Jan 30, 2020
"...as long as I'm alive, I will make it."
- Kim Stephens
It's been a subdued start to the year in the main, and my equipment may have conspired against me, but nothing was getting in the way of the first podcast episode of the decade! There are definitely some popular classics in the selection, right next to brand new releases, and some slightly older tracks which deserve a second - or even first - chance in your headphones.
Twitter : @airadam13
Roc Marciano : Richard Gear
Roc is the absolute master of this style, and he's back with a new LP release, "Marcielago". If you like this vibe, then you're in for a treat as he carries it over the whole project. It's easy to forget that he's not just penning all those rhymes, but producing the beats as well. He's self-taught and beautifully individual in approach - a leader, not a follower.
[Alchemist] Mobb Deep : The Realest (Instrumental)
One of the most straightforward beats in Al's career - a two-bar loop with nothing added. It was originally going to be an interlude on the Defari "Focused Daily" album, but eventually became a standout on Mobb Deep's "Murda Muzik". This exact instrumental version is on the now-deleted "Gangster Theme Music" collection, but you could pretty much just loop up the start of the Mobb track :)
Trae Tha Truth : Even Tho Its Hard (sic)
A fairly recent release from Trae, taken from his eleventh album, "Exhale". This is a real struggle anthem, voiced by a man whose mic skills are too often overlooked. This is bell-clear rhyming, where you can pick out every single word - aided by the production not fighting him too much for focus. (Once again, this is a case where my digital purchase doesn't contain the credits to enable me to shout out the producer. Fix it, record companies!)
O.C. : The Chosen One
It's been a little while - well over four years - since we visited the "Jewelz" album, so it's about time we came back. Buckwild brings together the jazz and soul to craft the beat on this one, and O.C. strides over it like a king surveying his subjects. The whole album was criminally underrated when it came out, with many just expecting a re-tread of the "Time's Up" sound. A lot went into making it, and it took many listeners a while to catch up - but they did!
Flamingosis : You Were Meant For Me
A nice little piece from a New Jersey producer whose catalogue has a certain sunniness that you just have to listen to understand! Pick up the "Flight Fantastic" album and keep it in the stash until warmer weather arrives...
Statik Selektah & Termanology ft. Mtume : Never Let My City Down
Yes, Mtume of "Juicy Fruit" fame! The "Still 1982" LP from Statik and Term contained this little gem, where I'm not sure exactly who did what apart from the rhymes, but it works. Termanology's flow glides over this with confidence, and even the way the track winds down is expertly done.
9th Wonder : SuperChopFunk!!!!
Yes, all those exclamation points are part of the actual track title... Anyway, the beat is signature 9th Wonder material, drawn from his mostly-instrumental "Zion III" mixtape. With forty-two tracks in total, you can't say he didn't give you value for money!
Krumbsnatcha : Start Writing
I found this while having a flick through Spotify, and was glad I did! The "Iron Will Ninja Shinobi" album came out about a year ago, and it's good to see Krumb out there and still recording. The beat here is dark and menacing, sounding like a Hip-Hop contribution to the "The Terminator" soundtrack, and KS has no trouble matching that vibe on the mic.
David Bars ft. DJ Premier : Beat The Odds
If you don't know him already, it feels like you will pretty soon! Bronx native Bars getting co-signs from some of the best producers to ever do it - DITC, Beatminerz, and DJ Premier, who gave him this beat to rip! "The Bar Code" EP is the release to check to get a fuller picture of what Bars is bringing.
Meyhem Lauren ft. Big Body Bes : Badmon Ting
That "¡Caballito!" adlib will never fail to be amusing! Meyhem is not so much underrated as not well-enough known in my opinion, but he's a beast of an MC. "Gucci kicks got me looking like a pointsettia"? Come on now. Find this DJ Farhot produced track on the 2017 "Piatto D'Oro" album, named after a now-closed NYC restaurant - Meyhem does love the kitchen!
Natural Elements : N.E. Definitely
One of the great crews for the connoisseurs, NE were true kings of the underground right off the bat. Charlemagne provided the beats and L-Swift, A-Butta, and Mr.Voodoo brought bars by the trailerload! Many of the tracks from that era have been collected on the recently-released "1999 : 20 Year Anniversary" collection, of which this is one. Definite recommendation for those who like that real.
[Ali Shaheed Muhammad] Faith Evans : You Used To Love Me (Remix Instrumental)
I was happy to realise I hadn't already used this instrumental on a past episode! This neo-souled-out beat gave Faith's voice more space than the original from her debut album, which was dope in its own right.
Robert Glasper Experiment ft. Brandy : What Are We Doing?
One of the best tracks on the excellent "Black Radio 2", easily. The drummer pushes this one forward constantly, playing a little ahead of the beat as though not completely under control, and the bass and keys fill in a track that would tear down any after-hours spot. And those vocals...you might just write Brandy off as some pop artist because you know her radio singles, but you'd be very wrong. This is a track with the space to expose anyone lacking skills, and she slays it. Recognise!
Children of Zeus : Get What's Yours
New release from Manchester's own Children of Zeus, who are on a flawless run right now. A soulful motivational cut that opens up with the vocals of Tyler Daley before he goes back and forth with Konny Kon on the rhymes. The closing vocals and piano (if you go and hear the full version) round it off exquisitely. Get this on the "Two Syllables, Volume Sixteen" compilation.
Lauryn Hill : Lost Ones
The drums of the Zeus track reminded me of this, so I figured there was probably no better time for me to play it! For me, it's a battle between this and "Everything Is Everything" for best track on the only real Lauryn solo LP, "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" - a monster seller for sure. By all accounts firing shots at Wyclef, you can feel the focused anger in this one.
Kool G Rap : My Life
This was a pretty big single from the Rawkus Records part of G Rap's career, which made noise on the 2002 Hip-Hop charts as well as being a mixtape staple of the time. V.I.C (from the original Beatnuts producer crew) brings the beat, and an artist called G-Wise shows out on the talkbox. The official release of "The Giancana Story" album contains this one, as well as an alternate version featuring Capone-N-Noreaga.
Pete Rock : Stop Dat (Instrumental)
Sparse mastery from Soul Brother #1. The most recent release of the 2004 Edo G and Pete Rock LP "My Own Worst Enemy" helpfully contains all the instrumentals for when you want some unfiltered PR, and so is a recommended pickup for DJs at a minimum.
Raekwon ft. Kim Stephens : Jury
Allegedly, this track is actually supposed to be called "Jewelry", but for a typo in the tracklisting! We close the episode with a second track taken from a poorly-received sophomore album, 1999's "Immobilarity". Infinite Arkatechz, who handled the vast majority of the production, clearly picked up a Chris Spheeris compilation and ran wild with it, but this was definitely the track where that choice made the most impact. "Andalu" has nowhere near the cold, pensive feel of this song, which is classic Raekwon for me, as he tells the story of the start of the Wu from his perspective. This month's epigraph could have been any number of the lyrics from here, which paint pictures and describe feelings that I expect many besides me will relate to. On top of all that, Kim Stephens does a great job on the hook, on what may be her only ever recorded appearance. This isn't a track you put in the middle of a mix, you either start with it or end with it.
Please remember to support the artists you like! The purpose of putting the podcast out and providing the full tracklist is to try and give some light, so do use the songs on each episode as a starting point to search out more material. If you have Spotify in your country it's a great way to explore, but otherwise there's always Youtube and the like. Seeing your favourite artists live is the best way to put money in their pockets, and buy the vinyl/CDs/downloads of the stuff you like the most!