Monday, July 15, 2024

Time To Get Busy With the Captain Cassanova

You may remember I contributed to a couple projects on Dust & Dope Recordings - wow, has it been three years ago already?  I was about to say "about a year ago" - produced by DJ Cassanova, specifically the lost, original and probably superior Papa Chuk album and The Project Crew LP.  Oh, and the Landlords Of the Morgue EP, but I still haven't managed to get my hands on a finished copy of that myself.  😕  Well, after those came another DJ Cassanova project that I didn't have anything to do with but is still really dope: The Producer Project: The Texas Tapes 1992-1995 on Chopped Herring Records.

If I had been involved, I probably would've suggested they tighten up that title a little.  But it does tell you everything you need to know.  It's a compilation of tracks that Cassanova produced from '92-'95, presumably restored from tape.  Most of these are demos by artists who never really came out, but two songs find Cas reuniting with Teddy Lee from the Project Crew.  He comes harder and a lot grimier for the 90s.  "It's On Like This" has him calling out bullshit on the hook and spitting, "impossible to break my neck tryin' to put your ass in check; I call up Michael Myers and Freddy and Jason 'cause them niggas be bassin'.  Chase them niggas down the street then decapitate 'em so they souls feel complete.  Money grip, I bust lips.  Dun dada, I got the gift."  Then "Bullseye" is based on Black Moon's line from "How Many MC's."

The only other artist that's apt to ring any bells on here is Verbal Seed of the Third Eye Militia.  At least, that's how they're billed on the label.  But more specifically, it's a solo track from Focus of Verbal Seed.  But actually, some of the best stuff here is from the guys you don't know.

The EP opens with some tight, tough jazz loops: deep bass strings, the screechy horns from Kool G Rap's "Truly Yours" and a little ragtime piano sample make a killer track for a rapper named Ex-Cel to kick some freestyle verses over.  At points, this song's nineties origins reveal their weaknesses, whether he's dropping "chiggity-check"s or lame punchlines like "pockets stay fatter than Rush Limbaugh," but for the most part he's flexing a pretty tight, smartly written flow.  And Cassanova's cuts seal the deal.  Thankfully, he's adding nice to cuts to every song on here.

Necessary Roughness live up to their name on "Nothing But a Microphone."  "Verse two about to drop, check out the way I wreck shop.  I beat the fuck out a nigga like an LA cop.  I don't stop 'cause I rock with the rough shit.  I kick the flavor that you know you can't fuck with."  Again, yeah all that "kick the flavor" stuff really dates it, but that's also part of the fun uncovering these lost records.  Anyway, it all sounds great over Cassanova's collection of dusty horn samples, including the ones Special Ed sampled on "Living Like a Star."

Things lighten up considerably when Trillogy spins a casual tale on "Nothing Better Than (20 Sack)" with his laid back vocals and heavy western drawl.  "Seven o'clock in the mornin', time to rise for school.  I can't sleep in, or my moms would act the fool.  Oh well, I might as well get to movin' around.  Put on my Karl Kani shoes and my Karl Kani suit that's brown.  Walk out into the day and smell the morning air.  Then I saw this shorty: light skin, green eyes and black hair.  Aw yeah, off I went, what's your name and hold up, though.  If sports were based on looks, girl, you would be a pro." I like Cassanova's catchy, smooth instrumental, and it's cool to to have it shake up the mood on this EP; but I'm glad there's only one song like it on here.  And they do get back to the hard stuff for the last track by Felony, "yes, you've entered the danger zone, the strangler's home, release ya from the chamber 'till my anger's gone.  Fuck what you represent; I'm heaven sent.  Niggas best repent or find that I be burnin' like incense.  Talk is cheap so I stalk and creep."  He's not the slickest MC, but it's a fun song.

So yeah, this EP's a good time.  And I checked.  As of this writing, it's still available on CH's site.  There's the 350 limited edition record, with 120 copies available on red and black mixed wax, and the remaining 230 on classic black, both in a sticker cover.  In fact, the red and black one is Chopped Herring's final colored release; they stopped their long tradition of pressing colored vinyl after that.  So it's kinda neat to have their last one.  Or there's the CD version, which includes two additional bonus tracks.  You can't go wrong.

Sunday, June 16, 2024

Dreams of Druggin' an R&B Hoe

Ten years(!) ago, I made a video covering the extensive history of "Dreams" records, where everybody from Ill Bill to Thirstin Howl III created their own sequels to Biggie Smalls' infamous 1994 B-side "I'm Just Playin'" a.k.a. "Dreams of Fuckin' an R&B Bitch."  There was nine of 'em if you count The Game's "Dreams."  To commemorate the anniversary, let's make it an even ten.  And to make it more interesting, this one's by one of The Cosnarati, Bill Cosby's rap group from the 2000s.

Prior to signing with the Cos, Newark rapper JACE ("Jamal Always Causin' Evil") the Great had been self-releasing records on his own label, 48/35 Wrekords.  There's no date on "F**kin R&B Hoes (pt. 2)," but he dedicates the record to the memory of "the late B.I.G.," so this is at least post-1997.  Oh, and he has a line about Jada being married, so at least 1998.  But he has another line about giving Stella her groove back, so it's probably not too much later than that, or it would've been a pretty played out reference.  So you could honestly probably call this "Pt. 3," in the "Dreams" chronology, between Lil Kim and Ras Kass, making Jace a relatively early adopter.

The song is exactly what you'd expect: Jace spitting dirty couplets about famous female R&B singers and (other randomly famous black women) over the "Top Billin'" break like "I heard Toni Braxton likes it in the ass with a dildo, but I got somethin' real, though."  Instead of that famous James Brown funk guitar loop, though, he's got a much softer guitar sound, which sounds like it's live in the studio.  So it's okay, but definitely not as compellingly head nodding.  And it doesn't seem to be online, so I'll give you some more of what he says on here:

"I used to have a crush on Halle Berry, now she wants to fuck me, Tom and Jerry.  Monica, deep throat this whole dick.  Fuck it, while you at it, blow my whole clique.  Tyra Banks' pussy probably stank.  Had a whole train ran on her in a No Limit tank.  Mister Silk Shocker broke her off proper; she mastered P and C Murder got locked up.  Aaliyah, when I see her, I'ma tell her myself: it was wrong how she fucked R Kelly to get on."
  He ends it all with, "I meant no disrespect to any of y'all hoes.  If I offended y'all, fuck it, that's how the game goes."  

The other tracks on here are mostly weighed down by some boring, low-fi production.  "Tell Em Niggas" is about how his whole crew is obsessed with making money.  "Gray Sky" is the best, albeit helped in no small part by a jacked beat.  Jace brings it back to Biggie by rhyming about his own struggles over the "Juicy" instrumental, asking "is your friend your friend when he sells coke to your mother, tricks your sister and sells dope to your brother?"  And "Paper Chase" is a short track dissing an ex-girlfriend who tried to take advantage of him.  "You want to travel the world at my expense, have a condo and want me pay the rent?  you's a big dreamin' bitch, money hungry schemin' bitch, conniving, lying, sneaky and freaky bitch.  I gotta admit, you's a slick bitch, 'cause I ain't give you shit, and you still a rich bitch."

Hey, all my female readers, how're you doing out there?  😬  Anyway, I think it's a safe bet Mr. Cosby never heard this record.  Not that he's known for treating women any better, obviously, but Bill Cosby Presents the Cosnarati: State Of Emergency was clearly meant to be a message-driven project.  It's completely clean and, as it used to say on billcosby,com, "an album of music with messages reflecting today’s most critical issues affecting young people. Created to engage listeners and lead them to take action... Two years in the making, 'State of Emergency' adds new meaning to the phrase 'message in the music.' Tackling such social issues as self-respect, peer pressure, abuse and education... The project’s 14 tracks integrate frank, positive messages with a progressive mix of hip-hop, R&B, jazz, pop, funk and rock. The result is a strong, cohesive narrative that doesn’t rely on profanity, misogyny, materialism or ego exercising to deliver its powerful impact."

It's a 2009 "available exclusively at" CD-only release (and digital, natch), and yes, I actually copped it.  Why, you might ask?  Well, obviously I got it cheap used, and I thought one day I'd cover it on this site, because... would you believe?  This album is produced by Ultramagnetic MC himself, Ced Gee, along with his usual collaborator Billy "Spaceman" Patterson?

So how is it?  Unfortunately, it's pretty bland.  I mean, you'd've been a fool to expect another Critical Beatdown in '07, but still.  Cosby doesn't rap or otherwise add his voice to this project.  Although he's credited with the "song story concepts," I'm guessing he left it to the MCs to write their own raps.  It's neither bad enough to be enjoyed like a silly "Superbowl Shuffle" style novelty record, or good enough that you'd actually choose to put it in your deck instead of some other CD.  It's kinda just slow and plodding.  The production is okay - for instance a song called "Runnin" actually sounds kinda cool and atmospheric - but it all sacrifices energy for live instrumentation.  The title track uses blaring horns to sound like an emergency siren, which at least echoes superior work by Public Enemy.  Cosby himself is credited with a few of those instruments himself on a couple of songs, but I don't know if he's actually playing anything on these tracks or if it's just because all the credited samples come from old Cosby records.  And just like the Jace 12" above, the MCing is okay, but there's never a point you'd say anyone killed it.  I think this was just a highlight in their resumes... you know, before the drugging and sexual assault trials.

But yeah, Jace is the main rapper here, appearing on all but one song.  He even has a solo track at the end called "I Wish," about regrets, which is a stand-out track lyrically because his tales of personal tragedy feel authentic.  Meanwhile, Brother Hahz, a.k.a. Hahz the Rippa is on almost every other song with him, specifically eleven tracks.  Hahz also put out a couple indie 12"s in the 90s and eventually became a part of celebrity boxer Roy Jones Jr.'s Hip-Hop side hustle, Body Head Entertainment.  And one other guy, Supernova Slom, appears on a couple of songs.  His website describes him as "a multifaceted artist, musician, holistic healer, and wellness coach" who co-founded Supa Mega Foods, a plant-based supplement company.

Anyway, there's a new auto-tune kid who's been kinda usurping the name Jace nowadays, but Jace the Great is still out there.  He's active on Twitter and did a solid song for the Black Lives Matter movement.  He's also on a dope Gee Rock track with Percee-P and Lakim Shabazz, and comes off pretty nice on it.  "F**kin R&B Hoes" features uncut versions of all four tracks, plus clean edits of 'Hoes" and "Tell Em," an unfortunately clean Acapella version of "Hoes" and the instrumental for "Tell Em."  As you can see, it comes in a sticker cover, which artfully includes an incomplete list of his targets.  Oh, and I'm being a little snarky with the title of this post, but just to be clear: I'm absolutely not conflating some dirty old sex raps with what Cosby keeps getting accused of doing.  I wouldn't exactly call this record tasteful, but if you have the other nine "Dreams," how can you not want this 12" in your crates, too?

Friday, May 24, 2024

Brandon Brown the Third

I remember Brandon B rapping on Sacred Hoop's 2007 record "Hog Wild" that "my albums never come out, but I'm still holding underground clout." Well, those days are finally over, because he's just released his third solo album in the last few years, Serious Callers Only.  Like the last two, Brandon self-produces with his Bootleg Friday partner Elliott Lanam on Gurp City Digital.  Yeah, it says that on the inside cover; but as you can surmise by my covering it here, there are physical copies available as well.

I described his last album as, "bridg[ing] the gap from early Electro-Hop to the classic 90's 4-track era," and he's absolutely continuing in that direction here.  It's like if the music started out in mid 80s LA rap, but then evolved into a fresh, different branch than the actual genre grew to become.

The album starts off with "Let's Go Intro," which despite its title is actually a fully produced song with three verses and a chorus.  But it's an intro in the sense that it's Brandon going off on his own, introducing us to his production style and who he is as an MC.  Its immediately followed by the super dynamic "Letting You Know," a harder duet with TOPR, but with a hype, fast-paced track and a killer scratch finale by DJ Pause.  "Let's Go" eases us in a bit gently, but if you're not on board by the track 2, I don't know what to tell ya.

You could probably guess the best song is the one with Z-Man, but that's not because B's getting carried here.  It's almost a coincidence that he's on the song with the strongest concept track, so they're both killing it lyrically, an ode to their starving artist lifestyle, "I'm buying out the bar every show we play, staying fit only eating one meal a day.  'Ey, one time for the weight loss plan; two times for the shortened life span.  Three times for the SoFi loan that I fucked off on hookers and blow."  Instrumentally, it's another hyper, bumping track that even opens up with a classic vocoder announcing, "we're starving on purpose."

"In a Major Way" smooths things out for a head nodding collab with QM and Trunk Drank cohort Eddie K.  Yeah, most of the regulars you'd expect are here and as welcome as ever.  Equipto sounds great on the title track that makes great use of a classic Steady B sample, and actually, surprisingly, Luke Sick isn't on this one.  But he's not needed.  With these recent albums, Brandon has proven himself to be much more than just a Sacred Hoop weed carrier.  And there are one or two unexpected guests, too, particularly Sick Wid' It recording artist Cousin Fik.  It's got a slow bump tailor made for the pair, and if you didn't know better, you'd think Fik was another Gurp City family member comfortably flowing at home with his crew.

Other highlights include "Woodstock '23," a celebratory party anthem touting Gurp City's trademark hedonism, "It's like Woodstock '99 combined with Gutfest '89's killer line-up.  (We're gonna cut your set short!)  If that's the case, I'll just send the word and we'll trash the place.  I got a gash on my face, don't know how it happened; bleedin' all over the stage and still rappin'."  With DJ Pause getting busy on the turntables over some Beverly Hills Cop-style synths, it's impossible not to have fun.  Another track slows things down for a classic 80's girl story with a demented twist, "she sized me up with her eyes and said, 'I can't stay long.  I left my kid at Chuck E. Cheese and he's all alone.'  I asked how old is he, she said, 'he's almost six;' and I'm thinkin' to myself, man, this chick is sick."  And I'd never accuse this album of getting serious, but there are a few hints at sincere political stances with lines like, "if you're talking like Nick Fuentes?  Go and try some of that bullshit in the East Bay" and "I slam a Bud Light right in front of Kid Rock's face, and keep starin' at him while I finish the sixer."

In fact, there's a seemingly endless supply of deep cut references in Brandon's rhymes, from "I keep it obscure like 12ManRambo" to some I'd never get.  I found myself googling a few, asking myself, who the heck is Ted Dibiase?  Turns out he's a wrestler... and he doesn't spell his name the way I'd guessed.  Noel Gallagher's the lead singer of the rock band Oasis, and one can only imagine what beef B would have with that seemingly random pull ("Noel Gallagher's a bitch; when I see him I'ma choke his ass out, same with his brother Liam" ... Okay??).  That potentially gives this album a slightly alienating esoteric streak.  And a few, like a Lizzo fat joke, feel like low hanging fruit.  Starting to get some Chino XL vibes there.  But Hip-Hop's been packing in obscure, local references for decades, who am I to randomly put my foot down now?  Well, I just feel a few less references for their own sake might yield more cohesive songs in future.

But really, any criticisms I have amount to nitpicks of an overall killer album.  Things do run low on steam in the closing tracks.  The last song has Timex Social Club's Michael Marshall return for another blow-out hook.  But unlike his impressive appearance on B's first album, this one has a softer, almost easy listening vibe I can't really get into.  It's kind of like Craig G's first album, with all the Marley Marl bangers you'd play over and over, but you usually wind up turning it off before the last couple songs.

In fact, this album has kind of the modern vibes of Craig G's second album, too.  Master Ace could've stopped by and dropped his "Give It To Me" verse on any number of these songs.  Not that Serious Callers Only sounds that much like Now That's More Like It, but it evokes the same feelings.  And, albeit for different reasons, it's best owned on CD.  There's a limited edition available directly from his bandcamp along with his first album.  His first album's sold out there, but it's still available on Gurp City's bigcartel.  That gives me the feeling all three are down to straggling copies, so act fast, or else you'll be stuck streaming like a chump.

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

A Thousand Degrees Make It Hotter Than Your Tenement

Hey, it's a new record by Godfather Don!  Admittedly, it may be starting to feel like they're piling up.  After all, he has made kind of a whole career out of unearthing his various unreleased projects from the past through different labels, including DWG, One Leg Up, Chopped Herring, 90's Tapes, No Sleep and HHV.  And I'm not saying that with any kind of snark - the music's fantastic and I've been thrilled to get it.  But now this is new music from the Godfather.  Not that this is his first foray into coming back - remember his Osmosis album in 2020.  But this is only his second, so it's still pretty exciting.  Especially since, you know, it's good.

Osmosis was a collaboration between Don and French producer Parental, with scratches by Debonair P.  This time Debonair's producing the whole thing (and still doing the scratches, natch) on his own label, Gentleman's Relief Records.  GRR had released they were closing their doors in 2020, so it's almost as exciting to see them back after four years as Don.  And I have it on good authority that they're cooking up some more killer releases that regular readers here will surely be interested.  But I can't say anymore than that.  ;)

Anyway, both Osmosis and now The Ill Tone Generator have a jazzier feel than Don's own production is known for, a nod probably to the kind of music he makes when he's not on the Hip-Hop tip.  But as an MC, Don is still coming hard with clever and complex rhyme schemes.  If you've been missing his 90s lyrics, you'll be relieved to hear he hasn't lost a step.

While Osmosis was a full LP, this is an EP, with just four songs, although it's nicely fleshed out with an alternate remix for each song, effectively bringing us up to eight tracks.  And when I say jazzy, I'm not kidding.  It's all loops; Don's not performing with a combo Las Supper style.  But with the opening track, "Tip Of the Spear," the samples have you feeling like you just stepped into a smokey lounge.  Lyrically, though, Don still sounds as ill as he did on Hydra Records:

"The one true preeminent
Character assassinator,
This oratory style nicknamed 'The Bastard Maker.'
It's a literary suicide
Steppin' to the Edgar Allen Poe of this rap shit.
I kill scholastics, stop nuts as soon as they come
Like prophylactics.  Drastic tactics
For any over-active protagonists
Tryin' to make a name off of mine like he's taggin' it.
He got it all wrong; I flow fabulous."

If anything, he's enunciating even clearer now, which really just allows you to appreciate every twisted syllable as they land.  All four songs have slick Premier-style scratch hooks, which are consistently carried over to the B-side remixes.  And those remixes are just as good as the A-sides.  In fact, in a couple of cases (especially the super smooth "Lights Camera Action" remix) I prefer them.  admittedly, I kind of miss Don doing his own production, but he's found an ideal substitute in Debonair, who can carry the weight without feeling obligated to imitate.  And as an MC, it's like Don never took a day off.

The Ill Tone Generator
is available on wax in a full color picture cover.  There's also a small run of CDs, limited to 250 copies pressed, which also includes all eight instrumentals as bonus tracks.  Both are already out now from the usual spots (though I think the CD may only be available direct from GRR), and they're priced like regular new releases, so don't sleep.

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Countin' Endless Demos

 (Taking a look at the 1993 (1994?) C.E.B. demos. Youtube version is here.)

Monday, April 1, 2024

The Mysterious Miss Munchie

(Presenting a curious little obscurity for April Fools' Day...  Youtube version is here.)

Thursday, February 29, 2024

For the No Face Fan Who Has Everything

I've been after this release for so long, I was beginning to doubt its existence.  Like, sometimes a record is at the top of your Want List because it strikes such a powerful chord in your soul: an amazing piece of music you can't do without.  And sometimes it's just because it's eluded you for so long that it starts to become an obsession.  This, for me, is the latter.  It's no masterpiece, but it's been my white whale.

And I don't think this started out super rare, like an independent white label that was only released in super limited quantities, possibly in a limited local market.  This is a mainstream Columbia Records release from the early '90s (1991 to be exact) by a group that received regular play on MTV and was presumably available at malls across America.  But I guess because it's cassette only, and an unremarkable single from a group that never really blew up or became a critical darling, that it just never really gets preserved.  Like, the reason it never shows up on EBay or the like is just because people who find themselves with a copy never bother to list it.  There's never been a big demand for it.  Except, I've been looking for decades, and I it took 'till 2024 to finally land one.

This is "Fake Hair Wearin'..." by No Face, yes Ed Lover's old group that were briefly signed to Rush Associated.  It's their second of two (or third if you count their white label 4-song sampler EP) singles of off their only album, 1990's Wake Your Daughter Up, featuring their only big guest The 2 Live Crew.  1990, remember, was pretty much their pinnacle year of controversy, when they were Banned In the USA, so they were a big get, if not the best rappers they could've found.  It's a pretty catchy song that leans heavily into their Gap Band ("Burn Rubber") sample and a sung hook twists the original words into something in the same way that DJ Quik would do a year later - as in his "just 'cause you didn't say that you wanted to fuck don't meant that you don't want to" chorus for 1992's "Mo Pussy."  Here it's the slightly more innocent "just because your hair ain't real, don't think that I don't know the deal."

But the other appeal of this song is the extreme anger they inject into the otherwise boppy, upbeat tune.  Like, besides the raps and singing, they're just constantly screaming "fuck you!  FUCK you!  Bitch!  Bitch!  Fuck you!"  2 Live Crew do more traditional verses (where they mix in some slowed down "Planet Rock," which grounds it in a tougher, more Hip-Hop feel), but No Face's often don't even rhyme, feeling more like vile rants.  It's such over-the-top hatred, you ideally wind up finding it funny.  If not, then it's in the lead for most offensively misogynist Hip-Hop in the genre's history, right up there with anything UGK or Akinyele have ever done.  I mean, sure it's some of both (the uncensored title on the LP is "Fake Hair Wearin' Bitch"), but in this case it's clearly meant to tongue in cheek is what I'm saying.  No Face were always partially a comedy act.  And the premise of dissing a girl for wearing a weave is right out of the Bobby Jimmy and the Critters' playbook, as they had released "Hair Or Weave" just the year before.  Willie D had "Bald Headed Hoes" around that time...  That was a popular topic for a hot minute, this is really taking me back.

Anyway, the reason I was after this cassingle was for the two exclusive B-sides.  First is the "Fake Hair Wearin'... (Remix)."  Since this has never been put up online ever to my knowledge, I couldn't hear it until I found a copy, and I was a little worried this was just going to be the clean version.  It's produced by Sexx and Shah just like the album version and all their stuff (No Face did start out as a funk band, after all, so it's natural they tended to do their own music production), so I was ready for this just to be the sanitized edit they made for the music video.  But no, happily both versions are uncensored and this is remix features an all new, never before heard instrumental with a completely different sample set.  It's more of a stripped down track, with much more emphasis on the bassline and replacing all the lush Gap Band instrumentation with a little funk guitar riff.  It's dope, and better during the rap portions, but the hook doesn't work nearly as well without the "Burn Rubber" groove it was made for.  They should've recorded a new hook in a different style for it, but oh well, it's not terrible.

Then the other exclusive B-side is an entirely all new song called "2 Minute Reply (U Know U Love It)," a response to "Two Minute Brother," the BWP song they appeared on, and which they actually performed on The Phil Donahue Show.  Of course that was a joke song about erectile dysfunction, very much in step with another Bobby Jimmy song from that period: 1991's "Minute Man Man."  These guys were really driving in the same lane for a minute there in '90-'91.  Anyway, this uses the same instrumental as BWP's, and the Bytches even drop in for a word or two.  But it's mostly just an excuse for Ed to improvise riffs defending the fellas' injured masculinity, "she gonna come around and spread that cavern-ass pussy.  Shit, what you think I am, Evil Knievel?  I ain't got no motorcycle!  How am I supposed to jump across your pussy?  Shit!  I slipped on your clit and fell down that motherfucker.  My man said 'watch out for that hole.'  I said, 'what hooooollllllle!!?!?!??'"  They come up with a new hook which is pretty infectious, and they freestyle a bit, but it's mostly just talking over the track instead of proper rapping, which is disappointing.

So both exclusives are fun to have, and it's a personal accomplishment to finally complete my No Face collection, but these aren't great songs anyone's missing out on.  You can see why they're just B-side bonuses.  These were designed to put a little smile on your face, and 33 years later, that's what they've done for me.  :)

Friday, February 16, 2024

Father MC Or Die

Another new year, another new Father MC write-up.  You think I've run out of material, no not yet.  In fact, this is arguably one of the most important songs in his discography, the fulcrum point of his public image and lyrical direction, from Mr. "Live Life Lovely, Love the Ladies, Live Life Correct" to the aggressively sexual "I put my milkshake on ya tummy."  The legend goes that Andre Harrell pushed Father MC in the romantic direction.  We've already seen he started out on a fresher tip with his First Fleet Crew; but he blew up making records like "I'll Do For You" and "Lisa Baby" with The Soul Convention.  But for his third album, he changed.  Now he was working with Buttnaked Tim Dawg and had a much tougher, more aggressive image.  Not that he went full NWA or anything.  But gone were the button down shirts and flat top with the blond peak; now it was leather jackets and Timbs.  But there's an even more precise point in between those albums where that switch happened: on the Who's the Man soundtrack.

Who's the Man's a pretty interesting soundtrack anyway.  The Ed Lover & Doctor Dre movie directed by Johnathan Demme's nephew, Ted Demme, and packed with rapper cameos naturally had to have some big songs on it, including BIG's debut single and Erick Sermon's debut solo venture.  Somebody else vying for attention with a bit of a career move was Father MC.  The song is called "Pimp Die," so yeah, the new direction is pretty hard to miss.  If it wasn't obvious enough, though, it opens with the album's only skit, where Dawg is a WBUTT FM radio DJ announcing, "that was Father MC featuring Jodeci, 'Treat Them Like They Want To Be Treated.'  Well, Radio Land, I wonder what he has in store for '93.  Maybe he'll take it to the streets."  So yeah, the intention's perfectly clear.

It's got a much grittier, 90's track with rumbling bass, wailing horns, big drums and a shout chorus: "what's the law? Pimp or die!  What's the law?!  Pimp or die!!"  It's not actually produced by Dawg, but by T West and Kool Chris.  They were working under his wing for Dawghouse Entertainment at the time.  They also did an unreleased track for The Lost Boyz' debut album, which Dawg also worked on.  So that helps explain why "lyrics and rap" co-writing credit goes to one Cocheeks.  That's Mr. Cheeks, a couple years before the Boyz broke out with their first single.

But there's a seemingly even bigger name in the writing credits here.  J.Z.  As in Jay-Z!?  1993, this would put him in his post-Jaz sidekick, pre-Reasonable Doubt solo artist period, the same year he did "Can I Get Open" with Original Flavor, when he was really going "next level" with the lyrics.  So does Jay take Father to the next level?

Well, disappointingly, not so much in the crazy way Jay was flipping it in '93.  You know, it's kind of run of the mill game talk, "I'm the man, that's how I get down.  I find recruits, knock the boots and then I got to skip town.  I get money on the regular; every day on the highway honeys are calling on my cellular.  I got a team From Brooklyn, Bronx and Queens; a bald head, leather jacket, and baggy jeans."  We're really just cementing the new image here.  Yes, he name-checks his Timberlands,  But later in the song, he gets more into old school pimp talk, which is pretty fun, "taste the caramel sweet chocolate.  One taste of my love makes your heart drip.  Mister Man, sisters never diss the program; before I kick 'em out, I kiss ya hand.  ...I get my nails done, baby, you won't be bitter.  Dip my hands in the bowl and watch my rocks glitter.  That's how pimply I am; pimpin' ain't hard, it's just a job, and ya really don't understand."

But a lot of it's just tepid, generic rhymes, too, like, "I'm gettin' money on the real, nothing's funny.  Every day seems sunny when I'm chilling with my main honey."  Half of this feels like typical Father MC album filler, and I'm thinking Jay-Z maybe just suggested a couple individual lines.  And Cheeks?  Well, there's a very animated hype-man backing up Father's lyrics.  His voice doesn't sound as scratchy as we all know Cheeks to be.  I'd actually guess it's Tim Dawg doing it himself.  But maybe in '93, Cheeks' voice sounded fresher and he's getting writing credit for improving his adlibs?  That's a long shot, but it's possible.  I mean, we're forced to do a lot of speculation here.  Maybe J.Z. isn't even Jay-Z after all.  Discogs connects them, but they don't have a perfect track record with this like that.  And it's not like the credits say "Jay-Z."

Also, it's interesting to note that on the Uptown Unplugged album, Father only got to perform the single solo song, "One Night Stand."  But if you watch the full live show, you see they cut out his second song, which he introduces as "a change for the better," suggesting his heart was no longer in the lovey-dovey stuff, if it ever was.  Because yes, it's "Pimp Or Die."  Tim Dawg gets on the stage with him to help with the hook, and it's a very different instrumental, with the band playing completely new horn riffs, and going heavy on the piano.

Anyway, "Pimp or Die" isn't perfect, but it does the job.  And it's better than most of the stuff that wound up on Sex Is Law, including the singles.

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Everybody Around Pseudo Keeps Fallin' Six Feet Deep

What's up, gang?  I know it's been a little while since my last post.  I wound up taking a few unexpected sick days this holiday season.  But the good news is that I've spent the time building up a list of topics I'm excited to write (and vlog) about this year.  So let's jump right into it!  For the belated start of our new year, how about one... none of you were waiting for?  😝

No, but stick with me here.  This is an interesting one.  Remember Pseudonym, the indie Ohio MC whose early tapes I wrote about in 2019?  I capped that off by saying how he'd just signed to Hardcore Rap 4 Life, an interesting outfit dedicated to hardcore (naturally) Onyx-style 90s boom-bap throwback stuff.  Yeah, the weird long-haired dude with the crayon-style album covers, a pretty weird fit.  Imagine if The Geto Boys had replaced Willie D with D-Mob & Cathy Dennis instead of Big Mike.  So, come on.  You've gotta be at least a little but curious, right?  Well, he hooked me up with that album and his two subsequent EPs, catching us up with his full discography to the present, so we can find out what that's like.

To be fair, this step isn't 100% out of left field.  He came out dissing wack MCs pretty aggressively on his previous tapes.  And the fact that he rocked his own mini version of Ultramagnetic's "Chorus Line," over the original beat, shows he's clearly got not just an appreciation for classic boom-bap, but a willingness to dive in.

So 2019's Frustration, we're told in the intro, is an expression of our joint frustration (naturally) with the world.  And in his case, particularly the music industry.  It's almost entirely produced by Blowin Up Beats (the three skits are handled by Tobe Donahue), the label's house producer, and he has definitely perfected a consistent, aggressive old school sound.  My favorite track on this album is "Tight," which utilizes Diamond D's funky little "Soul Clap" horn with deep, bassy piano notes, hard drums, and some nice cuts by DJ Etch, from Pseudo's last tape.  Blowin Up really does capture, across all his releases, that 90s vibe, I have to hand it to him.

And how does Pseudo sound on it?  Not bad.  He definitely throws himself in with full gusto and absolute commitment.  His eclectic delivery always called for a lot of energy, and you all that energy to live up to these tracks.  That said, I remember saying he sometimes sounded a little overwrought on his previous EP, and that's all the more case here.  All the complaints about not being a celebrated MC, like "wackness gets negated when I've got a million styles just waiting to be demonstrated.  But nobody wants to hear 'em," "living in a city where the ego outweighs the talent," and so on just aren't that sympathetic.

And a few over-the-top bits will have your eyes rolling: "in fact, I caught a motherfucker last night, talked a lot of shit and couldn't handle the fist fight.  Took a blade to his skull and now he's got no eyesight.  Leave the cracker brain-dead with multiple stab wounds to the head.  Enough said."  Or the skit where a demon voice is telling him to kill.  There's a horrorcore influence that just feels like the wrong direction for Pseudo to have gone in after "Super-Ego."  The songs where he's just freestyling, following a flow rather than a strict topic, like "Hardcore Shit" or "Who Wants It," sound better.  Then you can just nod away to an MC spitting fast and hard over a tight track without any awkward bumps.

Ultimately, it was an interesting experiment, but I think I'm glad the Hip Hop 4 Life time is over.  Though he didn't totally find his ideal lane immediately after.  The title of 2022's Cartoonish In Nature certainly suggests a dramatic 180 from Frustrated.  And guess who has a guest spot on here?  Kwest tha Madd Lad!  The whole EP's a collaboration with a producer named Kilroywash3r3, and he does a good job coming up with a creative and varied soundscape that better suits Pseudo.  As a whole, though, this EP sounds a little adrift... like they said, we can say anything on here, so why not just say anything?  It kind of reminds me of that period when Eminem and Nicki Minaj just started arbitrarily rapping in faux British accents.  "Obtuse" is a reflective and melodic opening where the two really blend well.  Then "Psycho Losing His Shit" is like a hold over from Frustrated that goes even further:

"It's a tragedy, like when I survived my abortion.
Born to bring an end of the Earth in epic proportions.
Yo, you want problems, we can settle them like men:
Smash each other with rocks until our worlds cave in.
Take ya back to the beginning when I didn't know shit;
Now I've hit my rise; and all the hipster girls are on my dick.
Fuck a trendsetter.  Give me five minutes, he'll be a blood-letter.
Then I'll write a letter to his grandmother requestin' a new sweater.
Shit ain't a game, people do anything for the fame,
Endure the fucking flames before their lives go down the drain.
Thinking homicidal shit 'cause I ain't got a damn thing to lose;
Cooking culture vultures stewed with their blue suede shoes.
All battered and bruised, 
killed 'em all 'cause I hate to choose,
What's the fucking use if all it does is leave us broke?"

The old school horror movie organs and Just-Ice scratches on this song are dope, but lyrically, oof.

Big correction 5/14/24:
As you can see in the comments below, I misheard the lyrics, thinking "all battered and bruised, killed 'em all 'cause I hate to choose," was "all battered and bruised, kill 'em all 'cause I hate the Jews."  The correct version is better in a lot of ways - i.e. it just makes more logical sense.  But also, obviously, because what I thought I heard would've been in pretty poor taste, which in fact, I proceeded to take him to task for.  I did also say, "I think it's safe to assume he's just playing an outrageous character for shock value, as the title suggests, and not an actual Nazi looking to spread propaganda.  In other songs he's called himself the Marquis de Sade, talked about stomping crews to goo, and all sorts of the usual Hip-Hop wylin'."  But still, I'm relieved to know it was all my embarrassing error and Pseudo's lyrics were completely above my reproach.

Let's move on.  Kwest sounds fresh as ever, and he has fun mixing Spanish into his verse and dropping silly punchlines.  There's another guest on here, named TINO, who flips a tight, bouncy style, too.  Kilroy's tracks are fresh and low-key that consistently compliment Pseudo.  I wasn't a fan of the love song on this EP, but the instrumental worked.  And "Leave 'Em Wanting More" ends things on a charming note that does what it promises.

I could end this piece here, but Pseudo's already come out with another EP for 2023, so let's me thorough.  It's called Moments Like This... It's more of a maxi-single (like his earlier tapes) at just four songs, one of which is only 90 seconds.  It's all produced by CJ Satellite, a producer from Massachusetts.  The opening instrumental is unusual and pretty great, bringing to mind the best parts of Pseudo's early work.  Delivery-wise, he's mellowed out a bit, but I'm feeling the substance of his lyrics more, and he still flexes a quick, dexterous flow on "Never Do It Again."  I think we saw Pseudonym wander off the path there, but now he's back on it.

You can get all his CDs and tapes on his bandcamp, except Frustrated, which is still available through Hardcore Rap 4 Life's.

Monday, December 25, 2023


(Santa Claus takes the D train to Brooklyn this year to help Stetsasonic give the gift of music. Happy holidays, everybody! Youtube version is here.)

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Finally! Children Of the Corn

(Okay, forces were definitely conspiring against me getting this particular video to you guys, but it's here now - the Children Of the Corn's Welcome To the Danger Zone 2LP from Dust & Dope!  Also a run-down of some other releases and interviews I've worked on, including an upcoming indie Philly restoration.  Oh, and yes, I know it's almost Christmas and I am still planning to get a holiday video up in time for that, too.  🙂  Youtube version is here.)