Dec 31, 2015
"...and my verse didn't rhyme."
2015 has been a tough year for so many people - let's hope 2016 is ours! We round out the year's shows with a selection that starts on the heavy side but tends towards the light as it approaches the end. We visit both sides of the Atlantic, hit about three or four genres, and once again put speakers to the test. We shall...proceed...and continue...
Raekwon : Treasurers
Bit of an odd route to playing this one.. I got a low-bitrate MP3 of it somewhere random a long while back and gave it a rare five-star rating in my library. Over the years I hunted for any way to buy it so that I could DJ it in good conscience, and eventually found it on the "The Da Vinci Code : The Vatican Vol.2" mixtape in 2010, so snatched up a copy. After getting the CD delivered and having a listen, I realised that the mixtape version had atrocious sound quality, with an unexplained EQ change partway through pretty much ruining it. I carried on looking for a better retail version, but had at this point put money in the artist's pockets and so was comfortable playing the version I had in the first place - on a mixtape, at least :) Great cut though, with a main sample I absolutely love and have only just had identified. The call and response between the horns and the other instruments always make me think of the difference between athletes or gladiators coming out ready for the contest versus the nerves and contemplation in the tunnels beforehand. No idea who produced this unfortunately, but they did a great job.
[Nick Wiz] Ran Reed ft. Shabaam Sahdeeq : Murderous Flow (Instrumental)
One day I may play the vocal version, but for now you just get the ill Nick Wiz beat from this 2000 Bronx Science 12" - just quality drum sampler work. I used this on one of my first mixtapes, so it's probably due another outing :)
Hip-Hop For Respect : Protective Custody
A song that sadly remains as relevant today as it was when it was recorded in 1999. Amadou Diallo was a 22-year-old Guinean ex-pat living in New York who was shot dead outside his home by four NYPD officers, who claimed to mistake his wallet for a gun. Forty-one shots were fired, and nineteen hit him. As per usual, the officers were acquitted on all charges - in fact, one of them just got a promotion. Shortly after the shooting, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, and Devin Roberson from Rawkus proposed the idea of a charity "Hip-Hop For Respect" EP addressing the situation, and police brutality more generally. This particular track from the EP is produced by Mr.Khaliyl and on the mic we have (deep breath) - Breezly Brewin, Dante and Main Flow (of Mood), El-P, Imani Uzuri, Jah Born, John Forte, Mr.Khaliyl, Mr.Len, Nine, Punchline, Talib Kweli, Tiye Phoenix, and What?What? (b.k.a Jean Grae) - all laying down fire for a righteous cause.
Essa ft. Brotherman : Evade & Seek
Killer track with Tall Black Guy on production (playing Manchester soon!) that I got from First Word's just-released "Two Syllables Volume 12" compilation. Essa is a mature, experienced presence in the UK Hip-Hop scene and together with Brotherman, a newer artist but one definitely deserving on the title, a tale of the perils of street life is spun. For my UK listeners, never forget that there are gems close to home!
Kosheen : I Want It All
I rediscovered this one in my collection this month and thought that even though it would be a bit left-field for some, that it deserved a play for those that don't know it. Taken from their debut album "Resist", it's got it all (no pun intended) - an alternately cracking and soaring vocal performance from Sian Evans, gritty guitars, well-fitted synth work, and a load of strings. In short, a great song from another excellent Bristol-based group; must be something in the water. I lost track of the group after the first album, so was surprised to find while doing my research for the notes that they've released five albums, the most recent being in 2013. It looks as though the band may have fractured, but I'll definitely be checking out their back catalogue.
Bronx Slang : Run Away Sucker
Bronx Slang is the union of my man Jerry Beeks and Ollie Miggs (f.k.a. Kasper Gomez), who have been putting in work on the mics for many a year! This new track sees them both in battling form over a raucous guitar-led beat from London's own Jadell. While roasting the competition, they also take time to pay respect to Shaun Tucker and Sammy, two fellow MCs from Co-Op City in the Bronx who passed before their time. The word is to expect to hear a mixtape and debut album from Bronx Slang in 2016 - repping for their borough!
J-Zone : The Zone Report (Instrumental)
Recently I picked up the 1999-2006 box set of J-Zone instrumentals from his Bandcamp page, and it was well worth the price; he's one of the most creative producers we've ever seen, and as good as he is on the mic, having the tracks without vocals allows you to appreciate the precision. The full version of this track is Zone giving his own opinions on each of his albums up to that point - a clever idea that is definitely worth you taking the time to listen to!
Krumbsnatcha : Never Grow Up
I've always liked this one :) The "Peter Pan" sample straight away lets you know the tone to expect - Krumbsnatcha indulges his playful and immature side over a heavy beat from Nottz. If nothing else, you have to laugh at him eventually owning up to some of his childhood...escapades! Great 12", easily affordable, with the Pete Rock-produced "Here We Go" on the flip.
Grand Agent & Tribeca ft. Camp Lo and Raynge : Minivan
One of those tracks that I wasn't sure I liked at first. Then I played it a few more times. The shoulders started going, the hook got stuck in my head...and that was it. Grand Agent combined with Tribeca for the "Tribeca-Grand" EP, and this is arguably the standout. Grand Agent goes straight ahead, the always-dope Camp Lo bring the heavy slang, and Raynge (aka Liv L'Raynge) holds down the closing verse over Tribeca's playful but thumping beat. This one sneaks up on you.
Little Brother : Whatever You Say
An early century classic :) From LB's debut "The Listening", Phonte and Big Pooh kick some fun rhymes about trying to get with the ladies. The 9th Wonder-produced beat is heavy, but the highlight of the whole track has to be Phonte on the second verse, from which this month's epigraph is taken. Genius!
Terrace Martin ft. AB and Ill Camille : Life & Times
Found this one on Spotify and it's been getting a lot of play from me this month! It let me know there's a lot more in Terrace's discography than I ever knew - in this case, the second "Locke High" mixtape which sounds like a great pickup. Vocals are handled by AB and Ill Camille, with AB telling stories of growing up in LA and loving Hip-Hop; one real fan can recognise another in these lyrics!
Hexsagon : VI
KwolleM & AJ Tracey : Hood Antics
In the last month or two I was introduced to the concept of "mellow grime", and found it interesting enough that I thought I'd play one of the first tracks I heard this month! Up to now, I can't say I'd ever enjoyed grime, and a lot of that was down to the production style - however, this new variant digs more into soulful grooves for the body of the track, rather than grinding synth sounds. My understanding is that East London's KwolleM (Mellow K?) is one of the standard bearers of this new sound, and this track from his "Mellow EP" is sweet but all too short! Definitely an artist to keep an ear on.
Sir Michael Rocks : Bahamas
This has been getting a few headphone rewinds this month, but would usually be a little too slow to blend with anything - as it turns out, it combines smoothly with the preceding mellow sounds! Sir Michael Rocks may be better known to you as Mikey Rocks from The Cool Kids, but on his solo excursions (including this, "The Rocks Report"), the vibes are more smoothed out than you might be used to. Fellow Chicago natives The Produktionix handle the beat on this one.
Massive Attack : One Love
Winding it back to 1991 for this selection from Massive Attack's debut "Blue Lines" album. The legendary reggae vocalist Horace Andy takes centre stage over the sparse but well-crafted sample-based backing. The components come from multiple places but the result is unmistakably British. An album you must have in your collection.
J-Live : Simmer Down
You don't have to be acting hard all the time. That's the message from this slow and low killer from J-Live's "Then What Happened?" LP, and he delivers it with his usual wit and verbal dexterity. Cap D from All Natural supplies a beat much slower than the average and it's a great fit! This track is a 21st century, Hip-Hop, much more moody take on The Wailers' debut single "Simmer Down" from 1963, as J acknowledges himself in the album's liner notes.
Three 6 Mafia : The End (Instrumental)
I don't really listen to this group so I can't remember what prompted me to pick this one up in the first place, but it fits just right here! This is the instrumental from the title track of the Memphis-based crew's second album, back in their early days. You may have heard their name after they won the Best Original Song Oscar at the 78th Academy Awards for "It's Hard Out Here For A Pimp" (hey, it surprised me), but they walked a long road before that.
Janelle Monae ft. Prince : Givin' 'Em What They Love
When you have Prince as a guest star on your record, you know you must be doing something! The brilliant Janelle Monae brings the low-slung rock flavour on this track, which was the first vocal track on the "The Electric Lady" album. Unusually for a funk-inspired record, the emphasis is on the two and four beats of each bar, rather than the one - listen and check how it influences the feel. As far as the vocals, Janelle kills it. As usual!
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!