Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Celebrating Finsta's 20th On Wax!

In 1992, Finsta released his debut single, "Finsta Baby" on a little label called Cracd Records. Most of Finsta's singles are pretty rare, and all of them are highly respected and sought after by heads in the know. And this debut is perhaps the most of all of them. You can expect to pay a couple hundred for a copy nowadays. But it's become available again now, for the 20th anniversary of his vinyl debut, on the new label, Sergent Records.

The original 12" featured three versions of "Finsta Baby"  - Dirty, Clean and Instrumental, plus a B-side track called "Payday Is Bliss." Perfect, but who cares about the Clean version, right? Sergent knows we don't, so they replaced it... with a previously unreleased vintage Finsta track from the 90's: "Activate." We heard a good, tantalizing chunk of it on Finsta's Never Say Never mixtape from back in the late 90's, but now we're hearing it complete and unmixed for the first time, on this vinyl debut. This is gonna excite a lot of people.

What's that? You say you're not necessarily completely entirely familiar with Finsta's music history? Oh dear, what are we going to do with you? Quick, read the rest of this post before anybody cool hears you don't know who Finsta is!

Finsta is a Brooklyn MC, down with those Black Moon cats before they blew up.  He came out with his earliest material produced by Evil Dee and da Beatminerz, and then hooked up with his rhyming partner Bundy,. Finsta became his own producer, making tracks that can stand 100% alongside the best of Da Beatminerz, and released a series of 12" singles throughout the 90's, right in the heyday of the indie vinyl days, but always just slightly off the radar.  I don't think think anyone could say Black Moon was ever pop, but compared to Finsta, they were the mainstream to his underground realness. "Feel the High," "Who I Be," "Sunnyside," "Don't Stress Tomorrow"... If you see a Finsta Bundy record, pick it up; you will never go wrong.

So yeah, this is all pre-Bundy material, and produced by Evil Dee, not Finsta himself (including the unreleased "Activate."). Just real nice, underground flow, with a hyper, fast rap steez on "Payday Is Bliss." A terrific single that belongs in the crates of anyone who can get their hands on a copy, made all the better with the inclusion of the very worthy "Activate."

So, about the release. It comes in a fresh sticker cover, and is limited to 150 copies, never to be repressed. Unfortunately, it's also priced like one of those limiteds, which is to say many times higher the price of a standard, new 12" single. And the sound quality? Yeah, I can't close the books without touching on that.

Unfortunately, I don't have an OG copy of  "Finsta Baby" on Cracd to do a proper side-by-side comparison (have I mentioned how rare and expensive those can be? I'm lucky to have the Finsta Bundy 12"s I do have). So just based on hearing this 20th anniversary 12" alone, I'll say it ain't bad. I've heard that the original sounds better, but this sounds alright. The two B-side tracks fare a little worse than the A, it sounds like the levels are breaking over their peak or... some kinda distortion seems to have sneaked its way into the final mix.  It's... okay; you can certainly still listen to it and enjoy it (and obviously "Activate" here is a leap year ahead of its prior mixtape incarnation), but it's not really up to the exceptional, top quality, first class all-around level you expect when you pay the big money for these special, limited releases.

So, at the end of the day, I still recommend this one for sure. Music-wise, it's A+ all the way. And presentation-wise? Okay, the sound quality pulls the GPA down a bit; but the quality isn't so problematic that you should miss out. I'm still happy to have mine, and if this were a budget 12" sitting on a record store shelf somewhere, everyone would scoop this up and dance away in joy; but at the price it's selling for, I'm seeing some grumbling online and it's not entirely unwarranted. It's not stellar, but it's still dope.

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