Monday, December 9, 2013

Venture Into...

Parts Unknown are a very obscure Palo Alto group with a hot, underground album. I first heard of it the same way many of you readers probably did: when it was touring the rapidshare blogs and selling for big bucks on EBay. Time for Turmoil was a cassette only release, and heads have been asking for a proper release since it first started burning up the internet. And just like they answered my call for Young Zee's lost album, Dope Folks Records swooped in and provided.

The full ten-song (well... eight songs and two skits) album is now here, remastered on vinyl, with a cool sticker cover preserving the original J-card image. You might notice the track-listing is different, but everything's here, the order has just been reshuffled into a new sequence.

Never heard these guys before? Well, they're a nine man crew, but could basically be boiled down to MC Kilo G, who's the main vocalist on almost every track, and producer Studio B, plus their extended crew (C-Dub, Code Z, Top Dog, Shawn T, Paco, Young Mack & K-9). And when I first heard them, I thought they really sounded like early Paris. Kilo's voice and flow, the dark production. I thought that even before getting to "Radio Version Of the Underground," which jacks the instrumental for "The Devil Made Me Do It." So the similarity is more than coincidental, but that's okay, because who wouldn't want to hear a hardcore crew that sounds like early Paris with a rawer street edge?

Granted, they trade away a little of Paris's compelling social and political commentary, but in return they get a rougher, old school sound, plus a livelier variety thanks to the other MCs. For instance, Young Mack lives up to his name by sounding like a kid on "Another Day In EPA," and Shawn T & Top Dog bring a more traditional gangster rap influence to the table on "Trademark." "911 Funk" disses Rated X over EPMD's "You're a Customer" beat, with an anonymous female guest MC on the last verse. "NewTack Remix" is a remix of their earlier single "Classified NewJack" (amusingly, Dope Folks carries over the typo from the original cassette sleeve). Whether it's preferable or not is debatable... this version probably sounds objectively better, but relies more on familiar/ overly used breakbeats, whereas the original was fresher and had (appropriately) a slightly more new jack feel to it. Vinyl heads will probably prefer the one they're getting here, so that works out.

As always with Dope Folks, this is limited to 300 copies. Sound quality-wise, you can kinda tell that this was taken from the cassette or a rip as opposed to original master reels, but they've done a nice job beefing up the music in the remastering, giving it a rich, warm quality with some deep bass. Plus, who knows if pristine sounded reels ever existed in the first place, considering what a low budget album this seems to have been? Basically, it's a dope album that sounds better here than you've ever heard it. And it's very cool to see one of our limited vinyl labels venture into some grittier gangster hip-hop, which is just as hot as anything despite being outside of the NY-sounding boom-bap comfort zone. Who knows what awesomeness this could be opening the doors for?

1 comment:

  1. Glad to see this get re-released. I've seen the cassette pop on eBay a few times, and it never went for less than $200.

    "Shawn T" later went solo as "Sean T" and released many solo albums from 1993 onwards, and has produced for E-40 and Spice 1.

    Top Dog joined with a rapper named Scoot to form Roots from the Underground and released an album in 1994 (produced by Sean T).