Sun, 28 February 2016
"Now let me say it again, and say it with feeling."
- Jay Dee
Ten years since the passing of J Dilla. Feels odd just thinking about it being that long. As always on the show, we pay tribute to him with a solid selection of his work, and the title of the episode; in reference to his refusal to be boxed in by the orthodoxy of any particular style, I thought it was fitting. We also give respect this episode to the late greats Big L, Big Pun, and Maurice White of Earth, Wind, and Fire, who left us this month, and I hope this mix does them all justice.
Jay Dee : The $
Some months I like to start with something gentle and refined. This is not one of those months. Big time slammer from the "Ruff Draft" EP, exemplifying the rawness he speaks of on the intro! Oh yes, if you know the track well and notice a difference - yes, I did sneak in a couple of extra sounds at one specific point, just for emphasis ;)
J Dilla : Go Get 'Em
Q-Tip : Go Hard
The "Amplified" album, by and large, did not get much love when it came out back in 1999, going gold at a time when platinum sales were definitely achievable for Hip-Hop releases. The singles "Vivrant Thing" and "Breathe & Stop" made a little commercial noise, on the underground tip "Let's Ride" is a popular one at J Dilla tributes, but this track never seems to get any shine! The beat is upbeat but kind of austere, with Jay Dee channelling some late-70s synth sounds and adding some sharp drums.
E-40 : The Slap
Always been a fan of this track, and it's been sitting here for the longest waiting to be played - finally, it makes the cut once I realised how perfectly it blended with the Q-Tip track! Living up to the title, this Rick Rock produced beat slaps crazy while E-40 goes into unrestrained Vallejo game spitting mode. This is on a 12" with "7 Much" on the flip, but you can also find this on the 2002 "Grit & Grind" album.
Camp Lo & Pete Rock : 99 Bottles
Not the longest track, but the kind of quality you'd expect from the union of Camp Lo and one of the greatest producers ever to do it! It's got that 70s cop show vibe to it, and while the samples sound familiar, I can't place them exactly; either way, Lo ride the instrumental impeccably on this gem from the second "80 Blocks From Tiffany's" free mixtape.
The X-Ecutioners ft. Kool G Rap & Big Pun : Dramacyde
An interesting combination of personnel on this one, with a legendary battle DJ crew hooking up with Big Pun and one of his biggest influences, an MC he called "Master" whenever they met. The production matches up to the title and gives a worthy setting for the MCs to go straight crime rhyme all over it, but the DJs absolutely get their shine here, with plenty of space to feature the cuts. The "Built From Scratch" album is definitely worth having for the varied track styles and collaborations throughout - we could do with more such experimentation!
Dela : Jay Electropietricus
It's not been that long since we visited the "Translation Lost" album, but when I heard this track while kicking back and relaxing I thought it might be time for a return! Nice boom-bap drums on top of some lush keyboard work, straight from Toronto.
Big L : Flamboyant 1
A little something from the all-too-short Big L catalogue, a freestyle which you can catch on the "Harlem's Finest" compilation, if you can find a copy! These lyrics eventually made their way onto the officially-released version of the track "Flamboyant" from "The Big Picture" LP. As for the beat, see below...
Lord Tariq & Peter Gunz : We Will Ball
I could have saved this for another month, but with the recording quality of the previous track being pretty ropey, I thought I may as well draw on the original beat in all its shiny glory! When I first heard this on Westwood's show, I recorded one verse (not sure why) and didn't even hear what it was called, so it was a mystery to me for a long while. Eventually some lyric googling turned up a result, and I picked this up as a used 12". Lyrically, they're celebrating their success, going back and forth over a thumping, piano-seasoned Dave Atkinson track with flossy finesse. The 12" I have doesn't mention the guest MC on the third verse, and I can't even find her name on Discogs; you may see the correct credit given on the "Make It Reign" LP.
Panda One : The Essence
Even if this tune hadn't been fire, I might have been tempted to play it purely because of the artist's name :) Excellent 2002 underground release with Chops of the Mountain Brothers on the beat; solid drums, the bass backing the low horn sounds and some nice flute riding on the top! Panda himself was formely owner of Good Vibe recordings, but stepped out from behind the desk to the mic for three solo 12"s - he's not Rakim, but he's certainly competent and makes this a pleasure to listen to.
Janet Jackson : Together Again (DJ Premier 100 In A 50 Remix)
This was a big C'mon Feet record and I was lucky enough to be gifted my own copy of this vinyl! You already know about the quality of Janet Jackson's catalogue (or you should), and she has the nous to call in Hip-Hop royalty to remix this track from "The Velvet Rope". Premier has this one absolutely bumping, and spare enough to allow Janet's voice to breathe. On the same 12", there's an even more stripped-back remix with the non-drum/bass instruments removed - good enough that I had a hard decision working out which one to play :)
[Waajeed] Onra : The One (Waajeed Remix Instrumental)
When a noted producer hands the reins to another practitioner of the craft, it shows a huge level of respect; in this case, that respect is well earned. The original was dope, and the remix? Might be better. Both are available on Bandcamp, at a very reasonable price.
Slum Village ft. 5 Elementz : 5 Ela (Remix)
From the very early days of Slum Village comes this incredible flip of Patrice Rushen's "Remind Me", just a great example of how chopping up a sample (actually, two different ones from the same track) gives a beatmaker a lot more versatility with the composition than a straight loop would ever allow. The trademark relaxed drum timing and handclaps are in effect even at this early stage, prefiguring a lot of the work that was to come later. Depending on which version of "Fan-tas-tic Vol.1" you see, this may be labelled as "Slow Up", but it looks like on the now-official version that the title here stands. As far as the lyrics...kind of up and down throughout the cut really. 5 Elementz is another crew from Detroit, and they take their place on here alongside the regular Slum MCs to administer a vicious verbal beatdown to some unknown antagonist...glad that wasn't me they were talking about!
Termanology ft. Big Pooh, Chaundon, and Joe Scudda : Pay Jay
My favourite cut from Termanology's "If Heaven Was A Mile Away" tribute mixtape. Taking the Michael Jackson-sampling "Inhuman Nature", one of my favourite unreleased Jay Dee beats as a basis, you get Termanology and a contingent from the Justus League paying homage and weaving Dilla-related song titles and other references into their flows. On the cuts, DJ Statik Selektah does the business to add a little extra flavour. The overall sound quality is kind of trash, but I included it despite that, just because the track is so ill!
Nas : It Ain't Hard To Tell (J.Period Meets Spinna Remix)
The original track from "Illmatic" is primarily based around the intro piece of "Human Nature", but this remix by J.Period and DJ Spinna from their "Man Or The Music 2" project takes the groove from the verse instead, which makes for a very different feel despite it being the exact same record! If you're an MJ fan at all, be sure to download this top-notch mixtape.
Tall Black Guy : Nature's Miracle
Again. He kills it again. This time, "Human Nature" gets the treatment from TBG on his 2010 "Tall Black Guy vs Michael Jackson" remix suite - he just atomises it and turns all the pieces into his own personal sonic puppets. Recommendation for the month - if you don't know his catalogue, get to know!
Rapsody ft. Heather Victoria : Black Girl Jedi
Five years old already but only just coming to my notice, the "Thank H.E.R Now" LP was a solid pickup for me this month. Rapsody is always going to give you that work, and she brings in Jamla's Heather Victoria to handle hook duty while she gets busy on the verses over what I think is a 9th Wonder beat - it's certainly got the sonic characteristics. Black girl magic on that next level!
9th Wonder : Volume 3, Beat VII
A little something from a vinyl of unreleased instrumentals from 9th - although some of them were used on official releases eventually. I'd love the chance to go through his folders of unused material...
Earth, Wind, & Fire : Fantasy
The passing of Maurice White, founder of EWF, demands that we take some time to appreciate some of his work right here. From 1978's "All 'N All" LP, the lyrics were partly inspired by the film "Close Encounters Of The Third Kind" - you can hear the space traveller vibes in there. It's beautifully smooth, and the perfect wind-down ending to the month. RIP Maurice White.
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!