November 30, 2021

Nas "Street's Disciple" (November 30, 2004)


Ten years deep in the rap game, Nas unveiled Street's Disciple, an indulgent album that sprawls across two discs, freewheeling through a dizzying array of ace productions and thoughtful raps. The album is very much a continuation of its predecessor, God's Son: both helmed primarily by producers Salaam Remi and Chucky Thompson, both uncompromising personal statements that make few concessions to the pop market, and both undoubtedly fascinating, if overindulgent. The difference is, Street's Disciple goes a step further, indulging all the more in the creative whims of Nas. And, with the exception of some first-disc throwaways, the result is nothing short of astounding, especially if you've followed Nas over the course of his first decade. Catchy hooks are few and far between here, granted, with most of the songs crafted as if they were freestyle raps. This works, though, because Nas benefits from outstanding productions, a peerless rap style, and an interesting back-story. The 25 productions here are all courtesy of longtime Nas collaborators Salaam Remi, Chucky Thompson, and L.E.S., with only a couple exceptions (Nas produces a couple himself). These guys know Nas better than anyone, and they deliver the goods: hardcore beats for the streets, usually laced with an inventive sample for a hook effect. These riffs offer Nas ample room to let loose, and he does precisely that on one track after another, often touching upon a specific theme yet doing so in a loose, free-associative manner that highlights his talent for wordplay and storytelling. Within his raps, Nas often mines his own past, present, and future: for instance, he touches upon his heritage ("Bridging the Gap"), his impending marriage ("Getting Married"), his eventual death ("Live Now"), his influences ("U.B.R."), his most memorable female conquests ("Remember the Times"). All of this amounts to a lavish album sure to dazzle true hip-hop heads, who will find much to admire and study here, from the especially deep and twisted raps to the sample-rich productions. On the other hand, all of this also amounts to an album that might prove somewhat impenetrable to those who aren't already attuned to the legacy of Nas. Either way, Street's Disciple is another key album in that ongoing legacy, further evidence that Nas is back on track after falling off during the late '90s with I Am and Nastradamus. It's not a perfect album -- it's far too indulgent for that -- and would have been stronger as a single disc, but its ambitious sprawl makes for a powerful statement that Nas disciples will surely savor. - AllMusic. Listen back...



I don't come back to this album a ton, but it definitely did have some joints...

November 29, 2021

Happy Born Day, The Game! (Playlist)


Compton rapper the Game emerged as one of the early-2000s rawest voices on the West Coast hip-hop scene, with intense autobiographical narratives and a hungry need to assert his lyrical presence. His forceful talent was established with his 2005 studio debut The Documentary, and the rapper moved tirelessly for the next decade-and-a-half, releasing a non-stop string of mixtapes, singles, and excellent albums including 2008's LAX, 2011's The R.E.D. Album, and 2019's Born 2 Rap. The Game was born Jayceon Terrell Taylor in Compton in 1979. Involved in the drug trade after a rough childhood, it took being shot during a home invasion to get him away from dealing drugs and into a life in music. Inspired by N.W.A, The Chronic, Doggystyle, and classic albums from 2Pac, the Notorious B.I.G., and Jay-Z, Game began rapping in 2001 and never looked back. His barbed and bold freestyles caught the ear of Dr. Dre, who brought the Game on as one of the first signees to his Aftermath Records roster in 2003 and executive-produced his debut. With everyone from Dre and 50 Cent to Nate Dogg, Kanye West, and Just Blaze contributing to the album, The Documentary made it clear from the outset that the then-heated geographic squabbles weren't a part of Game's agenda. Soon Game and 50 Cent were at war over the former's reluctance to beef with any and every enemy of G-Unit. Freestyles and mixtapes were spawned in amazing amounts from both sides, and every time a truce seemed possible, things fell apart at the last minute. Despite Dre's absence, Game's sophomore release kept its original title of Doctor's Advocate when it was released in late 2006. - AllMusic. Since, he's remained consistent and released some of the most complete bodies of work of any mainstream artist. Never one to shy away from beef (or a fight), The Game has stayed in it throughout his career, although mostly on wax and for entertainment. All in all, I'd argue The Game is one of the best lyricists and album-makers to come out of the West Coast since the '90s. Antics aside, I do enjoy his music and below are just a taste of my favorite joints... HBD! Dig into it...

November 28, 2021

Happy Born Day, Styles P! (Playlist)


I can't write much about Styles P that you don't already know... but I can say that in all the years I've written, Styles has been one of the most sincerest artists I've ever interviewed. He pulled no punches, he simply spoke his truth and owned all of it. He asked questions and was more interested in a conversation than a Q&A. His catalog and track record is that of a mixtape MC, who has seen great success and yet has always kept his ear to the streets. He's quick to argue that he feels he's the hardest lyricist in the game. In recent years his focus has shifted more into the community with his wife and his Juices 4 Life brand. He's taken on the roll of an elder statesman and a true OG for cats coming up. He's also written books, become something of a media personality, and continues to excel on the mic as a solo artist and member of the legendary crew, The LOX. Their appearance on the Verzuz stage, while overshadowed by Jadakiss' inimitable presence, was a masterclass in how to succeed as a group. I can't imagine the number of verses he's written in his career between albums, mixtapes, freestyles and features, but it's more than most. As solid a man as he is an artist, you can't say that about a lot of these artists, so salute Styles P, especially today on his born day. Lastly, check out this quick playlist below with some Styles P/The LOX joints... oh, and also dig in the archives for plenty of material, including some of our interview together from over 10 yrs ago... 


Man, that didn't even scratch the surface! More next year? Good idea...

November 27, 2021

DJ Premier "So Wassup?" ("1, 2 Pass It" Episode, Video)


DJ Premier is back yet again with the latest installment in his video series, So Wassup? - a salute to the floppy disc! In Episode 15, Premo takes it back to 1995 with the D&D Allstar's "1, 2 Pass It." Lord Finesse was working out of D&D Studios on a remix and brought in DJ Premier -- after that, Premier was there from 1992 until the studio closed. As D&D grew, Arista Records gave them a deal to do a compilation and it inspired the posse cut that began with a 40s & Blunts party, where MCs came through and blessed the mic for the posse cut, "1, 2 Pass It." DJ Premier naturally produced the beat and MCs Mad Lion, Doug E. Fresh, KRS-One, Fat Joe, Smif-N-Wessun, and lastly, Jeru The Damaja, jumped on the record. DJ Premier also shares that Jay-Z was outside but was not allowed in because it was too crowded, or else he woulda been on the record, too. Jay still came back and did Reasonable Doubt and In My Lifetime Vol.1-3 there, so no hard feelings. Salute to the legacy of D&D, now Premo operates at Headqcourterz. The original building was turned into condos and office buildings, go figure. While the D&D album was lackluster, this jam went hard! Anyhow... Premier throws the disc in the Akai S950, and let's the record play at the end. Check it out below... 

November 26, 2021

Happy Born Day, Jean Grae! (Playlist)


Jean Grae is a polymath in every sense of the word. She first rose to prominence in underground hip-hop circles as an MC, but a quick glance at her bio reveals the plethora of hats she’s worn since: “Writing, producing, rapping, singing, directing, filming, editing, acting, comedy, hosting, cooking columns, (a lot of cooking) freelance writing, voiceovers, hairstyling, putting on plays, lecturing at prestigious universities, teaching children, hosting my own live talk show, live music shows, free hug stations, improv, scoring podcasts…” It’s a lot. Born Tsidi Ibrahim to jazz musician parents in Cape Town, South Africa, Grae was likely always destined to become a performer. She grew up in New York City, first coming to America with her family when she was just three months old, amid racial turmoil in their home country. She attended the famed LaGuardia performing arts high school and studied music business at NYU before committing to music full-time. It’s been more than 20 years since she dropped her first verse on wax, and while Grae might not be a household name, you’d be hard pressed to find a rapper willing to battle her. Strictly lyrically, she’s one of the most gifted MCs ever. - Pitchfork. As one of my favorite lyricists and people in the music industry, I've followed her since the Natural Resource days, even DJing for Pumpkinhead (R.I.P.) in a very dusty basement some years later, where I was first introduced to Jean. Social media really put her in a place where her unique sense of humor and creativity could shine as she's amassed a tremendous following over the years. I've had the pleasure of seeing Jean in countless venues from big stages to crammed basements, record stores and even at New York University. Now that I'm living outside of NYC and with the pandemic, I hope new opportunities present itself to tap in to her live shows and performances. The sky's always been the limit for Jean, so this look back at some of my favorite cuts from Jean just scratches the surface. If you haven't peep'd her show, Life With Jeanie, you know you done fuck'd up, right? Happy Birthday, Jean - it's always been and always will be all love! 



Happy Born Day, Jean! Much love...

November 25, 2021

The Fugees "The Score" (25th Ann. Mix by DJ Filthy Rich)


Toronto's DJ Filthy Rich is a staple here on the site thanks to his tribute mixes, such as his latest offering paying homage to 1996's classic LP, The Score, by The Fugees. Filthy Rich celebrates 25 years of 'The Score' with a mix of rarities, remixes, blends and original samples. One of the reasons we like this album so much was the fusion of dancehall, reggae and island culture, so Filthy Rich took it a step further and added Cutty Ranks, Mad Lion, Buju Banton, Bounty Killer, Born Jamericans and Kulcha Don to the mix. As with past tributes, he promises that a volume 2 is in the works and coming soon. In the meantime, dig into his latest offering and then hit the archives for past tributes with Raekwon, Mobb Deep, Method Man, Ghostface Killah, A Tribe Called Quest, OutKast, and more...

November 24, 2021

Kool G Rap & DJ Polo "Live and Let Die" (November 24, 1992)


A strong case could be made for Live and Let Die as Kool G Rap & DJ Polo's crowning achievement. Who can really say for sure if the controversy surrounding the cover artwork--which shows the duo feeding steaks to a pair of rottweilers, in front of two noose-necked white men--clouded a proper consensus? With across-the-board stellar production help from Sir Jinx and Trackmasterz, G Rap (who also produces) thrives on his no-holds-barred narratives that peaked with Wanted: Dead or Alive's "Streets of New York," but most everything on this album comes close to eclipsing that song. "Ill Street Blues" is practically a sequel to it, and it manages to use more swanky piano vamps and horn blurts without making for a desperate attempt at capitalizing on a past glory. Few tales of growing up in a life of crime hit harder than the title track, in which G Rap displays the traits--unforced frankness, that unmistakable voice, and a flow that drags you involuntarily along--that made him a legend. The album is one story after another that draws you in without fail, and they come at you from several angles. Whether pulling off a train heist, venting sexual frustration, analyzing his psychosis, or lording over the streets, G Rap is a pro at holding a captive audience. All die-hard East Coast rap fans, especially followers of the Notorious B.I.G., owe it to themselves to get real familiar with this album and the two that predated it. If you were to take this duo's best five songs away from them, they'd still be on the top duos rap music has ever seen. - Old School Rap and Hip-Hop. The book surely made their case very strong for Kool G Rap as one of the G.O.A.T.!



And yes, "Ill Street Blues" was easily one of my favorite cuts of 1992. 

November 23, 2021

Nas "Nastradamus" (November 23, 1999)


Nas is arguably the most philosophical product of hip-hop's masses. So it was fitting that his fourth album, "Nastradamus," is opened and closed by hip-hop poet Jessica Care Moore, who wowed audiences with her own powerful prose on "Showtime at the Apollo" just a few years ago. "Nastradamus" is Nas' second album of 1999, the last of the millenium -- and maybe the best. It's far better than "I Am...," the "Nastradamus" predecessor, that's for sure. Nas is the urban prophet, and his slices of ghetto life are compelling, but more important, they're spoken from a firsthand view, without the boasts of large living and narrow-mindedness of small dreams. Words of wisdom are shared on "Life We Chose" and "Some of Us Have Angels," which address the repercussions of life on the dark path. In "Big Girl," Esco abandons the female-bashing of late, instead paying tribute to the sisters in the 'hood who are doing their thing. "Do anything to please her/My ghetto Queen of Sheba," Nas proclaims. He also does some preaching on "God Love Us," which assures that The Man Upstairs stands by even America's Most Wanted. Nas joins forces with Mobb Deep on "Family," an homage to his fellow Queensbridge dwellers. "Quiet N!ggas" serves as a forum for Nas' posse, The Bravehearts, and Ginuwine and Ron Isley add vocal support on "You Owe Me" and "Project Windows," respectively. Nas has made the transformation from boy to man with an insight and storytelling prowess that puts him in a class of few. Every track on the album is a potential hit, although the NC-17 lyrics on some will prohibit airplay; you can only bleep so much." - Hartford Courant (December 9, 1999). Was it easy finding a review giving so much praise to this album? Yes, it sure was! I think even Nas would say this album was mostly a miss and he's probably never performed more than a couple of these tracks out of his whole catalog. That said, I haven't revisited it in some years, maybe it does have redeeming qualities? I remember "Come Get Me" with Premo and the bootlegged version of "Project Windows" being solid cuts. I first heard the title track as a single at an ice skating rink in Central Park, my stomach turned lol. But, it's Nas... and he is still one of the greatest lyricists/storytellers of all time, so revisit the album and see how it's aged. I will do it, too...


Full review and the VHS promo with the special glasses are below...

November 22, 2021

Redman "Dare Iz a Darkside" (November 22, 1994)


Redman may have become a household name among the rap community by the end of the ‘90s, but there was a time when he garnered little more than a cult following. Why? Well, Dare Iz a Darkside illustrates this better than any of his other ‘90s albums—nowhere else has Redman ever been this odd, to be quite frank. It’s fairly evident here that he’d been listening to his George Clinton records and that he wasn’t fronting when he alluded to “A Million and 1 Buddah Spots” that he’d visited. In fact, this album often divides his fans. Many admire it for its eccentricities, while others deride it for being quite simply too inaccessible. It’s almost as if Redman is trying to puzzle listeners on Dare Iz a Darkside with his continually morphing persona. In fact, there’s actually little questioning his motives—it’s a matter of fact that Redman’s trying to be as crazy as he can without alienating too many of those who first knew him for his affiliation with EPMD. And while that affiliation does aid this album, since Erick Sermon plays a large role in production, it’s not quite enough. If this album has one unforgivable flaw besides the debatable quirks in Redman’s persona, it’s the production. Sermon isn’t up to his usual standards here, unfortunately, and the album could really use some of his trademark funk. But the reason most fans either feel devotion or disdain for this album isn’t the beats, but rather Redman’s antics. If you appreciate his wacky sense of insane humor, this album is a gold mine. If you’re more into his latter-day Method Man-style rhymes, then this album probably isn’t the one you want to bother with. After all, though Redman became a household name by the end of the ‘90s, it surely wasn’t because of albums like this. - AllMusicGuide. In his own words, Redman has always said he doesn’t listen or perform the songs off Dare… “I swear, I have not played Dare Iz a Darkside damn near since I did it. Seriously! I was so lost, I was so fucked up during that album.” But, when you go back to it, does is really seem as polarizing as we mighta thought at the time? I dunno. You can still argue that—next to Ice Cube—Redman had the most consistent run of solo releases in hip-hop history coming out the gate. That’s just a fact. Revisit it...



Art up above by the ever-talented ToonCrew! 

November 21, 2021

Group Home "Livin Proof" (November 21, 1995)


The debut album from tried-and-true members of the Gang Starr Foundation, Lil' Dap and Melachi the Nutcracker, illustrates the benefits of loyalty in the rap game. After paying their dues and appearing on prior Gang Starr projects such as Daily Operation and Hard to Earn, they earned the right to record their own LP, proudly waving the Gang Starr flag. As a registered battalion under the command of executive producers Guru and DJ Premier (founders of Gang Starr), the talented duo reaped the benefits of membership. The virtuoso DJ Premier provides a rugged and rich musical canvas for the gravel-throated lisp of Lil' Dap and the straight-razor sharp flow of Melachi. Both MCs pull no punches; their lyrics and deliveries are clear, concise, and to the point. While their lyrical content is profound in its simplicity, Group Home is never simple. Livin' Proof exemplifies the harsh realities of coming up in the concrete jungle and in the rap industry. Tracks like "Suspended in Time," "Serious Rap Shit," and the title cut portray the perilous struggle that faces every MC trying to rhyme and reason his way out of his constrictions. Track after track Premier astounds with his unpredictable drum sequences embellished by entrancing hints of piano, strings and horns that seem to dance in and out of the compositions. The results are nothing short of rhythmic masterpieces. Many cuts are preceded or interrupted by short instrumental interludes that leave the listener longing for more. Livin' Proof should not be reduced to a pure showcase for Premier; however, the deadpan lyrics of Lil' Dap and Melachi rise to the level of their maestro to create a fairly fantastic debut. - AllMusic. Arguably DJ Premier's best produced project of all-time! Revisit the LP below...


A post from my Instagram about Group Home's Livin Proof...

November 20, 2021

Happy Born Day, Phife Dawg! (Playlist)


"By the way, my name's Malik, the Five-Foot Freak / Let's say we get together by the end of the week / She simply said, "No", labelled me a ho / I said, "How you figure?" "My friends told me so" / I hate when silly groupies wanna run they yap / Word to God, hon, I don't get down like that..." When fans mention underrated, the name Phife Dawg doesn't come up nearly as often as you might expect, but when Phife came back swinging on Buggin' Out, with: "Yo, microphone check one two what is this The five foot assassin' with the ruff neck business...", Phife put the whole industry on alert. I feel so honored to have grown up in the Golden Era, to have experienced all the great music firsthand. The anticipation... the excitement... the experience of enjoying albums as they were intended. From "The Low End Theory" to "Midnight Marauders," I can't explain what these albums meant to me as a kid. It's that feeling that literally defines my childhood in sound. Seeing the documentary "Beats, Rhymes & Life" (and actually being in the film if you look VERY closely), made me feel kinda sad and De La Soul summed that up in their sentiment about how they'd rather the group just disband than carry on how they were behind the scenes. The passing of Phife left a void and yet, when they overdelivered on We Got It from Here... Thank You 4 Your Service it was a second chance; it erased those few negative memories and left us with nothing short of excellence. It's understated what Q-Tip accomplished with that album and how the heart -- that was always embodied by Jarobi -- shined through. Gang Starr was always my favorite group, because I look at DJ Premier as a god (a true living legend!), but the Queens kid in me always had the biggest heart for A Tribe Called Quest. Ya on point, Phife? All the time... Rest In Peace, Phife! He would've celebrated his 51st b-day today. Below is a brief playlist with some of my favorite ATCQ/Phife jams...


We miss you, Phife! Rest In Peace.

November 19, 2021

Mobb Deep "Hell On Earth" (November 19, 1996)


Queensbridge, New York's ice-pick-packing duo Mobb Deep (Havoc and Prodigy) has returned with a third album, Hell On Earth (Loud-RCA), that, believe it or not, is even darker than 1993's acclaimed Infamous. The raw elegance and jazzy-bop beats provided by A Tribe Called Quest's Q-Tip last time have been replaced by eerie, suspenseful bass lines and simplistic but jarring drum kicks, entirely self-produced. Grim tales like "Bloodsport," "Extortion," "Get Dealt With" and "Man Down" are violent narratives on the dangers of street life, detailed with the intense passion of young men who will do whatever it takes to survive in their troubled surroundings. This disc is not for the faint of heart... - CMJ New Music Monthly (January, 1997). I've posted the enhanced CD, press kits, album reviews and much more for this album. I regrettably didn't burn my copy of the album sampler before passing it off to someone else, that was a major oversight on my part. Either way, dig in the archives for a lot more and run this incredible winter album back, over... and over again. RIP, Prodigy!


The Infamous back in the house once again...

November 18, 2021

UFO Fev "Prayer, Weed & Music" (Album Stream)


Harlem's UFO Fev is back yet again with his latest project; a 10-track offering entitled Prayer, Weed & Music. The LP features Red Inf, ANoyd, and 1 Shot Dealz, as well as production from Statik Selektah, Wavy Da Gaed, Berto, Getlarge, Frankie P, Backpack, and Qwan. The press release for the LP shares: "Straying away from his usual one producer based formula, Fev links with a cast of dope producers from the legendary Statik Selektah to new coming heat-makers like Berto to provide a vibe." From freestyling on Funk Flex to his relationship with superstar Fat Joe, UFO Fev has made quite a name for himself and has had a prolific run in 2021. Highly sought after, the Harlem MC has a bright future in hip-hop, and this latest opus adds on, check it out below + hit the archives too...

November 18, 2021

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



"My saliva and spit can split thread into fiber and bits / So trust me, I'm as live as it gets," Royce said on "Boom," one of the illest records from both of their extensive catalogs. DJ Premier is back again with another video episode of "So Wassup," a tribute to the floppy disc. The beat was originally for a Capone-N-Noreaga session... Royce got there before CNN arrived, and convinced Premo to give him the beat. I believe CNN ended up with "Invincible," for their sophomore album, so certainly no loss there either! I remember Game Recordings; I thought they had terrible record covers with the women on the cover -- it was corny to me -- but I know Premo is heavy into porn, so I can understand it lol. Premier shares that Royce said, "I'm gonna do a record where I feel like I'm a bomb, is there any way you can put a tick in it?" Say less... Genius. While "Boom" never went not gold or platinum, the streets definitely consider it a classic record. The cuts of Lady of Rage and Guru put the nail in the coffin on this beat, no question. We heard that version of "Boom" from the movie Carmen: a Hip Hoppera, but we quickly forgot it and the vocal hook, lol. Luckily that never went to radio and wasn't the version that was pushed as a single. Check out the full episode below...

November 17, 2021

Take It Personal Podcast "No One Can Do It Better"


The Take It Personal crew kept it straight-forward when describing this episode to us, "We can write-up a teaser on how episode 98 focuses on the Golden Era with music from LL, The D.O.C., EPMD, De La, Kane, Boogie Down Productions, Brand Nubian, Ultramagnetic and DJ Quik or you can just hit play cuz you already know how TIP gets down." They call that brand loyalty, and I'm on board for whatever they cook up, so sit back and relax, listen to Episode 98 of the Take It Personal Podcast, aptly titled, No One Can Do It Better. There are dozens of episodes in the archives, dig...

November 16, 2021

Sue Kwon "Rap Is Risen" (Recommended Reading)


The last decade of the 20th century into the first decade of the 21st represent a High Renaissance age of hip hop―an era in which rap music had reached critical mass and was exploding, and in which New York City itself witnessed the worldwide ascension and cultural domination of its powerful homegrown art form. In Rap Is Risen: New York Photographs 1988–2008, celebrated photographer Sue Kwon documents this era with a combination of incisive portraits and unposed, spontaneous images that capture the energy of these ascendant artists and the city itself. With access to some of rap music’s biggest legends―some stars already, some at the cusp of their fame―Kwon’s work offers an intimacy rarely seen in the hip hop photography of the time. The Wu-Tang Clan, Biggie Smalls, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Big Pun, Eminem, Mobb Deep, the Beastie Boys, Big L, Ice Cube, De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest are all represented here, as well as dozens of other DJs and artists that communed with Kwon to produce these images. Method Man brushing his teeth, Fat Joe playing softball in the Bronx, Prince Paul kissing his baby son―the trust inherent between subject and photographer is evident in intimate, joyful shots like these. Giving a rare glimpse into real rap culture, and featuring 300 photographs, most of which have never been published before, Rap Is Risen is a necessary offering to music history and the faithful followers of hip hop. Sue Kwon began her career at the Village Voice and went on to shoot primarily hip hop artists for record labels such as Def Jam, Sony and Loud Records. Recent commercial collaborations include MCM, Sergio Tacchini and Carhartt WIP national campaigns. A MUST-read! Truly an excellent book... order your copy HERE!

November 15, 2021

J.Period "The Live Mixtape: Blastmaster Edition" (KRS-One Tribute)


J.PERIOD presents The Live Mixtape: Blastmaster Edition, a live DJ set paying tribute to one of Hip Hop's most iconic MCs: The Teacher, KRS-One. Recorded Live as part of Questlove's #GoDJ Series, this epic 60 minute episode of The Live Mixtape features KRS-One and Boogie Down Productions classics, hits, remixes and exclusives. You already know J.PERIOD has been consistently releasing some of the best tribute mix tapes, so there should be zero hesitation on clicking play immediately! If you did not catch last month's Verzuz battle between Big Daddy Kane and KRS-One, dig into the archives for that, and many other mixes from J.PERIOD. Listen to the Blastmaster Edition mix below...

November 14, 2021

Prodigy "H.N.I.C." (November 14, 2000)


A consistent MC, Prodigy builds on his previous work, defies audience expectations, and steadily increases his fan base with each accomplishment. His solo debut, H.N.I.C. (Head N!gga In Charge), introduces listeners to a side of him that isn't always rocking Mobb Deep's tried-and-true gun-blast formula. As a result, H.N.I.C. stands as a slight departure and a vivid portrait of P as an artist. H.N.I.C. is an invitation into the happy, sad, and violent world of P's life. On "Veteran's Memorial," he offers a sobering reflection of his early days, when he and his fellow Mobbster, Havoc, would record demos and shop record deals. Instead of another "listen to my demo" routine, he includes details about the many friends who have died and aren't here to see him shine. Prodigy addresses familiar Mobb topics on "Lumbar Support" and "Y.B.E." (feat. Twin and B.G.) but from a different angle. He expresses sadness at the thought of young black men choosing to earn money through illicit means and blows holes in the theory of "survival crimes" along the way. The most personal track, "You Can Never Feel My Pain," offers a candid discussion of his struggle with sickle cell anemia. After describing his love-hate relationship with the prescription drugs that keep him alive and lamenting about his inability to engage in sports, he tells his rap peers that their complaints about money and living in the projects can't match his more severe, life-threatening problems. Cont'd below, revisit...



Between thought-provoking meditations on life and art, P squeezes in a few of the hardcore club bangers that keep him paid. "3," featuring Cormega, opens with a booming orchestra that fades into lustrous harp crescendos; the hyper-tense title track sounds like an action-movie theme. Then there's "What U Rep," on which he and Noreaga team up over an ill harpsichord to humiliate peers with lines like: "Queens n!ggas like to shoot / Ain't afraid to fight / While you n!ggas wear Pampers / Like the cradle tight." Producers such as Havoc, The Alchemist, EZ Elpee, and P himself give H.N.I.C. enough hard snare snaps and gloomy strings for the hardcore Mobb fans while redefining the formula with upbeat tracks and jumpy piano chords and samples. Overall, H.N.I.C. is an outstanding combination of diverse sounds and complex themes. As long as Prodigy is rapping, the bridge ain't over." - Vibe (December, 2000). Rest In Peace, Prodigy! LP is still not available to stream!

November 13, 2021

Remembering Ol' Dirty Bastard (Rest In Peace)


New York-born rapper and producer ODB (an abbreviation of stage name Ol' Dirty Bastard) is upheld as a part of one of the greatest collectives in rap history, Wu-Tang Clan, which is responsible for hip-hop classics such as Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) and Wu-Tang Forever. ODB is credited specifically for his distinctive vocal range, wild style, and flairs for both the dramatic and comical, notably his "outrageously profane, free-associative rhymes delivered in a distinctive half-rapped, half-sung style," according to All Music. With a stage name derived from 1980's Chinese martial arts film Ol' Dirty and the Bastard, ODB (born Russell Jones) helped form Wu-Tang Clan along with cousins Robert Diggs and Gary Grice, both of whom shared Jones' penchant for martial arts movies and rap music. Also going by stage names Dirt McGirt, Osirus, and Big Baby Jesus, ODB shined on Wu-Tang tracks such as "Protect Ya Neck," as well as solo singles like "Got Your Money," scoring three Grammy Award nominations in the late 1990s along the way. Per NME, several days before his 36th birthday in November 2004, ODB was at a Midtown recording studio working on his fourth solo album when he suddenly collapsed outside the studio around 4:35 in the afternoon. By the time paramedics arrived, the rapper was already dead. A few weeks later, the New York City medical examiner released the results of an autopsy. The official cause of death was a lethal combination of cocaine and Tramadol (a prescription painkiller), which brought on the vibrant rapper's sudden cardiac arrest. The death was ruled an accident, with witnesses claiming the musician complained of chest pain earlier that day. A funeral was held at Brooklyn's Christian Cultural Center and garnered a crowd of thousands of fans. Relative RZA mourned the fellow rapper's death in a 2009 book, The Tao of Wu: "People may not know this from the outrageous character he played, but ODB was a visionary. But he decayed, he lost that vision." - Grunge. The new show on Hulu (Wu Tang: An American Saga) does a great job of representin' the spirit of ODB... I recommend checking that out. 

November 12, 2021

Joell Ortiz "Autograph" (Album Stream)


Joell Ortiz has dropped off his latest solo album Autograph. The project includes previously released single “OG,” and appearances and production from Sheek Louch, CyHi The Prynce, KXNG Crooked, Salaam Remi, Apollo Brown, The Heatmakerz, Namir Blade, and more. “My creative process is pretty simple. I write to the music that moves me and speak my truth. That’s never wavered. Once I feel like I got all of my thoughts out, I put the pen down and listen to everything in its entirety. That’s usually where I figure out things like title and artwork,” the Slaughterhouse rapper said in a press release. He continued, “After listening to this body of work, I realized that I shared a lot of personal feelings, stories, and ideas. Everything is authentic. This is signature me. Hence, the title. Autograph is an album from me to you. The old me, the current me, all of me.” - via Complex.

November 11, 2021

A Tribe Called Quest "We Got It From Here..." (November 11, 2016)


The first album in 18 years from exploratory, jazz-traveling rap heroes A Tribe Called Quest effortlessly chronicles the chaotic crescendo of the 2016 election: a warning of “mass un-blackening,” dark-humored crooning about intolerance and perceptive words about the media’s culpability in everything.... Recorded well before the election, it serves as the hands-down best musical release valve the confused and angry segment of America has gotten since Election Day. As Q-Tip says in “Melatonin”: “The world is crazy and I cannot sleep.” In addition, the band itself was rocked to their foundation earlier this year when Phife, the group’s “high-strung voice,” passed away at age 45. The shadow of his death is the other overarching theme of We Got It From Here, the remaining members paying honor on multiple songs, most poignantly when de facto leader Q-Tip spins a nearly verse-long tribute, delivering a rap as Phife himself on “Black Spasmodic.” It’s important to check the vibe throughout. Entire books can be written about how the sound, identity, location, phrasing, technical innards and even purpose of rap music has changed since A Tribe Called Quest’s last album, The Love Movement, in 1998. But Tribe, in both delivery and content, maintain the attitude of the Bohemian everydude funkonauts that inspired Kanye, Andre 3000 and Kendrick (who all appear here). Lyrically, they’re still popping the bubbles of hip-hop fantasy and examining their egos instead of inflating them. Technically, Q-Tip is in a particular school of awesomely stubborn Nineties MCs who only let their flows grow more complex, internally knotty and speedy with age; as opposed to the Jay Z route of always trying to understand what makes modern rap tick. Cont'd...



On opening track “The Space Program” Q-Tip spills, “We about our business, we not quitters, not bullshitters, we deliver/We go-getters, don’t be bitter ’cause we not just n!ggas.” The usually more elusive MC Jarobi brings his hard-rhyming A-game too, and longtime associates like Busta Rhymes and Consequence play berserk supporting roles. A record rooted in anxiety and mourning, We Got It From Here remains musically as dark and electrically relaxed as 1996’s Beats, Rhymes and Life and 1998’s The Love Movement. With help from visionary producer J Dilla, those critically mixed, commercially sturdy records were moody, muted, experimental, deeply funky and remarkably prescient, but ultimately unable to wrangle the proper amount of attention in the shiny-suit era. We Got It From Here checks in with similarly off-kilter but undeniably grooving beats. Tribe utilize the Dilla innovation of letting samples clash at odd angles; they let a copy of Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets” skip endlessly until the real John pops in for a guest spot, and the drum beat to “Lost Somebody,” one of the album’s Phife tributes, doubles up and separates from itself like a Steve Reich phasing experiment before abruptly slamming into total silence. In a contemporary move, Tribe abandon the Nineties hip-hop format and allow for modern musical and melodic sprawl, like a guitar solo from Jack White, a psychedelic keyboard detour or a spiraling verse from Anderson Paak. One of the most timeless rap groups ever has returned with a record that doesn’t sound like 1996, but doesn’t sound like 2016 either. It’s imbued with the same feeling of “Push It Along” that they’ve had from the beginning. The biggest complaint is the one thing they couldn’t control: The entire thing feels like it needs a whole lot more of Phife Dawg’s scrappy humor, personality and playful back-and-forth. His absence is not only lamented and honored, it’s also felt. - Rolling Stone.

November 10, 2021

Big Pun "Still Not a Player" (Documentary, HBD!)


A graceful and nimble rapper who delivered his often clever, tongue-twisting rhymes at a torrential pace, Big Pun was the first solo Latino rapper to go platinum. Born Christopher Rios on November 10, 1971, Big Pun grew up in the South Bronx's Puerto Rican community. He endured a rough childhood in an unstable home, and moved out when he was 15, by which point he had become interested in rapping and breakdancing. In 1989, under the name Big Moon Dog, he and several friends formed a street-corner rap group called the Full a Clips Crew. He later changed his name to Big Punisher, after the Marvel Comics superhero, and caught his big break when he met and impressed fellow Bronx rapper Fat Joe in 1995. He guested on a couple of Fat Joe tracks, "Fire Water" (which also featured Raekwon) and "Watch Out," and following an appearance on Funkmaster Flex's The Mix Tape, Vol. 1, quickly made a name for himself in the underground. He guested prominently on the Beatnuts' "Off the Books" in 1997, and also worked with B Real and Flesh-N-Bone. Pun scored an underground hit of his own with "I'm Not a Player" in 1997, and also contributed "You Ain't a Killer" to the Soul in the Hole basketball documentary. Helped by Fat Joe, Big Pun secured a deal with Loud Records. Pun's solo debut, Capital Punishment, was released in 1998 and debuted at number five on the Billboard 200 thanks to "Still Not a Player," a club-ready remix of "I'm Not a Player" that proved massively popular. Earning credibility in the hardcore rap world as well, Capital Punishment went on to sell over two million copies. The following year, Pun teamed up with his mentor, Fat Joe, and several up-and-coming MCs to form the Terror Squad, which released a self-titled debut album. Tragically, Pun suffered a fatal heart attack on February 7, 2000. He was only 28 years old, and left behind a wife and three children. His completed second album, Yeeeah Baby, was released two months later to positive reviews and entered the Billboard 200 at number three. 2001's Endangered Species was a compilation mixing hits, guest appearances, and unreleased material; it, too, was a Top Ten seller. Big Pun's life was the subject of the 2002 documentary film Still Not a Player. - AllMusic. The illustration above by Tony Caves. Happy Born Day, Big Pun (R.I.P.)!!!


Rest In Peace, Big Pun... the nicest ever!

November 09, 2021

Mimetizm "Stunt and Dust" (Album Stream)


Stunt and Dust is a remix project from Paris, France's producer, Mimetizm. The projects boasts over two dozen remixes featuring artists like the Notorious B.I.G., Fat Joe, Das EFX, Gang Starr, Mic Geronimo, INI, A Tribe Called Quest, Cam'ron, Alchemist, D&D Allstars, Jeru The Damaja, Nas, MF Doom, Westside Gunn, Evidence, Mobb Deep, Grand Puba, Lord Finesse, Busta Rhymes and many others. I haven't listened all the way through, but the few joints I did sample through sounded pretty ill. Not an easy feat successfully remixing many of these classic records from heavyweight artists! Click through to hear more from the back catalog and get familiar with Mimetizm's work...

November 08, 2021

Keith Murray "The Most Beautifullest..." (Rap Pages)


When Keith Murray was brought to Erick Sermon by K-Solo three years ago, he probably had no idea that he would be the leading representative of Sermon's new crew, the Def Squad. On his debut release, this Islip, Long Island, native drops styles like there's no tomorrow, with an inventive and hyperactive flow. Check title single "The Most Beautifullest Thing..." blowing up worldwide and you'll understand the wrath of this madboy's psychosis. Sermon serves up some superb funk on this project, but clearly subscribes to the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" philosophy when it comes to his beats. Not to say that the beats ain't funky--they are. It's just that many of the loops have been cycled and recycled, used and reused already. What about the philosophy of the new artist, new flavor, new beats? Murray, of course, cleverly rides Sermon's simplistic funk by flipping complicated metaphors, as witnessed in the weed fable "Erb is Pumpin'," the brag rap "Psycho Samatic" and "Dip Dip Die," where Keith rants: "We be blowin' up the spot like nitroglycerine/For those who be listenin'/I'm rollin' like Pirellis and Michelins/Simpleton/I get retarded like Bart Simpson." Also featured is Redman (producer of the track "Escapism"), who lends his vocal talents, along with Jamal from Illegal, on "4 Sick Patients." Although the album has its shortcomings, it is a fine first effort from an artist with much potential for longevity. With a little expansion in production and growth of subject matter, Keith Murray is definitely the kid to watch for in the future. - Rap Pages (Feb. 95).



I feel like I don't go back to this album enough, but it feels like yesterday!

November 07, 2021

GZA/Genius "Liquid Swords" (November 7, 1995)


Genius/GZA (say "gizz-uh") is the fourth, and last, member of the mighty Wu-Tang Clan to demonstrate his talents in a solo format (not counting a poorly marketed pre-Wu-Tang album in the early '90s). But, like Method Man, Ol' Dirty Bastard and Raekwon's albums, these offshoots aren't typical solo records; Wu-Tang side projects never fly far from the nest. Each one, including Genius' Liquid Swords, is created with the same ingredients: rock-solid, devastatingly sparse beats and dirty hooks that infect like slow poison on the brain. It's all part of the Wu-Tang empire, which contains everything from its own line of merchandise to an amazing World Wide Web site. With all of the familiar earmarks in place, like tales about head-hunting Ninja warriors, GZA shows us his well-disciplined flow: it's unlike the double-edged rhymes of Raekwon, but more akin to Method Man's lyrical precision. "Labels" may be the most creative, as it incorporates nearly every rap label into the lyrics, while "Duel of the Iron Mic" is a lyrical showcase of Ol' Dirty Bastard, Inspectah Deck, and others. Also be sure to hear Meth take over "Shadowboxin'." - CMJ New Music Monthly (February 1996). Still one of the greatest winter albums of all-time and some consider to be the greatest solo album from the Wu-Tang Clan... I'll leave that to y'all to debate (still). I share something from this album almost every year, so dig into the archives for rare press kits, promotional items (stickers, postcards, posters), + more! Revisit GZA's classic sophomore album, Liquid Swords, below...



"My Priority is that I'm First Priority..." - Labels.