April 30, 2014

Dibia$e "Schematiks" (Instrumental Album)

"Multi-time finalist of Red Bull’s prestigious Big Tune Producer Showcase, DIBIA$E has been honing his musical talents for over a decade within LA’s influential beat scene. His signature sound has been recognized and sought out by some of hip hop and electronic music’s most influential: Blu, Guilty Simpson, Elzhi [Slum Village], Abstract Rude, Battle Cat, DJ Premier, Flying Lotus, Geoff Barrow [Portishead]; to name a few. 10thirty Records and DIBIA$E reveal their latest release Schematiks. This full length album gives listeners an audible diagram of DIBIA$ES’ abstract musical genius. Heavily influenced by symbols of traditional boom-bap, rugged soul and smoothed out R&B; Schematiks showcases DIBIA$E’s better known “Dilla- esque” slightly off-kilter sound." Listen to it below...

April 30, 2014

Apache "Apache Ain't Sh!t" (The Source, 1993)

"The Flavor Unit has snuffed us in the grill with the hardcore rhymes from Naughty By Nature, the "trio from E.O." (East Orange, NJ). This year, the Flavor squad gives us a slamming debut from one of "Chilltown's" (Jersey City) best. Apache, the man who gave light to the "Gangsta Bitch," and got busy on Naughty's "1,2,3," gets things started right off the bat. After the intro track, he slides into "Tonto," a braggadocio type joint where he flips rhymes about hittin' skinz with his main man Tonto ... Another stand out is the innovative "Do Fa Self," where Apache flips rhymes with a nine-year old kid about the dangers of livin' large by foul means. While a good portion of this album deals with sex and could be seen as disrespectful to women, Apache is more than willing to make amends... Production-wise, the album thrills, with some of hip-hop's finest taking control. Diamond D drops by and digs in his vast supply of crates and comes up with plenty of dust on his fingers and a little slime under his fingernails. "Git Ya Weight Up" is sure to make a hip-hop junkie's hair stand on end with its hyped drumtrack and soulful horns. Not to be outdone, the Large Professor rolls out fat, island-tinged flavor on "Hey Girl." This album's diverse musical nature will make it a welcome addition to many collections. Apache is raw enough to appeal to underground heads, without closing the door on the casual, R&B oriented hip-hop consumer." - The Source, April 1993. (Updated)

The original review in The Source (April, 1993) is below...

R.I.P. Apache / Anthony Peaks (December 26, 1964 – January 22, 2010)

April 29, 2014

Apollo Brown "Thirty Eight" (Instrumental Album)

"Thirty Eight sounds like Detroit transitioning from Heroin to Crack in the late 70s and early 80s." Apollo Brown's Thirty Eight is a contemporary throwback, inhabiting the realm of reverent reinvention and innovation. It deftly bridges the gap between '70s Blaxploitation soundtracks (e.g. Curtis Mayfield or Marvin Gaye) and the hip-hop records that sampled from them. The tracks on Thirty Eight are presented in gritty, heavily saturated Technicolor, the scratches and cigarette burns as purposeful as they are happily accidental. These are suites sounding from long barrels held by lone men lurking in grimy project hallways. Tinged with revenge and regret, shrouded in thick tendrils of hollow-point smoke, the songs have all the makings of an epic gangster tragedy. They're also great when paired with anything Raymond Chandler.  Crackle and sample hiss run like electric current throughout, charging the record with a retro feel and resonant warmth. Yet these qualities are only secondary to Brown's impeccable ear for instrumentation. Thirty Eight is full of funk, soul, jazz, blues, hip-hop, and everything in between. The bluesy guitar twang of slow-burner "Black Suits" and the lush, orchestral strings of "The Warning" are just two examples of the depth and diversity Brown brings to the table. All singing on the album comes in the form of brief samples, some high-pitched and sped up, others left untouched. Taken together, they amount to glimpses of an emotionally affecting narrative, enabling the listener to fill in the plot..." Listen to the LP below...

April 28, 2014

Big Pun "Capital Punishment" (XXL Review, 1998)

"After watching his mentor Fat Joe make the usual rookie mistakes, Big Punisher has had an easier time overcoming the exploitative rap music industry's many obstacles. Certainly Fat Joe defeated many stereotypes scarring the Boricua's place in hip-hop, and it's patently obvious that that fact benefited Big Pun on his debut album, Capital Punishment. This album unquestionably validates the Latino MC concept to a mass market. Even though Pun uses cliche'd, Biggie-fied skits ("Taster's Choice," "Pakinamac Pt.1") and features predictable guest MC's like B-Real, Fat Joe, Kool G Rap, Inspectah Deck and Prodigy, it's Pun's incredibly quick and fluid delivery that pleasantly recasts hip hop's played-out "reality." Check out Big Pun's "You Came Up," featuring Noreaga, cont'd below...

"Aside from the weak, R&B-hooked, Bill Clinton anthem "I Ain't a Playa (I Just Uff A lot)," the platinum playa/thug image is enhanced by vocal dexterity and skill. An example of this is the superb back-and-forth performance on "Super Lyrical," featuring the underground legend Black Thought of the Roots. Capital Punishment also covers a more diverse range of topics than many current albums. For example, Pun reflects upon genocide on the album's title track, and the controversy of one's realness through rhyme on "Parental Discretion." By merging social commentary and top-quality production, Big Pun makes an original and entertaining debut." - XXL, 1998. Full review below...

April 28, 2014

DJ Moneyshot "Half Man Half Amazing" (Mixtape, 2014)

20 years ago, Nas released his legendary Illmatic album! DJ Moneyshot has put together an outstanding tribute mix, Nas: Half-Man Half-Amazing as an audio documentary threading together sample sources, interview footage and remixes, alongside the original Illmatic tracks. Hear the vocabulary, the flow and the rhythm expertly delivered by Nas, backed up by the sublime production of Pete Rock, DJ Premier, Large Professor and Q-Tip, plus original samples from Lee Erwin, The Heath Brothers, Ahmad Jamal and Reuben Wilson. Don't put this in your box if your sh!t eats tapes!

April 27, 2014

Cormega "The Realness" Interview (Billboard, August 2001)

"Cormega Gets Real: In 1997, it seemed the Firm was poised to be hip-hop's newest supergroup. Consisting of solo artists Cormega, Nas, Foxy Brown, and AZ, the Firm ruled the airwaves and charts with its Aftermath/Interscope debut, The Album. But personal conflicts among the group members left Cormega to fend for himself - which he's been doing ever since. Initially signed to Violator/Def Jam, the rapper created anticipation for his solo debut, which is finally coming to fruition. The Realness (Legal Hustle/Landspeed) was released July 24 and entered Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart at No. 24. "They mad me on the shelf too long," Cormega says about his decision to leave Violator/Def Jam. "If you feel you're good at something and somebody's holding you back from doing it, then you're going to want a change of scenery. I was on the label since '96, and I was patient," adds the rapper, who remains on good terms with Def Jam. "It wasn't like I was a difficult artist. I was so patient - I waited three years and nothing came out." Cont'd below...

"He decided to change all that by taking matters into his own hands and releasing an album on his own label, Legal Hustle. "I had majors still hollering at me, but I wanted to put an album out this summer," the Queens, NY native says. "I got tired of disappointing my fans. Regardless of whether or not it was my fault, I'm the one who wasn't out, and people look at that. But by the time we got through the paperwork, etc., my album wouldn't have come out until 2002. With the indies, once you do your music, that's it." "Some people thought I should have called it "The Realest, but that is a self-promotional declaration," Cormega says. "Who am I to declare that I'm the realest? The Realness is just a reflection of what's going on in my life. It's the essence of it, rather than a bravado declaration." Having recently completed the album, which features production by Havoc of MobbDeep, Alchemist, and Ayatollah, Cormega is already preparing a follow-up set." Billboard 8/01

April 26, 2014

Joell Ortiz "Covers The Classics" (Mixtape, 2009)

"One quarter of the Slaughter," BX lyricist Joell Ortiz dropped this mixtape back in '09, rhyming over some of Hip-Hop's most historic instrumentals. Linking up with DJ Green Lantern, this is a 31-track mix and he blacks out on a lot of these tracks! One of the last MCs to try and tackle so many legendary beats on one project. I remember being outside a venue in '09; I was waiting to go into a event that the homie Neil Armstrong was DJing. I was standing behind a guy and we started talking just to pass the time: neither of us knowing anything about one another, but eventually it comes up that I work at Fat Beats, manage a few artists, yada yada and he played a key role over at a major site for mixtapes at the time. I asked him what their biggest mover was at the time, and sure enough, it was this Joell mixtape. We exchanged info and from then on, that site supported me and my artists heavily, drawing thousands of fans to our content ... I was greatly appreciative of that chance encounter. And, I obviously wasn't surprised that heads were diggin' this mixtape. Updated...

April 26, 2014

Smoothe Da Hustler "Next" Feature In Vibe Magazine (April, 1996)

"Death becomes Smoothe Da Hustler: "I got off the train, and a kid looked at me in shock and said, 'I heard you got shot, son!'" Smoothe is regaling his crew at Brooklyn's Nexx Level Studios with the much exaggerated tale of his death. This past New Year's Eve, a man who resembled Smoothe was reported on a local news show to have been killed. Even Smoothe's mother and his younger brother / occasional rhyme partner, Trigga da Gambler, panicked. It was easy to believe Smoothe's hustling days had caught up with him. But Smoothe chuckles at the memory. "I was in a hotel room, butt-naked with socks on, lookin' like this" - he folds his arms and assumes a laid-back mack daddy pose - "watching the news." Like Wu-Tang Clan's 1994 "C.R.E.A.M. (Cash Rules Everything Around Me)" and Black Moon's "Shit Iz Real" from 1993, "Brooklyn Language" - the B-side to Smoothe's first-released but less-embraced "Hustlin'" - exquisitely defines the moment. Over stripped-down drums, Smoothe and Trigga each drop maxims Dolomite-style: "The money stasher / Gun-blastin' razor slasher / The human asthma breath taker / Body dump waster." It's Brooklyn gangsta rap, from a brother who's lived it." Check out the visuals (again) to "Broken Language," article continues below...

"I sold drugs and all that," Smoothe admits, "to take slack off my mother - which she didn't want us to do." In his spare time, though, he and Trigga wrote rhymes and Smoothe recorded two songs for his friend, producer D/R Period. Things seemed to be movin' on up, but in 1994, Smoothe's hustling landed him in jail for six months on a gun possession charge. "Period got a buzz going while I was locked up," says Smoothe. Upon his release, he signed a deal with Profile. Now he's slangin' metaphors instead of dope. Once Upon A Time In America, Smoothe's coarse debut, is a hard look into his past and the forces that shaped his outlook. "This album is my life," he says, shrugging. "People think thug n!ggas can't get deep because we rock hoodies and portray a certain image. We're surrounded by it - but that doesn't mean our minds are trash." - Vibe, April 1996.

April 25, 2014

Blu "Soul Amazing Part 3" (Mix)

The latest in Blu's official "Soul Amazing" mixtape series: Part 2 features Blu verses originally on tracks with J. Period, Mela Machinko, Large Professor, Klaus Layer, K-Def, Sene, Science, King I Divine, Co$$, Professor P & DJ Akilles, Pac Div, 14KT, Danny!, Asher Roth, Ray West, L'Orange, Knxwledge, Fate, and lots more. Again, keep them coming, Blu! ... Stream the latest mix below...

April 24, 2014

Nas x NPR "Microphone Check"

"On April 19, 1994, Columbia Records released the debut album of a 20-year-old from Queensbridge Houses in New York City. It was deft, wise, deadly serious and matched the babyface with unparalleled promise to beats made by the era's preeminent producers. Two decades after Illmatic, Nas sat down with Microphone Check for a conversation that moved from his love for Ali Shaheed Muhammad's group, A Tribe Called Quest, to music journalism ("If you're Sade, it doesn't matter. She does what she does. But for all of us, journalism is a huge deal.") hearing himself on the radio for the first time and his audience: "My surroundings. The hip-hop community also," says Nas. "So that meant I made it for other rappers, I made it for other MCs, I made it for other hip-hop groups. I made it for artists, singers, people in the arts — that's who I made it for. But it comes from the street, so my surroundings wrote that album. I made it for them."" - NPR's Microphone Check.

April 24, 2014

L'Orange "The Orchid Days" (Album Stream)

"A man fell in love. Then the world was destroyed by an ever-growing nothing in the sky." - L'Orange. Through previous outputs, we’ve come to know L’Orange as a painter who only paints in dark shades, mixing in samples from a bygone era. The Orchid Days echoes with the harbingers of inevitable change. Love is not only a theme in this record, it might just be the pattern. The Orchid Days seems to be L’Orange’s most revealing effort yet. “Eventually” will hypnotize you with feelings unrequited, “A Spring Like You,” will hold you with a longing for things as they were in another life long-forgotten. “The Orchard” will numb you with its falling beauty, and you’ll know that she’s worked you over, and you won’t even care anymore. And all this is just the first of many courses that The Orchid Days puts forth. With each successive listen, notes of terror, wonder, paradise, oblivion sing in the shadows." Let me say "Need You" with Blu is one of the best tracks of the year!

April 23, 2014

Boulevard Connection "Copenhagen (Claimin’ Respect)" (12", 2000)

Boulevard Connection consists of producers/musicians Typhoon, Sek and Marak from Copenhagen, Denmark. The 12” for "Copenhagen (Claimin Respect)" has seen a grip of pressings over the years; it features The Last Emperor, Maylay Sparks, Rakaa Iriscience (of Dilated Peoples) and cuts from DJ Babu. Fat Beats stepped in to handle distribution on at least some of the pressings. There was a part 2 to this 12” that featured Masta Ace, Ed OG, and Common on their self-formed label, Boulevard Connection Records. Before either of those 12” releases, Fondle ‘Em put out an EP from The Boulevard Connection in 1998 called ‘Sut Min Pik’ that had MC Serch, El Da Sensei, Tame One, and Company Flow on it. DJ Typhoon put out a CD of his own in 2004, other than that I’m not sure of any other releases, but share the information if you've got it. Ok... so listen to the full 12" below...

April 22, 2014

J57 "The Ports EP" (EP Stream)

My brother, J57, released "The Ports EP" back in May, 2012. One of my favorite releases of his, marked by the deeply personal nature of its release, and the great music that features The Nezitiq, ScienZe, Nitty Scott, DeeJay Element, Silent Knight, Sene, BBAS and more. J57 shares more, "In Memory of: Bryan "Ports" Coyle. I dedicate this project to the memory of one of my best friends that left the world on March 13, 2012. Ports taught me how to rhyme - how to count bars, flow patterns, freestyle, etc. He also introduced me to the indie hip hop scene in the late 90's & changed my life forever. There would have never been a J57 if there had never been a Ports. Dedicating this project to him is the very least I could do." Rest In Peace, Ports. Listen to J57's Ports EP below...

April 21, 2014

El Michels Affair "Enter The 37th Chamber" (Instrumentals)

With one foot in the past but their eyes firmly set on the future, El Michels Affair are among the leaders of a resurgent funk & soul movement from New York City that's sweeping both the music community and the charts. Led by saxophonist/organist Leon Michels and producer/engineer Jeff Silverman, El Michels Affair began as a loose collaboration of session musicians that looked to blend some of the vibrant quality of soundtrack records with the recording aesthetic of early reggae, and the rawness of 60's rock--they called it 'Cinematic Soul.' This delicate balance was evident on their 2005 debut album Sounding Out the City, which earned critical acclaim and acted as the inaugural full-length release for their burgeoning label Truth & Soul. The buzz generated from the album and a series of moderately successful 7" vinyl singles from Truth & Soul led to an invitation by Toyota's Scion division for El Michels Affair to accompany Raekwon for a promotional concert. As avid Wu-Tang fans, not only were the band leaders thrilled with the opportunity, but Michels found that their sound was consistent with the moods of RZA's gritty soundscapes on the classic Wu-Tang releases. The concert was such as success, El Michels Affair went on to play several more concerts nationwide backing Raekwon and other members of the Clan, and the shows led to the recording of two smash 7" singles featuring instrumental reinterpretations of the Wu-Tang classic songs "C.R.E.A.M." and "Bring Da Ruckus." The success of those singles led to a contract with indie powerhouse Fat Beats Records and the release of Enter The 37th Chamber on this day in 2009.

April 20, 2014

The Beatnuts "Intoxicated Demons" (Video Interview, 1993)

"Intoxicated Demons" was the debut EP release from The Beatnuts on April 20, 1993. At the time, The Beatnuts were a trio consisting of Psycho Les, JuJu and Fashion (later known as Al' Tariq). The Beatnuts had been producing records for years prior to this release, and it's been said that frustrations with how some artists represented over their production was the inspiration for them to get in the booth and do it themselves. The EP had two singles "Reign Of The Tec" and "No Equal," and was well received by fans and media alike. As Queens representatives, The Beatnuts were considered peripheral members of the Native Tongues crew, and the only Latino members at that. Crates of JR released a video interview The Beatnuts had done in promotion of the "Intoxicated Demons" EP, which I hadn't seen at the time, so it's worth sharing below. Check it out, and I'll come back with press clippings and music from the release in a future discussion of this underrated EP.

April 19, 2014

NahRight & UpNorthTrips "The Illmatic 20 Tribute" (Mixtape)

"Twenty years ago today, a 20 year-old kid from the Queensbridge projects released what now stands as one of the most important albums in Hip-Hop history. An instant classic, Illmatic would be studied and celebrated over the next two decades, held aloft as the standard for everything Rap music was and had the potential to be. It's one of the most flawless bodies of work ever recorded, in any genre, and it is widely recognized as the defining work of an entire era of Rap. The impact of this 10 track masterpiece is almost immeasurable, yet you can still hear it bleeding through in the bars of artists the world over to this very day. And so we (NahRight & UpNorthTrips) wanted to pay tribute to this remarkable record in a manner befitting a piece of art that has meant so much to all of us and to so many others for so long. We reached out to the new generation of New York MCs and asked them to join us in paying homage to Nas and his magnum opus over the same timeless tracks that underscored his historic bars back in 1994. Featuring contributions from Al-Doe, Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire, Troy Ave, Bodega Bamz, YC The Cynic, Denzil Porter, Smoke DZA, Doley Bernays, Timeless Truth, Euro League, Pete from Bitches Is Crazy, The Incomparable Shakespeare and SHIRT, this project is as much a showcase of the homegrown talent that has been reinvigorating the NY Rap scene over the last couple of years as it is a thank you letter to Nasir Jones. So settle in and join us as we salute Nas on 20 years in the game, here's to 20 more!" Listen to the 20th anniversary mix below. Straight out the f#ckin dungeons of rap... props to UpNorthTrips.

April 18, 2014

Masta Ace Interview in URB Magazine (1991)

A nice interview in URB Magazine, where Masta Ace discusses his debut album "Take A Look Around," the disappointing sales and how Cold Chillin' fell short of promoting the project and making him a priority at the label. From there, Ace discusses his accidental start in the game, winning a rap contest at a skating rink in Queens, where the prize was 5 hours of studio time with the legend, Marley Marl. An excellent story of good fortune and believing in his own talents. How his early demos were funny and storytelling, along the lines of DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince's "Girls Ain't Nothin But Trouble," and how he moved away from that to make sure "His songs' subjects ring true to his upbringing but the words ring true to his unique talents" as well. "What he terms 'poems with a beat' are just that, both moving and honest." As Masta Ace was shopping for a deal leading into his follow-up to "Take A Look Around," this was a dope look at what got him to that point and where he was headed. To this day, Masta Ace remains one of our culture's most consistent, absolutely-no-nonsense-MCs and any content that shines light on Ace will be supported here...

April 18, 2014

Guru "10 Great Guru Guest Appearances" (Mix)

"...Guru's chemistry with DJ Premier goes down on our score card as one of the best MC/Producer combo's in the game, and their body of work speaks for itself. However we it's important to acknowledge how Guru is often overlooked for the work he has put in on his own, specifically while popping up on other artists records. From Heavy D and House of Pain to Dilated Peoples and Digable Planets, Guru's knack for murdering guest appearances is criminally slept-on. His features reach well into the hundreds, and have spanned over three decades, so for our latest edition of The Tens, and to honor The Gifted Unlimited One, we have put together a great selection of some of Guru's classic feature verses." (The mix was originally released by UpNorthTrips in April, 2012).

April 18, 2014

Jazz Spastiks "The Product" (Album Stream)

The Jazz Spastiks are a duo of underground hip-hop beat makers, DJs and producers from Scotland (UK), consisting of members Coconut Delight and Mr Manyana. They also go by The Slipmat Brothers. Their latest 16-track effort, The Product, bridges their jazzy production and hip-hop sensibilities with solid features from Yesh, Apani B Fly, Count Bass D, Moka Only, Ladybug Mecca and more. It's a sonically refreshing album that I've enjoyed a lot thus far. There are also several instrumental tracks, which boast fresh cuts and vocal chops. Y'all will dig it, give it a listen below...

April 17, 2014

String Theory "String Theory" (Album Stream)

"A cosmic event so minuscule and rapid that it is unsure as to whether it even occurred at all. This was the precursor to the formation of String Theory. A group and its self titled album comprised of Epidemic's Hex One and Swedish beat maker Boom Bappin' Zombie Darney. Only outside the realms of a structured paradigm can such a happening even begin to be analyzed. So too only under these conditions can it be formed. With concepts ranging from the abstract to the concrete, this anomaly in space time, this rift in the conscious fabric of reality, this naked singularity attempts to answer the basic human question: who are we really? The ambiguity of the universe's many laws is what drives this question, as every soul on this plane is searching for their own personal theory of everything. We ride it's intergalactic currents, weaving between supposed realities and lucid dreams, only to reminisce on how beautiful it all used to be. A graceful marriage between multilayered resonance and the seemingly forgotten art of rap. The inception of this body of work blurs the notion of identifying it as an album, as it is simply a juncture made possible by infinitely specific circumstances, without which, String Theory would never have existed at all. If we are a simulation, then in the ways that matter to us... we are real enough." Stream the String Theory album below.

April 16, 2014

The Combat Jack Show "Scarface Episode"

On the latest episode of the Combat Jack, the crew sits down with the Southern OG, Brad "Scarface" Jordan! One of the only MCs that feels comfortable telling people he meets (and likes) to call him by his government name. To their surprise (and mine), Scarface has lost close to 100 pounds! Health reasons forced the man to 'run for his life' and he did it! Salute that man! In typical fashion, Scarface bumrushes the interview, takes over, but leads it down a path that's hard to put to words, lol. He touches on battles with drugs and depression, time in prison, his son and further expresses why he is a legend in this rap game, without having to say a word about it; it's just a fact! Dig in...

April 16, 2014

5kiem "Peter Pieces" (Instrumental Album)

Beatmaker since 1994, France's 5kiem has been significantly influenced by artists such as A Tribe Called Quest, Pete Rock and Jay Dee. His new offering is a project titled "Peter Pieces," which is a vibrant tribute to legendary New York producer Pete Rock. It is a personal reinterpretation of Pete Rock's discography, punctuated by acapellas and interviews. The project was released last fall (2013) and I still give it some occasional burn, so stream it below and let me know if you enjoy it too... 

April 15, 2014

OutKast "Greetings Earthling" (Mixed by Mick Boogie, 2014)

A message from MICK: "Greetings Earthling: Outkast, hands down, is one of my favorite groups of all time - in any genre of music. Their music set trends, defined a generation, and created a mood unlike any other. In honor of their Coachella reunion, I put together a fun mix of Big Boi and Andre 3000 rarities, demos, collaborations and remixes. If you're a MICK fan, you'll find this similar to the retrospectives I did for A Tribe Called Quest and the Beastie Boys. If you're looking for Outkast's greatest hits or stuff from their albums, you're out of luck. Go to iTunes and buy those right now. If you're a true fan and looking to dig a little bit deeper and really enter the world of the Dungeon Family - this is made for you. And it's hella long - maybe TOO long - almost 2 hours!" Listen below...

April 15, 2014

Nas "Illmatic XX" (20th Anniversary Edition)

With the release of Illmatic, in 1994 Nas quickly established himself as a hip hop icon and now one of the greatest lyricists of all-time. The landmark album has been lauded by critics as one of the most exemplary hip hop recordings of all time. Illmatic contributed to the revival of the New York City rap scene and has been consistently ranked at the top of many "best album" lists. Today, the collection remains one of the most widely celebrated and influential albums in history with Rolling Stone proclaiming, "a portrait of an artist as a hood, loner, tortured soul, juvenile delinquent, and fledgling social critic... [Illmatic] still stands as one of rap's crowning achievements." NPR Music called the it "[a] masterwork of story-telling, lyricism and beat-making," while upon the album s release, The Village Voice gave Nas the title of, "one of the most important writers of the 20th century." Illmatic XX is a 2 disc, 20th anniversary special edition featuring new artwork, a 24 page booklet with new liner notes by Sacha Jenkins, artist tributes with rare and previously unseen photos. Disc 1, the original debut album, has been remastered from the original source tapes and disc 2 features 10 rare remixes, demos & freestyles from the era. "With Illmatic, I didn't think about it. I just did it. I believe everybody has good instincts. Now I'm a man from that past and I'm supremely grateful. There's a Nigerian proverb 'What is past is prologue'. I'm here today because of Illmatic." - Nas

April 15, 2014

Jon Connor "A Tribute To The Notorious B.I.G." (Mixtape)

This right here is the kind of tape that makes it much easier for me to blend the concept of a nostalgia site that also supports artists that carry the essence of hip-hop forward into the future. The Michigan spitter Jon Connor has released a tribute to the late great Notorious B.I.G. with his #BestInTheWorld mixtape series - his last mixtape was Kanye West-themed. Here, Connor spits over classics like "Everyday Struggle," "Juicy," "Who Shot Ya," "Unbelievable" and others with plenty of bars and flavor to make this a must-listen. To give the tape a promotional boost, he taps DJ Khaled to host the mix, which adds nothing to it for me personally, but I'm all for it if it brings more listeners to the table. If the embed below doesn't work, you can listen and/or download it HERE. Listen...

April 15, 2014

Pharoahe Monch "P.T.S.D." (Album Stream)

Coming off his third album, ‘W.A.R.,’ Pharoahe Monch returns with quite possibly the most personal and most transparent release in his catalog, 'PTSD.' Pharoahe addresses past battles with depression, the effects of asthma on his health, and how his brand of hip-hop and social commentary affects his career and his livelihood. As more than a cliche title to follow up 'W.A.R.', Pharoahe dug deep and gave us 'day ones' a lot of insight into the man who stands proudly atop many of our top 5 lists. With another great release, he further cemented his place and left me wondering how can so many people keep sleeping on a one of a kind talent like Pharoahe Monch? As an independent artist, Pharoahe Monch and W.A.R. Media released the album with INgrooves, you can stream and order it below via Bandcamp or on iTunes featuring Black Thought, Talib Kweli and production by Lee Stone, Marco Polo, Boogie Blind, Quelle Chris & of course, Pharoahe himself. As always, Pharoahe tackles concepts and albums as a seasoned veteran knowing the importance of pushing the culture forward and contributing to his legacy as one of the greatest of all-time. Peace to Guy Routte & Satori at W.A.R. Media for all their great work. Listen to Pharoahe's P.T.S.D. below...

April 14, 2014

Chris Read "Classic Material: 1992" (Mix, 2011)

This mix in Chris Read's (2011) Classic Material series pays tribute to the hip hop of 1992, a year most notable for shifts in production techniques and styles and perhaps more importantly sampling trends. Abandoning over-saturated funk standards in favor of obscure jazz samples, producers such Showbiz, Diamond D, Q Tip and many others besides laid the foundations for the laid back jazz led sound that characterized countless East Coast classics of the early to mid 90s. On the West Coast, Dr Dre’s seminal Chronic LP also broke new ground in terms of production style with a polished classically LA sound that formed the blueprint for the ‘G Funk’ sound which ruled supreme throughout the early 90s. 1992 was an important year for me, these record take me back, big time!

April 13, 2014

Mobb Deep "Juvenile Hell" (April 13, 1993)

Mobb Deep Juvenile Hell Prodigy Havoc Advertisement "Hip-Hop Nostalgia"

This story starts back in July of 1991, when the forward-thinking Matty C put a then-unknown group called Poetical Prophets in the Unsigned Hype section of The Source. 'Straight outta Queens, New York, these two little 5'3 sixteen-year-olds are fast making a big name for themselves in talent shows and radio stations in the New York area.' Matty C then played their music for Bonz Malone, an A&R at 4th & Broadway Records, where they were signed with a twenty-thousand dollar advance & Havoc & Prodigy became Mobb Deep. In Prodigy’s book ‘My Infamous Life,’ P said ‘Our album 'Juvenile Hell' was released in 1993, a year after we recorded it, and was a flop. It sold a little over twenty thousand copies and the label dropped us quick fast.” Prodigy also said that Nas dropping ‘Illmatic’ the following year, while overshadowing their release, also boosted their popularity during their promo tour as journalists and fans started making the Queens connection. 

Mobb Deep Juvenile Hell Prodigy Havoc DJ Premier "Hip-Hop Nostalgia"

By the time Mobb Deep dropped 'The Infamous' in 1995, 'Juvenile Hell' was already a distant memory, but when new fans went back and listened to the lead single with DJ Premier, 'Peer Pressure,' as well as 'Hit It From The Back,' 'Flavor For The Non-Believers' and even the shelved 'Cop Hell' with Premo, the progression was obvious, but it gave the project new life. It's dope seeing the image of DJ Premier and young Hav & P in the studio back then ... Premo has, was, and always will be the greatest of all-time, doing it with class, integrity and FUNK! Revisit the Juvenile Hell album below...

April 13, 2014

Black Star "NEXT" Feature In Vibe Magazine (April, 1998)

"Sugarless but flavorful hip-hop styles are what Mos Def and 22-year-old poetic conspirator/fellow Brooklyn-dweller Talib Kweli serve up on their Rawkus debut, Black Star. Between Kweli's scorching "Fortified Live" single and Mos Def's stirring "Universal Magnetic" 12-inch (both on Rawkus), the duo had 1997's thunderground movement under lock and key. Inspired by Marcus Garvey's radical alternaship of the same name, the two hypercharged griots have combined to take the art of boombap back to the future. "With jazz, you'd have artists from two different schools pairing up just to see what would happen," says Mos. "And that's what I always wanted to see in hip-hop."

"To Kweli, a tag-team partnership with Mos just felt natural - for B-boys will always be boys. "We started out rhyming in the park, with no money, no tokens," Kweli says. "And there's nothing wrong with loving what you do and doing it for the love." Kweli believes that the era of poetic playas is gangsta limpin' on its last leg. "There's a lot of bullshit negativity shining," he says, half mad. "And Black Star is like a solar eclipse." No doubt, Mos and Kweli will save the day... "I love acting, but my first passion is music," says Mos. "Sometimes I wish I could just put on a mask, put out material, and have nobody know who I was. I don't care for being famous - beyond using my celebrity (status) to actually say something." - Vibe Magazine (4/98). Full "Next" feature below and "Respiration" above.

April 12, 2014

The U.N. "UN Or U Out" (Mass Appeal, 2002 + Album Stream)

Ten years after its initial and highly slept-on release, Fat Beats Records & Frozen Files are proud to present the first-ever reissue of UN Or U Out, the classic debut album from The UN. Consisting of Roc Marciano, Dino Brave, Mike Raw, and Laku, the UN first emerged on Pete Rock’s 2001 Petestrumentals album, a primarily instrumental release including two tracks - “Nothing Lesser” and “Cake”, both featuring vocals by The UN. At the time, the group hadn’t performed live and never had major prior releases, although Roc Marciano had already made his name as a member of Busta Rhymes’ Flipmode Squad. Pete Rock fans were at first perplexed by the vocal appearance of an unknown group. Yet Pete Rock not only had the confidence and foresight to introduce the four MCs, he also furthered the collaboration, making it full circle by lending production on “Game of Death (G.O.D.)” , “Avenue” and “Ain’t No Thang” on UN or U Out. The album remains a timeless listen, a deeply succinct homage to New York’s bygone era of gritty boom-bap, made with tasteful nods to Queensbridge’s cold-steel aesthetic. Coupled with the article in Mass Appeal above from 2002, this should catch you up on what The UN were bringing to the table + some background on Roc Marci.

April 11, 2014

GZA/The Genius "Words From The Genius" (The Source, 4/91)

"Cold Chillin has done it again! Over the past few years, they have signed some highly talented MC's and the trend continues with The Genius. Although the first single, "Come Do Me," has a definite R&B / New Jack feel to it - don't be fooled! The Genius has plenty of microphone finesse to please all types of ears with his unique rhyming style. The Genius is given plenty of room to roam with the slamming production work done by Easy Mo Bee. You might remember the songs he produced on Big Daddy Kane's second record ("Another Victory"). He supplies The Genius with plenty of funky drum tracks with a mixture of sampled organ riffs, guitar licks, and basslines that provide The Genius with a funk-filled backdrop for his rhymes." Check out the visuals to "Come Do Me," cont'd below...

"The tracks deal with a variety of subjects from street reality ("Life Of A Drug Dealer"), to funny Slick Rick style adventures ("Stay Out Of Bars") to flat out nastiness ("Superfreak"). The cuts I enjoyed most though is when The Genius rhymes about the most important thing - himself! "True Fresh MC" and "I'm Slammin" combine some of the album's most skillful production with The Genius' verbal ballistics. On "True Fresh MC," Mo Bee combines an uptempo beat, funky bassline, and crackling snare drum, with small saxophone samples from PE's "Bring The Noise" and the most original sampling of P-Funk's classic "Flashlight" keyboard riff I've heard to date. "I'm Slamming" combines the beat used by BDP on "Blackman In Effect" with a bluesy Booker T & MG's sample that simply kicks. Flat out funky beats and fly rhymes make Words From The Genius something to look out for." - The Source, 1991. Check out the full review in The Source down below...

April 10, 2014

Marcus D "Simply Complex" (Album Stream)

Marcus D is an excellent producer out of Seattle, Washington. With a handful of beautiful production albums under his belt, he returns with his latest offering Simply Complex. The 14-track projects boasts features from Torae, Del The Funky Homosapien, Royce Da 5'9, Kid Vishis, Crooked I, SunN.Y., Reks, Saigon, Termanology, Planet Asia, Skyzoo and more. This project is a bit more upbeat than I recall on past releases, and it pushes the envelope with its instrumentation, but still keeps itself roots in hip-hop. I'm gonna sit with it some more, but let me know what YOU think? Dig in...

April 09, 2014

The Combat Jack Show: "Dame Dash Episode"

I honestly believe that the Combat Jack (first) interview with Damon Dash is the single greatest podcast recorded to date. An epic conversation that covers Dame's childhood, Harlem, Aaliyah, Jay-Z & Roc-A-Fella, all the business ventures he's touched since, as well as an awkward but funny conversation with Just Blaze that tells the tale of why some people didn't mess with Dame. Yet, at its heart, we get glimpses of the honorable man who just wanted the best for his people and his family. Be clear, if you haven't already heard this - since it was a year ago today - click play immediately below and listen to an incredible interviewer get the deepest interview yet with Dame.

April 08, 2014

Now Born Click "Movin bw X-Fyles" (12", 1998)

A nice 12" from Now Born Click, released independently some time between 1997-1998 on Now Born Entertainment. The Now Born Click - Bombay, Born-God, Ill God, Bullet Proof, Soldier, Nitty Wu, Fred Da Flip, & P Live - were from the New Brighton area of Staten Island. Their first release was in late 1993 with "Now Born Soldiers" on Phat Wax Records. The song had underground success, and after moving on from Phat Wax, they released the remix on StepSun Entertainment in 1995. At the time, StepSun was also pushing the Troubleneck Brothers & the test press release from Death Camp. I haven't heard too many positive stories from artists that worked with StepSun so it's no surprise they moved on from the label. In 1997-1998, the NBC returned (minus a few members?) on this 12" here: "Movin" and "X-Fyles" with production from Bombay on both tracks. I think this is the best release in their catalog, but it was unfortunately the last official NBC release (to my knowledge). NBC members have released solo material & there are loosies that have resurfaced over the years, but for now, let's dig into the 12" below. Got more info/corrections? Lemme know.

April 07, 2014

De La Soul "Smell The D.A.I.S.Y." (Mixtape)

De La Soul's new mixtape, Smell the D.A.I.S.Y., includes reworked rhymes alongside previously unheard beats from late production legend J Dilla. In February, group member Posdnuos praised Dilla’s unique production style in an interview with Rolling Stone. “Dilla was the Tupac of producers,” said the rapper. “He has so many unreleased things that no one has heard. His family knows how vital and important an ingredient his music was to our work.” This is just perfect ... listen to the mix below...

April 06, 2014

Artifacts "Wrong Side Of Da Tracks" (The Source, 1994)

El Da Sensei & Tame One make up the underground duo Artifacts. Their debut album, "Between a Rock & A Hard Place" is celebrated largely due to the 12" release of "Wrong Side Of Da Tracks" with "Flexi With Da Tech" on the B-Side. The New Jerusalem MCs brought a dope element of hip-hop to the forefront in their music. The Source in '94, says: "Out the ruins of Brick City, NJ, comes a duo that never lost sight of the true meaning of b-boy culture. If you were able to physically chip away at the layers of the image, fraudulence and hype currently clouding hip-hop's sincerity, you would find the Artifacts, two emcees who have no problems giving real props to real hip-hop. Tame One and El The Sensei are more than just rappers; they are active participants in hip-hop's original underground society: graffiti. And as the title track suggests, when these brothers talk about writing, they don't always mean writing rhymes. So grab your black book, some fatcaps, a yard key and your favorite mop, because the Artifacts are about to take you back to the dawn of a culture."

"Finally, there is a song that does justice to the seek and destroy art of bombing. The subway excursion begins with a bubbling bassline, rumbling drums and the occasional horn as Tame tells you what he is all about: "I'm about to bomb like Vietnam under the same name Tame One / The bad one ink Flowmaster bastard with a Magnum." And just when you thought that it wouldn't get any nicer, El comes aboard to let you know that he can drop a few bombs of his own at the lyrical lay-up: "Avoid the crowds that want to stab me in the back / Enough of that / Watch the third rail track 'cause I don't wanna get zapped." Backed up with solid production, there is little doubt that the lyrical burners of these vandals will soon reach all-city status ... it is clear that Artifacts marks the true return of the B-Boy." Catch the visuals for the track & OG postcards above, full review below.