April 13, 2021

Kurious "Built To Last" (Mix)

Back with another mix from France's Built To Last radio show, this time paying tribute to Kurious Jorge. The Puerto Rican and Cuban MC released a gem of an album in 1994 entitled A Constipated Monkey. Signed to Columbia Records via Pete Nice and Bobbito's Hoppoh Records imprint, the album is celebrated by underground heads and influenced many artists that came after him. Since the passing of MF Doom, I have noticed a lot more love being shown to Kurious - which is great - as he appeared on 1999's Operation Doomsday. On the label at the same time as Nas was set to drop his debut opus, Illmatic, and The Fugees were touring for Blunted On Reality, maybe Kurious didn't garner that same level of stardom, but no doubt his debut album was an impactful record stylistically, certainly to me. Good peoples, too! Props to Corrado and the whole Built to Last crew for this tribute, dig into the mix and hit the archives below for a lot more of their dope tributes...

April 10, 2021

Crimeapple "YDFWC?" (Album Stream)

New Jersey's Crimeapple is back yet again with his latest 11-track offering, YDFWC?. The LP features one guest appearance from Primo Profit, as well as production from Buck Dudley, Sebb Bash, HouseShoes, Michaelangelo, Brown13 and ANIMOSS. Pitchfork shares, "Born to Colombian parents and raised in northern New Jersey, Crimeapple finds himself, like many Latinos, between worlds. He made a bilingual rap record in MedellĂ­n with DJ Muggs (Medallo) but is still seen as an outsider in the country of his birth. Crime knows he’s a gringo (“I’m not Latino enough for Telemundo,” he raps on “Carrington Event”) but still spits in Spanglish. He remains independent—with a distribution deal through the Orchard—and generally seems unconcerned with breaking into the overground, let alone the mainstream. The man just raps really well, and somehow, that’s enough." Yes, it's more than enough for me! Listen to Crimeapple's new LP YDFWC? below and cop the vinyl...

April 09, 2021

Rest In Peace, Earl "DMX" Simmons!

DMX, a rapper known as much for his troubles as his music, has died, his family announced in a statement. He was 50. "We are deeply saddened to announce today that our loved one, DMX, birth name of Earl Simmons, passed away at 50-years-old at White Plains Hospital with his family by his side after being placed on life support for the past few days," family's statement read in part. "Earl was a warrior who fought till the very end," the family continued. "He loved his family with all of his heart and we cherish the times we spent with him." The artist had been hospitalized since last week when he suffered a heart attack at his home in New York, according to his longtime attorney, Murray Richman. - CNN. I've kept my thoughts in a draft waiting to find the right words, but they never came... Fortunately, the homie Big Ghost once again put to words what I couldn't... "Fame is a funny thing... By not really knowing the people who we become fans of n start to admire n sometimes idolize...we start to form our own ideas, opinions, perceptions, n misconceptions about em. I mean...the people in our actual daily lives can be hard to figure out... You probably got friends n family members that you think you KNOW...but does that really always mean you know em LIKE THAT? You got superheroes in comics who got secret identities... We see em without the masks or costumes. We see both sides of the em. We see the shit they think about in the little speech bubble clouds n whatever. We even get origin stories. So now we can guess every move they make next? Nah.. people are complicated. Even fictional ones. But real people... thats real complexity. When you add celebrity n (super)stardom to the mix...you get fed a public persona, stories, tabloid rumors, sanitized PR spins, straight up lies etc etc. As far as DMX...he lived his life in the public eye. He was open about a lot of it. We saw the rawness...the flaws...the tragedies...the wins...the glory... But did we know him? Did anybody? I really wanted to shift the focus from his troubles to the triumphs...to the happier moments of his public life. To the acts of kindness he displayed. To the love he showed others. Countless times. But access to social media makes that kinda hard to do. For every word of praise you see for DMX you can find at least two words from mfs who want it to be known that he was NOT in fact a perfect saint... That he was a drug addict or always going to jail for some shit he didnt need to really be going to jail for...that he invested money unwisely...that he had mad children by different women...that you should save your prayers for somebody who more worthy of your concern. But damn. What is prayer for if it aint for sinners? Is that not the idea? If we only ever grieved for the faultless there would be nobody to mourn in this world. Get it right tho.. DMX wasnt perfect. He was great. One love Earl." It hurts to say... R.I.P., DMX. Photos: Jonathan Mannion.

April 08, 2021

Busta Rhymes "The Coming" (25th Ann. Mix by DJ Filthy Rich)

Toronto's DJ Filthy Rich returns with his latest anniversary mix... this time honoring the 25th Anniversary of Busta Rhymes' classic debut album, The Coming from 1996. Filthy Rich's mix features unique blends, remixes, loosies, original samples and more. Clocking in at just under an hour, you'll also hear vocals from Rampage the Last Boy Scout, A Tribe Called Quest, Zhane, Jamal, Redman, Keith Murray and others. When you think of longevity in hip-hop, classic verses, and an artist who has continued to reinvent himself with hits crossing multiple decades, Busta Rhymes is one of the very first MCs that should come to your mind. Give that man his flowers and peep the mix below...

April 07, 2021

DAS EFX "Dead Serious" (Press Kit)

NOT. That is the only word that will wipe away your assumptions, expectations, and comparisons. DAS EFX, like a multi-million dollar film, laced with special EFX, must be experienced, NOT described, discussed, or analyzed. Dray and Skoob are NOT simply blessed with rap skills like Grand Puba, or Busta Rhymes. They do NOT simply rap with turbo speed like Treach or Wise Intelligent. They have created a style, which many will imitate, but NOT many will succeed. DAS EFX, (an acronym for "Dray and Skoob EFX"), is a style that could easily be bottled and sold. But instead they have cornered the market with 11 diggedy-dope tracks on their debut album, Dead Serious. The question is who would dare try to do this themselves? Just like a high EFX stunt in a film, people should probably NOT try this at home. Dray, (aka Krazy Drayz), says of their sound, "Our music is with a lot of effects. The style is so unique, a lot of people think it's one person rhyming." His partner in rhyme, Skoob (aka Books), reveals what he thinks is the key to their style. "We have a little secret. What it is, we were away from Hip Hop. We were in Virginia, going to Virginia State so I guess by NOT being exposed to what was going on up here, our style developed so differently. I think that had a big effect." "We were exposed to NO rap shows...at all," says Dray.  Revisit their debut LP, cont'd below...

DAS EFX got "here" via a rap content held in Richmond, that EPMD was judging. The club was a "hole in the wall." Their hopes raised with the sight of Erick and Parrish walking in. The show began and groups were getting scores as high as 7's, 8's, and 9's. When it was their turn to go up, they heard cynics commenting on their dreadlocks. "De La Soul look-alikes," they heard rumbling through the crowd. They got busy, and the crowd warmed up. "I remember glancing back and seeing Erick in the seat jammin' next to Parrish. We finished and our scores were mad high. Parrish pulled me to the side and said 'Before you leave, gimme your phone number.'" When it was time to announce the winners, it was NOT them. "We were like, 'That's it, we're about to graduate. Forget rap,'" says Dray. Then, Parrish walked across the stage and he leaned over and whispered into his ear, "Would you rather have the $100 or a record deal?" The record deal, and the rest is DAS EFX. Cont'd below...

The first rickety-rockin' single, "They Want EFX," is a slippery, funky tracks with the DAS EFX in full effect. The humorous and playful rhyme runs from engine-run rhymes to slowed-down acapella chanting to a razor sharp hook that will bob your head without you knowing. Dray says, "We don't just like writing two sentences that rhyme together. We like taking one idea from one place and put in another. How many years has it been that if somebody wants to rhyme, the last word of the first sentence rhymes with the last word of the second sentence. We'd rather make the first word rhyme with the third word, and the last word rhyme with the first word of the second sentence, and two in the middle, and, if you can, let's get another word that rhymes with the first word and still have the last ending word rhyme." DAS EFX is the dawn of a new age in rap music. Not since the Native Tongues movement has such unbridled creativity been unearthed. Dray and Skoob have one hope, "We want to bring entertainment back to it. Let's make it fun again. We want to have fun with it. I want to be able to listen to my own stuff and enjoy it." Like their mentors EPMD once said, rap is finally outta control. "So tiggedy tell your friends that here comes DAS EFX." - Press Kit, '91.

April 06, 2021

Cousin Feo & Bohemia Lynch "Yakitori" (EP Stream)

The South Central LA born and raised Cousin Feo continues his prolific pace with yet another fine release, an EP entitled YAKITORI with production by Bohemia Lynch. The 6-track EP has been released by Frank's Vinyl and speaking of the vinyl, if you're hoping to cop one, chances are slim none at this point. Proving that his fanbase is strong and the rep grows bigga, Feo comfortably settles into his niche with this EP. His approach is direct-to-fan and his childhood influences of black, El Salvadorian and Guatemalan roots play heavy into his love for hip-hop and soccer. I'm already late posting it, but if you haven't already...dig in and listen to Cousin Feo's Yakitori EP below...

April 05, 2021

Nas & Madlib "I Am...Naslib" (Mixtape)

Jimmy Green drops off this latest mix, blending two legendary artists: Nas and Madlib. I Am...Naslib reimagines Nas' vocals from I Am... with beats by the eclectic beatsmith, Madlib. Today I saw a debate on my brother RappinandSnackin's IG about whether or not I Am... was a classic - surprisingly, the overwhelming majority of his followers contended it was a classic. Erroneous! Now, I Am... one of the biggest Nas fans there is, but I was also there from that album's rollout, leak, release and the mediocre responses that went along with it. A couple of the worst tracks in his entire catalog are included on I Am... so I'd say far from a classic, but still an enjoyable listen when you remove the stretch marks and questionable features/production. Enter Madlib and Jimmy Green's remakes for this project, giving new life to these Nas vocals. I Am... here for it, listen below...

April 04, 2021

Mello Music Group "Bushido" (Album Stream)

In feudal Japan, the Bushido Code defined the way of the samurai. It was a blueprint to conduct warfare with honor: a system built upon the qualities of rectitude and courage, honor and loyalty. In the modern world, these historical tenets may seem antiquated, or sometimes even obsolete. But the power of tradition is resolute and unyielding. The art of the rugged drum and the razor tongued rap are timeless. After a decade in the music business, Mello Music Group has witnessed the dealings and promises of the record industry. Running counter-clockwise to the mainstream ethic, Mello has settled on its own code of conduct and value system. Their catalogue is a practical and spiritual guide to the essence. While the sounds are varied, an MMG release ensures that the art comes first, the artists are religiously devoted to the upholding of standards and values. This is Bushido, the latest Mello Music compilation gathering the current roster and the label’s closest brethren. This isn’t merely an anthology, it’s a fully formed vision of what hip-hop can be. A meticulously assembled arsenal of past, present, and future. The album includes production from The Alchemist, The Lasso, L'Orange, Kensaye Russell, Oddisee, Elaquent, Iman Omari, Quelle Chris, Namir Blade, Apollo Brown, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Eric Lau, Nottz, !llmind. It also features Quelle Chris, Open Mike Eagle, Solemn Brigham, Homeboy Sandman, Oddisee, Zackey Force Funk, Skyzoo, Namir Blade, James Shahan, Joell Ortiz, Dueling Experts (Recognize Ali & Verbal Kent), Stalley, RJ Payne, Murs, Cambatta, Kool Keith, B-Real, and The Perceptionists. Hear Bushido streaming below...

April 03, 2021

The Boom Bap Show "Don't Sleep Records" (Mix)

The Boom Bap Show pays tribute to Don't Sleep Records with this latest mix. Started by Phoniks and Awon, Don't Sleep Records is one of my favorite independent labels putting out music today. Their art and come-up have been documented in the docu-film Underdogs and amassed a solid fanbase through their many releases. The mix features tracks from Awon, Phoniks, Dephlow, Peebs the Prophet, Tiff The Gift, Mz Boom Bap, Anti-Lilly and more. Please make it a point to dig into the archives below for all the releases on Don't Sleep Records since I've been posting music to this site.

April 02, 2021

Bahamadia "Kollage" (April 2, 1996)

The Philly jawn with the blowout 'fro and La-Z-Boy flow is one of the most slept-on MCs to demolish a cipher - male or female - and was revered as underground royalty before ever releasing a record. With a delivery so laid-back, it's easy to imagine her gutting a cigar before laying down the tracks for her debut album, Kollage. The album's soulful soundscape -- etched with funk-filled valleys and jazzy peaks -- was constructed by Ski Beatz ("Uknowhowwedu") and fellow Illadelph crew The Roots ("Da Jawn"). On "Innovation" she muses, "Flame combustion / Thrustin' new versions of verses / Over kids heads like halos / Bendin' they brain cells like indon-o-va-shun." Simply scintillating. - Vibe (August, 2008). CMJ added (in June, 1996), "With the simple and supremely funky production of DJ Premier, N.O. Joe and the Beatminerz, Bahamadia raps with a conversational style, relying on poetic, instinctive rhymes, as on the bass-jacked "Word Play" and "Spontaneity." "I Confess" plays off Marvin Gaye's "Lets Get It On" for one of the album's poppiest moments, while "Uknowhowwedu" is a shapely tribute to Philly's hip-hop roots. Speaking of roots, fellow Philly natives the Roots add a dose of live funk on "Da Jawn," while Bahamadia dukes it out with MCs Black Thought and Malik. Packed with easily digestible rhymes and a peerless production, Kollage unquestionably chalks one up for the ladies." Revisit Bahamadia's classic debut album Kollage below...

The review in Vibe + original sticker from 1996 are below...

April 01, 2021

DJ DS "Goes Back To School: 1990" (Mixtape)

DJ DS says, "After a two-month hiatus it’s time to go ‘Back to School’ and to my 5th year, 1990! This was the first half of my final school year and the penultimate mix in this series. No idea what happened here as these mixes have averaged one hour and twenty minutes. This one clocks in at nearly an hour longer! This time around, I’m messing more with the original breaks and samples, alongside the usual doubles, samples, movie quotes from that year and all that good stuff! Thanks again to both of my daughters, DJ Jimmy Green, DJ Repo, Rob Pursey and the legendary Percee P for the vocal drops!" DJ DS continues to level up, dig into 1990 and hit the archives for more below...

March 31, 2021

Gang Starr "Moment of Truth" (March 31, 1998)

Only a few rap groups have managed career-long consistency, among them A Tribe Called Quest (whose new album will come out in June) and Gang Starr. "Moment of Truth" (Noo Trybe/Virgin) is the latter's fifth album, its first in four years. The wait's been worth it, as DJ Premier once again brings his unmatched production skills to bear on rapper Guru's authoritative missives. At the start of the new album, Guru boasts, "We update our formulas. . . . The rhythm style is elevated, the style of beats are elevated. . . . There's always a message included." Indeed, messages stressing knowledge and self-determination are sprinkled throughout: "Take responsibility . . . make your moves right and exact . . . if we don't build, we'll be destroyed . . . each one teach one . . . cultivate, multiply, motivate/ Or else we'll die." In the title track, Guru admits to a looming depression fueled by both social history and personal weakness: "I'm ready to lose my mind/ But instead I use my mind," he says, further rejecting drugs and alcohol because "all that's going to do really is accelerate/ Those anxieties that I wish I could alleviate." Later, in "What I'm Here For," he rides a mesmerizing piano loop and declares, "While some choose greed/ I chose to plant seeds for your mental spirit and physical temple/ Bob your head to it/ There's the water, you've been led to it." "Royalty" teams Gang Starr with Jodeci's K-Ci and JoJo on an anthem that's both gently critical and unconditionally affirming. There are also several collaborations with other rappers, the most interesting being the orientally flavored, mystical-leaning "Above the Clouds" with Wu-Tang's Inspectah Deck, and "Betrayal," a languid "Mean Streets" parable about money, greed and lust that effectively teams Guru with former Geto Boy Scarface. (The WP article continues below, click play and keep reading...)

While there are a few questionable digressions -- "She Knowz What She Wantz" is lame and slightly misogynistic -- the most vituperative tracks are reserved for "wack" rappers and pretenders, from the back-on-the-block surge of "You Know My Steez" and Big Apple-centric "New York Strait Talk" to "The Rep Grows Bigga," which mixes verbal beat-downs on ghetto celebrity lifestyle with frustration over the distance between the group's commercial success and its artistic impact. Guru's raps seem particularly invigorated this time around -- the monotone delivery sharp, the flow smooth, the lyrics straightforward and uncompromising -- but it's still Premier's production that lifts "Moment of Truth" above the competition. Premier favors clean, distinct beats that avoid gimmicks and commercialism. With few exceptions, they draw the listener into the messages with clever, mesmerizing sonic textures that bear repeated listening. - The Washington Post (4/15/1998).

March 30, 2021

Onyx "Bacdafucup" (March 30, 1993)

Yikes! It's the attack of the bald heads! Get ready for Onyx, the new solid piece of musical phatness that I had to shoot the bootlegger for. I'm open and gone on these kids and I'm seriously killin' the batteries in my Walkman. "Bacdafucup! Bacdafucup," the new NYC rudeboy rush hour theme, is just the beginning of this mad excursion through the United States Ghetto. This ain't "gangsta," this is real. Mr. Sticky Fingers has the ill voice you will never forget as he puts a Tech-9 in your mouth and robs you of your props. His partner in crime, Fredro Starr, has his back, as the rest of bald-headed massive (Big DS and Sonny Ceasar) bring it to the table hard. Sawed-off pump jams, like the current underground single "Throw Ya Guns" or rowdy LP cut "Here and Now," will make you want to reach for the ski-mask and step, but before you troop to the bullpen, be advised that this album is not just rude. It is an extremely dope vision of ugliness that is not for the sensitive. When they're not pledging allegiance to the "U.S.G.," they're offending everybody but the bad boys with hardcore XXX-rated jams like "Black Vagina Finda" and "Suckin' The Next N!gga's D!ck." While the topics they kick are real enough, after awhile the b!tch-n!gga-b!tch lyrics and the frenzied screaming do become monotonous. Nevertheless, the lyrical chemistry between Sticky Fingers and Fredro Starr combined with the phat production work of Chyskills (Large Professor's old school homey) and Kool T blows into orbit and leaves you open for more." - The Source (March, 1993). Revisit the LP below...

Also from The Source (June, 1993) are these images...

March 29, 2021

Wrecking Crew "Wu-Tang Pulp" (2012)

Philadelphia conglomerate The Wrecking Crew have just release their first full-length project, Wu-Tang Pulp. Has-Lo, Zilla Rocca and Curly Castro have reworked cuts from the iconic ’90s group’s catalog and, for some tracks, done straight cover songs. Zilla Rocca had the following to say of the project: “What started as a simple idea in 2009 has formed into a completely flushed out re-imagining of the most iconic collective in Hip Hop history. Wu-Tang Pulp is an album shaped from the hearts and minds of three die-hard killa bee fanatics who spared no details in paying the ultimate homage to their heroes. Tackling records from RZA, Ghostface, Method Man, etc. is no easy task when you grew up with 36 Chambers in your Walkman, drawing the “W” on your high school composition books, and rocking Tommy Hilfiger tees in the summer because Raekwon said so.” - via Respect Mag. Check out 2012's Wu-Tang Pulp as an exclusive Bandcamp release streaming below...

March 28, 2021

Big L "Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous" (3/28/95)

There is a small number of MCs who can keep you hanging on every syllable; Big L may soon be among them. L's lyrical wit, clarity and lethal one-liners have more lasting value than gold ingots on his debut Lifestylez ov da Poor and Dangerous. He gives his mentor Lord Finesse the first shout-out on the album's opening cut, "Put It On," before delivering a tireless parade of hardcore punch lines that rock like a left hook to the grill. As an MC, Big L clearly casts himself in the rhyme-savvy old-school; the callous, often brutal tone of his first-person raps is cleverly offset by imaginative lyrical hooks ("I got a crime record longer than Manute Bol") on nearly every cut, transforming outrageous rhetoric into artistic gems. While he can drop your jaw like a Paul Mooney outburst on "No Endz, No Skinz," Big L will also astound you with his fluid hardcore flow on "MVP," "Danger Zone" and "I Don't Understand It," along with the posse-cut "8 Iz Enuff." - CMJ New Music Monthly, April 1995. Big L's debut album is certainly a release we need to continue to celebrate along with the life of one of our slain legends. Hopefully you cop'd the exclusive 25th anniversary vinyl last year, the images of it are above and below. Revisit Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous below and R.I.P., Big L!

Original contact sheet from the book Contact High...

March 27, 2021

UFO Fev & Frank The Butcher "The Thrill" (EP Stream)

UFO Fev follows up his phenomenal release with Big Ghost, The Ghost of Albizu, with this latest 6-track EP produced by Frank The Butcher entitled The Thrill. This is some gritty New York City hip-hop here boasting "intricate story telling and production led by a one man orchestra," says their album-blurb. Born in East Harlem, growing up in Thomas Jefferson Houses, UFO Fev was inspired by his favorite rappers like Big Pun, Jay-Z and Beanie Siegel. He's been rather prolific in recent years, so hit the archives for other dope releases and props to Frank The Butcher, who has a handful of dope mixtapes in the archives, as well. Listen to Fev and Frank The Butcher's The Thrill EP below...

March 26, 2021

Digital Underground "Sex Packets" (March, 1990)

"We were serious act at first, trying to be this techno, pro-struggle-oriented civil-rights movement type of thing," says Digital Underground's main man Shock G from a hotel room in Oakland. Of course, for those who remember the first time they heard D.U., serious wasn't a word you would use to describe them. The group, consisting of rapper and producer Shock, rapper Money-B, DJ Fuse, singer Schmoovy Schmoov and drummer/producer Chopmaster J, was constantly morphing, and that was what always kept their fans guessing, laughing and shaking their asses. Party fun via musical lessons studiously gleaned from George Clinton's P-Funk mothership was most definitely what Digital Underground was known for, with rolling, juiced-up hit singles (and groundbreakingly popular MTV videos) like "Doowutchalike" and "The Humpty Dance." Ironically, Digital was very serious about the album's original main concept: Sex Packets. An idea developed by Shock's roommate Earl Cook (a.k.a. group vocalist Schmoovy Schmoov), Sex Packets were pills that would control the mental images that gave men and women wet dreams. Shock laughs: "Schmoov actually had, in his briefcase, the plans to create and get study and research going for these things. He was trying to get a grant from the government to develop them." Shock admits "we made up a lot of shit surrounding the album," including his aliases Humpty Hump, The Piano Man and MC Blowfish. "We were deliberately throwing out all the hip-hop rules, trying to break them," Shock remembers. "I always wanted Digital Underground to be this big supergroup, but we didn't have all the true characters yet. If I had a vision of a kind of guy we needed, I'd just be that guy." They brought it all in and let it all hang out. "We were like Fuck it, we're gonna be on some Funkadelic shit, and do all kinds of different songs and wear all kinds of different hats," he says. "All of us tugging in different directions made it a really rich gumbo album." Surely a great time in hip-hop, revisit the LP below...

Shock G humps his way through their funky classics below...

March 25, 2021

The Notorious B.I.G. "Life After Death" (March 25, 1997)

Holding back the tears, you can't help but think back to three 27 years ago when the poetic masterblaster known as the Notorious B.I.G. dropped his groundbreaking debut, Ready To Die, on the unsuspecting ears of the hip-hop nation. Although we had already boogied to the Brooklyn bounce of "Party and Bullshit" and shared his fantasies of seducing Janet Jackson on the mixtape favorite "Dreams," no one could have predicted how this record would forever change the landscape of current day hip-hop culture. Introducing the character of the Versace-don gulping Cristal from crystal flute glasses, Biggie came across as an aged-hustler who was tired of playing the rock-slanging game, but never became bored of retelling those crack in da dayz stories. With his husky from far too many blunts voice, Big documented the illmatic mean streets of his Bedford Stuyvesant stomping grounds. His tales of gunshots after midnight, snatching "the baby rings and the number-one-mom pendants" off of unsuspecting victims, and chilling stories of rivals plotting on his life became a part of his ever-expanding persona. But, within all of this, Biggie didn't seem to be looking to glamorize the pain of urban madness that surrounded him. Under the guidance of Bad Boy's flamboyant CEO Sean "Puffy" Combs, the Notorious one wasn't afraid to reveal his desire for the finer things in life. Unlike most rappers, Big was able to go pop with Billboard smashes like "Big Poppa" and "One More Chance," and still maintain street credibility and respect from fellow MC's because of lyrical masterworks like "Unbelievable" and the nerve-ending narrative "Warning." Cont'd...

...Now in 1997, six months after the murder of Tupac Shakur, I can still feel the chill I got when I sat down to listen to Biggie's second opus, Life After Death...Till Death Do Us Part. Moments after putting the advance tape into my stereo, my girlfriend opened the door and said, "Biggie was killed in Cali." And as my eyes swelled, I silently listened to an album that will undoubtedly become a classic to any true hip-hop fan. Chillingly opening with a dramatic scene of Biggie laying dead in a hospital room as sirens blare in the distance and sad piano chords drift like a ghost over his body, a sorrowful-voiced Puffy says, "We were supposed to rule the world, baby. Shit can't be over...shit can't be over." And as a flat-lining sound is heard, comes the weird soundscape of "Somebody's Gotta Die," a track that resembles a scene from an unmade blaxploitation film about Crooklyn gangsters trading shots in the projects. However, despite these suspenseful moments, this album makes a clear distinction from its predecessor. Unlike the cult of violence that seemed almost naturalistic on Ready to Die, the realm of gangster aesthetics on Life After Death seems more cinematic fantasy than real-life adventures in the 'hood. On the DJ Premier-produced "Kick In The Door," which loops Screaming Jay Hawkins, Biggie is busting down doors and waving his .44 like some kind of urban vigilante. Meanwhile, on "What's Beef?," which uses jungle influences in its grooves, Biggie moans, "Beef is when you need two gats to go to sleep/Beef is when your moms ain't safe up on the streets," like he wanted to rise above his own personal chaos. (Who wouldn't?) Cont'd below...

Exploring his desires to reach superstar status, Big's employment of fellow big-name artists leads to stunning results. R. Kelly adds his dirty vocal touches on "F#ckin' You Tonight," Puff and Big exchange playa-isms with Too Short on "The World Is Filled," and the mayor of St. James holds his own with Cleveland, Ohio's Bone Thugs-N-Harmony on "Notorious Thugs." That ambitious track alone reveals Smalls' diversity as an MC and his desire to be viewed as the greatest in his field. Still, despite inspired raw hip-hop diatribes like the RZA-constructed "Long Kiss Goodnight," and Primo's powerful "Ten Crack Commandments," Life After Death's finest moments are the instantly catchy, future-radio-favorites. While the slick-as-a-can-of-oil first single "Hypnotize" and the Rene and Angela-inspired "I Love The Dough" (featuring Jay-Z) are both banging, it's the remake of Diana Ross' "I'm Coming Out (More Money)," featuring the sleepy-voiced Mase and the boss man Puff Daddy, that swings the hardest with pure Bad Boy flavor. Although Biggie probably never intended the hit-fueled Life After Death to be his swan song as an artist, one can't help but view songs like the care-free "Goin Back To Cali," a parody of the Death Row sound, and the haunting closing track, "You're Nobody ('Til Somebody Kills You)," as yet another definition of tragic irony. Unfortunately, like Tupac before him, Big's potent verses of a violent death became a self-prophecy indeed. - The Source, May 1997 (5 Mics). Revisit this classic 2LP today, and Rest in Peace to The Notorious B.I.G!

March 25, 2021

Moderator "Midnight Madness" (Instrumental Album)

Moderator, the famed Athens-based producer, has assembled 14 tracks that run the gamut, each one evoking the devilish unpredictability of cult cinema and the dopeness of a phat break. Moderator is known for his extensive musical knowledge, with his tastes running from hip-hop to rockabilly, dub to Memphis soul, and all points in-between. On Midnight Madness, these genres intersect in dreamlike scenes from imaginary movies. There’s “Unspoken,” with its Latin-psychedelics, wah-wah guitar riffs, and rousing trumpet, resembling an alternate universe Morricone. Camp spookiness also appears on tunes like “Haunted Lover,” which combines a big breakbeat and vampy vocals for a creature showdown in black and white. The delightfully strange rears its head on cuts like “Once Upon a Time” and “Crystal Gaze,” both summoning playful witchcraft vibes straight out of a vintage Italian Giallo film. The downtempo flavor is heavy, casting spells on the fussiest of beat-headz. Moderator also whips out some twisted tribal lounge, as “Tamboo” delivers a rhythmic procession of fashionable zombies to the darkly lit dance floor. Just as midnight movies bring endless surprises, the tracks on Midnight Madness won’t stop revealing after multiple listens. Moderator’s intricate fusions unfold in exotic layers and there are sinister secrets to discover. Listen in below...

March 24, 2021

Cappadonna "The Pillage" (March 24, 1998)

In the summer of 1995, a sweltering heat sets New York City ablaze. Sunbeams bounce off boom boxes blasting the latest masterpiece from the Wu-Tang Clan, Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx album. As glistening beads of sweat cascade down the contours of rap-loving girls, Cappadonna makes his grand entrance completely without warning. Backed by the surreal strains of the RZA-produced hit "Ice Cream" -- a nasty ode to all the girls the Wu has loved before -- the sharp-tongued latest addition to hip-hop's greatest group of the '90s serenades fine ladies everywhere with his dirty diatribes and witty hearsay. "You're sexy, persuasive ta-tas and thighs/Catch my eyes like pies/I want your bodily surprise," whines the newcomer, establishing himself as yet another Clan Killer Bee to look out for. But just who is Cappadonna? And how did he deal with the pressure of joining hip-hop's elite squad at the height of their popularity? "You have to know yourself before you go tryin' to weigh and judge other things," offers the introspective and enigmatic rhymer three years later, on the eve of releasing his Epic/Razor Sharp solo album, The Pillage. "I'm not in competition with nobody. I just came to go ahead and teach and spread psalms about the world."

Shrouded in mystery, Cappachino the Great goes on to lend his mystique to a second shivery sureshot from Rae's classic set. "Ice Water" solidifies Cappa's presence amongst underground heads as he spits the memorable and ominous opening line: "The first branch/The third leaf/Whoever want it got beef..." That same year, "Winter Warz" (from the Don't Be A Menace To South Central soundtrack) forever singes Cappadonna's name and abstract style in the brains of rap aficionados as he kicks his infamous long verse that leads to his sharing third billing (and album cover space) on Ghostface Killah's brilliant 1996 Ironman LP. Never letting up, Cappa's bizarre bantering (an influence on Rae and Ghost's highly praised unique lyrical techniques) goes one step beyond as he embellishes his abstract steelo on the Clan's 1997 sophomore double album, Wu-Tang Forever. The stage is thus set for the Brooklyn-born/Staten Island-reared former security guard and present-day vocal dart thrower. Having appeared on over a dozen Wu-Tang joints, 1998 is the year for Cappadonna to shine. Representing the East Barracks projects in Park Hill, the life-long friend of the Wu breaks through with The Pillage, the sixth dolo strike from the Clan. - Press Kit, 1998. Revisit The Pillage LP today!

March 23, 2021

MF Doom & Madlib "Madvillainy" (March 23, 2004)

Madvillainy was an underground smash (by MF Doom and Madlib as Madvillain): twelve of its twenty-two tracks were shorter than two minutes and none of the songs had traditional hooks or choruses, but it was so singularly unique and memorable both lyrically and production-wise that it became one of the most critically lauded hip-hop records of the decade, indie or mainstream. It sold over 150,000 copies, modest by mainstream music's platinum-or-bust standards, but successful enough to keep Stones Throw not just solvent but thriving. And if the old saying about the Velvet Underground was true for the rock world--that they only sold a fraction of the records that the popular bands did, but everyone who bought a copy started a band of their own--the echoes of Madvillainy would be heard everywhere by the end of the 2000s. Chain-toking stream-of-consciousness MCs and bedroom beatmakers fiddling with a Dr. Sample put out underground sensations of their own, from electronic/future-jazz musician Flying Lotus to the LA rap collective Odd Future. Even Thom Yorke of Radiohead singled out Madvillainy track "Raid" as a personal favorite on an iTunes Celebrity Playlist he put together in early 2007. - Bring That Beat Back, 2020. I agree with Nate Patrin, it was an underground smash! One of a handful of albums that consistently sold at Fat Beats, and it certainly flew off the shelves whenever we were bumpin' it through the speakers. Revisit this classic LP below and of course, Rest In Peace, MF Doom. Hit the archives for a lot more.

MF Doom and Madlib, Madvillainy... via Stones Throw Records.

March 22, 2021

Awon & Phoniks "Nothing Less" (Album Stream)

Nothing Less is the latest studio album from hip hop group Awon & Phoniks. It is their first full-length release since starring in the 2020 Netflix documentary "Underdogs" centered around their label Don't Sleep Records and first tour overseas. The album is laced with Phoniks signature jazz-infused, boom bap production style and Awon's raw, honest lyricism. Produced on vintage samplers like the gritty Emu SP-1200 and Akai MPC 2000xl, the music evokes memories of classic east coast "Golden Era" hip hop. The songs were predominantly written under quarantine and center around political and social commentary of these tumultuous last few years. The album features an excellent supporting cast that includes Masta Ace, Blu, Dephlow, Anti-Lilly, Tiff The Gift, Ill Conscious, Kid Abstrakt, DJ Ill Digitz, DJ Eveready, and Av Hamilton. Awon and Phoniks are two of my favorite artists, and Don't Sleep Records is certainly one of the best independent labels creating music today. Listen to Nothing Less below and hit up the archives for a lot more on Don't Sleep Records...

March 21, 2021

Happy Born Day, DJ Premier! (Playlist/Interview)

I've never been short on praise for the legendary DJ Premier, so as we celebrate his Born Day today (which should be a holiday!), I thought I'd dig back in the archives to an interview we did together over a decade and a half ago. June 2009, in the back office at 406 6th Avenue, better known as Fat Beats NY, we had a candid conversation about record store day, then-new projects, the tattoo on his arm and more. He shared, "We are all here to combine powers and support each other, because there is still a big network of us that still do what we do... from the heart. Ya know, from how we were raised in the early 80s of hip-hop - when there were 12-inches, before it was albums. But, we still pride ourselves on making good bodies of work, too. Ya know, a lot of people don't know how to make good albums... they really need to stick to 12-inches or just do a couple singles and learn how to make an album. We know how to make albums, and that's why I still exist; why I still do a radio show that's dedicated to breaking records. We know how to judge talent! It's really like with chefs, when we tell you something is gonna taste good; when you take a bite out of it, it does taste good! We are the tastemakers of this industry and all these people here are here for the same cause..." Indeed, that continues today as DJ Premier remains at the forefront with his show on Sirius, Live From Headqcourterz, and more importantly, Preemo ALWAYS leads by example!

When I asked him about the tattoo on his arm, he shared, "Oh word, the tattoo says "Reputation Is The Cornerstone Of Power." I was on a plane reading "The 48 Laws Of Power," and I just liked that line when I was reading it. I mean, there were some things that were inconsistent in the book, but for this particular line, I feel that really describes me and how I came up to make my name in NYC as a producer-DJ and hip-hop artist, and I did it! All I wanted was EPMD, Rakim, KRS-ONE, Marley Marl and people like that to say "Yo, you're dope, I love your shit!" and they did that, so I feel like I made it. It wasn't just the money, it was them appreciating me and recognizing what I do, and also shout to Guru for recognizing that I was dope, too, and ya know, we here and still gettin' it in..." Rest In Peace, Guru! Gang Starr still remains my favorite group of all-time! Art below by Alphonze.

I also asked Preemo about consistency and producers having their own signature sound... to which, he shared, "That's important because everyone has something that you can be remembered by and for me, its my scratching ability and the funk that I put into my beats. Ya know what I'm saying, its like my worst beats are better than most cats and thats not even a bragging thing. Rest In Peace to Jaco Pastorius, who used to be the bass player for Weather Report, he said, "It's not bragging, if you can back it up," and well, I can back it up..." and with that, we left our conversation as to be continued... But, there's one more piece of advice that he's shared elsewhere that's equally relevant. Preemo said, "A rule that I've learned is never bite. I know it's not looked at the same way to the newer generation, but that was such a major, unwritten rule that we knew. Don't bite because you will get stepped to. I've stepped to people for biting, and I've stepped to people for even just mentioning my name... Learn how to perform live. It's the ultimate. After you hear an album, it makes you want to see them live... So always take pride and care about your live performance; that's major for me." Please dig in the archives for countless posts about DJ Premier and Gang Starr, and be sure to wish him a Happy Born Day! The DJ Premier Nike Air Force 1s are below, never to be worn...

March 21, 2021

Raekwon vs. Ghostface Killah (Verzuz Playlist, 3/20/21)

March 20, 2021: Verzuz returned with their latest "battle", the legendary Wu-Tang swordsmen, Raekwon vs. Ghostface Killah! I tuned in at the beginning, but cycled in and out... I had to go back to watch how the full battle unfolded this morning. What I took from this Verzuz was the epic amount of love and respect that these two brothers have for one another. That was made crystal clear! The classic stories and exchanges between records also reminded us that these two are still masters of their own languages, lol. To breakdown each individual round would annoy me and bore you, but the full playlist is available below compliments of Shake of 2DopeBoyz. Now... when I first considered their respective catalogs, I thought Ghostface was a shoe-in to win this thing. Even at times during the battle, I felt like Ghost was up by a lot, yet when I go track for track, it's almost dead even... to me! I would have included several different songs, which is to be expected, but I understand they had to move differently because they are on many of the same records, and ultimately they want to showcase their catalogs, too. As was the case a year ago with DJ Premier vs. RZA, this was a lot more than the music, so the culture can rejoice... Wu-Tang is Forever! Dig in...