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Sunday, July 29, 2012

[EXCLUSIVE] INI - "Center Of Attention" (The Real Deal)

Any self-respecting hip-hop fan are well aware of INI's ill-fated Pete Rock produced masterpiece that was supposed to be released in 1996 on Soul Brother Recordings. I even covered this album in my Shelved Classics section, where you can read more extensively about the project and the group. As I also mentioned there, when speaking to Robbie over @ Unkut, Pete Rock spoke on how there's never been a proper release or bootleg of the album ever released. The unauthorized BBE release from the 2000's featured slightly different mixes of many songs and totally missed out on Pete's trademark insstrumental interludes. Probably the closest thing to the real deal was released on a white label in '96/'97, likely by Pete or someone involved in the original sessions, as the original instrumentals was released by the same white label vinylists at the same time. This featured more of the interludes, the otherwise unreleased "Keep On", a totally different sequence from the BBE release, but instead three other songs were M.I.A. So it seems Pete's quote from that Unkut interview above seem pretty right on spot, don't you think?

Well, maybe not, and this is where it gets really interesting. My man ANT and I've been discussing the album for a long time, and he have the aforementioned white label release but assured me there were yet ANOTHER version, and that he actually was in posesssion of a rip of this. Thanks to this great digger, I finally got my digital hands on this a few days ago, and been pretty much banging it non stop. Ant originally got this rip from a blogger who run a site called My iPod Weighs A Ton, which is now long gone (although much of the original posts are still intact), but this is to my knowledge the first time the entire album is available in full anywhere on the net. It is a vinyl rip but I'm pretty sure this is not something that has ever been released in stores or in usual bootleg spots. Mine and Ant's take on it, is that the aforementioned blog guy or whoever gave it to him, was someone very close to the group; and that this is the original vinyl test press that was given to  group members, the producer, engineer Jamie Staub, label owner, and probably a very few selected others.

This theory gets more credible when you read the original blog post, which features much information that at least I have not heard elsewhere; and I've researched this album quite heavily to say the least; The album was originally not even titled "Center Of Attention", but "Who's Gonna Rock The Spot?"; and Heavy D was the one that convinced Pete to sign INI to the latter's Soul Brother Recordings imprint. Despite the "Fakin' Jax" single being something of a success, and featuring the classic "Props" which Funkmaster Flex played daily for months, label head Sylvia Rhone were unhappy with the finished projects and the heavy price tag of the Greene Street Recording Studies. The quartet eventually broke up as Rob-O and Grap Luva, who were the main voices of INI, wanted to use the name for themeselves. At the same time, Sylvia Rhone, clearly not one that should've been involved in hip-hop promotion at all, shelved the album along with projects from Deda/Pete Rock, Juggaknots, Omniscience, Supernatural and many others. 

The album is ripped in 160 kbps, but it's souning good enough for certain, especially consiering the chance to finally hear the full original album as it was intended to be heard! It's also not split up into separate tracks, just two tracks (Side A and Side B), but this is an album you listen to front-to-back either way so who gives a fuck. More people should rip stuff like that to force these ADD kids with the finger always close to the skip button to actually LISTEN and appreciate the arts of albums like we did, and sill do. But I'm getting carried away from the topic; the sequencing is the same as the white label, and has the same slightly different mixes of many songs as opposed to the BBE release; but it also has "Mind Over Matter", "Props", "Kross Roads" and "Keep On". In addition to that, it has all the instrumental interludes; and the chopped up spoken word interlude that's chopped up to form the intro/interlude/outro. Last but not least, it's filled with short skits featuring Mekolicious and Pete Red freestyling popping up every now and then. Massive thanks to INI, Pete Rock, Jamie Staub, Ant, the original uploadeder (Reinvention) for creating one of the best hip-hop albums of 1996, and finally giving us a chance to hear it, respectively. Total running time is about 65 minutes; the only song missing from the BBE release is "No More Words". Enjoy!

EDIT: Some people had some problem with the link, so I fixed it and uploaded it to MediaFire. should work like a charm now.
Side A:
A1. "Intro"
A2. "The Life I Live" / "Interlude"
A3. "Square One" / "Freestyle Interlude"
A4. "Fakin Jax" / "Interlude"
A5. "Step Up"
A6. "Interlude" / "Kross Roads"
A7. "Vocal Skit"
A8. "Center Of Attention" / "Interlude"
A9. "Mind Over Matter" / "Freestyle Interlude"

Side B:
B1. "Freestyle Interlude" / "Grown Man Sport" 
B2. "Think Twice" 
B3. "To Each His Own" (Ft. The Abstract & Q-Tip)
B4. "Interlude" / "Props"
B5. "Keep On" / "Freestyle Interlude"
B6. "What You Say"
B7. "Vocal Outro"



  1. CRAZY POST!! 1000 THANKS!!

  2. can you please tell me how the "mixes" differ from that of the bbe release? Thanks

  3. another classic upload THANK YOU

  4. Ant: ur all welcome lol!!!

  5. media fire blocked it .... is this not available anymore?!?!
    thought i finally had it!!!!!

  6. would REALLY appreciate a repost
    - Favorite album of all time


  7. my connection is working really slow right now, but i'm working on it. no worries

  8. yo son, good looks! thank you

  9. Fix the link pleaseeee!!!!! HTTP Error 500!! :( :(

  10. Respect for not only putting up the LP but keeping the link up to date, thanks man. Only heard a few tracks from this but I know it's going to become one of my favourites.

  11. it's okay now!! btw if the No More Words never belonged to the Original Center Of Attention then for which release it was supposed to be. Nevertheless Ultimate respect for bringing it.

  12. I interviewed Grap Luva back in 2011 & he told me that album was actually supposed to be called "The Life I Lead" & he & Rob-O were discussed releasing the album as it was intended to be released in the correct sequence with the proper interludes & all. Here's the full interview link here:

  13. thank you for that update Dart Adams, any available information on this project is great.. it's unbelivable that probably one of the illest lp's of all time got fucking shelved and thus have never been released officially..

    i really hope Grap and Rob-O decide to push through with that idea, because the album really does deserves to be heard!!


  14. Real deal right now!
    Big up from Russia,man!

  15. Hi Claaa7, thank you very much for this. There's always been a lot of mystery about this release and finding this post cleared a lot of things up! I hope you don't mind, but I've uploaded the entire album you posted to YouTube, so it's easier for people to listen to. I've gave you credits and linked back to this site. Heres the video:

  16. Here is a copy I made with the tracks split up. I used mp3splt, so there is no loss in audio quality.

    1. Thanks for sharing anonymous and, your time and efforts are highly appreciated.

  17. Anonymous - sorry for the late replay but thanks for taking the time to do this.. hopefully there won't be any noticeable silence between tracks like on the old rip of the interldues so i can replace all the songs with the hq rips from the Rapster CD

  18. Is there a CD version of the official INI album with interludes?

  19. Thank you for this incredible upload.

    I am absolutely hooked on this album. I'm not surprised that it has been bootlegged left right and center. it is truely a piece of history from an era long gone but never forgotten. There is such a beautiful earnest quality and consistency to the entire record.

    The test press release is unlikely to appear on discogs - there is this:

    ..but it's clearly not the same. That release doesn't include "Kross Roads", "Mind Over Matter" and "Props"...which is unthinkable really.
    Also like how the interludes on this one are bits of the song "Meccalicious". I can see why "keep On" is such a sought after song- being the hidden gem of the hidden gem if you like!...and that there's another bootleg of the album that had "Keep On" listed on the label but it wasn't ever on the actual record....that must have pissed quite a few people off I bet.

    Thanks again for a great post.
    I've listened to the BBE ordering of the album a lot but I can tell I'm only just getting started cos I'm gonna be rinsing this ish til xmas.

  20. Many thanks for pulling all this together. I'm surprised 'No More Words' didn't make the cut - or, rather, this cut - the fact it kicked off the BBE release raises its prominence and its absence on this ordering/version of the album is a real shame, I think. The whole thing is still sounding great, though, of course. Incredible this album never officially saw the light of day.

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  22. Hi :-)

    Music fan here, been recently getting into and constantly listening to a ton of east coast underground hip-hop. Stumbled upon the short-lived group INI and fell in love! Came across your old blog post here and was super bummed out that the download link was dead. I really wanted to hear the early version of this rare album in the best quality possible but my luck ran out I guess. Do you still have the lossless FLAC rip of this test pressing on your hard drive? I'd love a download link if it's not much trouble! I really dig your blog and it's mission to preserve obscure music history for everyone to see :-)
    If anyone has a copy they're willing to share just shoot me an email.

  23. I want to thank Pete Rock for giving us his highly acclaimed talent on an album as beautiful as Center of Attention. Also to InI for the dedication to this art that we call Hip Hop, but more than anything, I want to thank the Hip Hop community, as all together we can afford to find such beautiful pieces of such a huge puzzle, thank you very much.
    @Gorilla Central here's the link man
    Also in YT


    1. Thanks homie but do you happen to have the FLAC files of this rip? The official link above is dead and the owner of this blog is MIA