February 28, 2022

Conway The Machine "God Don't Make Mistakes" (Album Stream)

God Don’t Make Mistakes is the second studio album and the long awaited Shady Records debut from Buffalo rapper and Griselda member, Conway the Machine. In March of 2020, Conway spoke to Ebro on Apple Music about the project, saying he planned to release GDMM right after his “album before the album,” From King to a GOD. However, the album ended up getting pushed back more and Conway released two more projects before God Don’t Make Mistakes, those being If It Bleeds It Can Be Killed and La Maquina. In June of 2020, Conway revealed the tracklist during an Instagram Live session. The guest features on the album originally included Westside Gunn, A Boogie wit da Hoodie, Jeremih, T.I., and Benny the Butcher. Conway had also previously stated Eminem would feature, although that ended up not being the case. Production for the project was originally handled by WondaGurl, Beat Butcha, Hitmaka, The Alchemist, Daringer, Hit-Boy, 9th Wonder and AraabMUZIK. In July 2021, Conway revealed another tracklist on Instagram. The difference between the June 2020 and July 2021 tracklist, is that the order of the tracklist is shortened to twelve instead of sixteen. Some of the features like A Boogie and Jeremih ended up not being on the project, while new features like Lil Wayne and Anderson .Paak were added. The album’s first single, “Piano Love” was released in October, 2021. The album’s second single, “John Woo Flick,” was released on February 4, 2022. To help promote the album, Conway released a free mixtape titled Greetings Earthlings. It included thirteen new tracks, including the album’s singles “John Woo Flick,” and “Piano Love.” The final tracklist features Griselda’s Westside Gunn and Benny the Butcher, alongside new features from Beanie Sigel, Novel, Keisha Plum, Rick Ross, and more, along with production from Daringer, Beat Butcha, The Alchemist, Hit-Boy, Kill + more. - Genius. Listen below...

February 27, 2022

Chris Read "Hip Hop Club Breaks ’93-98" (Mix, 2021)

The Classic Material ‘bonus’ mixes fill the gaps in the original Classic Material Hip Hop History mixtape series, exploring specific sub genres or spin off genres not covered in the main series. #7 delves into a sub genre which is not entirely easy to describe. In their day these tracks were mostly just referred to as ‘Breakbeats’, but that’s not a useful definition because that had a different meaning years before and has been used (rightly or wrongly) to describe various other styles since. Loops of big Hip Hop records arranged into club-friendly instrumentals, they were definitely Club records first and foremost so ‘Hip Hop Club Breaks’ it is. Armand Van Helden’s ‘AV8’ is the label most commonly associated with the sound, although Nervous Records & its ‘Strapped’ sub label probably release nearly as many. A few other smaller labels like Slammin’ and Kingsize also played their part. A lot of DJs principally associated with House music or who produced both House and Hi Hop dabbled in these records, often under aliases – Armand Van Helden of course, but also Todd Terry, Kenny Dope, DJ Spinna and others. Others were known for making this style of Hip Hop almost exclusively – Crooklyn Clan, Davey Dex, Bobby J. As with previous volumes the artwork reworks a popular sleeve of the era, in this case the AV8 generic label and hype sticker variations. The caricature on the sticker is an illustration by Graffiti artist Temper taken from a flyer for a club night which was active around the time these records came out. Now, listen to the mix below...

February 26, 2022

Homeboy Sandman "There In Spirit" (EP Stream)

Homeboy Sandman unleashes his latest offering, the Illingsworth-produced EP, There In Spirit, on Mello Music Group. Illingsworth’s production is bright and theatrical, setting a scene for Homeboy Sandman’s charismatic delivery as he encourages everyone to be themselves. Since 2007, Homeboy Sandman has delivered timeless projects exhibiting his imaginative flows and thought-provoking lyrics. With his vast catalog, the Queens native continues to find new inspirations that make each project stand out from the rest. Homeboy Sandman’s new album There In Spirit carries a powerful message of individuality and self-actualization. For Sand, making this project was about breaking away from the mold, letting go of mediocrity and fear, and holding himself to a higher standard. Following his acclaimed projects Don’t Feed The Monster, produced by Quelle Chris, and the Aesop Rock-produced Anjelitu, There In Spirit finds the Homeboy Sandman joining forces with Detroit beatmaker Illingsworth. Homeboy Sandman describes working with Illingsworth, “Illingworth beats are a particular, one of a kind, sonic energy, that my molecular structure responds to in a way it could never respond to anything else.” He continues, “Illingsworth is one of the greatest producers to ever live. Anyone who denies that is completely in denial.” Listen to the There In Spirit EP below...

February 25, 2022

Fu-Schnickens "F.U. Don't Take It Personal" (Feb. 25, 1992)

Even before they made it to the record bins, three-man New York crew Fu-Schnickens created quite a buzz in the hip-hop community with the oddity of their group name. Once they dropped their debut album, F.U. Don't Take It Personal, their music turned out to be every bit as curious and intriguing. The music is inundated with kung fu movie dialogue snippets and all manner of lyrical references to pop culture, both obscure and otherwise; this provides the album with a joyous, tongue-in-cheek, almost cartoonish flair. That sense is countered by the machine-gun-rapid toasting and almost military-like shouts of the three MCs (Poc, Chip, and Moc Fu), who trade off rhymes so telepathically that they seem to finish each other's sentences half the time. In this regard, they fit in perfectly with peers such as Leaders of the New School and Brand Nubian, as part of the early-‘90s new wave of rap crews that catapulted hip-hop into the future partially by playing up the camaraderie of old-school rap groups. All the peer crews, however, were so progressive because they grew up fully in a hip-hop culture and lifestyle, and knew where they wanted to take it, thereby developing unique styles and, occasionally, novelties to help them stand out. Fu-Schnickens were no different in this respect, and although their fashion sense (kung fu outfits on the cover) and taste in influences may have initially painted them as a novelty, their approach to music was straight serious on this debut album, and it shows. With production help from A Tribe Called Quest, they create spare, tension-filled, intense soundscapes, and twist reggae and vintage soul samples into unrecognizable, bass-heavy tracks. Even better is the trio's ear for vocal hooks, which stamp each song with an instant appeal. - AllMusic. Revisit this fine novelty album below...

I Am a True FuSchnick OG promo sticker...

February 24, 2022

J.Period "The Live Mixtape: Story To Tell Edition"

As much I listen to and with all the artists I consistently support, I'm still finding gems I missed and it blows my mind. How did I miss J. Period's Story To Tell album release? How did I miss this mixtape I'm about to share that promoted that release? For shame! Last May (2021), J. Period celebrated the release of his debut album, Story To Tell (Chapter One) with a special episode of his Live Mixtape series, where he paid tribute to Hip-Hop's best stories and storytellers. This included exclusives and remixes from Slick Rick, Nas, The Notorious B.I.G., OutKast, Q-Tip, De La Soul, DMX, DJ Quik, Shad, Queen Latifah, Ms. Lauryn Hill and lots more! Better late than never (I've said that before), I share with you, J.Period's The Live Mixtape: Story To Tell Edition, dig into the mix below...

February 23, 2022

Prince Paul "Prince Among Thieves" (Feb. 23, 1999)

Leave it to the inventor of the rap album skit/interlude to take hip-hop to new conceptual heights. Almost ten years after De La's alterna-rap opus 3 Feet High and Rising, producer Prince Paul one-ups his own creation with an all-out rap musical, A Prince Among Thieves, the stylings of which border on a new rap sub-genre: hip-hopera. For all who grew weary at the mention of the word "skit," don't worry; the album's lean narrative, coupled with Paul's soulfully accurate production, makes for a well-polished venture into, literally, ghetto theatrics. A Prince Among Thieves takes us into the life of Tariq--played by Breez (of Juggaknots and Indelible MCs fame)--an aspiring rap star on the verge of a deal with Wu-Tang Records. Being a grand short of a flawless demo, Tariq seeks the aid of True (played by newcomer Sha), a close friend and former rhyme partner who, aside from his legal gig, deals in street pharmaceuticals for ghetto don Mr. Large (Chubb Rock). Instead of loaning Tariq the cheddar, however, True recruits him to hustle for a week, further opening this story of hope and betrayal. Giving a nod to classic rockers The Who's breakthrough rock opera Tommy, ...Among Thieves stocks its cast with a "who's who" of rap music's past and present: on "Weapons World," Tariq encounters Big Lou (Kool Keith), a sexually eccentric gun runner; on "Count Mackula's Theory," Big Daddy Kane makes his appearance as the title character who's also the pimp of Mr. Large's crew; even Everlast pops up as a crooked cop on "The Men In Blue." Other cameos include Xzibit, Sadat X and Kid Creole; as well as De La Soul. Though an offbeat piece of work--obviously not your typical LP or soundtrack--...Among Thieves delivers all the requirements for a bangin' album: thoughtful beats and rhymes. Paul provides the right track for the appropriate mood, while Breez, already a storytelling virtuoso in the underground, adds visual depth, while most every member in the virtual "cast of thousands" more than justifies his appearance in this presentation. For those looking for hip-hop's new frontier, this is definitely it. But if you're afraid of where the mind of Prince Paul can take you, then simply act like you don't know. - The Source (March, 1999). 

One of the greatest albums of all time! No debating it.

February 22, 2022

Kurious & Ro Data "Koncrete Jungle" (Album Stream)

Here's another fine project that got lost in the shuffle for me somehow... Koncrete Jungle by Kurious and Ro Data. If you're not familiar with the Puerto Rican rap legend Kurious Jorge, then you clearly weren't outside in the mid-90s. His album A Constipated Monkey is widely considered a classic with tracks like "Uptown Shit", "I'm Kurious," "Walk Like a Duck" and more. He also played a significant role in some of the late great MF DOOM's projects. Kurious returns sharp as ever in the first project since II back in 2009. Vancouver's Ro Data helps the cause by providing excellent backdrops throughout. Koncrete Jungle was released in December of last year and features Planet Asia, Chong Wizard and Homeboy Sandman. I had the pleasure of meeting Kurious back in the 90s, then again about 10 years ago at two separate events - the last of which was Q-Tip's listening party for The Renaissance at the old Knitting Factory. There's a photo of us in the green room somewhere floating around the internets. Dig into their collaborative LP Koncrete Jungle below...

February 21, 2022

Where Ya Bin At?

Yikes! I know... I haven't posted consistently since December of last year. Life... has been happening at a fast pace. As always, though, the music keeps being released and there's always plenty of reasons to celebrate the classics. So, as I've done in the past, I've kept track of what I listen to daily, and I've saved a ton of drafts so eventually I'll share those and get all caught up. (Update: it's slowly happening... bare with me!). In the meantime, I appreciate the emails and messages checking in on me, seeing how I'm doing. I especially dig the suggestions on what to listen to, and sending me various links as well as your own personal reviews on music. I do read as many as I can, and I appreciate them. What more can I say? Blogging or music journaling, whatever you wanna call it, is something to do late at night when I can't sleep or when I find a small pocket of time to share what I'm checking out... The moment it becomes a chore or a painstaking process for me, you'll notice a drop in posts. But, me with no music is not possible, so I'll always get right back. Until I don't ... then you have the endless archives to read through. Peace-n-Love - Sav. Keep it real right!

February 20, 2022

DJ DS "Sound Clash" (Dancehall/Hip-Hop Mix)

Y'all should know by now... I'm a sucker for the genre-bending sound of when Dancehall meets Hip-Hop (and vice versa). DJ DS tackles the popular sub-genre with his latest mix, Sound Clash: When Hip Hop & Reggae Collide. The mix features tracks from Fu-Schnickens, Reflection Eternal, Planet Asia, Johnny Osbourne, Lady Apache, 2Pac, The Notorious B.I.G., D&D AllStars, Sister Nancy, Main Source, Masta Ace, Barrington Levy, Yellowman, Sir Menelik, Tenor Saw, Fat Joe, Mad Lion, Yammie Bolo, Black Star, Poor Righteous Teachers, Smif-N-Wessun, Ninja Man, Da Bush Babees, and so much more! There's lots of unique flips and well-placed transitions throughout. DS adds the following message, too: "I've always had a huge love for reggae and it's related genres... I've taken the two genres and mixed them together, through exploration of the original samples used, reggae remixes of classic hip hop and some a capella's over various other tracks. I've also linked some through phrasing used and hopefully there's a few 'easter eggs' for you along the way to keep you entertained...." Listen below...

February 19, 2022

GZA/Genius "Words From The Genius" (Feb. 19, 1991)

Originally released by Cold Chillin' in 1991, Words from the Genius set the stage for the emergence of the Wu-Tang Clan two years later, with the revolutionary Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). There's a huge gulf between Words from the Genius and Enter the Wu-Tang, however, as well as from GZA's successive solo album, Liquid Swords (1995). The most noticeable difference between this album and those is the production. Credited primarily to Easy Mo Bee (billed here as EZ-Mo-Bee), who had previously worked with Big Daddy Kane on It's a Big Daddy Thing (1989) and who would go on to work with the Notorious B.I.G. on Ready to Die (1994), not to mention a long list of credits that also includes Miles Davis as well as 2Pac, the production of Words from the Genius is fairly typical of golden age Cold Chillin'; that is, it's above average and classic-sounding, but pales in comparison to the dark, cinematic beatscapes of RZA, the mastermind behind all the early Wu-Tang beats. Interestingly, RZA (billed here as Prince Rakeem) does show up on Words from the Genius, trading off rhymes with GZA on "Pass the Bone." Neither RZA nor GZA rap as sharply as they would years later; in fact, they sound young and unpolished here, if eager and showcasing signs of promise. More than anything, Words from the Genius is a novelty: Wu-Tang aficionados surely will find the raps curious, especially the aforementioned RZA collabo, "Pass the Bone," and Cold Chillin' disciples will enjoy this seldom-heard entry in the influential label's long out of print catalog. But beyond its novel aspects, Words from the Genius deserves little more than footnote status in the Wu-Tang canon. It's merely a seedling from which a bounty of fruit would blossom, beginning in late 1993 with Enter the Wu-Tang. - AllMusic. I had the tape and RAN it! But fast-forwarded a lot, too...

You Cold Chillin' motherfuckers, I still Warner Brother...

February 18, 2022

Stro Elliot "Black & Loud: James Brown Reimagined"

Celebrating the pioneer of funk James Brown, Stro Elliot has created Black & Loud: James Brown Reimagined. The album consists of ten remixes of classic James Brown songs. Stro Elliot, a producer and collaborator with multiple GRAMMY-winning artists, spent his childhood playing, studying, and listening to jazz, funk, and soul legends, building a rapport with James Brown tracks at an early age. "The 'Godfather of Soul' was The Godfather of so much more," says Elliot. "There are genres and subgenres that wouldn't exist today without him. Whatever genre one might place me in included. This is a dissection and celebration of that." For Black & Loud: James Brown Reimagined by Stro Elliot, Elliot had the chance to handpick ten classic James Brown hits and remix them, infusing inspiration from several different genres. Tracks like "She Made Me Popcorn" (remix of "Mother Popcorn") prominently feature hip-hop style sampling of Brown's vocals, "Machine No Make Sex" (remix of "Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine") transforms the original with Afrobeat rhythms and horns, "Get Up Off" (remix of "Get Up Offa That Thing") and "The Goodest Foot" (remix of "Get On the Good Foot") lean deep into a steady hip-hop groove, while "Coal Sweat" (remix of "Cold Sweat") swirls the '60s hit into a psychedelic electronic daze. All ten remixes offer a completely unique take on the song and simultaneously honor the original track as well as the many genres that stemmed from the "Hardest Working Man In Show Business," James Brown. Dig into it below... 

February 17, 2022

DJ Supa Dave "Droppin' Science" (Mix, 2010)

Droppin' Science is a mix released in 2010 by former DMC Champion, DJ Supa Dave. Paying tribute to two of the Juice Crew's most illest MCs, you'll hear some of DJ Supa Dave's favorite cuts from Big Daddy Kane and Kool G Rap. If we're still in the days of Verzuz battles, then this is even more interesting because you probably saw Big Daddy Kane vs. KRS-One, right? You're also well aware that most fans always try to pit Big Daddy Kane and Rakim against each other... but how about Big Daddy Kane and Kool G Rap? On lyrics and records alone, it's tough. Where Kane tips the scale is his live performance and stage presence, but put a pin in THAT part of the debate, and just focus on the music. These two MCs birthed many of your favorite artists. Go take a trip down memory lane...

February 16, 2022

2Pac "Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z." (Feb. 16, 1993)

On 2Pac's debut album, 2Pacalypse Now, the rapper showed himself to be a supremely passionate man, brimming over with ideas and anger and ready to voice his political and social opinions, call things like he saw them. This same kind of energy and lyrical acumen is found on his sophomore release, Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z., a record that, while it begins exploring the MC's more gangsta side ("Last Wordz," for example, which features verses from Ice Cube and Ice-T), still includes the provocative, reflective lines on which he first made his name as a solo artist, and which he continued even as he became more and more popular (and, for some, more and more frightening). "Keep Ya Head Up," one of his biggest hits, and his tribute to black women, especially single mothers, is deeply thoughtful and poignant ("And since we all came from a woman, got our name from a woman, and our game from a woman/I wonder why we take from our women, why we rape our women, do we hate our women?"), expressing opinions that aren't often equated with hardcore rappers, while tracks like "I Get Around" brags about his sexual conquests. But this was what 2Pac was, anyway, a juxtaposition between tough and sensitive, social consciousness and misogynistic boasting, and Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. shows this. The angry protest songs calling out police and politicians, reminiscent of Public Enemy -- and with Bomb Squad-esque beats to boot (albeit a lesser version of) -- the screw-the-world mentality, the soft introspection, the preaching-but-not-proselytizing, and the party anthems are all here, and though the production sometimes suffers, especially in the middle of the album, where it's utterly forgettable, the record shows a continually developing MC, with increasingly complex lyrical themes, well on his way to becoming nearly unstoppable. - AllMusic. It'd be hard to explain how "Papa'z Song" spoke to me. Revisit the LP below...

At the time, this album really hit me... it's still not celebrated nearly enough.

February 15, 2022

Rest In Beats, Big L (Daily News, 1999)

Adoring fans, friends mourn slain rapper: A rising rap star was mourned yesterday in his Harlem neighborhood, two days after he was gunned down three blocks from his home. Big L, whose real name was Lamont Coleman, was struck by nine bullets in the face and chest Monday night at 139th St. and Lenox Ave. -- a corner featured on the cover of his latest single, "Ebonics." Police said they don't know why Big L was killed, adding that the slaying didn't seem to have anything to do with a feud between East and West Coast rap factions. "Everything points to him being a good kid," said one detective. "We have no suspects, no motives." To his fans, Big L was a legend in the underground rap world, acclaimed by hip hop magazines The Source and Vibe, and dubbed the "King of Harlem World Hip Hop." Big L's mother, Gilda Terry, said she had no idea how big a rap star her son was until people from all over the world called to console her. "People have called from Japan, Switzerland, Croatia," Terry said yesterday, wearing a T-shirt with her son's grinning image and rap moniker. Big L may have talked tough in his lyrics, his friends and family said, but he was a quiet, humble man at heart. His mother said she found her son's journal, opened to his latest poem, on his bed. He was scribbling poetry in it minutes before he died. In one song, "MVP," he rapped: "If rap was a game, I'd be MVP / Most valuable poet." Yesterday, posters of Big L and cardboard signs with scrawled condolences covered a wall near the corner where he died. Flowers and candles were piled on the sidewalk as mourners prayed at the curb. "His music was 'buttah,' it was real nice," said Javon Francis, 12. "He was dumb cool with everyone," said Jarrell Richardson, 11. "Even though he was famous." The rapper was signed to Columbia Records while he was still in high school. His first album, "Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous," was released in 1995, prompting two world tours. Last year, he came back to New York and started his own label, Flamboyant (Fat Beats). He also worked as a producer and writer for other labels, such as Wu-Tang Records. He will appear in an October Films release, "Boricua's Bond." "What was surprising about this brother was that he was a somebody and I was a nobody, but he helped me," said Shyheim, a rapper whose album "Manchild" will be released on Wu Tang this month. "He will be missed." - Daily News (Feb. 18, 1999). Rest in eternal Peace, Big L.

February 14, 2022

Jean Grae "Built To Last" (Mix)

The Built To Last radio show out in France continues to impress with their wide-range of tributes to classic MCs, producers and record labels. Their latest drop pays homage to one of my personal favorite MCs, Jean Grae. In her own words, she makes "all the everything." Albums, audio books, TV shows, comedy shows, church, and catch her on these social media streets for one of the most entertaining follows EVER. I definitely miss seeing her at shows since I moved out of New York, but this music takes me right back to the indie scene she was an integral part of in NYC. Dig into the BTL mix below as they run through various tracks in Jeannie's extensive catalog of life narratives...

February 13, 2022

Mad Skillz "From Where???" (February 13, 1996)

The second issue of Elements Magazine (up in Canada) was released in July of '95, and they had this to say about Mad Skillz's "From Where???": "All I can tell you is Mad Skillz is an individual with mad skills. Direct from Punchline Ave and Metaphor Metropolis, Skillz brings skills back in to 95 while teaming up with some of the illest producers in modern day Hip Hop. How does Extra Large Professor, Q-Tip and the f#ckin' Beatnuts sound? Dope as f#ck if you ask me. The Beatnuts hooked up a crazee fat-ass loop for the track, "Nod Factor." Holy sh!t! This track feels like you're listening to Skillz spittin' out his dopest freestyles while a live DJ goes back and forth with a dope break. I must admit that a few songs outshine others, but I'm sure when I listen to this sh!t a year from now, they'll all sound nice again. Mad Skillz definitely knows how to make people like his sh!t because he comes super raw with lyrics everytime. From Where??? also features a couple of guest appearances but I'mma save that surprise for you. I will tell you though, that some Virginia cats jump on a joint and fully --sorry I gotta use the word--represent. The funny thing is, even though Mad Skillz represents VA to the fullest, you'll realize sooner or later, that he's actually representing Hip Hop so hard that it almost makes me cry tears of joy. Well, maybe not cry but maybe bust my own freestyles, dance, then --in no particular order--drink beer and smoke some bud. Oh yeah, and later maybe grab a girl--- ah f#ck it you get the idea. Buy it or forever be wack." Revisit it below...

Here's a copy of the review of the '95 review in Elements Magazine...

February 12, 2022

Merakai "Merakai" (EP Stream)

Merakai is an up-and-coming California-based producer who’s sound is reminiscent of the golden era of Hip-Hop. With influences by legendary producers such as Madlib, J Dilla, Apollo Brown, and many more, Merakai's instrumentals are laced with samples from Jazz to Soul. Merakai's debut self-titled EP serves as a collaboration between producer and rapper. With heavy hitters such as Skyzoo, Che Noir, Noveliss, turntablist Chinch 33, and more, the self-titled EP proves to be a successful introduction to his production and the overall sound he plans to curate. The EP is a brief 7 tracks, but it's a nice project... I definitely recommend checking it out below. I believe it was released at the end of 2021, but I'm still catching up on new releases! Keep an ear out for more...

February 11, 2022

Lord Finesse "The Return of the Funkyman" (Press Kit, 1991-1992)

"I don't need dancers," says Lord Finesse about his own remarkable abilities. "My vocabulary does it all." A word technician of the highest order, Lord Finesse has long been an underground favorite in and around his native New York. Now, with the release of his Giant Records debut, Return of the Funkyman, Lord Finesse is poised to impress millions hungry for a new and funkier approach to rap. The new album indeed signifies the return of Lord Finesse. His 1990 premier album, The Funky Technician, released on a small independent label, established him in the hard-to-pease Northeast as a witty and dazzling wordsmith. His current crew consists of DJ's Mike Smooth and Steve D and fellow MC's Andre the Giant and Percee P. Return of the Funkyman was produced by a variety of producers including former Low Profile member DJ Aladdin, Diamond D, Showbiz and Lord Finesse himself. The music is supremely funky, thanks to the ingenious cuts of Mike Smooth and Steve D. But the star of this show is the funkyman himself, Lord Finesse. Perhaps no other rapper today is as adept at clever punchlines as Lord Finesse. Tracks like "I Like My Girls With A Boom," "Show 'Em How We Do Things," "Praise The Lord" and the debut 12" "Isn't He Something" shine with Finesse's racy sense of humor and facility for clever rhyme. The title tracks retells the harrowing story of Finesse's experience on a shady record label and he offers warning to other fledgling rappers about the dangers of signing with crooks. "Hands In The Air, Mouth Shut" takes on rappers who don't really know what they're talking about, while "Fat For The '90s" pairs Finesse and Andre the Giant in a memorable word battle. Finesse also offers insightful commentary, especially on "Stop Sweating The Next Man," which urges people to have faith in themselves ("Gonna rise instead of sinking / I use my head for thinking"), the attitude that certainly helped Finesse get where he is today. Cont'd...

Born and raise in the Bronx, the heartland of Rap, Lord Finesse began rhyming at young age. "When they introduced me to metaphors and similes in school, that was it," he recalls. Listening to well-known New York rap radio DJs like Marley Marl convinced Finesse he could make it as a rapper. He played neighborhood block parties and jams, gaining local popularity. However, making the transition to professional rapper wasn't easy. Family and friends told him it would be difficult, but his grandmother lent him $150 to record his first demo. "She told me, 'Follow your dreams,'" he recalls. A period of struggle ensued, with Finesse knocking on every door in town. He never gave up and, when he finally released The Funky Technician, he gained a foothold in the rap world. Fans and critics responded to his use of compound words and inner rhymes. He also earned the respect of fellow rapper Ice-T, who helped introduce him to Giant Records. Now, with The Return of the Funkyman, Lord Finesse breaks new ground. "It's a personal album," he notes. "I just express everything I went through recently." Though the album does recount some dark periods in his life, these days Finesse is happy and working with other young up-and-coming artists. But for the present, Lord Finesse is content to know he's made one slammin' album for the ages. The funkyman is most definitely back! - Press Kit (September, 1991). At the time, Finesse was easily one of the fiercest, most talented MCs! 

February 10, 2022

Kanye West "The College Dropout" (Feb. 10, 2004)

Producer Kanye West's highlight reels were stacking up exponentially when his solo debut for Roc-a-Fella was released, after numerous delays and a handful of suspense-building underground mixes. The week The College Dropout came out, three singles featuring his handiwork were in the Top 20, including his own "Through the Wire." A daring way to introduce himself to the masses as an MC, the enterprising West recorded the song during his recovery from a car wreck that nearly took his life -- while his jaw was wired shut. Heartbreaking and hysterical ("There's been an accident like Geico/They thought I was burnt up like Pepsi did Michael"), and wrapped around the helium chirp of the pitched-up chorus from Chaka Khan's "Through the Fire," the song and accompanying video couldn't have forged his dual status as underdog and champion any better. All of this momentum keeps rolling through The College Dropout, an album that's nearly as phenomenal as the boastful West has led everyone to believe. From a production standpoint, nothing here tops recent conquests like Alicia Keys' "You Don't Know My Name" or Talib Kweli's "Get By," but he's consistently potent and tempers his familiar characteristics -- high-pitched soul samples, gospel elements -- by tweaking them and not using them as a crutch. Even though those with their ears to the street knew West could excel as an MC, he has used this album as an opportunity to prove his less-known skills to a wider audience. One of the most poignant moments is on "All Falls Down," where the self-effacing West examines self-consciousness in the context of his community: "Rollies and Pashas done drive me crazy/I can't even pronounce nothing, yo pass the Versacey/Then I spent 400 bucks on this just to be like 'N*gga you ain't up on this'." If the notion that the album runs much deeper than the singles isn't enough, there's something of a surprising bonus: rather puzzlingly, a slightly adjusted mix of "Slow Jamz" -- a side-splitting ode to legends of baby-making soul that originally appeared on Twista's Kamikaze, just before that MC received his own Roc-a-Fella chain -- also appears. Prior to this album, we were more than aware that West's stature as a producer was undeniable; now we know that he's also a remarkably versatile lyricist and a valuable MC. - AllMusic.

I'm not the biggest Kanye FAN, but he sure did have some classics!

February 09, 2022

J.Period & Black Thought "The Live Mixtape: Dilla Day Edition"

J.PERIOD & Black Thought Present The Live Mixtape: Dilla Day Edition, an explosive live performance captured onstage at Dilla Day Miami, featuring one of Hip Hop's all-time greatest lyricists, Black Thought, paying tribute to one of Hip Hop's all-time great producers, Jay Dilla, with a barrage of freestyles, exclusives verses and unreleased remixes over a medley of Dilla beats curated and remixed by J.PERIOD. Recorded Live. Previoulsy Unreleased. Happy Dilla Day! The collaborative mix-efforts of J.PERIOD and Black Thought have all been exceptional, to say the least... so why would we expect anything different to honor the late great, J. Dilla? Don't be crazy, dig into this mix below...

February 08, 2022

Ghostface Killah "Supreme Clientele" (Feb. 8, 2000)

After the great Wu-Tang creative storm of 1999 was greeted with weak album sales and critical jeers, many were doubtful that the Clan Empire would be able to recover from the blow. Supreme Clientele not only eclipses the majority of recent Wu-related releases in terms of sheer hunger and in-your-face creativity, it marks a renewed sense of unification and strength within the Wu World Order. While the album's production credits go to such non-family members as Beatnut Juju, Carlos "Six July" Broady and the UMC's Hassan, all of its tracks were arranged by Ghostface and Wu sound-sensei RZA, giving the album a strong sense of focus. Beat-wise, the grooves harken back to the dungeon-raw Shaolin style of the Clan's mid-'90s prime, interwoven with early '70s soul orchestration, acid-rock guitar lines and thunderous bass loops. Lyrically, the Ironman's trademark rapid-fire cadence and vivid wordplay are as sharp as ever, particularly on the relentlessly gritty "Might Healthy" and on future-classic posse cuts such as "Buck 50," which features Method Man, Masta Killa, Cappadonna, and Redman. Supreme Clientele was well worth the wait, and a solid reminder as to why Ghostface's voice is the first one you hear on the Clan's inimitable debut. - CMJ New Music Monthly (February, 2000). Ghostface was razor sharp on this one. Revisit the LP below..

A copy of the February 21, 2000 review in CMJ New Music Report...

February 07, 2022

Take It Personal Podcast "Ode to 1990"

Episode 101 is an ode to 1990. This was a defining moment in hip-hop as the musical tides started to turn. The 80s were done, as were many of the styles and genres to come out of that decade. Rap dominated the airwaves and took over pop culture as we know it. While both MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice were at the top of the pop charts, it was influential voices like Chuck D, Ice Cube and Shock G that provided the sounds cherished to this day. The Afrocentrism movement was huge as legendary groups such as X-Clan, Poor Righteous Teachers, Jungle Brothers, A Tribe Called Quest, Brand Nubian and Public Enemy provided anthems throughout 1990. That same year, we had classics that were bound to wreck your body and say turn the party out…"Treat ‘Em Right," "Bonita Applebum," "The Humpty Dance" and "Jingling Baby." It wasn’t just music, the movies that came out in 1990 still hold a special place in our hearts. Watching House Party over and over. Laughing at Full Force saying everyone smells like pussies or when Chill couldn’t stop bumping the table while dragon-breath Bilal would try to mix. Who doesn’t watch all of Goodfellas every time it’s on TV? Air Jordan V’s were on every kid’s feet. Posters of Bo Jackson, Barry Sanders, Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky were on every kid’s bedroom wall. It wasn't just any year, it was one of the greatest. On episode 101, the Take It Personal crew pays homage to one of the most important years in hip-hop -- 1990! Dig in...

February 06, 2022

50 Cent "Get Rich or Die Tryin" (February 6, 2003)

“Realness,” in hip-hop terms, is the true wealth of any gangsta worth his tough talk. And right now, no rapper is richer than 50 Cent. How else do you characterize a man who admits he was still dealing crack when he received the advance from his first record deal? Whose first single, 1999’s “How to Rob,” was a heist fantasy that sparked a beef with nearly every rapper in the business? Who was stabbed in a March 2000 fracas with rival Ja Rule’s crew, shot nine times (once in the jaw) in an unrelated incident two months later and was dropped by his label, Columbia, for fear of more violence? Granted, mayhem is no guarantee of skills; there have been plenty of genuine thugs-turned-rappers who couldn’t properly rhyme the couplets from Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham if they read them off a Teleprompter. A 27-year-old from Queens, New York, 50 is prodigiously skilled, although not in the lyrical-acrobat manner of Jay-Z or Eminem. Instead, his talent is seeming clever and likable in the midst of menace. Call it an Everythug appeal. Despite having been shot more times than Cindy Crawford, he still cracks nonchalant, loading his hit “Wanksta” with this deadpan outlaw boast: “N!ggas say they gon’ murder 50, how?/We ride around with guns the size of Lil’ Bow Wow.” 50’s outrageousness and charismatic, lazy drawl caused a frenzy last year when he released multiple mix tapes with his G-Unit clique, supplying them directly to street vendors and generating the biggest buzz in hip-hop since the heyday of Biggie Smalls. These tapes found a booster in Eminem, who signed 50 to his Shady Records label for a reported $1 million. Review cont'd below...

The feverishly anticipated Get Rich or Die Tryin’ is a dark, despair-ridden collection of sociopathic vignettes. On “Heat,” 50 celebrates the joy of firearms over a Dr. Dre–produced track that perversely substitutes gunshots for drum snares. The nasty, Southern bounce–style “Blood Hound” features the fractured refrain “I love to pump crack/Love to stay strapped/Love to squeeze gats,” which he spits like a gleeful schoolkid during recess. Even at their most nihilistic, these 16 songs (plus three bonus tracks) resonate melodically, like Eminem’s most haunting material. Credit 50’s gift for crafting indelible, sing-songy hooks, epitomized by “Wanksta”, his bubbly cadence on the Dre-produced radio monster “In da Club” and “21 Questions,” which sounds like his next big smash. It’s the closest thing to a love song he’s ever recorded: 50 imagines scenes of misfortune — falling off, jail time, working at Burger King — and gently quizzes a girl about whether she’ll stick by him. Of course, most of 50’s material is far less sensitive — at least toward others... Abetted by a suitably dramatic Eminem-produced beat, “Patiently Waiting” addresses the threats that follow 50: “If I get shot today my phone’ll stop ringin’ again.” Em’s guest verse on the song even cryptically likens 50 to slain rap gods Biggie, Tupac Shakur and Harlem cult hero Big L — a comparison likely to make 50 hug his ever-present bulletproof vest even tighter. “Many Men (Wish Death),” a frightening composition in the vein of Snoop Dogg’s “Murder Was the Case,” is the most powerful track. Starting with a dramatization of 50’s shooting, the song unravels as an inner conflict as he turns alternately enraged, arrogant, contemplative, desolate and tormented, his mood swinging with each line. Then it concludes with an eerie, vengeful announcement about his attacker: “In the Bible it says what goes around comes around/Homie shot me, three weeks later he got shot down/Now it’s clear that I’m here for a real reason/’Cause he got hit like I got hit, but he ain’t fuckin’ breathin’.” 50 is as much a threat to his adversaries as to himself. And the warrior title of his wild debut might be wrong: He might get rich and die trying. - Chairman Mao. An era-defining album, revisit it today...

February 05, 2022

Lex Boogie From The Bronx "In Case I Don't See Tomorrow"

Here's a statement from Lex Boogie From The Bronx on his latest offering, In Case I Don't See Tomorrow: "Time waits for no one, and lately, my life experiences have been a testament to that. There was a time that I strived for perfection in all aspects of my life. I wanted my Art to be as close to a perfect representation as I could get it because it represented me and my Bronx perspective... But, after spending 19 days on my back in the hospital, and now reflecting on how much of myself I lost and how much more I could lose waiting on everything to be perfect, I've decided that everything Tone Beatz and I put in during the time we worked on this project was a perfect representation of us both, and that needs to be honored, as is. In the past, I've spent way to much time being concerned about mixes and sonics and it’s not that I don’t care about those aesthetics anymore, but honestly, I don’t care to be perfect. I had a revelation that the beauty and rawness of my art lies in between the imperfections and should also be heard. What I feel are imperfections are just as vital to my art and in no way define me. It was and is a moment captured in time that deserves to be preserved as-is. While the rest of the world continues to strive for perfection in this simulation, I offer just a small clip of truth through my art." The 13-track LP from Lex and Tone Beatz is very solid; I hope you don't miss the chance to give this a full listen below...

February 04, 2022

Cam'ron "Killa Season" (Movie, 2006)

First off, Happy Born Day to Cam'ron... I was thinking of what to post and since I'd already done a playlist last year, I figured let's take it to his indie film Killa Season, which was released in 2006. Nowhere near as cinematic as Paid In Full, but it's low-budget entertainment at its best. The DVD shares, "This Harlem inspired story details Flea's rising empire to take over the streets and an unstoppable drive to hustle all the money in various places around the world. Flea was a basketball player, happy with his subtle hustle, until a Dominican connect introduced him to a new way to spread the work and make all the "cake." Revenge will take place when honor is at stake. No one wants to see you on top. Cameron Giles, you saw him in Paid In Full, makes his directorial debut with this powerful and detailed story of growing up in Harlem and learning to be #1. With powerful performances by Cam'Ron (Paid In Full), Juelz Santana, and Hell Rell, the film also faetures cameos by Funkmaster Flex and Michael Williams from HBO's The Wire." Fortunately the full film is available via YouTube, so you can check that out below, then dig in the archives for other posts that more closely celebrate the career of Cam'ron. Quite the entrepreneur, props to Cam'ron for all his moves. 

February 03, 2022

$tay Puft "$tay-Wu: Volume 2" (Mixtape)

I enjoyed the first volume in the $tay-Wu mix-series so let's continue on... As he shared, this tape is stitched together from solo joints, soundtrack work, and compilation albums mostly from the post 8 Diagrams era. $tay Puft picked his favorite tracks and cut them into one mixtape that he feels pays proper homage and respect to the almighty WU-TANG CLAN. I included a picture of the mix's tracklist above to reference, but it's the Wu-Tang Clan... just click play below and enjoy! There are other volumes, but I haven't listened to them yet, so keep an eye out for those mixes coming soon...

February 02, 2022

Brand Nubian "In God We Trust" (February 2, 1993)

"Everything is a balance," declares Brand Nubian rapper Lord Jamar. "That's what we try to show with our music -- the balance between the seriousness of trying to spread knowledge and showing that we're real people who enjoy life." On In God We Trust, Brand Nubian bring their inimitable mix of elements to a new level of precision and power. Knowledge and understanding parallel rage. Intensely held beliefs of the Five Percent Nation of Islam segue into party-hearty road tales. The ancient Muslim vocal of the first cut, "Allah U Akbar," blends with the sublime manipulation of the most sophisticated new technology. "This record is more organized and more rough," believes Sadat X. In God We Trust was recorded after the departure of original member Grand Puba Maxxwell; "It's just two different types of musical expression; people will be able to tell the difference between the two albums," says X, previously known to Nubian fans as Derek X. (Sadat is a more righteous, fitting name," he explains...) The urgent, multi-layered beats of the first single, "Punks Jump Up To Get Beat Down," set the stage: "The track is about not being taken advantage of in life," explains Jamar. "The feelings you have when someone tries to take advantage of you and what we would do if that happens. It's also beating them down with the sound," he says with a smile. "We're beating them down with the lyrics, the vocals, the mentality -- and physically, if it has to be." Brand Nubian formed less than two years before making their major label debut, when Sadat X and Lord Jamar left their retrospective outfits, the Chosen Few and KD & The Ever-Lovin' 3. Sincere, officially joined the group in time to record In God We Trust, although he had creative input on Brand Nubian's first album, One For All. "We'd been friends for a long time," Jamar recalls. "We both got knowledge around the same time." The New Rochelle, New York-based group made their debut at a 1989 New Music Seminar showcase. - Press Bio, 1993. Revisit Brand Nubian's sophomore LP, In God We Trust, below...

Here's the official press release from Brand Nubian...