Monday, July 31, 2006

Jungle Brothers "J Beez Comin' Through (remix)" (1991)

I missed this twelve when it was originally released, and heard stories about how one of the beats on this record was insane. When Doug E. Fresh released his "Where's Da Party At?" single in '95, featuring a "jackin' for beats"-style cut, it had this 8-bar loop that was bananas. My friend that had heard the fabled JB's record confirmed that this was in fact ripped from the JB's record. That only intensified my hunt for the original. It took the re-releases of early Jungle Brothers records the last few years to finally track it down:

The "J Beez Comin' Through" remix is dope (despite the fact that the intro sounds kind of faded), adding a nice sax and extended intrumental segments. The gem on this for me will always be the bonus beat, however...the loop they use in conjunction with the classic break define "hype shit" to me. The original piano loop used in "J Beez Comin' Through" gets sprinkled in halfway through the bonus beats as well. It's short, and isn't a proper instrumental (for the original or the remix), but a classic moment for many. Includes the "J Beez Comin' Through" remix and Bonus Beats.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Aphillyation "United Snakes of America" (1996)

I remember going to a Roots show in the late 90's, and them bringing out Dice Raw to drop a verse in the middle of their set. He came out of the wings with a mic in his hand, ripped the verse on some hype shit, then broke out. It was raw, and at the time, it seemed like that was exactly how you should do a guest verse. He upstaged Black Thought during that song (can't remember what it was at the moment), it was like a f*cking whirlwind. I mention this because Dice Raw is a member of Aphillyation, which I know nothing about beyond this twelve; and on "Had R.E.M.", he produces a similar performance:

The twelve hosts three cuts, "United Snakes of America", "Had R.E.M.", and "Puppetmaster". I've always pushed the needle to "Had R.E.M." Like the dark, almost spacey vibe with the plodding hi-hats and snare (while the kick gives it some bounce). Every cut on this record is essentially a posse cut (as the label says, Aphillyation consisted of Merdah, the Philly Titans and Dice Raw), but can't say "United Snakes" or "Puppetmaster" are particularly memorable. "Had R.E.M." shines about 3/4 of the way through the track when Dice Raw blazes into it:

Yo, enter my constellation
The continent reviles(?) your consonants
flow at a constant...fluctuation

Dice Raw brings the flow and energy that seems to be missing from the previous MC's and blows everyone else off this track. He ended up with more verses on Roots albums, but anyone run into other Dice Raw records? This one includes the three cuts mentioned, as well as the instrumental for "United Snakes of America".

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Black Sheep "Strobelight Honey" (1992)

Black Sheep have always been the sure shot, and this twelve is one of their most essential. As many bangers as there are on "Wolf in Sheep's Clothing", the additional gems on this record are unforgettable.

The "Maybe We Did" remix of "Strobelight Honey" is the immortal dancehall classic; you can never go wrong with this uptempo banger. The remix of "Gimme tha Finga" that appears on the b-side doesn't deviate wildly from the original, but basically perfects the vibe of the original; the drums snap while Dres obnoxiously begs for you to tell him to f*ck off. Quite simply a pillar of any early-90's party-rocking hip-hop collection. Includes all three mixes of "Strobelight Honey" (the essential "Maybe We Did" mix, as well as "No We Didn't" and "Yes We Did"), as well as the "Gimme tha Finga" remix.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Lonnie B "Come Git It" (1997)

After the success of Mad Skillz' "From Where..?", and in the middle of the influx of indie records, his crew emerged to drop a number of singles. Danja Mowf, both a producer and MC, was the driving force behind the SupaFriendz, a crew notable for consisting of Mad Skillz, Danja Mowf, and Lonnie B. Lonnie B's "Come Git It" was one of '97 strongest battle cuts, and crazy underrated:

The beat here is an extremely simple guitar loop pounded by a basic kick, snare and hi-hat. The simplicity of the production is appropriate, however, as it's just there to support Lonnie B's verses, which are straight-f*cking-ill.

Your crew got you gassed, so you try to start dissin'
but that shit that you kickin' don't scare me not a smidgen
this dj - producer - rhymesayer
lets you talk shit on credit,
but you gonna pay for it later
your pitty-pat tracks and weak raps
fall shorter than a midget's knee caps
but when we rap, we rock
like Bubba Chuck rock Reebok
you make me hornier than them old tracks by Pete Rock

The track is just fierce; Lonnie B rips it like he's had lyrics for years and he's been waiting for this track. They pull a "Tyme 4 Sum Aksion" move and Lonnie comes back and starts to attack the mic during the outtro, before being told "you ain't gotta say no more, it's over." Classic mid/late 90's battle rap.

I've heard Lonnie B on some random cuts since then, most recently on some Southern hip-hop joint where he was rapping double-time. Muthaf*cka never got his props. Includes "Come Git It" with instrumental, "Make It Hot" with Danja Mowf, and "Unseen World Pt. II" with Mad Skillz.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

"f*ck your remix!" #1 [Common's "Resurrection"]

My best friend and university roommate got me into DJ'ing in '94; we were both all about hip-hop, but despite the similarity of our musical tastes, often had brutal disagreements over minutae. Obviously, Tribe was the strongest member of the Native Tongue family, but for some reason he'd insist it was the Jungle Brothers (quiet down, De La groupies). Nowhere were these disagreements stronger than with songs that had multiple remixes.

The question is simple: Which remix is doper?

Now, for the remixes I'm posting today, and will in the future (this might be a serial thing), the question is not whether both remixes are both dope in their own way. Or whether the original itself is better. Just for this occasion, see the world in black and white (well, this may be easier for us Americans).

I've already made up my mind on all these long ago; I'm biased. Maybe you have, too. If you've heard the remixes already, and made up your mind...cast your vote. If they're new to you, check 'em out, and then vote. The poll will stay up for the next week, at which point you can either laugh to yourself about how you know your shit, or wonder what the f*ck is off about your taste. Because quality is determined by popularity. Right.

Before reflecting on that too much, vote on "f*ck your remix!", #1:

This edition features the "Extra P" and "Large Professor" remixes of Common's "Ressurection". If you haven't heard them (in a while, or at all), choose your link and check 'em.

Yes, they're both done by Large Professor. Yes, they're both ill. Yes, "Ressurection '95" is dope too. But concentrate, and spit it out: "Extra P" or "Large Professor" remix: Which one is doper? There *IS* a correct answer.

[UPDATE, 8/3: Poll closed]

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Kool G Rap & Nas "Fast Life - Norfside Mix" (1996)

Kool G Rap will always be a legend ("Killer Kuts" is his essential compilation); the swagger he affected on "Ill Street Blues" is definitive. As much as I love G Rap, his 1995 LP "4,5,6" felt like a weak effort. The first single "It's a Shame" was solid at best, and when the LP dropped, it turned out to be one of the better cuts. "Fast Life" featured Nas, which is a dope combination on paper, but turned out not so much on wax. So this promo remix released by Epic was good news:

This sounds like some Vinyl Reanimators-style production, and I always assumed it was their work, although now that I've re-examined the label, I can't confirm it. Regardless, this beat is worthy of the G Rap and Nas collabo, and is as good if not better than anything on "4,5,6".

I picked up the habit of mixing Bahamadia's "3 Tha Hard Way" into this cut, which I think is a testament to its pace and production. Hell, anything that can stand with Premier's production from the era and not get completely dwarfed by it is solid. Includes instrumental.

[UPDATE, 7/26, 10 AM: Fixed SendSpace link]

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Waistline Connection "Chow Down" (1997)

Hoo Bangin"? You ain't bangin' shit but the table
In a circle, 'Maaad' - ain't got no choice but to fight
Ain't none of y'all muthaf*ckas got a chance on the mic
- Common, "The Bitch in Yoo"

Ice Cube's (The Westside Connection's) beef with Common was one of the more famous beefs of the late 90's, with the two essential cuts Common's "The Bitch in Yoo" and Westside Connection's "Bow Down". Lyric for lyric, I can't see any rational head calling this for Westside, but if you want more evidence, I offer Waistline Connection's "Chow Down."

"Chow Down" is pure comedy. Rap parodies usually end up in the hands of Weird Al, but this clowning of Westside Connection's "Bow Down" was classic, particularly if you thought the posturing in "Bow Down" was a joke in the first place.

Jacking the beat and essential lyrical structure, "Chow Down" is superior to "Bow Down" in my opinion, for pure entertainment value. It's short (less than three minutes in length), but stays focused. The delivery and overdubs are key, and lyrics are dropped with conviction:

Run away, run away - before your plate's taken away
by this F, double O, to the D to the S-T-A
Ain't no heart in it, I put it down simple and plain
Which means I can care less about the skinny fools in this game

In the end it's the delivery that makes this classic, and made the Westside Connection's posturing look that much more transparent. Just the fact that "Bow Down" was so flawlessly clowned is the period at the end of Common's sentence. S-e-r-v-i-c-e.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Atmosphere "Overcast! EP" (1998)

Atmosphere came out of nowhere (i.e. Minneapolis) and had some of the hottest shit in '97. Atmosphere has received enough press to pre-empt a summary here; I'll just say once you heard "Scapegoat", you were an Atmosphere fan. Everyone was relating to "Scapegoat" at the time, some truly hip-hop shit that went beyond race and class to unite behind the anthem: "F*ck it, it's everything but me!"

Atmosphere "Overcast EP/exclusives"

The "Overcast! EP" followed the album, and featured standout cuts from the CD as well as two new joints and a slight rewrite of "Scapegoat". The "it's edited for the radio" mix of Scapegoat finds Slug slightly more animated than the original (not that it wasn't intense), and changing up a few lines here and there.

The gems are "Primer" and "God's Bathroom Floor". "Primer" is classic Ant production, a crisp snare over tense, shimmering strings. Slug goes 1st-person, offering what amounts to a retort to his "trailer-park b*tch":

First of all, b*tch-
I never promised I'd be rich
So f*ck you and your wishes
You need to do the dishes

"God's Bathroom Floor" is on some different shit entirely. Personally, I think this is the best beat Slug has ever had to rhyme on; the sax sets it off lovely, and the track just shimmers while being completely cooled-out. Slug's lyrics are abstract enough to spend some time thinking about; case-in-point is the chorus:

From a head, full of pressure, as the senses that i clutch
Made a date with Divinity, but she wouldn't let me f*ck
I got touched by a hazy shade of god, help me change
Caught a rush on the floor, from the life in my veins

For those that missed it, the download includes "Scapegoat(edited for the radio)", "Primer", and "God's Bathroom Floor". The rest of the material on the EP can be found on the "Overcast!" CD.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

World Renown "How Nice I Am" (1995)

Despite having Marley Marl's fingerprints on their debut record (and final record, as far as I know), World Renown's music is decidedly jazzy and chill. "How Nice I Am" is just about the perfect vibe for a cool summer night.

"How Nice I Am" rocks a familiar Phife Dog sample for its chorus ("Now here's a funky introduction of how nice I am"), chill rolling piano chords, and drums that are simultaneously bouncy and laid-back. Lyrics aren't "rhyme of the month"-material, but when you're rocking over a beat this chill, you can spit whatever you want as long as the flow is there. And the flow is there.

The b-side offers a remix that's a bit sparser, with a filtered bassline. It preserves the chorus of the original, and is just as chill as the original; if anything, it's sunnier (makes me want to mix in Ill Biscuit's "Chill Factor"). Includes Original with instrumental and acapella, as well as the S.I.D. remix and instrumental.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Shamus "Tight Team" (1997)

NYC-based Shamus' "Tight Team" was one of those random 12" that ended up being one of my favorite indie records of '97, and based on some postings I've seen around, there are a number of people that were feeling this:

Shamus "Tight Team" (with instrumental)

Production was handled by Buckwild, back when he was one of the top producers in NYC. Don't know what it was specifically about this track, but for some reason it reminded me of "Shook Ones Pt. II". Maybe the sparse, biting snare and persistent hi hats, combined with the dark sample. Lyrically, Shamus (and Flu) are tight; the flow and voice are solid, and work well with Buckwild's beat.

We come together like the pieces of a puzzle, to paint the illest picture
It's sort of like the prophets that unite the holy scripture
Your game's sicker, you need blunts for painkillers
For rilla - I'm Ghost like the Face Killer

Includes the instrumental.

Friday, July 21, 2006, commenting...

I've acquired some spammers recently, so in an attempt to chase these utterly useless f*cks away, you've got to log in to use the comments (i.e. you can't just do a completely anonymous post). I do appreciate and value comments, so please don't let that stop you if you've got a reaction to a post...

Maestro (Fresh Wes) "Death Ministry" (1996)

In retrospect, I don't know if it was good or bad that this record was my introduction to Maestro Fresh Wes. As it was, I could listen to it with an open mind; Maestro wasn't really strong lyrically, but the beat was kind of dope (and it's got my vote for most obscure KRS-1 vocal sample).

That being said, the track got some solid play in '96, and I offer it here more for the curious than as truly dope shit. What I didn't know at the time was that Maestro wasn't some random NYC indie MC putting out a record; he's actually a legend in Canada, mostly for his late-80's/early-90's material. Find a copy of "Let Your Backbone Slide" and play it for an international crowd (say, a western club in Korea or Japan). The heads that are going ape shit? They're Canadians.

Also includes the b-side, "Pushin' Wiggz Back". I don't think Maestro makes a convincing thug, but the production is solid if not dope. Includes both cuts and instrumentals.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Frankenstein "The Rain Is Gone" (1996)

I won't go on about Toronto again, but this twelve is right up there with Frankenstein's best. A lot of heads have caught up with Frankenstein by now, but for those of you that missed it, or haven't been able to dig up/download a copy, or haven't heard it, here's "The Rain Is Gone" in all its glory:

This track captures the morose nature of get over it, but that taste in your mouth never goes away:

The rain is gone, the pain is gone
But no matter how you flip it what you did was still wrong

Frankenstein's production shines once again...the sharp snare, humming vocal sample, falling piano loop, and yes - cricket chirping. Among Frankenstein's instrumentals, this track is probably the tightest, it so perfectly captures a dark, reflective mood. As it stands, it's the ideal background for his thoughtful dissection of past relationships, and where they went wrong. Includes the instrumental, as well as the b-side "All Hands..." and instrumental.

For even more Frankenstein, check out this post at OIGA!!!.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Paris "The Days of Old" (1992)

I've always had vague memories of this dope instrumental I heard back in '92 on a friend's beat tape. I hadn't heard the original track (with vocals) at the time, so I couldn't identify it via the MC. A year ago, I ran across some old Paris albums on some MP3 sites, and something clicked; jumping from track to track, I found what I was looking for: "The Days of Old".

Paris "Days of Old" 12"

I slept on Paris in the early 90's, something which I'll blame on my Rakim-as-lyricist-, Pete-Rock-and-Premier-as-producers-, New-York-as-Mecca-, East-coast-first-bias. Paris was on his shit in the early 90's, though, and this 12" (which jumped out of a crate while digging in Japan a few months after my rediscovery) just might be his finest track. I'm obviously partial to the beat (many will recognize the sample), but he rips a theme that would come to dominate hip-hop in the 90's...values are changing:

Can't do anything without some fool actin' up
You start to believe that black folk are savage but
before you do, allow me to say
that in the old days we didn't act that way, see
Kings and Queens were the names of the righteous
but the sons of slaves are insane and we might just
self-destruct and erupt without a chance to grow
This ain't the days of old.

A horn soars during the chorus, as you can almost hear Paris shaking his head: "It ain't the same as the days of old." The instrumental is included, and stands on its own. Also included is the b-side "Bushkilla (Hellraiser Mix)", proving the more things change, the more know the rest.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Brooklyn Zoo "Masters of Zooniverse" (1995)

Back into random indie territory for this joint, a '95 banger from Brooklyn Zoo. Never heard from the producer or any of the MC's in this crew before (or after) this twelve, but this joint is hype:

The 12" contains two versions of the same theme, basically just shit-talk and bigging up Brooklyn/Zoo York/the Zooniverse/etc. "Original Brooklyn Zoo" is the stronger version; the energy of the production and posse of MC's can't help but propel this into the realm of hype-f*cking-shit. You gotta chant along with the chorus; it seems like the whole world is anyways. Love the low-key vocal sample underlying the production.

"Masters of the Zooniverse" is essentially the same lyrics, re-recorded with a new instrumental, which is tight (simple piano loop with lots of sound effects) but tones things down a bit. Still dope, though.

Includes the two cuts mentioned, as well as instrumentals for both.

More Brooklyn Zoo:
* Check Brooklyn Zoo's MySpace page for new music and the original Brooklyn Zoo music video

Monday, July 17, 2006

Group Home "Express" (1997)

The rap on Group Home was that without DJ Premier's production, they couldn't even put out an indie record, let alone something on a major (we'll consider Payday a major). I always thought Lil' Dap had some dope verses (he held his own on Gangstarr records), and that there were plenty of two-man crews that were carried by one man. Group Home's "Express" 12", released by Tape Kingz, has always remained my argument that Group Home was worth something without Premier.

Produced (ok, co-produced) by Lil'Dap himself, the track doesn't have the bounce that Premier can bring (as in "Supastar"), but it's flawless for the concept executed on "Express". Dark and foreboding, Lil'Dap brings you into his mindstate as he travels on the A-train from East New York to Uptown. You can literally break out a subway map on his verse:

East New York Express, brothers don't try to flex
Only real brothers on these trains, and we know what's best
Deep meditation when we start to write over rhymes
Hop on Broadway Junction and my changes shine... I hit my stash when I hit Nostrand Ave
pickin' up oils and incense to create a new path...

Love the spoken chorus on this one ("Some people understand/some people don't/some people realize/some people won't"). I can't finish the post without commenting on Malachi's verse, though. The theme here is clear: "Express" (The A-train, and the people that travel it). Malachi drops the second verse:

Recreation of life - is a natural beauty
Enhanced technicians - to do their duty
Evaluations - of all situations
Excellent specialists - with information...

This shit continues. I'm going to give Malachi the benefit of the doubt and say that there's some meaning in his lyrics, they're just crazy abstract. He eventually winds his way to "education is the main priority" and "there's too much poverty in this society". Malachi, glad you're trying to discuss issues and all, but you're doing it in the wrong f*cking song. "Express", get it? Put me inside the damn A-train. I suppose that you could argue that the A-train is a metaphor for wealth, class and race in NYC, but it's a different thing entirely to link that argument to Malachi's lyrics.

In short, "Express" is a summary of what's right about Group Home and what's wrong. It's almost like Malachi pulled a verse out of his ass, Lil'Dap got frustrated, and so Malachi adds this last line at the end of his verse, almost as a punchline:

Don't get bent - because you smokin' on that stress
We form New York - on the A-train express

Repeating it ("Express!") is almost this zen-like moment..."oh, yeah, that's what I'm supposed to rhyme about. If I repeat it, it'll become the theme." Includes instrumental; feel free to share your own Group Home theory if you've got one.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

French Hip-Hop 12's Part 2 (1999)

More French hip-hop from '99 (see Part 1 for more info).

[French Hip-Hop 12's, Part 2]

Shurik'n Sté "Rien N'est Eternel" 12"

Solid underground fare, includes three cuts ("Rien N'est Eternel", "Tu le sais", "Le Chant des signes").

Le Peril Noir "Le Destin"

Love this beat. Drums are pedantic, but ill string samples. My French sucks (the two years in uni are long gone); it seems like some serious shit is going on lyrically.

HiFi & Lesly "L'élévation" (with instrumental)

This bouncy cut was one of my favorites in the record store. Listening to it now, not too complex, but it does retain that bounce. Elevation, yo. Includes instrumental.

Freeman "Combien J'ai Ramé" 12"

Includes instrumental, and b-side "Prohibition du Savoir". For more Freeman, check this post at Leave Your Nine At Home.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

French Hip-Hop 12's Part 1 (1999)

Due to extremely fortunate circumstances (a sister working for an airline), I managed to hop on a plane to Paris on New Year's Eve in '99. My return was open-ended, depending entirely on how long it took me to rip through the cash I brought with me. On my third day in Paris, I found the record stores, and dropped all my cash on French hip hop. Some of y'all can relate to those priorities.

My knowledge of French hip-hop was (and still is, to some degree) MC Solaar and IAM. Solaar's "Caroline" was the ultra-smooth shit my man brought back from his semester abroad in France, and soon Solaar started showing up on records in the States (thanks to Guru I'd say). I didn't get IAM til they did the collabo with Timbo King (or Royal Fam).

Long story short, spent the day going through 12" one-by-one with a surly (can't blame him, I was an American and he was French, right?) record store employee. I had to promise him I'd be dropping lots of cash in advance; he wasn't excited about letting me audition shit, period. Some of the records that crossed the Atlantic:

[French Hip-Hop 12's Part 1]

Lunatic "Civilisé" 12"

This track sounds like some rugged NYC indie shit; love how the MC starts his first verse. Includes instrumental.

La Case Negre "Amertume" b/w "Quand Je Rap" 12"

The b-side's been my long time favorite here, chill jazzy head-nodder. And a title anyone who's taken French 101 can understand. Again, love how the MC breaks into the track on this cut. Includes the two tracks listed.

Scred Connexion "Bouteille de Gaz" 12"

Niice twelve with three cuts, "Bouteille de Gaz", "La Routine", and "Les Diables et les Anges". Despite the familiarity of the latter (you'll recognize the samples), like how they rock 'em. Also includes "Bouteille..." instrumental.

IV My People "Présent Tant Qu'mes Gars en Veulent" 12"

Definately the "hot shit" amongst this group, and the only one I've been able to rock at a club in the States. Right on the edge of being commercial bullshit, I think this track works, love the intro (anchored by DJ Premier and Pharoah Monche vocal samples). Includes instrumental, as well as b-side "Rien à Prouver" and instrumental.

Friday, July 14, 2006


I've been using a Mac for the last 5 years, which has been long enough to forget how delicately things often work in the world of PC's. For example, file naming...Microsoft OS have much narrower rules, which has resulted in a number of uploads which couldn't be unzipped by some users out there.

A few people have alerted me to the problem, so I went ahead and rechecked the whole site, so there are a slew of updates just to make the whole thing friendly to everyone's computer...if you've had problems in the past with any file, things should be straight now.

Thought I'd take the chance to thank people that have showed interest in this blog as well. My goal is to up a twelve inch every day, and that's not going to be a problem for some time, but at that rate, the purpose is not to exclusively drop extreme obscurities à la Vinyl Addicts. I discovered Vinyl Addicts late in the game, (and The Rookie even later), which essentially inspired me to start a blog; I'm also interested in sharing a number of what the more, uh, "sophisticated" hip-hop vinyl collector will recognize as underground classics. The post below (and a number I've already tried to hit) falls into this category...well, in my opinion at least.

Feel free to contribute if you have related material to a post (even if it's a link to something you've upped on your blog), I'd like to avoid being too redundant. Even if the nature of this whole project is mildly schizophrenic.

Also, since I'd like to do what I can do keep Rapidshare from dominated this whole "market" (it's a healthy distrust), despite its convenience. I'll try to post a SendSpace (or whatever) link along with each Rapidshare link...use whatever you prefer.

BTW, for fans of French hip-hop, got a grip of twelves to drop (from a trip to Parisian record shops in '99) this weekend, be sure to check it!

Self Scientific "Return" (1998)

(return) the way we were
before the influx of drugs and money occured
(return) the way we was
before the rise and lies of fake players and thugs

The mid/late-90's theme of "it's all slipping away, let's take it back" reaches its fully-evolved state in this early Self-Scientific banger. Another cut that many are familiar with, but if you're not...grab it with a quickness, play it over and over for everyone you know until it becomes the mind-state:

DJ Khalil's track here strikes the perfect balance between the mourning inherent in Chace Infinite's lyrics, and the yearning of conscious next-school talent. The vocal samples that fade in and out ("return!") combined with the earnestness of the track give it an unusual immediacy...dig yourself into the lyrics:

I master the ceremonial phrase, and hit you with lyrics
reminiscient of the glorious days
All for one in this game, the only thing that's changed
is the multiple frauds allowed to use our name
In God we came, so in God we trust
Check the Ultramagnetic vibe and the Newcleus
I let the words flow, and relate to the criminal minds
Follow the leader, to the next text and time
Exercise the mind and you'll find
light inside my oratory design

There's plenty of cats who will try to convince you that the "Return" concept is dead; hip-hop has changed, and you have to evolve with it. I don't think that argument is necessarily valid. What have changed are the trends: in particular, what most clubs are rocking and what most people are buying. Whatever; the nature of clubs and media requires change. But there are fundamentals that inform your idea of what hip hop is that don't necessarily have to change; hell, if the concept of hip-hop music and culture was that loose and flexible, what's the point of giving it a name? F*ck that, Self Scientific got it right:

Now it seems, on your TV screen:
false images and caviar, champaign dreams
Each day is like a bad dream...

...for all my rap n*ggas who burn
DJ's in the world watchin' your Technics turn
for all my b-boy brothers sufferin' floor burns:
Bust a head-spin to this one...return

Includes vocal and instrumental; "Sublevel Dominance" vocal and instrumental, as well as two short bonus beats.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

AK Skills "East Ta West" (1996)

Most people know AK Skills from 1995's "Check tha Flava"; I've seen a few remixes floating around of it as well. "Check tha Flava" was cool, but if you're going to stress an AK Skills cut, I'd nominate "East Ta West", the b-side to his follow-up twelve in '96:

Don't know much (OK, anything) about the producer here, but I've always loved this track. A long four-bar sample is paired with a filtered bassline as the crisp snare pounds the track; just a great summertime vibe. AK Skills doesn't have an extensive catalog, but I think his flow shines on a more uptempo track like this. Includes vocal, instrumental and acapella for "East Ta West".

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Downtempo Joints - DJ Vadim remixes

Towards the end of the 90's, most hip-hop production just wasn't enough...with the rise of trip-hop in the mid-90's, and hip-hop instrumentalists like Shadow, there were people that were going beyond a straight loop to create a full composition, while remaining true to hip-hop aesthetics. Within the emerging genre of "downtempo", it seemed clear that some producers/musicians were coming over from electronica(Air, Thievery Corporation, etc.), some people from indie rock(Four Tet), and some from hip-hop(Shadow). DJ Vadim was definately a hip-hop m'f*cka.

I've always found DJ Vadim to be an inspiring figure, with his minimalist perspective and collaborative nature; sometimes those collaborations go well (i.e. "Your Revolution" with Sarah Jones) and sometimes they just don't work. This EP (2 x 12") was my intro to Vadim, and consists mostly of other producers' interpretations of his work; it still remains the dopest shit his name has been attached to, in my opinion.

"Variations in USSR (Krush remix)"
"Theme from Conquest of the Irrational (Prunes remix)"
"Beyond Thought (Vadim vs. Daniel Pemberton)"
"Variations in USSR (Reflection Mix)"
"Vad Forgive Me (Kid Koala Mix)"
"Conquest of the Irrational (Vads Dad Diversion)"
"Abstractions (Jupiter Jam remix)"

Something in here for everyone, but my strong favorites are the Prunes remix of "Conquest of the Irrational", "Beyond Thought" and the Krush remix of "Variations in USSR". "Beyond Thought" features what may be one of the longest looped samples I've ever heard, with Vadim pounding the drums over it. It may take some time to get into it, it doesn't hit you over the head; may become one of your favorite minimalist downtempo jawns though. "Conquest of the Irrational" is a bit more obvious, laced with chimes and dark strings. Enjoy, and pick your own favorite from the group. Includes all tracks on the EP (listed above).

[UPDATE, 7/13, 5pm: Re-archived, re-upped file]

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Ras Kass "Jack Frost" (1995)

More Ras Kass (it doesn't get much better than Ras Kass in the mid-90's). Don't know if this cut was ever "officially" released (like "Won't Catch Me Runnin"), found a bootleg of it a few years back. One of the few Christmas songs you can listen to year-round, Ras Kass gives "Nature of the Threat"-treatment (i.e. his own reasoned dissection of convention) to the Christmas holidays.

I've never figured out who did the original beat for "Jack Frost", shit is dope like everything he was rhyming over those days; Nat King Cole never sounded so forboding. Lyrically, Ras Kass mixes up the battle rhymes, punchlines and stabs at tradition:

My mind avalanches expressions
and from papa's erection and mama's C-section
before nore plant contraception conception
The only exception was the immaculate deception
Cause contrary to what my bereaved mother believes,
Jesus was conceived by a mitocondrial Eve
I leave gangrene when I slang knees below zero,
So n*ggas better bring more "Heat" than Al Pacino and Robert De Niro

The "Anything Goes" remix and "Live from C-Arson" were on the bootleg as well, and I include them here, along with the "Jack Frost" instrumental.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Mr. Complex "Visualize" (1997)

Raw Shack records is mostly famous (and infamous) for its dealings with J-Live in the mid-90's, but later joints by Strict Flow and Mr. Complex are worth checking out. This Mr. Complex record has a lot going for it: 2 DJ Spinna beats, and guest spots by Apani and Pharoah Monche:

There was a period in the mid/late 90's when Spinna's production was all over the place, especially NYC-indie records. No doubt he has his own distinctive style, but it can occasionally fall flat. Case in point is the A-side here, "Visualize", which I find almost unlistenable.

However, DJ Spinna laces the b-side "Wny Don't Cha" with a lovely beat, probably one of my all-time-DJ-Spinna-favorites. This beat is a head nodder that lies precariously somewhere between cool-out and hype shit; I love how the horn sample pushes the beat forwards, and the vocal sample (awwwww....ya!) Spinna rocks. Mr. Complex, for his part, is dope; definately a quirky style, which is a matter of personal preference. The song also features the most low-profile Pharaoh Monche guest appearance in recorded history...I never even noticed it was him until I read the label. That's Pharaoh belting out the chorus, not Mr. Complex ("uh...hit me in the face, why don'tcha?").

Overall, despite the weak A-side here, snatch this one up, both Spinna and Mr. Complex come through on "Wny Don't Cha". Includes vocal and instrumental for both cuts.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Canibus freestyles (1997)

Canibus knew how to break into the industry; working at a record label, networking, dropping guest verses and mixtape freestyles while killing every cut he was associated with. My intro (along with most) to Canibus was the Lost Boyz "Beast From the East", and it still stands out as his most definitive verse to me. No one had ever heard of him and he killed Redman on a track. After that, his verses started showing up on various mixtapes, and Universal signed him; in a rush to capitalize on the hype, they released a twelve with his first single ("How We Roll") and included a collection of his freestyles from various mixtapes:

DJ Clue "Cluemanati" mixtape freestyle
Lost Boyz freestyle
Mad Ball & Tab One freestyle
Tony Touch Tape #55 freestyle

"How We Roll" was cool (Canibus was killing EVERYTHING that year), but having those freestyles (from Tony Touch, DJ Clue, etc) in one spot was the real gem. Canibus was redefining the prototype of the battle MC; or rather, the collective effect of these freestyles (and "Beast From the East") convinced a lot of people that he was on a completely different plane:

I'll make examples out of you, and eat a mouthful of your crew
The type of MC you can't out-do:
I'll battle you on the net, I'll battle you in the flesh
I'll battle you over the phone - you can call me collect
I'll battle you for the respect, I'll battle you over a blank check
I'll battle you with a gun to my neck
I'll battle you standin' over the toilet, with my dick out
I'll battle you jugglin' a hand-grenade with the pin out
in a stolen car, with the VIN number ripped out
drinkin' a Guiness Stout, doin' a 360-spinout

The guest verses continued, including LL's "4,3,2,1" and the ensuing battle that resulted. As much as I respect LL, I thought Canibus would eat him up after what they'd been dropping the last year or so. But it seems that by then, the hype had already started to catch up to him; heads expected Canibus to destroy everything he touched. No doubt, he's dropped some dope shit since then, but nothing that ever transcended the peak he was camped out on back in '97. Includes the cuts listed above.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Ras Kass "Won't Catch Me Runnin'" (1995)

Early Ras Kass was so f*cking dope. Vinyl of anything was initially so hard to find, you had to rely on cassette dubs that were generations deep. I managed to snatch up a few copies of this 12" in '97; it was shocking to actually see them available (ran into a stash of at least 10, and grabbed three of 'em). The story I was told was that they were discovered by someone in a warehouse...never learned if that was true, or if a repress or bootleg snuck some into the market.

"Won't Catch Me Runnin" is dope, but the banger here is "Remain Anonymous", the b-side. Produced by Vooodu of Western Hemisfear, this track is hella dark. The entire track is quotable, but I'll highlight the wordplay that opens the second verse:

I seen the scene from the outside lookin' in through a window pane
Pain; hypertension ruptured the varicose vein
The vainglorious breaks I be, perpetratin' omnipotent reign
I rain acid, grate your crew to steak meat
The stakes increase on break beats, your fleet fleets run
when I'm rippin ya Kubrick's, meaning deceased, rest in peace
Pieces of my nebulous flex paralyzes oblongatas
To witness my linguistics like a Muslim takes jihad or not

Includes "Won't Catch Me Runnin" vocal, instrumental, and Moet remix; "Remain Anonymous" vocal and instrumental.

UPDATE, 10:57PM: Re-archived, re-upped ZIP file; let me know if this one gives problems

UPDATE, 8/9:
Check this post at Wake Your Daughter Up for the Ras Kass "Soul On Ice" demo version.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Lone Catalysts "Politix" (2000)

All we want to do is what we love
Making music for the people...

The Lone Catalysts (J. Sands & J. Rawls) have been one of the few crews that have been putting out consistently dope material in the new millenium, and on the off-chance that it's unfamiliar to anyone, I feel compelled to offer "Politix" - their second 12" (behind "Paperchase") - and my favorite 12" of 2000.

This record stands out in the year 2000 crates: thoughtful, dark, introspective, jazzy. While "jazzy" can describe most of the Lone Catalysts' output, the piano loop they rock over in "Politix" is lovely enough that you can listen to it over and over, getting lost in the music while simultaneously following the lyrics, which function as essays:

You see, everything's politically-based
Then placed in categories consisting of wealth, class and race
(only in America) you could be found guilty before the case
(especially) if your face look black like outer space
(but there's more) like the rich have no love for the poor
because they treat 'em like second-class citizens
like the Egyptians did the Ethiopians, the Germans did the Jews
like the whites do, every man of color (this is true)

Going beyond wealth, class, and race (which undoubtably you have to tie together), they don't ignore gender politics, either:

I can't explain it from a woman's point of view
'cause no matter what they say, or do - men wanna screw
When they're in the interview
the boss is more than likely thinking bout a rendezvous
so takes chew to spit a few
flirtatious hits, to see if she'll accept it or not
(now that's pressure) sort of like a hard place and a rock
but it's like that - and that's the way it is
'cause those with power abuse it, when they misuse it...

Classic example of dope hip-hop in the new millenium. Includes clean, dirty, instrumental and acapella, as well as b-side "Two's Company & Three's a Crowd" clean, dirty, and instrumental.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Kwest Tha Madd Lad "What's the Reaction?" (1997)

As requested, here's Kwest's "What's the Reaction". Back when Kwest's album dropped on American, it wasn't standout to me...nine years later, though, it holds up pretty well.

Kwest's music tends to be eccentric and jazzy, and "What's the Reaction" is probably his most accessible cut. The beat comes in bouncing with a jazzy sample and a PMD vocal loop, while Kwest proceeds to describe the club we all wish we were at; the perfect vibe. Shit still bounces, nine years later, and I had forgotten about the ill beat breakdown halfway through the cut. An extended outro with scratching makes this cut as DJ-friendly as you could get in '97.

The remix (aptly titled "What's the Remix?") chills things out a bit; pick your favorite. Includes vocal, instrumental and acapella for "What's the Reaction"; vocal and instrumental for "What's the Remix".

[UPDATE, 7/14, 6pm: Re-archived, re-upped file]

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Ten Thieves "It Don't Matter" (1995)

When I first started DJ'ing in '95, I'd go over to my man's dorm room and we'd mix until we'd played every record in our crates. That first six months, there were only three crates, so some records got heavy play as utility/transitional records; they weren't bangers, but they fit in with so many other records that they became invaluable. It's a different sort of affection that you develop for utility records, 'cause you're not necessarily geeked about an MC, producer or's just that the record ultimately reflects the times so well, without being a particular, stand-out track. Times being what they are, though, I'd take most mid-90's utility joints over most pieces being dropped today.

When my man's record collection essentially disappeared four years later (long story), a lot of those utility records were forgotten, only to resurface on random digging missions. I ran into this record last year and recognized it as one of those utility joints lost to time:

"It Don't Matter" fits snugly into just about any mid-90's mix you'd want to throw together. It's produced by Stretch (and I'm reasonably confident it's THAT Stretch) and is DJ-friendly with the intro and sampled hook for the chorus; verses are solid but never wander on too long. Simply a great cut to keep things moving, which is sometimes exactly what you need.

The beat is moderately bouncy, with a nice lower-octave piano sample, and a number of MC's get on the mic. Despite the variety of MC's, it definately feels more like a group than a posse cut (I've personally never been a big fan of posse cuts). The "B-A-D Mix" drops into the first verse more directly, but isn't a big musical departure from the original. Included are both versions (and instrumentals).

[UPDATE, 7/13, 6pm: Re-archived, re-upped file]

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Kamakazee "Snakes" (1997)

File this one under "dope Marly Marl beats". Don't know Kamakazee's past or future, but thanks to Marley Marl, they had a niice 12" in '97:

This beat is simple, but in all the right ways. A raw break fueled by a brief blast of sound. Seemingly random "blip" noise. The Perfect Vocal Sample chorus. All that remains is for Kamakazee to avoid shitting on the track, and they're definately up to it. Nothing quotable, but definately another track to put on that "Snakes, Crabs and Backstabbers" mixtape you've been working on.

The B-side - "Spread It(remix)" - is a solid track, again, for similar reasons: Marly's production and a raw vocal sample (in this case, Redman). Includes vocal and instrumental for both cuts.

[UPDATE, 7/14: Re-archived, re-upped file]

Monday, July 03, 2006

Downtempo Joints - DJ Cam

DJ Cam is well-established in the downtempo/trip-hop scene, and has put out consistently solid material. "Twilight Zone (hip hop remix)" utilizes a simple downtempo breakbeat and a few nice string samples to give the song an epic feel.

The drum break is solid, but Cam puts in all his work on orchestrating the samples and adding some well-placed scratching. It almost sounds like the whole track was made with a 4- or 8-track; you can kind of hear the samples fading in and out. It's not in Shadow's (circa "Endtroducing") league, but definately a worthy addition to your downtempo collection. Oh, and features one of the dopest 12" labels you'll ever find.

Camp Lo "Black Nostaljack (Xenobia Mix)" (1997)

I won't lie; while the peoples around me were hopping around mocking the "Camp-Lo-ahh! Camp-Lo-ahh!" routine, I thought that "Coolie Hi" shit was smooth as hell. "It's raining Alize in the sugar streets"? That was either "smooth" or "gay"; didn't seem like too many people fell in between. While "Coolie Hi" was the official jam, I always liked "Black Nostaljack", but was frustrated by the chorus ("n*gga, come on!"), something a pasty white boy like me could never participate with. So naturally the arrival of this 12" had me geeked:

Besides the alteration of the chorus ("n*gga come on" became "suga come on"), Ski's remix (aka "Xenobia Mix") highlighted the smoothness Camp Lo was all about. From the very beginning, it's clear that the production is taking the remix to a different level, with the layered strings, which dissolve to dust when the beat bangs in. From there, the bassline takes over. Gotta love this shit...give Ski his props.

[UPDATE, 7/14: Re-archived, re-upped file]

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Mr. Voodoo (Natural Elements) "Lyrical Tactics" (1996)

Not to be confused with Voodu from the West coast, Mr. Voodoo is 100% NYC. My introduction to the Natural Elements crew, this record showcases some of Charlemagne's best production, Mr. Voodoo's classic NYC flow, and an ill Natural Elements posse cut that would set the standard for future material.

It's hard to pick a favorite here, as each of the three cuts on the 12" have a distinct feel and are straight dope. I ended up rocking "Hemlock" the most often of the three; I couldn't get enough of the chilled-out jazzy groove. "Lyrical Tactics" features a bouncy, bassline-focused beat that showcases a more aggressive Voodoo. "Shine", the posse cut, may be the most well-known cut on this record, thanks to DJ Premier, who rocked doubles of it on one of his mixtapes in the mid-90's.

My understanding is that this record is pretty hard to find, and all three of these cuts are quintessential mid-90's NYC indie shit...snatch this one up. Includes the three cuts mentioned, as well as the "Lyrical Tactics" instrumental.

[UPDATE, 7/14, 5pm: Re-archived, re-upped file]

Saturday, July 01, 2006

KRS-ONE feat. Cold Crush "Throwdown" (1996)

One of those elusive white labels released prior to the official single, I was just in the right place at the right time to snatch this up (specifically, the hip-hop rep at a radio station in '96). KRS-ONE could do no wrong in the mid-90's; he was so raw and consistent that all of his records were automatic. This white label showed up at the radio station and everyone started didn't disappoint.

"Throwdown" features Cold Crush chanting the chorus, as KRS rips the verses over relatively spare production (a bassline, rolling piano chord samples, and a strong kick and snare). Now, when a label like Jive sent you an advance single, they were usually particular about what cut they hoped you played off it; with this record, however, it seemed like they were still figuring that out (the flip side was "The MC"). At the time, I ended up favoring the feverish intensity of "The MC", but "Throwdown" is up there with anything on the "I Got Next" album:

What does it take to be a real MC?
It means you can't write rhymes for the TV
'cause a real MC, whether amateurs or pros
is an MC that knows how to rock live shows
another thing - while I sing MC-talk
a real MC never diss New York
cause if you know the time while you rhyme and emceeing
you know that New York is hip-hop's Garden of Eden

The reason "The MC" made it and "Throwdown" didn't, as I understand it, is that the Cold Crush brothers (specifically their management) killed it for some unstated reason. Of course, that's based on an interview with KRS-ONE, so I haven't heard the other side. Either way, here it is, a worthy addition to your mid-90's KRS collection.