August 08, 2022

MC Shan "Down By Law" (August 8, 1987)

There was a time when the Juice Crew were running things, and truly believed that nobody could compete with them. MC Shan embodied that belief, with his braggadocio rhymes and "battle anybody" attitude. Overflowing with confidence, Shan has been a well-rounded emcee since he first showed up on wax in 1985, coming correct whether he was story telling, free styling, or kicking some of the most impressive extended metaphors in Hip Hop history. Shan's bio shares, "MC Shan, Shawn Moltke, is one of the freshest, most intelligent and coolest rap stylists and innovators to "rock the mic viciously" in recent memory. His professional character is partly one of pure virtuosity, and partly one of exciting showmanship. His debut album on Cold Chillin' Records, Down By Law, surpassed the 150,000 unit mark last summer with virtually no airplay. Ever since going out on the road with Roxanne Shante in 1985, without benefit of a record, the word on the street has been that MC Shan is a serious performer who can fire up basic human instincts, like humor, romantic sentiment, and a strong desire for something essentially hip and physically intoxicating. Over the past couple of years, he has unleashed a torrential outpouring of fresh def jams, including "The Marley Scratch," "The Bridge," and the preachy but funny anti-crack rap, "Jane, Stop This Crazy Thing," all produced by main Homeboy, and blood cousin, Marlon "Marley Marl" Williams. His 12-inch "The Bridge," a tribute to the Queensbridge Projects in Queens, NY, was the subject of a hilarious answer record called "The Bridge Is Over." Prior to signing with Cold Chillin', MC Shan built a following with releases on Nia, MCA and Bridge Records. Cont'd below + revisit Down By Law...

For some background story, the 1990 press bio also shares: "In 1983, Shan was a devilishly wicked street brat, with a big chip on his shoulder, and a series of misdemeanors longer than a New York City crosstown block. "I was a hood," he says today. "I was lucky I didn't have a police record. One time I was so young when I stole a car that, the cops refused to believe that I did it. I never committed any felonies." Our juvenile delinquent's salvation and ascent up the ladder of stardom began on a Brooklyn street on Halloween night, 1983, when rap manager Tyrone Williams, now Chairman of Cold Chillin' Records, caught him breaking into his car." It also says that while Williams didn't turn him over to the police, he did kick Shan's ass, understandably. For an artist that is considered one Nas' earliest influences, Shan also had Suede Puma designed after him, a "Rap Quotes" sign in Queensbridge, a double-disc reissue of Down By Law, as well as a highly publicized interview on Noreaga and DJ EFN's acclaimed podcast, Drink Champs. In the interview, MC Shan went deep into his feelings on the culture, his come-up, successes, failures and of course, his beef with KRS-One and Boogie Down Productions. The showman is still very much inside of Shan as he took over the interview and really gave us a look at the man and the artist. You can watch that interview HERE, plus dig in the archives for more interviews/content from MC Shan, a true pioneer! 

August 07, 2022

Jadakiss "Kiss Da Game Goodbye" (August 7, 2001)

In terms of sheer anticipation, Jadakiss' buzz was at an apex at the time of this album's release. While fellow LOX members Sheek and Styles flashed improved flows and lyrics on their group's sophomore strike, We Are the Streets, Jadakiss remained the group's undisputed frontman. And with the streets virtually foaming at the mouth, Jadakiss returned from the lab to birth his solo debut, Kiss tha Game Goodbye on this day in August, 2001. The majority of reviews -- including the above-referenced review in AllMusic -- found it ironic that the crew jumped ship from Diddy to get away from the shiny suits, then Jada went directly after mainstream attention with his debut. Surely he woulda had a better chance at that just sticking it out with Puff? Yes/No/Maybe? That's not to knock the harder album cuts on here, such as the Alchemist-produced "We Gonna Make It," featuring Styles; the DJ Premier-blessed "None of Y'all Betta," featuring Styles and Sheek; and "Feel Me", also produced by The Alchemist, among others. While Styles P remained closer to the independent route, Jada was always more comfortable taking those mainstream budgets and making it happen -- even if it meant sacrificing his chances at having a true "classic." In the Rhyme & Reason article below, Jada said it in his own words when discussing "What You Ride For?": "There's something for everybody." That's straight label talk. West Coast, Down South; an Aerosmith remake and more, there's a lot going on with this album. You can read more about the various cuts below...

In the case of "None of Y'all Better," Jada says, "You know you can't make a classic album without using Premo. He's like the god of producers. We made it a LOX song because nobody better than the LOX." 100% facts, gotta have a DJ Premier beat! For "Feel Me," he shares, "That's like a personal joint that I'm giving people. Everybody wanna know a little something about your life. That's 40 bars of just me spillin' my guts out." For "We Gonna Make It," he says, "I had to do that one. That's like more of my element right there. I pulled out Alchemist. I was feeling it. That was my first time ever meeting him. I threw my man Styles P on there. You know, Jadakiss and Styles collaboration." Then there's "Knock Yourself Out," where I cram to understand, "Everybody always come up to me and ask me when I wanted to do a song for the clubs, for the ladies. That was the politics of the whole thing." On the flip-side is the Nas-assisted, "Show Discipline," which Jadakiss describes: "I just wanted to do a hard joint, real hard, for the "hood." I wanted Nas on there. My own vintage, that's all that is." If nothing else, Jada knows how to keep it simple, stupid. Dig into the full Rhyme & Reason article and more below + of course, revisit Jadakiss' Kiss Da Game Goodbye today! D-Block!

August 06, 2022

Jay-Z vs. Nas (Angie Martinez Interview on Hot 97, 2002)

August 2002: Jay-Z took over Hot 97 for several hours over a two-day period to sound off on all his naysayers. For two consecutive days, Jay-Z guested on Angie Martinez's afternoon show, speaking out on rumors of civil unrest within the Roc-A-Fella camp -- which he scoffed at, insisting, "How could I leave the Roc? I am the Roc" -- as well as his falling-out with former mentor Jaz-O. More significant, though, was Jay-Z's reaction to the ongoing beef with rapper Nas. Echoing a challenge that he made in the The Source magazine, Jigga suggested that the two rivals settle their differences with a pay-per-view rhyme battle. He added that each party could pony up $1 million for the wager, with all event proceeds going to a charity of the winner's choice. By day two of Jay's marathon interview, he reported that boxing promoter Don King had already faxed in a proposal to organize the event. - MTV. Nas responded saying the contest should be decided in record stores, not on TV. ”Pay-per-view is for wrestlers and boxers. I make records,” he told MTV. ”If Jay-Z wants to battle, he should drop his album the same day I do and let the people decide.” Jay-Z was scheduled to release ”The Blueprint 2” on November 5th, 2 weeks before Nas released ”God’s Son.” 


In the interview, they discuss when Nas flirted with idea of signing with Irv Gotti to Murder Inc. A decision that Irv later regretted, as he was also the producer on "Super Ugly" for Hov during that battle. Jay-Z said of the battle with Nas, "It's wrestling," alluding to the fact that it's just music. Jay-Z explained that he's not a perfect human being, and owned that he went too far with certain things he said. But, "people clash at the top," so as competitive artists, that's just where things went. Then they jump into a discussion about the battle: the pay-per-view funds/proceeds and tickets at the door (Madison Square Garden?) would have gotten to charity, with only the $1 million they each put up, going to the winner. A show with 3 freestyles from each MC, but "they gotta be vicious." He added, if anyone felt a way AFTER the battle, they could've gone to a gym, "put on some head gear", go 3 more rounds as men and go separate ways. Additionally, they discussed Jaz-O, R. Kelly, Cam'ron, Dame Dash and more. Ultimately, it's bigger than hip-hop and they squashed their beef, but all these years later, Hov still petty AF, if you ask me. A special moment in hip-hop!

August 05, 2022

Raekwon Defends ODB's Memory (Rock The Bells, 2006)

On the night of August 5, 2006, Steve-O attended the "Rock The Bells IV" Hip-Hop Festival in San Bernardino, California. The concert was headlined by the Wu-Tang Clan and the event was organized as a tribute to clan member Ol' Dirty Bastard (R.I.P.). While on stage with the Wu-Tang, Steve-O proceeded to show his affection for ODB by getting nude, tucking his penis between his legs and doing a back flip... while Ol' Dirty's mom was in attendance. Raekwon took to the mic and expressed his ill-feelings on the incident and threatened to knock him out if he didn't apologize. That night, a member in attendance shared more about the incident: "Wu-Tang was one of many acts to grace the stage at the show, and during their tribute to ODB, for some reason, STEVE-O from Jackass comes out on stage and embarrasses himself and disgraces ODB (in front of his mother no less) by doing a "dirty stunt" ... claiming that he wanted to do it because he was recently locked in the same jail cell that ODB stayed in at one point in L.A. county jail. Steve-O proceeded to pull off his clothes (surrounded by all remaining members of the WU and in front of an ODB painting) and tuck his 'ish behind his legs and do a backflip... Afterwards the RZA made a comment about Steve-O belonging in a Zoo, then went on with the show... but a couple songs later, Raekwon brought Steve-O front and center and told him over the mic that if he didn't apologize for the disgusting display, he would knock him out on the spot. With a trembling voice, Steve-O apologized to the Wu-Tang and ODB's mother, much to the approval of the crowd." Of course, there's video of the incident, and Raekwon later addressed it in a 2013 VladTV interview, as well, where Rae shared: "Rest In Peace, my brother... I was livid... My brother dead and THIS is what you're doing? And you got his mother there... Is you crazy? N!gg@s coulda bit his face off!" Rest In Peace, Ol' Dirty Bastard. Salute, Raekwon the Chef!

Original flyer for Rock The Bells IV, 2006...

August 04, 2022

Insane Prophet "Brooklyn Zoo: The Legend of Iceberg Slim" (2017)

Brooklyn Zoo: The Legend of Iceberg Slim is a mash-up mixtape with vocals from one of the greatest MCs of all time, Jay-Z, and beats from one of the most influential music groups EVER, the Wu-Tang Clan. While it was uncredited on the CD bootlegs, the mash-ups were done by The Insane Prophet, who also took vocals from The Notorious B.I.G., Nas, 2Pac, DMX, Inspectah Deck, Method Man, Lil' Wanye, Ghostface Killah and Ol' Dirty Bastard to put together this exceptional project in 2017. The following year (2018), he also released a project re-imagining Nas rhyming over the classic beats to Biggie's Ready To Die, aptly titled "Ready to Illmatic." These kinds of projects--when done properly--are a true labor of love, and this was absolutely done well, so dig into it below and look out for a follow-up post about that Ready To Illmatic when I revisit that one as well. Dig into it...

August 03, 2022

Statik Selektah "Yeezy Duz It: The Sole of Kanye West"

To celebrate the launch of the Yeezy 450 'Utility Black,' Atmos USA enlisted the talented DJ/producer Statik Selektah for this special hour-long mixtape titled, Yeezy Duz It: The Sole of Kanye West. Statik does it proper mixing some classics together with rare versions and unreleased joints! In his own words, "The genius of Ye will be put on full display here and it's an honor, being a fan since the beginning to working with him in Hawaii on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. There will be special moments on this tape. It also brings me back to my mixtape roots when I would do similar style mixes for Nas, John Legend, Akon and many more." An excellent job by Statitk Selektah and the artwork is dope, too. Dig into Yeezy Duz It: The Sole of Kanye West below, and keep in mind, I have NO clue what the Yeezy 450 'Utility Black' are, but definitely cop those if that's your thing?

August 02, 2022

Wojavelli "Wojavelli All Stars" (Ragga Hip-Hop Mixtape)

Philadelphia's Wojavelli drops off his latest mixtape, a Ragga Hip-Hop remix tape entitled, Wojavelli All Stars (I don't know why). Here, all "refixes' are done by Wojavelli and feature tracks from Bounty Killer, Baby Cham, Capleton, Beenie Man, Funkmaster Flex & the Ghetto Celebs, Super Cat, Red Rat, Elephant Man, Vybz Kartel and more. Lots of dope blends/remixes on this one and if you're looking for more, dancehall-inspired tapes, dig in the archives or click through for several other dancehall mixes done by Wojavelli. While you're at it, check out tribute tapes for Mase, Fat Joe, The Beatnuts, Rawcotiks, The Alcehmist and more. All his mixes are critical, so listen to Wojavelli All Stars below...

August 01, 2022

Raekwon "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx..." (August 1, 1995)

Damn, where's Mr. T when you need him? This is the part where he's supposed to come in and bark, "I pity the fool who don't get down with Raekwon's shit!" If I were Catholic, I'd probably have to say a zillion Hail Mary's and another thousand whatchamacallits for being a nonbeliever of the might Chef's skills. But consider me born-again after tasting Only Built 4 Cuban Linx..., his solo enchilada. It's banging. Who said that gangsta rappers are a West Coast phenomenon? Built builds an engrossing epic of cinematic proportions, complete with cocaine snorts, gun blasts, protecting the corner spot, sex-for-the-sport-of-it and, well, more gun blasts. Only this is all from a God's perspective. The dimension this adds to the proceedings is a dynamic one -- you get inside the minds of Lou Diamonds and Tony Starks (Raekwon and Ghostface's new aliases) and see the complexity of their plight (best exemplified in the astonishing "Criminology," the booming remix of "Can It Be," "Spot Rushers" and "Knowledge God"). Much like the main character of Cain in Menace II Society and Biggie in his Ready To Die odyssey, Rae is threatening, funny, calculated, arrogant, charismatic, talented, so on and so on. In other words, he's human and not some second-rate cartoon character posing as a thug. And Ghostface Killah, staying true to his name, is constantly lurking in the shadows, rhyming and shining on practically all of the tracks. The compelling, chest-swelling intro sets the stage lovely for the trip we are about to embark on. The talk of Rae and Ghost getting out of the game, as serene and sad music floats in the air, is in many ways the American dream personified -- getting yours at all costs. It feels like a scene right out of a movie and leaves you wide open for the incredible "Knuckleheads," a head-nodding jolt right out the gate. It cooks, as does the entire album, the best release from the Wu yet. Revisit the LP, cont'd below...

By the time you arrive at "Incarcerated Scarfaces," the concise and sharp rhyme schemes of the Chef ("I move rhymes like retail/Make sure shit sell/From where we at to my man's cell") have already proven themselves to be major-league talent. His words slice with precision, and the bloody mess is our enjoyment. The truly creepy structure of "Rainy Days" solidifies the RZA's status of auteur among amateurs as he orchestrates off-key singing from Blue Raspberry along with a nervous swirl of keys and sounds of children playing. The original Wu-Tang sound keeps growing (even if some of RZA's beats do sound similar -- but, hey, he has done five albums in the last two years) and has established itself as a driving force in Hip-Hop. Speaking of the family, fans know that the best cuts happen when the Killer Bees swarm together, and here we get four-star gems like "Guillotines," featuring the one-and-only Inspectah Deck (when is his album due?) and the Godfather of the Clan, the Genius, who always sews up these lyrical gang-bangs with words of wisdom. There's also "Wu Gambinos," which marches through toward the end of this saga and features Meth as well as Masta Killa (did someone say "record deal"?). Listening to cuts like these is reminiscent of the rush you got when somebody yelled out "Fight!" during lunch. And, at no extra cost, Nas Escobar, in top form, breaks the "members only" rule (you know, the "only Wu-related guest on the albums" directive) on the addictive "Verbal Intercourse." You also got the nastiest Wu joint ever, "Ice Cream." From the fly-on-the-wall details of the skits to the colorful descriptions of flashy gold links, Donna Karan gear and 9mms in the lyrics, Rae serves up a meal hotter than the watch on your wrist. The best shit of 1995 so far. - Rap Pages (October, 1995). I'll never get tired of this classic LP!

August 01, 2022

Big L "The Big Picture" (August 1, 2000)

In recent years, hip hop fans have become all too familiar with the once inconceivable idea of posthumous album. In many ways, Big L was to the underground what Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur were to the mainstream -- a fan favorite as well as an icon. Although his 1995 debut, Lifestylez ov da Poor and Dangerous, lacked focus and dimension, his talent was evident. Over the next several years, L honed his writing and began to release songs, like 1998's "Ebonics," that truly reflected his cleverness and relentless flow. But when he was tragically murdered in 1999, it looked like his gifts would never be fully displayed. Fortunately, Rawkus has pieced together a collection of Big L's previously released classics and unheard new material, Born Again-style, as a final testament to his legacy. Featuring highlights like "Flamboyant," the Mike Heron-produced future classic, The Big Picture truly captures L's energy and rhythm. No matter what the beat, he remains in the pocket like wallets and car keys. Problems arise only on "Holdin' It Down": Despite Pete Rock's hot track, L's lyrics are poorly synced, and, consequently, painfully offbeat at times. Thankfully, the majority of the disc--which boasts such unlikely guests as Tupac, Big Daddy Kane, and Sadat X--shows L at his best. The Big Picture proves once again why he was the Most Valuable Poet on the M-I-C. - Vibe Magazine (October, 2000). Dig into the archives for more about this album and Big L. Rest In Peace.

The full review in Vibe is below. Rest In Peace, Big L.