Jan 30, 2024
- Chuck D
Hope you've had a good start to 2024! While it's been a bit bumpy over here, the selection on the first episode of the year is strong from start to finish. If you know every single one of these tracks already...we should probably have a chat as you clearly have an ear for the good stuff!
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Organized Noize ft. Big Boi, Big Rube, Sleepy Brown, and Cee-Lo : We The Ones
A very fortunate find during a recent digging expedition, I didn't even know that the "Organized Noize EP" existed until I had it in my hands. Looking around on Discogs, it seems that it was a limited release in 2017 of 500 copies, on fiery orange vinyl and with a fantastic cover. Apparently twenty years in the making - probably because the production team behind OutKast, Goodie Mob, and more were kind of busy - it's a quality seven-song collection that you can now also get digitally! I heard a few seconds of this track at the listening post and it was the one that convinced me to buy the record, a musically-stirring and always-relevant and timely call to stand up and fight against oppression.
Orbital : Adnan's
This industrial-sounding track from the 1996 "In Sides" album was an extended version of a song they contributed to the 1995 "War Child" charity LP, and was named after a young boy who was killed by a missile during the war in the former Yugoslavia. Paul Hartnoll of Orbital broke this, and the rest of the album, down in a way only one of the creators could - so I'll link you to his own words.
Sepalot ft. Blu : Surrender
I've heard the instrumental of this many a time and had actually forgotten that there even was a vocal version! The beat went down well on the most recent #BeatsOnly show on my Twitch channel, so I thought I'd bring it out on this episode. The angular production from German producer Sepalot lurches, twitches, and squelches, with Blu fittingly being a bit more aggro lyrically than you might have expected from some of his better-known work. I have this on the B-side of a 12" headed up by "She Likes Me" with Frank Nitty, but you can also find it on the 2014 "Red Handed" LP.
Jigmastas ft. Shabaam Saadique : Too Ill
Does what it says on the tin! DJ Spinna on production on this track with the dramatic backing, courtesy of a well-known old TV show sample, while the processing on the vocals makes it sound like weak MCs are being admonished over the phone! By the way, the spelling of Shabaam's name is different than what I've seen on previous releases, but as it's written this way on this album ("Resurgence") I'm taking that as being correct unless/until I find out otherwise.
Public Enemy : Louder Than A Bomb
A classic from what is often said to be the greatest Hip-Hop album of all time, "It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back" (lot of text to write on a cassette label btw). Those who follow me know I'll sometimes refer to the more grimy records as "not calling for the building of a new nation or anything" but this track literally does! Chuck D will always be the first name that comes to mind when pro-Black, politically-driven Hip-Hop is mentioned, and this is just one of his outstanding vocal performances. Bomb Squad on production of course, with a hard-hitting track that would dominate most other MCs, even now. Sonically, you might notice that the sound is busy but not "thick" - if it was made nowadays, I suspect it'd be mixed with a lot more bass, not to mention built with more high-fidelity samplers. Would that have been "better"? Hard to say, but this is revolutionary in all senses regardless.
Bumpy Knuckles & DJ Premier : B.A.P. (Bumpy and Premier)
For those of more gentle dispositions, you may as well skip to the next track! Otherwise, this is quintessential boom-bap rawness, courtesy of DJ Premier - one of the finest exponents of the style - and fellow Gang Starr Foundation MC Bumpy Knuckles. Wicked track from the "KoleXXXion" LP, where Bumpy starts each verse with the same four bars, before raining fire on snakes, suckers, and studio gangstas over the rugged beat. No sir, Bumpy did not fall off, not even a little.
Stro Elliot : Miles Funk
I may have been late getting on the Stro Elliot train, only hearing his stuff in the last three years or so, but now I'm firmly on board and settled with a book and some snacks. The drums are cracking and merciless on this track from his 2016 eponymous LP, and they lead the way for the bassline and funky guitar to do what they do. Definitely check the album - it's really excellent work.
Dubbul O & Jointhedots : Life:Mics
A great new Manchester release to open the year! You should already know that Dubbul O is one of my favourite MCs from any coast or territory, while the excellent Jointhedots have been holding it down in fine style since most of the members were part of the best-known lineup of The Mouse Outfit. The most special feature on this track is the guitar of the much-missed Phil Ratcliffe, who sadly passed away in 2022, and whose family will continue to benefit from any posthumous releases. Coming together over the peak of the COVID restrictions, this track started when bassist/bandleader/producer Defty sent beats around Manchester for musicians to add their own touches to. As well as Phil Ratcliffe, the flautist Dr Claire Press got busy on here - you may remember her memorable work alongside Dubbul O again on "Never Get Enough" all the way back in 2012! Flavourful and polished music as always from this collective, and worthy of your support.
New Sector Movements ft. Allysha Joy : These Times
Neither of these artists were on my radar previously, so it was a big bonus when First Word Records included this cut on the "Two Syllables Volume Twenty" compilation! As it turns out, New Sector Movements is actually an alias of IG Culture, a UK stalwart respected for his work as part of Dodge City Productions, and of course he shows the deft touch of a veteran on the music here. The vocals are carried by the powerful voice of Australian songstress Allysha Joy, who started singing as a youngster in the church and you can hear the influence very much still with her! This track in full is actually about six minutes long, so if you like what you're hearing, you know what to do...
Common : The Movement
I'll have you know that I did actually mix this in bang-on, but J Dilla decided to go all the way weird with the timing and drum placement at the start, to the point I almost re-ripped the tune from the "2K6 : The Tracks" CD to be sure! This one had somehow escaped me on first listen, but it's got that electronic sound that was increasingly a feature of Dilla's late work, with that edginess contrasting with Common's smooth and familiar voice.
Actual Proof ft. TP : Show You The Way
North Carolina in the house, with Actual Proof (Enigma and Sundown) linking with guest TP (who I don't know much about) for a 9th Wonder-produced track that sounds very different than the intro might lead you to expect. Lyrically, in places it almost comes off as a rougher, less civilised take on "Mind Sex" by dead prez, blended with some of that LL Cool J - in attitude, if not in flow! Track down the 2012 "Black Boy Radio" LP for this one.
Mecca:83, Buscrates, and J Vibes : Amber Hue
Such warm vibes emanate from this 2019 composition, with Macclesfield, Pittsburgh, and Aarhus (Denmark) in collaboration. I don't know who did what, but the final result is a thing of beauty!
Tall Black Guy, Craig Mack : Flavor In Ya Ear Remix
The original beat by Easy Mo Bee is one of the greatest in Hip-Hop history in my opinion, so it takes a brave man to put his production in its place - and right here, Tall Black Guy is that man! Tough drums and a relatively simple bassline provide the structure for some spaced-out touches and soul vocal sampling to undergird TBG's take on one of the all-time great posse cuts.
1773 & Strange Soul Music : Dialed In
Manchester's Strange Soul Music is a fearsome producer, the man no-one wanted to face in last year's WORKINONIT beat battle! He's been putting in that work for years and this is from one of his latest releases, "The Strange Soul Project" a seven-track collaboration with Chicago MCs Jay Nagoma and Wisdm Uno. Themed around a method of internet access that might be unfamiliar to the younger listeners, this is a brief, but strong, opener to the project.
Clear Soul Forces : Nine 5ive
It's a shame that the 2020 "ForcesWithYou" LP is ostensibly the last from this Detroit crew - their stuff has always been energetically high-quality. Ilajide on the beat of course, while on the mic, CSF reference everything/one from Busta Rhymes to Mortal Kombat via George Washington Carver in a track that lasts well under three minutes. May the force be with them, indeed.
Heather B : Steady Rockin'
Straight-ahead Hip-Hop, with the commanding voice and bars of Heather B over the boom-bap production of DJ Premier. Vocalist Twyla adds a little sugar to the hook, but the rest of this track from 2002's "Eternal Affairs" is pretty much as stripped-down as you can get.
Khrysis : The Devil Wears Designer (Instrumental)
DJ 2-Tone Jones ft. Prince Po, Asheru, Joe.D and yU : Not Down
I've always thought that one of the most important inflection points in the culture was when our ability to self-police was countered by the epithet "playa hater", which nowadays is more likely to take the form of "but he getting the bag tho". This call to arms from the "Contraband From India" LP features real MCs with real commitment letting us know that the leeches, the culture vultures, exploitative corporate interests of various shapes, and everyone else taking away from the culture rather than adding on need to be ejected. The production is not minimal as such, but well-spaced, with the sparse drum pattern and Indian string samples avoiding a situation where the instrumental ends up fighting the MCs for the spotlight, which is critical when what they're saying is of actual importance.
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!