Monday, April 30, 2012

Mikah's Lost Love

In 1999, Freestyle Fellowship's Mikah Nine released his solo debut, It's All Love, on Pure Hip Hop, Inc. Like PEACE's debut, it's a very home-made release: a CD-R with Mikah's name sharpie'd on it, and artwork printed on color paper for the case. It was pretty limited, and even marked "ROUGH MIXES FOR PROMOTIONAL USE ONLY." But these Fellowship cats were once major label artists, so again, like with PEACE's album, you know this had to get re-released, right?

And re-released it was! In 2001, Mary Joy Recordings (a Japanese label that specialized in lyrical, underground US artists) finally picked it up and put it out a professional version with a newly subtitled name, It's All Love: American Nightmare.  But Mary Joy albums could be tough to find in the states (most of us just ordered 'em off the internet), so The Goodlife collective's label decided to give it another release in 2002. And since all of these releases were CD-only, Twentyfour Seven Records selected seven choice cuts and pressed them on vinyl in 2003. That's a lot of It's All Loves.

But the Pure Hip Hop version had something none of the others had: a different track-listing and some unique songs.  Again, like PEACE's album, songs got switched around, making the original pretty essential.  Actually, wait... both versions (the Mary Joy and Afterlife versions are identical, content-wise) have 19 tracks.  So that means both versions have unique songs and are essential.  Clever marketing, record labels.

So let's look at what the later, more accessible versions have first.  Most of the songs on are the same across the board, naturally, albeit in a different order.  But two differ (and no, the vinyl EP doesn't feature any of the exclusives from either previous release... it does have an exclusive Bonus Beat, though).  On the American Nightmare version we have:

18. On the Line - This is a pretty fresh song, that's never been released anywhere else, with Mikah kicking a pretty non-stop flow over a really fresh beat by Joseph Leimberg, who produced all of the American Nightmare version, and most of the original version. You may know Leimberg better by another name, Dr. Soose. Yeah, he was the trumped player in Mad Kap! Well, apparently, his talents weren't limited to just that one instrument, because he laid down something nice and perfect for Mikah to flow over.

19. Outro - Yeah, this is a bit of a "who cares?" one. It's essentially a reprise of one of the album tracks, "Come Up Off My Love." Nice to have as a bonus if you're getting both versions, but "On the Line" is the only real reason to score hunt down the a later version.

Okay, so now let's look at the original's two exclusives.

4. Come Up Off My Love (FJ) - There are actually two mixes of this song on the original album, one subtitled "FJ" and on subtitled "JL." The initials stand for the producers - so "JL" is Joseph Leimberg, of course, and "FJ" is for Fat Jack. To be honest, both versions sound a bit different than what we hear on the later versions (remember, after all, these are rough mixes), and none of them stand out. They're all very low-key productions with Mikah doing some not-too-impressive singing.  Still, if you dug the later ones, you'll probably enjoy the Fat Jack one, too; as it captures the same feel.

14. Homegirl - An exclusive song, never released anywhere else. The beat has a really deep, soulful feel - I don't know if any of the music is live instrumentation, or if Joseph just did an excellent job of making it sound that way; but either way it works. Unfortunately, Mikah's singing isn't up to the track (his singing was a problem with a lot of his material at this phase in his career), but the beat manages to carry him.

So, in the end, it's pretty much all good news. Both versions give you some exclusives, so you can be happy owning either or both versions. But the exclusives on the original aren't so great that, if you're not a huge Mikah fan, you'll have to drive yourself crazy trying to hunt down an OG mix. In fact, the newer one easily has the best exclusive.  So casual fans can just pick up the later one and feel satisfied. But for the hardcore, there is more out there to be found; you can even pick apart the variances between the rough and later mixes, and maybe find a new preference among the other album tracks  And Mikah got to sell his album multiple times to many of the same people. Everybody basically wins.

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