May 21, 2020
"They don't never see the work, only results of it."
- Rapper Big Pooh
Another month inside, and one that has been tinged with sadness; we say Rest In Power to Ty, Andre Harrell, and the soul legend Betty Wright. The month's selection starts with a favourite of mine from Ty's catalogue, and though the styles change, we keep a steady pace all the way through - I know some of you are running to try and stay in shape during this time, so I hope it helps!
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Ty ft. Kwadjo and Michelle Escoffery : Ha Ha
"Feeling like my left toe's equal to Pele" - always loved that line, I think it's the delivery! We start off with a track from Ty's second studio album ("Upwards"), which was also on the B-side of the "Groovement" 12". From the off, he was an artist who never pretended to be anything other than who he was and represented his life with skill and humour, which is well-demonstrated here! The beat is kind of staccato, with no hi-hat between drum beats and the synth bass stabbing in hard. Wicked tune from one of our greats who will be sadly missed.
[Dante Ross] Casual : Turf Dirt (Instrumental)
The 2001 "VIP" single was dope, but the headline track was definitely an example of an artist trying to step into the unfamiliar sonic territory of the club lane! "Turf Dirt" was the last track of three, and the B-side has instrumentals of everything - in this case, Dante Ross with a stomper.
J-Live : Harder
I'd almost forgotten about this one until it turned up as part of the vinyl digitisation project! A 2005 single release from "The Hear After", this is a loud and proud statement of intent from one of the hardest-working artists in the business. The beat is courtesy of the five-headed production team "The Fire Dept", who also did some work for GZA the same year and have also performed as his live band.
Conway the Machine : Be Proud Of Me
Buffalo's Conway is an artist who knows of the life that he speaks, and this is a really personal track. He's clawed his way up to a career as a respected MC, but as you can hear, not everyone with him was really with him as he tried to make it. Khrysis is on production, giving this real-life story an appropriately downbeat backing, on the penultimate cut on "EIF 2 : Eat What U Kill".
Big Twan ft. Big Kwam : The Hellgate Rebel
This track has some of my favourite scratches on a rap record of all time, with Tony Vegas of the Scratch Perverts flaring out in an ill fashion! The deep listeners might know Big Twan from his debut professional appearance, a verse on Big L's "8 Iz Enuff", but the "One Time 4 The Lyricist" 12" is his sole vinyl release as a soloist. The main track is heavy, and having this on there as well makes the vinyl a great addition to your library. It's a meeting of the Bigs, with Twan sharing mic time with the UK MC Big Kwam over a killer beat from The Creators - the horns and bass might be the drivers, but check the plucked guitar-type sounds all over the verses too.
Genaside II ft. Eek-A-Mouse : Just As Rough
The UK's Genaside II were a really unique crew who had Hip-Hop, rave, jungle, and more in their stylistic blend. In various combinations and configurations since the 90s, they've been a low-key influence on quite a few big names, despite being unknown to many! This track is from their debut "New Life 4 The Hunted", and features the legendary reggae artist Eek-A-Mouse on vocals, telling a story of a hard life on the streets. If you've got the ear for something a bit different - especially if you like D&B or breakbeat - then the album is well worth picking up if you see it.
Blue Stone : Lost Sun
This is probably a bit "New Age"-y and ambient for some if heard in isolation, but I think it fits well here! It's got a little bit of a north African/Arab vibe to the drums at the start, and builds up from a gentle start to a thundering peak before easing back down. It's one of the many well-produced tracks on the 2007 "Worlds Apart" LP.
The Mouse Outfit ft. One Only : Sunrise
Brand new single, and perfect for the season! An all-Manchester affair with One Only showing versatility on the mic, and Chini and Metrodome taking the production reins. A welcome return, no doubt.
Pitch 92 ft. Tyler Daley : Confused
Chilled again, Manchester again, this time from the "3rd Culture" album from last year. Pitch 92 showed the talent from early in his career, and the release of his producer project was great to see. If you're looking for top-shelf local mic expertise, Tyler Daley should be one of the first names on the list, and you get him switching effortlessly between the bars many don't recognise him for and the singing voice that they do.
Black Star ft. Black Thought : Respiration (Pete Rock Remix)
No doubt, the original "Respiration" from the "Mos Def & Talib Kweli are Black Star" LP is a great track. But how do you make it better? First off, bring in Black Thought, one of those who could be described as "your favourite MC's favourite MC". That kicks things up a notch. Not enough? Ok, why not bring Pete Rock in to remix it? This should be illegal. Brilliant re-working of the 1998 classic, which I'm pulling from the "4 Pete Sake" (bootleg?) remix compilation, but which is also on the B-side of the main single.
Camp Lo : Life I Love
I absolutely loved the "Ragtime Hightimes" album, and while there are many tracks that are more of an immediate sonic hit, this one is a quiet killer. This is a group who need to be called in to score a heist movie, as they drop slang-heavy, super-dense rhymes about a glamourised crime life all over a Ski beat that's as cool as the other side of the pillow.
[Prince Kaysaan] Royal Flush : Can't Help It (Instrumental)
Kaysaan's run may "only" have been a few releases between 1997 and 1998, but he forever gets props for this one from "Ghetto Millionaire" alone. The combo of an 80s R&B sample with the filter coming in and out together with crispy jazz-sourced drums made this a late 90s winner that I'm happy to throw on a mixtape anytime.
Kris Kross ft. Da Brat, Aaliyah, Jermaine Dupri, and Mr Black: Live and Die for Hip-Hop (DJ Clark Kent Mix)
RIP Chris Kelly, gone seven years as of this month. Most people don't even realise that Kris Kross continued to record after their "Jump" and "I Missed The Bus" days, but they did indeed, and this is a remix of a track from their third and final album, 1996's "Young, Rich, & Dangerous". Laid back, cooled out, but in a different and even better-done fashion to the LP version - that bass flavour is definitely working.
Little Brother : Work Through Me
The return of Little Brother last year was much-welcomed by those who've been with them since the beginning, and they are standouts when it comes to bringing the changes in their lives into the music. This is a track about not just their own music career, but getting up every day and doing your best - which is pretty appropriate right now. Phonte and Rapper Big Pooh have continued to improve with age, and while 9th Wonder didn't join them this time, Focus and BlaaqGold slay this bumping and soulful beat.
Reks : Due Diligence
The "Revolution Cocktail" album by Reks seems to have all but disappeared - you won't find it on Spotify, and I can't find it on Amazon or other download sites either. It's a shame, as I think he had some high-quality tracks on there. I don't have a producer credit for this, but the beat was what drew me in first. You can almost hear Reks warming up on the first few bars before he hits his stride and brings it home. The Massachusetts native is incredibly slept on, even after twelve albums - but I appreciate the grind.
Boyz II Men ft. Erick Sermon, Redman, Keith Murray, and 2 Ta Da Head : Vibin' (Kenny Smoove Remix)
As @DragonflyJonez recently suggested, you might not be able to think of any gatherings where it was demanded that Boyz II Men be put on, but this might be an exception! Kenny Smoove was part of the Untouchables collective that also included Eddie F, Dave "Jam" Hall, and one Pete Rock, and he did his thing on this remix. Granted, I'm not exactly Mr R&B, but this slaughters the original, not least because he brings in heavy artillery - the whole Def Squad, headed up by Erick Sermon. There's a whole 12" of remixes that this is drawn from, should you want to hear some alternative takes!
Ilajide : Mothership Connection 1-2
Bronx Slang : Excuse Me Officer
We close with a great track from 2019's debut LP from the link up of Jerry Beeks and Ollie Miggs - Bronx Slang. If you're very eagle-eared, you'll recognise a couple of these bars from the track I did with Jerry Beeks ("I'm A Cop"), which is on episode 86 of the podcast! Sadly, as this topic continues to be relevant, new names enter the roll of the fallen, and Beeks expands still further on police violence.
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!