Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Keef Murray

This record doesn't just scratch another high-priced banger off my Want List; it blows said banger away!  The original Keefy Keef 12" is the rare and impressive debut release of Keith Murray, before he was discovered my Erick Sermon and co*. It was a hot, little two-song single released on Great Music Vibrations in 1992, produced by - and featuring - Curt Cazal of the JVC Force. It's one of those records that's so limited and sought after that it was booted in the 2000s, and now even that bootleg goes for crazy money.

The title track is a cool, raw Keith Murray prototype that's as good as anything he's released since. His voice and flow is just like the Keith we all came to know and love when he blew our minds on No Pressure and "The Most Beautifullest..." In fact, you can even hear some lines here that would later go on to become famous later on ("so what you saying, black, with all that yakkity yak/").  And it's fun to think of Keith... sorry, Keef in the role of another ill-sounding JVC affiliate, like the great Sirocalot. He fills it so well. And there's even a little bit of "Strong Island" reprised in this instrumental.

Better loved than the A-side, though, is probably the B-side, a mini down-the-line posse cut with featuring Curt and a guy named Sham..And here's where this new version, on Chopped Herring Records, starts blowing the past versions out of the water. See, they didn't just repress the first 12", they went back to Curt's reels, mastered them, and have come up with an original demo version of "Three's Company." It's the same instrumental, but on this version, Curt's verse is completely different (like 100%, all new punchlines, etc). And at the end, there's now a fourth freestyle verse by Kelly Kel (a.k.a. Kel Vicious, who's been down with Keith since the very beginning, and is probably best known for his later Def Squad appearances). It kinda makes you wonder why they called it "Three's Company" if it originally featured four MCs, but anyway. Neither of these verses have ever been heard before.

And that's not the half! After this unheard Original Demo version of "Three's Company," we also get three also never before released tracks Keith recorded with Curt during that pre-Def Squad era. Suddenly this dope single is a whole EP, and the other tracks are definitely on par. All these tracks are produced by Cazal, too., and have an authentically pure, early 90's aesthetic to them. "Thoughts My Brain Consumes" is an unusually laid back track for Keith, with a narrative song-style; but it has a funky sample merged with a kicking drum set that's right out of the JVC playbook. "Flow Swiftly," on the other hand, is Keith flowing viciously and playing to his strengths. And finally, "Lethal Dosage" has him spitting over some traditional, old school samples. Playing it safe maybe, but it sounds good, and it's cool how they extend the horn sample from "My Philosophy" so we can hear how the rest of that original riff played out.

Chopped Herring continues their standard of excellence with a top notch release all the way. All five songs - plus the Acapela version of :Flow Swiftly," which is also included - sound great, taken and restored, as I mentioned, from Curt's original reels. It comes in a cool sticker cover (showing said reels), and as per usual, is limited to 300 copies... 75 pressed on clear(clear)  & black vinyl, 75 on silver (silver) & purple and the remaining 150 on your traditional black. This is another stellar release from Chopped Herring, one of the best probably even among their own catalog... But, if I could point out one little complaint: it would've been really nice if they'd also included the previously released version of "Three's Company." As it is, that version also as an exclusive Curt Cazal verse... and putting both versions on here would've made this completely definitive. I, and I think a lot of other fans and collectors, would've really appreciated that. But, putting aside what could've been and just taking this release as it is  - this is one exciting and terrific release. You should get it.

*His debut release, but not his debut appearance on wax... He actually had a cameo verse two years earlier on the LP of a guy named Mark Dee on MCA Records.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Z Dreams

Z-Man's a dude with a large catalog, so you're probably not really thirsting for new material from him like you might be for other artists who maybe even aren't quite as good. Even if you remove the disappointing side projects, like One Block Radius, Z has underground albums and cameos, and mp3-only joints for days. But, on the other hand, there's always more room for more Z. And in that spirit, I present to you: Concrete Dreams.

Concrete Dreams is a compilation album assembled by somebody named Bigg Tae, who I've never heard of, and featuring a long list of artists I've mostly never heard of, though they all seem to be from the Bay. It's a CD-only release from 2010, and I just randomly came across it and took notice because Z-Man's name appeared on the roster. I did also recognize one or two other artists who appear: Eddie K, Bored Stiff and Akil - assuming it's the same Akil. But it's mostly a big, long list of MCs (most of these songs feature at least 3-4 MCs per track, so there's a ton of guys) I've never heard of.

Z-Man appears on here four times, including one solo song, though. So if you're just picking this up for him, you're at least getting some decent Z for your buck. And if you're a big Bored Stiff fan, they're on here even more often.

(And just as an aside, the track-listing on the back cover and the one on the inside sleeve are different. The one on the back seems to be the accurate one.)

Now, to be clear, this Bigg Tae guy gets "arrangement" credit throughout; but he's not the producer here. Most of that's done by DJ 360, with one song apiece by JR Rotem, Big Shawn and D Whiz sprinkled in. I don't really know who 360 or D Whiz are, but Big Shawn's a member of Bored Stiff and JR Rotem's actually a big, commercial producer who does stuff for artists like Xzibit and Nicki Minaj. Most of the production, however, could be described simply as generic... passable, but too simplistic to really capture your attention. A few moments stand out: "Tonight" is a remake of DJ Quik's "Tonite," so that grabs you right away. But then you realize it just isn't as good as Quik's, so you'd be better off listening to the original. "Pay Back (Frisco Style)" is another one that stands out, as it liberally uses James Brown's "The Payback," just like EPMD, King T, and so many others before them. It may not get points for originality, but it's a classic for a reason and so still sounds dope regardless.

But, no, there are also some 360 beats that do sound superior to the majority. Entries like "Progression" and the Marvin Gaye sampling "Stay Alive" have a lusher, more involving feel. A lot of the songs seem to boil down to a steady, unexciting drum beat and two constant loops over the top. You know, the kind of song that goes "boop boop ba boop" endlessly and starts to make you go a little stir crazy. But basically when the samples get larger, or another couple elements are thrown into the mix (there are a bunch of R&B types singing hooks, for instance), it makes for a richer, more rewarding experience.

And fortunately, Z's solo cut is one of those moments. I mean, if you're a hardcore J5er here for Akil, you're going to be disappointed. He totally gets drowned out in posse cuts. After many listens, I'm still not sure I can pick out which verses (he has two) are his. In fact, I'm not even certain it's the same dude. Fortunately, none of that's the case with Z. It's  along parade of MCs with similar voices and flows, but Z's voice is so distinctive it immediately breaks through and says, "now listen here!" Even if you didn't get this disc as a Z fan and have no idea who he is, you'll know after listening to this album. He's the guy who stood the fuck out.

That said, does Z bring his A game here? Well, yes and no. Lyrically, he doesn't come with much on "I'm a Hustler." He sounds good, but as far as what he's saying, he just seems to be complaining about MCs being under-appreciated on the internet. On "Drink With Me," he's just on the hook, and the production's annoying, so forget that one. "Life Is What You Make It" is a little more interesting, more thoughtful, but still nothing to really get excited over.

So it's all about "Campaign or Complain," Z's solo cut, which is everything you'd hope for when picking this up. The production is hot, on the blaxploitation tip, and Z's personality is in full effect. He's sounding sick and his lyrics are tight:

"I'm still rappin' in this climate tryin' to be somebody
Rellies yellin': (you the nigga!) I can't believe nobody.
I'm jealous of nerds, jealous of Murs,
Jealous of Wale even though his shit gets on my nerves.
...Was that accurate?
Did I have to smack a bitch,
Sell my soul, turn your cipher to a sandwich?
I don't know; I'm from the 99 D,
With no overseer A&R to oversee me.
You know, ('Frisco!)
Home of the grindaholics,
In a zone, trying to roam through your rich pockets.
Your chick stopped us at the door."

The rest of this CD is okay. There are other nice little moments here and there. Bored Stiff has a couple solid songs like "The Right Way" and "Better Life." But as far as what you're really going to revisit and treasure? I'd say you'd be adding this CD to your collection for just one song. And it's worth it. It's that good.

By the way, if somebody assembled an exhaustively comprehensive, but really selective, Z-Man's Greatest Hits, I bet that album would blow a lot of unsuspecting minds.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Who Are The Ill Beingz? Learn Along With Werner, part 6

So I was at the final HPRS record sale last (don't be too sad, I expect they'll find another location again sooner or later), and I came across this record in a dollar crate.  The Ill Beingz, never heard of 'em, but their name sounded... well, right on the line between promising and corny. Don't recognize the label, and the producer, Tyffe, doesn't ring any bells. 2002 isn't a good year (early 90s would've given me higher hopes); but look, that bonus track is featuring Razah. I bet that's Hell Razah from Sunz of Man. Alright, I'm curious enough for a buck.

It comes with a press sheet folded inside - I love when that happens. We'll get some answers now. Well, it's not so much a proper press sheet as it is a printed letter from AJ Woodson (why yes, that is AJ Rok of JVC Force) writing on behalf of Big Mouth Ntertainment[sic.] to the DJs receiving this record on their mailing list. He says, "NOW I KNOW THIS IS DIFFERENT FROM THE UNDERGROUND JOINTZ YOU ARE USED TO RECEIVING FROM YA FAVORITE BIG MOUTH PROMOTER, BUT EVEN WITH THAT SAID I STILL WILL BE LOOKING FOR LOTS OF LUV, LOTS OF CHART ACTION, LOTS OF AIRPLAY, YA HEARD." Well, crap, that doesn't exactly fill me with hope. Googling the group, I see they have an album for this single, Wild Amerika. It has one of the most heinous album covers I've ever seen; but I didn't find any real substantive info apart from that.

So okay, let's listen to this. Taking it out of the sleeve and I see the A-side, the label side that was blocked by the press sheet, is called "Milkshake." If I'd seen that, I probably would've left it in the store; but too late now. It's in my house, so let's play it.

Ugh. It's just as bad as you would think a 2002 song called "Milkshake" would be. The production is muddy and lifeless, the hook is boring and the lyrics are junk. The only upside is the MCs are all kicking a Twista-like flow, I guess inspired by Crucial Conflict and that kinda stuff, just five or six years too late. This beat is so slow that it doesn't really work, but at least it suggests the MCs might have worthwhile talent if they weren't squandering it on such a shitty attempt at an unappealing crossover. let's see if I can muster the strength to lift this record and flip to the B-side.

Alright, this is better. It's called "Carolina," and this time the instrumental is actually something you might choose to listen to without being forced. It also emphasizes the vocals so the MCs actually sound good. Interestingly, though, they're rhyming much slower; they sound more like generic NY MCs. Think of Terror Squad with no Pun. Lyrically, they're just repping their hood, but they sound invested in it; like they have something to say this time around, even if it's nothing profound; and so you actually wind up caring what they're spitting. They even have a couple nice rhymes.

Well, that's got me more hopeful for this last Bonus Track, "Play Around." And it is even better. Again, they're much more in NY gangsta-mode, and the beat has a catchy fake horn sample and a head-nodding beat. Even the sung hook is cool. I don't think it's actually Hell Razah on the track, but that's okay. These guys actually hold their own pretty well now.

In a world where there's eighty bajillion hip-hop records out, and hundreds more being recorded every day, I doubt I'll end up revisiting this one much. I can't say I really recommend the purchase; but you could definitely put this in a set or on a mixtape and ride to it. Except the A-side, fuck that shit. I'm not surprised their album never took off; but if these guys had come up under the right producer at the right time, they definitely could've had some moderate hit records and a brief but respectable career. In the end, I'm about as happy with my purchase as I expected to be. And hey, at least we learned a little something.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

JVC Force: 6 Tracks Back From the Vaults

Remember last year when Chopped Herring released an EP of unreleased JVC Force material, and we all kinda knew a second volume was bound to follow? Well, here it is! Woot! Let's jump right in.

The opening two songs, I have to say, are actually a little disappointing. They're decent, but the production really doesn't have that distinct JVC sound at all. They just sound like typical, basic 90's. As such, they're not bad, but they're not the kind of material you'd lay down the cost of a limited release like this for.

Fortunately, the B-side more than makes up for things. "Top Celebrity" has a really cool, smooth production style mixed with a little (or a lot, even) of Chubb Rock's "Treat 'Em Right" instrumental, and of course the Krs vocal sample of the title. B-Luv flexes his ragga style a bit on here, but most of it's pure, American hip-hop, and it sounds great.

Reggae and classic hip-hop blend even more on "Sly As a Fox" with Red Fox guesting on a fresh "Funky Sensation"-based track groove. A lot of songs have sampled that song, of course, but this one is chopped exactly the same way as Father MC's "One Nite Stand," even down to the vocal samples on the loop. But instead of the "Microphone Fiend" element from that record, this one has a funky keyboard horn riff. It all adds up to a cool, freestyle feel as the guys (Curt Cazal even gets on the mic for this one) just pass the mic over a perfect head nodder. And Red Fox is given free reign to just go nuts at the end of the song with a never0-ending segment, a la Canibus on "Beasts From the East," except reggae.

It doesn't sound like all three guys were fully involved with all the new songs (B Luv says "but now it's two instead of three" on "Top Celebrity"), which is a little disappointing, AJ's voice definitely would've definitely been a welcome addition; but these B-side cuts are still fully satisfying JVC Force tracks for sure

And none of those four 90's tracks are are even the best part of this EP, anyway. First of all, there's also an instrumental version of "A Musical Sample," which was one of the strongest songs on Force Field. But since it was only released as an album track, we never had an instrumental version... until now. But that's just like a little bonus treat. The real highlight of this EP is the Original Demo version of one of their oldest songs, "Nu Skool" (the original B-side to their debut 12", "Strong Island"). The version we've all known for years is very stripped down. It works, because of the guys' flows and ill-sounding voices completely sell it. But this version is definitely what you'd call "more musical" with, most notably, a super funky bass sound that doesn't just make this a cool alternative. For my money, this version's actually better, a real awesome find.

Chopped Herring's pressed up 300 of The 1987-1993 Unreleased EP, with 75 copies on a gold and clear mixed vinyl, 75 on black and gold [pictured], and the rest on classic black. And of course, it comes in a sticker cover. Despite the limited involvement of AJ and the underwhelming A-side, make no mistake, this is another essential JVC Force release, I'm very pleased to have it and I'm more than ready for a volume three!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The NEW New England Hip-Hop Massive

The great Herring has chopped another holy grail off many of the most entrenched hip-hop aficionados' want lists, this time hitting us with one nobody saw coming. They've repressed 1993's New England Hip-Hop Massive EP. It's one whose rarity has definitely elevated its status, but make no mistake; it's a seriously dope record.

The headline track is "The Line Up," where the indie CT record label DFO gathered every artist they had associated with them into one giant posse cut. A long, anonymous line-up of complete unknowns to all of us unfamiliar with the local scene, this joint had to earn its ranking as a crazily high-priced, sought after "raer" based purely on its ability to rock our knots. It's a raw, high-energy jam based on a hot break and DJ/producer Quazar cutting up as the mic gets passed further and further down the line. It's an impressive array of MCing, with most of the guys being distinct and varied; and only one guy stands out as being sub-par, with a corny punchline flow that wouldn't've even passed muster back in '93: "I'm a G-R-E-A-T P-O-E-T; imagine I'm a Twinkie, open your mouth and eat me. I'm no homo; I'm phat like 'Flow Joe;' I'm so poetic they call me the white negro. ...It's all about the paper, you ugly little faker. Your rhymes stink more than my brother's anal vapors." And he ends his verse by saying, "I've got so much flavor, it's even in my shit," which... I'm not even sure exactly what that would mean. It's so juvenile, I think it went sub-logical. But it's a hot, fast-paced track, so his flow at least sounds really tight if you don't pay attention to the lyrics. And really, I've singled this guy out because I couldn't resist it, but everybody else acquits themselves quite well. Don't let my quotes dissuade you from what a funky, rough treat this song actually is.

But, for all the bluster and bravado of the attention-getting posse cut, I think the second track actually holds up better in the long run. Holocaust Frost's "The Mind Is a Universe" is just a killer solo cut with MC Frost spitting over another hype banger by Quazar. If the title reminds you a little of the Ultramagnetic MCs, listening to it will only put them more in mind. Frost sounds like a non-eccentric Kool Keith over a track that would sound right at home on Critical Beatdown.

For the third song, Quazar's fast and dusty breakbeat style is replaced with the richer, fuller sound of Subversive Element. And with it comes the introduction of the only guys you might well've heard of who appear on this record: Raw Produce. Unfortunately, they don't rhyme here (that's left to the MC, CIA); but they are the beatsmiths, and while this is a little more hardcore than your standard Produce record, their aesthetic definitely still comes across. And with the startling and tragic passing of Cadence in March, the fact that his incredibly rare debut on wax has finally become accessible for fans is a real highlight.

And that's about where the original EP ended. The three songs, and an undesirable Censored version of "The Line Up." But Chopped Herring once again demonstrates how they've gone from outliers to front runners in this limited game by not just bringing forth a highly desired grail, but actually making it better. For The New Line Up EP, Chopped Herring has removed the useless Censored version of the lead song and in its stead replaced it with a never-before-released demo by Quazar and his MC Adrenaline. It's a demo they recorded under the name Def Duo (not the same guys who started with Jazzy Jay and wound up making records with Markey Mark and the Funky Bunch, though), and it's completely in tone, and up to par, with the rest of the material on this EP.

That last song was sourced from a cassette, so it does sound kinda hissy; but this record was made entirely from the vaults of Quazar himself, so it's the best recording available, and it does hold up pretty well on wax. The other songs are remastered off the reels, so they sound as just as good as the original recordings ever did (bearing in mind the songs were originally created somewhat on the cheap). This is limited to 350 copies, with 75 on a "Clear with Orange swirl mixed colour," 75 on "Orange and Black swirl mixed colour," and the other 200 on your standard black.They all come in the phat sticker cover pictured above, which identifies all the MCs of "The Line Up." I believe the original just came in a plain black sleeve, so while the DFO pressing naturally retains collectability just by virtue of being the original; this Chopped Herring is well above just being an acceptable substitute.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Hip-Hop On a Work Night

When you hear the phrase "grown man rap," you probably think of Jay-Z flexing over how he turned MCing into a corporate gig, Nas dropping sitcom-levels of insight on parenting or Grand Daddy IU lamenting how he pimps fewer hoes now because he gets tired earlier*. But the problem with this stuff is that it's being made by people submerged and isolated so far up celebrity culture that it becomes a stunted conception of adulthood as seen through the warped telescope of perpetual adolescence. Think MTV's The Real World as opposed to the real world. Peter Pan was actually super old, right? But in Never Never Land, he and his friends stayed lost boys forever, and they probably thought "Open Letter" was really mature.

Back to show us how it's really done is WD40 himself, Whirlwind D. His latest record is a straight forward, two-song 12", titled Bristol Built. The opener, "Late Night Rhyme" is simply described as "tales of late night digging," but it's really a slice of life-style manifesto on the genuine experiences of a hip-hop fiend who hasn't forsaken his devotion in favor of the safe R&B or classic rock of your average middle-aged conformist.

"Passing time as I nod my head,
Interrupted by a child who won't go to bed.
Read another story or a glass of milk
Then back to the beat that's smooth as silk.
The needle skips in the run-out groove;
Choose some more wax; my mind's in the mood.
Classic Cold Chillin' is the order of the day,
Shan or Kane, can't decide which way.
...I hear the door slam;
Four hours in the room when I had planned
To spend an evening with my dearest wife."

This song is a very breezy listen. It feels really short even though it's a full three plus minutes, because D's just kicking a non-stop rolling flow over an uptempo but soulful beat by Mr. Fantastic. There's no hook except for the briefest scratch interludes which pay homage to the classic records he references in his verses, a perfect choice.

So as the A-side is a portrait of life as it is for a grown head now, the B-side is a look back at the way we were. "Star" is a cleverly misleading title... clever in that it's actually perfectly straight-forward and descriptive once you realize it doesn't mean what you think it means, plus the way it subverts the meaning of the staple vocal sample, "the star of the show." Anyway, this time around Whilrwind D shares the mic with Truck of Beat Route 38 (Mr. Fantastic's old group), to relive their pasts. They start with their childhoods as they discovered the genre ("BMX bikers, rough rhyme reciters, poppin' really badly, hangin' out with the writers. Biters we were, always buyin' ninja weapons") and ultimately document their origins as MCs.

I don't think WD needed the assistance of a second narrative on this song; he's more than compelling enough on his own. But Truck's voice does sound quite nice when he jumps on the instrumental. So the only real flaw I found is how Sir Beanz OBE just gets on at the end to add some super fresh scratches. Those scratches aren't my complaint, don't get me wrong; they're great. But he should've been on the track all along, for each hook. Because as it is, the hook is kinda flat, repetitive and lacking exactly what he's providing. It's still a very solid song, but that's no small detail.

Another thing we can always rely on WD for is presentation. Bristol Built comes on a high-quality pressing, fully loaded with instrumentals and acapellas in a phat picture cover. Each copy also includes a poster, a sticker and a press sheet. And it's only £8.99, so support. Because it's more responsible to listen to a record about staying up all night playing rap songs than actually doing so when you know you've got to get up for work in the morning.

*But in all seriousness, IU, you're on fire right now and we don't want you to change a thing. Just press it on wax.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Rappers Defending Pigs

The title of this post probably sounds like I'm making fun of something or someone, but no. It's really an accurate description of today's subject. Apparently we've come a long way from MCs like Krs rapping, "Some eat swine, better known as also pork. They stab it and they stab it 'till they get it on their fork. The first one to say there's nothing wrong with the pig - but haven't you seen the way this animal lives?" He's not just repping vegetarianism (although he often extols the benefits of such); dude has something serious against pigs. And he certainly wasn't alone in referring to pigs as dirty animals and such. But that was then. Today we're looking at a collection of disparate rappers have come together to defend pigs.

Specifically what we have here is a DVD called Woof! Think About It released by PETA2 in 2003. I'm sure we all know about the organization PETA; but I had to do a bit of online research to figure out specifically what PETA2 is. Turns out they are a division of of PETA (it's not a whole separate group of people or anything) aimed specifically at people aged 13-21; and apparently they're highly (primarily?) active on the Warped Tours.

So, now, this DVD isn't exclusively hip-hop focused. It features the involvement of all sorts of artists I've mostly never heard of, but I guess are the sort of rock bands that you would've found on Warped Tour in 2003. But there is a surprisingly high percentage of hip-hop artists featured, and the DVD menu even has an option that lets you to view just the hip-hop stuff. So let's do it!

But we can't actually get to the menu without watching a four minute intro video detailing the premise of this disc. It's spelled out very clearly, written in all caps onscreen alongside an animated pig: "THE ONLY DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PIGS AND DOGS IS THE WAY WE TREAT THEM." It may be tempting to point out some of the many obvious differences between pigs and dogs (One's Canis and one's Suidae! Their noses are different!, etc), but let's be mature about this. The idea is that pigs are lovable as dogs, and if you treat your pet dog lovingly, you should feel guilty about slaughtering pigs for food. Got it, okay. There are other blogs interested in this subject matter, but not this one, so... skipping to the rappers!

First up is Chuck D. There's a quick shot of him performing on stage (presumably at Warped Tour, doing a soft, funk-guitar driven version of "Fight the Power") followed by a backstage/outdoors interview, all watermarked with PETA2's website. His whole segment is only 92 seconds, and the sound quality is terrible... I think they're just using the camera's built-in mic, or something else omnidirectional, so the band playing off-screen is almost drowning out Chuck.  All very quick and amateur. Chuck tells us the only animal he eats is fish and he cut out eating other meats while touring in the 80s because it required so much physical stamina, and something I can't make out about corporations that sell meat.

Next up is the Cool Kids, and they've at least pulled these guys into some little private corner somewhere so we can hear them better. But we still hear the concert, In fact, they've added a generic hip-hop beat to the clip, to drown out the background noise and smooth out the rough edits; but it just winds up muddying together, to create a weird, unlistenable mess of murky rock and weak hip-hop. Anyway, the Kids themselves talk about how fur coats are usually dirty and, "like, beat up a cat, or like kill a cat or something, you know, those are usually more towards the people that will end up killing people." The whole thing's only about two minutes long.

The Grouch and uncredited lady friend
So, anyway, you get the idea. The rest of the clips are pretty much the same. We've got Dead Prez (actually just Stic), POS and Sims of Doomtree (who seem to have been filmed when the concert was just being set up, so the sound is clearer), several members of Living Legends (LuckyIAm, Aesop, The Grouch, Murs - who can't be heard at all - and Bicasso) and Masta Killa (whose clip is labeled as "B-Roll" even though it looks to be the same as everybody else's). Finally, we end with a clip of Sage Francis, which is actually a bit more substantial. The sound is cheap but audible, the clip is longer (almost four minutes!), and the edits are semi-professional. If you actually picked this DVD up because you wanted to hear one of your favorite artists talk about vegetarianism and the meat packing industry, I'd say this is the only clip that won't leave you disappointed.

I feel like InstaRapFlix has been resurrected, because this whole thing is just another non-project like Thug Holiday Uncut, DJ Demp: Dirty for Life or Slip N Slide - Memorial Day Weekend. Rappers are cornered at shows for quick, low-quality soundbites where they have nothing prepared to say and you can't hear them say it anyway. It's the cheapest, non-professional equipment (back when there was a much greater division between professional cameras and personal use stuff) by people who don't know how to use it (beginners, please at least remember this basic "signal to noise" rule: keep your mic close to the person talking), and no direction. Nothing against the rappers themselves here (although the Cool Kids, do kinda come off like a pair of idiots), but on one hand it's actually a good thing these clips are so short, because they're so painful to sit through.

I took a quick peak at some of the artists' clips from other genres... some are much better quality. For the Fall Out Boy and Anti-Flag interviews, for example, they're on a set, the interviewer has a mic, the video quality is far superior... They're longer and look like typical MTV interviews. There's also a lot more of them. And there are also other, more general PETA videos on here, like Chew On This or Meet Your Meat, which are decidedly more professionally produced, which somebody clearly spent actual time putting together. And unlike the other DVDs mentioned a paragraph ago, this one was, I believe, given away for free by PETA (though somebody clearly tried to sell this copy for $4), so you can't really call this a rip-off like those were. Just a cheap piece of crap, which also had a lot less novelty value than I was hoping for. Oh well.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Willie D Vs. Willie D

Iphone scams may not be the only crime Willie D committed (seriously, I can't abide EBay scammers). How about that time he sold us all the same album twice? Remember that? In 2000, he released Loved By Few, Hated By Many on Rap-A-Lot and Virgin Records. Then, in 2001, he released it again on his own label, Relentless, under the title... Relentless. But, strictly speaking, they're not exactly the same. There are a couple variations. So you know I've got to make a post breaking it all down and figuring out exactly what's what on both versions, right?

Okay, on first glance, Loved is eighteen tracks long and Relentless is only fifteen. So a couple must've got lost along the way. Out of those, thirteen songs are exactly the same on both albums. I mean, their titles might be slightly different... The single "Freaky Deaky" featuring Pimp C, his cousin NaNa, and a poor variation of Donna Summer's "Love To Love You Baby" for the hook, was renamed "The Real (Freaky Deaky)" the second time around. But by direct comparison, they're exactly the same song. Oh, and his cousin changed her name to Nay Nay at the same time. But, anyway, all the rest of the corresponding titles seem to be a hundred percent identical, so there's no question which ones are which. The sequencing is different to help disguise that fact they're presenting the same material twice; but that's it. Listening to both albums in a row, none seem to be alternate remixes or anything like that; they're the exact same songs.

Taking those thirteen songs out of the equation, then, we're left with two apparently unique songs on Relentless and five on Loved. That's even less exciting when you remember that Loved had skits on it. "A Friend" and "The Sickness" were completely forgettable time wasters, exclusive though they were, which frankly were no loss for Relentless. So that means Loved is down to three unique songs.

Now let's get down to tacks and look at 'em one by one.

Loved By Few, Hated By Many exclusives:

1) If I Was White - Lyrically, this song is interesting. He makes valid points but without losing the quintessential Willie D personality. Unfortunately, the instrumental is limp and the hook is lame with really weak background vocals (except the parts where he rants... those are great). A remix of this could be a lot of fun, but as it is, it's just an alright album track.

2) Pusscndclick - This one's funny and the instrumental's still pretty soft but more interesting than "If I Was White." Most of this hook works better, with a bunch of girls taunting, "pussy 'n' my clique, pussy 'n' my clique; I got a motherfucking pussy 'n' my clique." And again, Willie has some really compelling rhymes in his verses (he definitely hadn't lost it as an MC). A remix would go a long way on this one, too; and for some reason he lets his crew member talk some annoying BS over a lot of the track (I almost thought they were suggesting he was the pussy of the song at first!).  But overall, it's a good 'un.

3) I'll Make You Famous - This one features Willie going harder, but production-wise at least, it doesn't go nearly far enough. The beat's decent enough to just listen along to without minding; but definitely nothing to get amped over.

Relentless exclusives:

1) Relentless - This one's harder than "I'll Make You Famous," but still could go a lot farther, too. The track feels low budget, and not in that pure, raw Hip-Hop way that's exciting. It's also his posse cut to showcase his new Relentess line-up, including Nay Nay. It has a sung chorus (presumably an R&B chick he was also managing), which would probably sound good on a lusher track.

2) Willie Dennis - The hardest one, kinda, with more of a classically gangsta rap instrumental. Willie D's rhymes about people trying to censor gangsta rap seem like they're left over from the early 90s, but not early enough that they sound like classic Geto Boys album tracks. It's okay, but feels a little phoned in.

A running theme you must've caught onto there is that the production consistently let Willie D down. That actually runs through the whole album(s). Willie D was showing and proving as an MC, but the instrumentals just weren't going to excite anyone outside of his most forgiving fanbase. It's a shame, because I think Willie could've blown up with this. An attention-grabbing single, some serious hardcore beats (Rick Rubin, come back!) and a nice push from Virgin could've revitalized his career for another long stretch. He really had what it took, but all these instrumentals were average at best. And there's too much good music out there for heads to waste their time with average, let alone sub-par.

But if you are a big enough WIllie D fan to buy this album anyway (and why shouldn't you be? Willie D merits that kind of fan devotion), which version should you pick? Well, unfortunately, none of the exclusive songs are strong enough to make a big case for either one. I'd say Loved By Few, Hated By Many, because the best of the five ("Pusscndclick") is on that version, plus it has one extra. But if you already have one, it's really not worth tracking down the other unless you're a serious completist. Whichever version you come across first, or whichever one you see cheaper, is the one to own.