Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Last X-Clan Record?

X-Clan's big comeback album in '07 - which they'd been talking about for years - was pretty disappointing when it finally dropped, huh? It didn't help that by the time they finally put it together, Professor X had passed on. And it didn't help that even though he'd made all of these recordings, they wound up using none of them on the album. And it really didn't help that they decided to scrap their signature sound and replace it with a compilation of disparate beats by a various west coast producers. Oh, and they filled the album with up a bunch of random indie MCs. I can just see everyone in the studio trying to one-up each other in second-guessing the X-Clan, throwing more and more random people into the mix to get the "kids" interested. Meanwhile, I don't think any of the artists they got: Fat Jack, Charli 2na, DJ Quik*, RBX, Abstract Rude (plus a bunch of unknowns) - are really who "the kids" are listening to anymore, anyway (well... maybe Charli 2na). It's like thirty-somethings enlisting some tired twenty-somethings to totally fail reaching the teens.

And it's telling that Return to Mecca was CD-only. They also talked a lot (on their site, on their myspace, in their press releases etc) about their first single... when there actually was no single; just an mp3 and youtube video.

But this is the last actual record they released (to date - there's still hope). It's pretty overlooked and definitely under-rated... it came out in 2004 on Up Above Records. There's still no Professor X here, but the production is still essentially "in-house" X-Clan, as both sides are produced by Dark Sun Riders O.G. Ultraman. To be fair, they did let Ultraman produce one song on Return To Mecca, by the way - and if you notice, it's by far the best track on there (hint taken for the next album, I hope?).

"The One" is just dope. The beat is deceptively simple, with several subtle layers to the track that will get your head nodding whether you want to or not. And Brother J is definitely bringing his A-game, both lyrically and delivery-wise. I mean, yeah ok... it's not as good as the classic, amazing X-Clan singles from their heyday, but it's a very worthy entry into the X-Clan/Dark Sun Riders oeuvre.

The b-side is OK... Brother J's delivery sounds a little less enthusiastic, and the beat's definitely less engrossing - it actually sounds more akin to the Return To Mecca stuff (but better than most of it). It's not bad, though... it gives you more of Brother J MCing, which, after "The One" is exactly what you'll be wanting to hear. But the A-side is the winner and clearly where they directed all their creative energies at the time.

This record also includes instrumentals for both tracks, although both have Brother J's ad-libs and hooks all over them. But the best thing about this record is that it was so over-looked, you can pick it up for bargain-bin prices (ughh.com, for example, still has copies four years later, now at a marked down red price). If you're an X-Clan fan or were still feeling Brother J when he came back with the Dark Sun Riders, then you'll definitely want this in your collection - this would be one of the best tracks on that album. And only "Weapon X" off their latest effort comes close to "The One."

Oh, and I almost forgot: they do have a myspace. There's a video up there now with Brother J saying he's working on a new album called Mainstream Outlaw - hopefully this one will be a little more like an X-Clan album and a little less like a Project Blowed compilation. They also have an official website at xclanmusic.com, which looks like it could use an update. ;)

*His contribution sounds nothing like the work of DJ Quik, anyway. I don't know how good X-Clan and DJ Quik could ever possibly sound together, but this is terrible. If I were them, I'd be demanding Quik send me the check back.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Mo' Lux

This is the debut single from Lux*, "Boom Box" b/w "Gangsta," that I mentioned in my last post. It came out in 1994 on Feature Recordings. Both tracks are produced by Steady B and "remixed and engineered" by DJ Miz.

The A-side also features Steady B on the mic. "Boom Box" - in the liner notes, it's given the longer and preferable title, "Boom Box Material" - only comes in one version (well, except for an instrumental)... it's clean, but it sounds like the MCs are censoring themselves as they perform. Anyway, although there's a decent amount of curses they have to drop out, it's not too distracting. The beat's ok. It's a little cheapish sounding, but it's basically just a hardcore track for the Lux and Steady to spit over, so it serves its purpose. "Boom Box (Material)" is a dope song designed to introduce the world to Lux, and Steady shows he's still got it as well.

"Gangsta" is the same as the version that later appeared on the EP. Interestingly, though, the credits are a bit different. The EP says it's co-written by Steady B, Mizery and Dame Dollaz (who's credited as asistant engineer on the single); but this release gives sole writing credit to Levi Scott Jr. (I assume that's Lux). This single also gives Steady B production credit for the track, which he doesn't get on the EP. The EP does say it's co-produced by someone named Wycked (I'd guess not the guy who produced for 2Pac and Thug Life, but hey, you never know), though, who gets no mention on the single.

Anyway, whoever did what on it, "Gangsta"'s a dope song (in fact, it's the song I quoted in my The Man They Call Lux write-up). It starts out with a loop from The Godfather theme softly playing, which is then quickly overshadowed by a loud, banging track with some deep piano chords. The sample keeps playing in the background, though, filling in what few gaps the drums and Lux's vocals leave in the track.

The single features radio, street, instrumental and even acapella versions of "Gangsta," and the main and instrumental versions of "Boom Box." It's a dope 12" for anybody, and a must track-down for Lux fans fiending for more material.

*Just to clarify since some online listings get it wrong: the title of the EP was The Man They Call Lux, but the artist's name is just Lux.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Man They Call Lux

What do you get when you combine Freddie Foxxx and Steady B? You get Lux (that's a good thing). The Man They Call Lux is Lux's main release, although he had an earlier 12" single (featuring Steady B himself) and later did a few appearances. Lux came out of the overlooked indie Philly scene in the late 90's, and was produced by DJ Miz (as in Freshco & ______), here going by the name DJ Mizery.

Now, there's two versions of this EP - the cassette version and the vinyl version, with different track-listings. The vinyl version has:

1. Just Enuff (Vocal)
2. Just Enuff (Instrumental)
3. Why? (Vocal)
4. Why? (Instrumental)
5. Street Playa
6. Baby (Instrumental)
7. Don't Give a...


...while the cassette version track-listing is this:

1. Intro
2. Jailhouse
3. Winna
4. Don't Give a...
5. Why?
6. Street Playa
7. Just Enuff
8. Gangsta
9. Outro

...So, basically, the cassette version has some extra songs, and the vinyl version has the instrumentals. They both came out in 1996 on No Front Inc., a label co-owned by DJ Miz and Jonas Goldstein.

Lux had just gotten out of prison before putting out this EP (for racketeering and controlled substance distribution, according to the Philadelphia City Paper), hence the delay between the initial single and this release. But it sounds like that time was put to good use making this EP dope. "Jailhouse" is a live recording of a performance, where you can hear the crowd loving his hardcore flow. And that experience is how this whole EP feels.

The production is consistently solid - simple for the most part, just pure rough street tracks. One song, "Why?," add a terrific piano sample and a brilliant use of a line from Slick Rick's "Hey Young World" on the hook that will easily pull any hip-hop fan in, no matter what style they're into. Oh, and when DJ Miz comes in at the end to cut up the "but they're still telling lies to me" line from "The Bridge Is Over?" Forget about it!

Lyrically, though a lot of his songs are straight, hardcore freestyles ("I got the mad skills with a handful of niggas in my corner. Ya walk my path, yaass can be a fuckin' goner. So get the rubber ready for the syringe, hit the skin, and watch me closely as I come around the bend. It's a thin line between love and hate. We can make a date; it'll be your worst fate - you punks couldn't bust a grape. Tighten up the girdles and the garters. Ya smack a nigga in the face, he might work harder."), he still remains conscious, on a very street level. Like I said, very reminiscent of Freddie Foxxx. Check out his lyrics for "Why?" (the whole song, taken from an old Front Inc press-kit. Punctuation etc as originally written):

"Why? And you forgot Why?

Why are things the way that they are
Why when the night fall out comes the stars
Why is corruption in this government so evident
Why is the black man so damn diligent
Why did I do time for cocaine, when Dolorean doesn't do a day because of his name
Shame about O.J., but murders happen every damn day
If that was Hillary would they treat Bill the same way
Oh my god our world is so corrupt, Woody Allen gets accused of the same but
they got to go and see Mike's nuts
Oh Why do things go on this way,
Kennedy gets away, but see Tyson had to pay
Why is my music with the soul always control a naked soul and accept fuckin
Rock n Roll, unfold and listen closely when I'm schoolin
Somebody tell me WHY?

And you forgot Why?
Say Why?, Why, When You know WHY?

Why do things get captured on camera, cops get acquitted, admit it what the
fuck would happen if I would of did it
Why is there a war against drugs
When white collar see, that's are biggest fuckin thugs
Slugs on the ground, your put six feet down, Mothers constantly frown,
Wanna be gangsters runnin around our town
They blame AIDS on blacks in the ghetto , we heard you said it, but we all
know that that's a man made synthetic
Genetics tell me better , get your shit together because you won't be able
to hold my people down forever
Never will we let go of the collar of the crook, they say the best way to
hide from a nigger, put it in a book
They gave me a peep, I took a look
It wasn't right, know they got to feel some strife tonight
I'm fly'em high as a kite,as soon as they give it to me cut em with a knife

Somebody tell me WHY?
And you forget
Why when you know WHY?

Why do they think we all rob and fuckin steal
Why do they stop us from driving fly automobiles
Why is the subburbs we hear and don't know
and they separate us all from the ghetto
don't get me wrong though cause we still love the ghetto
but why is it only bad parts about the ghetto that you show
Why can a black singer only sing, when you name a theifen devil like Elvis King
These are things we need to pull off the shelf, and questions we really
need to ask ourselves
somebody tell me WHY?
and you forgot why?
Your still tellin lies to me!!"


The EP also features a hot duet with Tommy Hil from The Ram Squad - their styles are pure street lyrically, delivery-wise and right down to the track. "Gangsta" is the same song that was on the b-side to his first 12", co-written by Steady B, and "Just Enuff" pays homage to the old school... the notes don't specify, but I'd bet your house that the hook here is sung by East 27th Street, an R&B act that was also signed to No Front Inc at the time.

Basically, The Man They Call Lux is a little skit-heavy (at least the cassette version), but every song on here bumps, including the ones left off the vinyl version. This is one of those releases you're going to feel the first time you hear it; and then the more you listen to it, the more you'll dig it even further. Track it down. Classic slept-on Philly.

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

(Werner Necro'd) It's 2099 - Jeru the Damaja Interview


This interview was done in 1998, when Jeru the Damaja was just mounting his independent comeback on his own new label, KnowSavage Records. No longer working with Premiere, Jeru was now doing all of his own production. An artist he was working with at the time, Miz Marvel, came with him.

You were just tellin' me you had a new project comin' out, so...

Yeah, ay-ight, it's called "Safe Sex (Billie Jean)," you know what I'm sayin'? But it's not gonna come out on London. It's gonna come out on KnowSavage Records. And it's only gonna be on wax. Strictly for the DJs, so all the internet heads, who are DJs, that's how ya get it. Ya gotta call up or see it in a store around the way... It's gonna be in all the specialty stores. But it's not gonna be like CDs and cassettes.

You did that before with "Ya Playin' Yaself," right?

Yeah. I mean, some records are just for the DJs. I mean, not that it's not for everybody; it's just that when a DJ gets it, it goes that extra length. So, it's like I'm givin' 'em something special, 'cause they're trying to destroy the wax... the whole hip-hop thing. So, certain things I gotta do just for DJs just to keep that balance.

And KnowSavage Records, is that your label? Do you own it?

Yeah, that's my label. That's my own thing. I'm not crazy big or official or nothing like that; it's just my own thing. Small, little distribution. It's like that; tryin' to work it like that. This is aside from what I'm doin' with my album on London.

Do you know what the title on that is gonna be yet?

I know the title. The title of my album Armor of Gold, Dirter Dan Ever and that's solely produced by Jeru the Damaja. Now it's my turn. I mean, Premier's beats are hittin'. I hear there's, like, a lot of controversy, or people are talkin', but the only reason I'm not usin' Premier is because it's just time for Jeru the Damaja to do beats, you know what I'm sayin'? Some people are gonna love 'em, and some people are gonna hate 'em, but that's with anything in life.

Do you still consider yourself part of the Gangstarr Foundation at all, or is that kinda dead?

I mean, with Jeru and KnowSavage Productions, that's it. Sometimes you gotta go and start your own team. We all still cool and everything, as far as that goes, but as far as I'm doing my own thing and they're doing their own thing. You saw the new Gangstarr record, you saw who the new Gangstarr Foundation is. I'm Jeru the Damaja, doin' his thing.

Are you still working with Afu now? I know he's got his new single out...

Who? "Afu?" Oh, nah, he's got his own thing. He's out there working with a lot of different brothers I really don't know. I really can't speak on that. I'm just KnowSavage Productions, Jeru the Damaja. I'm doin' my girl, Miz Marvel, right here. We're getting ready to throw out a single on KnowSavage Records... another joint. She's also rhymin' on my album, and on the single that I'm doing, "Billie Jean," and the b-side is called, "Bitches With Dicks." And it's a joint that's got me, Miz Marvel, and my man L'il Dap from the Group Home. And, basically, that's it. So, support Jeru the Damaja. This is gonna be on the internet, right?

Yeah.

So everybody support Jeru the Damaja. He's trying to do his own thing. By the time this airs, my record'll be out. KnowSavage Productions. You just gotta look it up in the directory. It'll be there. KnowSavage Productions Incorperated. That's Jeru the Damaja. You see that, call me up. Find out where to get those records from. 'Cause what I'm doin' now is strictly for hip-hop. And, like I said, in a month or two, I'ma put out Miz Marvel's shit and do it like that; underground, strictly. Not the fake shit. This ain't about no Mo', no Benzes, or nothin'. It's about hip-hop. I mean, I'ma make my dough, no doubt. You should get paid for any work that you do. That's the law. You like to get paid for your job. But that's love. For all the brothers and sisters who love hip-hop, support Jeru the Damaja, go out and buy "Billie Jean" b-side, "Bitches With Dicks." Support hip-hop. It's for the real Jeru fans who want something new. If you're looking for the same exact thing as on my last two albums, then you can't get it. It's the same, but now it's some new futuristic shit. It's 2099. That shit I be on is 2099, not 1999.

So who're you listening to? 'Cause I remember on your last album, you kinda called out Foxy Brown... is there anyone big today, like on Hot 97 or whatever, that you would listen to?

Who do I like? I don't listen to Hot 97. I listen to the new 105. (Laughs) For real, if you really wanna know... Basically, Jeru the Damaja is the same as he's always been. Some people I like. I like all the regular heads... that's good. That know how to MC. But, to me, most everybody else is corny. And people gotta understand, too. It's not playa hatin'. 'Cause I don't hate. I'm happy when people make money and make a livin'. I hate corny. I'm a corny hata. If you're a playa, you're a player, if you say. But a playa don't spend. That's trickin', not pimpin'. So I can be a trick hata, you know? So, I don't know.

Anyway, off that subject. Like I said, mostly everybody to me, the artists who talk about they're the nicest and all of that, be really corny. They're ay-ight. I'm not knockin' 'em for what they're doin'. I don't envy, and that's another thing. I don't envy no other man, what no man has, or what no man is doing. I'm an opinionated person; that's it. And if my opinion is that it's corny, it's corny. If I like it, I like it. And, the reason with Foxy Brown and all that is, I mean, ain't nothin' to really say about that. I called it how I saw it. It wasn't nothin'. It was singin'. But, that's a girl. And a girl is gonna act like a girl. Plus, if you don't write your own rhymes like that, you can't battle.

And it's not like a motherfucker is mad a person's making money, 'cause I had a record deal years before that. I've been all over the world in spots that platinum artists haven't even touched that. I've done thousands of shows, you know? Professional. So it's ain't envy or anything like that. I read in a magazine, "Oh, he's just sayin' that to be bad." I'm not bad. You're just corny. That's it. It ain't like that. I just call it like that. I said, "With all that big gun talk, you're playin' yaself." And motherfuckers like, "Oh, Jeru's a playa hata." but that same year, you see, niggas get killed. And I said it's gonna happen. 'Cause you're playin' yaself. You can't be a certain way and expect certain things. It's not gonna happen. Like me. I don't be claim to be the most perfect or the most righetous. To a certain level, I do shady shit. Not intentionally. Not with malice in my heart. But I know that, and I know the consequences. I know if I do something shady, the consequences of something shady happening to me are more likely.

You mentioned battling... Are you still down for battling?

If you try to pull your sword out on me, than I have to battle you. Any mic, with whatever MC is there. It don't matter if they're selling one million, or one record, ya understand? On the mic, it's mic domination. That's it.

Even though it's been a while since your last album, you've been doing projects, like Walkin' Large and Rae & Christian... some pretty diverse stuff. How'd you hook up with those?

Like I said, Jeru the Damaja, I'm worldwide like that. I've been to spots that heads ain't really been. So, dudes out in Germany know me like that. So they could call me up. And Rae & Christian, I know those dudes in Grand Central, down in Manchester, 'cause I flow through there. So they call me up, like, "What's up?" And I'm like, "Cool." If I like what they're doin', then I'll fuck with it. If not, I don't.

Ay-ight... It's kinda old news, but you just wanna touch on, real quick, the Fugee thing? Where they're talking about you on the record and such-and-such.

I mean, it?s like this, man. All that type shit, I ain't really got nothin' to say about, 'cause can't none of them can burn me MCing. That's really the bottom line. you can sell a million records, you can have a million bitches, whatever. But, you can't burn me MCin?, bottom line. That's what I'm sayin', as far as all of that. If motherfuckers really want to take that to a level, let's just battle.

You said, on your last album, your label kinda fucked up your project's momentum, on "Too Perverted"...

Right.

What'd you mean by that? What happened?

I mean labels don't really know what the fuck they're doing. They just don't listen to a brother. Because, the status that I got, the sales don't reflect. So, obviously, it's not me, 'cause I'm not the one selling the record, or marketing the record, or promoting the record.

Right, ok. So, real quick, you went on tour for a long time with DJ Shadow, Latryx... What was it like touring with them, out west? It's not the type of groups that people might associate you with.

I mean, I tour with all types of heads. I'm alternative, but still underground. I'm regular, but I'm still alternative. I appeal to an alternative, college crowd. So, really, the crowd was mine, anyway. It wasn't different than nothing. Those were the crowds I appeal to, the college crowd, the white crowd. It's not justlike for the boys in the hood. It's for everybody from the boys in the hood to the Phillipino kids... Whoever. They like Jeru the Damaja for bringing conscious lyrics. It's just hip-hop. No matter what it sounds like, it?s hip-hop. It's no gimmick. It's no nothin', just hip-hop. And they like that. They feel that. They feel that, because that's culture. That's the way I live my life everyday. And that's what hip-hop is. Culture. It's not a fad, and the kids respect that. I got culture in my shit, and the culture that I have is gonna spread out. And that's it. So, playin' with DJ Shadow wasn't nothin'. I'm bringing my culture.

Today, Jeru is still doing his thing. His latest album, Still Rising, just came out this past October on Ashenafi Records, plus he just did a stint on Ill Bill's latest album. And of course, he has a myspace page. Miz Marvel changed her name to Omega, which she's mostly been ghost-writing pop songs as, though she also did a track for a compilation album called Queendom vol. 1 last year..If she has a myspace, though, I can't find it.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Hot Garbage

In this blog I harshly criticize a dead record by an independent MC. I usually avoid this kinda post, because struggling, starving artists don't need more negativity thrown at them - I'd much rather spotlight a dope or at least interesting record that hasn't gotten much attention... But this album annoyed me enough that I don't care, and more importantly: it answers the question "what's that album listed on your 3rd Bass page," which I've actually had 2 e-mails about.

This is the 2005 debut album by a guy named Hot Karl on Headless Horses Records, The Great Escape. I didn't know who he was, either. Like a year or so ago, I was googling around for some info on MC Serch's unreleased ridiculously titled M.any Y.oung L.ives A.go: The 1994 Sessions album (mp3-only doesn't count as released, you hear me, Serch? No vinyl is bad enough, but at least put out some CDs!)... and an EBay listing popped up for this album featuring MC Serch. So, I looked around and ordered it from Amazon for a penny (note the hole-punch in the scan). I listened to it once, updated my 3rd Bass page and put it away. Tonight, I've taken it out for my second listen and to blog about it.

So, it turns out Hot Karl is the guy on the left-hand side of the album cover holding the puppy. He's one of the billions of rappers who rap about how they're the only rapper who's against the "bling" clichés of hip-hop (hence the album cover). And he's all about pop culture punchlines. I actually realized when the CD arrived that I had heard Hot Karl before - he was on a DJ Rectangle 12" with Eminem called "You Must Be Crazy" with Dree. You could really stop the record after Eminem's verse, but Hot Karl was passable (and for the record, Dree was wack. So's the hook. Seriously, just download Em's 40-second verse onto your IPod).

Now I believe that track was originally meant to be on Hot Karl's debut album, Your Housekeeper Hates You. He was signed to Interscope and had a whole other album with appearances by people like Redman, Fabulous and Mya, which was shelved because the guy's essentially a novelty act (though a couple of the bigger guest spot tracks were white-labeled)... and Karl later put out the album, radio-blended into a mixCD called Industry Standards to promote The Great Escape. And I'm not one of those guys who says every white MC sounds like Eminem, but this guy really does sound exactly like an Eminem knock-off.

The album starts out with the MC Serch collaboration. It's a duet with Serch playing an A&R trying to talk Karl into selling out by "going jiggy," but Hot Karl stands firm for his principles. Karl makes some jokes about Serch's career, and it turns into a pure "Guilty Conscience" rip-off ("it's becoming obvious why Pete Nice kicked you out"). He's got songs like "Butter-face," which makes fun of ugly girls and of course he name dorps a lot of female celebrities, and "Kerk Gybson" a reminiscence (list) of 80's pop culture references, like Pac-Man and The Facts of Life sitcom (that one's even in the hook). "Suburban Superstar" is a horrible dance track all about how he's from the suburbs with one of many lame R&B choruses... it's like some horrible, ODB-less follow-up to Pras's "Ghetto Superstar" from the Bulworth soundtrack. "Back/Forth" is a song with a female MC named Boobie Poquito (no fooling) making 3rd grades jokes about his sexual prowess. His album is also full of skits, too, all "humorously" touting his artistic credibility, where an A&R tries to talk him into selling out in various ways and he stands firm. But it's hard to imagine anything more commercial and trite than the content he's already filled his Great Escape with.

All in all, the production on this album is super annoyingly poppy (though 9th Wonder provides one decent track towards the end), and full of cheesy hooks by studio singers. Each song and skit feels like they're playing to the same gimmicky image, and his snarky, jokey delivery will all make you wish bad things on him. A few of his punchlines are amusing, but mostly you get one random pop culture reference after another mixed with embarrassingly juvenile humor. In fact, while he's definitely doing the Eminem thing (I don't care what he says in interviews I've just googled; the man is borrowing from Em)... he's actually more along the lines of Tom Green or Jamie Kennedy. "Circle Circle Dot Dot" sounds like it was ripped straightoff this album.

The one plus side is that he wrote really nice liner notes talking about each song on the album... the anecdotes (did you know Ali Dee, who produced "Back/Forth" on this album was the voice yelling "Can't Truss It" on Public Enemy's single?) and explanations are fun and engaging, although the bit where he explains how two of the songs are inspired by David Lynch's Mulholland Drive is ridiculously pretentious. But for the most part they actually kinda make you like the guy and feel bad for hating the man's music so much.

And yeah, Hot Karl does have a myspace... there's a video up on it of his final performance, because he's quit hip-hop (no comment). He talks about how he started rapping as a gag (not news once you've heard his material) and makes a lot of punchlines about Interscope ("if you're not laughing, then you don't get the joke. And if you don't, then you should work for Interscope" etc). He does have a book he's selling, which - unsurprisingly - is a collection of 1980's pop culture references. It also lists his homepage as HotKarl.com, but apparently it's a porn site now (so no link - type it into the browser yourself, pervs). ...Anyway, now you know what that last Serch guest-spot is.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Before Marrying Kool G Rap...

Before she married Kool G. Rap and changed her name to Ma Barker of the 5 Family Click, Satina Pearce was known as Shaqueen. I first heard of her through Shabazz the Disciple in '96-'97. In fact, when I interviewed him in '97, he brought her with him, hyped up her upcoming album (which didn't come out) and hit me up with a copy of her first single.

Sadly, a lot of that interview has been lost, but I do have a portion of it, which I'll probably post as a Necro one of these days. In the meantime, here's a small excerpt where he answers when I ask if Shaqueen will be involved with the Celestial Souljahz - him, Freestyle, Killah Priest and some others he was down with - collaborative album he was working on (which also didn't come out... the indie hip-hop scene is full of disappointment, I tells ya): "Well, she's gonna be involved... I mean, we're all involved. I just started working with them [Shaqueen and another MC they were down with, named Omen]. And, on the new album, Omen is featured on the same song I'm featured on. So, we're all touring together, we got tight. We networked. And then, you know, my man Baby J's album is coming out. You know, I asked him to be on that and bring Shaqueen, 'cause I always loved her stuff. The family's just getting tighter. The links... It's just all links in a chain."

So this is that single. "Just Because" b/w "Shaqueen Rules" on Mighty Music. The A-side is a pretty blah attempt at a crossover radio hit. The hook is a play off of DJ Quik's "Mo' Pussy" changing "just because I didn't say that I wanted to fuck, don't mean that I don't want to... Just cause you didn't say, that you wanted to suck don't mean that you don't want to," to "Just because I got a man and I'm not your boo, doesn't mean that I don't want you. Just because you got a girl and she's your boo, don't mean that I can't run through." It sounds better on paper, though - the delivery of this hook is definitely nowhere near as fun as 2nd II None's hook for Quik, and the R&B singer she has echoing her lines doesn't help much. Omen comes in to drop the perfunctory "male perspective" verse (look what you started, Positive K!), but it doesn't liven up the proceedings too much. In fact, since Shaqueen's material is better written, another verse from her would've been preferable.

But it doesn't really matter, because once you listen to the B-side, you'll never play the A again, anyway. It's just Shaqueen spitting hardcore freestyle rhymes over an unassuming beat. Omen (and The Death Tribe!) appears again to spit the hook, but fortunately he stays out of her way for each verse. There's also a nice little bit of scratching, cutting up a Slick Rick vocal sample. Her lyrics are tight and her delivery is vicious - this is still probably the best record she's ever done.

Both tracks were produced by Tony T, who did some production for late-era Cold Chillin' releases by artists like Kool G Rap and Roxanne Shanté. He was no Large Professor, but I think his work is a little underrated. Each song features clean, dirty, instrumental and dirty acapella versions; and as you can see in the scan, the original sleeve is a sticker cover. So it's a quality little release.

Shaqueen put out a few more guest verses (appearing on the Baby J album Shabazz mentioned with Omen, Big Daddy Kane's Veteranz' Day and even a Gerald Levert album) before getting down with Kool G Rap, and doing a lot of collaborations with him under her new name. A couple years ago she announced an album titled Wife Of a Don: Unforgiven Sins, to be released 4th quarter of 2006. That didn't happen (maybe she was too distracted by the drama with G Rap's ex and her book), but she still has a myspace with tracks up, including a diss track to said ex/author.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Platinum Is Fundamental

Platinum Ice Records is a new label co-owned by AB Money and Easy Moe Bee* ...which means you're pretty much guaranteed to get a lot of top-shelf production, giving them a nice head start on every other new label just coming out the starting gate. And this is their first release, a compilation label "sampler." The track-listing on the CD is kinda incomplete with the credits (and, yeah, there's no artwork at all, except a small "Platinum Ice" sticker on the back)... so for the sake of completion and my own convenience, I'm posting the full album track-listing, crediting every artists. I can't find production credits, though - they don't all sound like Easy Moe Bee's work. Anyway, here it is:

1. Ms Quick: You Should Have Known By Now
2. Ms Quick ft. Big Bub: Alright
3. Jay the Bossfather ft. AB Money, Smooth B and Swift: VIP
4. Jay the Bossfather: Boss In the Trap
5. Jay the Bossfather ft. AB Money, Mac A Don and (BU) Born Unfortunate: Keep It
6. (BU) Born Unfortunate ft. AB Money and Josi Wellz: Gab Gotcha
7. (BU) Born Unfortunate ft. Jay the Bossfather and AB Money: It's On
8. Tiger: It Ain't Cool
9. Tiger: Who I Am
10. Josi Wellz ft. (BU) Born Unfortunate: Roll Slow
11. Josi Wellz ft. Jay the Bossfather: What It Do


It's mostly straight hip-hop, but it opens with two tracks by R&B singer Ms. Quick... she's pretty good, and the instrumental for the first song is fantastic! Seriously, if this blog gets you to do nothing else, at least download that one song (they have one of those .99 per track download things on their myspace, which I link to below). I haven't been this into a straight R&B song since, like, The House Party soundtrack. Ha ha But, yeah; it's really dope. The second song is pretty bland, though. But after that, until you get to the two Tiger songs near the end (blah!), it's all straight hip-hop. Actually, I say "straight hip-hop," but there is a lot of singing on the hooks and what-not - not unlike what we used to hear from the Rappin Is Fundamental members who founded the label. In fact, a lot of times it's AB Money himself (which is frankly the reason I bought the CD).

The next song is the stand-out of the album, "VIP." Smooth Bee (yes, that one) does a verse and comes off slick. The instrumental sounds a little "fake, studio instrumenal"y (which in this day and age of fear of sampling, is all too rampant), but it still sounds good, and AB's constant background vocals and hook really elevate it.

Unfortunately, the rest of the album never really reaches those heights again... it's consistently OK. All the new MCs are fine but don't really stand out (from other rappers in the game today, or even from each other), except for Josi Wellz. He does a slow hip-hop sing-songy thing which is pretty cool but definitely dependent on getting solid production behind him (which he has on this sampler - I recommend you check out "Roll Slow").

More recently, PI Records just sent out an mp3 to everyone on their mailing list - the latest song by Jay the Bossfather, featuring Cappadonna, Masta Killer and AB Money (though AB's just on the hook, unfortunately) over a dope beat by Easy Moe Bee. It's fresh, but they only sent the clean version, which is fine until the third verse, which just becomes an unlistenable, edited mess. Guess we'll have to wait for the album.

He's also got some other songs on his myspace, including one with Grandmaster Caz, which is pretty dope. Jay isn't bad, but you can't help but wish Easy Moe Bee, AB and all these dope guest MCs would cut out the middle man and do a record together, instead of putting all that music and energy into playing a back-up role for this new guy. They could even give this guy a couple unwarranted guest spots, if they wanted, just to promote his upcoming project. Like I said, he's not bad. He's just kind of generic and unexceptional... he doesn't have the delivery of AB, the clever lyricism of Caz or the charisma of Masta Killer. Hell, they should just call up JR and put out the next seriously overdue RIF album.

Still, whatever they do, there's some real talent behind this label. Even the weakest tracks (well, except some of the R&B) are decent and will get your head nodding if it's playing wherever you are. They've definitely at least got my attention for what they're going to do next, which I'm sure is what this sampler was designed to do. If you want to check them out, too; the official site for Platinum Ice is platinumicerecords.com, and here's that myspace I mentioned (Jay's and the other PI artists' pages are linked in the Top Friends). Have fun. =)


*Along with two other guys who I don't think are involved in the music end.

Monday, April 7, 2008

(Werner Necro'd) Platinum Plaques and Possums - E-40 Interview


This interview was done way back in 1998... And as you can guess from our super cheesy poses in our photo (hi, TRUNKS!), this was a fun interview. A crazy throwing down of slang, with E-40 talking about everything from his lyrics - a west coast game spitter standing up against the freestyle skill-flexing MCs that were dominating the scene in the late 90's, his independent roots, his movie, and the cartoon he was working on at the time called Patrick the Possum. No, really.


Bet. We're in here with E-40.


What's crackin'?

Who else we got here, with us, today?

We got my boy Omar, Omeezy. My manager Chaz, modulatin'. That's our team.

So how you feelin' New York?

It's cool, it's cool. I've been modulatin'. Everything's cool. it's been nothing but love, nothing but love. Ya smell me?

You got a new album coming out, right?

Yeah. It's out. It's called The Element of Surprise. It's already gold. We're seven weeks into the project. Gonna be platinum, right around the corner. The new single's "Ground Up" featuring me, Too $hort, K-Ci, and JoJo. Back to back knocks on there, twenty-four rumble. Smell me?

So what's the science behind the title, The Element of Surprise?

It's just like, when you least expect it. We all know that, you know what I mean? On this one, I took it all the way back to where I first started at, which was Federal, you know what I'm saying? The album I first came up with, where everybody really grew up on... Like, Federal, where when everybody says, "Your first album, that's the one." So I took it back to that. That's what The Element of Surprise is. They wasn't expecting it, it came at them, just straight back-to-back rumbles. Like that.

Ay-ight... Speaking of your first album, when you first started out, you were just on your own label, Sick Wid It... And then you had kind of a big thing where Jive picked you up. What was the story behind that?

See, Sick Wid It started in 1988. It was grass-root. Straight home-made, home-grown, from the ground up. And, at the time, where we started in our situation, they weren't really checkin' for Bay Area rap. I mean, it was certain groups. You had Digital Underground, you had $hort, and you had some other Bay Area groups that had got signed to a major. But, during that time, when we were looking for a deal, it didn't really crack off. And I'm kinda glad, 'cause it forced us to do our own thug-thizzle. Smell me? So, we got with Jive and got major distribution. Which, that's what we was lackin'. The marbles was there, and everything, but when we got at Jive, we put it down on a national level, where, when you pull up on Sound-Scan, you're gonna see a lot more zeros than when we were just doin' it ourselves. Ya see? That's a thousand there, fifteen hundred there, that's twenty there, ya know I mean? Like that.

Yeah, 'cause I remember reading, when that happened, that was one of the biggest signings of someone who was virtually unknown, like independent.

Exactly. That was the earlier-day signings. Now they got different. You can spit a 16-measure verse, now, on somebody else that was already established's track, that's already in the game, and get a phat-ass deal now, equivalent, ya smell me? but it's all gravy. (Laughs)

And you got a lot of projects poppin' off now, right? You got the movie comin' out... Tell us about that. Charlie Hustle?

I got the Charlie Hustle, the movie of the self-made millionaire. Movie and soundtrack. It's an autobiographical movie. Documentary, pretty much talkin' about, you know, my climb up the ladder. We had to crawl before we walked, woulda took us to the point in our career, now, you know, to be straight-up established and everything, and lettin' everybody know that we didn't just blossom over-night. It wasn't no over-night sensation. Showin' moms and pops stores that delt with us in the past... a little bit of everything. And I got the soundtrack that's gonna go right along with it. I'm not gonna be on everything song, but I'm gonna have guest-appearances on there, so I'ma treat it as if it's my album, ya smell me? It's a good package.

And when's that comin' out?

That's comin' March of '99. It was gonna be November, but I moved it back 'cause I didn't wanna get caught up in the four quarter madness, ya smell me?

So, you also got another project coming out... You got the book coming out, right?

Now ya smell me on this one, right? You know I'm the king of slang, right? So what I did, basically; it was pretty much a street demand. Everybody hollerin' at me, on the street, I been hearin' about this dictionary. "40, man, when ya gonna go and put it down?" So, actually, what I did, I said, "Ok, we're gonna do it for real this time, no lolly-gaggin', no bullshittin', let's make it happen." So, of course I'ma have the fah sheezies, and the playa-hatas, and a lot of the words that a lot of the people are sayin' nowadays across the country which was founded at the Mecca of the game, which was the bay area. And, although I put down about 75% of that , it came up out my head. But, at the same token, it's time for me to go ahead, and lace everybody's tennis shoes, and show 'em what the dictionary book of slang is about. And so when I come with it, it's just gonna have the definitions of just a little bit of everything. It's gonna talk about everything except the yolla-gang (sic.), which is not public knowledge, you smell me? It's crackin'. That's early '99. That's comin' with the gypsiness. That's the motion.

And, really, the illest thing I just read - you've got a cartoon comin' out?

You know what? The cartoon is something in the head that I just gotta put together. It's called, Patrick the Possum. He's this nonchalant cat in the neighborhood. He's got the kangol, he's got the toothpick in his mouth. He's the cat, you know, in every neighborhood, there's a guy who can tie your shoes, and sprinkle you, and lace your tennis shoes, you know what I'm sayin'? Just bring you up, just teach you somethin'. 'Cause it's wisdom. He's older, but he ain't no square. He just modulates and he posts up in the hood and they come up to him. It's kinda like, remember how, Tennessee Tuxedo and Chumly and how they used to go to Mr. Wizard? (Laughs) Remember that? That's how this dude, that's how Patrick the Possum is. But he's just this player-type fool who just knows a little bit of everything. So they go to him for advice in the neighborhood and everything, ya smell me? Like that. There's a whole story-board behind it, but, you know, but it's just bright ideas behind that. That's gonna be in motion soon.

Cool. And before we end this, just one time for the record, break down the whole Sick Wid It family, the projects they got comin' out now.

Ok, for the energy, that's how we're twerkin' it, right? First of all, Sick Wid It Records is the foundation of independent rap music. You smell me? We put it down many years ago. Me and my cousin, B-Legit, my brother D-Shot, and my sister Suga-T. The group is called the Click. First album, Down and Dirty. Sold 350,000 units on the underground, way back in 1992, ya smell me? We had releases before that; there was EP's like, Mr. Flamboyant, Let's Slide, that was our earlier EP's, albums, music that we had, back then, to get us where we at now. But, anyway, we put out Down and Dirty in 1992 and we put out Game Related in 1995. Now we're doin' Rough Ridin' which is gonna hit 'em in '99. During this whole time, we've been having solo projects, ya smell me? I had Mr Flamboyant. I had The Mail Man. I had In a Major Way. I had The Hall of Game. And now I got The Element of Surprise, and, next up is, Charlie Hustle: The Blueprint of a Self-Made. That's me, personally. Then, my cousin B-Legit had B-Legit the Savage: Tryin' To Get a Buck, then he had The Hemp Museum, and now he's workin' on Hempin' Ain't Easy, which is gonna be at you in March. No, that's February, ain't it, Chaz? Chickidee? (Laughs) Then we got D-Shot comin' with his. D-Shot put out, D-Shot the Shot Caller, then he had, D-Shot: Six Figures. And, my sister, she had Suga-T: It's All Good, ya smell me?

Didn't D-Shot also have a compilation album?

Exactly. Boss Ballers One and Two, which both did well, ya smell me? Then, also, we have my cousin Lil' Bruce. I mean, there's just so many artists that came up under that umbrella. Celly-Cell, who, he got that album, The G-Files, written as we speak. We got A-1, comin' out, we got Rhythm and the Resevoir Hoggs, we got my cousin Levitti sung on a whole bunch of underground... just serious ghetto shit, you smell me? We got, uhm... Who else we got crackin'? We got The Mossie, which is my brother Young Mugzie, my cousin Tap That Ass, my cousin Kaveo, you smell me? So we're just continually working. We're gonna hit 'em real hard in '99, and, uh, Sick Wid It Records is the Mecca of the independent game.

Ay-ight, bet. So, you got anything else you wanna say to the fans checkin' this out?

Just tune in. Take time to listen to E-Fonzirelli lyrically. 'Cause, you know, I might not spit strictly metaphors 'cause a lot of people think that if you don't spit constantly metaphors or whatever, however... If you ain't comparing rap, like, "I'm like that chair over there. I can't be sat on." If you ain't doin' that, you're not the dopest rapper in the world, or you're not considered an MC. I'm a game-related-infested, street-slang rapper, you smell me? I got the stop-start and go street-talk delivery. So you might wanna focus. Listen closely. I'm not just throwin' a whole bunch of words that don't fit in a rhyme. Every word counts. Focus on E-40, Fonzirelli. Take time out, go snatch up the records. Go read up on my catalog. Ask some people about me. My dictionary might help a lot of you who don't know about what's crackulatin'. And, just be on the look-out. It's E-Feezy, Fonzireezy, smell me? Sick Wid It records all day.

Today, you know E-Fonzirelli's gonna have a myspace, and here it is. He's also got an official site at e-40.com. From all his projects you read him talking about there, realized and unrealized, it's easy to believe this man now has his own beverage on the market, 40 Water. He also has a new album coming out later this year, The Ball Street Journal. There's no stoppin' this guy.

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Sunday, April 6, 2008

Hold Down Those German Remixes

You might be thinking that cover in the box to the left looks familiar. Yeah, it's the exact same cover as the promo version of Big Daddy's Kane's Veteran'z Day (the promo is spelled "Veteran'z" and the official spells it "Veteranz'") from my last post, except with "Hold It Down" written across the bottom instead. In fact, Black Jam used this same cover image AGAIN as the sticker cover for their "Hold It Down" b/w "Uncut Pure" 12". I guess since they paid for that photo, dammit, they were gonna use it.

Anyway, this is a pretty interesting, European-only remix single of "Hold It Down," featuring remixes from Der Wolf (who also raps here - hence the big, red sticker), DJ Tapesh and Brian R. Busby. No, I didn't know who anyo f those people were, either... but I did some research:

Der Wolf is described on his new crew, Killergroove Formula,'s myspace page as "former German pop music star and long-time HipHop and BreakHouse DJ Jens Der Wolf Albert." He put out a bunch of 12"'s and an album or two in the late 90's and has recently become one third of the aforementioned Killergroove Formula, who released their first album in '06. DJ Tapesh is a "trance" DJ in Germany who's did a little production in the late 90's. And Brian R. Busby, who I never heard of, but according to discogs.com has done a couple remixes for a Netherlands group called 2 Brothers on the 4th Floor.

So all that research was an interesting lesson in German club music... and an interesting look into the genre of "artists who shouldn't be doing Big Daddy Kane songs." Ha ha Nah, I'm just playing. Actually, none of the remixes are too bad, and they're definitely in keeping with the vibe of Kane's original mix (no acid club house trance mixes here). They're maybe slightly jazzier than the original version, but not in an old school DITC kind of way... more like a Tribe vibes kinda way. Both the "Radio Mix" (which despite its misleading title is a full instrumental remix) and the Busby remix.

Der Wolf takes the final verse on the first "Radio Mix"... It's hard for me to say how he is, because he's rapping in German. If you speak German, maybe you will enjoy this version. If you're like me, and you don't, you'll probably want to skip right to track 2, which is the same remix, but reinstates Kane's third verse and ditches Der Wolf (sorry, Der Wolf!). The whole reason this track exists is for Kane's slick wordplay, so Der Wolf would need to have a very impressive verse to make it worthwhile even for the German speaking listeners.

Like the original US 12", this single is also b/w "Unda Presha." No remixes, just the album version. But it's a good pairing with "Hold It Down" - both are just about flexing his skill, showing off slick wordplay in battle rhymes over smoother tracks. "Unda Presha" is a little harder than "Hold It Down," though, and has no R&B hook; but I'd say they're about equal in terms of quality. Two good, underrated tracks. And these remixes don't hurt.

Before I bounce, of course, BDK has a myspace, and here it is. He also has a pretty cool website at: officialbigdaddykane.com, with some clips of unreleased tracks on there.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Werner On the Unreleased Veteranz' Day album

Part 1:


Part 2:

^Double video blog!!
(Because one video of all new, original content created for this blog rather than linked content by somebody else just wasn't enough.)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Kuriouser and Kuriouser...

Just arrived: the vinyl debut of Kurious's demo sessions - previously available only as mp3s if you ordered the rerelease of Kurious's Constipated Monkey album online. Limited to only 200 copies (mine is number #21 and came with that signed, bonus artwork insert you see to the lower left there), but unlike the other limited release records I preordered and featured on this site, as of this writing, there are still copies available! So go to jibbering.co.uk and snatch 'em up quick (they also had some nice Kurious t-shirts if you'd preordered... 'fraid you've missed the boat on those now, though). But before you buy it, you might want to know how it is... it's great!

First of all, this BLOWS AWAY (all caps!!!!) the mp3s for sound quality... in fact, the difference is so drastic, it makes you wonder what the hell was wrong with the guys who put out the mp3s. The other major thing this 12" has over the mp3s (besides the facts that it's a tangible object, and an awesome sticker cover record, of course), is that this EP includes the complete version of the Pete Nice produced cut, "Fill 'Er Up." The original version fades out after the first verse, only about a minute long. This version is the full song, with three verses and a fresh breakdown in the middle.

Oh and, yeah, if you weren't already familiar with the mp3-only ("blah!" I say to that phrase) demo, the other tracks included are:

"Jorge Of the Projects (Original Version)", produced by the SD50's. This is the only song that's actually an alternate mix of an already available album cut. It's dope, though. I was tempted to say it's better than the album version, but then I listened to the album version again and thought, "damn, that's hot." So, ok; it's not better. But it's good.

"Rice and Beans (Freestyle)" produced by Prince Paul. it also says "featuring Prince Paul," but he doesn't rap or anything. Oh, and don't let the "(Freestyle)" bit fool you... this isn't some taped-off-the-radio Stretch and Bobbito freestyle; this is a proper song with a hook and dope beat.

The aforementioned complete version of "Fill 'Er Up," with a dope KMD "Gas Face" vocal sample on the hook.

"Trueness To the Blueness" produced by the SD50's. It uses the same loop Easy Moe Bee made RIF's "You Wanna Trip" out of, which is a little distracting (I keep wanting to hear RIF start harmonizing on the chorus); but it's still a good song.

"One 4 the Head," also produced by the SD50's and featuring Kalli Weed. It's more hardcore than Kurious's usual output - very cool.

And finally "Catch My Drift," a cool, slick track produced by Sam Sever and featuring Kadi (who you may remember from "Uptown Shit").

Except for the OG version of "Jorge of the Projects," it's a wonder these tracks weren't included on the retail album, because they're really fresh. Anyone who's even a casual fan of Kurious owes it to him or herself to pick this up, because it's genuinely some of his best work. Oh, and I almost forgot: Kurious doesn't seem to have a myspace - there's a couple people calling themselves "Kurious," but I don't think any are our boy.


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