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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

PRICE STYLEZ - "NC-17"

Boston is definitely in the house with this one! Price Stylez has a crazy flow that will have you hanging on each and every word on his latest single "NC-17", smoothly produced by Jakk Wonders. This is the first single from the upcoming "BlackMassEP" so be sure to stay tuned for that because at least to me this is the type of Hip Hop shit I love to blast with the volume turned way the fuck up!

In case Price Stylez is new to you be sure to check out his excellent 2015 project "Masterpiece Theater: The Mixtape Vol. 1" where he gets busy over a selection of classic beats and a few originals. I got a feeling this cat is about to blow... just you wait!

[Album] TRIBE OF JUDAH - "Organically Grown"

Producer and emcee Tokyo Cigar has been a dedicated friend of me and The Lost Tapes blog for years and we worked together with Mal Moe on "The Uprising" (check that out if you've been sleeping). Tokyo has a great ear for dope sounds, and is heavily influenced by the Hip Hop he grew up around, which gives his music a Golden Age touch without sounding outdated or rehashed as he incorporates different styles, instrumentations and samples that gives his special brand of East Coast tinged boom bap a unique vibe that's unmistakably his own. As I mentioned up top, Tokyo is a friend, but trust me when I say that I wouldn't post his stuff unless I thought it was of very high quality, and whatever he drops usually are.

The latest project he's been working on is producing the album "Organically Grown" for Maryland duo Tribe Of Judah, and it is a heavy hitter to say the least. The current line-up of the group are emcees Sincere and La Sin and the album is completely produced by Tokyo Cigar. Around 2014 Tokyo was working on an album with Hell Razah (which sadly remains unreleased although a couple of those joints can be heard on "The Uprising") and it was Razah who suggested Tokyo hook up with Tribe since he knew them and liked what they were doing, as well as they all being from Maryland he figured it could make for some great music, which it certainly did. The group originally begun as a 5 man unit but has been paired down to Sincere and La Sin since a few years back. "Organically Grown" is actually their official debut album. The last producer they worked with before was Black Jeruz and they have worked with Wu Syndicate and even had meetings with RZA and others of the Wu Elementz. Considering how smashing their new LP is it will most deifnitely be interesting to see what the future holds for this skilled group. 

As Tokyo tells it about the creation of the album: "Sincere and I linked up and began building then we met and choppd it up about the album. I made beats and and went back and changed stuff a couple of times. Then they came to the crib and we recorded the whole thing. I sat on it for a few months then changed a few things and did the final tweaks and mixing then BOOM thats the album haha".. So there you have it, press play and let the hardcore beats and well written and well spoken rhymes wash over you. And be sure to keep an eye open for more material from The Tribe in a near future. Released independently through Tokyo's own Gravity Academy imprint, which means you can purchase a High Quality download through his Bandcamp and you can of course also stream it befor you hit the purchase button... TURN IT UP!!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

[Comp] RZA as BOBBY DIGITAL - "Pre-In Stereo"

Following up my article on the merits of RZA's 1998 solo debut "In Stereo" on GeeStreet/V2, I decided to put together a compilation highlighting the transforation of Bobby Steels to Bobby Digital on wax as we was able to hear it. As I mentioned in the article, although it might have sounded like that to many of us at the time, the stripped down sound of RZA's digitized orchestra wasn't born out of thin ear but was something The Abbot was slowly perfecting deep down in his basement studios, only letting out small pieces at a time for heads to show up before letting the whole album touch down in late '98, following up Method Man's "Tical 2000: Judgement Day" and Cappadonna's "The Pillage". To me it's very close to a personal classic and a stronger LP than either of the aforementioned projects - it is also the only solo album by RZA that I think really shows how dope he really is as an artist. The close-to-sample free sonic enviroment created through a multiplex of keyboards and synthesizers that could come close to the sound of a 19 piece orchestra. A brilliant mix of the digital and the analog, and to top it all off it was a well put together concept album - telling the story of the superhero Bobby Digital and his struggles in the Americna ghetto. As "Wu-Tang Forever" and songs like "Sunshower" pointed our RZA was preparing an intense project full of wisdom and knowledge with lyrics touching on politics, 5% and Nation of Islam teachings, the art of war, and spirituality. This album was to be titled "The Cure" and has today taken on almost mythical proportions as the rapping producer realized he wasn't in the right mindstate to proudce such an important lyrical masterpiece. Instead he created the persona of Bobby Digital, mixing his own hectic upbring in the '70s and '80s with blaxploatation flicks and comic books in the creation of his very own superhero. In the masked character of Bobby Digital he was able to indulge in full misoginy, weapon fetishes, violence, drugs, and over the top movie scenarios.

85 percent of the LP was produced by RZA hismelf, with the exception of Inspectah Decks excellent, mystic Portishead sampling "Kiss Of A Black Widow" and the interlude "Airwaves" which really is RZA's verse stricty lifted from the Wake Up Show Anthem '99 twelve inch - the linear notes mistakenly credit King Tech as the prodcuer of "Love Jones" which is most likely wrong. RZA got a special, kind of ruff and rugged voice so he sure needs several guests and not too long a running time to create a poewerful vibe that never let the listener lose interest - and "In Stereo" is a front-to-back materpiece as long as you lose the four bonus tracks at the end. 


Not couning the music on "Wu-Tang Forever" (where he first started using the digitial orchestra) there is at least 10 songs that is increasingly Bobby Digital joints, starting with the Hide-Out Remix to Method Man's "The Riddler" from 1996 and ending with "Cakes" by Bobby Digital and Kool  Rap. Grab it below for a nice bite size of Bobby Digi Digi..

BOBBY DIGITAL - "STEREO OR MONO - ITS B.O.B.B.Y." (1998)

01. "Belly Of The Beast"
02."The Chase"
03. "The Riddler" [Bobby's Hide-Out Mix] (w. Method Man)
04. "Nurmeg" (w. Ghostface Killah)
05. "Windpipe" (w. Ol' DIrty Bastard & Ghostface Killah)
06. "Project Talk" (Ft. Beretta 9) [Interlude]
07. "Terrorist" [Director's Cut] (Ft. Black Knights & Killarmy)
08.  "And Justice For All" (w. Method Man & Killarmy)
09. "Shaolin (6eme Chaundron)" (w. Arsenik)
10. "Cakes" (Ft Kool G Rap)
11. "Do You Hear The Bells" [So Called Freestyle]
12. "Bobby Digital Audio Interview: 'In Stereo Bonus Disc'"

BOBBY DIGITAL - "IN STEREO OR MONO.... It's B.o.B.B.Y." ('98)

Friday, July 29, 2016

BOBBY DIGITAL in STEREO [Revisited / Review]

When discussing RZA as a marvel of Hip Hop production the template that really shows his depth and range is usually accepted to be his work between "Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)" (1993) and "Wu-Tang Forever" (1997), the two WTC group albums, and the solo albums in between. Those latter projects is what we commonly refer to as the first round of solos, five albums which each offered a unique look into the starring emcee's persona, style and musical preferences - or their respective chamber as the Wu themeselves would call it. The way RZA managed to craft a complete body of work for each individual emcee (that was also distinct from the group projects) which was easily distinguishable from the previous and next projects through their sonic substance and either the samples used or the way they were used. The music created for those albums not only reflected the emcees voices but also a sound which were the musical equivalents of their respective personality. "Ironman" (1996) is a great example. For Ghostface who always had a strong love for the soul classics of the '60s and '70's, RZA used those type of records as sample souces (Al Green, Jackson 5, The Persuaders, etc.) and took a cleaner and more polished approach to the music than he did for Raekwon's hard hitting, red hot street opera released a year earlier. RZA and Ghost even invited Force MD's and Delphonics to add their voices to the album and created their own take of a heartfelt soul classic with Mary J. Blige on the autobiographical "All That I Got Is You". It's no question that this was clearly Ghostface's chamber, his personal work, and RZA did a marvelous job of tailoring it to suit his musical needs. In contrast compare it with Method Man's "Tical" (1994) which was all around super grimey, dark and dusty. Layered with unorthodox sounds, heavy drum programming and such heavy low end that the basslines would damn near blow out your speakers ("Biscuits" is a good example), the close-to-scary darkness that surrounded the songs was the musical equivalent of the blunts dipped in honey that Meth supposedly smoked at the time. Each of the albums RZA produced around this time can be described by pointing out their differences, but it's also important to note that despite each album being easily distinguished from the next, RZA also managed to create them in a way that collectively would help create an unmistakable Wu sound - a sound that to this day has never succesfully been re-created by anyone else (despite superb "interpretations" by people like True Master and Allah Maethematics). 

I would like to challenge this commonly accepted discourse by making a case for the inclusion of RZA's very own solo debut "Bobby Digital: In Stereo" (1998) to be considered as a natural part of the aforementioned first round of albums that defined RZA as a producer and built the Wu-Tang brand. In that case it both marks the end of an era as well as the beginnings of a new one, something that can be said for "Wu-Tang Forever" as well. Coming two years after Ghostface's soulful celebration and embracement of his life, beats and rhymes, RZA went back to his well of inspiration to craft yet another totally individual chamber of sounds within the Wu-Tang pantheon. But this time the resulting body of work would take even the most loyal of followers by surprise as RZA stripped down the majority of what had made him number #1 to the hoards of people who worshippped at his altar - his mastery of creating music from samples. Although his various albums had contained very different styles they all shared the common thread of being sample based music. Around 1996 he had instead begun experimenting with a wide range of keyboards and synthesizers which he dubbed his "digitized orchestra" while also taking up Western music theory. Looking back at the album today and putting it within a wider context we can however see that this wasn't as sudden a transformation as was once believed the first time fans heard the synthesized "B.O.B.B.Y." blast through the speakers. I would say that the earliest precursor that could be considered Bobby Digital material would be the Hide-Out Remix of the Method Man single "The Riddler" (from 1995's Batman Forever soundtrack). Another joint that appeared months before the first single from "In Stereo" is called "And Justice For All..." which was featured on the Razor Sharp compilation "Wu-Tang Killa Beez: The Swarm". Naturally, a lot of the stuff we heard were already beginning to take shape on "Wu-Tang Forever" with its stripped use of samples in favor of digitized keyboards based on chord progressions and European music theory.

With this in mind it's clear that this "new" sound wasn't something that The RZA had haphazardly thrown together with the simple reason of doing away with sample-based music. This was a style that he had been working on and trying to perfect for quite some time, and someone with as good an ear as The Abbot has proven to master a style rather fast. What makes "In Stereo" so intriguing from a production standpoint is that it's still quite firmly rooted in the unpredictability and originality that came from RZA being a producer from starting out as a DJ (basing everything by ear), in contrast to a producer working slavishly from music theory (basing everything on "logic"). This unpredictability is something that RZA to a large degree lost as he became more immersed in Western musical theory, but on here he had yet not truly "got a grip on it" more than the most basic stuff, which allowed him to create a sound that mixed traditional and unexpected elements. Two great examples of this is "Unspoken Word" and "Mantis". On the latter cut he has the fat drums programmed, a repetitive piano loop, and really very little else, until he chooses to use what should, by all natural logic, be an incredibly annoying sound effect that sounds something like a repetitive control tone. This is used to create a kind of melody and is then looped across the entire track. With Bobby, Masta Killa and Tekitha all going hard as fuck the end result is hypnotic in its brilliance. The inclusion of . "Unspoken Word" similarily creates a hypnotic groove out of a fascinating anomali, created by a rock hard, but very short loop with a vocal sample that never gets to finish before it is looped back again. This keeps repeating for 5 minutes straight while RZA spits some of the hardest bars on the album - there's a lot of quotables on here and to me this would've been a better first single than the somewhat mediocre "B.O.B.B.Y.".

Like the preceding Wu-Tang albums he produced "In Stereo" is a very cohessive and thematically tight album. The musical tranks linked by accoustic piano intermissions of spoken words in different languages shouting out Bobby Digital as the worldwide superhero he is. As I mentioned above I was never crazy about the lead single "B.O.B.B.Y.", but from the second song and up to the last song on the thematic closer "Domestic Violence" "In Stereo" plays out like a modern day masterpiece. Similiar to the earlier albums mentioned above, the LP is filled with Wu-Tang Clan members (most generals make an apperance in one way or another - save for Raekwon) and like on the older albums some of the best tracks are the posse cuts and cuts with guests. Perhaps because RZA, though a good rhyme spitter, he's always best when surrounded by emcees of equally high caliber ("N.Y.C. Everything" with Method Man; the Inspectah Deck produced "Kiss Of A Black Widow" with ODB; the posse cuts "Holocaust", "Terrorist" and "Bobby Did It"). It also stands out as it is the first true Clan solo that heavily features what RZA in a The Source article in late '99 called his "C-artists" (Killarmy, Black Knights, North Star, Tekitha, Ms. Roxy, etc.). As such it was the first album that introduced the somewhat legendary Holocaust on a track where he attacked the song so viciously that he got the track (which was originally titled "Silkworm") named after him. Those two posse cuts with Ghost are also among the first two tracks to feature the style that Ghost would attract the whole world to with his "Supreme Clientele" style some 18 months later.

When discussing "In Stereo" as a classic it is important to note that the album features 21 tracks, with the information that the four final tracks are bonus RZA tracks (as in not made in Bobby Digital persona). As such the liner notes makes it clear that "Bobby Digital in Stereo" is finished when track #17 fades out - the excellent artistic and violent expression that is "Domestic Violence". Therefore it should be noted that when I am discussing "In Stereo" as a personal classic and a profound and cohessive musical statement on par with the first round of Wu-Tang solos, those sentiments are based on the front-to-back experience of listening to tracks 1 to 17. While a couple of the bonus tracks does have some merit (especially "Lab Drunk") it makes the album sound dragged out and the two weakest songs on the entire disc finish things off diminishes the artistic statement of the preceding cuts. To end the album on the one-two punch that is "My Lovin' is Digi" and "Domestic Violence" is nothing short of genius - the first one being a majestic string filled affair with beautiful, seductive female vocals and Bobby Digital declaring his love for women and love in general. On the other hand, "Domestic Violence" is the gritty backside of that same coin - where Bobby describes a fallen relationship in the harshest terms possible over a stripped down but gut punchingly hard beat. When the song fades out after over 5 minutes we've been treated to misogynistic rhymes and hateful attack on the former partners as well as a chaotic outro with U-God on the phone interrupting the fighting couple in a most cinematic way. When the song finally ends the sudden sound of silence is almost a relief, and like the moments after you've seen a great movie that had a profound impact on you, you'll sit there reflecting on Bobby Digital and his weird, intense world of hip-hop, drugs, women and violence.

Lastly, on an interesting side note, followers of this blog and Wu-Tang in general know that many artists releases different versions of albums for the Japanese market every now and then. Much like the Canadian release of "Supreme Clientele", the Japan release of "In Stereo" features a different tracklist which I have a hard time reconciling with the well-thought out concepts of the orignal album (or maybe the Japanese tracklist was the original before RZA realized there were more to be done - similiar to another pefectionist who kept shaping his work even after their original releases - Stanley Kubrick). The Japanese version loses all the skits and intros as well as the excellent "Handwriting On The Wall" featuring Ras Kass and RZA which uses the same drum-less "beat" as those interludes. Another song that doens't make the final cut is one of my favorites, the triumphant "My Lovin' is A Digi" which makes "Domestc Violence" so much more powerful. Instead the Japanese got the four RZA bonus tracks spread out across the album (yet the back cover still says that it DOES feature four bonus RZA tracks). But what makes the album really inteeresting for westerners despite being far from as good or cohessive - is the inclusion of the 11 minutes self-produced freestyle "Do You Hear The Bells" and the extended version of "Terrorist" with addiitional verses by Holocaust, Dom Pachino and Killa Sin. On the subject of "Terrorist" you have to admire how Bobby borrowed the bassline of "Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuthin' Ta Fuck With" and incorporated it in to the flavor of the digitized orchestra. 
"Do You Hear The Bells" appeared on a free "N.Y.C. Everything" cardboard single with Stress Magazie that my homie Big Rob owned, so I got a high quality FLAC file here of that single for your enjoyment (it's quite large considering one of the songs is an 11 minutes/"freestyle").  And if you're intersted you can check out the original "Bobby Digtai In Stereo" (Japan) tracklist, rip the songs and put them in the proper sequence and see what you think. To my ears the US/European versions are far superior.

01. "B.O.B.B.Y."

02. "Unspoken Word"
03. "Airwaves"
04. "Love Jones"
05. "N.Y.C. Everything"
06. "Mantis"
07. "Holocaust" (Silkworm)"
08. "Terrorist"
09 "Bobby Did It ("Spanish Fly)
10. "Kiss OF A Blak Widow"

11. "Do You Hear The Bells" (9 Minute Freestyle)
12. "Project Talk"
13. "Lab Drunk"
14. "Fuck What You Think"
15. "Daily Routine"
16. "Donestic Violence"

"N.Y.C. EVERYGHING" / "DO YOU HEAR THE BELLS" (CDS) [FLAC]
01. "N.Y.C. Everything"
02. "Do You Hear The Bells" (Freestyle)

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

[Review / Sampler] ARCHITECT - "Butter Soul"

As one half of the duo Homeless Derelix, West Coast producer Architect has been making underground heads nod to his personal vision of Hip Hop production since the early 1990s, as well as helping to define the sound of indie label 75 Ark. His new release is called "Butter Soul" and is bound to satisy both old followers and new listeners alike. Entirely instrumental (as in devoid of any emcees or singers though it does features vocal samples) Architect crafts what to my ears sounds like a wild sonic Sci Fi flick through samples, beats and loops. Blazing trumpets, suspenseful strings, dreamy Rhodes, booming basslines, power house drums and movie samples are all part of a rather intense menu that's a worthy descendent of the idea of the beat tape as album. Rarely letting a particular beat play for more than one minute "Butter Soul" is sprawling with musical ideas that puts the aforementioned sonic world through constant transformation. Despite the huge number of different sounds, instruments and sampled genres it however never feels unfocused as the producer undoubtedly got a great ear and attacks the suite with a true DJ:s attentiveness to mixing and blending. 

"Butter Soul" is the latest release on Drasar Monumental's Vendetta Vinyl, which is more and more establishing a signature sound, and they have once again chosen to encode all of the music into only two 15 minutes tracks for the digital versions. It's a good choice as this is something you should experience in full, from front to back and perhaps back again. One area where I find too many instrumental Hip Hop album fail in, and where Dilla's "Donuts" was one of the most important projects in changing the course, is the length of beats. Many producers let tracks that hold the listeners attention for a minute and some change without an emcee instead play out for three minutes or more. The tracks within here are not fully formed songs in and of themeselves but rather parts of a larger whole that together creates a complete composition - a composition that is defined as butter soul. Highly recommended!

You can purchase Architect's "Butter Soul" @  Vendetta Vinyl now. Check out the sampler below...

Saturday, July 16, 2016

[Review / Stream] BLU & NOTTZ - "Titans In The Flesh"

Real quality releases have been few and far in between in my honest opinion but one producer I fucks with heavily is Mr. Nottz who caught my attention back when Busta dropped "E.L.E." and from then till now he continues to amaze me. It should be noted that Nottz, like Dilla (who was a big fan himself), is a little more prone to experimenting with different styles than say Large Professor or DJ Premier. As such his catalouge might not be quite as constant in quality as the aforementioned legends but when he's on, he's ON. And listening to "Titans in the Flesh", his new project with celebrated LA wordsmith Blu it quickly becomes evident that Nottz's brings his ON game big time, as does Blu. Over only six joints, a remix by J57, and 26 minutes Blu sounds as home on whatever curve ball headbanger beat the producer throws at him - whether as raw as the funkiest LA low rider banger ("Heaven On Earth") to the most soulful New York boom bap classic ("To The East", "The Man"). Or why not bring both of them styles together like on "Giant Steps" which features an exercise in lyrical futility between the Coasts with Skyzoo, Bishop Lamont and Blu all going for the jugular with the exquisite cuts of DJ Revolution tearing up the turntables being the cherry on top. Not to mention the shout out to John Coltrane - if you know, you know. There's no wack tracks here, just that ill shit that made me fall in love with Hip Hop all those years ago. A big shout out to Nottz and Blu for this monster you made. When your head is constantly nodding for 30 minutes you know that you're listening to real fucking Hip Hop.

If you follow this genre and these particular artist you are of course aware that "Titans in the Flesh" is the follow-up to 2013s "Gods in the Spirit" that featured five original collaborations and a Nottz remix. Though three years separate their release and crafting they work well together as an album, as well as a look into the growth of these two artists and their musical camraderie. Be sure to support good music and go and cop this new project through iTunes if digital is your thing or grab the limited edition Yellow 12" EP from UGHH while you preview the sounds via the official Soundcloud stream up top. "Gods in the Spirit" is also still available on iTunes and on Deluxe Edition CD from UGHH. I strongly recommend listening to both of these projects back to back, shit is absolutely excellent.

[Album] SADAT X - "Agua"

When the world first heard The Brand Nubians 1990 debut album "One For All", notorious for being praised with the much hyped five mics rating in The Source, few would think that Derreck X would be the artist out of that trio to have the highest profile and largest catalouge in a few years. In fact "One For All" treated Lord Jamar and Derreck X as Grand Puba's back up band, and didn't even appear on half of the album. But sometimes the tables turn, through hard work and dedication Sadat X (as he soon after changed his name to) crafted a unique style with an unmistakable voice with lyrics that often dealt with personal feelings and surviving in a world where friends and lovers often turn out to be willing to stab you in the back when you least expect it. The only problem was that he might have started to put quantity over quality a little too much in the last ten years or so.

It's been a long time since I've been really excited about an X album, though I did like his "Love, Hell or Right" album from 2013. Now the New York artist is back with "Agua" sporting a pretty damn impressive cast list of guest producers and emcee partners. How about Pete Rock, Diamond D, Da Beatminerz, Nick Wiz, DJ Scratch, Easy Mo Bee, Fokis, Dub Sonata and Will Tell? What about Lord Jamar, Dres, Edo G, A-F-R-O, Rahzel, Cella Dwellas' UG, Milano, Shabaam Sahdeeq, RA The Rugged Man, and Wordsmith? That's a lot of features and producers and as I haven't had the time to listen yet I'm not sure how cohessive the X-Man has managed to make it sound but one thing's for sure, there's bound to be several real bangers on here to cherish. Probably more than any Sadat X albums in ten years or so. Released on Tommy Boy, the album is available for purchase in both physical and digital form now, and can also be streamed and purchased (both digital and on CD) in full via X's official Bandcamp. One thing though, the last I heard from Sadat X was that he's working on a full-length album entirely produced by Diamond D, and as usual we get one track to show for it. Well, I for one hope it's still coming. But what the hell, with Pete Rock, Da Beatminerz and Nick Wiz I sure as hell can complain. I also wasn't a fan of Will Tell on some earlier X albums, but the single/video "Murder Soundtrack" (above) with AFRO and Rahzel has convinced me has stepped his game up big time. You can also cop the physical from UGHH where you can also see the credits for each track. TURN IT UP!

[Reviews] "Miles Ahead" (O.S.T.) / ROBERT GLASPER - "Everything's Beautiful"

Part 1: Miles Ahead (Original Soundtrack)
 
A couple years back Don Cheadle finally got the go-ahead to produce, star and direct in his long-time dream project, a surrealistic biopic on the lives of Miles Davis, more fiction than fact and titled "Miles Ahead" after his famous 1957 collaboration with composer extraordinaire Gil Evans. With full cooperation from the Davis estate he was free to use the original music of the portrayed star (something that has hampered biopics badly from the Andre 3000 version of Jimi Hendrix story to the more recent Chet Baker flick, "Born to be Blue", which incidentally includes two key scenes with M.D.). Not only had Cheadle permission to use the music as he saw fit, he was also able to excerpt it and cut it up to better flow with the movie - and let's face it, if he was to include all those amazing 20 minutes tracks in full there wouldn't be much of a soundtrack to talk about. The majority of the released film music is made up of such timeless excerpts from our heroes vast catalouge, including brilliantl, and tastefully shortened, classics like "Sivad", "Nefertiti", "Agharta Prelude", "Go Ahead John", "Black Satin" and "Solea". While the movie avoids following a linear narrative the soundtrack starts with the earliest song included, the title track, and then the music is placed in chronological order with most of the musical action taking place during Miles' fusion years (1968-1975) as that's around the time most of the movies action take place. However if you, like me, already own just about everything Columbia ever released of the man, including bits and pieces, somewhat dodgy live recordings and what not, you might not be too excited. But it has a nice flow to it, is interspersed with appropriate vocal clips from the flick, and as it is placed in chronological order it gives a nice overview of Miles, the ever-changing, daring artist going from place A to place B to place C to Musical Dark Nivana before his total breakdown in 1975. If you're new to Miles and maybe jazz in general I would say that this collection is a better place to start than most other similiar one disc selections. For one it's put together by a true fan of the music rather than some exec trying to pump out some more money by yet antother greatest hits collection, as mentioned above it gives you the chronological oversight which allows you to hear multiple styles (with Miles it's never a given that you're not gonna hate point B even if you love point D - at least not at first), and last but not least it features key cuts from what many would consider to be the epitome of this artists genius years.

The actual score for the film was however provided by Robert Glasper - a brilliant pianist, producer and jazz artist in his own right, and one of the few who keeps the artform alive and exciting by allowing it to change and take risk (unlike someone like Wynton Marsalis, no matter how talented). For this soundtrack Glasper had the right understanding of what was needed and through proper respect for Miles and the filmmakers he was able to channel the spirit of him while gathering up talents as diverse as they are from different generations. Included on the four tracks that are also included on the soundtrack are the young bass wonder Esperanza Spalding, Pharoahe Monch, Herbie Hancock, E.J. Strickland and Wayne Shorter. With one exception the modern Glasper cuts are placed at the end of the album and as ahead Miles was back in the days, you won't even notice a very modern/old transition thing going. The soundtrack come highly recommended both for established fans of the trumpeter, but even more so for those more unfamiliar and curious as well as Glasper's loyal fanbase. Shit either camp need to hear this for the beautiful album closer "Gone 2015" where Robert Glasper's soulful production and keyboard grooves creates a sharp feeling of triumph, strongly underlined by young trumpeter Keyon Harold's channeling of Miles' sound and the excellent verses by Pharoahe Monch. You can buy the album at iTunes or Amazon here.

Part 2: Robert Glasper - "Everything's Beautiful"
 
Robert Glasper's experience with Cheadle in "Miles Ahead" and especially the estate had a huge impact on him as a life long fan of Miles Davis. Like Madlib when he produced his classic Blue Note remix album "Shades Of Blue" the producer/pianist got full access to the Columbia vaults for whom Miles recorded under exclusive contract bween 1956 and 1986. Although most of those tracks that were once rare have since seen official releases on expensive box sets, it sets the album apart from your average remix scavenger assemly as Glasper could manipulate the actual channels and so forth. An interesting point is that he uses a lot of Miles' voice, that famous raspy whisper, taken from various studio sessions and in-studio jams - allowing fans the relatively quiet musician to hear more of his voice than on any other previous M.D. project. But perhaps the most important aspect to know about "Everything is Beautiful" is that this is a Robert Glasper album in all but name, despite Miles' top billing. The LP's theme is of course Glasper's theme of the music and spirit of Miles, something that I think he sometimes manages to capture and sometimes not, as it's built around samples of the man and his music. But that does not mean that you will hear Miles' beautiful trumpet sound on every song, in fact it's really only on "So Long (Maiysha)" and ONE MORE that we get that and though it's unique it kind of feels like being shortshifted. But it's not only Miles and the trumpet that takes a back seat, Glasper's role as a firs rate jazz pianist is minimized as well as he really only gets to stretch out on a couple of pieces. Instead he is fully attacking this project as a producer, picking the samples, making sure the guests does what they are supposed to do and gets the right track to work on, makin sure the vibe of Miles Davis is to be found all throughout the LP's 50 minutes, and so on.

For me Glasper is a unique artist that is hugely talented but we doesn't always see eye to eye on what a dope album from start to finish is. I liked "Black Radio" and "Black Radio II" quite a lot, but there were definitely tracks that I felt brought down the intensity of the overall product. The best thing in the "Black Radio" series for me is without a doubt the six song EP "Black Radio Remixed" which is just pure excellence from start to finish. And I kind of feel that the same thing is happening with "Everything is Beautiful" - some tracks really gets the jonez in my bones; the wonderful light bossa nova Miles on wah wah / Erykah Badu duet that is "So Long" (a new rendition of 1975's "Maiysha"), the gorgeous Phonte collaboration and first single "Violets" where Glasper makes a beautiful hip-hop vibe soul joint based around Bill Evan's timeless chords from "Blue in Green" that works as a tremendous musical canvas for the ever innovating Phonte. The opener "Talking Shit" is beautiful because it is three minutes of studio outtakes from false starts that features Miles getting on drummer Joe Chambers' case about coming up with a beat more aking to what we today know as Hip Hop. It's definitely fascinating, and naturally leads into Glasper's hip-hop tinged version of that track Chambers and Davis was working on in '69 - "The Ghetto Walk" (originally titled "Ghetto Walkin'") and with the smooth vocals of Bilal riding on top of the fat groove I feel that Miles would be proud. of what the producer has come up with here.

However as a tribute to Miles Davis I think aside from the songs mentioned above it generally fall shorts. Oh wait, there's one mighty groove featuring Miles' spitting adlibs under singer Ledisi's hook ("wait a minute, wait a minute") while a pulsating funk headnodder is highlighted by the excellent electric guitar work of former Miles' sideman John Scofield who does his best to bring back the mid-'80s period where he worked with the man on stages and studios around the world. And this to my mind is where the project goes somewhat misguided. Miles' sideman, which features the absolute elite in jazz, pretty much all had the highest respect for their former boss and bandleader and while Glasper's songs on the "Miles Ahead" soundtrack featured Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock, Scofield is the lone sideman featured here. Hence using artists like Laura Mvula, Hiatus Kaiyote, KiNG and Georgia Anne Muldrow (who's rendition of "Milestones" is decent) instead of fusing the old with the new by inviting Dave Liebman, Sonny Fortune, Jimmy Cobb, Chick Corea, Wallace Rooney, Jack DeJohnette, John McLaughlin, Lonnie Liston Smith, and so on, really feels like a missed opportunity. It's not a bad record per se, but it's not a great one either - though it has it's share of great moments. I won't be purchasing it, but give it a listen it might be more up your alley as many critics seems to love it at the moment. "Everything's Beautiful" is available on vinyl, CD and in digital formats via Amazon among other sites.

Friday, July 15, 2016

RAS BEATS - "Knowledge Of Self" (w. OC & eLzhi) / "Wit No Pressure" (w. Roc Marciano)

A couple of weeks ago I got at least two calls from my people urging me to check out the new Roc Marciano joint produced by a somewhat up and coming producer named Ras Beats. The track in question, "Wit' No Pressure" was classic Marciano, dark, gritty and dirty with a nasty guitar loop and some pounding drums which allowed Roc Marciano to channel his inner pimp and thug to the same extent as on many of my favorite works of his. There's no question Ras Beats and Roc Marciano was a good fit, and though I recognized the name but not from where, I was immediatly hooked for more from this gentleman.

Turns out he's not exactly entirely new to the game, as his sound would already attest to, as he's slowly been making a name for himself as a go-to-producer through works with legends like Sadat X, Masta Ace, Neek The Exotic, and Orlando emcee J-Biz.  Aside from Neek all the aforementioned emcees returns the favor by appearing on Ras' 2016 albumm "Control Your Own".Released on indie label Wordplay the album also sees Ra teaming up wtih Roc Marcy (as mentioned), OC, AG, eLzhi, Rasheed Chappell, Blac-a-stan, Subconscious, Fev and German rapper Kool Sphere. I was hoping for an album with banging beats and insane guests of the caliber of the two first singles, I would be truly flabbergastd at this point. At the same time, I'm not going to judge the book by it's cover (or in this case an LP by its tracklist) so we'll see what happens. Either way it's good news as 2016 has been slow as hell when it comes to Hip Hop ("Timmy Timmy Turner", anyone? "He be wishing for a burner".. "He might even kill everybody walking" - pure Genius, deep stuff).

The B-side to "With No Pressure" features no lesser of a line-up than OC and eLzhi and is called "Knowledge Of Self". To my knowledge this is the first OC and eLzhi collaboration (correct me if I'm wrong) which is kind of strange considering how well their respective smooth voices and intricate rhyme schemes works together. Ras Beats does a great job at creating a smoother, more laid back yet punding which shows that he's very capable of custom making joints. Enough talk, we came here for the music right? Though I never posted the Roc Marciano single before I'm posting this I thought I might as well throw it up as well. The digital maxi single features no less than 9 tracks, including an exclusive remix of "Wit No Pressure". You can buy the single either via Bandcamp or iTunes while you'll get more info and music on Ras via his official website (that includes the tracklist for "Control Your Own". Don't sleep on the heat!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

[Album] SOUNDSCI - "Walk The Earth"

The quintet of Oxygen, Audessey, U-George, Jonny Cuba and Ollie Teeba had me hooked with their modern boom bap as displayed on their official debut "Formula 99" back in 2012 and has been a dedicated fan since. Since then they have released several EP:s, side projects and their concept album "Soundsational" where the group found inspiration from the underrated catalouge of James Kirkland. Now the group is back with their third official album and it's just as fierce as their previous work, with the emcees bouncing off eachother over raw, yet often soulful production from The Process (Cuba and Teeba). Check it out for yourself as you can stream the project below. I doubt you'll be dissapointed and make sure to visit the official Bandcamp Page for Merch, info and purchase of the project.