Friday, May 30, 2014

Return Of the Veteranz

I called my last post a "later release for somebody like DJ Hollywood," but you could still consider that the first round of musical recordings for somebody who just happened to manage to have a long run.  This on the other hand, is a straight-up comeback record by some of the oldest school artists our genre's got. The Veteranz is kind of 1997 "super group," consisting of DJ Hollywood, Lovebug Starski (here spelling it Luvbug Starski) and The World Famous Brucie B. And they've come back out on the strength and production of "The Original 'Shake Dat Ass' Man" DJ Mister Cee. It seemed to be largely compelled by the attention Doug E Fresh got for his song "The Original Old School" featuring Hollywood and Lovebut Starski alongside members of The Furious Five and The Cold Crush; but of course there were a lot of instances of hip-hop's original forefathers getting put on records throughout the 90s.

This was pretty much just a one-off single inspired recording session rather than an earnest attempt by The Veteranz to sign a deal and start re-enter the music industry as a consistent group. But it was released twice, with an all-new remix retitled and kinda packaged as if they'd come back again with a second song. So let's start with the first release.

"Da Medicine" was originally released on Tape Kingz with two versions - not including the Instrumental and Accapella - the Party Version and the Regular Version. The difference is pretty simple: they're exactly the same song except the Party Version features additional "party voices" added throughout the track, just like many of the classic disco-era rap records used to have. To me this adds to the fun adn effect of the record and detracts nothing, so while it's not a huge difference (they're mixed pretty low anyway), it's the definitive version and you can pretty much forget about the Regular Version as more of just an incomplete bonus mix to pad out the 12".

But here's the thing about The Veteranz. All three of these guys are more like DJs and party rockers and strictly lyrical MCs. You know, it's not like we have Melle Mel, Grandmaster Caz and Kool Moe Dee here. I mean, at least Hollywood and Starski were experienced recording artists, but Brucie never even made records. And they definitely opted to play it safe here, because theyr eally don't rap at all. I mean Hollywood and Starski did rap on their old records, so it's not like they didn't know how. But they just don't here. I mean, there's a bit in the middle I guess you'd consider more traditional rapping, but the way they keep going back and forth and shouting, it doesn't much feel like it. They just do a succession of hooks and chants over a blend of hot and ever changing breakbeats by Mister Cee. In fact, this almost feels like a completed Mister Cee party record - you know, those instrumental 12" singles just bl;ending a mix of the latest and old school breaks for a couple minutes that all the NY DJs used to press up in small runs? It's like Mister Cee had made this record and then just had these guys talk over it as an after-thought.

So, as a result, it's okay... the beat selection is solid and the added layer of the Veteranz does help. But ultimately, it's boring. It's like you're just waiting and waiting for the song to start, right up until it ends. It's fine, for one of those generic party records, but it needed actual verses to feel like a proper, finished song. The Veteranz names' carry a lot of weight, but that's about the only weight they bring to the record. Their voices are pleasantly recognizable and there are references to their past work to catch; but talent-wise, any three guys you pulled off the street could've recorded these vocals.

But their name value at the time was strong. This collaboration was getting write-ups in music mags and press well beyond what any of these other party records got. The rest of the world wanted to hear it, and so Select Records picked it up and reissued it.

This time you got "Da Medicine" in Party, Regular and Instrumental versions just like the Tape Kingz single. But then, on the flip, you had "Da Remedy (Da Medicine Remix)" also in Party, Regular and Instrumental versions. Like I said earlier, it's the same vocal recoding, but the original instrumental has been switched out for an entirely new one. Here, Starski, Brucie and Mister Cee (no, not Hollywood) share production credit. It's a pretty cool, alternate version, which feels a bit more like a consistent song than a party mix, with a more old school feel thanks to some big programmed beats and conspicuous hand claps.

It's hard to pick a favorite between "Da Medicine" and "Da Remedy," but thankfully with the Select single, you don't have to. You only miss out on the Accapella. So it's a fun record, but it still doesn't have any real rapping. So it winds up feeling like a lot of Miami bass or indie NY party records. Listenable but nothing you'd really keep going back to.

And It's interesting to note that The Veteranz reunited in 1998. On the Flip Squad All Stars album, the final track is by DJ Mister Cee featuring Brucie B, Hollywood and Lovebug Starski. "How Ya Like Us Now" is a straight-up second Veteranz song. I mean, I'd consider any modern pairing of Brucie, Hollywood and Starski a Veteranz song, but with Mister Cee still on the boards? It's incontrovertible. They even refer to themselves as The Veteranz, even though they're not credited that way on the label. And, yes, it features all new vocals - albeit in the same, "many choruses and no verses" style, as well as a new instrumental. And party vocals. :)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Too Hot To Handle, Too Cold To Hold

DJ Hollywood's "To Whoever It May Concern" was the biggest record Posse Records ever put out. That's according to Van Silk's introduction on the 1988 compilation album Posse All-Stars Rap Classics. That fact is made all the more interesting when you remember that DJ Hollywood's "To Whoever It May Concern," nor any other DJ Hollywood record for that matter, was ever released on Posse Records. It was first released on World To World Records, and then reissued on Spring Records for broader distribution, both in 1986. Well, the connection must be between Posse and Spring, since the same compilation features a couple other Spring singles sprinkled throughout the actual Posse releases as well.

So 1986 is a later release for somebody like DJ Hollywood, but this is a solid record. It's produced by Donald D... not The Syndicate Sniper, but the guy who made "Don's Groove" and produced those old school cats like B-Fats and Cheryl the Pearl. It's got big, bombastic horns, a funky electro-style keyboard riff, and a super funky bassline. Especially on this Spring Records version. Because the Spring Records release is actually an uncredited remix of the first version put out on World To World. It's basically more of a re-record, where they take another pass at recording the same basic track. But it all sounds more professional and, frankly, catchier. It's just better, plus over a minute longer. The older version is interesting as a historic alternative (and if you're curious, you can hear it on the Tuff City album Rarities from 1995, where it's been retitled "To Whom It May Concern"), but the Spring version is the definitive version. It's actually my favorite Hollywood record.

Have you ever heard the Busy Bee song "Poon Tang?" It's really an extended tribute to a routine Hollywood did during his live sets and in this record, sort of like Biz Markie's "Let me Turn You On."  Where he goes, "poon tang, oon tang, I don't wanna go, slept all night with my honey bun. Give me some of that yummy yum yum before I go to bed. Of all the animals in the world, I'd rather be a squirrel - climb up on the highest tree and do it all over the wor-orld." Of course, you can bet Hollywood didn't say "do it" live in the clubs.  Here's a great clip of Hollywood performing it in 2008 in Central Park.

Well, Busy Bee adds more animal rhymes to his song, but otherwise he's just doing the same routine that Hollywood does here. It's a pretty memorable segment, especially if you were hearing it for this first time on this record - in fact, the song is even titled "Um Tang, Um Tang (To Whoever It May Concern)" in other parts of the world. But while that routine makes up the entirety of "Poon Tang," it's just one part of "To Whoever It May Concern," which has Hollywood rapping multiple verses and singing multiple fun hooks and choruses.And yes, the "too hot to handle" line appeared in this song long before Bobby Brown got to it for his Ghostbusters song.

The Posse All-Stars Rap Classics album only features the Short Vocal Version that's on the B-side of this 12". It basically fades the song out super early, cutting in into less than half. The proper A-side version is a full seven minutes long, and the seven minute Instrumental Version is also included. And perhaps the best thing is neither version of this record is rare or hard to find. So if you're a serious head, you can get them both super cheap and easy. But you should at least have this one in your crates; it's a damn good time.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Jevin the Dude

Okay, here's an interesting EP by somebody entirely new. "Entirely new" meaning none of the other blogs have even discovered this guy yet. And sure, usually when I find myself checking out an artist none of the other blogs have ever featured, it's because they're terrible and I've gone far too deep down the rabbit hole of the internet. But no no, this guy hasn't been discovered yet, and his EP is actually pretty good. I mean, I'm not predicting he's gonna blow up and be huge... Because if I was going to seriously predict who's going to blow up, I'd put on my cynical hat and guess that, now that Kreayshawn's pregnant, her team's just going to take that girl who looked exactly like her in that music video and slide her into her spot like they're interchangeable mannequins.* But I at least expect to see this guy on NahRight, 2DopeBoyz and more of my Feedly list in future.

I'm talking about There Can Only Be One, the debut EP from Front Ground Entertainment by Jevin June, produced by somebody named Mad Knocks. Mad Knocks isn't credited anywhere on here; I had to do some internet sleuthing to figure out who actually made these beats. But he definitely recognition for this, since it's really the pairing that makes this EP work. Their styles really fit together.

It opens with "The One," which isn't the strongest song, but makes for a good intro with its big, royal horn sounds. I'm a sucker for those lush openers, going all the way back to "The Ruler's Back." Sure it's over-selling, but it's a lot of fun. "The Theory" hits the chipmunk soul button a little hard, but I can't deny that it sounds good. A couple of the other songs don't work quite as well, but everything here is at least interesting. The stand out track is "Knights With the King," and clearly Jevin realized this as well, as it's the one he shot a video for

And Jevin's got one of those flows that just makes everything sound easy, sounding very natural on the track like he belongs there. And lyrically, he's got a nice rhyme pattern. But here's where the road gets bumpy. He's got the voice, the structure, the flow - especially for a young cat - but the actual content of his lyrics are kind of a mess. And that might be fine for him, career-wise, since pop audiences clearly don't pay any attention into what's being said in the music they listen to anyway. But discriminating listeners are going to have some questions.

I mean, it's mostly just a lot of cliches strung together. He's "far from pop," "ran through your bitch," "so clairvoyant I can see you haters comin'," "pops champagne," "walked on the sun," "needs more money to cop these black Porches," etc etc. And I just took those all from the first song. There's never any clever lines, which is actually fine; because I think punchline rappers have worn out their welcome anyway. But there's nothing else interesting to take its place either. And it sounds alright because he has some nice multiple rhymes; but in terms substance, it's like you could write these songs with a randomizing computer program.

And sometimes it gets more awkward, like where he says, "Notorious, see me: the illest since B.I.G. No disrespect to the late great Wallace." Like why are you even bringing his name up if you're just going to put yourself on his level and then immediately backpedal? Just cut the line. And he constantly makes these non-sequitur sex references. "I need some bad brain," is a line from the first song. "I need me a freak, I need me a freak, some thorough bitches that suck vicious, that's addicted to fellatio feelings," is from his second. "My thoughts spillin', I so want you: sexy beast in high heels," is from his third - although to be fair, it actually fits the theme and context of the rest of the song in that case.  On four he says, "I need an orgy, sexual exploratory, got some stallions waitin' for me," And in the fifth, he says he needs, "a thick chick who takes a slow ride on the P. When she's done, she smiles and calls me God." That's every single song on this EP; and does anyone really want to hear that? Maybe save this stuff for your PlentyOfFish profile. They just sound like thoughts he should've kept in his subconscious. And you could argue that that's a potentially good way for a rapper to go, voicing the ideas that most people are afraid to; the unspoken, suppressed truths of the id. But there's nothing "Fight the Power" about throwing in an uncomfortable remark about who he wants to have touch his penis on every song.

But I'ma stop because I'm zeroing in on all the weakest points here. Honestly, most of his verses are just fine. Unremarkable, but also nothing wrong with them. And when combined with all of the other elements that he's got mastered, it still makes for a good listen. Especially if you don't pay super close attention.

I've got a CD here, but I'm not sure where any of you reading this could get a copy outside of probably a merch table at one of his shows. The push here seems to be to send you to just download this for free (it's available here), which is about right. Because I don't recommend this for a purchase, but I do for a free listen online. Especially since then you can just focus on the best songs, and those really do sound good. Honestly, that "Knights With the King" video should really get some blog attention, and I think both Jevin and Mad have the potential to advance a lot further in the industry. Especially if Jevin is willing to start going through his rhyme books for one last editorial pass.

*Oops, too late. That already happened.

Friday, May 23, 2014


Today I'm going to take a long-deserved look at (the only) two singles by The Rumpletilskinz. To put it dismissively, The Rumpletilskinz were The Leaders Of the New School protege "weed carrier" group. They made their first appearance on LONS's debut album, and came back again on their second. In between that time they were signed - let's face it - largely off the Leaders' buzz and released one album, What Is a Rumpletilskin?, which had these two singles. When the Leaders split, they 'Skinz were dropped and they were never heard from again. Well, collectively. There were a couple indie solo 12"s.

[Note: for the following five paragraphs - the indented blue ones - I go on kind of a rant on their name. It makes this post pretty long and is probably a little self-indulgent. So, it's up to you; but if you're not feeling it, you might want to skip down to where the formatting returns to normal for a more concise, solid read.]
I always thought these guys - Jeranimo, LS, Sha-Now and RPM - had one of the dumber group names in rap history.  I mean, first of all taking the name from a children's fairy tale character Rumpelstiltskin to a group whose angle seemed to be that they were the harder, "realer" version of LONS, which was more mainstream with their more fun and cartoonish personalities. Dinco was more upbeat, Busta was wild and eccentric and Charlie Brown was Charlie Fuckin' Brown. These guys brought more of a darker, slightly Onyx-ier tone to the music. And again, continuing with what's becoming the theme of the week for me: purer journeymen rap artists as opposed to their more colorful, media playing counterparts.

I mean, it always kinda made me wince when hip-hop groups started getting marketed to kids like Ninja Turtle toys, where each member has one defining, identifiable personality trait each. Genius is the leader, like Leonardo, Method Man is the angry one, like Raphael, ODB is Michelangelo, and so on. Then, they'd take on new personas when the first ones had already sold through... Meth became "Johnny Blaze," RZA became "Bobby Digital." Just like when the original wave of Batman figures had gotten old, so they'd release a second line with "Winter Knight Batman" in a white suit with skis or "Deep Sea Batman" with a Blue Suit and scuba gear. I'm going off on a real tanget here, so I'll reel it back in and get back to the Skinz. But you know what I mean, right? You've seen it. That's rap marketing, and it was at its worst, I think, in the 90s.

So, first of all, it's already hard trying to explain to your friends that you're buying a tape buy a crew named after Rumpelstiltskin because they're hard and real. Plus, there's the whole weak, lack of originality in modern hip-hoppers' penchant for taking their names from pop culture... I'm a fan of the Cella Dwellas, but I've always had to admit it was cheesy that they took their name from a silly Charles Band flick about a killer comic book and their individual names from another 70s horror flick and the silly bounty hunter from space in the Critters movies. What? What? was a silly name, and I can understand her impulse to change it as she got a little older, but Jean Grae naming herself after an X-Men comic is actually a slight step down in my opinion. And taking your name from drug dealers and foreign dictators isn't much better. I mean, what happened to naming yourself based on some aspect of yourself? And HOLY CRAP, I'm even further off on another tangent. So, reeling it back in again, because I really do have a lot to get to about The 'Skinz still.

So, okay, they're named after who they're named after, no more about that. But then on top of that, they're applying the "intentional misspelling" schtick to it, where you can't be sure they're doing it because they're just trying to show you how hip-hop they are, or if they just didn't know the proper spelling. And this was in '91/'93, you can't argue that they were doing it for SEO. But no, it didn't really get dumb until you heard their explanation for the name (thought up by Busta Rhymes, apparently). It might've been a bit clever if they were saying that they spun gold out of their lyrical wordplay, just like their namesake from the fairy tale. But no, according to their interview in The Source magazine (October '93 issue), it's actually meant to be read as a three word phrase. LS explained, "The beats are 'rump.' They're chunk fat 'rump.' It won't stop 'til' death. It's definitely deeper than the 'skin,' and the z makes it plural." Then Jeranimo (also a poor name choice) elaborated, "Everybody wants to be 'rump,' you know what I'm sayin'? Rump is a form of ghetto terminology for being the best at what you can do. 'Til death' means I love my music and I'm striving for longevity. 'Skin deep' because it's in the heart. It's sacred." See how the logo on the cover above helpfully separates the "Til" so you can see it as three words?

But apparently everybody loved this concept and was fully on board with using it as their name. I mean, they didn't even just use the name and move forward, they made it a huge issue. Their album was titled What Is a Rumpletilskin? and it opened with a minute long skit talking about the meaning of their name. Look at that 12" cover again. A big question mark is popping out of his cup thing because you're supposed to be wondering about the mystery of their name. It's one thing to have kind of a hokey name and keep it moving, but they're trying really hard to make you think about it constantly. That had to have worked against them, career-wise.

But moving past the questionable nature of their name, I actually think these guys deserved more, because they did some really nice work here. "Attitudes" is my favorite of the two. The production is pitch perfect, dark but not too moody, jazzy but not too fancy, with varying riffs from horns that sound like they've been stepped on and flattened. It's subtle and just sounds really good.  And they just landed on a really good concept for a song, with the hook that simply repeats, "My attitude is fucked up ...and real shitty!" I mean, I don't quite understand why it's titled "Attitudes" rather than "My Attitude," but whatever. It just captures that raw, rebellious attitude of youth music by ironically quoting what's surely been repeated to them their whole adolescent lives and turning it into an anthem. Everyone can relate to that... it just works perfectly as a hook. And while lyrically, their goal seems to be to pack their verses with as little substance as possible - I think they idea is that they're displaying their bad attitudes, but it doesn't really come off as much more than random rhyming words loosely strung together - it's refreshing to hear a more straight-forward, rugged alternative version of the LONS style.

The only disappointing aspect of this single is that there's not much to it. You get the Original Mix, a Clean Version and the Instrumental; and that's it. On the one hand, it does come in a pretty cool picture cover, but then again the comic book-style monster drawing gives the whole thing a high school horrorcore vibe that really doesn't fit the song at all.

Their second single I only have on CD-single, as you can see; but whichever version you get, it increases its value by having an exclusive remix not featured on the album. But, on the other hand, it's not as good a song. This one is called "Is It Alright?" It features the same kind of strained jazzy production, which, like all their other material, is handled but the 'Skinz own RPM. I'm surprised he didn't continue on after the group died, because I would've loved to hear more production like this behind other artists. Not that it was particularly original, but he was damn sure expert at it.

But this time they're going for a slightly softer feel - not actually soft, mind you, but less hard than "Attitudes." And this time the hook and song concept just doesn't stand out like their last single. It all sounds too generic. I know I was just kind of praising "generic" as a positive quality earlier, but it can definitely go too far. There's just nothing to really latch on to here. It reminds me of the disappointment I felt when I first What Is a Rumpletilskin? and I realized the reggae guy from the Leaders' songs wasn't actually a member of the group or featured here.

The remix helps a bit. It's better. It's a bit tougher and doesn't lean on a keyboard riff underlying the album version. Both versions are fine, though, and neither is amazing. But between the two, I give it to the remix, which also supplies a bit more energy. Considering these guys' style consists of shouting and twisting their voices constantly, you wouldn't think energy would be a problem for these guys, but it is. That's where they come up shorter than LONS, and it shows here more now that they don't have a phat hook and concept. Now you really feel how it's just a bunch of young guys with nto much to say.  Don't get me wrong... it's still pretty good. When you hear it, you'll say it's dope for sure. But then you probably won't bother to go back and relisten to it for a long time.

This single also includes both Instrumentals, an A Capella, as well as another album track called "Hudz," This one has a cooler, ever-changing production style that's really interesting. Overall, you can see why it wasn't chosen to be a single itself, but it's a pretty compelling listen instrumentally, and work to distinguish themselves more as individual stylists, compared to their other songs where they can sound like just an indeterminate number of guys. It actually makes a pretty good advertisement for the album if all you'd gotten was the single. Again, it's disappointing that RPM never broke out of confines of his group, because I feel like his work had a real future to it, even if their MCing didn't.

But either way, if you're a 90s head, these guys are going to be right up your alley. And their flows and production combined should make these must-haves, even if they were a little lyrically light. While their LONS connection certainly got them through the door, it's a shame they couldn't get out from under their protective wing fast enough to survive after it collapsed. Not that I could see a group like this surviving on to today (and again, I don't think their name did them any favors), but at least a little more from these guys would've been very welcome.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Hawaiian Magnetic B-Boys

Sticking with interesting, indie 90's 12"s, today's record is Walkman Classic by a Hawaiian group called Invisible Inc. For a minute there, Hawaii seemed to have a pretty lively hip-hop scene, mostly by joining forced with indie artists and labels in Cali. In this case, they're being put out by IPO Wax, primarily known for being Tony da Skitzo's label.

My personal copy is a test pressing (that's an actual handwritten label, bit a creative design choice), but there's a proper, retail pressing with the same track-listing. They call it an EP, but filled with just three songs and their instrumentals, I'd be more inclined to classify it as a 12" single. But either way, it's pretty good.

This dropped in 1999, and it's actually their second release. It's also pretty much their last release, at least with as a unit. Akira 8, Ha'o, Mr. Rios and Syze-1 seemed to break up after this record, though  some of them did go on to work and cameo on other Hawaiian projects around that time. That was all pretty short lived for most of them, however Akira 8 changed his name to Emirc and went solo for a couple years. Then he changed his name again, to Tassho Pearce (his real name all along), and continues to work this day, including a new song with Kid Cudi and No I.D. released under a month ago.

So it's a pretty long and twisty career that traces back to this more traditional, 90s 12".  I almost said "boom bap;" but you know, it's more of that indie backpackery kinda vibe that's almost as influenced by Project Blowed as it by their devotion to traditional New York B-Boyism. It's not too artsy, though. Slick flows and  intelligent lyrics over very traditional beats with just enough interesting instrumentation and scratches on the hook to make it a little more compelling than the norm.

I wrote recently that I tend to prefer talented journeymen hip-hop artists over the showy larger-than-life personalities that usually capture the larger audiences' attentions; and that's what we find here. It's smart, a very effective head-nodder; but also very forgettable.  I can never remember the loops and sounds of this record until I put it back on the turntable for another revisit. And I've revisited it a bunch of times now over the years. But it really holds up every time, which is more than I can say for a lot of the 12"s I collected back in the 90s. It;s a pleasant surprise that keeps paying off.

And who knows, if Tassho's star rises high enough, maybe he can bring the gang back for a fun reunion track. I'd download that for nothin'.*

*What? That's all new music asks of us anymore, isn't it?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Black Sheep Meets Tha Alkaholiks ...and Some Other Guys

Since long-lost, unreleased tracks are finally being released on vinyl by both Black Sheep and Tha Alkaholiks, I thought it would be a good time to take a look back at this fun but mostly forgotten 90's record where they collaborated. This is "Dirty Money," by J-Ro and Dres, on PAC Records. Oh, and some guys known as The Flowmastaz Click.

Yeah, this is actually The Flowmastaz' single, and J-Ro and Dres are their special guests on this one song, though I've often seen it listed on line as if the Flowmastaz was a mini "super group" consisting of J-Ro and Dres. But, no, there's actually a whole Flowmastaz Click album, appropriately entitled Flowmastaz Click, and J-Ro and Dres are only on this one song. It's just that the star power of their guests outshone them.

In fact, The Flowmastaz have a bit of a history, albeit an obscure one. They're a Californian Latino trio consisting of Echo 1 aka Bout It, T-Swoop and Nome. They released their album and an earlier single, "Who's To Blame," the year before in 1998. They owned their own label, PAC Records, which also put out releases by a couple other groups. That album didn't feature "Dirty Money," though. That was only released on this one 12".

But the Flowmastaz story didn't end there. A few years later (2002), The Outsidaz' label RuffLife signed them under a slightly different name, Flow Click. And they didn't just drop 1/3 of their name but 1/3 of their roster, as Nome was out, and it was just Bout It and T-Swoop left; and their album was titled, appropriately, Flow Click. I wonder if Rufflife even realized they were releasing the Click's second self-titled "debut" album? Anyway, they dropped one single ("Pretty Lady") and of course we all know what happened to Rufflife, so that was pretty much it for them.

I can't say The Flowmastaz deserved any better than they achieved... Their first album was one of those sort of G-funky west coast albums where the MCs were kind of more on an east coast lyrical tip, but not very much. You know: all very soupy and a middle-of-the-road mash of the popular styles at the time, kinda like DPG-lite. Then their second album catered more to the niche Spanglish audience. But, given that, they pull their own weight on "Dirty Money" surprisingly well.

It's a funky but tough little beat, produced by some guys named Lamark and J. Crumb, with some nicely rubbed in percussion by an uncredited DJ. There's a little bit of a hook, but mostly it's just a lyrical free for all with the MCs trading the mic back and forth.So it's not like a single verse from each guest and then they're done. They keep getting back on the mic for more. J-Ro - dubbing himself "J-Ro J. Simpson" here - mostly steals the show, but Dres has an impressively tight little rhyme scheme - though his voice is probably the most exciting aspect of his bars. And like I said, the Flowmastaz really hold up their end of the bargain as well (T-Swoop really sounds good on his last verse). If they'd recorded an album like this single, I probably would've checked for these guys' material even without J-Ro and Dres on it. But as it is, this is the only Flowmastaz record you really need in your crates.

But you really should have this one, because it's surprisingly fresh. It's just got the one song but complete in Dirty, Radio, Instrumental and even Accapella versions. And again, this is a vinyl exclusive (though I'm sure this found it's way onto more than a couple mixtapes in its day). It's just one of those awesome little 12" singles that could've only appeared in second half of the 90s.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Next Eminem ...Circa 1999

Back in the 90's, Paradime's manager told me this guy was "the next Eminem." Now, over the years, you'd probably be hard pressed to find a white rapper with an even passing interest in his lyrics who hasn't been promoted at some point as the next Eminem. Except Dose One; he's always been a galaxy or two removed from what the rest of the hip-hop scene was doing. But Paradime's next Eminemness is a bit stronger than Chris Webby, Mac Miller, or this woman. Paradime was also coming out in the 90s, from Detroit, working with many of the same people and was sincerely being marketed by the same guys who put Eminem out there as an almost official Eminem #2.

Of course, it's unfair to lay any artist so much in another's shadow, and being forced to compete directly with the most explosive star of his day is pretty damn rough. But at the same time, most of us who picked up his record were probably doing so exactly because of the explicitly drawn Eminem connections, so at the end of the day, it probably still helped more than it hindered. So, let's take a look at Paradime's debut record - the 12" that really sailed with its "next Eminem" colors the highest.

The good news is that while he might've been the next Eminem through his circumstances, connections, etc; he's not a Dasit.  He doesn't rap like an Eminem clone, he doesn't have an indistinguishable voice and cadence like Asher Roth, and he's not a hacky joke machine like Hot Karl.  So go ahead and take your fingers out of your ears. He's not going for Eminem's fast talking acerbic style - although his punchlines are clearly aping Em. But Paradime has a much deeper, gruffer delivery. You'd never think maybe you were listening to an Eminem record at the start of one of his songs. He's closer to somebody like Vinnie Paz, really.

So this is the lead (and only) single for his debut album, Paragraphs, on his own label, Beats At Will. This single however, "Paragraphs (Remix)" is on Federation Records, the same label Bizarre was on before Interscope entered the picture. And we've actually got two remixes of "Paragraphs" here (plus an Instrumental and Acapella). The first is produced by Hush, of Da Ruckus, another Federation Records group that also recorded with Em; and it's the clear winner. It's a really well produced track that makes the song work. Honestly, lyrically, it's way too reliant on corny punchlines. But the beat makes it work, you'll be into the whole thing. Once you hear the next version, though, the Stank Breff Mix produced by Paradime himself, all the faults rise to the surface. And it's not that the production is bad - it's not as good as Hush's moody beat, but it's passable enough. It's just not one of those beats that can raise an average collection of verses to another level. I guess it's always nice to have an exclusive vinyl track (Hush's remix was included on the album); but honestly they should've probably just left it off.

Flip it over, and you've got another album cut called "Ain't Gonna Stop." And this... is some shitty club shit. The beat (also by Hush) sucks and the hook is worse. Dime's flow is alright over the beat - A for effort - but you're never going to listen to this crap a second time. Oh and lucky us, the Instrumental version is on here, too.

But the last track completely redeems... everything. It's a posse cut called "Clash Of the Titans," (also on the album), featuring a couple of his and Eminem's Dirty Dozen compatriots (Paradime went on to record multiple times with D12, though never Em himself), Bizarre and Bugz. It's produced by DJ AMF, regular producer for Federation Records label-mate S.U.N., who also kicks things off with a cool and calm opening verse. And Bizarre is at his best here in a small dose, taking battle raps to the extreme. It's Invincible who steals the show, though, with a flow that puts the rest to shame nad even makes some questionable lines sound incredibly dope. "Clash Of the Titans" is her fucking record. And it all rounds out with some hyper ad-libing by Bugz, who unfortunately doesn't actually spit any bars.

Unfortunately, that leaves Paradime out in the cold with the least memorable appearance. If a shorter edit of this song were released without his part, I'm not sure how many fans of this song would even notice. Roll that up with the rest of the 12" and you're left with a 12" that's absolutely worth having on the strength of "Clash of the Titans" and a good chunk of the production, but doesn't really leave you wanting to follow the rest of Paradime's career. It's kind of too bad, because he seemed like a decent artist; but he just never quite manages to grab you. And that particular failing is what truly and crucially separated him from Enimem.

Interestingly, though, Paradime pressed on over the years. And while he did continue to record with D12 (plus Royce da 5'9, Obie Trice, King Gordy and probably any other past associate of Em's that you can name) as I mentioned earlier, and most of his online fanbase seems to live in Eminem message board communities, he did persevere in forging his own non-Eminem related persona and putting out music on the underground level. Check him out still going strong in 2013. But according to his wikipedia, he's best known for "do[ing] the turntables and back up vocals for Kid Rock." Still, that's not a bad way to earn a living, even if he's not rolling in Super Bowl money. Things seem to have worked out about right for everybody.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Giving DJ EZ Rock Back His Due

About two weeks ago, the world was shocked to learn about the passing of DJ EZ Rock. When I tweeted the sad news, I linked to the best article I could find about it, which happened to be from Rolling Stone. I paused, because I noticed some misinformation, but I decided to just let it slide. I mean, nobody looks to Rolling Stone for highly informed hip-hop coverage. And no one else had published anything better. At least they knew his partner was Rob Base and that they made that song from the Sandra Bullock movie.

So here's what Rolling Stone wrote that's wrong: "Bryce would not appear on Rob Base's 1989 follow-up The Incredible Base, but reunited with the rapper for 1994's Break of Dawn."

They probably just sourced that info from Wikipedia, which says, "DJ E-Z Rock also was forced to leave the group due to his own personal issues, so Rob Base was left to be a solo artist.[citation needed] He responded in 1989 with The Incredible Base, his debut solo album. It did not sell as well as It Takes Two. One song from the album hit the dance chart in late 1989: "Turn It Out (Go Base)," credited only to Rob Base. Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock had a reunion album in 1994."  Citation needed indeed.

I only blog about it now because it seems everybody is reporting this fact...

Billboard wrote that, "Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock would split soon after [It Takes Two] only to reunite in 1994." HipHopDX wrote, "While Rob Base followed up It Takes Two with a solo album of his own called The Incredible Base, the duo reunited six years later." Consequence of Sound wrote, "E-Z Rock was not featured on Rob Base’s 1989 record The Incredible Base." XXL wrote, "Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock would split after the success of It Takes Two for personal reasons," TheBoomBox.xom wrote, "After the success of that album, Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock split up due to personal reasons, only to reunite in 1994 for their second album,‘Break of Dawn.’" The Huffington Post wrote, "E-Z Rock was not featured on Rob Base's 1989 album, 'The Incredible Base'..."  I could go on and on. There's tons more articles saying the same few sentences, all clearly having just copied the wikipedia or each other.

The Truth:

Yes, their first and third albums are credited to Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock, while the second album only lists Rob Base as the artist. That much is true. But Rob Base did not make The Incredible Base (or any other album) without EZ Rock. They made all their records together and none separately. EZ Rock is all over The Incredible Base; and it's impossible to miss for anybody who's ever actually listened to it.

Rob Base starts off the song "Get Up and Have a Good Time" by saying, "Now with the help of my man EZ Rock - and I'm Rob Base - we're getting ready to kick it off." Then, in the same song, he says, "EZ Rock in the back on the wheels." There's plenty of songs with cuts on them here (they're the only good part of the song "War"), and you certainly don't see anybody else credited with them.

Big Daddy Kane's albums are just credited to Big Daddy Kane, but that doesn't mean he broke up with Mister Cee right before every release. Cool V was still The Biz's DJ even though his name wasn't on the covers. Neither DJ K-La Boss or DJ Scratch's initials were part of EPMD, but they were still the group DJs. You get the point. DJs just typically weren't credited on hip-hop albums, especially as we moved into the 90s.

And since Rob Base's music was moving further in the direction of pop on The Incredible Base, it made even more sense not to have split the bill with his DJ. Like when MC Hammer dropped the "MC" from his name. And after that flopped due to the push-back against crossover rap, he decided to make a bid for hip-hop credibility again for his reunion comeback album in 1994, by returning to the old school style of crediting the DJ. Maybe there really were some "personal issues" between them around this time; but EZ Rock was definitely still on board for that middle album.

Hell, the man has his own solo song on The Incredible Base, called "Dope Mix." You know, one of those fresh DJ solo songs like "DJ Premier In Deep Concentration" or "Touch Of Jazz," where the spotlight is finally turned towards the man on the turntables? In fact, "Dope Mix" would make the perfect song to feature in a tribute article about him, much more appropriate than just "It Takes Two" again.

And see the photo at the top of this article? That's a screenshot of him doing the cuts in the official music video for their lead single, "Turn It Out," which they keep cutting back to. He was hardly hidden away. But because some random, uninformed internet user decided EZ Rock must have been uninvolved with The Incredible Bass, suddenly it's become the unquestioned history put forth by every music journalist who's never listened in the first place*. So call me nitpicky - I admit I might be going in a little hard here on what many would probably consider a negligible detail - but I just wanted to write this to let you guys know that this rumor you're reading everywhere** isn't really the truth, and to give EZ Rock his credit for this album.


*And how long will it be until somebody resolves that "Citation Needed" issue on the wiki article by linking to some of these articles that got this tidbit from the erroneous article, completing the circle of irony and "proving" the misinformation?

**They even wrote a song decrying rumors just like this on The Incredible Base. It's called "Rumors." :P

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

A Concurrent Example

So, I think I might've made some slight, tiny mention of the fact that the second part of Young Zee's Musical Meltdown has finally dropped on Dope Folks Records. And I've been kinda excited about it. I mean, you might've missed it, because I've been real subtle about it; but yeah. So, instead of doing a blog post about it - which would probably just wind up reiterating all the things I said about it back when it was still pending - I thought I'd write about the other record Dope Folks dropped at the same time. Yeah, they usually put out their records in pairs, which is great for shipping, but almost made me totally miss this one, eclipsed as it was by a record I've been pining almost 20 years for.

I'm talking about Progressions (The Austin St. Suites) by Example. It's a two-man pairing consisting of Dekay and DJ Cipher, and like their title suggests, these guys are from Texas. They're down with those K-Otix guys, and like that group, they... well, "backpacker" isn't quite the right phrase for them, but they definitely eschew the styles you'd typically associate with hip-hop from their particular state. They're definitely more lyrical and jazzy, sort of the artsy intellectual types you expect to find in jamming a small city club than blowing up on the charts. Think of a more down-to-Earth Boogiemonsters, or better yet - remember The Dereliks, who released the very underground "I Am a Record" in the mid-90's? These guys remind me of them.

Which I guess has pretty much been their narrative. They've been around for a long time, and they've even had a release on Dope Folks before this one. Last year, DF repressed their highly sought after "random rap" EP release Impulses from 1997, which is one of those rarities that goes for big bucks among hardcore collectors. Well, this time they're pressing up Example's 2001 self-released album, Progressions, which was originally a CD-only release (ughh even used to carry it), making this its vinyl debut.

This is technically an LP, as opposed to their previous EP, but it's right on the line. It's ten tracks long, but that includes an Intro, a short spoken word track and a long piano solo you'll be skipping after the first listen. But of course quality is what counts, not quantity, and who doesn't love a strong EP? Within those remaining seven tracks, you've still got thoughtful, introspective songs, moody, personal songs, creative concept songs, and a posse cut with K-Otix and an unexpected and show-stealing verse by Bun-B. The highlights definitely impress, though it also feels like it's meandering around sometimes, short of direction or focus.

Ultimately, I don't think it's as essential as Impulses, but it's still a cool, obscure find that's worthy of being rescued and re-presented to the public by a label like DF. It's limited to 300 copies and comes in a sticker cover matching the original CD cover. You have to specifically be in the mood for an album like this, but when that moment hits, you'll be loving it. Then you'll put it away and forget about it for a long time until that vibe strikes again. It's good to have a few of those in your collection, just enough to rediscover every few years. So, if you're picking up Musical Meltdown Pt. 2 [and if you're not, you'll regret it!], you might as well throw this in the cart at the same time and save on shipping.  8)

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Final Father

We're gathered here today to look back at Father MC - then going just by Father - 's last record, "My." Now, this is not the last thing he ever recorded... He made an mp3-only album in 2010, and maybe he's still got some more music up his sleeve. But this is the last actual, vinyl record he ever put out. And considering the present music business and the kind of music Father makes, unless it turns out he has lost demos produced by Paul C tucked away in a vault (and he doesn't), I think it's safe to say this is his last record. It's called "My."

This is his sole single leading up to his presumably last CD album, also called My. You'll note that the label prominently reads "TAKEN FROM THE ALBUM 'TODAY'," so clearly the album was still being worked on when this was released. Indeed, the single came out in 2002, and the album in 2003, both on Empire MusicWerks[sic.] and BMG.

So, reading the title and knowing Father's history, this is obviously a love/sex rap for the ladies, either based on a classic old school sample, or some cheap, sappy keyboard riffs, right? With a hook like that Johnny Gill song probably. Wrong! It's actually a somewhat tough track, clearly inspired by the mid 90s, Hot 97-type rappers. The chorus goes, "My womens! My crew, my thugs. My city! My block, my drugs. My chicks! Set up chicks with them brims[?]. My army! My whole block of L'il Kims." This is the possibly the most New York Father MC has ever sounded. Not that Father hasn't veered into other lanes for a few songs in different stages in his career, but this was still pretty surprising.

Not that it's amazing. This would blend in alongside your average Jadakiss and Papoose tracks on a mixtape. And heads who didn't immediately recognize his voice would never guess this was by Father. But it's pretty well written, actually, and the beat is decent enough. It's even got that style of punchlines, with lines like, "I'm a rob you like Bivens, have Boyz II Men sign to me to make a livin'!" And there's no production credits on the label, but since I've also got the album on CD, I was able to look it up, and Father MC actually produced this, as well as everything else on the album, himself. The sticker on the CD promises that the, "UPTOWN SOUND INNOVATOR RETURNS WITH A BRAND NEW SOUND," and I think you can say he actually delivers. New for himself, at least, if not the industry.

And there's a couple versions on this 12". It's actually pretty well loaded, including the Instrumental, a Radio Mix and Acappella. But besides that, there's three versions of the song with unique instrumentals... The Main Mix, which is the most NY-sounding of its era. Then there's a rougher, choppier Club Remix, with all new, disparate samples and a tougher feel than you'd expect from a "Club" mix. This Club Remix, by the way, is also included as the final song on the album, where it's just labeled "My (Remix)."

That leaves one more remix, exclusive to the 12", The Hotlanta Remix. It utilizes a nice, old school bassline ("Genius of Love"); but unfortunately covers it in all kinds of cheesy synth riffs that you'd barely recognize it. In other words, the kind of crap you'd expect from something called a "Hotlanta Remix."

So, overall, it's no masterpiece, but it's really not bad. And it's definitely nice to have our expectations subverted a little bit. Plus, it's the kind of record that seems to make more sense to have on vinyl, as again, it's more in line with the sort of thing east coast DJs would spin. I mean, they probably didn't. But still.