August 02, 2020

EPMD "Unfinished Business" (1989)

"I was working a lot for a label called Sleeping Bag Records and I had photographed EPMD on a few occasions. They were already a legendary duo, Erick 'E-Double' Sermon and Parrish 'PMD' Smith, or 'Erick and Parrish Making Dollars' as they are commonly known. They told me to meet them at a specific spot near where they lived in Babylon, Long Island: 'Go down this road, you're going to hit the water, and we will be there at noon.' "So, I got there at noon with my assistant, and they didn't turn up. It was winter, probably November, so the sun was setting pretty early. I was used to rappers being late, but the guys were really late. At 3:00pm the light started to go down, and we had been waiting for several hours, so we finally went to find a phone box to call their manager. He told me they were getting their rims polished up in the Bronx and I'm like 'The Bronx! That's hours away and the sun is going down!' "Just as I was finishing the call, I heard the V-8 engine roar and they came roaring down the road. I got them to form a V-shape with their cars, which I thought would showcase them well for the shoot. They they got out and they were wearing these outfits that looked like pajamas. That look ushered in this new style of casual sweatsuits and a whole new look for hip-hop. We didn't have stylists or hair and makeup people back then, so it was purely their own unique style. The whole session took about half an hour and turned out to be a really important shoot, especially since the cars, a Mercedes 300SL & a Chevy IROC-Z, were considered a status symbol in car culture. The rims matter, they're a culture of their own, and that's why they were up in the Bronx for so long getting theirs rims polished. I'm glad I waited..." - Janette Beckman

I've read conflicting research on the official release date for EPMD's Unfinished Business. Some say August 1, 1989 and others have it at July 25, 1989. I've even seen April 1, 1989. I'd read an article in Spin that promoted the release date to be "mid-July," but it could have been pushed back, so to this day, I am not 100% certain if it's August or July, 1989. What I do know, however, is that "So Wat Cha Sayin'", "Get The Bozack," "Please Listen To My Demo," "Knick Knack Patty Wack" and especially "The Big Payback" got a ton of burn from a younger Sav in Queens, NY. Their style was extremely influential, and their singles on cassette and vinyl, as well as their LPs were a guaranteed purchase! As an aspiring DJ at 10-11 years old, you can picture me in the basement practicing DJ Scratch's cuts to "The Big Payback" like my life depended on it. I'm thankful I had opportunities to meet and build with E-Double and PMD over the years, show them love and appreciation, and humbly receive their support in return. Revisit Unfinished Business below and pick up a copy of Contact High, which has incredible images and stories from the photographers who've helped document the culture.

August 01, 2020

Big L "The Big Picture" (20th Anniversary + Press Kit, 2000)

From the time Lamont Coleman put his Children Of The Corn crew together (with Mase and Cam'ron), to the moment he met underground legend Lord Finesse (who dubbed him Big L after a jaw-dropping freestyle on the street), to his sour experience as a major label recording artist in 1992, to his founding of Flamboyant Entertainment, Big L always saw the "big picture" in this hip-hop industry. He was always setting up for the future; even his rhymes couldn't be confined to just the present. The future (and the present) is August 1st, when Flamboyant Entertainment, in conjunction with Rawkus Records will release these timeless passages, collectively known as The Big Picture. In February 1999, a bullet ended a career of memorable rhymes and punchlines. When talented individuals leave the world prematurely, it is constantly stated that they were on the verge of greatness. With Big L, this was no cliche. It is clearly evident on The Big Picture. Noted producers such as DJ Premier ("The Enemy," "Platinum Plus") and Pete Rock ("Holdin' It Down," "Who You Slidin' Wit"), as well as emerging hitmaker, Mike Heron (with the #1 single "Flamboyant") contribute on this set. The guest appearances read like a hip-hop timeline. On one end of the spectrum, there's Big Daddy Kane ("Platinum Plus"), Kool G Rap ("Fall Back"), and Sadat X & Guru ("Games"); and on the other end is another fallen soldier, Tupac ("Deadly Combinations"), A.G. & Stan Spit along with songstress and Hot 97 radio personality Miss Jones ("Holdin' It Down"), Fat Joe ("The Enemy"), and O.C. ("The Triboro"). The Big Picture is the result of hard work and careful planning.

Since Big L founded Flamboyant Entertainment to serve as an umbrella company for his music and entertainment ventures, his career was moving like pieces of Kasparov's chessboard. As a CEO in a budding enterprise, his concerns became more global. He had staff, partners, and more importantly, he had local artists who deserved a break. In 1998, when he released the now classic, "Ebonics," the purpose was to set up the D.I.T.C. album, the company, as well as his next album. Jay-Z and Roc-A-Fella Records approached Big L that year. L agreed to join the roster after he successfully negotiated (which took nearly six months) for fellow Harlemites, McGruff and C-Town, to accompany him on the label. Three days before the Flamboyant party to announce the signing, Lamont Coleman was gunned down. Big L will forever be a legend in the streets of Harlem, especially around 139th & Lenox. To know him was to love him and The Big Picture is a testament to that love. Flamboyant Entertainment and Rawkus Records present Big L's legacy... The Big Picture. - Press Kit, 2000.

August 01, 2020

Raekwon "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx" (25th Anniv. + Sampler)

Remember that feeling when you first saw Scarface or King of New York? Well that's how it feels when you listen to the new album by Raekwon The Chef. 'Only Built...' is the third solo project to come out The Wu-Tang stable, and they just keep getting better and better. Yes that's right, Raekwon's debut is better than both ODB's and Method Man's and, although it has much of the same personnel of the other Wu-Tang joints, it has a vibe and personality all of its own. This is not just a rap album with nine tracks on each side. This is a piece of hip-hop cinema. The cinematic vibe is achieved by interspersing tracks with conversations between Raekwon and Ghost Face Killer discussing their hopes and fears for the future alongside scenes from gangsta movies. All featured rappers playing the roles of G's and hustlers have taken on alias for the occasion. Raekwon becomes Lou Diamonds, Ghost Face Killer becomes Tony Starks, Method Man makes an appearance as Johnny Blaze, the RZA steps up as Bobby Steeles, and there's a special cameo from Nas as Nas Escobar. The eerie menacing vibe is further added to by the spooky vocals of Blue Raspberry...

The story of 'Only Built...' ostensibly charts the struggle of the Wu-Gambino family of Gatin Island, and their struggle to get paid and stay alive long enough to spend it. They fiend with the obsession of a crack head for the trappings of a material success, every song seeming to have a reference to some designer label or other, be it Tommy Hilfiger, Guess, Lexus, Cristal, or Liz Clayborne. But beneath this surface negativity they express the positive values of self sufficiency and the importance of maintaining the family unit. Like any good gangsta film there are moments of tension and menace ('Rainy Days'); moments of excitement and violence ('Glaciers Of Ice' and 'Spot Rushers'); a love interest ('Wisdom Body' and 'Ice Cream'); and the obligatory sad reflective ending ('Northstar'). Although, thanks to the production from the ever present RZA, the Wu-Tang vibe is in there, the element and vivid New York state of mind style of Raekwon and Ghost Face Killer is more reminiscent of that other golden child of the rotten apple, Nas. 'Only Built...' represents the cream of east coast rap up there with Nas and Mobb Deep and definitely the best from the Clan so far. It's so good it's scary. - HHC (9/95). Only Built 4 Cuban Linx celebrates it's 25th anniversary today!

Below is the album sampler for Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. It was released on cassette in 1995 with the title "Latest & Greatest Hits," and the artwork boasts: "The next chapter from the 'platinum' Wu-Tang camp... Once again servicing up that hot sh*t! The one featured on the hit singles - "C.R.E.A.M." & "Can It All Be So Simple" ... lyricist, producer & director... Member of Staten Island's most infamous rhyme family ... the debut single from Raekwon The Chef." The audio features an exclusive Freestyle, "Criminology," "Glaciers Of Ice," "Can It All Be So Simple Remix," "Eye For An Eye," "C.R.E.A.M." and "Heaven & Hell." I've always cherished this cassette, a gem in the collection via Loud Records. The blurb they included with it is confusing as f#ck though, no? lol. Listen to Rae's Latest & Greatest Hits below, and peep between some of the tracks for additional exclusive conversations!

Raekwon's album review in Hip Hop Connection (August, 1995)...

July 31, 2020

What Had Happened Was "3rd Bass & MF Doom Episode" (Podcast)

In this 'loosies' episode of the What Had Happened Was podcast,  Prince Paul tells the story of working with three legendary hip-hop acts - 3rd Bass, MF Doom and MC Paul Barman - and gives us a look inside each of their creative processes. Along the way, Prince Paul and Open Mike Eagle discuss 3rd Bass’s beef with MC Hammer, a potential full length collab with DOOM and the story of what the beats from Paul Barman’s ‘It’s Very Stimulating’ were originally intended for. Enjoy below...

July 31, 2020

Flee Lord & Pete Rock "The People's Champ" (EP Stream)

Queens rapper Flee Lord has joined forces with legendary producer Pete Rock for a new collaborative EP called The People’s Champ. The project includes 10 tracks with Flee on the raps and the legendary producer handling all of the production. As far as I can see, there are no guest features on this project, which is kind of refreshing, to be honest. Flee Lord dropped a handful of projects last year, and I believe The People's Champion may be his best to date. Props to Pete Rock for working with talented new artists, he's an integral piece of this culture and he's definitely helping to carry it forward. On a sidenote, it's amazing (to me) that artists can drop 10-track projects and it only be 20 minutes of music. The game has changed, 2 minute songs are the wave, lol.

July 30, 2020

Rest In Peace, Malik B. (11/14/72 – 7/29/20)

Malik B., the elusive M.C. best known for his work with the Roots, died on Wednesday. He was 47. His death was confirmed by his cousin Don Champion. Members of the Roots also posted public statements on their Instagram and Twitter accounts, though the statements did not say where he died or specify the cause. Malik joined the hip-hop group then known as the Square Roots after he met the founders, Questlove and Black Thought, in 1991 at Millersville University in Millersville, Pa. By 1993, the Roots had dropped “Square” from their name and self-released their debut album, “Organix.” Touring relentlessly, they soon developed a cult following in Europe. New members filtered in and out each year. Malik appeared on three more albums - “Do You Want More?!!!??!” (1995), “Illadelph Halflife” (1996) and “Things Fall Apart” (1999) - and then left the band... Though none of the members ever explicitly said why Malik had left, “Water,” a song off the group’s album “Phrenology” (2002), openly referred to his departure. Black Thought recalled meeting Malik, whom he called “Slacks,” and hinted at the ways they had grown apart: “But inside people down with me started to change/It was a couple things, lil’ syrup, lil’ pills/Instead of riding out on the road you’d rather chill.” “Things Fall Apart” - the title was taken from a 1958 novel by the Nigeran writer Chinua Achebe - became the group’s breakthrough album, peaking at No. 4 on the Billboard chart...

Though Malik left the ground around that time, the other members have continued to acknowledge his influence as the grounded emotional core of the group. “I always felt as if I possessed only a mere fraction of your true gift and potential,” Black Thought wrote on Instagram after Malik B.’s death. “Your steel sharpened my steel as I watched you create cadences from the ether and set them free into the universe to become poetic law, making the English language your bitch.” Malik released solo music after leaving the Roots, including the EP “Psychological” in 2006, and two studio albums: “Street Assault” (2005) and “Unpredictable” (2015), which was a collaboration with the producer known as Mr. Green. He also returned as a featured artist on the Roots’ albums “Game Theory” (2006) and “Rising Down” (2008). Malik Smart Abdul-Basit was born on Nov. 14, 1972, in Philadelphia. Information on his survivors was not available. - NY Times. Playlist via Philaflava below...

July 30, 2020

WateRR "Workshop Of The Mind" (Album Stream)

Born and raised in Chicago, WateRR introduced himself with the Primordial Waters album in 2009 and The Baptizm in 2010. He's followed that up with several more projects and has now dropped his latest effort, Workshop Of The Mind. The 12-track offering is fully produced by The Kurse, with co-production from MTK, ForTheNight, Motif Alumni, Beat Butcha and BVLVM. The LP also features verses from TriState and Ty Farris. Ty Farris and WateRR collaborated on a project a while back called "Bulls vs. Pistons," which I thought was very dope and talked about briefly. Dig into it below...

July 29, 2020

K.A.A.N. & Big Ghost Ltd "All Praise Is Due" (Album Stream)

As always, from the words of Big Ghost Ltd himself, "SURPRISE! Ayo listen... If you dont see the Hands of Zeus on social media everyday posting bout favorite albums or taking part in challenges or sharing Will n Jada memes or hypothesizing on who shot Meg Thee Stallion in both feet in a car that only had her n Tory Lanez in it... its probably cuz some shit is in the works... most likely in plural form. But whenever a new project drops mfs tend to assume it was some shit that jus came together in a couple weeks or months. I mean yea sometimes thats the case.. But more times than not it was a discussion that took place a long time before anything popped off. This particular project? Maaaan... I remember I had hit K.A.A.N. on New Years Day 2017... Thats when we first agreed to do a project together. Matter fact the first incarnation of the album was done a few months later. But different circumstances kept setting things back. Eventually everything got recooked n re-recorded. The result is something unlike any other Big Ghost Ltd project ever. What yall are getting is something that we took our time to build.. something Hector Puente Colon Jr & The Santiago Men’s Basketball Philharmonic Orchestra poured they entire hearts n souls into. This is a spiritual journey... but not on some weirdo shit. No features. No skits or interludes. We went someplace else widdit. ALL PRAISE IS DUE. If you ain’t familiar wit been sleepin'. Album is available on all streaming platforms, vinyl is coming soon." Much respect to Big Ghost, listen below...