Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Fatal Thoughts of Spurmacide

And speaking of Jersey Hip-Hop, here's a recent, slept on release.  It's an unreleased B-Fyne album called looked If Lookz Could Kill from P-Quest Revivals and Nustalgic Records.  B-Fyne is the guy from Blaque Spurm/ The Funk Family and other projects I've covered on this blog.  But this is his first solo project, an album recorded from 1996-1997 with Joe The Butcher when he was working at RuffNation Records.

It's entirely produced by Tony D, except for one song by YZ, and jumps in with an immediate head nodder that you'll want to put on repeat.  This sets up a tight, unified tone of somewhat smooth, modern-sounding beats across the whole album.  Some of the punchlines ("flows hard like silicone titties," "suffering from WackMCitis") could've been left behind in the 90s, but for the most part, the lyricism is still appealing.  There are some lines just for us New Jerseyians, like "find me in NJ, the Turnpike way, stay off Exit 8, one before Great Adventure, what you get into if you choose to enter my zone."  We'll make the immediate "Exit 7A = Great Adventure" association, but nobody else will.  "Real Kadeal" starts off sounding pretty flat, but once the hook stops and he starts flowing over the track, and then the cuts come in, it really takes off.

The album does start to run out of steam a little bit in the second half.  "Plot Thickens" is kind of a silly sex narrative rap, along the lines of Cella Dwellas' "Perfect Match" or an early Fresh Prince record without the wit.  "Pretty MF With the Dread" also suffers from a clunky hook, despite having a really fresh track which makes great use of "Who Got the Props" and a jazzy sax sample.  And it's not like the other half is bereft of highlights; "Buttascotch" is a tight duet with his little brother, Baby Chill.  And speaking of guest verses, the next track features YZ and Blaque Spurm fellow Papa Doc.

This is a CD-only release right now, though I can't help but notice that the slightly short track-listing (nine songs, and one's a short outro) feels ideal for a single LP.  Like all of P-Quest's Revivals, it's a properly pressed CD, though, not a CD-R.  It's limited to only 100 copies, the first 20 of which came with a promo card; but those are long gone, so if you're interested, don't wait too long.

Although that's not to say there are never any second chances.  You may remember I wrote about Baby Chill's unreleased album Wake Up Call coming from P-Quest and Nustalgic in 2016.  That was limited to 100 CDs, too, and sold out ages ago.  But now it's back, reissued in 2019 with new artwork and three additional bonus tracks.  Two of them are just radio freestyles, which aren't as exciting as complete songs, but still pretty cool.  He definitely impresses with his calm yet confident flow over "My Mind's Playing Tricks On Me" and Nas's "Halftime."

But the third bonus track is a complete, never heard before song, produced by Tony D in the early 90s.  It's called "Nut Junkie," and yes, it means what you think it does: a bit of a reference to his Secret Squirrels thing, but mostly it's about nuts of the busted variety.  It's a tight, busy track, with two sung hooks, one by a female R&B singer, and then a reggae guy chanting about being a "junkie, a junkie, a punanny junkie.  Me no thing for sensei, 'cause me a punanny junkie."  As you can guess, it's pretty all pretty irreverent and honestly one of the best songs on the album.

This one's also limited to a 100 CDs.  I don't know if the bonus tracks make it worth double-dipping if you already copped the 2016 edition.  But they definitely take the sting out of being stuck with a second pressing if you missed the first one; and the important thing is that more music is being restored and finally released to the fans.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Escaping Back Into Da Nuthouse

It's common knowledge that as a NJ Hip-Hop blogger, if you don't write about Da Nuthouse within your first ten years, you can get your license revoked.  And going over my records, I see that I've been living on borrowed time!  So, come one, let's hustle!

Da Nuthouse were three MCs from South Jersey: Az-Iz a.k.a. Dave Ghetto, DJ Nex Millen/ Retrospective (who also produced a lot of their stuff) and Fel "The Enigma" Sweetenburg.  And this is their 1998 debut single on a label that introduced a lot of hot indie acts to the world, Bobbito's Fondle 'Em Records.  Of course, Fondle 'Em wasn't really a long-term home for anyone (as opposed to signing acts, I believe it lived solely on one-time deals made per individual record), and they quickly moved on to Goodvibes (such an underrated label) for their album.  And then their third and final record, a 2005 single on Counterflow, claimed to be "taken from the forthcoming Nuthouse album 'Mentally Ill'," which obviously never surfaced, but all three guys have gone on to extensive solo careers.  They've consistently been clever, able MCs who I'd be down to hear on a project right up to today.

But in terms of songs where you hear it and say to yourself, "I need to have it on vinyl," they really, unfortunately, peaked here.  It's all decent material... I always at least liked everything they put out, and I remember hearing a really cool mp3-only song about Camden by Fel like five or six years ago.  Good luck finding that today.  But anyway, "A Luv Supream" is it.  That might say more about the work of producer Jahee than anything else, because the MCs sound great on it, but it's the instrumental that really grabs you.  Looking this Jahee guy up on discogs, I don't see that he's done anything else other than a few other songs for Da Nuthouse and a single by a group named Danger-I 5000; but maybe he worked under a different name/ alternate spelling?  I hope so, because someone who made a record this great shouldn't disappear so quickly; but hey, it happens.

It's a perfect chopping of John Coltrane's original "A Love Supreme," with the delicate cymbals sounding almost like aged dirt in the record grooves.  Sparse piano notes over drums, almost like a mellow "The Symphony," and a broken pitched horn riff on the hook.  And you could do worse than declaring your love for our genre as your opening salvo.  And each MC gets on the smooth, slow track to kick their distinctive voices and styles, so they immediately hit you as artists you should know.  There's punchlines, complex wordplay and yes, some slang that even sounded dated at the time (a lot of MCs tried, but "the buttas" was never gonna gain long term traction), but also genuine emotion comes through.  Paired with that perfect instrumental, you can see why this has a become a song that outlasts the rest of their catalog.  The bummer is that we only get Radio Vocal and Instrumental versions of this song, and they curse on it a bunch, even in the hook.  So it's full of annoying backwards edits, and this song was never reissued on any of their follow-up releases, so this clean version is all we get in perpetuity.

We do get two B-sides.  "Synapsis" is a weird blend of futuristic sci-fi sounds and another jazzy piano loop.  It's all about being multi-syllabic outer space rap geniuses, which maybe sounds like I'm making fun of it.  But while it does sound dated and maybe a little corny, with predictable lines referring to their "verbal ejaculation" and "mental alertness" spanning "multiple dimensions," it's still genuinely impressive listening to it today, and some energetic cuts by a turntablist named DJ Active go a long way towards bolstering the proceedings.  It's backpackery in a way that younger audiences would reject, but these guys were unquestionably good at it.  We also get the Instrumental for this one, and nothing on the B-side is censored like "Luv Supream."

The other B-side is "Very Vocabulary," and it's listed as a Bonus Cut.  They use the classic loop from Ultramagnetics' "Funky" and EPMD's "Knick Knack Paddy Wack."  Can never be mad at this beat popping up again anytime, anyplace.  And they just flex on it, but it's mastered like a proper song and the rhymes are carefully written, it's not simply a casual freestyle slapped on at the end or something.  In fact, it's really dope, and rewards careful listening, like a tight posse cut, except ironically, this is the single's solo cut, with Nex going for self over the whole song.  See, I'm not trying to say "A Luv Supream" was their only good song - they've done a lot of hot stuff like this over the years.  That's just their masterpiece, and it's maybe a little awkward that it came first.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Someone New To Bite

Today we have something new by someone new.  "Edible MC's" is the debut cassingle by an Ohio MC named Pseudonym on Vestibular Records.  If you've never heard of them, that's because this is apparently the label's first venture into the Hip-Hop genre, while generally specializing in... rock, I guess?  A lot of new music and a few vintage reissues from what I've gathered through a quick perusal.

But that fits, because Pseudo definitely seems like the kind of artist who could impress an outsider label to add them to their non-genre roster.  You know, like when Warner Bros mainstream reissued all of Buck 65's catalog, Madonna signed Dana Dane and had him do a west coast album, or whenever Luke Sick syncs up with those random little punk outfits.  Or, for a less glamorous example, when Load Records picked up The Hawd Gankstuh Rappuhs Emsees Wid Ghatz' second album long after the joke was played out for us heads.  You know, those certain, rare instances where an artist who comes with a spin far enough out of left field that they attract the "ordinarily, I hate rap, buttt..." types.  That can be promising, a huge red flag, or just about anywhere in between.

Vocally, he lists Del as an influence, and you can definitely hear the commonality in the way he thoughtfully executes his heavily-enunciated delivery to nail keywords.  Still, he's got a voice and a style that will surely prove divisive, split right along the point where he does/ doesn't remind you too much of MC Paul Barman.  His register playfully rises and falls from phrase to phrase, placing perhaps an overemphasis on his own cleverness.  But when he's flowing at his most aggressive, he rides the rhythm more like Edan or Breeze.  A little less nerdcore would go a long way, but even nay-sayers will have to begrudgingly give it up for his carefully crafted bars.

And anyway, he never really descends into that Catskills punchline schtick.  There are a couple on-the-nose similes on the A-side ("I'm comin' outta left field like YAGGFU Front," "punks get slapped like hockey pucks"), but it's mostly just fun wordplay.  Like here you see him handily illustrate his "Edible MC's" concept with a tight rhyme scheme:

"I'm irate!
You cut-rate fakes get sliced to pieces,
At least this kid will make a neat dish
Of your brain matter and shatter your name and fame.

You regain consciousness in the afterlife.
Pass me my carving knife, so I can cut 'em slower.
The body roaster makin' human skin loafers;

I got meats for weeks from these MCs left over."

And the possibly even tighter B-side, "Super Ego," drops the similes entirely.  Like its title suggests, it's pure braggadocio (there's a particularly effective line he flips in the style of Akinyele) over a killer, fast-paced beat, heavy on the snare and rolling piano samples.  Except they're not even samples.  His bio mentions the music is created from all live instruments, which you wouldn't even guess from listening to it; it certainly doesn't have that messier, live band feel.  I've been deliberating over the pros and cons of his vocals, but it's his production, done by himself and Nathan Peters, that's especially impressive and what straight-up grab you as soon as you hit play (and yes, the instrumental versions of both songs are also on the tape).  Also, they're used fairly subtly, but there's also some nice cuts on "Edible MC's" by a DJ named Fatty Lumpkin.

Of course there's a digital option, but if you've found yourself here, hopefully that suggests you still care about physical media.  The cassingle is a blue tape in a full color J-card.  The download card includes a bonus track where Pseudo freestyles over Ultramagnetics' "Chorus Line."  It seems to already be sold out on Vestibular's site, or they just never listed it in the first place(?  They do things a little strangely; I can't really figure 'em out), but they're still selling it direct on discogs for just five bucks.  So if reading some of the artists I referenced has you saying, "I know I'm gonna hate this," you're probably right and Pseudo won't be for you.  But if you're open at all, give the kid a chance.  I think you'll be impressed.