Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Wu-Tang Clan "Protect Ya Neck" (The Source, 2/93)


"When you get a deal, release a record, and aren't satisfied with the way your product is marketed and promoted, then it's time to take it back to the streets and take matters into your own hands, which is exactly what these two cousins from Staten Island did. Prince Rakeem, formerly on Tommy Boy Records, and his cousin The Genius, formerly on Cold Chillin' (or Cold Killin' as Genius calls it), united with a family of up and comers from around their way and put out their own 12-inch. The Wu-Tang clan is packed with flavor MCs, all bringing a unique style to the cutting edge of underground hip-hop." Check out the explosive visuals to the single that started it all, cont'd...


"You might get lost trying to identify every rapper in the song (Shallah Raekwon, Method Man, U-God, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Ghost Face Killer, Inspectah Deck, The RZA, The Genius), but one thing's for sure, there's plenty of dope styles to get into. After everybody represents, Genius takes us outta here with an all out lyrical assault on record company execs who are "so stingy, they got short arms and deep pockets," and who know nothing about rap music: "First of all, who's your A&R / A mountain climber who plays the electric guitar?" - The Source, February 1993.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Tribe Called Quest "The Low End Theory" (The Source, 1991)


"What do you do for an encore after making one of the most ground-breaking unique and outstanding hip-hop albums ever? Instead of moving ahead to an uncharted musical plateau that may be over everyone’s head, the Tribe have veered off to the side, molding their jazz-infused samples with fat hardcore beats to give their progressive sound a streetwise edge. The most prevalent theme on this record is the Tribe’s disillusionment with the music industry. Song topics address shady promoters, bootleggers and the greedy, insensitive record labels that rip-off artists. Meanwhile, Tip and Ali drop some more fat loops from their secret sample vaults. The tracks are kept simple and feature the type of fat drum beats that can be heard from a boomin’ system three blocks away... They add the right touch - whether it's a live bass with singing on Q-Tip’s "Verse From Abstract," or the jazzy sax loop on Phife’s "Butter." Q-Tip has already proven he is a highly skilled lyricist with his own distinct style and once again he flows lovely, dubbing himself "The Abstract Poet." Check out the visuals to "Jazz (We've Got)" and "Buggin' Out," continued below...


"Those who questioned Phife’s microphone techniques on the first album will swallow those doubts as he practically steals the show on this one. Phife provides a more straight-up b-boy approach to complement Tip’s mellow vibes. Other outstanding cuts include "Buggin’ Out," an uptempo jam with a catchy bassline, "Rap Promoter" with its chunky guitar samples, "ShowBiz," featuring Brand Nubian and ex-Ultimate Force member Diamond D, and “Scenario” a duet with the Leaders Of The New School that feature some incredible lyrics from Busta Rhymes. There’s no sophomore jinx to be found here only real hip-hop." - A 5-mic review in The Source, 1991.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Union Blak "Union Blak Friday" (Album Stream)


Union Blak is a hip-hop duo consisting of UK producer Sir Williams and US eMCee Kimba. The album is called "Union Blak Friday" and I'm diggin' it a lot! 14-tracks of true-school hip-hop, it'll give you a familiar vibe throughout, definitely showing their influences in golden era hip-hop. Props to Effiscienz Records for giving it an official release, I'm keeping my eye on Union Blak. You should too...

Monday, February 24, 2014

A.D.O.R. "Let It All Hang Out" 12" (1995)


A.D.O.R.'s "Let It All Hang Out" is an undeniable Pete Rock classic from 1992 on Atlantic Records. A.D.O.R. was born in Washington Heights, but moved to Mount Vernon as a kid and later met Pete Rock, Heavy D, Puff, etc. in High School. A.D.O.R. was also known as "Another Dimension of Rhythm" and/or "A Declaration Of A Revolution;" he received his deal through DJ Eddie F, who was Heavy D's DJ, and the first single they recorded was "Let It All Hang Out." The song had a video and solid promotion behind it, I can remember seeing A.D.O.R. perform the track live on "In Living Color" that same year. It was also mentioned in The Source in October 1992, "I don't know about you, but I thought that cut, "Let It All Hang Out" by A.D.O.R. was fat. Pete Rock definitely hooked him up and will be supplying beats for the rest of his album." Despite the single's success, the album was only released as promo and did not feature production entirely by Pete Rock. It did, however, have joints from Diamond D, as well as K-Def and Marley Marl. A.D.O.R. came back in 1998 with his own label and released "Shock Frequency," which had the Pete Rock-produced "Let It All Hang Out," plus 2 more joints from Pete Rock and tracks from Diamond D and Clark Kent. With Pete Rock's success - then and now - you've undoubtedly heard these tracks on compilations, if not the actual A.D.O.R. release. However, "Let It All Hang Out" remains his only true classic. You can dig into it below.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Notorious B.I.G. "Next" (Vibe, August 1994)


"Fulton Street (or the avenue, as it's known in Fort Greene, Brooklyn) looks like one of those New York City ghetto neighborhoods you see on the Box or MTV: kids making trips to the corner store, drinking 40s, smoking blunts, and playing C-Lo. There's Biggie picking up the dice with his right hand, taking a wide step backwards, shaking his hand furiously - and with a twist of his wrist, the dice spill onto the concrete as he snaps his fingers and lets out a satisfied "Hah!" Rolling out a 4-5-6, he wins the bank of $6. It may not seem like much, but as a new-to-the-rap-game hustler, Biggie is happy to collect. On the regular, the Notorious B.I.G. (also known as Biggie Smalls) can be found on Fulton Street - he used to be there more when he was hustlin' full-time. Twenty-year-old Biggie first appeared last year on the Who's The Man? soundtrack. Even though the movie flopped, Biggie's debut, "Party and Bullshit," will not be forgotten..." Cont'd below with some bonus audio...



"Surprisingly, Ready To Die is nothing like "Party and Bullshit." The album's beats are an East Coast interpretation of West Coast pimp flavor. There are a lot of lyrics about suicide ("Ready To Die" and "Suicidal Thoughts"). "I'm just trying to touch on angles that other brothas is scared to touch," he explains. "Ain't no brotha I know that been hustlin' or been f#cked up in the street shit that can tell me they ain't never wish they was f#cking dead. I know plenty of nights I laid down and wished it was just over. For now, he's only just begun, and what's real for Biggie is making a better life for himself. This means moving out of Fort Greene, getting a record deal for his boys (the Junior Mafia) and buying a house for his mother (in Florida). It also means selling a lot of records. "Whatever I got to do to make this paper," he says. "Can't make no moves when you're broke." - Vibe, August 1994.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Absouljah "Dim The Light" (Album Stream)


"Music is often a reflection of life, so “Dim the Light” is no different. In today’s world, we often have to embrace brutal conditions; meanwhile, assuming the worst has come. How could we know if the worst has already come and gone? It is uneasy to tell. Therefore, the light is dim. While not completely dark, still recognizable that the light isn’t as bright as it once was. “Dim the Light” is a representation of struggle, hopes, and dreams. The Absouljah hails from the gritty paradigm known as Far Rockaway in the borough where kings are born, Queens, New York. When it comes to the essence of hip hop, people who are familiar with Absouljah’s music know that he is a reflection of not only the movement but also the culture. The Absouljah is more than music. He is the voice for those who struggle and face oppressions and injustices daily. The Absouljah is gearing up to provide more authenticity and lyricism to hip hop. Stream ‘Dim the Light’ below and expect many more projects to come from The Absouljah. Props to Bob Lipitch at Chopped Herring Records."

Monday, February 17, 2014

Rakim "WORDS" (Short Film)


Words is a re-introduction, and aural celebration of hip-hop’s most influential MC. Inspired by the vinyls that birthed the art form, the film is a portrait of two sides of an artist (A & B) and the streets and city he inspired. Two of his verses ("I Know You Got Soul" and "Follow The Leader") have been remixed … but the weight of his words will never change. His flow patterns and elevated rhymes shifted the entire culture! If this mini-doc / ode to the God MC, RAKIM, doesn't give you chills and make you stop what you're doing, then make you feel like you can do and be ANYTHING, then hip-hop culture might not be for you. Watch this excellent short by Matt Bieler below...

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Frank The Butcher & DJ 7L "Cuffin Season Volumes 1 & 2" (Mix)


Frank The Butcher & DJ 7L are doing us a big favor with these mixes, an ode to Cuffing Season to assist you in finding some comfort on these cold nights and the Valentine's Day celebrations. The 1st mix features tracks from Jodeci, Xscape, Case, Total, Mary J. Blige, Biggie, Monifah & Heavy D, Groove Theory, D'Angelo, Craig David, Faith Evans, Jay-Z & Babyface, Meth & Mary, Nas & Amy Winehouse, Aaliyah & of course, what would an R&B mix be without Bobby Brown, right? A near flawless tracklist, with the exception of the seemingly uncancellable (grammar police will get me before police get him) R. Kelly who sneaks a track or two in there. Stream Volume 1 below.


Frank The Butcher & DJ 7L doubled down and released a Volume 2, which features tracks from H-Town, Janet Jackson, Jon B, Joe, Aaliyah, Silk, Beyonce, Jodeci, LL Cool J, Jonell, Jay-Z, Usher, 112, Mariah Carey, Q-Tip, and a handful more. Between Volume 1 and 2, you've got all the help you're gonna get to help close the deal, you're gonna have to make it work, lol. Happy Valentine's Day ...

Friday, February 14, 2014

Smif-N-Wessun "Dah Shinin" (The Source, 2/95) + Response (4/95)


"After being discovered by Black Moon, and appearing on that group's Enta Da Stage album, Smif n Wessun hit headz with their single "Bucktown," a laidback mixture of rugged lyrics and moody bass. Now they return with their debut album, Dah Shinin'. While every song is appealing due to the group's talent for flowing and their ability to occasionally drop strong lyrics, the album suffers from too many Black Moon-like tracks and sing-song styles that too closely echo Buckshot on "I Got Cha Opin." They begin with a bouncy intro, "Timz N Hood Check," (one of the album's best cuts), and then leap off into criminal-minded freestyles on "Wrektime," "Wontime" and "Wrekonize." For "Sound Bwoy Bureill," they are gun-clappers killing a soundman. "K.I.M." (Keep It Movin') is traditional New York horns and echo. "Stand Strong" tells us it's mad deep in the streets and "Hellucination," despite its promising title, features 'eerie' bass that sounds more like a Spanish soap opera soundtrack."


"Their anthemic "Bucktown" is still the group's bread and butter. Using less forced deliveries, the duo evoke images of Brooklyn housing projects, jeeps cruising by, ciphers of freestyling bluntsmokers, and brothers rolling dice in Bushwick. This was the song that got everybody open; the song that led many people to think that this group's album would be the shit. Instead of sticking to this mode, they leap into tough guy BS and make their album hit a little weaker than it should've. The tracks, by Evil Dee and Mr. Walt, are too similar (dirty, plodding beats and bumpy bass) and make them sound even more like Black Moon proteges. If they were hooked up with more diversified flavors, listeners wouldn't feel deja vu and might be more satisfied." - The Source, 2/95.


Obviously, this was not one of the most favorable reviews. Is it any surprise that Duck Down's Boot Camp Clik wrote a letter to express their displeasure with the review? Let's look back at their response, too... "Over the last few weeks the Boot Camp Clik has had to answer for The Source. The question being asked: "How could Smif-N-Wessun's Dah Shinin' receive 3 mics (February 1995) for one of the phattest albums of the year and find itself with a lower rating than every other album on that page? The Source states itself "These ratings are determined by staff consensus..." yet the staff we have contacted at The Source told us that they had never heard Smif n Wessun's album. Could one Joe Charles determine all by himself, for the hip-hop community, what Da Shinin deserved? If so, it creates a serious problem because The Source is what it is titled: "the source" that tells the hip-hop community what's the haps in hip-hop. HIP-HOP, NOT RAP. By giving Smif n Wessun's Da Shinin 3 mics you are striking a blow to the head of each and every individual who lives for hip-hop. Individuals who have been craving for dirty plodding beats and bumpy bass (the essence of hip hop music production). Originu crooks who can't get enough of street reality lyrics. Originu Headz who recognize that The Source staff now knows that Smif n Wessun's album deserved, maybe not a higher rating, for that is Joe Charles' opinion, but at least a fair shake before their work is to be judged and reviewed for the masses. Joe Charles wipe ya mouf." - Boot Camp Clik (Duck Down), April 1995. Check it all out down below...

Friday, February 14, 2014

Tiff The Gift "Better To Give" (Album Stream)


The sophomore album from female lyricist, Tiff The Gift. "Better To Give" is the follow-up to her debut release in 2010, "Cool, Calm, Chill." I may have covered it on The Underground Come-Up, but unfortunately I sold that domain & now the content is gone forever. Either way, the Virginia MC's "Better To Give" boasts production entirely by Kameleon Beats, and now bonus remixes added by the Don't Sleep Records co-founder, Phoniks. With Valentine's Day on my mind, here's a Gift, because it's "Better To Give." Stream it below, and props to Phoniks, Awon & Don't Sleep Records.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Artifacts "Unsigned Hype" (The Source, 4/93)


"Straight from the brick city of New Jerusalem (Newark, NJ) is a young duo named Artifacts that is more than ready to drop bombs. MCs Tame and El Da Sensei are already well connected in the rap game. Does the Pack Pistol Posse ring a bell? Yeah, that's right; they "rock ruff rhymes" around the way with Tame's cousin Redman. You might even catch a similarity in their rhymes ... Tame and El started staking their claim in the underground last year when they first called up the Stretch Armstrong college radio show in New York and won an over-the-phone rap contest. Since then Stretch, Daddy Reef and Bobbito have had them up a few times to wreck shop on the airwaves. Artifacts incorporates classic B-Boy flavor into their lyrics. Train yards, third rails, mad color tips, black books, and backspins are common topics." Cont'd below + an added 8-minute freestyle...



A couple other heads looking out for the Artifacts are Sadat X and Lord Jamar of Brand Nubian. Jamar produced a song called "Wrong Side of the Tracks," featuring Lord J vocals on the chorus, and both Brand Nubian brothers collaborated with the Artifacts on "Check The Fine Print," a bangin' upbeat track with a lyrical buckshot to so-called righteous MCs with "white hoes in their videos" and a verbal assault on the ex-Brand Nubian member. T-Ray (who produced "Not Gonna Be Able To Do It" by the Double XX Posse) did a track called "Wicked Lyrics" where Tame and El kick just that. Although they had some serious help on the production side, they show and prove skills of their own with some pre-production material. Overall, Artifacts represents real hip-hop on its way up from the underground." - Unsigned Hype, The Source (April, 1993). (Updated, freestyle audio added).

Monday, February 10, 2014

DJ Finesse "J Dilla Live Tribute Mix" (Feb 7, 2014)


"On Friday February 7, 2014 - as Dj Premier was in Detroit performing at Dilla Day - I was filling in for Premier on his Sirius/Xm radio show, "Live From Headqcourterz." Being that it was what would have been J-Dilla's 40th birthday, I did an all Dilla set in my second hour honoring the late great Producer/MC/DJ James "J Dilla" Yancey, who died in 2006 at the young age of 32 from cardiac arrest after a long battle with a rare blood disease... He was one of the music industry's most influential and respected hip-hop artists." Rest In Peace, James Yancey aka J Dilla.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Dr. Dre "The Chronic" (The Source, February 1993)


"If Hollywood continues to make movies like Scarface, Goodfellas, and King of New York, what makes you think gangsta rap will stop? More than just filling a void, NWA - the most successful real rap group of all time - unleashed the production wizardry of Dr. Dre, the man who put the funk in that gangsta shit like no one else. Now with NWA broken up and everyone doing the solo thing, each ex-member faces the test of standing on his own. After hearing The Chronic, it is obvious who was the key ingredient to that platinum sound. On his own, Dre proves that innovative production skills and solid arrangements will take him the distance once again. Following the hype behind one of his hardest tracks ever, "Deep Cover," Dre has unloaded all over this album with the same furified intensity. Cuts like "Nuttin But a G Thang" and "Bitches Ain't Shit" pack enough bottom to blow the frame out a Pathfinder, while the live keyboards coat the high ends with funky melodies. The result is that patented smooth gangsta groove combined with the flavor of the classic funkateers; an original flavor ... that rises well above a re-tread of gangsta cliches or over-used samples."


"Snoop Doggy Dogg has no trouble carrying most of the weight behind the mic, and his Slick Rick-esque style - complete with creative boasts and slinging - carves new ground for West Coast MCs. His presence is laid-back and ruff at the same time, but even when he's "chin-checking," he doesn't sound anything like the typical gangsta. Dre exchanges rhymes with Snoop like he used to with Ren, and you get the feeling they're in perfect sync. Plus, Dre has enlisted a whole crew of new MCs to catch wreck, including Korrupt, Dat N!gga Daz, RBX, and a powerful new female MC named Rage. All five of them come together for one of the hardest cuts on the LP, "Stranded On Death Row." Whether it's gangs of brothers, big booties, or Blunts of the chronic indo, smoking is the preferred topic on this record. It's all about the "g" thang, what Dre describes as the "difference between gang and gangster." No shorts are taken with any beef the Death Row crew has with other artists... Overall, an innovative and progressive hip-hop package that must not be missed." - The Source, 2/93

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

M.O.P. "How About Some Hardcore?" (The Source, 2/94)

M.O.P. To The Death Advertisement 1994

"About a year a go 4th & B'way put out a compilation titled The Hill That's Real, some of the group's featured had flavor but the project went no where. One bright spot was an MC named Little Fame. Now coupled with his partner Billy Danzenie, Fame is about to give you a formal introduction to talent. "How About Some Hardcore?" already has the buzz in NY. We're talkin' about a "Who Got the Props / Protect Ya Neck" vibe. And after one listen you'll see why. Trust us, go out and invest in the wax because Fame and Bill rap like they don't give a fuck. Not senseless nihilism, mind you, but with out restraint. Youthful energy at its best. The beat is full of bass and horns but not like most NYC tracks. It definitely stands out and makes you ask, "Who dat?" Producer Darrel D has the butter and the rhyme delivery is what you wish more people would do." Peep the visuals to the track...


"If you ever wondered what it would sound like if Redman and Kool G Rap had formed a group or if Run DMC had started in the 90s, this is it. The rhymes come rapid-fire: "But of course I drop n!ggas like drawers / N!ggas'll hit the floors from the mutherf#ckin' fo-fours" ... It's almost like they're trying to out do each other on each verse. But in '94 that what you be trying to do. You've got to treat each record like it's your last." - The Source (2/94). Peep the full 12" review below...

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Gang Starr "Daily Operation" (The Source, 6/92)


"Before we even start, let me say this: if you do not have Gang Starr's last album, Step In The Arena, go out and buy it now and then finish reading this. On Daily Operation, DJ Premier and the Guru once again come through with the smooth lyrics, fat tracks and funky beats. Even though the album uses a lot of jazz riffs, horns, and string loops, they're hooked up in such a way that when you hear it you don't really think about jazz. It just sounds like funky hip-hop. Overall the album's production is dope, kinda like a mellowed-out Pete Rock. And of course the suave delivery of the Guru swings as well. DJ Premier is a master at his craft. On "Ex Girl To The Next Girl," he uses the same "because girls look so god..." KRS sample that Lawnge uses on Chi Ali's "Age Ain't Nothin' But A #," but since he transforms it real quick, the hook overall has a much better feel to it."


You can read the full review below, with lots more tracks broken down by Chris Wilder in The Source back in June of '92. Read or save a copy...

Monday, February 03, 2014

Phoniks "Autumn In New York" (Album Stream)


Don't Sleep Records presents Portland beatsmith Phoniks' latest release in his remix series, "Autumn in New York." Labeled as jazz remixes of New York underground Hip-Hop, it remixes tracks from Ak Skills, Lord Finesse, Mos Def, Biggie & Meth, Mic Geronimo, Street Smartz, Artifacts, Fugees, Big Pun w/ Nas, Fat Joe, Rae & Jada for a total of 9 tracks. A lot of the earlier material pre-dates when I was able to cover posts on this site, but I've been tuned in from the start, so either I'll post as some throwbacks or you will have to dig for yourself! Either way, keep an eye out, hit the tags & stream this project below. All the music is a vibe, catch it. (Updated, 2019) Physicals available!

Monday, February 03, 2014

Black Moon "Who Got Da Props?" (The Source, 2/93)


"Brooklyn's comin' strong with this underground trio. Already bumpin' hard throughout the five boroughs of New York, "Who Got The Props" is what you could call "mellow ruffness" - mellow grooves backed with ruff lyrics. Crew members Evil Dee, 5 F-T, and Buckshot know what it takes to make a hit record. Starting with one of the best basslines of the year, the soothing groove gives way to crisp keyboards and some confident rhymes. Not too hard and not too soft, the jazzy track is perfect for coolin' out. Hoods will love the lyrics ("Ima set it off with one shot / One trigger, one n!gga / Nuff heads drop"), while non-violent types will enjoy the laid-back flow. Either way, it's a hit"


"You would be advised to scoop this up as you will no doubt be hearing from this talented group in the very near future. Power to the Brooklynites." - The Source, February 1993. Full review below.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Nas "It Ain't Hard To Tell" (The Source, 2/94)


"Nasty Nas, who has yet to put out an album of his own, only seems to get better with age. He gave you a lyrical chin check a few years ago with his performance on "Live At The B.B.Q.," and last year he had you standing with your mouth open with "Halftime." Now, he has some '94 flavor snatched off his upcoming LP, and guess what? Its dope. Nas is one of those brothers who never puts out anything wack. Combine a little radio-friendly "Human Nature" with the boom-bap of the streets and what do you get? The next Nasty Nas street delight. It ain't hard to tell that Nas is one of the dopest kids to ever touch the mic. His congested delivery and rapid pacing makes his complex rhymes sound easy, until you try to follow him word for word. He's like a drum, the rhymes keep going and going; they don't build up to a punchline then diminish, every word surpasses the last. There are no throwaway rhymes." Check out the video for "It Ain't Hard To Tell" below...


"When Nas hits the pinnacle he doesn't pause to admire his work, he keeps going: "My mic check is life or death / Breathin' in a sniper's breath / Sparkle like a diamond / Sneak a Uzi on an island in my army jacket linin' / Hit the earth like a comet / Invasion / Nas is like the Afro-centric Asian / Half-man half-amazin' ..." The track might be commercial but the vocal is so raw that you don't even think about crossover. Which just proves the point that a real MC can turn even the most pop-friendly track into a hardcore anthem." - The Source (Sure Shot Single), February 1994.