Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Buy This CD At Your Earliest Convenience

You know what? It's nice to be able to shift focus from the old school once in a while and highlight a brand new album that's just really, really good. Mainstream hip-hop may be sinking into an increasingly annoying state, but if you think there're no new albums to pick up in 2008, you need to find yourself a copy of Apt. 227 and cheer yourself up.

Convenience Store is a collaberative effort between Tommy V., EVS and Neila, which they'd been working on since 2000. EVS adds on his myspace blog, "Please believe we put our blood sweat and well, evs' tears into this release......after various songs being lost, re-recorded and finally mixed and mastered, it finally sounds beautiful!" Calling your hip-hop album "beautiful" probably sounds a bit pretentious, but I daresay they've earned it.

It's ten songs, showcasing the three MC's very creative styles and songwriting. The production starts out a little sparse, simple but fresh beats with a few percussive samples, putting the focus on each MC. Then each song gets progressively more richly musical... DJs Drugs and Norm Rocwell provide sone scratches, and Tommy V even plays some instruments like keyboards and trumpets over the track, and they all work perfectly. Fellow LA2theBay MCs Joe Dub, Maleko, Ceshi of Anonymous Inc. and Raj turn up to add some guest verses on the later songs (Ceschi twice).

It all hits a high point at the end with the final song, "Smile," but I'm gonna go ahead and be predictable and declare my favorite song to be "Can't Wait" - a remake of Spyder-D's classic "I Can't Wait (To Rock the Mic)," using the same basic instrumental (right down to the little loop of bells), but with some new, smooth instrumentation by Tommy V laid over the top, which blends in perfectly; like a long lost element from Nu-Shooz's vault. Each MC replaces Spyder's super-fun braggadocio rhymes with more soulful, "next level" verses like "Trying to keep my balance/ Trying to take control/ With only scraps left/ To fill my soul/ Next time/I stand behind my window and wait/ I won't open the door/ I won't try to relate/ Only sit on my floor/ Contemplate/ How the roads of love/ Seal our fate." It just needs a little scratching at the end - which maybe I'm partially missing because I'm used to DJ Doc's cuts on the original - and it could be the song of the year. That's a hint for when you guys to drop a 12" single, which you really ought to do!

The only downside to this album was the misguided inclusion of unofficial fourth member Longmont Potion Castle, who does "artistic" prank phone calls - that is to say regular prank phone calls which are later edited out of sequence, chopped up, and have sound effects added. Check out his site at: to get an idea. Like any skit on an album, it's not even as entertaining as it was surely meant to be the first time, and after you've listened to this album through a couple more times, you'll really be wishing for a song-only version. There's a long album "intro" (ask Max at Hip Hop Isn't Dead... about the joy of those) and some more segments which randomly appear at the ends of certain songs. There's even a hidden bonus track of additional prank call segments at the end. ...But, still, don't let that discourage you from picking up an otherwise excellent album.

Now, there doesn't seem to be anything for Tommy V, but Neila and EVS have myspaces here and here, respectively. And, finally, Neila has a message she's trying to get out, so I'm gonna post it here to help get the word out:

Education Update from Neila - Please read!!! PLease act!!!
I hate bulletins so I am sorry but i am writing all of you for the sake of the students in California. This community has power and if we all come together we can potentially save our future. Right now our governator is going to cut public education. For those of you that don't know, I teach fourth grade in inner city Los Angeles. This cut he has proposed that has already passed threw the legislature is going to double class size, get rid of all afterschool programs, get rid of all new teachers, cut special education, along withdisplace thousands of employees in every school district. At my school, we have already let people go and they are saying that we have no money for supplies next year. We cannot even buy pencils....Our state ranks 2nd in the nation as the richest state, our state ranks 48th in the nation on student spending. That means we spend $700 less per student than every state except two. These cuts will devastate our children, devastate our futures. I know I am losing my job, but I am writing this to educate those who don't know to urge you to write your legislative representative, write the governer, the mayor, and come join us when it comes time to hit the streets and protest, if not for yourself for the future of our children who will be with little to no support, no where to go afterschool, and little hope. The effects of these cuts are devastating and we should not idly stand by and let these hummer owning officials hurt our children!

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