Tuesday, January 21, 2020

The Fat Boys' Hardest Gangsta Raps

(I hate when critics of Hip-Hop lay "Cop Killer" on our doorstep.  That's a heavy metal song on a heavy metal album by a heavy metal band.  I don't listen to that noise!  But, to be fair, it's not like we haven't got a few violent gangster tales of our own... like these, told by The Fat Boys.  Youtube version is here.)

Friday, January 10, 2020

U521 - The Comeback Of the Decade, and More!

You might say that "the comeback of the decade" is a pretty left-handed compliment to throw at somebody on January 10th, 2020.  Well, allow me to be "that guy" for just long enough to point out that there was no year 0 in our calendar, so the decade doesn't roll over until next January.  So me declaring somebody just made the comeback of the decade, I'm talking about on the last ten years, not ten days.  Or, to put it in a less irritatingly nerdy way, hell yeah, I'm excited about this!  Just who's back?  Unique!

Just a couple months ago, I wrote about how DWG had unearthed and released a little bit more from Unique's vault of lost recordings.  It had been a long time since they first brought him back into the scene.  And I guess now in retrospect, the timing was because Unique was planning this all along.  Maybe/ maybe not, but it's all good news for Hip-Hop fans regardless.  First we get more vintage 80's material, and now we get all new music from him!

"Lyrical Assault" is a 2-song 7" from Hip Hop Be Bop Records, the same label that brought us the equally dramatic returns of Silver Fox and Sugar Bear.  And thankfully, producer Clandest does as good a job of capturing the spirit of the original artist as he did on those previous efforts.  It doesn't quite have the polished, 80s vibe of his earlier material, the main loop of "Lyrical Assault" feels has more of an indie 90s vibe, but it still suits Unique to a tee.  And the man himself?  He definitely has a raspier voice, but otherwise, hasn't skipped a beat, in his lyrical styling or delivery, since '88.  He certainly sounds older, but when he hits the line, "hold your ear, I'ma press the detonator, creepin' like a sniper, sorta like a terminator," this is unquestionably our Unique, just like he never left us.

"I'm a Always Shine" is a bit slower, but has the best scratches (as always, by DJ Credit One).  Except for his smoker's voice, "Lyrical Assault" sounds like a song he would've recorded for his classic, essentially unreleased '89 album.  And this sounds like the slightly more relaxed and mature kind of song he would've recorded for a second album in 1990.  Like, to put it in Kool G Rap terms, the A-side is from his "Men At Work" phase and the B-side comes out of his "Bad To the Bone" era.

This is a 45 7" (as I recall, the Sugar Bear was 33 1/3) and as you can see, comes in a picture cover designed, like the interior label, to match the classic New Day color scheme of his original 12"s. I'm not sure what the exact numbers are, but according to the HHBB's site, "limited press photos included while stocks last, some signed by Unique."  So if you're interested in bonus swag, you might want to jump on this sooner than later.  And while you're at it, Hip Hop Be Bop has another new record for you at the same time.

05:21's "Without Warning" represents HHBB's first release by a contemporary artist.  In fact, even by contemporary standards, they're kinda brand new.  05:21 is a UK duo comprised of MCs Koba Kane and T1 Vega.  This is their first physical release, and their "debut single" online seems to've just been released three months ago.  So yeah, they may as well have just popped out of nowhere, though they are managed by Blade (because T1's his son).  Blade's an MC with a deep history, dropping his first single back in 1988 and making albums ever since.  But I'm definitely not as up on my UK Hip-Hop as I should be... I think the only records I actually have of his are a Herbaliser appearance or two.  Maybe that'll be my homework after this post, to track down at least one of his early records.  But anyway, management isn't generally up there with writer or producer in terms of being a strong creative influence, so I'm not sure it's even particularly relevant here.  Like, Professor X used to manage Positive K, but "Quarter Gram Pam" sounds nothing like an X-Clan record.  So let's just take these guys on their own.

This one's just the one song, not produced by Clandest but by somebody named Sinikal (who also does his own scratching).  The 05:21 guys have pretty strong, aggressive flows and deliver well constructed rhymes at a steady pace.  Despite being new, you can hear a lot of the sensibilities of their old school label-mates in how they attack the mic.  I don't know if they're deliberately taking an influence from them or if HHBB picked 'em because they fit in with the rest of their roster despite the different generation.  Either way, it means if you've liked their previous singles, you should be happy with this one; they just don't come with the established reputations of the other artists' legacies.  Not that I'd quite put them on the level of a Silver Fox; these guys get a bit silly with their nonstop "like a" similes, but for 05:21, the emphasis seems to be more on their impressive deliveries than whatever freestyle lyrics they happen to be spitting.  Instrumentally, my only criticism is that the main twangy loop is mixed a little too loud over the break and vocals.  I would've liked it a little more subtle, but it still works, and the cuts have a slick DJ Premier feel when they come in for the hook.

Like the Unique single, "Without Warning" is a 45 7" in a picture cover, with the instrumental on the B-side of this one.  You can just cop the Unique or 05:21 singles by themselves, but they take a few extra £s off if you order them together.  I have to admit, 05:21 is not one I would've selected for myself (having never heard of 'em and all) - unlike Unique who I'm thrilled over - but now that I've got 'em, I'm glad to have both, and I can't wait to see what Hip Hop Be Bop comes up with next!