serious in tone and subject matter, with Big Nous telling a moral warning of a narrative about the effects of street violence:

"Seein' niggas her man didn't get along with,
Sayin' to herself, 'this shit is far from over.'
It's devastating.
Working hard but hard to unwind;
A single parent with murder on her mind.
Watching her sibling up close but from a distance,
Too young to feel the stress
Of this crab-in-a-barrel ghetto existence;
Allowing him to do what he feel,
Even though shit is real...
In the killing fields.
When will this vicious cycle end?"

Next up, you've got two more tracks, "Warnin Shots" and "Devils." Again, if you heard any Big Nous tracks in Hobo Junction's heyday, you know how this sounds. If anything, he's perfected this style a bit more, sounding more natural in his voice and flow. The tracks here are all slow, with distorted horns, really deep bass notes, banging drums a lot of snare and strange samples (birds chirping, race car engines passing by) mixed into the track.

Most of the tracks are pretty short, though "Warnin Shots" lets the beat ride for so long, it's almost like you've got the instrumental version right after the full version on the same track... sort of like MC Lyte's "Paper Thin," but without the ad libs.

Track seven on the cover is said to be "Mount Vernon," but I don't think it is. Tracks seven and eight are two instrumental songs that feature extended vocal samples (scenes from a movie, I guess, but I don't know what it is... the accents sound African). Then track nine is actually a fast-paced track with Big Nous freestyling, just showing skills.

Finally, on track ten, I believe we've got "Mount Vernon." At least that's what he's rapping about on this song... it's cool. Maybe slightly more east coast sounding, but just barely. Although, really... I don't know if any of this sounds particularly west coast-ish. I think it's just that it's Big Nous's style, and since the west is where he and any artists he produced for were from, he just personally defined it as being a west coast sound.

Track eleven is another, back to his normal pace, freestyle song. This one feels written, essentially battle rhymes that twists into a metaphor of a gun runner for a bit in the middle, "Take more than 600/ men to get with me/ in the zone/ kill or be killed/ unarmed men/ prone to hard labor/ waitin' on a savior/ one man holding down a village/ with fully loaded weapons/ making sure everything honky dory/ under control/ up on you since birth/ goals: to wipe the war monger off the face of the Earth." Well, it's tempting to just go on and on typing out his lyrics, but yeah. You can see it's the partly advanced, partly hardcore, partly trippy, partly abstract kind of flow we'd definitely dub "next level" back in the 90's.

Finally, the last track is an outro, with Big Nous doing some shout-outs and talking over another of his beats. He tells us to check out his album, all new cuts, called The Illness, due out in June (I guess he means of '07). It hasn't come out yet, but hopefully it's still on its way. "It'll be in all the black-owned stores, the barber shops. I don't need to get signed," he says. Hopefully it's still coming. On his myspace (you knew that was coming, didn't you?) it says the album's coming in December, along with another album of instrumentals called Music to Study to Volume One: Winter Solstice ...though he apparently hasn't logged into it since Nov 6th. You can hear one track off The Illness album, one instrumental off Winter Solstice, and two off this single, including the title track and "Warnin Shots" (though here it's titled "Speak the Truth (Revisited)"). Finally, he has another myspace page here, but that seems to be just a rough precursor, redirecting you to his other one.

Anyway, find this single if you can - it's worth it for sure.

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