August 30, 2020

The LOX "Living Off Xperience" (Album Stream)

The LOX have released their new 14-track album Living Off Xperience on D-Block and Roc Nation Records. The album features the legendary DMX of Ruff Ryders, Grammy-Award winning producer Scram Jones, consistent hit-maker T-Pain, Jeremih, both Westside Gunn and Benny The Butcher from Griselda Records, and more. The new album also features additional production from a who’s who of legendary producers including Swizz Beatz, Scott Storch, AraabMuzik, Nottz, Statik Selektah, and Large Professor. The Yonkers’ trio of Jadakiss, Styles P, and Sheek Louch have after 22 years since their debut album released their fourth group studio album together and their first in almost three and a half years since their successful ‘Filthy America… It’s Beautiful’ which charted well in late 2016. This new album clocking in at 57-minutes sees The LOX return as expected with their signature gritty lyrical delivery coupled with the traditional New York sound that is likely to be well received by their legions of loyal fans accumulated over the years. - via The Source. Dig in...

August 27, 2020

OutKast "ATLiens" (August 27, 1996)

The evolution of hip-hop music into a greater art form will never occur if the artists and their producers themselves don't grow as individuals. Outkast and their producers, Organized Noize, understand that without growth, audiences mature beyond the artists. Their sophomore release, "ATLiens," represents a big change in faith, philosophy, and deed for the Atlanta duo. As the album title suggests, Big Boi and Dre have gone out of this world into a new dimension of sight, sound, and mind. While Big Boi speaks of embracing the responsibilities of manhood on cuts like "Decatur Psalm," Dre, like a disciple cleansing himself in baptismal water, gives voice to personal spiritual rejuvenation and renunciation of his former worldly ways on songs like "Babylon," "E.T.," and "Millennium." Outkast transcends by descending neighborhood scenery, leaving the audience to expand its imagination. "ATLiens" is socially responsible, spiritual, and street all at the same time. Almost like in the Twilight Zone, or the Million Man March, or at a southern Baptist revival, "ATLiens" embodies the power and the spirit of black music. When the offering plate begins to make its rounds, your undivided attention is the only payment required. - The Source, '96. Listen below...

The B-Side to the picture disc copy of OutKast's ATLiens LP...

August 26, 2020

DJ S&S "Buttah Tape" (Mixtape, 1994)

This is a Columbia Records mix tape from DJ S&S in 1994, called "Buttah Tape." If you were outside at the time, you probably remember the compilation CD that Columbia Records sent out called No Doubt ... This Is What It's About. It featured early tracks from Nas, Big L, Kurious, Fugees, Jamal-Ski, Tiger, Diana King and others. This mix tape is very similar in terms of track selection and artists, although it also includes tracks from Kris Kross, Schooly D and Super Cat. Columbia Records also sent out the infamous slipmats with logos from Nas, Kurious, and Big L in black and orange. Anyhow, it's a fine mix tape, which was uploaded by DJ Step One via Grime & Lime - much respect to them! 

Here's the original slipmat in case you aren't familiar & tracklist from the CD...

August 25, 2020

Jay Royale "The Baltimore Housing Project" (Album Stream)

The Baltimore Housing Project is the sophomore full-length album from Baltimore's Jay Royale. He brings production to the LP from J Soul, M.W.P., Ray Sosa, Ice Rocks, Trevor Lang, Mika Dough and Level 13, as well as heavy features from Skyzoo, Ransom, Ill Conscious, and Termanology. There's a really solid scene in the underground out in Baltimore, they've contributed a lot to the culture in the last few years. This is another fine release, matching ill beats and with potent lyricism. Dig in...

August 24, 2020

Marlowe "Marlowe II" (Album Stream)

L'Orange & Solemn Brigham are Marlowe. Marlowe is a collaborative alt-rap project from North Carolina-based hip-hop producer L'Orange and rapper Solemn Brigham. Their unique blend of quick-fire vocals and dusty breakbeats is most well-known on tracks such as "Lost Arts" and "Tales From The East." The project came together in 2018 with the intent of marrying Brigham's lyrics concerning social commentary, police brutality, and poverty with L'Orange's thudding beats and crackling vinyl samples to achieve a new, refreshing take on hip-hop in modern times. Marlowe 2 seeks to continue that legacy. Dig into Marlowe's latest LP released via Mello Music Group below...

August 23, 2020

DJ Evil Dee "Nasdee Bushwick Joint" (Mixtape, 1995)

This is DJ Evil Dee's Tape Kingz release of Nasdee Bushwick Joint, and it's yes, it's NASTY! The mix tape features joints from 1995 with Junior M.A.F.I.A., Redman, Grand Puba, Whitey Don (ft. Phife & Chip Fu), Lords of the Underground (ft. Keith Murray), Gang Starr, Onyx, KGB, Mobb Deep, AZ, GZA, Special Ed, Tha Alkaholiks, Pudgee The Phat Bastard (ft. B.I.G. & Lord Tariq), Kali Ranks, Little Shawn, Raekwon, U.T.D., and more! DJ Evil Dee was holdin' down Hot 97 on Monday Nights at the time, and it felt like the inmates were running the building. He's always represented for the underground heads. Listen to the mix below and much respect to DJ Evil Dee and Mr. Walt, two of the nicest brothers!

August 22, 2020

Nas + 2Pac + Redman + B.I.G. at Club Amazon (1993)

It's the photo that broke the hip-hop internet. The research for this book [Contact High] turned up a never-before-seen image of young Tupac and Nas at a party at Club Amazon on the West Side of Manhattan. Al Pereira was already known for his shot of Biggie, Tupac, and Redman that was taken on the same night, but he didn't realize the other image existed until he looked at the contact sheet nearly twenty-five years later. According to Al Pereira, he was shooting photos of Tupac, "then Redman jumps into the shot and this big guy came over. I had no idea who Biggie was, so to me he was just some guy ruining my shot of the famous guys. Nas was the other guy in the frame that I didn't know, but he came over and they were all posing together, having fun. I was just clicking and in the energy of it all. I also love that the image meant so much to Nas as it showed one of his closest confidants, Draws, in several frames. I am thrilled that my photography contributed to hip-hop history and the narratives of two legends before they were famous, just hanging out." The pic was taken in 1993. If you don't own Contact High - once again! - go pick it up!

August 21, 2020

Nas "King's Disease" (Album Stream)

King's Disease is the thirteenth studio album by legendary eMCee, Nas. It was released today through Mass Appeal Records. The album features appearances from Foxy Brown, Dr. Dre, Cormega and AZ as The Firm, as well as Anderson Paak, A$AP Ferg, Big Sean, Brucie B, Charlie Wilson, Don Toliver, Fivio Foreign, Hit-Boy and Lil Durk. The album is produced by Hit-Boy, with additional production by Gabriel Zardes. King's Disease is the first album I've listened to on the day of its release in quite a long time. Although I'm still making my way through it - slowly digesting it - I've enjoyed what I've heard thus far! I've been disappointed by the early reviews I've read: fans/media are still comparing new material against his debut opus Illmatic and complaining that the music is catering to the mainstream. I'm amazed this is still a conversation in 2020, lol. Sure, I'd like to hear a Nas and DJ Premier album, too ... but I wasn't expecting some underground shit from Hit-Boy and I'm not gonna discredit the content and the skill of Nas, just because it's not 1994 anymore. Cut it out. Mind you, that's coming from someone who hustles nostalgia, the irony isn't lost on me! There's plenty to dig into with this release, just approach it with an open mind. And I can't let this post go up without saying that AZ is still razor sharp, too: "Dialog superb, flyest cars on the curb / word, when I evolved the higher God emerged..." Possibly the best verse on the whole project. Update: I've now sat with it for a few days and think it's a solid album. It's got replay value, to me! Dig in...

August 20, 2020

Nick Bondz "Uplifting Selections #7" (Mixtape, 1996)

Dancehall blend tapes with hip-hop beats might not be the craze today, but back in the mid-90s, these tapes were in high-demand! Anyone remember the Tape Kingz catalogs? If you were ordering your mix tapes, there's a solid chance you gambled and picked up a copy of a Nick Bondz tape, and were hooked. He put in some quality blends, and dancehall/reggae selections on ALL of his mix tapes, of which there were over a dozen. This here is Uplifting Selections #7 from 1996. It features blends from Cutty Ranks, Beenie Man, Capleton, Mega Banton, Jigsy King, Buju Banton, General Degree, Spragga Benz, Lady Saw, Burro Banton, Junior Reid, the Fugees, Beenie Man, and more. If this tape sounds like it's for you, it is! Dig in, and hit the tags below for more dancehall content...

August 19, 2020

O.C. "Jewelz" (August 19, 1997)

Emphasizing the value of art over commerce with an assured probity seldom demonstrated by his contemporaries, O.C.'s debut album, Word...Life, was a spirited boon to hip-hop purists that had been searching for an icon to articulate their ideology. Rare had an MC preached the importance of street credibility and ghetto gold with a blatancy as evident as O.C. did on "Time's Up." Strangely, his meager commercial success seemed to strengthen his underground support and, for better or worse, he became the purist's model spokesman. Three years later, and facing the litmus test of his sophomore album, O.C. responds on his second single, "Far From Yourz," in a way not even his most devout fans would expect: the female crooning of R&B singer Yvette Michelle. Whether you view it as a either soulful shading or an attempt at greater appeal, one thing is certain on Jewelz: O.C. is hardly compromising his MC abilities or selling out. While his first album was an exorcism of personal beliefs-memories of growing up, expositions on inner ideologies-his second album is more of an exercise in pure skill. For the most part, O.C. doesn't have anything to say that carries the same weight as "Time's Up," but you're drawn to the ways he says it. Brimming with East Coast-style musical textures, the Lord Finesse-produced title track and the Buckwild-blessed "The Chosen One," elicit the same type of emotive spirit found on album one, but it's the cuts like the DJ Premier-produced "M.U.G." (with Freddie Foxxx), and "My World," that are indicative of O's new steelo: non-stop, bending lyrical rhapsodies. Although Jewelz doesn't possess the conceptual glue necessary to hold this album together, O.C.'s ability to captivate a listener with the purity of his delivery is what drives this album. Unlike most rappers, he is a skilled wordsmith with a sincere dedication to his craft. Still shining and still climbing. - The Source (9/97). I still love this album, revisit it below...

The original 3.5 mic-review in The Source (September, 1997)...

August 18, 2020

Josiah The Gift "Iron Mic" (Album Stream)

Iron Mic by Josiah The Gift has been out almost a month - YUP, I'm 100% late to the party on this one, but give me a pass and embrace that I finally showed up! Iron Mic is a 17-track offering from the Jersey MC, who built the inspiration for the project off the heavyweight champ, Iron Mike Tyson. A hint of Ghostface, too - not only the tribute track but filtered throughout his flow and delivery on the LP. The album features production from Rob Deniro, Mosbeats, King David Beats, Nautilus, The Roses, The Prospect, Freemind, Bishop, Pad Scientist, Frank Grimes, Kheyzine, Farmabeats, and Hobgoblin, as well as features from HooksArthur, DJ Jon Doe, Generalbackpain, Snotty, Pro Dillinger and Jamil Honesty. Dig into it below and much props to Ficlopsis on the artwork.

August 17, 2020

Mobb Deep "Murda Muzik" (August 17, 1999)

The high-profile album that is hyped and delayed beyond expectation only to fail to live up to the fanfare is an all too common tale in hip-hop. Such is not the case with Murda Muzik, the fourth joint from Queensbridge alchemists Mobb Deep. Unquestionably one of the most anticipated rap releases of the year [1999], Havoc and Prodigy's basement-born collision of ominously minimalist breakbeats and insightfully infamous poetics have never sounded so mature and defined, particularly on the tracks such as "Allustrious" and "Quiet Storm." Even the album's newest cuts impress, particularly "Can't Fuck Wit" with Raekwon and "It's Mine" with fellow Queensbridge product Nas. Cop that! - CMJ (9/99). Man, I remember coppin' a  bootleg of Murda Muzik at a neighborhood carwash! in the spring of '99, lol. That's how much this project was leaked, bootlegged and highly anticipated! The production was incredible, adding The Alchemist's production to Hav and P's already gritty soundscapes, and also featured vocals from Big Noyd, Cormega, Lil' Cease, 8 Ball, Kool G Rap and, of course, Lil' Kim on the smash remix to "Quiet Storm." People don't talk about Murda Muzik as much as they do The Infamous or Hell On Earth, but the replay value is nearly as intense, so revisit this classic below - released on this day in 1999! Dig up the bootlegs, too, for some extra tracks! lol.

Below is a review in Spin Magazine + the Platinum Party flyer...

August 17, 2020

Yo! MTV Raps "Final Episode" (August 17, 1995)

Wax Poetics explains, "Yo! MTV Raps exploded onto cable television on August 6, 1988. Yo! MTV Raps was a huge hit because it was necessary. Perhaps the most potent catalyst in hip-hop’s infiltration of the mainstream, Yo! beamed future superstars and regional rap heroes alike into living rooms for the first time ever." On August 17, 1995, Yo! MTV Raps aired its final episode, which concluded with an epic freestyle cipher featuring legends like Rakim, KRS-One, Erick Sermon, MC Serch, Redman, Method Man, Craig Mack, Chubb Rock, Large Professor, Special Ed, and hosted by Doctor Dre and Ed Lover. From 1996 to 1999, MTV repackaged it as simply Yo! The repackaged version was far more stripped down. Yo! had a weekly slate of special guest hosts. For instance, Angie Martinez and Fatman Scoop served as its hosts. By 1998, Yo! had no guest hosts and became a one-hour program airing late Friday nights at 1 a.m. or 1:30 a.m. In 2000, MTV's outlet for hip-hop videos became Direct Effect, known since 2006 as Sucker Free. As time goes by, MTV has played less and less music videos, but you already knew that! I miss these old days, so once again, reminisce with me below...

August 16, 2020

Organized Konfusion "Stress: The Extinction Agenda" (8/16/94)

The title ["Stress--The Extinction Agenda"] explains their album in two ways... The first part of the title, "stress", represents the time frame from before they finished their debut LP up until now and simply reflects all of the different ups and downs the group went through. Stress in the form of five deaths in their crew, disappointing sales from their first album resulting in money being short, disappointing listeners who did not want to figure out and appreciate their music. Prince explains the second part of the title, "Extinction Agenda" -- "extinction means to put something out permanently and we're trying to tell people that whatever's stopping you from getting ahead you gotta make them extinct, put them on the side, make them stay there, let them be dead. It also means Organized is gonna go all out, and do whatever we gotta do to get where we gotta go". "Stress--The Extinction Agenda" is as much about struggle as it is about how to deal with it. The two songs that best exemplify the dichotomy of their title would be "Stress" and "Black Sunday". In "Stress" they energetically shout in the chorus the directive to "Krush, Kill, Destroy Stress". In "Black Sunday", the group reflects on what they had to do to get where they are and being thankful for it, but still realizing they have a way to go to get where they want to be. Other key conceptual songs that fulfill the albums meaning are "Fight for Life", "Maintain", "Stray Bullet", and "Why". "Fight for Life" and "Maintain" tell people to do just that. "Stray Bullet" is about the unfortunate growing incidences of innocent bystanders, young and old, being struck and murdered by bullets that have missed their criminal targets. "Why", which is a sureshot anthem, is about as Prince explains "some girl shit where girls try to play n!@@-- out who have their shit on point!" 

....But of course it wouldn't be Organized Konfusion without the confusion and the rest of the album is a testament to why they are considered pioneers on the cutting edge at lyrical mastery and innovation. On "Bring It On", Monch rips a phoenetical freestyle frenzy with a pronounced stuttering style for the duration of three lines on his verse (warning: this should not be tried at home!) On "Extinction Agenda", Prince flexes a boast rap but takes it to the extreme where wack MCs fall off in a "scenario of a barren land... and you see limbs and body and he's corroded". The album rounds off with two pleasant surprises -- "Thirteen" which is a Monch solo and "Bounce" which is Prince's solo. "Bounce" features quick cameos from their boys OCee and Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest on the chorus. ... In a time where most Hip-Hop artist have big singles but disappointing albums Organized Konfusion offer a refreshingly complete package and show the sum can and should be greater than its parts. In a time also where most Hip-Hop artists depend heavily on gimmicks and/or portraying gangsters or politicians that they are not, Organized Konfusion show that you can draw from within and still be accepted. "We put our hearts and souls in it. While we gettin' payed at the same time we want to be real." - Bio, 1994. Also, check out 2DBZ's great look back at the album in 2015. One of my favorite projects [ever], read the full biography of O.K. below. As of today, the LP is not available on streaming platforms, but I trust they are working on it! MORE.

August 15, 2020

David Begun "All Eyez On The Hussle" (Mixtape)

Here's the latest remix project from David Begun; it's entitled All Eyez On The Hussle. David Begun shares the following message along with its release, "Nipsey Hussle was dubbed by many people as his generation's 2Pac. From his music and words to his tragic end, he embodied the spirit that Pac had and left behind. This mashup combines Nipsey's powerful lyrics with the music from Pac's catalog. Their combination blends together and it seems almost as if Nipsey's words were destined for the vibe that 2Pac himself rapped over almost two decades ago." Unfortunately, I can't promise this project will remain online, so listen while you can and give me a shout if it gets taken down. Rest In Peace to both 2Pac and Nipsey Hussle, two of the most impactful artists from our culture. It's also Nipsey Hussle's born day today - I don't have a playlist ready, so I hope you'll dig into this...

August 14, 2020

Onyx "The Untold Story of Onyx" (Documentary)

Southside Queens' Onyx originally consisted of Fredro Starr, Sticky Fingaz, Sonny Seeza (Suave'), Big D.S and producer ChySkillz. Onyx was one of Hip Hop's biggest groups, spearheaded by the legendary DJ - Jam Master Jay of RUN DMC. Onyx defied the odds in 1993 and took an aggressive sound, style and movement to become platinum-plus. This documentary, The Untold Story of Onyx, was written and created by James "Kraze" Billings and highlights their career in music, television as well as in film. If you've seen the documentaries on Audio Two, Stezo, Blahzay Blahzay, Biz Markie and others, then you know what to expect. Fredro Starr and Sticky Fingaz are still representin' the Onyx brand as a group and in their solo efforts. Dig into the archives for some of those releases...

August 13, 2020

Cypress Hill "Cypress Hill" (August 13, 1991)

"When you really want to hear something different take a trip deep, deep underground and you will find Cypress Hill ominously lamping in a thick cloud of buddah smoke. The Cypress Hill experience is purely pscyho-delic. Imagine a rhythmic, progressive tribe vibe combined with ultraviolent gangsta grooves. The music is dark and murky yet it remains hard and funky at the same time. Cypress takes a straight-up uncompromising look at life in the urban battlefield with songs like "Pigs," "Kill A Man," and "Hand on the Pump." DJ Muggs, formerly of 7A3, provides the heavily blunted beats while MC's Senen (Sen Dog) and B-Real kick ballistics in a crazy offbeat and unorthodox style.... this slamming debut album is one of the best new albums of '91. It will definitely have heads nodding - and nodding out - this summer and beyond." - The Source (August, 1991). That's a big compliment when you consider the classic albums that were released in 1991: NWA "Efil4zaggin," EPMD "Business As Usual," Brand Nubian "All For One," De La Soul "De La Soul Is Dead," Gang Starr "Step In The Arena," Main Source "Breaking Atoms," A Tribe Called Quest "Low End Theory" and Naughty By Nature's self-titled album, just to name a few! Cypress Hill was also named "Artist of the Year - Group" by The Source in '92. The LA Times gave the album a mostly-favorable review, however they felt, "the tracks are built around the simplest of repeated patterns, as if the producers had just figured out how to work a sampler." I think they missed the mark, not understanding the true genius behind Muggs' production. Their debut LP was released on this day in 1991, revisit it below!

Copies of some of the press for Cypress Hill's debut in 1991...

August 12, 2020

Kendrick Lamar's "Control" Verse (August 12, 2013)

August 12, 2013: Coming off good kid, m.A.A.d city, one of the most critically acclaimed albums of the decade, rapper Kendrick Lamar could have rested on his laurels. Instead he stole the spotlight on Big Sean's 2013 single "Control," going bonkers with wordplay for almost three minutes and calling out 11 emerging rappers by name. More than a dozen response songs turned up and Billboard reported that Lamar gained more than 200,000 Twitter followers in the track's wake. Here's nine ways that this verse changed the game. While "Control" was serviced to radio stations, it didn't appear on Big Sean's Hall of Fame album, nor was it sold on iTunes or Amazon as a standalone track, nor was it given away as a free download. The official explanation is that No I.D.'s unauthorized sample usage precluded its sale, including Jay Z's "Where I'm From", Terrace Martin's "Get Bizy" and Seventies Chilean folk band Quilapay├║n's "El Pueblo Unido Jamas San Vencido." It's surprising that the biggest music conglomerate in the world didn't clear those samples for the most-talked about rap song of 2013. But perhaps that was the problem: "Control" arguably overshadowed Big Sean's Hall of Fame, a critical and commercial disappointment that only yielded a modest Top 40 hit in "Beware." ... "Control" inspired responses from B.o.B, Joell Ortiz, Lupe Fiasco, Joey Bada$$, Joe Budden, Meek Mill and many, many others. More than being the "Roxanne, Roxanne" of the new millennium, the subtext is that rappers responded to Lamar with actual songs and freestyles. Twitter rants, YouTube threats and random keyboard dissing no longer sufficed. - Rolling Stone (3/11/15).

In addition to all of the popular responses, there was the Juggaknots' Breeze Brewin - a favorite MC of mine - who slipped one under the radar. Bars like "...But this brother been thunderous, shit is a shame / I'm watching as the other than the under the bus they ain't giving props to / The negative get the focus, dude is better than that / He forever with hella quotes, a future veteran champ / But the disrespect to the meccas, come on fella relax / Shit is simple, expected better, I'm just telling you flat / See I ain't running up on you, I ain't trying to murder your vibe / In Terminal 5, it was me my son and my daughter / Was major when Section 80 was previous to the hoopla / I'm saying wrecking it crazy, I'll give it up to this dude, bars..." Ironically, at the same time as "Control" dropped, my artist Eternia had unknowingly released a song herself that day, amidst the internet going ablaze with commentary about Kendrick, and her song was a 'Tribute to Kendrick' as she flipped his "Hiii Power" single. Fortunately some publications still supported it, but needless to say, releasing music on the same day as "Control" was a case of bad timing at its worst, lol. "I got love for you all but I'm tryna murder you n!@@as..." Revisit the track, which was released on this day in 2013 above, as well as Breeze's response below, and apologies if the lyrics to Breeze's verse are incorrect, after all the pic of Breeze on Genius is actually J-Zone and still no one has fixed it!

August 12, 2020

J.PERIOD "The Live Mixtape: Shaolin Edition" (1 & 2)

J.PERIOD Presents The Live Mixtape: Shaolin Edition. His Tribute to Wu-Tang Clan, Part 1, was recorded LIVE on August 3, 2020. The 90-minute tribute to Shaolin's finest features Wu exclusives, new J.PERIOD remixes, rare freestyles, demos tracks and lots more! Keeping up with his prolific pace of releases, J.PERIOD released a Part 2 a week later, and includes additional remixes from J. Period, featured tracks and more. These Live recorded mixes have added a new texture to mixtapes and certainly change the way we experience them. There are a few other DJs that have brought us similar experiences, such as Statik Selektah, DJ Evil Dee, MICK Boogie, DJ Mighty Mi and so on, but I'm not sure if they entirely match the same labor of love expressed in these completed J.PERIOD mixes. Dig into the archives for all of J.Period's tribute mixtapes that have been released in the last few months. Click through to read the track lists for both mixes, or just listen to them below...

August 11, 2020

Happy Birthday, Hip-Hop! (August 11, 1973)

On August 11, 1973, an 18-year-old, Jamaican-American DJ who went by the name of Kool Herc (Clive Campbell) threw a Back-To-School Jam with his sister, Cindy Campbell, at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx, New York. During his set, he decided to do something different. Instead of playing the songs in full, he played only their instrumental sections, or “breaks” - sections where he noticed the crowd went wild. During these “breaks” his friend Coke La Rock hyped up the crowd with a microphone. Herc called the technique the "Merry Go-Round." And with that, Hip Hop was born. The flyer for the jam was hand-drawn, and only cost 50 cents for the fellas and 25 cents for the ladies. Kool Herc is celebrated as the architect/founding father of Hip-Hop and 1520 Sedgwick Avenue is historically accepted as the birthplace of Hip-Hop in the Bronx. In 2017, Google celebrated the 44th anniversary of Hip-Hop with a special video (narrated by Fab 5 Freddy) and two turntables to mix "records" on their homepage. Watch below, along with art from Bizar Gomez & a note from Lyor C.

Today we acknowledge and celebrate a cultural revolution that's spanned 47 years and counting. It all started in the NYC Bronx, more commonly known as the Boogie Down Bronx. Following the fallout from the construction of the Cross Bronx Expressway in 1972 that demolished a lot of the neighborhood, times were particularly tough. The youth needed an outlet -  a unifying sound, a beat, a voice to call their own. The Bronx DJ’s and MC’s rose to the task and the city loved them for it. Hip Hop was accessible. A kid with little means and hard work could transform their turntable into a powerful instrument of expression. Starting with folks like DJ Kool Herc, DJ Hollywood, and Grandmaster Flash, the grassroots movement created a new culture of music, art, and dance available to the 5 boroughs of the city and beyond. Hip Hop was also rebellion against several norms of the time, including the overwhelming popularity of disco, which many in the community felt had unjustly overshadowed the recent groundbreaking works of James Brown and other soul impresarios from the 60’s. Specifically, they felt that the relatable storytelling and emotional truths shared in soul and blues had been lost in the pop-centric sounds of Disco. So Hip Hop recaptured that connection, beginning with the pioneers who brought back the evocative BOOM! BAP! rhythms of James Brown's drummer, Clyde Stubblefield. It should be noted that early Hip Hop stood against the violence and drug culture that pervaded the time.... Hip Hop has done exactly what its founders set out to do, whether wittingly or unwittingly. It placed an accessible culture, relatable to any marginalized group in the world, at the forefront of music. In that spirit, here’s to BILLIONS of people getting a brief reminder that “Yes, yes y’all! And it WON’T stop!” - Lyor Cohen. Sources: 1, 2.

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!