Saturday, July 12, 2014

Pre- and Post-Lastrawze

So I haven't covered them on here before, but Lastrawze is a 90s group that Dope Folks has been putting out... They were a Miami group that didn't sound so Miami-ish because their producer, Sim-E was from Brooklyn. Lastrawze had a hot "random rap" 12" and full-length cassette in 1995. So, in 2012, Dope Folks picked it up and released that album, Instrawmental, for the first time on vinyl. They put it over two EPs. And now that that's done, the label has been working with them again, including them in their on-going Killed By Def series (you may remember I wrote about Vol. 1 here).

Killed By Def Vol. 3. like the others, is split into two distinct sides. Side A is Sim-E's older group, School Dayze. These are the guys he was down with when he was younger, and until now, all of their material has gone unreleased. We have three tracks from them here, all recorded back in 1992. So, you're probably wondering: is this material worth a damn, or just some embarrassing high school talent show stuff?

I'll tell ya, I might actually like this better than Lastrawze. Honestly, the production and MCing are pretty consistent between both groups' projects. But the School Dayze stuff, probably just by virtue of its belonging to a slightly earlier era, is more hype. A little faster, higher energy. Lastrawze is really dope, but for me, this has the edge.

And if the comparison is lost on you because you haven't heard any of the Lastrawze stuff, well... super jazzy production with lots of great, shifting samples. And the MCing, on the School Dayze stuff especially, is on sort of a Leaders Of the New School tip, but without the over-the-top craziness of Charlie Brown or Busta. It's Leaders but more refined and coordinated. I'm not sure one is necessarily better than the others. I know the bigger personalities lend themselves to more media coverage and thus bigger fan-bases... But as I've mentioned a few times before, I tend to prefer the more steady and refined to the attention-chasing and zany.

So, that's the A side: pre-Lastrawze. The B-side, then, is post-Lastrawze, with brand new tracks produced by Sim-E and featuring established Brooklyn artists Roc Marciano and Smif 'N' Wessun, as well as a track with the more underground west coast outfit Strong Arm Steady. For me, this EP is all about the School Dayze side, and the new stuff is just a decent little bonus of some stuff I wouldn't buy otherwise. But I have a feeling some heads are going to feel more strongly about the new material, especially since Mr. Marciano has been the flavor of the month for a while in the hip-hop vinyl scene.

Sim has updated his production style a lot for his new stuff. Like, yeah, there's a bit of a tempo difference between School Dayze and Lastrawze; but if you didn't know, you wouldn't guess that this new stuff was by the same producer. It's still very good, and especially fitting for the artists; but also drier and less compelling. It's just more background-y and easy to not pay attention to. Roc's song (with an uncredited cameo by Rock of Heltah Skeltah) is the strongest MC-wise, and Strong Arm Steady's has the best, and most atmospheric production. The Smif 'N' Wessun song is decent, but kind of spoiled by an annoying hook.

So yes, I do recommend Killed By Def 3, primarily for side A (and Lastrawze's records, if you missed 'em).  Serious Roc collectors will need this too, because Sim has produced a solid entry into his catalog. And it's cool to see how Sim's evolved into a more Large Professor-y style in the 2010s; but for me it's all about those lost, vintage goods.

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