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.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Wu Tang Clan - A better tomorrow album review

In late 1993 The Wu-Tang Clan unleashed their debut 12", "Protect Ya Neck" Bw "Method Man" on an unsuspecting Hip-Hop world and with the help of Nas brought back hardcore Hip Hop to New York after its long hiatus on the West Coast.  From there the Wu Tang Clan went onto own the 90s as far as Hip Hop was concerned with two group albums (One of them a double and it really was a double, not a single with a shitload of filler), more than fourteen solo albums, countless guest spots, soundtrack appearances and also side projects like Gravediggaz and The Redman and Method Man collaboration Blackout.  It is easy to forget how powerful the Wu-Tang Clan were in the nineties; artists never game themselves Mafioso pseudonyms until the Wu Tang came along, everyone was scrabbling to get a guest spot from anyone even closely associated to the Wu-Tang, they were independent before it was cool to be independent and that dusty distorted production was frowned upon until it was Rza behind the boards 
Then came the noughties and thing slowed down with only Ghostface consistently releasing strong projects.  Meth was off acting and Rza was more concerned with scoring films than producing Wu-Bangas.  When albums did drop they didn't have enough Rza production and too many tracks produced by Rza's acolytes and non Clan guest spots.  Yes one or two of them still went gold and even platinum in the case of The W.  However by the time we got to 8 Diagrams they weren't even going gold.  Compare this to Wu-Tang Forever which went 8XPlatinum.  I understand that sales is not an indication of a good album but it is an indication of however interested the fanbase is in the group.  As the late noughties arrived so did a resurgence in the Wu-Tang lead by Ghostface and Raekwon.  Ghost had not stopped releasing interesting projects all along using outside production from the likes of MF Doom, Jay-Dee, No ID, K-Def, Nottz, Just Blaze, Pete Rock, Adrian Younge,m Scram Jones and Jake One amongst others to ensure his sound stayed fresh and relevant.  Raekwon came back with a nice dose of nostalgia that took quite some time to deliuver but was awesome when it did drop, Only Built for Cuban Linx part 2.  That was swiftly followed up by Wu-Massacre which had Method Man joining Rae and Ghost, which was a very dope album.
Soon after this talk began of a new Wu-Tang Clan album.  There were disputes and arguments along the way but it appears they have been laid to rest and the group has managed to produce a full album (I'm not going to discuss the other ridiculously priced one of a kind album).  So this is my review of that album.  I will go over each song individually, all fifteen of them.
The album starts off with "Ruckus in B Minor" which is produced by The Rza and Rick Rubin and comes in at five minutes and twenty five second.  It begins with a Raekwon samples followed by and ODB sample telling us that we're "Going to love this".  This is a great track featuring all nine members and although its not a "Triumph" or "Protect Ya Neck" it is a step in the right direction.  It has a hard hitting beat that changes tempo a number of times throughout.  It has Rza's fingerprints all over it but some of the hard guitar and cymbals sound like Rubin's ideas.   There are some lovely strings and scratches throughout that add character to the track.  Meth throws in some nice ad libs and once again sounds like he did before he changed his style back when he did that Riddler track.  However lyrically all of the Clan sound hungry on this one, even Rae and Gza who have the parts of the song where the beat slows down.  But it still works despite the complexity of the music and the different styles of the lyricists.
The second track is called "Felt" and is almost the exact opposite of the first.  It starts off with a terrible Rza monologue over a double time beat.  there is a nice guitar sample that may it may have been possible to turn into a good track but this isn't it.  Rather than allow the lyricists to shine someone (namely The Rza) asked some low rent lyricists to get on board as if things weren't bad enough.  Skip this track.
The third track is called "40th Street Black / We Fight" and is an interesting upbeat track produced by Mathematics with The Rza taking a co production credit.  The beat sounds like it was made on an old dusty 808 and is totally stripped down with a nice vocal sample.  The track features INS, Deck, Meth, Gza, Cappadonna, someone who's name I cant place and The Rza all rapping with their foot on the accelerator.  It works and it sounds like it was made in a basement on a very tight budget and because of that it works.
Track four is "Mistaken Identity" which starts off with some anonymous crooner singing about going home.  Fortunately the singing dies and the end of the introduction and a nice off kilter piano sample comes in over some crisp snares. The lyricists spin tales of Mistaken Identity and the consequences.  Good old fashioned Wu storytelling.  Theres also a nice bass guitar sample in there somewhere that works well along with the occasional cymbal. This is a decent track not a major banga' but an album track off one of the better solo Wu albums.
As we reach the end of the first third of the album we get to "Hold the Heater" a mid tempo track with a shouty chorus.  The beat features a nice guitar loop that is somewhat under utilised and by that I mean its a good loop but would sound better on a Mobb Deep track rather than this one.  Meth continues to have somewhat of a renaissance returning to his older style that he used on the original 36 Chambers and Tical. 
The sixth track is a short one called "Crushed Egos" but its a real nice one featuring Raekwon over an ominous beat that could have easily been on one of his more successful solo joints.  In fact he is the only one rapping on this two and half minute track apart from The Rza who drops the third verse.  I like this mid tempo track that appears to be some sort of reconciliation to show Rae and Rza are in fact friends, perhaps the titles alludes to this.  Its a good track albeit kinda short but it works.  It's produced by The Rza and Adrian Younge who produced that Ghostface album last year, "12 reasons to die".  It has some nice tight snares and a good strings sample that sounds like it may have been lifted from a Western soundtrack.  This is a good but short track that I enjoyed.
The seventh track is called "Keep Watch" and is reminiscent of classic Wu joint; a off key piano loop, with some nice crisp drums and a haunting soul vocal sample.  Meth kicks of the track continuing his trend of traditional Meth rhymes.  As Meth finishes the first verse the song suddenly goes from being a possible banga to a disappointment with the inclusion of some rubbish soul singing for the chorus provided by Nathaniel.  It adds absolutely nothing to the song and only detracts from being a good Hip Hop track into a sad play for radio air time which it will not get because of the rhymes.  Deck, Gza and some other members of the Wu rhyme but they are overshadowed by the wack singing. Mathematics produces this one. Underwhelming at best.
At just past the half way mark of this album things are not looking good and the eighth track "Miracle" only send the album further into a dismal abyss of mediocrity. It starts off with some second rate JoJo or K-Ci telling us that we need a miracle via the medium of poorly sung lyrics.  Then the beat starts and its a decent orchestral beat with strings and cymbals.  Lyrically it works as various members of the Wu tell tales of street life in their own style.  However the JoJo rip off from the intro returns in between each verse reminding us of the poor choices made by the songs producer or even the group as a whole.  The producer by the way is that serial offender of Wu mediocrity, 4th Disciple with a Rza co production credit.
Up until this point the album was at it's worst mediocre but with track nine the album goes beyond that into cheap, offensive rip offs.  Track nine is called "Preacher's daughter" and it rips off the Dusty Springfield classic, "Son of a Preacher man" completely.  It really makes no difference how good the lyricists are on this track because the track itself is terrible.  The Rza takes full responsibility for this aberration.  If you were to take the rhymes out and drop them over a nice Doom beat or some Pete Rock track it would be fine probably even good but the underlying beat detracts from the skilled emcees.  It has a guitar sample with some horns directly replayed following the style of the original.  As if the poor use of sampling wasn't bad enough they have decided to have members of the Wu singing a terrible chorus.  Avoid at all costs.
Track ten is called "Pioneer the Frontier" and is produced by The Rza.  It starts off with some nice marches drums and a nice horns sample with cuts from various Wu joints over the year.  Rza starts off with some softly spoken rhymes with some simple but nice scratches in the background.  The horns sample is reminiscent of a Godzilla sound track sample.  INS and Deck follow The Rza on the mic.  All round the track sounds ominous and suspicious due mainly to the horns sample and the various Wu samples in the background.  Its a nice Wu track, not a major attention grabber but a good album track which has some nice ODB sample scratches towards the end of it.  One of the better tracks on the album.
Track eleven is called "Necklace" and is produced by 4th Disciple.  A slow track with a dark double bass sample with what sounds like a g├╝iro loop (one of those pieces of wood with notches on it that you run a stick along to create a ratchet like sound) dropping in sporadically.  Its a dark track with Cappadonna, Raekwon, Ghostface and Gza dropping dark rhymes over a track inter cut with a vocal sample saying "Brother I think that necklace is causing you trouble" that sounds like it was taken from a James Cagney gangster movie.  I really like this track its dark and gritty with a nice use of samples and loops by 4Th Disciple.
"Ron O'Neal" is the 12th track on a "A Better Tomorrow" and again is entirely produced by The Rza. The beat has a nice bass sample over what sounds like live drums.  Meth starts things off with a nice verse and is followed quickly by Deck who also shows he still has skills.  But then the hook comes in and yes its another wack soul singer crooning again before Ghostface grabs the mic.  One more chance to hear the boring hook before The Rza grabs the mic.  A fairly decent track ruined by another weak hook sung by some soul singer.  Do they think that putting a singer on it will get them radio play?  I really don't see how putting that soul singer on track helps either them or the singer.
"A Better Tomorrow" is the thirteenth track of the album and it is The Rza behind the boards again.  The beat is faster than most of the album and is uplifting featuring a nice piano loop and some lovely strings.  Lyrically the emcees are in a brighter place than the rest of the album.  Yes there is singing on this joint but it adds to the track and does not detract from it like the previous tracks on the album. I like this track.  I'm not sure who the male vocalist is but the female is Tekhitha who has been on a number of Wu tracks over the years.  Its a nice uplifting track with some decent singing for the hook.
The penultimate track of this album is another one produced by The Rza called "Never let go".  Again the drums on this sound live rather than sampled, not a bad thing as they work well with the horns samples.  All emcees resent nicely although Rza's verse sounded somewhat unenthusiastic as if it was being read rather than rhymed.  Again there is some singing for the hook, its not that bad is probably the best I can say about it but it would put me off listening to it again.
Onto the final track of the album, "Wu Tang reunion" which is produced by The Rza.  Its an upbeat joint with a fun xylophone sample and some nice 808 drums.  Again they insist on someone singing the chorus but this time it practically takes over the whole track leaving only space for three verses.  The track had promise and being called "Wu Tang Reunion" gave me hope it was going to be another nine emcee bang instead we get three of them and a whole lot of singing.
I had such high hopes for this album, I honestly thought that having The Rza back behind the boards would solve a lot of the issues their previous group albums had.  I was wrong the worst tracks on this album had The Rza's name down as producer.  Lyrically They all still showed considerable skills, although at times some of them seemed a little disinterested.  However what was so damming about this was the unnecessary singing and that terrible track "Preacher's daughter".  The inclusion of weak sung choruses add absolutely nothing to the album and only served to put me off listening to it again. Out of the fifteen tracks on the album I only gave six of them four or more stars and only one of them got a five.  Ultimately disappointing, in fact it doesn't even come close to my least favourite  Ghostface solo album.  In fact theres a new Ghostface album I will be reviewing a next and I'd almost bet money that will be a better album.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Deep Fried on Crackers


Every Thursday DJ Paulo and DJ Scott (me) will be playing classic Funk, Soul and Jazz breaks from 19:00GMT to 22:00 on Crackers Radio.  Tune in for some funky tunes and soulful grooves.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

El-P and Killer Mike - Run the Jewels 2


El-P and Killer Mike are back with another dose of unapologetic hardcore underground hip-hop following on from their first Run the Jewels album which was released in June 2013.  The duo first worked together on Killer Mike's critically acclaimed "R.A.P. Music" album which was entirely produced by El-P in 2012.  Later that year Killer Mike appeared on the track "Tougher, Colder Killer" on El-P's "Cancer 4 Cure" album before working on the first Run the Jewels album.  The first one was given away free as a download with a number of exclusive packages available for various different price ranges including all sorts of extras like t-shirts and signed posters.  The album itself was a perfect combination of El-P and Mike's complex though provoking rhymes over El-P's beautifully chaotic soundscapes.  Easily one of the best albums from recent years; original, creative and intelligent.  Thankfully they are not content to sit on their laurels and after touring the first album hard they managed to create a second volume before going back in the road.  The album is again a free download with a number of exclusive packages available and this time is being released on Mass Appeal Records.  they have also announced a remix of "Run the Jewels 2" which will be released on Fool's Gold Records in 2015.  They will also work on another remix project using entirely sounds recorded from cats, this one will be called "Meow the Jewels" which will feature production from Just Blaze, The Alchemist and Prince Paul with all proceeds going to charity.
The album is eleven track longs with no intermissions and a few guest spots.  
The first track in the album is called "Jeopardy" and starts off with a vocal samples telling the listener that "I'm gonna bang this bitch the fuck out" and thats a pretty good description of the track.  It starts off with a heavy bass line behind Mike's intricate rhymes as he tells us "The Jewels Runners, the top tag team for two summers".  He goes on to show us how deep he can get when he makes the following comparison of his style "The passion of Pac, the depth of Nas, Circa '93, Mix the mind of Brad Jordan and Chuck D and find me, I spit with the diction of Malcolm or say Bun-B"  The track evolves throughout reaching a crescendo by the time Mike hands the mic over to El-P who is also spittin' rhymes with an abrasive edge "Motherfuck your permission, it was never yours to begin with, and every bar of the bitch shit you spit is your prison, I've been here makin' raw shit and never asked to be lauded, Run the Jewels id the answer, your question "Whats Poppin?""  The second track on the album is the first single and is called "Oh my darling don't cry" which features another incredibly heavy bass line that would not be out of place on a Grime track.  The speed of the rhyme delivery is faster on this track and the looped vocal sample used throughout gives it an interesting twist however halfway through the track the beat suddenly takes it's insanity to another levels completely before calming back down for the fade out.
Blockbuster night part 1 is the third track on the album and Mike kicks this one off to another killer El-P beat.  Each emcee drops shorter verses on this one trading the mic back and forth over a marching beat.  Mike takes the trophy for the dopest verse with the following gem "This Run the Jewels is murder, mayhem, melodic music, Psychotics use it then lose it, Junkies simply abuse it, thats word to Philip Seymor Hoffman, I'm pushin coffin, I probably smell like a pound when they put me in a coffin."
Zach De La Rocha joins Mike and El-P for the fourth track on the album, "Close your eyes".  A beat made up of a vocal loop, a strong drum and some distorted electrical sample.  Mike drops the first verse, El-P the second and Zach comes on for the finale.  Track five is "All my Life" and it a has a slower beat then most of the album up to this point.  Lyrically though neither emcee drops off, they keep on coming with the fast paced deep lyrics.
"Lie, Cheat, Steal" is the album's sixth joint and on this track El-P's production could album be called Grime if it weren't for the guitar samples during the chorus.  However this is not a bad thing the track is deep and almost forces your to nod your head.  El-P drops the first verse with aplomb and Mike comes in with a fast paced aggressive style that works well.   "Early" is the 7th track on the album and features a guest appearance from Boots (rapper, singer, producer & musician who has worked with Beyonce).  Boots drops the haunting vocals used in place of a chorus.  Mike and El-P drops some more thought provoking lyrics touching on Police brutality and everyday struggle in modern society.  A goos track with the nice addition of Boots' vocals.
Travis Barker joins the duo for the 8th track on the album, "All Due Respect".  Travis brings some lovely percussion skills to the track providing crisp tight drums and some nice cowbells (more cowbells).  Mike and El-P drops some deep lyrics with each emcee taking a verse then combining on some EPMD shit for the last verse.  Dope track with Travis providing some heavy drums for the duo to spit over.
"Love Again" at first appears to be a typical sex laced rap track with the usual misogynist rhymes that we're used to from rappers these days and yes there is that element to it along with the lewd chorus.  However Gangsta Boo jumps on board for the final verse and gives us the view of things from the female player.  The beat is sick and sounds like El-P in Cannibal Ox mode which of course is a good thing.
 The album's penultimate track is "Crown" featuring Diane Coffee.  A more mellow joint musically with a slower tempo although the lyrics still come hard, with thought provoking rhymes covering subjects like religion, pregnancy, drug abuse, war and shame.  The album finishes on another classic El-P beat with Mike and El-P dropping paranoia tainted rhymes.  The beat is almost double time with some ominous organs providing the backdrop for their dark rhymes.
To summarise this is another classic album that sits nicely alongside their first album and their solo works.  I enjoyed this album immensely; the beats and the rhymes are different to anything else out there.  The tracks are original and the lyrics intelligent  providing deep social commentary.  And its free, what more could you ask for?  A European tour? Well thats happening right now and seeing this performed live is well worth the cost of the ticket price.  The thing I love most about this duo is not only their originality and their in depth lyrics but the fact that they originally come from two different arms of Hip-Hop (Indie NY and Down South Dirty) but their sounds work so perfectly together.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Are You Ready DJ MK & DJ GO Ft Super Dertie & Phaze What

DJ MK and DJ Go drop join up with Super Dertie & Phaze What from London's Piff Gang for this track from their upcoming album.  A dope slice of original UK Hip-Hop.  You can pre order this now from iTunes by clicking here.  Go grab this now and the album when it drops, I guarantee it will be dope.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

MF Doom and Bishop Nehru - NehruvianDOOM album review

The veteran and the rookie could easily be the subtitle for the album that brings together the legendary MF Doom and young MC Bishop Nehru.  Bishop Nehru first made contact with MF Doom when he opened for Doom and Ghostface at London's 100 club back in 2013.  They got on well and decided top work on an album together 
"Well it's titled NehruvianDOOM. It's DOOM producing the beats and I'm rapping over them, though he's going to be on some of the songs too. We don't have any outside features, it's just me and him."  
For those that don't know Bishop Nehru is a young rapper, born in 1996 who dropped a mixtape presented by Peter Rosenberg and DJ Semtex a couple of years ago before meeting Doom and working on this album.  
The album is nine tracks long (ten if you get the iTunes Special edition) and is released on Lex records.  Eight of the ten tracks are produced by MF Doom with one more being produced by Madvillian (Doom and Madlib) and Bishop Nehru produced the bonus iTunes track.
The album kicks of with a typical Doom intro; Crisp snares, 80s soul samples and strange vocal clips.  Pretty much the usual Doom album intro minus the Fantastic Four samples.
The first real track on the album is "Mean the most" which features a lovely synth sample probably taken from some dodgy 80's soul jam.  The beat is very nice indeed but equally nice is Bishop Nehru's dope lyrics paying homage to the lady in his life with skill and subtlety that rappers twice his age haven't mastered.  Doom sits this one out on the lyrically side of things but the beat could have easily come off Mmmm..Food.
The next joint is a more sublime track called "So Alone".  The beat is a more mellow beat than we're used to from Doom featuring some strings and a piano loop over a slowly drum sample.  Again Bishop shows us he is a skilled emcee discussing loneliness.  I wasn't originally sold on the sing song chorus but its growing on me.
Track four is "Coming for you" which is a more upbeat joint with a nice vocal loop alongside a cool xylophone sample that seem to speed up and slow down throughout the track.  In the track Bishop Nehru refers to himself as "The most underrated, underpaid but still most amazing teenager making music since the cavemen" and to be honest I would be hard pressed to think of a teenager making music now that is better than this.
Track five is "Darkness" another upbeat track with some sick horns and pan pipes throughout and some nice little scratches.  Lyrically Bishop reflects on the darkness of our world with aplomb giving us an insight into his life.
"Caskets' is the sixth track on this album and this time Doom grabs the mic for the first verse of this dope little gem.  The beat features a nice strings sample and some nice drums.  No need for a chorus just the odd nice movie sample.  Doom drops some nice metaphors as usual; "You messed up like O-Dog in Menace" and "Villain get paid laid back like Chacmool, enough to make Pac drool wherever he at".  Not to be outdone Bishop drops some gems on this joint too; "I'm Jordan in '96, sinking everything ands still playing for the chips" and "Life's like a big playbook of audibles, you never know the play until you toss a few, packing rappers in caskets your boy Nehru"
Track number seven is called "Great Things" and features an electro laden track with some nice cymbals too.  Doom again joins in on this joint although this time Nehru drops the first verse with Doom bringing the fire for the second verse.  Its an upbeat track and each emcee works well of the electro sample and the up tempo drums.
Track eight is called "Disastrous" and the production duties on this one are handled by both MF Doom and Madlib, collectively know as Madvillain.  The beat uses a light vocal sample along with some cymbals and strings sporadically.  Lyrically this is another track from the Doom and Bishop duo.  A great tarck that works on a number of levels.
Next up is the final track (or the penultimate track if you got the iTunes special edition version)"Om".  A fast paced track featuring both emcees with a nice chorus and a nice electro loop.  Both emcees spit fire on this fast paced track.
The bonus track on the album is called "They Bishy Bish" which is produced by Bishop Nehru.  The production is very different from the rest of the album and somehwta sparse to say the leats.  However the track works; a simple drum beat and what sounds like a Hammond organ sample.  Its laid back in its simplicity but this should not be seen as a detrimental comment, I like the track a lot and its a fitting ending to the album.  In summary this is a very strong album that showcases Bishop Nehru's considerable lyrical prowess.  The beats are fresh and should appeal to any decent  Hip-Hop fan, especially any fan of Doom.  The only bad thing about the album is its shortness but it only costs me £6 (Yes I paid for it and so should you).  A veyr strong album that will sit nicely next to Monsta Island Czars and Mmmm Food.   I look forward to hearing more from Bishop Nehru.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Lord Finesse @ The Jazz Cafe June 2014

Lord Finesse is one of those emcees that I had been waiting to see for a long time and recently he paid a visit to London with the 5th Platoon's Boogie Blind on the decks.  I made sure I had a ticket to this jam.  He did not disappoint at all; he played all the jams I hoped he would, the sound was good, Boogie Blind was great and they stayed on stage for almost two hours.
Finesse played all the classics and at one point showed he had considerable skills on the decks too. 
Not only did Finesse show a great deal of respect for the UK by putting on a great show but he stayed afterwards for signings and photos

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Crate Digging 6 - Haiku D'Etat - Los Dangerous 12"

I picked this joint up from Hiphopsite.com back in late 1997 when I was buying a lot of vinyl from this site because they had such good deals and always threw in lots of cool merchandise like T-Shirts, stickers and other cool stuff.  I was interested in this 12" because of the artists featured in the group; Mikah 9, Abstract Rude, Aceyalone and the drummer of rock group Third Eye Blind Adrian Burley. Obviously I had enjoyed the lyricists work as part of Project Blowed, The Freestyle Fellowship and Abstract Tribe Unique.   This group of artists along with other musicians created a dope fusion of Hip-Hop, Jazz and Funk. 
This was the first 12" released by Haiku D'Etat and they did go onto release two albums; Haiku D'Etat (1999) and Coup De Theatre (2004).  This 12" features three joints and an instrumental.  All three tracks are backed by live musicians with all three lyricists dropping verses alongside a female vocalist.
The title track is called Los Dangerous and features a nice saxophone over the Deep Cover bass-line with a guest Reggae vocalist dropping the hook.  Each emcee drops a nice little verse providing their own take on the early morning police raid which is such a staple of the gangsta rap genre.  Its a nice take on the Deep Cover classic and for good measure they throw in an instrumental too.  The B-Side is a more mellow affair with a nice bouncy joint called Kaya.  It has a nice uptempo beat with some suitable singing for the hook.  I'm sure there is some xylophone in there somewhere with some Jamaican influenced lyrics promoting an Irie lifestyle.  The second track on the B-Side is called Still Rappin' and is a very nice ode to persevering with the career choice of rapping.  Its a mellow upbeat jam with a nice chorus.  Check the Link below for the vinyl rip (apologies for a few skips)


Monday, 5 May 2014

Crate Digging 5 - Kool G Rap & DJ Polo On the Run 12"


Heres is a another gem from my own collection.  This is a certified Queensbridge classic from the legendary Kool G Rap.  I honestly cant remember where I picked this up from although something tells me I may have bought it from a friend of mine who was selling off his Hip-Hop collection, possibly Diablo I'm not too sure to be honest.
Wherever I picked this up from there is no doubt this is a perfect example of Kool G Rap's Crime filled storytelling.  This 12" features two versions of the track; The Al Capone and the Untouchable version as well as instrumentals and an accapella.  Both of these are different to the album version.  There is also the inclusion of another track called Straight Jacket.  The A side starts of with a dirty version of the Al Capone mix of the track.  This version comes in at just over four minutes and features nice piano loop over the Skull Snaps drum break.  It also has vocal samples of Robert DeNiro from The Untouchables movie where he played Al Capone, hence the name of the mix.  This remix is produced by Trackmasterz as is the Untouchable remix too.
The other version of the track is the Untouchable mix which again features the Skull Snaps drum break but this time alongside a more melodic piano loop.  This creates a more mellow joint as opposed the more hard hitting piano stabs of the Al Capone mix.  We get instrumentals for both and an acapella complete with De Niro samples.  
The extra track on the B-Side is Straight Jacket which is produced by Sir Jinx and Kool G Rap.  It is very similar to a lot of Sir Jinx' production at the time in particular his work with Ice Cue on AmeriKKKas Most wanted and Kill at Will.  A crisp drum and horns sample make up a mid tempo track with G Rap rhyming about his murderous slide into insanity.  What a nice guy.  Check the link below for the rip.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Crate Digging 4 - The Last Emperor Secret Wars part 1



This is the fourth entry in my Crate Digging series whereby I pick out gems I had forgotten I had in my collection.  This little slice of mid nineties indie Hip Hip is brought to us by underground hero The Last Emperor and was released in 1997.  This was his first 12" and featured three joints; Secret Wars part 1, Bums and Monumental.  The Last Emperor was originally from Philadelphia but in the mid nineties moved to New York and began performing at The Lyricist Lounge. He was featured on KRS ONE's "C.I.A. (Criminals in Action)" with Rage Against the Machine's Zach De La Rocha which was featured on the. Lyricist Lounge compilation released on Rawkus. Two years later he signed to Dr Dre's Aftermath however like a number of promising artists at that time that never lead to an album release.  In 2003 it was announced that The Last Emperor had signed to Rawkus Records. A few singles were released in a period of 6 months, but around that time Rawkus ceased to trade. He finally released his solo album in 2003, Music, Magic, Myth (Palace of the Pretender in Europe) this was on his own label Red Planet.  I cannot recall exactly where I picked this up although something tells me I may have picked this up on the internet from either HipHopsite.com or Sandbox who at the time had some great deals on vinyl.  The main track on this 12" is the Secret Wars Part 1 joint (was there a part2 ?).  Its a simple beat with a nice piano loop that sounds like it was taken from the opening bars of the Love Story theme.  The real selling point of this track however is the lyrics.  The Last Emperor tells the story of a battle between some Hip Hop's best lyricists and Superheroes with vocal impersonations of both the rappers and the heroes.  Its a fun track and the Last Emperor shows off his lyrical skill.  There is only a radio version an instrumental.  Onto the B-Side this features two joints and an instrumental.  The first track is called Bums and has a slightly more interesting beat than the A-Side.  Lyrically he tells the story of his life as a bum awaiting a record deal with a humorous slant.  There is an instrumental for the track Bums included.  The final joint is Monumental which has a nice mellow beat allowing the listener to focus on the considerable talents of the emcee.  Although musically these joints are pretty much standard beats for the indie scene in '97 the differentiating factor that sets them apart is The Last emperor's lyrics.  He is a skilled lyricist who deserved better beats but nonetheless drops original concepts and rhymes on all three track.  Check the link below for the rip.
Monumental



Monday, 21 April 2014

Crate Digging 3 - Hip Hop Remixes Live from New York feat. Mobb Deep, Busta Rhymes....

Back in the summer of 1996 (which is almost twenty years ago, damn I feel old) there were all sorts of dodgy remixes and bootlegs floating around.  This here piece of vinyl is a perfect example of this sub-genre.  Someone has managed to get hold of a few a capellas and have made up their own beats for these tracks that were everywhere that year.  I probably picked these up in Uptown Records where I bought a lot bootlegs that year.  Although there were plenty of these bootlegs around at that time the cheap music creation apps like Garageband and Fruity loops had not yet come into existence and making tracks like this actually required access to high end music software like Q-Base and some actual hardware.
All of the tracks on this EP are produced by a dude called Funkmaster Frankenstein who soon after dropped the Funkmaster and went onto produced some nice underground head nodders throughout the 90s and well into the 2000s.  The first track is Frankenstein's Woo-Hah remix which is as you would expect a bouncy track with a nice off kilter organ riff for the Busta Rhymes a cappella to blend into.  Not really an improvement on the original but a slightly different more mellow version.  The Masta I.C. remix is again a more mellow version than the original. With a soulful organ sample and a sporadic xylophone in the background this remix is more for the sunday afternoon in the park rather than the saturday night in the club.  The Danger remix is based around a sparse piano loop and features the same scratches as the original for the chorus, not a bad remix but really not a patch on the original.
Lastly we have Shook Ones part 3 which is my favourite track on this little EP.  It has more depth to it than the other three.  A simple track with nice piano loops providing what could almost be a Havoc produced track if it wasn't so upbeat musically.  Check the link below for the rip.
Straight up Shook Ones.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Deal Real Jam Saturday the 19th Mau Ma Bar

This coming Saturday, the 19th of April at  the Mau Mau Bar at 265 Portobello Rd in London Deal Real (Mid 90's London's Best Indie Hip Hop Record shop) will be holding another night of great Hip Hop.  Sarah Love, Pete Real (one of the original shop owners), Kuku and Bunn Bread. Festivities kick off at 21:00 until 02:00 and cost a measly £5 on the door.  If you love great golden era Hip Hop this is the place to be.

Crate Digging 2: M.O.P. - Pounds Up Show remix

Post number 2 in my Crate Digging series.  I came across this a few nights ago when looking for an entirely different M.O.P. track and to be honest I had totally forgotten I had this joint.  Its from about 2002 and I could have picked it up at any number of London Record shops.  I am a big M.O.P. fan and at that time was buying a lot of 12"s from them.  I love the original Pounds Up joint and when I saw this remix by Show, one of the reliable D.I.T.C. crew I figured it was bets to grab a copy.  I do not know if this ever got an official release, I think that Wild Life was one of the record labels associated with D.I.T.C. as I have a number of other Diggin' In The Crates joints on that label.  The track itself features the same lyrics as the original but Show provides a totally different beat.  The beat is the same throughout the joint with no difference for the chorus or verse sections.  It is made up of a punchy horns sample with nice but somewhat muted kick and snare.  Check the link below to grab the rip.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

New Roots Single “When The People Cheer”

The Roots are one of the few groups who consistently drop great music, not just Hip-Hop but music that crosses genres.  This is the first track released from their upcoming album on Def Jam "...and then shoot your cousin" an anti rap opera.  Black Thought is on point lyrically as always, easily one of the most interesting emcees in the game and he is joined by Greg Porn on the bridge.  Musically the track has a nice piano sample over a decent mid tempo beat with a high hat.  


Sunday, 6 April 2014

Crate Digging 1 - Morcheeba Featuring Slick Rick "Women Lose Weight" remixes

Finally having setup my trusty Technics 1200s, Vestax mixer and Serato I have started going through my vinyl and have decided to start putting some of the long forgotten gems up on here for you all to enjoy.  The first of these is this strange little 12" that I picked up from one of London's West End record shops back in 2002.  Unfortunately I cannot remember which shop but it was probably Mr Bongo's or Major Flavas both of which have long since closed down, like many of the West End's record shops.  Although I had heard of the experimental London trio Morcheeba in the past and had even seen them live in Brixton Academy the real reason for buying this slice of vinyl was the guest emcee.  None other than the legendary Slick Rick.
The original version of the song was on their 2002 album, Charango released on EastWest records.  The album is a laid back blend instrumental beats heavily influenced by Jazz and Hip Hop with sweet soul vocals it also has a guest appearance from PaceWon.  This 12" features the album version of the song with a two remixes; the Spare tyre remix and The Alchemist remix.  The album version of the song is a funky track with a nice crisp snare with nice soulful vocals alongside Ricky-D's adulterous and murderous lyrics.
Slick Rick is on point with this joint telling us an intricate story in the form of a rhyme.  He talks about having ot kill his wife because his wife has gained weight.  Obviously talking is out of the question in Rick's world however his scheming only ends up causing him nothing but trouble.  Ricky-D show us why he is a legends on the mic when it comes to storytelling even going so far as to change voice during the story.  In addition to the original, the remixes this 12" also includes an instrumental of The Alchemist remix and an accapella. 
The Spare Tyre remix is produced by Morcheeba and a great deal more funky than the original.  There is a heavy bass driven organ sample with nice drums and cymbals throughout.  This gives the song a more 70s sound.  The Alchemist remix is infinitely more East Coast Hip Hop flavoured than the other versions.  With a guitar sample and QB sounding drums it provides a nice back drop for Slick Risk's rhymes.  Click on the link below to download a copy of this 12" for promotional purposes only of course.