Thursday, February 26, 2015

Even Harder 2 Obtain

Most of us came across 12 Block on the third volume of Nick Wiz's Cellar Sounds compilation albums. Their 1996 song "The Presentation" also made it to wax on Cellar Selections vol 3 set. But dedicated Stretch & Bob fans who follow the demos they used to play on the air and have been trying to track them down remember the name. You see, 12 Block are actually essentially an alteration of the Long Island group Hard 2 Obtain, who released the rather highly regarded album Ism & Blues on Atlantic Records in 1994, and then disappeared seemingly without a trace. The answer to that mystery turns out to be 12 Block.

Listening to that album, you'll catch plenty of references to them being "from the twelve block." Well, one of the main MCs from 12 Block is straight up one of the main MCs from Hard 2 Obtain, Taste. 12 Block's DJ, Nastee, isn't the same guy as in Hard 2 Obtain, but if you read the credits, he did produce two tracks on their album. And thanks to the info Heavy Jewelz uncovered, we now know the third guy, A.Math, was originally going to be a full-fledged member of H2), but sat out the first album to finish his degree. Unfortunately, it turned out to be their only album, but he did at least turn up for a guest verse on it. So now we know, after Ism & Blues, these three guys recorded the 12 Block demo, which got played on the air, and lead to them working with Nick Wiz.

Because, yeah, that sought after demo was recorded in 1994-95, and Heavy Jewelz has obtained and remastered all six tracks for this EP, M.I.S.T.: Movin' Island Style Thorough. And to be clear, the beats here are not by Wiz, but all self-produced by DJ Nastee.

I thought I'd never heard any of these tracks before; but when the title track came on with them freestyling over Gangstarr's "Just To Get a Rep" bassline and the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it, don't fit, don't force it" hook, I was like, oh, it's this song! I remember wanting that back in the days, I just lost the plot that this 12 Block demo was that joint. No wonder people have been after this one.

The rest of the EP is nice, too. "The East" has a super smooth, cool out vibe and deep bassline. And "If It's On Like That" is like a mix of early Souls of Mischief flows and vibe over a phat New York boom-bap track and jazzy sample on the hook. The way they drop the Biz Markie vocal sample over the hereafter instrumental of "3 Everybody" is ill. The songs on the B-side sound a little more like typical low budget indie 12" stuff, but that's not a bad thing. It's all got a cool, laid back but gritty vibe to it. There is a little bit of a dated feel to some of the punchlines and excessive pop culture references, but they get away with it just off of how slick they say it. "Anything" is the kind of song you'd hear on an old mixtape and have you wondering "who was that?"

So M.I.S.T. is limited to 300 copies, 100 on a cool black and white blended vinyl, and the other 200 on standard black. Both versions come in a solid large-sticker cover.  It's a very cool presentation. It actually dropped earlier in 2014, so it's already sold out on HJ's main store. But I see there's 7 copies left, as of this writing, via their bandcamp. After that, you'll have to get it used or just settle for the download (ick!), so move on it if you haven't got it already. 'Cause you're gonna want it once you wake up to it.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the post, I'll have to seek this out.

    The flip side to the "L.I. Goove" single has an exclusive freestyle called "Off The Top (Straight From The 12 Block)", so they really hammered home the "12 Block" theme.

    Side note: all three of the Hard 2 Obtain 12-inches were packed with extras. Each one contained both a remix and a b-side track not on the album.