Tuesday, February 27, 2007

All You DJs Out There Looking for a New "Nightmare"

Ok, the point of this blog isn't really about posting the rarest, most unfindable records ever, so much as to create awareness of some cool, overlooked records you might want to go out and track down for yourself. So, while I still intend on examining some hard-to-find rarities in future (in fact, I already have one on deck I plan on writing about soon), I'd like to focus on something a little more possible for people checking out my blog.

This is the second comeback 12" from Dana Dane (unless you count his material on Madonna's label as a comeback, which I guess it was), and the better of the two. The song is upbeat, with a bouncy track, basslline, keyboards and a cool horn sample - just what anyone who buys a Dana Dane record is probably looking for (a lesson he probably learned after the lack of fan response to his last single, "Let Me Do My Thing"). The lyrics on this song are better than you'd probably expect from Dane at this point, too... and, yes, the British accent is back:

"I helped set the precedent
For these rappers today.
They don't owe me jack,
But stay out of my way.
And you party promoters got some kind of nerve,
To have the Diggy-Dane standing outside on the curb.
Yo, I've been asking two or three times to enter the club.
Yo, cats like me? You should always show love.
All y'all DJ's looking for a new 'Nightmare?'
Pipe yo' ass down, and pump this hit right here.
Yeah, friends said, 'Dana,
Change with the times.
Get a dope ass beat,
Kick a simple ass rhyme.
You'll be paid. ...like back in the days.'
People see ya on the street and they say,
[sample:] 'Dana Dane, that natural born poet'
Two thou!
When I'm out,
People Steady tellin' me -
People always askin' me,
'Dane, what's with that new LP?'
I said, 'I'm comin' in two thou'
Makin' fake ones bow,
And that tilted kangol?
Is still my style.'"

The hook loops the "faaayyaayyaammme" sample from his original "Dana Dane With Fame," and the song ends with a montage of his greatest hits. Vocal samples of, "man, you get your ass kicked thinking Dana Dane ain't got classics" precedes each short clip of one of his most famous songs from his first album (sorry, no love for Dana Dane 4 Ever), mixed into the track.

Then, just to prove the old hip-hop fan's adage "b-side wins again," he returns on the flip with Slick Rick for the must-have "Dynamic Duo" (only the second recorded collaboration with his Kangol Crewmate after "The Godfather" off that WWF album). Now, on this one Dana Dane doesn't quite manage to keep up with Rick, who kills it with his ultra-relaxed slick flow that he was just mastering when his comeback got jammed up in legal strife and label pressure to clutter The Art of Storytelling with big-name guest spots. But you can't really complain; it's just a good song. Between each verse, the beat breaks down and Rick hollers, "this the part of the song we don't like!" for the hook.

Unfortunately, this record didn't get much (any!) attention, and seven years later, Dana has yet to release another record (and Rick isn't doing much besides the odd guest spot either). He was promoting a compilation album of new acts he was managing on his website, http://danadane.com/, but apparently they're renovating and the CD isn't currently available. You can hear one of the songs from it, "My Life Ain't No Lottery" (and it's just Dana, not his other MCs) on his myspace page, though: http://www.myspace.com/danadanewithfame. Check it out; it's pretty decent.

Friday, February 23, 2007

The S P, Y and D, E R dash, then you add another D

Sticking with single-sided records, this here is Spyder-D's "The Real McCoy." Now to me, Spyder-D's career comes in four stages:
1) The early eighties, which yielded the very old school-style raps like "Big Apple Rappin'" and "Spinnin' Webs and Rappin' Rhymes." Good times.
2) The mid-eighties classics, where Spyder really came into his own and all the Spyder-D greats were released, like "I Can't Wait (To Rock the Mike)" and "Placin' the Beat," and where he started producing other artists like Sparky D and his little brother Spyder-C.
3) The late 80's/early 90's, where Spyder-D released more hardcore (kinda) tunes on B-Boy Records... attempting to show his versatility and grow as a more mature artist in different directions, culminating in The Spydo Music Band and especially his Macola Records release: Gangsta Wages. Definitely no hits in this period, but all dig-worthy for any Spyder fan.
4) The 2000 comeback. Meh. Coulda been worse, that's for sure.

Well, this record falls squarely into stage 3. Released on Dick Charles Recordings, not so much a record label as a pricey mastering studio that made high quality promos (though my record has two holes in it... one in the center and one way off center, covered by the label, so I guess nobody's perfect) rather than commercially available records. The handwriting on the cover tells the story of this record: "For: The Rapp Attack Show, Attn: Marly Marl/Chilly Q, 4:00 PM Jan 29 1988 Friday." There's also a release date of Feb 5 printed on the label, but the official release never came.

As for the song itself, as I say, it fits perfectly in stage 3. It sounds like it could've come out on B-Boy Records, following "Try To Bite Me Now"/ "The N.Y. Butt" ...which, I imagine, was the plan. In fact, this is probably my favorite of the stage 3s. The beat might sound a bit corny on first listen (ok, subsequent listens, too), especially with the keyboard "horns" on the hook, but if you can be a little forgiving, it's a lot of fun. A hard 808 beat track, pronounced bassline, and almost constant scratching ("hi-hi-hit it; hi-hi-hi-hit it, Spyder!") provide the backdrop for Spyder's diss rap to, well... not sure. Kool Moe Dee again, maybe? He doesn't really get specific enough to tell, but he's definitely talking about someone (I suppose it could just be a generic "sucker MC," but I don't think so):

"I'm here to spill the beans,
Know what I mean?
If you wanna take the style,
I'll make a scene;
'Cause my DJ's got the weapon:
It's a needle.
Let's face it, homeboy;
You ain't a Beatle.
You sure ain't Luther,
You're not a King.
Just ask Bernard,
You ain't hard.
Stop frontin', show somethin'
To make me believe
That you have the brain... to conceive
Of a rhyme, and not the ones from a book.
You're not the real McCoy,
You're just a crook.
"Book 'em, Dan-O,"
Is what they would say
If you rhymed on Hawaii Five-O today;
Then they'd throw you in jail, give you a skirt,
Tie your hat into a bow; you'll be a flirt.
You silly, sorry, sad wanna be MC!
Yeah, I said it...
You ain't the real McCoy."
Finally, just to keep up what's becoming a little tradition, here's Spyder-D's myspace page. And here's the website for his company: http://www.spydomusic.com/.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Do What You Gotta Do!

There used to be a good interview with Freddie Foxxx on a Gangstarr/ DJ Premier website, which seems to no longer be online (if I'm wrong, let me know and I'll add a link to it in this article... but I've looked, and I'm really pretty certain it's gone). In it he talks about how, after Epic decided not to follow through with the release of his second album, Crazy Like Foxxx, he pressed up an independent 12", drove down to Atlanta (at least I think it was Atlanta... I'm trying to remember an interview I read a couple years ago), and sold it out the trunk of his car. That record turned up on a lot of DJ's wishlists after that.

Well, this is it. And it's pretty darn good. "Do What You Gotta Do!" - a single-sided 12" (if you've never seen one, nothing is cut into the other side at all) from '95, featuring only one version of one song. The self-produced instrumental is just what you'd want for a Freddie Foxxx record, a gritty drum track, a rumbling bassline and a very sparse (guitar?) sample. The hook is sung by an unnamed R&B group (an influence of his recent time spent at Epic, no doubt), but it's actually quite good and effectively matches the earnestness of Foxxx's delivery, and managing not to detract from the record's hardcore sensibility. Lyrically, Foxxx is in first-person narrative mode, telling about an ex-con who returns to his hometown...

"I go to check my moms,
nd notice that the neighborhood is so bad my old dad is bearin' arms.
He's got an uzi with a long clip,
And when I knocked on the door, papa dukes almost let it rip.
He told me that mom died last year."

...and gets caught back up in the crime life when he bumps into the dealer who snitched on his brother to the feds. A morality tale, of course (our narrator winds up murdered by crooked cops who were in it with the dealer he killed), with a message made palatable by Foxxx's imitable "believe me, I was there" style.

Freddie Foxxx has a new album coming out soon, by the way. At least that's the plan according to his myspace page (hey, man; you gotta update that discography you cut & pasted from my site - it's outta date now! hehe). Gotta love all the old school & underground MCs putting up myspace pages with new material when you thought they've disappeared from the scene. But, then again, Foxxx has a great knack for hanging in there and coming back where you least expect him (he was, after all, the best thing about Latifah's hi-jacked "Flavor Unit" 2.0); I don't think anyone ever expects him to really disappear from the scene.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Outz Hooked Up With Fugees Way Back When...

Two updates back I wrote about a record I get asked if it ever actually existed... well, this time I'm writing about a record I was told never existed by the artist himself. When this first came out, I was having kind of a hard time finding it... also around that time I was interviewing the Outsidaz a lot for the Source and what-not... So I asked if they could help me out, and Young Zee told me this record never actually came out. I was pretty happy to report to him the next time I saw him that I'd gotten my hands on a copy.

"Stay Gold" is a track off of Zee's tragically never released Musical Meltdown album (a really bad review in the Source probably was a contributing cause... in fact, this review could be said to be what started the whole Eminem/Source beef that eventually led to the Source's, uh, change in ownership). It features fellow Outsidah and other half of No Brain Class, Yah Yah (he's also Zee's brother, if ya didn't know) and Lauryn Hill (if I have to tell you what crew she's from, you're probably reading the wrong blog), who kicks a brief verse as well as singing the hook:

"These dimensions and extensions will secure my future pension
When I mention corporate lynchin's like the cowboys did to injuns.
The intentions of the Devil is to cause me hypertension,
So stay gold like Stevie Wonder; don't blunder like OJ Simpson."

...Yup, that's it, her whole verse. But any chance to hear Hill in MC rather than diva mode (though her hook on this track is cool, too) is a big plus. Zee kicks his typical (and I mean that in the best sense... Zee's typical is great) Redman-meets-the-Outz style lyrics and delivery:

"Yeah, Zee need to battle with the older guys
'Cause all you little n_ggas get pulverized
Yeah, I get ill on funky beats like Jalil;
Yo posse gonna wind up in Beth Israel.
Bring yo' fleet,
You'll get stabbed and beat
And stomped out in the streets with my football cleats"

He even edges his way into the Fugees/ Jeru beef with a quick diss:

"What is this trash I hear?
Is it Static, like Jeru and Premiere?
Your MC style is way too old,
I unfold pure funk as long as I stay gold."

The track is dominated by a funky banjo looped over a drum track and bassline... it's definitely tight, but can be grating after a lot of repeated listens. Fortunately, there's a remix on the b-side, which replaces the banjo with a smoother piano loop. So the main mix is the preferred, but the remix is a great alternate, which is exactly the role a remix should fill, I think, ideally.

For those who don't know, Young Zee is coming back... he's got a free mixtape of all new material for download on his website, youngzeeonline.com. It's also heartening to see a lot of the Outz involved, including Axe, D.U. and Rah Digga; and he's even got links to Pace Won and Emzy's pages on his myspace page, so maybe there's hope for a proper Outsidaz reunion?

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Cheba Cheba, Y'all

Cheba! I always wanted to make a discography page for this guy, but a career that spans two 12" singles doesn't really justify it. His first 12" single, "The Piper," is actually the joint that got me into vinyl. I'd been buying hip-hop music since I was little (back when you went into Sam Goody's and it was filed under "BLACK" if you can imagine), but just being a kid in Central Jersey, I was buying everything on cassette (I still have my massive cassette collection, btw... in fact, almost all the classic rap albums I own are on cassette). When this came out, there was a video that played ALL THE TIME on Yo!, Rap City and Video Music Box, but amazingly, it only came out on vinyl. I guess that's because "The Piper" was the very first release on Ruffhouse Records, so their distribution wasn't really in place. So, anyway, tracking down this single is what got me to make the leap to vinyl.

"The Piper" sounds a lot like a Digital Underground record, with Cheba sounding a lot like Shock G. A lot. If they'd put this on Sex Packets, no one would've known the difference. I understand Cheba toured with DU, and he thanks God and them first in the liner notes, so there's definitely a connection.

Anyway, it's a really memorable track, with Cheba kicking a slow "Children's Story"-style narrative rap about a small town ("Cheeseville") infested with rats/drug dealers. A pied piper comes to town and lures them away, but when the mayor stiffs him on his payment, there's a reckoning. Cheba plays the narrator ("I was there"), as well as doing voices for the piper and the mayor. The instrumental is a pretty tight, mellow groove, produced by Joe The Butcher (who actually owns Ruffhouse, and who did all the tracks on both 12"'s), with some cool live flute work on the hook. There's also a Street mix, by Chuck Nice of Three Times Dope, which is a fairly generic "hip-hop remix," typical of its time.

If you thought "The Piper" was too corny for you, though, you won't even want to know about the b-side "Just Because." With a sappily sung chorus that goes, "Just because he wants to knock boots, doesn't mean he loves you... I really doubt it, baby" and Cheba stops to talk a few points over the track, saying things like, "damn, baby, is he treating you like a wet food stamp again?" The saving grace on this song is definitely the live instrumentation, a hallmark of Cheba's work, this time including live keyboards, guitar and percussion by industry staple Andy "Funky Drummer" Kravitz.

When he's not in narrative mode (and unfortunately "The Piper" is the only song in which he is), Cheba's rapping skills aren't really the draw of his records.. All his other vocal performances are pretty forgettable, and apparently they knew this, so the emphasis on the lesser-known "Business Doin' Pleasure" 12" is on showy instrumentals. To that end, Cheba and Joe enlist - in addition to live musicians for keyboards, acoustic piano, two guitarists, percussion and someone on "Conversation" - Grover Washington Jr. on the sax and Teena Marie on the hook. Pretty impressive for a 12" almost nobody's ever heard of.

The first b-side though, "Clap Yo Hands" (co-produced by DJ Jazz), eschews the live instrumentation for some more classical, sample-based hip-hop (using a bunch of familiar samples, including the main one used in Heavy D's "Don't Curse" and "Cold Chillin' Christmas"). And finally, "Dis Is Nice" reverts back to live instrumentation to the point where they don't even bother with the rappin'. It's a purely instrumental track (though Cheba drops a few ad libs every so often), with a lot of saxaphone (this time not by Grover, though).

Okay, that's about it. But before I go, I'll just make a little point about this blog. First of all, it might not be obvious the way looks, but if you click on any of the "featured" images, you get much bigger, clearer image without the watermark, where you can actually read the print of the label scans and what-not. So, yeah... the images actually don't suck (except maybe the digital photo I took of the picture covers in this entry), they're just thumbnails. Cheers. 8o)

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Chino XL On the Wake Up Show Worldwide, Y'all

Every so often, I get e-mails asking me if this EP really exists (it's listed on my Chino XL discography page); so I figured this'd make a good update. Yes, it's real; and it's also pretty good.

This came out around the time of the first 2 volumes of the Wake Up Show Free Styles double LP sets (which were really must-have classics of their time); which hardcore punch-line heavy friend of the show Chino XL was a perfect canditdate for. It starts out with an exclusive "Wake Up Show Anthem"... Free Styles LPs had a bunch of these... exclusive songs with various MCs name-dropping The Wake Up Show in their freestyles. In fact, it's worth pointing out that all the content on this EP is exclusive (or at least it was at the time... Wake Up Show put out a lot of LPs over the years, and I haven't checked every single one of them); none of this is featured on other Wake Up Show or Chino XL releases.

Then there's a very brief clip from an on-air interview with Chino, Sway and Tech introducing King Tech's "No Complex" remix. In case you missed it, King Tech is a really underrated producer, and for this version he's turned in a slow, rolling deep (almost Miami deep) basslined track that still manages to leave the emphasis on the vocals. Afterwards, we come back to the same interview about the remix, which leads into a freestyle consisting mainly of material from his first album. Finally, there's two more remixes of "No Complex," four Wake Up Show promos by Special Ed, Born Allah (another "friend" of the WUS who regularly turns up on their projects), the short-lived R&B group Stepchild, and Jurassic 5 (and they're pretty good; especially the J5 one; but I don't know how much replay value you'll find in some radio show commercials), and six break beats by Prince Ice, who DJ'd at the time on the WUS.

All three remixes are tight, and "No Complex" - Chino's first major label single and still one of his best - is an excellent choice to receive the deluxe treatment here. Even if you're not the most forgiving Chino fan, and steered clear of the Poison Pen album (he probably would've been better off releasing the actual, lost PP album than recording a new one and just recycling the title), you might want to give this one a listen.

Friday, February 2, 2007

I.U. in Hotlanta

Sticking with Grand Daddy IU for my next update - my interest in him resparked by his recent comeback - this 12" is actually just a recent discovery for me; until just recently I'd never heard of it. "All About Money" b/w "Check It Out" came out in 1996, placing it right in that dead space between Lead Pipe and his self-released white labels. Curiously, it's on an indie label I've never heard of (and I can't find any other releases from online) based out of Atlanta, GA.

Both songs are co-produced by IU (I believe this is his first release without the "Grand Daddy" prefix, by the way) and Anothony Papamichael, aka Tony P, who also plays the guitar and keyboards. The basis, then, is live instrumentation rather than sampling... the results aren't outstanding, but they're pretty cool and have a nice, organic feel. There's also a remix, which puts the emphasis on a strong bassline, again played live by Tony P. Both versions feature a hook sung by Alfreda Gerald, and the b-side features an MC named X-Filez, who holds his own with that 90's indie NY style that sounds like it came straight out of the Dolo Records vault. Lyrically, IU comes with the kind of hardcore thug raps with a bent towards clever rhymes you'd expect if you're familiar with any of his post-Smooth Assassin material: "I keep the code of the streets, play for keeps, ain't no repentin'. I buck and I don't give a fuck if you was Bill Clinton. If I ain't heard of you, I'ma murder you with a thirty-two inserted through your neck, then jet in a phat convertible."

I dunno how IU wound up on a small record label from Atlanta... I'm guessing Z (or Zee, it's spelled both ways on the label) Records is Tony P's label (IU's production is credited as "for Steady Flow Productions," while Tony's is credited as "for Zee Records"). And while this is the first I'd heard of Tony P, a little Googling shows he's no stranger to the New York hip-hop scene, receiving recording and engineering credit on albums like Main Source's Breaking Atoms, Big Daddy Kane's Taste of Chocolate and Living Colour's Vivid. At any rate, it's an interesting little addition to the IU oeuvre.