September 30, 2021

Happy Born Day, Marley Marl! (Playlist)

One of hip hop’s first and finest Radio DJs and Super Producers, Marley Marl created many of the sharpest beats and hooks in rap history and continues his industry leadership to the present day. Famous for representing the rap Mecca Queensbridge, and known for introducing hip hop producers to sampling, Marley, born Marlon Williams, appears at the forefront of many of hip hop’s most important moments and movements: including rocking alongside Mr. Magic on Rap Attack, co-founding the legendary Juice Crew, battling KRS One and BDP in the infamous Bridge Wars, producing LL Cool J’s Mama Said Knock You Out, breaking new talent on Future Flavas, even inspiring the late great Notorious B.I.G. Marley’s discography is extensive, with classics including "Around the Way Girl," "Eric B. Is President," "Nobody Beats the Biz," "The Symphony" and hundreds more. The longstanding rivalry with KRS One was even put to rest when he and Marley collaborated on Hip Hop Lives in 2007. Marl is in the studio, on the decks, and on the airwaves daily, and can be heard on Golden Era Radio with co-host Roxanne Shanté every Friday night from 8pm to 10pm on WBLS 107.5 FM, as well as his new podcast, Legendize. Join me in celebrating the life of Marley Marl on his born day with a brief playlist of some of my favorite cuts from the man himself. Did I miss or even worse, mis-credit something? Way too many ill tracks to include everything, but listen below...

September 29, 2021

OutKast "Aquemini" (September 29, 1998)

They brought you the Platinum Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik. Then they brought the Platinum plus ATLiens. Now Big Boi and Dre, the player and the poet, bring you their highly anticipated third album, Aquemini, destined for at least Double Platinum. OutKast consistently provides superb lyrics laced over bumpin' tracks which have earned them Platinum albums, #1 hit singles, awards and respect in the world of rap. In 1994 the duo entered the hip-hop scene with the Organized Noize (TLC, EnVogue, Goodibe Mob) produced Platinum album Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik. It debuted at #3 on the R&B Billboard Chart, received a 4.5 mic rating (out of 5) from The Source magazine and the group received a Source Award for Best New Group or Duo. The album's first single, "Player's Ball," went Gold in a matter of weeks, holding down the #1 spot on Billboard Rap Chart for over six consecutive weeks. In short, OutKast made the industry stop and respect that rap can flow from the dirty south. OutKast came right back with their sophomore album, ATLiens, which sold 1.5 million units. ATLiens reached Platinum status within a few weeks of its release when it entered the Billboard Top 200 at #2 (directly behind Pearl Jam). The album, also produced by ONP, marked the very impressive production debut by Big Boi and Dre, who crafted the first release off ATLiens, "Elevators." The single stayed at #1 for weeks, reached Platinum status, and had hip-hop heads across the nation chanting, "Me & you, your momma and your cousin too, rollin down the strip on vogues, comin up slammin cadillac doors." - Press Release, 1998. Revisit Aquemini, cont'd below...

David Banner spoke about the album in The Source's Record Report and had this to say, "I look at OutKast as being visionary. They are one of the few groups that show there is dexterity in their music. From the poetry to the live feeling, this album change the way people look at rap music. They brought in orchestras and African drummers, different types of instruments that you're not used to hearing in rap music. Big Boi took care of the streets while Andre took us to the next galaxy. It's like a diary to a Southern cat's life. "Return of the G" was the feeling of the streets and "Rosa Parks" was like going to church in the South. That's what made the album great. If you felt like you need "Liberation" you had it. It wasn't too much of anything, it was just enough. I don't care if you the hardest gangsta in the world, you not killing somebody every day. No one is happy every day. A dope fiend ain't high every single day. And I don't give a f#ck what nobody says: Andre Benjamin is one of the top five lyricists of all time. From their first album to now, he has never kicked a weak rhyme... Let's embrace them while they're alive." - The Source. Agreed, top 5 lyricist of ALL-TIME!

September 28, 2021

KRS-One "Return of the Boombap" (September 28, 1993)

The song "KRS-One attacks" starts off with this line: "We will be here forever, do you understand that? Forever and ever." And judging from his long list of career accomplishments, it is hard to dispute his claim. Like Coca-Cola Classic, you can always count on Kris to come out every year with a joint to make you go, "Oh shit!" Every year. Go ahead and count, yo. Every year. From Criminal Minded in '87 to Sex and Violence in '92, he has been about one thing--real hip-hop. But album number seven has a new approach. This is not a BDP album. It is a KRS-One solo album, which means that he can work with people outside his traditional BDP family. It was a good move on his part. This disc is a treat, not only does Kris rip it on the mic, but with DJ Premier, Kid Capri and Showbiz helping with the beats, his whole sound seems rejuvenated. Containing the same amount of tracks as the number of semesters he's been rocking albums, Return serves up instant gems. "Outta Here" is a flavorful and personal detailing of the trials and tribulations of the rap rat race. On "I Can't Get Up," our hero dreams that he's a blunt being passed around a host of dope MCs. And "Mad Crew," quite simply, is the latest entry in the long series of KRS freestyle winners. Cont'd below and listen...

Lyrically, KRS still dazzles--in both content and style--when his pen hits the paper. On "Sound Of Da Police" and "Higher Level," he offers the straight-forward conscious lyrics he is famous for. And for all of you rockers enthusiasts, he gives you a healthy dose of Caribbean flavor with "Uh-Oh" and "Brown Skin Women." All in all KRS-One keeps his end of the bargain and provides you with real hip-hop. And not only does Return showcase his commitment, but in light of last year's commercially disappointing Sex and Violence LP, it gives him a forum to ask what is probably the most serious question facing hip-hop today: "How many real hip-hoppers in the place right about now?" Think about it. - The Source (November, 1993). The production on this LP was dope, a near classic (to me). 

September 27, 2021

Evidence "Cats & Dogs" (September 27, 2011)

Grammy award-winning producer and one-third of venerable hip hop icons Dilated Peoples, Evidence is regarded by many as a legend of the scene. With production credits on Kanye West’s ‘College Dropout’, he has warranted enough pulling power to enlist some of hip hop’s cover stars to contribute lyrics to his second solo LP and debut for Rhymesayers, ‘Cats & Dogs’. With appearances from the likes of Slug from Atmosphere, Wu Tang’s Raekwon, Aloe Blacc, Mobb Deep’s Prodigy, Aesop Rock, Krondon and production from the likes of The Alchemist, DJ Premier and DJ Babu, ‘Cats & Dogs’ has been pencilled in as a genuine event in the world of hip-hop.... What is most satisfying about ‘Cats & Dogs’ is its consistency; here we are presented with a natural demonstration of boom bap instrumental sensibility married with witty rhyme schemes. Evidence’s brutal honesty comes to the fore as he dissects his own life and goes deeper and opens up more than ever before. This, while maintaining his characteristic flow, deadpan delivery and sincere gravitas that has earned him the tag of ‘Mr. Slow Flow‘. The singles ‘To Be Continued’ and ‘You’ have the expected head nodding effect with a pitch perfect combination of vocal delivery and beats... One misgiving would be that ‘Same Folks’ featuring Fashawn, is only a bonus track on the album, a shame as it is by far one of Evidence’s most catchy tunes. Nevertheless, ‘Strangers’ features production that resembles a certain DJ Shadow in all the right ways. And as for track 13: “There is no track 13 on purpose. The first line of ‘To Be Continued’ starts ’10 commandments, 24 hours, the 13th floor was missing from the towers…’ For me to leave it [the 13th track] blank and then explain why in the first line of the next track to me is genius.” Clearly not lacking in confidence, Evidence has come up with a truthful, hard-hitting album, moulding together content, rhymes and production into one cohesive whole, and making it Evidence’s most established and successful release to date, a laudable fact considering his already worshipped status. - The Find Mag. Revisit this fine LP below...

"So if you're reading this... thank you." - Evidence.

September 26, 2021

Phife Dawg "Ventilation: Da LP" (September 26, 2000)

With Q-Tip already an established star and Ali Shaheed Muhammad scoring gold with his first post-A Tribe Called Quest project, Lucy Pearl, it's now Phife Dawg's turn to show and prove all by his lonesome. With Ventilation: Da LP, the five-foot assassin establishes himself as a streetwise iconoclast capable of mind-boggling vocal gymnastics. The album opens with a brief acoustic-guitar ditty that will make heads worry that Phife has gone soft--but only for about 45 seconds. A lyrical pyrotechnician, Phife wields the mike like a flamethrower, scorching listeners with hectic rhyme schemes that morph from one flow to another with true virtuosity. He tries on rap styles like most MCs try on sneakers, switching from the staccato assault of "Lemme Find Out" (featuring Pete Rock) to a singsongy old-school lilt on the unapologetically horny disco-flavored single "Ben Dova." On the album's best cut, "Alphabet Soup," Phife recalls the glory days of the Native Tongues but injects a harder edge. On "Beats, Rhymes & Phife," he looks back on growing up in a West Indian household in Queens, N.Y., and demonstrates that special mix of humor and intelligence that made Tribe famous. - Vibe (December, 2000). MTV deemed Phife's album "brilliant but ignored" ... don't make the same mistake! Revisit it below with production from Hi-Tek, Pete Rock, J Dilla (R.I.P.), Fredwreck and more.

Man, Phife Dawg is surely missed in Hip-Hop. Rest In Peace, 5-foot assassin...

September 25, 2021

Eternia & Rel McCoy "FREE" (Album Stream)

Two decades and two Juno-nominations later: Eternia is back and as compelling as ever with FREE, her debut collaborative album with Juno-Award winning producer Rel McCoy. FREE represents a grand comeback for Eternia, who is widely considered one of Canada’s foremost lyricists. In 2010 she released the Juno Award-nominated and Polaris long-listed At Last with producer MoSS on Fat Beats Records. Transformative events changed her life since that release, including personal triumphs (starting a family) coinciding with personal struggles (mental/physical health) and artistic struggles (the album was rebooted), all while navigating a global pandemic and the isolation that ensues. FREE is born of these experiences as she partners with Rel McCoy, the multi-faceted artist she compliments heavily for providing the moving soundscapes on the record, as well as contributing a few vocal appearances. It’s easy to hear just what she means on standout singles like the warm and nostalgic “Most PPL” and moody and haunting “Home,” the latter of which features fellow Canadian talents Shad and SHEAL. These are lyrically rich, profound tracks that are easy to follow but brimming with layers, effortlessly walking us through complex themes with straight-shooting simplicity as only veterans can do. From Eternia’s attention-demanding vocals to Rel’s nostalgic and melodic blend of boom bap production, FREE is just as engaging as it is organic. The record also features stand out contributions from Mr. Lif, Wordsworth, Phoenix Pagliacci and Eliki. I'm proud to share this album with y'all, as many of you know I've been working behind the scenes on the rollout for the project. It's brand new, so I'll save the nostalgia for another time, I just want to you to sit with it and enjoy! You can pre-order the album on vinyl HERE via Fat Beats. Also HERE via Bandcamp.

September 24, 2021

The Low End Theory 30th Anniversary (7" Collection)

Originally released 30 years ago on September 24, 1991, A Tribe Called Quest's second studio album is regarded as one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time! From "Check The Rhime" to the posse cut "Scenario," the trio of Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, and Ali Shaheed Muhammad deliver jazzy hip-hop beats and rhymes like butter. To commemorate the 30 year anniversary, Get On Down is proud to present this exclusive limited-edition 7-inch box set. The full album is presented on 8 small hole uniquely colored 7" records with 2 bonus tracks. Five of the 7-inch records are housed in custom picture sleeves that form the iconic album cover along with 3 replicas of the original 12-inch singles that were released. The 7" collection is housed in a deluxe, fabric-wrapped 45 singles carrying case, with 360-degree original album art and custom inner wrapped ATCQ logo graphics and group photo. This fine collector's box set is available now for pre-order - I get absolutely nothing from promoting it; I just think it's that dope! To this day, this remains one of my favorite all-time albums!

September 23, 2021

Nas "The Lost Tapes" (September 23, 2002)

Throughout his career, Nas has let the music industry get the better of him, filling his albums with monotone odes to the good life and R&B-crossover pabulum. The Lost Tapes — which collects a dozen stellar, radio-unfriendly, oft-bootlegged unreleased tracks from the last decade — is the Queens, New York, icon's mea culpa to the underground that birthed him. Over subdued soul loops and improbably mellow piano work, The Lost Tapes displays Nas' gifts for tightly stitched narrative and stunningly precise detail. The fantastical "Blaze a 50," the wistful "Doo Rags" and the melancholy "Poppa Was a Playa" are found classics, easily among Nas' best work and unlikely to be topped by many rappers this year, or the next. This is the real Stillmatic. - Rolling Stone, 2002. The press release done for the album said, "With a career spanning more than a decade, Nas has recorded enough quality material to make him one of the most respected rap stars around. 'The Lost Tapes' is a collection of unreleased underground gems that over the years have been either bootlegged, used as B-sides or hidden away in the studio just waiting to hit the streets. A number of guest producers appear on the CD including Trackmasters and Large Professor with the focus of the record being low key, subdued beats. 'The Lost Tapes' features previously unreleased tracks from 1999's 'I Am' to the hugely successful 'Stillmatic' recording sessions of 2001. There are no cameos and no gimmicks or hype on 'The Lost Tapes'. Put simply, Nas' mission is to 'keep it real'. 'The Lost Tapes' will be available in stores on Monday, January 20. Watch out for 'God's Son' - another new Nas release hitting the stores that week." This entire project --and the other bootlegs that surrounded it-- played an integral role in my re-entry into music; a topic I've discussed heavily in the past. Therefore, The Lost Tapes has added sentimental value to me, on top of just being an incredible compilation of music. A top 3-5 release in his catalog, revisit Nas' The Lost Tapes below...

Above is the cassette artwork, below are the CD images...

September 22, 2021

Rasheed Chappell & 38 Spesh "Checks & Balances" (EP Stream)

In the Spring of 2020, Rasheed Chappell and 38 Spesh linked for their debut collaborative project, Ways & Means. I don't know if this would be considered a "surprise" release, but it is to me, as they've now dropped their follow-up EP/album, Checks & Balances. The 9-track effort has been released through Italian label Tuff Kong Records via limited edition vinyl. Rasheed always comes with through provoking lyrics and clever wordplay. 38 Spesh delivers more crafty production with cuts from DJ Eclipse and features from Maf, B.A. Badd and The Musalini. Dig into the archives to revisit Ways & Means; the collaborative album Saints & Sinners with Buckwild and Rasheed's new solo EP, 15 Minutes in Queens. As always, I recommend going back to Future Before Nostalgia too... Rasheed has been making a name for himself in the culture for over a decade. Props to the OG, DJ Eclipse.

September 21, 2021

De La Soul "Buhloone Mind State" (September 21, 1993)

Since 1989's 3 Feet High and Rising, De La Soul has been paying for having been perceived as the Extra Cool Crew. It spoke to a larger audience. For a slew of reasons--but primarily because it had a darling, clean-cut look and melodic, riddle-ridden style--De La Soul crossed over big time, and the music media served it up like freshly shucked oysters, pearly and wet, ready for slurping. De La Soul was stamped "thinking" hip hop we all could get into. The antithesis of Run-D.M.C. and "Hard Times," De La was lauded for its introspection, codes, and between-song skits. It was (an) alternative. And it was clear from just the title of its muggy second album, De La Soul is Dead, that the trio hated it. While Buhloone Mind State is perhaps the least wandering De La Soul album, the songs that run the wildest through the tall cornstalk rules of grammar, poetry, and sense are the ones that give the collection its juice. The taunting "I Am I Be," a more mature sequel to 3 Feet High's "Me Myself and I," slams the record business, black Greek organizations, friendship, and most searingly, that heavy, slippery thing known as "black man's pride." Other songs, especially "Patti Dooke," which has the trio "runnin' through the trenches," stop just short of sagging with the bluesy funk of self-examination. Buhloone Mind State is black male angst in an evasive manifestation. De La is tripping, maybe hurting, even growing, and it's saying so, sort of. These are a bewildering set of songs--mazelike, a job to figure out. The tracks are seldom blunt, but often beautiful. Cont'd below...

And De La Soul wants the world to know there's no gun-toting or testicle gulping included in their angst: "I don't rest in Compton so I don't own a gat," they proclaim in "Patti Dooke," and "I be the in cuz the brother holdin' glocks is out / I be the in cuz the pusher runnin' blocks is out / I be the in cuz the kid smokin' weed shootin' seed which leads to a girl's stomach being 'bout half a ton is out," they explain in "Eye Patch." But it's when Posdnuos spits out that "gangsta shit is outdated / Posdnuous is complicated" that the album find its frozen kernel, the spot around which the rest of the album revolves. De La Soul is still blowing out nonsensical rhyme games you could easily play patty-cake to: "Can the cat's tongue slip / Ya do di dah zip / Take the horse into the Jolly Ranch... the good the bad and Uncle Tom / Beat it kid / Show the sheik / Cuz I found a fool." Prince Paul's production swells and breaks and rolls up on hip hop's rocky shore, foamy and cool, but no matter the craftsmanship of the beats or the rhymestyles, the question must come up: what the f#ck are they talking about? It's frustrating. You curse them for doing that cryptic shit on purpose, and you wish that the brothers would just say what they mean. But then a line slips off one of the boys' tongues that attaches itself to you like a pretty pink starfish: "a Day-glo n!gga gets the red doormat." That line, from the middle of "En Focus," is talking about hip hop and stardom and light-skinnedness and the need we all have for people to look at us and pay attention--all of that, all at the same time.... Like sweet favors, De La Soul grants feelings of inclusion. "Did you get it?" they seem to ask, and if you did, you're in. "Who can be--fresh / Who can be--dope / Who can be--live / Who can be--word / Who can be." If you didn't get it, you can act like you know and they wouldn't care--you could be in, anyway. - Spin Magazine (November, 1993). A real gem of an LP!

September 20, 2021

Craig Mack "Project Funk Da World" (Sept. 20, 1994)

The debut set by rapper Craig Mack, "Project Funk Da World," has the added distinction of being the first album released on Arista distributed Bad Boy Entertainment. Bad Boy president Sean "Puffy" Combs, who, like Mack, is just 23, says this distinction should not put any extra pressure on Mack. "[There is] pressure on any new artist because of the competitive nature of this business," says Combs. "We're just going to work real hard and do what we have to to break Craig." Developing a strong street presence will be crucial, according to Michelle Joyce, Bad Boy's director of marketing.... The label will distribute flyers and posters and begin a snipe campaign, first on the East Coast and then nationally. "Flavor In Your Ear," the first single, with the B side album cut "Shinika," went to urban radio June 21. A late-June mailing of a CD promo, containing three "Flavor" remixes, was aimed at selected mix-show technicians. Combs, a former VP of A&R at Uptown Records, says he hopes "there will be a place at urban radio [for Mack]." The "Flavor In Your Ear" videoclip has been serviced to BET's "Rap City" show and several other national video outlets. Joyce says "Yo! MTV Raps" will be targeted soon. Mack says his interest in music was sparked by watching his DJ neighbor as a boy in the Long Island town of Brentwood, N.Y. Regarding his own musical vibe, he says, "Because I love the funk sound and grew up with it, I put a lot of it in my work." Cont'd below...

"Project Funk Da World" includes its share of boasts about Mack's MC skills. The album's sparse, mind-altering foundation of beats is topped with thick chunks of funk. Although other Long Island rappers such as Public Enemy, De La Soul, and Leaders of the New School fueled Mack's passion for hip-hop, it was Brentwood homies Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith (formerly the rap duo EPMD) who offered up-close exposure to hip-hop by giving Mack a job with their touring crew. Encouraged by Sermon and Smith, Mack recorded a two-song demo. Those tracks, "You Can't Funk With The Style" and "Like That Y'all," wound up on his album. Combs says the Mack project will be promoted via "grimy, guerilla street marketing." This will include product exposure in high schools, at college parties, barber shops, beauty parlors--"wherever a turntable is available," he says, adding that the release will be available on vinyl. Marketing the album, Combs adds, is like constructing a building. "We've got to start with the first floor, which is the urban kids." Joyce says Bad Boy plans to release a second track and video before the album hits stores to ensure a higher degree of artist awareness. A July promotional tour to acquaint Mack with radio, retail, college, and grass-roots outlets has focused on Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta, with other markets to be added later. - Billboard (July 16, 1994). Rest In Peace, Craig Mack! Revisit Mack's Project Funk Da World LP!

September 19, 2021

Cam'ron "S.D.E." (September 19, 2000)

The only way to win the game is to play to your strengths. This is a life lesson we all learn sooner or later. Uptown representative Cam'ron learned it the hard way with his sugarcoated debut, Confessions of Fire, a watered-down CD of trite, radio-friendly songs like "Horse and Carriage." The album met with a mixed response, but one thing was clear: Cam's at his best when he gives it to you raw and uncut. Thankfully, he has finally taken control: He has severed ties with the commercially minded Untertainment and has made a rugged album that showcases his potential. On Sports, Drugs, and Entertainment, Cam employs harder-edged beats as a backdrop for his witty wordplay and cynical worldview. "That's Me" cleverly states, "Imagine me wake up 7:30 for work / I'd rather run the streets 730 with work." It's his sharp sense of humor that separates Cam from the rest. He effortlessly mixes bitter sarcasm with poignant thoughtfulness on songs such as the autobiographical title track. Thought it's likely that, at his pace, Cam will outdo himself on the next go-round, this album is a good indication that he's mastering the game. - Vibe (September, 2000). 

Full review in Vibe Magazine by Noah Callahan-Bever (Sept. 2000)...

September 18, 2021

Donnie Propa & DJ Cable "The World Famous Mixtape"

"Ayo, it's ill when I'm heated how my heart stay cold / write a rhyme that make the gats around the world explode / now behold the burning malice of a treacherous soul..." Donnie Propa and DJ Cable set it off properly with "Do You Believe" on their latest mixtape; a tribute to Corona, Queens' The Beatnuts with The World Famous Mixtape. "Yeah, you know how we comin / raw grooves with the funky drum drummin / and when my song goes off you'll still be hummin..." Available on cassette and digital, the mix features over an hour of raw tracks and production by The Beatnuts. Props to Junkyard JuJu and Psycho Les. Dig in the archives for other mixes by UK's Donnie Propa. Listen in...

September 17, 2021

DJ Premier "So Wassup?" ("Return of the Crooklyn Dodgers" Episode)

DJ Premier's popular web-series, So Wassup?, continues with his latest tribute to the floppy disc... this time breaking down the making of his popular track, "Return of the Crooklyn Dodgers" from 1995. Gonna take you back to Brooklyn... Spike Lee's film, Clockers - As Premo tells it, Spike reached out for a Part 2 with Jeru, Chubb Rock and O.C. of D.I.T.C. After seeing the film, DJ Premier crafted the beat for the soundtrack. He thought about sadness and what goes on in the neighborhood. The disc says, "Crooklyn Dodgers II" before it was called "Return of the Crooklyn Dodgers" to separate it from the original with Buckshot, Special Ed and Masta Ace. From the piano, strings and bell, Premo felt he captured the emotion and essence + the bounce to his drums. The video was shot in Fort Greene, Brooklyn and as they say, the rest is history. Check out Premier's full video episode below...

September 16, 2021

DMX "Grand Champ" (September 16, 2003)

DMX. Earl Simmons. One of the most memorable MCs of all time. The only artist who has spent a career inspiring followers around the world to bark and rhyme in loud bursts of music, ghetto energy, only then to get them to read and rap and think and cry in private moments of honest thought and introspection. No one in hip-hop has ever done it better. No one has meant more. Now, in September 2003, a final book of verse: Grand Champ. Not only does the album mark a return to form for The Darkman X, it is the perfect coda for a career that began in 1998 with It's Dark & Hell Is Hot and Flesh Of My Flesh, Blood Of My Blood, continued the following year with And Then There Was X (2000), and most recently set the streets off The Great Depression (2001). Grand Champ also represents a creative reunion with Dee and Waah Dean, the two brothers, who along with X, turned the Ruff Ryders label during this same period into the biggest in the world. Are you ready to roll? We start with the title. Like all of DMX's album title, this fifth one means what it says but then so much more. As much as It's Dark & Hell Is Hot was a haunting self-description, and Flesh Of My Flesh represented a life-giving bond to the community from whence he came, Grand Champ is the final, absolute statement of presence and purpose. Last year, X asked the world "who we be," now he answers the question "who he is...." Revisit DMX's Grand Champ album + more cont'd below...

A dog term, the "Grand Champ" is the title bestowed upon the penultimate winner of a dog fight, a pit-bull fight, as you better know by now. It's a title not easily earned, a spot not easily took, so best believe our favorite hero is bringing all the heat and the drama, the pain, suffering and joy the defines the world of DMX. Let's be clear, there are no competitors. Now what better way to jump off than with the most fundamental question... where the hood at? "Where The Hood At?," the album's first single is a ferocious ball of fire and brimstone that has already become an instant DMX classic to be put in the history books next to "Get At Me Dog," "What's My Name?" and "Who We Be." Set off with a monster bass thump by Tuneheadz, the latest in a phenomenal line of double-R producers, "Where The Hood At?" is heavy enough to get a Hummer H2 bouncing like one of the many tricked-out Impalas the dog collects along his west coast travels. One listen to the joint's triumphant horns, and you will hear the announcement. No apologies allowed, the "dog is here." You can't be f#cking serious.... - Press Kit. Certainly not X's best work, but worth revisiting. R.I.P., DMX.

September 15, 2021

Common "A Beautiful Revolution Pt.2" (Album Stream)

On the second installment of his series A Beautiful Revolution, the Chicago rapper sounds comfortable in his skin, kicking characteristically loquacious rhymes, sounding so relaxed he could fall out of his chair. A Beautiful Revolution (Pt. 2) might lack the rumble and hiss of his early music, but Common circa 2021 is making better rap than a middle-aged legend with nothing left to prove has any right to be making. Less interested these days in the boom-bap drums and heavy sampling of his most famous work, Common instead raps over an eclectic set of instrumentals that includes West African rhythms, Delta blues, and R&B. “When We Move” is one of the better rap-Afrobeat amalgamations in recent memory, as Common, Black Thought, and Seun Kuti (son of Fela) fluidly flow over choppy guitars and peppy percussion. The hooks also have a light touch, with singer PJ offering sultry choruses on five songs. Lyrically, Common eschews the news cycle for more eternal topics. On “Set It Free,” he exalts the importance of inner beauty; “Poetry” celebrates great Black thinkers, from Toni Morrison to Public Enemy. As ever, Common remains positive, remains a dreamer: “Imagine” borrows a title and a concept from John Lennon, picturing a world where water runs freely in Flint and Black people aren’t incarcerated for non-violent drug offenses. “Since I was little, I had a big imagination,” he raps in a great voice. Fourteen albums deep, that imagination still has a crucial place in hip-hop. - Bandcamp. Amen, Common does it again - this is a solid LP. Listen below...

September 14, 2021

Eve "Let There Be Eve...Ruff Ryders' First Lady" (Sept. 14, 1999)

The full title of Eve's full-length debut is Let There Be Eve...Ruff Ryders' First Lady for a reason. The Philadelphia rapper sets out to prove she's earned her place in the Ruff Ryders crew, matching rhymes, raunch, and rounds with the hardest hardass. Minimal beats laced with synthesized strings and keyboards back traditional hip-hop brag fests like "Let's Talk About." Eve shows up guests Drag-on, DMX, and others with boasts of sexual prowess, withering insults to inadequately endowed brothers, and violent sister-centered anthems like "My Bitches." A few short skits offer snapshots of Eve's beloved hometown. The irresistible party anthem "We on That Shit!," reminiscent of Coolio's "Fantastic Voyage," chronicles a night of clubbing and rounds out the street picture. "Ain't Got No Dough," a fabulous collaboration with Missy Elliott, is a fiery bridge between street-centered raps and the more interesting tracks. Purring and pissed, it's an edgier alternative to TLC's hit "No Scrubs." Eve's conviction and passion make her noticeable no matter what the subject, but she truly stands out when the stories become personal, examining the cost of the hard life she champions in other songs. "Love Is Blind" is a painful look at domestic violence. Self-respect and positivity are the moral of "Heaven Only Knows." Both tracks are backed by beautiful arrangements with acoustic guitar and lush vocals. Eve maintains her hardcore image in these tracks, but with a subtle vulnerability that promise lots of interesting things to come from this Philly prodigy. - AllMusic. Revisit this slept-on gem of a debut album from Eve below, which - in my humble opinion - would've done better if it was a lil' shorter and the track order woulda been switched around differently to highlight the heart of this album. Otherwise, it's got some excellent tracks! Listen...

I've always been a fan of Eve, I think she's a beautiful + dope talent...

September 13, 2021

The Notorious B.I.G. "Ready To Die" (9/13/94)

At the height of the gangsta era, the Notorious B.I.G.'s debut responded to Dre with a different kind of shock value. Ready to Die is the rare hardcore hip-hop album on which a gangster expresses real remorse about his tumultuous lifestyle, the drugs that have ruined his neighborhood, and the pain he's caused his loved ones. His solution for absolution? On "Suicidal Thoughts," he pulls out a gun and blows his brains all over the room. "[When I wrote that song] I felt that if I were to die, not too many people would miss me," Biggie said in 1997. "Having to wake up every day and sell drugs and do what I had to do was wack." The best rapper to emerge in the '90s, one with a cinematic sense of description and a wicked sense of humor, Biggie was a charismatic contradiction, the kind of MC who could laugh about robbing pregnant women of their "#1 Mom pendants" in "Gimme the Lot," then lament the roots of street nihilism in "Things Done Changed" ["Back in the day our parents used to take care of us / Look at them now, they fuckin' scared of us"]. "I'd never worked on an album that dark before," says Easy Mo Bee, who produced several tracks. "One time in the studio, he was rapping, 'Fuck the world, fuck my mom and my girl,' and I had to stop and ask myself, 'Do I want to be a part of this?' But the whole thing isn't just 'murder, murder.' Biggie had raps that could make you cry, make you reexamine who you were." And smash singles such as "One More Chance" and "Big Poppa" are backed by a catchy mix of gritty funk and R&B velvet. Tragically, on March 9, 1997, just as Biggie was celebrating the birth of a son and the impending release of his second album, Life After Death, he was murdered in a still unsolved Los Angeles drive-by. But in a genre of here-today-gone-tomorrow superstars, Ready to Die assures that Biggie will live on. - Spin Magazine (9/99). Revisit the classic debut album from the late great Notorious B.I.G. below...

The full review in Spin Magazine, and original album sticker are below...

September 12, 2021

AZ "Doe Or Die II" (Album Stream)

Brooklyn's own AZ has finally released the follow up to his 1995 debut with a sequel dripped in its own brand of nostalgia. With production from Bink, Kaygee, Baby Paul, The Alchemist, Buckwild, Rockwilder, Heatmakerz, Czarface and the legendary Pete Rock, this 13-track set fits superbly in his extensive catalog of underrated music (debut aside). The LP also features Idris Elba, Jaheim, Rick Ross, Lil' Wayne, Conway the Machine, Dave East and T-Pain. Would I have called it Doe or Die II? Perhaps not, but I do see this as one of the better releases AZ has released in recent memory, and in his career as a whole. I'm told that autographed CDs are selling for roughly $85, but be advised, autographs are written on the outer wrapping, so if you plan to listen to the actual CD, it's not a sound investment. Just saying. That aside, it's good to see artists supporting the fans of physical copies, and the album is worth a listen below. The tracks range from R&B garbage to solid hip-hop...

September 11, 2021

Jay-Z "The Blueprint" (September 11, 2001)

A young MC emerged from Brooklyn's Marcy Projects aspiring to be a rap superstar. After learning and surviving the harsh life of a drug dealer, lyricist Jay-Z began his inevitable journey toward becoming one of the most famed hip-hop artists in the biz. The six-figure ni**a known to millions as Jay-Hova or Jigga Man recently released his highly anticipated fourth Roc-A-Fella/IDJMG album, The Blueprint. His determination to rhyme helped Jay to leave his drug-dealing days behind and focus all of his energy on seeking out a record deal. Serious about rapping, Jay began to scope the scene. He appeared on several underground projects before he hooked up with Damon Dash, CEO of Roc-A-Fella, who talked Jay into a partnership. That link got Jay's rap career off the ground. In 1995 he released his first single, "In My Lifetime," which was a surprise hit in the core of New York's fastidious rap scene. His debut album, Reasonable Doubt, wasn't a top seller, but it did well enough to start a buzz. The following year Jay and Dash joined forces with Def Jam and released Jay's sophomore project, In My Lifetime, followed by Hard Knock Life and The Life & Times of S. Carter. Just as listeners recovered from the whiplash they suffered from the head-bobbing, c-walk anthem "Change the Game" and the raunchy sex single "I Just Wanna..." Jay released the lead single from The Blueprint, "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)." The album outlines comical bars and penetrating messages in Jay's distinct hood lingo, laced with Cristal, ice, Bentleys and gorgeous women. Sing along to "Girls, Girls, Girls" as Jay speaks frankly about his addiction, then enter the world of Jay-Hova in "Jigga That Ni**a" and "U Don't Know," a glimpse into the life of a rap star. Before you stop, take on the gangsta-influenced joint "Renegade," as Jay and fellow rebel Eminem exchange hard-core rhymes. No longer labeled a product of an unjust environment, the multimillion-dollar talent known as Jay-Z hits haters with another sure-to-be Platinum album. Though his last project didn't gain quite the reputation of its predecessor, The Blueprint reclaims lyrical victory for Jay. Enjoy. - October 5, 2001.

Is Jay-Z the King of New York? An Empire State of Mind by ToonCrew.

September 10, 2021

Happy Born Day, Big Daddy Kane! + Podcast

Big Daddy Kane, born Antonio Hardy, is easily one of Brooklyn's most known artists. He was introduced to the world through one of Hip Hop's first and most legendary crews, the Juice Crew. On the popular podcast, Did I EverTell You The One About, Big Daddy Kane tells us first hand how he became the man he is today. From his humble upbringing in Brooklyn, NY with his family to recording with legends like Quincy Jones, Barry White and Pattie LaBelle. His journey was filled with hope, encouragement, failures and achievements. Not only did he have what it took to be on record, but to be on the big screen as well, making movies with Mario Van Peebles and Robert Townsend. He's top 5 dead or alive and has been everywhere and done everything a person could do. Including being in Madonna's Sex book! The podcast features 9 full episodes with a wealth of information on the legendary Big Daddy Kane, who is also celebrating his born day today! Much respect to one of the greatest MCs and all-around live performers in hip-hop history. Art by the talented ToonCrew.

September 09, 2021

Brandon Isaac & Free Mind "The North Star" (Album Stream)

Cincinnati's Brandon Isaac and LA producer Free Mind have released their debut collaborative album, The North Star. I was put on to the project through ScratchedVinyl, which reviewed the LP stating, "The North Star is full of contemplative, midtempo soul-sampling beats that subtly set the mood for Isaac to hop on the mic and just work through all of his thoughts and emotions. This album is for serious listeners who are willing to really spend time with an album and absorb the words and the moods of these deeply personal tales that Isaac is weaving. He’s opening up and going deep about everything from systemic racism and how that’s shaped his upbringing to some specific narratives about people in his life and the relationships he’s forged along the way to get him where he is today. It’s the type of album that you really need to listen to one-on-one, where you can really just sit with the material and let it bounce around your head for a while as you process and unpack all of the feelings this music might bring up. The North Star isn’t your typical debut album, but in working with Free Mind, Brandon Isaac was able to craft an album that will insure that anyone who gets into his music from this point will not just be a casual well-wisher. They will be a hardcore hip hop fan who appreciates the raw emotional honesty of his lyricism." Dig!

September 09, 2021

DJ Premier "So Wassup?" ("Represent" Episode, Video)

The Greatest of All-Time, DJ Premier keeps on keepin' on with his phenomenal new series, So Wassup?, a tribute to the floppy disk! In this sixth episode, Premo breaks down "Represent" off Nas' debut album, Illmatic. At the time, Nas was "Nasty Nas." The track was originally called "Representin'" and the version on the album is actually the remix he made when he went back to remake the track (after hearing "One Love" from Q-Tip). We already know this, but hearing Premo break it down is always gonna be legendary. Props to Large Professor, who Premo credits as the sound of Nas, and who recruited him to come produce three tracks on the LP. The original beat for "Represent" was the first beat he made for Illmatic. It was a jazzy sample and fit the sound at the time. While "NY State of Mind" is arguably the best track on the album, "Represent" has always been one of my favorite Nas tracks in his whole catalog. The full video is below + the Art above is by Torre.Pentel.