Friday, June 30, 2017

Jay-Z "4:44" (Thoughts)

Finally, an album closer to what I've been wanting to hear from Jay-Z. Grown rap that I can learn and relate to, because - unfortunately - for so long I felt like Hustler Hov was just flashing shine and creating more distance and being more off-putting with each release. This is a nice return to a golden era sound and delivery, more heavily lent to the messages in the music. Props to No I.D. on the production and Jay on many of the sample choices (I'm told). A thought that runs through my head: now that it's here, if the fans don't reward the effort - if the accolades don't come - do we risk admitting that there's no room for this quality of music/messaging in mainstream rap? Is that a harsh reality we'll have to face? Just like White America learned the night of the election; it had to face itself and see the choices the majority had made. Will fans ultimately decide for the fast food rap instead? I'm curious, but, for now, just appreciating a quality album released in the mainstream, that somehow feels like it went against the grain, lol. He's certainly not the only artist to do it, but for a legacy artist of his stature and success, it was clearly an album he felt he needed to make, and certainly one fans needed to hear. At the time of this post, the album was only available on Tidal, but I'm updating it to include the Spotify audio below, because I do not have Tidal, lol. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Arsonists "Mixtape, 1998" + Stress Magazine, 1997

This is the original Arsonists mixtape from 1998 featuring unreleased tracks, radio appearances, mixtape intros, etc. This is a rare tape now brought to you in digital format by the Arsonists and Creative Juices. Specifically, the mix features the incredible 'Battle of the Beats' that Arsonists won over some other incredible artists, as well as The Session, Halloween, Venom, Blaze, and a number of really dope exclusive freestyles with DJ Roc Raida (R.I.P.), Tony Touch, Mr. Sinista, DJ Camilo, and more. The real essence of what the Arsonists brought to Hip-Hop was captured in their live show. Their energy and stage presence was unmatched at the time. The article in Stress Magazine (1997) below speaks to that: "One of our biggest influences was the Cold Crush days and watching Wild Style over and over, plus some of us already danced," says D-Stroy. At Arsonist shows everything is crazy planned, like all of them will just freeze in a post during a person's verse or they'll change into airbrushed tank tops with letters on the front that go along with the song they're done. I've seen them incorporate funny hats, karate kicks, old dances and b-boying - and not once come off corny." Yessir! Much love to Freestyle, D-Stroy, Q-Unique, Jise One, Swel, the whole crew. Listen below...

Here's the full article in Stress Magazine, Issue #10, 1997...

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Gang Starr "Daily Operation" (25th Anniversary Mix)

"Daily Operation: the third LP of one of hip-hop’s most revered and beloved duos: Gang Starr. Released May 5, 1992, the album features classic joints such as “Take It Personal” and “Ex-Girl to Next Girl.” To celebrate the record’s birthday, Chris Read has crafted yet another exclusive mixtape featuring album tracks, alternate versions, and original sample material." Props to Chris Read, WhoSampled (I am not their biggest fan, however, I should say!) and Wax Poetics for a tribute to the greatest duo and my favorite group of all-time, Gang Starr. Rest In Peace, Guru.

Monday, June 26, 2017

"Tribute To Erick Sermon" (Mixed By DJ Psycut)

Founding member of EPMD and Def Squad, Erick Sermon aka the Green Eyed Bandit is a legendary Producer & MC from Brentwood, Long Island. In my opinion he’s always been the funkiest producer on the East Coast. Through his records, I became interested in P-Funk, Zapp, Johnny Guitar Watson, to name a few. On this tribute mix I wanted to pay homage to the 3 main phases of his career. The explosion of EPMD in the Golden Era, his productions for Redman and K-Solo. He made countless remixes, productions, appearances on classic and more slept-on 90’s Rap & R&B joints. The early 2000’s changed production styles slightly but the funk & soul was always there, as evident on his more recent solo work like the Marvin Gaye sampling Just Like Music." - DJ Psycut

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Royce Da 5'9" "The Bar Exam 4" (Mix Stream)

Royce Da 5’9 delivers the 4th installment to his mixtape series "The Bar Exam," in the form of the aptly titled The Bar Exam 4. Packed with 28 ferocious, lyrical tracks, the album features vocal contributions from Westside Gunn and Conway, Slaughterhouse, Nick Grant, Elzhi + production from Green Lantern. On that short list of rapper's favorite rappers. Listen below!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Rest in Peace, Prodigy!

Prodigy of Mobb Deep R.I.P.

Man, this is another big loss. Rest in Peace to Prodigy of Mobb Deep. “It is with extreme sadness and disbelief that we confirm the death of our dear friend Albert Johnson, better known to millions of fans as Prodigy of legendary NY rap duo Mobb Deep. Prodigy was hospitalized a few days ago in Vegas after a Mobb Deep performance for complications caused by a sickle cell anemia crisis. As most of his fans know, Prodigy battled the disease since birth. The exact causes of death have yet to be determined. We would like to thank everyone for respecting the family’s privacy at this time.” An OG in the industry and a voice that will be heavily missed. My condolences to his family, friends, and peers. "There's a war going on outside no man is safe from!" - Prodigy

Monday, June 19, 2017

Joyner Lucas "508-507-2209" (Mixtape)

This is the fourth solo mixtape from Joyner Lucas, including his "Listen 2 Me" mixtape released as Future Joyner back in 2011. With the mixtapes release on Atlantic Records, this is considered his commercial debut and was preceded by four singles. Joyner says, "This project took two years in the making, there's a lot of records that I scrapped, start over, scrapped, start over. There's records that I've made from the very beginning two years ago that I still kept on the project now. So there's a lot of old mixed with new but it's all cohesive." The mixtape features production by Boi-1da, Frank Dukes, Statik Selektah, Decap, and a wild feature from Mystikal. It's been a minute since my last post about Joyner Lucas, but if you go back, I said when the timing was right, it'd all connect for him. That deal with Atlantic Records is a great look - financially - but we'll see how it works creatively as they are still in the phase of creating his buzz for sales. I think his mentality is too independent for a major, and he already knows how to work his own marketing, so will it be a good fit? Time will tell on that too. Meantime, I wish him much continued success! Listen below...

Monday, June 19, 2017

DJ Kay Slay & Dipset "The Diplomats" Vol.1-2 (Mixtape, 2002)

When I heard Cam'ron going in over 'Ambitionz Az A Ridah,'  'Maria Maria,' 'Stan,' 'Bitches Ain't Shit,' and others on the Dipset x Kay Slay mixtape, "The Diplomats," I was thoroughly entertained. I'd been following Cam since the Children of the Corn days, but he lost me a bit after S.D.E., even though I considered that to be his best solo album. I kept one eye on the Dipset wave that took over New York, but aside from that mixtape, I wasn't on it too tough. I do, however, consider this to be a phenomenal mixtape that still sounds dope today. Updated with a new link, listen below...

Monday, June 19, 2017

Theory Hazit "Extra Credit" (June 19, 2007)

"Not all rappers have to rise up through existing rap scenes, or fit existing MC moulds. Theory Hazit is a case in point. While born in Kentucky, Hazit boasts nothing of the greasy, crunked-up vibes popular with his Southern states kin. Now relocated north to Cincinatti, Ohio, this deeply religious MC does street wisdom with a thoughtful moral dimension; meanwhile, the beats, some produced by Hazit, some courtesy of a diverse international team of producers including Tony Stone, JustMe and Re:Flex The Architect, match a knowledge of hip-hop history with the muscle of modern rap productions. Hazit’s faith is fairly central on Extra Credit. Take the opening "Lesson In Power", which flexes and spits fire like the most self-aggrandising hip-hop banger, but lyrically, works as a powerful affirmation of faith that sees Hazit as vessel for a higher power, casting out demons and turning 'prostitutes into preachers' through the power of the Almighty." Cont'd below...

"Whereas many rappers seem cheerful enough to pay lip-service to God while carrying on with all sorts of immoral activities, however, Hazit’s faith clearly infuses his whole worldview. "Mr Hazit" is an earnest hymn of devotion dedicated to the rapper’s wife, while the dreamy "Hello Kideez" marks this rapper as the consummate family man, a warm piece directed towards the children in his life – from his estranged daughter from a previous relationship, to his wife’s son from another lover: 'You are my son, even though I’m not your real dad/ Anything you want in life, I’ll help you get that'. It’s worth reiterating that all this well-meaning God-talk doesn’t leave Extra Credit feeling emasculated. "Gossip Syndrome" picks off rival MCs atop a production reminiscent of respected underground head Madlib, all smoky chopped-up funk grooves and sped-up vocal snippets, while "After School Special" is a lyrically intelligent hip hop tract that rides a stomping Amen break, explaining the power of learning in militant terms. Songs of praise delivered with brains and power." - BBC

Monday, June 12, 2017

Chairman Maf "Alcoholic Soul" (Instrumental Album)

Sheffield, UK's super-producer Chairman Maf is back with his 5th solo instrumental effort, "Alcoholic Soul." The project features 11 tracks of soulful, instrumental hip-hop goodness. According to Chairman Maf, "This album is all about racism, sex, love, alcohol, religion, and err ... meatballs." Can you go wrong with that? I think not. Coming off my favorite project of his, "Zoo," dig into this latest project, streaming below... Oh, and P.S.A. to all the rappers, leave these alone for your mixtapes.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Screwball 'Next" in Vibe Magazine (1999)

Screwball 'Next" in Vibe Magazine (1999)

June 11, 1999 in Queens, New York: Screwball in the Next (People On The Verge) feature for the September '99 issue of Vibe Magazine. The group Screwball represented out of Queensbridge and included the OG, Blaq Poet, Hostyle, Solo (Kyron) and KL (R.I.P.). "As the duo Kamakazee, KL and Solo have been making noise in the underground with singles like 1997's 'Snakes,' since their album deal with Warner Bros. went sour in 1994. Poet began his career reppin' QB against the attack of BDP's 1987 'The Bridge Is Over' with 'Beat You Down' (1987) and later formed the group PHD. All four came together in 1994 on PHD's posse burner, 'Set It,' before officially joining forces on acclaimed indie singles like 'Screwed Up' (1996). Soon after, they'd release their Tommy Boy debut, 'Y2K,' which featured 'F.A.Y.B.A.N.' (produced by DJ Premier), 'You Love To Hear The Stories' with MC Shan, 'The Blocks' with Nature, and 'Who Shot Rudy' going at Rudy Guiliani. KL passed away back in 2008 and Blaq Poet's consistent work with DJ Premier has been very well-received by fans.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Kool G Rap 'Return of the Don' (Prod. by MoSS)

'Return of the Don' is the latest album from Hip-Hop pioneer, Kool G Rap. The entire album is produced by Toronto producer, MoSS, who has also worked with Ghostface, Obie Trice, Eternia, Joell Ortiz, Joe Budden and lots more. Kool G Rap enlisted features from Noreaga, Lil' Fame, Freeway, Raekwon, Termanology, Saigon, Crooked I, Sean Price, Westside Gunn & Conway, and other elite lyricists. Sonically, MoSS' signature gritty production stands out along with obscure samples, instrumentation and open loops for Kool G Rap to showcase his flow. Unfortunately, as I've gotten older I've distanced myself further and further from some of Kool G Rap's content; it's not for everyone but sounds great, lol. There are classic records that I know all the lyrics to and remember rapping along to, yet give me pause today. That aside, I credit him for the lane of rap he helped create, his influence in the game on artists like Nas, and it's still great to hear him back with a new release - especially produced by my brother, MoSS. Support it HERE.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Defari "Bionic" (The Source Review, 6/97)

"With last year's arrival of the gruff-voiced LA paparazzi-dodger Xzibit, the Alkaholiks crew expanded its rhyme cipher by one talented newcomer. The single debut of Defari heralds the arrival of another. Independently released on Bay Area rap radio luminary Beni B's ABB Records (510-419-0936), "Bionic," avoids the jovial bounce of the Liks' lush-ous abandonment, but nonetheless impresses via an underground blueprint that forcefully balances aggression and eccentricity. Producer Evidence infuses "Bionic's" immaculate conception of the advanced MC with reverb-soaked snares, a melodramatic piano figure, and Alkaholik E-Swift's scratched-in Raekwon-interjections ("Lock Shit Down!" from Wu's "7th Chamber"), all of which bring more than ample hardware to the iced-grills of MC Steve Austin-wannabe-challengers. Defari's idiosyncratically administered, Ultra-esque declarations of hip-hop chastity ("Handle this / Make you believe like an evangelist / That real MC's are coming to reclaim Los Angeles") add another gratifying dimension to the Likwit Camp's ever-evolving aura ... Make room, motherf#ckers." (Sure Shot Singles, The Source (6/97). Video below.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Gang Starr "No More Mr. Nice Guy" (1989)

Gang Starr DJ Premier Guru Wild Pitch Publicity Photo
Gang Starr 'No More Mr. Nice Guy' cassette insert

'No More Mr. Nice Guy' is the debut album from Gang Starr. It was released on this day in 1989 on Wild Pitch Records. All songs on the album are produced by DJ Premier & Guru, except for 'Gusto' and 'Knowledge,' which were produced by the 45 King. There were also earlier singles like 'The Lesson' that was not included on the album, but were added as bonus cuts for a later re-issue. As far as Gang Starr releases, this is less often mentioned because DJ Premier and Guru were still finding themselves as a duo and they hadn't quite found that signature sound they'd later be known for. However, there were glimpses of the greatness that would come with Premo on the cuts/beats and Guru's message-driven lyrics. In 1989, I was 11 and only had 1 song from 'Step In The Arena' on cassette single. It wasn't really until 'Just To Get A Rep' that I fully got into Gang Starr, although I credit 'Daily Operation' as being the one that had the most impact on me. That's a slow build, I was raised on their music! For fans that went back in their catalog after hearing 'Step In The Arena' or 'Daily Operation,' it must have been a confusing experience to hear 'No More Mr. Nice Guy,' but it's an album that Premo considers his 'resume album.' Him and Guru paid their dues, found their lane and mastered their sound in the coming years. 'Words I Manifest' was the single I first owned and to this day, that intro immediately brings me right back to those early days. Listen below.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Has-Lo 'The Paul Tape' (Album Stream)

Has-Lo The Paul Tape Prince Paul

Here's the brand new instrumental project, 'The Paul Tape,' from the Philly MC/Producer, Has-Lo, who now lives in California. The project is an instrumental tribute to the legendary producer, Prince Paul, who if you've been paying attention, you know is one of my favorite producers. I've also publicly supported Has-Lo's music since 2010 and recommend you dig through his back catalog for a lot of great releases including the debut 'In Case I Don't Make It,' where he wrote and produced the entire record. On the instrumental vibe, his short but dope 'Reinterpretations' of Wu-Tang Clan joints had me open last year too. 'The Paul Tape' has 10 instrumentals with crisp drums, audio snippets from Prince Paul and some nice samples like on my favorite beat on the project, 'Hope Ya.'

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Juicy The Emissary "Attention Kmart Choppers" (Beat Tape)

Peep the backstory on this dope instrumental project from Juicy The Emissary: On Thanksgiving 1989, Kmart employee and audio enthusiast Mark Davis wandered behind the customer service desk to check out the store’s sound system, which looped muzak and top 40 plus ads and announcements under the banner of “KMRT, The Kmart Radio Network.” When he found last month’s tape hadn’t been thrown out yet, he pocketed it and made a habit of doing this, collecting 56 tapes from 1989-1992. In September 2015, Davis uploaded the tapes to with the humble intention of preserving them. But within a few weeks he became an internet celebrity among obscure media fans and supplemented the collection with reel-to-reel tapes from the 70s and 80s thanks to Tom Schwarzrock, who acquired them serendipitously along with a deck he purchased. The tapes are like a consumerist time capsule, a vaporwave trove of eerily familiar corporate ephemera extracted from its original context and purpose. Similarly, Attention Kmart Choppers is composed of pieces from this collection chopped up, resculpted, and mosaicked together by Juicy The Emissary, forming a new, distinctly contemporary sound while inheriting a haunting nostalgia that provokes memories burrowed deep in the subconscious. Listen to the Attention Kmart Choppers beat tape below...

Sunday, June 04, 2017

DJ Chief One "1992" (Mixtape)

Throwback mix from DJ Chief One, representin' the year 1992. The mix is 63 tracks strong, featuring classic cuts from Lords of the Underground, Funkdoobiest, K-Solo, Redman, Naughty By Nature, Showbiz & AG, Zhigge, Das EFX, Grand Puba, Chi-Ali, Main Source, Black Moon, Gang Starr, A Tribe Called Quest, Brand Nubian, Nice & Smooth, Da Youngstas, A.D.O.R, Diamond D, Double XX Posse, Eric B & Rakim, Original Flavor, Mobb Deep, Nas, Kool G Rap & so many more! Check it out below.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Lost Boyz 'Legal Drug Money' (Classic Material Review)

Lost Boyz Legal Drug Money Advertisement
Lost Boyz Legal Drug Money Album Review

Start HERE, where I first spoke on the Lost Boyz; specifically, the death of Freaky Tah and the many great records that were included on their debut album, 'Legal Drug Money.' That debut was released on this day in 1996 through Uptown Records. The lead singles 'Lifestyle of the Rich & Shameless' and 'Renee' both have alternate mixes on the LP, and while I prefer the single versions more, oddly enough, it took nothing away from how incredibly balanced the LP was between singles and album cuts. Island Def Jam reached out to me with a letter and the 12" from the Don't Be A Menace soundtrack, asking DJs to push the Mona Lisa record 'Can't Be Wasting My Time,' which featured the Lost Boyz. However, once I flipped the record over and heard the original version of 'Renee' and 'Winter Warz,' it was hard to remember that Mona Lisa record, although it was dope, too. I think Lil' Kim was also on that 12" but I can't recall the song. The album's production was handled by Pete Rock, Mr. Sexxx, Easy Mo Bee, Big Dex, Buttnaked Tim Dawg, and more. Super cohesive, the album had 5 singles, coulda been 6. The classic review above does a good job at breaking down the tracks, explaining their 'commercial charm' and giving background info, so check that out. Of course, the video for 'Renee' (Soundtrack version) is below.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Wu-Tang Clan 'Wu-Tang Forever' Snippet Tape (1997)

Wu-Tang Clan Wu Tang Forever Snippet Cassette Tape Loud Records 1997

This Wu-Tang snippet cassette was released by Loud Records in 1997 in advance of the Wu's double disc album, 'Wu-Tang Forever.' It included snippets of some of the best tracks on the album and clips of the RZA, Raekwon, and Ol' Dirty Bastard speaking on various aspects of the Wu, which you can read more about below. It's only about 12 minutes long and it's repeated on the B-Side of the cassette. 'Wu-Tang Forever' debuted at #1 on Billboard, sold 612k copies in its first week and is 4x platinum. Below is the cassette audio and a page straight from Billboard magazine in May of 1997 discussing the tape. In related news, it wasn't until 2015 that GZA's second studio album, 'Liquid Swords' was certified platinum - 20 years after its release - making it the first album to go platinum since Method Man's 2004 release, 'Tical 0: The Prequel.' Times have changed, huh? 'Wu-Tang Forever' dropped on this day in 1997, so raise a cup for its 20th anniversary!

Wu-Tang Forever Wu-Tang Clan Billboard Magazine Snippet Tape 1997 May 3

Saturday, June 03, 2017

KUPLA 'In.The.Forest.We.Are.Wizards' (Instrumentals)

Here are two instrumental albums from Finnish producer (now living in London), KUPLA. I'm not certain who put me on to his work, but I was intrigued by the title of his latest instrumental release, 'In.The.Forest.We.Are.Wizards.' As soon as I clicked play, I felt nothing but good vibes. The project was released in March and of course, I had to go back and dig through his catalog and found 'Gravy,' which is very similar and was released in August of last year. These are Sunday afternoon vibes on a Saturday, lol. Give them some burn, it'll put you in a good place. I'd love to hear the right artist(s) drop bars and melodies with a storyline to these beats. Anyhow, enjoy the keys and basslines, it's a quick listen: about 25 mins in total for today's selection.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Evidence "What's The Digg?" (Mixed by MIL)

Compiled and mixed by MIL, the latest What's The Digg? mix pays tribute to Evidence of Dilated Peoples. Diggin' through Ev's discography, MIL mixes some great tracks and many of the samples that were the backdrop for your favorite cuts. From personal experience, I can say that Evidence is one of the most humble and down-to-earth guys I've met in the industry. His catalog is filled with introspection over some of the best and most consistent production you will hear from any artist. As a touring artist, I'm certain he's passed through your city, make sure you catch a live show!