Sun, 31 January 2016
"They don't make 'em like me no more..."
I guess it's been a strange start to the year; this month both the UK producer Mark B and David Bowie have passed on, so I've included them both in this month's selection, one that ranges from the conscious to the without conscience! There was a lot of re-planning to come up with something that fit together well but I think I've achieved it, so let's get into the detail...
Rakim : The Saga Begins
I'd not played this song from "The 18th Letter" for years, but was reminded of it on a recent episode of the Juan Epstein podcast. The intro is impossible to blend with anything, but playing this track at the very start allows it to get an airing; it's the sound of Pete Rock testing out the samples in his SP before he lets the beat drop. Add that beat to Rakim Allah on the mic, and you have a winner.
[Harry Fraud] Eddie B : Splash (Instrumental)
Eddie B isn't an MC I've been familiar with but I picked up the mixtape "The Johnny Utah Story" on the strength of the Harry Fraud production - after "Muslim Wedding", I'll always check for him in case he smacks me with a track like that again! This beat is a world away from that sonically, but it got my attention and it works well here.
Reckonize Real ft. M-Dot, Torae & Tribeca : Business
This one turned up for me recently while searching for Tribeca tracks on Spotify. Very grateful for that long drum intro (producers, please take note) that allows for a nice-sized blend to bring the track in! The MC out of Boston heads to New York to recruit Torae & Tribeca to bless this beat produced by Reckonize Real. This particular copy comes from the digital release of M-Dot's "Jake LaDotta" album, but also appears on Reckonize Real's "Dopamine" project.
Reks : Martyrs (Steve Biko)
I'd had Reks' "Eyes Watching God" collaborative album with the producer Hazardis Sounds bookmarked for a while, and finally got round to giving it a listen in the last couple of weeks; this was a standout for me. Unlike another excellent record which uses his name, this record actually is about Steve Biko, the South African activist who was killed by the police in 1977 - truly a man who died for the people.
Murs & 9th Wonder : God Black/Black God
Murs and 9th have a history going back to 2004's "Murs 3:16 : The 9th Edition" album (re-issue here), which made serious underground noise at the time. It's great to hear them come back together for a sixth collaboration on the brand new "name your price" release "Brighter Daze", which is a recommended pickup for everyone this month! On this cut, 9th's beat skips along at first before switching towards the end while Murs explores Black economic empowerment, survival, leadership, and more besides in confident fashion. Again, this New Year's Day release gets the thumbs up from me.
Mega Ran & Storyville ft. PT Starks : Medici Lions
MC extraordinaire and videogame superfan Mega Ran linked up with longtime friend and fellow underground head Storyville for last year's "Soul Veggies" album. While he's primarily known for incorporating video game sounds into his material, on this album Mega Ran explores a more live sound, exemplified on this cut. While we're here, bonus points for the Bodie and Stringer Bell samples from "The Wire"! On the mic, Ran is on point as always and comes with just the right flow to fit.
[DJ Premier] Prhyme : Prhyme (Instrumental)
After the sudden speed drop in the last track, we come up with an instrumental around 78bpm to match it; DJ Premier working with a (fully cleared!) sample from Adrian Younge and then adding some extra beef with the drums. The idea of sampling a single artist for a whole album was not something Premier had explored before Prhyme, but he took on the challenge and made it work!
Mark B & Blade ft. Lewis Parker : Intense Preparations
The union of Mark B and UK Hip-Hop veteran Blade was one of the most notable and successful in the history of the scene, and achieved some unexpected but deserved commercial success. However, that success was several years away when the "Hitmen For Hire" EP that this track is drawn from was released. Back in 1998, this was just a talented and dedicated producer matching up with an equally-skilled MC to give us a short set that was fantastic at the time and also just hinted at what was to come. This particular track works a classic library record sample that the diggers amongst you will know, and brings the Canterbury don Lewis Parker along for the ride. RIP Mark B.
Torae ft. Phonte : Clap Sh_t
Torae has given us six albums in eight years and his latest project "Entitled" is already pulling in solid reviews. I heard this joint and it just jumped out as something I had to play; Nottz' beat puts the thump and bump under some eerie pianos while Tor and Te kill every MC in sight with some incredible verses.
8Ball & MJG : Break 'Em Off
Memphis in the house! This is the radio version of the closing song from the duo's 1995 "On The Top Of The World" LP. T-Mix gets the synth action going on this dark uptempo track. Dope record, but that album cover... :)
Jay-Z ft. Beanie Sigel : Ignorant Sh*t
In my opinion, this track (certainly the original, which I'll come back to) has the greatest use of the Isley Brothers' "Between The Sheets" of all time - pure fire from Just Blaze. For one thing, it's brilliant chopping and arrangement of the sounds from the original break. In addition, it's much faster than the original, and the thumping four-to-the-floor drum programming drives it forward to match the increased speed; most producers use this sample in slow jam mode, but not here! The original version had no Beanie and some different lyrics from Jay, but once it got leaked it never got a proper release in that form, resurfacing instead in this form on the "American Gangster" soundtrack. If you can find a decent copy anywhere, grab it!
Maticulous : Simple Minded Miracle (Simple Minds Flip)
Perfect beat for this spot, though I had to edit it a bit to make it a suitable length! Brooklyn's Maticulous gets very busy on this cut, chopping up a Simple Minds sample for his contribution to "The 80s Beat Tape" from the Producers I Know camp.
David Bowie : Let's Dance
I've never been a big Bowie listener, but if I had to name one song of his I enjoy it's this every time! The great Nile Rodgers from Chic helmed the production on this one and the combination of the two legends is a straight winner. This title track from Bowie's 1983 album (recorded in just seventeen days!) was a big single in its own right and deservedly so.
Prince : Extraloveable (Reloaded)
This show is usually about me digging back into my archives, but this song in particular is an example of Prince doing the same! The original was planned for Vanity 6 and recorded in 1982 but then shelved. In 2011, a new version was recorded, and then 2013 saw a modified version released for free on Prince's website. A rediscovered gem from one of the greats!
Rick James : Cold Blooded
Even if you never particularly followed his music, everyone knows the sound of at least one Rick James record - if it's not "Mary Jane", then for sure it's "Super Freak", either in its original form or after MC Hammer sampled it! On this title track from his 1983 album, James played all the instruments on this track, which with its synth-heavy construction is very different to a lot of his previous material - he could definitely get busy with a guitar! I only just read that the woman he's speaking to in the lyrics is his then-girlfriend Linda Blair - every day's a school day!
The Time : Jungle Love
I admit it, I've never seen "Purple Rain", and partly for that reason, didn't know this song until recently! Morris Day and the crew slay on this funk number from the 1984 "Ice Cream Castle" album, written by Morris Day and Prince (under the alias Jamie Starr). Some of the lyrics are pretty suspect though...
Missy Elliott : I'm Really Hot (Instrumental)
One of the good things about doing the podcast is that it sometimes forces me to give a listen to records in my collection I'd normally just flick past. I think I bought this vinyl for "Pass That Dutch" but this beat ended up coming in handy here!
Mark B & Tommy Evans : Move...Now
I closed many a set with this! Mark B gives us a seriously uptempo track built around a serious Bollywood sample, giving Leeds MC Tommy Evans a quality backing to flow over. This made the playlists for some mainstream radio stations, and worked every time on the dancefloor! Very affordable release available on all formats even now if you look around, well worth having in your collection.
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!