Wed, 30 September 2015
"...serial numbers is Braille, so when you rub against it, feel all twos..."
Just after the last episode was released, "Straight Outta Compton" came out in UK cinemas and a few of us went to see it opening night. Since NWA were one of the first Hip-Hop groups I really got into, I thought I'd try and include some work from each member's discography - without going for obvious picks - and I think you'll enjoy it! The selection doesn't stop there though, as we bring Manchester, the DMV, NYC and more into the mix. Let's get it going...
One link for the month - welcome back to NouGold, who return to the podcast world after an almost two year hiatus!
C.I.A : My Posse
I’d been saving this for a while, though wasn’t sure what would make me break it out; I can’t say I expected it to be an N.W.A biopic! The crew you see Ice Cube with at the start of the film, before forming N.W.A…this is them. Not necessarily my favourite track on a pure listening level but as a piece of history, I’m glad to have it. The style is so different to what came after - Cube sounds like he could be an extra member of Run DMC or the Beasties, but that just goes to show how you define and refine your voice over time. I believe this 1986 track is his first record, as this 12" was C.I.A’s only release. The other members - Sir Jinx (one of the best rap names ever) and K-Dee - didn’t vanish though. They were both part of Cube’s Lench Mob crew, and Jinx did a lot of production for Cube throughout his solo career. Bit of trivia - I cut this track short, but the “Yo Dre - kick in the bass!” you hear on N.W.A’s “Dopeman” comes from here :)
Kool Moe Dee : Suckers
As I played only a piece of the preceding track, I decided to give you something else so you didn’t feel short-changed! From pretty much the same era, which was the only way to get a mix that was going to work, we have a record from one of the real movers and shakers of the time. This track is from the platinum-plus "How Ya Like Me Now?" album, 1987 style all the way. One little thing I noticed; part of Kool's lyrics are scratched up on the second hook of Ice-T's track "Ricochet", and both Ice-T and Kool Moe Dee (check the album cover) had beef with LL Cool J in the past - a coincidence more than likely, but an interesting one.
[The Neptunes] Noreaga : N.O.R.E (Instrumental)
One of those late 90s synth beats that I actually liked! Title track from the first Noreaga solo album; it was overshadowed by "Superthug" which was a massive hit, but still a good track. The album as a whole - I wouldn't say it's a must-buy if you don't already have it, but it's worth checking out.
Black Josh : Paul Scholes
Opening up the segment with some Manchester material, this is something I first heard on Soundcloud that had my head nodding regularly enough that I had to let you all hear it. Great display of rhyme skills from the Ape Cult representative, with really heavy use of multi-syllabic rhymes through both verses, listen closely! Morq gives him a simple (but not plain) beat to flow over, and the result is a quality piece of work. Get this on Bandcamp as part of the "#blahblahblackjosh" album.
Curren$y : 100 Spokes
A fairly recent release from Curren$y from this year's "Even More Saturday Night Car Tunes" EP, and once again it lives up to the title - short, sweet, and about that ridin'. I still haven't found out who did the production, which is a shame because they have that bass doing some very serious things, especially near the start. Big downside of digital releases - often credits get left off!
Torae ft. Rapsody : Let's Rap
A couple of new school MCs just showing the skills, getting on those mics with no gimmicks! This is a selection from the Peter Rosenberg "What's Poppin'" mixtape which you might still be able to find if you have a dig around online - I just came up with dead links. Khrysis is on the beat and comes up with a clever vocal sample for the hooks, then just laces it in classic Justus League style.
Bootsy Collins : Hollywood Squares
A bit of funk from one of the legends! I wanted to play Eazy-E and Ron-De-Vu's "L.A. Is The Place" on this episode, but it just didn't fit speed-wise, so instead I went with this track - which is sampled for part of the hook. Bootsy Collins has been part of the original J.B.'s (James Brown's backing band from early 1970), as well as a core member of Parliament/Funkadelic, and a solo artist/bandleader with a stack of albums to his name. If you're not a funk follower, you might have even heard him on Deee-Lite's "Groove Is In The Heart"! This track comes from the 1978 "Bootsy? Player Of The Year" LP by Bootsy's Rubber Band - definitely worth a listen if you're not familiar.
Stanley Clarke & George Duke : Wild Dog
The last track made it necessary to stay with something on the funk side of things, but we have a little jazz in the mix as well, with 1981's "The Clarke/Duke Project" providing the perfect cut for this spot. The album is ok, but you really need to check the rest of their catalogues - so much music to enjoy.
Eazy-E : Neighborhood Sniper
Uplifting message? Nope! Eazy-E understood his lane, and he made it work. As I put this episode together, I realised that he was a great example of someone who absolutely maximised the talent he was born with; he wasn’t a rapper to start with and would take all day to lay a track, but ended up with three solo and two group albums (plus an EP and a compilation). This track is from the "5150 : Home 4 Tha Sick" EP, and Cold 187um comes through with a great beat, dark and threatening, for E to spit his serial killer rhymes. I'd probably have just gone with two verses here if I didn't love the beat so much - the nice long instrumental outro was fun for mixing too. Also note the instance on the hook of the de rigeur early 90s dancehall toaster!
MC Ren : Mad Scientist
In the modern era, a very much underrated MC - Ren had good reason to feel neglected in his portrayal in the “Straight Outta Compton” film. Back when N.W.A had their run, he was very much respected on the mic and was the only member besides Ice Cube who wrote all his own lyrics. That pedigree is very much in evidence on this cut from his second solo LP "The Villain In Black", where he speaks on what he saw as the decline in lyricism and quality of Hip-Hop at the time. The grinding, bass-heavy beat comes from Dr. Jam and the Madness 4 Real team; an all-Danish affair (though Jam was based in L.A.), showing that good work can come from anywhere! Dr. Jam is apparently now a host on one of the Danish national radio stations - hope he manages to sneak some Ren in there...
Raekwon ft. Lyfe Jennings : Catalina
Dr Dre on production for this one, and while it wasn’t an immediate favourite for me compared to some of the sonically grittier selections on “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…Pt.2”, as I listened to it more I came to appreciate it. Originally titled "Congo", it got a rename in time for the album release and somehow seems to fit the new title better - even though there's no explanation for it in the lyrics! Vintage Raekwon gangster rhymes, and the hook definitely adds on - "cos I don't know when my karma gon' catch up" - love it. For those into production, check how the beat sounds with a total absence of hi-hats, the rhythm being totally carried by the kicks and claps.
[DJ Yella] Eazy-E : 2 Hard Muthas
I didn’t have the solo DJ Yella album (“One Mo Nigga Ta Go"), so needed an alternative. While I could have gone with any number of the NWA tracks he had his hand in producing, I opted for this specific track from Eazy-E’s first album “Eazy-Duz-It”, where he shows his skills on the drums! This is a re-edit where I looped up the start of the beat, then let it go after the voiceover and jumped to the end, where he gets to give you some solo flourishes.
Oddisee : Own Appeal
After seeing Oddisee play a storming show in Manchester this month, it was only right to include one of his tracks. This isn't the latest, but comes from the 2013 "Tangible Dream" album and very much fits into the theme set by the title - talking about how he's dedicating himself to his career in the ways that really matter. It's a centred, inspiring message, and he delivers it with polish. Trivia for this track; right at the end of the final verse he shouts out Cru, who used the same guitar sample for the core of their single "Just Another Case" - giving credit where it's due :)
Gang Starr ft. Total : Discipline
Reasonably well-known for the heads, but I don't think this built a huge commercial profile despite the Total feature. One of the new tracks that was included on the "Full Clip" greatest hits compilation, the only classic Gang Starr feature this is missing is the DJ Premier scratched hook! He does come through with a solid beat though, pounding drums and some chopped-up 70s jazz, and Guru takes on the weathered elder (but not old man) role with his trademark monotone style. Every track on this compilation should be somewhere in your collection!
DJ JS-1 ft. O.C. & Pharoahe Monch : Ridiculous
Queens' DJ JS-1 spent a long time assembling the incredible roster of guests on the "Ground Original 2" album, and the fact that he got these two legends on a deep album cut speaks volumes! They dominate the beat here, with Pharoahe having the edge in my opinion - you really have to be going some to out-rhyme him!
Large Professor : Off Your Azz On Your Feet
I half wonder if this track should be part of a public information campaign encouraging people to exercise! Can't really fault a track which simply tells you to get up and apply yourself as much as you're able. Self-produced as usual (come on, why go anywhere else?), the beat smacks hard, and the legendary DJ Rob Swift drops in at the end to bless the proceedings with his cuts. If you want to hear more, then Large Pro's latest release "Re:Living" needs to be added to your shopping cart.
For Beat’s Sake : Magician
I was trawling Bandcamp again as I do every month trying to dig up instrumental gems, and this one just happened to come from an album called "Straight Outta Consoles"! An collection of beats made from video game music, it's a "name your price" release from this Fort Myers, Florida producer that's definitely worth checking if you're a fan of the 8-bit sound.
2Pac : Until The End Of Time
Nineteen years since Tupac passed, and I wouldn't be surprised to hear that there was yet more unreleased material still to hear. I can't even front, I like the tune that was sampled to be the basis of this ("Broken Wings" by Mr. Mister), and Johnny J and the Trackmasters don't change it much; it was even supposed to share the same title but had to be renamed just before release. Apparently, there's a version with Mr. Mister's Richard Page guesting on vocals in place of R.L. Huggar, but I've not managed to find it yet. When it comes to the main lyrics, it's textbook Pac style from the latter stages of his career - he even uses the trademark "Hennessy/enemies" rhyme :) This is the title track from his 2001 posthumous LP, one of the first to be constructed without his input aside from the lyrics - if you're a fan, you'll probably want to get yourself a copy.
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!