Saturday, July 31, 2010

It Ain't His!

This is a really fun, slept-on record. Cli-N-Tel is the first member of The World Class Wreckin' Cru to step out and start making a name for himself outside of the Cru. Long before Dre and Yella became megastars, it looked for a minute like Cli-N-Tel was gonna be their break-out star. His first release was the better-known "2030" with DJ Unknown on TechnoHop, but later in 1988 he moved to Sutra Records (a label perhaps best known for being the home of The Fat Boys for many years) to release a couple of 12"s, including this one.

The label for "It Ain't Mine" specifies that this is by Cli-N-Tel featuring Marquette Hawkins, Joe Cooley and The Amazing Artis. That's an odd way to put it, since Marquette Hawkins is Cli-N-Tel's real name. Anyway, along with writing and performing the song, apparently he also produced this with a guy named Cliff Zellman, who for some reason doesn't get to share above-title credit - I guess because he isn't a "name." Joe Cooley is of course the great world champion DJ and long-term partner of Rodney O. And I really don't know who the heck The Amazing Artis is, nor can I figure out what he contributed to the record.

Anyway, this is can be considered at least halfway as a response record to T-La Rock's classic, "It's Yours." It's a fun song about denying paternity to a girl's baby. Joe Cooley cuts up Rock's hook ("It's Yours!") to which Cli-N-Tel protests, "it's not mine!" Joe Cooley provides a lot of nice scratching here, and is definitely one of the key selling points for the song. The fact that this is a "topic" song (as opposed to a freestyle rap) doesn't seem to stop Cooley from displaying his top-notch abilities throughout the song. He cuts up the hook, behind the verses, he scratches in a few fun key words into the raps in the style of "Say It Loud," and gets extra busy on the breakdown.

Besides all the scratching, the track is upbeat and engaging, with a very catchy bassline and some funky percussion (a la Grandmaster Flash's and Kool Moe Dee's "Do U Know What Time It Is" records). The rhymes are fun and clever, too... he sounds influenced by The Fresh Prince, but remains himself enough not to come off as a cheap imitation. He starts by telling off his girl ("you ain't pregnant, and even if you was, I'd still deny it!") but things get pretty zany as he starts daydreaming about getting plastic surgery to change his identity or talking about how it infiltrates his dreams:

"Later on that night,
When I went to bed,
Boxes of pampers
danced in my head.
I said to myself,
'Aw, this is wack!'
Then I started being chased
By cans of Similac!
All at once,
I knew I was doomed!
I looked up and saw her mother
Flyin' on a broom!
You know I tried to get away
But I couldn't do that,
'Cause at the corner was her father
With a baseball bat!"

If you like fun 80's rap, this is really an overlooked gem that shines in all departments: smart & humorous song-writing, a quality, enjoyable instrumental and for the more serious-minded heads, scratching that shows some serious skills. You've got the vocal version on the A-side, then the instrumental and a shorter dub/bonus beats-type mix on the B-side. So I'd definitely go out of my way to pick this 12"; it's a rewarding little single.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Pickin' Banjo On Buck's Porch

This is a limited CD I passed on for a long time, 'cause it looked just to be a handful of previously released songs slapped onto a cheap tour CD. But I finally picked this up,and I'm glad I did. Because, though the songs are all pretty much ones you've heard, they're all new versions, and compelling ones at that. It's Buck 65's Porch, which was sort of quietly released in 2007.

First a note about its discogs listing, I guess. I notice they make a point of correcting the track-listing as its written on the CD's liner notes, re-ordering the songs "as they appear on the CD here." This is confusing to me... unless there are actually two pressings of this (which seems unlikely, as it's a very limited run, tour CD)? Because I've got this, and the songs on mine play in the correct order as they're written out. Also, the discogs separates the last track into two songs, when it's clearly a single song mash-up (more on that later) and correctly listed in the notes as one song. So I don't know if whoever's uploading this info is just using some dubious, mislabeled set of mp3s downloaded form the 'net, or if there's actually two versions of this CD; but mine matches the official track-listing.

So, that out of the way, this is a short, five song collaborative EP between Buck 65 and a guy named John Zytaruk, a musician who also worked with Buck on several of his Dirtbike songs. This is essentially Buck 65 unplugged... there's no programmed beats or scratches or any sound by any device that needs to be plugged in. These are acoustic versions of the songs. In fact, I'll write you the credits as they're written in the liner notes:

"John Zytaruk - guitar, banjo, dobro, mandolin, percussion
Buck 65 - vocals, glockenspiel, foot stomps
Produced by John Zytaruk"

Yeah, so banjos, foot stompin' and Buck playing the glockenspiel. This is Buck taking the Talkin' Honky Blues angle to an even further extreme. The credits mention percussion, but there's barely any to be heard... You can hear a bit, keeping rhythm, if you put your ear to speaker, but that's it. And I can see why that may sound like a huge turn-off, but by and large, it's really pretty good.

So, this EP features some unreleased music: "Heather Nights" and a song that Buck only otherwise released on mp3 through his site, "Indestructible Sam" from the mp3-only EP Dirty Work. It features "Blood of a Young Wolf" from Secret House Against the World and "Craftsmanship" from Talkin' Honky Blues. But again, even these previously released songs are new versions, so it's really all-new.

Not every version is an improvement, mind you. "Blood Of a Young Wolf," sounds cool and mellower in this stripped down version, so it's a nice alternative. But at the end of the day, if I had to pick only one, I definitely prefer the original album version and its additional instrumentation. "Indestructible Sam" copies the same banjo rhythm but ditches the driving percussion rhythm, making this sound like an old civil war standard. But the EP has a great consistency that has a merit you can't account for when you just take every song individually. It's an impressive and engaging listen as a whole, almost like one giant song with change-ups.

The last track is "Wicked and Weird/Coo Coo Bird." "Wicked and Weird," of course, was the anthemic first single from Talkin' Honky Blues. And "Coo Coo Bird" is an old American folk song by Clarence Ashley. To be honest, this one doesn't work so well for me. It's the "mash-up" I mentioned earlier, with Buck alternating between the lyrics of his own "Wicked and Weird" and the old "Coo Coo Bird" song. I reckon this is meant to show how effectively he's managed to gel these two seemingly disparate genres, seamlessly blending rap and folk. But the problem is it's not seamless at all. "Wicked and Weird" is a totally different tempo and style and the two just don't mix. As a whole, it's not a bad idea, and probably something Buck could've pulled off if he used another - slower, more laid back - song from his catalog. But "Wicked and Weird" is too pop rockish - it's a great song, but a really bad choice for this medley. So... it's interesting. But after you've checked it out, you'll probably wind up only playing this EP through the first four songs when you go to revisit it.

But it's an EP that's worth revisiting, which frankly, is more than you can say for most albums these days. So if you passed over it like me, I recommend backtracking and seeing if you can find a copy.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Other Giancana Story

Early last year, I made a post called The Lost Giancana Story, talking about all of the unreleased tracks that didn't find its way onto Kool G Rap's final, official retail release of his Rawkus/Koch album, The Giancana Story, in 2002. That album had fourteen songs on it, and I talked about another fifteen that were recorded for Rawkus and leaked or otherwise let out into the wild, but didn't make it onto the album. Some were b-sides that seemed like they were meant for the album, one or two were perhaps intended for other projects... but the bulk of them came from two album leaks that'd been floating around the internet since the late 90's.

Well, one of those leaked versions actually exists on vinyl. It's a UK pressing ...or so I assume, trusting the "made in England" sticker on the back is not a bold-faced lie. And it looks to essentially be what Rawkus intended to release back in the 90's before it got shelved and later rescued and retooled by Koch. And considering it's at best debatable whether Koch's retooling was for the better rather than the worse, this is a pretty neat set to have on vinyl. And even if you do prefer the Koch version, this is still ten G Rap songs you didn't have on any other album.

That's right: ten. It may look like even more, but remember in my last post how I explained some songs have simply been retitled: "She's Dressed To Kill" became "Black Widow," etc. So a couple songs are the same between the two... well, for shorthand's sake, let's call this the Rawkus version and the one that actually got commercially released the Koch version. I can't be certain if this is actually a semi-legit Rawkus promo (it does have Rawkus labels), a shady bootleg (though the sound quality's excellent) or what. But we've gotta call them something, 'ey?

It's just as surprising now as it was when I wrote my other post last January that Premier's version of "First Nigga" wasn't included on the Koch album (neither was the older one), but things start to feel like they're making sense when you see it on here. The Rawkus version also includes the superior version of "Holla Back" that features an amazing Nas verse instead of Tito's from BGF. It features the Scarface-inspired "This Is My Life" featuring CNN (not to be confused with "My Life," which also features CNN on the remix - this is a totally different song), "How It Feel" with Havoc and the west coast crossover track "Keep Goin'" with Snoop Dogg and Devin the Dude. It's hard to imagine why any label wouldn't keep these on the album, if only for the draw of all the big names.

It also includes other unique songs discussed in my last post like, "Rap Is a Villain," "This Means War," and "Why You Gotta Do That." And it has the original mix of "Spill Blood," here titled as "Thug Out." It's really a flat-out entirely different album. Plus, the back cover gives us some (albeit incomplete) production credits, so we know who did many of the unreleased songs. For example, "This Means War" is produced by The Beatnuts, "Why You Gotta Do That" is a Premier track, and "Rap Is a Villain" was written by Tupac! Word?

So, I don't know how rare this is. I got mine pretty cheap when I stumbled upon it randomly, and it's now listed on discogs ...though no copies are available as of this writing, and searching the 'Bay just brings up a bunch of the Koch CDs. I know it's hip to dismiss all of G Rap's post-Cold Chillin' material (Unkut, I'm lookin' at you), but he recorded a lot of great material for The Giancana Story. And it's worth noting that now - with this double LP, the Koch album and a deep collection of all the disparate 12"s and stuff - every song I mentioned in The Lost Giancana Story post is now genuinely accessible, save one ("Ordinary Love" featuring Ma Barker). And the Rawkus version also includes "Y'all Niggas," so you no longer have to track down that Japanese import CD to be a completist. ;)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Notorious Cabrini Green

Remember the movie Candyman? Remember how the horror of a killer ghost with a hook for a hand and bees in his mouth was amplified by the scary, urban location: "a notorious housing project" (that's how they refer to it on the box)? Well, interestingly, they didn't just make up a generic "ghetto" set in some LA back-lot... They filmed in the very real Cabrini Green, and referred to the place by its real name throughout the film. Even the plot-point that the medicine cabinets led directly into peoples' neighbors' apartments was real, which led to a real series of murders.

Well, almost a decade before Clive Barker and co. turned Cabrini Green into a horror landmark, Chicago rapper Sugar Ray Dinke did his part to put the place on the map with his only 12" single on I Am Records. Produced and co-written by Darryl Thompson, "Cabrini Green Rap" dropped in 1986 and, while it naturally sounds dated, it doesn't sound as dated as you'd expect for an otherwise unknown local rap single from 1986. It's certainly got all the 80's trappings: big beatbox drums, electro sounds, metalish guitars in the vein of the trends Run DMC and Statesasonic were setting (though not so extreme or "rockish" as those), and a boatload of hand-claps. Oh, and the MC's vocals are echoed to make it sound like there's two rappers saying everything in unison. But it all holds up surprisingly well, a testament to the talents of Mr. Thompson evidently.

Lyrically, it might start out a bit corny - before the music kicks in, the listener is warned that walking through Cabrini Green "you might get hit with an egg or a jar." Personally, I'd've been a lot more concerned about the infamous sniper-fire from their rooftops or the rampant gangs that dubbed the area "Death Corner" than any unsecured eggs being bandied about, but that's just me.

But as it goes on, the lyrics get more serious and compelling. He doesn't quite reach the song-writing heights of Melle Mel's "The Message;" his skills are a bit more rudimentary. But he winds up covering a lot of ground, from the origins of Cabrini Green as a peaceful,. optimistic development to some very personal parts where he details his own experiences and names names:

"One of my best friends got shot in the back
While trying to get out of Cabrini Green shack.
Sang lead vocals for Electric Force Band;
He never gang banged; he only grabbed mic stands.
And danced around, sometimes act the fool,
But the man had a job and he finished High School.
I never will forget my man Larry Potts
Or the terrifying night that he got shot."

It's unfortunate that Sugar Ray Dinke never followed this up with another record. But I suspect, even if he released several, this is the one that would go down as his quintessential masterpiece anyway. It's certainly an important piece of Chicago's cultural history. And meanwhile, the actual housing development of Cabrini Green remained notorious, being used as the everything from the establishing shots of the projects in the hit series Good Times to the backdrop of He Got Game. Remained, that is, until it was all demolished and gentrified in the early 2000's. I read on the Candyman forums that only two of the original buildings still stand, surrounded by empty lots and Starbucks. I guess that's why Candyman moved to New Orleans for their dopey sequels. But when you want to remember the real shit, play this record.

Update 12/1/10 - MSN reports that the last remaining building of Cabrini Green is now coming down.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Ice Mike's Game

video
(Youtube version is here. By the way, I learned a bunch with this iphone edit and the next one will be better.)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Back When the Earth Cried

I've been meaning to do a Gravediggaz post for a while now - especially after someone asked me to on Twitter and I said I would... but for whatever reason, I kept putting it off. I guess part of it is that first you have to decide essentially what "era" Gravediggaz you want to tackle. You've got your classic, semi-parodic horrorcore era, led by producer Prince Paul, where they did their most wild material, like "1-800-Suicide" and "Freak the Sorceress." Then you've got your post-Paul era, where he lost interest in the venture, but the other members kept it alive and basically turned themselves into another generic Wu-Tang Clan offshoot group. And finally you've got their rocky independent era, where more than half their releases may've been bootlegs, and it wasn't even clear who was joining or leaving the group. Well, I've settled on era #2.

"The Night the Earth Cried" is the second and biggest single off their second album, The Pick, The Sickle And The Shovel. Interestingly, like most of the album, this isn't produced by Prince Paul (who was basically already out of the picture by this point) or The RZA, but by Wu affiliate The 4th Disciple. It's a pretty mellow, even smooth track, dominated by a long piano loop, occasionally interspersed with harp or string samples. Again, the humor and crazy horrorcore aspects from album #1 are completely gone here... instead each MC just kicks a pretty simple verse about overcoming strife between a mellow hook:

"I want a queen on every continent,
So I can escape the government;
F
lee my residence, settle in.
I'm a militant-minded, brilliant rhyme whiz;
The time is now for me to shine. Kids are innocent,
Blinded; society got to be reminded."

You wouldn't expect it going into a Gravediggaz record, especially with subject matter delving into topics like slavery, but this song is actually pretty relaxing. The only real flaw here is that, despite having a well-written verse, Rza sounds a bit clunky on this one (he came off much better on their last single, for example); but Poetic is reliable as ever and Frukwan sounds especially good over this beat.

So you can see both why this single (or anything else off album #2) wasn't a break-out success; but you can also see why fans hold it in high regard. There's no B-side or anything to this single, but it comes fully-loaded with the Album Mix, Radio Edit, Instrumental and Acappella; and it comes in a cool sticker cover [shown above].

But if you're really not satisfied with a B-side, if you feel like they've left you hanging, then they made up for it a few months later with this promo-only follow-up 12". This one features two exclusive remixes of "The Night the Earth Cried" and their instrumentals, plus the album version and Acappella again for good measure.

First up is the Diamond J remix. Diamond J is a UK DJ from a group called The Cavemen (who, if you're interested in UK hip-hop, I recommend checking out), and he later went on to become The Gravediggaz official DJ in their later years. This mix is more atmospheric, relying more on the big beat drums. The samples sound like they could've come from an old, 60's horror film or something. it's a cool variation, but not as addictive as the original version. "Atmospheric" doesn't typically translate to "catchy."

Then we've the remix I prefer, the DJ I-Cue Remix. I-Cue is, I believe, a Swedish DJ, who was part of a couple groups and labels (like Digital Konfusion) I'm not at all familiar with. But I-Cue does a great job of capturing the Wu vibe (better than a lot of genuine Wu-Tang members have managed over the years - heh). It's fairly atmospheric, too, with eerie vocal samples, deep bass and ascending notes that again sound like they could be taken from a horror flick (maybe more 80's though, this time). But this one's definitely more of a straight head-nodder, too. It's hard to top the original (4th Disciple is a seriously underrated producer), but I'd put this mix right along side it.

So I can't blame anybody who heard the Gravediggaz' second album and were immediately disappointed - this was not the group they fell in love with. And of course Prince Paul fans were really short-changed. But if you appreciate some good, second-tier Wu affiliate music (a la Sunz of Man, Royal Fam, etc); this is some of the best.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Intriguing Life of The Prince of Darkness

Why do rap artists from Miami always have the most interesting stories? I mean, it's not always the right kind of interesting (see: the tragic and awful story of Ant D); but I swear, every local rapper who's graced The Miami Herald could have their careers turned into the most fascinating, wild movies. And The P.O.D. (Prince of Darkness) is certainly no exception.

This is not my first time blogging about P.O.D., and I don't think it's gonna be the last. For those who need a reminder, P.O.D. is the artist formerly known as The Prince of Power, one half of the infamous and beloved Young & Restless. But I'm not going to get all into their crazy drama with their former producer/manager, The P-Man (I'll save that for another blog)... instead I'm just focussing on one of the most obscure twists and turns in their subsequent solo careers: "Life" on B.U.M. Records.

"Life" dropped in 1996, and it's distributed by Ichiban. Yes, it's another one of those releases with the red spines and white letters... surely he was one more artist on Ichiban's underrated comeback roster in the mid 90's, where they signed a plethora of established artists who were at the time unsigned, from Kool Moe Dee and The Treacherous Three to MC Madness to Kwamé to Doctor Ice, and so on. Some of the material was disappointing, but it was still a nice time for a fan, getting albums from so many artists you thought you'd never hear again. In fact, if you read the liner notes of the single, it claims to be "from the upcoming LP The Renegade." But The Renegade was not to be... only this rare single exists from P.O.D.'s Ichiban signing.

Now, if you're wondering if P.O.D. was still on good terms with his partner in Y&R Dr. Ace, I can assure you the answer is yes, because he produced this song (under his real name, C. Trahan). But despite that, this is nothing like a Young & Restless record. Not only does this not have the humor of their past collaborations, it's not even a fast-paced club song like P.O.D.'s other solo single. This is a slow (think: Scarface speed) and serious record. I suppose that's why The Prince changed his name from Power to Darkness - to show that he was going in a new direction.

It's a reflective, autobiographical song about growing up... talking about putting away the weed to take care of his kids:

"Did God put me here to be miserable and high,
Then not tell me why?
I'ma a fill in what I'm feelin': no father or mother,
Separated from my brothers at one age or another.
My head started to swell. When will good prevail?
Tormented by my sins, and I feel like I'm in Hell.
I feel like my life's a total mess."

Musically? Well, it's not sample-based, so that's a disappointment right off the bat. It's largely all studio sounds... you can almost picture them making this beat like that scene in Hustle & Flow. But one element raises it above that level and makes it more compelling... there's a lot of live guitar (lead and rhythm) played on this song. So it's got a real genuine appeal, with sincere lyrics and well-guided musical vibes.

And who plays those guitars you ask? Gary King of the Kendall Toyota Show. He's even credited exactly that way in the notes: "of the Kendall Toyota Show." So what is the Kendall Toyota Show, you ask? It was a surprisingly successful celebrity talk show/infomercial (which later became known as the Miami Tonight Show) that aired on Miami television, produced by a local car dealership and hosted by their general manager. The Miami New Times described it as, "so provocative, so unremittingly, uh, bad, that one feels almost obligated to watch -- the same way that, upon passing a nasty car wreck, one slows unconsciously to assess the carnage. The carnage, in this case, consists of Hollywood has-beens who have been reduced to guest stints on a fake chat show hosted by two large, impossibly caffeinated men in cummerbunds." ...See? Only Miami artists have such fun details spring out of even the tiniest of liner note credits.

But there's more! There aren't any instrumentals (just as well) or radio edits or anything, but there is a B-side (labelled as a "Bonus Track"), entitled "Mortal Combat." It's not quite the battle rap massacre you might expect from the title, but it's certainly faster and harder than "Life." It's sort of a low-fi, gangsta rap freestyle cut produced by P.O.D. himself, but with some unmistakeable writing touches of the original Prince of Power:

"Fuckin' with the P.O.D.'ll be a no-no.
Pull a strap on your dad and treat your mom like a dog-ass ho;
Through this process of feelin' no remorse;
And if she fine? Sexual intercourse!
I gotta say this kinda shit 'cause it's that kinda jam,
And besides, that's the kinda nigga I am."

I can see how this single wouldn't appeal to all of my usual readers... I can see how it wouldn't appeal to most people, period. But if you loved all that low budget, Ichiban come-back material like I did, and if you've got a warm pace in your heart for Young & Restless, then you don't need to hear my opinion before you start tracking this down for yourself. And the rest of you guys, at least it was an interesting one to read about, right?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Summertime with Ill, Al and the Boys

The sun just melted the rear-view mirror off of my windshield the other day, so I reckon it's time for this year's summer jam. I've chosen "Summertime" by Ill Al Skratch on Mercury/Polygram Records. This is a promo only single, so there's no date on the label. But it definitely came after their big single debut ("Where My Homies") and it pre-dates their second album, so I'd guess 1995 or 1996 at the latest.

It can't be too much later than that, after all, 'cause "Summertime" is an album track off their Creep Wit Me LP. There it had the more expansive title, "Summertime (It's All Good) (Al's Solo)." There are no production credits on this 12", but the album credits everything to The LG Experience and Lo Rider, so one of them must've done the "Summertime," and quite possibly the B-side as well (more on that when we get there).

Anyway, a summer jam is right up these guys' alley... they were always more on the laid back, not particularly lyrical or hardcore tip, so this follows in the footsteps of their strongest material. Like the expanded title suggests, Al takes this one solo, except for an R&B hook by an uncredited singer... Well, the album credits the singers, but it doesn't say who's singing on which songs. So, discounting the females and assuming it's not Brian McKnight again, that leaves either Kenneth Staten or Jerry Elcock. Take your pick. Anyway, the hook is pretty simple and calm... the bulk of the song is about Al kicking your typical, relaxing narratives (seeing some girls, getting a lift from his partner and of course having a barbecue).

So it's definitely one of their better songs, and this 12" gives us Clean, Dirty, Instrumental and Acapella versions. But much more compelling, frankly, is the B-side. Exclusive to this 12" is "Dr Feelgood," a posse cut featuring Nine, Greg Nice and M.O.P. DJs Red Alert and Kid Capri are also on hand to say a few words for the intro and outro. Now, to be honest, Ill and Al Skratch have always been just okay to me. I can't say I've felt very compelled to go back and revisit their album since I got it in 1994. But thanks to the B-side, this 12" is the one to own; it's easily the best thing they've ever done, IMHO.

...Of course, that's largely because they're overshadowed by their guests. The beat is sort of in the low-key, mellow territory of their other work, but much harder, driven by a rugged bassline. M.O.P. and Greg Nice of course quadruple the energy level, and Nine's voice is always a welcome guest. The hook is provided by an uncredited DJ cutting up Big Daddy Kane's "Smooth Operator" line, "I make it real good, like Dr. Feelgood." This is the kind of joint I imagine Ill and Al would've made all the time if they weren't taken over by a major, commercial record label. And this mix also comes with instrumental and acapella versions, for those of you itching to take it apart.

So yeah, if you only pick up one Ill Al Skratch joint (and frankly, one's enough), your first impulse might be "Where My Homies," but nah, I would say this one. It's got a cool, easy-going summer jam on the A-side that reflects the best of what they were normally about, and then their best, atypical work on the flip. It's a nice, breezy pick-up for a stultifyingly hot summer day.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Don't Let Good Music Rot On the Vine!

This 7" has been apparently collecting dust for a while. It's just being marketed now, but according to the label, the songs were recorded in 2006 and there's blogs hyping this 7" dating back to 2008. So it's been a long time in the making. But worth it.

It's "¡Hermano! (Keep On)," a two-song 7" by The Cookers on New Medina Records. Don't be put off that you haven't heard of The Cookers; it's actually a collective pseudonym for some dope, indie artists you surely have heard of. The MC is Sach from Global Phlowtations and, of course, The Nonce. And on the cuts is none other than Mista Sinista of NY's DJing super-group, The X-Men. And it's produced by Lyn Ness, who also owns the label.

Man, all I can say is check this out! The production is up-beat, incredibly jazzy and instantly catchy. The main sample is a fresh rolling piano loop, with a dusty horn sample on the hook. Sinista keeps it moving with constant, top notch scratches and Sach's laid-back flow sounds the best he ever has since "Mix Tapes" back in 1994.

Then the B-side is "The Brakes," which features a guest spot by Aloe Blacc. Aloe Blacc is of course part of Emanon, but may be better known as a solo artist. I haven't checked for much of his stuff since his early IPO Wax days, but he's put out a lot of material with Stones Throw since. This one's everything the A-side was, but hits a little harder with more rugged drums and a deeper bassline. And the MCs flex a little more aggressively. Two flat-out great hip-hop tracks for sure.

Now, this 7" is limited to 150 hand-numbered copies (though mine seems to be an unnumbered promo copy). But it's reasonably priced (opposed to those $100 collectors' releases) and is only available direct from the label. Click here for their site with mp3 snippets (seriously, go listen!), label scan and ordering info. Don't let this 7" sit unsold in their offices - it's too damn good!