Dec 31, 2016
"Children of a lesser god when your melanin's got a tint."
I don't think I'm alone in being glad to see 2016 out of the door. We close out the year with some of the best tracks of the last twelve months mixed in with a bunch of older heat from the collection. Let's hope 2017 has some better days in store for us...
Ras Kass ft. Sean Price and General Steele : Paypal The Feature
From the recent "Intellectual Property" release comes this stomping tune (big up Felony on production) perfect for opening the episode, with the clever sampling of the late great Sean P's XXL "Show 'n' Off" freestyle for the extended hook. As Ras points out, they actually had done tracks together previously, but it did make for a funny line :) Ras has a solid verse here but I think Steele steals the show (no pun intended) with a ferocious sixteen.
Fakts One : Lost & Found
Went back to Fakts' "The Chop Shop" tape for a fitting instrumental, one I hope you enjoy as much as me. I had to do a little chopping myself to extend it long enough to speak over, so I hope the man himself doesn't mind!
HUG ft. Diversion Tactics : My Sound System
Surrey's Diversion Tactics do a fine job on the "Complexity Kills" EP of combining with HUG (who you may know from his work with J-Zone) to give us some no-frills Hip-Hop. I'd forgotten about this one until I took a browse through my vinyls in the new studio and was glad to have it turn up!
Black Moon : Pressure Iz Tight
"Total Eclipse" is the much-underappreciated third LP from Brooklyn's Black Moon, and there are a stack of quality cuts on there, including this one, a mainstay of my gym playlist :) Buckshot and 5ft are on a pure street flex on the mics here while Da Beatminerz add some low end to a classic Dramatics sample for the instrumental. One interesting production touch worth mentioning - check how the actual vocals are periodically scratched into place on the track. To do that, they'd have to take the accapella vocal recording, load it into Serato or something and then scratch and mix it over the instrumental in the correct locations; it's extra work, and it adds a certain extra energy that couldn't have been got any other way.
Akrobatik : Step It Up
Stomping tune from the "Absolute Value" LP - thanks to DJ A-Up for putting me up on this hyped-up banger from one of Boston's greatest MCs. Hezekiah's beat brings to mind a full-scale riot at an opera but never overpowers Ak, who is in full battle gear on this track. The cuts from DJ Jayceeoh just seal the deal.
Jigmastas : Magnetize
DJ Spinna with another ridiculous beat! Jigmastas returned this year after a long absence with the "Resurgence" album and they have not missed a beat. Kriminul buries it on both verses over the banging drums and trembling bassline, all topped off by the Rakim sample on the hook. Big tune!
J-Zone : Chemical (Remix Instrumental)
No-one but Zone has beats that sound quite like this. The keys, the bending bass, the bubbling background effects, and all the other elements come together unexpectedly but perfectly. For this track and many more classic heaters, you need to check the "The Headband Years" instrumental collection and just marvel at the creativity.
Camp Lo : Black Jesus
Can I count this as a Christmas record? This opening track from the "Ragtime Hightimes" LP is vintage Lo, with Geechi Suede and Sonny Cheeba trading fly slang over Ski's beat; sounds almost like a sample from a musical or something on the intro.
Tall Black Guy ft. Ozay Moore : Things Deeper Than My Skin
Tall Black Guy is back with his sophomore album "Let's Take A Trip" and it's a more than worthy follow-up to "8 Miles to Moenart". I've got a few favourites on there but for this episode I've picked the collaboration with Ozay Moore (the same pairing that produced the excellent "Mon Amie De'Troit"), where Ozay goes in-depth about race from his own perspective over TBGs spacey re-interpretation of Joe Jackson's "Stepping Out".
Children of Zeus ft. Caron Wheeler : U Alone (Remix)
Slowly but surely, Manchester's own Konny Kon and Tyler Daly are getting the respect they deserve and this track sees them link up with one of the greats from our own shores, Caron Wheeler of Soul II Soul. The swinging, lazily-timed drum pattern underpins the feel-good beat that gives plenty of space for all the vocalists to get busy with their individual expressions of devotion. Get the download while you can!
Flex : Vibes da Vida
Flex is a young Portuguese MC currently making his home in Manchester and he's made a smart move early hooking up with the Room 2 Records crew. I picked up his "Soul Food" EP from the tail end of this summer and it's definitely worth a listen! He links with New Haven's Maverick Soul on this one, who blesses him with some shoulder-slumping neo-soul-ish production.
Focus : Begin&End
You last heard Focus here on episode 85, but I really wanted to revisit the "Analog In A Digital World" album and bring out one of my favourite tracks. It starts off well, but it's the switch at 32:38 which lifts it up to an even higher level.
Pharaohe Monch ft. Erykah Badu : Hold On
Pharoahe Monch is one of our great writers and certainly when I consider male MCs, someone who I would think adept enough to handle this topic. Three well-crafted verses on misogynoir with the focus on one woman in particular, plus Erykah Badu giving us the intro, outro and the choruses. Ten years old in a few days, the "Desire" album is definitely one for the collection of true followers of the art of rhyme.
Paul Wall : Swangin In The Rain
Still doing at all these years after "Get Ya Mind Correct", plus his breakout work on "Still Tippin'" and his own "Sittin' Sidewayz", Paul Wall may have created another Houston classic with this opener from 2015's "slab god" album. Nothing groundbreaking thematically, but that's not what you come to him for - the car talk and flossing is what it's all about. Scoop DeVille (Kid Frost's son, which makes me feel hella old) uses some old Shalamar for the beat, and makes liberal use of the filters to take out top and bottom end along the way. Check how choppy and glitchy some of the sample triggering and playback is too - intentional I'm sure, and just keeps you that bit off-balance.
Pusha T and Jay Z : Drug Dealers Anonymous
Two coke rap mavens combine to spit drug bars on this June single release. For me, Pusha definitely has the better verse, but this track also stands out in a major way for its sampling and (in Jay's verse) baiting of the awful conservative "commentator" Tomi Lahren. For context, that quote was taken from a tirade against Beyonce's Superbowl 50 performance; not sure what her husband's past has to do with that, but there we go. Production comes from DJ Dahi, keeping it slow and low.
Cold 187um : Alive & Free
I can't work out whether this is one of those records that just I like, or if it's one that more people will catch onto! Very different to any of the Cold 187um/Big Hutch material we might have heard in the past, this tune is the closer on his "The Only Solution" concept album, and sees him going with a completely sung delivery over the instrumental of "Last Chance" by ABK. For what it's worth, I think this track is much better - I'd be interested to know how you all feel about it!
Jake One : Fie
Jake One is one of those artists with his own modern take on golden era production values, and his "#PrayerHandsEmoji" beat tape has him going with a single concept (gospel sampling) and running with it over twenty-four serious tracks. I love the ominous feel of this one with the vocal sample occasionally swelling up from the background, and the periodic double-speed hi-hat programming is a nice accent.
Terrace Martin : God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
I've been meaning to play this for a long while - at least a year, but actually I think it may be two! It's a great take on a staple English Christmas carol, with a sax lead and allsorts going on with the synth bassline. You can get more jazzy Xmas flavour from Crenshaw's finest on his "Times" LP.
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!