Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I Got Shit Sewn Like Billy Bathgate, Beware

It's a little hard to believe, but Select Records never released any kind of single from Godfather Don's underrated debut album, Hazardous. No promo 12"s, nuthin'. Well, Diggers With Gratitude have corrected this with their latest release, the "Billy Bathgate" 12". But this isn't just three tracks from that album thrown onto a 12"; these are three bangers from that era that weren't included on the album, but are at least as good as any tracks on there. So you get three never-before-released Don jewels from an earlier period than his other limited releases have been, and once again these are limited to just 300 numbered copies. And there were only 20 copies(!) of the green vinyl you see the picture above pressed (mine is #018).

I also gotta say good lookin' to DWG for the price, too. It's still pricier than a standard 12" single (are there standard 12"s anymore? Just barely, I think!), but at £22.00 (that's with international shipping included), it's a substantial mark down from previous limited vinyls.

Now Billy Bathgate, the movie, came out in 1991, so the sudden spike of rappers name-dropping the titular character from E.L. Doctrow's novel, a small-time gangster from the 1930's, was to be expected. But besides the name, Don's "Billy Bathgate" (which was previewed earlier on DWG's Lungbutters mixtape) has little to do with the character, though, except that they're both gangsters. But once you get past the "hey, I don't remember it happening like that in the movie..." confusion; who cares? It's a killer, fast-paced, slick syllable gangster rap narrative with a rugged, bassline-driven track that sounds like some long lost Kool G. Rap classic, if he hadn't decided to go the Sir Jinx route for album #3.

"Fromdamental," like its title suggests, is back to classic, head-nodding "hella rip-trip styles" over a hardcore drumtrack, a funky organ(?) sample and some quick turntable slices on the hook. It's a real precursor to his mid to late 90's material, and would almost have fit in better as a b-side to "Styles By the Gram" than tucked away somewhere on Hazardous.

"On and On" is the only track that actually appeared on the album; and this "Alternative Mix" is actually a complete vocal and instrumental remix. So essentially, it's an entirely new song, that only has a reference to going "on and on" in common with the original. The main sample is the same one Anttex used for his underground hit, "Understand Me Vanessa;" but Don adds sharp horn and guitar stabs, turning this into a fast-paced freestyle frenzy, featuring Jazz. But it's still got a darker, more serious vibe than the Hazardous version, which was a very playful track originally.

As of this writing, DWG has already sold out of both the extra-limited green pressings (of course) and the regular black ones. But you can still get a copy, if you're quick, from, who has a limited consignment of these, and will be shipping them on 4/28. Don't miss out!

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