An Afternoon With Lord Finesse
Wednesday June 08th 2011,
Filed under: Bronx Bombers,In The Trenches,Live From NY,Not Your Average
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Amongst the seemingly never-ending open bar events which consumed much of my time and liver capacity while in New York City last month, the highlight from a musical standpoint was spending the better part of an afternoon as a guest at the legendary Lord Finesse‘s home studio in the Bronx, thanks to the homey Chaze from the GRIM Team. ‘Ness blessed us with some of the music from his forthcoming project with O.C. called The Alumni, which you might recall was the title of the group that Finesse, O.C. and Large Pro were forming, but it turns out that the Live Guy With Glasses wasn’t a big fan of the name so it’s being used on this album instead. I was a little concerned when he mentioned that it was a combination of samples and live instruments, but as soon as the eerie beats leaked through the studio monitors it was clear that this was some serious next level D.I.T.C. material. He has a guy add bass, drums and keys to his samples and chops but it’s so tightly put together that it sounds like all samples…shit was crazy.

I had to ask about the legendary B-1 demo that Finesse had produced and had been featured in RapPages demo section way back when, which I mentioned back here: ‘Takin’ Niggaz’ – B-1 feat. Freddie Foxxx, Kool G Rap and MF Grimm. The Lord didn’t have a copy of the finished track, but he remembered the beat he made for it, which he later used for a Stretch & Bob radio session and appeared on his ‘Instrumentals’ vinyl:

Other topics of talk included me asking if Grandpa Finesse is ever coming out of retirement (don’t count on it), what really held-up the Funky Technician Remix Project (a couple of ‘big name’ douchebags withholding their A-grade material) and the official final Big L project (another dead-beat dad scenario). Finesse also told the sad tale of an incredible BX MC named Billy Gamble who he had mentored around ’97-’98. Apparently this kid was on some super-lyrical type of steez, but he chose the road to quick cash instead of sticking to his craft and formed a group with a chick called Jackie-O, getting signed to Roc-A-Fella as Mickey & Mallory (word to Family Ties). Unfortunately for them, all they had to show for this deal was a mention on Jay-Z‘s ‘All I Need’ before they were dropped in 2002 without releasing anything. These days, Billy sounds like every other non-exceptional rapper out there…

Another interesting incident was a phone call Finesse received from Primo regarding some kid called Mac Miller, who had released a track of hm rapping over the ‘Hip 2 Da Game’ instrumental, called it ‘Kool Aid & Frozen Pizza’ and clocked 9,649,249 views on YouTube (!?). Turns out he got a deal on the strength of this song, and his people had reached out to Premier to ask Finesse if he’d lace him with some tracks officially… bizarre times, indeed.

^ Pause at the shirtless boom-box/weed carrier guy.

I was also lucky enough to hear some old demos and unreleased joints that he had in the stash, which I’m sure will appear on some limited Japanese vinyl one day, as well as the humbling experience of hearing Finesse praise Unkut Dot Com and admitting that he’s a regular reader of the site, even naming specific interviews and articles by name so I knew he wasn’t just being polite… legendary status, indeed.

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28 Comments so far
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F!*k that kid CANNOT rap …worst voice ever, Jesus sad state of affairs these days.

Comment by Mac Hustle 06.08.11 @

Illness Robbie, I am mad jealous and LMAO at this Mac Miller kid, if this and other wackness is what we can look forward to in Hip Hop in the next 10 or so years, then I don’t want any part of it, I hope Premo does not lace him nay beats and I hope that LF got royalties over this.

Comment by Jaz 06.08.11 @

I hope Ness does 1/2 of Mac Miller’s beats. I wanna see the OGs get some of this new mall money

Comment by chronwell 06.08.11 @

If there’s anything positive re Wack Miller, it’s a new generation get exposed to Finesse. Hope LF get’s paid for it and puts out some of them old unreleased gems!

Comment by M.Turn 06.08.11 @

Shout to Chaze & the whole GT. B-1 was G Raps protege. That Verbal Affairs x Empire Staters joints crazy.

“uand it’s unlawful to be in my circumfrance eatin pork food, attractin arch eyebrowed dimes is what the gods do. Straight off the absolute citron, honeys got they airbrushed tits on – and kenneth cole slip ons”

Comment by BRIX BLANCO 06.08.11 @

Maybe most of dem people who watched the Mac Miller youtube didnt even know that was some Lord Finesse shit. They were all like “what a beat – mac is killin…”

Comment by Donaleski 06.08.11 @

Much respect to Lord Finesse always, one of the greatest to ever rock a mic, dope behind the boards and an Unkut reader too !

Comment by Cratedigga78 06.08.11 @

Much respect to Finesse!! Mac Miller isn’t the worst ever (he just needs to switch up his cadence or go through puberty or something). But clearly a few million of those youtube hits are from the beat alone. Kids these days bug out when they hear the classics. The difference in quality is hard to ignore.

Comment by eric nord 06.08.11 @

Finesse is the illest on the mic period! – come on finesse why the hell are you not putting out an album, show these wack mc’s how it really should be done….save us from all the blah blah blah were hearing today..

Comment by Kevlar 06.08.11 @

Mickey & Mallory, isnt that reference to Natural Born Killers?

Comment by WRB 06.08.11 @

Great shit.

And I think WRB is right. Mallory’s boyfriends name was Nick on Family Ties.

Comment by L2BT 06.08.11 @

“Mickey & Mallory, isnt that reference to Natural Born Killers?”

^ Sure, but Justine Bateman >>>>> Juliette Lewis.

Comment by Robbie 06.08.11 @

so it is official now? Funky Technician Remix Project is definitely NOT droppin???

Comment by DaGrimeyWay 06.08.11 @

Lucky bastard!

Comment by qwermoop 06.08.11 @

Apocalypse when ‘The Alumni’ drops!

Comment by bboycult 06.08.11 @

great shit robbie, that’s some cool shit for you to be there and hearing all those exclusives. The Alumni project sounds amazing, that’s exactly what OC needs!! i remember an interview w. Finesse where he said he wanted to do an album with OC and give him that raw DITC type of beats only. good to see it’s going down

Comment by claaa7 06.09.11 @

Also lookin forward to the O.C. and A.G. collabo to drop with finesse on the boards, lord finesse is on that classic D.I.T.C. legendary status straight up.

Comment by gstatty 06.09.11 @

Nice one Robbie…

Comment by Big Zed 06.10.11 @

The real shame with that Wac Filler material is that a whole generation of children considering themselves “heads” will forever associate a classic Lord Finesse joint with some lame jewish pothead from Pittsburgh. In fact “Hip 2 Da Game” will be known to them as “the original version of that Mac Miller hit”. Makes you feel warm inside don’t it?

On the flip side it’s good to hear that Unkut is making all the right connections in New York. I get the feeling that when all this stuff gets written out we’re going to have some of the best articles yet in store for us…

Good on ya Mr. Ettelson.

Comment by Lair 06.10.11 @

It is depressing to think of it that, Lair. But, all things considered, Mac Miller isn’t really the problem. He flips a track from one of the under-appreciated greats and does him. I’d rather see hip hop expand into more different flavors and forms, even if I don’t like most of them than hear the same stagnant D-level attempts to rehash the same stories, flows, concepts, styles, and rhymes.

The problem isn’t that people like Mac Miller exist (and I don’t know jack shit about the kid), but that our brand of rap, Conservative Rap Coalition, East Coast elitists, music has seen so few emerging bright spots over the past 10-15 years. If there were 20 more Action Bronson’s, we wouldn’t care about the Mac Millers of the world. In fact, we’d be looking at the glass as half empty, on some good for that kid, hip hop is truly universal type shit.

It’s like the American perspective on the global economy. We’re running a surplus in the 90s, and China is growing like a mofo, what’s the national perspective and narrative? Growth for all is great. Now, our economy is in the tank and our students are unable to compete on a global level and that same growth outside our circle is considered a threat by the same people who praised it when we were flourishing. This kid, the Tyler the Maturbator guy, whoever, these people would not be problems if the majority of the guys trying to carry our legacy didn’t come out sounding more like Lil Dap than Sean Price.

Comment by digglahhh 06.10.11 @

I peeped the Mac miller joint. Wasn’t that impressed but I gave him a point for even knowing who was finesse was to jack his shit (or maybe he just stumbled across it on some random shit on Youtube.)
Y’all gotta think: all of our mid to late ’80’s heroes had the pioneers to draw from. All the mid to late ’90’s cats had the ’80’s cats and the early 2000’s cats had the ’90’s dudes. Somewhere along the line, shit got real wack so these cats now have fucked up blueprints to work with. Add to that the fact that there isn’t a balance anymore as far as what gets pushed (think of Rap city in the late ’90’s when you’d see east coast west coast and down south shit.) It’s up to us to support what we feel is true Hip-Hop, without gettin’ into all the little regional catfights.

BTW, digglahh…on point.

Comment by oskamadison 06.10.11 @

great read Robbie, keep up the good work

Comment by ADA 06.10.11 @

good discussion.

in addition to the “fucked up blueprint”, the other thing is that the situation for black people in this country has changed dramatically over the last 40 years. I think Nelson George was wrong about the timing, but definitely correct that Rhythm & Blues (of which hip hop is a core component) is definitely dying a slow death. But people are going to revisit and keep making this music forever. Unlike jazz or classical, hip hop will always be close to the street because it’s so direct and uncomplicated. It’s pretty amazing that Finesse’s beat hasn’t aged a bit in 15 years. Check back in 200 years and it will be as fresh as ever. The good stuff is timeless and that’s the standard… How good will it sound to the next generation.

Comment by eric nord 06.11.11 @

So Robbie, is the project with OC AND Large Pro still happening (under another name), or did they scrap it entirely?

Comment by The Funkologist 06.11.11 @

Word. That Hip to the Game beat comes on and I’m right back to bopping on the 4 train on my way to high school, rocking the red and black Northface (back when ppl would be like, WTH is that jacket and why do they cost so much?) and the Timberland hikers with the Tony Touch/Doo Wop/G-Bo the Pro/Dirty Harry/whatever mixtape in the yellow Sony Sports walkman (autoreverse, son!). It’s as fresh today as it was then.

And, that’s a big part of where the game went awry. Truth be told, as much as I love the democracy of the internet, make and market your own shit age, this was an area where it really paid to have a record label in the mix. These dudes owned the rights to that music and wanted to make money of it in the back-catalog vein, years down the line. There were teams of people there to prevent cats from releasing their shitty material. Now, all you have are dudes gassed up by the echo chamber of their own weed carriers – even if they’re not even famous – and nobody to say, slow down, son, that shit ain’t tight enough. Or, drop that on a mixtape, but that’s not album material, it will sound dated in a year.

I remember reading Kweli talking about the race to come up with the first Michael Vick dogfighting punchline, and he said that he’d drop something, but never put it on an album because he doesn’t know if that story will have legs 5, 10 years later, and he doesn’t want dudes looking back at his albums – the works that define his legacy – and hearing obsolete references that make his work sound out of date. Think what you will of Kweli as an emcee, but the dude definitely thinks about his music the right way. Kweli is a smart dude; we can’t rely on any semi-talented rap cat to think about his music on that high a level and be his own ombudsman.

There are a lot of rappers who are like sixth men on a basketball team, or the change of pace runningback on a football team. Look at somebody like J.J. Barea, he can come in and ho ham, put up 12 points in 12 minutes. But, you can’t play him 35 minutes a night because he’ll get exposed, his weaknesses will shine equally bright as his strengths. Or, what about the super-fast running back who comes in and breaks long runs when the defense is reeling (Darren Sproles?). But, this guy can’t handle the workload of 250+ carries in a season. These players remain effective because they have coaches!

Record labels are like coaches. Great players may not need coaches. But, plenty of rappers were protected against being exposed because the climate of the 80s and 90s was dominate by record labels. If Mic Geronimo was left on his own and decided to release a 20-song mixtape every 6 months, he’d be considered garbage within 18 months time.

Today’s blueprint is very much yesterday’s blueprint, but nowadays you have to be skilled, wise, mature, and disciplined enough to execute nearly all its components on your own. And, that’s hard! Not every person who thrives within a corporate work environment can thrive equally as an entrepreneur. All the Mic Geronimos of the world had to do was rap decently well, and everything else would be taken care of (quality control, marketing, distribution, touring, etc.). Today, the independent artists who succeed (ex. Immortal Technique)are intelligent, measured, and mature. They’re the types who would succeed at entrepreneur-ism in general. When Redman was freaking the styles that made us think he had cerebral palsy, none of that was necesssary from the artist him/herself.

Comment by digglahhh 06.11.11 @

I agree that the breakdown of the traditional music industry structure is part of the reason why the quality of music has deteriorated.

But I think it’s important to remember that what made this music, and where it comes from, is Black culture. One of the reason why White guys are rarely good rappers is that they usually don’t grow up in Black neighborhoods. They don’t GET IT. Both black kids and white kids have access to the same record labels and radio, yet black artists have dominated 99% of rap music. It’s a cultural thing.

The situation for young black men in America has changed dramatically over the last 30 years. I’m not saying things are milk and honey. But in the late 1970s, things were pretty raw across the board. The racial tension was ridiculous. Physical, cultural, and economic segregation was a huge barrier to black people who might otherwise be CEOs, lawyers, doctors, etc. And so a lot of the smartest, most talented people were (and still are) looking for careers in entertainment. There was a similar situation for Jewish immigrants too, many of whom also went into show business in disproportionate numbers.

But I would say the main main reason for the creative decline is just length of time from the most creative period of Black music: the 1960s. Anyone who was alive during the 1960s, or whose parents were, was part of the invention of global pop music. Music was revolutionized forever. Black genius was being denied or blocked everywhere else in society, and so the creative energy that might have otherwise gone into business, or law, or medicine… went into music.

And so I think no matter what the state the music industry is, we’re not going to see a return of that level of creative genius in our lifetime.

Comment by eric nord 06.12.11 @

I’ve often wondered what happened with B-1, dude was an amazing MC. his Empire Staters/Verbal Affairs and Cardinal Sin 12’s are amongst my favorites from that “Rawkus period”.
Not to forget the Put ya self in my Place place 12 with Large Pro and his guest drops on 4,5,6 etc…
Is there any info on him or new material by him?

Comment by JakeBiz 06.13.11 @

Wow, that’s a powerful and insightful post Eric. Props.

Comment by The Grand 06.14.11 @

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