Sat, 31 October 2015
"At the sound of the tone, leave me the f*** alone."
With this episode being released on Halloween, the overall vibe is dark, spooky, and occasionally horrific, but there is the odd opportunity to come up for air ;) I was on holiday this month and even though that meant I was one week down on my usual preparation time, I'm pleased with the selection and think that even the really knowledgeable heads will get a surprise or two! Enter the lair...
Agallah ft. Alchemist : Ride Out (O.G.G.G.)
As you'll find from listening, this month's epigram comes from this track - I always loved that line, together with the edited voicemail sample that follows. (Note to self: re-record voicemail message in similar style). Anyway, while Agallah is a dope producer in his own right, on this track from 2006's "You Already Know" he gives up the reins to Alchemist for this dark cut, and also invites him in on the mic. The lyrical layout is unusual and worth paying attention to - each MC rhymes three bars with an occasional slight overlap into the fourth, where you hear the "O.G.G.G" refrain. You still get sixteen bars between appearances of the hook, but it's an interesting way of organising the track.
[Charlemagne] Capone-N-Noreaga : Halfway Thugs (Instrumental)
I still remember going to buy "The War Report", but it was many years later before I found an instrumental version - even then, it was clearly taken from a different revision of the album. This Charlemagne beat was on both versions though, and fits perfectly - knocking drums with the reverbed stick/snare kit, deep bass, and the haunting piano and voice samples. Charlemagne did some great beats for people like Natural Elements back then and CNN were wise to reach out to him!
Guilty Simpson ft. Spacek : Power Outage
Great track from the tail end of Guilty's new album "Detroit's Son", going X-rated on the lyrics. Production comes from Katalyst, of the Quakers crew, and there's something of a Blaxploitation feel to the instrumental - although maybe that's the opening speech sample influencing me!
Darc Mind : Visions Of Blur
From the 1997 "Soul In The Hole" soundtrack, I feel like I can't be the only person who overlooked this! I can't think of anyone who sounds quite Kev Roc vocally, and he's intricate with the lyrics over X-Ray's dark, twanging beat. Their "Symptomatic Of A Greater Ill" album, from which this was originally taken, was unfortunately never released while they were on Loud Records, and after the label folded it seemed as though it might disappear. Luckily, Loud gave them the album back and it came out on Anticon in 2006. They've been active as recently as 2011, and you can check their Bandcamp for more.
Slum Village ft. DJ Babu : Bare Witness
I love the fact that Slum Village, in various forms, continued to power through despite losing not one but two members long before their time; their sixth album, "Villa Manifesto" isn't new but it's definitely worth having. This Khrysis-produced opener thumps and slides with a subtle growling bass and hard kicks undergirding the triumphant horns; this is also a track where the hi-hit pattern really determines how you react to it. On top of all that, the legendary DJ Babu (of the Beat Junkies and Dilated Peoples) comes through to contribute some of his world-class scratching. Big tune for me this month.
Ski Beatz ft. Jean Grae, Jay Electronica, Joell Ortiz : Prowler 2
Good rock guitars don't antiseptically lock onto a timing grid, and this track swings and lopes just as it should - but then, Ski is an expert in the beat game! Those drums make you rock side to side while your neck is going at the same time... and then there are those MCs. Jean Grae always has the sound of someone with total command of her craft, and to have her backed by the elusive Jay Electronica and Joell Ortiz makes this a beast of a cut. I only just got my own copy of the "24 Hour Karate School" album after more than three years - now that you know about it, don't sleep!
Greedy Fingers : There You Go (Instrumental)
I didn't know about this album until a week ago, but it was released sixteen years ago; "Shady Sirens" is the dark product of Belgium's DJ Grazzhoppa and the UK's DJ Greedy Boy, with some mic contributions bubbling up from the underground. MCs on the album include Cage and Necro - both of whom could go into scoring horror films - as well as MF DOOM, but here you get one of the instrumental numbers. Strangely, I can't much imagine this one being improved by a rapper, but it would be a good one for some heavy cutting...
Willie Evans Jr. : Dumbtron
Fire. Willie Evans Jr is the man for all things beats at This Week In Blackness - I heard a piece of this track on the "TWiB Prime" podcast, and knew I just had to find a copy! I'd never heard of Evans before but he's clearly got a truckload of talent, is equally at home behind the boards or on the mic, and walks his own path. The surprise on this track is undoubtedly the speed change - from about 89bpm it abruptly jumps to 103 (occasionally dropping back down), and the faster sections just kill. I think that Paton Locke features on this track - it certainly sounds like two MCs, and both Locke and Evans are a duo called "Dumbtron" - and the mic just gets brutalised for a minute and a half. Short, but nothing sweet here. More flavour available on the "Introducin'" album.
Above The Law : What Cha Can Prove
As ATL are underrated in general, I'd imagine this remix/re-record of "Untouchable" from "Livin' Like Hustlers" - a great album - will be a new one to most listeners. However, this version was actually the one the 1990 video was based on, with that heavily-used "Funky Drummer" sample banging hard (you'll rarely hear it nowadays), and Cold 187um and KMG slightly tweaking their deliveries to fit. To me, the original is basically perfect, but this remix is major.
Mobb Deep : Horror Flick
I should really remember the name of the well-known piece this track is based around, but it's just escaping me right now. Regardless, Havoc beefs it up with some low-end and a nice bit of drum programming; it's the open hats right on each beat that give it the feel, if you wind back and listen. I got this from the "Something Like A Horror Flick" mixtape - while I'd rather have had it without the DJ drops, it's not as though I'm claiming to be out here with all exclusives :) 2Pac is renowned for the depth of his unreleased catalogue, but Mobb Deep are arguably up there - there's a ton of their material floating about which never made any official album releases.
Gravediggaz : Here Come The Gravediggaz
Not my favourite, or even second favourite track from the "6 Feet Deep" album (originally titled "Niggamortis"), but it fit well here. It was around the time of this release that the term "horrorcore" started appearing; everything has to have a label, it seems. The Gravediggaz were Prince Paul and Frukwan (both of Stetsasonic), Poetic (RIP) and RZA, who rose to prominence as the head of the Wu-Tang Clan. While articles about the group often painted it as a RZA vehicle, this album was actually recorded the year before the first Wu album came out in 1993, but released in 1994; if anything, you could say it was a Prince Paul-led project!
Funkmaster Flex : Six Million Ways To Die
I can't remember if I learned this track from pirate radio or Westwood back in the day, but it's a dope one. For those who don't know, Flex has been a huge DJ for years, best known for his long run on NYC's Hot 97 radio station, and like many DJs he has production experience as well. This 1993 12" had a wicked vocal version of the track featuring an MC called 9 Double M (later Nine, who amusingly denied in one interview that his name had anything to with guns), but here is the DJ-only mix which I heard first and think stands up in its own right. There are a few well-known samples here, but if you ever wondered where the much, much used titular sample comes from, it's from Cutty Ranks' "Ah Who Seh Me Dun" - dancehall classic.
Kuartz : The Block
Yet another quality piece from the "40 Fatal Beats" collection, only short so I had to do a little re-editing - but that just lets you enjoy it for a little longer :)
Roc Marciano : Jaws
This right here is the kind of dark, threatening track that fits into the theme perfectly. You can get this one on the digital edition of the "Greneberg" EP as a bonus cut, and it's well worth having. Oh No kills it on the beat, rocking the familiar underwater doom sample to great effect, allowing Roc Marc to bring it home with his trademark complex yet downcast rhyme style.
Dr Dooom ft. Jacky Jasper : Call The Cops
From one of Kool Keith's many, many aliases comes this track from the serial-killer themed "First Come, First Served" album. Super-bizarre lyrics (standard) from Keith and current gossip king Jacky Jasper, and the beat comes from KutMasta Kurt. Note to current producers - we DJs appreciate a clean 8-bar intro and long instrumental outro to mix with, like what you get here! Those sirens at the end also open the door to some interesting mix possibilities too...
Voodoo Black : Cassius Clay
Keeping it local with this low-key banger. Manchester's Voodoo Black sees Dubbul O, Ellis Meade, Sparkz, and DJ Cutterz combine into some kind of north-western Voltron, and they fully represent on the "OutSauced" EP. Production on this is uncomplicated but refined, the Muhammad Ali (formerly Cassius Clay, of course) samples are always welcome, and with this crew the rhymes can absolutely be relied on.
Skitz ft. Rodney P : Never (Dynamite MC Remix)
The "Sticksman" album never grabbed me as much as Skitz' debut "Countryman", but that doesn't mean there weren't quality tracks on there. You certainly can't front on the value, with the second CD in this package being crammed with remixes of the first, and that's where we find this conscious gem with one of the elder statesmen of UK Hip-Hop, Rodney P. The Riddim Killa covers everything from fakery in the music scene, to religion, to unrepresentative politics with the air of a man who's been around and seen some things; that last topic seems apt with the tenor of political discussion in this country right now...
K-Def & 45 King : Taste
Big producer connection here for the connoisseur. The 45 King has been recording since the early-mid 80s; all of you will recognise his track "The 900 Number" and many will know the work he did with Queen Latifah and the rest of the Flavor Unit. New Jersey's K-Def is probably best known as half of Real Live, but he has a extensive discography outside the group and gets all the love from those in the know. Their 2014 collaborative "Back To The Beat" album is the sound of two veterans with mutual respect flipping ideas off each other, and this is just one of the gems. For what it's worth...great programming music!
Jedi Mind Tricks : Heavenly Divine (Remix)
This track may have only been released with the curses edited out, but when you actually listen to the rest of the lyrics from Vinnie Paz and Jus Allah...I'd be amazed if this actually got any radio play! I even had to make an extra edit myself, for one line that was just a little too much.. This was the last track on the b-side of the "Heavenly Divine" 12" release, and I actually think the beat is far superior to the original from the "Violent By Design" album. Stoupe The Enemy Of Mankind gives it a dramatic, ominous feel which you settle into for most of the track, and then apropos of nothing during the third verse, switches out the drums for a killer drum & bass-style rhythm! By that time, we're up around 180bpm and even a lot of D&B doesn't go that fast - so it seems perfect to let the final note of this draw the episode to a suspenseful end.
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!