June 30, 2014

Astronote "Astroblacked" (Album Stream)

French producer Astronote is back at it with his latest production album, "Astroblacked." We been cool for some years now, wish I'd been posting here longer, a lot of his back catalog I'd posted about on older sites that are long gone, along with all those dead zShare links, lol. If you didn't catch it - after this - go back and listen to "The Raw Tape." Donwill's "Laura's Song" is also one of my favorite tracks and visuals; the video making use of Fat Beats, NY to re-enact "High Fidelity." Back to Astroblacked, the album is 21 tracks and features Blu, Illa J, Stacy Epps, Rasheeda Ali, and more. It's soulful, but progressive in it's styling & hard-hitting at the same time. One of these days I'll post one of his compilation mixes, which will catch you up on his back catalog and help you see his progression as a producer. Stream the album below and props to DJ Graffiti out in Detroit.

June 29, 2014

Eternia & MoSS "At Last" (Exclaim! June, 2010)

"The extensive journey from a supportive, yet vexingly restrictive, hometown scene to cutthroat hip-hop Mecca NYC has clearly paid artistic dividends for Toronto, ON natives Eternia and MoSS. Marking the first time either has worked so extensively with a single artist on record, the relationship felt on At Last is almost one of coach and fighter, with MoSS's raw, menacing beats playing the driving workout regimen that pushes Eternia's biting lyricism to unforeseen limits. The unrepentant wordsmith gets off to a characteristically ferocious start, but it's the record's midsection that holds her most memorable moments. Cuts like "Past That" and "The Half" find her dealing with issues of religion, distant half-siblings and a seemingly destructive father with unchecked realism, while eerie centerpiece "To The Future" matches a cycled series of sonic convulsions and desperation with verbal revelations that will have many mouths hitting the floor. Though the producer's ominous overtones remain fairly constant throughout, there's enough rhythmic and instrumental variety here - from  unsettled guitars to wailing keys and cinematic strings - to match the musical impact with the words they accompany." Listen to At Last below...

Continue reading below where Eternia talks with Exclaim about what she hopes listeners will take away from the At Last project, and why "To The Future" is MoSS's most favorite track. The artwork above was done exclusively for Exclaim! Magazine by the talented Canadian artist, Andrew Mitchell.

June 28, 2014

The Alchemist "1st Infantry, 10th Anniversary" (Alchemix)

"Today marks the 10th Anniversary of Alchemist's debut solo, 1st Infantry. To celebrate A-L-C's decade of dope, we put together ten years worth of Alc bangers, from 2004- 2014. For each year, we picked one of our favorite Alc joints (not easy to do) and put together our own, Alchemix." The mix is presented by EvBoogie at UpNorthTrips & mixed by UnitedCrates. The tracklist includes joints from Nas & Prodigy, Remy Ma & Big Pun, Cam'ron, Snoop with Jada & Pusha T, Raekwon, Curren$y & Freddie Gibbs, Action Bronson, Schoolboy Q, and more. Listen to this Alchemist mix below...

June 27, 2014

Roc Marciano "The Pimpire Strikes Back" (Mixtape Stream)

The release of Roc Marciano's "The Pimpire Strikes Back" pre-dates the start of this site, but I wanted to post it, because it's still fresh on my mind and ... Roc Marciano. It was put out by Man Bites Dog Records, and is still available for free download. The tape features Madlib, Evidence, Knowledge The Pirate, Action Bronson, Willie The Kid, Lord Finesse, Alchemist, Meyhem Lauren, Arch Druids, Cormega, and more. The Lord Finesse produced "Bruh Man" is still one of my favorite tracks off this project. You can hear "Bruh Man" & the full project at the stream below + download it using the 'name your price' option on Bandcamp. Click the tags for lots more content.

June 26, 2014

Buckshot & P-Money "Backpack Travels" (Album Stream)

The new album from Buckshot, "Backpack Travels," is produced entirely by New Zealand boombap beatsmith, P-Money. I first heard P-Money last year with his "Gratitude" LP. That project featured M.O.P, Skyzoo & Havoc, Roc Marciano, Freddie Gibbs & Fashawn, and lots more, including a track with Buckshot, which likely sparked their interest in working together on this new album. The 10-track release boasts features from Joey Bada$$, Steele of Smif-N-Wessun, Chelsea Reject & more. It's got a nice sound to it that caters to our niche audience and should fit well in Buck's extensive catalog with Duck Down. I'm about to dig into it, then go back and peep "Gratitude" from last year.

June 25, 2014

The Source "The Best Hip-Hop Albums & Singles of 1994"

If you've been following, I do these kinds of challenges to humor myself: I look back on certain years and which albums & singles The Source chose as the "best" of the year and then try to declare which of them is MY favorite from the year. I go row for row, then declare a winner for the whole year that serves as my personal favorite. Row 1: "Doggystyle" might sonically be the best album in all of hip-hop history. I mean, Snoop & Dr. Dre really put a foot in "Doggystyle," in its entirety (music, mixing, visuals, concept, etc). Even with that, I have to go with "Ready To Die," because I don't revisit "Doggystyle" all that much but I do listen to "Ready To Die" at least twice a year, so it's a personal choice more than thinking it's actually "better." Row 2: between Wu and OutKast, I'm going with Wu-Tang and it's not that hard a decision ... it's just too classic to argue. Row 3: between Illmatic & Hard To Earn, I'm going with Illmatic, because "Hard To Earn" isn't the best album in Gang Starr's catalog, so I can't let it beat one of the greatest albums of all-time. Row 4: I'm going with Jeru's The Sun Rises In The East over Scarface's "The Diary," although Scarface is higher on my list as an overall MC; in fact, he's in my top 10. Row 5: Easily goes to A Tribe Called Quest on "Midnight Marauders." Classic! In the end, of all the albums, I am going with "Illmatic" by Nas, it's been my favorite hip-hop album since the 90s. You probably knew that already lol Cont'd...

As for the best single of 1994, I will cut to the chase and let y'all know, hands down it's Wu-Tang Clan's "C.R.E.A.M." What a classic cut! That it was even a single on an album with as many hard cuts, tells you how far ahead they were; they knew fans would rock with that cut. My only real hot-take on the record is that Inspectah Deck runs away with the best verse on the song, yet it was Raekwon who received "Hip-Hop Quotable" for "C.R.E.A.M." Inspectah Deck's verse is one of the best on the whole album, why did they do that to Inspectah Deck? Not to say Raekwon's verse wasn't dope, but c'mon ... am I buggin? F'real, let me know what you think about the track. If you didn't choose it for the best single, what did you choose? Thinking back on "Flava In Ya Ear," Craig Mack sparked everything over at Bad Boy, it's a shame how Puff handled things moving forward.

June 24, 2014

2Pac's Letter To Chuck D (September, 1995)

Chuck D has shared a letter that Tupac Shakur wrote to him detailing the respect he had for the Public Enemy emcee. Shakur begins the letter, written in September 1995, noting how highly he regarded the Public Enemy mouthpiece and how much Chuck’s letter of support meant to him. “Back in the dayz, on tour with u, I learned so much from what u did and how u did it,” Shakur wrote. “It may be hard 2 C but u have alwayz played a major role in what it is I do 2day.” At the time he wrote the letter, Shakur was serving time in a New York prison... He mentioned making bail, pending appeal, for his sentence and said he hoped to be free by the time Chuck was reading the letter. “I just got signed 2 Death Row, so I should be working on this album soon,” he wrote. “And 2 push my luck even more, I would be honored if u would appear on this track 4 my next album, Euthanasia,” he wrote. “The track is called ‘Da Struggle Continuez.’ It will also feature Sista Souljah, if God will. So let me know.” In closing, 2Pac says, “Thanks again, Chuck! I believe we can make a difference, and I have every intention of doing just that. Stay strong!” 2Pac changed the title of his fifth album from Euthanasia to All Eyez on Me, though neither Chuck D nor Sister Soujah appeared on the album. That same year, he released the Makaveli album The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory, which he finished days before his death. It is unclear whether “Da Struggle Continuez” was ever recorded. Shakur was released from jail less than a month after writing the letter and was murdered just short of a year after writing it. - Rolling Stone (June 23, 2014). Original business card below.

June 23, 2014

O.C. "Time's Up" (The Source, July 1994)

"While the name O.C. is unfamiliar to many, if you put your ear to the pavement, the rumble is evidence of a ticking time bomb set to blow. First off, to clear any misconceptions, O.C. is not the 3rd member of Organized Konfusion, but he rhymed on their '92 track "Fudge Pudge." Now it's O's turn to shine for self on his debut "Time's Up" - a much needed wake-up call for hip-hop's ignorant masses. Musically, producer Buckwild's "bare bones" beat is just that: no flab, no gristle. Just a bass line, some hi-hat & snare, and an ill Slick Rock hook from "Hey Young World." Buck (hip-hop's next star producer) aptly leaves the focus of this track on O's hardcore poetics." Listen below (Updated).

"When O.C. opens with, "You lack the minerals and vitamins / Irons and the niacins / Fuck who that I offend / Rappers sit back I'm 'bout to begin..." - you're immediately pulled into his sphere of influence. O manipulates words to create multi-layer meanings, reflective quotables, and an ominous aura of invincibility. Peep it: "What’s in the future for the fusion in the changer? / Rappers are In danger / Who will use wits to be a remainder? ... Instead of puttin' brain cells to work, they abuse it / Non-conceptual / Non-exceptional / Everybody's either crime-related or sexual ... / For those who pose lyrical / But really ain't true / I feel "Their time is limited, hardrocks too."" Until now, much of O.C.'s rep has been built on underground freestyle tapes that have been floating around like rumors. At long last there is an official intro to this lyrical scientist." - The Source, July 1994

June 22, 2014

Top Quality "Unsigned Hype" (The Source, 3/91)

"Coming in on top this month is a young brother appropriately calling himself Top Quality. His management, MacNasty, calls Top Quality "faster than The Jaz when it comes to speed rhymes." His cut, "0 to 65" amply addresses the claim. For real, his tongue quickness had our ears doing windmills, but he doesn't just ride on that. When he slows down to a more human pace, his voice and delivery come off a lot like Super Lover Cee, and Top Quality busts some funky dope maneuvers! The tracks behind the rhymes are well-produced and danceable. For the sake of lyrical progress in hip-hop, The Source squad hopes he has a record deal 'locked' soon, so Top Quality can live up to his motto, "I refuse to die unknown." - The Source, March 1991 (Unsigned Hype). Many of you might recognize the White Plains MC from his underground gem, "Magnum Opus," via PMD Records, check it out...

June 21, 2014

DJ Jazzy Jeff x Mick Boogie "Summertime, Vol.1-4" (The Mixtape)

Before we can move forward and cover this year's edition in the classic "Summertime" series, we must go back to 2010 where it all began! Once the weather starts to get warm and dreams of outdoor BBQs, pool parties and social gatherings become a reality, there are no better mixes than DJ Jazzy Jeff & Mick Boogie's Summertime to provide the soundtrack to Summer. Their first installment kicks off with a proper intro, then some Kool & The Gang, Quincy Jones, Ahmad, Ice Cube, Roy Ayers, The Pharcyde, Jay-Z, A Tribe Called Quest, Da Bush Babees, Jodeci, J Dilla, LL Cool J, Michael Jackson, Carl Thomas, Black Moon, Frankie Beverly & Maze, Biggie, James Brown, Mos Def, Otis Redding, 2Pac, Mos Def, Nine and more! IN ONE MIX! It's no surprise this is now an annual mix! You can expect more of the same classic tunes in each subsequent mix, so continue listening...

June 20, 2014

AZ "Doe or Die" (The Source, November 1995)

"When AZ borrows Melle Mel's famous chorus from "The Message" (It's like a jungle sometimes...") on the title track for Doe or Die, he isn't doing it as a gimmick or a tribute. He's simply expanding on a theme used by all great MCs throughout hip-hop: survival. For masters like G. Rap and Rakim, tales of strivin' and survivin' were the fuel to their verbal fire. Now the mic has been passed to the next school of reality-hardened street poets. Rising out of the darkness and ignorance of the gangsta era, AZ represents the MC who tries to overcome negativity instead of succumbing to it. The track that best represents AZ's philosophy is "Homicide," a tag team effort with Nas that reflects upon the dangers of living foul. On "Born Alone, Die Alone," the song's chilling endpiece, AZ expresses raw fear and confusion: "All alone in this wilderness / who could figure life as ill as this / my vision's blurred from gorilla's mist / gunspray strays left a portion of my crew in graves." AZ also stands apart from his loochie-desiring peers, 'cause his brand of materialism is collective. In the Pete Rock-produced "Gimme," his talk about "moving cleverly with intentions of longevity" isn't selfish, but expresses a desire for the good life on behalf of ghetto sufferers everywhere." Cont'd below...

"Another talent that differentiates AZ is his ability to inject political awareness into his rhymes, portraying politicians as the perpetrators of misery that they are. "We was already molded in people's minds as moulianis / now we're more fucked up with a mayor named Giuliani," he rhymes on "Rather Unique." It's little bits of wisdom like this, and the Five Percent knowledge dropped on tracks like "We Can't Win," that display his special type of consciousness. AZ doesn't preach, nor does he claim to be a leader. He's the Visualiza, illuminating the painful truths of ghetto reality through layer upon layer of on-point rhymes. But Doe or Die ain't all about lyrical skill. AZ has assembled an all-star squad of producers to help bring the noise. Loose creates the perfect sonic background for "Uncut" with a sinister keyboard loop and tight drum track; "Hoe Happy Jackie" features funky female background vocals hooked up by Buckwild and the "Sugarhill" remix by LES has a hardness that the original version lacks. All the producers have succeeded in laying down dope tracks while keeping AZ's rapid-fire flow at the forefront. The skill level presented on Doe or Die places AZ at the forefront of East Coast rhymers, up there with Biggie, Chef Raekwon and his homie Nas. This is really some next shit." - The Source, November 1995. Is it a classic or nah?

June 19, 2014

Funkee Phlavaz: "Episodes 13-17" (1993)

Here are some 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. The Alchemist hosted the first few episodes, but eventually "Funkee Phlavaz" recruited guest hosts that included Guru, the Pharcyde, Masta Ace, KRS-One and 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. Below are episodes 13-17, which features Nefertiti, Dred Scott, O.C., Hieroglyphics, The Boogiemonsters, and more! A short, but excellent run! Watch the videos below... Updated... enjoy!

June 19, 2014

Skyzoo x Torae "Barrel Brothers" (Album Stream)

For years, fans of both Skyzoo and Torae alike have asked the two to collaborate on a full length LP, after the multiple singles they've released together over the years. Classics such as the DJ Premier produced "Get It Done" and "Click", the !llmind produced "Barrel Brothers" of of he and Sky's 2010 Live From The Tape Deck, the album has been called for by their following since 2006. The idea behind Barrel Brothers is what the people have asked and come to know the two wordsmiths for; pure lyricism. Skyzoo, known for his picturesque storytelling and jazz/ orchestral background, and Torae, known for his gritty Coney Island depictions of life with a vintage but modern lyrical approach, have briefly put their normal forte's to the side and crafted this album with one game plan in mind; lyrical exercise over hard New York City soundscapes. The current resurgence of NYC hip hop is perfect grounds for two of its premier flag holders to continue doing what they never stopped doing in the first place; representing the city. Listen to the LP below...

June 18, 2014

EPMD "Crossover" (The Source, September 1992)

"Erick and Parrish would not put out a single if it wasn't funky, so right away you know you need to buy this one. This time the boys come out of the box with a hard look at a serious disease that has infected hip-hop - the dreaded "crossover syndrome." How many times have you seen a rapper come out hard and street, only to see him or her deteriorate into a bubble bath taking, pop radio loving, sucker MC? EPMD have seen enough of that noise, and over a fat Zapp chorus they start pluckin' cards. With underground flavor, they drop lines like: "The rap era's out of control / Brothers sellin' their soul, to go gold / Going ...going ...gone, another rapper - SOLD!" and "Came on the scene chillin' / Freakin' the funky dope lines / But when they're finished with you - *BEEEP* - flatline!"

"I speak for the hardcore (rough, rugged and raw)
I'm outta here, catch me chillin' on my next tour
From the US to the white cliffs of Dover
Strictly underground funk, keep the Crossover..."

June 17, 2014

Blind Mice "The Book Of BM" (12", 1997)

"Blind Mice brings it to you raw!!" Shadow (Super Hydraulic Advanced Doer Of Words) and Da Five Sixx were Blind Mice. The Brooklyn duo released this 12" in 1997 on MCI Entertainment Records. It was their second 12" - the first being "A New Beginning" in '96 - on MCI. The hype sticker on their debut 12" was that they were "Vibe Magazine's Notes From The Underground Champion in July 1996;" however the Vibe article pulled from their demo and was actually discussing the B-Side to their second 12"; the Shawn J Period-produced  "Paper Chasers." "With a pinch of rugged goodness and a twist of Native Tongue-style consciousness, Blind Mice drop clever lyrics while the hypnotizing beats from producer Shawn J. Period lull you into their zone." Vibe, June-July, 1996.

Shawn J. Period also produced a track on that first 12" called "How Many?," and while I'm not certain how Shawn J Period and Blind Mice connected, for certain he was doing his thing at the time so it was a good look. The 12" was also mixed by Duro, who was called "Super Engineer Duro," in the years to follow, because he engineered so many classic records in the mid to late 90s. Production on the A-Side, "The Book of BM" was handled by the duo's own 5'6. You can listen to the 12" below. (Update: I'm not sure if it's a glitch, but I'm noticing a few embeds show 0:00 on some of the tracks, yet they play normal? I uploaded these 12" files to Audiomack years ago, so not sure what's up. If it's a common issue or you have problems with it, just let me know on DM or Email. Thanks - Sav)

June 16, 2014

UpNorthTrips Presents "Father MCs" (Mixed by UnitedCrates)

A nice Father's Day mix by UnitedCrates, featuring tracks from Slick Rick, Ed O.G., Big Krit, Copywrite, The Game, Royce Da 5'9, Juelz Santana, 2Pac, Nas, Jay-Z & more. Peace to the single fathers out there & all the fathers who raise their kids right and do the very best they can day in and day out. To the rest of them out there: just because you gave birth to a child does not make you a father, do better and be better. Much thanks to EvBoogie over at UpNorthTrips for doing this.

June 15, 2014

50 Cent "How To Rob" (XXL, 2000 + Video Interview)

Originally published in the May 2000 issue of XXL, the following interview was published when 50 Cent's controversial single "How to Rob" made noise throughout New York City. "When 50 Cent dropped "How To Rob," last year, he pissed off a lot of people. In the aftermath, several MCs made on-wax responses that were clearly not in 50's favor, to say the least. While he's been quite quiet of late, the Queens-bred troublemaker has returned with his long-awaited debut, Power Of The Dollar. Hoping to prove he's more than a one-hit wonder, one must wonder, does 50 regret any of the drama his song has caused? Don't bet on it." At the end of the short interview above, 50 says, "I'm a newborn, I'm still a baby to hip-hop so it (the attention) affects me, but when I break past this record, I'ma be bigger than the rest of this shit -- a bigger, better artist. I hold myself down to the fullest. You never want it to go there, but if it does, by any means, I'm gonna handle my business." Below, during an interview with a journalist in Germany, 50 Cent goes more in-depth on how his circumstances at the time inspired "How To Rob." Read above + watch an interview below...

June 15, 2014

Fev "Around My Way" (Album Stream)

Around My Way is the collaborative album from Bronx MC Fev and producer Elemnt. This joint came out of nowhere to me, I don't know much about Fev, but I'm diggin' the bars and ear for production. The project is 14 tracks and roughly 40 minutes long, shared from Fev's soundcloud page as a single track. Not optimum for a listening experience, but fortunately there are no real skips on this dope effort, which also features Brook Penning, Jose Santiago, 1Shot Dealz & Red Inf. Keep an ear to the street for this one as I'm sure we can expect a lot more from Fev. (Updated: UFO Fev. Hit the tags).

June 14, 2014

Boogiemonsters "Riders Of The Storm" (Press Kit & Videos, 1994)

"Boogiemonsters hold these truths to be self evident:
The only real love is One Love. 
Without full expression of the range of human emotion, there can be no understanding. 
Without understanding there can be no peace or wisdom. 
Without water, we can't exist. 
If we stay fluid, we will survive."

"Boogiemonsters keep things fluid, they keep things flowing like an undulating stream. Boogiemonsters come outta VA via NYC and JA. 
Boogiemonsters are four MCs: Mondo, Vex, Yodared and Myntric. 
Boogiemonsters are here to drop spirit, intelligence, grooves and knowledge that will take hip-hop to the next level. 

"Riders Of The Storm moves away from glocks and groins and steps into the light. "We want to concentrate on different things," offers Yodared. "That's one of the aspects of water and it's why we're so attracted to water. As an element, water's never confined, it can't be restricted and neither can we." Rider's Of The Storm's premier assault is "Recognized Thresholds Of Negative Stress," a wise and funky meditation on life in the modern age. "So in '94, yo it's all about the music, hear it come spiritually so you can use it." Check out the video to the lead single below...

"That refusal to be limited is vividly apparent on Riders Of The Storm. Armed with a style that can be dense as a swamp or clear as a babbling brook, Boogiemonsters can flow anywhere they choose. They're intense on "Mark Of The Beast," a slamming apocalyptic examination of the roots of evil and "Old Man Jacob's Well," a brooding slice of Goth-rap, that unravels the tale of a murder from the perspective of the killer and his intended child victim. They're passionate on the sexy shout out to their muse "Muzic Appreciation (Sweet Music)" or the thumpin' Old School jam "Bronx Bombers." My personal favorite, however, is "Honeydips in Gotham," check that one out below. - OG Press Kit.

June 13, 2014

A Tribe Called Quest "Midnight Marauders" (The Source, 1993)

"With their third album, Midnight Marauders, Quest do what they've always done - ignore all of the current trends in hip-hop and deliver a solid collectable. The one song that comes close to looking gangsta in print, "Sucka N!gga," is actually more about Tip's ambivalence over the word than bitchasses ... This non-blunt-smoking, gun-toting, bitch-beating trio rely solely on their street poetry, Zulu delivery and be-bop beats to get you up off your ass and into the record store. Phife, who won "most improved MC" a couple years back with "Butter," seems to rock it better when he shares the mic with Tip this time out then on his solo joint, "8 Million Stories" ... They get open with special guest Large Professor on "The Chase Part II," a freestyle jam that jacks Biz's classic "Nobody Beats The Biz." And the title track picks up where "Everything Is Fair" left off, describing ghetto nights in abstract detail instead of booming cliches ... And "Electric Relaxation," a fly love / sex song, and "Clap Your Hands" are two more reasons why Tip is one of the premiere poets of our generation. The only thing missing are the surprises, which leaves me to imagine how Quest would've sounded had MC Hood ("Scenario") lived to get down this time around (R.I.P.)..." Ultimately, "Midnight Marauders is exactly what we were hoping for." - The Source, 12/93. Revisit the album below...

You can check out the full review by Dream Hampton in The Source, below...

June 12, 2014

Lost Boyz "Legal Drug Money" (The Source, 6/96)

"Last year the Lost Boyz - Mr. Cheeks, Freaky Tah, Pretty Lou and Spigg Nice - sprang on the hip-hop scene with "Lifestyles of the Rich and Shameless" and introduced their signature style to the masses. Lead rhymer Cheeks exhibited tag-team skills with the amped Freaky Tah on a track that featured banging production and a killer chorus on par with the anthemic singles of Naughty By Nature. The group did it again "Jeeps, Lex Coups..." and cemented their format in stone. But their much anticipated debut was lost in Uptown's corporate swirl. Finally, a year and one amicable label transfer later, the crew has the opportunity to hit the masses with a full load, Legal Drug Money."

"Hailing from the south side of Jamaica, Queens, the crew flaunts their ghetto status like a boy scout badge. Cheeks does represent lyrically on cuts like "Keep It Real," but romanticizing the ghetto for capital gain or "real" status is a dangerous - and overplaying - approach. Indeed, from track to track, the Lost Boyz are about smoking weed, hitting shorties, and freestyling - a limited world view that's woefully omnipresent in today's hip-hop nation... However, "Renee" is one of the album's bright spots. It rivals Method Man's "All I Need" in expressing the dynamics of male/female relations for the average B-boy. But this on-point sentimentality is somewhat undermined when, as with the Notorious B.I.G.'s "Me & My Bitch," the adored female in question meets an untimely death. Cheeks makes you feel the loss, but you privately question why ghetto love is so often represented as doomed. Nevertheless, the Lost Boyz long-awaited set will still set heads to nodding - those for which that is enough." - The Source, June 1996; you can check the full review down below...

June 11, 2014

Pete Rock & CL Smooth "Samples & Soulstrumentals" (Mix)

"In dropping arguably two of the best back-to-back albums in rap music history, Pete Rock & CL Smooth must undeniably be considered one of hip-hop's finest duos. The combination of Pete Rock's signature soulful production served-up from behind the boards and CL's conscious lyrics delivered from the booth, has enabled the tag-team from Mount Vernon to place itself as top-tier contributors to rap's legacy. With today marking the anniversary of Pete and CL's monumental debut album, Mecca and The Soul Brother, we figured it was only right to dedicate the latest edition of The Tens in their honor. In searching for the best way to pay our respects to MSB, it didn’t feel right simply whipping up a basic "Best Of" mix. Too generic. So, in true UNT fashion we flipped the script and took a more creative approach. It’s common knowledge that Pete Rock “made every single beat on that album” using the E-mu SP-1200... thus our decision to concentrate on MSB’s beat construction, which undoubtedly single-handedly changed the standards of hip-hop production. From the chopped samples of those famous horns, the heavy filtered bass lines, the signature hi-hats, there’s no question that Mecca & The Soul Brother was a game-changer...." Presented in 2012 by UpNorthTrips for the LP's 20th anniversary - dug up and (re)posting it today.

June 10, 2014

Joe Budden "Joe Budden" (Spin Review, 9/03)

"There is no evidence to suggest that Joe Budden can bend spoons with his mind. But in the hip-hop mixtape underground, the New Jersey-bred rapper's rubbery voice, acerbic sense of humor (reminiscent of Garden State neighbor Redman), and slurred yet engaging delivery have earned him a rep as "The One." And when Budden held his own in a playful war of words versus Jay-Z this past spring - serving Hova with hoop-dream zingers like "Stand out like Yao Mong / I'm what's sparkling now / Like, 'Fall back, Shaq, I'm startin' now'" - people started to believe. Like Philadelphia's Freeway or Atlanta's Killer Mike, Budden seem poised to give the rap game a much-needed transfusion of youth, energy, and soul." Check the Just Blaze produced hit, "Pump It Up," and more, cont'd below...

"Of course, it's easier to spit slang over no-contest instrumentals like "Grindin'" and "In Da Club" than to craft an album that lives up to the mix-tape hype. But Budden's self-titled debut doesn't disappoint. The beat on the hit single "Pump It Up" should win producer Just Blaze a Nobel Prize, but the song is ultimately less floor filler than it is a showcase for Budden's tumbling flow. On the rest of the record, Budden applies the same gift of gab to material that's surprisingly confessional and often downright dark. On "10 Mins," Budden (whose past includes PCD abuse and stints in institutions) looks back on his troubled youth for - yup - ten minutes. This tension between bragging and insecurity, between the night and the morning after, gives Joe Budden a singular spark. If the album falters, it's when Budden guns for crossover appeal: cameos by Lil' Mo and 112 reek of boardroom tampering. But even a bit of lab-tested R&B can't ruin this bold debut." - Spin.

June 09, 2014

Pete Rock & CL Smooth "Mecca & The Soul Brother" (The Source)

"The album begins with an explanation of the 'Mecca' as a way of life, not a place or a state of mind. Now I'm not one to be breaking down the mathematics of the title, but I can tell you that this album is mega-fat! In the wake of his cameo on PE's "Shut 'Em Down" remix, Producer/DJ Pete Rock continues to establish himself as an MC. Whether he's sittin' "Skins" with Grand Puba, loungin' in the "Basement" with posse members Heavy D, Grap Luva and Rob-O Dingo or on the solo tip as "Soul Brother #1," Pete's catching wreck on the mic in '92. CL Smooth comes correct with inspired lyrical performances on cuts like "Straighten It Out," "Can't Front On Me," "On and On" and the moving ode to the late Trouble T-Roy (of Heavy D & The Boyz) - "They Reminisce Over You." Revisit it below...

"There's a flavor R&B joint called "Lots of Lovin'" that could really blow them up on radio. But with 18 cuts, almost all of which are close to five minutes, the album is a little long. CL has moments, but he lost me towards the end of a few cuts. Musically, there's never a full moment. The scratches blend in so smoothly that sometimes you don't notice them. Soulful horn loops are fast becoming Pete's trademark. The album is filled with unused samples. Kids looking for a true balance of fat new beats and solid rhymes should definitely make a pilgrimage to Mecca." - The Source, May 1992.

June 08, 2014

House Shoes "The King James Version" (Chapter 1)

"This is a lovingly and expertly constructed journey through the building blocks of Dilla’s beats – the dusty OG vinyl grooves that he sampled. From the basis of a Frank-N-Dank cult favorite, through that of a Fantastic SV moment, to Donuts’ irresistible ingredients, Shoes’ thorough work shines the light on his friend’s ear for a sneaky loop, his affection for perfectly imperfect chops and his knack for extracting the soul from a forgotten musical fragment and making it something altogether new, something his own. Long Live King James" - Chairman Mao. (Released last year.)

June 07, 2014

Amerigo Gazaway "Yasiin Gaye: The Return" (Album Stream)

"Amerigo Gazaway's "Soul Mates" series continues the theme of his previous work in creating collaborations that never were. On the series' latest installment, Amerigo unites Brooklyn rapper Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) and soul legend Marvin Gaye for a dream collaboration aptly titled "Yasiin Gaye". Building the album's foundation from deconstructed samples of Gaye's Motown classics, Gazaway re-purposes the instrumentation into new productions within a similar framework. Carefully weaving Bey's tangled raps and Gaye's soulful vocals over his new arrangements, the producer delivers a quality much closer to an authentic collaboration than a lukewarm "mashup" LP." 

June 06, 2014

Troubleneck Brothers "Troubleneck Wreck" (12", 1993)

The Troubleneck Brothers were a 7-man posse from Harlem & Uptown consisting of: Soundwave, Prophet, Blunt, Stepchild, Moetown, Natural One, and Shaft. Their debut album was an unreleased project called "Fuck All Y'All" on Bill Stephney's StepSun Entertainment. Returning a year later in '93, they released a remixed version of "Troubleneck Brothers" that caught more attention as the climate of music had shifted to a more aggressive sound. There were obvious comparisons to Onyx and Wu-Tang, the latter mostly due the number of members in the crew. In 1994, they released an EP entitled "Release Me" and a more popular track in "Back To The Hip-Hop." With disagreements and legal issues mounting with StepSun, they changed names to 36Zero and released their "Maintain" EP. None of the releases stuck like "Troubleneck Brothers" and "Back To The Hip-Hop," and the group went separate ways in '95. Blunt (Steven Samuel) went on to create the popular hip-hop news site SOHH with his wife. In 2010, their debut release "Fuck All Y'All" was released on vinyl and CD with 20 tracks, plus a bonus CD of alternate mixes, demo tracks and instrumentals. More below...

As a bonus, The Source's Sure Shot Single review, September, 1993...

June 05, 2014

Digable Planets "Reachin'... Press Kit" (November, 1992)

"We try to make sounds that are nice to listen to," understates Digable Planets' lead poet and rapper, Butterfly... The Digable Planets' debut Reachin' (A New Refutation Of Time And Space) is a hip-hop dreamscape, weaving a space-travelin' groove with a lilting, peaceful vibe infused with everything from jazz to psychedelia. But the Digable Planets intentions go much further than that. Their seemingly lighthearted insect names reflect a fervent belief in the strength of community. Their ethereal, playful poetry reveals an unfailingly conscious and intelligent take on the ways of our world... We feel that every person individually is a planet. Being planets we each have the ability to set up our planet any way we want to, keeping in mind we have to co-exist in the solar system that is society. Digable is just the adjective that describes us as individuals, our music and sound. A lot of people would say this music is different, weird, not in the mainstream of hip-hop, because we're not. But we live and hang, we do the same things that any hardcore group might do - this music is for the kids in the streets first, because that's what we are. The difference is, we've had exposure to things have shaped the way we make our music... We want everyone to know that, no matter who you are and where you're from, you can reach new dimensions, not just in music but in your life... Education can change the world, and music is an offspring of education. If you really listen to the words and analyze what's said you can gain knowledge..." Listen to the album, cont'd below...

About "The Rebirth Of Slick," Butterfly shares: "The song parallels the jazz and hip-hop cultures. In its heyday, jazz had its vernacular and clothes; similarly, we have our own styles, art, attitude, plus a language that's almost incomprehensible if you're not part of it. Unless you come from a hip-hop background where you love and appreciate it, you may not even know that the cats in the Bronx that made up this music have never made any money off it. The pioneers aren't even being acknowledged. That's what "Rebirth of Slick" is about, it's in the poetry of the song." A copy of the full, original Press Kit are available below with lots more insight and inspiration from the album...

June 04, 2014

Jadakiss "The Champ Is Here" (Mixtape, 2004)

Jadakiss is one of the greatest and most revered lyricists in Hip-Hop, but he does not have a classic studio album. His albums have fallen in that gap between what fans want and expect, and what his label will accept and consider a success. Fans feel like he abandons what he's best at, but it's the price he pays for a major label deal vs. being independent. That's his choice but to his credit, he navigates it best he can, maintaining his top-tier spot through mixtapes, feature work and an occasional single that clicks (ie: "Why"). An example of this would be Jada's 2004 release: “The Champ Is Here.” It is arguably one of the greatest artist mixtapes ever to be released. From the best album cuts, freestyles and well-placed features, it packs everything you'd need and want from a mixtape. He may not have a classic album, but he has a classic mixtape and to that end, he feeds the streets, the corporations and his family all at the same time. For that, I salute him and think to myself, maybe his best effort is his next effort. It was released 10 years ago this month, listen and see if it's not as dope today as it was in 2004. Hosted by Green Lantern & Big Mike. (Updated link)

June 03, 2014

Scarface "The Diary" (The Source, 1995)

"They say you should never read someone's diary because you might find something you didn't want to know. That's not the case with this audio journal of "the world according to Scarface." The Diary takes you on a lyrical day-to-day trip that goes from inflicting pain ("Jesse James") and avenging a homie's death ("No Tears"), to sexing a new ho on the block ("Goin' Down"). For the production, Scarface has taken a more relaxed approach and shows he's not afraid to experiment. Smooth basslines and mellow keyboards create a sound that, on many tracks, is less aggressive than his previous works. While there are enough rugged tracks to please his fans, this new production helps hold the LP together and will appeal to those who may have believed Face's talent was limited."

"Scarface is business as usual lyrically, but like the production, there are tracks that are not done in his usual mode of operandum. The first single, "I Seen a Man Die," is one of those. This common tale of brothers getting caught up in the game is brought to life as Face, in a tone that is more solemn than usual, successfully utilizes his version of a sing-songish flow. Remaining serious, he teams up with Ice Cube on "Hand Of The Dead Body" to fight back at the organizations that have been trying to silence "reality rap." The sequel, "My Minds Playin Tricks On Me '94," brings back the classic, story-telling Scarface, as he carries the song without the help of Bushwick and Willie D. Overall, The Diary is a diverse piece of work that will appeal to a wider range of listeners. Some tracks may be too experimental for Scarface's core audience, but they will be pleased with the majority of his work. Others will see that this Geto Boy has tapped into something new and has laid the foundation for an even brighter future." - The Source, 1995. Listen to The Diary album above...