After last week’s Jadakiss impromptu grading as a rapper, I got to thinking about how other rappers might fare if I scored them using Kool Moe Dee‘s patented Rapper Report Card system. For the purposes of this test, I simply plucked a name out of mid-air and scored the first numbers that came to my mind. In situations like this, over-thinking it can lead to indecision, so I went with my immediate gut instincts. The results were quite a surprise. (more…)
King Asiatic Nobody’s Equal is touring Australia for the first time in his storied career this December, and to celebrate we’ve got a double pass to giveaway to the first person to email the correct answer to this question:
Big Daddy Kane and Biz Markie were featured in the opening of a 1988 video by a non-rap artist. What was the name of the song and who performed it?
Here’s the first video the Corrupted Citizens LP, courtesy of a couple of thuns from down this end of the planet who I’ve enjoyed copious amounts of booze with on occasion. Video executed by Josh Davis and Heath Kerr.
AZ is a great rapper who also made his mark as a Conservative Rap Coalition style icon thanks to his affinity for sweater vests, polos and sensible shirts. While he had to work a little harder than most to escape Nas’ shadow (I’ve deliberately excluded anything involving him here), when he has the right beat behind him there is no stopping The Visualiza absolutely annihilating the track.
While I was trolling Jadakiss apologists today for calling his new album Top Five Dead or Alive, lamenting his complete inability to ever make an official album with more than three good songs, a thought struck me – maybe you don’t actually need a certified classic album to be considered one of the best of all time. While Rakim, KRS-One, LL Cool J, Biggie and Kool G Rap all have revered LP’s under their belts, many of the best to ever rap into an amplified vocal device never actually delivered amazing albums.
For rappers from the early days, such as Melle Mel, Kool Moe Dee and Grandmaster Caz, this can be attributed to the music being a singles medium during when they were recording. It wasn’t until the time of Radio, Raising Hell and Criminal Minded that long players outgrew the pattern of simply being a padded-out collection of singles and were capable of a focused concept. As rap got bigger and the costs of releasing a major label project skyrocketed by the end of the nineties, we saw the emergence of the ‘street album’ aka ‘mixtape,’ which allowed rappers stuck in a shitty deal to still keep their name buzzing as they flipped popular instrumentals and uncleared samples without fear of reprisal. (more…)
By popular demand – and because there were so many tracks that I had to leave off the first volume – here’s part two of the nineties edition of Non-Album B-Sides. Thanks to everyone who suggested some of the stuff that I forgot about the first time around, and I hope you appreciate that I’ve had to dip into whiny west coast alternative rap in order to fill up the track list! Next up – the eighties version.
LEX has just dropped an LP where he raps over raw breaks, which is always a great idea in my book. Not for nothing, but ‘QU Wordsmith’ is the best performance I’ve heard from the man yet. You can grab the CD version over at his Bandcamp.
After reading through the responses to the ‘Death of the b-side’ article, it was clear to me that the streets were fiending for a ZR&T collection of b-sides. There turned out to be so many great songs to choose from that I’ve had to split it up by the decade to fit everything on. Expect the ‘Eighties Edition’ later in the week. Some of these tracks did later appear on compilations later on, but the condition here is that none of them were released on retail albums around the time that they were recorded and a limit of only one selection from each artist. While that explains why ‘DWYCK’ isn’t on here, all of Hard 2 Obtain‘s catalog was automatically disqualified on the grounds of their shameless Grand Puba stanning.
After eleven years, my dream of one day interviewing Godfather Don has finally been put to rest.
Having previously tried to get Hydra Records honcho Jerry Famolari to connect me with this reclusive character in the late 00’s and then being contacted by a member of Don’s band several years later – who offered to set something up but subsequently vanished into the ether – I figured that the trail had gone cold. But when I heard that Donnie Brasco had been lured out of rap retirement to record a new single, I attempted to give it one final shot.
The label guy who was releasing the single wasn’t able to help, but after noticing that V.I.C. had provided the remix for the b-side, in addition to having a long history of working with Don as part of the Groove Merchantz, I figured he was my best bet so I hit him up to ask if he could approach Don on my behalf. A week later I received this response:
‘I spoke to Don. He said he really has nothing going as far as hip hop is concerned. He will pass on the interview for now.’
Looks like I’m shit outta luck. Admittedly, if I was Don I wouldn’t give two hoots about talking about old rap songs I’d made to some jerk on the phone either. Guess it’s time to start following those dead leads on TJ Swan now…
This is a slightly different approach to the usual ‘A Salute To…’ series, in that it’s a collection of face-offs of two tracks that flip a well-worn loop in a fresh new way, plus a couple of bonus instrumentals that rework classic breaks. It’s worth noting that Diamond D beat Salaam Remi to the punch when it came to chopping up ‘Apache’ in a new way, while both DJ Spinna and The Alchemist prove that even an over-used song like ‘Flashlight’ can sound brand new in the right hands.
I did some work with DJ Pizzo this year over at Cuepoint, but previous to that I’d been a loyal customer of the main mail-order hip-hop stores, one of which was HipHopSite, which was founded by Pizzo and Warren Peace in 1996. He explained how the wild west that was the early internet allowed their new business to thrive and help introduce the world to a range of underground groups, as well as their involvement with classic remix projects such as The Grey Album and God’s Stepson. Ironically, the very same lawlessness that had helped the independent rap scene flourish during this period would ultimately become it’s very undoing.
Robbie: How did you get started as a rap fan?
DJ Pizzo: I got into hip-hop watching Yo! MTV Raps when I was a sixth grader. Then I found this college show, when I was in eighth grade, called Word Up. It was on KUNV at UNLV and this guy Warren Peace was the host. He was a freshman in college at the time and I was a kid in junior high, and he would be playing the b-side of the remix of the new Big Daddy Kane single that wasn’t out yet. It opened up a whole new [world] – because of the show, I was hearing all this music that was promo-only. Warren was judging some local talent show, so I went down there and met him. He told me I could come hang out at the show. I was the youngest person there, everybody else was in college, and I was always digging through his records and recording stuff to tape.
Around ’94/’95 I was posting on rec.music.hip-hop. I started trading tapes with kids over the internet, which was sending cassettes of unreleased music to each other through the mail before there was file sharing. There was a kid who had an advance of De La Soul‘s Stakes Is High album, and another kid who had the Wu-Tang Clan demo tape, and another kid who had the Gravediggaz demo tape. All of a sudden I had all this unreleased music that Warren didn’t have, so I started playing those tracks on his show. Then he had the idea, ‘What if we started a website where we can post this unreleased music?’ (more…)
Records are the bane of my existance, as they’re an absolute bitch to transport when you move, are highly susceptible to flood damage and take up far too much space around the house. The one thing they do have going for them, however, is the b-side.
After cutting his teeth over at Big Beat with The Artifacts, Mad Skillz and Junior M.A.F.I.A, EZ Elpee made important contributions to the catalogs of Queens artists such as Royal Flush, Capone-N-Noreaga and Mobb Deep. Equally adept at delivering smooth joints with R&B hooks as he is constructing traditional street records, EZ put his stamp on the second generation of Bad Boy artists, gave Nas a hit with ‘Oochie Wally’ and even tried to help out Foxy Brown, Lil’ Kim and Amil. Here’s hoping we hear some new music from the EZ Elpee in the near future, but until then…enjoy this selection of eighteen great beats that he’s responsible for.
There are a couple of interesting new pressings of vaulted QB rap due in December via the Diggers With Gratitude label. The second installment of outtakes from the second Tragedy album, originally titled Black Rage, presents some alternative versions, scrapped tracks and the infamous ‘Bullet,’ which was removed at the behest of the label because of the reference to shooting cops. The Jae Supreme EP presents some material which I’ve posted in the past, including the ‘Villain’ demo which was often thought to be an early Large Pro demo. Check out the snippets below, and pre-order from here if you want to secure a copy for next month.
Making his own contribution to the Food Rap genre, Clever 1 from the Buze Brovaz describes Caveman Cuisine as ‘Based on food references, titles and concepts – some of our creative versatile work. Story telling, metaphorical literature with a twist type shit. I do the chef thing real heavy so I felt like giving a piece of my alternative ego.’
The sad truth is that there are legions of unpaid interns working for ‘culture’ websites whose prime objective is to scour the lyrics of Drake/Kanye/Jay-Z for anything even vaguely resembling a subliminal diss. While a lot of late eighties rap could be relied on for rival MCs to straight-up call out the competition by name, there were times when politics and/or the possibility of series violence between crews and neighborhoods meant that these shots had to be a little more subtle.
The unfortunate side-effect of this development meant that over-zealous fans now had the opportunity to concoct intricate fantasy scenarios about lyrical beefs that never actually existed. I remember a friend of mine attempting to convince me that MF Doom and Ghostface were waging a serious campaign of subliminal warfare against each other on the grounds of who owned the right to model themselves after a comic strip identity. While the theory was obviously shot to shit when they later began working together, it goes to show that a conspiracy can be constructed about anything if you want to find it badly enough. (more…)