Friday, September 28, 2018

Brick City's Own Mytee G Poetic

Speaking of Gentleman's Relief Records collaborating with another indie label to put out some great, lost 90s material in different formats, this time they're working with a label called Dust & Dope Recordings.  I love seeing these labels work together instead of acting like bitter competitors; it's all for a great Hip-Hop cause.  Anyway, I don't know too much about Dust & Dope, but they're the guys that put out the long-shelved and coveted Raw Breed album Killa Instinct last year.  And the project they're releasing jointly here is Com'n Wit Nuff Ruffness, the unreleased album by Mytee G. Poetic.

This is a project you may've already seen me tweeting excitedly about.   Mytee is a Newark, NJ MC who put out a couple hot 12" singles in the 1990s.  One of the rare ones who doesn't seem to be connected with Nick Wiz.  haha  All his production duties are shared by himself and a bunch of pretty obscure cats: Mixture, Kool Ass Pat, Na'fis Majid, Brand X, Rashad Muhammad, Kasim, Noise System and Maddox.  The only name there I even recognize is Rashad, who did some stuff with The Fugees before they blew up.  But that's not a mark against any of them, because the production here is hot.  And consistent.

But let me back up a second and explain what we've got here.  This is a full length album of Mytee's tracks from '94-'96, plus one bonus track recorded in 1998.  It includes all six songs from his previous 12"s, including both versions of "Com'n Wit Nuff Ruffness," so if you missed any of them, don't worry, you're getting his whole discography here.  And that means we're also getting nine more never before heard songs, including two versions of one called "Poetically Incline."  And the good news is that the unreleased material is just as strong, in some cases maybe even better, than the 12" material.

Mytee is one of those rare rappers with a hard, take no prisoners delivery and a versatility with the wordplay to fit just as well in a backpacker's cypher or hardcore thug rap posse cut without changing up his style a bit, like Big L or someone like that.  And the production, despite having so many people involved, is steady and satisfying, probably due to Mytee keeping a hand in all of it.  There's also no guest rappers or anything on here.  It's all Mytee, and yet this whole album never starts to feel redundant or boring even after repeated listens.  It's basically hard boom bap tracks with some choice jazzy samples, with one or two tracks occasionally smoothing it out (like "Listen To the Lyrics," "Part Of the Game," and to a lesser extent, "Ghetto Journalism") to add a little variety.  Only that last 1998 track stands out as a little bit of a mismatch, but it's still a really tight track, so I'm glad for its inclusion.  As he laid it out in his first single, "what is it gonna be? Some bitch nigga singin' R&B, or a rugged rap show starrin' me?"

As with the Sons of Light, this is being released in limited quantities across all three physical formats.  But this time it's less complicated because all 15 tracks are on all three versions.  So there's the vinyl, which is a double LP in a full color picture cover, which is limited to 300 copies, the CD with a distinctly different cover image, which is limited to 150, and the cassette, which again is limited to only 50 copies, and is a cool dark blue tape.  A great piece of Jersey Hip-Hop history, or for anybody who was into the indie 90s scene.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Who Are the Sons of Light?

I mentioned the Sons of Light when I was writing about Jae Supreme and 2 Deep not too long ago.  Well, let's take a proper their actual album.  The Sons of Light is his indie Queens, NY group he was pushing but never quite broke out.  This would come after both his 2 Deep period and "I'm a Villain," well into the 90s.  The first time most of us would've heard of them is probably when Jae released his Life's Work compilation last year, which featured two Sons of Light tracks ("Hold Me Down" and "Slash Dot Com").  But there was also a very rare (test pressing only?) 12" from 1996.  And what Heavy Jewelz and Gentleman's Relief Records have put out is essentially the unreleased album that single would've been off of.  I say "essentially," because Heavy Jewelz' Facebook officially describes this as, "the 3 tracks from their impossible-to-find 1996 12", plus 16 more demos and unreleased tracks, mainly from '95-'97."  So I guess this wasn't technically conceived as an album proper, but close enough.

Now, the Sons of Light consists of four members: Jae, Syl Drama, Lord Pharaoh and Chico Son.  That's four guys, but you may've notice there's just three dudes on the album cover.  That's because Jae takes more of a back seat as the producer than one of the main MCs.  He does rap a couple of times on here, on "Who's da Man" (also featuring a guy named Hardy Rock) and "Drinks On Me."  And even from those appearances you can tell, though he's definitely drifted pretty far from "I Didn't Do My Homework," that Jae has a more old school and less edgy style compared to the other members.  It sort of reminds me of MC Serch rhyming on Non-Phixion's first records.  Fans of Jae/ Serch will be happy to hear him and wish for even more contributions, but they'd probably just be holding the group back from finding their newer, younger audiences if they'd insisted on more of a front-facing role. 

Because this is like Jae's Private Investigators; going for a decidedly more gritty, authentic street vibe than when he first came out.  The Sons of Light don't smooth it out as much as someone like Bee Why, but they weren't definitely designed to plug into that pure Queensbridge criminology set.  And they're at their best when they come hardest, on songs like "Get Money" or "Can't Fuck Wit," which actually features Cormega and G.O.D. Pt. III from the Infamous Mobb, and get serious lyrically, like on "Crescent Moon," "flip the script on the government and indict the feds for the murder of Chris Wallace and Tupac Amaru Shakur.  We at war, but what we fightin' for?"  But, while I appreciate their nods to Hip-Hop's roots, like the hook to "Handz In da Air," I could do without some of their material on partying and girls.

When the beats are tight, though, they're on fire; but after a while, they can sound a bit simplistic and loopy.  For example, "Zero Vaccine" uses the same main piano loop as Josh Martinez's "Breakdown," but a direct comparison really makes you appreciate how much more producer Jesse Dangerously did with it than Jae, the beat for "Ya Don't Stop" is a bit irritating "Let it Go"'s heavy use of Teddy Pendergrass's "Love T.K.O." (after songs like KMC Kru's "Let Her Go" and Steady B's "Let It Go") would've been tired even in 1996.  I appreciate the variety in their material on one hand, having an R&B singer do a hook for one song, smooth another out 'till it almost sounds west coast, then switch to an upbeat party song.  "Project Life" is deadly serious, then "Remember When" is a name-dropping ode to the history of Queens rap... like some other songs we've heard, but probably the only one to list 2 Deep as a highlight.

But I think they hurt themselves a bit trying to prove how diverse and versatile they could be, and work best when they stay in their lane.  There's a whole lot of songs on here, and they probably would've made a better impression if they trimmed the fat a bit.  But for us die-hard aficionados, I definitely appreciate the impulse to release everything, since this is probably the last chance heads would ever get to hear it, especially on a proper physical release.  Just think of it as a really tight 12 or 13 track album, with a bunch of bonus cuts mixed in.

And when I say "a lot of songs," how many am I talking about?  Well, it depends which format you cop this one.  There's 19 tracks on the vinyl version (a special edition double LP in a picture cover, limited to just 300 copies): 17 songs, plus 2 instrumentals.  Then there's 20 on the CD (which is limited to only 150 copies).  But it's not quite as simple as the CD having one extra bonus track.  The CD actually has three additional songs: "Project Life," "Keep It Hot" and "Remember When," but loses the two instrumentals.  Finally, there's the cassette, which is super limited to a mere 50 copies and includes 22 tracks, meaning it has everything: all of the songs from the vinyl and CD, including the instrumentals. So, just in terms of track-listing, the tape's the best, but naturally a lot of listeners are going to want this on vinyl.  And all the best songs are on that, so you don't miss out too badly no matter which version you get.