May 31, 2014
"Why you wanna fuck up my last few days with the news?"
- Suga Free
I seem to have ended up with a reasonably high proportion of West Coast records on this month's mix, at least nine tunes - didn't plan it that way, it was just how it came out! Tough picks this month but I think there are some interesting ones you may not know - get in touch and let me know how you like it!
One link promised in the show - free tickets for the last In The Loop cypher session, and two others - Janelle Monáe controlling the crowd, and then the whole place exploding in the climactic pillow fight and crowd surf!
Yo-Yo : Black Pearl
I have never heard this record anywhere outside my own house! First caught it on "Yo! MTV Raps" many moons ago and loved it, so was very glad to come across a 12". One for the women from one who famously went head-to-head with Ice Cube on his track "It's A Man's World," this is the title track from her second album, which I've not heard in full but will definitely pick up if I see a copy! The beat is provided by a crew I've not heard of - Down Low Productions, doing a nice job with something that could easily have fit in with some of the rougher, slower New Jack tracks of the time.
Dam-Funk : Mirrors
I actually hadn't paid much attention to Dam-Funk until I saw him in the Stones Throw documentary "Our Vinyl Weighs A Ton," and I found his story interesting enough to go back and check for his music. He worked for years trying to get his career going before being picked up by Stones Throw and this track comes from his debut release; the five-vinyl opus "Toeachizown." It's definitely his own take on soul and funk, in a space-traveller kind of way, produced by Leon Sylvers III, who was instrumental in many of SOLAR Records' hits back in the 70s and 80s.
Suga Free : Sana Sana
Quite a polarity change from the opening track! Again, I may not co-sign Suga Free's admitted day job, but my goodness he can rhyme. That opening verse packs plenty in, and I would have never taken him for someone who'd drop that kind of anti-war/draft lyric - followed succinctly in the hook with the adlib "draft these nuts" :D Second verse starts off with the classic quote that makes up this month's epigram, before switching to another language altogether! I don't really speak Spanish, but I understand enough to know that verse is nothing nice. At all. Co-T handles musical duties, with the kind of beat that I can't really hear anyone else rhyming over - very tailored to the artist. Just one piece of heat from the excellent "Smell My Finger" album.
(As an aside - his line of "I gotta be honest with you sargeant, you give me that gun, I'll probably shoot you with it" reminds me somewhat of this quote from Malcolm X speaking in 1965; "This is what they thought of you and me in those days. For one thing, they didn’t trust us. They feared that if they put us in the army and trained us on how to use rifles and other things, that we might shoot at some targets that they hadn’t picked out. And we would have. Any thinking man knows what target to shoot at. And if a man doesn’t, if he has to have someone else to choose his target, then he’s not thinking for himself—they’re doing the thinking for him.")
Tash ft. Raekwon : Rap Life
From the Alkaholiks, Tash released a pretty decent album in "Rap Life" which apparently just didn't sell that well. Shame as there were some quality tracks on it - this isn't even my favourite but fit well in the mix. Production comes from Young Lord, and an energised Raekwon helps out on the mic while they trade tales of splashing out music money on cars, jetskis, and plenty more...even if it's true, a far cry from today's industry! This is the clean version from a 12" album sampler - I actually greatly prefer it with the censoring. Oh, and if it's not blindingly obvious, I put in that little pause and cut at the end of the first verse - thought it just added a bit of extra flavour :)
Murs & Fashawn : Peace Treaty
Staying West Coast again, we take a cut from the "My Generation" collaboration album, calling for and dreaming of a truce between Los Angeles' gangs. Both headliners hold it down on the lyrics, as you'd expect, and they are given some quality production to ride by Beatnick and K-Salaam; special mention must be given to the cuts in the hook, sampling Watts native Kam's 1993 "Peace Treaty," which itself spoke on the topic of the real 1992 gang treaty. Great homage.
Janelle Monáe ft. Esperanza Spalding : Dorothy Dandridge Eyes
Janelle's range is so incredibly wide that there's no one song that could give you a picture of just what kind of artist she is, so I just chose a quality song from her latest album ("Electric Lady")! This is apparently inspired by a particular scene ("the jeep scene?") in the film "Carmen Jones," but I've not seen it so can only speak on it as a stand-alone piece - top notch groove, could fit in with some of the 80s Quincy Jones productions, just a really nice track. The multi-talented jazz musician Esperanza Spalding comes in on the second verse and it's a winning combination.
Lex (de Kalhex) : Revelation
I went scouting around on Bandcamp for something new here, and found a compilation by "The Find" magazine which was centred around jazz-style beatmaking, from which I took this track. Nothing crazy, but I thought the pianos and live-sounding drums would lead into the next track nicely!
Sean C & LV ft. Styles P, ASAP 12vvy, & Charlie RED : Tomorrow May Never Come
These guys are the kind of producers who can sneak right past you, but they've been doing big work for years for all kinds of artists - Jay-Z, Big Pun, and Clipse to name but three. Sean C was actually a co-founder of the legendary X-Men DJ crew which gives you an idea of the kind of pedigree he comes from. The duo released a free producer project "Loud Dreams" which linked them up with a wide roster of vocalists, and this is a track that stood out for me.
DJ Babu ft. Little Brother, Joe Scudda, & Darien Brockington : Fan Mail
California production but a North Carolina roll call on the mic - two-thirds of Little Brother alongside Justus League compatriot Joe Scudda, and Darien Brockington on the hook. I got this on an unofficial 12" pressing, but this was on Volume 3 of Babu's "Duck Season" projects. Just in case you didn't know, before becoming the DJ for Dilated Peoples, Babu was one of the founders of the Beat Junkies DJ crew and also invented the word "turntablist" to describe one who plays the turntable as a musical instrument. In short, a man worthy of respect in this culture!
Joey Chavez ft. Iriscience & DJ Babu : Live
Back-to-back Babu! This time he's strictly on the turntables, doing great work cutting up the phone call sample from the closing verse of A Tribe Called Quest's "Keep It Rollin'" on the hook. Joey Chavez gives us some straightforward but low-key boom-bap, and Rakaa Iriscience comes with the kind of lyrical style you'll know from Dilated Peoples. You can get this one on the 2001 "Original Structure" EP, which is still available digitally should you be so inclined.
Large Pro ft. Nas : Stay Chisel
Great little track that originally appeared on Large Professor's "1st Class" LP. That version transitioned straight out of what you hear here into a second, rougher part with Akinyele on the mic; this came of a 12" which helpfully had them both edited into separate tracks. I've heard the original sample for this and it's actually not been changed much at all - sometimes, the best thing to do is get out of the way and let the loop rock...
Washed Out : Feel It All Around
I got Netflix the other month and discovered an odd little comedy called Portlandia, and thought the intro music was interesting, so decided to search it out - this is it. Washed Out is a musician out of Georgia who put out his first releases in 2009 - about the same time the podcast started! He cites Hip-Hop as an influence without being part of the culture directly; hopefully he'd appreciate being included here.
Capone-N-Noreaga : Illegal Life
You can't take anything away - 1997's "The War Report" was an incredible debut and definitely one of the best records to be released that year. I think this was the first CNN track I heard, and it's still right up there as one of my favourites! Tim Westwood played it on Radio 1 and me and my friends were bugging out about it the next day; that eastern-sounding sample coming off like it's playing across a desolate desert sandscape, neck-snapping drum programming (by Havoc of Mobb Deep), and a bassline that has only a passing interest in melody - just grit. Tragedy Khadafi cooked up a mean piece on this one. When it comes to the rhymes, you were getting that raw street business and nothing but that - which was really what these guys were all about. Remember when it was reported at one early showing of the film "Juice" that someone was shot at a cinema? Well...adolescent Noreaga would have to put his hands up to that one...
Cesar Comanche ft. Kenn Starr & Rapper Big Pooh : The Future
Proper excavation from the archives, a nice Justus League B-side. All the MCs hold it down - in fact, I could stand to hear a little more Cesar Comanche about the place! Nothing crazy topic-wise, just showing out. DJ Resident shows a little Pete Rock influence on the beat, I'd say. This is a B-side to the also good "Miss You (Remix)," but is also on the 2005 "Squirrel And The Aces" album - not got it, but might look out for a copy.
Stacy Epps : Movement
I pretty much have to check for everything she puts out. Found this on Spotify but then bought it from Bandcamp, where you can find it on the "AURA" release (which actually looks incomplete on there). Short but sweet, she delivers the vocals low-key and rides along with that tasty production - unfortunately can't find a credit for it, one of the problems with digital releases...
Lacks : Beautiful
Gorgeous bit of production here, very much befitting the track title. Detroit's Lacks (now known as Ta'raach) crafts a great track; that bassline and then the harp (?) make it. Well, those and the countering string line that runs behind the bass. Drums are tight too. Ok, pretty much everything. If you see a copy of "Re:Lacks // Vol.1 With The World" (yeah, odd title), pick it up as it's got some really good tracks on there.
[Madlib] Prince Po : Mecheti Lightspeed (Instrumental)
I've never been a huge Madlib fan; people who know me know that about me. Nevertheless, when he nails it I have to give him his credit and this right here is one of those times! Wicked B-side to "Holla" (which itself was on the podcast way back on episode 11), get this 12" if you see it!
Dr. Dre : Let Me Ride
One of the doctor's best! The closing section of this song, for me, is just perfection, with the sung hook interplaying with the sample of Glenn Goins singing on Parliament's "Swing Down, Sweet Chariot" - that's the kind of beauty I'd like to have played for me when it's all over and I finally return to the Earth. This solo track was the final single from "The Chronic" and rightfully won Dre a Grammy in 1994. I wonder if he knew how much his life would change in twenty years...
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!