Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Meet Mood At the Lounge

The vaults of Cincinnati's Mood are truly bottomless! Some time ago, I blogged about a demo or two of theirs that was full of unreleased tracks. Then, a demo appeared online (also referred to in that last link) with other unreleased Mood tracks that weren't on the ones I had. And now they've come out with a new vinyl release featuring two more previously unreleased tracks that no one'd ever heard before. It's like a magician's hat; no matter how much they pull out, there's still more!

So, what is this release exactly? Well, it's sort of a repress of their first two 12"s. See, their debut 12" in 1994 was "Verbal Stampede" b/w "Hustle On the Side" on their own label, Below Zero Records. Both of those songs are repressed on here, as well as the remix of "Verbal Slaughter," which was also on the original 12". They dumped the Edited versions, to which I say "good riddance," but they also dumped the Instrumentals, which is a little disappointing... but only until you hear what they took them off to make room for.

Mood's second 12", from 1995 and their only other release on Below Zero, was a remix of their original B-side, "Hustle On the Side." This was the debut production of DJ Hi-Tek, producer for Kweli/ Reflection Eternal. And yep, they've included that mix on this record as well.

But this 12" isn't just a repress - even a pretty sweet one that cherry picks their first two singles - it also features two previously unreleased tracks from those aforementioned vaults: "Can't Fuck With My Crew" and "Not Goin' Pop." And everything is up to par. If you dig Doom's style, you'll definitely dig the stuff you haven't heard... creative, backpackery lyrics and jazzy, moody samples over traditional, boom-bap drums. Everything except the Hi-Tek remix is produced by Doom's own Jahson.

The price of entry will surely disappoint some fans ($40)... You all know the limited game by now. So you'll have to decide just how big a Mood fan you are. But, if you are that Mood fan, your expectations will be fully met. And they also didn't skimp on the presentation. When you order, you have your choice of marbleized green, orange or classic black wax. It comes in a tight picture cover, it's hand-numbered (mine's 72 of a total 250 pressed), and it's even signed by Donté. The sound quality is excellent, all remastered from the original recordings. This is the third record on the GoodFelons label, following Roc Marciano's EP and Labtekwon; and can be ordered here. It's a first class release all the way - these guys do good work.

Monday, January 23, 2012

This Whole Enterrpise Is BONE'd

The release of lost rap music and shelved hip-hop demos didn't start with Freestyle Records and the current limited scene. Thankfully, there have long been the few, dedicated individuals determined to see vaulted art see the light of day... or at least cash in on a sudden explosion of popularity by a previously unregarded group. The latter was probably the case in today's instance, but whatever the motives, the results are the same for us listeners - old, forgotten music finally sees the light of day.

In 1994, the difficultly named B.O.N.E. Thugs-N-Harmony exploded on the scene through Eazy-E and Ruthless Records. They just came out of seemingly nowhere to become one of those break-out popular sensations that suddenly became inescapable in the media. But, of course, they didn't actually come out of nowhere. They came out of Cleveland, where they'd been recording music and trying to find the attention they eventually achieved in spades. The instant success of their hit single "Thuggish Ruggish Bone" and debut EP Creepin' On ah Come Up convinced Eazy to immediately push them back into the studio to record and get a full-length album out in stores. But he wasn't the only person convinced of the wisdom in getting a B.O.N.E. album out in stores.

So the same year that brought us E. Eternal and the even huger single, "1st Of tha Month" also brought us a strange, independent album (Stoney Burke Records) called Faces of Death by BONE Enterprise. BONE Enterprise was B.O.N.E. Thugs-N-Harmony before they went to Compton and developed the sound that hooked so many fans - the unique blend of fast raps, hard g-funk tracks and some old school harmonizing thrown in. On Faces of Death, you still get some fast raps and some harmonizing, but it's not at all mixed with that Compton sound. Instead, the production is handled by... Cleveland guys you've never heard of, except Archie Blaine, who did a couple tracks. Hardcore BONE fans may know him because he stuck with the group and did a few things after they got popular. But otherwise, it's all pretty random and low budget.

For the most part, that means, yes, you get cheap, inferior stuff that fails to live up to the Ruthless Records material everybody was loving. Many fans were surely disappointed. But it also meant you got some interesting experiments and compelling bits you couldn't find on their more official releases. So we got some at least interesting failures (that's more than you can say for a lot of artists already), plus a couple genuinely dope moments.

We also get one less member. See how there's only four guys on the album cover? This album was recorded before Flesh was down, so the line-up was just Krayzie Bone (Leather Face), Layzie Bone (#1 Assassin), Bizzy Bone (Rest In Peace) and Wi$h Bone (Strate Jacket!). Yeah, they all had Gravediggaz-style nicks. Anyway, I think that may be why Flesh has the most contrived "Bone" name (Flesh-N-Bone, how awkward): because he wasn't originally part of the concept, so they had to shoe-horn him in later.

Perhaps the most interesting element here is the reggae vibe that gets incorporated into a number of the songs, both instrumentally and occasionally even in the vocals. Sometimes there's reggae style percussion, sometimes there are soft (as in mixed low) James Brown samples. The subject matter ranges from sex songs to a downright horrorcore track called "Hell Sent," which starts out using the Phantasm theme and winds up with them singing a silly yet familiar "Murder, Murder" hook - it's fun in a very campy sort of way:

"Sold my soul to the devil,
But I changed my mind; now I want it back.
But he won't cooperate, so now it's time to jack.
Called RIP and Strate Jacket,
Number One Assassin is fully strapped.
We bailed through hell in khakis, locs, and black skully caps.
So Satan called his posse full of demons and witches,
We met up at the Abyss ready to slaughter the bitches, yo.
B
ut wouldn't you know, Satan went out like a sucka;
So I left a message in blood: 'to be continued, motherfucka'!"

That might almost be too jokey to even be considered horrorcore, though other verses are a little more straight-forward. But the highlight of the album is surely "Flow Motion," which showcase their fast rap abilities over a fun, if very un-BONE-like track featuring reggae-style percussion and the loop from Candyman's "Melt In Your Mouth." In fact, supposedly, this is the track that got them signed to Ruthless. Disappointingly, however, it's a Clean, edited version. The rest of the album is dirty (at some points, very dirty); but this one track - the best one - is censored. :(

It looks like we can largely thank a rapper named K-Chill for this release. He's executive producer, a featured artist (you hear him briefly on "Everyday Thang") and he even did the graphic layout. The liner notes even make sure to point out that his other albums, Get Ya Funky Off and Chill Factor, are also available. K-Chill has stuck around in the game, and even worked with the guys after they signed with Ruthless. Here's his myspace.

There's no LP of this, only cassettes and CDs, but like the limited game of day, that often puts out black and limited colored vinyl pressings, this was available on cassette in standard clear plastic, and (pictured) limited red. A lot of this album is forgettable; but the highlights should work for BONE fans, and maybe even people who don't like BONE because of their Compton, gangsta rap influences. I mean, yeah, there's a song here that clearly owes a lot to NWA; but this definitely doesn't feature the slow g-funk of their famous stuff. It's more conventional, which for some people is probably a good thing. It's like BONE Lite.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Bring Me a Shrubbery!

You may remember a time, back in 1994, when a label called Wrap/Ichiban, home of artists like MC Breed, Kilo and Success-N-Effect made a major bid to bring the old school back to the new. They signed and put out brand new albums by The Fearless Four, Kool Moe Dee, Kwamé, MC Madness (as in "DJ Magic Mike and _________"), Doctor Ice. MC Shy D... they even threw their own MC Breed into the mix, giving him the signature white on orange spined release, since it had been a while since he'd had a hit. And the flagship group of this short-lived movement was The Treacherous Three.

They were the flagship in that they were pretty much the first, and easily the most heavily-promoted. I've read recent interviews, where members of T3 (as Ichiban liked to abbreviate them) complained that their album flopped because of poor promotion, but they actually got a pretty good deal: big ads in The Source, press interviews, etc. I mean, it may not've been the kind of promotion Def Jam gives Jay-Z with giant subway billboards and big endorsement deals. But compare what T3 got to all the other old schoolers on Wrap, who you usually found out about by being surprised to see them in the store ("MC Madness? Could this be that MC Madness?") and these guys were super stars.

They squandered a lot of that by making their big, lead single a remake of their classic "Heartbeat" called "The New Heartbeat" which used the same beat, hook, and many of the same lyrics... it was so similar, it was downright pointless. And maybe, for most not-terribly0interested fans, that's about where it ended. A pointless single and a lackluster album. But there was another single that snaked out, like most singles by most of these guys, completely unheralded 12" that most heads - including serious fans of the artists who would've been quite interested - didn't find out until they started popping up as bargain bin listings on the internet many years later. And in the Treacherous Three's case, it included an exclusive shrubbery.

Now, the single was for a not-particularly exciting album track called "We Come Phat." The deliveries are very old school, pass the mic back and forth mid-sentence kind of party rhymes. It appeared early on the album and was a nice sign that these guys weren't going to try and copy the latest gangster rappers or whatever other trends they could latch on to; they were going to be the same Treacherous Three we remembered from ten years ago. But it was just meh. It featured vocal sample from The Fat Albert Show, and the main loop that Nice N Smooth used on "Early To Rise," but flipped into a duller mix... with live bass, apparently, by Jimmy O'Neil. I don't even hear any additional bass, though. I guess they're replicating the main loop instead of sampling it, which might help explain why it doesn't sound as good as it did for Nice N Smooth. This is no "Action;" the production almost seems determined to counter-act the effort the MCs are making to inject energy into the song.

And for some reason, on that 12", it's referred to as The Shruberry Mix. Besides being one of the most screwy, peculiar names for a traditional hip-hop track, it's also odd because they're just labeling the album version. Well... I think that's accidental. See, the next track on here is an exclusive remix, and that's just labeled as a Full Mix. So, I assume the label screwed up and reversed the two subtitles. And that's not the only gaff. The production, according to the album, is by someone named Joseph Carne. According to the 12", however, it's produced by Steve Philips and Edd Miller. I'm inclined to believe the album credits over this 12"s labels, just because the 12" seems to be on unreliable in a number of areas. Those two names (Miller and Philips) don't appear anywhere in the album credits.

Anyway, let's talk about this version that's probably meant to be called The Shruberry Mix. If the last beat failed to deliver the appropriate amount of energy, this beat, by O.C. Rodriguez, is like the intentional antithesis: dark and ominous. The bassline's pretty cool and all, but it's the sort of instrumental where you'd expect some shady, independent MC to tell you a slow, somber tale of how his man got shot in an alley during a drug deal gone bad, and that's why crime doesn't always pay. But instead it's set to:

"Down... down... down... down!
I can't get off the ground; the heavy weight's holding me down.
I'm caught up in the groove, got me hemmed up in the bass,
Kickin' like the 808, resonate, wait wait!
Listen to the zoom... zoom... zoom!
Put the needle to the groove,
Now watch it phatten up the room!
I hear the beat, I catch the Moe, I flow;
I'm off and runnin', black;
I rhyme to the P to the H to the A to the T;
God, I'm phat!"

And it's still got that crazy Fat Albert sample. It's actually interesting, and I like it better than the album version for sure. While the album/Full Mix just feels dull, here the difference is extreme enough that it makes for an interesting contrast. I mean, it's still no "Action," but this could've fit in well on Terminator X's second album, say.

Then flip this over and there's a couple album tracks. There's "The Mic Wreckers," which is produced by Rahiem of The Furious Five, but it's pretty underwhelming. Far more interesting is "We Wit It" which is by far the stand-out track of the album. It features Big Daddy Kane, Chuck D, Grandmaster Tito, Grandmaster Caz, Heavy D (who they credit on the album, but they forgot to here... like I said, the labels are all kinds of sloppy), and Grandmaster Melle Mel. It's a massive posse cut (especially when you consider T3 brings three solid MCs of their own to the mix), and the track is a good but not great mix of ever-changing, familiar breaks by someone named Ken Fambro.

"We Wit It" is pretty much the sole reason for anybody other than hardcore T3 fans to buy the album (some of the MCs really come nice on this track)... so it's nice that you can just get it on this single instead. And the ridiculously titled Shrubbery Mix is better than most of the album tracks as well. So it's no masterpiece, but you don't have to explicitly share my fetish for obscure releases by known artists to appreciate this one.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Hidden Bustdown Remix

So, I recently picked up Bustdown's single "Pissin' Razor Blades" from his 1991 Effect album, Nasty Bitch (Chapter 1). I'd never picked it up previously, 'cause I already had the album and I don't generally sweat picking up every 12" single that has nothing new to offer besides a Radio Edit and maybe some kind of Dub mix. But it was cheap; plus, as you know, a boy can't really become a man until he's completed his Bustdown collection. So I finally broke down and bought it along with some other stuff. Well, three cheers for wasteful spending, because this 12" turned out to be a Bustdown essential!

There's four tracks on this promo-only 12" (I'm pretty sure there is no non-promo version). "Was It Worth It" is the B-side - a pretty cool album track. It's surprisingly mellow for Bustdown as he kicks a serious message. But he sounds sincere, doesn't come off as too corny and the instrumental's pretty interesting, so, while it's not a highlight, it gets a pass.

But then there are three versions of "Pissin' Razor Blades:" the Nasty Version, which is the one from the album, and the Club Mix are on side 1, and on the flip you have... also the Club Mix. Well, that's redundant. But if you look a little closer, you'll see the label lists two different running times for the two Club Mixes. These are actually different versions. Presumably one is mislabeled, because the Club Mix on the A side is a full-blown remix.

Now, it's a little difficult to say who produced what, here. the label credits everything, collectively, to the trio of Mike Fresh, DJ Toomp and Rodney Terry. Well, Toomp is dope and Mike Fresh is one of the greats... Rodney Terry I don't really know, but still, that group of producers is all promising. However, there are shenanigans afoot.

This 12" credits the production for all four tracks to those three. But having spoken to Ice Mike - Bustdown's original producer - personally, I know that's not entirely accurate. "Was It Worth It" was one of his productions, along with several other tracks Bustdown recorded before he signed with Luke/Effect and hooked up with those producers. But then, as Ice Mike explains, "on the record, my name didn't come out. I mean, it's on the 12" that Luke first pressed up ["Putcha Ballys On"], but the CD has another guy's name, Mike Fresh."

But he didn't name "Pissin' Razor Blades" as one of his... and even if he did that beat, by the time they got around to making a remix for this Effect single, he was probably fully in the camp of the Fresh/ Toomp/ Terry team, so they probably did that one. But regardless, Ice Mike, Mike Fresh, Toomp... they're all ideal producers for Bustdown, so either way we're in good hands.

The album version that we all know and love is a gritty tale (as all of Bustdown's tales are) of the dangers of STDs. It takes a liberal dose of Parliament's "Mothership" (the same killer loop Sweet Tee used in "On the Smooth Tip"), and sweetens it with the dash of the famous whistling from Eric B & Rakim's "My Melody." All that supporting Bustdown's cocky, no bullshit flow - probably inspired by Willie D - makes for a great little record that makes you wonder why so many people slept on Bustdown causing us to never get a Nasty Bitch (Chapter 2).*

The new version, smooths things out a bit, with an emphasis on a super funky, rolling bassline. But it's kinda quick and upbeat, giving a more humorous tone to Bustdown's angry condemnations of the girl who burned him. The "Melody" whistle is still here on the hook, along with that crazy riff from The Fearless Four's "Rockin' It." It's a little less dynamic than the original, and so it feels less "signature." But it's real cool. It won't replace the original, but it's a great companion to it. And considering we're so starved for Bustdown records, we can't afford to pass these things up.

So, that's the Club Mix on side A, what I consider to be the mislabeled remix. The actual Club Mix, on side B, is a slightly tighter edit of the album version, but with a few interesting changes. It has a new skit for an introduction, with a guy sounding like an advertisement asking, "has this ever happened to you?" that sort of reminds me of the silly sketches NWA used to do. And, more compellingly, during the breakdown in the middle of the song where Bustdown argues with his girl over the phone, they add a really smooth horn sample that breathes some fresh life into the whole proceedings, possibly making it the preferred definitive version.

So, if you're the Bustdown fan who thought he had everything, make sure this one's in your collection, too.


*
The answer, of course, is that he was associated with Luke, and thus the bass music stigma that was prevailing outside of Florida.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Rap Scholar

Das EFX dreamed up the concept... Deadly Venoms bit it... but I have made it a reality!


Yep, those are actual, legit college credits from a fully accredited, non-fly-by-night college. In Rap/Hip Hop Music.
...Once I found out it was possible, how could I not do it? ;)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The First Hot Release of 2012

The music world may be going digital - or, really, it may've gone fully digital years ago - but hip-hop hasn't run out of good vinyl projects yet. It's just the beginning of January, and there's already a hot new release. Specifically, Grand Invincible are back with a new single called "Winter 365" on Revelation Records, a long-standing punk label dropping their first venture into the hip-hop genre.

"Winter 365" has a tight, atmospheric groove with some really nice vocal samples cut up into the hook - very Premierish. All in all, it's a perfect landscape for Luke Sick to kick the kind of Bukowski-inspired raps only he can: "Scaredy-cat MCs, they get no dap. Scared to come to the dives, thinkin' they ain't that. I can drink a shot of Jameson and not even flinch. Got a street crowd open so you know its intent. And if you be where I be, then you know it's intense. No tellin' 'bout tomorrow, so we don't make sense. Told a true-ass story, but forgot how it went."

The B-side is a posse cut featuring Agentstriknine, Eddie K, and of course Z-Man. The beat is good, but not as good as the A-side, and the verses are a little all over the place. No one manages to share the spotlight with our host, who steals his own show. That's a little disappointing in Z-Man's case... I hope he isn't mellowing out on us in 2012.

As you can see above, this is pressed on orange vinyl and comes in a pretty great picture cover. It is a 7" rather than a proper 12", but at just $5, you really can't argue about the value. It's limited to 300 copies, and can be ordered directly from the label here.

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 boice 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.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Return of Hot Chillin'

Back in 2007, the early days of the "limited" game, a new record label entered the scene, run by none other than the man himself, Marley Marl. One of the greatest, if not the greatest, hip-hop producers of all time releasing unreleased Juice Crew classics restored from the original masters from his very own vaults? There's no reason to ask questions - anything Hot Chillin' puts out is an immediate essential.

Like with 2009's Juice Crew EP, though, Hot Chillin' is more of an imprint than the actual label doing the releasing. It's still a never-before released, vintage Juice Crew hit directly from Marley's vaults, but this time the pressing, distribution etc are being handled by a new partner, Roots Forward Records, marking their first release. And for a beginning label, you can't ask for a better first release than a cracking, unreleased Craig G song from 1987.

But is it vintage? Other sites covering this 7" are playing it safe and just skating entirely around this issue, but fuck it; I'm going to tackle it. It's been brought up by multiple heads that this song "sounds too new" to be legit (remember Top Shelf 8/8/88?). Of course in many ways it sounds old - his flow is straight out of "The Symphony" rather than anything he's kicking nowadays. And the drums (more on them later) are classic Marley alright - right down tot he fact that he's used them before. And Marley has 'fessed up to reusing drums on multiple records that did get released, so it's hardly unlikely that you'd hear the same break in an unreleased joint from his vaults. If it's newly recorded, it was definitely meant to fool us.

But the argument is that it sounds "too clean," too "glossy" to be 25 years old, and to be honest it really kinda does. I mean, you gotta remember, 1987 would put this right after "Oh! Veronica" and "Transformer," which are absolutely primitive by comparison. And now, nothing on Roots Forward's site, Facebook, Soundcloud etc. state exactly what year this song is from... they just say "pulled from the vaults of the legendary Marley Marl;" but that doesn't mean anything date-wise - he could've recorded it and put it in his vault yesterday. Bloggers and vloggers are saying "'88" a lot, but I can't figure out where they're getting that year from. I found an old facebook announcement from Roots Forward that specifies, "from the golden era," and that's it.

Well, the controversy was enough for me to take it to Twitter and ask the man himself, @MC_Craig_G. And he replied back, "Nah it's a song from 1987." Assuming for a minute that it's not a Top Shelf-style hoax, Craig shouts out "buyin' records on Cold Chillin'," so it's gotta be before 1989, because Craig signed to Atlantic, not Cold Chillin' like the majority of the Juice Crew. At the end of the day, it still has an unexpectedly smooth sound to it, but I don't see firm enough grounds to accuse anyone of faking the funk (and, after all, Marley has tons of genuine unreleased heat is his vaults, why would he mock one up?). And, just like with Top Shelf 8/8/88 - even if it IS a fake; it's an awesome fake that sounds great and I'd have to have it in my collection even if it was newly recorded! :)

Now, until some new, concrete info comes forward, I'd say the case is closed... even if that may not to be everyone's satisfaction. So let's put it behind us and talk about what a neat, little record this is!

The joint's a banger, with - as I said - Craig G in full "Symphony" mode over a hot break-beat from Dexter Wansel. You surely remember "Theme From the Planets" being used to awesome effect in records like "In Control" by Sway and Tech, "Last Night" by Kid N Play, "Gutfest '89" by Digital Underground, the "Understand Me, Vanessa" remix by Anttex and "Tuffest Man Alive" by The Fila Fresh Crew. But unlike those songs which take practically the whole instrumental - which always sounds incredible - this one stops short, only using the opening drum loop. Like I said before, it's one Marley used famously elsewhere - after the big programmed drums at the opening, which Eric (cough cough, Marley) B keeps on top for the whole song - this is the drum loop he brings in for Eric B & Rakim's "I Ain't No Joke."

But then he flips it to a whole new direction, and brings in a smooth, head-nodding piano loop, helped quietly along by some atmospheric synth sounds in the background. And there's just some very simple, subtle scratching of a Rakim vocal sample ("tear it - tear it up") for the hook. In fact, it kinda sounds too subtle for '87... Uh-oh, wait; let's not go there again!

This record is limited to 300 hand-numbered copies; 100 pressed on clear (clear) vinyl, and 200 on black. As you can see, mine's clear and #17. It's not too unreasonably priced at $20, though that's a bit high considering this is just a 7", as opposed to a proper 12" (probably the only reason they haven't already sold out by now). Those of us who pre-ordered it over the holidays also received a nice, little bonus: a mix CD of disco-era Christmas rap songs,, including even one or two I wasn't hip to. Definitely appreciate that.

After all due consideration, this record has both my support and recommendation. And there seem to be both clear and black copies still available, so if you haven't already, I'd suggest dropping by the Roots Forward store and grabbing yourself a copy.And as for the future, Roots Forward has already announced four upcoming vinyl projects, including "the 2nd label release which will be an early 90?s gem being released again as a limited edition 7" single." And Hot Chillin'? Well, it's been ages, but they still have a page promoting their next release, HC003: Marley and Premier mixes of that wonderful tribute to Mr. Magic that was released mp3-only in 2009. Man, I hope that still happens!

Update 1/6/12: - Just heard from Roots Forward. According to Marley, the song is from 1988.