August 02, 2021

DJ Filthy Rich "It Was Written" (25th Anniversary Mix)

Toronto's DJ Filthy Rich celebrates another classic with his latest mix honoring the 25th anniversary of Nas' sophomore album "It Was Written" that dropped in 1996. As with past mixes, Filthy Rich crafts a mix filled with blends, original samples, remixes and fine rarities. Once again, the artwork for the mix is handled by Che Hinkson who came through with the ill art. I'm sure I've taken the bait in the past and debated the merits of It Was Written vs. Illmatic - which is better and so on... I'm pretty sure I've celebrated both, and landed on the mere fact that without It Was Written, a large portion of fans may have never gone back and championed his classic debut. That said, It Was Written is a classic in its own right, and it can be heard with new ears through the 25th anniversary mix from DJ Filthy Rich below. He also promises a follow-up (or B-Side) to this mix coming soon-ish ...

August 01, 2021

Raekwon "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx..." (August 1, 1995)

Love 'em or hate 'em, if there's one thing you have to respect about the Wu-Tang members' solo projects, it's that they challenge your expectations like no other records in hip hop today. With the emphasis always placed on the featured vocalist's expression of individuality, it's no wonder that Tical and Return to the 36 Chambers--The Dirty Version occasionally lost listeners amidst their more self indulgent moments, some exceptionally dope music notwithstanding. Perhaps that's why the notion of a solo album from Wu-Tang's consummate team player, Raekwon the Chef, is so intriguing. Acknowledging the strength of his role-playing persona, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... manages to pull off a remarkable feat--spotlighting Raekwon as the LP's focus in spite of the fact that he only actually performs alone on three of the eighteen cuts. The key to unlocking this mystery is, of course, Ghostface Killer--the perennial co-star of the show. With his prominent contributions in support--along with appearances by all other Clan members, save for ODB--Cuban Linx most successfully recaptures the camaraderie of the original 36 Chambers in the solo era, while it redefines Raekwon's on-mic personality in the tradition of Staten Island mob history. Cont'd below....

Ostensibly a concept piece chronicling Rae and Ghost's adventures in crime and last gasp struggles to leave the hood life behind, the album adeptly divides time between the sort of story-oriented material this duo's become known for, and more straight forward Shaolin sword-style rhyme exercises. In either mode, the RZA's increased propensity for haunting orchestral arrangements is the first thing you notice about Cuban Linx's sonic landscape. With several interludes of dialogue included, the album plays like the soundtrack to a film you wish could pay eight bones to see. Soap opera strings soak "Striving For Perfection's" LP-intro, giving way to "Knuckleheadz" ironically good-timey Goodfellas bounce, while "Knowledge God's" dope, discordant piano keys are straight Quincy Jones-style ambience. As the crowning glory of this unit's penchant for melodrama, however, "Rainy Dayz" eclipses even "Can It All Be So Simple" and "Heaven and Hell" in terms of pure pathos: A somber line of sustained strings, thunderous cloudbursts of rain and Wu-diva Blue Raspberry's Greek chorus offset Raekwon and Ghost's articulated aspirations of reaching somewhere over the rainbow by any means necessary. A movie moment, no doubt. Arguably, Cuban Linx may be at its strongest when the confines of storylines are abandoned, causing the perspectives of street pusher and rhyme sayer to collide within the same verse: "I move rhymes like retail/Make sure my shit sell/From where we at to my man's cell/From staircase to stage/Minimum wage/But soon to get an article in Rap Page" Raekwon rhymes on "Incarcerated Scarface." ... Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... is that rare breed of contemporary hip hop album. A record that not only meets and/or exceeds expectations, but one that does so as if the outcome was never in doubt. Naturally, some may dismiss its tale of guns, G's and grams as just so much East Coast-gangsta posturing. However, to do so would be to ignore the passion that qualifies some music as art and limits others as strictly product. In the end, who's the real pusher? The best of Wu-Tang's solo fare thus far? Quite possibly. The album to beat in '95? Yes. - Ego Trip (Chairman Mao). Certainly one of the best rap albums...ever!

July 30, 2021

DJ Jazzy Jeff & J.Period "The Magnificent Live Mixtape"

According to J.Period, this is a Bandcamp exclusive! DJ Jazzy Jeff & J.PERIOD present The Magnificent Live Mixtape, an extended two hour live DJ set featuring exclusive remixes, live blends, unreleased outtakes and behind-the-scenes stories from DJ Jazzy Jeff and J.PERIOD on the history of the mixtape game and collaborating with artists including Q-Tip, Lauryn Hill, Nas, Black Thought, as well as tracks featuring Dave Chappelle, J Dilla, Big Pun, Rakim, Andre 3000, The Notorious B.I.G., Ol' Dirty Bastard, MC Lyte, Mary J. Blige, Big L, Shad, Common and more. J.Period's streak of droppin' these live mixtapes continues and does not disappoint. Listen to the mix below...

July 29, 2021

Bone Thugs-N-Harmony "The Art of War" (1997)

When Bone Thugs-N-Harmony first exploded on the rap scene in 1994 with their fast rhymes, harmonious choruses, ominous G-Funk, and gangsta attitude, no one knew whether the uncanny Cleveland group were for real or if they were a novelty success. After all, at this point in time, few rap groups outside of New York or California had been able to prove themselves on a commercial level. And Bone Thugs-N-Harmony leap-frogged cult success, instantly rising to the top of the charts with their summer 1994 anthem "Thuggish Ruggish Bone." By the time their first full-length album, E 1999 Eternal, dropped a year later, it not only debuted at number one but also proved to be one of the decade's most important and enduring albums. While other rap groups struggled to break away from the cliches first forged by NWA, Public Enemy, Boogie Down Productions, 2 Live Crew, and LL Cool J in the late '80s, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony was one of the few groups able to carve out their own stylistic niche, an inimitable myriad of urban sounds with a strong ghetto attitude. Yet following the unprecedented success of E 1999 Eternal and, more so, the Grammy-winning success of "Tha Crossroads," Bone struggled to meet unreasonable expectations and also struggled with redundancy, having realized their apparent summit on their debut album. Yet even if the group was unable to repeat their success, they remained a vital group, as few were able to bite on their signature style. - All Music Guide. I agree with that, definitely an important group...

By the time Bone Thugs-N-Harmony released The Art of War in 1997, double-disc albums were met with an exhaustive sigh... Fans anticipated a ton of filler and the phrase, "this album would have been dope... if it was just a single album," was all too common. That said, the 2Pac feature on "Thug Luv was an insanely hard beat that I ironically remember driving around to when I moved to Miami that year. "Look Into My Eyes" and "7 Sign" were two other favorites from the project. The whole album is produced by DJ U-Neek who landed a platinum single with "Look Into My Eyes" and a gold single for "If I Could Teach The World." All told, the album went quadruple platinum by the summer of '98. I believe it's safe to say that -- critically -- the reviews were split down the middle, mostly feeling like the album didn't do much to add to their legacy, and was rather redundant by making itself a doube-disc. All in all, I still enjoyed it and I was probably the only New York cat in Miami, driving around without bass music in the whip. You revisit the 2xLP from Bone Thugs-N-Harmony below...

July 28, 2021

AbcntMnded "MF DOOM Tribute" (Mix)

LA's AbcntMnded pays tribute to the late great MF DOOM with his latest mix. At roughly an hour, he digs into the stacks and pulls out some deeper cuts, samples and more to honor the uniqueness of one of our culture's most impressive MCs. Inspiring to many, imitated by some, and bested by nobody.... dig through a mix done by someone with intimate knowledge of MF DOOM's catalog, where even the dope artwork is done by AbcntMnded himself, which proves this is truly a labor of love. To provide context, ABCNT is a Los Angeles based, sociopolitical activist/anarchist, the product of mid-nineties expressionism and new-millennium activism, who describes himself as “[a] real west coast hip-hop fanatic, with a kind of militant attitude towards consciousness.” And how does he execute his expression and voice? Through avenues in politically charged street art and music. Listen below...

July 27, 2021

Mystic "Behind the Journey" (Podcast Series)

I am very excited to share the new podcast mini-series from Mystic titled Behind the Journey. The 6-part series is an exploration of the journey behind the development of the Oakland artist Mystic, and the making of her Grammy-nominated 2001 debut album, Cuts For Luck And Scars For Freedom. An audible look into how she developed as an artist and member of Digital Underground, got her deal, recorded and released her debut album, and the healing journey that was part of it all. This short series is an inside look at the past, present, and future of Mystic's journey for new and old fans alike. It can be listened to as an accompaniment to the 20th anniversary of her debut album. It is shared with love and a unique perspective that has made Mystic one of my favorite artists for two decades. Updated: this trip down memory lane is also inspired by the fact that her debut album is now available to stream on all DSPs so I highly recommend that you revisit her beautiful cult classic, Cuts For Luck And Scars For Freedom before (or after) you peep the podcast series below. I've said a lot about the impact her project had on me at the time, and it's still as impactful today!

July 26, 2021

Take It Personal Podcast "Ode to 1993" (Part 2)

Episode 91 is the 2nd installment of Take It Personal's 1993 Tribute. The podcast/mix features 3 hours of Take It Personal to remind you of when hip-hop was fun. They've got joints by A Tribe Called Quest, Biz Markie, De La Soul, Akinyele, The Beatnuts, Wu-Tang Clan, Black Moon, Now Born Click, Lords of the Underground, Tragedy Khadafi, Da Youngsta's, Digable Planets, KRS-One, Naughty By Nature, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, Fat Joe, Erick Sermon, Illegal, Da King & I, Big L, Das EFX, Run DMC, Snoop Dogg, Masta Ace, and much more! RIP Biz Markie. Props to Philaflava, DJ 360, and Kevlar. Dig in the archives below for part 1, and all the past episodes of this world-class podcast...

July 25, 2021

Scarface "Drink Champs Episode" (Video)

Your favorite rapper's favorite rapper... the famed MC (Scarface) shares his journey in hip hop! Face receives his flowers when his peers like Bun B, LL Cool J, DJ Khaled, Ice- T, Big Daddy Kane, E-40, T.I., Gillie Da Kid and more call in to give him his well-deserved props. He also tells stories about 2Pac, DMX, the Nas and Jay-Z beef; his time as president of Def Jam South, and creating some of hip hop’s most iconic music. Face even gives insight into his political career in the future. One of the most important MCs and creatives in our culture, Scarface is an exceptional artist, and like DJ EFN, I'd also include him in my top 5, especially of artists to appear on Drink Champs. Props to NORE and EFN for sitting down with the legend, and giving that man his flowers. We came close to losing him (more than once), so it's more important than ever that we hear his story and dig deeper. If you haven't had a chance, pick up a copy of his book, Diary of a Madman, which is available in my online store. From the Geto Boys to today, enjoy this dope episode of Drink Champs ... make some noise!!!