Thursday, December 31, 2015

D.I.T.C. "Diggin' In The Crates" (Vibe, March 2000)

"Diggin' in the Crates are to rap as the Portland Trail Blazers are to the NBA - deeper than Bill Gate's pockets and brimming with skills and chemistry. After years of functioning as a loosely knit collective, D.I.T.C. have assumed a Voltron-like formation to create an LP chockful of their widely revered punchlines and metaphors. With Fat Joe, A.G., O.C., and the tragically deceased Big L sharing the majority of mike dity - plus Diamond, Show, Buckwild, and the unfadable DJ Premier behind the boards - it seems that they've got every base covered." Cont'd below & check out "Day One" ...

"From the pounding primo opener, "Thick," to the sobering vinyl-classic closer, "Day One," D.I.T.C. hit like a freight train, crushing all in their path. With knocking drums and somber melodies, the mid-tempo beats on songs like "Champagne Thoughts" perfectly complement the collective's energetic style. Unfortunately, the LP's greatest moments are also its most depressing, as Big L rips verses like, "You frontin' cause yo' whip's a Range / But it's a 4.0 / You nerd n!gga / You heard Jigga  Now get yo' change" - begging the painful question, What if? But despite the morbid splendor of L's ultimate glory, D.I.T.C. come correct, adding another solid notch to their belt." - Vibe, March 2000.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Awon & Phoniks "Knowledge Of Self" (Album Stream)

"Knowledge of Self" is the 2nd official offering from Hip-Hop duo Awon & Phoniks. Coming over 2 years after releasing their debut album "Return to the Golden Era" in Summer of 2013, the Newport News, VA emcee and Portland, ME producer have been working diligently on their follow-up. While the debut LP was a throwback to 90's hip-hop in every sense, with lyrics focusing on Awon's troubled youth and tales of street grandeur, their 2nd LP sees the group maintain their signature sound while refining things both musically and lyrically. This time Awon is speaking from the present, educating youth on tracks like 'Reflections' and speaking on current social climates in 'Summer Madness' and 'Profit Off My Pain'. He has adapted his rhymes to more relevant topics while keeping his all-natural flow groove-locked in the pocket. The duo also capitalized on the networking opportunities their first LP provided, collaborating with a multitude of talented artists from all over the globe such as Oslo's Ivan Ave and London's Heeni. Phoniks shows his maturation as a producer on tracks like the trunk rattling 'Do They Really Love You' and 'Be Real With It' featuring jazzy piano chops, subtly layered samples and off-beat, un-quantized rhythms. While the debut LP was crafted with the artists in isolation, recording and emailing each other from their respective bedroom studios, "Knowledge Of Self" was made possible by traveling across the east coast and working together in state of the art recording facilities. The tracks are given a warm punch from being recorded through top notch microphones and preamps and bounced down to analog tapes. Across it's 13-tracks, Awon & Phoniks make their best case at providing fans with one of the most well-rounded, impactful hip-hop projects of 2015. Not only have they returned to the Golden Era, but this time they have done it with a seasoned wisdom. Knowledge Reigns Supreme." - Don't Sleep Records Enjoy the stream below and hit the tags for more from Awon & Phoniks. (Updated, 2018)

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Halftime Show "Eminem & Royce Da 5'9" (September 23, 1998)

"Here goes another Halftime show from '98 with guests Eminem and Royce Da 5'9" (85:53). Short interview right into the freestyle session (if only cats today were as hungry as the 90s generation). As usual, Riz sets off the show lovely and then half way through I get on to finish up. Always good listening to the mic breaks to see what was going on during that time (i.e. Tramps shows, Fat Beats in-stores, new mixer...thanks Fat Beats!). So much good music played!" - via DJ Eclipse's Mixcloud.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Firm "The Album" (Rap Pages, December 1997)

"When Dr. Dre left N.W.A. to start Death Row Records with now-convicted felon Marion "Suge" Knight, he brought with him a sparkling track record peppered with numerous gold and platinum records. Unfortunately for Dre, since he escaped Death Row's death row to establish Aftermath Records, he has been unable to duplicate earlier achievements. His label debut  bombed and the Firm, a conglomerate of rappers masquerading as money launderers and cocaine traffickers, fails miserably. The Firm, consisting of Nas, Foxy Brown, AZ and newcomer Nature, first appeared on Nas's It Was Written on "Affirmative Action cut. "Affirmative Action" spun far-fetched tales of cocaine trafficking via Columbia and deals that suddenly turn sour. The insanity continues on the Firm. Instead of only one song depicting such foolishness, the entire album consists of uninspired, rehashed concepts pilfered from movies, such as Goodfellas, The Godfather, Casino and, of course, Scarface. Trackmasters shares production duties with Dre and seem satisfied with making records that probably pose as clever and original pieces of work to most of today's teens. For instance, "Hardcore" is a ripoff of Cheryl Lynn's "Encore," "Firm Biz" bites Teena Marie's "Square Biz" and "Fuck Somebody Else" boldly jacks the Jones Girk's "You Gonna Make Me Love Somebody Else." 

"With the Firm's roster of MCs, one would expect this album to be laced with hit. Nothing could be further from the truth. The lyrical content of this debacle is bland. Nas continues his love affair of Latin American-mafioso-Cali cartel fantasies. Usual escapades of bartering p#ssy for loot, as well as breaking down the mathematics and intricacies of the drug trade are detailed by Foxy - again! AZ continues his career as the connected-but-not-yet "made" underling, and Nature never appears comfortable behind the mic. He ends up as the odd man out in the Firm's musical soiree. The Firms is a partnership that desperately needs to be dissolved." - Rap Pages, December 1997. Honestly? While my aim is to only post about content I enjoy - and I do think this album had 1 or 2 redeeming moments - I have to agree, this album really did disappoint me back in '97. So, I post this only to say, even though it features some of my favorite artists, they had a fair share of misses, too! 

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Brand Nubian "Foundation" (Rap Pages, 1998)

"Few rap groups manage what Brand Nubian have: recording a reunion album that equals their previous work. Working with their original lineup for the first time since their masterful debut project, One For All, Grand Puba, Sadat X, Lord Jamar and DJ Alamo (who's now an official member of the group) demonstrate how to deliver a credible, hard-hitting Hip-Hop collection that addresses a variety of topics on Foundation. Focusing on respect, pride, love and struggle, the New Rochelle quartet rap lyrical circles around their myopic competition... While the multitude of overtly positive messages is sure to please their original fan base, several selections will thrill cats who've never experienced Brand Nubian. "The Return," a gritty, flute-backed, chest-thumping celebration that bumps harder than turbulence, wins with a bevy of punch lines and well-placed scratching..."

"Even though the work of the Puba-less Brand Nubian and Puba's solo songs touched on worthy topics and included dazzling wordplay, they work better as a unit than they did separately. The former Derek X's abrasive voice sounds much more appealing when complemented with Jamar's husky presentation and Puba's often playful demeanor. Likewise, Foundation's production far exceeds any of Nubian's work since One For All. Beatmasters such as DJ Premier, Lord Finesse, Buckwild, Diamond D and Grand Puba contribute a myriad of aural moods that fit Brand Nubian's lyrics like shrink-wrap.... Expertly executed, Foundation's poignant subject matter and super production reestablish Brand Nubian as premier Hip-Hop spokesmen." - Rap Pages, 1998.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Doo Wop "95 Live II" (Mixtape, 1995)

"95 Live II" is the follow-up to the classic "95 Live," released in the winter of 1995. Doo Wop came back strong with another classic mix, representin' the 5 boroughs, it has exclusive freestyles from KRS-One, Treach, Keith Murray, Redman, Mobb Deep, AZ, Lost Boyz, Smif-N-Wessun, Mad Lion, Channel Live, King Just, as well as tracks that were hot at the time from GZA, Smoothe Da Hustler, Biggie, Group Home, Raekwon, Blahzay Blahzay, Nine, Fat Joe, Foxy Brown and lots more. As always, hit the tags below to follow the breadcrumbs, and enjoy this classic Golden Era mix tape.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Peace Of Mind "Drum Addict" (Instrumental Album)

Peace Of Mind's “Drum Addict" is his long awaited return to form and his re-dedication to his art and his first love of making music. Over 22 tracks, he crafts yet another monstrous opus full of tracks you'll put on repeat that will have heads nodding and faces scrunched up worldwide. Listen...

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Pharcyde "LabcabinCalifornia" (20th Ann Mix by DJ Spinna)

The Pharcyde is celebrating the 20th Anniversary of their iconic album Labcabincalifornia by releasing a commemorative mixtape. In a collaborative effort, the #BeamMeUpSpinna mixtape is mixed by NYC’s DJ Spinna and features “Nasty Habits”, an unreleased joint from the vault that features Ralph Tresvant & Bobby Brown. They also asked a group of producers to remix and add their own personal spin on a few of the Labcabincalifornia songs that you all know and love. The Pharcyde’s sophomore album “LabcabinCalifornia” was originally released on November 14th, 1995. The group enlisted a young and then unknown James Yancey aka J DILLA to produce beats, like the cult classic “Runnin.” They also collaborated with director Spike Jonze (“Being John Malkovich” “Adaptation”) on the video for “Drop.” Labcabincalifornia has consistently and continues to reinforce their steadfast refusal to tread familiar artistic grounds. Listen to the mix below.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Grown Man Rap Show "Buckwild Mix"

DJ Toast & Paul Nice broadcast live every Sunday Night (10-12am, EST) at WRPI in Albany, NY. This is Episode 50 - quite the milestone - a dope tribute to D.I.T.C.'s Buckwild. Paul Nice's set kicks off with tracks by O.C., Lord Finesse, Mic Geronimo, Akinyele, Special Ed, Mad Skills, Royal Flush, Celph Titled, FatJoe, Alkaholiks, Brand Nubian and more. Then DJ Toast steps up & adds cuts from Organized Konfusion, WC, Kool G Rap, Show & AG, Big L, Street Smartz, Black Rob, Kool Keith, a few samples thrown to round out their outstanding tribute mix. Listen below!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Ice Cube "Kill At Will" EP (The Source, 2/91)

"Let's get this straight from the giddy up - Ice Cube fans will not be disappointed by this EP. Cube's rhymes are in there as usual and the production by Sir Jinx and the rest of Da Lench Mob may not be on the same classic level of Amerikkka's Most Wanted but don't sleep. There are three remixes plus brand new cuts. "Jackin' For Beats," "The Product" (Ice Cube's hype recital of his past and present), the somber "Dead Homiez," (a dedication to deceased friends) and even the quick shout jam "I Gotta Thank" will keep the hardcore masses satisfied till the vinyl becomes warped. Of the remixed jams, "Endangered Species" stands out the most, as new breakbeats and basslines solidify Cube and Chuck's powerful lyrics. The cut that mostly likely will have people saying "Oh Shit!" is "Jackin' For Beats." Dig into the visuals from "Jackin For Beats" - and more - cont'd below...

"On this track, Cube holds true to the song's title as he rhymes over beats from "Call Me D-Nice," "So Wat Ya Sayin," "The Humpty Dance," "Big Ole Butt" and others. No Sa-Prizes here. If Ice Cube is only out for one thang, it's coming out with dope records." - The Source, February 1991.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

EPMD "Business As Usual" (The Source, 2/91)

"EPMD got biz! I got this tape three weeks ago and it's been in my walkman ever since mainly because it's dope from beginning to end. The first side starts off with two cuts featuring two of their boys. "Hardcore" shows off the rough, "knockin' heads like Mike Nunn" style of Redman over a slow beat and a lazy loop. And LL Cool J displays much skills on "Rampage," which is sort of a modified "Jinglin' Baby" complete with the chorus - "Slowdown, Baby," instead of "Jinglin' Baby." After that it goes into "Jane 3," the third of the "Jane" series about a girl that they ran into on each album. Flip to the B-side and "Rap Is Outta Control" will have you flipping; they drop crazy lyrics over the most simple (sounding) of tracks. "Funky Piano" is time for DJ Scratch to get off... and does he. It was no accident that Scratch won the DJ Battle for World Supremacy in '89 and I think he proves that here when he cuts up "Pump Me Up" from the old school jam of the same name..."

"There are still several hype cuts that I haven't mentioned. Believe me, the whole thing is dope." I don't know if it's my imagination or if Erick and Parrish actually got better on the mic? They have always been great lyricists, but on this LP they rock styles that we haven't seen from them before... I hope that EPMD will never change, because they are one group out there that's not trying to be like someone else. All they want to do is improve on their own act and this album proves that they're not bullshitting." - The Source, February 1991.

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Halftime Show "Non Phixion, Arsonists, Big L" (Aug 19, 1998)

"This show had mad guests this night. After a short interview (53:58), Non Phixion, Arsonists and Necro hit the mic for an ill freestyle session (62:45). Then a little later A.G. and Ghetto Dwellas get busy (101:49) leaving it to Big L to close it all out (112:16). Even hearing Q-Unique talk about his MC battle at Club Vinyl (51:45) is dope when he runs down the list of emcees that made it past the prelims (i.e. Pumpkinhead, Poison Pen, etc). These shows captured the essence of what was going on in NYC in the 90s. #RIP Big L #RIP Party Arty" - via DJ Eclipse. Listen below!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Chairman Maf "Soup" (Instrumental Album)

Sheffield, UK's Chairman Maf is back with "Soup," the follow up to last years highly acclaimed "Paint." "Soup" is 11 new tracks of melodic boom bap hip hop. At the time of its release, Maf's team declares that "it is his best (and possibly last) release... So sit down, grab a bowl and eat up." Listen below...

Friday, December 11, 2015

DJ Babu "Barbershop Classics" Vol. 2 (Mixtape)

DJ Babu presents Barbershop: Hip-Hop Classics, Vol.2. The mix features classic cuts from the golden age of hip hop and specifically heavy doses of dope lyrical skills, creative production and conscious vibes ready to spark tons of conversations of memories from the 90s. Ambitious of DJ Babu to kick the mix off on a high note with Camp Lo's "Luchini," arguably one of the most hype tracks of the 90s! From there into "Feelin' It" by Jay-Z and an emphasis to look out for freestyles by Big L, 2Pac and The Notorious B.I.G.  Much respect to DJ Babu of the World Famous Beat Junkies!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Paranom & Purpose "Life Outside The Frame" (Album Stream)

"It was at the end of last year that the Tragic Allies crew members Paranom & Purpose stepped outside their clique for a minute to record Life Outside The Frame. What they created was a varied selection of songs ranging from upbeat and catchy, to laidback and contemplative, making the LP unmissable for anyone searching for god-body rap with steez. As the newest recruit to the T.A roster, Paranom has proved his microphone abilities beyond a doubt, writing constantly creative bars and huge hooks with nothing but respect for the culture, lyrical depth, and skill. The tranquil jazz that Purpose has been diggin’ for suits the MCs’ chilled style well, and makes this lengthy track list seem short by keeping their songs to the point and highly musical." - via EyeKnowHipHop

Monday, December 07, 2015

Fredfades & Ivan Ave "Fruitful" (Album Stream)

The dynamic duo from Oslo, Norway FredFades and Ivan Ave step in with a solid 12 track album “Fruitful,” out now on Germany’s Jakarta Records. The sound is rooted in hip-hop’s Golden Age of the early to mid 90’s. The chemistry between the production of FredFades and Ivan Ave’s vocal bring us back to acts like Pete Rock & CL, DJ Premier & Guru, J Rawls & J Sands (Lone Catalysts) and the more recent classic “Below The Heavens” from Blu & Exile. Beautiful, jazzy and soulful production from Fred Fades + intelligent lyrics and incredibly smooth flow from Ivan Ave. That’s all you really need to know. Pure rap music with no gimmicks. MIMS.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Black Sheep "Non Fiction" (Vibe, 1/95)

"If you're looking for another A Wolf In Sheep's Clothing, forget it. But the bad boys who were down with the mostly defunct Native Tongues and Flavor Unit crews are back after a three year hiatus. And with the new Non-Fiction, Black Sheep show another side of themselves. Right away, in the "Non-Fiction Intro," the Sheep - Dres and Mista Lawnge - inform you that Non-Fiction is "something else." Their second album is way less humorous and "honey"-conscious than the first. And Black Sheep's music has shifted: it's simpler, more eerie, and more jazzy. On tracks like "Who's Next?" and "Gotta Get Up," they hold off on Wolf's signature cowbells, while bass lines and horns get muffled and sped up. "Summa tha Time" has a nice Latin mellowness - the piano and flute strut behind vocals from the (Black Sheep-produced) girl group Emage. Not just another hip-hop / R&B jam, "Summa" is a real, head-nodding groove." Check out the single to "Without A Doubt," cont'd...

"The way Black Sheep rhyme, however, has not changed. In the aptly titled "Autobiographical," Dres flips the script on himself, recollecting his badass days and flowing in a non-hyper, Native Tongues-style, storytelling manner. It's a detailed, almost visual vignette about a boy who constantly lives close to trouble. And on "Let's Get Cozy," Mista Lawnge describes an explicit sexual prelude, reassuring fans that the "Sugard#ck Daddy" can still be as nasty as he wants to be. Tunes like "Peace to the N!ggas," "Me & My Brother," and "We Boys," though, suffer from sophomore slouchiness. The production on these cuts is lazy - hooks aim high and miss. But mercifully, on Non-Fiction Black Sheep seldom fall into playing the tired game of who's-hard-and-who's-not. Does hard necessarily equal hoodlum? For Black Sheep, it's just not that simple." - Vibe, January 1995.

Friday, December 04, 2015

Jeru The Damaja "Can't Stop The Prophet" (The Source, 12/94)

"For all of the unfair criticism Jeru caught over "Bitchez," the fact that he's a hip-hop philosopher with long term visions on how to master and improve the game was never lost on anyone who got past Premier's beats on The Sun Rises In The East. If the original version of "Prophet" earned Jeru mad respect from hip-hop intellectuals, then the Pete Rock remix should silence detractors and bring glee to the primitive. Peep the production credits. Look at them again. Yes, both Premier and Pete Rock - arguably the flyest beat ministers in the hip-hop cathedral - worked on "Can't Stop The Prophet." After Doug E. Fresh's "The Show" provides an intro, Pete chops up the bassline, and allows hollow vibes to echo up and down the track ... The arresting track is a perfect backdrop for Jeru's clever comic-book-styled metaphor. In Downtown Brooklyn, he tells us, a battle wages - between Ignorance and the Prophet. Using his razorsharp lyrical knives to get through Ignorance's henchmen Animosity and Envy, the Prophet is forced to kill Ignorance's girl, Jealousy. Jeru's use of an extended metaphor to prove a point - that intellectual strength could triumph over the root causes of plagues cuffing our community's growth - represents the future of hip-hop." The Source, 12/94. (Updated, 2018: I included an official version of the video + Jeru The Damaja discussing the roles Danny Hastings and Chris Cortes played in the classic visuals for the album). Watch below...

If you'd rather read it directly from the source - or save a copy - check it out below.

Friday, December 04, 2015

Brand Nubian "One for All" (25th Anniversary Mixtape)

“This Weekend (4th December 2015) marked the 25th Anniversary of the release of Brand Nubian‘s classic debut album ‘One for All’. Notable for its use of unconventional sample material (see use of Edie Brickell’s ‘What I Am’ on the smash single ‘Slow Down’), this landmark release of the afro-centric era treads an unlikely path between political commentary and humorous braggadocio. In celebration of the album’s 25th birthday, we’ve teamed up with Wax Poetics to present an exclusive mixtape containing tracks from the album, alternate versions, remixes and, of course, original sample material used in the album’s production.” Enjoy the mix below.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Q-Tip Lecture at Red Bull Music Academy (NY, 2013)

"Q-Tip is one of hip-hop's greatest MCs and producers. As a member of A Tribe Called Quest, he helped to shape the sound of hip-hop throughout the ’90s. The group’s exceptional run of full-lengths became a blueprint for MCs looking to balance the literate and the absurd, as well as producers searching for the perfect (and unexpected) break. Since Tribe’s split in '98, Q-Tip has kept busy with a solo career that has included multiple solo albums, countless productions, and guest appearances in places both expected and improbable. In this talk at the 2013 Red Bull Music Academy, Q-Tip discussed standout Tribe cuts, working with J Dilla, the Zulu Nation, and more." (Updated, 2017, added new photo; art by Larry Cooney Jr.). Definitely watch and enjoy below.