Monday, January 9, 2012

The Wizard

Up until a couple months ago, all I knew about The Wizard of Rap is that his 12" was on a couple hardcore collectors' wants lists and he was known for sounding like Rakim. So, when Dope Folks announced that "Escape From East New York" was their next release, they had my attention. Finally, I'd be able to hear just how good this record is. So I listened to their clips and, oh shit! I couldn't order it fast enough!

Of course, it was a pre-order, so I had to wait. But now it's here and wow! It's even better than the sound-clips had me expecting. It's amazing what hip-hop managed to get lost in the sands of time and relegated to the infamous "random rap" category.

"Escape From East New York" is a four-song (or three songs and a remix, strictly speaking) 12" that was originally released in 1989 on Renegade Records. Apparently, only 100 were pressed, which is why I never saw one of these pass by before. If it ever did show up on the 'Bay, you can bet it'll come with the label "Holy Grail" and a price tag starting in the triple digits.

So, I said this guy kinda sounds like Rakim, right? Well, not only does his voice and flow sound similar enough to Rakim that you could fool some serious Rakim fans, but it sounds like Rakim at his peak. You could put this on his greatest hits album - it's better than a lot of his singles, and I'm not talking his post-Eric B days. I mean, it doesn't top his very best singles... "Microphone Fiend" remains untouchable, and "Follow the Leader," etc etc. But it beats out some of their singles, for sure.

This single works because Ra... uhh, The Wizard is on fire, for one thing. He's coming fast and furious with a real "take no prisoners" flow. But beyond that, it's a total package. The beats are hard... fast but still dark, taking samples you won't recognize from other hop-hop records, mixed with a few familiar elements, and twisting them into tracks that could have been straight up hip-hop classics if they'd gotten the right attention at the time.

Oh, and did I mention the scratching? Jay Swift kills it, especially for 1989 - he could challenge DMC champions with the kinds of cuts he has on here. Like I said, total package. Both mixes of "Escape From New York" and "Murder By Death" are "Jack the Ripper" steez. The other song, "Excuses," is good too; just not as good. You could put the others on the greatest hits album, and "Excuses" would just be a nice little album track you could tuck away on Let the Rhythm Hit 'Em or something. Certainly a respectable outing and an enjoyable cut, but not the one to get you amped.

As usual, Dope Folks has pressed up 300 copies and is selling them for $20. There's nothing "new" here, either in the sense of newly recorded music or unreleased vintage stuff - but it does carry over everything from the original record, and considering there's only 100 of these on Earth, I think it's a more than justified repress. Unless you happen to have one of those on Renegade, this is a must-have. Dope Folks always releases really good stuff, but this is top tier even compared to the rest of their catalog. If it sounds like I'm gushing, you haven't spun this wax yet.

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