Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Vanglorious Testimony

Queen Mother Rage was cool. But she had a very relaxed, straight forward flow; pretty much the opposite of her counterpart, Isis the "Lady of Thunder," who came off hard and fiercely energetic. And for her album she picked almost all laid back, smooth beats (I think it was mixed a little low and muddy, too). So, no matter how determined you were to sit down and listen to her lyrics, and regardless of how strong your will power was, you soon found yourself thinking about work or working out next week's grocery list. And it's not that Rage couldn't be an effective MC - listen to Professor X's first album, each of her appearances are a highlight - but Vanglorious Law was a sleeper in more ways than one.

So, after two singles that featured nothing but album versions (and one instrumental of an album version), it must've finally occurred to them to kick out a couple remixes and add a little life to the party. Now, Paradise's LP version (also included here) is probably actually the best beat, strictly objectively speaking. It's a catchy drum break lead by a funk guitar loop and a little bass. But like I said, smooth beat + relaxed flow = somnambulistic state. So the remix could really help the more casual listeners to appreciate Rage.

Strictly speaking, you've got two remixes: the Bassmood mix and the Funk-E mix (plus an instrumental for the Bassmood one), both by Bandele & The Kid. No idea who those guys were - I've never heard of them before or since. But, anyway, the Bassmood mix is the key here.

Right away you'll hear that the Bassmood version is definitely livelier, laying some bold-strokes keyboards over a new, stronger bassline. It maybe somewhat pop-musicy, but it works, and brings out Rage's delivery so you pay attention, while remaining decent enough to keep the heads listening. It might sound like faint praise, but really, more people should probably hear this.

The only disappointing part is that they drop the hook in favor of just letting the beat ride between verses. Now, normally dropping the hook would be a gutsy and admiral choice, but the hook for "Key Testimony" was great: no singing or chants. Just a candid recording of a single, male voice (Sonny Carson, maybe?) speaking - or giving the "key testimony," I suppose - over the breakbeat. That's it. Each hook is different, but here's a sample one: "Pure black nationalism. I grew up in a home where faiths, the faiths... the many faiths... the muslims, the hebrews... they came together under black nationalism." It's the sort of hook that hip-hop didn't make enough of.

The Bassmood also drops Professor X's blustery introduction, but it was one of his worst, so that's not so much of a loss. Oh, and the Funk-E Mix? That's just the LP version minus Professor X's contributions ...possibly making this slightly preferable to the LP version. I'll let you make up your own minds on that score.

So, while there's nothing stand-out/ must-have on this 12", it's a surprisingly effective way to introduce new fans to the Queen Mother. Or to encourage those of us who picked up the album ages ago and quickly neglected it to wipe off the dust and rediscover some good music... without having to hop yourself up on caffeine.


Saturday, July 26, 2008

Kool Moe Dee's Lost LL Diss

After his long run with Jive, and his brief but prolific stint with Wrap/Ichiban (two albums in the same year ain't bad), Kool Moe Dee came out with one last record. "Love Love" came out on Spoiled Brat Records, a label best known for putting out some spotty Kool Keith records before people realized just how bad he was falling off. They also put out obscure comeback releases by Father MC, Three X Dope, and the Krown Rulers. I mean, any label that spells the artist's name wrong (see the pic) pretty much speaks for itself.

But "Love Love" is actually pretty ok. Despite what its title suggests, it's no love song; just straight, hardcore freestyle rhymes mixed with a little Stop the Violence message. He uses a lot of fast, playful short rhymes to showcase his skills. You won't be blown away or anything, but it's enough to remind you why he was such a highly respected lyricist back in the day. This song's like a cross between "Death Blow" and "New Rap Language," though not quite as good as either of those: "mad heads want that rah-rah, but uh-uh; I'm like the papa - The Idi Amin Dada, cut ears off with the mic; I'll kill rah rah with la-la, like Fugees did 'Fugee-La,' that rah rah I can't feel ya, so I will be like 'see ya!' My ether makes me the born king so I will be the impeccable rhyme speaker, drop missles like heat seekers." The beat is also no doubt meant to be reminiscent of his James Brown-heavy LL diss, with a similar drum track a simple bassline and a sample which is basically exactly the same as the signature "Death Blow" horn stabs, but played on a keyboard (I'm guessing).

Did I mention LL dissing? Yeah... the real reason most of you will probably want to seek this out is the b-side. It's got a 70's Cold Crush-style hook and an old school, hardcore beat. And he sounds angry: "to me the microphone is like a razor blade in prison." The first verse is kind of a generic battle rhyme, but verse two starts with an LL quote, "What the uh? I thought I conquered the world! Crushed Moe Dee, Hammer and Ice-T;" and it's on from there:

"Who the hell you crush? What?
You can't touch the god.
Come on, let's keep it real; You know I crushed ya, Todd.
You're trying to hit the new heads with hip-hop fallacies;
But in reality, you wouldn't battle me.
The stage was set, the money was up,
I placed my money and said 'what?'
And like a bee-otch, we watched the girlie come up out ya;
Heads know about ya, old heads can vouch for
The facts of your fiction ciphered in your diction;
You're just talking shit like a jaded politician.
Say you're rippin', ain't nothin' different;
You want the whippin'? I'll step in the house where ya livin',
And do it on TV, so people can see me,
Wreck you in your own house - make it easy.
While you're frontin', you don't want none;
You never had a battle;
Your mic is like a rattle.
Your style is goo goo gah gah,
But you know you do nada;
You talk it like it's rah rah,
But we know you're pooh nah nah.
Fourteen shots to the dome?
You'll get your spot blown;
I'm talking after dark where it's not shown.
I'm talkin' rhyme time on straight up prime time,
Where men do battles on mics in places that you can't find!"

...And he keeps going, ripping LL 'till the end of the song.

Spoiled Brat records had some very limited, unusual distribution, so they can be pretty hard to track down. But fortunately, not a lot of heads know about this one - or were checking for Moe Dee during that era - so the few that are out there are usually pretty inexpensive. Get it cheap while you can.

Oh, and by the way, Kool Moe Dee is apparently working on a comeback album called Return of the King on Platinum Diamond Records. You can hear tracks off of it on his myspace page. Of course, it says it will be out on 2007... so that might be the only way you'll get to hear it. The production kinda sucks anyway.

Monday, July 21, 2008

InstaRapFlix 10: Slip N Slide - Memorial Day Weekend

I've only watched a handful of Netflix's colorful array of hip-hop instant view DVDs, and they've just added a bunch more! I've really gotta get cracking on these. Well, unfortunately Netflix didn't think to add this one in time for the titular holiday, but I decided to go with this now, anyway, since it's one of the new ones: Slip N Slide: Memorial Day Weekend (Netflix rating: 2 stars).

Now, it occurs to me that if you're reading this and not a Netflix user, you're missing out on the handy write-ups from other Netflix users, so I'll quote you a bit. The top reviewer, who gave this DVD 1 star, warns us not to, "waste your time watching unless you like to hear constant cursing and seeing ashy naked women with bullet holes in their thighs prance around, plus the rappers with nasty gold teeth sounding like they need to go back to kindergarten." Another viewer described this DVD as, "long and boring," which is interesting, since it only clocks in at 55 minutes. And the film itself only lasts for the first 40 - that's 40 minutes including the opening and closing credits - with the last 15 just tacking on the full versions of some of the music videos they showed portions of previously in the film.

So unsurprisingly, Memorial Day Weekend is really just a shameless promo piece with Trick Daddy and Trina taking turns complimenting each other, broken up with shots of fans praising them both, music video segments, a little live performance and yeah, a lot of bikini bottoms (and very brief nudity*). There are brief appearances by his dad, brother, producer and others (Kid Capri, JT Money, Busta Rhymes and more), but the clips are so short - often less than a single sentence - they're just completely pointless. Other celebs touted on the cover as being featured in this doc, like R. Kelly, Fat Joe and Ed Lover, are only briefly glimpsed at a celebrity basketball game they cover for about a minute or two, and don't say even a single word to the camera. :P

There was one notably interesting part, though - Society, who was signed to Slip-N-Slide but never came out, is interviewed. He talks for about a minute and a half, and seems pretty proud to be a part of S-N-S, and genuinely involved with the team (focusing on his involvement in Trick Daddy's "America" video). I was hoping he'd turn up in this doc, but assumed he wouldn't. So that was a pleasant surprise. It's a shame they never put any of his material out.

Every once in a while this hints at the interesting doc it could have been if anyone involved was interested in actually exploring the subject at any depth. But as it is, it's just a slick advertisement for a concert you'd already missed when the DVD was released, and a couple of CDs. I felt like, after this commercial, the actual full-length film they were hyping would follow... but of course the hype was all there was.


*If anyone's picking this up for shock or pornographic reasons, they're going home extra disappointed.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

One Book To Unite Them All

The 2nd edition of Freddy Fresh's epic reference tome, The Rap Records, is now out. And the first thing you will notice is that it is literally twice as thick as the 1st edition from 2004 (wow - was it that long ago?).
Freddy Fresh's book is the definition of definitive. It's a massive, massive effort to catalog rap like no other book has even thought about scratching the surface of. If you don't know, this is (to quote the back cover), "the one and only guide on rap 12" singles and the labels that released them." It certainly blows away my humble, little hip-hop site.



Where the first edition covered all titles from 1979-1988, this edition has been expanded to include into the mid-1990's. It also has listings missing from the first edition (go ahead and delete that addendum you downloaded off of Freddy's site after the first edition came out - it's all in here now), heaps more photos, and an updated section on British and foreign labels (which is a bit like overkill, because really who cares about all that European rap, amirite? hehe). There are also some other neat bits, like a guide to spotting represses/bootlegs, and a fantastic by-artist index.
Now, I'm hanging onto my 1st edition because it's signed to me (for that matter, so is my 2nd); but it's also worth hanging onto for some of the "extras" in the back, which have been replaced with new stuff in the 2nd. Where the 1st one had all these neat top ten lists or favorite moments from all sorts of hip-hop artists and producers, the 2nd has a bunch of neat interviews with big-time collectors (I really want to visit these guys' houses!). But where it counts, of course, it's all about the 2nd edition - craptons more listings!
If you're the sort of person who reads this site (and apparently you are; there's no use denying it this far into my article), then you need this book. Need. Fortunately, a lot of places carry it, so get it from wherever you feel most comfortable (maybe while you're placing a record order from UGHH), or just go ahead and get it direct from the man himself at freddyfresh.com. I'm also tradition-bound to link you to his myspace. ;)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Kurtis Blow's German Period part 2

Kurtis Blow's "Chillin' At the Spot" (see: this post on his previous venture outta Deutschland) wasn't actually his last record. He did one more 12" in Germany, "Freak Rock Till the Breakadawn" on ZYX Music, a prolific label that put out a lot of releases by a wide variety of artists over the years. There's no date listed anywhere on it, but by comparing the catalog numbers, this would've had to've come out in either 1994 or 1995. Interestingly, he also claims it's both years at different points in the song... so I'd assume it was started in '94, then finished and released in '95.

You've got four mixes of the same song, and they start right out with the best, definitive version (IMHO, of course), the "Headbang Mixtension." Now "Headbang" might be overstating matters - but it does feature a liberal dose of electric rock guitaring. It's not quite as good as his earlier "Street Rock" (yeah, the one with Bob Dylan), but if you liked that song, you'll like this one, too. Kurtis Blow does a lot of quick, short rhyming wordplay and keeps up fine with a fast paced track. He's not quite the lyricist to make Kool G. Rap start looking for a new career, but he represents himself fairly well in what's clearly meant to showcase his "skills" to the new, 90's hip-hop audience: "Spit it/ Get wit it/ I let the rhyme flow/ Though/ I'm getting psycho/ On the micro/ I'm K. Blow/ For the nine-fo'/ The old school/ Super cool / Cat/ From way back/ The microphone maniac," etc. Sure, Kurtis Blow's always a little corny, but he's got a nice flow over a well-produced track - the guitars, a lot of scratching, fast drums with a catchy old school hook. You'll have to be a pretty surly, stick-in-the-mud Grumpy Gus not to enjoy this one.

The "88"th MXX" is kind of disappointing. It removes a lot of the guitars and stuff... I guess in an attempt to appeal to the narrow-minded purists who'd equate guitars with selling out pop music, but really all this leaves you with is what feels like an unfinished song. And the "Radio Edit," predictably, is just a shorter version of the main mix (that is to say: the "Headbang Mixtension"), tightened up for a radio set. It's fine for what it is (and with that version clocking in at over seven minutes, I can see why there'd be a call for this version), but if you like this song enough to put the 12" on your table at home, you'll surely want to stick with the full version.

But the "Guitar Mix" is the interesting one. It doesn't feature any extra guitar playing, as the name suggests... or feature just the guitars without the vocals or anything like that. No, this mix is essentially the same, instrumentally, as the "Headbang Mixtension." What's different is that Kurtis Blow has replaced himself with another, uncredited rapper! Kurtis Blow's voice is only heard on the hook in this mix. The new guy is ok... kind of generic (and no, he doesn't have a German accent) in a "studio musician" sounding kind of way, but he doesn't embarrass himself or anything. He's ok. Why Kurtis Blow would make a non-Kurtis Blow version, though, is beyond me. I'd really be interested to find out who this guy is... it sounds like he says at one point, "my name is Carl J and I'm twenty-five," but I'm not sure. And we may never find out, because as any US MC who's gone over there to record will tell you: "what happens in Germany, stays in Germany."

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Hail the Words of Isis - An Interview with LinQue (Part 2)


...continued from part 1.

So, how did you wind up on Ruffhouse?

You know, Lyte with her genius. She sent my stuff everywhere. She was like, "What are you up to?" And I was recording and said I had a song, and she heard it and was like, "yo, I can get you a deal." I was like, "what? Get me a deal?" So she said, "just give me a chance," and she put this stuff out to everybody. And a woman named Rose at Ruffhouse/Columbia called and said, "hey, we want you to come in; we like what we hear." And I was extremely excited because the roster of Ruffhouse at that point was Cypress Hill, Kriss Kross… they had The Fugees and Nas at some point, but it was definitely one of those things where they had a roster of artists that was different. It was different. It wasn't just signing people that sounded like somebody else. It was definitely innovative and trend-setters, as opposed to being trendy. It was a great opportunity for me, and it worked while it worked, you know? Like, I had an album deal, but the industry at that point was changing, it was very much changing. And as a female emcee, I don't think female emcees get their right due now. It was a process. But as a female emcee during that timeframe, we were going from the baggy jeans and having a voice in hip-hop to more of a sexual thing. And I had to make a decision: am I going to conform to what they want me to be, or am I going to be who I am?

And sometimes with these record labels, it gets to the point where they want to sign you… and they sign you, but then they want to change you. I just never understood that. But one of the biggest things I had to learn was that this is a business. It was hard for me to accept that, but this is a business not of making music. This is a business of making money. Period. At that point, with Ruffhouse… it was really more the sexual thing with Elektra. I just think they didn't understand me. I think that the turn of the female emcee was in the midst of that, but I think they just didn't understand me. I think it would've been easier for them if I was more of a mainstream pop emcee, which I wasn't.

Well, and with the East/West thing… they seemed to have a pretty big roster, and they kind of lost them all at once.

That's the thing! You know, honestly, I think people are just tax write-offs. It works! They're like tax write-offs, you know. And with the majors, it used to be all about being on a major. I used to get so happy, "oh my god; I'm on a major!" It was this big thing where you got to go to this big building and they're sending limos, which you know, you're paying for. And there's all this crap. But at the same time, there's pros and cons to it. Because, guess what? If I'm on Asylum/East West/Elektra/WEA, they have R&B and if somebody like Mariah's coming out? Guess what? You're ass out.

My thing today is that I love being independent; I love calling the shots. But I would love a situation where it's an authentic thing, like 4th and Broadway. Because Chris Blackwell had something really special there. Because he had all this money, but he also believed in the stuff he was putting out there. You know, Eric B & Rakim was on there, Tone Loc. You had so much real music, and I just kinda miss that.

It just kind of struck me, as an outsider to the whole East/West thing, that maybe there was a shift in ownership or a whole group of people got fired. Because they had developed what seemed like a whole hip-hop wing of exciting artists - like Omniscience, SuperNatural, 8-Off…

Busta…

Yeah, and it seemed they gathered them all at once, and they lost them all at once.

You know, there's so many things that go on behind the scenes, whether they're changing staff or so many things that come into the politics, I couldn't even pinpoint what it was. I just know that I was one of the people that got dropped.

I did my whole album, and they didn't hear quote/unquote "the single." They didn't hear the single; and that's when I went into the studio and I wrote "Let It Fall." And they loved "Let It Fall."

So you did that after you'd finished the album already?

Right. 'Cause they didn't hear the single. So I did "Let It Fall," and "Let It Fall" was about the record company. That's what they loved! The irony is that's what they loved. And for me, having the three album deals and people only hearing one album has sort of typecast me to degree. 'Cause people remember me as Isis… and then they remember"This Is It" and "Rip It Up;" and then they remember "Let It Fall." But the thing is, people remember the singles that people thought were mainstream for me. Those are the ones that the record labels picked, as opposed to the meat of my artistry. I had songs that, to me, would've touched peoples' hearts, not just make them dance. So people, they want to hear "Let It Fall," whereas Godspeed for me has been such a long time coming, and it's almost like projectile vomiting. I can't wait 'till the next album, because that was like vomiting almost, because I'd been holding it in for so long. And boom! here is Godspeed. So I think the next album from me is gonna be coming from a calmer place. I don't know if "calmer"'s the right word; but it's not gonna be about me feeling stifled and this is what I wanna do.

And what happened to those two, unreleased albums? Do you have those?

I actually have them. I have them, but they belong to the record companies. I mean, they paid for them. I received a lot of money in this time period, just not the support. And after I got dropped from Elektra, Lyte was just like, "Lin, let's go get another record deal;" and I just couldn't do it anymore. I know it's great that they give you money, but it's not about that. I'm an artist, I feel like I'm stifled. I ned to express myself and I need a record label that's gonna support that, not need me to rhyme about my lips or some crazy shit. I just don't have time for that.

So I guess that means it'd be difficult for you to release those albums now?

Well, I don't know. There might be a statute where it's been like seven years, or ten years, and they go back to me… Or, honestly, I have no idea. I know people ask me that all the time, like, "yo, Lin, you should just put it out there." But it's funny, because I put my stuff on Youtube, like "Rebel Soul" and "The Power of Myself Is Moving," and I have my other ones. And the record companies are trying to say, "she can't put them on there!" Or, "it's ok, I'm giving her permission to put it on there, but I want to advertise on her pages." It's like they've still got their hands in my pocket, and it's years later!

Yeah, because this is a year - and 2007 somewhat, too - where a lot of older stuff is getting released for the first time, or getting re-released. Like I think audiences have shown they're really open for the lost music to come out allthese years later.

Actually, you might've sparked something. Because that might be something the record companies might be interested in doing. It's no skin off of their's; it's already done. It's not like they have to put any money into it. I mean, if they wanted to, they could do some promotion, but it's not like I need a budget - an album budget. It's already done.

Yeah, because you certainly could press up at least a limited run and easily sell out.

Exactly. So you might've sparked something.

So, then when you came out of Elektra, one of the other emcees who got dropped from them was Champ MC…

Yes! Oh, yes. And that's one of the main reasons I joined Five Deadly Venoms. Because we were always on tour, and already had a chance to vibe with Champ. And she's cool. She's a female emcee, she's hard with it, she can write, she can rhyme. So when they came up to me and was like, "hey Lin, we have this new group called the Five Deadly Venoms, and we'd love for you to be the fifth one - the flame thrower. And we're shooting a video tomorrow; would you like to come down?" And I was like, well, what other girls do you have? And they said Finesse of Finesse and Synquis who I remembered but didn't really met her before. And they had N-Tyce, who worked with Method Man and Wu before. And they had this girl named J-Boo who was a newjack from Queensbridge, but she could hold her own. And then they said Champ; and I said, "Champ? Cool! Let me come down, and let me see what's good." And what I loved about the situation was that it was a type of Wu-Tang situation where you could be down with the group, but you're really a soloist. That I loved, because I always love to maintain my own persona, and I'm on my own agenda anyway for what I wanna do with my art.

So when I joined them, I was in the "Bomb Threat" video and we worked together for a long time. We were doing shows every week. Every weekend, we would be going out and traveling. And the crazy thing is, due to business reasons, it just never worked out. We had an album deal, on A&M Records, and they just weren't going to give me what I wanted. So I had to kind of go about my business.

It seemed like The Deadly Venoms floated around a lot of labels, without really getting much out.

Well, here's the thing. I hate to say it, because I could be wrong, but… well, this is not wrong: beinga female emcee is fucking hard. It's hard because this particular genre of music is misogynistic, it's stereotypical, it's male-dominated, and when it comes to females, they'd rather see you than hear you. It seems. That's what I mean, I don't know if I'm right or not. Because I ask people: does every woman in your life have to be wifey? Can you listen to your sister, your mom, your daughters? You know, do you hold these conversations? Because it seems as though, when it comes to hip-hop, they only wanna see one thing when it comes to females.

I don't know if you had a chance to see that thing they had on BET: Hip-Hop vs. America 2?

No, I haven't seen it.

Oh my god. If you get a chance, it's online. It's three parts, hosted by Lyte and a gentlemen I forget his name. It's all panels. If you're a true hip-hopper, it's some shit you need to see. But it talks about the misogyny and how female emcees went from having a voice to having a pole. It's sad because we're in a business, like I said; when it comes down to it, it's about making money in this business. And so these record labels are going to sign you if you can make them some money.

Da Brat was actually the first female to go platinum. It took a decade, over a decade, for a female to go platinum. Ok? This was after Latifah, Lyte, Monie, Sparky D. Now Salt-N-Pepa went platinum, but they're a duo and they were pop music. It was hip-hop, but more of a mainstream thing. But Da Brat, after a decade, was the first female to go platinum. You know, it's just progressed to where you have no female emcees representing. I mean, don't get me wrong, there are people there. But now Remy's in jail, Eve is doing acting. And Eve, to me, was like the baby Lyte. Her songs had purpose, messages, it wasn't just about shaking your ass and stuff like that. We need that. We need the Lauryn Hills. But it almost seems that the door is closed, and unless you're willing to cross that line, which is - for a female - ok, I have to sell myself through sex. I have to pretty much whore myself. And the smart ones will have to pretty much whore myself and have principles, whatever the fuck that means!

And it's hard for a person like me, because this is my life… this is what I love to do. But I've had to let go of that, and it's painful. It's painful because I feel like this is what I'm meant to do in life, but I've had to do it independently, which is hard. I don't have money like majors, so I'm not where I would like to be right now. People don't hear my music where they need to hear it, you know? It's only if you are on of those true hip-hoppers that goes fishing on the internet, or you stay on top of things. But as far as marketing and promotion that's gonna go overseas and get big, big, big - I don't know females that get that type of attention. Unless they're doing some crazy shit.

That or they're part of a crew, like if G-Unit picked somebody and said, "this is our female MC."

Right. And if you think about it, most - and I man most, like 95% - female emcees have come out on the credibility of a man. Period. Even Isis - from X-Clan. Lyte - Audio Two. Remy - Terror Squad. Rah Digga - Flipmode. That's it. Missy's pretty much the only one, but Missy had her foot already in the door, because she was writing for big people. It's already been on the credibility of a man who's sold already in the past. It's never been about, "oh, this woman's great, let me sign her." They have no idea, really.

So, is that what labels are asking you first, like what crews are you down with?

I actually think a man would actually have to go in there with your demo, as opposed to you going. I don't think you could go and be like, "hey, I'm down with Terror Squad!" I don't think you'd even get a meeting. You know what I'm saying? Fat Joe's gotta go in there and say, "yo, I've got this chick. She's dope; I'm co-signing this shit, and that's that." Except L'il Mama, I don't think she's down with anybody. But we're talking about the difference between an entertainer and an emcee. Like, where's the last Lauryn Hill, a female who has mainstream appeal but is actually a lyricist?

And of course Lauryn Hill started that way, too, with the men from the Fugees.

Exactly. So it's hard, as a female emcee… it's a toss up. And I used to say, "no, it's not," because that's how I felt back then. Because then I had the support of my brothers, you know? X-Clan, Blackwatch… But especially now, when it's a complete draught. It's an extinction almost. There are no female emcees out there that's sayin' shit. And this is no disrespect to anybody from before, because I'm talking about the present moment right now. Who is representing hip-hop right now as a female?

Although, it seems right now there aren't many men doing it either.

Yeah, no. You're right. Because, right now, where are your male lyricists? Lyricists. I'm not talking about no dance music, no pop music. I'm talking about that shit that makes you go home and listen to it over and over again, and you're not dancing. Just like, "oh shit!" You're blown away, you know what I mean? Where is that? So if that's not there on the male agenda, you know it's not there on the female agenda… because how much percentage are we anyway, when it comes to hip-hop? I think a lot of people think it happened, and that's it.

And I think you have that in every genre of music: jazz, rock, r&b. You start out with music with that authentic vibe, it hasn't been touched or violated; and that's because it hasn't gone platinum yet. And once it goes platinum, that's it. They keep that formula and that's it - this is how it has to be. I mean, if I hear another hip-hop/r&b song that sounds the same… it's like, "my god!" The beat's the same, the lyrics are the same. Jeez, I can't do it.

Well, it's interesting, because you've done some guest verses, etc on some r&b…

Mm-hm.

So, for you, is that just like an unfortunate compromise, or…?

No, no, no. I haven't done that much. I've done stuff with Mary J. Blige, this is back then: "You Bring Me Joy" remix. And I've worked with Monifah, although you guys haven't heard it yet (it'll come out soon). She's an artist I llok up to and have enormous respect for. It doesn't mean that if there's an artist out there who I don't consider an "artist," but more of an entertainer, that I wouldn't do it. But I just wanna get out of this kind of monotony. …I think that any track I'm gonna be on, I'm gonna stop the monotony anyway. I don't care who it is. It's just my style and the way I approach a beat. But when you think about it, across the board, when it comes to r&b or whatever, it is stagnated. It's all about the money. It takes the heartbeat out of the music. You know, music saved my life when I was little. If I didn't have that shit, I don't know… I don't know. I don't know where I might be. I might be dead, in jail, I don't know. Seriously, it like calms the beast for real. So, these young kids now, I feel bad for them. Because they're being short-changed and they don't even know it.

Let me ask you this: do you remember doing a song with DJ Bazarro and the Dysfunkshunal Familee?

Ah, that's so crazy because I saw DJ Bazarro just the other day, because I'm down with the Stop the Violence Movement music with Krs-One. So I just saw his face the other day. Now, I don't remember. How long ago was this?

I think it was around '95 or so?

Oh my god, I don't know. Now I've done so many different things here and there, especially after I left Elektra. Or after I got dropped from Elektra… after they left me! After that, I did so many different things; and you're talking about the 90's, it's a blur.

Well, one of the biggest ones I know of is the one with Finsta.

Oh wow! You really are a true hip-hopper. You're talking about "It's Uzelezz," which is something we did here, but it was for overseas. And Evil Dee, I believe, did the beat. I think. Did Evil Dee do the beat?

Well, there's two versions, actually. I think he did the remix.

Oh. You know more than me, and I'm on it! I'm gonna have to call you. I didn't even know there's two versions; I only heard one. Wow. Then, you would've loved the stuff I did with Five Deadly Venoms. Like, there was a song we recorded with Kurupt that was hot.

Oh, I think that did come out. I've seen a 12" around by Deadly Venoms with Kurupt.

Yeah, but I'm not on there. That's different.

Well, speaking of different versions of Deadly Venoms… how much of what's out there was legit, versus like bootlegged or whatever?

"Bootlegged?" What do you mean?

Well, like with the Echo stuff? Like I know they put out a bunch of Sunz of Man material and a Shabazz the Disciple EP as well as Deadly Venoms… and when I interviewed Shabazz, he said flat out that he felt they had no rights to the material, and it was all bootlegged.

No, I hadn't heard. I left by then… I have no idea.

And what's that video I saw you put out, "Breathe, Spit, Don't Stop?" I don't think it's on the album…

That was something I recorded just to put out there. I recorded that with Ayatollah, who's worked with Tupac and so many others; he's real authentic. We put that online, just to put it out there. Because I haven't been doing shows like I'm supposed to be doing. And the reason for that is becauseI'm looking for a DJ, and it's been horrific. No, really. Horrific. Today they don't realize that DJs bring something to the table. They don't just push a button. On interviews I've been doing with DJs, and they can't mix a record! DJing is one of the core elements of hip-hop, and today they don't know. Plus there were family issues, my dad got sick, out of commission, and I've had to attend to that. But now I've just finally found a DJ who can really do that and add something. Because that's what I like! A DJ who can add to the shows and be a part of it. His name is Sugar Ray, with Torn Styles, so I'm going to start doing shows. And also we've got another video we're about to shoot, too, called "Nothing's Changed." That's about to come out. Because this new material has been a long time coming.

The album's called Godspeed for a reason.

So, if you guys want to pick up Godspeed, it's available of course in the usual Itunes-type places as a download, but there are real, hard copies available, too, at CDBaby. Of course, Lin Que has a myspace, so you can drop by there and check out her music. She has also has her own, decked out official website at Lin-Que.com, so be sure to drop by there as well.

Hail the Words of Isis - An Interview with LinQue (Part 1)


Today, I'm excited to bring you guys a brand new interview with Lin Que (f.k.a. Isis). We talk about everything from Blackwatch to The (Five) Deadly Venoms to her new album. Oh, you didn't know about that? Don't worry. I got links, as always, at the end.
8)

To start out, how did you start out hooking up with Blackwatch?

I actually had started doing things related to hip-hop a while before even meeting Lumumba and all of X-Clan. I danced a lot; I actually got into the business through dancing - I pop-locked. So I used to be in a lot of hip-hop videos; and the manager I had earlier on said, "you know what, Lin? I hit a ceiling with you. I think I'm gonna introduce you to somebody who can take you a lot farther." And he - actually the person's name was Dwayne Hayward - he was actually the person who introduced me to Professor X, Lumumba Carson. And when I met Lumbumba, he said, "ok, this is what we're about… the name of our group is called X-Clan, the movement's called Blackwatch; and basically we want to help spread the word of black pride through our music." And the rest is history from there.

So he took you on as a dancer at first, too?

No, at that point I was rhyming. And it's so funny because at that point, although I was rhyming and I was writing my own rhymes… the guy that was managing me had somebody else writing my rhymes. I was still writing on the side, but it was almost the norm for females not to be writing their own lyrics. So the great thing about X-Clan and Professor X is that gave me the opportunity to write my own lyrics, you know what I mean? Which is great, because I believe if you're emceeing - as opposed to rapping - if you're emceeing and true to hip-hop, you write your own rhymes. You know, it's not just entertainment; it's a way of life, our culture.

Although you actually write for some other people…

Well, I have in the past… written for Lyte. But the song that I wrote for Lyte was different. The song that I had for Lyte, it was one of those little, playful things. It was called "Hard Copy" and it was on her Ain't No Other album. And it was basically a sixteen-bar verse called "Hard Copy" because each emcee would attack the verse in their own way. So it wasn't so much me writing a whole song for her or anything like that… it was me, Lyte and another female emcee named Kink-EZ. So that was just something playful for me to do, as opposed to me taking on an artist and kind of creating an artist's image or whatever have you.

Ok, well then, as you were recording as Isis… or actually, first of all, where did the name Isis come from?

Well, Professor X gave me the name. Our whole ideally, or concept, at that point was teaching black youth black pride through Egyptology - letting them know that we came from kings and queens. And Isis, even though it's the Greek version of Usat (the Egyptian version of the same goddess), because that's what he felt. And I got that pretty much in the early part of me joining the Blackwatch Movement.

So how did that come together? Because having Lumumba as manager didn't necessarily make you a member of Blackwatch, I don't think. Like he had Pete Nice and Positive K, who weren't necessarily members, per se…

Right. Well, the thing is… for me it did. For me it did. Because as an artist and a writer, I began writing because in the beginning, prior to me meeting them, my rhymes were battle rhymes. Especially being in that particular timeframe, that's what it was all about. So when I joined them, I began reading books about Egyptology and I believed in what they were trying to do. So it was a perfect fit for me. It wasn't entertainment, you know what I'm saying? It wasn't about a record deal. It was a perfect fit for me, not just as a person who wants to come out and make an album, but as an artist, as a human being, and as a female emcee… to come out there and actually learn things other than sixteen bars, get on the mic, this is entertainment, let's just get on stage. It was so much bigger than a record deal.

So, how much of the music - like, the instrumental music, came out of your input? Like, I know it was produced mostly by Paradise

It was produced mostly by Paradise, but honestly on Rebel Soul, which was my first album, I had a lot of say-so in reference to the beats. Because I was very much into hip-hop, but I was also into house music.

Right, because some X-Clan stuff had a little bit of house to it, but you had a lot more.

They had the funk, that George Clinton thing. So it wasn't so much a tyranny, when it came to production. They took into consideration the type of vibe I was on and the type of music I liked. Because I was very much into house music as well.

And who did the remixes on "Hail the Words of Isis?"

Wow… the remix? I don't remember there being a remix to "Hail the Words" There was "Face the Bass"… Actually, there was - that might be Stereo MCs, from London. Actually, you know what, if you didn't mention it, I would've forgot all about that! Because, you know, they were doing so much… 4th and Broadway, you know, had 4th and Broadway in London; and we were doing so many different things with people as well, overseas; so you're absolutely right. I think that was a Stereo MCs remix.

So, after 4th and Broadway kind of closed down, and X-Clan moved, Professor X moved… what happened with all that to you other guys?

Well, this is the thing. When we left 4th and Broadway, X-Clan went to Polygram. And I think they wanted to sign one act - what they consider quote, unquote "one act" - and I actually felt I wanted to go in a different direction anyway. When I say a "different direction," I was at a certain point in my life, as a female and a female MC, to say: of course, to me, Blackwatch really was like the seed of belief and self esteem. I was like in my teens, you know? I was in my teens and was like, "ok, this was such a spiritual experience for me," and it was the beginning of me learning self esteem. But I didn't want to just limit myself to just speaking about my race. I wanted to speak about my experiences - and there were a lot of experiences I was going through at that point. Being in the industry, being a female, you know what I mean? And also being a mother, a young mother at that time… there was so much as an artists I wanted to get out.

So I actually took a break. I needed a break,because again, Blackwatch for me was not about a record deal; it was so much more than that. And I needed a break from the industry. Learning the business was very hard. I still don't like the business. I don't. It's like a necessary evil for me. One of the hardest things I had to realize was that this business was not about talent. It's about ten percent talent, and ninety percent who you know. And that, to me coming up as an artist, was like heart-wrenching to me. Like, I didn't know how good I had it until I left 4th and Broadway. 4th and Broadway was really the only record label that believed in me, believed in my vision, and saw it for what it was… and put the money behind it. I've had three album deals in my life, and you guys only heard one album from me. My last album, Godspeed, is one that I shopped myself. So when I say three album deals, I mean three major record labels.

So I had to learn the business. And who better to learn the business from, being a female emcee, than MC Lyte? And it was a weird thing because we would always see Lyte when we were on tour… we'd see Lyte sporadically here and there. So we had met before, and I guess - I can't even remember - but I guess one day, she was like, "so what are you up to now?" Because I needed a break, because it was hard for me. I was an artist; it's not just about "go to this meeting…" I'm not into that. I just rhyme, I wanna write, and I want to be in the studio and on stage, you know? But Lyte was like, "it's not just about that, Lin. If you want to be taken seriously, and if you want to be successful, then you have to learn the business." And hence Ace Entertainment and Duke the Moon - we opened up companies together. And she really helped me progress in learning all the ins and outs of the business that I didn't know, and I needed to know.

And was she involved… like I know she was involved in the East/West stuff, but was she involved in the Ruffhouse stuff at all?

Yes. Absolutely, it was prior to that. It was Duke the Moon at that point. I was like the first artist off of our management and production company. We had also Backspin, a producer who worked with Busta Rhymes and a lot of other artists and was very talented. And we had groups like Born In Hell, two brothers from Brownsville, and we had Bamboo, and we had Yardman. So we had a roster of people that we believed in and who we really wanted to help shapen that vision and also sort of protect them from the industry, because the industry is harsh. So, yes. The answer is yes, she was involved in the Ruffhouse/Columbia deal as well.

And what about the other Blackwatch artists when X-Clan moved, like Queen Mother Rage, Unique and Dashan? Had you really tried to collaborate with them again?

Actually, no I haven't. I've actually spoken with Rage recently, and I saw brother J recently when he came into town - because he's really out in LA. So we've talked about it, but we haven't really solidified it. Everybody's kinda doing stuff, and they're busy and they're all over the place. So it's definitely something that we've talked about, but something we need to solidify.

And did they ever come to you earlier? Because, I know X-Clan… they just put out their comeback album not too long ago, but they'd been talking about it and doing interviews about it for years.

Yes. It's been such a journey. Because I also have my own business. I got to a point, after my third album deal and my company not - in my eyes - not supporting me in the way that I needed to be supported as an artist. I had it. I had it with the industry. And as much as I love it - because, you know, this is my oxygen. Hip-hop is the oxygen that I breathe. But I had to say, "you know what? I'm not doing this anymore. Because it's killing me. …Literally." I know it sounds very dramatic, but it was killing me. And I got to a point where I was like, I can't do this anymore. First of all, I have a son. It's not paying my bills, and I have to live. It's not just me; I have to take care of my child. And I opened up a company called QUEB Inc. with my best friend and business colleague, Barb Sharon. We opened up a company; it's an advertising firm. We actually started in fashion design, because we always got approached for us to do some urban agenda for a big clothing line.

Was that just because you were a female rapper, or…?

Maybe. You know, a lot of these people were hanging out… because you had people like Grand Puba talking about Tommy Hilfiger gear. It's like, you know, the rappers were kind of endorsing the fashion now. So you get a lot of people in hip-hop clubs who were not just hip-hoppers. You know, fashion people. And we would get approached. And we took all these freelance jobs andeventually were like, "why don't we just open up a company?" And anything I can get paid for and be creative with, to me, is a wonderful thing; because I don't consider myself this nine-to-fiver. I've never done it. I did it maybe when I was very, very young, but it didn't work with me and for me. And as we QUEB Inc., we went form fashion design to graphic design to web design to TV commercials to video production… and we've expanded into so many different things now. It's my company that put out my music, and it's my company that manages me, and markets me, and promotes me. But we also were juggling other jobs as well, so I'm like the juggler these days.

Ok, and my last question about the Blackwatch days… what was the thinking behind the use of the term "vainglorious." Because, really, it doesn't have that positive a connotation [my little Compact Dictionary here defines "vainglory" as, "empty boasting" or "excessive vanity"].

Well, you know, that would be something unfortunately to ask Professor X. Because that was his thing. I think it was more of a paradox, as opposed to a literal thing, but he would be the best one to explain it… but as you know, he passed in 2006. But you know what's crazy is that, one thing that I like to say whenever I'm interviewed about Blackwatch, is that it was such a huge experience, not only with the people like Brother J, Queen Mother Rage, YZ, and the artists out there in the forefront. But it was a movement of young people all over the country and overseas, that were really taking pride in who they were. It really was for me - I can't really speak for others, but I think it was for them as well - what really sparked out self esteem. It started with our race, but developed into us getting in tune with who we were as people, as humans, as artists, as females, as men… whatever you want to say. But it was such a movement that I wish, actually, it was still in effect today. Because I think, with the state of hip-hop today and where it's at right now, I think that heartbeat, and that vigor that hip-hop used to have for me, is kind of missing.

But there's a lot of things in the works, that I'm not privy to speak about right now… but there's a lot of emcees right now that are on the forefront. It's not about weaning out what'sout there now, because it's not about that. When I grew up in hip-hop, what I loved about it is that we had a whole Baskin-Robbins type of vibe. You know, you had all these different flavors, and you could get into whatever you wanted to get into. And today it's like there's only one flavor - it's like going to Baskin and Robbins and they're like, "nah, we don't have that." That's it. No sprinkles? "Nah." No banana split? "Nah. Vanilla cone. That's it." Only one cone, you know?

And I think it's stunted us, as artists; and also as hip-hop listeners. It's completely limited us. And for me, there's a whole array of emcees - and when I say emcees, I spell it "e-m-c-e-e-s" - across the country, that are on the forefront of recreating this hip-hop movement and bring back… in addition to what's out there now. Not replacing it, but in addition to what's out there now. Because there's a need for all of it. I'm an artist; I believe in the whole spectrum, you know, happy-happy, joy-joy. There's an array of artists that are coming out to preserve the culture of hip-hop. And some of them are young, believe it or not. Some of them are like myself that lived it, that miss it, that loved it. And some of them are a lot of the young ones, too, that know the deal. I didn't realize that until this album came out for me, and I got to travel more, and speak to fans more, and speak to young kids more. These young kids know the difference; a lot of them do. I didn't believe that. See, I was going by the radio. I can't even listen - like for the last almost decade, I can't listen to the radio. I just can't.

Yeah, I'm the same way. It's all old tapes or underground records.

Videos? I can't even look at videos. People say, "I saw your video!" Like, oh really? What station? 'Cause I don't know! I'm not looking at these things. I can't do it; it hurts.

To be continued immediately...

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Rarely Demented


It's shipped and I just got mine today: The Cenobites' Demented Thoughts EP! It's a limited (200 copies) of unreleased material from the classic pairing of Godfather Don and Kool Keith from 1993-1996. The masters for six long lost Cenobite recordings were recently discovered by Bobbito and have now been pressed up on this real nice vinyl release. Only one of the tracks, "Hot Crib Promo" featuring Cage, has ever seen any kind of release before: an off-the-air radio recording on Cage's For Your Box cassette compilation... But, while that version features a little extra music at the beginning (a Clockwork Orange soundtrack interlude, probably not from that same session, but just mixed in for the tape); it ends before Don's awesome verse! So this is clearly the definitive version.

Interestingly, this is almost more of a Godfather Don solo release... Kool Keith is only really featured on one track (a really ill verse he kicks on the last song, "Slaves"), and of course Don produced all the tracks as well. Otherwise, it's just all Don, with guest verses by Bobbito and the aforementioned Cage collabo. And you know what's wrong with a vintage Don solo release - nothing!

Now, this still leaves some Cenobites material unreleased... even with the rerelease of the original EP including two extra tracks, and the third release featuring even another. All those and this EP add up to 16 songs, and there's definitely other radio recordings floating around out there. So hopefully somebody can dig up the masters for those as well. But for now I'm happy, 'cause this EP is dope!

Now, I believe most of the copies have already been pre-sold, but UGHH supposedly has the last ten available, so if you're interested, be quick. 8-)

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Pass da Remix

"Pass da Mic" is Da Youngsta's [what's with that apostrophe, by the way? Is their name meant to be an incomplete, possessive noun? I guess what it can only mean is that the trio, collectively, is the belonging of some mysterious entity known only as Da Youngsta!] second single off of their first album. It's also their best song, and the only song off their debut to feature a guest verse: Mentally Gifted of The Hilltop Hustlers*, which definitely helps. So four MCs kicking freestyle verses over a dope beat, with a simple hook ("pass the mic, yo, pass the mic!")... what more could you want?


Well, how about a Pete Rock remix? Yup. The remix, actually credited to Pete Rock and CL Smooth, is the real reason most people would probably pick this up today (and why the price never sinks to bargain bin status online). This track is as fresh and addictive as anything the duo were doing back in the day.

What's also interesting about this remix is that it's a lyrical remix as well. Qur'an's first verse (by the way, this is where he spits the line "money growin' like grass for the mass appeal" that Gangstarr made famous) and Mentally Gifted's last verse stay the same, but the other two completely abandon their verses for new ones.

Tarik's original verse started by talking about how, "Honeydips flip cause they know I'm well equipped. They drop their bottom lip, then they start to unzip the XYZ. But I ain't down with HIV; so I keep my J-I-double-M-Y in my back pocket, just in case I wanna knock it." Considering how they were 11 years old when they recorded their debut album, it's easy to imagine why someone figured they ought to make a few alterations before shipping the video out to MTV. So instead he went with a more typical, posse cut style freestyle verse that goes, "I've come to riggidi-riggidi-rip the rhyme again and again and again. I go for what I know, more ready than I've ever been," etc.

Taji also changes his verse. "You're unstable, unable to get on a weak label. You still be home writin', watchin' me on cable. Steppin' to me, yo, you're bound to take a fall. I put you in pocket like an eight ball**," becomes "I'm known to riggidi-riggidi-rip rip a rhyme [yes, both verses start out with the phrase "riggidi-riggidi-rip a rhyme" on the same version of the same song... seems like Quality Control was asleep at their post on that one] like Jack the Ripper. Slick syllables slip; I got more juice than citrus. Suckers can't get with this - I ring more bells than a Jehovah witness." So yeah... both verses are completely, 100% different than the originals. It's hard to say which verses are better (except for thankfully dropping the uncomfortable references to 11 year-old sex)... I'd say it's a dead tie. But having them be different makes the whole listening experience less repetitive since both versions are on this single, and the original beat by LG is pretty tight, too.

And to answer your question before you ask it: yes, there is an instrumental to the Pete Rock remix. There's the dub version, with the background vocals still on it, and the instrumental proper. They don't include the instrumental to the LP version, but oh well. They got the important one.

I've upped the picture of the cassette maxi-single, since it's got a picture cover. The 12" is a sticker cover, with just their logo and the track-listing on it. Said track-listing is the same on both formats though, and also feature one more song: the album track, "Neighborhood Bully," which pretty much vindicates all your preconceived notions based on the title ...which is to say it's exactly what you think it is, but the beat is dope. Again it's by LG, who pretty much did their entire debut LP, which makes sense since two of Da Youngsta's are his sons. How else do you think these little kids got major label record deals?

Today Da Youngsta's [file under Y, people, not D. You wouldn't file "The Youngsta's" under T, would you?] have long since split up after their last album - which was I'll Make You Famous, not No Mercy as most online write-ups would have you believe - but they still maintain a myspace page. Qur'an has gone on to become a producer in his own right, and has his myspace here. Meanwhile, Taji a.k.a. Taj Mahal has some tracks up on his myspace, where he's working on a solo career as an MC... or at least he was in 2006, when he upped all that material.

*I'm pretty sure this is who Hansoul was referring to in my last post, since their was no one actually named "MG" in Da Youngsta's.

**Update 7/16/08: This is a total bite! Man, I knew I'd heard that verse before, and have been trying to place it for the last couple of days. Taji's original verse is completely lifted from Mentally Gifted's cameo on Cool C's "Watch Your Back" off of Life In the Ghetto from the year before - not just the part I quoted... the bite keeps right on going. Da Youngsta's really hyped themselves as being better and realer than all the other kiddie rap groups out there because they wrote their own rhymes... let's just say this doesn't exactly alleviate my skepticism on that score.

Friday, July 4, 2008

The Lost Ghetto (A Short Interview with Hansoul)

I've been searching for so long, and so diligently, for Hansoul's "Every Ghetto's the Same" 12", that I was beginning to seriously doubt it existed. Thankfully, Hansoul (who's still putting out music, in case you didn't know... more on that below) himself was good enough to answer my questions on the subject and help a fan out. 8)

He told me, "the fact of the matter is that in my 'old life' as an artist e.g. Before Christ (BC) there was an album and that single; and videos done for those songs and things were ready to come out and airing and receiving rotation. But prior to its official store release I truly had an experience and was touched, and met Jesus in a way I had never met Him. I then rededicated my life to Him and pulled the album and told video jukebox and others to stop airing it and spinning it. This is what occured. I have parted all ways with all music I did that was not Glorifying to my Lord Jesus Christ."

So it was pulled before its official store release, which would explain how hard it's been to find, of course... but were there ever any promo copies pressed or anything? There must've been something... I also thought it was surprising he disowned his previous catalog when he had already been a pretty positive rapper. I mean, compare "Imagination" to the NWA-insipired gangsta rap that was jumping off on every label under the sun that year - he wasn't exactly Brother Lynch Hung before he found Christ.

He answered, "it was only released underground, and we pulled it prior to official release.... what I used to think was positive I realize now was not positive."

So now I'm hunting for a 14 year-old, underground record which was only put out on a handful of promo copies. Wish me luck with that.

And yeah. If you didn't already know, Hansoul's been putting out a fair amount of music in the 2000's. He said to me, "I currently have an album out that is banging; you should pick it up, it will really bless you... you can get it in stores or on my myspace. It is entitlted 'Jesus Saves!' MG that was with the Youngsta's and others produced and are on it."

Jesus Saves is his third album since his old stuff (there was a 12" single as well). He's also collaberated with Mentally Gifted - yes, the same one from The Hilltop Hustlers back in the day - Ready Rock C(!), and his crew, The Fishermen. His first and third albums are available on his myspace. Check it out. And let me know if you ever come across a copy of "Every Ghetto's the Same." :)

P.s. - Happy ID4!

Tags:

Thursday, July 3, 2008

I Ain't Afraid of No Spirit


^Video blog!!
(Truly frightening original content created for this blog rather than linked content by somebody else.)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

InstaRapFlix 9: Lyricist Lounge: Hip Hop Video Classics

I was all set to have a new video post, but the encoding is taking for-frikking-ever, so I said to heck with it, stormed away and consoled myself with a Netflix quickie on a friend's PC. That video update's still coming tomorrow, but for tonight I've selected: Lyricist Lounge: Hip Hop Video Classics (Netflix rating: 1 star).

First of all, I don't know what this supposedly has to do with The Lyricist Lounge, except they've got their name in the title. The opening credits show DJ Spinbad doing a little cutting and then we jump right into Run DMC & Aerosmith's "Walk This Way" video. See, here's the idea: DJ Spinbad does a mix of a few major, commercial hip-hop tunes, and the music videos are mixed (i.e. back-cued) along with the music.
It's kind of interesting at first. But the novelty quickly vanishes because, like your typical lame-o mixtape, the DJ actually does very little creative work. You wind up watching the videos straight, forgetting it's some "super special DJ video mix" until suddenly the image stutters and repeats itself a few times to match some scratching. Then it goes back to playing like normal for the next five minutes.

This idea might've been a lot more interesting if they got a DJ like Mixmaster Mike to really cut up and destroy a whole TON of songs, giving you this wild collage of intersplicing imagery. I mean, I don't know if that would be cool or horribly annoying, actually; but I guess until Mike decides to give it a go, we'll never find out.

It's hard to imagine someone would want to pay retail for a short (52 minutes including credits, or 13 music videos total) mix of some ultra-mainstream songs (stuff even your little sister who doesn't listen to rap surely already owns on CDS), where you can't even watch the videos all the way through. Oh, and they use only the clean, edited-for-commercial-television versions. He even does annoying name-drops over the mix, in case some shark DJ out there was thinking of biting his ultra-rare recording of "Passin' Me By!"

I mean, it's not terrible. though they're all obvious, some of the choices are fun old school songs; and any chance to watch a Chubb Rock video (by far the most "underground" artist featured, and of course they selected "Treat 'Em Right") is gonna be entertaining. So even though the playlist feels like it was written by a VH1 music exec who just wiki'd the phrase "big rap hits," they ARE still great hip-hop songs. But basically the gimmick - largely because it's so undercooked - winds up adding nothing and even detracting from the experience. A DVD of 50 minutes worth of straight music videos would be more worth the purchase (and judging by the Netflix rating and comments, most users feel the same). But I'll give 'em a half a point for a germ of an idea at some early stage of the development process, for whatever that's worth. Instawatch it if you're bored. I did.