Apr 28, 2016
"Across the seas and deserts, through the trees and grass..."
In the month when we remember the life of Guru, we also say goodbye to not just a legend, but a true musical genius - Prince. I've blended some of his work into this episode's selection, along with various eras of Guru, some solid Hip-Hop picks and a little weaving in and out of different genres along the way. In the next hour, you're pretty much guaranteed to hear something for the first time!
Kardinal Offishall : Ill Eagle Alien
I'd be willing to bet that many people who've heard Kardinal don't really appreciate just how nice he is on the mic. He absolutely slays it right here - just check that second verse where he uses all those abstract nouns ("-ility") in a row to end his lines. On top of that, he passes Guru's "Mostly Tha Voice" test with flying colours! This was my favourite track on his "Not 4 Sale" album, and the beat is nothing to sneeze at either - Nottz with a speaker-thumper for real.
Da Beatminerz : Take That (Instrumental)
"Brace 4 Impak" was an excellent producer album in my opinion, and still gets fairly regular play from me fifteen years after release! This low-end killer comes courtesy of Mr.Walt, and is a masterclass in simplicity. Check the drumline - kicks only on 1 and 3, snares only on 2 and 4, and the hats are just on the 8th notes; it just keeps the time for the other sounds (and the MCs) to work within.
Doujah Raze ft. A.G. & Sean Price : Fahrenheit
Dug this one out for a listen and was struck by how brave the Alexandria, Virginia MC was to invite both A.G. and Sean Price along - as competent as he is, the others are big names with long histories of ripping tracks. This is the B-side of the 2006 "Little More Time" 12", slightly obscure but not expensive even now. Arythmetic supplies the boom-bap beat, and if you had to pick the best verse - got to be Sean P!
The Roots ft. Maimouna Youseff : Don't Feel Right
The "Game Theory" album is a bargain right now, so it's the perfect time to get yourself a copy! This was the first single from that album and Black Thought speaks on all the things he sees in the world that just aren't...right. I don't know if you'd call him an underrated MC or just an oft-forgotten one, but people in the know respect his skills immensely; check the technique right here. The combination of the Roots crew and singer/songwriter Maimouna Youseff got them a Grammy nomination - one occasion when they actually made a decent call.
The Mouse Outfit : Sip A Little Bit Of Rum
I was considering including this, and then the next day checked Facebook to find it had just had a new video released! Must be a sign ;) Anyway, this fine Manchester crew return once again with this beautiful head-nodder from the "Step Steadier" album, their trademark polished production undergirding the lyrics of local mic specialists Sparkz and Fox. Remember folks, drink responsibly.
Clear Soul Forces : Mars On Life
Strange to think that for years Detroit wasn't thought of as a Hip-Hop city, considering the outrageous amount of talent that has come out of the city in the last fifteen years or so! This crew represent well for the D, not least on this track from last year's "Fab Five" album (nice Michigan reference there), almost falling over each other to drop lyrics over a beat by producer Nameless. Never let it be said there's nothing good coming out these days...
Loose Ends : A Little Spice (Gang Starr Remix)
I managed to accidentally buy the "Tighten Up, Vol.1" compilation twice in the last month, a clear sign that I may need some rest. Anyway, Loose Ends were a tremendously influential UK soul group who made some noise in the US market and are highly respected - you may know them best for "Hangin' On A String", an 80s classic. "A Little Spice" is the title track from their 1984 debut LP, has been sampled at least once to great effect, but here it gets a little of that adopted Brooklyn flavour with Guru and Premier on the remix. Expect me to play more from this group in the future!
Prince : Let's Go Crazy
I had to think about it to be sure, but I think this is my favourite Prince track - and as it happens, heavily quoted in the last few days due to the first words in the intro. The opener on "Purple Rain", this is just a beast of a cut. You probably think of the guitars when this song comes to mind, but the drums are worthy of note too, making use of the Linn LM-1, which was the first drum machine to contain actual samples of drum sounds. Whatever it took to get the right sound...Prince was about that.
Leaders Of The New School : What's Next?
L.O.N.S are often only referred to these days when talking about Busta Rhymes' origins, but never forget that they put out some very good records during their short run! This was the Dinco-produced lead single from their second and final album, "T.I.M.E. (The Inner Mind's Eye)" and did very well when it came out - I remember seeing the video a few times in an era where you couldn't just click on what you wanted to see! Big shout to my man DJ Omas for hooking me up with this vinyl :)
Gang Starr : Comin For Datazz
An absolutely underrated track from the "Hard To Earn" LP; at best, it gets glossed over, at worst, I've heard it described in very unflattering terms. Personally, I've always enjoyed it and thought it was a good closer. Guru's monotone flow gives plenty of low-key quotables that I don't think would have worked from anyone else, and Premier's fly and uncomplicated beat bumps along at a fairly high tempo for the era. It doesn't even have much of a hook - just an instrumental break and the odd cut (Run DMC - that one escaped me for ages when I was a kid). Makes me sad to know we won't be getting any more of this.
Ras Kass ft. Aaron G West : Pop Life
If it wasn't for Ras' lyrics, this would be pretty much a straight cover version of the song of the same name from Prince's 1985 "Around The World In A Day" album. It's a little more smoothed out and less stark than the original, and of course Aaron G West's vocal has a different character to Prince's, but I think this cut from the "Quarterly" mixtape was very well done.
[Cold 187um] Above The Law : Call It What U Want (Instrumental)
I'll definitely play the vocal version of this "Black Mafia Life" track for you sometime; not only is it quality Above The Law material, it's also one of the earliest 2Pac guest appearances - people just weren't checking for him that heavily at the time. In the meantime, enjoy the pure funk from Cold 187um aka Big Hutch - the true father of the G-Funk...
India Shawn & James Fauntleroy : Let Me Show You
This has been racking up an impressive amount of headphone time for me this month. Soulful, seriously uptempo, with a little electronic edge, this is absolute fire. An experienced singer and songwriter, India combined with Cocaine 80s frontman James Fauntleroy for the "Outer Limits EP", which doesn't sound like anything else I'm listening to at the moment. You can hear the whole thing on Soundcloud, so if you like it then make sure to buy a copy and support!
DJ Spinna ft. Heavy : We Can Change This World
We'll definitely revisit Spinna's "Intergalactic Soul" project in the future, but this track makes it on as a great tempo and thematic follow-up to the India Shawn cut. It's got a bit of a broken beat vibe, and the album as a whole swerves from this to Hip-Hop to soul and house, always maintaining his individual spark. Well worth picking up for those of you with eclectic taste!
Pure Pimp : Can't Fade The Funk
This is vintage, origin story stuff right here. If you recognise the voice, you might even have heard it on past episodes...this is none other than the man now known as Suga Free! Under that name, he dropped his debut LP in 1997, but 1992 saw him release a four-track project entitled "Pimp Of The Year" on Gueno Recordings. Solely produced by Lee Bo, who brings the West Coast funk to the underpinnings of this cut, it likely didn't sell many copies but this track and one more were included on the CD of Free's "Sunday School" album as bonus tracks. Even at this early stage, you can tell that Free (who also went by the name Royal Rock at the time) is a highly talented MC, who could have ripped many of the rappers of the era a new one! So what happened between 1992 and 1997? Hey, the game is to be sold, not told...
Gang Starr : 2 Steps Ahead
Taxi Driver : We Don't Care (We're Gonna Do It Mix)
I don't know much about this one, truth be told - Discogs has it in the "House" and "Future Jazz" categories, but I got it on a "Beach Bar" collection. The drum track definitely has a House blueprint but the bassline is a little more live than most, and combined with the woodwind action you end up with a great little groove.
The Time : Cool
There was a future episode I might have otherwise saved this for, but I thought with the passing of Prince it was a good one to end on - you can't help but smile when you hear it! Despite being credited to The Time, a group formed by Prince to allow him to have an outlet for this kind of sound, he actually wrote this track (with Dez Dickerson) and then played every single instrument! The vocal lead is taken by Morris Day, who faultlessly plays the rich playboy image he cultivated. I'll just give you a taste here - the album is very affordable, and I recommend lovers of the funk grab 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!