Sep 30, 2020
"I'm a walking heart attack, looking for somebody to happen..."
Still shut up in the house for the most part, which at least gives me a chance to really dig through my crates, vinyl and otherwise! This month's selection has some great recent records, some older underground favourites, and a mix segment I've been wanting to do for ages - figured this episode was as good a time as any!
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Mac Ayres : Shadows
If nothing else, this enforced time spent in the house has yielded some great musical discoveries. I heard this cut on a DJ Jazzy Jeff Twitch session, and bought it immediately as soon as I found out what it was! Mac Ayers is a singer/songwriter/instrumentalist from Long Island, and if he's already turning out material like this in his early 20s, I can only imagine what it'll be with more experience. This is a highlight on last year's "Juicebox" album, and one that those who enjoy the modern soul sound will almost certainly enjoy!
[DJ Premier] Prhyme : My Calling (Instrumental)
This beat from "Prhyme 2" is so, so good. DJ Premier continues to turn out fresh creations over thirty years since his debut, with more different styles than he's often given credit for. The pianos sound like falling rain, the low end is the solid ground, and everything else fits perfectly around them.
Ski Beatz & Stalley : Gentlemen's Quarterly
Smooth from the lyrics to Ski Beatz' sophisticated production, this is a cut I'd managed to forget about until I rediscovered it in my collection recently. Find it on the "Ski Beatz 24 Hour Karate School Presents Twilight" (snappy!) LP, if you can find a reasonably-priced copy!
LL Cool J ft. Keith Murray, Prodigy, Fat Joe, and Foxy Brown : I Shot Ya (Remix)
A classic from the mid-90s. LL brought in some of the hottest MCs of the time alongside a young Foxy Brown making her on-record debut for a Trackmasters-produced street banger. The "Mr. Smith" album is the source for this often-sampled gem.
O.C. & Organized Konfusion : You Won't Go Far
Unapologetic boom-bap from this all-NYC combination, taken from the second volume of the "New Jersey Drive" soundtrack. Of all the tracks on that release, it's the one that hews closest to the plot of the film itself, which itself makes it a standout in the world of 90s Hip-Hop/R&B soundtracks! OK self-produced this one, and rather than give each MC a verse each, they split each verse between the three of them for more of a tag-team feel.
Rise : Make Sure That We Win
Note: I got this wrong on the voiceover - this is a Beatminerz beat, not DJ Spinna. Spinna produced the excellent "Part of the Game" on the same EP.
Rise is an MC out of Brooklyn and the Demigodz crew, who has a knack for punchlines and quotables within a laid back style - he just seems puzzled by wack MCs most of the time! The Beatminerz provide the beat with the fuzzbox guitars moving all over the soundscape and the classic boom-bap drum style and some sub bass to give it the heft. DJ Evil Dee of Da Beatminerz rounds things out with his cuts for the hook. Grab this and a couple of other great tracks on the 2003 "The Intro..." EP.
Pete Rock : Air Smoove
"Petestrumentals 2" may not become the low-key icon that the first instalment did, but don't sleep on it - it's still Pete Rock on the beats, after all. I keep going back to it and finding myself enjoying tracks more and more, with this being a prime example.
Above The Law ft. 2Pac and Money B : Call It What U Want
I once nearly got into a fight (the other guy was heated) when I off-handedly mentioned that I remembered when 2Pac had been a dancer for Digital Underground - but it was true, and there was never any shame in it! Anyway, it was also with that crew that he made initial strides onto the mic, and after going solo himself, this was one of his first features, alongside Money B from DU. Above The Law's "Black Mafia Life", from which this is taken, is one of the most overlooked albums that could claim the accolade of "classic" when you listen to how it sounded and how early it was made - I strongly recommend that every listener seeks it out for an end-to-end hearing. It's striking to realise that of the four MCs on this cut, only two are still with us today - RIP 2Pac and KMG.
DJ Quik ft. Pharoahe Monch & K.K. : Murda 1 Case
An absolute stomper from Compton's finest, leading with the piano, keeping the drums hard but simple (kicks on 1 and 3 only, snares on 2 and 4), and three MCs going at it. On this clear standout on 2002's "Under Tha Influence", the underrated Quik holds his own against one of the best to pick up a mic, and shows the confidence and intelligence as a producer to know that this was the man to bring in for the closing verse.
De La Soul : Verbal Clap
Many years after their debut, De La remind you that they can get busy on a state-of-the-art thumping beat with no problem - in this case, a masterful creation by J Dilla, one of two on 2004's "The Grind Date". Dave's rhyme style here is extra raw and he dominates by sheer brute force, standing out even on an album where De La sound highly-motivated overall. If you don't yet know it, it's well worth your while to search it out and have a proper listen.
Mr. Scruff ft. Broke 'n' English : Listen Up
Manchester all the way on this track, with the DJ and producer Mr Scruff getting the drumline mad active with a nice bassline, and Strategy and DRS of Broke 'n' English bringing all the local flavour on the mic. This great cut is on the flip of the also-excellent "Nice Up The Function" 12", which is now available digitally - so no difficulty in finding a copy!
[The Neptunes] Busta Rhymes : Pass The Courvoisier, Part II (Instrumental)
A great party beat, one to get people moving even without Busta and Pharrell's vocals!
AZ : Take Care Of Me
From his very first LP, AZ was flowing over soul/R&B samples, so it wasn't a reach for him to make a track like this for "Aziatic", his fourth. Precision soundtracks it with a "no samples" approach which for the non-Bad Boy producers tended to be the move for the club/radio tracks, and it's aged fairly well. AZ's lyrics are definitely reflective of the time - cellphones are so unremarkable in 2020!
Krumb Snatcha ft. Boogieman : Oxygen
Krumb Snatcha is pretty much as rugged as it gets, but here he shows that while he can give you an underground street classic like "Closer To God", there's still time to have fun! This track from his second LP "Respect All, Fear None" isn't what you might expect from KS but I think he did a solid job here. Nottz' beat bumps and burbles with a solid low end, and the guest MC Boogieman, who's already collaborated with him previously, steals the show with a casually disrespectful closing verse - not a particularly technical one, but entertaining!
Mic Geronimo : Nothin' Move But The Money
This record was hated when it came out, of all the tracks in this section, it was the most blatant pander to the pop audience - after all, Puffy (now Diddy) was the producer! This was amplified by the fact that Queens' own Mic Geronimo was a darling of the underground scene after his excellent debut LP "The Natural", and this is a million miles away stylistically. "Vendetta" was a big change, and arguably a bit of a career killer because of it. Have a look at the video - every so often, Mic actually looks pretty uncomfortable!
Goodie Mob ft. Big Boi and Backbone : Get Rich To This
This was the next most derided track when it was released - if someone else had recorded it, it may have been received for what it was, but again, this was a serious sonic whiplash for anyone who had heard "Soul Food" or "Still Standing". It was still Organized Noize on production, still the same MCs (plus guests), but definitely not what people were expecting, by and large. I can't front though - I kind of liked it even then! The "World Party" LP is the source for this one.
[Kenny Dope] L Swift : Ride This (Instrumental)
Crispy clean drums and a nice guitar line are the highlights of this beat from a 2000 12" by one of the MCs from the incredible Natural Elements (now reformed, with L Swift as Swigga). The vocal version features A Butta from NE and the B-side is produced by Spinna, so well worth picking up if you see it!
Toots & The Maytals : Funky Kingston
We close the episode with the title track of the 1973 album by the reggae legend "Toots" Hibbert, who passed away this month at the age of 77, and his band. The throatiness of his delivery on this classic cut does bring to mind the American funk godfather James Brown, but the message and the groove is pure yard. It may be almost fifty years old now, but still moves a dancefloor with ease!
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!