Monday, June 27, 2016

Check Me Out On the Lowdown NoFlow Show!

Checka checka check it out! I was a guest on the latest episode of the LOWdown noFLOW SHOW on Chuck D's Rapstation, an online radio show specializing in instrumental Hip-Hop. Host C-Doc and I talk Hip-Hop music, producers and instrumental albums, and of course play some dope beats. I had a lot of fun just hangin' out and talking about rap music, so I hope you guys enjoy the episode.  =)

Friday, June 24, 2016

Tha Hitman, Pookie Duke Interview

Pookie Duke was a lead rapper in Tha Hitmen, a group he formed with Rodney O and Joe Cooley. They released the Here Come Tha Hitmen album in '93 and "Sho Getting' Ruff" in '94. He also has some interesting stories about Suge Knight, Rodney O and performing almost half of The Final Chapter album.
(Youtube version is here.)

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Still An Essential Monch Innovation

You're just going to have to take my word for this, millennials, but there was a time, back in the day, when a guest verse by Pharoahe Monch was a really surprising and exciting thing. This was before he was doing guest spots all the time and before he'd even released any solo records, let alone started experimenting with styles and spreading himself thin. The Rawkus thing hadn't even started yet. Organized Konfusion had just broken up and everybody was wondering how we were going to hear from those guys again. "Metal Thangz" had dropped, but that was about it. This became, in a weird way, a sort of sequel to FT's "Metal Thangz."

So in 1998, it was pretty exciting when 2 Rude released his "Innovations" 12" featuring Monch and rising indie star Saukrates. I mean, nobody even knew who on Earth 2 Rude was, but it didn't matter. New Monch record! Monch and Sauk may've been the guests on a 2 Rude record, but in the hearts and minds of everyone who ordered this record based on low-fi RealAudio sound clips online, 2 Rude and Sauk were guests on Monch's new record.

And it was an extra bonus when 2 Rude turned out to not even be a rapper but the producer, because that meant the little opening verse from Monch in the clip wasn't going to be his sole contribution. he track's a nice 'pass the mic back and forth' lyrical trade-off between Monch and Saukrates. And 2 Rude's track was pretty nice. He wound up recording a whole album and like five more singles - I think he won a Juno? - but I don't know how many heads followed him. We were following Monch, and the next stop for us was "WWIII" on Soundbombing 2.

So yeah, this was one of the top indie 12"s to have in 1998 even though nobody knew the artist. And revisiting it almost twenty years later, it still holds up. Even without its initial buzz, it still packs a lot of energy. It's got a cool, subtle instrumental, simply alternating light little guitar strum loops; but it's a great counterbalance to Saukrates dense backpacker rhymes and particularly Monch's hectic staccato flow. And those two energies are gently fused into one cohesive song on the hook, which is surprisingly but effectively sung by Saukrates himself. It sounds dope.

The only weakness is that it's a bit of a word salad. You know, it's just a freestyle song, and that's pretty much what we fans would've asked for if asked, but it does feel a bit like we're listening to nothing: "May God bless my very last breath to be Allahu Akbar, for narcotic cops to mark me inside of The Shark Bar. Spiritual sparks and lyrical darts adapt the visual. One nation under this rap shit indivisible." Um, what? It's like both MCs are constantly bouncing onto new thoughts before finishing their old ones. Like I know what all of the little pieces mean - I've even heard of The Shark Bar - but I don't see how they form any cohesive thoughts. But the whole song is like that, interspersed with very 90s punchlines like, "I get ya at your Bar Mitzvah leavin' you mentally circumcised," "this expert who could keep niggas alert in a school for narcolepsy" and "even Ellen and Martina Navratilova's comin' over 'cause they're trying to get with it."

So its best if you take it with a pinch of "it was the 90s" salt, but they still sound great by today's standards. And it's just the one song, but it comes complete in Club (uncensored), Radio (censored), Instrumental and Accapella mixes. 2 Rude did include this on his follow-up album, Rudimental 2K; but it didn't have many other MCs as dynamic as these two. Plus, I don't think there was a vinyl version. So really, this 12" is all you need. But even in 2016, I gotta say it still deserves a spot in anyone's crates.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Finsta Bundy's Unreleased LP CD

Back in 2012, we took a look at The Unreleased Album EP by Finsta Bundy on Chopped Herring Records.  Like it's title helpfully suggests, Chopped Herring had pressed up Finsta Bundy's an EP's worth of tracks, recorded from 1996-1999, that were intended to be released back in the day as their full-length album debut. That was dope and I still recommend it, but now something interesting has appeared in Chopped Herring's catalog: a CD (unusual enough for CH) from Finsta Bundy called Bushwick To Shin-Juku. It doesn't have one of their usual substantive descriptions on their site, so what the heck is it? Just a brand new Finsta album?

Nope. Scanning over the track-listing, I was seeing a lot of familiar song titles. But it still took me a minute to fully put together what the project was: an extended version of The Unreleased Album EP.

Yeah, every song from that EP is on this CD (and in the same sequence). The title track "Bushwick To Shin-Juku," you may recall, was the opening number on the EP. So, okay, cool for the CD heads, I guess, who don't buy vinyl, but nothing of interest for the more serious fans who already have the EP, right?

No again! The EP had eight songs; the CD has thirteen songs. What else is on here? Actually some interesting and kinda neat stuff that even owners of the vinyl EP might want to take a closer look at.

The other five songs:

Activate -
This is a fairly famous Finsta song from his 1999 Neva Say Neva mixtape.  You may remember me being fairly excited about it receiving its full-length (not blended into a mixtape) vinyl debut on Sergent Record's 2012 repress of "Finsta Baby" as a bonus track. That was dope, but if you missed it, here it is again.

For the Money featuring Greg Nice - This is an Evil Dee-produced cut that Sergent put on their 2014 reissue of their 2012 repress of "Finsta Baby." Yeah, they issued that same 12" twice, with the only difference being that bonus track. Really weird and kinda wack; I don't know why they did that. But if you didn't get that "Gorilla Deluxe Edition," here's your second shot at this song.

Sunnyside (Rough Version) - Of course "Sunnyside" is one of Finsta's most famous 12" singles, from 1993. But this Rough Version is an older mix from Chopped Herring's own vinyl The Demos 1993-1994 EP. I really don't know why they doubled up on that one here. In fact, I'm really curious what the thinking was behind this inclusion, but okay.

You're Nobody (Bonus) - It was cool to see "For the Money" on here for those who didn't want to double-dip on Sergent's "Finsta Baby," but now we're really getting to the good stuff. This is a song Finsta made for DJ Evil Dee Broadcasting Live mixtape in 2014, but has never been released otherwise. So this is our first chance to get it "unmixed." The hook's a little weak, but once they get to the actual verses, they sound great over a really cool track. I'm not sure why these last two songs are listed as Bonus tracks but not the three before it, but whatever, I'm happy.

Killa Kid Times (Remix - Bonus) - This is actually Finsta's contribution to DJ Bazooka Joe's 2012 compilation album on Dope Folks Records, The Slang Parade. So that was already released unmixed on CD and vinyl (it's on Volume 1), but cool to see here if you didn't already cop that, right? No, it's even better, because this is a Finsta-produced remix with a totally different instrumental than on Joe's album, and it's only available here. I actually like this one better, in part because it doesn't have the hokey skit introduction, but also because it's got a cooler, smoother, more atmospheric beat.

So yeah, even if you have the EP, you might want to pick up the CD. It's got a couple nice little exclusive odds and ends. It's not as 'must have' as a lot of Chopped Herring releases, but it's also not a limited edition, sells for the standard price of a CD, and so there's no pressure to jump on it immediately. Kinda neat.

Saturday, June 11, 2016