Filed under: Killa Queens,New Rap That Doesn't Suck,Rap Veterans,Steady Bootleggin',Trag Invasion
Written by: Robbie Ettelson
The War Report crew bring back Grandmaster Vic for some of that Queens blend tape magic.
The War Report crew bring back Grandmaster Vic for some of that Queens blend tape magic.
P.I.M.P is available now.
Pumpkinhead and Sucio Smash [Photo by: Photo Rob]
As most of you already know, long-time indy rap champion Pumpkinhead passed away this week at only 39 years old, tragically leaving behind his pregnant wife and two kids. I’m not really qualified to speak on the man’s numerous contributions, but Chaz Kangas has put together a fitting tribute to the man for Complex, while some of his friends shared their fondest memories on Facebook:
DJ Eclipse: Some of us spend countless hours, days, months, years and even decades promoting others more so then we do ourselves. PH was one of those guys. Even though he made a name for himself in the battle scene and even made some records, it was his work here in NYC that I’ll remember even more. An integral part of the 90’s indie movement as well as today’s battle scene and a promoter of authentic acts and events, PH cared about the culture of Hip Hop. For him it was about your skills and how to improve on them. He was one of the ones that helped keep the foundation strong for others to go on and build careers.
Twelve non-LP Mobb Deep tracks that were officially released on someone else’s album, as opposed to the seemingly endless supply of stuff that never got a proper retail release.
UPDATE: By popular demand, now available as a Zippyshare Records and Tapes download…
A.K.A. Where were the celebrations and think-pieces for the twentieth anniversary of To The East, Blackwards?
Editor’s note: The following interview was conducted by Bill Zimmerman in 2007 for the now defunct print edition of Modern Fix magazine prior to the release of Guru’s Jazzmatazz, Vol. 4: The Hip Hop Jazz Messenger. This Sunday marks the fifth anniversary of Guru’s passing.
On April 19, 2010, the rapper born Keith Elam died of complications from cancer at 48. Hip-hop lost one of its Golden Era notables. What remained were questions about Guru’s association with Solar, his late-career producer and business partner in the label 7 Grand, whose motives were questioned by the rapper’s family and former collaborators. Shortly after Guru’s death, Solar released a letter purportedly written by Guru and critical of Premier. Guru’s family labeled it a fake; Solar defended the letter as “what Guru wanted.”
The self-proclaimed “king of monotone,” Guru possessed one of the most unmistakable voices in hip-hop. Honest and authoritative, he delivered music over three decades, most notably in Gang Starr with DJ Premier as well as through genre-bending Jazzmatazz solo efforts. What follows are excerpts from an unpublished interview with Guru and Solar in 2007. It’s a snapshot of Guru’s late 2000s, post-Gang Starr career. It shows two men focused on making their own lane and taking creative chances in the leadup to what would be Guru’s final Jazzmatazz project. Despite all the drama and confusion that would ensue, Guru made a mark on hip-hop. That’s indisputable.
Bill: Guru, one the previous Jazzmatazz projects you were working with multiple producers. What was it like just sticking with Solar on this one?
Guru: Actually, the only one with multiple producers was the third one (Street Soul). The first one (Vol. 1) I produced, the second one (Vol. 2: The New Reality) I produced and then the third one multiple (producers). Actually, after the third one I said I wanted to go back to working with just one producer because I left like the third one – even though I had like a lot of big name producers – it came out more like a compilation than it did an organic work. It’s still one of my favorites joints, but it was something about the cohesiveness of one producer bringing everything together. After teaming up with Solar – first of all when I first started hearing his music that was after we were friends already for two years. Then we decided to do the label. We were introduced six years ago – he took me to his lab so I could hear some tracks, and it was crazy because it was almost like he read my mind because I was looking for a future sound, a new sound for myself. All my favorite artists are able to do that – to recreate and renew and then reinvent. So, when I heard his tracks, I was like, “Oh, man.” I was blown away and actually took some stuff home right then. Our first release came out in 2005 on 7 Grand. That was called Guru Version 7.0 The Street Scriptures, and that was just the tip of the iceberg. That was just the introduction to this new chemistry. Now, at this point, the chemistry is just more intense, so this album is definitely proof of that.
Almighty KG was meant to visit Wiz in Atlanta but never showed up. This was the result.
While I was staying in New Jersey mid 2013, I attempted to shoot some footage of the original Flavor Unit crew. As it happened, I only managed to get Chill Rob G on film, and after watching the video back I’ve decided that this plays better as a written piece. While some of the same stuff from our 2006 conversation is covered, Rob also went into a lot more detail on some topics, making it a worthwhile piece on it’s own. Not to mention that Ride The Rhythm still stands as one of the strongest and most original releases of 1989.
Robbie: You mentioned that you went through a few different names when you were younger?
Chill Rob G: When I first started I had an identity crisis, I had a bunch of different names. It was Jazzy B, it was Bobby G, it was Killer B – cos my name was Robert. I was down with a couple of different crews too. I was down with The World Rap Crew and I was down with the Dignified Almighty Magnificent MC’s – Those D.A.M. MC’s. When all of that fell apart I just kept rapping on my own. I used to practice with my man Michael Ali, be up at his house every single day, making tapes. When I said that on the record it was true!
Were these beats that he’d made?
He tried to make beats but they was [blows raspberry]. I would just rap over popular rap records. He would try to cut the break. He wasn’t really that good a DJ either – but that was my man back then. [laughs] We would make tapes and try to get it out to the drug dealers, cos they’d be out all night. They would play that music and people would get a chance to hear me rap.
This is a collection of King Sun winners from a couple of years ago, which is still as relevant as ever.
The Original Gangster of Hip-Hop remade his classic ode to rap history for the Deadly Dragon Sound System last December. I wonder if he’d do a version for the Conservative Rap Coalition if we asked very nicely?
Here’s a heart-warming tale of drinking too much from Grand Daddy I.U. from the interview I conducted with him in the carpark of a bar in Long Island, circa 2013. Living proof that doctor’s don’t know shit a lot of the time, and that drinking non-alcoholic beer really is a fate worse than death itself.
Robbie: Any good drinking stories?
Grand Daddy I.U.: Back in the days I used to drink Bacardi Dark. I must’ve been an alcoholic, cos I would go to sleep drinking that shit and wake up drinking that shit. One day my stomach was feeling so fuckin’ crazy I thought I had to shit or something. I’m sitting on the toilet and ain’t shit coming out – I start throwing up, throwing up – the shit started becoming yellow! I didn’t eat no shit that was yellow! Come to find out it was my stomach lining. This shit became so painful I called my moms, ‘I don’t know what this shit is, but you gotta come get me!’ She came and got me, the whole time I keep throwing up.
A few years back Grand Daddy I.U. released an EP of his early work (this time with the right production credits) on the appropriately titled Cold Stealin’ label. As a bonus, he included this shelved track he recorded in 1992 with Biz Markie on the hook, which contains gems such as “For that you get a smack, while I’m sticking my one-eyed jack in your ass crack.” The perfect compliment to I.U.’s classic ‘Girl In The Mall.’
One of the best tracks from The Diam Piece gets a video, directed by Pritt Kalsi.
Working through my list of D.I.T.C. members to interview (only Fat Joe, Buckwild and O.Gee remaining), I got to talk shop with O.C. recently to ask the question that’s been burning my soul slow since 1994 – why didn’t he use that Rakim sample on ‘Time’s Up’!?
For anyone who has missed Puba‘s off-key warbling in recent years, you’re in for a treat. I’m just glad he ditched that shitty keyboard he used for Understand This.
The limited shelf life of most rap groups is a an unfortunate reality. For some MC’s, the window of opportunity is so small that getting stuck in record label limbo for two or three years can spell career ruin, while even some of the genre’s greatest groups such as Run-DMC and Public Enemy suffered album release delays which saw them slip from cutting-edge to being eclipsed by the new kids on the block (with the exception of Donny Walberg’s ‘posse’).
Psycho Les carries on Beatnuts tradition with this dedication to racks.
Engineer all-star CJ Moore delves into the behind the scenes events of Kool G Rap‘s Roots of Evil and the infamous Rawkus album, heading out west, working with the Live Squad and much more in the second part of this interview trilogy.
Robbie: What happened after the Akinyele sessions finished?
CJ Moore: When money started coming into play between Dr. Butcher and myself, things started getting funny. I went out to California and I teamed-up with Ed Strickland again and we was with a guy doing a project called The Reality Check – a guy named Michael Harris – Harry O. He’s the guy who funded Death Row Records. Ice Cube, Ice-T, Dub C, all those guys were involved. I produced a couple of records with Ice-T with me and him rapping back and forth. I was doing the east coast stuff, Battlecat was doing the west coast stuff. I went to Big Daddy Kane, talked to him on the phone, I said, ‘I need you to be out in California. I’m doing this project, it’s kinda merging the east coast with the west coast. Let’s talk about what it’s gonna take to get you on the project.’ He asked me who was on the project, and I explained to him. There was guy named Black Ceasar on the project, he was from Pittsburgh, real talented guy, but Kane had a problem because his name was Black Ceasar. I said, ‘But your name is Big Daddy Kane!’ ‘Yeah, aka Black Ceasar.’ I said, ‘What kind of bullshit is that?’ He couldn’t do the project because of that. I stepped to Method Man and I was trying to get to Redman and everyone was kinda busy, so the east coast/west coast thing never did the proper merge. There was so much money on the table, more than these guys have ever made. For some reason it just backed-out. I guess the whole Harry O thing might have scared people to a degree, if you know the homework on the whole Death Row situation. But we can’t get into that.
Continuing my interview with Kool-Ass Fash, we discuss him leaving The Beatnuts, meeting Kanye West, forming Missin’ Linx, getting beat-jacked by Dr. Dre and his ill-fated experience signing with Dante Ross.
Robbie: At what stage did you decide to do a solo album?
Al’ Tariq: While we were out on tour doing The Beatnuts joint, we were doing a show close to home at a school, maybe in Long Island or some shit, being on stage and then somebody started heckling us. Talking shit, ‘Yo, you fuckin’ aargh!’ I finally look and it’s Juju. Then he comes and hops on stage and joins in on one of our songs and shit. I was so mad, and I could never understand why Les and Peter Kang didn’t get mad with this dude. I had a few serious run-ins with him.
I was directed to this in the comment section of my Pos K interview last year by hotbox but forgot to post it. Take my wife…please!
Freddie Foxxx over a quality DJ Premier track.
The artist formerly known as Fashion aka Kool-Ass Fash took some time out to discuss the ups and downs of his career as both a soloist and as a member of The Beatnuts. This first part focuses on his early days, revealing that the Intoxicated Demons EP could have been completely different had fate not intervened, his thorny relationship with Juju, subliminal rhyme jabs between the Native Tongues and how recording the Street Level album was absolute hell.
Robbie: What made you want to rap?
Al’ Tariq: I wanted to rap at an early age, growing up in The Bronx. The first time I heard Spoonie Gee [starts reciting ‘Spoonin’ Rap’] I wanted to do it bad. I always sang and act and wrote plays and movies at a young age, but what made me think it could be real was I went to school with a young gentleman named James Todd Smith. We attended this school called Christopher Robbins Academy, we were both in ninth grade together. I had gone down to North Carolina to live for two years with my family and sister. I was down there in the fall, my brother came to see me, he was like, ‘Look at this record that Jay made.’ I couldn’t believe it. That was the moment. ‘He did it? I could do it!’ When I heard ‘I Need A Beat’ it was the fall of 1984. At them times, I was rhyming but I wasn’t out there rhyming with everybody. It was something I did on the low. Basketball and girls was all I thought about. I wanted to be an entertainer anyway, but rhyming was probably the fourth or fifth thing on that list. I had other pictures for what I thought I was gonna be at the end of the day.
Photo: Joe Conzo
Back before rap magazines and the internet, I heard a rumor that Grandmaster Caz and Ced-Gee were working on an album together. Needless to say, my young mind was blown at the possibility of these two rap geniuses teaming-up. While we only got a couple of Tuff City singles from this meeting of minds, it turns out that they did in fact record an entire album of material together in 1992 before Aaron Fuch‘s decided that the material ‘wasn’t commercial enough,’ according to a piece that Dave Tompkins did on the ‘You Need Stitches’ single. Tuff City eventually released the vaulted material on a couple of compilations, so I thought I’d assemble it all together to paint a picture of how Caz’s 1992 LP, The Grandest Of Them All was originally intended to sound before The Mighty Maestro was recruited to remake it. ‘I’m Gonna Freak You’ deserves a special mention as being one of the most amusing sex raps ever recorded, while ‘I’m Rich’ is flossing at it’s finest. I’ve also included the earlier records they did together, just on the general principle that everything Ced touched during that period was amazing and Caz still had some gas in the tank despite being part of the old guard by this point. Bronx brilliance at it’s finest, albeit in poorly mixed, unpolished form.
The second single from 36 Seasons, featuring two CRC-approved veterans of rap.