Saturday, 24 January 2015

Hip Hop and Breakz on Crackers Radio Every Sunday

Starting on Sunday the 25th of January at 10pm until midnight, I will be playing a new show on Crackers Radio playing Classic 80s and 90s Hip Hop along with a wide variety of breaks that inspired the Hip Hop tunes.  You can listen live on the Crackers website or stream it from their Mixcloud site.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

The Four Owls - Think Twice Produced by DJ Premier

This is a great track by some serious UK MCs produced by DJ Premier.  The beat is sick and of course thats very important but the lyricists are dope too.  Plus you can pick this up for less than a big bottle of Bulmers.  Seriously though this is dope and so are the other track from their upcoming album; Silent Flight and Old Earth.  The album drops on February 12th and is called Natural Order.  You can get all the currently available joints from the groups Band Camp page here  The group is made up Verb T, Fliptrix, Leaf Dog and BVA MC.  Verb T should be a known name to Uk heads for the dope work he has done with Harry Love in the past but the others are new to me but certainly worth keep an eye.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Run the Jewels Live in London

Here is some footage from the recent Run the Jewels concert at KoKo's in Camden in London.  As you can see they put on a great show and certainly had the crowd under control.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

PRhyme (DJ Premier and Royce Da 59) - PRhyme album review

Ever since Premier and Royce teamed up for the classic 12" "Boom" fans have been clamouring for more collaborations from these two Hip Hop generals.  There have been a few joints paring these two up since "Boom" and they have been great tunes for the most part.  Now ten years after the release of that 12" we have an album from Primo and Royce, nine tracks all produced by DJ Premier.  There are some guests appearances from Common, Jay Electronica, Ab Soul, Mac Miller, Dwele, Killer Mike, Schoolboy Q and Slaughterhouse.  Although the album is entirely produced by DJ Premier he uses samples of live instruments and those live instruments are played by Adrian Younge, who you might remember produced "12 Reasons to die" album for Ghostface back in 2013.  The album is released on DJ Premier and Royce's own label PRhyme Records.  Not only is PRhyme the name of the label its also the name of the group that Premier and Royce make up.
Track one is called "PRhyme" and clocks in at just under four minutes.  Its a slow track for Premier similar to Nas's "Second Childhood" rather than Premier's usual up tempo tracks.  The beat features a crisp set of drums and a nice cymbal.  There is a good baseline and a nice organ riff that comes in from time to time along what sounds like a harpsichord and pan pipes.  Royce is a very skilled wordsmith and he shows this throughout the track dropping metaphors and allegories throughout.  One of my favourite lines from Royce on this track is "I lost a whole bunch of money chasing bitches but I never lost a bitch chasing money".  Royce varies his speed throughout the track at times going slow and avoiding his quick rapid fire style.
"Dat Sound Good" is the second track on the album and the first to feature a couple of guest emcees; Ab Soul and Mac Miller.  The beat is more of the traditional Premier style with an up tempo rhythm and some dope samples.  A nice organ sample and a guitar riff make up the track and of course Premier slices them up nicely (good luck tracing those samples down).  Royce drops the first verse with aplomb with Ab Soul taking the over for the second and Mac Miller doing the final verse.  Of course Premier provides some lovely scratches for the chorus.  A very enjoyable track with a nice beat and decent verse from all three emcees.
Track three is kinda short but damn its good.  Its called "U Looz" and clocks in at just under 2 minutes (although they have a video for it, see above so maybe it will get an extended release as a 12").  It features an upbeat tempo with a heavy electric guitar sample, a tight snare and some dope scratching.  Royce comes hard with his lyrics and even addresses the fact that some people have been saying he is there to replace GURU.  Royce has some more great lines for example "I called my bullets The Expendables, because its hard to believe I can fit all of them boys in one clip".  A very good track with only one complaint about it, I wish it was longer.
Track four is called "You should know" and features the Detroit soul singer and song writer Dwele.  Its a more mellow track switching between a nice guitar sample and some lovely horns.  Royce again shows why he is considered a great Braggadocio emcee with lines like "Thats when I tell 'em like Kobe to Shaq You Lazy" and "I'm more Primo than my own DJ".  Dwele drops a nice lil' hook for the chorus which actually works for the song.  Of course DJ Premier scratches up some nice samples in between verse and at the beginning and end of the track.  Premier produces with instrumentation from Adrian Younge.
Track five is called "Courtesy" and it is a mid tempo joint with a nice 808 drum break and an organ sample.  These create a sparse stripped down joint for Royce to spit over.  He truly lets his complex rhymes flow on this joint with numerous metaphors that take some rewinding before you get his meaning.  This is the sort of rhyming you will never heard on a commercial joint quite simply because the record labels do not know how to market it, they think the majority of consumers won't understand the intricacies of it.
Track six is an interesting joint called "Wishin'" and it features Common.  The beat is slightly slower but features a fantastic guitar solo sample or at least it does for the introduction.  Once the intro is out of the way the track speeds up and alters the way it uses for the guitar solo sample from the intro.  It repeats this for the second verse which is from Common; slow intro then full speed ahead for the the rest of the verse.,  Its an interesting approach that shows Premier is still up for experimenting with his music and more importantly it works.   I enjoyed this track a lot although it could have benefitted from more than one verse from Common especially was his rhymes were only on the slower part of the beat.
Track seven is called "To me, To you" and features Jay Electronica.  Premier supplies a slower than usual beat featuring a dope guitar loop and some xylophones (I think).   Royce drops the first two verses and sound hungry.  Jay Electronica drops the third verse and he sounds good although a reference to Pharaohe at the start of the verse seems a little puzzling.  Its a decent enough track although nothing really groundbreaking.
"Underground Kings" is the albums eighth track and features Schoolboy Q and Killer Mike.  Premier drops a nice tight upbeat track with lovely snares, guitar sample and really nice scratches.  This doesn't sound like a regular Premier beat (not that I have a problem with Premier beats) its something different in a very good way.  Royce drops the first verse with Schoolboy Q doing the second and both of them represent nicely.  However as has been the case for a couple of years now Killer Mike owns the track like so many others he guested on.  Mike sounds hungry over this up tempo military sounding beat, spitting real fire.  Great track, one of my favourite on the album.
The last track on this album is called "Microphone Preem" and features Slaughterhouse which in this case is King Crooked, Royce, Joell Ortizz and Joe Budden.  The beat is raw and faster than most of the album with loud crisp drums and a nice organ loop.  All four emcees are spitting fire but off their performance Royce is still the strongest lyricist in the group.
This is a strong album that I enjoyed.  Royce is easily a top level emcee who can craft a good battle rhyme with the best of them.  Premier try something different on a number of the track here and it works.  He has clearly stepped away from that tried and tested formula although I would have still liked to hear a couple more of those tracks on here.  However I did enjoy every track on here but some where better than the others in my opinion.  In particular; "U Looz", "Underground Kings", "PRhyme" and "Dat Sound Good" are the stand out tracks for me.  However I do feel like this is a collection of very good tracks rather than a cohesive album. Maybe that is caused by the lack of interludes.  What I mean by this is albums like "Daily Operation", "The Sun Rises in the East", "Livin Proof" and a couple of the M.O.P. album sounded like albums crafted by Premier for the artists.  whereas this sounds like a collection of very good tracks.  If Premier and Royce will be working together again as a group I expect that this relationship will soon lead to a classic album.  This isn't a classic but it is easily in my top five albums of 2014.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Ghostface Killah - 36 Seasons Album Review

After the relatively disappointing Wu Tang album it was comforting to see that Ghostface was releasing his 11th (Damn) studio album on December the 9th.  This is a concept album based around Tony Starks' return to Staten Island after nine years away from the Island,  he is after a quiet life but of course that would not make for a good album.  The album itself is fourteen tracks long and released on Tommy Boy.  Production is supplied by a number on non Wu producers and features guest spots form AZ, Kool G Rap and Pharoahe Monch amongst others.  This album follows on from his 2013 concept albums "12 reasons to die" which was a strong original album that deserved numerous listens.
The first track is called "The Battlefield" and is produced by MOP's Fizzy Womack and the Revelations.  Kool G Rap, AZ and Tre Williams all join Ghostface on the Mic for a heavy track.  It features a mid tempo drum break and a nice electric guitar loop.  Tre Williams adds some dope singing to the track for the chorus.  Ghost drops the first verse with the Godfather G Rap taking on the second verse and AZ taking the third.  The rhymes are crime stories spoken with depth and complexity.  Out of all three emcees on the track AZ come with the dopest rhymes and when his fellow emcees are Ghost and G Rap thats a mighty task.
Track two is "Love don't live here no more" and has Ghostface telling us the tale of Tony Stark's return to his girlfriend after missing for nine years.  Kandace Springs provides a soulful reply to Ghost's rhymes telling him of her loneliness during his absence.  The beat is a nice mid tempo track produced by Malik Abdul Raahman and the Revelations.  It features a piano loop over some stripped down drums.  Below you can see the great video for it starring Michael K Williams from Boardwalk Empire and The Wire.
Track three is "Here I go again" and features AZ and Rell.  The beat is sweet with a very nice piano loop reminiscent of Infamous era Mobb Deep only not as dark.  Ghostface drops the first verse with Rell providing some nice mellow singing for the chorus. before AZ comes back in welcoming Starks back to the neighbourhood.  I usually don't like singing on Hip-Hop joint however Ghostface's understanding of when singing will add to the track and not detract from it is always on point and this track is another example of this.
Track four is "Loyalty" and is produced by The Revelations.  Its a somewhat short track with only two verses; the first is handled Kool G Rap and the second by Nems (no Ghost on this one). The beat features a sparse piano sample and a soft Spanish guitar loop, it switches between each of these samples throughout the track.  It could have been a bit longer and had a verse from Ghost on it but other than that its a dope little track.
The fifth track is called "It's a thin line between Love and Hate" and features the soulful tones of The Revelations who also produce the track.  This is a straight up soul track that could have been from the likes of William Bell or Bobby "Blue" Bland and come out in the mid seventies.  Its not a Hip-Hop track but its a damn fine track.
"The Dogs of War" is the sixth track on the album and once again features Ghostface Killah and Shawn Wigs.  It features a fierce bass guitar riff, some muted snares and xylophone stabs.  All three emcees rap about the dangers of dealing on their block.  Ghost and Kool G Rap come hard with their rhymes and Shawn Wigs handles the ad libs for the chorus.  It has a strange but interesting outro, all in all a dope track.
Track seven is a banger featuring Phroahe Monch called "Emergency Procedure" and produced by The Revelations.  Its incredibly funky with bongos, horns,  70's Wah Wah guitars and some heavy lyrics from two of Hip-Hop's best.  Ghost drops the first verse with Monch taking the second before Ghost comes back in again to finish things off.  One of my favourite tracks on the album.
The eighth track of the album is call;ed "Double cross" and features AZ with the Revelation behind the boards.  Ghosta handles the first two verse with AZ dropping the third one.  The beat is mid tempo with some crisp snares and a heavy bass riff.  It works well for both rappers who spin intricate storytelling rhymes over the dark beat.
Track nine is more of a soulful interlude featuring the second appearance of Kandace Springs on this album.  It is a very short track called "Bamboo's Lament" and it works well as a bridge between two tracks on the album.
AZ comes back for another spot on the album's tenth track, "Pieces of the Puzzle".  A dope track with a simple cymbal based beat with and organ sample or two.  Ghost drops the first verse continuing the story of Tony's return and his relationship with Bamboo who it is clear is the partner of AZ's character in this story.  The beat is very nice on this track and the variety of organ loops keeps it fresh throughout.
The eleventh track is called "Homicide" and features Shawn Wigs and Nems rhyming about how they will take their revenge on Tony Starks.  Shawn Wigs takes the first verse with Ghost taking the second.  After the second verse the beat changes up for a few bars before returning to the original beat for the remainder.  Nems handles the ad libs for the chorus.  The beat itself is hard with some super crisp snares.  It is produced by Malik Abdul Raahman and the Revelations.
The album's twelfth track is produced by the 45 King and the Revelations.  Its an up beat track with Ghost being chased by AZ who is out for his blood.  There are some sick horns and a nice little guitar sample.  The track is fast and it works well as a chase narration.  Its a nice use of an up tempo beat to create hectic fast paced imagery.
"Call my name" is the album's penultimate track and only Ghost has the mic for this one.  He pledges his allegiance to his people telling them to call his name when they need him and that he is NY's top contender and city defender.  The beat is again produced by the Revelation and is a nice straight up grimy beat with a dusty piano loop.
For the album's finale we are treated to an instrumental track that could have easily been released on Stax in the mid seventies.  Its mellow and it works.  Once again The Revelation provide the music and although short its a perfect ending to this album's tale of return and retribution.
In a recent interview Ghostface said this album took him eleven days.  he said he was given direction and a rough outline of the story before he worked with the other emcees and musicians to produce this musical story.  As a concept album is is very strong providing narration and character development throughout. The emcee's and singers provide a strong cast and in particular AZ and Kool G Rap play their supporting roles well.  However it is Ghostface who is the main attraction here, as he always is on his albums despite often having very strong guests.  However if we take away the idea of the concept album this is another strong Ghostface Killah album that works on a number of levels; musically and lyrically.  If you can only pick up one Wu Tang album this year it should be this, without a doubt.  Tony Starks is back although to be honest he never went away.