Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Random Rap Phenomenon


^Video blog!!
(Still rollin' with all-original content, again in YT's new fancy-schmancy widescreen format.)

Notes:
1. There's a lot of edits going on because I was trying to squeeze this into one ten-minute video on Youtube, I was cutting it very fine - that's why it jumps around a bit (and why I used inter-titles to jump ahead a bit). Basically all you're missing though are additional examples that make the same point, plus some "umms" and "uhs."

2. Actually, Irving Aaronson and Henry Hall's versions of "Makin' Whopee" are rather different, and both are very worth tracking down... but I think you see my larger point anyway.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Drivin' Crazee


^Video blog!!
(Rollin' with more all-original content that you can click through the embed to see it in YT's new fancy-schmancy widescreen format.)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Ain't No Need for Us To Wait No More

The Diggers With Gratitude label is back! Chr!s has been championing (with good reason) Raw Produce since the Spine Magazine days, so it's only fitting that this time they're hitting us with two great, unreleased Cadence tracks. It's another limited release (200 copies), but this time it's a reasonably-priced(!) 7".

The first song is "Stand Up Tragedy," an almost-sequel to his earlier political ventures "W" (as in George W. Bush) and "W pt. 2." The beat's dominated by fresh old school, playful jazz samples; really sounding like Raw Produce's best singles of the past. The music flourishes, the tone changes; you'll love it. It's from the first week of February '07, so don't expect any Obama vs. McCain talk, but rather a scathing indictment of the US government's standard policies of propaganda covering up the dark side of our nation's military industrial complex ("a comedy of errors that's unfolding as a tragedy") that holds up much better anyway. The only way this joint could be any better is if it were maybe another verse longer.

The B-side, "Wait No More (Cade Money Mix)" (is there a non-Cade Money Mix still in a vault/closet somewhere?), is from 2004, a shelved collaboration with Grand Puba that never saw fruition. The two MCs kick playful, freestyle rhymes over a simple but catchy little groove, sort of in the Shawn J. Period vein (but again, produced by Cadence), with a nice wailing sax sample behind the hook. It's very different from the A-side, but Cade exceeds at both styles: his lyrics and delivery able to slip his verse perfectly between Puba's two without a hitch. And of course Puba is in his stylistic element here, so you know he comes off at his best.

This is a great release; both songs really compliment each other. There's no doubt that I'll be bumping this for a while. It's a must-have (for Puba fans as well), but unfortunately if you didn't pre-order this, you already missed it because it sold out before it shipped. So keep your eyes on discogs for your best chance to find a copy, and next time don't sleep on DWG ((cough cough; they're already taking orders for their next 7", unreleased Main Source demo tracks! cough cough)).

Sunday, November 23, 2008

InstaRapFlix 14: Spring Bling

Now, I've had some pretty weak movies in the InstaRapFlix series... I just pick what seems interesting and unusual and see hope for some interesting surprises. I swear I don't seek them out! Except this time I kinda did. He he

These were the only two comments for Spring Bling (Netflix rating: 1.5 stars), "This is thing has nothing to do with spring break! Its garbage!! The should be sued for this!! The whole thing is just corney quick interviews from nobodies in miami. Dont bother!!"
and
"This video is a sham it was very misleading, it had nothing to do with spring break (women). Please for the love of video gods dont bother with this video and it should be removed from the list."
...A sham? They should be sued? And it's only 54 minutes (including opening and closing credits)? How could I not check that out?

Now, Netflix xalls this Spring Bling, but the box cover they show, and the onscreen print, both clearly give another title: 2 Live for TV: Spring Break Uncut. So, I guess that's where the commentor got that this was gonna be about "spring break (women)," which he's right, there's not much of (I can't imagine there's a Cut version of Spring Break Uncut). There is one quick shot, near the front though, of two girls in bikini tops, and a text graphic comes up saying "DAMN!!" Then, about twenty minutes in the there's a shot of some girl's butt as she walks past and it says "DAMN!!!" ...three exclamation points that time.

So, what the heck is this movie, anyway? It's a BET crew for Cribs TV (glad to see they've replaced Rap City with something classy), apparently, running around a DJ Khalel video shoot and getting drops from the celebrities. So there's a couple big name celebs like Rick Ross and Paul Wall (I guess he's a big name celeb...) who say about five words to the camera... then we go down the fame ladder till you hit the unknowns. The most interesting celeb was Prince Markie Dee, but he didn't have anything to say either. So, basically, it's a million little clips that go like this: "We're here with Cribs TV at the DJ Khlael video shoot, doing it up real big and look who I got right here! My man so and so! Word up. That's how we do." Then the guy shouts out Miami and/or the single he's gonna put out next month, and it's on to the next clip. Who wouldn't be happy having spent $25 to have that on DVD?

But I didn't pay anything because it was an Instant View. ...I still feel ripped off, though.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Before the Dawn Of the Veiled Marauder

Here's a really cool record you never hear about. Before the Dawn Of the Veiled Marauder (a moutful of a title) is a three-song comeback 12" by Professor X dropped in 1999 ...that's after Brother J's Dark Sun Riders material, but long before the X-Clan's first comeback 12" on Up Above Records. This is dope and features some surprisingly big-name guest-stars for a record that virtually went unheard of.

The A-side, "Beware" features none other than George Clinton himself. Considering how the X-Clan really revolutionized using P-funk samples in hip-hop (they weren't the first; but they sure were the best), it's fitting that Professor X finally links up with the man himself here. Clinton's collaboration mostly seems to be in the instrumental here, although that's clearly him speaking the song's intro* and some background ad-libs. But after that, Professor X takes the mic and doesn't give it back. Which is fine, because - while he's still clearly kicking his own, personal semi-spoken word flow flow - I think he's mastered his delivery to stand better on its own than on his previous solo albums.

And despite his high profile guest, X clearly hasn't felt pressured to water down his strong political/controversial messages on this record, as the hook repeatedly tells us, the title "Beware" is telling us to: "beware of those house negroes (he's no player; deceiver, slayer of the sleeper)," meaning black leaders who don't do enough for the black community once they've been elected. The track, produced by X himself, is cool and subtle; it doesn't sound at all like all the other P-funk sampling songs that were coming out around this time. So it's a nice plus that this cut is followed by the instrumental version.

The b-side is then given to two tracks (without instrumentals); the first of which is "Who's Pimpin' Who?" featuring Big Daddy Kane, who also produced the track. The instrumental's ok though not great, but Professor X and kane have some nice verses for the subject of artists being controlled by their label. Here's Kane's verse, impressively combining some slick wordplay and some powerful statements:

"I see a lot of pimpin' goin' on;
Can't slip the slightest.
It ain't about who's right or wrong,
Whose game's the tightest.
That day-by-day stress that we've all been through,
Playin' with your mental;
I see that ho you're turning into.
That fast cash up in your face:
You can't avoid it;
That be the main reason black people be exploited.
What you would call a record label,
I'd call a stable;
You're settling for crumbs off the table.
You're thinking that your three-bedroom house is ill,
While your money bought a mansion for someone on the hill.
And all that talk
That 'white men can't jump' is a scheme;
Why the Hell dem gon' jump when dem own the whole team?
We can't be lettin' all that up-front money amaze.
Take it back to the Berry Gordy Motown days;
Put me in the same room with Michael Jordan,
and Michael Tyson, and Michael Jackson
And watch me mack 'em.
Let's make it happen."

The last song is produced by and features Papa Wu (bear in mind, this was '99 when having anybody "Wu" on your project was a big deal). It's called "Strangers," and it definitely is strange. The production features some familiar samples, which are nice but nothing new; but Papa Wu sounds like he's been spending all his time with The ODB, as he bugs out on the track (it starts out with him laughing and coughing what I have to assume is some weed smoke), presumably freestyling all his rhymes, with X singing the hook, "strangers in the night... exchanging glances." They're clearly having fun, though; and it's a smooth track, so you'll probably get into it - it works as a bonus B-side track.

By the way, I mentioned some unreleased Professor X tracks in a previous post... You can (and should) check out clips of 4 (out of a total 10, apparently) on this myspace page here, a collabo page between Professor X and DJ Mercury. Some nice stuff. Dj Mercury also has his own myspace here.

*By the way, if you were to pitch up the sample on the intro to 45 rpm, you'd recognize it as the introduction to Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock's "IT Takes Two."

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Don't Stop Pumping It

"3-2-1 Pump" was the fifth single off of The Redhead Kingpin and the FBI's second full-length, The Album With No Name. And by the time it rolled out, I think audiences were finished with the whole album, so it got a pretty thrifty release. That's a shame, because I think it had the potential to be a bigger hit, and made a much better choice for a catchy single than the first four.

This 1991 Virgin Records release is clearly meant to be a sort of sequel to his previous hit, "Pump It Hottie;" and not wanting to repeat himself may be why Redhead held off releasing this as a single for so long. It's produced by Kingpin himself, using the bassline from Earth, Wind and Fire's classic "Let's Groove" with a lot of original instrumentation/ programming, and DJ Wildstyle expertly slicing up Trouble Funk's (or maybe it's Melle Mel's version; there's no telling) "Pump It Up" on the hook.

Naturally, the lyrics aren't mind-blowing or anything... this was Redhead Kingpin, after all, not early Ras Kass; and one of his club songs on top of that. But he's got genuine talent on the mic, able to kick a sly line that would fit in nicely alongside the T.I.s or Jay-Zs of today. And when he spells his name to the rhythm in a cool off-beat/on-beat kind of way, it's really pretty fresh; it's too bad he got caught up in gangsta rap driven, anti-New Jack/R&B/dance backlash:

"You can try and try again,
But the situation's worthless.
You may think you're doing damage,
But you haven't scratched the surface.
The girls are always screamin' for the Redhead one to rock...
[Pause, then spoken:] I'll be right down, baby.
Now ask your girlfriend,
'Does he look better than me?'
She'll say 'I hate to break your heart,
But I prefer the R-E-D
H-E-A-D K-I-N-G
P-I-N; he's the one.
I need a night alone with him
'Cause he's a freaky son of a gun."'

As an interesting side note, by the way: in addition to the proper 12" pictured above, there's also this white label version I found online. There's no official printing anywhere on it, but the handwriting on the sleeve incorrectly labels it as "Pump It Hottie" remixes (the seller I got it from also thought it was "Pump It Hottie"... I just don't think people can wrap their heads around the notion that there's two Redhead Kingpin singles with the word "Pump" in the title). The track-listing is exactly the same as the proper version, though. I just thought I'd point it out.

Anyway, there's two mixes on this 12". Both sides of this record are labeled A; so I'm just going to baselessly assume that the Extended Power Mix comes first. It's credited to someone named Jerry Moran. I've no idea who that is (I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess it's not the Kansas City Republican congressman), except that he later provided another remix for Redhead, on The Private Investigators' "Who Am I (God)?" single. This mix takes it back to the Earth Wind and Fire original, replacing some of Redhead's original production with more elements from "Let's Groove," including the vocals on the hook. The remix also features a faster beat and new breakdown, where Redhead tells us he and his crew are gonna do their dances (guess you had to see it performed live), and DJ Wildstyle gets a chance to showcase his scratching. I tell you, that guy's skills were underrated. And when it ends with the original Earth, Wind and Fire horns... I'm sorry. No matter how much you might hate on New Jack Swing or Redhead, it's just one of those great musical moments I don't think anyone could front on.

The other remix, the Street Mix, is also credited to Mr. Moran. Here he takes it back to a slower, more straight hip-hop and less dance-oriented vibe (just like you'd expect from a "street mix"). This one actually slows things down a bit too much, making the broken down hook dull and lifeless. It also features some Planet Patrol/Soulsonic Force-type samples that you'd expect to hear on a faster Miami bass record and tries to blend them into the groove. All in all, it's kinda wack; but the Extended Power Mix is definitely worth checking for if you're a Redhead fan.

There's also a cassingle, which is the only release with a picture cover and features the Edit version (basically the album version slightly shortened - it's also the one they used in the music video) and Power Mix, plus the fun but forgettable album track "Harlem Brown." The regular (as opposed to Extended) Power Mix included here feels a bit short, though, especially at the end where it fades out just as you're starting to get into the horn loops; so you'll want to stick with the 12" in the long run.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Big Pun: Still Not a Player

Ok. this is not an InstRapFlix write-up, because Netflix doesn't have this for instant viewing, but after reading a lot about this, I wanted to see it and write about it. Big Pun: Still Not a Player is ostensibly your typical "rockumentary," but it's actually better than that. It's co-directed by his wife, after Big Pun's passing, which I've read people mention as a criticism... you know, his wife doing it on the cheap as opposed to getting a "real director." But actually, she manages to immediately get way more personal and in-depth than any of those other rockumentaries.

Yeah, there are flaws... the middle is filled with rappers, major celebrities to the really obscure, all praising Pun in basically the same way, saying the same things... it gets pretty repetitive. And certainly he deserves the praise they give him - there's no denying that he was really talented and did a bunch of really hot records, and there's some great anecdotes about him ripping shows and freestyles, etc. But the film seems a little gutless when not one person interviewed (out of many... this film really got everybody to come together for this project) mentions how much weaker his second album was than his first (not to mention the third, which maybe he can't be blamed for since it was finished after he passed away), and he was in danger of being a lot of rappers with great debuts, from Nas to Wu-Tang (both of whom are featured in this doc, too, by the way), never being able to make a record as good as their first. According to this doc, everything he recorded was equally genius, and that's all there is to be said about that.

And there are technical weaknesses, too. The music (the soundtrack, not Pun's records) sounds very library-ish and falsely manipulative. No one wrote any great score for this. And since every interview seems to have been shot from a single camera set-up, they made a lot of fake close-ups in the editing stage... so the picture quality gets really crappy whenever they cut in close. When you hear Errol Morris describe how he was the first to use a newly invented camera to get special ultra-slow motion close-up photography in his latest film, well.... clearly no one on this project is operating on that kind of level of filmmaking.

But who cares? Errol Morris himself would tell you that a million flashy camera angles and expensive equipment isn't worth trading for an ounce of genuine substance from an interview, and that's what this doc has. From frank discussions of his mother's drug problems, to his parenting, food addiction, etc., everyone really opens up. His wife, sister, grandmother and friends are all surprisingly open about how he abused his wife, etc. - amazingly, there's even footage of it. This is no VH1 half-hour quickie full of soft-ball questions and stock footage; it's a serious documentary on Big Pun.

When the film gets to his health problems and eventual death... which so many people speak on, from relatives to celebrities like Ice-T, all on a personal level; it's genuinely moving. There's not much concert or music video footage... it's 95% talking heads (even his doctor is interviewed), and 5% footage from home movies and footage like that. And it's possibly the best hip-hop movie to date.

...The DVD also has some nice extras. Two vintage interviews with Pun that last a good 15-20 minutes each, a segment with his sister going through their family photos reminiscing, a new interview with his wife on domestic violence, an interview with the other director, stills gallery, trailer, and a live performance clip of Pun and Fat Joe doing their version of "Deep Cover" (it says "Live Performances," but it's just the one). Definitely one to look out for.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Sorry If Posts Have Been a Little Slow Recently...

...This is why[see right].

Normal posting will resume soon. I promise. I've got a new video planned, an editorial-type minipost, and a couple record write-ups. Oh, and another hip-hop (but non-InstaRapFlix) movie review. They're all coming soon. I just gotta finish a couple quests first...

Saturday, November 8, 2008