Sunday, July 23, 2023

Eaze Back

Dear ChatGPT, please tell me all about the last record released by a member of C.E.B.

As of my last knowledge update in September 2021, C.E.B. (which stands for Cognitive Epicenter of Boom) is a hip-hop group formed in the early 1990s. The group was primarily known for its affiliation with Ice-T, with the members including hip-hop artists Cool Chuck, Evil E, and MC Overlord.

At that time, the last record released by a member of C.E.B. was likely to be "Countin' Endless Bank" (also known as "C.E.B."), which was the group's debut album. It was released in 1993 under the label Atomic Pop. The album received some attention and featured guest appearances by prominent artists like Ice-T and Everlast.

However, it's important to note that the information might be outdated, and I do not have access to real-time data to provide updates beyond my knowledge cutoff date. To find the latest information on C.E.B. or any of its members' recent releases, I recommend checking music streaming platforms, official websites, or music news outlets for the most up-to-date information.

Nope!  AI's not ready to replace me yet.

So, I don't think readers of this blog will need me to recap how Countin' Endless Bank turned out to be the last bank Cool C and Steady B would ever count.  But there's actually one last chapter to the C.E.B. story on wax.  C and B went away, but E was uninvolved with that awful incident, and so free to come back.

DJ Eaze started out as Steady B's DJ after Tat Money left the Hilltop Hustlers for Kwamé and a New Beginning, billed then as DJ Ultimate Squeeze Eaze.  He'd shortened it to Ultimate Eaze by the time he started MCing with C.E.B., and in 2003 he got it down to just DJ Eaze, for his final record (to date) on Sabre Records, "I'm a Come Through."  I gather Sabre Productions was Eaze's own venture.  And we can be confident it came out in 2003, despite not having dates on the label, because some copies came with a helpful press sheet ("This particular single... is one of exception to our planned repertoire for Sabre Entourage"). 

It's kind of a clubby beat that shows some versatility, but is basically the kind of style that had me checking out from a lot of early 2000s pop Hip-Hop, though it has an admittedly funky bassline.  The Sabre Entourage is not actually on "I'm a Come Through;" it's just Eaze going solo with a very Puff and Mase kind of flow, which he's perfectly open about: he shouts P Diddy out in his second verse and has girls singing, "bad, bad boys" for the hook.  Anyway, it's a good opener for fans, because he catches us up from where he last heard him, "no time to kill, now it's the time to build.  Didn't even have to sign a deal.  Didn't even want to let me in; had me standin' outside of the labels like 'let me in.'  Now I'm knockin' down they doors, lockin' down they tours, now this sound is gonna cost 'em more."  Did I mention how clubby it sounds?  It's well made, but not really the kind of sound I think most of us C.E.B. fans were hoping he'd come back with.

The B-side, which does feature the Sabre Entourage, fills that role.  "Got My Gloc Cocked" is exactly the kind of rough street song it sounds like.  It actually starts out by declaring, "this here is the remix," but I daresay it's the first and only version to ever be released.  Spoiler alert: this is the first and last record released by Eaze or Sabre.  And that's a bit of a shame, because I suspect I'd prefer the original version.  The beat sounds very software-based.  But it has a catchy keyboard loop, deep dark bass notes that compliment the subject matter, and the sound of an actual glock cocking as part of the percussion.

Anyway, these three Sabre guys (and one woman) have an appealing, unpolished hardcore flow.  Eaze doesn't rap at all on this one, just laying down a few lines for the hook and leaving it to his team to set it off with lyrics like, "I gotta keep this thing cocked; niggas wanna try my chin.  They think it's all fine they in 'till they find they men.  Rib cage exposed all through the bottom, Mossberg.  They tongue kissin' curbs for shootin' the wrong words."  With a better instrumental, this could be a killer cut.

But that's it; there's just those two songs.  You also get the "Come Through" instrumental; and it technically comes in a sticker cover, with that little "Sabre Records" address label on the sleeve.  It's not an amazing 12", probably mostly just of interest to us old Hilltop Hustler fans who need the whole story.  "Gloc Cocked" is the better song, but "Come Through" is more interesting, given the history.

Sunday, July 9, 2023

It Takes a Million Midnights To Hold Him Back

Out of the blue - or perhaps more appropriately, the black midnight sky - Drasar Monumental is back with a new EP entitled Darker Than a Million Midnights.  That's the kind of title you hear and say to yourself, well, I hope he can live up to it.  But given Drasar's last couple releases, I think if anybody in 2023 could, it's probably him.  Because an easy trap you could dig for yourself with a title like that is to just dive immediately into raw, stripped down hardcore beats and menacing lyrics, giving yourself nowhere to go after the first couple songs.  But Drasar, using nothing but his own personal record collection, regularly concocts a lush, vibrant soundscape that's anything but minimalist, despite his purist methods (this record comes with a paper explaining, "no digital 'digging' methods were employed in any of the production sourcing").

Midnights comes right out the gate with some classic heist raps, looping up a vocal sample of Master Killer from "Snakes" just in case it wasn't already immediately obvious the spirit it's meant to be taken in.  "Guns don't argue, hand over your wallets, empty out your pockets, give me all your watches.  Carnage, because the motherfuckin' rent's due."  Not exactly innovative, but excellently executed... sort of like how I can listen to Grand Daddy IU rap about pimpin' all day every day.  But it also turns out to be the set-up to a more complex lyrical trick, where two songs later (broken up by some more traditional battle raps), the subject matter has transformed into a serious condemnation of our economic system.  He starts out stating, "the free market doesn't exist if you don't have the capital," and cutting up Double X Posse's "Money Talks" before settling into even darker truths, "no love, no sympathy for the downtrodden.  We've seen so much death, now our hearts have turned rotten."  It ends with a authentic(?!) recording of someone broadcasting their immediate intent to commit suicide, news reports on the growing homeless population, and a grimly ironic MC Shan vocal sample from "Left Me Lonely." 

Part of what keeps Drasar's work so dynamic is his how he regularly shifts tones and samples sets mid-song, so it's always much more packed than a predictable loop, and this is definitely on display here.  Or just his ability to pack together a host of sounds that all delicately piece together.  For example "Disco Razor Tag, Part 2" (Part 1 was on Box Cutter Brothers 5) feels as alive as if he'd collaborated with a full-on disco band, packed with interludes and crowded instrumentation.  But anything but soft, it's actually a direct challenge to producers who don't take their work dead seriously or appreciate Hip-Hop's disco roots, including an intro explaining that  weren't always as family friendly as we may remember them today and where you could end up, "hit upside your head with a bottle; now your brains are hanging out."

This is an angry record in all the best ways, the way only Hip-Hop can talk with no punches pulled.  He saves the most personal blow for last with "The Numb Out:"

"Life ain't the same since my brother died.
Sometimes I wanna run and hide; can't look my mother in the eyes;
And then take time to breathe.
Pardon me if I wear my heart on my sleeve.
The world took my dreams...
And shattered them;
Took all my aspirations, and then they laughed at them;
Stabbed me in the back, in the abdomen.
That's why I treat you like an unwanted pathogen."

The next verse starts out similarly, "life ain't the same since my father died."  Like, remember when we first heard Sister Souljah going off on Terminator X's album, and then she signed to Epic and we all thought, wow, this album is going to be crazy?  The production was there, but then it turned out she basically just did this stiff spoken word thing, with Ice Cube and Chuck D rapping circles around her?  This record is like the promise of that album delivered upon, if she had the skills to "turn the booth into Pearl Harbor," as Drasar puts it.  And yeah, there's more nuanced artistry and less didacticism; I'm not trying to say this guy's literally the male Sister Souljah or anything.  I'm just saying he's giving us now what we wanted then.

All up, it's six songs with the instrumentals on the flip.  Keeping it a tight EP was probably a judicious decision, so there's never a lax moment.  It comes in a full color picture cover and yeah, it's out now.  Grab one while you can.