Filed under: Features,No Country For Old (Rap) Men,Web Work
Written by: Robbie Ettelson
Selling stuff to aging rap fans is like shooting fish in a barrel, or so most ad execs would have us believe.
Selling stuff to aging rap fans is like shooting fish in a barrel, or so most ad execs would have us believe.
Timeless Truth do their bit to support the New York Met’s World Series campaign. Sounds like they could use all the help they can get as they trail the Royals by two games.
While we now consider the Trackmasters to be just Poke and ‘Red Hot Lover’ Tone, it originally included Alex Richberg and Frank Nitty in the early days. After cutting their teeth on Finesse and Synquis, Tone’s first solo album and working with Chubb Rock, the crew really put themselves on the map when they added three tracks to Kool G Rap‘s Live and Let Die album, resulting in ‘Ill Street Blues’ and the ‘On The Run’ remix making a lot of noise. From their, placements with LL Cool J, Nas and their new discovery Foxy Brown ensured that they were on the up-and-up, and before long they pumping out hits for Will Smith, Jay-Z and Jennifer Lopez.
Fun fact: Could it be that the Trackmasters use of the Beatnuts‘ ‘Watch Out Now‘ beat for J-Lo’s ‘Jenny On The Block‘ was a subtle payback for the ‘Nuts using the same loop as Red Hot Lover Tone has rapped over in 1992 on ‘Winderella‘ for 1994’s ‘Are You Ready‘? While they certainly weren’t above using some obvious disco loops on some of their later work, there’s no doubt that this duo have delivered some amazing records, as this collection demonstrates.
All of these clips are equal parts bizarre and amazing. The first features interviews with Schoolly-D and Mantronix while they were on tour in the UK, while overlaying ‘witty’ comments and alleged statistics about violence at rap shows in a manner which suggests that the producers of the segment were either taking the piss or genuinely concerned that hip-hop was going to corrupt the youf. Next up we have the always lovely Real Roxanne performing ‘Bang Zoom (Let’s Go)’ in front of a crowd of slightly confused children, before some of the braver kids are shoved onstage to ‘bust’ some moves of their own. Finally, we get to see the spikey-haired host declare that Full Fiorce is her favourite group during an episode of Music Box in 1986. Some fine work from the Beat of the Street You-Toob channel for bringing us these ‘special’ moments.
‘I’mma about to start rappin’ like when Nas had passion.’ Shout out to Herman Munster.
Produced by Doktor Rheal.
The career of The Jaz aka Big Jaz aka Jaz-O is tricky to summarize. On one hand, he had to deal with being eclipsed by his young protege, which is always going to be a blow to the ego. On the other hand, Jay-Z did seem to attempt to repay the favor by offering to put him on at Roc-A-Fella, even though Jaz turned down the deal and decided to air-out his former student and effectively get himself black-balled from the industry as a result. If you notice, his discography of production work stops at exactly the time that he fell out with Mr. Carter. And if this detailed account of his handling of Council’s Tommy Boy deal (found in the comments section), he was also doing some bad business.
Nevertheless, as a rapper we saw Jaz evolve from the Brag Rap era through to the Conscious Rap era before eventually adopting the Street Hustler style. As a producer, he made more of a lasting impression, proving to be equally adept at delivering laid-back, moody joints as he was hyped-up sonic aggression. Special mention goes out to besting AZ at his own game on the 80’s R&B flip for ‘Waitin” and delivering Brooklyn’s answer to the Money Boss Player‘s ‘Killed in The Crap Game’ on the incredible ‘Council Era.’
I’m not mad at these dudes for doing some weird shit.
Australia’s loves making films about jail, so I took a look at country’s storied history of life in the bing/boob for Complex AU.
Queens-born producer Ayatollah has laced tracks for everyone from Tragedy to Screwball to Mos Def to Cormega. We caught-up last week to discuss his early days on the come-up, auditioning beat tapes at Rawkus Records and a random Happy Days connection. His latest project, Box Cutter Brothers 3, is out now with Drasar Monumental.
Robbie: What was your inspiration to make music?
Ayatollah: My older brother. When I was younger he used to take care of me, and he was a b-boy. He was like my super hero. He listened to a lot of hip-hop, breakdancing and things like that. I admired him, he had a major influence on me – the way he dressed, the music he listened to – I just thought he was really cool. He would wear the sheepskins and the suede Pumas and Kangols. At school I was always into art, so after going to junior high school I got into the whole graffiti thing. Graffiti had a big influence on me making music.
After the graffiti I got into the DJing. I started DJing from ’89. I bought turntables, I started collecting records [and] I started doing parties. I started battling other DJ’s, competition-wise. When I met Jam-Master Jay, rest in peace, was quite a major point in my life. Getting to ask him questions about DJing and Run-DMC – he actually took the time out to answer my questions. I met him at random in Queens, on 165th Street and Jamaica Avenue. It’s a huge shopping area for a lotta people on Queens. There came a point in my DJing career where I was like, ‘I don’t just want to play the records anymore, I wanna actually produce the records.’
As far as Get Off My Lawn Rap goes, this does the trick. Produced by Jay.En.P and directed by T.D. Hoople.
When I first went to high school, I remember I’d memorized the entire intro to Rhyme Pays and would recite it to pretty girls for reasons which now escape me. Let’s just say it was a simpler time. Ice-T‘s first four albums combined humor, slick talk and social commentary in a way which set him apart from the competition and allowed fans to overlook that fucked-up ponytail. Here’s a collection of remixes, b-sides and essential album cuts from everyone’s favorite Law & Order: SVU detective.
You Toober Umberto -Fab- Lampasona loves himself some test pressings, and this one is a doozy – a vaulted 1988 remix of Lord Shafiq’s debut single from the year before. We only get the first three and a half minutes, but it’s an interesting revision of the classic ‘Nautilus’ loop of the original regardless.
Here’s the original version of ‘Part Deux’ from Fat Joe‘s Jealous One’s Envy LP, produced by Domingo and available on his Sessions and Lessons album.
Grand Good came through in the clutch with this one – twenty minutes of the Ultra crew rapping on the radio. Wonder whatever happened to that Ced-Gee compilation that was meant to drop on Next Plateau?
Rising up through the ranks from the ‘Son of Bambattaa’ to the DJ at The Roxy and launching the Zulu Beat radio show on WHBI, Afrika Islam went on to release the very fist cut and paste record, help found the Rhyme Syndicate and produce the majority of Ice-T’s first four albums after moving to LA in what has certainly been an action-packed career. He took a little time out to reminisce before he headed over to Ice’s house to watch the latest episode of SVU.
Robbie: How did you first get exposed to the culture?
Afrika Islam: I was a member of the Zulu King b-boys, under Afrika Bambaataa. That’s how I came into the culture, from the floor up. Being a member of the Zulu Kings I went out to battle other b-boy crews across the city, representing the Zulu Nation. From there, my second step was becoming a Zulu Nation DJ – the first line – which would have been myself and Jazzy Jay and Red Alert and DXT. I was under Afrika Bambaataa – we all were – but I was very close to Afrika Bambaataa. Then I got named ‘The Son of Bambaataa’ because I was always under him and his teachings and what was going on in the Zulu Nation at the same time in hip-hop. That’s my roots of hip-hop – I was there as a DJ.
There must have been a lot of competition to make it into that first line of Zulu DJs?
My technique I took from those that were creating the techniques – Grandmaster Flash and Grand Wizard Theodore. That’s primarily where the technique we used came from, but being that I was with Afrika Bambaataa the main thing was learning all those records, because he was definitely the ‘Master of Records.’ Learning all those records was honestly what everything was about. Having all those records, the repertoire, most of these other DJs only had the ability to….even though they were technically incredible and the pioneers of what modern-day DJing is – Flash and Theodore – the repertoire of the records was the soundtrack to New York City. That was the soundtrack to hip-hop.
A little from column a, a little from column b.
Here’s the world premier stream of the latest EP from veteran rapper dude Shabaam Sahdeeq, released through Dutch/Swedish label Elite Fleet Records. Available through digital retailers today, with a limited-edition tape version out on the 17th for Cassette Store Day and vinyl still to come.
I’ve been fairly vocal in complaining about shitty, boring rap shows I’ve attended in the past. While the infamous Ultramagnetic show of 2013 rates as perhaps the most soul-crushing disappointment of my adult life, picking the best one I’ve attended is a little trickier. It would have to be a toss-up between Public Enemy‘s 1989 Melbourne show – where Flavor Flav was driven onto the stage in ambulance before he leaped off a giant speaker stack while me and my friends stood with our arms crossed in the appropriate b-boy stance while the rest of the crowd danced around like rabid meerkats; Lord Finesse and the late DJ Roc Raida in 2006 – simple yet effective; or Big Daddy Kane live in Herbert Von Park in Brooklyn, New York in 2013, where he tore up the stage and even managed to bust out some synchronized steps with his dancers.
What are your best and worst live rap show experiences?
Eric ‘Vietnam’ Sadler was the Bomb Squad‘s secret weapon. It was his programming expertise that kept their ‘wall of noise’ production style in the pocket, assigned to translate Hank Shocklee and Chuck D‘s musical chaos into sharply welder tools of war. You can pick the tracks which have Eric’s heavy fingerprints in the way that the drums swing and the finely-woven loop changes, perhaps best demonstrated by his work on Ice Cube‘s first solo album.
In this interview with Flatline from 2007, MC Serch talks about working with the Bomb Squad on the first 3rd Bass album:
‘Eric was, to me, the producer. Keith was the street guy who made sure the street was gonna love it and the beat was hot – the engineer. Hank was the guy who kinda put the stamp of approval, who did the final mixing, came in and listened and then was on to other things. I loved working with Eric Sadler. It was a great pleasure being in the studio with him, watching him make “Oval Office” and “Steppin’ To The A.M.”.’
This is re-enforced by Sadler’s recollection of picking up Ice Cube and Sir Jinx for the recording of AmeriKKKa’ Most Wanted in Check The Technique , Volume 2:
‘When I picked them up at the airport, Cube was like, ‘Who is this guy?’ He thought he’d only be working with Hank, Chuck and Terminator X on the album. He didn’t know that I did 99% of our music.’
New Courteous, produced by godBLESSbeatz.
For such an iconic group, Eric B & Rakim really had a rough trot as far as having shitty UK clun remixes tacked on to their singles. For reasons still I’m still trying to figure out, I thought it would be interesting to compile a collection of the least horrible remixes that were released over their four album career as a duo. While none of these actually surpass the originals, it’s still mildly enjoyable to hear Rakim delivering his timeless lyrics over some different versions of these classics. I know everyone loses their shit over the Coldcut remix of ‘Paid In Full,’ but I always thought it was a little overrated, despite it’s ‘historical significance.’
A lot of the best rap music was made in the eighties and nineties, but some folks just get away with those rose-tinted Cazals.
Microphone King Donald D has had a long and varied career, spanning back to the park jam era, onto the downtown club scene, radio and then records, both as a member of The B-Boys and as a soloist with the Rhyme Syndicate. Now residing in Italy, Donald took some time out to detail some of his experiences during the formative days of the culture.
Robbie: How were you first introduced to hip-hop?
Donald D: Going to the parties, watching Kool Herc in the parks and Afrika Bambaataa in the parks. That was my first experience seeing these DJs out in the park.
You were living in the Bronx at the time?
Kool Herc used to play at a park called 129, which is not far from where I lived. Then I would go to Bronx River Center and watch Afrika Bambaataa throw down outside. All of this took place in the South Bronx, where it all started.
How old were you at that time?
You’re talking about junior high school when I was seeing these guys play. At the time we was going to a local place all the kids would call The Boy’s Club. We would go there basically to play basketball, swim. I had other friends who would become hip-hop legends and superstars, so you’re talking about at that time Easy AD, who became a member of the Cold Crush Brothers; you had Lil’ Rodney Cee and Jazzy Jeff who were part of the Funky Four; you had Master Rob and Waterbed Kev who became part of the Fantastic Five. There were a lot of these guys who were at the time unknown who became legends in hip-hop. We all would be playing basketball together as kids [chuckles].