May 31, 2014

Jeru The Damaja "Come Clean" (The Source, 11/93)

"Just when you thought quality and skill were things of the past, in steps one of the last true MCs - Jeru "The Damaja" - to save the day. Jeru, who comes from Brooklyn, is a charter member of the Gang Starr Foundation and he might be best remembered by his jaw-tapping debut on the duo's last LP. Now he steps into the area with a solo that is already causing quite a buzz. "Come Clean" has been quietly kicking through the underground for a few months now, but now, with nationwide distribution, everyone is going to hear what the fuss is about. You can't get any rawer than this. You haven't heard a beat so stripped down since "Sucker MCs," and the rhymes head straight for your throat. Over one of the most distinguishable percussion patterns ever laid down (it literally sounds like an amplified version of Chinese water torture) Jeru kicks some of the ruggest lyrics of the year." Peep the visuals to the DJ Premier-produced banger, "Come Clean," cont'd below ...

"Jeru is a hardcore brother who takes no shorts, but what separates him from other rappers is that he conveys that image with lyrical skill instead of the typical guns 'n guts favored by the less talented. The only violence he commits is on the mic - "Real, ruff and rugged / Shine like a gold nugget / Every time I pick up the microphone I drug it / Unplug it on chumps with the gangs a babble / Leave your nines at home and bring your skills to the battle" - and if you can't do the same, he calls you out. With a fat beat, fat skills and a voice willing to criticize and challenge popular conventions, Jeru does every thing a rapper is supposed to. You can't ask for more." - The Source

May 30, 2014

Joe Sinistr "Under The Sun" (The Source, 5/94)

"The funk returns to New York with the second track off the Terminator X compilation. Most will recall Joe Sinistr from the lyrical contributions he made on Erick Sermon's solo project. After putting "Pepsi on diets" and "devouring worlds like Galactus," Joe's mad verbal deconstructions got him off to a good start in the underground. And as "Under The Sun" proves, Joe has a lot in store for the future. Joe comes from the East Coast branch of the funk school. Which means that his tracks are gritty enough to play in the car, but not so overwhelming that they drown out his rhymes. The beat for "Under The Sun" - which is best described as one-half P-Funk and one-half "Star Trek The Next Generation" - sets the stage for Joe's "anything goes" lyrical expedition. Like Redman, his most obvious influence, when he turns on the mic he doesn't stop rhyming until the track is done. What does he rhyme about? To be honest, it's kind of hard to figure out. He hides his messages beneath layers of Kool Keith-like cryptic codes, lyrical dead ends and patchwork ideas. His rhyme scheme resembles what you would hear if you were to randomly go down your radio dial at three second intervals and record the results ... The emphasis here is not on what Joe actually says, it's on how he says it. And as long as the beats connect and his flow is on time, no one is going to be mad." - The Source (5/94) Peep the video for "Under The Sun" below. (Updated: new video link).

May 29, 2014

You Must Learn Episode 1: Jeru The Damaja "Sun Rises In The East"

This year marks the 20th Anniversary of a hip-hop record distinguished by its raw sound, uncompromising lyricism, and social commentary: Jeru the Damaja's debut album, The Sun Rises In The East. 1994 was a powerful, transformative year for hip-hop. Nas, OutKast, and Biggie Smalls each dropped their debut albums, while other more established artists released projects regarded both then and now as milestones in the genre. Jeru was only 21 years old when he recorded the The Sun Rises; 22 when it came out on Payday Records. What you're about to hear is Jeru the Damaja taking us track by track through his DJ Premier-produced debut album, delving into an array of subjects and stories such as: waiting and watching for Nas to create Illmatic; spending formative years with the members of the Wu-Tang Clan; the nature of Brooklyn pride; his inspiration drawn from his family, friends and predecessors, and the story of how he got his pet hamster. "You Must Learn" was produced and edited by Peter Oasis, written by Dharmic X, and executive produced by Evan Auerbach, with narration from Soul Khan. The intro was produced by DJ Flipout, and the artwork was designed by Kelly Green. Listen to the debut episode of "You Must Learn" below.

May 28, 2014

Non Phixion "The Future Is Now" (Deluxe Edition)

Featuring MCs Ill Bill, Goretex and Sabac with DJ Eclipse, Brooklyns Non Phixion made their first waves as a group in the mid-1990s with the indie singles Legacy (1996) and 5 Boros (1997), released on MC Serchs Serchlite Music. They fit perfectly into an era in New York City that had produced not only the Wu-Tang Clan, M.O.P. and Mobb Deep, but also underground firebrands and peers like Company Flow and the Arsonists. Aggressive, brazen, intelligent, and never predictable, they were impossible to ignore. Not-to-be-missed live shows helped to build their legend and fanbase throughout the end of the 90s. As Chris Faraone explains in the sets ridiculously comprehensive liner notes book (featuring interviews with all four group members): Non Phixion inspired fans to simultaneously deploy their smarts, bang their heads, and throw a fist. With their small but lauded body of collective work, Ill Bill, Sabac Red, Goretex, and DJ Eclipse introduced hip-hop to a unique brand of intelligent thuggery that looked past convenient enemies, and brought heat to the terrorists in government and beyond. From the groups formation in the mid-90s, to their breakup more than a decade later, Non Phixion kicked conspiratorial science that rings even truer now than it did before the aughts … After the initial buzz in the wake of their early singles, they were signed to, and subsequently parted ways with, both the Geffen and Matador labels in the late 90s and early 2000s. After those experiences, Non Phixion decided – in true and appropriate indie fashion – to go for self. The Future Is Now finally hit in 2002 on the groups Uncle Howie Records. In addition to new songs like the singles Rock Stars and Drug Music, the album also included previously-heard tracks from the groups journey: Black Helicopters and If You Got Love. Production on the album matched the MC talent perfectly, with tracks by Bills brother and Uncle Howie label-mate Necro, with additional work by an array of legends, including DJ Premier, Large Professor, Pete Rock, and JuJu from the Beatnuts. With more of a decade in the rear-view mirror, The Future Is Now Premium Edition is the perfect way for fans to finally hear the stories about the forces that made – and eventually tore apart – Non Phixion, and how The Future Is Now came about.

May 27, 2014

Ak Skills "Check Da Flava" (12", 1996)

In 1996, Ak Skills (Queens, NY) was generating a solid buzz in the underground with his Lord Finesse-produced single "Check Da Flava." It was the first of his two 12" releases on Tru Criminal Records in 1996, and had "Nights of Fear" on the B-Side, which was produced by Buckwild. The 12" was featured in The Source's "Sure Shot Singles," saying "Ak Skills drops hazard with "Check The Flava," a straight out the underground joint worthy of attention. Its jazzy baseline embraces an organ-n-drum sequence while some on-point scratching gives it that extra touch." The single received some love in Beat Down Magazine too, echoing the sentiments of The Source. Also on Tru Criminal Records were Street Smartz, God Sunz, F.T., and the slept-on mixtape/compilation DJ Premier did called New York Reality Check 101. Listen to the full 12" below - what do you think?

May 26, 2014

The Source "The Best Hip-Hop Singles of 1992"

I miss the days of opening up The Source and seeing their Fat Tapes & choosing the hottest singles out each month. In this case, The Source was choosing the top singles of 1992. To humor myself, I've decided to choose one song from each row and then each column, too. In retrospect, we'll see which tracks are my favorites from the year and try to get it down to one final song... I think. 

Row 1: Deep Cover | Row 2: T.R.O.Y. | Row 3: Dwyck
Column 1: Scenario | Column 2: Dwyck | Column 3: T.R.O.Y.
Column 4: Fakin' The Funk (Remix) | Column 5: Uptown Anthem | Column 6: So What'Cha Want?

Of all the rows and columns, my favorite track in this whole year is ... *drum rolls* ... I'm going with Pete Rock & CL Smooth's "They Reminisce Over You." Such a classic cut; from the "Today" by Tom Scott & The California Dreams sample to the lyrics immortalizing their friend's passing ... it's just such an incredible record. In all honesty, hearing Pete Rock & CL Smooth perform "T.R.O.Y." live is one of the single greatest moments I've had at a live show ... and I've been to hundreds of shows over the years. I heard them rock it on 3 separate nights on tour with them in Europe; I left the merch table unattended to watch them each night! Thankful to see a crowd respond to such an incredible record. It was a vibe and they tapped into the energy of the crowd every night. Greatest song of '92, in my eyes. What about you? Best song of the year, each column, each row, whatever you wanna share - you can comment below or DM me or e-mail me, whatever is easier.

May 25, 2014

Dag Savage "E&J" (Album Stream)

Exile has teamed up with Johaz - another fresh voice from Cali - under the monicker DAG SAVAGE. The album features appearances by the Dirty Science family Blu, Aloe Blacc, Fashawn, Co$$, Choosey and more. After classics in "Below The Heavens" with Blu, and "Boy Meets World" with Fashawn, the stage is set for Exile & Johaz as Dag Savage, stream their DOPE debut album "E&J" below...

May 24, 2014

Trends Of Culture "Valley Of The Skinz" (The Source, 9/93)

If you are not up on the Trends of Culture album, then this single will quickly remedy the situation. Nothing short of perfect, this could be one of the summer's most enjoyable songs. Dedicated to our favorite subject - sex - Nastee, Grapevine, and M.O.L. show and prove that sex rhymes can be delivered with class, skill and distinction. While there are plenty of mix versions to choose from, most will want to stick wit the original. Its solid drums, soft piano keys and weird synth effects make it a winner even before the first rhyme is spoken." And when they turn on the mics, it is clear that they know what they are talking about. Showing great diversity and skill the Trends tell the tale with lines like: "Jimmy on patrol, Jenny on parole / And I took total control of her tuna casserole" and "A little playful pushin' / A little playful mushin' / And I'll tap the tush and I'll make flat the bush / But don't be tryin' to play a trick, G / 'Cause I can tell on the down low if you've been whistling dixie." - The Source, September 1993. Watch the visuals to Valley of the Skinz below...

Save a copy of the original review in The Source (9/93) below...

May 23, 2014

LA Leakers x DJ Premier "Leaks That Collected Dust" (Mix)

Sitting down with Justin Credible and DJ Sourmilk of the LA Leakers, the legendary DJ Premier tells multiple tales about some of his dopest cuts; from how a certain Texas legend wanted Mos Def’s “Mathematics,” how Rah Digga lost out on “The 6th Sense,” and a lot more! The mix from the LA Leakers is called Leaks That Collected Dust aka The Audio-Biography of DJ Premier, and you can stream and/or download the 16-track mixtape below. As a back-up, you can also grab a download HERE, too. Much respect to the greatest of all-time, DJ Premier of Gang Starr! Dig in...

May 22, 2014

Ugly Heroes "Ugly Heroes' LP (Album Stream)

"Heavy blue collar raps over nasty beats." On it's 1st anniversary, let's take a look back ... "An Ugly Hero is considered a myth. Growing up, the heroes we saw in cartoons and movies were perfectly chiseled, intelligent, and had senses none of us possess. An UGLY HERO is the everyday blue collar individual that makes the world go 'round. These are the heroes that work hard all day, everyday to help ensure that the lives around them are taken care of, and do it all without recognition. They wear themselves into the ground and sacrifice vanity for family. Apollo Brown, Verbal Kent, and Red Pill are UGLY HEROES," and this is their self-titled debut: stream it below, and cop the LP!

May 21, 2014

DJ 4our 5ive "The Best Of Biggie" (Mixtape)

Born in The Bronx, New York where he first found his love of Hip Hop, but DJ 4our 5ive moved to Brentwood, Long Island and attended Brentwood High School with the Rap Duo EPMD. He collaborated with the group to lay scratches on their debut album Strictly Business, released in 1988. DJ 4our 5ive later went on his first 40 city tour, Run’s House headlined by the legendary RUN DMC and Jam Master Jay. Since then he has worked with a lot of great artists and has released several quality mixtapes along the way. This tribute mix to the late Notorious B.I.G. includes lots of album cuts, classic features, remixes and a few slept-on joints. Listen to the mix below... R.I.P. Biggie.

May 20, 2014

Fat Joe "Flow Joe" (1993)

"Flow Joe" is the debut single by Bronx eMCee Fat Joe. It was released on his debut LP "Represent" in 1993. The song contains samples of "Get Out of My Life, Woman" by Lee Dorsey and "The Long Wait" by Morton Stevens, flipped by Diamond D as the producer on the track. Years later, Joe describes the record and his come-up to Complex: “I started out in the Apollo Theater. That’s where I got my start. I won Amateur Night four weeks in a row. I met Red Alert, who was the number one DJ in New York. He worked on 98.7 KISS FM. He asked me to give him a promo, like a jingle. So I went to Diamond D’s spot, and he came up with the beat. Red played it a couple of weeks later and the whole projects and everyone in front of the building started going crazy. So that was where ‘Flow Joe’ came from originally. Then, Chris Lighty and Relativity approached me about signing me, and they wanted that to be the single. So we took that, and we turned it into Flow Joe... and the rest is history" The B-Side to the 12" was "Livin Fat," produced by Lord Finesse. 

May 19, 2014

Masta Ace "Jeep Ass Nigguh" (The Source, 6/93)

"True, brothers in Cadillac's and low riding '64 Impala's have it going on, but when a hardcore New York jeep ass n!gga like Masta Ace rolls up and presses "play," you know it's gonna be on. While he has been on a little hiatus as of late, Ace definitely came correct with this one. Over an ear-shattering acoustic bassline, he cruises the city streets, blasting his system and battling kids who think they can hang. Ace's delivery is just as amped as his bassline, mixing dope lyrics with frame-shredding boom. No one can disturb this groove, not even the police... "Black boy, Black boy turn that shit down / You know that America don't want to hear the sound / Of the bass drum, jungle music / Go back to Africa / N!gger I'll arrest you if you're holding up traffic / I'll be damned if I listen / So cop save your breath / And write another ticket if you have any left / I'm breakin' eardrums while I'm breakin' the law / I'm disturbin' all the peace 'cause Sista Souljah said war!" Play this loud, long and often." - The Source, June 1993 (Sure Shot Single). Peep the visuals below...

Save a copy of the original Sure Shot Single review (6/93) below...

May 18, 2014

Skyzoo x Torae "Pre-Loaded: Best of the Barrel Brothers" (Mix)

Skyzoo & Torae aka The Barrel Brothers have their collaborative album dropping soon but they've dropped off this dope "Pre-Loaded" promotional mix in advance of the LP. Hosted by the BBAS family, DJ E-Holla, it's a quick mix of their previous collaborations, from “Get It Done” to “Cash Still Rules” and everything in between. The Barrel Brothers are about their BARS, peep the mix below...

May 17, 2014

Technics 1200s (Vibe, May 2004)

"Funny how the Technics 1200s, originally a tech nerd innovation, became the party accessory in hip hop, more than Gucci and gold. Back in the day, B-boys needed suitably fly audio gear to get the party started. The needle must have been called a stylus for a reason. Born in '73 as a "middle-class player system" for couch-blob audiophiles, the steel and rubber magnificence of the SL-1200 wouldn't get in the DJ mix until '79, when Technics slapped on a pitch shifter that could dramatically adjust the speed of the record, and the "turntable" took on an active lifestyle. An unintended zigga zigga of marketing genius, 1200s would become known as 12s, as essential to hip hop as the 12-inch wax itself, and a required status symbol for any jam. As DJ Premier, Gang Starr's legendary producer, explains, obsessive poindexterity and tinkering helped define a DJ's style. "With the 1200, you have to be deep into experimenting, with taking it apart, going inside the motor, and adjusting the brakes." One could spin the record back and release it without losing break-beat speed and train-wrecking the dance floor. "I hacked off the curves of a penny with a heated hacksaw and put it underneath the head shells of my needle," he says. The 1200 became essential in the studio, too. As rap evolved in the mid-80s, turntables were the nexus between sound and sampler. "The 1200s helped make something artistic," says Premier. "It could create the hooks in songs and production. You could experiment like a scientist." The record became not only a crowd motivator, but also a producer's raw material for loops and beats ultimately reimagined into vinyl. And like any piece of fly apparel, the real DJs, from the late Jam Master Jay to Premier, only rocked their own 12s at the gig. "Back then, seeing someone with new 1200s was like having a new Benz," marvels Premier. "If you didn't have 1200s, you wasn't down. Motherf#ckers used to get cornered at parties, robbed for them shits. Not sneakers or fresh leather, but turntables!" -Vibe, 2004. Sharing today, because it's a shame we're losing pieces like this, kids just don't understand what it meant to the culture. 

May 16, 2014

The Combat Jack Show "Lord Finesse Episode"

"Diggin' In The Crates co-founder Lord Finesse gives us a history lesson on his days as the Funky Technician, discovering the late great Big L (R.I.P.), being a part of the Notorious B.I.G.'s classic 'Ready To Die' album, as well as running with Puff, working closely to this day with Dr. Dre and his legal issues with Mac Miller. Of course there's more to this, so pull up a chair because rap class is in session." In all my years, I have never met Lord Finesse, one of my favorite producer/MCs.

May 15, 2014

Coalmine Records Presents "Unearthed" (Album Stream)

In celebration of our decennary run, we’re pleased to unearth our highly anticipated compilation LP, ‘Unearthed,’ mixed by the extraordinary DJ Revolution. ‘Unearthed,’ epitomizes our commitment to delivering quality Hip-Hop, equipped with a tracklist that serves as a who’s who of today’s independent Hip-Hop scene, packed with features from both veteran and burgeoning emcees such as Pharoahe Monch, Kool G Rap, Large Professor, The Artifacts, Blu, Sean Price, Billy Danze (of M.O.P.), Big Noyd, Skillz, Guilty Simpson, Rah Digga, Maffew Ragazino, El Da Sensei and Fashawn, among others. Can You Dig It? Listen to the project below and much respect to Matt Diamond!

May 15, 2014

Ice Cube "Amerikkka's Most Wanted" (Press Kit, 1990)

"He calls his solo debut album Amerikkka's Most Wanted, but ever since exploding on the scene as a chief lyricist for N.W.A., Ice Cube has been one of America's most acclaimed rap artists. However, if anyone thinks the Platinum success of N.W.A.'s Straight Outta Compton may have watered down Ice Cube's scorching images of life in the neighborhood, forget it. Amerikkka's Most Wanted is a steel-hard collection of fourteen new raps, told from the point of view of the kid on the block: a perfect description of Ice Cube himself. The album is a classic example of East Meets West. The L.A. born-and-bred Ice Cube traveled to New York to join forces with Public Enemy's Chuck D. in the recording of Amerikkka's Most Wanted. Also on the production team were Hank Shocklee, Keith Shocklee, Eric Sadler, and Sir Jinx, a friend and member of Ice Cube's new band, The Lench Mob. "Chuck D. is a real good friend," says Ice Cube, "and we just took control of this record." Cont'd...

"...Ice Cube views himself as a reporter, both informing an ignorant world about life in the inner city and holding up a mirror to Black America. "Rap is the network newscast Black people never had," he says. Of course, not everybody sees it that way. Ice Cube and N.W.A. found themselves at the center of controversy last year when a regional F.B.I. Director wrote a public letter condemning the rap group for its song, '**** tha Police.' "Anytime you have kids talking to a mass of other kids - and they're listening - you're going to have controversy," says Ice Cube. "My first thought was to get out a new 12" remix of '**** tha Police.' I've had much worse done to me before than get a letter." Growing up in the rough L.A. neighborhood of Compton, Ice Cube indeed knows first hand how much worse it can be. As a kid, he loved the music of Parliament / Funkadelic and the comedy of Richard Pryor. But it was rap that turned his head around for good. "When I first heard 'Rapper's Delight,' I couldn't stop rewinding it," he recalls. "It did nothing but grab be." By age 14 he was writing his own raps, and seeing Ice-T in concert for the first time sealed his determination to turn pro." - 1990.

May 14, 2014

D.I.T.C. "The Remix Project" (Album Stream)

Slice Of Spice is proud to have partnered with D.I.T.C. Entertainment to present 'D.I.T.C. The Remix Project' on vinyl. This incredible remix project has been pressed to 2xLP on 180 gram wax, and presented in a full color gatefold jacket. This release features A.G., Big L, Big Pun, Diamond D, Fat Joe, KRS-One, Lord Finesse, O.C., Party Arty, Showbiz and production from 9th Wonder, Alchemist, Apollo Brown, Bink, Buckwild, DJ Premier (of Gang Starr), Diamond D, Lord Finesse, Marco Polo, O. Gee, Showbiz. They've spared no expense here, mixing with Eddie Sancho, mastering with Tony Dawsey, to ensure a superior quality product and audiophile wax. Listen below... and order HERE.

May 14, 2014

Wu-Tang Clan "Enter The Wu-Tang" (HHC, 1994)

"Get ready to step into the shadowy world of the slums of Shaolin, and be schooled at swordpoint in the mysteries of ancient martial arts by RZA, the GZA, Ol' Dirty Bastard, the Method Man, Ghost Face Killer, U-God, Rebel INS and Shallah Raekwon - the Wu-Tang Clan have arrived. Taking up a terrifying stance somewhere around Schooly D or "Criminal Minded" era BDP, Wu-Tang aren't afraid to put the scariness back into hip-hop. With a producer who knows how to make piano samples sound funky, funky fresh and seven rappers with enough styles to satisfy the most demanding of listeners, "Enter The Wu-Tang" is an album that cannot fail to become of hip-hop's all-time classics."

"Shame On A N!gga" is a brilliant piece of music, moving across the rhythm with feet made of piano keys. "CREAM" butchers some soul loops till they can't bear but to run screaming from their captors. "Da Mystery of Chess-boxin" will explain something of Wu-Tang's take on old school kung-fu flicks, and "Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber Part II" has a snare drum that snaps the top off your head even at the lowest volume. The emcees have more to say than we can get into here, but present their lyrics in some of the freshest, dopest ways you've ever heard. It may take a couple of plays to settle in, but soon even the hardest hip-hop heads will realize this is one of the best albums ever made ... It's the sound of hip-hop returning to the golden age." - Hip Hop Connection, 5/94.

May 13, 2014

DJ Rhettmatic "The Wedding Mixer" (Mixtape)

"Back in 2002, Key-Kool of the Visionaries asked me on behalf of his brother, if I was available to DJ his brother's wedding reception...the only thing is, the wedding was to be held in Hawaii. At that time, I couldn't make it out because I had something already scheduled, and at the same time, Key's brother & his soon-to-be-wife couldn't afford to get a DJ at the last minute. So to help out Key's brother and to serve as a wedding gift as well, I made a mixtape specifically for Key's brother & future wife to play at their wedding reception. The mixtape was filled with all the classic 70's & 80's joints that can get a party going & music that basically Key's brother grew up listening to. I used the original vinyl for this mix & recorded it on old 4-track cassette recorder before I got Pro-Tools & before Serato was actually released." Some of the history of the infamous "Wedding Mixer."

May 12, 2014

LOTUG "Here Come The Lords" (The Source, 5/93)

"We dropped 'Psycho' and everyone thought that it was Das." That line, taken from the Lords' current fly single, "Funky Child" is no lie. Many a hip-hop head was confused by the similar lyrical flow and video concepts of these two underground camps. And although I didn't feel that "Psycho" was all that, their next two joints ("Check It" and "Funky Child") convinced me that this Newark, NJ trio was not out to make a living by imitating Das EFX. On Here Come The Lords, MCs Mr. Funke and DoItAll - along with their DJ, Lord Jazz - proceed to rock the high pitched freestyle on fifteen tracks of underground rawness. To witness the Lords' rapid fire back-and-forth skill trade all you need to do is drop the needle. On "Chief Rocka," ill lines like "I'm the chief rocka so I guess I am in charge / I freak it with a twist so you boom it in your cars / I'm the one with the flow when I grip like G.I. Joe..." are kicked with mad intensity." Revisit the Lords' Here Come The Lords LP below...

"Beat-wise, the legendary Marley Marl digs up new flavor from his House of Hits and gives the Lords a plate full of that Queensbridge-Spring Valley "underground fusion." Rich in texture, Marley's sharp horn breaks and suffocating basslines keep things on track during those rare times when the Lords stop to catch their breath. He also keeps the fast forward material (there is some) to a minimum. The Lords have gotten off to a good start, and with LP cuts like "From The Bricks," "Lords's Prayer," and "Lord Jazz Hit Me One Time," at their disposal, they aim to stay in the race." - The Source, May 1993. This album got a ton of burn! You can save copy of the full review below...

May 12, 2014

XXL Freshmen: "A Statistical Analysis" (2008-2014)

The Village Voice & journalist Phillip Mylnar took the initiative and did a statistical analysis of all the freshman classes from 2014 dating back to 2008. Below is a sample of what he found and as a statistician myself away from music, it gave me a legit smile because while numbers certainly can lie, in this case they provide some great content! Let's take a closer look below, shall we? Hit the link above for more & the opinions added below are mine and only mine; just sharing my thoughts.

  • Chances of actually releasing an album during the same year: 25.8% ... most artists who appear on the cover fail to capitalize on the buzz by releasing a studio album the same year! With the way the industry is shifting, I think we're gonna see more releases than ever in the coming years, so that might change, but whether it'll be studio albums or not, I'm not sure. As the A&Rs become more obsolete, labels are only signing acts that have generated their own buzz and built their own fanbases, shouldn't they know (and want) to drop music when they have the spotlight?!
  • Chances you'll become a bonafide superstar: 12.2% ... Lupe Fiasco & J. Cole received co-signs from Kanye & Hov, Wiz Khalifa got with the amazing Amber Rose, and Macklemore hit big with the crossover "Thrift Shop." Those are solid exceptions, but that's about it ... so much to say, break-out stars like Drake, A$AP Rocky & Nicki Minaj turned down freshman cover opportunities as they didn't want to be grouped in with possibly failing talent. Hmm, interesting point. That trend will continue, for sure.
  • Chances you're a mature student: 25.7% ... over a quarter of all picks are 30 years old by the time of their cover spot. I think we'll see that changing A LOT in years to come, unless freshman continues to mean artists that have already been out for YEARS. Otherwise, yeah, more Lils in coming years, I'd put my $ down on that one.
  • Chances you're a proud New York representer: 16.2% ... New York used to be the home of Hip-Hop, but now it's spread throughout the country. After 2008, NY rhymers have been in the minority when it comes to grabbing cover spots. I honestly can't say if that'll change, because NY radio has been off for years. If we don't support our own, it can't possibly click nationally. This is the one I'm most eager to see, because these things move in cycles, eventually the sound will have to come back to New York.

May 11, 2014

Brother Ali "Champion EP" (EP Stream, 2004)

"Brother Ali is a perfect example of the diversity in hip-hop's expansive universe. He is the type of man that couldn't have been recognized on a national scale ten years ago, and yet he is now one of the underground's shining stars. "Shadows on the Sun" was an intense journey into the mind of one of the most complex and talented rhyme sayers today. With such an auspicious debut, he chose to follow up in a great way: a nice little EP with more of the same type of material that made the original so successful. The "Champion EP" is just another reminder of why Brother Ali made his name in the first place.... Ali clearly channels his feelings through the mic, and rapping seems to be a way of working out his problems. Few people are born with the ability to express themselves in this way, but Brother Ali is clearly one of them. "Sleepwalker" and "Rain Water" offer plenty of insight into Ali as a person, and this is the true evidence that he is one of the best rappers alive. Ali destroys competitors on tracks like "Bad Ma Fucka," but his true test is the personal reflection... This man lives and breathes hip-hop, and this excellent record shows it." - RapReviews // 10th anniversary.

May 10, 2014

Awon & Dephlow "Dephacation" (Album Stream)

Awon & Dephlow - both reppin' out of VA - hit us upside the head with an LP almost entirely produced by Phoniks. The 11-track LP, "Dephacation," has only one feature and that's Awon's wife and fellow Don't Sleep Records MC, Tiff The Gift. The quality of this projects begs for the MCs to step back in the studio for another dose of real hip-hop. I suspect it'll be on its way sooner than later. Once again, tight on the quality of music, visuals and the packaging of their merch ... it's a no-brainer. I'm having deja vu all over again ... stream it below and enjoy! Peace to Don't Sleep Records.

May 09, 2014

A Tribe Called Quest "Midnight Marauders" (Press Kit, 1/94)

"With "Midnight Marauders," the abstract rapper Q-Tip, the five foot assassin Phife Dog and the sound provider Ali Shaheed Muhammad are extending the boundaries of now-school hip-hop. "We decided to call the album "Midnight Marauders" because A Tribe Called Quest are like sound thieves looting for your ears," says Ali ... Like a chic after-hours club floating through the dreams of the hip-hop nation, "Midnight Marauders" is a celebration of night hawk aesthetics: going to the local bodega to get a hero, zooming to Carvel's to gulp a milkshake, chilling with your woman in the crib, hangin' with your crew as they "push through the park although it's dark," strutting down the avenue like a deadly combination of Superfly and Shaft, and bragging to your peoples on the boulevard ... "On Midnight Marauders we consciously decided to experiment with different styles," explains Ali on their self-produced project. "We wanted to be more street, more freestyle. Neither Tip, Phife nor myself had the desire to repeat ourselves by making The Low End Theory part two." 

"Hip-Hop music is our lives. We live it every day and we always want to speak to and for hip-hop kids like ourselves. We can all do outside stuff, but when it comes to the music, we give it our all," explains Q-Tip, who like the other group members is 23 years-old. Perhaps it is this clarity of purpose that propelled "Midnight Marauders" to debut at #1 and #8 respectively on Billboard's R&B and Pop Album charts. This album showcases these proclaimed "neo-n!ggas of the nineties" attacking the grooves with savage wit, metaphorical cultural criticism and irresistibly funky textures. Although some fans have tried to slot Phife as an accessory to Q-Tip's vision and Ali's radiohead symphonies, he has come into own, howling with the big dogs. With the new-jack blues of "8 Million Stories" Phife transports the listener to the aural minefield of the ghetto and the five foot assassin delivers a hip-hop tour da force over melancholy beats and mournful lyrics."

"Sounding like the theme music to a Black science fiction film, the track "Electric Relaxation" is an intoxicating love song that combines futuristic beats with street corner poetics. With "Midnight Marauders," A Tribe Called Quest has swung open the doors to their private Black Metropolis filled with quirky wordplay, vivid images and brilliant musicianship. It's laid back, yet insistent grooves will leave listeners looting for this album for years to come." - Press Kit, January 1994

A Tribe Called Quest - OG Press Bio/Kit - January 1994.

May 08, 2014

Alex Belth & Illchemist "Another Fine Mess" (Mixtape)

The most eclectic, comedy-filled Hip-Hop mix I've possibly ever heard. I really enjoyed the melding of comedic sketches and dialogue from television and film into the mix. To have a tracklist would ruin the experience, in my eyes, so instead I'll just share what Alex Belth had to say to introduce the mix: "I listened to a lot of rap records starting in the late '80s throughout the '90s. I bought vinyl, collected mixtapes, and stayed up late to record mix shows on WNYU (89.1) and WKCR (89.9). I'd put aside enough material to make a half-dozen mixes, and so when Alan (a/k/a illchemist) approached me last December about doing another full-length mix project, I had plenty of material to choose from. We spent the next 5 months crafting the project, lacing spoken word, comedy bits and movie dialogue over Hip Hop beats..." and they now present to us "Another Fine Mess." Please do yourself the favor of listening to this sooner than later, available to stream below. Go ahead, click play...

May 07, 2014

Nature "Next" Feature In Vibe Magazine (June, 1999)

"I'd rather be the underdog and do real good," says soft-spoken Nature, "than have a lotta hype then bust." On this chilly March day, Nas's 23-year old protege appears to have an unwavering air of confidence... With a tight debut album set for summer release, Nature's feelin' good about life in the rap game. Before he was Nature, Jermaine Baxter was a shorty coming up in NYC's notorious Queensbridge projects. He and Nas went to the same school. Then in 1997, after a three-year bid, Nature linked up with his illmatic counterpart and was thrust into the spotlight as the fourth member of the Firm, featuring Nas, Foxy Brown, and AZ. But pressures from outside and within the group left Nature with a bitter taste in his mouth. "In the Firm there was, like, a lot of different egos and politics involved," he says. "Excluding myself, you had three heads who sold millions of records on their own. But when it came time to come together, the whole image wasn't pure." "The Firm was on a gangsta vibe," Nas would later say, "while Nature's bringing that gritty shit. Brothas ain't get a chance to hear (Nature's) side of the story yet. And I want brothas to feel the fire and anguish of his story." (Updated: I've never found a CD-Q of this track, but let's go back to the mixtape days with DJ Clue's exclusive Nature cut, "If I Ain't A Thug." Got a copy?) Cont'd below...

"Nature's being very cautious with his forthcoming solo debut, For All Seasons (Trackmasters/Columbia). He tests tasty selections like the raw jail tune "Biddin' It" on the ears of folks in his Queens neighborhood. So don't expect to hear any Cristal-poppin', radio-friendly R&B rap. "Personally, I don't dance," Nature says, grinning. "I respect dance music, but I'm trying to make tough songs. I want to add to the game, not subtract from it." Following in the footsteps of Nas, Nature also sees his impending success as a bridge for his new group of rappers, Wild Gremlins, to build upon. "We went all year with Harlem World," Nature says jokingly. "Much love to them, but we want to go back to Queens for a little while." This underdog will have his day." - Vibe (6/99).

May 06, 2014

Mr. Thing "Portable Anorak" (Mixtape, 2008)

UK turntablist and former member of the Scratch Perverts, Mr. Thing, blessed us with heavily slept-on mix back in 2008 called "Portable Anorak." The incredible mix of samples and breaks contains absolutely "no bootlegs, compilations or dodgy MP3s of records I don't own to make it look better," said Mr. Thing when he originally released it. Yes, that means he didn't dig on YouTube, these are the original dusty records we all try to dig and discover. As a DMC champion, it's not only his ability to discover unique and rare records, he's also an exceptional DJ, so this is a must-listen! Updated audio.

May 05, 2014

Funkee Phlavaz: "Episodes 1-6" (1993)

Referring back to old posts, many of you should know that Alchemist & Scott Caan were once in a group called the Whooliganz. The tracks and project they've released has been discussed - hit the tags - but that's not where the story ends, not by a long shot! Thanks to the undefeated internet, Passion Of The Weiss has unearthed and premiered the first two (I added more) episodes of Funkee Phlavaz, undoubtedly the greatest show that most people never saw. There were allegedly 17 episodes back in 1993 or so, which ran on a station that handled programming from the students of Beverly Hills High School. PW goes on to say that Alchemist hosted the first few episodes, but eventually "Funkee Phlavaz" recruited guest hosts that included Guru, the Pharcyde, Masta Ace, KRS-One" & more. The program was produced by Adam Weissman, who is now an incredible art director at Stussy. You'll hear a diverse range of Hip-Hop & Dancehall on the episodes (you should be watching by now). Props all around, this is a baggy-clothed time capsule for an era not-so-forgotten, but a reminder we did weird shit, too... the soundtrack to our bad decisions was just better. It's ironic to see Alchemist introduce a young group by the name of Mobb Deep, when we now know what an integral he's played in their sound, and vice versa! Check that, King Tee, Trends of Culture, The Pharcyde and lots more below, will update as I can. I miss The Box & Yo! MTV Raps.

May 04, 2014

Run DMC "Down With The King" (The Source, 6/93)

"O.K., so there's a new Run-DMC album. There's plenty to get excited about here, especially the prospect of the greatest comeback in hip-hop history. You really won't be able to resist an album with such an array of top producers. And after ten years, it's good to know that the crew still sports the same command of the microphone... It's easy to be cynical about Down With The King because of its "We Are The World" overtones: here is an album that has the best producers in the biz coming together to save the eroding career of rap's first superheroes. And this mish-mosh of styles threatens to overwhelm of the album. Although "Can I Get It, Yo," the EPMD cut, sounds incredibly dope, the Pete Rock cuts have the same horn stuff he's been doing to death, the Q-Tip track sounds like "Scenario" and the Naughty and Hank Shocklee tracks sound like, well, Naughty and Hank Shocklee tracks. Which is all cool, except this is supposed to be a Run-DMC record and not some kind of movie soundtrack. In some ways, this makes sense. Since they started it all, King could be their way of coming back to stake their claim on every new hip-hop outpost, like "we started everything, so we're gonna put brothas in their place by freaking that shit on our record." And, to their credit, Run and DMC (and Jay, when he hits the mic) still possess the skills to be memorable, placing the group firmly back in the game. And while the producers make the album solid - there are no clunkers here - these master musical chefs don't do the trick of bringing Run-DMC back. Run-DMC do that on their own." - The Source (June, 1993). Revisit Down With The King below...

Save a copy of the Down With The King LP review in The Source (6/93)...

May 03, 2014

Wu-Tang Clan - Press Kit (Protect Ya Neck .... Kid!, 1993)

Wu-Tang Clan Original Press Kit Loud BMG
Wu-Tang Clan Original Press Kit Loud BMG Page 2

Wu-Tang Clan, Protect Ya Neck ... Kid! Going back to late '92, the Wu-Tang released 'Protect Ya Neck' on their own label before signing to Loud Records. An official pressing would follow on this day in '93 as the lead single to their debut album, 'Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).' The press kit above was sent out by BMG a while after 'Protect Ya Neck' had dropped and by this time, they were actually pushing 'Can It All Be So Simple' to radio, but let's focus on 'Protect Ya Neck,' where it says: ‘The sizzling, hardcore single, “Protect Ya Neck,” first released on the Clan’s own Wu-Tang label, is already blazing a trail through clubs, college radio, and New York’s subterranean hip-hop scene. LA-based (bi-coastal) Loud Records picked up on these underground vibes, and immediately signed the group … Punks, perpetrators, and impostors better duck the death blow because Wu-Tang is no joke. Backed by bone-breaking beats and eerie horror movie sounds, this family of lyrical masters — featuring The Rebel INS, Shallah Raekwon, Method Man, U God, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Ghost Face Killer, Prince Rakeem, and The Genius — filling piles of styles and more flavors than Life Savers. “Protect Ya Neck” is what hardcore hip-hop is all about.’ Readers of my past sites remember me posting this full press-kit years ago so this may not be new to ya, but I can still remember buying the 12" on Fresh Pond Road in Queens; the white sleeve with the Wu logo stood out at the display and my only regret at the time was not coppin' doubles, although I eventually did. While the exact date of its release may be in question, today is just as good as any to celebrate a classic single - from a classic album - in a classic catalog. Oh, and ‘The clan does not want to be confused for Kung-Fu clowns. ‘We are not on no flips and kicks bullshit,’ says Rakeem. ‘If anything, we flip flows with lyrics that kick ass.’ They also stress that it isn’t safe for wack rappers to even touch the mic anymore.’

Wu-Tang Clan Protect Ya Neck 12" Vinyl

Another good excuse to revisit the LP below...

May 02, 2014

Nightbreed "2 Roads Out The Ghetto" (12", 1998)

This is a phenomenal record from 1998 right here: Nightbreed's "2 Roads Out The Ghetto" 12". All three tracks on this 12" were produced by the founder of Fortress Entertainment and the producer for the Natural Elements crew, Charlemagne. Nightbreed was Brooklyn's KA (The Verbal Swordsman) and Oddbrawl (The Lyrical Juggernaut). Charlemagne and his Fortress Entertainment put out some of the best, most lyrical releases from NY's underground scene in the late 90s. A quick look on Discogs will tell you that this Nightbreed record is one of the more expensive records in the Fortress catalog. With the hard-hitting "2 Roads Out The Ghetto," the piano-driven "Long Time Coming" and the dusty "Ruckus," it's a surprise that they weren't able to secure a deal at the time. KA has said it wasn't without attempts, it just didn't work out for Nightbreed. To his credit, while things didn't go as planned in the 90s, KA has seen much success in the last decade, starting with a feature on GZA's "Pro Tools" LP in '08. He went on to release his debut album "Iron Works," and has since released some of the best, most cerebral concept albums. He also popped up in the news when an article was written about his 9-5 & drew even more attention to his art. Unfortunately, not much has been heard of Oddbrawl since (that I'm aware of), although he was obviously very talented. In the end, I'm glad that KA found a career, then when the itch hit him to create again, the stars aligned and he found some long-awaited success that many 90s artists never found. 

May 02, 2014

J-Live "Around The Sun" (Album Stream)

J-Live's 10th release and 6th full length album, "Around The Sun" marks yet another growth spurt for the indie hip hop veteran. Around The Sun features a smooth yet gritty OG boom bap New York sound. It's a cohesive work of art, but still an eclectic listen with a wide range of production as exhibited by the first two released tracks "Money Matters" prod. by Oddisee and "Not Listening" prod. by Korede. If you've been following J-Live since the Braggin' Writes days, you know what to expect and 2008's "Then What Happened?" is still one of my favorite albums post-2000. The selfie album artwork has to go to though, J-Live... hit up Adam 'ILLUS' Wallenta again, lol. Listen below...

May 01, 2014

Camp Lo "Next" Feature In Vibe Magazine (November, 1996)

"What I love most about '70s flicks is the cool way they talked and dressed," says Camp Lo's Geechi Suede (Salahadeen Wallace), barely watching a videotape of the 1970 action comedy Cotton Comes to Harlem. "Not in this flick, though." Geechi waves his hand at the screen; he and his partner Sonny Cheeba (Saladine Wilds) are a tad disappointed in the Blockbuster blaxploitation selection this writer has brought to Geechi's modest East Bronx apartment. Cotton's not quite as gritty as 1973's gangster-bent Hell Up In Harlem, or the 1975 coming-of-age classic Cooley High, which are the duo's favorites. But whether funny or mackadocious, these cinematic moments (which came out when these cats were in  Pampers) mark Camp Lo's bond. Geechi, 21, and Sonny, 22, met two years ago after being introduced by a mutual friend, and discovered that they shared not only a first name but also a love for the decade that embodied flamboyance and superbaad optimism. "Sonny introduced me to The Mack," Geechi says. He in turn took Sonny - who was on his way to electrician school and had never rhymed a day in his life - as his partner. "What gave me the idea to do it was Sonny's ability to critique raps," he says. "Thoroughly."" Check out the visuals to "Coolie High," cont'd...

Eight months later, after completing and shopping their demo, Camp Lo landed a recording deal with Profile, set to pull off their heist of the rap game. Their first single, "Coolie High," which appeared on the soundtrack to The Great White Hype, was a quintessential old-school-meets-in-school hit that blended the duo's retro rhyme delivery with their cut 'n' paste recollection of the '70s, blaxploitation, and The Godfather. Their long-playing debut, A Piece Of The Action, is a full-blown taste of Original Flavor's Ski, the album offers a lineup of intoxicating songs like "Sparkle," "Nicky Barnes," and "Black Connection" (an adaptation of Bruce Lee's Chinese Connection). "I thought it was fly to take on that concept because not too many MCs were coming from a movie angle," says Geechi, reducing the Cristal/Versace onslaught to a fun fantasy. This way, if listeners don't want the party to end, all they have to do is rewind." - Vibe, November 1996. The full feature is below...