Tuesday, October 27, 2009

What Jazzy D Did

This is a fun one. "That's What I Did (For You Baby)," by Jazzy D on Unknown's Techno Hop label from 1986. This was surely intended to be a reference/answer to Janet Jackson's "What Have You Done for Me Lately?" that was a huge hit in '86. But besides the title and the loose theme, there's not a lot, lyrically or instrumentally, that really ties it to Janet's record, and it stands better now on its own.

At a few points, the beat actually uses the melody from the Green Acres theme song; but wisely, for the most part, it just sticks to some fast, old school west coast style beats, hand-claps and funky bass notes. There's also a funky (live?) guitar breakdown and some keyboard horns. Jazzy kicks light-hearted narrative raps about all the things he does for his girl but still goes unappreciated, like a prototype Fresh Prince. And lyrically he has a fast, high pitched delivery with a voice that sounds similar to Rodney O.

Now, if you notice on the label, it says this record features The Organization, which seemed to be a loose collective of various West coast artists and producers associated with Techno Hop. On this record, it mainly boils down to an appearance by Cli-N-Tel, who comes on to spit a verse of helpful game as a master in "wack womenology." ...In that way, you could say this is as much a follow-up to his own, debut single (1985's "Wack Girl") as it is to Janet's. Towards the end, Vice Lord also comes in and kicks a short human beat-box routine, including some cool, mock scratching.

This 12" isn't gonna appear on anybody's top 10, but it's a heckuva fun record, and it's a nice piece of west coast history. It even includes an acapella (pretty rare back in those days), as well as an instrumental version.

Jazzy made another record or two before seemingly disappearing from the game. He's actually still around, though, now on the management end. He has a myspace here, and one of his acts is Kam.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

(Blaq) Poet & Hot Day, Cassette-Only Remix

Before The Blaqprint, before Screwball... way back in 1991, Queensbridge soldier Blaq Poet was part of a 2-man crew known as PHD, signed to Tuff City Records. They had an album (Without Warning), an EP and a bunch of hot 12"'s through the first half of the 90's.

And they also had this cassingle with a killer picture cover. I mean, holy cow! Look at those guns they're holding. Don't ever let anyone tell you size doesn't count for anything.

So this is actually their debut single (1991) off of Without Warning. "Do It Any Way You Wanna Do It" is an album track off of that; but this single also includes an exclusive remix (also produced by Hot Day). The album version was already hot, but this one bumps even harder. It's got some choice, hard, deeper drums and a serious, head-nodding bassline. It's also got a classic, old school echo-y bell loop cut in and out of the track. The Instrumental Remix and Original Mix are also included. The original is fresh, with some cool rolling drums and a nice sample; but this one will definitely make your system thump harder.

The B-side is "I'm Flippin'" in Vocal Remix, Instrumental Remix and Original Mix versions. This remix isn't so exclusive - it later turned up on the 1992 "I'm Flippin'" remix 12" (which you'll still wanna pick up for the other two "I'm Flippin'" remixes), labeled as the Video Remix. The Video Remix is the one instrumental they didn't include on the '92 12", too; so that's another exclusive.

So I don't know how rare this was back in the day... probably not very (at least in New York). But today, a Tuff City cassingle? Most people probably don't even know it's worthwhile (though you'd be hard pressed to pass up that cover if you saw it); but now you've been hipped to it, so keep an eye out.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Lady Tigra in 2009

OB4CL2? Not on vinyl. Lady Tigra's new "Switchblade Kitty" remixes? On 12" vinyl. So, hey Raekwon's business manager, guess which one I purchased?

For those of you who slept late, L'Trimm's Lady Tigra is back on the solo tip... And thankfully, she still sounds just like her old self (and if you don't know, check out her "Sorry, Ice Cream" song for Pinkberry to get an idea). You may remember me mentioning in a blog nearly two years ago that she had an mp3-only album? Well, now there's been a proper CD release (it's called Please Mr. Boombox, and it even features MC Lyte), and now she's released her debut single off of that album. It's called "Switchblade Kitty" on Grease Records.

So the first thing I thought when I saw this was, "why 'Switchblade Kitty?'" I mean, it's ok, but definitely not one of the more compelling songs on the album. It's interesting, though. The main sample for the soundtrack seems to be lifted from an 8-bit video game, and like a lot of her songs on her album, she's got a lot of really nice scratching by an uncredited DJ. Maybe it was chosen because, lyrically and stylistically, it kind of exemplifies her style... ultra girly but edgy, a little odd and running over with tongue-in-cheek superficiality. But she adopts a slow, stop & start list-like delivery song that really makes this duller than most of the rest of her album. ...Well, I guess that's why they've remixed it, right? Keep all the best signature elements and replace the parts that didn't really jump off the CD?

Well, let's see. First of all, the 12" starts off with the album version I've just described. Then we come to the Ruckus Roboticus Remix. Well, two seconds into it and you know this is clearly made for the clubs. It's got that cliche thump, thump, thump bassline and a lot of distorted industrial/computer noises that are constantly changing and looping. I'm not sure if this song really lends itself for that... it kinda does, and Lady Tigra's voice is perfect for that kinda thing; but this isn't gonna be any DJ's "drag 'em onto the dancefloor" secret weapon. So, it's a fairly well done mix if you want a song that you can mix into your 1AM strip-club set... but this is hip-hop, so we don't. Let's move on.

There's actually only one other remix (because the other track is just the Ruckus Roboticus dub version), this one by William Russell. It's really just another approach at the same thing, with the same mediocre results. In fact, it's even more far-gone, removing all of Tigra's verse in favor of just sampling and looping some lines from the hook over and over again, while the music stutters and relapses. Fuck. This. Shit.

...I know. What did I expect, right? Oh well. I can actually kinda recommend picking up her album, though. I mean, if you're an old school L'Trimm fan, you won't be disappointed. Nothing on there sounds like it was produced by Large Professor during the 90's or anything, but it's fun times. But as for this 12", I blame Raekwon.

Charlemagne's Eva Bomb

In 1998, when it looked like Mr. Voodoo, L-Swift and A-Butta were hitting it big with their Tommy Boy signing, Charlemagne was making short-lived power moves of his own. Since Natural Elements were no longer his label's showcase act (and Raidermen and Nightbreed were being sadly neglected), Charlemagne signed a pretty impressive deal for Fortress Entertainment.

Fortress Records was merging with Nervous Records, to become a separate subdivision (like Wreck or Weeded Records). And Charlemagne was going to be the signature producer. They even made one of those cool, Nervous cartoon variation logos (right). They ran big, full-color ads in The Source and all the other rap mags. The big debut was going to be two 12"'s, recorded by the label's first signees - both produced of course, by Charlemagne - released at the same time in January, 1999.

Since both records came out on the same day, we'll go by catalog number and look at NE-FS 20340 first. Speaking of catalog numbers, you'll notice they started special, new hyphenated catalog numbers for this sub-label.

Ok, so NE-FS 20340 was the debut (and final, to date) 12" by an MC named K-Bomb, called "Bump This." It's got a pretty funky percussion line, with a lot of snaps and what-not mixed in with the drums, laying underneath an echoing horn loop. Lyrically, it's on the freestyle tip, and is kinda underwhelming, especially to anyone who might've picked this up hoping for some NE-style wizardy. The B-side, "Stories I Know (Chico)," works a little better. The two verses are separate street stories (one about a guy named Chico and one about a girl named Alexandria, who apparently needs a better agent), with a strong Kool G Rap influence in his rhyme pattern. The beat's a bit better, too; though very similar. It's got simpler, straight New York-style drums like you'd expect from Charlemagne, and a similar, but harder, echoing horn loop. B-side definitely wins, and while K-Bomb isn't amazing, this is a pretty good 90's 12" by anybody's standards.

NE-FS2031, then, is Eva Flo(spelled "Eva Flow" on the snippet tape)'s "I'm the One." It's a little more on the funkier, off-beat tip, with a head-nodding collection of short samples, and Eva kicking fresh rhymes, with a voice and flow sort of like a less extreme Scott Lark. It's definitely more playful. The B-side, "Whut You Smokin," on the other hand, is more of a disappointment. It features an unappealing synth sample and some generic rhymes about smoking weed. I mean, it's ok, and he tries to do something a little different on the hook. But this is definitely a song you'd talk over if you heard this come up on a mix-tape.

Both 12"s came with Vocal, Clean Edit and Instrumental versions of each song, but I guess they didn't perform like expected - and they were pretty underwhelming, though the better song on each record stood the test of time rather well - because that was the end of "The Nervous/ Fortress alliance." And these wound up being the last records released on Fortress in any capacity. Oh well. Charlemagne clearly landed on his feet in his production career; but it was definitely sad to see Fortress come to an end, especially without much of a bang.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Battlefields

So, the vinyl pre-order packages of Sole and the Skyrider Band's Plastique album (as mentioned in my recent interview with Sole) are landing today, and with them the limited (to 500 copies) vinyl EP, Battlefields.

Battlefields is a 6-song EP on Fake Four Inc. (not Anticon); the title track of which is taken off the Plastique full-length. It then includes three new, unreleased songs and two exclusive remixes.

Surprisingly, the stand-out cut is the "Battlefields" remix. And I say surprising, because it's by someone named Tobacco of Black Moth Super Rainbow, a name which just screams sloppy, emo, made-on-a-laptop suckage. But damn if he doesn't just kill it. Especially considering "Battlefields" wasn't exactly one of my favorite tracks on the LP in the first place... though with its slow, mellow-ish vibe and sleepy hook sung by Marcus Archer (of 13 & God), it works better here as an alternate mood piece, sort of like a reprise to the Tobacco version. This remix replaces the original industrial collage with a funky guitar loop, a groovy bassline, and soft, thumping drums. An ill keyboard solo kicks in during the breakdown, too. The other version may've come first, but this really feels like the definitive version "Battlefields" was meant to be, and this cut alone not only justifies the EP's existence, but makes it more of a must-have than Plastique.

I prefer the other EP remix here - B.Fleischmann's remix of "Black" - to the album version, too; but it's not the stand-out highlight that Tobacco's "Battlefields" is. I think mainly I was just glad to have the cymbal-smashing, garage-band-jamming feel of the album version (enhanced by the fact that Sole is using that distorted, low quality microphone sound on this song, a la The Beastie Boys' "So Watch' Cha Want") replaced by... anything. And so this mix has more of a relaxed feel, with a more traditional drum pattern and lots of slow organ-like keyboards. It's also easier to hear Sole on this mix, where before you had to really concentrate to make out his words through all of the noise. Fleischmann's made Plastique's skip-over track into a very listenable experience.

Of the original songs, "Cut Off Moon" is both my favorite and, again, the least grunge band-y. The cover says this song features Telephone Jim Jesus (of The Restiform Bodies), but there's nobody on this track vocally besides Sole, so I guess it's him providing a lot of the instrumentation, accounting for the difference in sound. Again, it's got a more organized, polished feel to it, with a deep but slow and simple drumline and a lot of science fiction-like, warbling synths, which are appropriate given Sole's lyrics. It's superficially a first person science fiction narrative from a guy sitting on the moon lamenting humanity's future condition; but of course it's essentially a commentary on our own current one:

"Millions fought over the Great Lakes,
And poisoned its water with shrapnel waste
And cooked limbs.
Needless to say,
That was a real tough summer for some.
But few care about those forgotten nations.
History began
When we left and filled the stars like ants. In space,
The only enemies we found were each other."

The other two songs, "This Bad Reputation" and "Good Bacteria" kinda go together... they use the same basic sample for their instrumentation, which again is along the lines of melodic, science fiction soundtrack keyboards. Lyrically, well... Sole told me in our interview that he never was abstract like some of the other Anticon members, but maybe he'd like to take a crack at explaining the lyrics to "Good Bacteria" for us? "This Bad Reputation," a more straight forward song about Sole's struggles with artistic identity, takes the same basic music several steps further, by having the band increasingly rock out over the track as the song progresses. But it's still grounded by the underlying melody, which again seperates the feel of EP from the LP.

Plastique is more about discordant guitars, rock & roll and bashing cymbals - seriously, did I mention all the cymbals? - whereas Battlefields is smoother and more focused, with a consistent sonic theme. So, yeah, the LP's cool - it feels more like a natural follow-up to the original Sole & The Skyrider Band album - but the EP is the real gem that I'll still be spinning six months or six years from now. It's definitely worth going out of your way to find someplace still selling the Battlefields bundle as opposed to just quickly picking up Plastique on its own.

Now, remember my post in July about the free mp3 ticket that came with BusDriver's latest album? Well, I'm happy to report that Sole's album(s) came with one, too. It has a link to the Battlefields EP download (which also includes a handy .pdf file with all the lyrics) and a code to download the entire Plastique album. What's more, the card includes another password for a bonus "beats" album, which includes all of the Plastique instrumentals. People who ordered the pre-order package also got a signed poster and a sticker for each album.

Now that's how you handle an album release in 2009.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

InstaRapFlix #23: Nerdcore Rising

So, it had been such a shamefully long time since my last InstaRapFlix update, that I figured I better do another one before I get lax and let it drift away again. So here we go, kids, #23!

Now the and title might lead you to suspect that Nerdcore Rising (Netflix Rating: 2.5 stars) is a comprehensive look at the tiny, novelty sub-genre of hip-hop known as "nerdcore"... and it sort of is. But it's really more of a glorified promo DVD for one nerdcore MC in particular, MC Frontalot (who, according to this doc at least, invented the term "nerdcore"). This was probably infinitely more obvious to hardcore MC Frontalot fans, since it turns out Nerdcore Rising was also the title of his 2005 album.

Interestingly, nerdcore hip-hop (at least as shown here) is really no different than a lot of underground hip-hop... typical, punchliney battle rhymes with a pop culture reference thrown in every so many lines. Everyone seems delighted that, well heck, I'll directly quote one example, "anytime you can work the name Ralph Macchio in a song, you have to respect that!" As if hip-hop wasn't already plagued with rappers throwing cheap pop culture references like Ralph Macchio into their music already. What I learned most in this documentary is that, except for one song about Magic: the Gathering, nerdcore hip-hop isn't as compellingly different or interesting as I imagined it might be.

The movie has some Frontalot performance footage (I'll give him credit, he does attempt some styling in his delivery), brief soundbites from fans, and a few other nerdcore rappers and other celebs (Weird Al Yankovich, Prince Paul and J-Live, most notably), which it keeps cutting back to every so often. And for the rest of the time, about 98% of the film, it's basically a behind-the-scenes tour documentary of MC Frontalot and his band, which means a lot of footage of them bantering in parking lots or hamming it up in hotel rooms. At one point, Frontalot admits to the camera that he's "not that good at rapping," which is refreshingly honest one hand, but on the other just makes you wonder why am I wasting my time with this foolishness?

Unsurprisingly, the editing is enhanced with a lot of random computer graphics. Basically every single effect in the Final Cut Pro package was probably used, possibly going directly down the list in perfect order. And while, unlike a lot of other InstaRapFlix DVDs I look at, this is a proper, full-length film, that really works against it when you keep checking the clock and it's like, oh my god, we're only 30 minutes into this! There's just not enough substance or content to sustain a feature film, and so it's all padding and random footage of the band chatting about nothing. By the 45 minute mark I really, really wanted to turn this off; but stuck with it for the sake of writing a completely fair review here. But now that I have made it through to the end, I can look back and say I really wouldn't've missed out on anything but more of the same.

So I can't recommend this unless you're a serious Frontalot fan, because really, this movie just boils down to spending 90 minutes with him and a little of his music. And I can't recommend the "nerdcore" unless you're endlessly amused by the juxtaposition of gansgta rap cliches and computer geek memes. And if these nerdcore guys weren't such "outside artists" to begin with, they'd realize they're not nearly as novel or "refreshing" as they seem to think, as hip-hop's already been riddled with the kind of stuff these guys bring to the table for ages. ...And hopefully they'd stop patting themselves on the back for not rhyming about guns and drugs so much? While Frontalot himself seems like a nice guy, the bottom line is: I was expecting a fun time with this Instaviewing, but just wound up disappointed, bored and annoyed.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Kool G Rap In Space

Remember Unkle? It was the collaborative duo of James LaVelle, owner of Mo' Wax Records, and DJ Shadow. Their album, Psyche Fiction, was one of those post-Dr. Octagon spacey/ electronica/ college radio/ hip-hop/ trip-hop/ whatever albums that were really in vogue at the time (late 90's). It was originally touted as a one-off collaboration only, but later they wound up bringing in new members from all different countries, doing new albums and blah blah blah. I don't care either.

But that one-off album did have one compelling guest spot on it. And thank goodness, they released it as a separate 12". And so Kool G. Rap's 1998 "Guns Blazing" single was born.

At first G Rap seems to be phoning in a lackluster, half-hearted performance ("more reservoir dogs than Tarantino"), but by the time the second verse kicks in, he's cooking with gas, spitting his standard post-Cold Chillin' syllable-massacring freestyle mafioso raps:

"Your whole frame laid in the white chalk.
You got the smoking section
First-class ticket to resurrection,
Forever destined to a place where niggas never restin'.
Headed in Hell's direction,
Lost at the crossroads and intersection;
Should've wore a vest for chest protection."

Update 10/20/09: Krisch pointed out in the comments section, and I've just confirmed, that Kool G Rap used this same verse for his guest spot on B-1's Rawkus single "Cardinal Sins" that same year. And G does sound a little more natural over that beat. Still, though, the second verse is definitely original to this song... he even mentions Shadow ("G Rap and DJ Shadow leave your bones squashed") in it.

The music, which is apparently entirely handled by DJ Shadow on this one, is ok, and interesting in that it's a little different from your average Kool G record. But at the end of the day, it's (predictably) not really suited to him, and you'd be better off putting one of his Giancana Stories beats behind him ...which you can do, because this 12" conveniently comes equipped with an acapella. It's not bad, though. Once you get past a really tedious two minute introduction of random sound effects (pro-tip: skip past this bullshit and start the song at the 2 minute mark), it's got a grumbling bassline and hectic drum beat, which feels a little all-over-the-place, but it's pretty hard and generally appropriate. Of course, there's also a ton of spacey sound effects that come and go throughout the song, and vocal samples involving dog-fighting spaceships (hey, don't look at me) during the hook, which are a little less fitting.

Interestingly, the 12" credits mention additional vocals by Latryx. They must just be doing the back-ups where they double-up one or two keywords in Kool's verses, 'cause otherwise I don't hear them anywhere. It's just a G Rap solo record... which is preferable anyway. Also, am I crazy, or does he say you'll be "surrounded by pedoforks" in the second verse?

Well, anyway, yeah. You get the LP version, a shortened version called Vocal Street (which I prefer because it shaves off a lot of Shadow's doodling and cuts right to the G Rap action), the aforementioned acapella and an instrumental (dramatically titled "Drums of Death") of the shorter version. This is no "Road To the Riches" or even "It's a Shame," but as with basically every G Rap record, the lyrics and delivery are must-haves, and it's better than Click of Respect.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

InstaRapFlix 22: Mac Dre: Ghetto Celebrities vol. 2

Dang, it's been a while since I've done one of these... But it's 'bout time I stopped slacking, and bring you InstaRapFlix #22.

Today's movie is: Mac Dre: Ghetto Celebrities vol. 2 (Netflix Rating: 2.5 stars). You may remember I had some generally positive things to say about Ghetto Celebrities vol. 1, on Brotha Lynch Hung,when I reviewed it this time last year, so let's see how vol. 2 holds up.

Well, today's Ghetto Celebrities is about Mac Dre (RIP), and fortunately, pretty much everything that was good about vol. 1 is back in vol. 2. Specifically, I mean, there's no cheesy computer graphics, MTV-style editing, or any of the general BS padding we're used to seeing in the InstaRapFlix ...consequently, the running time is a rather short 44 minutes... but you'd be hard pressed to find 44 minutes worth of quality material in most full-length rap DVDs, so don't dismiss it based on the running time. Instead, what we get is just Mac Dre candidly talking to the camera for the entire film.

There is a downside however. This entire interview was conducted outside, and so the sound quality sucks. Sometimes you can barely (if at all) make out what he's saying, and even when you can, it's a very unpleasant listening experience. It's not so much that there's background noise (although there certainly is), it's that his mic sounds like it was set way too high so everything he's saying is coming in way too loud and breaking up. The interviewer has redubbed his questions (those must have sounded extra terrible on the original tapes! haha), but that voice sounds so unnaturally not present, that it's almost comical. But that little part we can overlook. Unfortunately, the Dre's crap sound quality we just can't.

Several Netflix commentors refer to this as a "home movie," and that's exactly what it feels like. So the technical quality has definitely dropped since vol. 1 (which wasn't that great to start with). BUT it's a 44 minute straight, uncut, unfiltered interview with Mac Dre, and we'll never have a chance to see another one. So why wouldn't you watch this one as a free Instaview? Bottom line: recommended despite serious technical flaws.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Dead Wrong Dubplate

Remember dubplates? They were all over the place in the 90's. Cheap, vinyl compilation EPs that were definitely bootlegs, but instead of duplicating an actual, rare release or putting out some unreleased music like most bootlegs, they were just compilations of previously available stuff. They would include rare, indie 12" tracks, harder to find old school tracks, or just whatever was big at the time. They were often just really random, putting The Fugees, Biz Markie and The B-Boys all on one EP or something. They were cheap, full of typos, had goofy titles and all the underground vinyl spots had a bunch of 'em.

So this is one of those.

There's no date (it's not like they could print a copyright... though they did have the nerve to write "all rights of the manufacturer and of the owner of the recorded work reserved" on the label's small print), but this would've come out in about 1999, the same time as the music they're jacking. It's called The Killah Kuts, and I kinda like this one, because it's more like a proper 12" than a random EP assortment of songs.

The A-side is a complete rip of Biggie Smalls' "Dead Wrong" 12" A-side. Club Mix (which they call the Main Mix), Radio Mix and even the Instrumental. The label's slightly incorrect, in that they switch the order of the Main and Radio Mixes around; but, hey, it's a dubplate. But the B-side ditches the original B-side (Club, Radio and Instrumentals of "Real Niggas") in favor of compiling the two, rare "Dead Wrong" remixes. Remix #1 is the one with Busta Rhymes and Eminem from the Unreleased Joints EP, and Remix #2 is the one with just Eminem from the Unreleased and Unleashed double LP, both of which were promo-only releases that are typically pretty hard to come by (Remix #2 later found its way onto the Born Again album, making it considerably less rare).

So if you've somehow forgotten, "Dead Wrong" is Biggie's where he raps about hitting underage girls, beating women, robbing them, stabbing a gay guy with an ice pick, etc. Essentially it's him kicking raps that are "dead wrong:"

"Biggie Smalls for mayor, the rap slayer,
The hooker layer. Motherfucker, say your prayers:
'Hail Mary, full of grace.' Smack the bitch in the face,
Take her Gucci bag and her North Face
Off her back, jab her if she act
Funny with the money. Oh you got me mistaken, honey.
I don't wanna rape ya, I just want the paper,
The Visa, capiche-a? I'm out like 'The Vapors.'
Who's the one you call Mr. Macho, the head honcho?
Swift fist like Camacho. I got so
Much style I should be down with the Stylistics.
'Make up to break up,' niggas need to wake up,
Smell the Indonesia. Beat you to a seizure
Then fuck your moms, hit the skins 'till amnesia.
She don't remember shit; Just the two hits:
Her hittin' the floor and me hittin' the clit."

...and it's the ideal track to bring Slim Shady in for an extra verse:

"There's several different levels to devil worshippin'.
Horse's heads, human sacrifices, cannibalism, candles and exorcism,
Animals: havin' sex with 'em: camels, mammals and rabbits;
But I don't get into that; I kicked the habit. I just
Beat you to death with weapons and eat through the flesh;
And I never eat you unless the fuckin' meat looks fresh.
I got a line in my pocket. I'm lyin'. I got a nine in my pocket,
And, baby, I'm just dyin' to cock 'im.
He's ready for war, I'm ready for war;
I got machetes and swords for any faggot that said he was raw.
My uzi's heavy as yours. Yeah, you met me before;
I just didn't have this large an arsenal of weapons before.
Marshall'll step in the door, I'll lay your head on the floor,
With your body spread on the bedspread: red on the wall,
Red on the ceiling, red on the floor. Get a new whore;
Met on the second, wed on the third,
Then she's dead on the fourth. I'm dead wrong."

And while Busta Rhymes does come with lyrics on par with the first two, he proves surprisingly willing to play along for his guest verse:

"Watch him die slow and his skin start to change color.
My goons made a flood, leavin' you layin', droppin' blood,
Then ended up finger-fuckin' your mother at a strip club!
We dead wrong for how we gutter like Howard and Stutterin'
Fascinatin' how all of this street shit be straight butter.
Fuck it. We thug rugged to the tenth power,
Like we was listenin' to 'Gimme the Loot' for the past ten hours!"

Now to make room for both Emzy's and Busta's verses on Remix 1, they removed Biggie's second verse from that version. And since Biggie > Busta, that's a real step down. Remix 2 with just Eminem & B.I.G. keeps both of Biggie's verses and just adds the third. So to me, that's the ideal/definitive version. But it's fun to spin Remix 1 once in a while, just as an alternative.

Anyway, the beat's essentially the classic Al Green drum break that's been used a bajillion times in hip-hop ("Lyte As a Rock," etc) paired with a slow, thumping horn/bass loop dominating the whole track. Because it was Bad Boy, though, three producers wound up sharing credit (Chucky Thompson, Mario Winans and, of course, Sean "Diddy" Combs). And the instrumental is the same for all of the remixes.

So the sound quality's pretty good, and it makes for a handy little, completist "Dead Wrong" 12". Too bad it's a bootleg, 'cause otherwise it's a better release than the official 12".

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Poor Righteous Tape Repairs

video
And remember, if the B-girls don't find ya handsome, they should at least find ya handy.


...with apologies to Paul E. Lopez.
(Youtube version is here.)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

'Cause He's the Overweight Lover, Heavy D

This for me is one of those absolutely essential remixes that just completely ruined the original album version for me. And the album version was fresh. In fact, the album version is almost the same as the remix. But that "almost" is a real deal breaker.

After making a respectable name for themselves with their first album, including a plethora of singles, Heavy D & the Boyz returned with Big Tyme. They made a huge smash in the clubs with their Teddy Riley produced single, "We Got Our Own Thang," and followed that up with a poppy, pure New Jack Swing love song with Al B. Sure called, "Somebody for Me." Finally it was time for a "real" song, to keep from alienating the purist heads completely, and so they came dropped the Marley Marl produced "Gyrlz, They Love Me."

The raps are simple but catchy stories of Heavy coolin' in the club and getting the girls. There's an amusing hook of girls praising "the overweight lover Heavy D!" The beat is pure, old school Marley with funky horn sample in the background, dwarfed by light, snappy drums and a funky bassline. DJ Eddie F cuts up the vocal sample "funky" on the hook and just randomly during Heavy's raps. It might not stand out as a banger, but it's an undeniably appealing number for any hip-hop lover.

So, that's the album version (which is also included on this 12"). But like I said, I'm done with that version forever now. It's all about the "12" Version" (which is the one they used in for the video, too). The beat is the same, the vocals are the same, the hook is the same, and Eddie F's cuts are the same. So, what's the difference?

Well, first of all there's a new intro, of a guy flabbergasted that someone who's "big, big! That boy is big!" can get all the ladies. When the song kicks in, there girls' singing is layered echoed (as if more girls were singing). The drums are the same but mixed louder, and so is the bass. And that's also echoed; making the whole record feel much deeper and just plain louder. Really, play them back to back and you won't be able to not notice - you sound like you're in the club with Heavy himself.

But that's not the crux of it for me. They added keyboard horns, like really fake sounding ones. Think Slick Rick's "The Ruler's Back" (in fact, it's a similar riff). Yeah, they're corny I guess, but fuck they make the record a million times funkier! It's a sound that pretty much only existed in 1989, and I love it. They mostly play on the hook and then at the end, whoever's playing (the label doesn't say, but Marley Marl is credited with the remix) goes all out for a solo. I can hear you thinking to yourself, "I can live without some chintzy keyboards playing over the top of my records. In fact, I prefer it." But no; it's great! It's magical. And after having grown up with the music, it's an integral part of the song. Twenty years after this song came out, you could still stop me on the street and ask me to hum the "horn" solo for you.

Younger fans may know this only as the record that includes the line "Pete Rock & CL Smooth were on the stage drinkin' Sisco," but as far as I'm concerned this is signature 12" of the period. The B-side features the Instrumental and a Dub version as well, plus you get a glossy picture cover. And because it's a big, major label, underrated release, you can find plenty of copies for cheap. Gotta love that.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Unclean Flip

(If you've been following me on Twitter, you know I've just finished re-organizing all of my cassette singles... which pretty well explains why the cassingle update posts yesterday and today. But I think I've selected good ones to hold your interest. :) )

The Tainted Mindz were a tight little crew from Philly at the height of the indie hip-hop movement. They only actually released two singles (as far as I know... I sure wouldn't mind being hipped to another release I haven't heard of), but they were pretty plugged into the scene, putting in production and appearances on Lux's classic The Man They Call Lux EP, and Steady B's last single, "Bogardin'." Who knows? Maybe if Steady and Cool had left their nines at home and stuck to making records, all these guys could've blown up and made some noise outside of PA.

But it is what it is, and we've got what we got, which in today's case is "All In the Flip," Tainted Mindz' second single on Aphillyated Records, following up their underground hit "Killidelphia." You'll notice it makes a point of proclaiming the "Killidelphia Remix" on the cover, there. There's no date on this one, but "Killidelphia" dropped in 1995, so that would make this '95 or '96.

So, the A side is "All In the Flip," and features 55th Amendment, whoever that is. Now, as you can see, this is the cassette tape version. The 12" has the same track-listing, except (and the label doesn't mention this), it's only the clean edit. Only this cassette seems to have the original, unedited version, which is damn annoying for vinyl heads. It also has a (sort of) picture cover. Interestingly, the liner notes credit a photographer (Antione Stewart), even though there is clearly no photograph used in the artwork here. Oh, anyway, the song... almost forgot. It's dope! It's kind of slow, street level shit but with a super smooth, addictive violin loop and a simple but catchy hook. All their stuff is self-produced, and vocally these guys are definitely influenced by early Wu; and that of course can only be a good thing.

Ok, so now we flip['cause it's all in the flip, get it? huh, huh? "Flip" like the song! Bah ha ha!!] it over to the B-side for "Killidelphia (Remix)." They actually include the original here, too (but if you don't have it, you still need it, 'cause it features two exclusive B-side songs), which is good, because the original "Killidelphia" single only featured the radio edit. So even though it comes up second, let's cover that one first.

The beat is banging, it's a much harder track with more flat-out freestyle rhymes. It's got deep, horror movie style piano chords, snaps and even like a theramin sound. The format of the song is interesting... three or four MCs kick a sick verse before they drop the hook, which uses a Master Ace vocal sample from "Crooklyn Dodgers, "my mentality is gettin' iller, killer." One of the verses is an ill reggae verse that starts out sung, then twists into a flavored rap.

Then the remix takes roughly the same beat, but just alters it, with a deeper, distorted bassline and grittier samples. It's a vocal remix, too, with all new lyrics, though in the same format. The Master Ace line is still there, but now they use a classic Wu vocal sample on the hook too ("from the badlands of the killa" which winds up pulling in the piano chords from the original Wu record with it). Like the A-side, though, the "Killidelphia (Remix)" on the 12" is censored (and kinda heavily, since they go pretty hard on this song). Again, the cassette version has our backs, though, with the original unedited version instead.

So, yeah. Definitely a hot single by any standards. Unfortunately the 12" version kinda screws you over with radio edits, so fans should be happy to learn that unedited versions do exist, if only on cassette. Otherwise, the track-listings are identical (both also include instrumentals for "All In the Flip" and "Killidelphia Remix"... the original "Killidelphia" instrumental was on the first 12"). The only really sad part is that this was apparently the final chapter in the Tainted Mindz' saga.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Getting Off At the Ground Floor

Bandoola Records was a short-lived record label that used to run a whole ton of full and half page ads in The Source, Rap Pages, etc. It was a record label (Bandoola), management company (Ambitious, who had Show & AG and Organized Konfusion) and promotions team (Marquise), which was basically the same guys under one umbrella (BAM). They sponsored shows, they did this and that... but the one thing they never really got around to doing was putting any albums out, and so they folded.

Their first two releases, that they always advertised in every single one of their ads, were meant to be EPs by Lord Finesse and a new act called Ground Floor. Again, those EPs never surfaced (fans are still frustrated about that, 15 years later), but Bandoola did at least manage to press up a little run of promotional records and tapes of Ground Floor's teaser single, "One, Two." And it's pretty fucking terrific, which on the one hand, makes Bandoola's lack of releases all the more frustrating; but on the other hand, hey, at least we have this killer single.

There's not a lot of info to share about Ground Floor. They're three cats from Newport, Rhode Island who unfortunately never resurfaced after Bandoola went bottom up. There was a video shot for "One, Two," so we got a look at 'em, but I don't even know the members' names.

Anyway, "One, Two" is a killer song. It's a perfect example of 90's NY hip-hop at it's finest. Cracking drums, insanely fresh distorted hooks, an old school guitar sample, vocal samples cut up on the hook, and a deep piano loop. It's produced by Ground Floor themselves, so it's crazy that these guys didn't at least go on to make beats for other artists. Lyrically, it's not amazing to pull quotes from; they were just kicking nice, freestyle flows that were all about riding the rhythm and sounding fresh.

The B-side features, and is produced by, Lord Finesse. So you know it's a winner. It's somewhat darker and grittier than the A-side, with a super low bassline and sparse horn samples, plus a smoother one for the hook. They're kicking the same kind of fun, simile-heavy freestyle rhymes, "I see a mic and I'm a hungry man like Swanson. When I rap it's like magic, 'cause niggas be on my Johnson." And you can rest assured that those aren't the only two uses of the word "like" in the song. ;) These guys were a perfect match for Finesse in every way... one can't help wondering what other collaborations they would've come up with had their albums dropped.

So, this is the cassette version you're looking at, with Dirty and Radio versions of both songs. The vinyl doesn't have a picture cover with the cool Ground Floor logo, but it does have both instrumentals. This one's a favorite among collector's, but it's not too rare, so you should be able to find it for a reasonable price if you poke around a little.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Further Whoridin'

Have you ever looked at your copy of The Whoridas' debut album and wondered: how is there a "True Playas (Remix)" on here, when there never was an original? For that matter, there seems to be only one version of "Talkin' 'Bout Bank," the "Funk Mode Mix." But why do they specify the mix title if it's the only version? Well the answer, my friend, lies in this release, 1997's Whoridin' Advance Cassette.

Ok, the full track-listings for both versions are on my Hobo Junction page. But the long and short of it is, besides the fact that the songs are in a different order, the Advance has five songs not on the official release, and the official release has three songs not on the Advance. So, even if you have the Advance, you'll want to scoop up a retail copy for the songs, "Never Heard," "Keep It Goin'" (although this one was released as a single anyway) and "World Wide Whoride." Ok, so now let's get to the much more interesting stuff: the songs only on the Advance.

Well, two of the five aren't such a big deal. "Town Shit" and the "Shot Callin' & Big Ballin' (Remix)" (the track-listing doesn't specify, but it's the "Merg 1 Remix" included here) were both previously released on singles. So, while it's always nice to have more songs than fewer, especially two dope ones like these, they're not hard to find elsewhere. The same can't be said for the next three, though.

First up, "Talkin' Bout Bank." Now the "Funk Mode Remix" is featured on both versions of the album (it was also released on 12"), but only the Advance also includes the original. The original doesn't have the familiar P-Funk samples or the ultra thick bass. It's more upbeat, with a very catchy, almost bouncing bassline, distorted samples and clapping drums. There are even some nice DJ cuts at the end. The remix is one of the few tracks on the album not produced by a regular Junction producer... Unfortunately, this Advance cassette doesn't have production credits, but I bet it's one of their own.

Next up is "True Playas," or as it's titled on the Advance tape, "True Playaz-N-the-Game." It's the same deal here as with the last one... both album versions feature the Remix, but only the Advance also includes the original version. The familiar (Remix) version really stands out on the album... it's the only track produced by Shock G, who's on a different, more smoothed out vibe than the Junction members, and it features a female R&B singer (Kinece Senegal - look, I found her on myspace!) on the hook. This version sounds very sample driven... I don't actually recognize the sample, but I wouldn't be surprised to learn this one was shelved for clearance issues. It still sounds pretty unlike the typical Whorida, twisted bass-heavy funk sound; but it's not so smoothed out, doesn't feel as radio/MTV friendly and there's no singing on the hook. Not that I'm knocking Shock's work... it sounded pretty cool here, and meshed well with the Ridas' deliveries. But the Advance tape clearly had it right in including both.

Last up is "High Cappin'," a completely original, separate, never-been-released-in-any-other-capacity song. It's got a Pete Rock-style sleigh-bell line and some slow, banging bass drums. The down beat sounds like someone's just smashing a metal garbage can with a baseball bat. Saan and Chop take turns setting it off on anyone who talks shit, while the hook features a tortured horn sound and Saafir ominously intoning, "What's up, nigga? You be lyin'!" It ends with Saafir shouting, "J-Groove!" So I'll take a wild guess and say that's who produced this one.

So I don't know how rare this is... I don't know if there's a vinyl edition (that'd be nice)... I don't even remember where I got this. But it's definitely worth keeping an eye out for.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Sole Instant-Messenger Interview!

Aw yeah! It's the return of the IM interview! And who better to share it with than Mr. Anticon himself, Sole? It's only taken us eleven or so years, but the Werner/Sole interview has finally happened. Lingering questions from the ancient days of 45 Below Records are cleared up all the way up to his upcoming album(s) with The Skyrider Band. Are you ready? If not, feel free to step away from the computer, pace around the room a few times, and then come back. 'Cause this is historical. 8)

Sole: hello my old friend
Sole: lets do this!
Werner: ok, well, let's start with the really old school stuff... you've hinted in the past about a song called "cops ain't shit to me" with a group called l.o.c.
Werner: from, like, '91
Sole: yessir
Werner: tell me about that... was that on their album? i assume a tape release?
Sole: LOC, was recorded with me and a guy named b-bop. b-bop was kind of a shady/hustler character who worked at a local radio station. he used my address as the physical address for the radio station so all the promos were sent ot my house, because he lived out of town. it was a scam, but i got so many promos and pre-releases out of it. b-bop taught me the first rule of the game, its all bullshit. he took me under his wing cuz he liked my demo i made "even if you prayed like hammer you couldnt touch mine."
Sole: b-bop was very political, he would write these anti white rodney king kinda songs and he would even write my verses. we were trying to be like public enemy. LOC stood for lyrics of consciousness. it was never released, he sent it to his label contacts and nothing happened with it. we had about 5 songs and then i dunno what happened to him, he fell off the map... so from there i became MC tim holland
Werner: ah ok... 'splains why i could never find it. lol how about another song from that same period? time to wreck shop with partners in rhyme?
Sole: hahah
Sole: you're fucking crazy
Sole: that song was dope.
Sole: "i live and let die // i never get high // im the king of rap and my style is divine // my hat is my crown // my mic is my scepter // since rap is my profession then i think i'll be a professor// professor, putting rappers under pressure // giving rappers stress and throwing rappers.... i dont remember the rest"
Sole: giving rappers stress and then im throwing em on a stretcher
Sole: that was when i rapped like lord finesse
Werner: lol nice... did that one ever come out? who were the partners in rhyme?
Sole: it was me and this dude dj kaos
Sole: later i found out all his raps were stolen from percee p
Werner: lol
Sole: he made me tapes of lord finesse shit, and then cut out the percee p verses
Sole: one day when i bought the original album i called him out on it and we never did music again
Sole: i may be getting the timeline confused, but hey, old age will do that to you
Werner: did you guys have a tape out of that song, or any others?
Sole: i mean
Sole: back then you didnt have tapes out
Sole: we werent DIY dubbing and selling shit on the block
Sole: first tape i made was put out in 94
Sole: back then i was shopping my stuff from like 92-94
Sole: trying to get a record deal
Sole: thats what you did back then, the idea of just putting shit out like that wasn't really considered... or possible... i was 15, its not like i had investors
Werner: did you get many responses? i know eventually you'd get to that thing with jd...
Sole: i was a local hero. that was enough for me. i had followers. people that would beat people up for me. thats how i developed such a humble persona.
Sole: i ended up meeting certain people, like jameson grillo from tommy boy who worked radio promotions who later in life would give me good advice.
Werner: was that from doing shows?
Sole: but, no not really... a dj gave my shit to dj premier, a track from partners in rhyme "david duke get the dick" dj premier said "sounds like vanilla ice learning how to rap" that hurt.
Sole: i didnt really do a lot of shows back then, these contacts were made through the college radio scene. before the internet college radio was how hip-hop was promoted, especially the non yo! mtv raps stuff
Sole: i kept good relations with all the college djs in maine and they wanted me to succeed, so they helped me out. jason butler, dj from hell, and b-bop . plus i had fans so people supported me. not a ton of fans, but a lot for a little kid. i was a very good rapper back then, very intense, and people had never heard a white kid rap like that.
Werner: k, let me ask you about your first 12"... it's produced by randy nkonoki... that's the same RN from 88hiphop, yeah?
Sole: yes
Sole: indeed
Sole: when i was shopping a demo to tommy boy, where i met jameson grillo....
Sole: randy nkonki was sitting in the lobby... he was like "who the fuck are these guys"
Sole: so we started talking. he was real cool.
Werner: did he produce as in doing the beats, or more just in the traditional sense? because i haven't heard of him producing anything else?
Sole: he was working with trouble neck brothers and some other artists at the time... genesis... i believe even mr complex, im not sure....
Werner: and is he who put you in touch for "3 guys at a bar?"
Sole: no, he made the beat. i dunno, it was a pilgrimage for me and jd.
Sole: he said he'd produce a track for me, and since i thought he was hooked up it was a big deal to go to NY and record.
Sole: so when we got there, jd was exhausted from driving....
Sole: he passed out at the studio....
Sole: and i recorded a song called "i got soul it be running through my veins"
Sole: at that time i had left my old graffitti crew / gang and started writing "sole." i made a song about it, and then after that song i eventually changed my name to sole
Sole: 3 guys in a bar was also a fluke
Sole: back then my favorite record was j live's braggin writes
Sole: i had been wanting to do music with j live so i got in touch with rawshack
Sole: george, the guy who ran rawshack, i think was amused by me as well,, so he'd explain the game to me, he was someone i used to call all the time
Sole: i was trying to sign with him.
Sole: anyway, me and j live never panned out, when mr complex dropped his record it, that and saafir, totally fucked up my approach to rapping , like "i dont have to rhyme"
Sole: i sampled mr complex on a song i did with cryptic one of atoms family who i met on prodigy
Sole: i sent mr complex the CD and he was so excited to hear himself sampled he agreed to do a song with me
Werner: lol nice
Sole: so he hooked it up with d-stroy and we did this song together
Werner: so, at that time you were running 45 below pretty seriously... you had other acts
Sole: yes
Werner: how did you link up with, like, six-too?
Sole: i mean, i cant say it was really serious. it was more of a crew, 45 below was an old school crew/label run from back 90 by moodswing 9
Sole: that was the name we chose for our label
Sole: and it was me and himc
Sole: him
Sole: moodswing 9 was involved in tape trading
Sole: i was a sixtoo tape, dusty, just on some shelf and it looks cool to me.
Sole: the cover was a handprinted thing, it was totally DIY but looked really cool.
Werner: was that psyche intangible? or one of the previous tapes?
Sole: i took it home and listened to it and it blew me away, for the first time in my life i found a musician that was really close to where i wanted to go aesthetically
Sole: i believe it was progress. it had the white trash song on it
Sole: so i got psyched, hit him up, and he was living in the nova scotia, which is just a hop over the atlantic
Werner: i guess it couldn't have been PI, 'cause you were on that one actually lol
Sole: he came down, and we became friends
Sole: we clicked
Sole: thats when we recorded that song "Cave people"
Sole: so its around the same time.
Werner: and that's around when 45 became anticon... if 45 was more moodswing's, was the change in name partially about you taking it over more?
Sole: ehh... naa.... anticon was me moodswing and pedestrian
Sole: anticon had more meaning to it and it symbolized a move away from hip-hop towards more weirder, experimental shit. we felt that it was time to push hiphop in a new direction.
Werner: but at some point... i remember in 98, i was always talking to you (as opposed to moodswing), re: 45 below
Sole: right, thats because i've always been very aggressive and motivated. there came a time where i had most of the contacts and vision i guess. but i've always tried to keep shit touchy-feely
Sole: i was really business minded back then.
Sole: i saw myself as an artsy master p // suge knight character
Werner: and what happened with mr. skurge/ups? did they step away from the label, or did you decide not to put them out?
Sole: uhh
Sole: basically they made that gay bashing song on the EP and we all kind of agreed that we were not cool with that shit. we had to be really conscious of what we were about and what we weren't. back then we had really strict lyrical, ethical guidelines.
Werner: i know they had an ep that was gonna drop on 45 below... and then of course when 45 became anticon, skurge was on the comps...
Sole: for instance, if you couldn't read it as a poem, it couldnt be a record.
Sole: oh yeah.
Sole: funny
Sole: but yeah, maybe skurge was offended by that, then he fell off the map and started working at a car dealership. those guys were cool though.
Sole: and they were amazing. they made such great beats and rapped really well.
Sole: sometimes people just fall off the map. its hard to say why. or its hard to understand how you've driven certain people away, or whatever.
Sole: no one knows what truly motivates people
Werner: yeah, i know they got back into it and started recording pretty hard years later
Sole: yeah. i dunno. they got weird with me a few times, so i didn't really wanna fuck with em anymore.
Werner: infinito put out, like, 50 different cd-r albums
Sole: yeah totally. i liked infinito. those guys were great.
Werner: ok, so speaking of guys who may've been offended about their record not dropping on anticon... lol
Werner: what happened with josh martinez's project?
Sole: they're working on a new anticon record with anathallo
Sole: josh martinez, honestly, after going on tour with him, he was all about fucking girls, his music was about fucking girls and beer and all this shit, and we all decided that he wasnt motivated by what the anticon credo was, so we decided not to put his music out. im really good friends with him now, and he's doing really great for himself. we get along great, and there is no hard feelings. we were about poetry at the time and he was about having fun, we were not about having fun. we were dead serious about this art.
Werner: yeah, let's get into that a little...
Werner: you guys have been sorta on the forefront of hip-hop songs with obscure meanings... i mean, you've had artists like de la, umc's who may've had crazy metaphors... but once you figured out the one "secret meaning" (a la "potholes in my lawn" were rhyme bites), it was pretty straight forward
Sole: uh huh
Werner: but you guys were into (sometimes) songs that seemed to have completely more abstract content
Sole: well i think thats more individuals
Sole: i've never been very abstract
Sole: dose is abstract
Sole: to me, as long as it was inventive & conveying something new and interesting we weren't specific about HOW you were "advancing hip-hop" heh.
Sole: i say "advancing hip-hop" wih a sarcastic tone...
Sole: but hey, hip-hop is catching up!
Werner: well, that's something i was gonna touch on, too... you're probably the most consistently sarcastic mc in your music, too
Sole: in life too
Sole: but i dont believe in sarcasm, i think people say what they think
Sole: just somtimes i say it in a bizarre way.
Werner: was that a conscious decision, to make that part of your MCing "voice?" or it jjust comes through?
Werner: well, it's not a criticism... i think those are often my favorite moments in your stuff when the sarcasm really comes through
Sole: i dont do anything consciously, thats why my evolution has been slow and natural. i never wake up in the morning and think "im gonna change my persona, the last one didn't work"
Werner: what about when you're part of a collaborative project? i.e. dpd or skyrider band? do you try to write a certain style at those points, or it's all just whatever you'rre feelling?
Sole: i dont think most people even pick up on the sarcasm, its pretty thick and understated.
Sole: what i'm feeling.
Werner: actually, let's back up a bit... i know moodswing moved on, but what's the full story there?
Sole: well
Sole: i dont know....
Sole: it was weird.
Werner: idk... i was almost going to say you've gotten less sarcastic before this interview... but listening to the skyrider stuff it's still in there 8-)
Werner: i know he did a 7" or two with bully...
Sole: i think he just got overwhelmed. me him and pedestrian had this little apartment, and me and pedestrian turned it into the anticon flophouse
Sole: one day moodwing moved out and i never heard from him again
Sole: i think he just thought i was crazy and didnt wanna work under the extreme pressure we operated under
Werner:
ok, so let me ask you about vinyl... there's story after story about vinyl sales going up while cds die... has it come to a point where you can see it in anticon sales at all?
Sole:
Not really.
Sole:
I think thats more theoretical
Sole:
like, david mathews band might be selling more vinyl
Sole: but i dont think odd nosdam is
Sole:
im not sure though, i could ask him
Werner:
yeah, i know it's bigger in rock & country...
Sole:
well, toby kieth deserves it, he's done a lot for america.
Werner:
i also wanted to ask about sampling... it seems anticon uses fewer now than in the early days, yeah?
Sole: yeah
Sole:
depends, im sure odd nosdam has consistently used the same amount of samples
Sole:
in my own beats its mostly samples
Werner:
is clearance issues a lot of that, or largely just an artistic decision?
Werner:
is it? i thought a lot of your stuff sounded more "created," but maybe that's just the aesthetic
Sole:
both i think, but really, no one cares about sample clearance anymore, i think its more like... "its really easy to find a great loop, chop it, filter the bassline out, and put a drum beat under it... but its a lot more challenging and fun to try to make something from scratch." personally i prefer to use both, but im not a producer so i dont fuck with dogma when it comes to making beats. if i like a beat i'll rap on it. if i like music i'll steal it.
Werner:
well, you've put out an instrumental album, etc...
has anyone really come after anticon samples, or are you still getting by under the radar?
Sole:
no one has ever come after us. i try to sample people who i dont think should come after me. that may be naive, but i feel morally if bjork stepped to me about sampling i'd probably call her a hypocrite. i've never sampled bjork though.
Werner:
haha right...
ok, here's something i wonder about... i know anticon's got some infamous unreleased projects (i.e. stuffed animals), but you also tend to put out like al ot of tour cds, etc... 20 years from now, global music group acquires anticon... how much/ what kind of stuff would they find in "the vaults?"
Sole:
i dunno, stuffed animals never came out because it wasnt that amazing... other projects that started and were deaded is stuff thats lost on adat. they might find a lot of mediocre shit, but all the best stuff has come out.
Sole:
my thing, is if we don't decide to release something, people can bootleg it as mp3s all they want.
Sole:
but im not trying to eat off music im not standing behind
Werner:
is there any older stuff that might still come out now or is it pretty much, if it hasn't been issued by now it never will?
Sole:
i'd say there isnt much old stuff that hasnt been released that will come out.
Sole:
but who knows, i dont know what everyone has sitting on their computers that they've never let anyone hear.
Werner:
but none of the stuff people know about (stuffed animals, circus for prez, makeshift writers workshop)?
Sole:
circus for president was really good. i wish that had come out. i still hope it will, but there just doesn't seem to be enough willpower for it to see the light of day.
Sole:
which quite honestly i've never understood, but i didn't record it.
Sole:
it was between nosdam & circus
Werner:
well, it seems like circus has sort of dropped out of the music scene, i guess
Sole:
there is a very fine line between genius and insanity. not to say anyone is a genius or anything, but you know the saying, "when you stare into the abyss it stares into you." i believe this, some highly creative people could easily get locked up if they talked to the wrong psychiatrist. thats why i've never talked to any "mental health" professionals.
Sole:
circus spent some time in jail
Werner:
oh ok... i know about a bit of that, but didnt know it got that far. i dont want to get to into his personal ish...
Sole:
i was more talking about myself
Sole:
haha
Sole:
i was just speaking generally, sometimes we go through difficult times, and music suffers.
Werner:
well, let's talk about sole & skyrider
how did you first link up? were you looking for a band, or they approached you?
Sole:
i had just gotten into america. they were good friends with bleubird. i made a bunch of music for bird in spain, but it was a mess, he brought it to them to record his vocals and they finished the music. i was impressed with what they did. bud was living on a ranch in the everglades(or some swamp, i dont know it was beautiful) and i really liked his vibe, he was cool, we hung out and got along. i liked him cuz he was the earthiest hip-hop artist i'd come across. it reminded me of the nature kid at my core that had been forgotten in my city life. i had an opportunity to do a mini tour in florida with them, i did it, we recorded a track, played a song with em, it was really great. they were about ot move to canada, and i asked em to stop by my house in flagstaff to work on music for a month, they ended up staying. the rest is history
Werner:
so is it "sole and skyrider" now for the long haul? do plan to keep doing albums and tours together indefinitely?
Sole:
yeah, i mean the evolution of our band has been rocky. we were trying ot live off it all at first and it was really stressful. after some really rough tours we kinda just decided to take a step back, get jobs, and just start from scratch, and do it for fun. i think that honesty comes across in the new albums. but the evolution of skyriders production has really blown me away. the new beats they've been giving me are absolutely amazing, and will blow people away. most importantly, they're really fun guys to hang out with and work with, they've been very good friends to me, which is most important. i cant work with people i dont trust or want to break bread with.
Sole:
thats not to say i wont do little things here or there, but my focus will remain sole and skyrider. but its also healthy for us not to put too much pressure on it that its not fun anymore, if this shit aint fun i'd rather go be a stock broker or a bank robber.
Sole:
although in this day and age a stock broker is a bank robber.
Werner:
lol true
Werner:
so real quick, let's break down the members of skyrider and what they do/play?
Sole:
bud berning: primary producer. he plays keyboards drums and guitars.

john wagner: he works with bud on all the production and finalizing of music. he is the drummer. he is also the member of the band that helps me with the business stuff, web promotions, bookings, strategy, and he manages our street team.

william ryan fritch: he is the melodic backbone, he plays everything, guitar, keyboard, drums, violin, cello, stand up bass, whatever. good thing about him, is he can solo on any instrument, not just competently stay in tune.

our process usually works like... bud, ryan, john or i start a beat, i write to and rap on it and send it back to bud and john they remix it send it to ryan he adds instrumentation and sends it back to everyone for final approval. at that point my vocals might not sound good so i may re=record.
Werner: so when you guys start a beat... is that like samples and drum machines? and then the band/john replays it, or some of it stays...?
Sole: we try to do it differently everytime.
Sole: if there is a sample we keep it usually.
Werner: i wanted to ask you about a couple of appearances you've done, too... you have a new one on an album with time, who i really don't know anything about except you're on their new album
Sole: what do you mean
Werner: it's a song called "trouble?" i dont know... seen it on ughh
Sole: ahhh
Sole: thats my homey time.
Sole: he's from denver.
Sole: he's become a good friend of mine.
Sole: sometimes when i think someone shows a lot of promise i do music with them.
Sole: if i have time and im in the right space.
Sole: him and extra kool are actually on my new mixtape nuclear winter, we did a denver version of "put on"
Werner: what's the story with that (mixtape)? i've seen you mention it a bit on the forums...
Sole: URB wanted me to do a podcast and i didnt wanna do some lame uninteresting podcast, and i was kinda bored so i thought it'd be fun to re-do a few gangster rap songs and turn em into anarcho-marxist anthems. it turned into an album. the only music i've been into in the last 5 years is silver mount zion and gangster rap, so it only makes sense that i try to make that shit too. there is a ganster influence in all the SSRB stuff.
Werner: is there anything specifically you can point out (gangsta influence on ssrb material)?
Sole: but after a serious album, its important for me to just do some shit for fun, with no pressure, it always creates something interesting.
Sole: battlefields was originally written to the beat "shoot me down" by lil wayne
Sole: longshots wass straight, TRAE beat in the beginning.
Sole: pissin in the wind is gangsta as fuck
Sole: even mr insurgent, which is a folk song, has gangster 808s under it.
Sole: its subtle. we dont use it like a gimmick or to be ironic, we just allow ourselves to be influenced by that form of music.
Sole: at the same time we're really influenced by post rock and folk and shit, so thats why our music confuses people
Werner: yeah, it's definitely less "straight hip-hop" then other sole stuff... i remember having conversations in the 90's and people would try to argue that sole wasn't hip-hop, which back then struck me as way off, now maybe you're actually moving that way a bit lol
Sole: yeah but now im swinging back that way to my rap roots. rap inspires me now. so thats good. maybe not in the way some people would want, but what i like is what i like.
Sole: and what im indifferent to is what im indifferent to
Werner: does the fact that you're now with skyrider (and out in az) kind of preclude the more classic "sole album," where you'd have a track or two produced by each of the anticon producers?
Sole: well first of all, skyrider is in LA, and im in denver. i've left the desert. im still working on music with nosdam and jel, i love those guys, we havent worked much in the last few years but i expect to work with them a lot more in the future.
Werner: oh ok... thought you were still in az
what's it like in denver?
Sole: denver is the most european city in america.
Sole: in my opinion
Sole: denver is heaven, i've been trying to move here for 4 years, but it took a while to convince my girl.
Sole: when we were in AZ there was a dispute over where we lived, no one wanted to really move to denver, and they're younger and single and wanted to be in LA.
Werner: nice... i don't even know much about denver. did you kind of "discover" it from doing shows there?
Sole: yeah, it was close to flagstaff, 8 hours, so i would play there more often living in arizona. i developed a real love for the mountains living in flagstaff, but culturally that place is a toilet, so i wanted to live in a city that was clean, beautiful and cheap, but that i could still drive 20 minutes and be in the mountains.
Sole: my dogs were raised on a river in arizona, so they swam every day in the summer. here in denver, the cherry creek runs 2 blocks from my house, its a bike highway that cuts through the city, and i bring my dogs there to swim in the summer. not many american cities have rivers that clean.
Werner: nice... yeah, definitely not the ones i've been to lol
Sole: not to mention, i really wanna ski this winter if i can afford it.
Sole: i miss skiing.
Sole: i used to do it as a kid but as an adult/artist i've been so broke i can hardly afford to pay rent, let alone do fun recreational shit. x
Werner: yeah, no doubt
oh, i forgot i had another guest appearance i wanted to ask you about... the kool keith/ dr. octagon song with sage... how did that happen? did he come to you guys?
Sole: no i never talked to him. his manager in florida, fuck i forget his name but he's a cool motherfucker... anyway, he had divinci remixing a kool kieth track while we were in teh car, and i hit up divinci and said "let me geton that" he asked the manager, and then me and sage recorded it. it was really fun. most people pay for a kool kieth verse, we got paid FOR it. that was really an honor. i would have paid to do the song. well, no i wouldnt have, but if i had money i would.
Werner: well, i think i'm near wrapping up w my questions... but i did want to ask you one more "biggish" one... maybe it's more of just an online thing, but you seem to be a pretty devisive figure in hip-hop... anticon as a whole is, but you even more than almost anyone else affiliated with it
Sole: to my detriment
Sole: benefit
Sole: anyway whats your question?
Werner: well, why do you think that is, for one?
Sole: because, my words and my balls is all i have.
Werner: yeah, i mean... i'd sort of expect heads to embrace you more than someone like dose, since he's more "weird" and you've been more traditionally hip-hop. but it doesn't seem to work out that way
Sole: i dont play around. i believe that art is war. i spent many years of my life living in the writings of "guy debord" and artists like brecht, adorno, emma goldman... i believe in what these people say.... tha the role of art is to challenge the status quo... to speak true to power... to shine light on subjects... to be honest.... i've never been afraid to start a war with a journalist who gets too personal in a review. i've never tried to hide my beliefs. i've never worried much about whether or not some hipsterblog was gonna like me more if i made a love song.
Sole: in fact, i dont see value in art that doesn't challenge the status quo.
Sole: otherwise, you're bringing water to a well.
Sole: bring water to sudan!
Werner: but it doesn't seem like you're challenging the sort of things heads wouldn't want challenged or wouldn’t side with you on...
Sole: yeah, i mean, some people go about their shit in a more strategic way, "do a song with this person, climb the ladder, etc." i've never done that with my music. making music is a very personal thing to me, and i keep it close to my chest. i dont wanna invest time and energy into someone i dont know, regardless of what they can do for me.
Sole: yeah, but its not trendy
Sole: doing coke and smoking cigarrettes and ironic 80s/90s kickback shit, thats what everyone is on
Sole: dance, forget about the world.
Sole: people listen to music to be entertained.
Sole: i dont listen to music. i listen to democracy now.
Werner: yeah... but there's acts like dead prez, immortal technique... or even just the more raw stuff like blaq poet that get embraced
Sole: well, they're not white. or if they are white, they are thuggish and look hispanic or something. i think race plays a huge role in this. i respect all the acts you mention and anyone who is talking about this shit, but the way i approach it is more subtle, its more of an undertone then the acts you mention... im not calling for revolution on my tracks, and my message isn't so easy to digest as the acts you talk about. i cram a lot of syllables over a mini orchestra. some people dont like that. hipsters want coke rap or their soft indy rock trendy dance crap, they dont want to cross the streams. i've never understood it personally, but i cant control it.
Sole: i want to make music that is easier to digest that maintains integrity. i think this new record is a step towards that.
Sole: i always think "This is gonna be huge"
Werner: does that have anything to do with the title, "plastique?"
Sole: and then... it comes out... and im like... wtf... xlr8tr passed on the feature AGAIN? how much do i have to pay these people?
Sole: plastique, is about blowing shit up and about the world being false.
Sole: plus it sounds french, so that makes me sound more cultured.
Sole: which is good cuz i jock french philosophy.
Werner: lol true... like l'trimm ;-)
Sole: also a lot of it has to do with being a "rapper" people havent seen me as a rapper.
Sole: i want to remind them that i am indeed a "rapper"
Werner: yeah... i mean, unlike dose, why, or even alias... you've definitely stayed true to being a straight-up rapper
Sole: oh well.
Werner: so what does anticon have coming up? it looks like a pretty nice immediate future with your lp/ep (plus mixtape), crownsdown.... why? just dropped...
Sole: i honestly have no idea whats coming out after why?
Werner: (and seriously, when the hell is pedestrian coming with another release?)
Werner: that's terrible... can you be fired from anticon? lol
Sole: i can fire myself.
Sole: i dont run the label, the daily business of the office hasn't been my responsibility since selling live water.
Sole: since i started focusing on art.
Werner: oh really? i didn't realized you'd stepped so far away from that
Sole: yeah.
Sole: when the collective was formalized baillie parker began running the label and all the artists got equal shares in the business.
Sole: like a true collective.
Werner: does that mean anticon could be like "we won't release this sole album" or "we're gonna drop this release that sole is for whatever reason totally against?"
Sole: absolutely.
Sole: but im not gonna say which bands i've voted against.
Sole: or acts
Sole: or records
Werner: oh ok... i didn't realize it had changed over so completely... i know baille had come in, but i guess i thought of him as just a business manager and one more partner...
well, we do know that you're lp and ep are about to drop... pre-orders end in like 2 days, right?
Sole: i guess so. 2 days left!
Werner: and is it still too early to say about the mixtape yet, or do you have specific plans/dates?
Sole: i imagine it'll be up for download next week... a preview version of it called "nuclear autumn" which will feature some SSRB tracks from our albums and a l ot of the songs for the mixtape. i imagine i'll have the mixtape on tour.
Werner: and the soleone store at some point hopefully?
Sole:
yessir. i'll be announcing a preorder for this after the fake four shit drops, i just dont wanna confuse people.
Werner: cool... well, i should get this up before the plastique preorder ends, so people can jump on it if they're quick!
Sole: heheh thank you my friend.
Sole: and thank you for being so supportive over the years.
Sole:
its been a long journey!

Ok, so you heard the man... only 2 days left! If you're interested in the pre-order (only place to get the Battlefields EP), it's right here at Fake Four. And for more on Sole, of course, check out his own site at soleone.org. Or, if you're more of a myspace kinda guy, that's right here.