Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Foundation

This dude Jayquan runs one of the best hip-hop sites on the 'net, period. Sure, venture capitalists might not be sinking hundreds of thousands of dollars into designing flash-heavy layouts and throwing champagne parties in the city's hot spots to get "buzz." But he's got real content, which the Billionaire Boys Club of today will never touch. It's just him (and fellow writer Troy) doing brilliant, in-depth interviews with old school legend after old school legend. But what a lot of people don't know is that he's an MC, too.

He started out in Virginia as a part of the Too Def Crew in the late 80's, which I'd never heard of and you probably wouldn't've either if you weren't living in VA at the time. But they came back in the 90's as The First Sons, a crew I had heard of... they opened for groups like The Supafriendz (back when they were blowing up), and I used to have one of their 12"'s.

Anyway, he came back in the 2000's not just with his awesome website, but with a mostly self-produced solo album called Urban Legend. And off of that album was this hot and very overlooked 12", "5 Mics" (the only track produced by someone else - a guy called Dr. No). Right away you know it's worth picking up because of the guest MCs - Melle Mel and Grandmaster Caz (who recently did another nice collabo on the Top Shelf 8/8/88 album). They both come off nice (don't worry, this is no Die Hard); and the pleasant surprise is that Jayquan elegantly holds his own with the two giants.

The production's smooth... simple but it kicks. It's the perfect track to support three MC's flexing their skills, which is exactly what each verse is about... wordplay, clever one-liners (without getting to jokey) and representing. It fits right into the late 90's era of indie rap, and MCs like Canibus, Natural Elements and Common (before he went all experimental R&B on us) were getting everyone excited.

The b-side features a nice remix (also produced by Dr. No), which adds another MC to the mix: Devine Mekkah, also of The First Sons. Both mixes are nice, and personally I still prefer the A-side, but the remix has a jazzy DITC-ish kind of sound, with some jazzy samples and a little scratching; and the beat changes for each verse... bottom line, whichever you prefer, you'll want both.

Now, both those mixes were on the album, but then the 12" goes it one better, adding a bonus mix (again by Dr. No). It essentially takes one of the better beats from the remix and applies it to the original lyrical version. Good stuff. In fact, about the only negative thing I can say about this record is that "5 Mics" was a tired, played out Source reference even back in '03. The 12" also features instrumentals (and radio edits, if you care); so definitely track it down.

I say "track" it down, because Jayquan no longer seems to be selling it on his site (where I got mine)... I guess it's sold out. About time, I say, because a 12" like this should've sold out a long time ago.

But before I go, there's an interesting tidbit I have left ot share. Check out this promo comic that came with my order--->

First of all, it's fresh, ain't it? But second of all, it's got Kool Moe Dee in it! If you can't be bothered clicking to enlarge the scan, it's talking about bringing together THREE old school legends, Mel, Caz and Moe Dee. This interview with Jayquan at has the story: "See since the early 80s I felt that Mel, Moe Dee and Caz were 3 of the greats... I obtained contact info for Mel, Caz & Kool Moe Dee, who I really wanted to appear on the song, but he declined." He must've dropped out pretty late if he was in the promo artwork. Ah, well... what might have been. It's still a great record, so it's hard to complain. Your loss, Moe Dee!

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