October 31, 2021

Jay-Z "The Dynasty: Roc La Familia" (October 31, 2000)

In the pantheon of street-cultural gods, the hustler is the bejeweled strategist, a ghetto politician who moves with the money and mommies — the cat who can hang with the thugs, high rollers, Los Angeles Bloods and Brooklyn gods with equal grace. And Jay-Z is his pop personification. Outside of Iceberg Slim, no one has offered a more detailed portrait of the hustler as a young man. Over the last four albums of his reign, Jay-Z has offered crime-born insights edged with a razor awareness of not only the dangers and angles of the streets but also the consequences of his actions — on himself, his family and his community. For every glamorous “Big Pimpin,” there is a document of his fear and loathing like “Streets Is Watching.” In return for his crimes, he gave us a window into the process of his evolution from hustler to pop phenom — all the while keeping count of his progress in diamonds, cars and bottles of Cristal. In his latest offering, the strangely titled The Dynasty Roc La Familia, Jay settles into a more natural role: that of the hustler-teacher. Sensing correctly that bling fatigue has set in, Jay steps away from the flash and floss of Volume 1, 2 and 3 and focuses on more weighty subject matter. La Familia is not without its pimping and posturing, but it is much more about family. On track after track, Jay confronts the new, unfamiliar demands of being a father figure with the same determined egoism and intelligence that he used while hustling in the streets of Brooklyn. “Soon You’ll Understand” finds Jay having to confront a young girl’s tears instead of rival drug dealers and FBI surveillance. There are unanswered questions and unresolved emotions. And throughout, Jay returns to a core theme. In an offhand moment, Jay calls to the father he hardly knew: “But I ain’t mad at you, Dad/Holla at your lad.” The production is as reflective as his lyrics: pulled back, less frenetic and more full-bodied than on his previous album, Volume 3 . . . Life and Times of S. Carter. La Familia is closer, in many ways, to his seminal 1996 debut album, Reasonable Doubt, and his pre-Timbaland days. Dynasty is Jay-Z working back toward his roots musically, all the while creating a solid foundation for the next generation.... - Rolling Stone. Listen...

You have truly created a Dynasty Like No Other...

October 30, 2021

Planet Asia & Evidence "Rule of Thirds" (Album Stream)

Planet Asia continues his run as one of the most prolific MCs in hip-hop the past decade. Planet Asia has released countless collaborative and solo projects, guest featured on numerous records and is back with his latest effort, entirely produced by Evidence, entitled Rule of Thirds. The 13-track LP features Domo Genesis, Rome Streetz, Milano Constantine and of course, Evidence himself. The duo has been making music dating back to the 90s, so props to them for keeping that relationship strong. In my opinion, the re-emergence and success of Roc Marciano in 2010 was a wake-up call that Planet Asia had already been doing it at a high level for years, and it makes sense he's seen so much success in recent years. I'm told there's an album with DJ Scratch that's on the way, and who knows what else, so keep it locked. Meanwhile, listen to the Rule of Thirds LP below...

October 29, 2021

Eyeree "Soul Khemist" (Album Stream)

Soul Khemist is the debut production album from Eyeree Beats out of Costa Mesa, California. He enlists a who's who of underground talent for the project like Vel The Wonder, Jah-Monte Obgon, Daniel Son, Asun Eastwood, Jamil Honesty, Dom Pachino of Killarmy, Supreme Cerebral, Tha God Fahim, Ice Lord, Planet Asia, Elzhi, Ill Conscious, Raz Fresco, Awon, Tiff The Gift and more! The cuts on the project are handled by DJ Luer, DJ Loser and DJ Ozroc. The concept is simple: hard beats and potent rhymes, so now that you know what it is, click and stream Eyeree's Soul Khemist below...

October 28, 2021

Mase "Harlem World" (October 28, 1997)

He rhymed on gold and platinum singles by Puff Daddy, the Notorious B.I.G., Mariah Carey, and 112 and appeared in the related videoclips. He performed in front of an audience of millions at the MTV Video Music Awards alongside Sting, the Lox, Faith Evans, Puff Daddy, and members of his own Bad Boy family. As a result of such exposure, Mase's lispy, laid-back voice and round, boyish face have become very familiar staples to core hip-hop and mainstream pop fans alike. The exposure has created strong demand for the MC's solo debut, "Harlem World," which is due worldwide on Bad Boy/Arista. Mase says his lyrics are a chronicle of his inner thoughts and emotions. "It's like in all my songs and on my whole album I'm telling you how I feel," he says. "When I say things like, 'Mase ain't the one that'll pay your phone bill' or 'Can't no playa hatin' n!ggas hold me down,' that's really how I feel. I don't just be writin' lyrics cause they sound good." Songs on "Harlem World" include "I Need To Be," which recognizes a woman's needs in a relationship; "N!ggas Wanna Act," which challenges all the folks who charged Mase with changing after blowing up; and "Feels So Good," an ego-booster that rides a spongy sample of Kool & The Gang's "Hollywood Swinging." "The album's phenomenal. I think it's a great record. It has that Puffy pop sound, but Mase's lyrics are tight. He's really saying something; he has some depth," says Violent Brown... - Billboard (Nov, 1997). In all honesty, you'd have to be lying to yourself to say this album wasn't everywhere at the time, and it definitely had several bangers - even if it was hip-pop at the time. I still think Mase was a talented MC, and everything that came after was just par for the course over at Bad Boy Entertainment. The article continues with several references to marketing and promotion for the album, which I'd have to assume was already available by the time the article went to print. Revisit the album below...

The full article in Billboard Magazine (November 7, 1997)

October 28, 2021

Wiki "Half God" (Album Stream)

Born and bred in NYC, a teenage Wiki (Patrick Morales) rose to fame as one third of pioneering hip-hop group Ratking. His latest offering, Half God, is a 16-track LP (his third studio album) featuring Navy Blue, Jesse James, Earl Sweatshirt, Remy Banks, MIKE and Duendita. The LP is entirely produced by Navy Blue. Pitchfork described the album, saying "A wise and angry Wiki reveals what it’s like to come of age in the city: the way it shapes, hardens, prematurely ages you." This is a solid album that hit me by surprise, definitely check it out and there should be more in the archives...

October 27, 2021

Sean Price "Kimbo Slice" (October 27, 2009)

I wasn't sure what I was gonna throw on today, then I saw that on this day in 2010, the late great Sean Price dropped his mix-CD, Kimbo Slice. I dug back for the press notes, and here they are: "Hailing from Brownsville, New York. Standing at 6'1" and weighing in at 242 pounds. Formerly known as Scragbite, then RUCK, then Deceptacon Sean, and now going by MEGASEAN, Sean P!!! is back in the ring and he’s going to make sure you talk about him. In fact, borrowing words from the great Mike Tyson, Sean Price claims that “your grandkids and kids after that are going to know about me. I’m going to make sure of that. They are never going to forget about me. Your great grandkids are going to say WOW, wasn’t that a bizarre individual.” Bizarre or not, Sean Price has an ironclad fist on this rap game. His combination of witty word play, humor and hardcore lyrics leave fans wondering what the MC is going to say next. We have seen that Sean Price is a multifaceted individual. With the start up of his newly formed label, RUCK DOWN RECORDS, Sean Price still finds the necessary time to record and promote his own albums. KIMBO PRICE, the prelude to his next national album, MIC TYSON (2010), is a 23 track mix cd that brings the listeners into the world of Sean Price that we love so much. If you know Sean Price in some capacity, you probably got dissed on this album. The rapper goes so far as to say he doesn’t even like himself! Sean Price is joined by a select few artists on KIMBO PRICE. Artists such as Buckshot, Rock of Heltah Skeltah, Ruste Juxx, Royce Da 5'9" L.E.G.A.C.Y., Poisen Pen, and others help round out a very balanced collection music." Rest In Peace to the inimitable, Sean P! Listen to Kimbo Slice below + illustration above by Huey P.

His memory lives on through his music and his beautiful family. R.I.P., Sean P!

October 26, 2021

BigBob & Solomon Childs "The Teachings" (Album Stream)

First Class: The Teachings is a collaborative album between producer BigBob and Wu-affiliated Solomon Childs. The LP pays homage to the mystical martial arts in a musical form and featurings Wu-affiliated eMCees Ghostface Killah, 9th Prince, Dom Pachino, Killah Priest, Dungeon Masta and more. The lead single, "Dungeon Masters," features Ghostface Killah and caught my attention for the hard but smooth production. After listening to the full LP, I think you'll dig it too. Check it below...

October 25, 2021

Happy Born Day, Alchemist! (Playlist)

One of the most revered and prolific rap producers of his generation, the Alchemist crafts sample-heavy, tough, yet detailed beats suffused with soul. His extensive discography, dating back to the early 1990s, includes tracks by the likes of Dilated Peoples, Mobb Deep, Nas, Ghostface Killah, Lil Wayne, and Kendrick Lamar, and he's so valued as a collaborator that he has been behind joint albums co-billed with the likes of Prodigy, Oh No, Curren$y and Freddie Gibbs, among others. In addition to his supporting work as a beatmaker, he has delivered numerous concurrent projects as a headliner and occasional rapper, such as the albums 1st Infantry, Chemical Warfare, and Russian Roulette, and a ceiling-scraping stack of EPs, mixtapes, and instrumental sets. As a teenager, when he was known as Mudfoot, he was part of the Whooliganz (with Scott Caan, son of James) and DJ Muggs' Soul Assassins collective. The Whooliganz released the single "Put Your Handz Up" on Tommy Boy in 1993, but their debut full-length, Make Way for the W, was shelved. Alchemist continued making beats, however, working with and learning from Muggs on 1995's Cypress Hill III: Temples of Boom as well as with childhood friend Evidence of Dilated Peoples. These connections led to a prolific career. In recent years, the Alchemist is behind collaborative projects with the likes of Curren$y, Havoc, and Jay Worthy. He issued a fourth volume of Rapper's Best Friend and continued to produce for a select group of artists, most prominently Kendrick Lamar (namely "FEAR."), Westside Gunn, and Anderson .Paak. He also continued his joint work, joining Freddie Gibbs and Curren$y on 2018's Fetti and the Cool Kids on 2019's Layups. In 2020 alone, he paired with Boldy James (The Price of Tea in China), Conway the Machine (LULU), and Gibbs (Alfredo). Another highly collaborative EP, This Thing of Ours (1 and 2), followed in 2021 featured guests like Earl Sweatshirt and Navy Blue. Below is just a sample from his prolific catalog in playlist form... Happy Born Day, ALC!

October 24, 2021

Fat Joe "Jealous One's Envy" (October 24, 1995)

Fat Joe, the South Bronx Puerto Rican counterpart to Notorious B.I.G. of Brooklyn, N.Y., is a gigantic physical presence with the rhyming skills and booming voice to match. The force of his delivery often forces the beat to match his flow rather than his flow surrendering to the beat's rhythmic constraints. Jealous One's Envy, his stellar sophomore effort, finds the Fat one living much the way he did the last time out, daring suckas to step up to get beat down, interspersing his autobiographical tales of the hard life with boasts about how large he's living. Unlike other pseudo-hard rappers, Fat Joe doesn't necessarily always have to talk about bucking people down to communicate his hardcore appeal. On "Bronxtale," he pairs with KRS-One over a lush jazz track that floats along without losing its edge, a style characteristic of most of the songs on the album. The best moments come with "Success," a "Flow Joe" remake called "Part Deux" and the album's best song, "Respect Mine," on which Fat Joe is matched with the hottest underground rapper of 1995, Wu-Tang's Raekwon the Chef. There might be better rappers than Fat Joe, but he has so much heart, so much exuberance in his flow and in the way he approaches his subject matter, that his personality has a way of winning you over. - Rolling Stone. A favorite of mine, revisit Joe's LP below...

October 23, 2021

Fresh Daily "A Quiet Life 2" (Album Stream)

The long-awaited album from Brooklyn MC Fresh Daily is here and entitled, The Quiet Life 2. It boasts 12 tracks with features from Qulle Chris, So-So Topic, ScienZe, Ivan Ave, Blu, Dominic Missana, and Von Pea, as well as production by Chris Keys, Tuamie, Lakim, Hann11, Shungu, Suff Daddy, Dusty Music, Noah B, and Eelay. If you were outside during the late 2000s in NYC, the High Water camp of AOK Collective MCs were ripping live shows at the Knitting Factory almost every night! Homeboy Sandman, P.So, 8thW1, 2 Hungry Bros, Nola Darling and of course, Fresh Daily. This is a real solid record, and well worth the wait, dig into The Quiet Life 2 below via High Water Music...

October 22, 2021

Take It Personal Podcast "Ode to 2000"

In their latest episode, the T.I.P. crew takes it back... way back (ok, not that far) ... Back to the new millennium where hip-hop was thriving, the DIY backpack era started to fizzle, but the major labels swooped in and were plucking groups one by one. Collabos were in full effect and more noticeably than in years past, very cross-coast friendly. The independent game was coming off a stellar '99 with the release of Operation: Doomsday, but powerhouse labels like Interscope, Def Jam and MCA started to infiltrate and influence while changing landscape of hip-hop. OutKast released Stankonia. Eminem dropped he Marshall Mathers LP and the Wu came with the underwhelming The W. Each week we were force-fed videos by Black Eye Peas, Wyclef Jean, Jay-Z and Mystikal. 2000 was a pivotal time in music. The Rawkus dominance was slowly winding down and many of our favorite rappers starting yearning more and more for that commercial success, indirectly alienating their fan bases. Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre controlled much of the market and Dre's 2001 album, which released in 1999, made everyone rethink their production. No longer were the days of lo-fi beats or low-budget anything. Production had to be sonically rich, with heavy bass lines, strings, powerful synths and sporting soulful vocals. On episode 96, the crew plays some of their favorites that came out in the new millennium with music from Ghostface Killah, Xzibit, Dilated Peoples, Zion I, Blackalicious, Screwball and M.O.P. to name a few. At the break, they reminisce about 2000, The Spitkicker Tour, burning CDs off Napster and Limewire, Sega Dreamcast and select their sleeper albums of the year. All that and a whole lot more, dig into Episode 96 of the Take It Personal Radio podcast below...

October 21, 2021

The Firm "The Album" (October 21, 1997)

Nas and his cohorts have all the right ingredients for the perfect music Molotov; gold and platinum artists and producers, street credibility, a femme fatale, and a young protege. Yet The Firm routinely jumps back and forth over the skinny fence that separates failure from success. The foursome do, however, provide vigorous deliveries, renaissance rhymes, reflections on social conditions, and nicely timed mike tosses. Dr. Dre is on fire for some tracks; on some cheesy yesteryear shit for others. And although Nas is the apparent headliner, the verve and poetic acumen of his secondary architects prove the album's high points. Nas sounds crisp and clear but often comes off as unfocused, too infatuated with the high life and overly concerned with with polishing his laurels. But his clique's nimble-tongued members come through. They've got points to prove and doubts to squash. AZ, preparing for his forthcoming album, Pieces of a Man, steps up with tight, intertwined street stanzas that gain depth with every listen. Delivering on the initial promise he showcases on Nas's 1994 "Life's A Bitch," the Visualiza threads metaphysical thoughts, occult teachings, a taste for the glamorous life, and hip-hop's ever present one-upmanship into awesome aural lattices.... And Foxy is full of the kind of post-pubescent confidence that comes with having just recognized the power of the p#ssy. She's never been a better rhymestress than she is on The Firm.... Equally interested in cunnilingus as in being a cunning linguist, Foxy turns the tables around like a female Too Short, leaving pearl juice dripping from the speakers. You forget that she's an 18-year old kid playing grown-up. The up-and-coming Canibus assumes his regular role as show-stealer. But a plethora of guest appearances--including Noreaga and Half-a-Mil, Pretty Boy and Wizard--all get significant mike time,  blurring the focus of The Firm.... Ultimately, The Firm is heavy on motif, okay on concepts, and DOA on plot, while its overbearing skits and filler material pull the project into the mire of gimmickry. The Firm, though, even with star turns from AZ, Nas, and Foxy, misses its mark. This tight-knit work fam looks good together, sounds good together, but... is a little bit shaky. You'll be hitting fast-forward before your morning cup of joe wears off. - Vibe Magazine.

There are still songs on this I love, but the Vibe review wasn't wrong either ... 

October 20, 2021

Fashawn & Sir Veterano "All Hail The King" (Album Stream)

Fashawn and Sir Veterano team up to bring you ALL HAIL THE KING!  The album offers nine songs that boast features from Grammy nominated artist Aloe Blacc, Slum Village's eLZhi, DJ Revolution from The World Famous Wake-up Show, and Fresno's own Planet Asia. ALL HAIL THE KING runs the gamut from ruling the land, sharing the throne with your Queen, raising future Kings and day-to-day life in your own Kingdom. King Fashawn and his Noble Knight Sir Veterano are eager to share these crown jewels with the royal realm, check out their collaborative project below, and def hit the archives for Sir Veterano's slept-on production album from last summer, The Gathering, which featured a grip of legendary MCs like Murs, Casual, Skillz, MC Eiht, Ras Kass, Supastition and more. 

October 19, 2021

DJ Premier "So Wassup?" ("Take It Personal" Episode, Video)

While I respect ALL of DJ Premier's classic production, I skipped posting the last couple episodes of his web-series, So Wassup?. He recently covered the D'Angelo and Janet Jackson tracks, which aren't amongst my favorite cuts from his catalog. BUT... we're back with Episode 11, where Premo breaks down the making of the Gang Starr classic, "Take It Personal." So, let's get into it... DJ Premier breaks down the equipment he used - the SP 1200 - which ended up being the very last time he used it in his career. That dirty drum break he claims to have had going back to his time in Texas, and that he never made a cadence of a drum break like that! He got Ralph McDaniels (Classic Concepts) to do the video for the song, as well as "Code of the Streets" later on from Hard to Earn. He also explains the role "Take It Personal" played in also making the track "DWYCK" with Nice & Smooth, as well as moving from the A Room in D&D Studios to the legendary B Room. So much history, DJ Premier is a wealth of knowledge; one of the most impressive and most humbling things about this legendary producer! Watch Premier's latest video episode below for a lot more history...

October 18, 2021

Big Daddy Kane vs. KRS-One (Verzuz Battle, 10/17/21)

Last night, Big Daddy Kane and KRS-One took it to the stage for one of the most highly anticipated Verzuz battles! My timeline leading up to the battle suggested KRS-One was the favored MC, despite the fact that Big Daddy Kane is one of the greatest MCs and live performers in hip-hop history! Sure, on paper, KRS has the more extensive catalog of bigger records and more longevity that extended beyond the 80s and early 90s. However, we've learned through past battles that these battles sway back and forth throughout the night, and the more charismatic personality and performer can often snatch the crown. Ask Jadakiss... TWICE! So, off the paper and onto the stage it went, both MCs bringing their best material and sure, Kane ran out of records earlier, but the story didn't end there! Kane brought his stage presence, freestyles and swag to the forefront. Despite his DJ for the night, DJ Scratch, coming off as an asshole on multiple occasions, Kane and KRS kept it peace and both did their thing. I can see fans saying KRS was the winner before it even started, but once again, I say the artist with the most charisma took home the W, and last night it was Big Daddy Kane. The features were extensive on both artists' set, and to be perfectly honest, most of them overstepped the boundaries and stayed on stage WAY too long. It was another proud night for hip-hop, and I'm sure both will be on the road together and their booking fees just went all the way up! Who did you declare the winner last night? I don't think there's a wrong answer lol.

October 17, 2021

Reflection Eternal "Train of Thought" (October 17, 2000)

Anyone familiar with Talib Kweli's impressive raps with Mos Def on the 1998 Black Star album might consider taking a deep breath before facing this semi-solo project. Like so many others in the fertile hip-hop underground, Black Star put words with a stark seriousness, measuring their flow and message with such minute precision it was no wonder they kept the beats solid but simple. It focused your attention on their small corner of the street. But, as Kweli says, he's not out for the street now, but for all the folks in it. From the Nelson Mandela impersonator who kicks things off by announcing that he always listen to Kweli "whenever I'm in Africa chilling out," to the heartrending closing tribute "For Women," this tremendously ambitious album consistently balances serious depth with serious cheekiness. Moreover, DJ Hi-Tek earns his equal billing with beats both rough and lush that bust Kweli out of the underground and into hip-hop's center stage. Not too long ago, that center was a no-man's land, but now Kweli joins De La Soul, Blackalicious, LL Cool J, Common, Jurassic-5 and all the others who have made 2000 the year the fellas got their groove back. Together, they'll help us all learn to exhale. - CMJ New Music Monthly (12/00). Revisit below...

Promo sticker and album review in CMJ (December, 2000)

October 16, 2021

Shad "TAO" (Album Stream)

The word “TAO” in Chinese means “The Way.” As in the way of living that conforms to the truths of the moral universe, nature, etc. TAO is also an acronym for The Abolition Of, the book by CS Lewis, which is what we risk (the abolition of man/ourselves) if we lose fully touch with these aspects of our humanity. Each song on the album is about a different part (or parts) of our humanity/humanness we’ve slowly been losing touch with. Shad's 12-track effort, as a fan says, "speaks volumes in such a limited quantity. Warning and admonishing us as human beings not to conform to the grand scale plan woven in the fabric of our lives. Whether we're just browsing the internet or playing games on our apps. the abolition of us is front and center. This album is a signal flare to awake us and keep us from throwing away what's precious due to the trends. I can dig it. Lyrically, he's as sharp as ever. Getting better with age." While the production is drastically left of my normal listening pleasure, Shad delivers on his promise of lyrics and message. It's a great project to sit with and digest fully, so definitely give it a listen below and if you haven't listen to "HOME" off Eternia & Rel McCoy's "FREE" album, check out Shad's incredible verse on that track, as well. Peace...

October 15, 2021

Eddie Kaine & Big Ghost "A Tree Grows In Brooklyn" (Album Stream)

Words by Big Ghost Ltd, as usual: "In the midst of this renaissance we been witnessing in the underground…as beautiful n raw as the output has been…we also started to see a lot of cookie cutter nonsense take place. Seems like we got more rappers n producers than listeners n supporters sometimes. You cant stop art tho. Creators gon create. That being said…yall MFs cant ALL be Westside Gunn or Conway. Yall cant all be Mach Hommy or Roc Marci... Yall beatmakers cant all be Alchemist.. Yall designers cant all be CEP. So on n so on... Not referring to the hierarchy that exists in all cultures or subculture…I’m sayin stop tryna duplicate the end results of what somebody else created by mimicking everything THEY DO. What you should do is pay attention to the process of what THEY DID. Which was found a lane n did what THEY did best. If some youngbuck asks me why 80s artists get held in the reverence they get held in.. or why 90s rappers get to be considered some type of rap gods while in this generation it seems like “dope” is the highest accolade obtainable for the average young artist… I say it’s uniqueness. Thats how Griselda n Mach n Roc etc ascended past “dope”.. What it comes down to is filling a void. A Tribe Called Quest wasnt tryna be Public Enemy. Nas wasnt tryna be Snoop..n vice versa. Thats where Eddie Kaine comes in. Not tryna rap like nobody or sound like nobody or rap about what they rap bout. Still street. But 1000% just him. For somebody like Kaino a backdrop was needed that could be considered familiar…yet unique n raw in its own way too. I like to think it was achieved on this project. But we leave it to the listener to decide. Available at midnight exclusively at the link in the bio. A Tree Grows In Brooklyn. Peace x blessings." Well said. Now, celebrate Big Ghost's latest album contribution below...

October 14, 2021

Gravediggaz "The Pick, The Sickle & The Shovel" (October 14, 1997)

After the arduous ordeal of the latest Wu-Tang Clan album, you'd imagine the RZA would take some time off, perhaps potter around in the garden, tend to his geraniums... Hardly. No-one doubts that the RZA is the hardest-working producer in rap, a foul to the in-built laziness of west coast contemporaries like Dr Dre who can barely manage a new album every two years, but this saturation is specific to New York. Public Enemy took years off their commercial achievements by hogging the airwaves, and if the fickleness of rap audiences has taught us anything in the '90s, it must be the ever-widening quest for something new. Maybe that's why Gravediggaz have sough not to repeat the Hammer-inspired horrorcore of their debut, 'Six Feet Deep'. Gangsta rap itself has dealt 'reality' the kind of horrors even Vincent Price and Christopher Lee would have had trouble realizing. So 'The Pick, The Shovel & The Sickle' is a change of tack, a re-evaluation. Out go the impatient tones of 'Six Feet Deep' -- all thudding percussion and insistent bass -- replaced by the moodiness of tracks like 'Dangerous Mindz' and 'Hidden Emotions.' Revisit their sophomore LP below...

The RZA and Prince Paul certainly seem to have woken up to the fact that the deeper hip-hop searches for 'reality', the more fantastical its descent into urban ridicule. So 'The Pick..." amalgamates the pseudo-Islamic philosophy of the Wu as well as the educated contemplation of De La Soul. The inclusion of some Neolithic imagery -- another metaphor for the dark seediness of New York's urban areas -- also bodes well or a greater understanding of rap. But there's something else here, a romanticism with African-American lore. And pain. The Gravediggaz understand fine well rap's global reach -- where whites yearn to be black, and blacks blacker still. 'The Pick...' gives out everything it promises, but often at a cost. In short: imagine taking two of hip-hop's greatest auteurs and asking them to record an album together. This would surely be it -- convolutes in aesthetic, but always a sum of its individual parts. - Hip Hop Connection (November, 1997). It a gem? 

October 13, 2021

Body Bag Ben & J Scienide "Enough To Plague A Saint" (Album Stream)

Oxnard CA, Triple Threat Producer/Emcee/DJ Body Bag Ben drops new album with Washington DC based Emcee/Producer J Scienide "Enough To Plague A Saint." Ben has been busy with production credits from MOP, Canibus, and his latest project "Hide The Body Bag" with BSF/Griselda affiliate Rick Hyde. J Scienide is coming off the massive success of his latest album "Stray From the Pack" with legendary Producer/Emcee Kev Brown. "We started working on this album right at the height of the pandemic while on lockdown. Ben kept sending me beat after beat daily. My creativity was sparked after many nights of listening to straight up head nodders. The album features some of hip hops elite wordsmiths Rome Streetz, Rasheed Chappell, Napoleon Da Legend, Wordsworth and Ill Conscious. Enough To Plague A Saint was released on J Scienide's label imprint Static King Records via Fat Beats. Dig in the archives for more from the homie, J Scienide and listen to the latest below...

October 12, 2021

Mos Def "Black On Both Sides" (October 12, 1999)

As passionate a lobbyist for hip-hop's expressive potential as you're likely to find in '99, Mos Def has already enjoyed a storied minor-league career. He's stolen scenes from De La Soul and Q-Tip, lively'd up the studious beats of DJs Krush and Honda, and loomed large as half of Black Star, the only hip-hop duo that owns its own Africana bookstore. And while singles like the almost Ellingtonian "Travellin' Man" are a tough act to follow, his solo debut Black On Both Sides is a stunner, cultivating a surprisingly hard edge (on tracks like the darkly trenchant "Hip-Hop"), while stepping knee-deep into the sumptuous soul-jazz Black Star only flirted with. The problem with Both Sides is that its sweep can feel a little preordained. Mos is clearly out to craft a hip-hop classic, as epochal as A Tribe Called Quest's The Low End Theory or Eric B & Rakim's Follow The Leader. But those albums defined eras only in retrospect. By comparison, the self referential gravitas of Both Sides, especially coming from the once gloriously-casual Mos, make it feel like a compelling novel that's already (to quote Mr. Def) "a screenplay sold to Miramax." Still, for a fresh-faced MC's coming-out jam, this set is as front-to-back stacked as the love object in Mos's "Ms. Fat Booty." And if the man behind it quits striving for timelessness, the prospects are tantalizing. (Besides, you gotta love an MC who takes time out to put Limp Bizkit in their place). - CMJ (January, 2000). An interesting review... it makes me wonder if Mos took it to heart, because he's since lived a career of pivots and genre-bending music, while still remaining one of thee greatest lyricists of our generation! Ironically, we can now say in retrospect, that Both Sides was surely a classic that helped define the independent era of hip-hop, especially in NYC! I'm waiting for a big comeback project from Mos Def!

A definitive classic in the independent era of NYC hip-hop...

October 11, 2021

Thug Life "Thug Life: Volume 1" (October 11, 1994)

Some may only recognize Thug Life as the two words infamously tattooed across 2Pac's abdomen, but interviews from the mid-90s reveal that he had big plans for the brand—he foresaw it as the name of a worldwide movement, culture, and lifestyle of a revolutionary urban lower class. As we all know, Shakur never lived to see this dream realized, and before any of these ideas could be put into effect Thug Life was the name of a group and an album by 'Pac and his friends. Already infamous for his first two solo albums and various run-ins with the law yet not quite the household name he would become in his final two years of life, "Thug Life: Volume 1" was released by Interscope in September 1994, just two months before the New York shooting that embattled the star with Bad Boy Records, five months before beginning his eleven-month stay at Clinton Correctional Facility, a year before signing on with Suge Knight and Death Row, and two years before his Las Vegas murder. This album thus provides a snapshot of a pivotal albeit overlooked time in Shakur's life. His incarceration strongly influenced the volatile and deeply philosophical recordings of his Death Row days, which produced the most celebrated and controversial music of his catalog, and his output immediately before might serve as a suggestion of another path his career may have taken had he faced different circumstances. Perhaps most significantly, the Thug Life project is the only full album that places 2Pac in the context of a rap group. Shakur was affiliated with a few different lineups in his recording years, beginning of course with Digital Underground in the early 1990s. After achieving superstardom as a solo entity, another group of friends and frequent collaborators credited as Dramacydal began to appear on his records, the group that would later evolve into Outlawz. With 2Pac as the obvious focal point, the Thug Life lineup included Inglewood's Big Syke, who would go on to a moderately successful solo career and record with Outlawz as Mussolini; Los Angeles rappers Macodoshis and Rated R, who would later be convicted of murder; and 'Pac's elder stepbrother Mopreme. While not an official member, 'Pac's friend Stretch from the Digital Underground days, a frequent producer and guest rapper on the first two 2Pac LPs, raps on two tracks and produces five; he too would be gunned down in late 1995. Revisit it/Cont'd below...

"Thug Life: Volume 1" maintains an unusual balance between a group album and a 2Pac project. A far greater rapper and character than his buddies, 'Pac's larger than life persona is the immediate star, and he is the only member afforded solo cuts. He's also the driving creative force; more often than not his verses provide the backbone and direction of the songs, and the others merely echo his sentiments. As their name suggests, the Thug Life boys seek to engrain the listener into the day-to-day existence of a West Coast thug. While this may sound terribly proverbial on paper, they share with 2Pac passion and charisma that usually compensates for any lyrical and conceptual deficiencies. The conviction that each exhibits makes it hard not to feel the desperation, entrapment, injustice, and do-or-die mentality that they purvey, and this is what makes their narratives so compelling. At an age where most young folks hope to explore and enjoy the world's myriad opportunities, these men barely into their twenties felt hopelessly ensnared by societal factors beyond their control and turned to lives of crime—lives for which their criminal records indicate were hardly embellished in their rhymes.... "Thug Life: Volume 1" is an essential and frequently overlooked chapter of the 2Pac saga, bearing the fruits of the West Coast renaissance and the great year that was 1994. Like most of Shakur's music, its intangibles make it a better record than the sum of its parts, and the case for classic status could be made for half of these ten tracks. "Thug Life: Volume 1" is classic 'Pac, exhibiting all the apparent inconsistencies and contradictions that made him the world's most compelling rapper: a conscientious yet shameless thug, at times brooding and others exuberant, and seemingly obsessed with his own death, which ironically awaited him less than two years down the road. Listening to it, it boasts all the qualities that led to his being labeled a visionary, a martyr, and an icon, but it also features timeless, impeccably produced music from an unheralded group, comprising an essential listen that captures rap's most fascinating and polarizing figure. - RapReviews. Rest In eternal Peace, Tupac Shakur!!!

October 10, 2021

AZ "Doe or Die" (October 10, 1995 / Spin Magazine)

The season has been good for B-Boy acquisitionists. From the hustler-turned-Versace-shade-wearer lingo of the Notorious B.I.G. to Chef Raekwon's episodic narratives of Lexus drivers and Cuban Link sporters, to Mobb Deep's stark pronouncements of need-the-loot-now-don't-fuck-wit-me-or-catch-a-bad-one, New York's latest crop of rhyme animals are living the "gimme" ethic to the fullest. Call it the Eastern sibling of the West's gangsta ethos. But New York's hardcore skips racial and cultural divides in its quest for inspiration. Heads have appropriated the mythos of figures like celluloid Cuban druglord Tony Montana, and real life New York crime boss John Gotti, to produce work marked by a curious balance of earnest yearning and bad-bwoy talk. On the surface, newcomer AZ would appear to fit into this mode quite snugly. First introduced to the hip-hop arena through a guest appearance on Nas's Illmatic, AZ has returned with a debut of his own, Doe or Die. His lead single, "Sugar Hill," does delve wholeheartedly into the material pool: "At times I window watch out the Marriott / Zonin' on ownin' co-ops / Foreign drop top coupes and yachts." However, the song is sprinkled throughout with the element that sets AZ apart from his capital-collectin' peers, acute political awareness: "Making it hard trying to figure out who's out to trap me / Pataki [Governor of New York] got all kind of undercovers that's coming at me / Perhaps he won't be happy till they snatch me and place me / Where half us blacks be / Sittin' in Coxsackie." Nas steadily rips on Christianity. Biggie may be invested with suicidal tendencies. But only AZ offers a grounded critique of the larger structures wreaking havoc upon the urban-dwelling body. Revisit/more below...

Doe or Die unfolds in a well-sketched procession. On the appropriately title "Gimme," AZ pours forth a tale of loot capers and ghetto aspirations in a rapid-patterned delivery reminiscent--but for the high tonality--of the godfather of the hip-hop hustle ethic, Kool G Rap. A duet with Nas, "Mo Money, Mo Murder, Mo Homicide," hypnotically peruses the pleasures and pitfalls of fast cash. Much like Illmatic, Doe or Die's most significant letdown occurs on the musical end. Pete Rock's swing rhythms and smooth keyboard textures, N.O. Joe's Southern-style funk, and D.R.'s lead-out, bass heavy Brooklyn sound do manage to give AZ a powerful platform for half of the album. The other beat-crafters simply can't keep pace. Nevertheless, Doe or Die achieves its purpose: AZ has breathed new air into the lungs of New York hard-rocks. - Spin Magazine (December, 1995). Interesting to read back and see that mild critique of Illmatic's production, however I do agree with some of the beats on Doe or Die, which is why I've always argued that if the unreleased tracks and the few 12" remixes were added, Doe or Die would've surely been an undeniable classic!

October 09, 2021

Redman "Whut...Thee Album" (Rap Pages, 1992)

For all the grannies out there hollering about the evils of rap music, Whut...Thee Album kicks off with a comeback. Opening skit, "Psycho Ward" finds menace-to-society Redman undergoing psychotherapy, with the doc telling him to let loose on some rhymes and get all the "unnecessary anger" out of his system. Being the socially responsible, cooperative (and, in this scenario, incarcerated) brotha that he is, Redman proceeds to bust some wicked loaded lyrics, boosted by tasty, fat grooves courtesy of fellow Hit Squad bomber Erick "EPMD" Sermon, who drops a few words here as well. In typical debut fashion, lyrics on Whut are aimed primarily at making sure suckas appreciate what it is they're hearing. Nothing too mind-bending there, okay, but Redman's got the musical momentum and sense of humor to keep things rolling. Hardcore funk jams like "Blow Your Mind" and "I'm a Bad" playing alongside skits bagging on Hammer ("Funky Uncles"), confrontations between Redman and himself ("Redman Meets Reggie Noble") and just flatout toasted directives on getting bent ("How To Roll A Blunt"). Slapstick track "A Day of Sooperman Lover" follows the exploits of one superfly Romeo who can "slam King Kong and pick up freight trains," but doesn't have a clue what it is he's about to bone: "Stuck my hand between her legs and I felt the bozack--as big as mine!" Definitely not an album for the grandkids, but then again Redman told us straight out he was "Rated R." - Rap Pages (December, 1992). Revisit Redman's debut classic LP below, but please by advised that the exact date of the album's release has been debated for several years. Based on adverts and Def Jam's Friday release schedule, October 9, 1992 is the likely release date.

I still listen to -- and enjoy -- this album to this day... an absolute classic!

October 08, 2021

The Alchemist "This Thing of Ours II" (EP Stream)

The Alchemist continues his proliferation with the follow up to his April Ep, This Thing of Ours. The 12-minute, 5 track experience boasts appearances from Vince Staples, Bruiser Brigade (Danny Brown, JUS, Bruiser Wolf and Fat Ray), MAVI, MIKE and ZelooperZ. While it's a fairly short EP, The Alchemist has crafted a project that makes the most of its features and the brilliant textures and layers of his unique production. Truth be told, I've always preferred ALC's work most with Evidence and Mobb Deep, but he's branched off to work with a lot of creative talent that's benefited his overall sounded tremendously in recent years. It's working! Listen to This Thing of Ours 2 below...

October 07, 2021

Imported Goodz & Conway "Untitled Drums" (EP Stream)

Here's the deluxe release of Conway the Machine and Imported Goodz's fire EP, Untitled Drums. Released on cassette and deluxe vinyl (in countless designs), the 6-track EP comes with all 6 instrumentals that also features his Griselda brethren, Westside Gunn. Obviously inspired by Kendrick Lamar's Untitled album, Untitled Drumz, stripped down the song titles and just called them Untitled Drums. Imported Goodz is a crew out of South Florida, but I don't know much about 'em, except that this project has been dope and deserves some extra attention. Also check out their collaborative project with Daniel Son entitled Killing Clouds. Listen to the EP via Bandcamp below...

October 06, 2021

The Launch of Instagram (October 6, 2010)

On October 6, 2010, Instagram was launched! TechCrunch shared: "I know what you’re probably thinking: oh, another photo-sharing app. But the fact is that at least one of these apps is likely going to take off in a major way at some point soon.... A community, focused on helping you collect, organize, and share the images of your life from your mobile phone. The best we have right now are tiny camera icons stuffed as forgotten features of giant complicated apps that *have* to do everything.” Obviously, he wants Insta to provide that missing community. And it’s a good point. The iPhone 4 is now my primary camera.... And the convenience of always having it in my pocket trumps what it lacks in quality. The pictures taken with it are very good. And with effects and filters like Instagram offers, I get many more compliments on my photography than I ever have before. It makes my life on the go interesting. And that’s part of the key to Instagram. Systrom says, “Photo sharing as a concept is relatively uninteresting as a sell. But processors are so fast now that we can do really cool things to your photos with the tap of a button. We can take that beautiful 5MP camera and turn it into a panoramic camera or a lofi 1980’s Polaroid.,” he continues. And Systrom knows that one key in his app being successful is how actual users are using it. So far, he’s thrilled that a couple handfuls of the web’s best designers have taken a liking to Instagram while it has been in private beta. Once it opens up today, he hopes even more like-minded people will." - 2010.

When my mother was dying, IG was an important tool for me to get information out. And when I launched my own small business, it jumped off from IG, and was fairly successful. Throughout the years I've made countless friends and been inspired by the tremendous talent and creative niches that I've seen--first--on Instagram. So... yeah I guess it's safe to say that the app has been an important tool. Here are just some of the accounts that I highly recommend that you follow for various reasons, many of which may be personal, sentimental or just pure comedy - it all depends, lol: Supastition, Eternia, Money Miz, The Company Man, J57, Rappin N Snackin, Kathy Iandoli, Sin-Seer, Tim Burton, Kid Abstrakt, Rhymecology, Soles of Mischief, Evidence, Philaflava, Toon Crew, Dart Adams, Shad, IllVia, Kalzingis, Fat Beats, Theory Hazit, IllStrips, Jenny Loves Hip Hop, Big Ghost, DJ Filthy Rich, Torre Pentel, DJ Premier, DJ Eclipse, Wallo267, Royce, Brother Ali, Alphonze, yikes... that's a lot and I didn't even scratch the surface. So much talent to discover and appreciate, I do recommend diggin' through these accounts and many others. I also recommend following me HERE!

October 05, 2021

W0javelli "Just Rae" (Raekwon Tribute Mix)

Illadelph's Wojavelli is back with another fine mix! Just Rae celebrates roughly an hour of early Raekwon features, rare cuts, freestyles and lots more. The Wu-general of slang rap has an extensive catalog that sometimes goes under-celebrated, but this mix tape digs back for many of those dope cuts that don't make it on other mix tapes, making it an excellent piece to add to your collection. Click through to his Soundcloud or into the archives for additional mixes with Half-A-Mil, 2Pac, Rawcotiks, Herb McGruff, Diehard Records, Kasino, Cardan, The Beatnuts, Alchemist, Da Fat Cat Clique, Akinyele, C-Murder, Eightball, Big Pun and more. Of course, for promotional use only...

October 04, 2021

Common "Resurrection" (October 4, 1994)

In Hip Hop geography, Resurrection, definitely belongs to Chicago. No played out West Coast funk or droning keyboards. No candidates for the next Rump Shaker/Tootsie Roll content theme song.... On first listen it might sound like an East Coast record, but in production and lyrical flow, Common sense fits solidly in the Chicago soul tradition of Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions, Leroy Hutson, and the Chi-Lites. Most of the production was done by the Un-American Caravan's No I.D., who also worked on Common's first album. The music has the feel of an early 70's Curtin Mayfield or Donny Hathaway record. The samples are fresh with catchy piano, keyboard or sax loops up top and strong, looping, basslines underneath to keep the music moving forward. Hip Hop production has moved away from the frantic sound of P.E. and a thousand and one James Brown breakbeats to less hyped samples and live music. But unlike too many of the new Hip-Hop producers, No I.D., maintains the level of energy in the grooves and doesn't let the sound lapse into quiet storm territory. Cont'd

The album is a view of life in urban America today in the same way Curtis Mayfield or Donny Hathaway's songs were a view of the same place in the 60's and 70's. Like many of their songs, Common Sense's rhymes are about daily life, growing up, and even family. Not as just another victim, but as someone with a strong sense of himself. The rhymes are always political, and possibly more powerful for being less direct.... But not everything is serious. There's plenty of more freestyle rhymes, heavy on metaphors.... A lot of MC's start out dope and then lose direction or run out of ideas. But since the first time I saw Common perform at the New Music Seminar in 1989 with a group called "1212" every move has been in the right direction. He's learned a lot since the first album.... The ads for Resurrection say "No gimmicks, no guns, no b*tches, no bullsh*t, just Common Sense." It says a lot about Hip Hop today that [that] description would set the album apart from most other music out there. Just about everyone who cares about Hip Hop and has paid attention for more than a few years knows that something's been lost. On the first single, "I Used to Love H.E.R.," "H.E.R." is Hip Hop and Common Sense expresses better than anybody how much the music meant, and the sense of loss as rap has moved from an art to a commodity.... Common Sense's reality is more than enough entertainment for people into lyrics and beats everywhere and anyone else willing to put down their video gats for long enough to listen. - Caught In The Middle (ZINE, 1994).