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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

RAS KASS x DJ PREMIER - "Bars in the Booth"

Session 8 of DJ Premier's excellent Bars in the Booth series features lyrical genius Ras Kass going all in over another sick Preemo banger. Sick!

Monday, March 23, 2015

CAPONE-N-NOREAGA - "Stay Tuned" [Interlude]

Since Capone-N-Noreaga's "The War Report" happens to be one of my definite favorite LP:s of the late '90s I want to use this post to talk about something perhaps a little lesser known among listeners. Looking at the tracklist you'll see that track #12 is listed as an interlude called "Stay Tuned" with production credit going to Charlemagne (of Natural Elements fame). Strangely enough what is heard is actually the track "Thug Paradise", an up tempo joint that was originally featured on the soundtrack to the Martin Lawrence comedy "Nothing to Lose", claiming D-Moet to be the songs producer. "Thug Paradise", sans Noreaga's verse, was also released as the B-side to Tragedy Khadafi's "True Confession" 12'' on 25 to Life Records in 1997.

So what's this business with renaming one of the more well known songs, claiming it to be an interlude and omitting crediting Tragedy and D-Moet? The answer is that "Stay Tuned" is a completely different track which most likely was cut from the tracklisting at the very last minute. The real Charlemagne produced interlude was eventually made available on the official Best Of CNN compilation "Thugged Da Fuck Out". Listening to that version it is quite obvious that this interlude was intended as sort of a bridge or intermission between Part 1 and Part 2 of "The War Report". While the skit does drag on a little bit too long at 3:20 I must say I like the idea and have tried listening to the album with it in place of "Thug's Paradise". You can listen to the song via YouTube up top, or download an Mp3 rip from the aforementioned compilation below. CNN once again, What What?!?!


Sunday, March 22, 2015

[comp] ERICK SERMON - "A Platform of Brilliance"

People love and will always hold the early EPMD albums in the higest regards among other classic hip-hop albums, equally because of PMD and E's intricate front-to-back rhyming but also because of the duo's funky sample-heavy beats that solidified Erick Sermon as one of the best producers around (don't be completely fooled though, as PMD had a lot of production input as well - especially on their first album "Strictly Business" as revealed to Brian Coleman in his chapter on the album from his "Check The Technique"). Still The Green Eyed Bandit has proven time and time again that he's a super dope producer with or without EPMD, as he has produced at least two out of three classics for Redman (he was involved in "Dare Iz A Darkside" but the bulk of the beats was handled by Reggie himself). Reading Erick Sermon's name in the credits of a new hip-hop album was a true mark of quality However I do have to admit that past 2004 or something like that hes been more and more generic in his sound, though he ocassionally comes through with some real hardhitting shit that we all love.

For this compilation I decided to focus more on E-Dub's earlier material, past the early EPMD albums and up until about 2000 (and mostly earlier). These tracks to me represent stands as a good compliment together with the classic albums Sermon has produced as the reason why he is still to this day considered a living legend in the game. Erick Sermon has always been very good at killing beats for both R&B and hardcore hip-hop artists, and even the ocassional ragga artist like Super Cat, so I decided to make this compilation pretty diverse within those categories. Featured on the compilation are a couple of Sermon solo cuts, Def Squad, Keith Murray, Shaquille O'Neal, LL Cool J, Redman, K-Solo, D'Angelo, Bahamadia, AZ, Jodeci, and more. As usual the Def Squad tracks on here (Red, E-Dub, Keith Murray) is non album tracks/soundtrack joints and such, basically stuff that you won't find on either of these guys albums. If you're not up on them yet, be sure to check out Redman's entire catalouge, Keith Murray's first albums, large parts of Erick Sermon's catalouge, and of course all the EPMD albums (yeah even the last one is pretty ill if you ask me)... and whatever you do, TURN IT UP!!!
01. Erick Sermon - "Maintain"
02. Bahamadia - "I Confess" [Erick Sermon Remix]
03. AZ - "Gimme Yours" [Erick Sermon Remix]
04. Shaquille O'Neal - "My Style, My Steelo" (Ft. Redman & Erick Sermon)
05. Da 5 Footaz - "Candidates"
06. Heavy D & The Boyz - "Take Your Time"
07. D'Angelo - "Me & Those Dreamin' Eyes" [Remix] (Ft. Def Squad)
08. LL Cool J - "Hey Lover" [Remix] (Ft. 112)
09. Erick Sermon - "Battle" (Ft. Sy Scott)
10. Def Squad - "Breaker Breaker, 1,2"
11. Warren G - "I Shot The Sherrif" [Remix]
12. K-Solo - "Rock Bottom"
13. Doctor Dre & Ed Lover Ft. Keith Murray - "It's Goin' Down"
14. Questionmark Asylum - "Lookaway" [Remix]
15. Powerule - "Rock Ya Knot Quick"
16. Dilated Peoples - "The Platform" [Remix]


[Documentary] VH1 Driven: OUTKAST (2004)

VH1's bioraphical "Driven" show have aired some absolutely great 45 minutes documentaries since the start of the show. One of my favorites was always the Big Daddy Kane one, but recently I came across a brilliant piece on Andre 3000 and Big Boi, better known as OutKast, which follows the duo from their upbringing in the deep South, hooking up with each other at a local talent show, to quitting school to work with Organized Noize and chilling out in the Dungeon with the rest of the crew. It follows the group from the recording of their debut to their hip-pop masterpiece "Stankonia" in 2000. OutKast has always been one of my favorite groups - a duo that not only have one of the best chemistries in the game, includes one of the best emcees of all time, are great producers in their own right, and have one of the best catalouges around. Each and every one of their albums are truly groundbreaking and can be called masterpieces (or classics) or at least very close (not counting "Idlewild", but that was a soundtrack so it doesn't really count - the film was pretty cool though). "Speakerboxxx/Love Below" is a very underrated album, especially Big Boi's disc is purely amazing Southern hip-hop that points the way towards his excellent official debut "Big Lucious Left Foot" (what the hell was up with his sophomore effort though?).

This documentary was ripped from an old VHS tape by YouTube uploader YouTube Video Channel (yes that's the real name), and while the quality and sound isn't always all that it doesn't take away from the viewing pleasure. I've been heavily on my 'Kast shit recently, pumping especially "ATLiens" and "Aquemini", so finding this was a real gem as it really goes deep in some aspects of the group's struggles and triumphs. As if that wasn't enough, I am currently working on an OutKast compilation featuring non-album cuts that I think Lost Tapes fans will really enjoy. So look out for that in the coming days or at least within a week, but untill then press play up top and let the story of Big Boi and Andre 3K wash over you via VH1's Driven and be sure to check back for some rare 'Kast. As a little bonus teaser I'm throwing readers a bone with a song that was cut from the "ATLiens" sessions called "Roaches & Rats" (unfortunately ripped from a mixtape, but better than nothing for sure; sick jam!)


[EP Throwback] CAMP LO & SKI BEATZ - "Fort Apache" (2005)

Camp Lo and Ski Beatz are synonymous with creating one of the true classic late '90s albums in the excellent "Uptown Saturday Night". Featuring timeless pieces such as "Luchini", "Coolie High", "B-side to Hollywood", "Sparkle", "Black Connection" and all that good stuff, fans have been eager to hear more from the trio of Ski, Sonny Chiba and Geechi Suede. 2002:s "Let's Do It Again" was a real letdown despite sporting the same line-up while 2007:s "Black Hollywood" was definitely a step in the right direction. However between these two projects, the trio worked on another proejct that never saaw the light of the day (save for some internet success) - the six track deep "Fort Apache" EP was most likely supposed to work as a prequel of sort to the aforementioned "Black Hollywood". This has been floating around since 2006 when Ski released it for free, so I'm not entirely sure when it was recorded but I know it's a cool listen for fans of the three emcees and producer involved. No guests, just straight beats and rhymes which in my book is most of the time a good thing - especially when we're discussing a short EP.

However I have to say that Ski isn't the producer that he once was, though he still comes through with some amazing stuff like the ish he gave Mos Def for that Karate project. But I just don't hear him cooking up tracks like "Luchini", "Politics as Usual", "22 Heist", "Dead Presidents", "From The Concrete" (A.D.O.R.), "Uknowhowwedo" (Bahamadia), "John Blaze", and so on. With that being said I'm glad Camp Lo is now rocking with Pete Rock instead as that "80 Blocks From Tiffany's" mixtape, while being too long, was still slamming. But either way, there's good music on here, so if you haven't heard this throwback. DON'T SLEEP PEEPS!

01. "Sugar Willes Revenge"
02. "82 Afros"
03. "ZOOM"
04. "Flawless Victory"
05. "52 Pick Up"
06. "Did You Know"

AG - "Marcberri" [Vinyl Bonus Tracks]

AG's 2010 album "Everything's Berri" kind of threw me for a loop when I first heard it. The lyrics were all there as usual with one of the all time greats, but I was dissappointed with the sound at first as it was the first time I heard the D.I.T.C. legend go in without any of his D.I. brethren, or other intense outside producers such as Madlib, Dilla, E-Blaze, Jake One, and so on. This was the first time the world heard Ray West, and it definitely took some time to adjust to his somewhat unorthodox way of chopping samples and arranging songs, which is why I was initially dissappointed in "Everything's Berrii". However, as time has moved on, Ray West has become one of the main affiliated producers of the D.I. camp and as I said in my previous post, with each release he has came more into his own and his last two mini albums has been that STRAIGHT FIRE. And now going back and listening to the album that set it all off I realize that its a lot better than what I had first seen it, though it's not a masterpiece like A's albums with Show or West's later work with OC, AG and John Robinson and the LuvNY collective.

Originally released on CD only in 2010 by Fat Beats, not too long ago the label and the duo decided to press up a limited amount of vinyl runs for the project. This 2xLP set has a few tracks not featured on the original CD, and while I posted the extended "Marcberg" when the team released it as a single I just realized (again while doing the producer post below this one) that Ray West 45 @ Soundcloud had actually posted streams to all three exclusive songs in full. This was three months ago, but like I always say in these types of situation - better late than never, that's for damn sure! First out is the aforementioned "Marcberg" extended version, which is absolutely beautiful and makes me truly wonder why the hell it was cut short in the first place. The original album version used it as a kind of skit with only a fat but short Roc Marciano verse before cutting to the next song. Here Roc's verse are followed by a hook and an equally ill AG verse. Then you got another really crazy joint called "Buster's Train" that follows none other than Sadat X, and we all know that the X-Man and AG has a crazy chemistry together. The slow blues influenced joint that closes the sampler is a remix of "Infected", a song that appeared on the CD in its original format. If you're a vinyl head and haven't grabbed "Got Berries?" yet, be sure to do so from e.g. HHV (I can't find it at Fat Beats or UGHH which probably means it's sold out as it was a limited release). Oh well, at least you can hear the three extra tracks below and they are all fat!

RAY WEST Ft. BLU & DAVE DAR - "Stay Still"

The homie Ray West keeps bringing incredible hip-hop with his own original, unmistakable twist to the table, as every release on his label Red Apples 45 is pretty much just getting better and better with each drop. My personal favorite so far is the mini album he did with OC, "Ray's CafĂ©", followed by the John Robinson EP "Sample & Percussion" (click to stream both projects, respectively). For his new single and video, "Stay Still", West enlists Blu and Dave Dar for a nice summer vibe joint that feels just right! This banging joint is lifted from one of the many insane 7" extended plays that Red Apples 45 have dropped recently - you can grab "Berri Lipstick" EP @ iTunes now. Video premiered by OkayPlayer and was directed by Dave Dar and A.M. Fine.

[12" Throwback] SLICK RICK - "Ricky D Lost Tracks"

Slick Rick, the original master storyteller that has inspired every hip-hop emcee worthy of his name, has released some extremely tight albums throughout the years - though way to few that his skills deserve. So although his album catalouge ain't all that, luckily Ricky D got a large amount of unreleased bangers from the early to mid-'90s that feature nothing but vintage Rick getting it in over bangers by people like Pete Rock, SD50s, Prince Paul, Vance Wright and more. Trust me when I say that I'm definitely going to do a proper Slick Rick compilation of the best of these type of joints sooner or later. But in the meantime I want to put a bright spotlight on a very unorthodox Japanese bootleg of two Ricky D joints that are as hilarious as they are rare. The two track 12" is simply called "Ricky D. Lost Tracks" and the songs, which was likely too strong in its language and storytelling that Def Jam had no choice but to cut them from the album. The LP in question I am pretty sure is 1994:s "Behind Bars" LP, the album that was released while Slick was still in jail and featured new remixes by artists like Pete Rock, Warren G, Epitome Of Scratch, and Large Professor of previously unreleased material a long with some never before heard songs. It could have been recorded for the previous LP however, 1991:s "The Ruler's Back" as the beat supplied by Mr. Philips' sound more like early '90s Pete if you ask me.

So how do I know that the absolutely brilliant "Sleazy Gynecologist" which appears on the A-side here is one of those rare Slick Rick/Pete Rock collaborations, more than the fact that it sound like an early Pete beat?  Well after some research, I found a very illuminating post over @ RapOhneLizenz with a quote from the Younger Soul Brother, Grap Luva; "Grap was shocked to see [the bootleg 12"], confirming that it was in fact a Pete Rock beat ... He only knew the track from when he snuck into his brothers spot and dubbed it off a DAT" (SOURCE). Slick Rick and Pete Rock is always a magnificent combo for us true hip-hop heads, but Slick Rick himself is truly bringing his A+ game here; telling three magnificent verses where Rick shows why he's a true master emcee by doing one verse as the girl, one as the sleazy gynecologist and one as the boyfriend (who happens to be Rick himself, or so it seems). This is pretty hardcore too, as the sleazy gynecologist's last verse finds the doctor raping an unconscious underage girl under sedation before the cops bust in. It's an extremely well written joint, the beat is slamming, overall it's classic Rick though it's easy to see why no record label wanted to fuck with it at the time. Well, thank God for bootlegs.

The B-side to this rare bootleg is here listed as "Feels Like", but is listed as "The Nutty Professor" on various later tapes, like on J-Love's semi-official mixtapes, so it's safe to say that "The Nutty Professor" is the proper title for the song. Once again this sound like it could be a Pete Rock beat, but I don't have any confirmation for this - and according to the original bootleg both songs are produced by SD50's but we know that that's not the case with the A-side at least. Either way it's another powerful jam, however I have a feeling this was recorded a bit later as "The Nutty Professor" (the movie) wasn't released until early 1996 - and listening to the production (Pete Rock, SD50's or whoever) it's deifnitely a mid-'90s joint, no question). It's not as agressive or original as the A-side but it's a cool storytelling joint with some of Rick's trademark hilarious lines interspersed throughout the songs running time. Both songs needs to be heard by any Slick Rick fan that might have missed out, despite the shitty sound quality -  remember this is a rip from a mid-'90s Japanese bootleg that have only surfaced on mixtapes since (with DJ shouts and all that not-so-good stuff). Enjoy peeps!

A1. "Sleazy Gynecologist"
B1. "Feels Like (The Nutty Professor)"

[EP] NUTSO - "I Plead The 5th" (2013)

With all the extreme amount of super dope material being released on a regular basis you know it's inevitable that you're gonna miss out on some really sick releases every now and then. Even this year there's some heavy releases that I've been looking forward to that I haven't even banged out yet (Cannibal Ox, Mr. Green / Malik B.). But today I noticed on my FB that the always trustworthy EgoTripLand had posted a 2013 single by severely ill Queens spitter Nutso (p/k/a Nut-Rageous) featuring Kool G Rap and Mic Geronimo (DAMN!). It turns out this is actually a track from a Bandcamp EP that Nutso released in the spring of 2013 called "I Plead The 5th". As I'm listening to the six tracks that make up the EP I am blown away by how dope this is, 

"I Plead The 5th" is a collaboration with producer 5th Seal (hence the double entendre of the EP:s name) who supplies Nutso's rugged lyrics and delivery with a soulful boom bap type of sound that really does the emcee justice. I'm a sucker for the one MC/one DJ formula and the three full projects that I know from Nutso's catalouge are all done in that matter - this one, 2013's excellent collaboration with French boom bap maestro DJ Low Cut called "In The Cut" and most recently that brand new 2015 EP with the homies Divided Souls Entertainment and DJ Pain 1 ("Divided Souls") that is one of the five best albums of the year so far if you ask me. Stream the entirety of "I Plead The 5th" below via Bandcamp where you can also download a HQ Mp3 download in the digital format of your choice. Features comes from Kool G Rap, Mic Geronimo, Punchline, Wais P, Meyhem Lauren, AG Da Coroner, J-Love, and a couple of others. Satisfaction guaranteed!

Saturday, March 21, 2015


I'm a huge fan of pretty much everything producer Preservation has done ever since I first heard him on that "Wu-Tang Meets The Indie Culture" compilation. And KA was of course down with the Natural Elements and though I probably heard some verse back then, it was first on GZA's "Pro Tools" album and then on Roc Marcy's albums that I really became aquainted with this rugged Brownsville spitter. Now the two are hooking up as an MC/producer duo under the name of Dr. Yen Lo. The video to their first single is directed by the group himself (KA really loves doing it all by himself), produced by Preservation and vocals entirely produced by KA. I'm not sure when the album, titled "Days With Dr. Yen Lo" will drop, but this is a cool introduction that I'm sure will grow on a lot of people.

BLACK MILK - "I Guess"

I remember buying Black Milk's debut album "Sound Of The City Vol. 1" not long after its release, haven't really heard much from him but having fallen in love with the underground sound of Motown hip-hop. While I liked the album and his follow-ups "Popular Demand" and the "Broken Wax EP" I could definitely nod my head to it, but I still felt that Black Milk had neither found his own as an emcee or as a producer. Of course you couldn't deny that the kid had mad skills but I felt he had a long way to go.... That long way is a path he's truly been on for years, and with each project and outside production he has truly grown on both aspects to one of todays most interesting artists and a well worthy representative of the Detroit sound. Following his work with eLzhi on "The Preface" and "Tronic" I know he had found his own sound and was capable of multiple sounds; like every great producer he wasn't afraid to experiment at all. Then he hit with three slamming projects in a row (Random Axe, Danny Brown EP, and the absolutely excellent "No Poison, No Paradise"). These dope releases (along with masterpieces laced for Pharoahe Monch, GZA, and more), last year he released the free EP "Synth Or Soul" and the mindblowing "If There's A Hell Below"; the latter which more than any of his previous projects, truly showed fans he was now a very capable emcee in his own right as well. So when Black Milk now returns with a brand new single - the laid-back soul-funk of "I Guess" - Milk is right back where he left off last time. I'm not sure where this will end up, but what the hell - just TURN IT UP, bang your head and enjoy this crazy ish from Justin Cross! Spotted @ so props to them.


Flying Lotus is without a doubt my favorite alternative producer right now, or at least top 3 (depending on who you count among the alternative beat maestros), but I just love how serious the LA producer and artist is about his craft. To me he really came into his own as a true virtuoso artist in his own right with "Until the Quet Comes", a tripped out front-to-back album that truly grows on each listen - still to this day, some five years laters. In early 2014 he released his follow up album (not counting his experimental album by rap alter ego Captain Murphy, though that's without a doubt an enjoyable album that I strongly recommend to lovers of experimental hip-hop). I included the album in my countdown of best albums of that year, and as a true jazz and hip-hop afficionando as it's one of the very few albums, along with Robert Glasper's stuff and a few other artists, I really feel that FlyLo is pushing the boundaries of his hip-hop past by introducing more and more free jazz into the concept which I absolutely love. There's still a hip-hop foundation, and Kendrick Lamar appears on the slamming single "Never Catch Me" while Snopp Dogg and Captain Murphy appears on "Dead Man's Tetris"

I don't know this but apparantly during the sessions for the album, K. Dot didn't only record the full-length collaboration for "Never Catch Me" but this live session with FlyLo reveals that Lamar also originally was supposed to rock at least one verse on "Eyes Above" (featuring session playing by Thundercat and Dentoni Parks. During Lotus' set at the "You're Dead" tour at the North Park Theater in San Diego. Luckily, the sound quality is good, Kendrick's verse is complete and it really adds to one of my favorite tracks from one of the best joints on the album in my honest opinion. I don't have much more information, maybe Kendrick had several verses on this track but for some reason (perhaps because he thought it was overkill having K.Dot do two solo tracks on there), but maybe he only did an intro verse before the rest of the track flowed in to the instrumental. Either way this is fucking SICK, and I really hope we get a CDQ or iTunes release of this in full sooner or later. I haven't seen any clips from Lotus live shows previously but this looks mighty, so I'm hyped as hell as I'm going to see the prdoucer/DJ perform with my homie Mariam a few months from now and whoever else want to join!

[Video] BIG SHUG - "I Bleed For This"

I haven't been to active on the blog lately, and though this banging joint was released a few days ago, I'ma go by better late than never because this is fucking DOPE. Big Shug and DJ Premier is about as close you're gonna get to new Gang Starr music following GURU's tragic passing (next in line would be Preem and Bumpy's full-length collaborations). Shug might not be the best lyrical cat around, but he got an incredible voice that just sounds incredible over really dope beats. However, I gotta say on Shug's last few album I feel that they are pretty hit-or-miss - to me he needs really good beats to carry him, and a lot of dope guest verses really help him out as he's not quite that great of an emcee to carry an entire album worth. And that's definitely not a stab at Shug, like I said I really dig his commanding voice, but I also feel that he's even better when he's surrounded by other potent emcees.

His latest album is called "Triple OGuz" and is once again released by BRICK Records, and while I haven't heard the LP in its entirety yet the singles I've heard so far is pretty damn banging. He first came out with the DJ Premier produced "Off Rip" Ft. Termanology and Singapore Kane, followed by the GemCrates produced "The Reason". But now comes the DJ Premier produced "I Bleed For This", complete with a video directed by Mystery DL for Ill Mannered films who also did the previous video from the LP. This is a true Big Shug / DJ Premeir collaboration at it's finest, some real bluesy but nicely chopped vintage Preem shit right here with Big Shug truly doing his thing. Premier also produced the album opener "I Am Somebody" which I have yet to hear, and other interesting producers on the project include MoSS, Charles Roane, and a Kid Called Roots. No wax will prolly be released but you can cop the CD @ UGHH or cop it from iTunes as it's out now.
1.) “I Am Somebody” (produced by DJ Premier)
2.) “I Bleed For This” (produced by DJ Premier)
3.) “The Reason” (produced by Gem Crates)
4.) “Days Go By” (produced by Big Shug)
5.) “Never Change” (produced by Reel Drama)
6.) “Not A Fan” f/ Reks & Termanology (produced by Kid Called Quest)
7.) “Triple OGzus” (produced by Kid Called Quest)
8.) “Make That Body Do” (produced by Reel Drama)
9.) “Off Rip” f/ Termanology & Singapore Kane (produced by DJ Premier)
10.) “2 Good” f/ Trumayne (produced by Kid Called Quest)
11.) “All In” (produced by Kid Called Quest)
12.) “Showtime” f/ M-Dot (produced by DJ Brans) cuts by DJ Djaz
13.) “Make Moves, Get Money” (produced by Moss)
14.) “Get It” f/ Singapore Kane (produced by Reel Drama)
15.) “Relationships” (produced by Reel Drama)
16.) “Chase Then Ball” (produced by Kid Called Quest)
17.) “Soldiers It's War Out Here” (produced by Kid Called Quest)
18.) “In The Rain” (produced by Charles Roane for C.R.E.A.M.I.N.C.)

MARVELOUS MAG - "New York Minute"

Marvelous Mag pretty much always drops interesting music well worthy of several spins. I almost feel like we're at something of a little hip-hop renaissance right now, with real shit coming out of the East, West, Midwest and the South. Mag is a New York emcee who's worked very closely with Lost Tapes favorites Hus Kingpin and Smoovth (Tha Connection), has released two pretty under-the-radar LP:s in 2010 and plenty of dope guest features and mixtapes throughout the more recent years. Now he is currently working on his new mixtape "Magic Johnson" and the first single is called "New York Minute" and with its M.W.P. production it's definitely a smooth winner that have at least me hyped for the project. Stay tuned for more info... and don't forget to TURN IT UP!!

[Video] RAPSODY - "The Man"

I'm not gonna front I always liked Rapsody since I first heard her, but she was never a favorite of mine or anything like that which is why only selected tracks from her discography has been posted on The Lost Tapes. However, having blasted the shit out of Kendrick Lamar's excellent new album and being blown away by Rapsody's verse on "Complexion". She really held her own against K.Dot as one of only two guest emcees appearing on the LP, so I feel like I need to check out more from Rapsody, or what do you think?

Eric G. does a great job on producing Rapsody's new single "The Man" (also featuring singer Heather Victoria), which appeared on her "Beauty and The Beast" EP (available @ iTunes) which originally dropped October 7 last year. The moody visuals fits the atmospheric track and raps' heartfelt lyrics perfectly. JAMLA in the house!

DURAG DYNASTY x JUST BLAZE - "Neighborhood Dope Dealers"

Durag Dynasty (Planet Asia, Tri-State, Killer Ben) is back again after 2012's highly anticipated Alchemist produced "360 Waves". While that album was definitely dope, it didn't quite live up to the high expectations I've built up after all those extraordinary street singles and guest features, but it still was not one to be slept on. Now it seems the West Coast trio is back working on another project, this time produced by Just Blaze, as two soulful singles have been released in only a matter of days, that both are off the fucking chains. The latest is called "Neighborhood Drug Dealers" and features Planet Asia and Tri-State GOING IN over a laid back but vintage Just Blaze banger. Below that you'll find the recently released "Catch That Feeling". I'm not sure this means Just Blaze and DD is gonna bring listeners an entire album worth but listening to these singles I sure as hell won't mind!

PRODIGAL SUNN - "Summer '88"

Based on his many apperances and cameos on classic Wu records, Sunz of Man member Prodigal Sunn used to always be one of my favorite Killa Beez. Impeccable voice, rhymes filled with knowledge, and appearing on some of the best Sunz and even Wu solo album posse cuts. In 2005 he released his debut solo album "Return of the Prodigal Sunn" which wasn't all that, despite having some mindblowing RZA tracks (mainly "Brutality (The Grindz)" but also the reagge tinged "Lovely Ladies") and a few other gems. A couple of years ago he also released his sophomore album "Hood Chronicles", another LP that was good but hardly up to the lyrical standard he set for hismelf, save for the sole 4th Disciple / Hell Razah collaboration "Rising", mainly because the vast majority of the beats were handled by unknown Salvee One. Don't sleep on his 2012 mixtape "Prodgal Sunn Meets DJ Premier" featuring all new P. Sunn verses over classic Preemo beats.

If you follow the Sunz of Man member on Facebook you are well aware that the talented lyricist is prepping his third solo album to be released sometime this year - "Determination & Perserverance". Before that, if everything goes as planned, Sunn is about to release the free prequel tape "The Spark". That aforementioend mixtape will feature the new single "Summer '88", a nostalgic look back at the late '80s, what many consider the middle of the first great era of hip-hop, and so on. Both the beats and the lyrics/flow makes the concept justice. The song features singers Stevey Sounds and The MDC Dancers with a video directed by P.Sunn himself together with DOP Danny "Swess" Carrillo.

DJ EFN Ft. MC EIHT, BLU & KAM - "South West" [K-DEF Remix]

A while ago DJ EFN and K-DEF revealed that Redefinition Records and K-Def was about to release a limited run of 45 singles featuring 'Def remixes of some of his favorites from the album. Earlier we heard the banging new take on "Selfish" featuring King Tee, Fashawn, and Kurupt, and now we get the K-DEF remix of DJ EFN's "South-West" featuring West Coast legends MC Eiht, KAM, and Blu which you can check out above. Stay tuned for more info on these banging 2 volume set (i think it is) and also check out DJ EFN's full-length album "Another Time", filled with dope beats and rhymes from some of the illest legends out there.

[Video] MF GRIMM & DRASAR MONUMENTAL - "Harmonics / Song Of The Winter Soldier"

If you read my countdown of the 12 best albums of 2014 you know MF Grimm & Drasar Monumental's mind-blowing third collaboration together ("GMV III - The Phoenix Program") shared the number one spot with Souls Of Mischief very different but equally sick collaboration with Adrian Younge. This album is a front-to-back banger to say the least, not to say masterpiece, so it's a great thing that the promotion from Vendetta Vinyl continues as the LP flew under the radar of a lot of true hip-hop heads that I know will absolutely love this LP. Here the duo are releasing a double video for "Harmonics" and one of my personal favorites of the LP, "Song Of The Winter Soldier". Hardcore shit that you don't want to sleep on - As always, if you haven't got that far yet, head over to to purchase the package of all the installments in the trilogy or just grab this third volume if you already have the previous records in the series. Trust me, as limited thse are, you will definitely want to have them all in your collection. TURN IT UP!!

[EPK/Singles] BIZZ / 4TH DISCIPLE - "Prince Of New York LP"

Highly talented New Jesey lyricist Bizz The Prince has been working on his full-length album "Back to Basics" which has been in the works since late 2011 but is finally looking to be just about finished. The entire album is produced by the legendary producer 4th Disciple, the most underrated producer in the game based on the countless classics he has produced for Killarmy, Hell Razah and Killah Priest (which has showed that he's perfectly capable of crafting timeless sonical front-to-back masterpieces) as well as unbeliavable cuts for the Wu-Tang Clan, N-Tyce/Weldon Irvine, Method Man, LA The Darkman,  Shabazz The Disciple, Gravediggaz, Cappadonna, Sunz Of Man, Vinnie Paz, Tragedy Khadafi and countless others. 

As 4th Disciple is one of my favorite producers, as the guy who used to be the Wu-Tang Clan's hidden weapon back in the day, and packs a truly unique sound, the news that he and Bizz is actually going to release a full-length album together really made me HYPED. The first couple of street singles I heard a while back didn't do all that much for me, but they might not even turn up on the album as they were early tracks and years has passed, but recent singles like the mind blowing "Cold World" and the Inspectah Deck assisted BANGER "Break The Walls". No date has been set yet, but as the official singles has started dropping at a rapid rate and a proper EPK has been released I have a feeling we will see this very soon. You'll find the 6 minutes EPK up top of this post, "Cold World" video and the "Break The Walls" track right below it. The older 4th Disciple tracks that we're originally slated for the LP whcih also packs a slightly different sound, making me believe they won't appear on the album any more, are the two tracks passed to the bottom of this post. These two tracks are the Kinetic 9 collaboration "Realest Spittin'" and the Freeway assisted "We Shine". Enjoy, feel free to leave a comment about your thoughts on the forthcoming album and stay tuned for more info as the album progresses. In the meantime support Bizz and 4th by purchasing these bangers in HQ Mp3 rips directly from iTunes - it is appreciated!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

GORE-TEX - Tracks prod. by DIAMOND D, LARGE PRO & DJ MURO [2004]

Nope this is not Gore-Tex from Non Phixion, but rather a Japanese rapper from the Nitro Microphone Underground crew. In 2004 he released an album on Columbia/Acehigh Records that features a lot of dope producers that any serious boom bap lover knows more than well. Diamond D provides three tracks, including "Mess-Age", Large Professor produced the single "Pyramid" and DJ Muro came through with three joints as well. On top of that it features cuts by the legendary Grand Mixer DXT (of Herbie Hancock "Rockit" fame) on all the Diamond D joints. I've seen it's Discogs page a couple of years ago, but could not find the actual album anywhere. You have to be in Japan to purchase it from iTunes unfortunately, so this was very frustrating for such a huge fan of both Diamond and Large Pro. 

Luckily we can now at least get a taste of what each of the three aforementioned producers brought to the table as kind YouTube users JapaneseHipHopChannel and John Woo, respectively, have uploaded three songs from the album. Up top you hear "Pyramid", produced by Large Professor, while below you'll find "Mess-Age" courtesy of Diamond D plus "Mirror Ball 2004" featuring Microphone Pager and Gore-Tex ripping a Muro beat. As a beat head and fan I thought this was interesting and I imagine a lot of people have missed out on it.. If anyone have the album please contact me!

Monday, March 16, 2015

[Album] KENDRICK LAMAR - "To Pimp a Butterfly"

It's here! In a sneak preview on Spotify Kendrick Lamar has released his highly anticipated new album "To Pimp a Butterfly" for free streaming on Spotify. If you ask me his official debut "Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City" is one of the most original and coolest debut albums to drop in recent times so I'm real hyped to see how Kendrick will live up to the hype. I just started listening to the album, and the Flying Lotus produced opener "Wesley's Theory", featuring George Clinton and Thundercat, is some real funky shit... This will be an interesting ride for sure! Be sure to cop it @ iTunes.

01. "Wesley's Theory" (Ft. George Clinton & Thundercat)
02. "For Free: Interlude"
03. "King Kunta"
04. "Institutionalized" (Ft. Bilal, Snoop Dogg & Anne Wes)
05. "These Walls" (Ft. Bilal, Anna Wise & Thundercat)
06. "u"
07. "Alright"
08. "For Sale: Interlude"
09. "Momma"
10. "Hood Politics"
11. "How Much a Dollar Cost" (Ft. James Fauntelroy)
12. "Complexion (A Zulu Love)" (Ft. Rapsody)
13. "The Blacker The Berry"
14. "You Ain't Gotta Lie (The Blacker the Berry)"
15. "i" (Extended Version)
16. "Mortal Man"

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Top 10 of 2014 - #6- #1

06. BIGREC & Diamond D - "DoomsDay"
When I first heard that one of my all time favorites was producing a full album for a Southern emcee by the name of BIGREC that I never had heard of before I was both very intrigued and a bit skeptic. After all I had heard Diam ditching samples and doing a bounce record on his last album to horrible effect. However, once the video preview and the first single, "Bullseye", hit every bit of skepticism quickly disappeared. Not only was Diamond bringing his classic boom bap production with smacking drums, cuts, and agressive rock guitar, BIGREC proved to be an absolute monster on the microphone - it's no wonder why a legend like Diamond picked 'REC to do an entire album with. REC's got a grimey voice and cadence that demands you to hang on to his every word, and his rhyme schemes and flow is straight up hardcore. Right from the bass and vibraphone heavy introduction of the emcee and album concept on "The Dawning" (Diamond really loves his vibes!), to the epic closing anthem "Nowhere 2 Run 2" where REC adresses how he got to where he got to, shuts up his haters and shines a light on his struggles "DoomsDay" is truly a coherrent album. "At the end of the day I got four basic needs - live, love, learn and leave a legacy for my seeds and it's real...", boasts 'REC on the aforementioned song. Even if "DoomsDay" would prove to be his final album he would leave a damn fine legacy behind.

I know BIGREC has been an active emcee for years but "DoomsDay" kind of feels like a debut album. Throughout we get to know who BIGREC truly is, speaking both of personal problems and victories, as well as touching on social ills in his community, while finding time to introduce his crew TH5PENTAGON on the incredibly hard "New Order". With Diamond D's dark and rugged production the posse cut is almost like a Southern version of a joint like "5 Fingaz Of Death", and the entire crew can definitely rhyme (Jawz Of Life was also featured on Diamond's last album "The Huge Hefner Chronicles"). Throughout the short but sonically and lyrically satisfying album, 'REC and Diamond D is supplying fans with true quality hip-hop. Produced by one of the best producers and written and performed by a Southern emcee with a delivery that is simply unbelivable. You can find traces of inspiration from the great classic masters like Scarface, Kool G Rap, Big Punisher, Rakim, and KRS-One in BIGREC's writing and performance - not in any negative way as in biting, but rather as an influenced emcee on a way to being an equal to his influences. Just check how he has no problem holding his own against R.A. The Rugged Man on the unbelivably funky bonus cut "The Dumb Out". As for Diamond D, he isn't trying to be something he's not here either - he's basically rocking his tried and tested production style, a few tracks are maybe a little more Southern oriented than he would put on his own album, but you could never accuse him of not representing boom bap and real hip-hop to the fullest. Some of the joints like "Abomination", "DoomsDay" and "The Dumb Out" wouldn't even sound out of place on a D.I.T.C. album. "DoomsDay" is without a doubt the most underrated album of 2014, and a great sister album to "The Diam Piece".

05. Freddie Gibbs - "Pinata"
Years ago, 2007-2008 say, some of my friends really were going crazy over this new emcee Freddie Gibb's mixtapes to date such as "Miseducation of Freddie Gibbs" and "Str8 Killa". Now people on this blog now that I'm an East Coast head to the fullest; it's just something about those dirty NY beats and overall style that speaks to my soul. So while I could clearly appreciate that Freddie Gibbs was someone who was a great artist and an ill emce - spitting real raw, thugged out shit but always with a twist (in other words he wasn't some boring run-of-the-mill thug rapper), I had a hard time listening to much of his music due to his choice of beats. The wordplay, while often quite simple compred to some of the more legendary rappers before him, was never dumbed down, his gravely voice was commanding and you definitely wanted to hear what he had to said. He also had a down south flow that put the vast majority of newer Southern rappers to shame. There was no question, that this guy was making true hip-hop straight from the soul and whenever he jumepd on a beat I fucked with he always ripped it - Shit like "Till The Angels Come" or "Freddie Soprano" or the EP he put out with Statik Selektah back in 2007 called "Lord Giveth, Lord Taketh Away".

So when Madlib and Freddie Gibbs revealed that they were gonna release a full-length album, with Gibbs exclusively on lyrics and Madlib exclusively on the beats I damn near creamed my pants. Madlib's been one of my favorites for a long time, though some of his more recent projects have felt way too thrown together or simply weak (e.g. parts of "Madlib Medicine Show" or having more than the otherwise excellent LP he did for Guilty Simpson feature more interludes than actual music). But "Cocaine Pinnata" is Gibbs AND Madlib at their finest, and though much of it wasn't recorded together there actually is a chemistry or a bond between these guys that is very evident throughout. The sonical approach of the album can be divided into two type of tracks - the raw, hardcore type of tracks where Madlib often takes a minimalist approach, relying on synthesizers and fat bass as well as the more classic LA type of Madlib beats that focuses heavily on soul samples. Gibbs sounds great over both type of styles - matter of fact Gibbs simply sounds great over Madlib shit. These type of sonics switches back and forth throughout the 60 minutes running time, making the LP a joy to listen to.

To be honest it took me a while to fully appreciate this project, though there were some tracks that really stood out that I couldn't stop revisiting. However after some time I came to the realization that "Pinata" is actually a real front-to-back banger. Among the harder more stripped down tracks, that often uses slamming drums, heavy bass and cocaine flavored synth melodies we find the opener "Supplier" and the old school flavored "Scarface" that together form a hard hitting introduction to Gangsta Gibbs and what's about to come. This makes way for "Deeper", which might very well be my favorite song on the entire album. The combination of Madlib and Freddie Gibbs here is simply incredible; providing addictive strings, beautifully chopped vocal sample, low-key bass which brings out one of Gibb's best written songs on the entire album, filled with quoables that I know a lot of us men can relate to. Another important track is "Real", the hard ass dis joint to Gibbs' former labelmate Young Jeezy that is not only one of the LP:s illest cuts, but stands as one of the rawest diss tracks heard in years. Using two equally fat beats (one agressive and percussion heavy, the other more mellow and soul sounding) Gangsta Gibbs is spraying quotables making sure no stone is left unturned when it comes to his relationship with Yeezy. "Ross said you scared to drop a diss record/ No nuts, now you get the whole crew looking weak/ That's why they ran up on you at the BET/ LA Red Carpet, yeah I was geeked, you couldn't take security so we couldn't take a seat ... Don't make me expose you to those that don't know you". Indeed!

17 tracks deep, many of these were released on limited 12" pressings beforehand which caused some upset fans but personally I really couldn't care less. It would've been a shame to leave out gems like "Terrorist", "Shame" and "Harolds" from the album. We must remember that great music and art is timeless! I could definitely see Freddie Gibbs carry the entire LP by himself but the guests are mostly on point. At least it's crazy to hear Raekwon and Gibbs together on "Bomb", and even better to hear him join forces with Scarface on another one of the LP:s finest moments  "Broken". AB-Soul jumps in on another one of my favorites - the LA anthem "Lakers'", and BJ The Chiago Kid always does a good job at crooning on songs like the almost already classic "Shame". I'm not going to front and pretend that there is not some wack ass guests on "Pinata" as well, most noticely on the final song which is an 8 minutes long rap showcase over a menacing Madlib beat that could make for a great posse cut. Unfortunataly, save for Gibbs himself the six other emcees (which includes Mac Miller and Domo Genesis) are straight trash and mess up the end of the album. However, the vast majority of the LP is fat as hell and IS the album I've been waiting for from Freddie Gibbs since the day I first heard him!

04. Diamond D - "The Diam Piece"
Diamond D's first major single was called "Best Kept Secret" and still to this day I think he's kind of underrated, as I would still place him among the five best producers in the world. However I've been more than mildly disappointed in Diam's latest few solo releases, such as "The Huge Hefner Chronicles" and "Grown Man Talk", but his outside production has for the most part remained top notch. Thus it seems to be a logic step for the BX legend to release a production compilation featuring some of the finest legendary emcees of the '90s. The result is "The Diam Piece", a 19 track offering that takes it back to the Bronx with Diamond working absolute magic with a sampler and endless crates of Jazz, Funk and Soul. There's a lot of smooth sounding shit on this disc, Diamond is a master at finding the perfect loops and blending in slick horns and keys in the same key to put over them, always with madly powerful drum programming. What I really love about "The Diam Piece" is that it really does come together like a one hour program of records Diamond D would produce on other cat's albums while still being cohessive enough to work as an album.

Real hip-hop heads will no doubt get hyped looking at the tracklist which includes guests such as The Pharcyde, Pete Rock, Masta Ace, Guilty Simpson, Chino XL, Grand Daddy IU, Chino XL, AG, Nottz, Hi-Tek, Bumpy Knuckles, Fat Joe, Chi Ali and many more. Usually when producers does albums of this type they just try to get 26 ill 16s, not caring whether the artists on the posse cut will sound at all good together or not. In the end you get 18 boom bap beats with 26 verses on how ill that particular emcee is on the microphone, something that never fails to get monotone. Diamond, like the true veteran he is, knows exactly how to put together an album, coaching the artists on their verses to fit the concepts while specifically tailor making beats for certain artists and making sure the guests sound right together. Like I said before Diamond is a top 5 producer for me, and though he had a rough patch during the early 2000s, he's back full throttle with his best album since 1997.

03. Pharoahe Monch - "P.T.S.D."
Ever since 1990 music fans have always been able to count on a few things - dope Pete Rock remixes; brilliant Ghostface and Nas verses and, of course, outsanding albums from Pharaoahe Monch. "P.T.S.D." is something of an Orwell's "1984" of hip-hop albums, and is a direct follow up to his previous outing "W.A.R." where the last line of defense have lost and the world is now run by machines and human tools. It's a bleak vision and one that Pharoahe does with conviction, and it's also very inspired by Monch recent dealings with depression, paranoia and mental illness; another team that ties the album together. Who the hell said you need a lot of skits and interludes to make a great concept album?

As I mentioned on several occassions during this list, the best albums have taken me a few spins before they truly sink in and make me realize their true brilliance. This was also the case with "P.T.S.D.". Don't get me wrong, I always liked many of the songs on the album but it didn't blow me away until I truly focused on it 100% and started breaking it down. From the first to last song, with impeccable and important skits, Monch has created another album that's close to a masterpiece, making him one of the most important artists hip hop has today. Every single song here are filled to the limits with quote - and quotes with important messages at that. Just take the album opener "Time2" and one of my favorite quotes from that ("Last year they hired me, and last week they fired me/ And I got all these bills to pay, so what the fuck am I supposed to say to my wife/ She's pregnant, and if our kid does not go to college he is irrelevant/ And my melanin makes me a felon/ And I just want to take this crack and sell it to the planet/ I'm a mechanic depressant mechanic who manages to frantically do damage to my brain with Xanax/ And it's like the word anxiety is branded to the back of my eyelids in a variety of fonts...."). I bet a lot of people that's gone through some real troubles in their lifes can relate to this album, and quotes/songs like this, which makes us relate to the music and perhaps even drop our masks a little bit. The song concepts and soncial backdrops keep switching up enough to make it interesting; take the two back-to-back tracks "Damage", which happens to be the third installment in Monch's celebrated bullet trilogy where the verses are written from the perspective of a bullet and describes how it is affecting people in it's way. It's another brilliant take on a classic Monch concept that still feels as fresh as it did on "Stray Bullet", not only thanks to the brilliance of the emcee ("I will ring your bell like Avon, before displaying some of my favorious tatoos (Trayvon)/ The Oscar award winning Ayiana Jones (hey Sean!)/ Swore to be cannon fodder for your father/ slaughter daughters, armor piercing more deadlier than Napalm...") but also the extreme chemistry he has with long time producer Lee Stone who truly does the concept justice

"Broken Again" was what set the proces off, using the classic theme of how when that true love gone wrong and it feels your world is crumbling around you, can be compared to heroine addiction. It's nothing mindblowing or truly original, but it's a good jam. Overall Pharoahe Mocnh has here created his most lyrically aware album yet, which is one hell of a statement, considering his catalouge. There's a wide range of different topics that all form together losely but close enough to make it a coherrent listen both lyrically, and with production from Marco Polo, Lee Stone, Jesse West, and The Stepkids, it's simply an amazing, well written, sonically pleasing concept album. Pharoahe is a true emcee's emcee, not only is he an amazing writer and composer with a flow others can only dream of, he also puts on some of the best live shows I have ever witnessed (I've seen him three times so far). "PTSD" is a great example of why that is so please don't sleep!

03. Cormega - "Mega Philosophy"
It's an amazing feeling when one of your most anticipated albums of the year turns out to be just as good as your highest hopes for it. After hearing "Journey", "The True Meaning", "MARS" and "Stay Focused Up" (plus seeing 'Mega and Large Pro performing together in Copenhagen in 2013) every hip-hop head worthy of such a title were in the know that these these two legendary Queens musicians could create a miracle that could stand the test of time. And deliver they certainly did... Although perhaps not in the fashion that some people had expected.

The album, clocking in at only 33 minutes, is extremely focused and cohessive and as That Guy With The Glasses stated in their excellent album promo interview for XXL, he had never before collaborated so closely with an artist on an album he had produced for. Meaning that the credits which read produced by Large Professor and Cormega means a whole lot more than on many other LP:s which similiar credits. 'Mega was very instrumental in the sound he wanted, helped Extra-P pick out samples, and overall had a lot of input on the production. This explains why "Mega Philosophy" both sounds a little different from the classic Large Pro beats, and also help explains the overall somberness of the album. A somberness that has grown out of Corey McKay's maturity as a man and an emcee. I can't think of many other rappers, except for maybe Nas (who's excellent "Life is Good" feels like the natural full-circle from "Illmatic" if you ask me) and GURU, that have gone through a life transformation that he's not ashamed to put on wax. Following Cormega's career has no doubt been a very interesting ride. From the agressive young, prison used, drug dealer repping QB hard heard on "The Realness" he has became both wiser and more skilled as a writer with each album. As any real man should, Cormega has evolved through life experience and he is glad to share his knowledge on "Mega Philosophy". Two tracks in particular was influenced by a trip that Cormega took to Africa in prepartion for the album - and they are definitely thematically stand-outs - "Rise" and "More". The way Large Pro incorporates African percussion during Mega's final verse, which touches on topics that obviously hit close to home on his trip.

This is overall such a well written and lyrically soulful album that I might dare to say that it 'Mega's finest outing as a writer/lyricist yet which not necessarily makes it his best album overall. Every song really let the listener into 'Mega's world and soul, touching on differnet themes that are important, pertaining to topics such as the industry, a couple of straight up welcome boast raps, jail life, honorability, family issues, and more. The somber tone that dominates much of the album really works well with the songs thematical structures, and together it forms what is close to a masterpiece in my opinion. If there is one thing that I can complain about after hearing about the album for such a long time, is it's short length. I know that the "Journey Remix" was originally slated for the LP, and so was "MARS", and I think they would both have made fine inclusions. Either way, this is a real gem of an LP, and I love how both 'Mega and Large Pro keeps growing as artists. I can't wait to see what the future holds!

02. MF GRIMM & Drasar Monumental - "GMV III - The Phoenix Program"
Actually the top spot is pretty much shared between "GMV III" and the album below, but I still might give a slight nod to the latter. Some might believe that because I have somewhat of a personal relationship with the artists behind the "Good Morning Vietnam" series to be a warning signal of bias. Trust me when I say that that couldn't be further from the truth; in fact it was when I first reviewed the original first volume of the album and put it as the #1 album of 2012 (I think it was) that we really started building. And in my honest opinion with each succesful installment they have only became better and more refined. After placing "GMV II - The Golden Triangle" as the best album of its year I was a bit afraid, to be totally honest, that I wouldn't like the third volume as much and have to give it a much weaker review. Because trust me, that's exactly what I would have done if that's what I felt - I'm a blogger, but I take this as serious as cancer. Besdie that I felt that the two volumes that already existed formed such an extremely dope album together (clocking in at around 60 minutes together) that was about as close to perfection you will ever get these days in hip-hop (hence the rare 5/5 rating). I was simply worried, despite knowing what Drasar and MF Grimm was capable of to say the least, that a weaker volume would mean they be started to repeating themeselves. I mean 100+ minutes by one MC, one Producer, and with one concept could get pretty repetitive in the wrong hands. But these were minor concerns, more than anything I was just HYPED!

And worry I sure as hell shouldn't have done. In fact "GMV III - The Phoenix Program" is even better than its two predecessesors while it's clearly also a continuation. To me it feels that what begun on "Good Morning Vietnam" (the track and the EP) has truly come full circle on "The Phoenix Program". Everything is more refined, Drasar has transformed into one of the deadliest secret weapons around armed with an MPC and a record collection, and MF Grimm's verses are now so truly focused on the Vietnam theme and playing around it in a meaningful way that it's just unbeliveable. It's like "Good Morning Vietnam" on steroids. Once again digital and CD buyers gets the 45 minutes long album as two 22 minutes long files - split exactly like the vinyl sides. That right there is a statement of taking it back to forcing the listener to listen to an entire album front to back, and it also puts as much pressure on the artists to be sure to be interesting for that entire time.

Drasar and Grimm does just that - MF Grimm's wordplay and thematic structures are some of his best yet, and he touches on it all; from the political angle (big up for the diss to Henry "snake in the grass" Kissinger), the soldiers in the trenches, the conspiracy "theories", and some really deep stuff like the Icex program (you can learn a lot from this record - look up words you don't know on Google, because they truly did their research on this) on the magnificent "Glaciers of Icex". Then you got Drasar, who according to Grimm is the best collaborator he has ever worked with, and it's easy to see why. Drasar has a totally unique way of producing music, forget about four minutes loops, no matter how dope - he truly produces like a DJ, it's almost like he's having MF Grimm rhyme over a super well thought out beat tape. Whatever you think of the album, one thing's for damn sure - you will not be bored for a second. New ideas and samples are constantly introduced, beats are switching up and then returning to its original form, bombs are dropping while turntable excellence by Drasar and Vendetta Vinyl artist DJ Fooderz takes form behind Grimm's calm but deadly delivery and well written verses takes us back to a time when hip-hop was played in the parks and wack MC's and wack DJ's would get booed of stage. An excellent closing to the "Good Morning Vietnam" saga, and I'm eager to see what these gentlemen wil be cooking up next when dealing with a new, fresh concept.

01. Souls Of Mischief + Adrian Younge - "There is Only Now"
Picking between Souls Of Mischief and Adrian Younge's "There is Only Now" and MF Grmm & Drasar's "The Phoenix Program" for the #1 spot was a tough ass choice, as they are two very different albums. But ultimately I think the Souls LP might have the slightest edge for me here. Souls Of Mischief's debut album "'93 Til' Infinity" will always be remembered as one of the best hip-hop projects of all tme, and the LP that set off the Hieroglyphics movement. Unfortunately, if you ask me, the quartet (consisting of A-Plus, Phesto, Opio, and Tajai) have never managed to reach that high height again (despite a lot of ill tracks and sick Hiero albums. In 2009 they hooked up with Prince Paul for "Montezuma's Revenge", which in fact is a very underrated album - still it was far from an album of the year in 2009.

Then you got the young music composer, multi-instramentalist and proudcer Adrian Younge, a lover of Soul Music and Hip Hop who first rose to prominence through the soundtrack to the hilarious Blaxplotation parody flick "Black Dynamite" (if you haven't seen that gem yet, do so ASAP). This was followed by a brilliant album inspired by Italian Soul / R&B soundtracks created by Younge with his live band Venice Dawn, "Something About April". This was released on Wax Poetics, and led to the two albums that really cemented Younge's name on the urban map. First and foremost, he single handledy brought back William Hart and The Delphonics for one of the greatest Soul albums of the 21st century, which was then followed by a concept album with Ghostface Killah called "12 Reasons to Die". Come to think about it, "12 Reasons..." actually made the top spot on last years list. And both albums definitely have a lot of things in common, but if I was gonna make a choice between the best of the two I would actually give the nod to the Souls LP. I feel that Younge has now truly mastered his craft, and while I love the storytelling of Ghost's album, the concept of "There is Only Now" is even more well rounded.

If the album was created in the same way as the Ghost album, Adrian Younge came up with a basic story for the emcees to work around and develop. On it's most basic level it's a kidnap story but there's more than first meet the ears, and this is definitely an album that you'll have to listen to several times in a focused mindstate before you get the full grasp of it. Once the album kicks off with the smooth jazzy funk of "Time Stopped", the four Souls are out cruising the town together when they suddenly find themeselves in the middle of a shootout. On the other side of the barrell is Womack, brilliantly portrayed by Busta Rhymes, who reminds us why he once used to be considered a truly great emcee on an interpretation of the "Scenario" beat ("Womack's Lament"). In the "Panic" that ensues A-Plus, Opio, and Phesto reflects in a panic state about the situation while also confirming that they are OK. However they now realize that Tajai has been kidnapped. All this is taking place over an absolutely brilliant Younge composition filled with flutes, Rhodes, tight drums and a heavy bassline that truly brings back memories of classic '90s albums like "Midnight Mauraders" and "'93 Til' Infinity". In fact the story takes place in 1994, something I didn't even realize for the first several listens, which is the reason for making the album sound like a lost classic hip-hop album from that year - something it actually succeeds in. Before the albums release Younge said that this project is made for people who love and miss the classic music of artists like De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest and the Hiero crew. Suprisingly Younge and Souls succeeds without coming off as pretentious, nostalgic or simply repeating past glories.

"There Is Only Now" manages to both sound like the classic '90s East Coast boom bap and come of as fresh and innovative. There is several reasons for this - the music on here is extremely well crafted and gorgeously played. Younge and his band is of course playing all instruments live here, but running it through samplers, chopping it up and producing it in a vintage hip-hop fashion that truly gives it a unique sound. Not knowing that this was all live instruments, one might even quite easily be under the impression that the album is produced using a sampler and a library of dusty 12" vinyl of rare jazz and funk. Electric bass, thick drums, various horns and the beloved Fender Rhodes piano are main staples in the production of the 19 cuts found here. The CD comes packaged as a double disc that also includes all instrumentals, and the instrumentals has also been released on wax and tape. This is a great thing as the album actually works really well as a front-to-back listen in both its vocal and instrumental version (of course the vocal version is superior). A reason that Younge has managed to capture a form of that classic Native Tongues sound is the contribution of Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest. While he's not directly credited as co-producer or instrumentalist for more than a couple, three songs the legendary DJ and producer influence and presence can be felt throughout (musically speaking, although he is also playing a fictionalized role of himself narrating the album through radio intermissions). In fact Linear Labs Records also made a 5 track EP of selected stand out tracks from the album that's been remixed and revamped by Muhammad. It's an interesting take on the material that I also strongly recommend my readers to seek out.

Another important reason to Souls Of Mischief's fifth studio album being their greatest since their debut is the freshness of the lyrics and their driving home of the concept. It's like the combination of Younge's music with the clever storyline really bringing the best out of A-Plus, Opio, Phesto and Tajai. Seriously, I've always known these dudes were good on the mic, but throughout this LP I was constantly blown away by their wordplay, cleverly written rhymes and their chemistry together. This also includes the guests Busta Rhymes, Scarub, Snoop Dogg, The Delphonics / William Hart and Ali Shaheed Muhammad, who all help make Souls and Younge in creating one of the most cinematic albums you can imagine and the best project released in 2014. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

[Limited Edition] DJ CRUCIAL - "Retro Active"

DJ Crucial is a name well known to some of us hip-hop junkies that love reading those linear notes, you'll recognize the names from his production work on great tracks by MF Grimm, Jia Davis, Juice, Hi-Fidel, Black Spade, Count Bass D, and many more. My personal favorite is the exclusive 12" version of "The Gingerbread Man" that he made for MF Grimm back in 2005. 

Now the small label Trash Flow and F5 Records is releasing a very limited run of 200 double copies of an exclusive DJ Crucial tape, featuring vocal tracks on cassette one (black) and instrumentals on the second (white). "Retro Active" features a host of absolutely amazing artists and hip hop legends, all going in over DJ Crucial bangers, all previously unreleased and recorded between 1993 and 2014. How about MF Grimm, Large Professor, Capo, Sadat X, Black Spade, EDO G, Grand Puba, Jia Davis and many more. I would absolutely love to hear it, I really hope they drop it on wax or CD as I can't even play cassettes anymore and looking at the tracklist and hearing the first single it's easy to tell that THIS NEEDS TO BE HEARD! Cop the album and read more here - DJ Crucial's "Retro Active" page @ TrashFlow.

Side A
01. Alps Cru - "No Question" [SP Remix]
02. MF Grimm Ft. Large Professor - "United" [SP Remix]
03. Casual - "Essence Of Freshness"
04. Capo Ft. Jia Davis & Sadat X - "Struggle"
05. EDO G Ft. J. Davis - "Firepower"
06. Tha Grim Teachaz - "I Getz Summer" ['93 Remix]
07. Black Spade - "Sweetest Revenge"

Side B
08. Alps Cru - "Too Steep"
09. Count Bass D Ft. Black Spade - "Move Blocks"
10. MF Grimm - "Streets" [Ruff Demo Mix]
11.  Grand Puba Ft. Sadat X - "Top Shelf" [1200 Mix]
12. Jia Davis Ft. Gotta Be Karim - "The Suffer"
13. Deep Six - "Verb Burglar" [Lost 4 Track Tape Mix]