May 30, 2023
"I was a seventies baby, raised in the eighties..."
An appropriate quote for this month's episode, in which we keep a constant speed all the way through - an unbroken chain in the low-80s BPM range! A little rugged, a little smooth, some old and some new, and hopefully something for each of you 🙂
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Lupe Fiasco ft. Jay-Z : Pressure
The show starts back in 2006, with a selection from Lupe Fiasco's debut "Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor", produced by Prolyfic. He came out strong on this album, representing Chicago in fine style, a city that historically hadn't been as regarded as some when it came to Hip-Hop. Being able to get Jay-Z in for a feature on your debut, even back then, was a sign that you were to be taken seriously, and Lupe has definitely justified that in retrospect.
Marco Polo : Pirate Hookers
The modern move towards independent digital releases on platforms like Bandcamp means it's easier than ever to get hold of gems like "MP On The MP ; The Beat Tape Vol. 2" - at one time they just wouldn't have come out at all, or maybe got a limited run of hard copies. It's hard to describe this track, but the quieter sections make me think of the back streets in a French detective movie, while the louder parts are much more bombastic. If you like hearing instrumentals breathe without vocalists, support releases like this and let the artists know!
Dan Greenpeace & Diamond D : Nowhere To Run To
This release was an incredibly pleasant surprise - I had no idea it was coming out until just before release, when Greenpeace posted about it on Instagram. I've had the pleasure of knowing Greenpeace since the mid 90s - he was working at a company where I had a summer job, and we bonded over a love of Hip-Hop. He was DJing on the side and was a big influence on my listening, putting me up on artists I might not have heard at the time, and he was the absolute first person I remember talking about independent Hip-Hop in the sense of the early Rawkus releases and things like that. I even remember him having the idea of a column in Hip-Hop Connection called "Independents' Day", which came to fruition some time before another well-known magazine "borrowed" that title for their column and ran with it! Anyway, around the time we met, Diamond D's first LP would not long since have been out, so it's amazing to see him producing a track for an artist that we would both have been looking up to from afar all those years ago. Chunky, dark, menacing, the beat is a suitably threatening setting for Diamond's bars, and when one of the most storied producers in Hip-Hop history allows you to produce him, you know you're doing something. Salute!
The Away Team : Steppin On Toes
A nice bit of rugged aggro with Khrysis on the boards and Sean Boog on the mic as The Away Team, a North Carolina crew that came out as part of the Justus League collective. This is on their second LP, 2007's "Training Day", which has some really solid tracks and is definitely worth a listen. While 9th Wonder was the most prominent producer from Justus League, Khrysis was putting out heat round the same period and has continued to work to the present day, with beats for everyone from Busta Rhymes to Rapsody.
Slim Thug : No No No
One of two straight tracks from Southern legends, we go to the nawf of Houston for a killer from last year's "BIGslim" (which it seems, is the name he plans to go by in the future) album. It of course features Slim's distinctive relaxed yet straightahead flow, as well as a Mr. Lee beat with some nice contrast - rapid, dead-on hi-hats alongside a main drum pattern that gets there when it gets there!
Scarface : Safe
The first full track on "The Fix" and a personal favourite from Scarface's long and storied catalogue, this is a raw record that explicitly talks about the contents of your safe while implicitly talking about the lack of safety in the street life. China Black is on production, and the pitch-bending bassline is a perfect menacing undertone.
Damu The Fudgemunk : Last Ole - 2005
It's been a while since we visited the 2008 "Spare Time" album from Washington DC's Damu, full of gritty, unapologetically sample-based beats, so why not do so as this particular beat turns eighteen? My goodness, it doesn't seem like quite that long ago...
Your Old Droog : The Groundhog
He pops up, says what he has to say eloquently, and then disappears again. On this new-ish single, Brooklyn's Your Old Droog clearly remembers the borough of a different era, before all the gentrification that make the area look as it does now - and as he points out, makes some new arrivals look at those who already lived there as the outsiders. The wisftul instrumental by Znakomi is a perfect musical accompaniment to the sentiment.
Hit-Boy & The Alchemist : Slipping Into Darkness
I can't think of another track quite like this brand new release. Not only does it change beat partway through, but each beat has a different producer. Not only that, but each producer also rhymes on the track. Finally, each producer is spitting over the other's beat. Hit-Boy, on Alchemist's beat, definitely had a lot to get off his chest - I don't know how the other producers he mentions in his verse will react to it!
Groove Armada ft. Jeru The Damaja : Suntoucher
This track is over twenty years old, but it's new to me! The opening cut from the "Goodbye Country (Hello Nightclub)" album, it's got a super-long instrumental intro before the vocals properly come in, courtesy of the East New York representative Jeru The Damaja. The main beat is based around a classic soul sample, which I believe is cleared, so I can tell you about it - the excellent "Something For Nothing" by MFSB.
Neneh Cherry : Manchild
A childhood favourite! I've loved this track since it was a radio hit as a single drawn from Neneh's debut "Raw Like Sushi" album back in 1989. She came out raw indeed, with the B-Girl vibes from day one, which you can hear popping up on this track on the short rap verses. This was apparently the first song Neneh sat down and wrote, and she smashes it out of the park - all kinds of chord changes running through it, and a melancholy feel to the lyrics, talking to a man who needs to grow up and fix up a little to get where he needs to be.
Marco Polo : Straight Spittin 4.5
I didn't originally intend to play two Marco Polo beats this episode, but it just flowed that way while browsing through tracks when I was standing at the turntables; don't be mad when you hear quality like this! Those drums are booming and banging over this MPC workout from his edition of the Fat Beats "Baker's Dozen" series, each an instrumental album from one producer.
Heavy D & The Boyz : Yes Y'all
Some boom-bap head-nod flavour from the late Heavy D's 1993 "Blue Funk" album. If you're steeped in the music of that era, you'll recognise the piano sample and usage as identical to that on Gang Starr's "92 Interlude" from the "Daily Operation" LP - DJ Premier tells the story much better than I ever could on an episode of his "So Wassup?" YouTube series, so I'll direct you over there!
Statik Selektah, Nas, Joey Bada$$, and Gary Clark Jr. : Keep It Moving
Statik has been one of the producers continuing to carry the flag for modern, soulful Hip-Hop, respecting the traditions and refining the approach. This was a personal favourite from the 2020 album "The Balancing Act", and while everyone on the mic does their thing...this is a Nas cut as far as I'm concerned :)
Tall Black Guy Productions : Black II Soul
You pretty much can't lose if you're sampling the legendary track this one is based on - or maybe more accurately, you shouldn't touch it if you don't know what you're doing! Fortunately, the man TBG can flip pretty much anything and then enhance it with his warm, soulful musical vibes. One of the many excellent flips/remixes/homages in his catalogue, it's one you should definitely add to your collection, especially for the sunnier days.
Children of Zeus ft. Akemi Fox : Balance
One of the best groups to come out in I don't know how long, Manchester's own Children of Zeus continue to stack up wins! This was the title track from their second full LP (but don't forget "The Story So Far..." and "The Winter Tape", and was highlighted by having the only guest appearance on the whole album, fellow Manchester vocalist Akemi Fox. If you've not yet heard the album, line it up for a listen today - you won't be disappointed!
Deckwrecka : Rough Winds
Another beneficiary of my big vinyl digitisation project, this is a track - well, a whole record, to be honest - that disappeared into the depths of my collection through no fault of its own. Taken from the 1998 "Deckwrecka 4" EP, this is a piece that sounds more gentle and refined than its title, or even the name of the artist, would suggest.
Lindsey Webster ft. Norman Brown : Free To Be Me
While Lindsey Webster is an artist I stumbled on some time ago, this particular track from 2018's "Love Inside" LP is one I think I heard on Twitch - H3 or Big Stove might have played it. A breezy bit of modern jazz featuring the skills of guitar boss Norman Brown, it might not be something that would ordinarily pass your ears but I thought it was a nice uplifting track to end the episode with!
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!