Sunday, December 25, 2022

A Gucci Xmas

(Wishing you all a very Gucci Xmas with this tough gangsta record by Gucci Steve. Youtube version is here.)

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Order To Kaos

Kaotic Style are the Brooklyn duo of Beat Scott and Grand who released a series of hot 12"s throughout the 90s, often on Beat Scott's own label, and often with notable guest spots.  A couple years ago, Dope Folks and Gentlemens Relief Records teamed up to release their sort of unreleased album, Diamond In the Ruff, on vinyl and CD.  I wrote about it here.  But more recently, Dope Folks have come back, this time in partnership with Hip Hop Enterprise, to release a second sort of unreleased Kaotic Style album on vinyl and CD, called Infinity.  It gets a little confusing, so I wanted to break it down here on my site.

The key phrase in that last paragraph is "sort of unreleased."  In the case of Diamond In the Ruff, there was an EP, which was rare but had definitely gotten a release.  But DF and GR doubled the size of it by including a bunch of previously unreleased demo tracks.  GR took the CD version a bit further by including their later 12" tracks on there, too.  And I'm going to the trouble of re-explaining what I already covered in 2018 again because that's sort of what's going on here as well.

In 1991, Kaotic Style released an EP that's generally known as Closer To Your Love, because it doesn't have an actual title printed on it and "Closer To Your Love" is the first song.  But "Infinity" is another song on that EP.  And that EP is kind of what this Infinity album is now.  The Dope Folks LP is ten tracks long, including some of the songs from that EP, including "Infinity" (obviously), "Flavor Freestyle" and "Close To Your Love."  Kaotic Style really come off on "Infinity," so you can see why they chose to make it the title track here; it's one of their greatest songs, and doesn't rely on the assistance of any more famous rappers.  So this EP's got those three songs, but it also leaves several tracks off, though fans might not mind too much, because that EP was packed with love songs, which weren't really Kaotic Style's strong suit.  So, no, we don't get "Love Letters," "Love the One You're With" or "Let's Get It On."

In their place, we get both tracks from their 1992 single "Check it Out" (which uses a striped down version of the "Inner City Blues" bassline in a funky, NY kind of way) b/w "We Got the Flavor," and "Whutcha Want" (here spelled "Whatcha Want") from their 1995 12".  So it gives this album an offbeat dichotomy, mashing together two separate eras, where the guys have two very distinct styles and sounds.  Because in addition to that one '95 track, the real jewels of this Infinity album are four previously unreleased tracks (the labels' official descriptions claim five and seven, but they're both wrong) from their '94-'96 era.  And one of those in particular really blew my mind.

"What We Came To Do" features guest verses by Big Scoob a.k.a. Scoob Lover, and The Headless Horsemen, the wickedest horrorcore group that never really got their proper shot.  What a brilliant but bonkers line-up!  As soon as I saw that in the track-listing, I knew I had to have Infinity, even though I was already a KS fan and would've wanted it anyway.  The Horsemen aren't really doing horrorcore per se here, so it basically plays as a super ill posse cut, where the mic is passed down the line twice, meaning everyone gets a satisfying second verse.  It's easily the best song after "Infinity."  "Get Down" is a grimy, dirty twist on UTFO's "SWAT" featuring The Jaz.  It works better than you'd think.  "Constantly" features a crew called the Krooks, who manage to be even more rugged and wild than Kaotic Style.  And the last song is called "The Realness."  It uses essentially the same instrumental - certainly the same sample chopped the same way - as Master Ace's "Brooklyn Battles" (and PreCISE MC's "Don't Even").

And like Gentlemens Relief before them, Hip Hop Enterprises has added a couple more 12" songs as bonus tracks for the CD version.  This time they've included "Bro for Bro" with Smoothe da Hustler and Trigga the Gambler, and "Mad Hardcore" featuring The Cella Dwellas, Heltah Skeltah and MOP.  Those are the two other songs from that 1995 12" single with "Whutcha Want," so it rounds that out.  And that works, because vinyl heads will probably already have the 12" (or can easily cop it), but it will be CD buyers' first opportunity to get these great posse cuts.

It's all been remastered and sounds great, except "The Realness," which sounds like its from a pretty dusty source.  It's still very listenable, but you'll definitely notice the noise in the track.  So Dope Folks has pressed up 300 copies of their LP, 50 on yellow (yellow) wax and 250 on classic black.  The Hip Hop Enterprise doesn't seem to be limited to a set run, but gives the album a cool picture cover by Spek the Architek.  Both are still available from their labels, so it's just up to you to decide which format suits you.

Saturday, December 10, 2022

The Return of Buck 65

(Like the title says, Buck 65 is back.  With three albums even.  Youtube version is here.)

Saturday, December 3, 2022

The Time Culture Freedom Escaped To Philly

Today's record is a tight little Philly EP, notable for featuring the lone solo outing for Poor Righteous Teachers' Culture Freedom.  Obviously, Wise Intelligent is the famous front man of the crew who's gone on to release a whole line of solo projects.  But here on Nailah Records' Hand To Hand Combat Volume 1 we see that in 2003, Culture Freedom took a stab, too.  It's just this one song, but who knows, if this label had taken off (and the "Volume 1" of the title certainly suggests future intentions) perhaps it would have lead to a whole album and solo career.  If what we hear on this EP is any indication, it would've been pretty tight.  The only other release from that label was a 12" by NAME, their final one.  It's pretty dope, too, in no small part thanks to some impressive guests including Schoolly D, The Mountain Brothers and - oh, look at that - PRT.  So that explains this NJ/ PA connection.

If the name NAME[sorry; couldn't help myself] doesn't ring a bell, that's Grand Agent's old group before he went solo.  He has a song on this EP as well.  Another artist on this EP, Ozzie Jones, was in NAME, too, then known as Old Man.  NAME's Mr. Cisum also produced two of the tracks here.  So this EP and Nailah Records as a whole seems to be their thing.  But they let CF get on and do his own thing with "Get Ya Mind Right."

Although, strictly speaking, Culture Freedom isn't 100% solo on here.  He does the bulk of the rapping, the hook and his own production, but he has a guy named Devaughn Williams playing the Jay-Z to his Jaz.  He's pretty nice on the mic, too.  The instrumental is a smooth and slightly layered head-nodder, with a funky little sitar sound, but not a big attention getter.  It's perfect to support fun back-and-forth freestyle rhymes, but it's not hit record material.  Fortunately, CF and Devaughn are perfectly suited to the task this track lays down, and as you'd expect from a Poor Righteous Teacher, it's got a strong vibe of spirituality and positive self upliftment.  Though Devaughn mixes the Christian spiritual aspect with game spitting in a pretty unique way, "I done made the devil mad because he can't get me, but I'ma move this here weight like Freeway Ricky."  Ha ha  Okay.  Maybe he meant "weight" metaphorically?  Like the knowledge he's imparting is his kind of weight, but he doesn't actually say that.  Anyway, Culture Freedom is a little more consistent in his messaging:

"'Ey yo, peep this,
While we do this, I'm gonna freak this;
Blow the devil apart in one million pieces.
Where you lack, in fact, that's where the beast is.
Givin' food for thought, so all y'all can eat this."

One detail to point out: the track-listing on the label is a little incorrect.  Grand Agent's is actually the last song on side A, not B, and Mel Ink's second track is in its place.  More disappointing is that this EP is made up of Radio Edits, with all the curse words censored.  It doesn't matter on the Culture Freedom song where he doesn't curse anyway, but that Grand Agent track is full of 'em.  And no, these songs weren't released on any other albums or singles; so it's censored or nothing.

All the songs on here are solid.  Ozzie Jones' is catchy.  But the real surprise is actually Mel Ink and DJ Razor Ramon.  Their two songs here are both killers!  And googling around, it looks like Mel Ink has recorded a few guest spots here and there (including one for Ozzie Jones' EP and a 2016 Grand Agent mp3-only album).  But god damn, this material should have lead directly to a major label record deal.  Mel is killing it, the production is brilliant, and Razor goes wild on the turntables.  Somebody needs to find and release their unreleased demos immediately.

All told, this EP has five songs, all of which are worth your time.  Grand Agent's is probably the weakest, but maybe I'd be able to get into it more if it wasn't hacked to pieces.  Ozzie and CF's songs are both nice, and again, those Ink and Razor songs need to be rediscovered.  We also get three of the instrumentals, including "Get Ya Mind Right" and one of the Mel Inks.  But it's a little frustrating, because it leaves you pining for projects that might've been but never were.