March 31, 2015

Jean Grae x NPR "Microphone Check"

Hi, Jeannie! "Jean Grae is a rapper, a singer, a writer, a comedian and an actress. She doesn't run out of ideas. Her most recent album is called That's Not How You Do That: An Instructional Album For Adults. She spoke to Microphone Check about her campaign to help people be better, Michael McDonald and why she's moving to Los Angeles." There aren't words to describe, Jean... ok, there probably are, but they are in her dictionary & I simply just don't have access to it ... just listen.

March 30, 2015

LL Cool J "14 Shots To The Dome" (Press Kit, 1993)

  • The first Def Jam act to release a single ("I Need A Beat," 1984) and an album (Radio, 1985) and first Def Jam act to release five consecutive studio LPs;
  • The first rap artist to hit #1 on Billboard's Black Singles chart, with "I Need Love";
  • The first rap artist to amass four consecutive RIAA platinum-plus selling albums, four RIAA gold singles, and 12 million worldwide album sales;
  • The first rap artist to go acoustic for a headlining date on MTV's celebrated "Unplugged" program, back in May, 1991;
  • The first rap artist to star as an undercover cop in a Hollywood movie (with Michael J. Fox and James Woods in The Hard Way, 1991), not to mention his cameo in Krush Groove, and his supporting role in Barry Levinson's current film, Toys;
  • The first rap artist to be listed as one of the "Ten Sexiest Men in Rock" by Playgirl.

"The facts don't stop there: A record-setting total of 15 New York Music Awards for 1990 and 1991 (including Artist of the Year, Album of the Year, and Song of the Year for Mama Said Knock You Out); ten "Soul Train" Awards, the 1991 Grammy award for "Best Rap Solo" (for "Mama Said Knock You Out" single); ... MTV's "Best Rap Video" award in 1991... Face it: You'd be hard-pressed to find another solo hip-hop act with the durability and staying power of LL Cool J, "the soul survivor of a thousand beats," as he puts it one of the slamming tracks from 14 Shots To The Dome, his fifth album on the Def Jam/Columbia label. But don't ever ask ask LL Cool J how it feels to still be in the game after so many platinum, chart-topping success years, dating back to 1985. "I hate when people say 'still.' Imagine asking a doctor, 'Yo man, you still a doctor?' It's not like I'm fighting to stay above water, I'm swimming and I got a shark's fin going at 100 miles per hour toward the shore." - Press Kit (1993)

March 29, 2015

Graf Cratedigger "Journey / Evolution" (Album Stream)

"Queen Size Records is pleased to announce the arrival of Graf Cratedigger's new creation "Journey / Evolution." This time Graf has decided to take you on a spectacular 33 RPM trip to the unknown. The main concept behind the album can be expressed by the equation: Journey = Evolution = Searchin’ = Creadiggin.' Graf Cratedigger is joined by live musicians, DJ's and MC's from Poland, USA and Canada. The spectacular artwork and visual presentation is the creation of Sainer from Etam Cru. The album is released on chocolate colour vinyl and comes with a large poster and download code for high quality digital format. Chocolate vinyl edition is limited to: 100 copies." Listen below...

March 28, 2015

New Jersey Drive "Soundtrack" (1995)

One of my favorite soundtracks - both parts combined - is from 1995's New Jersey Drive. With soundtracks for Menace II Society and New Jack City reaching platinum sales, it's no wonder Tommy Boy went all-in creating the soundtrack to the car-theft movie of the 90s. Naturally, the project is heavy on New Jersey representation: Redman, Lords of the Underground, Queen Latifah, Naughty By Nature & more, but there's plenty of outside influences stretching as far as down south with Outkast and the West Coast with Mac Mall & Young Lay. Even the smash R&B track "Can't You See," featuring Biggie, and hip-hop/reggae "Do What U Want" - all of which worked in their own regard. I remember when I was working in Manhattan, I left my VHS copy of the movie at a friend's crib and when I came back to get it, his older sister watched it and the look of disgust on her face told me she was not entertained by the film, lol. I saw it in theaters and ran it back on VHS and DVD over the years, I've always enjoyed the flick. When it comes to some things, I accept that nostalgia creeps into my mind and makes me remember things from the '90s with added sentimental value, so I'm real curious what y'all think ... am I bugging or was it a fresh hood film and a dope soundtrack? If I search hard enough I can probably find the ticket stub for when I saw it at the Elmwood in Elmhurst, Queens, which is no longer there - I think it was made into a church or something? That was a LOUD ass theater, lol. As for the music, it had E. Bros "Funky Piano," say no more!

March 28, 2015

Ol' Dirty Bastard "Return To The 36 Chambers" (The Source, 5/95)

"Ol' Dirty Bastard's solo LP proves once again that the Clan from Shaolin Land is currently the dominant force in East Coast hip-hop. The third shot fired in the Wu-Tang revolution spotlights the crazy drunken flow of the Ol' Dirty Bastard, who growls, grunts and howls with an illiocity not seen since the early days of Bizmark or Busta Rhymes. Depending on your preference, this could be good (an escape from the norm of today's sound-a-like MCs) or bad (he makes little sense and sounds like noise). On the production end, there should be no such debate as the trademark bass-and-piano funk of the RZA comes across with as much flair as the Clan's group effort. And with cameos by just about every other Wu-Tang MC, the ODB's solo debut is a must-have for every real hardcore head who recognized the genius of the original 36 Chambers album and wants to keep the legacy of the Wu complete." Check out the visuals to the lead single, "Brooklyn Zoo" (Updated) below.

"The first tracks are all heavy doses of razor-sharp funk: on "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" a losse piano hook sets things off while ODB chants "Ooh baby I like it raw" and weaves a few bugged verses. "Hippa To Da Hoppa" is propelled by a rugged bassline and typical Old Dirty gems like "rhymes come smokey / funky like a stink bomb..." and "I come old like toe fungus mold." But there is no doubt that the killa jams here are the ones where some part of the original Wu-Tang cipha is re-formed. "Rawhide" features Method Man singing the famous "Move 'em in / move 'em out / rawhide" chorus while Raekwon steps up with some "bulletproof fly shit / strong like Thai stick" to match the offbeat rampage of the ODB. "Snakes" is a posse cut worthy of the original LP with the RZA stepping out from behind the boards and holding his own on the mic. "Protect Ya Neck II" displays the strong skills of the Brooklyn Zoo, who unleash a lyrical barrage featuring Lord Buddah Monk and 62nd Assassin. Like the sequel to your favorite kung fu flick, The Return... may not be as original as its predecessor, but it still delivers enough to keep you hooked: hardcore lyrics kicked live over a non-stop assault of that addictive Shao-lin funk." - The Source, May 1995.

You can read the full review from The Source (May '95) below...

March 27, 2015

DJ Daddy Dog "Vibe With The Tribe" (Mix, 2004)

DJ Daddy Dog of the Almighty 5th Platoon released a 33-track, "Vibe With The Tribe," mixtape some years back & to this date, it is still one of the most definitive best-of mixes for A Tribe Called Quest. It's got the hits, the deeper album cuts and a few remixes thrown in for good measure, it's real solid, we had copies over at Fat Beats and listened to it from time to time. Shouts to Neil Armstrong, too. Dig into the best of A Tribe Called Quest mixtape, Vibe with the Tribe, below...

March 27, 2015

Brock Berrigan "Chapter 10" (Instrumental Album)

This album was created over a 10 month period of debauchery and pure madness. Traveled to new places for inspiration; camped in deserts, walked through jungles, hiked in canyons, conquered fears, explored new cities, and listened to every piece of music I could get my hands on. Thank you for the support all these years, I truly appreciate everything. Spread the word, grab a drink, sit back and enjoy. - Brock Berrigan. Listen to his latest 18-track (instrumental) offering, Chapter 10, below...

March 26, 2015

Dirt Platoon "Bare Face Robbery" (Album Stream)

The Baltimore duo Dirt Platoon (Raf Almighty & Snook Da Crook) are back with another Effiscienz release, an LP entitled "Bare Face Robbery." Coming off the strength of their buzzworthy EP, "Start Ya Bids," the duo returns with more confidence & enlists a wider range of production on their 13-track offering. Producers like DJ Low Cut, Tom Delay, DJ Brans, and Macabeats, along with features from Nutso & Fel Sweetenbeg is on the mic & behind the boards. This LP will get a lot of love in the underground, it's got that familiar gritty sound that serves its niche fanbase well. Listen below.

March 25, 2015

The Notorious B.I.G. "Life After Death" (Rap Pages, 5/97)

"After the onslaught of insults, rumors and malicious attacks aimed at Biggie by Tupac, one would assume that some type of retaliatory song would be in order. Yes, even if the antagonist is deceased. But on Biggie's sophomore offering, Life After Death, there are no 2Pac disses, no pissing on the slain rapper's grave or any shots in the dark aimed at Death Row. As far as his album is concerned, Biggie and Puffy didn't have time to stop and smell the roses. It's just a continuation of Bad Boy hit-making as usual: sample-laden-gangstafied-smooth-player tracks for all occasions. Tricks and treats abound this time around on his 23-track double album venture. Into this climate, the Notorious B.I.G., the East Coast's SoundScan messiah, invites the musical question and then answers his own query on the song "What's Beef" - "Beef is when you need two gats to go to sleep / When your moms ain't save up in the streets" ... One of the album's more interesting songs features Biggie rapping alongside Bone Thugs-N-Harmony on "Notorious Thugs." He completely co-opts their rapid fire flow and style with surprising success. This is a winner. Another notable team-up features Jay- on "I Love The Dough," the paper-chasing sequel to "Brooklyn's Finest." Cont'd...

"...After all the drama in Biggie's life since Ready To Die debuted three years ago (including the episodes with Tupac, his estranged wife Faith Evans and former love interest Lil' Kim, plus the local authorities in various states), one kind of yearns for personal revelations concerning these matters. That alone might produce an illustrious set for his next album, but here Biggie sticks to the basics: his patented stylistic hybrid of lyrical hip-hop legends Kool G Rap and Slick Rick. Tracks like the DJ Premier-produced "Ten Crack Commandments" and "Kick In The Door," or the RZA-blessed "Long Kiss Goodnight" all showcase Biggie's lyrical capability and cleverness at melding urban criminology with an uncanny storytelling ability. Life After Death does have its moments when the music isn't striking. The sampling of Diana Ross' "I'm Coming Out" brings the banality of Puffy's loop-a-hit technique to a serious low point... Overall, Life After Death is crammed with hit material, from the lead single "Hypnotize," to the Hitchcock-esque drama "N!ggaz Bleed." Thought formulaic at times, the sheer quality of Biggie's lyricism and Puffy's marketing strategy will cater to every segment of the Hip-Hop community: the Hip-Hop head, casual listener, non-listener, dance/party crowd, gangsta beat lover, and Bone and Too Short fans. The Bad Boys have come to play." - Rap Pages (May, 1997).

March 24, 2015

Kendrick Lamar "To Pimp A Butterfly" (Album Stream)

Kendrick Lamar has redefined the art of rap and taken steps to showcase its true poetic nature. "To Pimp A Butterfly" is yet another album from the Compton, California native that is bursting with honest verses, all delivered with raw emotion. Socially conscious, intelligent and relatable, this album cannot be missed. It may not everyone's cup of tea, but it is for everyone ... to hear, appreciate and celebrate, because we do have genius in Hip-Hop, and his win is our win. To that end, stream Kendrick's "To Pimp A Butterfly" below, and watch closely how it will shift the culture yet again! 

March 23, 2015

Sa-Roc "The Legend Of Black Moses" (Mixtape)

After months of anticipation, ATL-bred femme fatale Sa-Roc is finally here to go after all of your favorite rappers on her knockout 19-track The Legend Of Black Moses mixtape. Named after one of history’s most important freedom fighters, Harriet Tubman, the album turns conventional rap on its head, as the title and theme reimagines MC as liberator and liberator as superhero. Touching notes of vulnerability lead to piercing tones of bravado as track for track, Sa-Roc challenges MCs to step their bars up. From clever puns to repurposed hooks, “Black Moses”, leaves no doubt about the inevitable-Sa-Roc is a legend in the making. If you’re still unfamiliar with the the God Hop Queen, it’s time to get properly acquainted. Stream Sa-Roc’s The Legend Of Black Moses tape below and hit the tags for more Sa-Roc content. (Update: Sa-Roc's streaming link was taken down, but you can still download the mixtape from HERE.) In the meantime, while you're already here, check out the visuals for "Between Friends," a stand-out track from the project, produced by Flying Lotus.

March 22, 2015

DJ Spinbad "You Know My Steez, Pt.2" (Mixtape, 2012)

DJ Spinbad released part 1 of his 90s hip-hop series, You Know My Steez, in 2001. He later released part 2 in 2012, also in Japan - via Manhattan Records - where they had exclusive rights to the mix. Part 2 features tracks from The Pharcyde, Raekwon, Wu-Tang Clan, Rampage, Smif-N-Wessun, GZA, Mobb Deep, Def Squad, Cocoa Brovaz, Royal Flush, Da Bush Babees, Da Youngsta's, Jeru the Damaja, KRS-One, Lords of the Underground, Lord Finesse, Black Moon, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, Gang Starr, O.C., and more. It's not his best mix, but DJ Spinbad always flexes skills and a unique set...

March 21, 2015

Tripps "New York, NY" (12", 1995)

With production from Jim Nice, this is a fresh 12" that was released in 1995 on Echo International. The B-Side wins again with "New York, N.Y.," a Brooklyn (Ocean Ave) banger with obvious comparisons to the aggression and delivery of the Mash Out Posse. "Rage" is a nice track too, but the beat is a little too busy for me, although I do like the "Top Billin" vocal sample on the hook. Echo International released a bunch of singles from the mid-to-late 90s, including the Gravediggaz, Hell Razah, Ram Squad, Sunz of Man, Chill Rob G, Wise Intelligent, and among lots of others, Cover & the C.O.D. Crew, which I've discussed here, so I'm just following my own advice and following the breadcrumbs. Even though I still don't know much about the record all these years later, I can still point you in the direction where you can do your own diggin' and find solid records along the way. Listen below.

March 20, 2015

A Tribe Called Quest "The Low End Theory" (HHC, 12/91)

"In some ways, A Tribe Called Quest are more exciting than either the Jungle Brothers or De La. The quality and depth of Quest's rapping goes a lot further than anything on 'De La Is Dead' and the JB's career seems to have stalled somewhat. Indeed, rumors Warners US dropping the Brothers indicates the failure of rap in '91 to meet its previous success. To a large extent, hip-hop is going underground in the States - a fact that I, for one, welcome. If you need proof of rap's concern with its own survival then you should turn to "The Low End Theory." Without making a meal of it, Quest throw down some of the funkiest grooves I've heard all year and from the brilliantly executive one-two of the first cuts ('Excursions' and 'Buggin Out') right through the second side, Tribe come through with a no-frills rap album. This record isn't going to win them a massive pop audience - unless Jive go radically against their wishes with a radical remix - but Tribe have never been about that stuff anyway." Check the visuals to ATCQ's "Scenario," continued below...

"What The Low End Theory will do is re-establish their core rap audience and make the bond even stronger, proving that they're the foremost rhymers of the moment (to wit, "industry rule number four thousand and eighty / record company people are shadeeee"). The music is pretty much what you'd expect from a crew who make a lot of their jazz connections, but the dual execution of beat and rhyme makes for an album that will stand the test of time. A classic." - HHC (12/91)

March 19, 2015

DJ Jazzy Jeff "Doing It For Dilla" (Mix)

This is DJ Jazzy Jeff's "Doing It For Dilla" mix, live from Johnny Brenda's in Philadelphia, PA. From beats to samples to Dilla-inspired records, DJ Jazzy Jeff pays tribute to the late, great James Yancey (R.I.P.) by crafting a beautiful flow to this mix. You'll hear joints from Slum Village, The Roots, Common, A Tribe Called Quest, D'Angelo, The Pharcyde, Keith Murray, and much more to reminisce and nod your head along to. One of the best DJs, paying tribute to one of the greatest producers ever. There are a few great Dilla tribute mixes, but this is one of the must-listen mixes. Listen up...

March 18, 2015

Chris Read "Classic Material: 1997" (Mix, 2011)

This mix in Chris Read's 2011 Classic Material series pays tribute to the hip hop of 1997, a year which many associate with the dawn of the so called ‘Indie’ era. The music of 1997 set the stage the development of two distinct sounds over the following years, the underground independent sound nurtured by labels such as Correct, ABB and Rawkus and the commercial sound of the major labels typified by the output of artists such as Jay Z, Foxy Brown and others. Whilst the independent productions of the likes of Shawn J Period and DJ Hi Tek certainly broke new ground, the commercial output should not be written off, with novel sample sources still playing an important role (see Lord Tariq & Peter Gunz’ use of Steely Dan or Lil Kim’s use of Jeff Lorber for example). Notable albums include, of course, Biggie’s seminal ‘Life After Death’ and at the other end of the spectrum Jurassic 5’s debut ‘J5′ EP and Company Flow’s leftfield classic ‘Funcrusher Plus’.

March 17, 2015

Slaine "House Of Slaine" (Mixtape)

For the Love of the Irish: Slaine has teamed up with Danny Boy, DJ Lethal and DJ Frank White to pay homage to House of Pain with his aptly titled "House of Slaine" mixtape. The mix features Ill Bill, Termanology, Apathy, Sick Jacken, Ras Kass, Sean Price, and more. Stream it below via YouTube, but I recommend grabbing the Download HERE, while it's still live. Props to Slaine, a real talented artist.

March 16, 2015

DJ Apollo "Definition of Ill" (Mixtape, 2001)

Originally released around 2000-2001, "Definition of Ill" was a compilation album from Copastetik Recordings. As a bonus, it added a second disc of the tracks on Disc 1, but as a dope continuous mix from DJ Apollo. The mix from DJ Apollo features groundbreaking tracks from Cali Agents (Rasco and Planet Asia), Peanut Butter Wolf, KutMasta Kurt & Masters of Illusion, Dr. Dooom, Terranova, Phife Dawg, which includes remixes from Rob Swift, Roc Raida, Lord Finesse, The 45 King, DJ Spinna, and more. (Updated: I've added a new better stream from DJ MP45). Listen to the mix below. 

March 15, 2015

Shadez of Brooklyn "Tape Sampler" (1996, Hosted by Evil Dee)

Here's the original DJ Evil Dee sampler of Bushwick's Shadez of Brooklyn crew, consisting of Chocolate Tye, Tee Black, Reverend Al, Rambo, and production from Da Beatminerz. The 2-sided sampler features the smash, "Change," a live freestyle, "When It Rains It Pours," a freestyle up at Hot 97, as well as an interview with Funkmaster Flex. The B-Side features a remix of "Return of the Mack" and "Slow It Down," then back into joints like "Wanted Men," "Pandemonium," "Under Pressure" and closes out with a final freestyle. With the host extraordinaire, DJ Evil Dee on the mic and the mix, it's a dope listen from start to finish. Check it out below! (Update: new stream added below).

March 14, 2015

Rottin Razkals "Rottin to da Core" (Rap Page, 3/95)

"Rottin to da Core indeed are the seeds from East Orange. Sproutin' outta da Illtown camp, produced by K-Gee (Naughty By Nature), and planted in Mad Sounds Records soil, their first harvest provides a good look at what Jersey's got to offer from Diesel (who just so happens to be Treach's lil' bro), Fam, who U should've heard on Zhane's "Hey, Mr. DJ," and DJ Chap, who is on da scratch and cut. A li'l more polish is all this cru needs to make their presentation more balanced, and they won't end up wit' top-heavy jams like "Batter Up," which begins hype, but deflates after the second verse. And a lot of their hooks are too simple to mesh wit' the intelligence of the Naughty camp. Personally, I don't predict any problems, B-cuz the potential to B-cum a successful group is evident, and the roadwork the Razkals have been doin' (opening 4 NBN) will surely show on the next Rottin release, as did their raw talent on "Knock 'Em out da Box." Also, for those unknowing, the Razkals R part of a Coast-to-Coast brotherhood known as Double I Productions (Inglewood, CA - Illtown, NJ), which is represented by the Road Dawgs and the Cruddy Click on tha W.C., and all represent 118th Street ('hood and management)." Check the visuals to the lead single, cont'd below...

"Peep the ills on their first single, "Oh Yeah," which shows U that they hit hard, but I didn't C any real knockout power until "Lick-a-Shot." Here's where the whole Double I posse debuts wit' sum sick shit. Diesel holds his ground tight and throws big nubs on"Life Of A Bastard" (remember his brother on "Ghetto Bastard"?). Side two of the tape was a much lighter hit than side one, which slightly handicapped the overall project. Never to say they can't flow, the Razkals can hold theirs, but the "2getherness" element doesn't mix thru the whole set and bounce the songs all the way to completion. If they persevere, they'll get recognized, I'm sure. Rottin to da Core in ya J-bahood reca sto. Peace." - Rap Pages, March 1995. You can save a copy of the full review below...

March 13, 2015

Heather B “My Kinda N#gga” (12", 1996)

Back in the early 90s, Heather B was down with the legendary Boogie Down Productions. With that, this 12” had production from Kenny Parker of the BDP and brother to KRS-One. Along with the classic golden era single, “All Glocks Down,” there were three 12” releases before Heather B & Pendulum Records got to the release of this M.O.P.-featured 12”, “My Kinda N#gga.” All in support of her debut album, "Takin Mine" in 1996. There was a video for this single, as well as “All Glocks Down,” I’m not sure if the others did as well? Heather B released a second album in 2002 called “Eternal Affairs.” Heather B later became a household name as a housemate on MTV’s Real World series, and has been a co-host on Sway in The Morning for a hot minute, as well. As a fun fact: Heather B is married to Horse from the Bravehearts, who she happened to meet on the subway 15+ years ago. I know she was working on music with DJ Premier, MoSS, and other heavyweight producers in 2010 because I heard some of it at an interview we did together up at NYU. Hopefully it's still coming!? Now, back to '96, this is some classic 90s East Coast Hip-Hop. Listen to it below...

March 12, 2015

The Notorious B.I.G. "Ready To Die" (The O.G. Edition)

"Even the youngest hip hop fan will know what today means: the eighteenth anniversary of Biggie Smalls’ death. Listen, I’m not here to deliver some long dissertation about his legacy, his influence, his life and times, and anything else I haven’t either written about or read numerous times over. Rather, I’d like to give my own personal toast to Christopher Wallace by revisiting an old mixtape: the “mixtape” version of his seminal debut album, Ready To Die, featuring unreleased demo cuts, the original versions of others, and more ... We miss you, B.I.G." - 2DopeBoyz // Listen below...

March 11, 2015

Apache "Gangsta Bitch" (The Source, 12/92)

"The Flavor Unit's self-proclaimed "Hip-Hop Green Beret" slows the pace down with an ode to the woman of his dreams. The ruff n' rugged Apache is man enough to admit that he needs a special woman to fulfill his needs. Q-Tip's compelling slow jam tracks makes this "Around the Way Girl" parody even more captivating. Has anybody seen this girl? "I need a gangsta b!tch, she don't sleep and she don't play / Stickin' up girls from around the f#ckin' way ... She's got charm / A firearm to match mine / Goin' to the movies packin' his and her nines / Motherf#ck the weather / On Valentine's Day doin' stick-ups together." Ahh yes, the perfect picture of young love." Cont'd below...

"On the flip side, Apache gets down to business, and unleashed his feared, rapid-fire lyrical skills. Rather than let someone else criticize him, he does it for you. You won't be able to say anything he hasn't already said about himself after you hear "Apache Ain't Sh!t." It gets no ruffer." - The Source, December 1992 // The Flavor Unit eMCee Apache passed away in 2010, may he rest in peace.

March 10, 2015

Chi-Ali "The Fabulous Chi-Ali" (HHC, 3/92)

"At just 15-years old, it's no surprise that the precocious Chi-Ali's first single was 'Age Ain't Nothin' But A Number.' The latest and definitely youngest member of the Native Tongues Posse, Chi-Ali is sure evidence of rap reaching America's younger generation. The problem is, Chi-Ali possesses an ego bigger than Hammer's bank balance. Hence he talks about having 'girls' of nine years his senior, passing up on 'immature' females of 13, getting into clubs because he looks 21, and of being an all round cool dude. Now I'm sure that 14-15 year olds hate to admit it but, let's face it, most are still kids. At this rate, Chi-Ali's going to be rapping about the perils of middle age, pension schemes and the financial burdens of mortgages before he's even legal to buy a beer!" Cont'd below...

"It's a shame, as Ali can rap and some of the music here slams. The stealthy jazz flavor of 'Roadrunner" sounds like an out take from 'The Low End Theory', and the stuttering 'Let The Horns Blow' could be a future classic thanks to the Native Tongues reunion of Dove (De La), Dres (Black Sheep), Phife (Tribe), Fashion (Beatnuts) and young Ali. Apart from that, this album is just a bit surreal. Chi-Ali can talk about all the club crazy fly like cuties he likes, but if his best chat up lines are 'How's your homework going?' and 'Are you going to be allowed to stay up and watch the Superbowl this weekend?' I suspect he's just fooling himself. Bizarre for the most part and, at its worst, plain ludicrous." - Hip-Hop Connection, March 1992. A copy of the review is below...

March 09, 2015

Mister Cee "The Best Of Notorious B.I.G." (Mixtape, 1995)

The Finisher Mister Cee's "The Best of Notorious B.I.G." is arguably the definitive Biggie mixtape (even if it's not MY personal favorite). The cassette mix tape runs through a bunch of pre-internet rarities in Biggie's early catalog of records. Various joints with Super Cat, Mary J. Blige, Red Hot Lover Tone, Crustified Dibbs, Method Man, Heavy D, Da Brat, Big Daddy Kane, Total, Junior M.A.F.I.A., Pudgee Da Phat Bastard, Eddie F, LL Cool J, and more. Mister Cee gives a personal shout-out to "Junior Mafia, D, Puff Daddy, 50 Grand, Matt Life, and all the real muthaph#ckas who's been representing B.I.G. from the beginning." We'll always love Big Poppa ... Rest In Peace, Notorious B.I.G.

March 08, 2015

Theory Hazit "The Fall of the Light Bearer" (Album Stream)

"Fall of the Light Bearer" is the 4th official studio album from Portland MC/producer Theory Hazit. Another solid release in his well-established catalog, the 13-track offering features LMNO, Johaz of Dag Savage, his screw the Scribbling Idiots, the good homie Jon Corbin, Alessandra Rose; production from J57 and of course, his own production. Do yourself a favor and listen to it below...

March 07, 2015

Black Rob "Life's Story" (Vibe, June 1999)

"Black Rob's debut, Life Story, is a grimy adventure that'll probably make him a feared man in corporate America, but revered in the hip hop world. He's incredibly adept at constructing graphic, autobiographical episodes and intricate tales. With his adamantine gaze, raspy-voice, and stormy aura, Black Rob is the closest thing to the late, great Notorious B.I.G. Replete with fluid production from the Hitmen, Life Story is an emotional ride full of hardship and pain, especially the haunting title track, on which Rob recalls growing up with an alcoholic mother. He seeks to avenge a friend's murder on the thunderous "Lookin' At Us," featuring Cee-Lo, and dreams of a better life on the intense "Can I Live," featuring the Lox. And the rowdy hit single "I Dare You," which first appeared on the 1998 soundtrack for the movie Slam (Immortal/Epic), sounds just as good on the hundredth listen as it did on the first. However, Life Story does have its occasional detractions, like Puffy's irritating ad-libs on "Make It Hot" and Puffs wanna-be rough rhymes on "Down The Line." Also, "Spanish Fly" is a little too light and fluffy to suit Rob's hardcore style. But that doesn't change the fact that although the album gets down and dirty, Life Story is a breath of fresh air." - Vibe, 6/99.

If you'd like a copy of the full Vibe review, check below...

March 06, 2015

Mello Music Group "Persona" (Album Stream)

"If the soul of hip-hop belongs to the culture, the skeleton belongs to the independent label. From Sugar Hill to Def Jam, Tommy Boy to Rawkus, Fondle Em to Def Jux, the genre’s best music has been birthed by imprints that brazenly defy the status quo, those who champion fearless artists and always prize quality over commerce. For the last eight years, Mello Music Group has lived by that ethos. If you’re reading these words, you’re inevitably well aware of its ascendance and growing legacy. But more importantly, you know the artists—those singular voices channeling the spirits of the past and spitting premonitions of the future. Boom-bap at its best: evolving and expanding the art form, capturing stories of the struggle, upholding the tradition, and keeping the crooked honest. Persona unveils the murderer’s row that is the Mello roster of 2015. Oddisee, Apollo Brown, yU, L'Orange, Red Pill, Open Mike Eagle, Rapper Big Pooh, Quelle Chris. The stars of the present teamed with timeless innovators like Phonte (Little Brother), Blockhead, Ras Kass, Gift of Gab (Blackalicious), Oh No, Masta Ace, and Bilal Salaam. The result is something that binds current greats with the pioneers who paved the asphalt. It’s both a historical moment and hard as hell." Listen to it below...

March 05, 2015

The Fab 5 "Leflaur Leflah Eshkoshka" (Review, 1995)

The Fab 5 was a super-group that consisted of Heltah Skeltah (Sean Price & Rockness Monstah) and O.G.C. (Starang Wondah, Louisville Sluggah and Top Dog). As part of the Boot Camp Clik and signed to Duck Down Records, they released their debut 12", "Blah" and "Leflaur Leflah Eshkoshka" in 1995. The Source covered the single, saying: "When Black Moon first hit the streets, they paved the way for one of the strongest crews ever to come out of Brooklyn. Next up, Smif-N-Wessun. Recently, the names Heltah Skeltah & O.G.C. have been popping up. The two groups represented lovely on "Heads Ain't Ready." Now they've joined forces on a double single - just to let heads know what the future holds. "Leflah Leflour Eskoshka" is unadulterated dope. Don't let the name fool you, the track consists of straight-up, rugged lyrics over a butter-smooth beat. The MCs interact in a way that reminds the listener of a freestyle session where amped heads jump in without allowing the last man to finish his verse. The lyrics are so phat, it's almost impossible to pick out the best ones.... Heltah Skeltah and O.G.C. have definitely brought more props to the Boot Camp Clik and Bucktown USA. Can't wait to hear the album." Well, there was no group album ... with the charting success of the single, O.G.C went on to release "Da Storm" and Heltah Skeltah released "Nocturnal" in 1996. 

March 04, 2015

Awon "Matte Black Soul" (Album Stream)

"...Sometimes I feel like my flesh
Is now speaking to my soul
I understand my purpose
And as long as the earth twist
I'm here to tell the truth
Until I'm underneath the surface
On whatever medium
The antithesis of skinny jeans and shirts that's smedium
Awon bout as real as they come..."

Wooo, catch that 21st Century sample of "Remember The Rain;" it's nicely flipped by Phoniks, and featured on Awon's "Matte Black Soul" LP. Lord knows ... I been old, lol, so I know it's not uncommon to feel like our best days are behind us. Yet, Awon was something of a seasoned vet even before his name caught on, now making waves in the underground bringing maturity, messages with purpose, and lots of soul & jazzy hip-hop with his projects. The blueprint over at Don't Sleep Records is not new, it's just too many artists got jaded or abused by time and veered off course - Phoniks and Awon, however, keep the focus on the music, complementing it with strong visuals, products and packaging + they get themselves overseas where the love is. The industry might be slow to catch on: doing it the right way does work! But then, you can't copy authenticity. (Updated).

March 03, 2015

Smif-N-Wessun "Dah Shinin" (Rap Pages, 3/95)

"The generals of Bucktown's Boot Camp Clik, Smif-N-Wessun are no one-hit wonders. Ever since debuting on Black Moon's seminal Enta Da Stage, and following their "Bucktown" anthem (easily one  of the biggest crowd-movers in recent memory), Steele and Tek's full-length joint has been eagerly awaited by roughnecks everywhere. Dah Shinin' doesn't disappoint, lightening up the spot from beginning to end with solid cut after cut. The 1-2-3 combination punch of "Wrektime," "Wontime," and "Wreckonize" gets the album going, but it's the ragga-flavored "Sound Bwoy Buriel," featuring Black Moon's Buckshot, that delivers the knockout blow. Relentless grooves wallop ears in this threatening testament to all those suckas at the show. The album's other posse cut, "Cession at the Doghouse," features O.G.C. (Originl Gun Clappaz) and Heltah Skeltah, with Buckshot delivering the chorus like Method Man on the Wu's Da Mystery of Chessboxin'." Peep the visuals to "Sound Bwoy Bureill" ...

"Hellucination," which freaks a fly Minnie Riperton bassline sample and the infamous "Bucktown" drum track, is lyrically the strongest track on the album. "Home Sweet Home" uses the same "We Live In Brooklyn" Roy Ayers classic that's on Digable Planets' latest, but Steele and Tek give it a decisively more hardcore touch. "P.N.C. (Partners 'N' Crime)," the album's finale, is Smif-N-Wessun's "together forever" tribute to fallen friend Sean Grady. Produced exclusively by Da Beatminerz (Mr. Walt, Evil Dee and newcomer Baby Paul), Dah Shinin' establishes Smif-N-Wessun as legitimate artists who took the lead of mentors Black Moon and pushed a distinct New York sound to new heights." - Rap Pages, March 1995. You can save a copy of the Rap Pages album review below... Peace to the BCC.

March 02, 2015

Mister Cee "That Freestyle Shit" (Vinyl EP, 1995)

Before it was released with Tape Kingz in a clear blue cassette, the vinyl for Mister Cee's "That Freestyle Shit" was self-released by Mister Cee in 1994. The classic release - in both formats - kicks off with "The Wickedest;" the infamous freestyle from Biggie, live at Mister Cee's crib. It also has Ol' Dirty Bastard's freestyle live at Big Daddy Kane's video shoot in Lafayette Gardens Projects in Brooklyn; Masta Ace Incorporate live at Firehouse Studios; Finsta Bundy live at Mister Cee's crib, and more freestyles with Keith Murray, Biz Markie & Brand Nubian. Perhaps the most historic freestyle on the release, however, is 2Pac, Big Daddy Kane, Big Scoob, Biggie Smalls and Shyheim, Live at The Garden! Need I say more? I think not, so dig into That Mister Cee Freestyle Sh!t below...

March 01, 2015

Blu & MED "Bad Neighbor Tour" (Mixtape Stream)

If 25 minutes of choice, tasteful hip-hop is what your morning needs, then Blu and MED are your humble, happy suppliers. The two West Coast MCs combined their dynamic flows and tastes for last year’s Bad Neighbor Tour, and now some of the best material from both artists back catalogs have been seamlessly sewn into a brand new mixtape. Composed by Stones Throw Records affiliate DJ Romes, Bad Neighbor Tour CD, Part 1 is a half hour-long set is a trip through old school soul samples, dusty drums, airtight claps and (of course) both artists top-tier rhyme skills. The set opens with a remix of the duo’s cut “Peroxide” and rolls on through gems like Oh No‘s “Jones’s” and the Mayer Hawthorne/Madlib collab “The Buzz.” - via OKP. Dig into their dope tour exclusive below...