Friday, March 31, 2017

Homeboy Sandman 'Veins' (Album Stream)

Homeboy Sandman Veins Stones Throw Records

Homeboy Sandman: “On my last couple of albums I challenged myself with regard to formats, trying to push the envelope as far as what exactly constitutes a rap record. ‘Talking (Bleep)’ and ‘Problems’ were my last two lead singles, both markedly unconventional. I adore both of those songs and I adore both of those albums specifically for the new creative fulfillment I enjoyed while making them. There's much more of that to come, but after spending 3 years outside of the box I was left with a burning desire to just fuckin rhyme. That's Veins." via Stones Throw Records.

Friday, March 31, 2017

A Tribe Called Quest 'Dis Generation' (Video)

A Tribe Called Quest Jarobi Q-Tip Ali Shaheed Muhammad Phife Dawg

I've been eagerly waiting on a video for this track since the album dropped last November. A Tribe Called Quest's 'We Got It From Here...Thank You 4 Your Service' is pure art; a gift from Rap legends, and the perfect tribute to one of our fallen greats, Phife Dawg. "Dis Generation finds the remaining members of Tribe (Q-Tip, Jarobi, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and longtime collaborator Busta Rhymes) dancing in the shadows — literally and figuratively — as they school listeners with lyrical wordplay. For a group whose visual presentation has always been on-point, it's right up there with the best Tribe videos of all time — word to Phife, whose presence is felt verbally if not visually." (NPR) Take a moment to enjoy the video below, it's directed by Hiro Murai. R.I.P., Phife Dawg.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Da Bush Babees Featured in Vibe Magazine (1995)

Da Bush Babees Vibe June-July 1995 Mr. Man

Taken from Da Bush Babees' feature in Vibe (June-July '95), 'Three years ago, out of this multi-cultural boiling pot were born Da Bush Babees, a reggae-hip-hop trio whose hit singles 'We Run Things (It's Like Dat)' and 'Remember We' from their debut album, 'Ambushed,' have served notice: The old-school sounds of Brooklyn remain in full effect, and their freewheeling style isn't a hodgepodge - it's a way of life.' All facts. Not too long after, Da Bush Babees would shorten their name to Bush Babees, claiming that 'intelligent people were mispronouncing it and that became annoying.' lol. Great answer, Lee. As a trio, Mr. Man (aka Mr. Khaliyl), Y-Tee (aka Light) and Babe-B-Face Kaos (aka Lee Majors) came with a sound that is still being duplicated to this day (and on a very mainstream level). Not only their singles, but their full albums 'Ambushed' and 'Gravity' are packed with vibes, and should be revisited & celebrated as often as possible.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Gang Starr 'Moment of Truth' (Album Review)

Gang Starr Moment of Truth The Source Album Review Elliott Wilson

I was curious, so I went back to revisit The Source's rating for 'Moment Of Truth' and it seems Elliott Wilson and I were on the same page with this release. If you read the album review above, he gave it a 5-mic rating, I don't care that it says 4.5 mics. I learned coming up in this industry with my own artists, writers often have to fight with the editors and other writers who haven't sat with the album nearly as long or as closely, and in the end, group-thought (and sometimes politics) wins. So, Elliott Wilson, I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt on this one and trust that your words, not the rating, speaks the Truth on where this album stands. Don't get me wrong, 4.5 mics is amazing too, but let's call it the 5-mic classic that it is. Click HERE for additional Gang Starr posts.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Apathy 'Dive Medicine: Chapter One'

Apathy Dive Medicine Chapter One Instrumental Project

Apathy is undoubtedly one of the most prolific MCs in underground hip-hop, but Ap has also built a solid catalog of production credits over the years. Having done production for RA The Rugged Man, Ras Kass, Cypress Hill, Demigodz, Tiye Phoenix, Eternia, Army of the Pharaohs, and among others, his own solo releases, Ap has finally released an instrumental project boasting 15 original instrumentals. The project is called ‘Dive Medicine: Chapter One’ and true to the press release, the project showcases 'Ap's sharp skills behind the boards as he delivers his best sonic works without words. Whether you just like to vibe out to hip hop beats or practice your own MC skills over chunky production, this project is a welcomed refreshment in the instrumental hip hop genre.’ The project is available digitally, as well as on cassette, CD and Vinyl at the Demigodz online store.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Gang Starr 'Moment of Truth' (Press Kit)

Gang Starr Moment of Truth Press Kit 1998

19 years later, I can still hear the debates happening: What is the best Gang Starr album? For me, the debate between 'Hard to Earn' and 'Moment of Truth' is the toughest of all of them. Gang Starr released 'Moment of Truth' on this date in 1998, which was four years after 'Hard To Earn.' I sat with 'Hard To Earn' for so long that my attachment to it is much greater, but when I listen to 'Moment of Truth,' I do feel like this is their best work. The title track was possibly Guru at his best, most introspective & most timeless. DJ Premier's production showed range and progression in a way that competes only with his work on Group Home's 'Livin Proof.' In '98, there was a shift happening in music and Gang Starr's presence was needed in that climate. I remember having a hard time finding 'You Know My Steez' on 12", it was flying off the shelves. Hearing Scarface on DJ Premier production was everything; Inspectah Deck did his thing on 'Above The Clouds,' and even K-Ci & JoJo didn't feel like a stretch on 'Royalty.' The inner-debate comes down to nostalgia & best vs. favorite; 'Daily Operation' and 'Hard To Earn' were defining albums in my life, but I appreciate 'Moment of Truth' for their messages and how cohesive it was as a project. The debates will go on, but to me, 'Moment of Truth' is their best work ultimately because it has the most depth. Either way, we all WIN as fans of Gang Starr. Salute to Premo & R.I.P. Guru.

"Actions have reactions, don't be quick to judge
You may not know the hardships people don't speak of
It's best to step back, and observe with couth
For we all must meet our moment of truth"

"Cultivate, multiply, motivate, or else we'll die
You know I be the master of the who, what, where and why"

Gang Starr Moment of Truth Advert

Friday, March 31, 2017

Cocoa Brovaz 'The Rude Awakening' (Album Review)

Cocoa Brovaz The Rude Awakening Duck Down Tek Steele Advertisement

When a cease and desist letter hits your mailbox from the gun company, Smith & Wesson, you stop calling yourself Smif-N-Wessun. It'd be hard not to understand folding against that legal pressure, but we were definitely confused about the name change to Cocoa Brovaz for a minute. Today marks the 19th anniversary of their 2nd album, 'The Rude Awakening' on Duck Down/Priority. Tek and Steele (and Da Beatminerz) won us over with their debut 'Dah Shinin,' and continued with records like 'Bucktown USA,' 'Dry Snitch,' 'Black Trump,' 'Memorial' and 'Back 2 Life' on 'The Rude Awakening.' The project did have its misses (mostly on production), which hurt the replay value of the project, but I am certainly still a big fan of Tek & Steele to this day. Salute to Da Beatminerz (Mr. Walt & Evil Dee) and the whole Duck Down family, who continue to support the culture and especially the sound of New York City. Give 'Bucktown USA' a listen & read the favorable album review in Vibe below.

Cocoa Brovaz The Rude Awakening Vibe Magazine Album Review
Cocoa Brovaz The Rude Awakening Duck Down Tek Steele

Thursday, March 30, 2017

DJ Spinbad 'Clueless' Mixtape (1996)

'Clueless' is a classic mixtape from '96 by native New Yorker, DJ Spinbad. Spinbad has always been nice, but especially on the technical side, his cuts are always razor sharp with tight transitions, occasional blends, and a lot of versatility in his ear for tracks. The particular mixtape includes tracks by Redman, Nas, Capone-N-Noreaga, KRS-One, Da Bush Babees, O.C., Group Home, The Roots, Jeru The Damaja, Artifacts, and lots more. Props to DJ Step One for the link on MixCloud - check his page for a lot of other dope mixes - and for saving me time on the upload. The full tracklist is pictured above, but it's 1996, a ton of classic hip-hop was out at the time, you should have no fear clicking play. If you get a chance to catch a Spinbad party, don't hesitate neither. 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Lord The Arkitec 'Listen Closely' 12" (1998)

Lord the Arkitec Listen Closely Royal Flush Mic Geronimo Large Professor Name of the Game

Lord the Arkitec’s ‘Listen Closely’ & ‘Name of the Game’ 12” was released in the summer of ’98 on Bottumz Up Entertainment. ‘Listen Closely’ is considered the sequel to Royal Flush’s underground smash, ‘Worldwide,’ thus featuring Flush, as well as Mic Geronimo and production by Kaysaan. The B-Side, 'Name of the Game (Friends)', is the real gem on this 12" though, with Large Pro on production and Lord the Arkitec shining solo on the track. The entire record is Queens, although I don't know what section Lord The Arkitec is from - could be he's from Flushing, then it'd be a record from the Wastelanz. I don't believe there was a follow-up 12" or any other releases, which is a shame. Anyone know differently? You can stream/download the 12" HERE, but consider picking up a copy of the picture cover release (for a reasonable price) at Discogs, eBay or another reseller.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Onyx 'Bacdafucup' Classic Material (Album Review)

Onyx Bacdafucup Classic Material Review Hip Hop Nostalgia

Bacdafucup’ was the debut album from the South Jamaica Queens group, Onyx (Fredro Starr, Sonny Seeza, Big DS (R.I.P.) and Sticky Fingaz); it was released on this day in 1993 via Jam Master Jay Records/Rush Associated Labels. The lead single was 'Throw Ya Gunz,' which hit the streets and mixshows hard in late '92 into early '93. I remember coppin' it on cassette single at The Wiz on Queens Boulevard, lol. The track was a hit in its own right, but when they followed it up with ‘Slam’ 6-7 months later, that’s when they were introduced to the mainstream audience. By then, fans knew to expect Sticky Fingaz as the anchor and for him to close out each track with his high energy, off the wall style. The bald-headed, black gear style was poppin' up everywhere; even pioneering groups like RUN DMC got down with it (and it confused the hell out of me). In 1994, at The Source Awards, Sticky Fingaz busted several shots into the ceiling during the intro to ‘Throw Ya Gunz.’ It was before IG, Twitter & Snapchat, but it was still a risky move. No gun was found when police later checked them backstage. Another day we'll discuss their second album 'All We Got Iz Us' and how that album & GZA's 'Liquid Swords' got us through the winter of '95. As a bonus, you can stream/download the full 12" for 'See You In Hell,' it's Onyx rappin' over the 'Wild For The Night' beat.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Mick Boogie 'Excursions: Rarities & Remixes of ATCQ'

Mick Boogie 'Excursions: Rarities & Remixes of A Tribe Called Quest'

A great mix from Mick Boogie covering rarities and remixes from the legendary group, A Tribe Called Quest. Mick Boogie shared his thoughts and what inspired the mix back when he first put it out (2011) and it still speaks to me today: "A Tribe Called Quest is one of my favorite groups of all time... in any genre of music. After seeing Michael Rapaport's amazing documentary on the group, I felt inspired to put together a mix and this is the end result. This is NOT a greatest hits mix. This mix is for the true Tribe fans only... the die-hards who know every lyric and remember every interlude. I thought it would be cool to basically create the "lost" Tribe album... with all the rare songs, demos, limited-edition remixes, and collaborations you may have missed over the years. I hope when you enjoy this as much as I do, and hear some things you have never heard before. Long live A Tribe Called Quest!" For a direct download, click HERE; otherwise, stream it below.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

10 Tunes That Influenced a Life: Guru of Gang Starr

Guru 10 Tunes That Influenced Him

Guru (R.I.P.) of Gang Starr selected 10 tunes that influenced him and some of them might surprise you ... or not. Did they mean Rick James, not Slick Rick on 'Mary Jane'? It reminds me of old 'error cards' in baseball, that'd be worth some money, lol. I remember the first time I heard a lot of his selections and they were dope to me, as well, but even for the artists we have in common, different tracks hit me more (personally). I'll add 10 tunes of my own below, but don't hold me to them. Update: Damn, that was even harder than I thought. The music I was raised on by my parents was early Doo Wop and even though I loved some of the groups, they weren't really big influences on me. I may have to revisit this after giving it more thought, lol.

Guru's 10:
1. Audio Two 'Top Billin'
2. Eric B & Rakim 'Eric B For President'
3. Ohio Players 'Sweet Sticky Thing'
4. Slick Rick 'Mary Jane'
6. Funkadelic 'Flashlight'
7. Chaka Khan & Rufus 'Sweet Thing'
8. EPMD 'It's My Thing'
9. RUN DMC 'Rock Box'
10. Slick Rick 'Mona Lisa'

Sav's 10:
1. Pete Rock & CL Smooth 'The Basement' / 'T.R.O.Y.'
2. Slick Rick 'Teenage Love'
3. Showbiz & AG 'Represent'
4. Stevie B 'Spring Love'
6. 2Pac 'Papa'z Song'
7. Eric B & Rakim 'Juice'
8. Gang Starr 'Take It Personal'
9. De La Soul 'Potholes In My Lawn'
10. EPMD 'You Gots To Chill'

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Ahmad 'Back In The Day' (1994)

Ahmad Lewis Back in The Day Hip Hop Nostalgia

Ahmad's self-titled debut was released in 1994 via Giant Records. Labeled as 'a boy from the hood who gives a funk,' Ahmad released 'Back In The Day,' one of the most nostalgic records of my childhood when he was just 18 years old himself. Teddy Pendergrass' song 'Love TKO' carried the vibe, while Ahmad's west coast flow eased us through a remembrance of being a teenager. Many artists have attempted to recreate (or pay homage to) Ahmad's hit single over the years and certainly, its inclusion in the movie, The Wood, was a great fit. In 2008, the Los Angeles Times ran a featured article on Ahmad Lewis, highlighting his rise from artist to a scholar: 'Ahmad Ali Lewis made a deal with his mother back when he was a student at Palisades High School: He would go to college unless he got a recording contract for his upbeat rap music. It was a big if. But Lewis, 17, an honors student and top football player, skipped the college entrance exams and signed with Giant Records. "I said, 'S.A.T. -- whatever. I want to R.A.P.," he recalls. Looking back, Lewis said he does not regret his teenage decision, even though his early success was followed by struggles in a music industry he criticized as promoting violence in the African American community … Ahmad the first-name-only rapper has become Ahmad Ali Lewis the Stanford-bound scholar … When young Ahmad became consumed with rap, his mother panicked … “I told him, 'if you are going to rap, at least don't use bad language and don't talk down about women.' And he said, 'Mom, that's not me anyway, I don't do that.' It wasn't church music but it certainly was a positive message." #WeCLAP 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Beanie Sigel 'The B.Coming' Vibe Review (2005)

This is the Beanie Sigel album that took me by surprise. Yes, 'The Truth' and 'The Reason' were the Beans we came to know and love at the time, but for me, it was the deeper, more introspective Beans on those albums that made me pay closer attention. As the Vibe review says, 'Beanie Sigel allows his brute aggression to take back seat to introspection with his third release.' Yes, spot on - and I was here for it. In his catalog, its tracks like his verse on 'Where Have You Been,' the follow-up 'Still Got Love For You,' then 'Remember Them Days' and even 'Feel It In The Air' to name a few. Ironically, as many of you may know - Black Rob had a track called 'Permanent Scars' that used the same beat as 'Feel It In The Air,' but Beans had the better song. The review pictured above is from June, 2005. Why would Vibe wait so long to review the album? Either way, this is an album that deserves more light so I welcome the chance to discuss it. I wish Beans good health, less foolish rap beef, and much more success in life and music.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Reks 'H.I.P.H.O.P.' (Prod. by Apollo Brown)

The Greatest X Reks

Reks just released visuals for another standout track off last year's phenomenal double-disc album, 'The Greatest X.' The track is the Apollo Brown-produced single, 'H.I.P.H.O.P.' Now, I don't watch a lot of music videos, but I am glad I caught this one because the visuals build from the good vibes on the track. It shows how this culture has spread and impacted so many lives, and it's especially dope to see these brothers traveling the world and making a living off their art. Worth mentioning: I've always known Reks to be a student of the game, so for him to buck back at the industry and release a double album in a single's market is proof he's catering to his audience! I'll keep my fingers crossed they both figure out that a full-length collaborative project would be an exceptional idea. Cop 'The Greatest X' on iTunes, CD or LP, and if either or both of them come to your city, be sure to check out their live (unforgettable) shows. Check out the visuals below.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Outkast 'Benz or Beamer' Feature (Rap Pages)

Outkast Benz or Beamer Lyrics Illustration Rap Pages 1995
Outkast Benz or Beamer Lyrics Illustration Rap Pages 1995

Outkast's 'Benz or Beamer' was released on the New Jersey Drive soundtrack in 1995. Ironically, the soundtrack was reviewed alongside Big L's 'Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous' in The Source & both were released 22 years ago today. 'Benz or Beamer' was one of many great tracks on the soundtrack - in fact, there were so many, Tommy Boy capitalized on the buzz and put out 2 volumes. The duo of Andre 3000 and Big Boi flexed their lyrical abilities, bouncy production and storytelling on 'Benz or Beamer' so well, I was always amazed this & all their early work didn't capture more attention. It wasn't until 2000, when Outkast released 'Stankonia,' that they reached #2 on Billboard and received sales that more closely matched their talent. Will we ever get another Outkast project or a solo effort from Andre 3000? I don't know, but be clear - they are one of the best groups to ever do it regardless of what's next. The above illustration and lyrics were featured in Rap Pages, June 1995. You can see their video below.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Big L 'Lifestylez Ov Door Poor & Dangerous' Press Kit

Big L Columbia Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous Publicity Photo Press Kit Hip-Hop Nostalgia

I'm typing out this directly from the original press kit that was sent out in advance of Big L's 'Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous,' which turned 22 today: ‘1994 will go down in hip-hop history as the year the East Coast returned to reclaim its spot in the rap world. And with the emergence and success of Staten Island’s Wu-Tang Clan, Brooklyn’s Notorious Big, and Queens’ Nas, the foundation has now been set for the 1995 debut from an uncompromising MC from New York’s forgotten rap borough. Representing Manhattan, or more specifically, 139 Lenox, Harlem U.S.A., is 19-year old Big L; a lyrical terrorist whose debut is sure to put him in the same class as this next school of dope MC’s. But, this type of recognition and acceptance was hard to earn and didn’t come easy to Big L. Dropping undeniably dope verses on Lord Finesse’s ‘Yes You May’ remix as well as on Showbiz & AG’s ‘Represent’ (his first appearances on wax) gained him mad props from thousands of underground hip hop fans but it didn’t necessarily help him gain his own record deal as quickly as he anticipated. ‘A lot of labels didn’t want to sign me at first,’ Big L recalls. ‘I was about ready to give up cause I was like ‘damn, I don’t understand.’ I knew I was better than 99% of the rappers that are signed.’ Big L feels the reason for his initial inability to land a recording contract didn’t have anything to do with lyrical skills or talent but was the result of his lack of an image or gimmick that could be sold to the public. Big L is nothing but a pure MC. A master of ceremonies. The essence of what hip hop was built on.” Also, see my post for the Mr. MVP EP and Rest in Peace, Big L.

Big L Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous Hip-Hop Nostalgia

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Common 'Like Water For Chocolate' (Billboard, 2000)

Common Like Water For Chocolate Billboard Feb 2000 Hip-Hop Nostalgia
Common Like Water For Chocolate Billboard Feb 2000 Hip-Hop Nostalgia

Common's 4th studio album, 'Like Water For Chocolate,' was released 17 years ago today via MCA Records. With heavy influence from Questlove of The Roots and production from J Dilla, DJ Premier, and Karriem Riggins + features from Slum Village, D'Angelo, Bilal, Cee-Lo, MC Lyte, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott & more, this album was Common breaking through. Tracks like 'The Light' and 'The 6th Sense' were the big singles + 'Dooinit' had a push & the remix with Macy Gray for 'Geto Heaven', but for album cuts, the Dilla-produced 'Nag Champa (Afrodisiac for the World)' was the one! In the Billboard article (Feb, 2000) above, my OG, DJ Eclipse, was interviewed about the album at Fat Beats and he said, 'Common's albums seem to mature every time out. He provides a good balance between mainstream and the underground.' That about sums it up and was definitely accomplished on 'Like Water for Chocolate.' Common's catalog isn't without a couple missteps, but this was not one of them. Did anyone receive any of the eight digital postcards that were supposedly sent out for the album? If so, tell me about them in the comments, I'm curious if it happened.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Lost Boyz in Vibe Magazine (R.I.P. Freaky Tah)

The Lost Boyz Vibe Magazine September 1999 Hip Hop nostalgia
The Lost Boyz Vibe Magazine September 1999 Hip Hop nostalgia
The Lost Boyz Vibe Magazine September 1999 Hip Hop nostalgia
The Lost Boyz Vibe Magazine September 1999 Hip Hop nostalgia
On March 28, 1999, we lost Freaky Tah of the legendary Queens group, the Lost Boyz. To compound that loss, each year on this day, fellow group member, Mr. Cheeks, celebrates his own born day and then mourns the loss of his friend. Yes, Freaky Tah was shot and killed on Mr. Cheeks' birthday and it was done after he left Mr. Cheek's birthday party in Queens. The Vibe article above retells the story in great detail. Being born and raised in Queens, I followed the career of the Lost Boyz very closely - they were one of a few crews that successfully brought the underground to the mainstream in the way Naughty By Nature did earlier in their careers. The Lost Boyz had 'Renee,' 'Lifestylez of the Rich & Shameles,' 'Get Up,' 'Music Makes Me High,' 'Jeeps, Lex Coups, Bimaz & Benz' ... all first verse, I haven't even gotten to their second album! Sure, some of the album versions were slightly different than the single versions we loved, but for me, that just meant I had to go out and buy more of the same songs. It's a humbling day and a reminder of the cycle of life. So, with that said - Rest in Peace to Freaky Tah; Happy Born Day to Mr. Cheeks, and a salute to DJ Spigg Nice & Pretty Lou, who were also impacted by all these events. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Ghostface Killah 'Fishscale' Review (Vibe, 2006)

Ghostface Killah Fishscale Vibe April 2006 Album Review
Extra! Extra! Ghost says he was the first to use the name Wu-Tang ... was that ever confirmed? Either way, today marks 11 years since Ghostface's release of his 5th studio album, 'Fishscale.' The review above - published in Vibe (April, 2006) - does a good job at giving you a quick breakdown on the album. 'An intentional radio-ready endeavor' is a nice way of saying some crossover shit, and Def Jam doubled down by adding Kanye West to the remix, where Ye basically rapped over snaps, lol. Fortunately, the album had much more heart and soul than that. My good homie, MoSS, came through and blessed the raw production on 'Kilo' with Raekwon, which was definitely one of the best cuts on the LP. Yet, the standout to me is 'Whip You With A Strap,' based off the nostalgia & serendipity of the record. J. Dilla passed away 3 days before his masterpiece, 'Donuts,' was released, and after his demise, many artists have grabbed at his instrumentals. However, it's clear Dilla had Ghostface in mind when he crafted “One For Ghost.” Ghostface laced that beat as only he could, bringing us back to his childhood and sharing tales of his mom putting a whoopin’ down on him, lol. Dilla’s impeccable ear for samples and chops brought Luther Ingram’s ‘To The Other Man’ to life and with Ghostface, it was the perfect pairing. Dilla is also featured on ‘Beauty Jackson.' While 'Back Like That' may have sold the album to a wider audience, it's the album cuts that make Ghost one of the best to do it. In 2015 - for record store day - Def Jam released 1000 copies of a 7" that featured Jay-Z's 'You Don't Know' on the A-Side and Ghostface's 'Whip You With a Strap' on the B-Side; I hope you got your hands on that collector's item.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Ol' Dirty Bastard 'Return to the 36 Chambers' (Rap Pages)

Ol' Dirty Bastard Return to the 36 Chambers Rap Pages May 1995

‘Part insane and strangely comical - but unmistakably funky - Ol’ Dirty’s vocal performances were one-of-a-kind.’ That's an on-point description of Ol' Dirty Bastard and his solo debut, 'Return To The 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version,' which was released on this day in 1995 on Elektra Records. The line 'there's no father to Dirty's style' rings true every time you give ODB a listen. With RZA at the helm, the album is consistent production-wise with the Wu sound, but it's ODB's off-groove flow & slurred rhymes that make the project so intoxicating. It's been some years since I've revisited the album, but 'Raw Hide,' 'Brooklyn Zoo,' and others do pop-up in playlists every now and again. Even the classic artwork was ill. Dante Ross has said, ‘Dirty designed the cover, basically. I just marched into the art department one day and blew up his welfare card 40 times its size…’ Around 2011, Get On Down (a reissue label) put out the 'Return To The 36 Chambers' box set, which came with a wallet, welfare card, booklet, poster & of course, the album. I wasn't fortunate enough to get my hands on that version, but it did look dope! The album review above is from Rap Pages, May 1995.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Creestal 'Bars of Death' ft. Ras Kass, Rapper Big Pooh & Skyzoo + New Album 'Differences'

Creestal Ras Kass Rapper Big Pooh Skyzoo Differences

Today's selection is from Marseille, France's Creestal, who released a tight project called 'Differences' yesterday. Specifically, the track 'Bars of Death,' which features West Coast legend, Ras Kass, as well as NC's Rapper Big Pooh and Brooklyn's own, Skyzoo. The song stands out on its bars alone, but the production has a nice bassline, guitar, and drums. 'Differences' also features Conway, Hus Kingpin, Roc Marciano, Planet Asia, Blu, and the rest of the album is instrumentals from Creestal. 'Differences' is available on vinyl, cassette, and he also has limited edition posters (pictured above). Sit with the album ... and keep an eye out for Creestal, lots of talent out in Europe.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Street Smartz 'Problemz' b/w 'Metal Thangz' 12" (1996)

Street Smartz Problemz Metal Thangz Pharoahe Monch O.C.

Tru Criminal Records had a hold on the underground with a handful of great 12" releases between '96-02. The label put out joints from Ak Skills, God Sunz, F.T., Tonedeff, and Street Smartz, who have a record we'll be discussing today. In 1996, Street Smartz (DJ Buda, F.T., DJ KO & Syx) put out the ‘Problemz’ 12” with an ill B-Side, ‘Metal Thangz,’ featuring O.C. and Pharoahe Monch. They had 3-4 12” releases in the 90s and their own careers outside the group. There was also a Tru Criminal Records EP that had a couple extra joints from Street Smartz, Ak Skills and God Sunz. 'Problemz' was produced by Buckwild and 'Metal Thangz' was done by OGee of D.I.T.C. The record was featured in The Source's Sure Shot Singles, which gave it some extra buzz, but it's still mostly known and celebrated in the underground as a must-have! Stream/download the full 12" HERE.

Monday, March 27, 2017

2Pac 'Until The End of Time' Postcard & Vibe Feature

2Pac Until The End of Time Postcard Hip-Hop Nostalgia

I've long been against the countless posthumous (and mostly unofficial) releases with 2Pac's music. Most of the remixes are terrible, as are many of the featured artists that are mashed together with old vocals - fans know it sounds real disrespectful, lol. There were a few, however, in the early stages that had some joints. 'Until The End of Time' was the 3rd posthumous album, released 16 years ago (2001) on Afeni Shakur's Amaru Entertainment (and, of course, Death Row & Interscope). The album was a double disc and is 4x platinum. Pictured above and below is the original postcard that was mailed out as promotion for the album (address removed), and I've also included a feature from Vibe in January of 2002 that touches on the album, posthumous releases, and other topics surrounding his legacy. Rest in Peace, Tupac and Afeni Shakur. 

2Pac Vibe Magazine January 2002 Hip-Hop Nostalgia
2Pac Vibe Magazine January 2002 Hip-Hop Nostalgia
2Pac Until The End of Time Postcard Hip Hop Nostalgia

Monday, March 27, 2017

Raekwon ft. Andra Day 'Visiting Hours'

Raekwon The Wild Dan Lish Visiting Hours Andra Day

Raekwon released his new project, 'The Wild' on Friday via IceH20 Records; it's his first project since 2015's 'Fly International Luxurious Art.' Rae's thoughts: "Being in the game for a long time can only make me a more passionate artist and that's where I'm at. It's like I'm better than I was 20 years ago in my eyes, so it's more about celebrating and showing people that I am still here..." (XXL) You can hear that passion on 'The Wild;'' it's a welcomed return filled with good vibes! 'Marvin,' the new single with Cee-Lo, is up and down my timeline right now, but I'm making today's selection 'Visiting Hours,' which features the uber talented, 'Andra Day,' and has Raekwon spittin' his truth in a letter over layered breaks & light keys. The illustrated artwork on the album was handled by Dan Lish

 'That used to be me / Young, ruthless, and carefree 
Until I seen the bigger picture / Shifted, my way of thinking 
That 25 to life is real / So is the casket once it close on you 
Word to the youth / Its not a game, cause life'll swerve on you...'

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Hubbs & M16 'You Don't Own Me'

Hubbs M16 Black Privilege

Today's selection is a fresh cut from Hubbs & M16 called 'You Don't Own Me.' Hubbs is an eMCee from Pittsburgh, PA; he linked with Grammy-nominated producer, M16, for a dope collaborative project called 'Black Privilege.' M16 handles all the production on the album and its sole feature is from Brooklyn wordsmith, Skyzoo. The project dropped a couple months back and I've gotta (once again) thank DJ Eclipse and his show, Rap Is Outta Control, on Sirius because that's how I got put onto the project. I've gone back in their catalogs and there's a lot of quality music to discover so do the knowledge. Listen to the track below & cop the album HERE.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Eric B. & Rakim in Spin Magazine (1987)

Eric B. & Rakim Interview Spin Magazine 1987 Hip-Hop Nostalgia
Eric B. & Rakim Interview Spin Magazine 1987 Hip-Hop Nostalgia
Eric B. & Rakim Interview Spin Magazine 1987 Hip-Hop Nostalgia
Eric B. & Rakim Interview Spin Magazine 1987 Hip-Hop Nostalgia

Eric B. and Rakim know you got soul. If you didn't, you wouldn't be in here! Amen. This Eric B. & Rakim feature interview is from Spin Magazine in November-December of 1987. It's always dope when Rakim sits down for an interview and shares his perspective and we get insight into the mind of a legend. For example, Rakim says: “I’m not a rapper. I’m a lyricist. Rappin’ is sum’n that you do when you coolin’ out, just poppin’ shit, know whumsayin’? I take this more serious than just a poem. Tryin’ to make this art. Instead of people com in’ up to me and sayin’, “Oh, you’re a rapper?”, I’d rather them come up to me and say, “Oh, are you an artist?” My music isn’t hip-hop; I call it Knowledge, a Lesson with Music.” For more wisdom and just Rakim waxing poetics about the culture, religion, lyrics and more, read the interview above from nearly 30 years ago. Then, ask yourself - where do you place Rakim on the list of greatest of all-time? And, what is their best (or your favorite) song? My favorite is an obvious choice, but it's hard to argue: 'Juice.'

Sunday, March 26, 2017

In Loving Memory of Eric Wright (Eazy-E)

Eazy-E Rest In Peace Eric Wright Funeral Booklet

From his obituary: "Eric Wright was born on September 7, 1964, in Compton California, to the proud parents, Richard and Katie Wright. He received his education in the Compton Unified School District. Deciding on a career in Music, he became a well-known Rap Artist, 'Eazy-E,' and built his own recording company; Ruthless/Comptown. Eric was a gentle, kind and warm-hearted person who was always willing to help others. On Sunday, March 26, 1995, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Eric Wright was called home to his final resting place. His charming smile and wonderful personality will always be remembered. Eric leaves fond memories in the heart of his wife, Tomica; parents, Richard and Katie Wright; his children, Eric Darnell, Sharan Marie, Erica Shanel, Derrek Deon, Marquise, Christopher, Erin Bria, Raven and Dominick; one sister, Patricia Wright; brothers, Kenneth Wright and Donald Brown; sisters-in-law, Lorrian and Pam; grandmother, Estella Wright; and a host of nephews, nieces, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and fans." Rest in Peace, Eazy-E.

Eazy-E Rest In Peace Eric Wright Funeral Booklet

Sunday, March 26, 2017

90 Proof 'Boutique Freaks' 12" (2000)

90 Proof Inner City Prophets 12" Hip Hop Nostalgia

Here’s a nice 12” from 2000, it’s by 90 Proof and was released in Chicago on Guidance Recordings. The B-Side ‘Inner City Prophets’ is the clear winner (to me) on this 12”, although ‘Boutique Freaks’ has grown on me over the years. The familiar ‘Django’ sample on ‘Inner City Prophets’ was used earlier on the ‘You Can’t Stop The Prophet’ Remix by Pete Rock. Naturally, Pete Rock’s drums win over everything, but the 90 Proof version has its own unique appeal with the storyline and mellow flows. The production credit is to T Estes (Tracy Estes from Moab Productions), with writing credits to Andrew Floyd, Steve Scott, and Victor Ramirez. While uncredited, these Chicago artists may have also been involved? Enoch Khepra, Tyrone Reed, Simeon Norfleet, and Aaron Marx. Anyone have more information? Discogs credits Toni Estes with production, she had an album on Priority Records, but I’m not certain what is accurate, so any info is appreciated. Stream/download the 12" HERE.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Indie Hip-Hop Tribute, Take It Personal Radio Ep.8

Take It Personal Radio Episode 8 Tribute to Indie Hip-Hop

Props to the good people over at Philaflava for continuing to post, support and create dope content for well over a decade! 8 episodes in, I'm diggin' their new radio show and podcast, 'Take It Personal.' From their Soundcloud: "Episode 8 is our Jansport (backpack) special. A tribute to the independent hip-hop movement that helped spawn labels like Fondle ‘Em, Hydra, Rawkus, Stones Throw, Def Jux and ABB records. A time, where the internet played a major role in the music ... This movement created dreams, jobs, life-long careers and of course, some amazing music too. Speaking of music ... we play you obscure cuts all the way to classics heard from the late 90s to early 00s ... You don’t want to miss this!" Watch, subscribe, and enjoy. Peace to Philaflava.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

'Many Facez' of Tracey Lee in Billboard (1997)

Tracey Lee Many Facez Billboard Magazine 1997 Hip-Hop Nostalgia

T.R.A.C.E.Y.L.E.E... he had me open off his intro - short as it was, it caught me. Tracey Lee is an MC originally from Southwest Philadelphia, who released the smash single, 'The Theme,' in 1997. His debut album, 'Many Facez,' was released 20 years ago today on ByStorm/Universal and boasts collaborations with Biggie, Busta Rhymes & heavy production from D-Dot of the Hitmen. Billboard (above) describes the layers behind Tracey Lee and his come-up in greater detail, but the story doesn't end there. I certainly remember the adverts for his follow-up release, 'Live From 215,' which I'm guessing was shelved because all I've ever heard from it was a sampler. Am I wrong on that? Tracey Lee went on to become a successful attorney, run an entertainment company, and released an album as recent as a few years back called 'Esq: The Revelation' on LLeft Entertainment (co-run by his wife). I'm certain the Howard Grad is a wealth of knowledge to artists coming up, as he's been on both sides of the table, which makes for a unique tale of any artist coming out of the 90s. The 12" for 'Showtime' he mentions above, which wasn't included on 'Many Facez,' can be heard below and 'Yo, it's March somethin...', Craig G, Metho & Tracey Lee on Rap City in '97 can be seen HERE.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Notorious B.I.G. 'Life After Death' 20th Anniversary

The Notorious B.I.G. Life After Death Bad Boy Entertainment

In honoring Biggie's death in a post earlier in the month, I posted the original 'Life After Death' press kit. It's been 20 years since his death, funeral and now the release of that album, but it's still at the front of my mind on days like this. I know it's all been said - by me and everyone else - but I wanted to choose something outside of a typical album review or rare remix to share with this post, so I settled on a short article that was in Billboard Magazine the day before Biggie passed and speaks to his enthusiasm for the album's release. Biggie says, 'when my album drops, it's gonna be like the biggest thing ever.' He meant it. He goes on to say: 'I bring the problems and the situations that I've been through in my life into my music, and everything that I've gone through is on another level.' That was certainly true throughout his debut, 'Ready to Die,' but perhaps not as deep on 'Life After Death.' I do agree that there was a bigger focus on production and that he stretched himself lyrically on the album. I won't argue greatest of all-time, but I've never been mad that he's in the conversations. Listen below to Wax Poetic's 'Life After Death' mix by DJ Matman; he did a great job on the mix. 'You'll miss me when I'm gone!' Facts.

The Notorious B.I.G. Life After Death Bad Boy EntertainmentThe Notorious B.I.G. Life After Death Bad Boy Entertainment Billboard Magazine