Sunday, 29 September 2013

Cypress Hill have their Hand on the Pump with Gene and Junior Walker

I first heard of Cypress Hill when I saw the video for Phuncky Feel One on MTV Raps back in August 1991.  At the time you could only get MTV on Sky or Cable in the UK and although my family did not have it I would carry my video recorder the three miles to a friends house every week to record videos off MTV.  Up until that point I had never seen a Hip Hop video unless by some chance it had made it onto BBC's Top of the Pops or ITV's The Chart Show but these outlets were only for the mainstream Hip Hop acts or occasionally De La Soul or even PE.  When I saw the video for Phuncky Feel One I was struck by how diffeent and fresh this sound was.  the video was weird as hell but it really caught my attention.  I never managed to get the 12" but I certainly got the subsequent 12"s from that album.  The first of which was Hand on the Pump.
Hand on the Pump is a song that immediately grabs your attention by using a vocal sample chopped expertly by DJ Muggs before an off kilter guitar sample comes.  A nice bass line and drum break underline the track and as it progresses a short guitar riff comes in during the verses.  A perfect example of early DJ Muggs production from what in my opinion is their best album.  B Real's nasal voice drops a dope first verse.  The chorus is a joint affair with B-Real dropping the first part and Sen Dog coming in for the second part in his usual out of breath style.  Sen Dog drops the second verse although not sounding as out of breath as he usually does before B-Real comes in again for the final 16 bars.  A great all round track that can ignite a Golden Era Hip Hop crowd quickly.

The track itself is made up of three samples; Gene Chandler's "Duke of Earl", Junior Walker and the All Star's "Shotgun" and  BDP's "Poetry".  Gene Chandler is a Grammy Hall of Fame inductee, a National Association of Television and Radio Announcers producer of the year award winner and a Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer award winner.  He is also one of the few artists to have top 40 hit records during the Doo Wop, Rhythm and Blues, Soul and Disco eras.  He also worked with Curtis Mayfield and at one time was signed to Mayfield' Curtom label.  He self produced songs whilst on Curtom and appeared on recordings with Mayfield and also the Impressions.  He famously wore a monocle, cape, top hot and crowned himself the Duke of Earl.  The track used for Cypress Hill's Hand on the Pump was his second 7" and was released in 1962 shortly after adopted the Duke of Earl person.  It is also the title of the track which sold over a million copies and stayed at the top of the billboard chart for three weeks.  

The second sample that makes up Hand on the Pump is by Junior Walker and the All Stars.  The song is called "Shotgun" and is straight up funk.  The track was released in 1965 and was written and composed by Walker with production by Berry Gordy.  At the time the group were signed to Motown and included the Funk Brother's James Jamerson on bass and Benny Benjamin on drums.  It reached number 4 on the Billboard chart and number 1 on the R&B chart.  Its an amazingly funky song with a lovely sax, tight drums and a funky guitar riff throughout.  

The BDP Sample was taken from the classic "Poetry" which was featured on their 1987 classic "Criminal Minded".  The drums here appear to be the main part of the track that Muggs chose to recycle. 
It is easy to tell what Muggs used from Gene Chandler's "Duke of Earl" the striking sample at the start and the chorus.  For the rest of the track he chose samples from Junior Walker's "Shotgun", in particular the off key guitar riff and from BDP's "Poetry" he grabbed the drums.  These elements combined with the unmistakably individual voice of B-Real and Sen Dog make this a fantastic track.   The track was so popular that they even made a sequel on their sophomore album "Black Sunday" called "Hand on the Glock".  A good track and very similar to the original only minus the Gene Chandler sample.
Grab ":Handon on the Pump", the instrumental and samples by following this link as well as "Hand on the Glock"

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Method Man - Tical: The Alter Ego Remixes

One of the problems that comes with have an extensive iTunes collection is that you sometimes overlook or even forget you have entire albums and projects.  This collection of remixes is one such forgotten gem.  Back when Method Man first stepped out from under the Wu Tang Clan's shadow and dropped his solo effort he was very much in demand and all sorts of people were remixing his work.  Some of these were only released in Japan, were B sides on Wu Tang 12"s or on some obscure soundtrack.  This here collections collects up a lot but not all of the obscure tracks that were around at the time.
  1. I'll Be There For You (Razor Sharp Mix) (Feat. Mary J. Blige) is the first track on this compilation.  Originally this was the on the All I need remix 12" that dropped in 1994.  The 12" also featured the Puff Daddy remix and the Soul inside remix.  This however was in my opinion the strongest of the remixes featuring a nice saxophone loop and some crisp snares.
  2. Method Man Home-grown remix was originally on the B-Side of the Wu Tang Clan's self pressed first single Protect Ya Neck back in late 1993.  Its rough unpolished early version of the smash hit Method Man which was actually their second single.  The lyrics are slightly slightly altered and the piano just a bit more off key than the album version.  A nice take on a classic track.
  3. Judgement Day (Tricky Remix) was released in 1998 on the Judgement Day remixes 12" along with the Roni Size remix also on this compilation.  This is remixed by the English, Bristol born and bred musician / producer Tricky.  Known for his dark and layered style he brings a dark electric style to this remix with lovely percussion.  Its a fast beat and it suites Meth's style perfectly.
  4. Bring The Pain (Chemical Mix) (Feat. Booster) is brought to us by the legendary dance duo The Chemical Brothers.  They take the first single from Meth's solo debut and put a nice guitar sample and a faster drum break into it to create this remix.  This was on the double A Side 12" of Release Yo Delf Prodigy remix which also featured the Puff daddy All I need remix on the B Side.
  5. Judgement Day (Super Jupiter Remix) is the fifth track on this compilation and was originally on the Judgement Day remixes 12"  This is moving to close to house music and maybe even techno, I'm not familiar with either to really tell.  A fast paced beat which is quite repetitive, not my type of track at all.
  6. Judgement Day (Roni Size Remix) is another case completely.  A good seven minute Jungle/Drum N Bass epic as you would expect from the master Jungle producer that gave us Its a Jazz thing. Roni Size by this time had sampled Meth and a number of other Hip Hop emcees in his music for years and to finally be doing it officially gave the genre and the producer a stamp of approval it deserve.  Although not as fast as some of the Drum n Bass at that time it would clearly need to have the pitch sped up to fit into a Kool FM or Telepathy club night.
  7. Break Ups 2 Make Ups (DJ Krush Remix) (Feat. D'Angelo) is the seventh track on this compilation.  Before this compilation the only place I had herd it before was on a collection of DJ Krush remixes but I think it was also on a promo of the original that was only available in the Far East.  The original was a mellow joint but this here version is just lovely and features a nice organ sample that works so well.
  8. I'll Be There For You (Puff Daddy Mix) was one of the other tracks on the All I need remix 12" track and to be honest its not bad even though its Puffy.  the main reason its not that bad is because its very similar to the Rza Remix.
  9. Release Yo' Delf (Prodigy Mix Instrumental) starts off with a piano and some horns and goes onto create a noisy multi layered joint that is surprisingly nice for a Prodigy track.  However this is just the instrumental.
  10. Bring The Pain (Chemical Mix Instrumental) just like number four but without the lyrics.  So if you liked that you'll like this.
  11. Judgement Day (Roni Size Dub Remix) is pretty much like track number 6 but with more bass and echo basically.  I prefer it to the other version a lot more but then I always like my Drum N Bass with a lot of bass.  What it doesn't have is as much lyrics as the other version.  However the heavy bassline makes this more of a proper Drum N Bass track, which works.
  12. Release Yo' Delf (Prodigy Mix) is the same as track number 9 but with the lyrics or at least some of them.  Its not bad I'd prefer the original Release Yo Delf though.  The Lyrics do sound slightly out of sync with the beat at times.
  13. Break Ups 2 Make Ups (DJ Krush Remix Instrumental) if you liked the beat used for track number 7 then this is 4:48 of that.  It is a lovely beat with a nice organ sample and it just works well.  A nice mellow instrumental for ya.
  14. How High (Remix) (Feat. Redman) is produced by Erick Sermon and is a nice mellow expedition from the green eyed bandit.  This was on the B Side of the original How High 12" back in 1995.  It would have been better to include the How High Berry Clear Sprite remix which was only available as a clear vinyl promo from Sprite (see picture below). I have however included a copy of it in the download below with all the other tracks listed above.
    Get your dose of rare Ticallion Stallion remixes here.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Elvis Costello And The Roots – Wise Up Ghost Review

Although this does not strictly fit into the MO for my blog.  This is an important piece of music from two important artists.
 It is a rare thing when two things you love from two different worlds come together, it does not happen often and can lead to great anticipation.  Anticipation was what I felt when I first heard that Elvis Costello was going to be working on an album with Philadelphia’s The Roots crew.  Anticipation for what could be an amazing album from two acts who have the capability to produce incredible music but there is also the chance that this album could lead to something best forgotten.
Although as surprised as I was when I first heard of this collaboration it immediately made sense; Elvis certainly has a soulful sound within him and we know The Roots are no strangers to Rock and Roll (remember the Seed 2.0 from 2002 for example).  The album is released on September the 17th on the legendary Jazz label Blue Note.  The album is 12 tracks long with 3 bonus tracks floating out in the ether somewhere (not reviewed in this review).  Questlove and Elvis produced the album with help from longtime Roots producer Steven Mandel.  In early 2013 Questlove, told Billboard that the Roots’ gig as the house band for ‘Late Night With Jimmy Fallon’ had given them the opportunity to back up Costello a number of times. He described the relationship as “love at first sight.  From there they went on to spend a year recording the album mainly at the Feliz Habitat Studios in the dead of night and in plain sight at Costello’s
Hookery Crookery Studios.  Questlove went on to say ”We had 13 or 14 songs, but then we said, ‘Ooh! Wait a minute! Let’s replace four of these songs with four better songs! And now we have the tightest 12-14 song collection out of about 20 songs that we made.”  Whereas Elvis stuck to his usual mysterious description style when describing the album ”the shortest distance between here and there” and containing “both rhythm and what is read.”
The Roots have spent decades working out how to apply a Hip-Hop principle to a live band sound to which Elvis applies both his unique vocal style.  At times laying a soft serenade reminiscent of his classic ballad “She” and at other times bringing forth the strong vocal style seen on “Oliver’s Army”.  The sound overall brings forth memories of Isaac Hayes, Curtis Mayfield and other Philadelphia Soul Funk legends.  The subject matter sits firmly in the scary section covering topics ranging from the abuse of power to the betrayal and the manipulation of desire.
The album kicks off with the Hip-Hop infused Funk joint “Walk us Uptown”.  it starts off with some electric sounds before a nice crisp snare comes onboard and then Elvis steps to the mic.  He sings with an impassioned voice as a nice bass joins the snare and later a sax comes onboard to complete the early 70′s funk checklist. Its an up tempo track where Elvis touches on social uprisings and oppression.  A strong start to the album.  If the first track woke you up then the second one, “Sugar won’t work” is a more peaceful relaxing track very reminiscent of the old Philadelphia Soul sound; a nice strings crescendo to begin with soon joined by drums and a lovely bass riff.  Then Elvis comes in telling us to “Lighten’ up and shake the crowd”.  His voice is soft, his accent coming through more.  A mid tempo song with depth and soul.
The third track is “Refused to be saved” a straight Philly funk track with a 70s cop show guitar riff alongside a lovely Hammond organ.  Elvis is using his rough voice and it works so well alongside the music to create an atmosphere of car chases and a young Gene Hackman beating up a drug dealer.  ”Wake me up” is the album’s fourth track which has a nice marching drum beat with that sweet Hammond organ again and a sultry saxophone.  There is also a nice guitar riff in the back to accompany Elvis’ vocals which find him asking there must be something better than this.  A well suited combination of music and lyrics combining to make a darker but enjoyable track.
“Tripwire” is the album’s fifth track and features a subdued opening made up of what sounds like a bell being rung underwater.  The other tracks were the soundtrack to the middle of the night, whilst the clubs and parties are still going strong “Tripwire” is the soundtrack to the  early hours as they sky turns from black to grey as the sun rises.  The beat is mellow and Elvis’ lyrics have depth and tell us that “Just because you don’t speak the language doesn’t mean that you can’t understand”.  At times his voice falters but it only adds to the atmosphere of the early hours created by the song.  His lyrics lead us to believe that someone is waiting for that knock on the door in the early morning with anxiety and trepidation.  Elvis performed a live acoustic version of this at the recent Apple product launch but it was performed as a much harder version and not as laid back as this but its this one I prefer.  At halfway point through the album we are given “Stick Out Your Tongue”.  The track starts off with a lovely drum beat and a seventies guitar riff before Elvis comes sounding like he is singing over an old telephone.  The beat is slower than some of the previous joints on the album but the funky guitar riffs and the organ stabs in the background keep it interesting.
“Come the Meantimes” starts of with Elvis asking “what are you going to say to me when you be betraying me?” over an upbeat snare drum and some nice strings.  The appears to be the first joint on the album to feature backing vocals and they add a nice extra level to the song along with a bell making sporadic appearances (DJ Premier would be proud).  Its a strong upbeat track that wears its Hip-Hop heritage on its sleeve and is better off for doing so.  The next track is “(She Might Be A) Grenade” which is a variation of “She’s Pulling Out The Pin” from Elvis’ earlier The Delivery Man album.  Its a slower paced track with orchestral strings and a strong drum break as the centrepiece.  elvis’ vocals are on point getting the message across of being at the mercy of this woman about to explode.
“Cinco Minutos Con Vos” is the album’s ninth track and start with a nice laid back drum break and some lovely horns.  Then we have more 70′s esque guitar riffs before Elvis comes in with a set of ltyics describing a somewhat stalking like scenario.  Towards the end of the track he is joined by La Marisoul, lead singer of Los Angeles band La Santa Cecilia who has a lovely voice.  This is followed up by the upbeat “Viceroy’s Row” which features a light hearted set of horns over a nice Hi Hat and drums.  Although the subject matter is in tune with the rest of the album it seems somewhat happier because of the summery feeling horns,  another good track.
The eleventh track is the title track and also the longest on the album coming in at over six minutes.  Its also the most cinematic of the all the tracks ons the album with orchestral strings, double bass and backing vocals providing a sound scape for Elvis’ dark lyrics.  As the song progresses a the strings become the dominating instrument of the track.  lyrically theres not a great deal going on but it doesn’t matter what is there suits the track perfectly.  A strong title track. The album end on”If I Could Believe” a wistful piano based track lamenting his lack of belief and what lead him to that feeling.  Elvis owns this track completely, this is all about his voice and lyrics.  With lines likes “If I could believe you were heaven sent” and “If I could believe two wrongs make a right” he conveys a feeling of sadness and loss.  the piano and drums give it an almost ballad like feel.  at around 50 seconds from the end of the track we are treated to a final slice of lovely strings.
I completely enjoyed this album far more than I hoped I would.  This could have easily been Elvis does Hip-Hop or another Roots crew Rock / Alternative outing.  It isn’t either of those things its is a strong soul and funk album with dark and honest lyrics.  It creates images in your mind of 70s revolution and dark crime thrillers likes the French Connection.  Last year The Roots made an album with Betty Wright that was tragically underrated but a great listen and completely crafted  to her style this is another example of this.  The collaboration is uniquely Elvis Costello but at the same this also has more of The Roots Hip-Hop heritage running through it.  I would have lovely a verse from Black Thought but perhaps that would not have fitted with the rest of the album.  A very strong album, worth checking out for fans of both groups but also for people who love that 70s Philadelphia soul and funk sound.  As Questlove said ”It’s a moody, brooding affair, cathartic rhythms and dissonant lullabies. I went stark and dark on the music, Elvis went HAM on some ole Ezra Pound shit.”

Monday, 9 September 2013

Kool G Rap and Necro to drop The Godfathers LP

One of my favourite underground NY producers from the late nineties/early noughties has joined forces the undisputed QB Legend Kool G Rap to drop an album later this year.  The album will be entirely produced by Necro and is set to drop on November the 19th.   Kool G Rap's raw street stories will work perfectly over Necro's grimy beats. Be sure to keep an eye on their Facebook page for updates and catch the album when it drops.
The Godfathers Facebook page.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Gangstarr's You Know My Steez Break Down

The year was 1997 and the Hip-Hop community had not heard from Gangstarr since their 1994 album "Hard to Earn".  An underground classic that had given us "Code of the Streets", "Mass appeal", "Suckas Need Bodyguards" and "Now You're Mine" amongst other underground classics.  The Hip-Hop landscape had changed considerably between 1994 and 1997; the independent scene had grown, there was a new breed of conscious Hip-Hop emcees, bankable acts were losing their direction and producers were now more important than ever.  It was rare to see one producer craft an entire album for one act instead acts were cherry picking beats from the best producer's beat tapes in the hope of recreating another "Illmatic".  However more often than not it lead to disjointed albums that did not flow.  Jumping from one producer to another.  So many albums at that time featured a Premier joint, a Pete Rock joint, a West Coast joint, a Mobb Deep joint, maybe a Large Pro joint, something from an indie producer and a joint with a sung hook for that all important radio play.
Into this Arena (no pun intended) steps G.U.R.U. and DJ Premier with a masterfully complete album produced and arranged by the duo.  Twenty tracks with no interludes and little filler.  Yes there were guests but they were impressive and never took the spotlight away from the duo but added to the album; Inspekta Deck, Scarface, M.O.P., Freddie Foxxx, K-Ci and JoJo amongst others.  The first track from this album was an instant banger "You Know My Steez".  A bass heavy track with a Method Man vocal sample alongside a nice guitar loop.  G.U.R.U. came hard with the lyrics, dropping gems in every line proving he was still hungry and a force to be reckoned with.  For example the whole first verse is lesson in how to make braggadocio rap sound fresh and intelligent
"Who's the suspicious character strapped with the sounds profound
Similar to rounds spit by Derringers
You're in the Terrordome like my man Chuck D said
It's time to dethrone you clones, and all you knuckleheads
Cause MC's have used up extended warranties
While real MC's and DJ's are a minority
But right about now, I use my authority
Cause I'm like the Wizard and you look lost like Dorothy
The horror be when I return for my real people
Words that split wigs hittin like some double Desert Eagles
Sportin caps pulled low, and baggy slacks
Subtractin all the rappers who lack, over Premier's tracks
Severe facts have brought this rap game to near collapse
So as I have in the past, I whup ass
Droppin lyrics that be hotter than sex and candlewax
And one-dimensional MC's can't handle that
While the world's revolvin, on it's axis
I come with mad love and plus the illest warlike tactics
The wilderness is filled with this; so many people
searching for false lift, I'm here with the skills you've missed
The rejected stone is now the cornerstone
Sort of like the master builder when I make my way home
You know my steez..."
Some people think that he was taking shots Jeru with the line "Subtractin all the rappers who lack, over Premier's tracks" and that this was the spark that started off the beef that lead to Jeru dropping out of the Gangstarr Foundation.  Although some people say the Gangstarr Jeru beef grew out of Premier giving the "Ten Crack Commandments" beat to Biggie as Jeru had originally had that beat for a Hot97 promo.  Whatever the reason for the split the bottom line is that Jeru made his best music with Premier and I know if they did hook up again I would buy that joint.

The track itself was an interesting combination of samples and a dope hook.  The bass line and drum break of course taken from the classic Ol' Skool joint "Flash It To the Beat" by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five which was originally released in 1979 on the Bozo Meko label.  This was a recording of a live performance hence the distorted sound of the bass.  An Ol' Skool classic no doubt which even featured Afrika Bambaataa, Afrika Islam, Jazzy Jay - Fusion Beats Vol. 2 on the B Side.   Premier loops the bass and adds a high hat and a slightly crisper snare to give us the foundation for "You Know my Steez".
The guitar loop that we hear across the whole track is taken from a song by R&B musician Joe Simon.  The name of the song is "Drowning in the Sea of Love" which sold 1.5 million copies in 1972 and for which he received his second gold disk.  The single made it to number 11 in the US pop charts and number 3 in the R&B charts.  It was released on Spring records which was distributed by Polydor.  The track itself was written and produced by the legendary (some people throw that phrase around but these guys really are legends) Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff.  The track was a dark ode to one man's love of a woman.  The guitar sample is at the start of the song and carries on throughout even though at times it is over shadowed by the orchestral strings and horns. The track itself is a beautifully dark song with a number of points within that are sample worthy.  Premier loops the guitar sample perfectly alongside the bass line chopping it up slightly to create the overall sounds.
The Method Man sample comes from "4th Chamber" taken from the Gza album "Liquid Swords" which anyone reading this blog should know all about.  If not go and get a copy and listen to it for the next week.

There was of course a remix for "You Know my Steez" like most big Hip-Hop tracks at the time.  This remix featured a slightly chopped up version of the original's beat and some additional lyricist from the Left Coast' The Lady of Rage and Kurupt.  Again the guests add to the song and G.U.R.U. once again drops and incredible verse that certainly challenges the guests to come correct and they do.  Rage sounds good and at this point we had not heard anything serious from her since the classic "Afro Puffs" years before.  Kurupt had always been one of my favourites from the Death Throw G Funk team and on this joint he shows us why he is held in such high regard.

Check the Link below for the breaks, instrumentals and tracks.