Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The NEW New England Hip-Hop Massive

The great Herring has chopped another holy grail off many of the most entrenched hip-hop aficionados' want lists, this time hitting us with one nobody saw coming. They've repressed 1993's New England Hip-Hop Massive EP. It's one whose rarity has definitely elevated its status, but make no mistake; it's a seriously dope record.

The headline track is "The Line Up," where the indie CT record label DFO gathered every artist they had associated with them into one giant posse cut. A long, anonymous line-up of complete unknowns to all of us unfamiliar with the local scene, this joint had to earn its ranking as a crazily high-priced, sought after "raer" based purely on its ability to rock our knots. It's a raw, high-energy jam based on a hot break and DJ/producer Quazar cutting up as the mic gets passed further and further down the line. It's an impressive array of MCing, with most of the guys being distinct and varied; and only one guy stands out as being sub-par, with a corny punchline flow that wouldn't've even passed muster back in '93: "I'm a G-R-E-A-T P-O-E-T; imagine I'm a Twinkie, open your mouth and eat me. I'm no homo; I'm phat like 'Flow Joe;' I'm so poetic they call me the white negro. ...It's all about the paper, you ugly little faker. Your rhymes stink more than my brother's anal vapors." And he ends his verse by saying, "I've got so much flavor, it's even in my shit," which... I'm not even sure exactly what that would mean. It's so juvenile, I think it went sub-logical. But it's a hot, fast-paced track, so his flow at least sounds really tight if you don't pay attention to the lyrics. And really, I've singled this guy out because I couldn't resist it, but everybody else acquits themselves quite well. Don't let my quotes dissuade you from what a funky, rough treat this song actually is.

But, for all the bluster and bravado of the attention-getting posse cut, I think the second track actually holds up better in the long run. Holocaust Frost's "The Mind Is a Universe" is just a killer solo cut with MC Frost spitting over another hype banger by Quazar. If the title reminds you a little of the Ultramagnetic MCs, listening to it will only put them more in mind. Frost sounds like a non-eccentric Kool Keith over a track that would sound right at home on Critical Beatdown.

For the third song, Quazar's fast and dusty breakbeat style is replaced with the richer, fuller sound of Subversive Element. And with it comes the introduction of the only guys you might well've heard of who appear on this record: Raw Produce. Unfortunately, they don't rhyme here (that's left to the MC, CIA); but they are the beatsmiths, and while this is a little more hardcore than your standard Produce record, their aesthetic definitely still comes across. And with the startling and tragic passing of Cadence in March, the fact that his incredibly rare debut on wax has finally become accessible for fans is a real highlight.

And that's about where the original EP ended. The three songs, and an undesirable Censored version of "The Line Up." But Chopped Herring once again demonstrates how they've gone from outliers to front runners in this limited game by not just bringing forth a highly desired grail, but actually making it better. For The New Line Up EP, Chopped Herring has removed the useless Censored version of the lead song and in its stead replaced it with a never-before-released demo by Quazar and his MC Adrenaline. It's a demo they recorded under the name Def Duo (not the same guys who started with Jazzy Jay and wound up making records with Markey Mark and the Funky Bunch, though), and it's completely in tone, and up to par, with the rest of the material on this EP.

That last song was sourced from a cassette, so it does sound kinda hissy; but this record was made entirely from the vaults of Quazar himself, so it's the best recording available, and it does hold up pretty well on wax. The other songs are remastered off the reels, so they sound as just as good as the original recordings ever did (bearing in mind the songs were originally created somewhat on the cheap). This is limited to 350 copies, with 75 on a "Clear with Orange swirl mixed colour," 75 on "Orange and Black swirl mixed colour," and the other 200 on your standard black.They all come in the phat sticker cover pictured above, which identifies all the MCs of "The Line Up." I believe the original just came in a plain black sleeve, so while the DFO pressing naturally retains collectability just by virtue of being the original; this Chopped Herring is well above just being an acceptable substitute.

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