Sat, 20 July 2013
"I dance and dance and dance and dance and dance and dance and dance...then I sat on the toilet"
- Ced Gee
Fifty episodes. Power Cipher. A lot of nights trawling the shelves and slaving over a hot mixer. With A Tribe Called Quest and Nas being recurring themes on this episode, this selection has some classic A-sides, killer remixes, some little-known gems, and top local talent. This is what it's all about. Let the world know!
One more thing - friend of the show Watch Deez has just started a blog. Quality posts on the regular, get on it!
Nas : Blaze A 50
Well, I needed to start with something on the theme of "fifty!" This is taken from the well-regarded "Lost Tapes" compilation, but was originally slated for release on the original version of the "I Am..." LP, which ended up being massively reworked after it was leaked - and this was the early days of internet music sharing! L.E.S and Trackmasters produce this tangled tale of treachery.
[Havoc] Mobb Deep : More Trife Life (Instrumental)
Not my favourite cut or even beat from Mobb's "Hell On Earth" LP, but it was so good for the mix that it had to be included. Havoc on production, as was always the case back then.
Asheru : Boondocks Theme
Only short, and sound quality isn't great, but I always loved this theme tune! The lyrics give me "that" feeling, that burst of inspiration and fire. The beat is dope and the cuts at the end are top notch as well - all in all, a small nugget of brilliance! After the first season I think it was slightly tweaked, but this original is the winner. If you don't know about Aaron McGruder's "The Boondocks," then seek it out - as well as the TV programme (UK spelling!), definitely chase down the original comic strips which are works of genius.
A Tribe Called Quest : Award Tour
One of the many classics in their catalogue, and after seeing it performed live I wanted to include it on this episode. Only while doing the research for the show notes did I realise who it is on the hook - Trugoy from De La Soul! This was the first single from the legendary, must-own "Midnight Marauders" album and still gets the party moving twenty years later. One thing to note - if you don't know this track already, the speed changes in the first verse aren't part of the original - just a little touch I added ;)
Ultramagnetic MCs : Two Brothers With Checks (San Francisco, Harvey)
A track I've had on my "to play" list for ages, but again, seeing it performed live this month really put the battery in my back to get it done. Smacking it with the famous Skull Snaps drums, the "Four Horsemen" get busy on a tale of baseball, weirdness, and going to the loo. This was a heavy single back in 93, one of those I first encountered on video before getting the chance to buy it sometime later. Never did understand the "San Francisco, Harvey" subtitle though. I tried to look it but found nothing. Harvey Milk reference?
A Tribe Called Quest ft. Tammy Lucas : 1nce Again (Jackin' For Beats Remix)
Pulling out one of my prize white labels for the 50th episode! The original "1nce Again" was another Tribe lead single, this time from their fourth album "Beats, Rhymes, and Life," and was produced by "The Ummah," in an era which marked a change of direction, many might even say decline. Some unknown bright spark evidently got the idea to take the accapella from the single and underscore it with a medley of other Tribe beats - making this a great party selection, if you can find it! You still get the smooth Tammy Lucas hook, and all the rhymes - I'll take that deal.
InI : Props
My only regret is that I brought in the the super-crispy snare pattern that starts this track off a little too subtly under the preceding beat - it really deserved room to breathe! You may not know InI well - coming out of Mount Vernon, they were a five-man group who had their first LP ("Center Of Attention") pretty much entirely produced by Pete Rock (brother of group member Grap Luva), only to see it shelved due to label shenanigans. Despite this, it was eventually heard as it was bootlegged a number of times, and one of those times I suppose produced the vinyl I ended up buying! While "Fakin' Jax" was the big track from the album, this was easily my favourite - just irresistible boom-bap.
DJ Q-Bert ft. D-Styles : Razorblade Alcohol Slide
Now this is scratching! Great duet by two of the Invisibl Skratch Piklz, from Q-Bert's debut album/film "Wave Twisters." In the plot of the film, this track scores the section where the evil scratch warlords show their execution techniques. In real life, neither DJ is evil but they definitely occupy the very highest level of skill when it comes to scratching - both of them are legends in the field. This whole track is turntable-constructed, from the drums on up, yet is incredibly precise - the parts that don't need to sound like scratching don't at first, and that's how you can tell the crispness...
Tweet : Turn Da Lights Off (Remix)
This came out long before the verb "to tweet" had any meaning outside of what birds did...Tweet is a singer/songwriter who was a member of the group Sugah and had done some vocal work on Missy Elliott's "Miss E...So Addictive" album before breaking out as a solo artist. The original of this track was on her second album "It's Me Again," and had a very sample-based production thanks to Missy and Kwame (yes, polka dot Kwame!). When it was released as a single, the flip contained this outrageous, space-age version with RJD2 (known at the time for his alternative Hip-Hop production) totally taking it left field! The presence of the samples has a very different flavour, and it hits hard in a totally distinct way to the original. Worth picking up if you can find it
Sway ft. Ben Westbeech : Products (Die and Lean's Jekyll & Hyde Remix)
Going in with another space-age 12" remix; this time, the UK MC Sway has the track "Products" from his debut "This Is My Demo" turned from a nice and light instrumental to a brutal, giant robot stomping killer! I don't know much of Die & Lean outside of this track, but my guess would be that they aren't usually Hip-Hop producers - it's just in the sounds they use and how they come across I suppose. Anyway, looks like you can still find used copies of the single if you want to own this!
Camp Lo : Posse From The Bronx
"I'm on the corner of Valentine, a forty of Ballantine, you n****s can't battle mine, my Ruger just rattle spines?" Yooooo! Geechi Suede laying it down fierce alongside his road dog Sonny Cheeba on this fire opening cut from the "In Black Hollywood" album. Lyrically - you already know what it is when it comes to the Lo. Musically, there are a few things that stand out - the hook based on the famous line from BDP's "My Philosophy," the ill repeating/stuttering effect on the end of some of the lines, and groups of three hi-hat hits (listen closely) that put the extra funk in it. Phenomenal production from Ski.
[DJ Swindle] Rok One : Rokin' It (Instrumental)
One of those random inclusions that comes from a trawl of my vinyl shelves looking for the forgotten! Rok One had barely a handful of 12"s out betweem 1998 and 2002, of which this was one - think I just picked it up at a discount on spec. A bit of Googling indicates he may be doing his thing as a DJ now; nice to see people carry on in the culture.
Yasiin Bey, dead prez, Mikeflo : Made You Die (Trayvon Martin Tribute)
This actually came out last year but I missed it entirely - however, with the verdict in George Zimmerman's trial coming this month, it was getting a lot of reposts and so I came across it. Yasiin Bey (formerly Mos Def), dead prez, and Mikeflo (from the RBG crew) spit with fury on this track, making the argument that protesting may not be an effective strategy for community protection and instead calling for self-defence training and the like. Not the usual thing you'd hear, but reminiscent of a point Malcolm X once made about demonstrations being a waste of time since a) any large gathering could be dangerous and b) the person who did you wrong knows very well already you don't like it - and you should do something about it instead. One to debate! Music-wise, it's of course based on the instrumental to Nas' "Made You Look," and if you pay attention, you'll notice that Yasiin's verse is a direct lift of the rhyme scheme from the first verse of the original - nicely done!
[Easy Mo Bee] Ilacoin : This That & The 3rd (Instrumental)
Bahamadia : Uknowhowwedu
Kind of appropriate that she chose to spell the title that way, since the first time I heard this on MTV my reaction was "ohmygodthisisamazing!" Guru used to say "it's mostly the voice" and Bahamadia's voice is just incredible, absolutely unique and clear as a bell. When you add that to her lyrical skill, you get an MC who represents Philly very well. For this track in particular, she lays it down over a nice Ski and DJ Redhanded beat. This was a big single from the "Kollage" LP, which I really need to get in my collection.
The Mouse Outfit ft. Sparkz : Blaze It Up
Another great track from the "Escape Music" album. I got the chance to hear this before it was released and just loved the way the beat bumped along but with the floaty sounds on top :) Sparkz comes through nice on the lyrics, throwing in some double-time flow on the second verse! Never even been interested in trying weed to be honest, but this is a tune for those who do smoke. Played this back using the Serato "key lock" feature to allow the track to be sped up without increasing in pitch, so it's a little glitchy in places - apologies for that!
Sol Uprising ft. Lacks and Mia Simone : Raach Ya Sol
I think this is a great track, but it's not well known. Sol Uprising is/was a group made up of Sci (the MC) and Stacy Epps, a singer whose voice you may recognise from some of her appearances on things like the "Madvillainy" album. This particular tune was produced by Ta'raach (hence the title), who at the time was still being credited as Lacks. He kills it on this, slicing and dicing a classic tune underneath a lively drum track. I don't know if the sample was cleared, so unfortunately I can't talk about it here...anyway, you can get this track either as a 12" or on the "Sol Power" album - not an essential, but a few good things on there.
Little Brother : Still Lives Through
The North Carolina natives gave us a track inspired by the A Tribe Called Quest track "God Lives Through" on their second album "The Minstrel Show." In keeping with the theme, they even use the same Busta Rhymes sample in the hook - and that sample itself came from another Tribe track on the same album!
Mathmatics : Visionz
Mathmatics is a guy who's done the business in his time on the Manchester scene, and is best known as a very accomplished DJ but also someone who puts in work on the beats as well. This is a recent track he sent me and I love how he's submerged his manipulated Stevie Wonder sampling (it really does remind me of something underwater) on this track. The drums and bass are just straight ahead, dope but primarily giving a nice framework to fit everything else around. Good work :)
DJ Quik ft. Wanya Morris : 50 Ways
Bookending the episode with tracks on the theme of fifty, this time Compton's finest DJ Quik with his reworking of Paul Simon's "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover" on the instrumental. A serious track, to be sure, as he opens his heart on the deaths of those close to him, and the unrelenting drama of the business. Sometimes you can't even find the words for the hook, so Boyz II Men's Wanya Morris just sings it out. One of the standouts from the "Under Tha Influence" album, which is well worth having - also has a cover photo I love!
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!