Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Newcleus: The Twixt Generation

Of course, you all know who Newcleus are, and remember their classic jams: "The Wikki Wikki Song," "Jam On It," "Computer Age," etc. And you probably have at least heard of Newcleus: The Next Generation, who came out with an album and a bunch of singles in the 90's - it was mostly new members, but a couple of the kids from the original line-up were in that one. But there was a short-lived iteration of Newcleus in between these two formations. It featured some original members, and some new members who didn't stick around to be part of the "Next Generation." This version of the group never released any albums, but they did put out a couple 12" singles on Super Power Records in the late 80's.

This is one of those in-between-stage Newcleus joints, and it's actually pretty good. They retain more of the lively, old school vibe of the original line-up, but still steer themselves more in the raw hip-hop direction of The Next Generation. ...You know, as opposed to that pop 80's sing-songy style the original crew had started drifting into with songs like "Why."

I can't say I expected to enjoy this 12" when I put it on my turntables for the first time, so it was really a nice surprise. The song is called "Huxtable House Party," an ode to the The Huxtable dance, and it came out in 1987. Huxtable, for those of you too young to remember, is the family name of the characters from The Cosby Show. Though for some reason they deny the connection: "no, we're not talking about TV; it's not Theodore and Rudy." What is it, then, if not a Cosby Show reference? Of course it's a Cosby Show reference!

The Newcleus kids (Kid Fresh and Lil'-O-Me) are still on-hand, filling pretty much the same role they did on the original hits, ad-libbing with their vocoder voices... even at one point doing a little "wikki wikki wikki." A new member takes the place of Cozmo or Chilly as the traditional, lead MC and does a pretty good job of emulating the style and the effect of his predecessors. His voice doesn't hit quite as hard or deep, but he's still holds his own on the track just fine. There's also a brief bit of singing on the chorus, which really only goes to show how "Huxtable House Party" is just all about being a light, catchy song over funky beats in the style of their greatest hits. It's not exactly 100% as good as "Jam On It;" but if you like Newcleus, you'll certainly like this as well.

The 12" has four versions: the main version, and the "Dub," "Edit" and "Bonus" mixes, all of which are pretty self-explanitory. The "Edit" is just a 4 minute version of the original six minute version, the "Dub" is a brief (2:23) instrumental, and the "Bonus" just fills out the rest of the record with bonus beats.

Before I go, I have to tell you guys about this. Newcleus has now entered into a fourth generation. The quartet of Cozmo D, Chilly B, Al T. McLaren and Lady E now make up the group, and they have a great official website over at JamOnProductions.com. Yeah, they have a myspace, too. They're working on a new album called Return To Earth. Apparently, they experienced some delays (there's an excellent blog post all about it here), but they now site March 24th as their release date. it will be CD, mp3 "and we will do vinyl as well if there is a demand." Well, I'm keen to hear it.

Today Is My Lucky Day

...My Lucky Day 12" that is. ;) I've had a flood of e-mails (if two constitute a flood, which I like to think they can) asking me about the "Ninja Tune" Buck 65 12" I mentioned in my "Wicked and Weird" post back in September. Part of that's my fault for spreading a little misinformation; it's not actually on Ninja Tune Records; so I apologize for adding any confusion.

So, no, it's not on Ninja Tune... it's actually on Tag: catalog #TAG001. Tag? Yes, as in "Tag: Body Spray for Men." It's a promotional 12" for men's body spray.

The A-side is by Airborn Audio, who appear "under license from Ninja Tune," which is what I saw on the label scan that made me think the label actually was NT. But now I own it and know better. Their song, "Inside the Globe" is taken from their album Good Fortune; and it was also released on 12" as the b-side to "Bright Lights." I can't say I ever heard Airborn Audio before (Ninja Tune as a label is usually more of a warning than a recommendation in my book), but this is actually not bad. Very backpacky lyrical. The instrumental is also included, as it was on the "Bright Lights" 12".

And the b-side, of course, is "Wicked and Weird" by Buck 65. As I covered in my previous post, the song had already been released as a 12" single, but unlike Airborn Audio's case, that 12" didn't include the instrumental version. So that makes the instrumental an exclusive to this 12".

So basically if this 12" is worthwhile or not basically boils down to whether you care about owning instrumentals on vinyl. It's also not a bad 12" to own on its own merits: one good song, one great song, and it comes in a cute, little sticker cover. But the other "Wicked and Weird" 12" features a remix and another Buck 65 song only available on the original single, so this can only be an "in addition to" rather than an "instead of." If you're lucky, though; you can pick this one up cheap like me (get it? "lucky?" eh? Eh?).

Monday, February 23, 2009

Louie, Louie (The Raps) 3


^^I don't know why YT is compressing my widescreen video into a fullscreen ratio, but whadevuh.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

InstaRapFlix 17: Grind: Hip Hop 101

I confess. I picked this one solely because it's short. Grind: Hip Hop 101 (Netflix rating: 1.5 stars) has no reviews on reviews/comments on Netflix, and the cover isn't terribly forthcoming, except that it's some kind of guide to hip-hop business; but it clocks in at under an hour, so I figured "let's find out." Plus, apparently, it's the ultimate!

Well, the first 14 of this film's 56 minutes turns out to be a trailer reel of other hip-hop oriented DVDs available from this company. I guess that's your first hip-hop business lesson right there! Always be selling.

Then, after those 14 minutes, guess what? The exact same trailer REPEATS, playing 100% identically, for the next 14 minutes! Seriously, no shit. We're literally halfway through the movie, and it hasn't started yet!

So, finally, the actual film starts, with no opening credits or anything (just as well, we're down to only 28 minutes of movie!); just a series of quick sound-bites with various promotors recorded at parties (some probably drunk, the rest definitely drunk), saying a few sentences about hip-hop business. There's a huge banner constantly across the bottom third of the screen reminding us of the title of the film (GRIND) and the name of who they're talking to. And they drop nuggets like, "If you're not with me... then... I guess you must be against me!" Just to give you a real sense of this movie, I'll give you a complete transcript of one, from a guy calling himself Phil Gates*:

"Basically, the core of DJs is an organization of DJs. You know, uhm, Tony came up with the idea, basically, you know, as we build. When I got into it, it was like July of last year or so, and me and Tony just was buildin'. We kept talking and talking and talking. We got the same type of views, you know? We got these DJs that, you know, somehow or another, it became with black people where it's all about money. No matter what you do to me or what I do to you, if... if it's in the course of tryin' to get money, it's ok. If I stab you in the back, to get to you as a camera person or something? As long as it's to get money, everybody looks at it like it's cool. You know what I'm saying? Back in the day, shitting on somebody or fucking with somebody was not cool. You know what I'm saying?"

That's his whole segment (though they do come back to him later for more). Now, it's not that what the people interviewed are saying is stupid (only sometimes! haha); just that all these people are clearly put on the spot, and for the most part don't have anything to say. So they brag about their gold watch or say "hip-hop is grown into TV commercials," and then we cut away to the next guy. Some of them just say who they are and that you're watching Grind: Hip Hop 101 and that's it; they're done. Do Or Die appear just to plug their upcoming album. And, also because everybody's just being filmed on the spot at random events, it can be hard make out what they're saying, because of loud music and talking all around them.

There are a few known artists included, like David Banner, Juelz Santana and of course Juvenile, who's named on the box. But Juvenile is featured for less than a minute, and cut-off mid-sentence! Believe me, if you're getting this DVD to see any of the artists interviewed, you're gonna be disappointed.

In fact, really, I can't imagine anyone not being disappointed with this DVD. The only business lesson to take from this DVD is: you just got ripped off! Try not to get ripped off again. So, whether you wind up picking up any of the many DVDs they advertise in their 28-minute opening will show whether you learned your lesson or not.


*After some post-viewing net surfing around, I see there're a couple guys on the internet calling themselves Phil Gates, including one at PhilGates.com and one at PhilGates.net. This guy in the movie doesn't appear to be any of those guys, however.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Chubbsta in '09, Worrrrd Up!

Normally, when I get promo mp3s in my email box, I delete 'em with the rest of the spam. But when it's Chubb Rock, I gotta answer the call...


"Back In" is the first mp3 from an upcoming collaborative album by Chubb Rock and Wordsmith (a British MC, not to be confused with Wordsworth). It's a cool, subtle beat produced by regular Wordsmith collaborator Strada, and features a hook and background by a female vocalist named Kimia Collins. Apparently it's leading up to a mixtape first, called A Crack In the Bridge; and it will ultimately culminate in a proper album titled, Bridging the Gap (referring to the gap between the old and new school), due out second quarter of 2009. I'm sold already; now hurry up and put the album out. ;)

Oh, and here's the link to the mp3.
(I'd be sure and download it, too. Chubb Rock has a pretty poor batting average when it comes to following through with promised albums these days.)


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Loosey's Secret Duet

"Loosey's Rap" is an okay 80's pop song by Rick James featuring guest verses by Roxanne Shanté. It's got some funky bass guitar and it's kinda fun, but nothing to get excited about. You'll dig it if someone plays it on the radio or a mixtape, but it's not surprising that there's tons of copies of this for sale all over pretty cheap, and you couldn't be blamed for passing it up. ...Except it turns out you'd be missing out on a really cool, completely over-looked B-side.

Before we get to that, though, let's quickly run down what else is on this 12". There's the main version, titled "Rix Mix," plus the instrumental. And then there's a Marley Marl remix, which is just a slight improvement over the original version, with a surprisingly classical R&B-style breakdown, a strange loop of a vocal sample of (I think) Eddie Murphy, and a cool little piano solo at the end. And there's a house mix (called "Loosey's House of Trix Mix"), which I think even house music fans would pass over pretty quickly.

Right. So now that that's out of the way, it's time to point out that there's one more mix on the B-side, called the "New Rap Version." So, why should you care about this version so much more than the others? Well, how about if we started by taking Rick James off the record? Then we replace him with Big Daddy Kane. We also throw out the whole premise of the song (singing about some sexy girl name Loosey - she's "loose," get it? Nyuck, nyuck), and just have Kane and Shanté trading braggadocio, freestyle verses back and forth over Marley's stripped-down beat (with recurring reprisals of that crazy Eddie Murphy sample). Suddenly, you've got a classic, 1988 Juice Crew track that could've come right off In Control vol. 1!

Now, you have to pay close attention to what edition of this single you're getting. There are several different 12"'s of this single, and not all of them feature the "New Rap Version" - so be careful! I should also point out that the cover and label credit Big Daddy Kane as being on the house mix, too; but that's pretty misleading. There are just short vocal samples of him and Shanté used in the instrumental. ...Like I said, pass on the house mix.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Raw Factor EP

Ok, let me start with a quick run-down of who Omniscence[sic - that's how he spells it] is for those who don't know. He's a dope, punch-line oriented MC who debuted on a compilation 1990 called Back To the Lab. He put out a nice underground EP called The Funky Oneliner, which got him signed to East/West Records. They put out two singles (and featured him on the IllStyle Live! comp), one of which got rhyme of the month in The Source; but they wound up dumping most of their hip-hop acts (including artists like SuperNatural, LinQue and 8-Off) before releasing his album, The Raw Factor. Omniscence quit the game, and The Raw Factor has been one of the most sought-after unreleased albums since.

Now, there's been a good deal of confusion and misinformation online about this album, because a mix-tape was leaked onto the net several years ago, which has been titled The Raw Factor. It does feature some tracks from the album, as well as some freestyles, skits and other random joints (including his song from Back To the Lab); but it's not the actual unreleased album. In fact, most of what's on this EP is not on that mix.

Which EP? The one pictured that this article is about. This is a promo tape sent out to a magazine back in '95 when the album was still due to be released. It's six tracks off the album, five of which have never been properly released.

1. "Touch Y'all" - This is the only song that was released. It was the second 12" single released (the 12" also included a remix with Sadat X). This is still a nice treat, though, because the 12" only included the Clean Version. This one is proper, unedited mix (the mixtape includes the beginning of the unedited version as well, but it's just the first verse).

2. "Was It Just You" - This wasn't on the mixtape or anywhere else. It features a smooth, cool out groove with some nice reggae verses at the beginning and end (unfortunately, this tape doesn't include credits, so I don't know who's doing the hook or any of the beats). It's a battle of the sexes song with a fun, dirty double hook - one sung by the men and the other by the women - but full of Omniscence's freestyle-type rhymes and punchlines:

"I must confess I'm a nympho,
Run up in any bimbo;
I might even hit my kinfolk!
Even though
Sex is an indoor sport
That I support,
I hit the slut on the bleacher at the ball court.
Give me a quart of the King Cobra,
And I'll be down to get my talk on like Oprah.
Yo, love, where ya nigga at?
(Oh, he in the penile.)
Fuck her 'till she's senile;
Make her kitty-cat meow. (Meeooww!)
Need I say more?
I'm like Rudy Ray Moore;
Freakin' mad stunts from Soundview to Bayshore."


3. "My Main Man" - The first verse of this is featured on the mixtape; but on the tape it's a full song with three verses. It's another smooth track, and has Omniscence reminiscing on his past with his best friend. He's not really doing the punchline thing here (well, he still does a little, with lines like "I remember when I had no status; but you still backed me up like the Pips did Gladys"), but his MCing is still unquestionably nice. It also features some nice scratching on the outro.

4. "Keep Giving Me Love" - This is a fun track, taking a classic 80's cheesy instrumental and chopping it up into a fresh hip-hop beat, with some nice Showbiz-style horns and hard drums. Omni is in pure freestyle mode here, and the hook is pretty simple, basically just filling the short space between showcase verses. I'm surprised this doesn't show up on the mixtape even in part, since it's once of the tightest songs.

5. "Maintain" - This one is just a confusing mess on the mix-tape! Okay, first up the track called "Maintain" on the mix-tape is a different version. The beat and lyrics are both different (though the beat similar enough that I'd call this a remix or at least "Maintain part 2"). But then there's a track later on called "Maintain (Interlude)," which plays the opening verse of this, original tape version. But then you've got another track on the mix called "Greatest MC in the World" which is basically this tape version of "Maintain" again. Yes, it plays all the same music as the "Maintain (Interlude)," which is on the same mix, only "Greatest MC In the World" is longer rendering the "Interlude"'s inclusion completely pointless.

So how is the actual song? It's dope! It's got some nice vibes that for some reason could only get flipped in the early 90's. With a freaky horn loop, shouted chorus ("you gotta maintain, motherfucker, maintain!") and playful rhymes, it reminds me of The B.U.M.s.

6. "When I Make Parole" - This one is a surprise. First of all, for the record, it's not on that mixtape. Secondly, despite having another smooth instrumental, Omni kicks a surprisingly harder flow here, but it actually works. His voice is rougher, he sounds angrier, and his lyrics are definitely more street:

"I'm so incredibly criminal minded;
Puffin' that angel dust got me blinded.
Rush up on the spot with my glock on cock,
Crack rock bustin' out the side of my sock.
Stumblin' up the block,
Yo, I see this devil bitch;
Yeah, just enough to make my trigger finger itch.
'Excuse me, miss,
Do you got the time?'
Smack her in the grill with the steel-piece nine!
Gimme the jewels and the butter-soft leather.
Should I let her live, or should I fuckin' wet 'er?
Click click boom!
Gun shots to her chest;
Situation critical, I'm dippin' to the rest.
Mom duke's flippin' 'bout the rumors:
I'm goin' 'round town, rollin' with my crew, givin' out brain tumors!"

Damn, wouldn't this EP make a sweet, limited vinyl? ;)

Today, Omniscence does have a myspace. He says there, "New music on the way.Thank you to all who have visited my page.Many people have inquired about the progress of 'Once And For All' and the much sought after ''Raw Factor.' Fret not... I'm in the process of closing a deal that would allow me to release both(on separate dates) next year.Stay Tuned." ...But, unfortunately, that post is from back from the summer of '07, and he hasn't updated since. He did do a new mixtape track in 2008, though, which is on his myspace player.

I Found Love for Valentine's Day

No, I'm not talking about my personal love life (I'm not allowed to discuss that publicly until the trial is concluded and all my appeals have been exhausted); I'm talking about B-Fats. After all, this is Valentine's Day; so what better way to celebrate than by digging out an obscure 80's love rap?

B-Fats will always have a place in hip-hop history for creating the record (and the dance that goes with it), "Woppit," back in '86. But he did manage to parlay that success into a label deal to record a full-length album in 1989 called Music Maestro. And for some reason, he or the label decided to release the token love song on that album as a single. And here it is.

First of all, didn't Orpheus Records have one of the freshest label sleeves of any label? I had to leave the whole thing in the scan so you guys who don't any Orpheus 12"s could appreciate it. :)

Like all of his material, "I Found Love" was produced by Donald D (yes, The Syndicate Sniper correction (see comments): as in Donald Dee Bowden, who did records like "At the Party" and produced for Mike Gee and Cheryl the Pearl). So as a B-Fats/Donald D collaboration, it's got some nice bounce to it, especially for a love song. And that bassline is by far the best thing about this track, but the rest of it is ok. It's got a lot of instrumentation: horns, keys, synth-strings that follow the bassline - it's pretty well done. It features sappy but talented singing by Aleese Simmons and Brent Carter, mostly on the chorus (natch); but they're allowed to really go off with their own lyrics and stylings at the end.

The vocals are in that slightly-whispered, simple flow style you'd expect from an 80's love rap tune; and the lyrics are far from innovative and kinda silly:

"All that beauty,
Along with the brains;
She's a straight-up angel;
She's not about the head games.
She's so sophisticated,
Educated, soon to be orientated
Into my world,
With lots of
B... Fats... charm.
'Cause I got what it takes
To set off her alarm.
I'm all shook up,
Caught in the feeling.
She's my girl,
She's my friend,
She's my everything - word!"

...But if you're checking for this kind of record, surely that's what you're in the market for.

Don't get too excited about the 12" exclusive "Lover's Rap Mix" on the b-side, though. It's just the instrumental of the A-side (they should've called it the "Lover's Rapless Mix" or something).

Unfortunately, B-Fats never put out anything after this, but he's still around. He has a myspace here, with some new songs, as well as "Woppit," which he for some reason has titled "The Whoop" on his player. The new material features some other MCs (his new crew, I guess)... it's not bad, but for some reason the vocals are mixed way too low. Still worth checking out, though.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

1/2 Steppin' 2001

I just found a Big Daddy Kane appearance I never knew about (yay, internets!). Public Announcement is a not bad but kinda bland R&B group that's been putting out albums since the early 90's. But they're mainly known for singing with R. Kelly. In 2000, they put out a single called "Mamacita" on RCA Records, which they followed up with this one: "John Doe : The New Remix," in 2001 - both from their album Don't Hold Back.

Now, you've got a couple versions of this track on the 12": The Remix Clean, The Remix Instrumental, The A Cappella and The Extended Remix Dirty. They're produced by Mike Dunn and feature a female vocalist named Mz Lelee. I did a few needle drops and it's pretty boring. And that's already more than you need to know about that.

But what's interesting about this single, is, as the sticker reads, "The Never Before Available 'Mamacita' Remix Featuring Big Daddy Kane." Specifically, it's titled the "1/2 Steppin' Remix." Now, the bulk of the song is pretty flat and lifeless, with lyrics of the "hey there, shorty; I've been feelin' you" variety; but we don't care about that part...

The production for this one is credited to Eddie James (and co-produced by Ike Lee). But it should really read Marley Marl, because they're just singing over the "Ain't No Half Steppin'" instrumental.

So this is what you do: first, fish the 12" or CD single out of an on- or offline dollar bin (Protip: all Public Announcement singles can be found in dollar bins). Then skip to the last song and start it about three quarters of the way in, and you've got yourself a nice little Kane song with him kicking a cool, contemporary verse over "Ain't No Half Steppin'." Sure, it's a little short, but still not a bad deal, right? ;)

Monday, February 9, 2009

Poison Clan Appreciation Week, Day 11: The Bitchizer

We finish out Poison Clan Appreciation Week with a quintessential, classic Poison Clan 12". You just can't do a series on JT Money, The Bitchizer, and not feature a record spittin' game about the hoes! This is the man who recorded "I Hate Hoes," "Hoe Stories," "Hoe Stories part 2," and "Somethin' 4 You Raggedy Hoes." That would be like only talking about the non-political Public Enemy songs, or only spotlighting Freddie Foxxx's love songs.

This is a six-track 12" (with, as you see, a sweet, graf-style picture cover): all versions of "Don't Sleep On a Hizzo" a.k.a. "Put Sh-t Pass No Ho" from the second album, 1992's Poisonous Mentality. It's another JT solo cut, although Uzi and a guy named Big Ram are on-hand to provide back-up vocals; and once again it's produced by Mike "Fresh" McCray. It's a great track, using the same basic groundwork as NWA's "Gangsta, Gangsta" but adding new sample layers and "Buffalo Gals" scratches, as well as deepening the bass and speeding the whole mix up a few bpm's. And JT has a nice, angry flow ("I got guns and I'm aiming at the slimy ones"). But as he says, "this is not a record about dissin' women" (although, by the time he gets to the third verse, he's done a good deal of that) it's about the men who don't know how to handle their game:

"And to my niggas in the dope game,
Who's getting stuffed with cocaine
And put it in their ho' name,
Better hope you ain't give it to the wrong bitch;
Make 'em angry, you'll have to put out ya own shit.
And ain't a damn thang you can do about it,
'Cause if it's in the bitch's name, she can put ya out it.
So to save all the drama,
Go ahead and give the shit to your sister and mama.
Let them be your main ladies;
Give your mother the house and your sister the Mercedes;
'Cause if you end up in the pen,
You know the good-for-nothin' bitch is gone with the wind,
With a fat grip and a couple of cars;
And you're looking like shit behind bars.
I knew back when I was up in the system,
Used to see niggas cryin' 'cause their hoes dissed 'em.
I remember one hoe told me
She was gettin' lonely,
So I had to let her go, G.
'Cause that's just an excuse to fuck a nigga...
Bitch, I ain't no sucka nigga!
I'll holler at ya ass, 'cause you know I know how it goes;
Yo, I put shit past no ho!"

So, ok. you've got the album version and the "Hizzo" version, which is just a clean version (though all the vocals have been redone with clean lyrics, so it's kinda worth checking out just for that). Then you've got two exclusive remixes from the usual gang, and clean "Hizzo" versions of those as well.

First up is Frank Ski's remix. It's not bad, using an interesting (Bobby McFerrin?) vocal skatting sample, a sped up version of the "White Lines" bassline and a few other cool instrumental samples. Still, the song hits the hardest when it uses the same horns and scratches as the album version on the hook. It does a good job of putting the emphasis on JT's rhymes, but otherwise this is just an interesting play on the superior original.

Femix Sama's remix, on the other hand, is much better. It keeps the same scratches, too; but everything else is new... an interesting mix of classic old school samples and a funky bassline you've heard before but never together. As an added bonus, Sama's version of the dirty version is also an extended mix adding another minute's worth of a funky breakdown that's not used on the "Hizzo" version. There's also some "Gangster boogie" samples dropped in at the end, which sound like they're done Double Dee & Steinksi-style, rather than being properly cut up on a turntable, but it still sounds kinda fresh.

So, thus concludes Poison Clan Appreciation Week... I couldn't leave ya, though, without throwing up the prerequisite link to his myspace, though (watch out, it's a browser crasher!). He has some songs up on his player from his upcoming album, Pimpin X-treme. He's still working with Mike Fresh (who has a myspace here). There's also a couple of other myspaces, which all seem to have been made by JT or his people; mostly with similar content but fewer updates. Feel free to check 'em out, though; here, here and here.

Poison Clan Appreciation Week, Day 10: Warlock Records

Ok, now I'm starting to get a little tired of The Poison Clan, so I'm gonna start looking to wrap this up. But I can't quit without addressing their Warlock years. After Luke went bankrupt, The Poison Clan were left without a home, but they still managed to come out with an album the very next year thanks to Warlock Records. It was called Strait Zooism, and spawned two singles: "Shine Me Up" and this precursor, "Fire Up This Funk."

The first thing you'll notice about this record is that it's fuckin' orange - yeah, baby! Apparently, not all pressings are on the neat colored vinyl, though; so make sure you're getting the one you want. And if you prefer picture covers, here's the cassingle (left).

This sometimes gets dismissed as second shelf Poison Clan, but really it's pretty solid and consistent with their previous efforts. Just from this single alone we can see that producer Mike "Fresh" McCray came with them on their exodus from Luke Records, and Madball and Uzi (now known as The Rufftown Mob) stayed down, too.

First up is the Radio Version. It's a hype, high-energy track with a nice funk guitar riff and horns and some nice DJing on the hook. Madball and Uzi don't really rap on this one, though; they just do backup ad-libs and provide the hook. Make no mistake, this is a genuine banger.

I don't know why the previous owner (Shabazz, apparently) decided to cross the "Instrumental" out of the track-listing, because it is on there. It's also followed by the accapella, which is something you rarely get from the Clan.

Now, interestingly, on the b-side we have the Album Version, which is more than just a few flipped curse words different from the Radio Version. Instrumentally it's the same, but the lyrics are completely different (oh, and for the record, that accapella was of the Radio Version).

sample of the Radio Version opening:
"Once again it's on!
Rufftown Mob in the house;
Representin' true funk
Comin' straight from the South.
East Miami:
Bottom of the map;
Dead in the city
When ya don't bring ya strap (Believe dat!)"

sample of the Album Version opening:
"I'm down with the youth
Of the motherfuckin' C I,
And you
Can motherfuckin' see I
Don't fuck around,
But I do sleep around;
And if you're mad about your bitch,
Well... (Then you can keep her, clown!)"

Finally, there's one other b-side: "Ahead of My Time," a slower JT outing, also produced by McCray. It's got some nice atmosphere, with a nice soulful instrumental and JT talking about his former label, its pres ("On the videos lookin' all pretty. Frontin' like you're loved, but can't walk through your own city. It's a pity the way you went out like a sucker; your records only hit 'cause I was on the motherfucker. Me and Mike Fresh gave you nothin' but hits, but I'ma tell you we're beyond that bullshit") and the Clan's new direction. It might not be the obvious choice for a single that the A-side was, but don't overlook it; this track is a nice little jewel.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Poison Clan Appreciation Week, Day 9: The Poison Clan Record They Call 'Action'

"Action" is a nice little remix 12" from Poison Clan's second album, Poisonous Mentality, that came out in 1992. Interestingly, it doesn't even feature the album versions, just three exclusive 12" remixes in clean and dirty versions.

First up is Mike Fresh's "Nasty Mix." The album version was already one of the better Poison Clan joints, with some slick reggae-style lines by Uzi ("any pussy won test go head and murder dem"), and JT spinning some straight gangsta tales:

"I remember, me and this cat did a caper;
Two young niggas 'bout gettin' paper.
"We tossed a nigga we heard had big grip,
Walkin' around with five or six money clip.
We laid him down and got away;
Went back 'round the way to count our pay.
We had five grand exactly.
The nigga had my gun and then he point it at me.
I gave the nigga the loot and he stepped away;
But then I bumped into his ass the next day,
Put that thing up to his head and said 'give it, nigger.
Yesterday you were bad with your hands on the trigger.'
He said the dope made him act in that fashion;
I say fuck that shit... (I want action!)"

The only downside was that the track was built around a familiar sample (and cutting up the same vocal sample Special Ed's DJ used on his first album as his anthem), making it the perfect candidate for a dope new instrumental by Mike McCray. Echoes of the original remain, but it's constantly being scratched and switched out with new (albeit also familiar) beats. But they go one further than just re-tooling the music, it's basically an all-new song with new vocals and everything. Uzi's reggae verse is replaced with more genuine Jamaican flavor by actual reggae artist Likkle Wicked. JT kicks two new verses, more in the freestyle battle rhyme mode, and even though his reggae chat was removed, Uzi's still on the track, kicking a straight-up American-style rap verse. It might've made more sense to call this "Action part 2" rather than just a remix - it's pretty must-have for any PC fan.

DJ Laz provides the second remix, the "Reggae Mix." It also uses the new lyrics and Likkle Wicked's parts. Now, pretty much everything I've ever heard from DJ Laz has, uhmm, sucked? But this one gets a pass for basically turning the whole thing into a classical reggae instrumental. Certainly the Mike Fresh version is the banger, but this is an okay alternative that achieves a distinct vibe and works alright if played right after the first mix.

Finally, Felix Sama provides an extended mix of another Poisonous Mentality track, "Groove With the Poison Clan." This isn't just an extended version; it's a full out remix with a totally different instrumental. But in this case, that might be where they went wrong. It was a fun, lighter song with a brief appearance by Uzi again. So an extended remix of the album version would've been a neat bonus; but this replaces the enjoyable instrumental of the original with generic-sounding club music. It does accurately reproduce the feel of being in a crummy club, I'll give it that; and it's not terribly executed. But unless you're starved for any new Poison Clan material, I'd recommend just sticking with the album version.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Poison Clan Appreciation Week, Day 8: Home Team

Ok, so the original line-up of The Poison Clan was DeBonaire and JT Money. Deb's little brother Drugz was loosely down, too (he speaks briefly on the first album and has a skit on the second album called, "Drugs Bullshittin'." After the first album, DeBonaire quit The Clan to form Home Team.

In 1992, they put out one album (Live Via Sateliite From Saturn) and the hit single "Pick It Up" on Luke Records. JT talks about the split in this Murder Dog interview, "I never knew to this day really why. He just wanted to do what he wanted to do. Maybe he felt like he wasn't doin the typa music that he wanted to do. Cause remember when he went and did Home Team with his brother, they did 'Pick It Up Pick It Up,' when I was doin 'Shake Whatcha Mama Gave Ya.' But we were always tight, we still tight."

In 1993, they followed that up with this second (and unfortunately final) single, "Back To the Bronx," produced by DeBonaire himself. It's the Home Team formula at its best: a classic old school beat and familiar samples retooled to boom even deeper while the MCs kick ill freestyle verses. They're not really saying much, though there's a few clever rhymes; but it's mostly all about their use of dozens of short, clipped staccatto rhymes, their voices kicking almost like another set of drums. The actual drum track is a short loop that's continually re-scratched in (ok, the scratching is probably looped, too... but it still sounds great); and the hook is nothing but them letting the beat roll in silence until one of the MCs grabs the mic again for another crazy verse.

Then once again, regular Poison Clan contributor Frank Ski is back on hand to issue another exclusive 12" remix, the "Blunted Remix." He's added a bunch of new vocal samples (mostly on the hook, but really throughout) and an extra-old school hand-clap track to the original, unchanged instrumental. It downplays the bassline, which dominated the original, and plays up the snappy percussion. It's hard to pick a favorite - both versions are dope for different reasons.

The b-side is "Reminiscing," the final song on the album that stood out as the only one where they completely changed their styles. Instead of just fun freestyle rhymes, they stick to straight, simple topic-driven rhymes, reminiscing (natch) on their high school days in Brooklyn:

"Combination locks,
They got broken with a hammer.
The classroom was boring
Like they threw you in a slammer.
Girls that wanted to wear them bamboos,
They got them yanked out;
Brothers that was illin' gotta fight
For gettng ranked out.
Teachers couldn't stop us
When we roamed the whole buildin';
We had a crazy fat mob
When we was in Tilden.
We used to go up to the mall
They call The Kings Plaza.
Kings Plaza was kinda cool;
I think it has a
Macy's, maybe JC Penny, and some others.
We used to boost the gear
From out the store with other brothers.
If you was a sucka
And you wasn't actin' proper,
You would get a hundred stitches
From somebody's chopper;
Or maybe I should say a shank,
A razor, or an axe.
We used to wear the funky outerwear
and sport the backpacks.
People got robbed
For stuff like Polo gooses;
People carried handlers,
Knives and deuce-deuces.
We used to cut school
And go up to the ball court;
Slap-boxin' everyday
Like every day we fought.
I really can't forget
How we made the rap tapes,
Then brung them up to school
And let the suckas catch the vapes."

It's also produced by DeBonaire, and uses the same piano loop The Geto Boys used on "Six Feet Deep" the same year. The 12" also includes the instrumental version of "Reminiscing."

Home Team were all set to drop a second album, Malignant Graffiti, but Luke never put it out. I've blogged about that here; there's even an image of the cover. The Poison Clan have also talked every so often about reuniting - first on Luke Records (one reunion song, "Movin' Along," was featured on Luke's third solo album, which I've already blogged about here). But then Luke's label went bankrupt and all that got shelved... They talked about it again years later. In the interview I quoted earlier, JT had this to say on the subject, "We're gonna do an album. I went and talked to him a coupla months ago. Like right when I get this out we're gonna put this thang down. He's just waitin. He's still doin his music, but he ain't did no deals or nothing. He might be waitin on his boy, might be waitin till I come back to the hood." Most recently, in March of '08, they had a Poison Clan reunion concert that featured JT, Deb, Drugz and Uzi.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Poison Clan Appreciation Week, Day 7: Bustdown

I'm not sure how much Bustdown was ever really considered an actual member of Poison Clan, but apart from being labelmates and collaborating on Luke's Kid 'N Play diss with JT Money (see this previous post for more on that), he also appeared on "Somethin' 4 You Raggedy Ho's" from Poisonous Mentality. He also worked with Poison producers Mike McCray and DJ Toomp on his album. So he's at least a relevant affiliate.

Bustdown had a series of singles - "Pop That Thang," "Pissin' Razor Blades" and today's 12": "Putcha Ballys On," - and even managed to get an album (Nasty Bitch, Chapter 1) out before Luke closed his doors. Juvenile talked about him in this 2006 interview (I recommend reading the whole thing; though none of the rest pertains to Bust), "Bust Down, the dude that invented pussy poppin’, he came out with a record that was real big called 'Putch' Ballys On,' and he had 'Nasty Bitch,' and that record got him a deal with Luke Skywalker, and Luke Skywalker kinda shelved him and took the whole pussy poppin thing away from him."

So this 12", along with all his other singles and album, came out in 1991 on Effect Records. There's nothing on this 12" but the one mix of the one track, but it's all he needs. Produced by Ice Mike, the first thing you'll notice is the blaring horns. It's got a nice funky guitar lick and a funky breakbeat, and Bustdown just kicks some fresh freestyle rhymes - it's just all about how cool his rhymes sound on the track and really isn't what you'd associate with a 90's Florida track at all ...I guess because he was originally from New Orleans and held that style down. Bustdown's really an MC who should've gotten a lot larger than he did.

But unfortunately, his '91 output and 1992 guest spots were the end of his run on Effect Records and effectively his entire career. He did put out a comeback 12" in 1997, though. It's a pretty interesting story (his label turned out to be a front for a drug runners), which I've already blogged about here. So check it out if you're interested. ...Oh and by the way, just because this was day 7, don't think this is the end of Poison Clan Appreciation Week. I've got more good stuff to come. :)

Poison Clan Appreciation Week, Day 6: Madball & Uzi

Probably the biggest non-JT Money staples of The Poison Clan are these guys: Madball & Uzi (unless you count producers like Mike McCray or DJ Toomp, who even credits himself as "of the Poison Clan" on the 2 Nazty album cover). Take a look at Poisonous Mentality for a minute... "Uzi Gets Shot," "The Tip On Madball," "Shorty-T in Madball's Basement"... yeah, that's these guys. And they stuck with the Poison Clan even in their post-Luke Records days.

But it wasn't until the post-Luke days that these guys struck out for themselves. Calling themselves The Rufftown Mob, Madball & Uzi released an album (Rock Bottom of the Pile) and this single, "Surviving the Game." Both came out in 1997 on Lil Joe Records, not coincidentally the label that bought up the entire Luke Records catalog when they went bankrupt and also signed the post-Luke 2 Live Crew.

To be honest, I'm not sure why the fellas picked the best track for a single. It's pretty good, but the beat doesn't stand out like some others on the album. I guess they felt the subject matter was emblematic of where they were, though, and were using it as a sort of anthem.

Now, I've gone with the CD single for the image, just because it fits better in my scanner. But I have both the CDS and the 12" and they have exactly the same track-listing and the same picture cover. The cover is handy because the album has no production credits - it just tells us that Madball and Uzi wrote all the songs and some guy named Gary King played guitar on two of them.

But the single tells us that DJ Toomp produced everything on this single. First we've got the Album Version/Explicit" mix (there's also a radio edit and instrumental available for this version). The beat is an alright, slow but hardcore with a hint of the g-funk slidewhistle that dominated the mid 90's and no recognizable samples. It features guest vocals by the unfortunately named LilHo (did he lose a bet?). Everybody's lyrics are pretty solid, though; and the hook sounds like it's provided by JT Money, though he's not credited. It's a solid, "real" rap single that won't disappoint fans; but wouldn't've attracted any new fans.

But this single picks up for the last track, "Surviving the Game - Part 2 (Radio Remix)." It features a lot of the same elements, but with harder drums, a subtle piano riff, and a few nice samples (though, again, nothing recognizable - these are purely studio-made, non-diggin' tracks). LilHo has been replaced by Big Ram and B.O.X. who provide an angrily hollered hook (though I'm pretty sure the verses are just by Uzi, Madball, and Uzi again respectively). Again, the lyrics on the subject matter are of a quality that help this stand out ("I got it in my heart, just can't find it in my pockets"); I mean anyone who rhymes Donkey Kong with Farakhan while delivering a serious message is alright in my book. ;)

Afterwards, the duo did return, this time dropping the "Rufftown Mob" moniker and just coming out as Madball and Uzi. They put out two 12" singles and finally an album titled 21 Thug Salute, which was also produced by DJ Toomp, as well as Mike McCray.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Poison Clan Appreciation Week, Day 5: Clayvoisie

One of the most common questions I hear about The Poison Clan is, after DeBonaire left, who the heck are all those other guys in Poison Clan? So for the next couple of days, we're going to look at all the members of Poison Clan who aren't JT Money.

First on my list is Clayvoisie. He was featured on several songs on Rufftown Behavior, but is probably best known for doing "Cowards In Compton" (again, see the vid I just did on that joint). He was also featured on "Freestyle Joint," a fresh posse cut I wrote about in yesterday's post.

But in addition to those appearances, he was signed to Luke's Effect Records as a solo artist. The label shut down before they could release his debut album, but fortunately they did at least put out this nice cut. "I.O.U. Nuhthin'" comes in four mixes on this 12", so let's start with the "Original Recipe Mix."

Let's get this out of the way - the song is hype. Pick it up and you won't be disappointed. Clayvoisie is joined by a hypeman calling himself Mr. Perfect and later a chorus of taunting girls who shout, "hey! Hey! Hey! I owe you nothing" to anyone who had their hands out to Clayvoisie. It's a fast paced-beat with a little funk guitar and some great horn stabs. It's upbeat, but definitely a hardcore track, with Clay angrily dissing anyone who's "trying to gain all on my fucking wealth."

The "In Your Face Mix" is similar to the original but has a new, mch more distinct bassline. Mr. Perfect also has some new adlibs (among other things telling us that this is the remix version). Then, on the B-side you've got the "In Your Nasty Face Mix," which is the same as the "In Your Face Mix" but with the vocals redone with added cursewords. Mr. Perfect especially curses up a storm; and there's also an added vocal sample of Ice Cube going, "mother fucker" on the hook. Finally, there's the "In Your Face Instrumental," which is pretty much what you'd expect. It should probably actually have been titled the "In Your Nasty Face Instrumental," though, because this instrumental includes Cube's angry "mother fuckers" on the hooks.

So even though Effect Records wound up shutting down right after this 12" release, this is not quite the only record Clay put out. He came back later with a very interesting indepedent release on a label called Black Power Records - a 12" I already blogged about here.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Poison Clan Appreciation Week, Day 4: The Good Luke Songs

There's a reason most Luke albums are the stuff of dollar bins and rarely even find their way online. They're bloated and about 50% skit. And Luke doesn't even pretend to be a rapper and adopt a rudimentary flow - ever - he just talks on half his songs and does hooks only on the rest. I mean, he's had some short-term successful singles with his shout and call songs, with good reason: he had some great in-house producers (even his biggest detractors can't really front on the instrumental to "Breakdown"). But I could still sleep peacefully at night if all of those songs were wiped from existence tomorrow.

But, there's one reason to own them all: The Poison Clan!

All of his albums before Luke Records self destructed (post label destruction his albums changed and aren't really relevant to the discussion) were worth picking up because, naturally, Luke used his albums to promote his artists (and help deflect the fact that he was putting out rap album after rap album without being able to rap). Each of his albums have some great songs; all featuring The Poison Clan. The rest of the albums you could throw away. So, let's look at all of those now:

From I Got Shit On My Mind:
1) "Fakin' Like Gangstas" - This is essentially a JT solo joint, although Luke adlibs ("I still don't know the fuck nigga that I was shootin' at!") on the hook. It's a solid cut, with JT using a simple flow over a nice beat, speaking out against everyone he thinks is faking being a gangsta. It's the song that made Snoop and Dre turn around and diss Luke on "Dre Day," and would be a solid entry any Poison Clan album.

2) "Pussy Ass Kid and Hoe Ass Play (Payback Is a Mutha Fucker)" - This is great. A raw, hardcore beat with JT and the underrated Bustdown just trading verses dissing the hell out of Kid & Play. The beat switches around and there's some nice scratching on the hook; but Bustdown really steals the show. JT is as dope as ever, too. Luke riffs a bit at the end, but he doesn't really add anything.

3) "Head, Head and More Head" - At first this sounds like just another of Luke's shout and call songs, with him shouting out various dirty phrases to an audience that enthusiastically shouts back over a hype track with an ill guitar lick. But then JT Money and Jiggie Gee get on the track, spitting sexual diss verses at each other. It's a fun battle-of-the-sexes joint, though Luke's parts feel a little protracted.

From In the Nude:
1) "Bad Land Boogie" - I forgot about this when it was new, so it was a really nice surprise when I went back to my old Luke tapes in the 2000's (even more surprising, Luke included this on his greatest hits CD years later). This is a Home Team joint (just in case anybody's joining us late, both Home Team members were down with Poison Clan; Deb Rock was a founding member), and in classic HT tradition takes a well-loved old school beat and adds some deep bass and samples, and the duo take turns kicking ill, bugged verses. This is really the only proper Home Team song besides what's on their album, so fans should definitely snag this - you won't be disappointed!

2) "Cowards In Compton" - I just did a video blog about this yesterday, so refer to that. Suffice to say: it's dope, and the only noteworthy Luke track that he released as a single.

3) "Head, Head and More Head part 2" - This is pretty self-explanatory; Luke clearly wanted to recapture the success of the first one by barely varying from the first one at all. JT and Jiggie are back over the same beat and Luke is doing the same thing over the hook. The only change is that JT and Jiggie have some new verses... but, really, what more do you want? These are definitely the least of the songs I'm highlighting, but they're still fun.

4) "Freestyle Joint" - Now this is what it's all about. JT, Deboinaire, Clayvoisie and Fresh Kid Ice of the 2 Live Crew make a posse cut over a really nice track. Everything about this song is just right, the beat is fresh, the samples are cool and everybody sounds good with their verse... like when Deb gets on the track, his voice sounds perfect. Even Fresh Kid Ice's hardcore boasts ("fuck with Chinaman and ya die!") work when they shouldn't. I don't think you can even be a hip-hop fan and not enjoy a song like this. The two concepts just can't occupy a human brain at the same time.

From Freak for Life 6996:
1) "That's How I Feel" - This is a cool, Mike McCray produced solo joint for JT, with a fresh MC Lyte sample cut up for the hook. Luke adlibs a bit on the breakdown but again, his input is irrelevant; it's just about JT, the beat and the DJ. Good shit.

2) "Represent" - This is sort of like "Freestyle Joint" part 2. The beat is different but still tight... it's rawer (there's even a Big Daddy Kane sample saying "get raw" on the hook) with whining horns, and the MCs on this posse cut get a little more lyrical. There's even a human beatbox on the track! This one features JT, Verb (of The New 2 Live Crew who tried to bring an east coast lyrical vibe to the group), Fresh Kid Ice and Drugz.

3) "Movin' Along" - We end with a nice track but an unkept promise - a Poison Clan reunion track! It's just credited as being PC, but it's JT and Deb as a pair again. It's a slow, smooth cool-out rhythm and features Luke's in-house reggae artist Likkle Wikked (who sounds dope) on the hook, along with a soulful, vintage vocal sample. It's all about hearing each of them ride the groove, with a collection of old school funky guitar samples, including one which is clearly a deliberate call back to the Poison Clan's first album. It's painful to imagine all the nice material we'd've had if Luke Records didn't have financial problems... damn.

So, anyway, that's it. After that, Luke lost all his good acts and his subsequent guest stars were all lame or outside his camp (a la his stuff with Doug E Fresh and Biggie). It's probably hard to justify picking up crap albums for an average of three good songs; but considering how cheap you can get them now, it's like buying three sweet singles of just the tight songs (and, like I said, at least the rest has some good production). So to me it's worth it: classic Poison Clan material.