Sun, 29 March 2015
"Tourbillon don, in sync with the sun and moon."
I thought I'd try to touch on just a few events of the month in this episode's selection. We go from some underground legends making their return after a long absence, through classic crate material to a young artist making his mark on the modern scene in a big way, and finish up with something for International Women's Day. Along the way, we mark the anniversary of the passing of Biggie Smalls, as always in March. Enjoy the show!
Natural Elements : All Hail NE
They're baaaack! My goodness, I was so happy to hear that these devastating MCs had returned after a long period out of the spotlight, and sometimes working on other projects. "The NEp" was an instant purchase decision... Looking forward to more material from the newly-reformed crew, and they deserve everyone's support. I believe this was the first track released from the EP, and it's been on heavy, heavy rewind all month. Anthony Cruz (p.k.a. A-Butta), Swigga (p.k.a. L-Swift), and Agu (p.k.a. Mr.Voodoo) work their trademark "three-man weave" technique through the track, bouncing ridiculous lines off each other rather than the usual approach of giving everyone a solo verse each, and it generates an energy that just can't be achieved any other way. The beat is ill too, Scram Jones getting busy on the board but not upstaging the rhymes - a great complement. Loving this track. A lot of MCs might brag about their flashy watches, but who else could casually liken themselves to a very specific, highly technical component from the world of hand-made timepieces?
[Nashiem Myrick] The Notorious B.I.G. : Who Shot Ya? (Instrumental)
Originally this beat was a "blink and you'll miss it" interlude on Mary J. Blige's "My Life" album, with Keith Murray rapping on it; but then it found its way to Biggie and became what it needed to be. One of the classic instrumentals, still amazed by how they got such a hard track from such gentle source material...
Mobb Deep ft. Tragedy Khadafi : First Day Of Spring
I have to admit - it took me a little while to really appreciate Mobb Deep. Remember, a lot of acknowledged classic Hip-Hop isn't retro or what some call "old school" to me - I'm not that old, but if it came out in 1989 or later... Anyway, when "The Infamous" album was the only Mobb release out there for most of us, I was actually a bit lukewarm on it at first. What really flicked the switch for me was when someone passed me a copy of DJ Mister Cee's "Best Of Mobb Deep" mixtape - it was crammed full of remixes, features, and unreleased cuts, and when mixed in with the already-released tracks, I understood. This track in particular I managed to get on "Pre-Hell" - a compilation of unreleased Mobb that didn't make the "Hell On Earth" LP, and very unusually, Prodigy isn't on it! Havoc takes the second verse, but cedes the opener to fellow Queensbridge alum Tragedy, and it's just straight-up street business. It's listed as being produced by Mobb Deep, so I'd guess Havoc's hand is on this pretty heavy. Bad sound quality on this pressing, but I hope you like it anyway!
DJ Adam 12 ft. Erule and Ed O.G. : Lessons (Remix)
Dug up this track from DJ Adam 12's "World Wide Originals" EP, which I've featured on the show once before. The Mike Caren beat is nice, Boston's Ed O.G. is on point as always, but Erule steals the show for me. Just rhymes after rhymes after rhymes, it's a huge shame he never blew up the way he deserved to. If you want another example, wind back to the episode featuring his track "Worldwide"; absolutely nuts.
A Tribe Called Quest ft. Consequence : What Really Goes On
A more appropriate hook is rarely heard, because this track bumps for real! Definitely one of the top picks from the "Beats, Rhymes, and Life" album, and one that I think bridged the gap nicely between what they were doing on "Midnight Marauders" and the production style brought by The Ummah.
The Isley Brothers : You Still Feel The Need
Some serious funk for your ears right here - there's just something about those Ohio groups! I don't think my parents had much/any Isley Brothers vinyl in the house, and I actually first knew of this song via the Ronnie Laws jazz cover on his "Harvest For The World" album. Went back to hear the original and knew I was going to have to include it on the show one month! The closing track on the Isley's original "Harvest For The World" LP, this is a classic tale of pulling heartstrings wrapped between some funky guitar sheets. See what I did there? ;)
Kuartz : Tammi Thai
Manchester/Oldham-based Kuartz came out this month with a new beat tape on Brainfood records, and I mean that literally - he actually came through with a real cassette, which was a nice surprise for someone like me who still keeps a working tape machine handy. Luckily, there's a digital download code for everyone else too :) Anyway, this particular beat was done a while back but he gave it the nod for inclusion on the latest release. He takes "All I Do Is Think About You" by Tammi Terrell (which he says he found pretty easily and for a good price) and dices it up under a nice staccato drumline. This is a very limited release, but if you want a copy - or want to buy a beat for your project - get in touch with the man himself!
DJ Jean Maron & M-Dot ft. Punchline & Keith Murray : Beautiful Thirteen (Remix)
I totally can't remember how I found this one - probably while looking for some Keith Murray tracks for digital purchase. Had a quick listen and the calm, steady production from French producer DJ Jean Maron sounded good to me so I thought I'd grab a copy for this month's show. I'm usually a Keith Murray fan but I have to say Punchline and M-Dot carried the day on this one, with some top verses!
Phat Kat ft. Dwele : Rainy Days
The other end of the mood spectrum from the previous track, but still with a beautiful instrumental courtesy of Jake One - a rare call outside of the incredibly talented Detroit production community, but an excellent one. From the "Undeniable" album (and EP), Phat Kat pours his heart out over the loss of loved ones. I chose this just for the sound and then after recording realised how it might resonate given this month's news...
Grand Agent ft. Declaime & Li'l Dap : The Right Way (Remix)
Nice little track I've had on deck for inclusion for a long while now - it just fits really well into a mixtape format. The well-travelled Agent gets busy on this alongside a few MCs, but I just love Dap's verse - his voice is just so dope when he rhymes! You can find this on the "Fish Outta Water : The Remixes" album, in collaboration with Beat Society who let a whole load of producers loose to do their thing. This track in particular is handled by Street Orchestra who have all kinds of horns and things filling out the sound, making the tune all-round solid.
The Notorious B.I.G. : Juicy (Remix)
The first of the two definitive Biggie "come up" tracks, both of which make it onto this episode. While this is labelled a remix, it actually has a more interesting history than meets the ear. A Pete Rock composition which Puffy happened to hear on a visit to The Basement ended up..."inspiring" the beat that ended up on the "Ready To Die" LP. The main change was the removal of Pete's hard drums in favour of the softer, 80s R&B drum sound, but the use of the main Mtume "Juicy Fruit" sample was otherwise identical. Pete Rock was eventually brought in to do this remix, which if I understand correctly is pretty much what the track was supposed to be in the first place!
[Mr Pink] Mr.Pink & Mr.Blonde of Hijack : Jamaica Crimewave (Instrumental)
Deep into the post-"Horns Of Jericho" era, Hijack may not have had their original lineup but there was still some music coming out and this was a highlight for me. The vocal version of this cut is ill but it is brutal; it goes in on British prison and street life with the air of those who know that of which they speak. The instrumental has been stripped down even more than the original cut, which is a shame; if you do check the original though, you'll find it's not complex, but highly effective - when you combine it with the lyrics, that balance is just right. This is a 12" I think is well worth having in your collection.
Kendrick Lamar ft. James Fauntleroy and Ronald Isley : How Much A Dollar Cost
It's just too early to say if Kendrick's surprise release ("To Pimp A Butterfly") this month is a classic record, but I think it can be agreed that it is definitely an important record. An absolutely recommended purchase, it sounds like nothing else that's out right now and is pretty overwhelming in terms of density and scope, as well as being a very clearly Black album and centres on his perspective of the Black experience. I would say to have a listen, but have a few and then you may begin to digest it all. It's not an album that lends itself to picking and choosing but nonetheless I wanted to feature one track and went with this; a tale of Kendrick coming across a homeless beggar which has strong parallels to one particular Bible passage. Great storytelling and rhyme skills, and the production is right there with him - so many people involved in the project overall, it's worth me pointing you to this article to give them their due. I hope some of the younger generation of rappers and producers listen to this album and take it as a cue to step their respective games up!
The Mouse Outfit : Saga
At last, the second album from The Mouse Outfit ("Step Steadier") has been released and it's another excellent one. This track is the closer, probably not one that would be a single release but that bassline and accompanying piano tickles my brain just right! The Mouse Outfit are knocking out top-line production with amazing regularity and have just the MCs on hand to complement it; Sparkz and Dubbul O bless the mic on this one. Definitely a crew and a release worthy of your support!
Black Moon : This Goes Out To You
Why is this here this month? Well, it's from the "Total Eclipse" album ;) Ok, we only had about a 90% eclipse in Manchester, but still... Anyway - this album is nowhere near as well known as it should be, it's definitely one to pick up as there are some top tracks on it. We'll definitely be revisiting this one. Coptic is on the production for this particular track, and Buckshot reflects on the struggles the group went through to build a record label and a career. Low-key dopeness.
The Notorious B.I.G. ft. 112 : Sky's The Limit
The second "come up" anthem, this time from the posthumously released "Life After Death" LP. Very smoothed out, with DJ Clark Kent on production with a Bobby Caldwell sample, really not doing much to it but arguably not needing to!
Kardinal Offishall : U R Ghetto When... (Instrumental)
T Dot in the house! Nice bit of self-production on this smooth track, which I think did make a little underground noise at the time as the second A-side track on the "Mic T.H.U.G.S" 12", back in 2000.
Katch 22 ft. Malaika B : Enigma
This is one of those that I've always had on my various MP3 players, always loved...and most people probably don't know at all! One of the great UK Hip-Hop crews of the early 90s, "Dark Tales From Two Cities" was an ambitious double album showing how far their range stretched, and I remember at the time a lot of people were not ready for this track. The poet Malaika B takes the lead on this spoken word piece and illustrates one face of the UK Black female experience in fine style, clear as a bell, with an instrumental reminiscent of the classic 80s UK soul style. Of course, International Women's Day is every year, but I thought I'd play something to mark it on this episode and felt like this was a worthy choice.
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!