August 31, 2022

Mystic "Dreaming In Cursive: The Girl Who Loves Sparklers"

Oakland's Mystic, aka the DU Goddess from Digital Underground, is a GRAMMY-nominated hip hop artist who is also an activist, scholar, community educator, and home chef. She is known for using her art to promote healing, support movements for justice, and build community. Her debut album Cuts For Luck and Scars For Freedom (2001) is easily one of my favorite albums. Mystic released her follow-up LP, Beautiful Resistance, in 2014 and has since been acquiring her masters and getting music onto DSPs. Her podcast series Behind The Journey is a 6-part look into the making of her Grammy-nominated debut. Back once again, her latest effort, Dreaming In Cursive: The Girl Who Loves Sparklers, is entirely produced by Walt Liquor. With a strong IndieGogo campaign, Mystic reached her goal of $18,000 to create multiple visuals for the project, which I'm excited to see. The concept of "black love" is strong throughout and promotes healing through music she categorizes as "healed Black woman music." Experience Dreaming In Cursive: The Girl Who Loves Sparklers below...

August 29, 2022

Roc Marciano & The Alchemist "The Elephant Man's Bones"

It can be unwise to play favorites in the music biz, but maybe nobody told that to The Alchemist. “I really made an album with my favorite rapper and it drops tonight at midnight,” the producer tweeted ahead of the release of his and Roc Marciano’s The Elephant Man’s Bones. “I’m tripping.” Hempstead, Long Island-originating Marciano is no stranger to peer adulation, however. His time as a recording artist dates at least as far back as a stint with Busta Rhymes’ late-’90s Flipmode Squad collective, but the name he has today was made from the string of gritty and impressive solo projects he released across the 2010s. You do need a specific kind of ear to fully appreciate the MC. Roc Marciano raps in the kind of street code that reveals itself to be genius to those who can grasp its nuances. Take this couplet from The Elephant Man’s Bones’ “Daddy Kane”: “I been getting off that soft white long before shorties was rocking Off-White/Water-colored ice, I call it Walter White/Walk with me like a dog might, I got 44 bulldogs, you ain’t got a dog in the fight.” The bars themselves are less complex than they are both slimy and razor-sharp. These are raps to be heeded and, maybe more importantly, enjoyed at a safe distance. Unless, of course, you’re The Alchemist—or album guests Action Bronson, Boldy James, Ice-T, or Knowledge the Pirate—in which case you can’t wait to add some of your own ingredients to Marciano’s cauldron. - via Apple Music. 

August 28, 2022

RZA "Digital Bullet" (August 28, 2001)

Digital Bullet is RZA's second album under his latest alias, as Bobby Digital. It's no shock that he brought Bobby back; the first Digital outing, Bobby Digital in Stereo, was a high mark in the Wu Tang Clan producer's prolific career. What is a bit surprising is the sound of this effort, which frequently stretches all the way back to the mystical murk of the Clan's first album, Enter the Wu-Tang. The muffled beats and disorienting, late-night soundscapes of that hip-hop classic have been imitated countless times since its 1993 release, but nobody does 'em like the RZA, and uneasy tracks like "Must Be Bobby" and "Domestic Violence Pt. 2" seem to bring him full circle -- as does the presence of several Clan members, including the jailed ODB. Even the nods to the mainstream -- "Glocko Pop" and the swaying single "La Rhumba" -- seem, like RZA's best work, to have arrived from a slightly different dimension. Meanwhile, there is a storyline to this installment of the Digital story, but as on In Stereo, listeners have to use some imagination to fill it out; RZA's rhymes are often as evocative and opaque as the kung-fu flicks he loves. But as always, he creates tracks that are more about atmosphere than message -- and when he's on his game, as he is here, it's hard to argue with that approach. - AllMusic. As RZA himself put it, “My birth name is Bobby Diggs. So at the time, creatively, I felt like I was in a digital frame…As Bobby Digital, I could use a character to describe some of the earlier days of my own life. Partying, bullshitting, going crazy, chasing women, taking drugs. It was a mixture of fiction and reality together to make a character I thought would be entertaining.” Audiences reacted by driving the release up to number 24 on the Top 200 and a Top 10 position on the R&B/Hip Hop Albums chart. Now, revisit the RZA's Digital Bullet from 2001 below...

Admittedly, I didn't get into his solo albums at the time, but they grew on me.

August 27, 2022

OutKast "ATLiens" (August 27, 1996 + Tribute Mix)

Though they were likely lost on casual hip-hop fans, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik was full of subtle indications that OutKast were a lot more inventive than your average Southern playas. Their idiosyncrasies bubbled to the surface on their sophomore effort, ATLiens, an album of spacy sci-fi funk performed on live instruments. Largely abandoning the hard-partying playa characters of their debut, Dre and Big Boi develop a startlingly fresh, original sound to go along with their futuristic new personas. George Clinton's space obsessions might seem to make P-Funk obvious musical source material, but ATLiens ignores the hard funk in favor of a smooth, laid-back vibe that perfectly suits the duo's sense of melody. The album's chief musical foundation is still soul, especially the early-'70s variety, but other influences begin to pop up as well. Some tracks have a spiritual, almost gospel feel (though only in tone, not lyrical content), and the Organized Noize production team frequently employs the spacious mixes and echo effects of dub reggae in creating the album's alien soundscapes. In addition to the striking musical leap forward, Dre and Big Boi continue to grow as rappers; their flows are getting more tongue-twistingly complex, and their lyrics more free-associative. Despite a couple of overly sleepy moments during the second half, ATLiens is overall a smashing success thanks to its highly distinctive style, and stands as probably OutKast's most focused work (though it isn't as wildly varied as subsequent efforts). The album may have alienated (pun recognized, but not intended) the more conservative wing of the group's fans, but it broke new ground for Southern hip-hop and marked OutKast as one of the most creatively restless and ambitious hip-hop groups of the '90s. - AllMusic. Today, we're tapping into last year's tribute mix from Toronto's DJ Filthy Rich. Celebrating over 25 years of OutKast's classic album ATLiens, Filthy Rich's mix includes original samples, exclusive blends, and remixes. Listen below because "The South got somethin' to say!" is still relevant to this day. Art above by Torre Pentel. Props to DJ Filthy Rich.

August 26, 2022

Milkcrate "Hip-Hop 50, Vol.1" (Remix Tape)

I'm gonna watch my words and tread carefully here... because to remix ANY project that was originally produced by the G.O.A.T., DJ Premier, is a tall order. Hella ambitious, producer Milkcrate humbly took on the task of remixing the latest EP from DJ Premier, Hip-Hop 50, Vol.1. The project features vocals from Joey Bada$$, Remy Ma, Rapsody, Nas, Run The Jewels, Slick Rick and Lil' Wayne, reflipped with original production by Toronto producer, Milkcrate. With an extensive back catalog of various remixes throughout the years, I admittedly hadn't tapped in with too much despite catching a remix on various playlists. I sat with this because I heard the remix to "Terrible 2's" (featuring Run The Jewels) and it caught my attention. Clicked through and bang, there's the full EP... and it's all equally dope. Whether or not it's better than the original is not a hill I'm prepared to die on, but suffice to say I'm sharing it so you know I think it's worthy of your time and attention. Unfortunately, remix projects often get taken down, so listen/support it below if/while you still can...

August 25, 2022

Lauryn Hill "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" (August 25th, 1998)

The chocolate-skinned twenty-three-year-old working single mom named Lauryn Hill – blessed with a beauty that attracts the fellas without turning away the sistas – is that rare artist who can be righteous and not self-righteous, who thinks a lot of herself without ego tripping. That's partly because she's so very honest – "Every time I try to be," she says in the title song," what someone has thought of me/So caught up, I wasn't able to achieve" – and partly because within her self-love message you can hear her implicitly saying "Love yo'self." Her confidence – "You can't match this rapper-slash-actress/More powerful than two Cleopatras.... MCs ain't ready to take it to the Serengeti/My rhymes is heavy like the mind of Sister Betty," from "Everything Is Everything" – makes you feel confident. She sounds like an artist you could, should, look up to, like Chuck D back in his heyday. She sounds like that before you even realize what she's rhyming about, because the very timbre of her voice – that deep, oven-roasted sound when rhyming, the sweet, melancholy-tinged midrange she owns when singing, the way she always comes confidently from deep within her chest – it communicates a self-respect and self-love. The sound of a woman who takes herself seriously. A sound that recalls, for me, the sharp, strong voice of Joni Mitchell. Joni seems a musical North Star for Lauryn, with her biting honesty, her musical innovativeness that's never exposed in an ornate or showy way, her confidence to keep it simple. Both speak universal truths from a definitely female perch. Revisit Ms. Hill's The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill/album review cont'd below...

Lauryn's epic, adoring tribute to her young son, "To Zion," is one of the album's high points. While the legendary Carlos Santana plays a sweet acoustic Spanish guitar behind her, Lauryn speaks of weighing whether or not to have her baby: "Woe this crazy circumstance/I knew his life deserved a chance/But everybody told me to be smart/'Look at your career,' they said/'Lauryn, baby, use your head'/But instead I chose to use my heart." She goes on throughout the record vacillating between hip-hop-based shoulder shakers like "Everything Is Everything," dramatic ballads like "Nothing Even Matters," with hip-hop-soul king D'Angelo, and smooth and infectious joints with the warmth of old Stevie Wonder, like the hidden track "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" and the title song. It's an album – like few hip-hop albums, like most hip-hop-soul classics – that you could play at a family reunion, or any sort of multigenerational party, and get everyone bouncing and singing along without anyone ever having to cringe. Lauryn is the sort of young woman whom the old women smile at lovingly, their eyes saying, "With people like you around, this generation, and your music, might just be all right, after all." Maybe it wasn't a deal with the devil. Maybe it was with an angel. - Rolling Stone.

August 24, 2022

Tha Alkaholiks "21 & Over" (August 24, 1993)

Ohio natives turned West Coast underground kings, Tha Alkahokiks have long been one of hip-hop's best-kept secrets: hilarious lyrical acrobats who have never received the critical or commercial support they deserve. Assembled by gangsta rapper King Tee, they offer a witty, anarchic, and party-friendly alternative to the stone-faced, largely humorless gangsta rap that ruled the West Coast throughout much of the early '90s. With the punch lines and comic timing of comedians and undeniable skills and killer delivery of topnotch MCs, rappers J-Ro and Tash have more than enough talent and energy to back up their endlessly clever boasting. Producer, DJ, and occasional MC, E-Swift is the group's secret weapon, an unjustly underrated beatsmith whose rubbery grooves and infectious production help make Tha Alkaholiks perhaps the greatest party group in hip-hop history. With titles like "Last Call," "Mary Jane," and "Only When I'm Drunk," Tha Alkaholiks will never be mistaken for members of some sort of latter-day temperance movement, but their music, rhymes, and beats are so irreverent, infectious, and just plain fun that their booze-loving shtick never gets old. Brief (only ten songs) and filler-free, 21 & Over is perhaps the quintessential West Coast party album, as well as one of the most promising debut albums of the '90s, regardless of genre. - Old School Rap & Hip-Hop. On their press kit, they encouraged fans "not to drive when they drink" and "chose to title their album 21 and Over... In other words, alcohol is not the end all and be all to Tha Alkaholiks - they simply like to drink and have fun." Art above by Alphonze. Revisit the album below...

21 & Over is an undeniable classic via Loud Records in 1993.

August 23, 2022

Rapper Big Pooh "To Dream In Color" (Album Stream)

Co-founder of NC underground hip-hop legends Little Brother, Rapper Big Pooh has built an impressive solo discography that has racked up several million streams across DSPs, and seen him collaborating with notables like Nottz, Apollo Brown, Khrysis, DJ Khalil, members of Slum Village, and more. Add to his prolific output, he stays busy as an artist manager, A&R consultant, and DJ’ing as RPM. Though wearing many hats, the acclaimed rapper remains in top form, as witnessed by his new full-length, ‘To Dream in Color.’ Throughout, Pooh is as poignant and personal as ever, discussing the trials, tribulations and triumphs during his growth as an artist and reflecting on his life journey! Pooh shares, "With this album, my focus was on painting a picture with words... I wanted to essentially create an audiobook. My hope is that listeners get a better sense of who I am as a person by actually hearing my story. I speak about lacking confidence, stage fright, swallowing pride, my childhood, and so much more. This is my most personal body of work and it’s some scary shit knowing people are gonna listen, judge, and maybe take something away from it that I didn’t intend. That’s when you know you have made great art, though." Listen to Pooh's To Dream In Color below...

August 22, 2022

J Dilla "The Shining" (August 22, 2006)

In life J Dilla, aka Jay Dee, who died of cardiac arrest last February at 32, was a bit of a ghostly presence. His hip hop and neo-soul productions wafted in and out at odd angles -- like shadowy light in a film noir tableau. Occasionally, his bass lines straightened into a rugged bounce or rumble, and his tracks appeared in colorful relief, like a morning sunburst (Common's 2000 "The Light") or a neon glint (De La Soul's 1996 "Stakes Is High") or a glittery flash (Q-Tip's 1999 "Vivrant Thing"). But after those vivid, arresting moments, he'd return to his drifting soft-focus keyboards and gritty, wobbly beats. While some producers like to make it look easy, Dilla was often content with mystery. So The Shining, Dilla's final studio work, is an unexpected blessing. His scattered styles are woven together seamlessly. From the buoyant hip hop soul of "Love" (with a firm Pharoahe Monch presiding) to the mesmerizing swoon of "Baby" to the punchy swagger of "Body Movin'," Shining brims with clear-cut and fully resolved ideas. It's a stirring example of how an artist can successfully imprint all sides of his personality -- from brash to sentimental -- onto his music and create something lasting, true, and whole. - Spin (October, 2006). A promotional sticker from BBE added, "On August 22, 2006 J Dilla's The Shining will serve as a testament to the fact that legends never die. "One of the most important musicians of our time. When we think of John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Stevie Wonder, and Marvin Gate, J Dilla will be going down along that history line of greatness," said Common in XXL. "The Shining" features Common, D'Angelo, Pharoahe Monch, Busta Rhymes, Madlib, Guilty Simpson, Dwele, Karriem Riggins, J. Rocc and Black Thought. Below is the advance copy of The Shining with dialog samples from Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining" mixed into certain songs on the album. These samples aren't on the commercial release. Hear the promo below...

Rest In Peace, James Dewitt Yancey aka J Dilla...

August 21, 2022

DJ Jazzy Jeff "The Vibe I'm On" (Mixtape, 1998)

This is 1998's The Vibe I'm On mixtape from Philly's own, the legendary, DJ Jazzy Jeff. The mix opens with a beautiful blend of original samples and soul breaks, then transitions into various blends and cuts from the likes of Lauryn Hill, Common, Mos Def, Diamond D, A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Channel Live, The Fugees, Eminem, KRS-One, Gang Starr, Dilated Peoples, Camp Lo, Roy Ayers, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, DMX, Main Source and more! One of the greatest DJs and contributors to the culture of hip-hop, DJ Jazzy Jeff did a great job with this mix, so dig into his The Vibe I'm On below...

August 20, 2022

Clipse "Lord Willin'" (August 20th, 2002)

Like the cosmic universe, the world of hip-hop is made up of planetary foundations represented by stylistically regional hip-hop genres -- East Coast, West Coast, the Mid-West, and the Dirty South. Every few years, however, like a lunar eclipse, a hip-hop act emerges to interrupt the shine of conventional hip-hop. This year Malice and Pusha T a.k.a. the Clipse have arrived to introduce the Virginia streets to the hip-hop universe. The past few years have been full of contribution for the quiet state of Virginia. Almost overnight, VA has become an innovative ground for hip-hop culture. While noteworthy talent such as Missy Elliot, Timbaland and Teddy Riley have proudly represented Virginia on the radio and in the clubs, the Clipse will bring the uncharted aspect of Virginia streets to the forefront with their Star Trak/Arista debut, Lord Willin'. The creation of the Clipse is the culmination of events that began in the late 1980s. Both Malice (Gene Thornton) and Pusha T (Terrence Thornton) were born in the heart of hip-hop's birthplace, the Bronx, New York; home to hip-hop giants like KRS-1, and the late Big Pun. Residing in the Gunhill Road section of the Bronx, a young Malice and Pusha T migrated to Virginia in the early 1980s. First to move was the older brother, Malice who quickly developed a reputation as a lyrical wordsmith. Three years later, Pusha T joined his brother and the duo began to combine their Kool G Rap, Juice Crew, Eric B & Rakim and Large Professor influences with the unique sounds of Virginia. It was during a cipher that Malice caught the attention of an unknown producer named Pharrell Williams. Cont'd below + revisit the LP...

Impressed by what he heard, Williams promised to work with Malice and Pusha T to produce a demo tape. As Malice and Pusha T began to develop their craft and recognize their potential to have an effect on the hip-hop world, they began to formally be known as the Clipse. Meanwhile, Pharrell along with his classmate, Chad Hugo, began to take the hip-hop world by storm and establish themselves as one of the brightest production teams in hip-hop. Once established, Pharrell and Chad, known as the Neptunes, helped the Clipse land a deal on Elektra in 1999, where they released the buzz-single "The Funeral." The single struck a cord with street heads and garnered the Clipse some well-deserved attention, making them two to watch for the new millennium. Since their official signing to Arista-affiliated Star Trak Entertainment, their street single "Grindin'" has been pure fire in the clubs and on the mixtapes. "Grindin'" has created a buzz of anticipation from the streets to hear what this duo has to bring to the game. Additionally, the video for "Grindin'," has been highly requested on B.E.T., M.T.V. and other local music stations. Their next single, "When The Last Time," geared for radio and club play, is scheduled to impact radio this summer. Lord Willin' the Clipse will introduce the Virginia streets to us on August 20th. - Press Kit, 2002. As Pusha T said, "Still giving you classics, that's the only thing that dates me." Take it back to '02 and revisit Clipse's Lord Willin'.

August 19, 2022

Diamond D "The Rear View" (Album Stream)

Fresh off the heels of 2021’s collaborative LP, Gotham from Talib Kweli and Diamond D, the BX icon returns with his sixth studio album, The Rear View. Comprised of 13 tracks, the album proves without a shadow of a doubt, Diamond D’s reputation as the best producer on the mic remains unrivaled. Never one to bogart the spotlight, Diamond is joined by a supporting cast of guest appearances that include Westside Gunn, Dre (Cool & Dre), Posdnuos (De La Soul), Ashtin Martin, Stacy Epps and KP, with a momentous introduction from the great Chris Rock. To boot, Diamond adds to the unblemished production value with additional board work from the likes of Nottz, Focus, D.R.U.G.S. Beats and Mr. Brady. "I took my time crafting this LP to make sure every track could stand on its own as a possible single,” says Diamond. “Every feature and track was carefully selected from an elite group of artists and producers that I had the honor of working with. The end result is top tier bar work over pristine production,” he concludes. So, dig into The Rear View...

August 18, 2022

Evidence "Nothing Stays In Las Vegas" (7", Vinyl)

On the heels of Evidence's latest collaborative album with Domo Genesis, "Intros, Outros & Interludes," the West Coast producer/MC releases a 7" vinyl offering titled, "Nothing Stays In Las Vegas." The track is produced by long-time friend and collaborator, The Alchemist. As expected, the chemistry is top notch and it's a beautifully cinematic track. The vinyl comes with the instrumental and is limited to 500 copies, along with a promotional matchbook that is sold separately or as a bundle. I consider Evidence to be one of the most talented artists to emerge from the underground as part of Dilated Peoples -- Whether it's photography, on the beats or in the booth, Ev has consistently made art the focal point of all his offerings. Having crossed paths on numerous occasions, I also consider him to be a stand-up dude, and have nothing but respect for him. I highly recommend supporting this latest effort, click HERE to place an order via Bigger Picture Recordings.

August 17, 2022

Mobb Deep "Murda Muzik" (Retail vs. Bootleg, 1999)

Those who think they've heard it all from Mobb Deep, think again. Building on their powerful opus that earned them 4 1/2 mics the first time The Source got its hands on it, the Mobb has taken the expression, "They murdered that shit!" to a whole new level. Memorable joints that remain part of the previous musical massacre include the gritty "Allustrious," the Eightball-assisted, boisterously in-ya-face "Where Ya From" and the highly emotional "Streets Raised Me." And while the absence of "Mobb Comin' Thru," "F#ck That B!tch" and "Pile Raps" is no doubt noticeable, the drama-inspiring, horn-laced "Spread Love" quickly reassures that Hav and P knew exactly what they were doing when making their final cuts. To aid them in their murda spree, the Mobb enlisted some notable co-defendants. Lil' Cease pops up on the keyboard-sprinkled "I'm Goin' Out," and Raekwon sets up shop on the slightly bounce-flavored (but still unmistakably Mobb) "Can't F#ck Wit," on which the time-tested Shaolin-QB connection reminds MCs to stop talking shit and "see me when you get a record deal." And just when you thought "Quiet Storm" was the epitome of murda raps, the remix raises the stakes once again, as Lil' Kim joins the Mobb in bringing the "re-e-e-eal hip hop" to the people. But the true gem of the added joints has to be "It's Mine," featuring Nas Esco, himself. The Scarface-inspired bassline and drums harder than public school lunch rolls should make it an instant QB favorite. Overall, the 19 tracks (out of the nearly 30 tracks recorded for for their fourth album) that make up the newest installment of Murda Muzik should remove any irrational doubts about Mobb Deep's status as the sanctioned soothsayers of seriously sanguineous slang. Revisit it below...

When discussing the Bootleg Version of Murda Muzik, here's what they had to say back in 1999: "We leaked some of that shit ourselves. It was some ghetto street promotion for us," says Prodigy. 'It [the bootleg Murda Muzik] probably went gold on the streets. It worked out for the better.'" I'd agree. You can compare the tracklists for the retail version of Murda Muzik and the bootleg version below to see what tracks you might've missed. I remember coppin' one of the bootlegs at a damn car wash out in Queens on Woodhaven Boulevard. It was definitely reminiscent of the Nas "I Am..." situation, which later became a lot of the tracks for his "The Lost Tapes" release [and that other album we don't talk about much]. There was a ton of quality music on the streets in Queens at that time. Rest In Peace to Prodigy, one of our culture's most talented MCs. Read more below...

August 16, 2022

DJ Eclipse "Coffee Syrup" (Mixtape, 1998)

DJ Eclipse's contributions to hip-hop are vast with a resume that includes Wild Pitch, Fat Beats, The Halftime Radio, Rap Is Outta Control, Non Phixion, Uncle Howie Records, Rock Steady Crew and more! One of the most technically clean DJs you'll ever see, everything he does is sharp and precise. In 1998, Eclipse released the cassette mix titled, Coffee Syrup. The tracklist includes joints from Common, M.O.P., Tha Alkaholiks, Diamond D, Reflection Eternal, Street Smartz, Sir Menelik, Gang Starr, Rakim, Non Phixion, Mr. Live, L-Fudge, Mos Def, Organized Konfusion, AK Skills, DJ Babu, Organized Konfusion, Indelible MCs, Defari, RZA and more. Between Fat Beats and his NYU college radio show, The Halftime Show, Eclipse was helping to amplify the music that would help birth the entire independent hip-hop scene (especially out of New York). These were many of those artists and records, below the radar and holds up as well today as it did back in '98. Props to the OG, Eclipse. 

August 15, 2022

Royce Da 5'9 "The Heaven Experience, Vol.1" (Album Stream)

After spending over two decades establishing himself as a beast on the beat, the 45-year-old Royce Da 5'9 has put together some of his greatest hits in one place, including solo tracks like “I’m Good” and “Dead Presidents Heads,” as well as collaborations like “Rock City” featuring Eminem and “I Play Forever” with Grafh. Royce appears to be a fan of his past work with Slim Shady, as he also placed “Caterpillar” with the Detroit native and King Green on his latest arrival, The Heaven Experience Volume 1. Other artists featured include Big K.R.I.T., and Pusha T and Rick Ross who both appear on “Layers.” On top of the new album, the rapper also confirmed in a recent interview with HipHopDX that he’s been busy working on his eighth studio album, which he plans to move away from his usual “dark” subject matter on. “I’ve been mulling over some ideas,” Royce teased at the time. “I think I know what I’m going to do next project-wise. I don’t necessarily want to say right now just in case it ends up changing. But I have been working in a couple different directions. But, yeah. I’m definitely working on music, especially now that I’m in a better mental space.” Stream Royce Da 5'9's new compilation project below, and thanks to HNHH for news of its official release...

August 14, 2022

N.W.A. "100 Miles and Runnin'" (August 14, 1990)

Released almost two years after the seminal Straight Outta Compton and a little less than a year before the flawed N!ggaz4life, 100 Miles and Runnin' effectively accomplishes what an EP should. It both built upon the lingering hype that had surrounded Straight Outta Compton and foreshadowed the N!ggaz4life-era N.W.A., a group that had grown increasingly dissident yet also much wiser after experiencing seemingly endless controversy. This EP's title track remains one of the group's best moments, and with the MTV-aired video picturing them fleeing from police, it was a fitting song for N.W.A. to release at the time; furthermore, the song's thick, heavy production showcases rather brilliantly the fact that Dr. Dre had furthered his production talents immensely. Though perhaps hard to stomach for some, "Just Don't Bite It" is anything but forgettable, with Eazy-E's and MC Ren's prerogatives transcending farce and heading into much more potent territory, making this they group's most amusing (in a sense) yet also its most effectively disturbing venture into misogynistic porno rap. The next song, "Sa Prize, Pt.2" functions as a sequel to "F#ck Tha Police" while "Real N!ggaz" then provides a sample of the racial belligerence that would fill the first half of N!ggaz4life and "Kamurshol" promotes the upcoming album over a foreboding beat. Poignantly employing a heavy use of cinematic skits in addition to the songs themselves, 100 Miles and Runnin' showcases N.W.A.'s strengths succinctly, balancing them perfectly across just five songs, each representing different aspects of the group's tainted ideology. Any more in almost too much -- as would arguably be the case with N!ggaz4life. - Old School Rap and Hip-Hop. Revisit the EP below...

Overshadowed by Amerikka's Most Wanted and Kill at Will but still...

August 13, 2022

Cypress Hill "Cypress Hill" (August 13, 1991)

Cypress Hill wants to get two things straight. First, because of their name, many people think they're from Brooklyn; they're not. Cypress Hill refers to Cypress Street in Southgate, a section of Los Angeles about five minutes from Watts and South Central. Actually, it's not really a hill, but as Sen Dog (one of Cypress Hill's rappers) says, "you can't tell us it's not Cypress Hill. We love that street. We've got rock and rollers, we got rappers, we got singers. We take good care of it, too. We don't let anyone come in and mess it up writing graffiti all over the place or anything like that." Or, as B-Real (the group's other rapper) adds, "'Cypress Hill' means we're on top. We have to be on top of business whether it's business of hip-hop or the business of the block." Speaking of "the block" brings up the second possible misconception: While these tough times -- on the mean streets of L.A. in particular -- are reflected in their lyrics, Cypress Hill is not another pseudo-gangsta act from Southern California. "We're not just some more brothers from Compton," explains B-Real, "and some of them aren't even from there, anyway." "Yeah, they've never gangbanged because their moms would let them," Sen Dog quickly adds, laughing. "They want to pump out second-hand information that they never even went through," B-Real continues. "Everything on our record is from our own experience. We don't want to teach you, we don't want to preach to you. We want to be known as funky awareness: first, you've got to be funky, and then it's hardcore awareness, revolving a story around our experiences or our homeboys' experiences." Cypress Hill, their self-titled debut album, is shaped by this group ethic of funky awareness. The record is full of their real-life experiences, and with DJ Mixmaster Muggs' incredibly funky, clever beats and samples, it's bound to raise eyebrows.... 

"Pigs," a rowdy singalong dedicated to some of Cypress Hill's "best friends," is reminiscent of the childhood nursery rhyme ("this little pig went to market"). Wrapped around a lazy, swaggering bass-line, the lyric stance on "Pigs" does not represent the group leaping onto anyone's bandwagon. "We get harassed by the police all the time because we look like gangbangers," says Muggs. "They tell me my tires are too flat, or we match someone's description. I've heard every possible excuse three or four times, not just once." Where "Pigs" is spare and casual, "Kill A Man" rushes at you with a stomping drum beat, peppered by high-pitched horns and random shouts. It would be very easy to look at the title and dismiss the track as ultra-violent, but that's not the point. As Sen Dog explains, "It's not about killing a man, but it's about understanding how one kid could do that. We don't glorify it." Again, B-Real has put his own experiences into the groove. "You know 'Kill A Man' when I go, 'Say some punk tried to get you for your auto/what are you gonna one time play the role model/no, I think you play like a thug.' Well the other night someone did try to steal my car. That happens all the time." Throughout the album, Cypress Hill makes one innovative contribution after another in the hip-hop artform. Check out B-Real's crazy, but engaging vocal style, or the "Duke of Earl" sample at the beginning of "Hand On a Pump"; or the live bass, percussion and guitar on the Spanglish "Latin Lingo." In this age of anti-drug hysteria, Cypress Hill also has the honesty to endorse one of their favorite pasttimes "on the record," with "Light Another" + "Blunted." Cont'd...

One of the reasons that the Cypress Hill album is so comfortable, engaging and inventive is that the members aren't newcomers to the hip-hop scene. Co-writer, lyricist and background rapper, 25-year old Sen Dog was born in Cuba and moved to Southgate at age 14. Sen comes from a very musical family.... Ever since he was young, Sen, his brothers and sisters were stars of the local church choir. After dropping out of high school in 1981, Sen started a group with his brother, Mellow Man Ace called DVX, and invented the Spanglish, Latin lingo style. Some time before Mellow Man Ace embarked on a solo career, he and Sen were joined in DVX by a young, gifted writer named B-Real. Now Cypress Hill's lead rapper, 21-year old B-Real has lived in Los Angeles all his life. For as long as he can remember, his biggest dream was to be a writer or a journalist. B-Real would spend hours in class writing essays and poems, but eventually he was turned off by school and dropped out. "A lot of the things they teach you in school are watered down. That's why I left..." Soon, B-Real's desire to write led him to hip-hop. "I guess I'm a writer now... If you're writing what you feel and if it's getting out, then you're accomplishing what you want...." Soon, Sen and Ace decided to pair B-Real with another young hip-hopper, a DJ and producer named Mixmaster Muggs. Mixmaster Muggs moved to Southgate from Queens right before he started high school. In Queens, he was heavily into breakdancing which led to his DJ-ing... Even though he is only 22 years old, Muggs was down with East Coast hip-hop from the beginning, back in the days when the Treacherous Three, Funky Four Plus One and Run-DMC ruled the day. In tenth grade, Muggs bought his first piece of equipment (a set of Technics 1200's)... After coming to L.A., he briefly hooked up with B-Real; Muggs was also the cornerstone of 7A3, who had a song on the "Colors" movie soundtrack. Soon after, Muggs left 7A3 and began laying down tracks for Cypress Hill. In its present configuration, Cypress Hill has been working together for three years. - Press Kit, 1991. Today marks another anniversary for this classic album! Dig back into it and more from Cypress Hill in the extensive archives below...

August 12, 2022

Black Thought & Danger Mouse "Cheat Codes" (Album Stream)

The natural chemistry between Brian (Danger Mouse) and Tariq (Black Thought) comes through in the ease with which the artist and listener move through this album. Moreover, Cheat Codes is an album untethered to any genre, era or trend — uncategoriseable and timeless. It is the sound of the pair observing their own culture and asking questions they still may not have the answers to. Brian Burton (AKA one half of Gnarls Barkley, Broken Bells, and Karen O & Danger Mouse — and universally regarded as the most versatile producer in modern music) has found a formidable new partner in the incomparably prolific rapper Tariq Trotter - rapper, MC & co-founder of The Roots, film and theater actor, producer, writer or, as Hypebeast sums up: "one of the best lyricists in hip-hop history." Cheat Codes is Danger Mouse’s first hip-hop album in seventeen years - since his 2005 DangerDOOM collaboration with the late, great MF DOOM - and Black Thought’s only full length collaboration beyond his pioneering music in The Roots. I was almost hesitant to click play and listen -- with such high expectations in place -- be better than me and click play immediately...

August 11, 2022

Happy 49th Birthday, Hip-Hop (The Source, 1993)

In 1993, The Source Magazine celebrated its 50th issue with well-known hip-hop personalities taking a walk down memory lane. They asked each of them their favorite album of all-time, their favorite 12-inch of all-time and their fondest hip-hop moment. As you can imagine, most of them found it hard to pick just one of each! As today marks the 49th birthday of Hip-Hop, I thought it'd be a fun way to celebrate and look back at what artists had to say were some of their favorite albums, singles and moments in their hip-hop lives. Maybe by the end of reading this, I'll share some of my own, too! Yeah that sounds like fun... Well, my favorite hip-hop album of all-time is "Illmatic" by Nas, "The Low End Theory" by A Tribe Called Quest and more recently, Blu & Exile's "Below the Heavens" to add something post-2000. My favorite 12" singles would be "Protect Ya Neck" bw "Method Man" by Wu-Tang Clan; AZ's "Sugar Hill" and "Rather Unique" and Eric B. & Rakim's "Know The Ledge (Juice)" from 1992. My favorite hip-hop moment... that's so hard to narrow down. One of the Rock Steady Crew anniversaries; going up to DJ Premier's show with Eternia on Sirius and he cut up records for 2 hours; after hours at Fat Beats on Halloween and Christmas parties; the Knitting Factory with Q-Tip, Busta Rhymes, Kanye West, and so many others. I can't narrow it down. I really can't. Hip-Hop has given us all so much, to know it'll be celebrating 50 years in 2023, I can't wait to see what the culture does to honor it. Anyhow, read below for answers from Casual, Positive K, Too Short, MC Eight, Maseo, Luke, Masta Ace, Biz Markie (R.I.P.), Red Alert, 2Pac (R.I.P.), DJ Quik, Jam Master Jay (R.I.P.), MC Shan, Craig G, Heavy D (R.I.P.), Kool G Rap, Fab Five Freddy, Fat Joe, KRS-One, MC Serch, Scarface, Chuck D, DIamond D, Common, Sadat X and many more.... HBD!!!!

August 10, 2022

Shyne "Godfather Buried Alive" (August 10, 2004)

In July 2004, Billboard said, "This summer may end up as the season of Shyne. The MC, now imprisoned for assault, was once viewed as the future of Bad Boy Records. He re-emerges with a multimillion dollar deal with Def Jam Records for his Gangland imprint. "More or Less" is the first offering from Shyne's highly anticipated album, Godfather Buried Alive," due Aug. 10. The single's haunting track, which samples Lamont Dozier's "Rose," serves as a backdrop for Shyne's booming voice. Lyrically, he showcases his honed, thought-provoking writing skills: 'Hip-hop ain't responsible for violence in America/America is responsible for violence in America... The schools didn't want me/So, the drug dealers taught me/Simple math/Step on it twice and bring it back.' R&B programmers have been slow to champion this single. Expect that to change. Soon." Shyne was found guilty of gun possession and sentenced to 10 years in prison for the now infamous shooting incident at Club New York in December 1999 in which three people were wounded. Billboard also shared in a later article, "Shyne is one of hip-hop's most controversial stars. Given his previous affiliations with Sean "P. Diddy" Combs and his current imprisonment, the Brooklyn N.Y.-based MC has been through a lot in the past few years. It's no wonder, then, that "Godfather Buried Alive," his second set and first for Gangland/Def Jam, has been so eagerly anticipated. Shyne still knows how to strike a hardcore stance, as evidenced on the lead single, the Kanye West-produced, Lamont Dozier-sampling "More or Less." On "Jimmy Choo," which features Ashanti, Shyne shows his softer side. Cont'd below....

"Other highlights include "For The Record" (which is aimed at 50 Cent) and the East Coast Gangsta mix of "Behind the Walls" featuring Kurupt and Nate Dogg. However, Shyne is at his most impressive when he is contemplative, as on the melancholic "Martyr," where his reflections on life and death have real emotion." In 2006, Vibe reported, "Citing New York's revised "Son of Sam' law preventing criminals from profiting from their crimes, a judge freezes royalties from 2004's Godfather Buried Alive as well as Shyne's $500,000 Island Def Jam advance. Shyne reportedly sought a release from his label after clashing with L.A. Reid over poor promotion for his album." Vibe's earlier review said, "Godfather Buried Alive pieces together the political possibilities and the street arrogance of a pre-jailed Shyne," and rumored a supergroup of the "Firm proportions" between Shyne, Jay-Z and Foxy Brown. What would you have thought of that? Different, coulda been ill, who knows! Revisit it...

August 09, 2022

Gravediggaz "6 Feet Deep" (August 9, 1994)

The video for "Diary of a Madman" by the rap band the Gravediggaz includes a warning that the clip does not condone Satanism or blasphemy; the video for "Live Evil" by the Flatlinerz depicts members of the hip hop band rapping from the inside of a grave, and the video for "Hellbound" by the Almighty RSO takes the deaths of the band members as a starting point and climaxes when the rapper E. Devious is shown with the mark of the Devil, 666, shaved into his head. With gangsta rap having exhausted nearly every imaginable murder scenario, a new breed of rappers is taking hip-hop beyond the grave. Some call this development horrorcore because it uses horror film as metaphors for ghetto life. Others prefer the term death rap because the genre takes hip-hop to musical and lyrical extremes in the same way that death metal bands like Obituary and Carcass bring rock to a boiling point. To a certain degree, both death metal and death rap try to escape from reality, offering nihilism as a cure-all. But in doing so, both end up commenting on a reality so grim and alienating that the only direction its outcasts turn is toward darkness. The fans of the two genres find comfort in fantasy, in finding a collective myth for their private pain. Unlike heavy metal, rap has had death on its agenda since its inception. The genre's earliest tracks were usually counterbalanced by cautionary tales of drugs and shootings. Rap has also always looked to horror films to conjure a quick image, from the Sugar Hill Gang dropping "Rapper's Delight" to DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince parodying Freddy Krueger in 1988's "Nightmare on My Street." Cont'd below...

A few years ago, rap and death metal began to recognize that they were sitting on opposite sides of the same cell wall. Public Enemy sampled the Satanist band Slayer, Ice-T collaborated with them on the soundtrack for the horror film, "Judgment Night," and Cypress Hill put a Gothic-looking graveyard on the cover of its latest album, "Black Sunday." Not until this year, however, have hip-hop bands been willing to complete their move from the streets to the graveyards. "I'm the resurrector," the Gravediggaz rap on their first album, "6 Feet Deep." "Be my sacrifice. Commit suicide, and I'll bring you back to life." For those who cross the Gravediggaz, a band made up of members of the Wu-Tang Clan, Too Poetic, De La Soul and Stetsasonic, death is only the beginning of their punishment. "First I'll assassinate 'em," they rap on "Diary of a Madman." "And then I cremate 'em, and take all of his... ashes and evaporate 'em." Citing suspense-film directors from Alfred Hitchcock to Wes Craven and displaying an impressive knowledge of anatomy, the Gravediggaz rap about means of dismemberment, rituals of exorcisms and torments of hell. They never credit heavy metal as an influence, but "Diary of a Madman:" is also the title of a 1981 Ozzy Osbourne album and the song "Bang Your Head" borrows its name from the 1984 Quiet Riot metal album. Musically, death rap is developing its own repertory and cliches. The Gravediggaz use creaking doors and howling wolves as rhythm tracks and often rap in a cartoonish, exaggerated style. - New York Times (October, 1994). RZA and Prince Paul were such an amazing combination on 6 Feet Deep!