Saturday, April 25, 2015

Sorting Out Our Scientific Shabazzes

Back at the very beginning of the year, you may've noticed Chopped Herring released a Shabazz the Disciple record called Lidushopahorraz: The Unreleased 90s EP. And you may've been a bit puzzled that a lot of the titles on it seemed pretty familiar. I didn't cop it right away, because I wanted to see if someone online would break down what was what here before I made a purchasing decision. And then I remembered that was my job.  :P

I didn't get it until I heard the title track, but the name of this EP, Lidushopahorraz, is an alternate spelling of "Little Shop of Horrors." And "Little Shop of Horrors" was the last song on his old EP with Supreme Kourt in 1998. What are the odds it's the same song? "I'm Breathing for You" also seems to match up with "Breathing for You" off that EP. "Organized Rime" and "Crime Saga" are familiar songs. Weren't they on that album The Vault? Or The Becoming Of the Disciple? Or The Book of Shabazz? Or The Passion Of the Hood Christ? Has Shabazz just been repackaging the same old songs over and over again for decades? Why is the room spinning? Are you my doctor? Help!

Okay, let's break this down track by track and try to approach things scientifically...

1. "Organized Rime" - This title is surely ringing a lot of bells, but you're probably thinking of his 1997 12" single, "Organized Rime (Part II)." Shabazz has a weird way of sequelizing [not an actual word, but it should be] his songs... His first single was "Death Be the Penalty," and his second one was "Crime Saga (Death Be the Penalty - The Sequel)." But there's also a "Crime Saga 2?" Shouldn't that be "Death Be the Penalty 3," then? It's confusing. So when he released "Organized Rime (Part II)" despite there never having been a "Part I," most of us just assumed it was another semi-sequel to "Crime Saga" or something. But it's not. "Organized Rime" is its own song, and it's being released for the first time here. Awesome, right? Well, kind of. If you got the 2006 CD/DVD combo The Passion Of the Hood Christ, this song was actually on there. So it's not actually unreleased or debuting on here... But this is its first time on vinyl.

2. "Lidushopahorraz" - Right, so like I said, it's really "Little Shop of Horrors" which is on the old Supreme Kourt EP., based on a line from Kool G Rap's "Ill Street Blues." Except the credits here say it's produced by C-12, not Supreme Kourt. How can that be? Because this is a remix. Or maybe this is the original version, and the Supreme Kourt version is the remix. Either way, it's the same vocals but set to a different instrumental. I'm not sure which version I prefer; this one is a little more conventional, but both tracks are dope. The biggest disappointment is that this is a shorter version, missing the second verse and skips from the first to the third. So overall, the original is definitely preferable. But this is at least a decent companion piece for people who already have the full version. And this version at least is completely unreleased.

3. "I'm Breathing For You" - Right, so "I'm Breathing For You" is obviously "Breathing For You." But once again, it's an alternate C-12 version. And this time it's got all the verses and I think it's doper than the one from the old EP. This was released already, however, on the 2008 CD The Vault (Hidden Safiyahz). And the old EP version is the one labeled "I'm Breathing for You" on The Becoming Of The Disciple: 94 B.C.- 00 A.B. So, another case of: not really unreleased, but at least making its vinyl debut.

4. "Crime Saga 2" - So, right. "Crime Saga 1," was "Death Penalty 2," his second single on Penalty Records. There was also a remix on that 12", but this isn't that. So is Part 2 really debuting here? Not really. It was on The Vault (Hidden Safiyahz), where it was titled "Crime Saga 2 (The Struggle Continues)." But again, vinyl debut at least.

5. "The Souls Journey A.D. (After Death)" - This one's entirely new to me. The label says it's another C-12 production, though it sounds different from his usual work - lyrically, it's an ill, spiritual imagery filled story along the lines of his early Gravediggaz verses. Lovin' this one, and again it seems to be quite old but completely unheard.

6. "Ya Exodus (Instrumental)" - Well, the full song, "Ya Exodust," was featured on The Vault (Hidden Safiyahz), but this is the instrumental version. Exclusive, but just an instrumental (with the full hook on it).

7. "I'm Breathing For You (Instrumental)" - Pretty self-explanatory. Obviously, this is the instrumental for the version of the song featured earlier on this record, not the old EP. And it's an exclusive instrumental.

So, has Shabazz just been repackaging the same old songs over and over again for decades? Well yeah, kind of. But he has a big back catalog, so there's not too much repeating going on throughout his releases. Usually each song just comes out 2-3 times.

This particular EP isn't nearly as unreleased as the title would leave you to believe. But does feature at least one seemingly completely unreleased song, which is pretty great, and am unreleased remix. Plus two instrumentals. And its all making its vinyl debut. So alright, if you're a vinyl head just looking for some ill 90s music, this is it for sure. But if you're a serious Shabazz fan expecting a full EP of songs you don't already own, be prepared for some disappointment. But at least you'll get "Souls Journey."

The sound quality is nice; "Souls Journey" definitely does not sound like some crusty old tape rip. And it's all given Chopped Herring's usual high quality treatment: sticker cover, limited to 350 copies, 75 on gold colored vinyl, 75 on silver (silver), and 200 on classic black. This is probably more for serious vinyl heads than people who already have all the CDs; they should be very happy with this, even if we have had the bulk of these songs before.

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