Thursday, January 9, 2014

Return To Monster Island

This dropped the same time as Young Zee's Musical Meltdown Part 1, so it took a little while for this one to sink in, too; but this is Dope Folk's concurrent release: Monster Mixes by X-Ray. X-Ray is the producer for Darc Mind and Legion of D.U.M.E., both of whom Dope Folks has already put out EPs of, so it makes sense that he'd return. But instead of those two groups, this time it's material by The Monster Island Czars, a bit of a hip-hop super group consisting of guys like MF Doom, MF Grimm and Kurious using aliases taken from Godzilla movies.*

So, various members have come and gone from the group, it may or may not have broken up and reformed a couple times, and it's not always clear who's considered an official member and who's just doing a guest spot. Basically, the Czars just seems to be a blanket term for whoever gets down with the gang and records a song. Many of the most famous members seem to be ex members, if the group is even still considered to be together at all. ..And again, just to make it all the more confusing, everybody's using aliases. Not even necessarily consistent aliases (Kurious has been both Gappa and Biolante... I think).

Being that this is billed as an X-Ray EP, we know that all of this material must be from before 2004, because that seems to be when he, a.k.a. King Caesar, left the group. All six tracks here, in fact, first appeared on X-Ray's self-produced CD-R Monster Mixes Vol. 1, half in a series of two (there was also a Vol. 2) albums from 2002 and 2003. All these six songs come from Vol. 1 and are making their vinyl debut here.

So just what have we got? The labels add a little to the already confusing nature of the M.I.C. by referring to the artists sometimes by their monster aliases and sometimes not. For example, one song is credited to MF Doom, and another is credited to Rodan and Megalon. Dope Folks is just following X-Ray's lead here, however, as he listed them the same way on his CD. So let's break it down and clear it all up.

The opening track is "Run the Sphere," credited to the M.I.C. featuring Jet-Jaguar, Kamackeris, King Ceasar, King Ghidra, Kong, Loch Ness, Megalon and Rodan. That line-up translated is MF Grimm, Kwite Def, X-Ray himself, MF Doom, Kongcrete of The Reavers, ummm... even I don't know who Loch Ness is, Tommy Gunn and Onyx the Birthstone Kid. Listening to the song, they don't seem to rhyme in quite that order, though, and there's an extra credit, as there are only seven verses (and yes, X-Ray does rap on this). There's another version of this song on Rodan's solo album (Theophany: The Book Of Elevations) called "Run the Sphere v.2.3," which features an additional rapper in between the first and second verses of the original (the one that starts off "hold up; those that knows I knows I ain't got the time"), though. I believe that to be Loch Ness, who is erroneously also credited here. ...You'll note that Loch was never credited on the original 12".

Anyway, the title "Run This Sphere" should probably be pretty familiar to you, not just from the Rodan album, but because "Run the Sphere" was also the group's debut single in 2001 on Brick Records. But X-Ray didn't produce that (or the remix on the B-side of that first 12"). So even though the label doesn't say so, this is the remix he made for Monster Mixes. I'm not sure I can say this is better than the original, since that was pretty fresh; but this is a very cool alternative, much smoother and heavier.

Next is "Doomsday Remix" by MF Doom featuring Pebbles the Invisible Girl. "Doomsday," of course, was the title track of Doom's debut solo album on Fondle 'Em, before the Monster Islands Czars were a thing. This remix is really fresh, breathing new life into an older track. And, just to be clear, it's not the widely released "Doomsday" remix from the MF EP that Doom did with Grimm in 2001. That was good, too; but this is a different one, and even better.

Next is a Darc Mind song called "You da One." I'm not really sure why this track was included, as it's just an album track from their main album, Symptomatic Of a Greater Ill (and, as such, isn't making its vinyl debut here). It was also included on Soul Food and the Monster Mixes CD, so X-Ray must just really like it. It's certainly good enough, but I'm surprised Dope Folks chose this over one of the many other options. Oh well.

Flipping over to side 2, we get "I Seen It All" by Spiega, a.k.a. Spice of The Reavers. He has a voice and flow very similar to Kev Roc, giving this the feel of another Darc Mind song. And that's certainly a fine thing.

Next is "Century 21" by Rodan and Megalon. We've already established from the "Run the Sphere" credits that Rodan and Megalon are actually Onyx and Tommy Gunn. Onyx, of course, is one of the original KMD members; and Gunn may actually be best known for the 12" he released on Fondle 'Em under the Megalon pseudonym, "One In a Million." Anyway, this is a really tight track, with a very addictive sample. Rodan even included it on his solo album in 2004. That album - though less obscure than Monster Mixes - was still CD only though, so the song is still making its vinyl debut here.

Finally we end with Kong's "Broken Nose Flow." This has a cool, darker flow than everything else on the EP, evoking a crime film soundtrack, and cutting up an iconic Mobb Deep vocal sample (you can probably guess it based on the song's title) for the hook. And Kong has a really slick, non-stop flow on this one, making for a really nice closer to this EP.

You know, now that I think about it, perhaps the reason X-Ray sometimes credits rappers by their monster alias and sometimes not is because some of this material (i.e. the "Doomsday" remix) wasn't really recorded for a M.I.C. project, but just the artists' own solo ventures. That would make sense.

Anyway, it was a bit complicated, but we've sorted it all out. At the end of the day, it's a nice EP of six really good tracks by the Monster Island fam.  All good choices except the Darc Mind is sure to be a duplicate for anyone who's a big enough fan to be buying the vinyl. So I really would've liked to see another song chosen instead. ...I mean, I don't know. Maybe Dope Folks is planning to ultimately release everything from both Monster Mixes volumes onto wax, anyway. That way nothing will have missed its shot, in which case why not just stick it on here, too; as more of a bonus track? But until such a time, I have to consider that the one disappointment of this otherwise fine EP.

*As the Godzilla flicks got goofier, and the number of rival monsters got ridiculously large, they eventually came up with the conceit that all of the monsters somehow wound up living on a shared island, called Monster Island, until one or two of them needed to escape and stomp through Tokyo for another sequel. In the entry I remember most clearly from my childhood, a little boy somehow winds up on the island and befriends Baby Godzilla, and so he gets real Godzilla to fight all the other monsters and help him escape. Or something.

1 comment:

  1. i think the most known monsters are:
    mf doom/king ghidra
    mf grimm/jet jaguar
    x-ray/king ceasar
    tommy gun/megalon
    rodan(same name)

    i also wish they have put another"lost" track
    than "u da one"

    dj scaramanga