August 10, 2020

Hip-Hop Nostalgia "Future Nostalgia" (Playlist)

There are a few playlists in my iTunes that I haven't built up in Spotify... one of which is a list of album cuts from various albums I've posted to the site. Going back some years, I still consider most of these projects 'new' in the sense of them not being like most of the content covered on the site from 10+ years ago. It's gonna take a while to dig and add tracks to it, but to get it started, there's around 100 tracks in the playlist now. There are tracks from Blu & Exile, Big Ghost Ltd., Ty Farris, Black Thought, Dnte, Statik Selektah, Heist Life, CyHi The Prynce, Blame One, Noveliss, Apollo Brown, Bozack Morris, J Scienide, Xp The Marxman, Roc Marciano, Professor P & DJ Akilles, Lord Juco, Emanon, Evidence, Bishop Neru, Jericho Jackson, Royce Da 5'9", Torae, O.C., Eto, The AK's, Paranom, Waterr, Rigz, Brother Ali, Supastition, Choosey & Exile, Sa-Roc, Ivan Ave, Jonwayne, Iron Wigs, Westside Gunn, JoJo Pellegrino, Che Noir, Rasheed Chappell, Ka and lots more. I'd also like to try to add tracks from albums I never got to, but we'll see, for now enjoy the playlist below... Suggestions? Update: I am not sure if it'll show more than 100 songs in the browser so click through for more.

August 09, 2020

Gravediggaz "Six Feet Deep" (August 9, 1994)

"At first there was no concept at all," Paul recalls. "I was just in it for the beats and rhymes. But once we sat down and talked, we realized that the name would be most important. So we came up with Gravediggaz and built the concept around it. The guys' personas had to come right after the group name, of course. Rakeem said, 'Yo, I'm gonna call myself the RZArector,' and then that became RZA for short. So that's the first time he used that name.... Then Poetic said he'd be the Grym Reaper because he had the The Brothers Grimm group," Paul continues. "And at first I was like, I'll be the Pall Bearer (laughs), but then I chose The Undertaker, because I was the dude who prepped everything. [Author's note: Frukwan was The Gatekeeper.] After all that, we knew we'd be coming from a dark place. And my tracks at the time were already there." Importantly, and potentially unwittingly, Paul and the crew were creating a sub-genre within hip-hop at the time, which would come to be known as "Horrorcore." Paul explains the marketing, "Gangsta rap had already been so exploited at the time, so we went with horror. And then the guys would drop some non-horror hip-hop jewels in there from time to time. Basically, all three guys were in full character at recording sessions, starting from the earliest days. I didn't have to keep reminding them." Speaking on the recording process, Paul says, "Every verse we did and liked was always accepted, there was never any argument about whether we should re-do anything. We just knew." A death-defying demo was done by late 1992, with approximately six tracks on it. "I thought that what we had come up with was amazing, and I shopped that demo for a year," Paul explains. "But nobody would bite. Jive was interested at one point but someone there said, 'Why would you want to sign them? They're old and played out.' That was pretty depressing." Despite the industry's apathy to the Gravediggaz album, all was not lost. He remembers, "It was literally a week before the time we agreed that we were going to give up, in late '93, that Jon Baker at Gee Street came through." Click play, cont'd below...

Paul says that songs from the demo that Gee Street signed were the same as they appeared on the final album. "We didn't redo any of the demo songs," he explains. "They were on the album the same way. Tascam 8-Track cassette and [Akai] S900 samplers, straight up." ... Paul explains a producer technique he used, to get the most out of his motley crew of MCs: "I used to play those guys against each other, to push them. Poetic would rhyme in a normal way, and I'd be like, 'C'mon, man, you can't let RZA outdo you!' Or I'd tell RZA, 'Yo, Poetic ate you up on his verse.' Then they'd come back with something closer to what I wanted. I'd tell each of them that the other one was better - especially with RZA and Poetic - and they'd battle right there on the spot." ... Although the group was two years old by the time their album came out in late summer of '94, a bit of serendipity - or was it karma? - helped these misfits attract more ears to their sound. Paul says, "A lot of Wu-Tang fans were checking the Gravediggaz out because we were kind of an affiliate, so that wasn't a bad thing." RZA also brought in guest MCs from his orbit who contributed to Gravediggaz songs with which they were involved, including Scientific Shabazz (Shabazz The Disciple) and Killah Priest.... The album had two different titles, depending on where it was purchased. For most of the world, including Gee Street's birthplace in the UK, it was Niggamortis. In the US, it was changed to 6 Feet Deep. Paul says, "I think they figured the title Niggamortis wouldn't fly at places like Target or Wal-Mart. But it was always Niggamortis to us." Released in 8/94, the album reached #36 on the Billboard "Top 200" album charts and sold quite respectably, driven almost exclusively through its push at retail by the single and Hype Williams-directed video for "Diary Of A Madman." 

Paul concludes, "That's probably the most fulfilling record I have ever made in my career. It stands right next to 3 Feet High And Rising and Psychoanalysis. For me, Gravediggaz was done to show the world that I wasn't wack. And to prove the same thing about the rest of the guys, too. People weren't looking out for me, Poetic, Frukwan or RZA in late '92.... It was all about achieving something collectively and gaining common ground. It was creative and it was harmonious." - Check The Technique Vol. 2 by Brian Coleman. If you don't own his books, please pick up a copy because there's some amazing content in there about 6 Feet Deep and many other classic albums. "Yo, I got one last question / Who killed Tommy's Boy?" Revisit the LP above, and some promo below... art by Cros2.

August 09, 2020

N.W.A. "Straight Outta Compton" (The Rap Year Book)

N.W.A. was a gangsta rap group from Compton, California. They had a few different line-ups, but the strongest version was the too-brief period when it was Ice Cube, Eazy-E, MC Ren, DJ Yella, and Dr. Dre. That's the core group behind Straight Outta Compton, which has become the most impactful album within the gangsta rap genre. N.W.A. was substantial for a handful of reasons, but they all wiggle back to the same premise: They were the first rap group that America actively tried to ignore, and then eventually tried to stop. They were railed on by politicians and members of the media. They were blocked from the radio and TV and banned from performing in certain cities. They were just too crude, too aggressive, too mean; these were the main complaints, at least. Even the cover of Straight Outta Compton, which was a photo of the group's members gathered around looking down directly into the camera very much in a manner that seemed to represent that they were either going to shoot you (Eazy-E is aiming a revolver) or had already shot you, was scary. And so they were bottlenecked.... Straight Outta Compton was a rough-cut job - recording took six weeks and it was done on a budget of approximately $8,000 - but that only seemed to confirm the rawness of the group. In less than two months, the album sold more than five hundred thousand copies, later topping the three-million-copies-sold mark following the buzz of media talking about how nobody should be talking about the group. It was the first time in history an album had gone platinum without being played on the radio... Straight Outta Compton was not the first gangsta rap record. But it was the one that fully bent the trajectory toward reporting the dejection and desolation of the inner cities of the country. And that meant it was no longer just for those populations anymore. Straight Outta Compton popularized gangsta rap in America.... - Rap Year Book. Hmm... I am not 100% sure of the album's official release date (late '88?/early '89?) but I do know a letter from the FBI was written on August 1, 1989 and the album reached the charts also in 1989. Here's some more content for the TL, which has been discussing the album the last couple of days.

Taken from Shea Serrano's The Rap Year Book. Read below...

August 08, 2020

In Memory Of... Sean Price (Playlist + NY Daily News, 2015)

Brooklyn Rapper Sean Price died in his sleep Saturday (August 8, 2015). The 43-year old hip-hop artist was a member of the rap super-groups Boot Camp Clik and Random Axe. Price got his start in the music world as part of the group Heltah Skeltah before rising in the underground hip hop community as a noted solo act.... "It is with beyond a heavy heart that Duck Down Music is sadly confirming that Sean Price passed away early this morning in his Brooklyn apartment," said a statement from his representatives. "Sean's family and friends are asking for time to grieve and process the news...." As a solo artist, Price released "Monkey Barz" in 2005 and "Jesus Price Supastar" in 2007. The lifelong Brownsville resident was featured in the video game "NBA 2K11" as a playable character in street mode. Price's latest album, "Mic Tyson," was released in 2012 and he was working on a mixtape, "Songs in the Key of Price" slated to be release by Duck Down Music on Aug. 21. "I"m going fishing Sunday at Sheepshead Bay I did it last week it was relaxing," he wrote on Twitter a day before his death. The MC's fellow lyricists took to social media to mourn the loss of the influential star. "Hip Hop has lost another great. RIP Sean P! #RealOne," The Roots' Black Thought tweeted. Others commended Price's tenacious spirit. "RIP to Sean Price one of the illest to ever do it. 1/2 of Heltah Skeltah aka Ruck. He was always a good brother to us and down to build," the Bronx-based rap group Rebel Diaz wrote. "Sean Price went from being a childhood hero of mine to a great friend. He was the most competitive MC I've ever met and kept me on my game," rapper Talib Kweli wrote. Price is survived by his wife and three children, according to his representatives. - New York Daily News (August 9, 2015). Rest In Peace, Sean P!, who passed away 5 years ago today. To continue to celebrate the Brooklyn barbarian, below is a playlist with 50+ tracks, dig into it...

Original cover story in the NY Daily News (August 9, 2015). R.I.P. Sean P!

August 07, 2020

Astronote "Bigger & Better: Notorious Remixes" (Mixtape, 2009)

This mix tape has been burning a hole in my hard drive since it was released in 2009. The French homie Astronote produced all the beats, blessing these classic vocals from the late great Notorious B.I.G. The tape is hosted by Brooklyn's Talib Kweli and mixed by Detroit's DJ Graffiti. There are additional vocals from Talib Kweli, Buff1, Big L, Busta Rhymes, Guilty Simpson, Bahamadia, Erykah Badu, Heavy D, 2Pac, Grand Puba, Sadat X, Junior M.A.F.I.A. and Puffy. When it dropped, DJ Graffiti sent it along with this message, "I already know you’re skeptical. I was too, and I manage Astronote!," but he assured us it was dope and basically we could thank him later, lol. Facts! I was already cool with Astronote so I didn't need to be sold, but if you do, trust ME... it's still DOPE!

August 06, 2020

Scarface "The Fix" (August 6, 2002)

"...with a superb cross-section of hip-hop's best producers, singers and MCs riding shotgun, The Fix is an undeniable balance of street consciousness and mass appeal. The title for this album [The Fix] is more than a dope-game synonym. It's a statement about how Face methodically stitches a hemorrhaging rap game one heart-wrenching couplet at a time... The lead track, "Safe," says it best: "So listen up, my n!@@as  / And I ain't tryin' to preach / I'm just tellin' it from my side 'cause I'm in the streets...." In the spirit of Italian poet Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy, Face keeps the lyrics on this album in three distinct planes of thought: a drug-laced Hell on Earth; a contemplative Purgatory where he muses on the life he's lead; and, of course, the eternal bliss of Paradise. He appeases long-time Scarface fans with killer cuts like "In Cold Blood." Over a lilting piano sample courtesy of Gladys Knight, Face proves there is no honor among thieves - and drug pushers - as he dupes a dealer he's working for out of his supply.... The gangsta boogie continues on "I Ain't The One" featuring W.C. and "Guess Who's Back" featuring Jay-Z and Beanie Sigel. Over Kanye West's pounding keys and interlaced strings, Jigga and Beanie Mac bookend Face's declaration of financial independence: "From the womb to the tomb / A hot pot of joy and a spoon / Tryin' to make me $40,000 and move...." Beyond being "infectious," this track is downright terminal." Click play, cont'd...

The album pivots on tracks like the more reflective "In Between Us" which pairs angelic moans and plucky chords with a stripped-down and vulnerable Nas who steers the song like a suicidal conductor: "Circumstances are like my first fight / I lost it / Was swingin' / My arms buggin' / Adrenaline pumpin' / Oh shit, this little n!@@a's thuggin'...." Uncle Face let's the young'un ride on this one but comes back on "Sellout" with his own thug speak: "I been in fist fights with n!@@as twice my size / Got an incredible record, 27 and five / And the five losses I got, I had to redeem 'em / So he had to fight me every time I seen 'em." Though he painstakingly details his struggles with vices and men, it's Face's battle for his soul that is the most compelling. On songs like the Kelly Price-assisted "What Can I Do?" Face crafts sermons for street disciples who spray paint altars to pay tribute to saints in the 'hood. Kirk Franklin he is not." (The Source). The review continues to champion the LP, but you get the idea. You can't forget the classic single, "My Block," nor The Neptunes-produced "Someday" with Faith Evans. All-around, The Fix rightfully earned the highly coveted 5-mic review! Released on this day in '02, Scarface's The Fix should be revisited, and if you own the CD, break out the plastic baggy that held the liner notes and read more! Also, pick up a copy of Brad 'Scarface' Jordan's book, Diary of a Madman, for more required reading. Salute, 'Face!

August 05, 2020

Kenny Dope "Nervous Hip-Hop" + Billboard Magazine (1995)

Nervous backs such artists as Black Moon, a Brooklyn, NY, collective that came out before hard-edged heroes the Notorious B.I.G. and the Wu-Tang Clan. Its album "Enta Da Stage," sold 225,000 units, according to Soundscan, and stomped mudholes in the comeback trail for East Coast rap... The label also has Mad Lion, whose rap single, "Take It Easy" (205,000 copies sold), pre-dated the current trend toward dancehall over hip-hop beats.... Other acts on the Nervous roster with developing singles are... Funkmaster Flex ("Safe Sex, No Freaks"), ...  Kaotic Style ("Get In Where You Fit In") and Broadway ("Brothers Dyin' Everyday"). Viewing itself as a cutting-edge independent, Nervous runs on simple street knowledge... Sam Weiss, who owns the label with his son, Michael, started in the business "many years ago" and has functioned as a distributor, manufacturer and publisher... Besides having Flex on the label, Nervous regularly uses such studio deities as Beatminerz, the team responsible for Black Moon and Smif-N-Wessun, another best-selling rap act; KRS-One, who supervised Mad Lion's "Real Ting" album; Kenny "Dope" Gonzaels [and more] ... Nervous is actually an umbrella company for several specialty imprints... Weeded handles reggae. Wreck manages hip-hop. Strapped deals in break beats... All are represented by logos featuring variations of a lively cartoon figure, which are marketed on promotional t-shirts." - Billboard (8/26/95).

That same year, to promote the label and its various imprints, Kenny Dope blended sixteen of the hottest tracks to ever come from the Nervous Records sub-labels Wreck, Weeded, and Strapped - back when Black Moon, Smif-N-Wessun, and Mad Lion were all signed and dropping the most memorable records of their careers. Along with the classics like “I Gotcha Opin,” “Bucktown,” “How Many Emcees,” and “Who Got Da Props” are some rare break records by Funkmaster Flex, The Groove Asylum, and Wreck All-Stars. The retail mixtape/compilation was called Nervous Hip-Hop (A Continuous Mix by Kenny Dope). I cop'd this mix-CD at Tower Records in the Village in '95 & still listen to it today. You can stream the project above or officially via Spotify. Below is an original sticker and examples of their official logos. One of my prized possessions from that time were their logo-designed slipmats. Everyone DJ/fan had them on their tables at the time! Who got da props?

August 04, 2020

One Be Lo "C Section" (Album Stream)

The cover art is a picture of the Pontiac Northern Huskies, High school basketball team. This game was against our rivals, Pontiac Central. We are huddled up on a time out with 46.9 seconds left on the clock, and the legendary Coach Sy Green (R.I.P.) is hunched over with his arm around me (Number 21), giving us instructions before we go back in the game. I don’t remember the final score, be we ended up winning this game by 2 or 4 points. That huddle was intense but we were cool under pressure. This picture reminds me of Teamwork, Hard work, Dedication, Never giving up, Struggle, Overcoming adversity, just to name a few. This was my senior year and I was a team captain. My teammates nicknamed me 'Scrappy Doo' because my defense was relentless and I always scrapped for the ball. As of July 2020, the whole globe has been in a state of pandemic for the last 4 months at least. Many cities and countries were forced into quarantine to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, many businesses shut down and even the NBA was brought to a standstill...

While in quarantine, the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others lit a spark and protests erupted in cities worldwide, demanding justice for those wrongfully killed. Breonna Taylor was killed while sleeping in her home by Police Officers who entered the wrong home on a no knock warrant, and her killers have yet to be arrested or charged with any crime. These events lead some of the most influential players in Professional basketball to speak about refusing to play until some major reforms were made in the United States. Now as of July 2020, the NBA is scheduled to restart on July 30, 2020 to finish out the 2019-2020 season. Some people have even criticized the NBA as being a distraction during these tumultuous times, while others have argued that playing could also bring attention and resources to individuals and groups working towards justice. It has been my intention to bounce back when the NBA restarts, but with my contribution in revolutionary fashion. This project is intended to call attention to several conversations ranging from Police reform and abuse of power that continues where Colin Kaepernick kneeling in the NFL left off, the safety of Vaccines, 2020 being an election year, and more. The NBA is scheduled to restart with all games played in Orlando, with no crowds in attendance, for safety measures. Section C will be empty, but hopefully the protesting, the dedication, the teamwork, the struggle and so on will continue. - One Be Lo. Listen and support!

August 03, 2020

DJ Filthy Rich "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx" (25th Anniv. Mix, Part 1)

25 Years ago, Raekwon dropped his game-changing 'Only Built 4 Cuban Linx'... It was monumental, and arguably the apex of the Wu-Tang Clan solo catalog. This LP cemented Raekwon & Ghostface Killah as a dynamic duo as they formed their own clique-within-the-clique, effortlessly passing each other the baton over RZA's cinematic production. Weaving intricate stories of street tales, mixed with 5%-er knowledge, this project played out like a feature film. Vividly spit in their coded slanguage, you felt like you were right there next to them on the island of Staten. With his mix, DJ Filthy Rich tries to maintain the original feel of the LP, while adding some original samples and blends to switch things up a bit. A true student of the game, Filthy Rich pays tribute to the Purple Tape by splitting his mix tape into two parts - or two sides - like the original Purple Tape. Dig into Side A/Part 1 below, and stay tuned for Side B to follow from Toronto's DJ Filthy Rich. Hit the archives for more...

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 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 30, 2020

A Tribe Called Quest "Beats, Rhymes and Life" (July 30, 1996)

Gone on Beats, Rhymes and Life was their characteristic bottom-heavy, thick-bass, replaced by a newer, airy and soul-sample-based quality, rooted in tricks that would become Dilla's signature. This album's sample template was significantly smaller, with most songs having only one sample and a few having none at all. The album essentially showcased J Dilla's blooming talents. It took Dilla mere minutes to make some beats on the record, like the ominous and sparse "Get a Hold," the second song on the album, which features samples from William DeVaughn's "Be Thankful for What You Got" and The Cyrkle's "The Visit." According to (House)Shoes, it took him twelve minutes total -- most of the time was spent getting the drums. Once he got those, he chopped the sample and put the loop on top in three minutes. Where Tip was meticulous and microscopic in his pursuit of perfection, Dilla was immediate and haphazardly brilliant, and he provided the group with a sonic balance. - Go Ahead In The Rain (2019), an incredible book/love letter to A Tribe Called Quest. Click play, cont'd below...

Beats was reviewed in New York Magazine (9/2/96), saying, "Q-Tip and Phife give a pilgrims' progress. Beats, Rhymes, and Life is an odyssey of personal growth, a Bildungsroman with jazz samples. The record's no breakthrough for them, but it sustains some of the highest musical standards in hip-hop. Beats's triumph is that it charts an acknowledgement of hip-hop's limitations without sounding glum, scolding, or, worse yet, willfully mature. Pretty remarkable given that one of its subtle themes is a conversion to Islam. Part of this success comes from how seamlessly Tribe incorporates narratives into mesmerizing loops and percolating lyrics. Over a panoramic seventies-funk track, Q-Tip and Phife's workaday vignettes would sound faintly ridiculous. But the producer has refined a cozy, jazzy, gritty aural signature that makes them work, unfolding within a fun, sensual, even transporting record. But Beats's most lasting quality has more to do with soul and charm of its characters. In their vaudevillian trade-offs (finishing each other's lines, rhyming a girl's kiss-off in falsetto), Q-Tip and Phife remain funny and engaging enough to counsel just-say-no sentiments -- to drugs, violence, desperation, nihilism -- without sounding preachy, just seasoned. Even expressing the same dismay over current rap trends as De La Soul, Q-Tip rhymes are marvels of playful, rhythmic push-and-pull... His thoughtfulness sounds rugged, warm, and infectious. He may remind us, somewhat heretically, that his hip-hop is "only wordplay," but the pleasure in it says something else. I think of the Clash's Joe Strummer, of all people, who had his own punk quotable: 'Rock, hip-hop, whatever you call it ... the unspoken message is that it's fun to be alive. It's a hell of a lot better than being dead.' You don't always have to shout to send it." I still have mixed feelings about the album, but I do love "Stressed Out," "1nce Again" & "The Hop", unconditionally. Thoughts?

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...

July 28, 2020

EPMD "Business Never Personal" (July 28, 1992)

The members of EPMD (Erick Sermon and Parrish Making Dollars) don't want to be media angels loved and adored by millions. They'd rather be hardcore -- and consistently well-paid... "I'm satisfied with the same fans I've had for the last five years," says Erick Sermon (aka E-Double E). His partner Parrish Smith (aka Pee MD) adds "We just want to focus on the relationship we have with our audience." To this end, Def Jam will release EPMD's fourth album, "Business Never Personal" ... "We just did what we do," says Smith, who produced the release with Sermon. The album, which doesn't deviate from the loopy, often amusing basement style developed on their previous efforts, is being previewed by the Zapp-influenced single "Crossover," which came out July 2nd. It advocates creative control as it admonishes the hip-hop sellouts... Other tracks on "Business Never Personal" further expound of EPMD's hardcore principles. "Don't Play Me Play The Next Man" delivers a warning to skeezers. "Boon Dox" reveals where EPMD comes from, and "Nothing But The Music" brags about what the act relies on for success. On two cuts the group freestyles with K-Solo, Redman, and Das EFX -- acts that are part of EPMD's Hit Squad production crew. And there's yet another chapter in the saga of that neighborhood female with "an Anita Baker haircut," Jane ("Who Killed Jane"). Meanwhile, "Headbanger" advises fans who want to purchase "Business Never Personal" to "drop by Sam Goody's." This is EPMD's contribution to the battle hip-hop acts wage against bootleggers. The article in Billboard (July 11, 1992) goes on to claim that Erick Sermon felt an additional 1.5 million copies of Strictly Business were bootlegged, and that artists would approach vendors with guns drawn, but it's better to just stick to the music. The label also shared that "At retail, Sony will distribute "business cards" containing an 800 number. "When you call it, you will hear bits of songs from the album as well as messages from Erick and Parrish." I miss the 800 numbers, but I don't remember calling for Business Never Personal, despite it getting a ton of replay value form me in 1992. EPMD's Business Never Personal was released on this day in 1992. Revisit the LP below...

Below is the full article in Billboard with marketing plans and more...

July 27, 2020

Fat Joe Da Gangsta "Represent" (July 27, 1993)

Drop what you're doing and get a fix of this lyrical dope being pumped city wide by Fat Joe. He used to juggle the lyrical jumbs back in the day with Dee Jay (oh, excuse me) Kool DJ Red Alert - lighting up NYC with the fat radio promos for 98.7 KISS FM. In 9-3 Mr. Fat Flow Joe rolls solo, Latino mafioso style - loading the clip with rich beats and selecting lyrical styles as if they were various models of guns - in order to represent that Uptown-Boogie Down home gangsta sound. Listen for the sounds Joe makes in the night as he extorts your local badbwoy sound system for volume and delivers the uncut product that will ring bells in hell. But Joe can't do it alone so he makes sure the rest of his family gets a cut. Special guests from the NY central include Ski, Grand Puba, King Sun, Showbiz & AG, Diamond D, Apache and Kool G. Rap. Click play and continue below...

The first single, the haunting "Flow Joe," has that mid-tempo underarm Teamster swing to it, but it doesn't do justice to the other bits of uncooked talent and fit-unk the rest of the album provides. When he's not tellin' shorty that she got a fat ass, he's tellin' suckers how he's going to do them. Nevertheless, livin' fat is the central theme. But the question remains: Is Fat Joe a bad, bad man or just another rapper riding the gangsta wave? In any case, he's never been busted and is not to be f#cked with - he just wants to tie his fans up with fat laces and stay around longer than Nike. Just do it, Joe. - The Source (9/93). "Flow Joe" was all over the radio at the time, that beat is still crazy to me. Props to Joey Crack. Dig into the tags/archives for more content from Fat Joe in 1993. 

Fat Joe released a commercial in 1993 for Represent, watch it below...

July 27, 2020

Top Shelf Premium "Real Late With Rosenberg" (May 5, 2020)

Here's the Top Shelf Premium cassette edition of Real Late with Rosenberg on Hot 97 (May 05, 2020). Peter Rosenberg spins a ton of underground heat after midnight on Hot 97, reminiscent of the old college radio days, and regrettably, it probably feels like a thankless position for him at times. The mix features music from some underground elites such as Crimeapple, Al Divino, KA, Pounds, Estee Nack and the Griselda camp. Top Shelf Premium was created in 2012, and is explained on their website as a "curated lifestyle involving vintage clothing - artist styling - creating merchandise and providing a platform for hip hop to live. Top Shelf Premium not only sells history through its archive - it creates history through its actions." HBD, Top Shelf Premium! Follow HERE.

July 26, 2020

Take It Personal Podcast "Black Thought Episode"

Episode 68 of the Take It Personal podcast is a reminder to always think big. Black Thought isn't just one of our favorites, he is arguably the greatest rapper in the game. And despite where he might be on your top list, there is no doubt that after you listen to TIP's Black Thought Tribute, he will be bumped up in your ranking. A rapper of this magnitude deserves a proper tribute, which is why they've broken this tribute up into 2-parts. Along with the tribute mix is a great interview where they discuss the new album Streams of Thought, Vol. 3, working with Danger Mouse; the late Kobe Bryant, as well as the upcoming musical he wrote and will be starring in titled "Black No More". We find out if there's a new Roots album on it's way, delve into some Roots stories such as Malik B, Razhel, getting signed to Geffen and what the "actual" release date was for "Do You Want More?!!!??!". They talk Philly, food, classic hip-hop and much more. This interview was more like a conversation with your favorite super hero. Listen to Part One below, and stay tuned for more...