August 31, 2022

Mystic "Dreaming In Cursive: The Girl Who Loves Sparklers"


Oakland's Mystic, aka the DU Goddess from Digital Underground, is a GRAMMY-nominated hip hop artist who is also an activist, scholar, community educator, and home chef. She is known for using her art to promote healing, support movements for justice, and build community. Her debut album Cuts For Luck and Scars For Freedom (2001) is easily one of my favorite albums. Mystic released her follow-up LP, Beautiful Resistance, in 2014 and has since been acquiring her masters and getting music onto DSPs. Her podcast series Behind The Journey is a 6-part look into the making of her Grammy-nominated debut. Back once again, her latest effort, Dreaming In Cursive: The Girl Who Loves Sparklers, is entirely produced by Walt Liquor. With a strong IndieGogo campaign, Mystic reached her goal of $18,000 to create multiple visuals for the project, which I'm excited to see. The concept of "black love" is strong throughout and promotes healing through music she categorizes as "healed Black woman music." Experience Dreaming In Cursive: The Girl Who Loves Sparklers below...

August 29, 2022

Roc Marciano & The Alchemist "The Elephant Man's Bones"


It can be unwise to play favorites in the music biz, but maybe nobody told that to The Alchemist. “I really made an album with my favorite rapper and it drops tonight at midnight,” the producer tweeted ahead of the release of his and Roc Marciano’s The Elephant Man’s Bones. “I’m tripping.” Hempstead, Long Island-originating Marciano is no stranger to peer adulation, however. His time as a recording artist dates at least as far back as a stint with Busta Rhymes’ late-’90s Flipmode Squad collective, but the name he has today was made from the string of gritty and impressive solo projects he released across the 2010s. You do need a specific kind of ear to fully appreciate the MC. Roc Marciano raps in the kind of street code that reveals itself to be genius to those who can grasp its nuances. Take this couplet from The Elephant Man’s Bones’ “Daddy Kane”: “I been getting off that soft white long before shorties was rocking Off-White/Water-colored ice, I call it Walter White/Walk with me like a dog might, I got 44 bulldogs, you ain’t got a dog in the fight.” The bars themselves are less complex than they are both slimy and razor-sharp. These are raps to be heeded and, maybe more importantly, enjoyed at a safe distance. Unless, of course, you’re The Alchemist—or album guests Action Bronson, Boldy James, Ice-T, or Knowledge the Pirate—in which case you can’t wait to add some of your own ingredients to Marciano’s cauldron. - via Apple Music. 

August 28, 2022

RZA "Digital Bullet" (August 28, 2001)


Digital Bullet is RZA's second album under his latest alias, as Bobby Digital. It's no shock that he brought Bobby back; the first Digital outing, Bobby Digital in Stereo, was a high mark in the Wu Tang Clan producer's prolific career. What is a bit surprising is the sound of this effort, which frequently stretches all the way back to the mystical murk of the Clan's first album, Enter the Wu-Tang. The muffled beats and disorienting, late-night soundscapes of that hip-hop classic have been imitated countless times since its 1993 release, but nobody does 'em like the RZA, and uneasy tracks like "Must Be Bobby" and "Domestic Violence Pt. 2" seem to bring him full circle -- as does the presence of several Clan members, including the jailed ODB. Even the nods to the mainstream -- "Glocko Pop" and the swaying single "La Rhumba" -- seem, like RZA's best work, to have arrived from a slightly different dimension. Meanwhile, there is a storyline to this installment of the Digital story, but as on In Stereo, listeners have to use some imagination to fill it out; RZA's rhymes are often as evocative and opaque as the kung-fu flicks he loves. But as always, he creates tracks that are more about atmosphere than message -- and when he's on his game, as he is here, it's hard to argue with that approach. - AllMusic. As RZA himself put it, “My birth name is Bobby Diggs. So at the time, creatively, I felt like I was in a digital frame…As Bobby Digital, I could use a character to describe some of the earlier days of my own life. Partying, bullshitting, going crazy, chasing women, taking drugs. It was a mixture of fiction and reality together to make a character I thought would be entertaining.” Audiences reacted by driving the release up to number 24 on the Top 200 and a Top 10 position on the R&B/Hip Hop Albums chart. Now, revisit the RZA's Digital Bullet from 2001 below...


Admittedly, I didn't get into his solo albums at the time, but they grew on me.

August 27, 2022

OutKast "ATLiens" (August 27, 1996 + Tribute Mix)


Though they were likely lost on casual hip-hop fans, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik was full of subtle indications that OutKast were a lot more inventive than your average Southern playas. Their idiosyncrasies bubbled to the surface on their sophomore effort, ATLiens, an album of spacy sci-fi funk performed on live instruments. Largely abandoning the hard-partying playa characters of their debut, Dre and Big Boi develop a startlingly fresh, original sound to go along with their futuristic new personas. George Clinton's space obsessions might seem to make P-Funk obvious musical source material, but ATLiens ignores the hard funk in favor of a smooth, laid-back vibe that perfectly suits the duo's sense of melody. The album's chief musical foundation is still soul, especially the early-'70s variety, but other influences begin to pop up as well. Some tracks have a spiritual, almost gospel feel (though only in tone, not lyrical content), and the Organized Noize production team frequently employs the spacious mixes and echo effects of dub reggae in creating the album's alien soundscapes. In addition to the striking musical leap forward, Dre and Big Boi continue to grow as rappers; their flows are getting more tongue-twistingly complex, and their lyrics more free-associative. Despite a couple of overly sleepy moments during the second half, ATLiens is overall a smashing success thanks to its highly distinctive style, and stands as probably OutKast's most focused work (though it isn't as wildly varied as subsequent efforts). The album may have alienated (pun recognized, but not intended) the more conservative wing of the group's fans, but it broke new ground for Southern hip-hop and marked OutKast as one of the most creatively restless and ambitious hip-hop groups of the '90s. - AllMusic. Today, we're tapping into last year's tribute mix from Toronto's DJ Filthy Rich. Celebrating over 25 years of OutKast's classic album ATLiens, Filthy Rich's mix includes original samples, exclusive blends, and remixes. Listen below because "The South got somethin' to say!" is still relevant to this day. Art above by Torre Pentel. Props to DJ Filthy Rich.

August 26, 2022

Milkcrate "Hip-Hop 50, Vol.1" (Remix Tape)


I'm gonna watch my words and tread carefully here... because to remix ANY project that was originally produced by the G.O.A.T., DJ Premier, is a tall order. Hella ambitious, producer Milkcrate humbly took on the task of remixing the latest EP from DJ Premier, Hip-Hop 50, Vol.1. The project features vocals from Joey Bada$$, Remy Ma, Rapsody, Nas, Run The Jewels, Slick Rick and Lil' Wayne, reflipped with original production by Toronto producer, Milkcrate. With an extensive back catalog of various remixes throughout the years, I admittedly hadn't tapped in with too much despite catching a remix on various playlists. I sat with this because I heard the remix to "Terrible 2's" (featuring Run The Jewels) and it caught my attention. Clicked through and bang, there's the full EP... and it's all equally dope. Whether or not it's better than the original is not a hill I'm prepared to die on, but suffice to say I'm sharing it so you know I think it's worthy of your time and attention. Unfortunately, remix projects often get taken down, so listen/support it below if/while you still can...

August 25, 2022

Lauryn Hill "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" (August 25th, 1998)


The chocolate-skinned twenty-three-year-old working single mom named Lauryn Hill – blessed with a beauty that attracts the fellas without turning away the sistas – is that rare artist who can be righteous and not self-righteous, who thinks a lot of herself without ego tripping. That's partly because she's so very honest – "Every time I try to be," she says in the title song," what someone has thought of me/So caught up, I wasn't able to achieve" – and partly because within her self-love message you can hear her implicitly saying "Love yo'self." Her confidence – "You can't match this rapper-slash-actress/More powerful than two Cleopatras.... MCs ain't ready to take it to the Serengeti/My rhymes is heavy like the mind of Sister Betty," from "Everything Is Everything" – makes you feel confident. She sounds like an artist you could, should, look up to, like Chuck D back in his heyday. She sounds like that before you even realize what she's rhyming about, because the very timbre of her voice – that deep, oven-roasted sound when rhyming, the sweet, melancholy-tinged midrange she owns when singing, the way she always comes confidently from deep within her chest – it communicates a self-respect and self-love. The sound of a woman who takes herself seriously. A sound that recalls, for me, the sharp, strong voice of Joni Mitchell. Joni seems a musical North Star for Lauryn, with her biting honesty, her musical innovativeness that's never exposed in an ornate or showy way, her confidence to keep it simple. Both speak universal truths from a definitely female perch. Revisit Ms. Hill's The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill/album review cont'd below...



Lauryn's epic, adoring tribute to her young son, "To Zion," is one of the album's high points. While the legendary Carlos Santana plays a sweet acoustic Spanish guitar behind her, Lauryn speaks of weighing whether or not to have her baby: "Woe this crazy circumstance/I knew his life deserved a chance/But everybody told me to be smart/'Look at your career,' they said/'Lauryn, baby, use your head'/But instead I chose to use my heart." She goes on throughout the record vacillating between hip-hop-based shoulder shakers like "Everything Is Everything," dramatic ballads like "Nothing Even Matters," with hip-hop-soul king D'Angelo, and smooth and infectious joints with the warmth of old Stevie Wonder, like the hidden track "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" and the title song. It's an album – like few hip-hop albums, like most hip-hop-soul classics – that you could play at a family reunion, or any sort of multigenerational party, and get everyone bouncing and singing along without anyone ever having to cringe. Lauryn is the sort of young woman whom the old women smile at lovingly, their eyes saying, "With people like you around, this generation, and your music, might just be all right, after all." Maybe it wasn't a deal with the devil. Maybe it was with an angel. - Rolling Stone.

August 24, 2022

Tha Alkaholiks "21 & Over" (August 24, 1993)


Ohio natives turned West Coast underground kings, Tha Alkahokiks have long been one of hip-hop's best-kept secrets: hilarious lyrical acrobats who have never received the critical or commercial support they deserve. Assembled by gangsta rapper King Tee, they offer a witty, anarchic, and party-friendly alternative to the stone-faced, largely humorless gangsta rap that ruled the West Coast throughout much of the early '90s. With the punch lines and comic timing of comedians and undeniable skills and killer delivery of topnotch MCs, rappers J-Ro and Tash have more than enough talent and energy to back up their endlessly clever boasting. Producer, DJ, and occasional MC, E-Swift is the group's secret weapon, an unjustly underrated beatsmith whose rubbery grooves and infectious production help make Tha Alkaholiks perhaps the greatest party group in hip-hop history. With titles like "Last Call," "Mary Jane," and "Only When I'm Drunk," Tha Alkaholiks will never be mistaken for members of some sort of latter-day temperance movement, but their music, rhymes, and beats are so irreverent, infectious, and just plain fun that their booze-loving shtick never gets old. Brief (only ten songs) and filler-free, 21 & Over is perhaps the quintessential West Coast party album, as well as one of the most promising debut albums of the '90s, regardless of genre. - Old School Rap & Hip-Hop. On their press kit, they encouraged fans "not to drive when they drink" and "chose to title their album 21 and Over... In other words, alcohol is not the end all and be all to Tha Alkaholiks - they simply like to drink and have fun." Art above by Alphonze. Revisit the album below...



21 & Over is an undeniable classic via Loud Records in 1993.

August 23, 2022

Rapper Big Pooh "To Dream In Color" (Album Stream)


Co-founder of NC underground hip-hop legends Little Brother, Rapper Big Pooh has built an impressive solo discography that has racked up several million streams across DSPs, and seen him collaborating with notables like Nottz, Apollo Brown, Khrysis, DJ Khalil, members of Slum Village, and more. Add to his prolific output, he stays busy as an artist manager, A&R consultant, and DJ’ing as RPM. Though wearing many hats, the acclaimed rapper remains in top form, as witnessed by his new full-length, ‘To Dream in Color.’ Throughout, Pooh is as poignant and personal as ever, discussing the trials, tribulations and triumphs during his growth as an artist and reflecting on his life journey! Pooh shares, "With this album, my focus was on painting a picture with words... I wanted to essentially create an audiobook. My hope is that listeners get a better sense of who I am as a person by actually hearing my story. I speak about lacking confidence, stage fright, swallowing pride, my childhood, and so much more. This is my most personal body of work and it’s some scary shit knowing people are gonna listen, judge, and maybe take something away from it that I didn’t intend. That’s when you know you have made great art, though." Listen to Pooh's To Dream In Color below...