Mar 28, 2021
"We all need...some fresh air."
This month has been pretty exhausting, but I did have some good ideas for this episode, and once I hit stride with the recording I decided to try and keep the pace up and get it released on a weekend day! The selection has turned out to be heavy on artists who are no longer with us, but left us some great music to remember them by. Get yourself comfortable and press "play"...
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Evidence ft. Raekwon and Ras Kass : The Red Carpet
How is this track ten years old already? Time has flown since the 2011 release of "Cats & Dogs", the second solo Evidence album after four LPs as part of Dilated Peoples. While Evidence is an excellent producer in his own right, the reins here are taken by his future partner in The Step Brothers, The Alchemist. He further shows his confidence by bringing in California's Ras Kass and Raekwon from the Wu to guest, both legendary MCs, and holds his own next to both. A great collection of talent to kick off the show!
[DJ Premier] Gang Starr : What's Real? (Instrumental)
I just had to go back to "One Of The Best Yet" for another Preemo beat! Definitely get the instrumental release if you can, especially as you get the previously-unreleased "Glowing Mic" as a bonus cut.
The Notorious B.I.G ft. DMC : My Downfall
As I say on the voiceover, it feels weird playing a good chunk of Biggie's catalogue given how he ultimately died. This track from "Life After Death" is a perfect example, and feels like a mix of the creative writing he was famed for and maybe a realisation of exactly how much negativity swirled around him even after he had made the transition from the streets to the music industry. The legendary DMC of RUN DMC guests, only on the hook - but he does it well.
Agallah : Slaughter
Just a few bars, just a taste, as I needed something to bridge a track with no instrumental outro and the other with no open bars on the intro! Big respect to Agallah though, who has been putting in work since the mid-90s and will probably have yet another new project out by the time I finish typing this sentence. Find this beat on "Propain Campain Presents Agalllah - The Instrumental Vol. 1".
Sean Price and Small Professor (ft. Rock and DJ Revolution) : Refrigerator P
Heavy business! Ruck (Sean Price) and Rock, formerly the duo Heltah Skeltah, reunite on this killer from the "86 Witness" LP. Small Professor makes the beat dramatic, and DJ Revolution seasons the mix with his trademark super-sharp cuts.
Fred The Godson : Presidents
The Bronx-born-and-bred MC Fred The Godson sadly passed away last April at just 35 - one of the relatively early US casualties of COVID-19. During his lifetime, his catalogue consisted of some highly-rated mixtapes, but only after his death do we finally hear his debut album, "Ascension". This track of course is built (by Hesami) around the same sample as Jay-Z's "Dead Presidents" as Fred expounds on the drug game.
Broke 'n' English : Tryin' (Calibre Mix)
"Tryin'" was one of the standouts on the 2007 debut LP "Subject 2 Status" from this respected Manchester crew. Both Strategy and DRS have a long-standing history in the drum & bass scene, and so it made sense that the remix of this track would be handled by someone like Calibre. Sharp, crisp drum action and a smooth bassline drive this one along, with DRS' vocals being woven in as a refrain. You can hear in this one track how DRS then went on to make several excellent D&B albums - his vocal versatility allows him to shine on any production.
Marco Polo : Cindy
The "MP On The MP" (see what he did there?) beat tape is inspired by a Youtube series he was doing, and features a host of new and unreleased beats. Marco Polo is one keeping this style of production alive, which I'm thankful for. I still think of him as a "new" producer, but he's a veteran with over fifteen years in the industry!
Le$ : Out To Cali
Le$ is a great MC to go to if you want lyrics about just living life and having fun - almost like a Curren$y, but without the extreme high-end references. Right here, he's going to Cali, buying some weed, riding around, and enjoying the view - sometimes it doesn't need to be more lofty than that. Mr.Rogers goes to a familiar sample as a basis for the beat, and if you want more, the whole "Summer Madness" will give you these vibes - and exercise your speakers in the process.
O.C. : What I Need (Keelay Remix)
The "Smoke & Mirrors" LP is a bit of a forgotten one for many, but I really enjoyed it, and when acapellas became available, it was expertly remixed by the Sole Vibe crew out of San Francisco. The classic soul sample (which you may recognise from tracks like "Deeper" by Bo$$) is the foundation, with a heavy kick and skipping hi-hats providing the rhythm. O.C. never lost a step from his first LP, and he's never afraid to put his feelings out there on wax.
Sadat X : Stages & Lights
This is one of those tracks I was stunned to realised I hadn't already played on the podcast, so here it is at last! This Showbiz-produced cut from the 1996 "Wild Cowboys" LP, Sadat's solo debut, was also a B-side on the "Hang 'Em High" single - but definitely stole the show. If you ever find the original sample, you'll be amazed at how Show plucked that one small piece for this beat!
Phife Dawg : Thought U Wuz Nice
Killer B-side action from Phife Dawg, on the flip of the Superrappin "Bend Ova" 12", with J Dilla on the bouncy production. Still can't quite believe that both of these icons are no longer with us.
Saib : Beyond Clouds
The Chillhop label seems to put out endless amounts of beats from producers specialising in sounds inspired by greats like J Dilla and Nujabes, but with their own spin. This one comes from the "Chillhop Essentials Fall 2020" compilation, one of any number that are perfect for soundtracking study, work, or just a lazy day!
213 : Run On Up
That beat by Tha Chill and the delivery of "Shut the f********ck up and ruuuu-uuu-uuuun" by the late great Nate Dogg is enough to make this an absolute classic in my ears, but the full picture is even better. Way before "Doggystyle", "The Chronic", or even "Deep Cover", 213 was the group formed in Long Beach by Nate Dogg, Warren G, and Snoop, before any of them had got their big breaks. Years later, after all of them had become stars in their own rights, it was heart-warming to see them reform for the "The Hard Way" LP, from which this is taken.
Sporty Thievz : Angel
The Sporty Thievz deserve to be remembered for more than "No Pigeons", as much as we enjoyed the whole thing at the time. The "Street Cinema" album may not have quite lived up to the name, but there were some solid cuts on there, and this was one. Produced by King Kirk of the group alongside Ski, this track has all the foreboding, and while the singing on the hook may not be Marvin Gaye level, it absolutely works here.
Jean Grae : My Crew
One of the great underrated MCs - not because her skills are in question, but simply because not enough people know her! She's in fine early 2000s form on this cut from the "Bootleg of the Bootleg EP", produced by China Black. Straight boom-bap, and she cuts through with clarity and dexterity. Jean Grae raps, sings, produces, acts...one of the true talent of the culture.
Bronx Slang : Just Say No
New single from Jerry Beeks and Ollie Miggs, who have really been on a hot streak the last couple of years. It's nice to hear some protest music in an era that really calls for it, and if this is a marker of how good the upcoming second album is going to be, then you need to reserve a space in your crates right now! Jadell on production brings an appropriate heaviness to the track, no lightness on the beat!
[Ron Browz] Big L : The Heist (Instrumental)
All these years and I'd never looked to see who produced this beat from Big L's posthumously-released LP "The Big Picture" - come to find out it's one of Ron Browz' first credits. He's much better known for "Ether" by Nas, which came in 2001. The vocal version of this track is what the name suggests, a robbery tale, and you can hear the sound effects that punctuate the narrative still here in the instrumental.
Tobe Nwigwe : Fresh Air
Tobe Nwigwe and his collective (including his wife Fat and his producer Nell) have been quietly on the rise for a while, but in very recent times their profile has elevated noticeably. "The Pandemic Project" is a short six-track album from last year, and another quality addition to the catalogue. This man is an amazing MC, and Nell's often-unconventional beats are the perfect canvas. Don't sleep!
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!