Sun, 19 February 2012
"I'm 'bout to call the CIA on myself..."
- Jasiri X
February, what a month...one in which we mark the passings of Big Pun, Big L, J Dilla, and now Whitney Houston. There's some Dilla and Pun in this month's selection, alongside some political dubplate action, a touch of funk and one of those singles I had to close my eyes while paying for...
Natural Elements : Shine
That blues sample starts up and you just know it's going to be a good few minutes. I've definitely said before how much of a fan I am/was of this ridiculously-skilled crew of New York MCs who burned up some incredible underground tracks in the 90s. Most people who happen to know this one probably heard it on DJ Premier's "New York Reality Check 101" mixtape where it was somehow mislabelled as "Lyrical Tactics." Lyrics galore all the same, with Charlemagne on the production and an appearance by Essence (aka Ayana Soyini) who apparently was not a guest but an original member of the group - didn't know that!
[Ski] Camp Lo : Coolie High (Instrumental)
Bronx! Another group I have proclaimed my fandom of at least a couple of times on the podcast before :) This track is easily one of my favourite Hip-Hop singles of all time. DJ Greenpeace was the first person to play it for me and from that first listen I was sold. Of course here, there are no vocals, only the incredible beat from the man Ski, flipping a Janet Jackson sample heavily and adding the extra bump to put it in the pantheon of great singles. A monster.
Camp Lo : Coolie High (Paradise Remix)
...and then we have the little-known remix! I'd been looking for a copy of this for *years* since DJ Beware first picked it up before finding a copy on Discogs. This is a bit of a re-record - the lyrics are slightly different to the original, but it's the beat which is the huge change; while Ski sampled Janet Jackson on the original, he switches over to Michael on this version and it's just perfect. If you can find this on 12", hold onto it!
The Roots : I Remember
My favourite cut from the most recent Roots album, "Undun." Not the longest album in the world, but a top-quality release and definitely recommended (and not just by me)! As the album tells the story of the fall and death of a man in reverse, this track from near the end is from relatively early in the story. It's melancholy, and it's beautiful. Knocked the breath out of me the first time I heard it, hope it does the same for you!
Jewell : It's Not Deep Enough
Don't remember this? You probably weren't around during the monster Death Row Records run in the 90s. Ill track from the "Above The Rim" soundtrack, but very much to the back compared to joints like "Regulate" and "Afro Puffs." For me it was a favourite though, with the producer Mr.Dalvin (yes, of Jodeci) reaching into the jazz crates for the Donald Byrd "Wind Parade" sample which had been used in the surrounding period by Black Moon and 2Pac to name but two. Works here once again, with the slow neck-snapping drums. Jewell was a vocalist who as far as I know never put a full album out, but responsible for some of the hugest hooks of the era - "Let Me Ride" was her work, as was "Gin and Juice," and Snoop's "What's My Name?" too. Not quite the female Nate Dogg, but as good a comparison as any :) Love her vocals on this.
Mark B & Blade : Use Your Head
UK coming through with the heavy drums! As I recall, this was one of the first - if not the first - Mark B & Blade collaborations, on a two-disc EP called "Hitmen For Hire." Of the four tracks on there, this was the big standout for me, with those tough tough drums just smashing everything in sight - you can't give Blade a weak beat. The cuts are provided by the extra-ill, ex-Scratch Pervert Mr.Thing, one of the great all-rounders on the turntables, rounding off the whole package nicely!
Twizted Rootz : A Useful Waste Of Time
Rootz is a young producer coming out of Manchester getting play on the podcast for the second time - he got in contact to let me know he had some new stuff in a different style to some of his older beats, so you know I had to get that. Check him out on Soundcloud!
Jasiri X : Bushes
Huge tune on the ill political dubplate vibe! As with every big single, "Otis" ended up with all kinds of no-mark MCs chatting unpolished nonsense all over the Kanye-produced instrumental, but you can throw all those out of the window in favour of this one. In fact, I like this more than the original! Pittsburgh's Jasiri X, a fearlessly political MC, absolutely turns it out here by rhyming in the personas of George Bush and George W Bush - but taking the rhyme scheme from Jay and Kanye's original track. Brilliant piece of lyrical cleverness. Grabbed this as one of the tracks on the bargain-priced (edit: now *free*) "#thewholeworldiswatching" LP, which is definitely worth having!
Phat Kat ft. J Dilla & Black Milk : Door
AKA Subwoofer status check. Lows and more lows on the BR Gunna production. Drums are nice too, if you can hear them through all that! I've got this on a sampler 12" but it's probably most obtainable on Phat Kat's 2003 "The Undeniable" album. An all-Detroit affair, with the late great J Dilla and Black Milk giving nice turns on the mic alongside Phat Kat on a tune which just has the feel of Jason Voorhees on the MPC.
Akrobatik ft. Talib Kweli : Put Ya Stamp On It
Dilla on the beat this time, sounds hectic as hell but only 93bpm. Nice bit of extra sub bass on those kicks at the end of each four-bar section! Boston's Akrobatik (who you may know from The Perceptionists) goes hard on the mic to do the late James Yancey proud (this was released after his passing, as you may spot from the lyrics), and Talib Kweli gives a good backup performance too. Got this as a 12" but you can find it on the 2008 "Absolute Value" LP, which I still need to get!
Big Punisher : The Dream Shatterer
RIP Pun, and Rest In Pieces to the wack emcees he slays on this track! The first time I heard the "Capital Punishment" LP I knew I liked it, but when this track rolled on, it was rewind time! "Ayo I shatter dreams, like Jordan assault & batter your team?" You know I was loving that. The big Boricua from the Bronx bodied this beat big-time ;) with a head-on attack flow. Amazingly, this wasn't even the first choice of beat! Buckwild from DITC produced the original version, but the sample couldn't be cleared and so Domingo stepped in with this ill, dramatic, rushed, tightrope-walking track you hear on the album. Phenomenal.
[Marky Mark] LL Cool J : How I'm Comin'
Anyone else remember when LL started coming out gangsta style? I think this was the lead single from his "14 Shots To The Dome" album, apparently a 1996 release - feels older to me somehow! No vocals on this version of course, but LL Cool J is one of the most remarkable MCs of all time, incredible longevity and someone who was counted out at least once, only to come back blazing! I don't have anything rare from him but will definitely play something from the catalogue in the future.
Oddisee : Don Cornelius
There was no question - this had to be played this month, even though I played the previous track from the same album two months ago! DMV representing but bringing the West Coast flavour, giving me nice synths to blend into the next track with. Oh, and that vocal sample? One of my all-time favourite artists (you already know), the late great Roger Troutman! Here's a short (but good) article at NewsOne summarising some of the things Don Cornelius influenced, and a longer one on NPR. What a legacy.
Lord Jamar : Supreme Mathematics (Knowledge Mix)
First of two Brand Nubian-related tracks this episode; on this one, Lord Jamar gives a surprisingly catchy breakdown of the symbolic meanings of the numerals in the Supreme Mathematics, a number system making up part of the Nation of Gods and Earths' core concepts. It's the last track on Jamar's "The 5% Album" which is, as the title suggests, based around the nation's teachings - regardless of whether you believe or not, it's a solid album worth checking, especially if you like conscious lyrical content. It'd have been even better if they could have included "The Sun!" Anyway, Lord Jamar handles the production on here himself - I'm not going to name the sample as I don't know if it's been cleared but it's definitely got that b-boy vibe, far superior to the original mix.
Public Enemy : You're Gonna Get Yours
Good excuse to get this tune in position for a road test! Wicked but underrated PE tune which opened up the first album, "Yo! Bum Rush The Show" back in 87. It almost feels like some kind of reverse world where Public Enemy have a song about a car, but it works! I think Bill Stephney is credited with the production, though it wouldn't surprise me if everyone in the group had piled in on this at some point - I'm sure someone knows better than me though!
ADC Band : Baby Love
Not an obvious selection, but pulled the "Long Stroke" (!) album out to give it a listen and this sounded like sonically it'd go pretty will with the PE track! I don't know much about the ADC Band, so I'll just post a Discogs link which seems to have the most info of anywhere I managed to find...
Grand Puba ft. Q-Tip : Good To Go
Two big names, but not a well-known track! This is from Puba's 2009 "Retroactive" album which totally passed me by - only heard it for the first time last year! Truth be told, not an essential LP top to bottom but worth a listen at least. It's been a long time since that first Brand Nubian album in 1990 where most of us first heard him, but he's still here! Alongside him on this track is the man Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest, who also handles the production. Surprisingly awkward to mix with, but I like it!
[DJ Revolution] Mykill Myers : Killing Spree (Remix)
One of those 12"s that I don't expect is super-rare or anything, but that most DJs I know just wouldn't have bought! Mykill Myers is/was an MC out of Los Angeles who had a couple of albums out on Ill Boogie Records in 2000 & 2001, the first of which the original of this track was taken from. As for the producer, DJ Revolution - his beats are good, but he's more renowned for his ridiculous turntable skills...get to know!
GZA : Labels (Remix/Original?)
This was what I heard the first time I heard "Labels" on the radio, and when I bought "Liquid Swords" and got to that track I was gutted. Why? Totally different beat! It seems they couldn't get clearance for everything on here and had to go with a different version; in fact, if you listen right to the very end you can hear it! This for me is one of the hardest beats of an era that had a fair few of them - there was nothing else that sounded anything like it, which is just RZA all over. Lyrically though, you get the same incredible quality on both versions, with GZA weaving the names of 39 (by my count) record labels into a cohesive piece, just amazing. Not only did this probably send a ton of MCs back to school or into alternative employment, but also spawned more GZA tracks that used the same kind of idea with different contexts - I'll just give you one : "Fame..."
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!