Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Gang Starr "The Ownerz" (Vibe Magazine, June 2003)


"For the generation of hip-hoppers who preserved through puberty with the help of conscious kings like KRS-One and Chuck D, but came of age stuck on the street nihilism of Kool G Rap and, later, Mobb Deep, Gang Starr represents a stripped-down and indispensable aesthetic. Few groups embody good old-fashioned hip hop like Keith "Guru" Elam, 36, and Chris Martin, aka DJ Premier, 34, who still encompass the breadth of hip hop before it splintered into subgenres - each too good to recognize the others. The duo has maintained a blemish-free catalog for 14 years, including classics like Step In The Arena and Daily Operation. Should they falter, let alone fall off, as most of their contemporaries have, it would truly indicate the end of an era. But Gang Starr's formula is both straightforward and timeless. And as evidenced by The Ownerz, their first studio album in five years, the two have no intention of switching it up this late in the game."


"You know their steez: Songs like "Riot Akt" fit right into the canon of Gang Starr greats. Melancholy horns accent a diesel bass line, while Guru laments that "real criminals got immunity." In his simple but pleasant cadence, the 5'8 MC again puts substance before slickness - and the results are refreshing... Each of The Ownerz' songs, however, stands on its own as a respectable Gang Starr effort... While The Ownerz does not spark any new rap trends, it brings back the power of the basics in an ever-evolving rap music landscape. For the first time in five years, a generation of Gang Starr disciples can take ownership of their music, and claim it as a moment of truth." - Vibe, 6/03

Friday, March 08, 2019

DJ Filthy Rich "Hard To Earn" (25th Anniversary Mix)


From DJ Filthy Rich, "DJ Premier & Guru (R.I.P.), the duo more popularly known as Gang Starr, released their 4th album 'Hard To Earn' on March 8, 1994. Tired of being labeled as 'jazz-rap', Preemo decided to move away from sampling jazz records, and instead opted for a stripped down style of production. The result was a raw, harder hitting sound, and arguably their best album ever. 'Hard To Earn' is near & dear to me, so I had to get back in the lab and record this 25-year tribute to this legendary album. I've gathered their hits, album cuts & b-sides, and combined them with some original samples, interview soundbites, and my own custom blends. ARTWORK by @tooncrew"

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

RZA "The RZA Hits" (Press Kit, 1999)


"Razor Sharp / Epic presents The RZA Hits, fourteen ear-melting highlights from the everlasting Wu-Tang legacy. Compiled here for hip-hop fiends, clueless non-believers, Wu completists and rap newcomers are some of the most memorable cuts out of the Clan compound. The RZA Hits offers living proof of the power, magnitude and influence the RZA and his cohorts have had on hip-hop since they burst from the underground back in 1992. Sprinkled with engaging narration courtesy of the RZA, the RZA Hits extracts from six entries in the mighty Wu-Tang group/solo album catalog: their classic debut, Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers); Method Man's Tical; Ol' Dirty Bastard's Return To The 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version; Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Link; GZA's Liquid Swords, and Ghostface Killah's Ironman." - via Razor Sharp/Epic Press Release, 1999.


Of all the classic cuts included, the only track not produced by the RZA is "Brooklyn Zoo," which was done by True Master & Ol' Dirty Bastard. The compilation was released in 1999, and aside from maybe "Wu Wear" and "Winter Warz," which was snuck on Ironman after the Don't Be A Menace soundtrack, any real head been had all these cuts. But, if you need an excuse to revisit these classic cuts, today I'd start with "Ain't Nuttin Ta F Wit" below and fall down the YouTube rabbit hole. 

Thursday, February 28, 2019

De La Soul "3 Feet High & Rising" (30th Anniversary Mix)


"On March 3rd 1989, De La Soul released their critically acclaimed debut album and Hip Hop music changed forever. At a time when samples of James Brown and breakbeat staples ruled supreme, De La Soul production partner Prince Paul cast the net far wider, snatching up snippets of vintage Soul, Rock n Roll, Disco, Spoken Word and children's records to create a collage the likes of which had not been heard before. Lyrically, the album married zany humor, real life observations and social commentary. Released less than a year after NWA's ground breaking 'Straight Outta Compton' and Public Enemy's politically charged opus 'It Takes A Nation of Millions', '3 Feet High and Rising' offered a light hearted counterpoint to harder edged sounds emerging on both coasts. In celebration of the 30th Anniversary of this classic LP, we've teamed up with Wax Poetics to present an exclusive mixtape of album tracks, sample material, alt versions, interview snippets and more, mixed by Chris Read." Disclaimer: the release date for this De La Soul classic has been an ongoing debate for some years now; unfortunately I do not have a definitive answer. In cases like this, I defer to people more knowledgable on the matter, and they'll work it out eventually, lol. Regardless of it's release date, it's a groundbreaking album and should be celebrated, so props to Chris Read and WhoSampled for their great work. Do your own research, and always always always follow the breadcrumbs.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

The House List Podcast "Group Home Episode"


For the latest episode of the House List podcast, Peter Agoston sits down with the Gang Starr Foundation's Group Home. "Group Home's debut album Livin' Proof is an impenetrable piece of street art. From DJ Premier's production, Danny Hasting's photographic layout to the gruff and honest vocals by Lil Dap and Melachi The Nutcracker. It isn't their only album though, I truly enjoy revisiting 1999's A Tear For The Ghetto as well. Last year they dropped the LP Forever and off the record, I know they have some big stuff coming soon. This is the last convo recorded at my old Brooklyn apt / studio. Hope you enjoy, please subscribe and spread the word." Listen below.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Natural Elements "NE Definitely" (Mixed by Bad Cop)


UK's Bad Cop presents a Natural Elements mix called "NE Definitely," which originally hit the web back in 2013. It's a 26-track non-stop mix, with posse cuts, solo joints, and miscellaneous cuts from affiliated artists. The core members of Natural Elements are A-Butta, L-Swift, & Mr. Voodoo, along with the producer, Charlemagne, but you'll see additional tracks from Nightbreed (KA & Oddbrawl The Lyrical Juggernaut), 2Face (A-Butta & L-Swift), and Raidermen (G-Blass & Stex). A nice mix to get you familiar with the NE crew, or remind you what the underground scene was like in New York back in the 90s. Props to A-Butta, always good peoples. Stream the mix below.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Clear Soul Forces "Still" (Album Stream)


"Nearly four years and a number of solo projects later, Detroit’s Clear Soul Forces are back with their most impressive release to date. "Still" is what happens when four proven artists continue to hone their craft and find their collective flow. At 11 tracks deep, this album eschews trends and instead provides timeless, straight-up dope Hip-Hop. Speaking on why Still sounds so organic and cohesively produced, group member Noveliss says, “Everyone’s growth has made the creative process easier... Now, we and the world know what’s up, and it’s all about bouncing off each other and being a unit on every song.” That sense of true teamwork and partnership is heard and felt on each track, from the neck-snapping opening track through to album closer that serves up a wild burner-to-banger beat-switch. Still is golden era Boom bap for the modern age, and it’s delivered through a lens that’s wholly unique to CSF. It’s also one of integrity, because there’s no fluff or superficial window dressing here—simply some of the best hip-hop you’ll hear this year."

Thursday, February 21, 2019

ewon12bit "One Time For Your Mind" (Instrumental Album)


"One Time For Your Mind" is the debut instrumental hip-hop album by DJ/producer ewon12bit out of Helsinki, Finland. Following the never-dying recipe of traditional sample-based hip-hop and keeping things simple like they were back in the days, ewon12bit's beats keep you vibin' from start to finish. Making this record by using classic hardware, vinyl samples and analog tape, a soundscape similar to those early 90’s hip-hop records that many grew up listening to is created. No corners have been cut in terms of replicating the same sonic characteristics of what people refer to as the ”Golden era” of hip-hop: heavy lowpass filtering, sample layering and slamming drums is what it's all about.