Sun, 29 June 2014
"God walks the earth as MCs..."
The fifth birthday episode! For someone who once took over two years to finish a mixtape, you might just have an idea of what a big achievement that actually is :) There's a lot going on right now and I really had to dig deep to put together this month's mix, but I think you'll be pleased with it. It's also been five years since Michael Jackson passed, and I've included a couple of pieces you probably don't have.
RIP to the great Bobby Womack; I wasn't able to include any of his music this time round, but his legacy is carved into what we do.
Hood Headlinaz (Mata, Mali Boi, Jhi Ali, & Money Addict) : Soul Glo
Been holding off on this one for ages! There's not even much that blends with it, but you don't want to put anything in front of it anyway to take away from that mighty intro :) I can't even remember how I stumbled on this one, but it was a digital release and it was initially free - would definitely have paid though! This track comes from Alabama's Paper Route Gangstaz (PRGz) crew, and it just is what it is. Building a whole track off the hair product advert from Eddie Murphy's "Coming To America" was genius, and while it may not be calling for the upliftment of the nation I will note that they do in fact use the word "plethora" in context in true "Sophisticated As Hell" style ;)
Jan Hammer : Rico's Blues
Now that's the 80s right there :) While Jan Hammer's "Crockett's Theme" was easily one of the best-known instrumentals of the decade, this was also a great track from the "Miami Vice," the theme tune for Rico Tubbs. Kind of makes you want to be on a yacht to really feel it though...
Krimewave : Increase The Pressure
I was passed this instrumental by a friend and asked to see what I could do with it on the cuts, so here we go! I went trying to scratch up some info on Krimewave and found that he's a Manchester producer, and clearly someone with talent as this is a nicely refined beat. I almost feel bad for butting in! You can find this and plenty more on Bandcamp.
Ultramagnetic MCs : Delta Force II
Been banging this one since 93! Great Ced Gee solo cut from Ultra's "The Four Horsemen" album, which in my opinion is leagues ahead of "Ced Gee (Delta Force One)" from the classic and highly significant "Critical Beatdown" album. Straight MC business on here, and my guess would be that Ced Gee did a lot of the beat himself. While the production is credited to the group, but Ced is an oft-overlooked figure in the history of Hip-Hop production who actually did the bulk of the work on BDP's "Criminal Minded" LP and is justly respected as someone who got busy on the SP-1200. No pop flavour here!
Public Enemy : How To Kill A Radio Consultant
With recent events, this seemed like a very appropriate choice! Pretty deep album cut from "Apocalypse 91 : The Enemy Strikes Black" with Chuck D going in on the BS of the modern radio model and the lack of connection commercial stations have with the communities they supposedly serve. This tune might be over twenty years old but it's even more true today than it ever was. On the music side, it's Bomb Squad production as always - listen out for the Run DMC "Beats To The Rhyme" sample, which is then swiftly buried under a whole heap of other stuff going on in the track. I was kind of lukewarm on the production at the time but have grown to appreciate it with more mature ears!
Raekwon : House Of Flying Daggers
Fast-forward eighteen years and head across the water from Long Island to Staten Island for this big opening track from "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...Pt.2!" Raekwon put together a great album but unlike the first one, he went for a range of different producers; on this track, he got the legend J Dilla to give him a dramatic, pounding, relentless banger that just doesn't let up...ever. Inspektah Deck slays the opening verse once again (remember "Triumph?"), but every single MC on here is on top form. I just wish I could totally hear and parse those first two bars on Rae's verse - sounds ill as hell, but I don't think I could tell you exactly what he said :)
One last detail - that kung-fu dialog sample at the end is from the well-known but still incredible "Drunken Master." If you've not seen it, do so...
J-Zone & H.U.G : I'm Fuckin' Up The Money
This was the song that got me into J-Zone, and he wasn't even on the mic! The rolling, dramatic instrumental is the perfect landscape for Huggy Bear to absolutely go off on the mic, dropping quotable after quotable on the dark state of the world. That BDP/UN line? "Peacekeeping with a gun is fraudulent?" "Prisons got signs up reading 'no vacancy,' but those locked up are still earning for the industry?" Come on now. Huggy (aka H.U.G) has spit some quality rhymes in his time but for me, this is the pinnacle. The "Pimps Don't Pay Taxes" album as a whole is on a slightly different vibe, but very much a great purchase.
Eightball & MJG : Break 'em Off (Instrumental)
I could never decide if I wanted to play the vocal of this - it's been up for selection a few times in the past - but right here the instrumental just kind of fit. Memphis' Eightball & MJG produced this themselves and probably came up with one of the few tracks not to be improved by a Beatminerz remix!
SPOX PhD (DJ Spinna & Oxygen) : Chicken Scratch
Brand new 7" release with both sides being amazing, all I can say is "get it!" The man DJ Spinna gets on the turntables cutting up an ill break with a crazy chicken sound in it, and Oxygen of SoundSci gets on the echoey mic - the combination is straight park jam style. Oxygen actually came to my "Manchester Marauders" exhibition last year before playing a show in the city, and he's a properly good guy - nice to see him link with another well-regarded man in the scene.
NWA : Quiet On Tha Set
Deeeep album cut (the closer on the vinyl, not quite on the cassette) from the legendary "Straight Outta Compton" LP, and one of two MC Ren solo tracks on there. It's also notable for actually being completely clean on an album that is famously...not. Leaning away from the "gangsta" vibes on the rest of the record, he's just in Hip-Hop party MC mode, but nothing corny - never would be with him really! Dr Dre is on the beat as always, several years before the G-Funk sound many people associate with him; instead you just get hard drums and some James Brown samples lying back there in the mix. As much as this is a 1988 record, it really doesn't sound quite that old.
Michael Jackson : I Can't Help It (Todd Terje Remix)
Here we have a modern remix of a track from MJ's big breakout solo album, 1979's "Off The Wall," as constructed by the Norwegian producer Todd Terje - I have to admit, I thought it might have been an alias of Todd Terry, but in fact his name was chosen as a tribute! The original was masterful and not really to be bettered, but the remix just brings in a lot more percussion and is also much longer; I've cut it short here but it carries on for several more minutes. This came from a promo vinyl of MJ remixes, so probably not the easiest to find - and also part of the reason for the questionable sound quality, it's not your headphones...
De La Soul : Breakadawn
I did think "is it too obvious?" and then remembered that not everyone listening will actually know these records. This was the first single from "Buhloone Mindstate" and from the first time I saw the video on "Yo! MTV Raps," I knew it was a winner. There's a lot going on in the production, from the main sample from the original of Michael Jackson's "I Can't Help It," to the Smokey Robinson snatch for the hook, and other bits besides - have a listen out. The lyrics and delivery very much reflected their "grown man" style, so to speak - despite not even being old at the time of release, they wrote with the gravity of the industry veterans they were. Top quality record.
BR Gunna : Somethin Good
This was such a short instrumental I had to loop it up a few times to use it here! BR Gunna was a group made up of Detroit's Black Milk, Young RJ, and Fat Ray, and this track came from an obscure release of the "Dirty District Vol.2" EP. Just something a little laid back to give you a quick break on the way into the home straight...
Michael Jackson : Starlight
Rareness! I know you don't know about this one - ok, a few of you might - but I want to have just one small collar-popping moment :D The album we now know as "Thriller" was originally going to be called "Midnight Man" and this would have been one of the main singles. When the decision was made to flip the whole concept of the record and go darker, Rod Temperton came up with the title "Thriller" and this demo was reworked, remixed, and re-written to become the giant record we have today. Can you imagine a world that didn't have "Thriller?" I can't. Anyway, all things considered I'm sure you'll overlook the sound quality on this one just for all the history points :) If you want a real rundown from someone who was at the very core of the work, check out this interview with the master engineer Bruce Swedien.
Alena : Changes (Ron Basejam Remix)
I think this was another internet radio find! I'm not even sure exactly what genre this fits under - house-ish, maybe? - but I think it's a great record. Did a little research on it and apparently it blew up back in 2011 when it came out, deservedly so in my opinion! I can't actually find any info on Alena, but wouldn't mind hearing more of her - the nature of the track means we only get snatches really. And who is Ron Basejam, you ask? Well, we put it through the anagram machine and we get James Baron, one of the members of the electronic group Crazy P - great job by him on the bouncy production. I haven't been able to find the original, but Yam Who have another remix which you might like!
The Coup : We Are The Ones
Street revolutionary direction on this one from the "Pick A Bigger Weapon" album. Boots Riley is one of the sharpest thinkers in Hip-Hop, and his approach on this is hilarious, with the faux-posh voice and associated vocabulary telling the story of someone you totally wouldn't associate with the delivery. He self-produces it too and brings in players for the guitar, bass, and keys to give it a real live feel.
Big Daddy Kane : Nuff Respect
Getting hype with it, going to the soundtrack for the 1992 Ernest Dickerson film "Juice" - well worth having. There's a lot of great tracks on there and I'm sure I'll be returning to it on a future episode. For now, you get King Asiatic Nobody's Equal spitting ridiculously over a hectic Gary G-Wiz and Hank Shocklee track. Very much of its era, and all the better for it.
Toni T : Disco Groove (Siesta House Mix)
I'd be lying if I said I knew who Toni T was really - I picked this track up on a Mastercuts Beach Bar compilation. It gets the nod here for fitting in smoothly between two other tracks I wanted to play, and also using a classic b-boy break as the main element! Nominally I suppose it's house, but without that four-to-the-floor kick pattern, it really does come off as something else.
Ice-T : Lethal Weapon
Huge track from the "Iceberg" LP. Definitely playing this one for me, as it was a huge favourite for me when I first heard it back in high school - and even more once I saw the video! That image of all the hoods in the library really stuck with me - in fact, I suppose they kind of looked like me! Afrika Islam and Ice-T make the beat super hectic in a way that just doesn't happen these days and Ice keeps right up with it lyrically. And how often now would you hear a big-selling artist explicitly telling you to take yourself to a library?
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!