Feb 28, 2020
"I don't wanna be a playa...I just coach the team."
- Lord Finesse
I had a new experience recording this episode - making an error which meant I had to re-record the whole thing again! Still got it out on time, and so we have our annual tributes to the catalogues of J Dilla, Big L, and Big Pun - alongside some other heavyweight picks. We open proceedings with something fairly topical...
Twitter : @airadam13
Ice Cube : Chase Down The Bully
The recent march in Washington DC by masked white supremacists (with a police escort, at that) put me in mind of the Charlottesville rally in 2017, which is sampled in the intro to this track from "Everythang's Corrupt", and made this a fitting opener for the month. Ice Cube may be running a basketball league and making family films now, but he can still bring the righteous fire on the mic whenever he chooses. Beau James' beat has the kind of heft needed to match, although I think the little breakdown on the second half of each verse could have been swapped for more of that heavy main loop!
J Dilla : Jay Dee 37
I don't think I've played this one before - with so many Dilla beat compilations created over the years, filled with tracks with no real titles, it's easy to make a mistake! This is taken from the 2016 "The King of Beats" release, and it's a neck-snapper for real - doing the most with just bass, a simple drum pattern, and a few keys.
Jay Dee ft. Frank N Dank : Pause
If you're a fan of the man's work to any substantial degree, you'll know this one - a favourite at every tribute night and on mixtapes for sure. Frank N Dank grab the mics and swagger all over this one with the kind of lyrics that make the whole crowd join in! This banger was a clear standout on his solo LP "Welcome 2 Detroit", which was the first of the "Beat Generation" releases on BBE. There's a specific reason why that LP was first - many of the other producers signed up were so intimidated by the total free rein they were given, they let Dilla go first to see what he'd do!
D.I.T.C. : Stand Strong
If the lyrics sound familiar to some of you, that's likely because this is basically a remix of the Show & AG track "Dignified Soldiers" (as you can hear in the hook), done for the crew's self-titled LP. I think the original does have the edge, but I wanted to play this for those that may have missed it, and of course for everyone who wants to hear lyrics from the late Big L!
Marco Polo ft. Supastition : Heat
I somehow overlooked this one for quite a while, despite the fact that pretty much any Marco Polo beat is worth your attention, and Supastition is never one to bring a weak verse. Don't sleep - make sure you give "Port Authority" from 2007 a few good end-to-end listens for some straight-up Hip-Hop.
Big Pun : Leatherface
The title may be a reference to "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre", but the sample on the hook and outro tie this one firmly into the infamous motel scene in "Scarface" (actually, doesn't show as much as you remember). This version is from a white label 12", but you can easily find the uncut raw on Pun's second LP "Yeeeah Baby", with the same production by Arkatech Beatz (known elsewhere as Infinite Archatechz).
Mix Master Mike : Rebel Enforcer
The "Anti-Theft Device" album by one of the founders of the Invisibl Skratch Piklz probably had more straight-up beats (rather than cuts and juggles) than many would have expected before hearing it, and it certainly set out that Mike has a well-rounded skill set. This was a nice inclusion with a few samples heads will immediately recognise alongside others that aren't obvious at all!
Sean Price & Lil Fame : Center Stage
Given the aggression of the lyrics you can actually hear, I can't even imagine what the censored material was! "Price Of Fame" (genius!) is a major Brooklyn team-up of the late great Sean P and Lil Fame of M.O.P, who not only contributes the hook here but also produced the raw beat. His use of the "Brownsville" vocal sample is a perfect, inspired addition! Great video too - worth watching just for the puppet version of Jill Scott :)
DJ Shadow : Walkie Talkie
A producer I know was commenting recently how different DJ Shadow's catalogue has been since "Endtroducing", which is the work that brought him to prominence. That's definitely true, but this track from "The Private Press" has a touch of the energy of something like "The Number Song", as Shadow pieces together pieces of vocal to go braggadocious in his own way over an abrasive beat.
Inspektah Deck : City High
Dug this one out on a mixtape and realised I didn't have a good copy, so digital purchase came to the rescue as I grabbed it from the "The Movement" album. Deck is in solid form describing the grind of trying to come up in NYC - though it's a tale that could fit many other places. Production is by Phantom of the Beats (aka Haas G), whose catalogue has tracks as varied as "Apollo Kids" and "Magic Stick"! This one is soul-sampling crispness from the era when producers were leaving the vocals in and letting them run through the verses; notably in this one, the sample isn't actually saying "city high", but I'll leave you to find it...
Busta Rhymes : Show Me What You Got
One of my favourite Dilla beats gets an outing here, highlighting the fact that the work he did with Busta Rhymes is still probably the most weirdly-overlooked part of his overall production catalogue. The drums lazily skip over a late 90s sample - bearing in mind that this is from the 2000 "Anarchy" album, so this was an unusually contemporaneous sample source - that is guaranteed to move your neck or shoulders!
14KT : Down The Street From Peace
Skills to pay the bills...for everyone on the street. The Michigan native coming out of LA with the ill jazz styles is an absolute wizard on Maschine and this track gives you just a taste. This track is a great example of the work on the "For My Sanity" album, which often throws tradition structure and bar counts out of the window, and embraces freedom and experimentation.
Away Team ft. Nervous Reck : Look
It's been a very long time since we visited the "Training Day" album from the heyday of the extended Justus League crew out of North Carolina, but it's never too late to go back. Khrysis is on the boards with the heat ;) and Sean Boog joined by Fayetteville's Reck, who strides along next to the beat just daring it to say something!
Black Moon : Look At Them
Only partially chosen as a thematic companion to the preceding track, this was from a strangely overlooked LP from last year, the long-awaited return of Black Moon on "Rise Of Da Moon". With Buckshot's slithering flow, 5 Ft giving contrast, and Evil Dee on the turntables and the beats, how could you go wrong? If you've not heard the album yet, do give it a shot.
J.Chambers ft. Koro Fyah : Escape The Kingdom
New single from a Manchester MC who continues to grind on the underground and work on his craft. With the recent resumption of deportations of British Black people to Jamaica, this reggae-fused track is right on time. The Rastafari vocalist Koro Fyah is the perfect addition on the hook for this short and pointed piece.
Gang Starr : Beyond Comprehension
This isn't the first track that comes to mind when I think of the "Step In The Arena" LP, but it's a low-key smoker. Guru's ability to use his monotone style at slow tempos was solidifying in this period , and Premier's scratching fits the beat perfectly.
4Hero : Les Fleur
This is a beautiful cover version of the classic 1970 song by the legendary Minnie Riperton - not an easy act to follow by any stretch! Nonetheless, Carina Andersson does a praiseworthy job vocally over the production from Marc Mac and Dego on a song just made for the springtime. The 2001 "Creating Patterns" LP is the source for this one, an album which has aged very well.
Royce Da 5'9" ft. Cee-Lo Green : Politics
We finish the month with a great track from the time after Royce had build something of an underground audience, but long before much of the wider world had caught on to what he was bringing. This standout from the 2005 "Independent's Day" album is a great collaboration - Nottz' beat is gritty, but is shepherded into a bluesy feel courtesy of Cee-Lo's voice and re-interpretation of an old Spooky Tooth lyric for the hook. Perhaps despite the curses, this track for me definitely fits into the category of "Tracks That Could Play At The End Of A Series Of 'The Wire'"!
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!