June 30, 2022

Crimeapple & DJ Skizz "Breakfast In Hradec" (Album Stream)

Hradec is a city in the Czech Republic. I hadn't heard of it until reading the title for Crimeapple and DJ Skizz's new tape Breakfast in Hradec, but a few Google image searches in, I could easily picture myself enjoying pastries I can't pronounce at a riverside cafe. Crimeapple has grown a cult following with this rare lyrical ability to paint visuals, and he's showcased it over an impressive number of projects. Breakfast In Hradec is his third in 2022, and it's a memorable one. Crimeapple brings back the vibrant and grin-inducing braggadocio to the project along with some deep introspection. Across the nine songs he reflects on the addicts he used to serve ("In Flight"), his humble beginnings (40 Days, 40 Nights"), and discovering his talents as a rapper ("Wonder Years"). The vibe is served well by Skizz's faithful boom-bap production, its vintage chops also sounding like transmissions from Crimeapple's memory of something foundational. Whatever Crimeapple's gassing himself up on, it's working: on "La Lluvia," he constructs an entire song using almost entirely nouns that begin with the letter "L." That's not easy to do, and it's even harder to make it sound as good as it does here. - The Fader. Listen to the whole project below; it's a dope collaborative project...

June 29, 2022

"Poetic Justice" (Soundtrack, June 29, 1993)

Poetic Justice is a '90's film that not only defined a generation but also put a spotlight on the power of language. As the movie highlighted the poetry of Maya Angelou, the John Singleton-directed-and-penned movie became a box office hit -- it grossed more than $27 million since its release in 1993. Sure, it's safe to say that the film had its fair share of big names including Janet Jackson, Tupac Shakur, Q-Tip and Regina King, but it was also the soundtrack that helped solidify it as a piece of pop culture history. - DropFM. "One In A Million" by Pete Rock & CL Smooth, as well as "Cash In My Hands" by Nice & Smooth got a lot of love, but it was "Poor Man's Poetry" by Naughty By Nature that I ran back a lot at the time. You couldn't tell me Treach wasn't one of the nicest EVER on the microphone. Of course, it hasn't aged so well and would likely never get spins today because of the references to the World Trade Center. The most popular song from the film was Janet Jackson's classic, "Again," which was not included on the soundtrack due to contractual issues. Some other joints from the soundtrack include "Indo Smoke" by Mista Grimm, "Get It Up" from TLC and others from Tha Dogg Pound, 2Pac (R.I.P.) and more. Revisit the movie and OST today...

Rest In Peace, Tupac Shakur...

June 28, 2022

Jay-Z "Summer Jam" (Hot 97, June 28, 2001)

One of hip-hop’s biggest moments now has video footage backing it. New footage of Jay-Z’s 2001 Summer Jam performance was shared to YouTube, seemingly for the first time (taken down, and posted again) it’s been uploaded to the platform in its entirety. Included in the Hot 97 performance, which was uploaded by YouTube account HipHopVCR, is the moment when Blueprint-era Jay surprises the crowd with the King of Pop, Michael Jackson. The new camera angle—filmed from the top of the venue shows a solid view of how it all went down, with MJ and Hov chatting it up on stage as Jackson waved to fans and told them he loved them. Video footage of Jay introducing MJ has been shared before, but in less-impressive camera angles, despite the screams still being heard loud and clear. The footage of the entire performance also features Jay debuting “Takeover” on stage for the first time during the June 28 gig at the Nassau Coliseum. It remains unclear who shot the specific video, but whoever it was, they documented some of the biggest moments in music.... According to former Hot 97 program director Tracy Cloherty, “There were definitely some rules that went into effect” when Jackson pulled up. “Even though I was introduced to him, I couldn’t shake his hand or anything, and I couldn’t step within, like, a 6-foot perimeter around him,” Cloherty recalled. “Things like that. It certainly added another layer of security concerns and things that we had to deal with behind the scenes. But it was certainly worth it.” Check out the performance footage below. - Complex. No doubt, this was a historic moment in hip-hop, especially with the impact Nas vs. Jay-Z beef had on things. We absolutely chose sides, didn't YOU?? Oh and M.J., too!!

June 27, 2022

Lupe Fiasco "Drill Music In Zion" (Album Stream)

Inspired by the Japanese philosophy wabi-sabi – the perfection of imperfection – Lupe Fiasco wrote and recorded his eighth album in three days. Rush recording can be an excuse to coast on the fumes of creative fire, but it’s brought a welcome looseness to Lupe’s music after a gruesome chart-chasing phase. It would be optimistic to say the 40-year-old’s artistic best days are ahead of him, but this is a blessedly short and often enjoyable trip through his mazy mind. Borrowing 10 beats from inventive producer Soundtrakk’s vault, Lupe tries out different flows with varying success. Every weapon in his arsenal is deployed on Autoboto and Kiosk – internal rhyming, assonance, echoing auto-rhymes, battle freestyle flows. But he’s best when he settles into conversational yet precise wordplay such as Ghoti, with its gorgeous jazz-adjacent swing. He’s not half as engaged on Ms. Mural, wasting a smart beat on a hectoring delivery that’s like a teacher tiring of his own class. In contrast, final track On Faux Nem is a devastating tour through a wasteland of deferred hopes and evaporating futures, showing that the old fire still flickers. - The Guardian. Listen to Lupe Fiasco's latest offering, Drill Music In Zion, below... then run it back AGAIN.

June 26, 2022

J.Rocc "90's Hip Hop" (Mixtape, 2011)

One of the original turntablists, J.Rocc founded the Beat Junkies in 1992 with Melo-D and Rhettmatic, but has done just as much on his own as in a group setting. He began DJing in the mid 80's with a California group named PSK. Soon after forming, the Beat Junkies became a seminal force in the rise of instrumental hip hop, including core member DJ Babu plus future stars Shortkut and D-Styles. With countless mixtapes and his own production releases, J.Rocc is easily one of the coldest MFs! Los-Angeles based clothing label, Acrylick, tapped J.Rocc for this mixtape back in 2011, and I believe DJ Spinna for an R&B 'ting, too. J.Rocc's 90's Hip Hop mix includes B-sides and album cuts from Compton's Most Wanted, De La Soul, Group Home, Large Professor, Call O' Da Wild, Camp Lo, Xzibit, Ol' Dirty Bastard, All City, Das EFX, Black Sheep, Kenny Dope, Funkmaster Flex, Gang Starr, Da Youngstas, Pharcyde, KRS-One, Ice Cube, EPMD, M.O.P, Leaders of the New School, Tragedy Khadafi, Capone-N-Noreaga, INI, The Notorious B.I.G., Mobb Deep, Common and more. After listening to this mix, I looked back in the archives, and honestly, it's crazy that I haven't shared more of J.Rocc's mixes, we used to listen to them religiously at Fat Beats. I gotta dig back and revisit some of my favorites. More on that soon. Meantime, listen to his 90's Hip Hop mix below...

The mix was released on promotional CD, pick up a copy!

June 25, 2022

Dres & Stu Bangas "Sheep Stu" (EP Stream)

Legendary MC Dres of Black Sheep returns with his latest offering, a collaborative EP with underground's most prolific producer, Stu Bangas. The 5-track EP, entitled Sheep Stu, features A.G. of the Diggin' In The Crates crew and has Dres spittin' like I haven't heard in a long time. I've lost count of the collaborative albums and instrumental releases that have come from Stu Bangas in recent years, all of which have been consistently dope. The Mr. Lif and Stu Bangas Vangarde project especially. Teaming up with Native Tongue's Dres was a dope, albeit unexpected choice and shows the range of both artists. Dig into their EP below... and hit the archive for more from both artists.

June 24, 2022

Gang Starr "The Ownerz" (June 24, 2003)

Hip-hop music is a complex art form. Similar to the rose that grew from concrete, hip-hop's roots began and will always be grounded in the street. As the years have gone by, we've seen the music make some dramatic changes, some for the better, some for the worse. Decades ago, when the critics were saying hip-hop would never last, few would have imagined the style being so big that it has broken into different genres. You have East Coast rap, West Coast rap, Dirty South, Gangsta rap, Commercial rap and Conscious rap. Back in the day the genre was much more tangible. You had your conscious rappers like Public Enemy, KRS-One and X-Clan, and then you had your smoothed out types like LL, Big Daddy Kane and MC Shan. Somewhere in the mix there were street dwellers like Rakim and Kool G Rap. Those were the cats you could really relate with, and then you had Gang Starr. If you lived in New York you could see these giants walking on the same streets you did. Hanging on the same block you hung on. But like Biggie once said, "Man Things Done Changed." Gang Starr was in a world all their own. Gang Starr embodied the rawness of hip-hop, they introduced the k.i.s.s. method to hip-hop -- they kept it simple. Noncomplicated Premier productions accompanied by Guru's no nonsense rhyme style took the music to a place it'd never been. Cont'd...

They've been in the game for 14 years and other than LL nobody from their time can say they're still hot. At the ages of 36 (Guru) and 34 (Premier) Gang Starr are back with another unscathed notch in their belt. The Ownerz is a step back into hip-hop's simpler times with hopes of taking it back to where it began. The first single, "Right Where U Stand," allows Guru the master to shine in his true battle rap greatness. He goes toe-to-toe with one of the nicest MCs in the game. We've hard Jadakiss spit over a Premier track before, but never with Guru by his side. The rhymes Guru spits on The Ownerz are along way from Jazzmatazz tryouts. Although he tries to murder the mic throughout the album, one of the album's highlights comes from the jazz-influenced "Deadly Habits." On songs like this, Guru takes the new school on a field trip and teaches them how to build a song around a topic. Guru is one of the few rappers who can pick a topic and never sway from it. While all of the shine is directed toward Gang Starr, the cameos do nothing but add more depth. Jada rips it on the single, Fat Joe and M.O.P. make you want to grab your Tim boots when they murder the track on "Who Got Gunz." But one of the most impressive rhymes comes from the one and only Bumpy Knuckles aka Freddie Foxxx on "Capture (Militia Pt.3)." Freddie should be a candidate for The Source's hip-hop quotable with this one. The verse is truly sick. Other highlights include "Riot Akt," "Same Team, No Games" and "In This Life" featuring Snoop. The Ownerz is a beautiful ode to hip-hop. Gang Starr remains undefeated in this game of one-hit wonders and drive-by artists.  - Asheville Citizen (August 1, 2003). You know the deal, my favorite group of ALL TIME! Rest In Peace, Guru!

June 23, 2022

Take It Personal Podcast "Tribute to 1994, Part 1"

The latest episode of the Take It Personal Podcast is a tribute to my favorite year in hip-hop: 1994! They've decided to save the long description because you just need to hit that play button! What you're about to listen to is one of the greatest (if not the greatest) years in hip-hop. We all know '88 is the blueprint with It Takes A Nation of Millions, Critical Beatdown, Straight Outta Compton, Great Adventures of Slick Rick, Follow The Leader, Long Live The Kane, Straight Out The Jungle, By All Means Necessary and Strictly Business. But do you really listen to more music from 1988 than 1994? That's the difference and they plan to make the case starting with part 1 of their 1994 Tribute. The artwork alone makes the case strong: one word - Illmatic. Let them tell it, tap in below...

June 22, 2022

Jadakiss "Kiss of Death" (June 22, 2004)

With Southern crunk dominating hip hop, Jadakiss represents a dying breed of great East Coast lyricists. His sophomore salvo, Kiss of Death, places him as a contender for the title of King of New York, unwilling to go down without a fight. A swarm of A-list producers--the Neptunes, Kanye West, Swizz Beatz--contribute to Death, switching up their trademark sounds to Jada's benefit. West drops galloping kicks (sans vocals) for "Gettin' It In," while Swizz gets fish-grease funky with the blaxploitation groove of "Real Hip Hop." Guests Snoop Dogg and Anthony Hamilton join with LOX cohorts Sheek and Styles on an assortment of street cuts. Also, West Coast hook master Nate Dogg assists Jada on the G-funked lead single, "Time's Up." The hypnotic "By Your Side" and love-themed "You Make Me Wanna" show that Jada has more to offer than body counts and gun talk. On the impressive "Air It Out," Jada spits, "All I got is my balls and my vocals / And the only security I roll with is my social." He has more than that. With Kiss of Death, Jada's well on his way to achieving hip hop immortality. - Vibe Magazine (July, 2004). If we're keeping it a buck, Kiss of Death fell short of classic status, but it definitely had a handful of solid joints. Vibe Magazine gave it 4 of 5 stars, which might've been a bit of a stretch, but I can also see their logic at the time. The marriage of commercial rap and underground hip-hop isn't easy, but with a career stretching as long and as consistent as Jadakiss has had, an elusive classic album may be the only thing he hasn't achieved in an industry where he's widely considered one of the greatest MCs to ever do it. So, revisit it today, and find out why Jadakiss is as hard as it gets... on his sophomore album, Kiss of Death... 

A copy of the album review in Vibe Magazine and more is below...

June 21, 2022

Logic "Vinyl Days" (Album Stream)

Vinyl Days is the highly anticipated seventh studio album from GRAMMY-nominated, multiplatinum artist Logic. Hosted by Funk Flex and driven by samples from the vinyl collection of MadLib collaborator, Egon, Vinyl Days boasts appearances from Wiz Khalifa, The Game, RZA, Action Bronson, Morgan Freeman, Earl Sweatshirt, Nardwaur, NEMS, Anthony Fantano and more. I've heard all the criticisms, shared some of my own over the years, but Logic put together a solid project here. I'm not the biggest fan of his Bobby Tarantino projects and I understand that his fanbase is younger / gamers, but I was heavy on the early Young Sinatra mixtapes and even the first two projects. Props to DJ Premier on the title track, always finding that unique balance and bringing his signature sound to every project. Give this one a chance, listen to Logic's latest album, Vinyl Days, streaming below...

June 20, 2022

Speaker Bullies "Season One Freestyle" (Video)

It’s Speaker Bullies season… let the disrespect begin! Speaker Bullies are Supastition (MC) and Praise (Producer), a powerful combination of veteran lyricism and hard-drummed production. Their first offering, "Season One Freestyle" is putting fans on notice that the duo’s debut album, The Art of Disrespect, will be coming soon through Soulspazm Records. Supastition and Praise did considerable work together on Supastition's 2015 release, Gold Standard, before working together on this collaborative album. A deviation from the grown-man raps of Supastition's 2019 release, Sacrifice EP - in his own words he shares, "The Speaker Bullies joints that we are dropping will be more aggressive than my solo music. I think some people were thrown off by it lol." Enjoy it for what it is, but the bars are still RIGHT. "Tried locking the door / but nothing stopping your boy / until i'm coppin' more property than monopoly boards." Listen to the "Season One Freestyle" below... 

June 19, 2022

Redman's Staten Island "De La Casa" (MTV Cribs, 2001)

Redman, the gritty New Jersey rapper, who famously showed off his bling-less Staten Island house during a 2001 episode of MTV "Cribs," says the entire episode, long thought a hoax, was legit... "When they were in there filming, I did have a moment of thinking, 'I don't want to show that my city can't live the good and lavish life too,'" ... "But then I was like, 'F--k it, this isn't about nobody else but me. I invited these guys to my house and now I got to go with it.' This is just something that we do. Everything you see was real. It's just everyday life for us." Redman, who grew up in Newark, "had the chops, the originality to want to really show how he lived," "Cribs" creator Nina Diaz told Thrillist. The popular MTV show was in its infancy during the original Redman episode, but was a unique trend-setter in a TV landscape now cluttered with reality shows. "Other people would wait until they got this ballerific place to let us in because they had watched all these other ones like Master P, who was living in a gold Louisiana mansion. People saw that and they would say, 'I'm not ready... You have to give me another year. I have to make some more bank,'" Diaz said. Redman showed the no-frills side of his life. His "bank" consisted of a shoebox filled with dollar bills and his house had no screen on the storm door or a doorbell. The original episode opened with him in a messy bed, pretending to be woken up by the TV crew. He showed off "exhibit A," which consisted of "his clothes and s--t" sitting strewn about in a corner. Redman told his audience he irons clothes on the floor and shows off his "walk-in closet" – "step in, step out." Inside his bathroom, Redman pointed out the Noxzema and Herbal Essences body wash - "keeps me smelling good for the women." And downstairs, Redman's cousin, who goes by the stage name Mr. Cream, was sleeping on the floor, he says, after a long night recording at the in-house studio.... There were dishes in the sink, pizza boxes everywhere, a piggy bank, his bedroom is a mess. He was quite proud of it, and it was so refreshing because everyone in hip-hop is so style-conscious." Revisit Redman's "De La Casa" below...

June 18, 2022

J.Rocc "A Wonderful Letter" (Album Stream)

The scene is sunny, smoggy Southern California, early 1980s. Traffic is barely moving. In the passenger seat of one of those cars there is young Jason Jackson, spinning the dial on the FM radio. R&B, early hip-hop, electro, new wave, independent jams, and music from the superstars – it was all a few notches away when the airwaves were wild and free. And when the radio dial was not enough, Jason Jackson got his first pair of turntables. The DJ known as J.Rocc was born, like a character in a Marvel comic book learning how to use a super power. J.Rocc and his crew the Beat Junkies have been a seminal force in the rise of instrumental hip-hop, and were among a handful of DJs who transformed the craft into an art form. All along the way J.Rocc has been making his own beats, and A Wonderful Letter – his letter to Los Angeles, and his dedication to a lifetime of L.A. music scenes – is only his second full-length album. The LP features LMNO, Key Kool, MED, Frank Nitt, The Koreantown Oddity, The Egyptian Lover and more. Listen to A Wonderful Letter below...

June 17, 2022

Capone N Noreaga "The War Report" (25th Anniversary)

As Capone-N-Noreaga -- which naturally translates into the clever initials CNN -- were recording their debut album, Capone was sent to jail, leaving Noreaga to handle the majority of The War Report himself, with the occasional help of such stars as Nas. It's a testament to the talents of both Capone and Noreaga that C's absence is barely felt and The War Report turns into a stellar debut. Both rappers have a distinctive rhythmic style and aren't afraid to deviate from traditional hardcore rap themes. Nor are they constrained by musical stereotypes, since The War Report explodes with impressionistic samples, gritty and evocative loops, and funky rhythms. The only thing that makes The War Report a disappointment is the knowledge that it would have been an even better album if Capone had been able to participate in the entire recording. As it stands, it's merely superb. - AllMusic. Over the years, we've learned a lot about what went into the making of the album, how Capone and Noreaga met, handled recording between bids; Tragedy Khadafi's role behind the scenes, and so-on. BUT, I'm happy to edit this post to include Noreaga's latest Drink Champs podcast with co-host DJ EFN because they paid tribute to the album on its 25th Anniversary and they dove much deeper. Capone and Noreaga are joined by the power players that were part of the creation of their debut album The War Report, guests like: Tragedy Khadafi, Neil Levine, Geno Sims, Marty Most, Gregory Taylor, and the one and only Busta Rhymes. Lots of great stories that you don’t want to miss! From Iraq to Kuwait... watch that Drink Champs episode HERE, and below you can (and should) revisit The War Report. Art above by the ever-talented Torre Pentel. 25 Years!

Hit the archives for samplers, mixes, reviews, VHS tapes and more...

June 16, 2022

2Pac "Lessons To Be Taken From 2Pac" (October 5, 1996)

Tupac Shakur passed away Sept. 13 (1996) from injuries he received in a drive-by shooting one week earlier. He was 25 years old, a talented rapper and actor whose death was met with various reactions ranging from sadness to apathy. "He had it coming, he was a victim of his own hype," was one of the many comments heard. For sure, the performer was a deeply troubled young man with an apparent death wish. He harbored a lot of pain, and when he put his mind to it, he was capable of writing vivid, introspective lyrics that made those private tensions public spectacle. According to people who knew him, Shakur was also a sensitive brother who was sometimes prone to tears. Meanwhile, fellow rappers praised his generosity and professional work ethic. So while the world-at-large recognized him as only a thug, a closer look shows him as a much more complex person. His records--at one moment he could be positively righteous, the next completely inane--reveled in his myriad moods, and the TV news reports and published articles that only discussed his violent side did him a disservice; it did what much of the press does regularly to black males in America: position us as simple, one-dimensional creatures. When media organizations glorify gangsta images without providing balance or context, it's no wonder why so many lost teens easily embrace and internalize those very false images. Certainly Shakur was a wild child swiftly running out of control, but he was also a human being who didn't deserve to die. Shakur's situation begs the question, Does one choose one's role models or are one's role models chosen? He was born to black revolutionary parents who lived by the gun. And when he drifted into homelessness for a while, the people who embraced him were street dwellers. Naturally, he adopted their codes of street behavior. It would be wrong to blame social conditions for Shakur's lifestyle and ultimate fate. He may have been a victim of circumstances growing up, but later he did have access to information and opportunities necessary to exercise more positive options. He had choices--about who he hung around with, who he did business with, etc.--but over and over he made the wrong decisions. We hear that at the time of his death, Shakur was on the verge of turning his life around. He had plans to marry and release "One Nation," an album that is about unity. Whether or not Shakur was actually going to change the course of his life, we'll never know, but we can all learn something from his mistakes. Cont'd below...

One of the larger lessons is that real g's do die. In their lives, they just drift aimlessly, uncentered. As a cultural figure, Shakur symbolized the sort of values (hypermaterialism, nihilism) that fuels much of the new-jack generation. In the absence of any solid political structure within inner cities, props and cream (money) have come to represent power. Shakur sold--and other artists sell their fans--the lie that they can overcome their poor surroundings and become somebody by doing whatever to acquire luxury items and designer duds. The fact is that going that route only wastes one's life while eroding the surrounding community. In the wake of the Skakur shooting, every adult should actively work at creating spaces where young people can feel vital without falling prey to "Big Willie Syndrome." We must all ask ourselves, Are we doing something to stir developing minds and rescue them from the abyss? There needs to be more people and organizations teaching structure and discipline, as well as instilling values, such as spiritulaity and conscience, in young folk--or they are doomed.... There needs to be more on people's minds than getting paid. Increased attention needs to be focused on long-term goals like staying paid. Since the music industry holds maximum sway with adolescents, it must bear much of the blame for the state of young black culture. It's the industry with a hole in the middle that created the format called "gangsta rap." It has sold artists' Gotti dreams as reality without regard for how the aesthetic gets absorbed into the community. With fewer and fewer veterans working in black music, interacting with fledgling acts, the information needed for growth isn't being exchanged. Today, many executives and managers are the same age as artists and are not properly delineating rules of conduct for the talent to follow. When artists are signed, there needs to be artist training at the same levels as pop and rock acts. Practitioners of hip-hop must no longer be viewed as disposable. - Billboard Magazine (October 5, 1996). Rest In Peace, Tupac Shakur. Today would have been his 51st birthday! We mourn.

June 15, 2022

Stretch & Bobbito Show "June 15, 1995"

Dipping back into the well for some Stretch and Bobbito, this one was recorded on this day in 1995 with guest features from AZ, Special Ed and The Killer Team. The playlist that night included tracks from Mobb Deep, Finsta Bundy, Method Man, KRS-One, AZ, Grand Puba, L Swift of Natural Elements, Mic Geronimo, Heltah Skeltah, Rakim, Raekwon, Mad Skillz, Inspectah Deck, The Notorious B.I.G., Junior M.A.F.I.A., Bushwackass, Special Ed, Powerule, Ten Thieves, GZA, The Roots, Common and more. I've probably said it before but I generally don't post many episodes of Stretch and Bobbito, because often the tapes are mislabeled and I dislike passing off misinformation (although I'm not perfect and it does happen!). This one looks and sounds clean, so let's take it back to the 1-9-9-5...

June 14, 2022

Q-Tip "Abstract Radio" (Guest: Raekwon, 2016)

Recorded in January, 2016, this is Q-Tip's Abstract Radio with guest MC, Raekwon the Chef of the Wu-Tang Clan. Q-Tip runs through various records by Rae, and they discuss the impact of Raekwon's debut album, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... and Ghostface Killah's Ironman. They also discuss the passion to create and whether the chamber is still there for the music; whether they reached their peak and how they do it for the sport and the challenge of doing it. "You can't lose it, you can lack it." How he created and kept his legacy alive after opening his career with the RZA on production, then going out to find and curate his own sound. Raekwon shares that he knows to build it, because he studied the greats -- all the people that came before him -- including Q-Tip and he's at the point in his career where no one could tell him he wasn't taught by the greats. That can't be questioned. A phenomenal conversation between two legends in this hip-hop game. Both with celebrated classics, hall of fame MCs, and styles so unique with words and fashion, they created lanes for those that followed. Sure, rap still has negative connotations around it, but it created a path for artists to travel the world + feed their families. I shoulda shared this in 2016, but it's not too late...

June 13, 2022

Slum Village "Fantastic Vol.II" (June 13, 2000)

Imagine performing a big Los Angeles gig and realizing that so many people in the audience know your lyrics because they've bought bootlegs of your unreleased tracks. Such was the bittersweet epiphany for Detroit's Slum Village at a recent House of Blues gig. Rapper T3 recalls his mixed feelings. To know so many people appreciated his music was nice, but to know that record label struggles were keeping him from a wider audience and, of course, personal profit, was not. The buzz around the decade-old group first began in the mid-90s, when member Jay Dee passed Q-Tip a tape of his tracks backstage at a show. This led to work on A Tribe Called Quest's Beats, Rhymes & Life, and brought together Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Dee as The Ummah production team. Dee's resume filled out with De La Soul's "Stakes Is High," Busta Rhymes's "Woo-Hah" and several tracks by Common. "Jay Dee goes through phases," says T3. "He doesn't do one style. The Common joint is funk and soul. The Q-Tip joint is like techno. Different producers have one set style--with Jay Dee, you don't know." The thread that joins all of Dee's work, including his Slum Village production, is an appreciation of realistic, stripped drum patterns that may sound simple, but are complex in texture and process. The trio signed with A&M in '98 just before the subsidiary label was phased out during the Universal merger. In the meantime, the influence of Baatin and T3's unorthodox delivery--bouncy cadences that often stutter-step and defy traditional rhythms--was cropping up in the throats of their peers, including Tip and Common. How does it feel to hear your influence on seasoned artists when your debut hasn't been released? "We're all a big family," reasons T3. "It'd be different if he was someone we didn't know." And now that Slum Village's Fantastic Vol.II (Good Vibe-Atomic Pop-Barak/Virgin) is dropping, there's a chance for the group to be more than just a Motor City wheel in the underground machine. - CMJ New Music Monthly (July, 2000). Dig in!

Slum Village's Fantastic Vol.II is a project you can always come back to!

June 12, 2022

Joey Badass "1999" (June 12, 2012)

The 17-year-old Brooklyn rapper Joey Bada$$ doesn't sound like his contemporaries. The handful of young rappers with tread, most notably Chicago's Chief Keef or the recently returned-from-exile prince of Odd Future, Earl Sweatshirt, make music with pomp and bombast, as aggressive as it is catchy. But the kind of music Joey BadA$$ makes hasn't sounded contemporary since the mid-1990s, or around the time he was born. Today, Joey is the most visible member of a young artist collective called the Progressive Era (Pro Era), a crew mostly comprised of students from Brooklyn's Edward R. Murrow High School. These kids take musical inspiration from a time before any of them existed, specifically, the era referred to by hip-hop purists of a certain age as the "Golden Age." That time period, however, was dead if not fully decomposed by 1999, the year of this tape's title. While albums from 1999 like Mos Def's Black on Both Sides and MF Doom's Operation Doomsday offered potent alternatives that year to the power-balling of Jay-Z's Vol. 3: Life and Times… and the literal "Bling Bling" of BG's Chopper City in the Ghetto, rap about "keeping it real" was as rare a find as those upholding the practice. Joey Bada$$, however, is doing his best to further the period's legacy of boom-bap production as an authenticator and advanced-level lyricism as a meal ticket. 

The young man clearly has an old soul. 1999 opens with "Summer Knights", an interlude produced by fellow Pro Era member Chuck Strangers, that with its shimmering keys, loop of gentle background singing, and words from Bada$$ decrying the lack of rap "style wit no gimmicks," sounds like the direct spawn of Nas' "Memory Lane". "Waves", whose intro regarding the coveted hairstyle of young black men nationwide is the only reference to the song's title, continues in the same manner, with smooth jazz production and Bada$$ rapping, "Like I told you, I know niggas who trash rapping/ Worried 'bout the tending fashions rather than ascendin' passion." There's no chorus, but he drops a 2Pac soundbite about rap not being ready for a "real person" in the middle of two verses... It's not enough to simply appreciate the sound: Bada$$ is wholly invested in the period. For all his "old New York" posturing, though, he's a prodigious rapper, one who could have guested on a revered proving ground like the now defunct Stretch and Bobbito radio show, only to have his freestyle dubbed continuously from cassette to cassette.... Bada$$ himself treats every verse as an opportunity to best whomever you'd been listening to prior, a habit that could have been altogether exhausting for the listener if not for his ability to stay on topic.... Regardless, Joey Bada$$ has succeeded at getting the attention he wants for the music he wants to be making. That in itself is a victory in any era. - Pitchfork (June 26, 2012). Joey is very talented and 1999 is still a solid album, revisit it!

June 11, 2022

Donnie Propa "F#ck That's Delicious" (Mixtape)

UK's Donnie Propa is back with the latest installment in the Straight From The Crate Cave series; a dedication to Queens' own Action Bronson and Meyhem Lauren. The tracks included came directly from 100% vinyl for a roughly 90-minute mix. In all honesty, I've been on and off again in following the careers of both MCs, however I have a lot of respect for Action Bronson with his book, F*ck It, I'll Start Tomorrow, and the work-out regimen he's shared over the last couple years. To transform yourself and improve your health seems like a logical course of action, but for anyone who has tried to tackle it, it's easier said than done - especially as a touring artist. On the music front, I catch what I can, mostly the work with The Alchemist and in the case of Meyhem Lauren, the work he did with DJ Muggs, but with the pace of releases, it's hard to catch everything. That said, Donnie Propa's mixtape offers a nice overview of their catalogs and gives a great look at what these skilled MCs are capable of doing on the mic. So... check it out and click the archives for more.

June 10, 2022

Take It Personal Podcast "Champion Sound Episode"

Grab yourself a beach towel, a few Red Stripes, a nice spliff and join the T.I.P. crew on Episode 108 (Champion Sound), as they celebrate the marriage between reggae and hip-hop music. For this episode, they've gathered some of their favorite reggae-influenced tracks with some of their favorite hip-hop/reggae collabos and in typical TIP fashion, of course they had to sprinkle in some hidden gems. They've got music from Tiger, Supercat, KRS-One, Bounty Killer, Louie Rankin, Mad Cobra, Mad Lion, Shabba Ranks, Junior Reid and Capleton to name a few. A nice blend of dancehall and hip-hop, something that also made the 90s special -- especially on the dance floor. Dig into it...

June 09, 2022

Pete Rock & CL Smooth "Mecca and the Soul Brother" (6-9-92)

Straight from the jump, Pete Rock & CL Smooth have it goin' on. The two represent Mt. Vernon, a city just north of the Bronx made famous by Pete's cousin Heavy D, and they're quickly approaching the status of becoming the L.A. and Babyface of rap. They've produced or remixed funky gems for the likes of Public Enemy, Heavy D. & The Boyz and even Run-DMC, and the duo released the EP, All Souled Out last year which featured the hits "Mecca And The Soul Brother" and "The Creator." Just recently, they dropped the album Mecca and the Soul Brother, an 18-cut must, filled to the brim with hardcore jams that will have heads noddin' for months to come. From the first single, "T.R.O.Y. (They Reminisce Over You)," which is dedicated to the late Trouble T-Roy, to the party movin' "On And On," to the posse cut "The Basement," Pete and CL have succeeded in creating a record that relies on no gimmicks or short word hooks, just straight-up live rhymes, with fat beats and scratches--the true essence of early rap music. CL Smooth shares, "I want people to focus first on the tracks. They will be able to understand the lyrics more down the line as they play it.... Basically, we talk about things that goes on feeling more than just basic fantasy. The beat will draw them into the lyrics because they're entwined. You can't appreciate one without the other." - The Source, 1992. 

Below is the full article and interview from The Source Magazine...

June 08, 2022

DJ Cutler "Fly Fishing, Vol.7" (Mixtape)

These mixtapes from Chopped Herring Records are real gems! The 7th installment of Fly Fishing is mixed by DJ Cutler of the Pseudo Intellectuals and includes tracks from Napoleon Da Legend, Ken Masters, Ex-Cel, Lac Tha Rippa, Kasem The Party Pooper, Shifty & Da Ugly Man, Urban Renewal Project, Phatheadz, Ill Bill, Massive Staff, Perverted Dialect, Nejma Nefertiti, Da Steez Brotha, Ill Conscious, Smoky Kun, Page The Hand Grenade, Trevor J, Big Tabb, Big Sha, Landlords of the Morgue, Papa Chuk, Creaturenomics and more. While I don't do as many 90s vinyl reviews as I used to back in the early 2000s, y'all know my love for rare gems and slept-on vinyl, so I always appreciate/support Bob's Chopped Herring Records. Dig into the latest offering mixed by DJ Cutler...

June 07, 2022

Allen Iverson & Jadakiss "Living Legends" (Interview, 2016)

Allen Iverson has aged so gracefully and humbly behind the scenes. When he pops up, it's always to celebrate another player's career and accomplishments. He seems to truly be a fan of the sport, the culture and showing love to people. That's rare and it comes from a special place. Not to mention, he's still one of the greatest basektball players to ever lace up and bless the court. This video here is a throwback to when Jadakiss interviewed him about his top 5 basektball players (Michaek Jordan, Shaq, Kobe Bryant (R.I.P.), Lebron James, Steph Curry, Kryie, Durant, Mello... "it's the same thing with rap," he says unable to narrow it down, and shares his top 5 artists... Redman, Jadakiss, 2Pac, Nas, Jay-Z, Andre 3000, etc.). His impacted the culture - how he stayed himself and changed the culture by "just being me" and how he took criticism for it but it laid the foundation for players after him to do that. Jada shares many of the same hardships and glories, and that continues to this day. These are two celebrated talents and it's important to remember their continued impact. Don't forget their '01 Reebok TV commercial collaboration HERE, and the Reebok Answer 5 that became associated with Jada once it aired. Peep the interview below... HBD, Allen I.

June 06, 2022

Lloyd Banks "Cold Corner" (Mixtape, 2009)

While I prepare for the highly anticipated album, The Course of the Inevitable 2, from Lloyd Banks set to drop in July, I have been running back through various mixtapes he'd dropped during the height of PLK Banks. The Cold Corner mixtape was released as a free download through the 50/G-Unit website ThisIs50 in 2009 and hosted by resident DJ, Whoo Kid. It was the 3rd installment in the 5 And Better Series, and included a little over a dozen tracks. Young Buck had left the camp the previous year and they'd already released their sophomore effort, T.O.S. The two previous 5 And Better mixes were Banks' Return of the PLK and Halloween Havoc, which I'm certain to revisit again shortly as well. The Shady Records general, Eminem, appears on the "Intro" and while I can't say who handled all the track production, I can say it was mixed more as an early mixtape, with the sound quality a bit wild and erratic. It's still an enjoyable listen, revisit the Cold Corner mix below...

June 05, 2022

DJ Three "No Labels Allowed" (Mixtape, 1996)

Another fine Tape Kingz release from 1996, No Labels Allowed, by DJ Three. This mix tape represented the underground, during the do-it-yourself, independent era of 12" vinyl releases. It's got slept-on gems from East Flatbush Project, Pop Da Brown Hornet, Natural Elements, Percee P, Jigmastas, Saukrates, J-Live, Camouflage Large, Finsta Bundy, Big Kwam, Paula Perry, Sic Sense, AK Skills, Al' Tariq, Mr. D Original, The Juggaknots, Arsonists and more. A really dope time in hip-hop -- especially in New York City. I cop'd most of these 12" records at Fat Beats, and still give a bunch of them burn from time to time. The audio was already posted via ExtraLovely. Listen to the mix below...

June 04, 2022

Black Star "No Fear of Time" (Album Stream)

After 24 years, No Fear of Time finally reunites one of the great hip-hop duos of all-time—Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) and Talib Kweli as Black Star. Recorded guerrilla-style in hotel rooms and dressing rooms around the globe, the 9-track album has a future vibe with vintage soul, fitting for one of the most anticipated releases in decades. The record is entirely produced by super-producer Madlib and features Black Thought and Yummy Bingham. Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star was easily one of the best projects to come out of the independent era of the late 90s. It was a much-needed record and I'm glad they've come full-circle and released No Fear of Time 24 years later. As of now, the project is only available through their Luminary subscription service and there are no signs of a physical release, which I'm certain will disappoint their core fans. I will update this post when a streaming option becomes available for the full album... if/when it does, listen to the full album below... otherwise, their episode of Talib Kweli's podcast, People's Party, will stand in its place...

June 03, 2022

Wu-Tang Clan "Wu-Tang Forever" (25th Anniversary, 1997)

Why buy an album that's obnoxiously too long and too expensive, half of which could be lost forever with no harm done? Because it's the Wu, and for all the Pocahontas tie-in hype surrounding the group, you still get a dizzying number of fruitcake-dense, Möbius-strip rhymes. Creating a style with no definite precedent, playing major labels against each other--and winning--Wu-Tang Clan are basically selling avant-garde music as pop to the world. In a rare display of connectedness, group leader RZA addresses that world with his "intro" to the second disc of the two-disc set: "This ain't no [wack] R&B, all that playa dressing up.... This is lyrics, MCing." Raekwon clarifies further on "The Closing": "This is for certain people, certain fans." In other words, heads, not crossover hopefuls. Which is disappointing. Method Man and Mary J. Blige's duet was so great because it was both indelibly Wu and still pop, a pleasurable friction. But this album is for hip-hop junkies, rhyme followers who want to hear their favorite sword-swallowers drop unusually good styles over unusually good beats. There are no overall mindf#cks on Wu-Tang Forever as potent as "Sub-Crazy," "Glaciers of Ice," "Daytona 500," but the Wu-Tang style still beats Puffy's Versace cliches hands down. For starters, the Wu have Method Man. Somnolent, slurpy, and brief, his rhymes splatter all around the bar line, but never divide neatly. "We at odds till we even," from the hot "Duck Seazon" is a pretty awesome use of six words. Ol' Dirty Bastard is still group's id, reaching out to touch you with couplets like, "I'ma rub your ass in the moonshine / Let's take it back to '79," while Raekwon remains the desk sergeant of street verse, speed-folding words like origami, advancing the Wu style of reducing an entire sentence to one or two words. And the RZA is still the RZA: "Reunited" gets nice with a violin that would make Henry Threadgill jealous; "Older Gods" seems to be a duet between a dry-cleaning store and an automatic stapler; and "For Heavens Sake" has a sped-up, chipmunk-vocal chorus that only Lee Perry would be brave enough to use. The RZA burns the rule book between your headphones. For some Wu-like reason, most of the good tracks are on disc two: "Triumph" is the tag-team puzzle you were thirsting for; "Hellz Wind Staff" is just relentless; "Impossible" boasts Ghostface Killah's emotional, you-are-there narrative and the RZA's lyrical Unabombs. None of which change the fact that half of this album is kinda sketchy (I won't argue that point)... but "I don't really care." You want brevity and classique form, buy the Wallflowers. I'm spending quality time with the number-one-employee-theft-album-of-the-year, all 897 chambers of it. It beats drunken monkey every time. - Spin (9/97). This album has crazy sentimental value (to me)!

One of the greatest albums (especially 2CDs) of all-time. Wu-Tang Forever...