Fri, 31 October 2014
"We were trading our crowns for our souls..."
- James Fauntleroy
Had I finished this episode earlier, it would have had a different title - but as it's Halloween and a Friday, I couldn't pass up the opportunity! Got some quality new releases and some definite archive raiding all lined up, which I encourage you to spread the word about as much as possible!
Common ft. Cocaine 80s & Lil Herb : The Neighbourhood
If that intro doesn't get you, I suggest you head to the bathroom to check if you have a reflection. James Fauntleroy of Cocaine 80s opens it up with a fantastic vocal and lyric, before the sweeping, Curtis Mayfield-fuelled No I.D track comes in and helps Common to paint a dark picture of growing up in 70s-80s Chicago. He doesn't carry the mic alone though, with 90s baby Lil Herb taking the second verse and giving a perspective from his own generation. Common couldn't have opened his new "Nobody's Smiling" album any better.
[J.Cardim] AZ : Vendetta (Instrumental)
Fu-Schnickens ft. Shaquille O'Neal : What's Up Doc (Can We Rock)?
When this came out back in 1992 and I saw who was featuring, I cringed. Shaq was in his rookie year in the NBA and getting an insane amount of hype, and I thought this was just a quick cash-in move; in some ways it was, since he was added onto the end of an already-done track. Credit where it's due though, he put in a decent enough performance, and it turned out to be the prelude to his own little rap career. Moc Fu on the third verse takes the crown for me, despite not having the straight up speed or density of the other group members that appear on the track before him. Beat-wise, Main Source's K-Cut brings the bounce in a decidedly early 90s style. This was the lead single for the Fu's "Nervous Breakdown" album but actually first appeared on Shaq's debut - so at least three options there for finding it!
Oh yes - "when it comes to money," Shaq was not like Dick DeVos, given that this was the man who was paying him...
The Mouse Outfit : Power
This Manchester crew have been making moves since the release of their debut album "Escape Music," and now they're back with a brand new track. Sparkz and Ape Cult's Truthos Mufasa tag team the mic duties over some instrumental work that sounds like nothing this crew have done before. Constantly expanding, great to hear.
Jungle Brothers : 40 Below Trooper
I think this has to be my favourite track from this foundation crew, despite the fact that it's from one of their less-regarded albums ("J Beez Wit The Remedy"). I caught the video on MTV many moons ago back in 1993 and was an instant favourite. Reportedly, the production of this album was mired in drama as the group wanted to go experimental, and the record company (Warner Bros) kept rejecting their material and sending them back to the studio. The final version was much less out-there than the original, and this track maybe speaks to that - very dope, but also accessible to the average head of the time, like me.
Kazahaya : Remember Hip-Hop (Instrumental)
2009 release on Breakin' Bread from Kazahaya, a Japanese beatmaker very much in the cut-and-paste vein and wedded to the classic sound. This is the instrumental of course but to get the full effect, search out the "Remember Hip-Hop" EP, if you can!
EMC : Charly Murphie
Big stomping track! To really appreciate the full awesomeness of this track, you need to have seen the now-legendary episode of the Dave Chappelle Show where Charlie Murphy (brother of Eddie) tells the story of his run-ins with Rick James. All the MCs - Masta Ace, Stricklin, and Wordsworth - slay this track with callbacks to that famous sketch, and 14KT handles the production, with a track based around "Three Blind Mice." Stormer from the new EP "The Turning Point."
Tall Black Guy ft. Ozay Moore : Mon amie De'troit
Beautiful production by Tall Black Guy, just absolutely golden. That bassline lets you know straight off, but the skittering hat work and the guitar line elevate it right out of whatever building you're in. Ozay Moore, formerly known as Othello, brilliantly carries off his lyrical personification of Detroit as a woman going through hard times. The album "8 Miles To Moenart" isn't long, and doesn't have many vocals, but it's truly high-quality and gets my recommendation.
Dilated Peoples : Century Of The Self (ft. Catero)
After a long layoff from working as a group, Dilated are back with the "Directors Of Photography" album (damn, wish I'd thought of using that title) and it's a good return to the stage. This is one of my favourites on there, but it's an unusual lineup; Oh No on production, and with only Rakaa on the verses. Oh, and what verses! All the way political, and what would be called "paranoid" if so much of it wasn't actually documented fact, it's definitely worth sitting down with this one and really absorbing the lyrics.
The Brotherhood : Alphabetical Response
Trivia note - this was the first track on my first ever mixtape! It turns out it's a lot easier putting it at the start than mixing it in, the intro is a DJ nightmare - took some careful listening :) Late 90s UK single taken from the "Elementalz" album, with Underdog on the haunting head-nod beat and working in the Speak & Spell for the hook! I would also wager this one track has more uses of the word "bonce" than the rest of Hip-Hop to date combined. I'm glad we righted that ship.
C2C : The Beat
France stand up! Turntablists par excellence C2C get very busy on this, cutting and scratching everything in sight/hearing on a track I have to believe would work very well on a discerning dancefloor. It's also a bonus they kicked it off with another Speak & Spell sample! If you want more, you need to pick up the "Tetra" LP.
The Action Figures : Russell Westbrook
Had this one hanging around for a while, and it was not only a sonically good fit but the title is pretty topical if you're an NBA fan! TAF hail from Grand Rapids, Michigan, and are tied into the wider Hip-Hop community centred around Detroit - in fact, this track was produced by Young RJ of BR Gunna and Slum Village, and you can definitely hear the Motor City sound in there. Just a nice little digital single, which you can get free from their Soundcloud.
Clear Soul Forces ft. Kooley High : Freq Freq
Detroit yet again, striking to see so much material coming from a city which pre-Slum Village was never thought of as a Hip-Hop hotbed! Clear Soul Forces combine with North Carolina's Kooley High (who I'm only just hearing for the first time) to just kick lyrics over the crisp drums provided by Ilajide to great effect. Bargain price on Bandcamp, so don't be shy about picking it up and following both crews!
Mos Def : The Edge
The album "The New Danger" contained a track titled "Close Edge," which is almost identical to this; I got this on a while label a while before the album was released, and it seems that they gave it a bit more tweaking and changed the title. Either way, a solid track with Mos in low-key battle mode on a Minnesota beat that has all kinds of percussion going on in the background - have a keen listen for it and note how empty the track would sound without it.
O.C. : The Professional
What you know about this one? You could justifiably call "Starchild" O.C.'s "lost album" - hamstrung by sample clearance problems, not a big seller, rarely remembered as part of his discography, and produced without any input from the rest of the DITC crew. If you can get hold of it though, then do - you'll probably have to go for digital download since only 20,000 were ever pressed. I think it's fair to say O.C. is never one to disappoint with the lyrics, so the concern is always going to be whether the rest of the package can keep up. A producer named Vanguard takes the boards for this heavy horn-laden outing, with the infamous DJ Revolution contributing the extra-sharp cuts - mission accomplished.
Damu The Fudgemunk : Work In Progress
One for the DMV! Washington's true-school stalwart beatmaker is always reliable for some classic drum and sample tracks, and this (maybe unfinished) one from his "Spare Time" album delivers the goods.
The Lench Mob : Lord Have Mercy
If you weren't listening to Hip-Hop in the early 90s, you probably never heard of this crew. If you were, you definitely have! Their controversial debut album "Guerillas In Tha Mist" from which this track is drawn made some noise at the time with some of the big hammering tunes but this little gem was overlooked. Uncomplicated but dope use of a well-known sample made the perfect backdrop for the heartfelt lyrics. Ice Cube put this LA crew on, and it was all there for them but unfortunately a murder conviction for J-Dee was a near-final blow; they replaced him for their second album, before fading away. Regardless, this track will always stand tall.
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!