Jul 13, 2012
"To my peoples that I lost along the way..."
"To the G, still life is too quick..."
I was going in a completely different direction with the selection for this episode until I got the news that the MC KMG of Above The Law, one of my favourite groups, has suddenly passed away at the age of just 43. Once I processed the news, I knew I had to feature some of his classic rhymes on this episode, and so went about replanning the whole thing. I could have done a whole ATL episode but will hold that thought for now...in the meantime, appreciate him on the tracks I drop this month.
Above The Law : Adventures Of...
I'd been thinking about this as an opening tune for a couple of months, and this turned out to be the time for it. I originally picked this up as a promo 12" before the release of the "Legends" LP when I was in the second year of university...blew me away from the first listen! Straight away I called my fellow ATL fan Nick L to let him know they were back with more top material, and I know he agreed when he heard it. KMG brings his trademark low-key style on the second verse, Cold 187um (Big Hutch) fits in with the half-whispery flow over his own brooding beat, and Nicole Hithe rounds it off with her silky vocals. This here is the one...in keeping with several other tracks on "Legends" in particular, it speaks on the downside and the guilt of the street life, rather than the glorification some artists indulge in. I just found out this track was pretty much ripped wholesale on "Die Besten Tage Sind Gezählt" by Kool Savas and Lumidee, and let me say this - they weren't worthy.
[Godfather Don] Cormega : You Don't Want It (Instrumental)
Wanted a kind of low-key instrumental that could bridge the tracks on either side and rediscovered this one, the vocal version of which is on Cormega's "The Realness" LP. Stripped of the lyrics it becomes a little quieter, a little more haunting. Nice work by the talented Godfather Don.
A Tribe Called Quest : The Chase, Pt. II
Overlooked track from the 100% classic 1993 "Midnight Marauders" LP; there's just nothing not to like! From the Biz Markie vocal sample to the back-and-forth on the mic to the Steve Arrington "Beddie Bye" main groove, the Tribe produce an absolute winner. Should have been a single!
Capital Tax : The Masha
One of those 12"s best known to either obsessive collectors or those who just happened to hear it when it came out (like me). Caught this one on pirate radio back in 93, taped it, and then never heard it anywhere else again, or for that much else by them! About four or five years later I found a copy in a Manchester record shop and snatched it up :) I for some reason assumed they were a New York group but they're a four-man crew out of Oakland with one album to their name, 1993's "The Swoll Package." Production is by DJ Smooth G, rocking the same sample as EPMD's "Please Listen To My Demo" - in fact, the record in question is on a back episode of the podcast, if you can find it...
Xzibit ft. Defari, Goldie Loc, & Kokane : Rimz & Tirez
Hip-Hop spelling FTW :) One of those tracks that makes you wish you were rolling a vintage Cadillac in the sunshine in Cali...instead of waiting for the bus! The conga drums in the background are the key to the whole sound I think, with enough space in the main drum pattern to bring them out; the bassline is just the finishing touch. Great production by Soopafly! When it comes to the rhymes, I think Xzibit's verse on here might be my least favourite - mostly because it just doesn't seem to fit! The closing verse is fresh though, taking on the persona of a car being passed from owner to owner. Definitely one of the top tracks on the "Restless" album.
Little Brother : Light It Up (Nicolay Remix)
I was never a huge fan of the first version of this track, which was originally an inclusion on the "Whatever You Say" single. The lyrics were cool, but for some reason I just couldn't get into the beat even though I'm usually a big fan of 9th Wonder - fortunately, Utrecht's finest Nicolay saw fit to give it a complete remix on his "Dutch Masters, Vol 1" project! I don't know how easy that one is to find but there are some nice tracks on the vinyl sampler so it looks well worth having the full release.
Taana Gardner : Heartbeat
Bit of a classic single here! This 1981 release on West End Records was a red-hot record at the time and has survived in the consciousness of people who never even knew it thanks to the many, many records that have sampled that bassline! When you listen to/mix with it, you realise the handclaps are wayyy behind the beat, but then this isn't one of your Ableton constructions...
Above The Law : Mee vs. My Ego
KMG leads things off on the mic here, on a real dark vibe - definitely the killer verse on this one. That said, it's interesting to hear Cold 187um go all the way from his usual animated style into dancehall mode - you can tell it's the early-ish 90s ;) I could be wrong, but for my money in 1993 there was no-one making tracks that sounded like this. Funky with that bassline but also so haunting and disturbed...absolutely in a lane of its own. There are so many different little pieces going on sonically that you have to remind yourself that this is the era before computer-based production became practical! A great piece, perfectly placed as the last full track on the "Black Mafia Life" LP. If you like your Hip-Hop, that's a must-own album, no question.
Real Live : Get Down For Mine
If you know, then you know! Larry-O and K-Def only came together for one album but it was very dope indeed - the somewhat hard to get "The Turnaround : A Long Awaited Drama." Outside that though, we did get this - a monster track from the "High School High" soundtrack which takes yet another sample EPMD used (coincidence!) but makes it its own. K-Def definitely doesn't have the kind of high profile as a producer that his skills merit! You can find this track, as I did, on the B-side of the "Wu Wear : The Garment Renaissance" 12".
Nas : Take It In Blood
One of those low-key Nas classics, taken from his pivotal second album "It Was Written." The lyrics have been commented on at length but what I didn't know until recently about this tune is that the beat was submitted by Stretch of the Live Squad who died before the record was completed. As such, they only had a cassette copy to work with, and no multitrack. Always thought it sounded a little grimy quality-wise, and that explains it all. What a track to be remembered for though.
Paris : Check It Out Ch'All
Taken from his second album, "Sleeping With The Enemy," which was the one that led to him being dropped from his record label. In the post "Cop Killer" era, they did not want the heat from someone who went at the president on his album! I always imagined this song being performed live on a soundsystem on an outdoor basketball court, it's got that kind of feel. Great self-produced, block-party styled tune from the San Francisco native mostly known for his ferociously political lyrics; even on this track where he's ostensibly just showing his flow, he gets a good amount in. A track that unfairly sunk into relative obscurity I think.
[7L] Outerspace : 151
One of the Philadelphia crews affiliated with Jedi Mind Tricks, I can't say I know Outerspace's whole catalogue but got a couple of copies of the "Divine Evils" 12" and found this killer on the B-side; beat from Boston's 7L, better known for his work with the MC Esoteric. Sonic drama, no doubt.
Apollo Brown & O.C. : Signs
One of the best new songs I've heard in ages - short but sweet, if that's the right word. Another insanely talented producer out of Detroit, Apollo Brown managed to somehow pass me by up to this point but my man Ro let me know about this album ("Trophies") and one listen (not even all the way through) on Spotify was enough to have me online ordering the CD! As for O.C., you should already know :) The DITC legend flows straight through here with some serious lyrics on the world today. Top rating.
Above The Law : Black Superman
Almost certainly ATL's best known track, this was the big single/video from the now out-of-print "Uncle Sam's Curse" LP; I remember that album took a while to really grow on me, but it's a definite classic. Of all the songs on the album, it's probably the closest to the "West Coast" sound most people would associate with the term (along with "Return Of The Real Shit"), and as such sounds very much of its time. Nice use of the talkbox too!
Sneaker Pimps : 6 Underground
I think I first heard this on some music TV channel in my parents' house - loved the lightness of the sound along with the Hip-Hop-styled drums (not to mention the De La sample)! A bigger hit in the UK than probably anywhere, but apparently it's been used in several films so they should be seeing some nice cheques (UK spelling) off the back of it :) This was the lead single from the "Becoming X" album, when Kelli Dayton was still in the group - it was a shame when she left, I thought her vocals really suited, but nothing lasts forever...
Nightmares On Wax ft. Sarah Winton : Finer
Late night Leeds coolness :) DJ Ease is a Leeds veteran and a huge influence on the music that would eventually be labelled "trip-hop." Primarily based around the low end, the production leaves lots of room for Sarah Winton's spacey, breathy vocal. Hands down my favourite cut on the "Carboot Soul" LP.
Grand Puba, Sadat X, Sir Menelik : 7XL
This was a last minute inclusion - was going to stop the segment after the last track but the blend worked so well there's no way I wasn't keeping it! Two-thirds of the Brand Nubian MCs combine with underground lyric wizard Sir Menelik on a standardly amazing DJ Spinna production, making it a classic 12" from the golden era of late 90s underground releases. First person I heard play this was DJ Greenpeace on a mixtape, but it's probably best known for its inclusion on the Rawkus "Soundbombing II" mixtape/compilation - one you should definitely have. Ill tracks from top to bottom and the mixing handled by DJ Babu and J-Rocc, it was an essential for me in the walkman days and still is in the iPod era!
A Kid Called Roots : Mike Heron
Not to be confused with Twizted Rootz! Bit of a mystery record, just titled "A Kid Called Roots Volume XIII" on Hydrabeats that I grabbed up from somewhere; a compilation of instrumentals with each one named after a different record executive! I don't know if it was just a naming thing or if the beats were made specifically for them to hear though...
Homeboy Sandman : Look Out
A New York MC who found a home at Stones Throw Records, Homeboy Sandman was a gent and a great performer when he came to Manchester recently. He's confidently and ably doing his own thing and that definitely deserves props! I can't think of any tune that sounds quite like this one, the opener on his "Chimera" EP; that beat by Paul White sounds completely alien in the best possible way, and the mic work is the antithesis of the "party and guns" business that some people think sums up Hip-Hop. The man covers a lot of quality topics throughout his catalogue and is definitely worth checking out if you're even a little adventurous with your listening...
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!