Sunday, August 31, 2008

J-Love Presents...Joell Ortiz - Who's Nice?

Well, here we are, another summer gone and we all brace ourselves for the impending winter months. Just in time for the fall doldrums and the painstaking seasonal chores of having to wear more clothing, waiting in the bitter cold for the ubiquitously late metro bus and staying inside entirely too often, J-Love drops a crazy ass new mixtape to help remind us that winter is still the best season for bumpin' good ole' New York, boom bap hip-hop. Yeah, sitting atop freezing cold plastic seats on the city bus while you try your hardest to ignore the vagrant who's in a drunken stooper across from you staring intently at your neck is definitely a hard thing to do. Luckily your an old vet and you know that nothing zones you out in tough winter situations like an interesting and talented lyricist. Joell Ortiz is just that lyricist and if you don't know who duke is, where the fuck have you been the last 2 years?

Joell's lyrics do provide a nice escape from the everyday bullshit that we all routinely endure, but even if I slept on bags of money, Halle Berry was the face I rolled over and woke up to every morning and life in general was fucking lovely, I'd still mess wit Joell's music. He's inexhaustibly talented and at times he displays flashes of brilliance. Flashes that many say are very reminiscent to the late, great Christopher Rios AKA Big Pun. While I am a lot more cautious when it comes to the incessant Pun comparisons, I will admit that Joell does have that great character and personality in him that does remind me a lot of Pun. For the most part however, they're two totally different guys and emcees, and Joell would be the first one to tell you that; Another reason why I like what he's about.

I'm assuming that Mr. Ortiz is looking to bounce back from his somewhat unfortunate Aftermath signing and subsequent release by generating what landed him a deal at Dre's label in the first place: Street buzz. Yes, Joell is very apt at shaping a nice niche' for himself in the minds of many a underground head as well as battle rap enthusiasts. His challenge now I suppose would be to maintain that oh so coveted status and maybe grab a few new fans. Well, I can attest that he's taking the hardcore approach and sticking to his roots. Anyone that's featured on a J-Love tape is going to get some well deserved attention from the real heads. We know how J-Love rolls and it ain't with no clowns or so-so rappers. He's a real DJ and he's done good by putting out a tape with Joell. It's not really surprising though....J-Love gets around to all of our favorites at some point or another....having done tapes with Tragedy, AZ, Kool G Rap, Cormega, Guru, The Wu and many others, J-Love has proven he's one of the guys that won't turn his back on the true school. That makes for a perfect marriage on "Who's Nice", because Joell is the modern day version of what many of us used to consider a "great" prospect and J-Love has always worked well with young, hungry and talented artists.

There's some great material on here and some of Joell's best joints ever like "125 Grams Pt. 5" and "125 Grams Pt. 4" lead the way. "Legend Of Pun" provides a nice tribute to an inspirational figure in Joell's life and the lives of so many other Latinos and displays Ortiz's humility. Coupled with some of his illest guest spots this is a worthy "best of" type of mixtape, but I can't hide my disappointment with the lack of exclusive material. In Fact, the only true "exclusive" that I heard on this was the insanely good "Night In My P's" Remix ft. Big Noyd that's produced by J-Love.


01. 125 Pt 5 Man I'm 05:17
02. Memories 02:21
03. Night In My P's Remix (Feat Big Noyd)prod. by J-Love 02:42
04. Lil Fun 03:03
05. Hip Hop Remix (Feat Jadakiss & Saigon) 03:20
06. 4 In A Clip 04:28
(Feat Nino, Bless, Kool G Rap & Styles)
07. Stomp Thru (Feat Smiff & Wessun & Ruck) 03:12
08. Chyna White (Feat Kool G Rap) 02:31
09. 50 Shots (Rip In Sean Bell) 02:25
10. Relax 03:06
11. Ups And Downs 03:13
12. 125 Pt 4 The Finale 05:41
13. Letter To Obama 01:37
14. Here The Next 02:05
15. 125 Pt 1 The Bio 05:25
16. Chances 03:19
17. Legend Of Big Pun 05:57
18. Doing It (Feat Gloria Velez) 03:29
19. Warfare (Feat Joe Buddens) 02:43
20. Brooklyn Lets Go 02:55
(Feat Mad Rapper, Maino, Red Cafe & Papoose
21. Summertime In Bk 03:27
22. You Lose 01:26
23. Tag 03:13
24. We Run Ny 02:27
(Feat Tru Life, Tony Touch & Lumidee)

Friday, August 29, 2008

Brooklyn Academy - Bored Of Education

Back again is one of the most fundamentally sound and purely well rounded groups from NYC; Brooklyn Academy ya'll!!

After so many underground mixtapes, solo LP's, shows and guest spots Brooklyn's magnetic trio from the Park Slope section of the borough comprised of Pumpkinhead, Block McCloud and Mr. Metaphor have finally released their debut group album "Bored Of Eduction". Coming complete with Pumpkinhead's witty lyrics, McCloud's special harmonization and Meta's healthy work ethic this effort is sure to please both the cats that have been following them since their subterranean emergence sometime in the mid-nineties and their new un-schooled fans....

The release of "Bored Of Education" is pretty well the next few days we'll see new albums from Tru Master, Termanology and Diamond D, that all of which I expect to be really good. This album belongs right beside the ones previously mentioned. I know this because like the rest of their rabid fan base I have been following each of these guys and their affiliates for some time and I know that they are firmly dedicated to the true and authentic sound of Hip-Hop.

Sprinkled amongest the raw, highly enjoyable production and the dynamic group framework is a modest but effective list of guest contributions. From longtime collaborators Jean Grae, Will Tell and War Bixby to newer and more recognizable affiliations like Killah Priest, Keith Murray and Ill Bill, every guest spot is well thought out and very relevant to the song. A nice consistency that adds to an already very strong presence that all three emcee's display almost effortlessly throughout.

While I do think that this album has a few weaker moments here and there, for the most part it's a full meal, coming complete with a healthy amount of meaty metaphors that you'll wanna replay over and again. The Dexterity that Brooklyn Ac displays on here is very cohesive and all three rhyme artists shine, but it's Pumpkinhead who steps forward and in my opinion, time and again proves he's the standout of the group. Not to take anything away from Block and Meta, lord knows they blessed us substantially this time around and also brought forth some insane production, but Pumpkinhead was on his "A" game. After you hear this in it's entirety you'll be forced to agree that the Puerto Rican wordsmith is un-rivaled on this go round' when it comes to clever 16's.

All in all this is a superior product. All newbie hip-hoppers need not grab this. You won't understand, and this is a University-level course in real NYC underground hip-hop kiddies. Those who lack the needed credits will be wait listed indefinitely. Those who have been studying up get ready for one of the illest classes you've ever taken, instructed by the most talented professors in their field....hope your not a visual learner!


01. One (Intro) (feat. Jean Grae) 01:31
02. Raise Ya Hands (feat. Jean Grae) 05:46
03. We Don't Play 04:33
04. Message To Brooklyn (Skit) 01:34
05. This Is Brooklyn (feat. Ill Bill) 05:05
06. That's Brooklyn 04:22
07. The Growler 03:45
08. Hide (feat. Fresh Jones & Keith Murray) 05:22
09. Tear It Down 04:36
10. Blame It On The Alcohol (Skit) (feat. War Bixby) 02:31
11. Splash (feat. Killah Priest) 05:25
12. Black Out (feat. Jean Grae) 05:03
13. Suicide 03:55
14. Close Your Eyes (feat. Skam 2) 04:24
15. Back In Effect 03:55
16. What's The Buzz (feat. Will Tell) 03:40
17. Nothing You Can Do (feat. Jean Grae) 03:54

Video: Statik Selektah ft. Cassidy, Saigon & Termanology - Take It To The Top

Statik Selektah feat. Cassidy, Saigon & Termanology - "Take It To The Top"

Whoa...that's all I can say to describe this beat man...truly an ill production. The video has a nice laid back touch too. Got the whole round table effect goin'....shows three of the nicest new cats comin' up spittin they verse while they partake in a freshly rolled L and sit in a dining environment. I liked the footage of Statik cuttin' too.....That's hip-hop baby!


Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Night To Remember: Barack Obama Accepts The Democratic Nomination To Become The President Of The United States Of America


Tonight was simply history....Like millions of other Americans I watched in Awe as Barack Obama became the first African American to accept the Democratic nomination in my surrogate hometown of Denver, CO. He spoke eloquently and boldly while bringing many in the crowd to tears with his riveting speech and imperishable accomplishment. I've been a supporter of Barry's for awhile so I guess I'm bias, but nevertheless I must say that I thought that Senator Obama was magnificent. He answered his naysayers, he quelled his detractors and more than anything he showed a nation that if they believe in themselves they can in fact, create a real change. It was only fitting that it was forty eight years ago today that Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I Have A Dream" speech in Washington D.C.. A speech and a "Dream" that would forever change the way that millions of people looked at race, politics and the world. Today, the great King is surely smiling down on one Barack Obama, who's speech will surely be remembered for years to come as well.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Kev Turner - Straight Raw

Ever since I uploaded that remarkable DJ Davito mixtape "The Intervention" I've gotten a few emails/queries about one of the artist's on it who really shined. Being that The Intervention is on my shortlist for one of the best mixtapes of 2008 I think it's only right that I did some research on this guy. What I found was gold. First off let me go ahead and name the emcee in question. He goes by Kev Turner, I'm not sure if that's his government or his stage name. By the very limited amount of info on him out there (a myspace page is about it) the only concrete facts I gathered was that money was from West Philly and has also spent a good amount of time somewhere in south Jersey....and that he can spit. Although his background info might be scarce, Turner provides more than enough details about his world via his new mixtape "Straight Raw". A mean flow with a blistering delivery Turner graces a few of your favorite beats of all time throughout "Straight Raw" demonstrating his knowledge of the east coast's glory days. While he isn't a lyrical giant, Turner quickly and confidently makes up for whatever he lacks in vocabulary with feeling and cold sincerity. The freestyles are quaint, but they do the job and provide good bridges into his original works. This tape is well constructed, I can tell Turner put some time into the track list by how each song and skit roll into one another. It isn't until the backend of the tape that you really start to appreciate Turner's writing. Track's like "I'm a Star" and "Hit Em' Kev" couple Turner's rugged flow with solid production and prove that he's a new emcee worth following. Hopefully we'll hear more from Kev Turner in the future, til' then you can grab his new 16 track mixtape "Straight Raw" on his myspace page:, or here.


01 Intro (prod by J-Slant)
02 Bossin (prod by Sebmaestria)
03 Hard Rhymes Hard Hittin (prod by J-Slant)
04 From da Six-o
05 Hard at Work (prod by J-Slant)
06 Heavy Traffic
07 Mighty K
08 Truly Unstoppable (prod by J-Slant)
09 Spit Dat Crack
10 I'm a Star (prod By J-Slant)
11 The Big Payback
12 Get Down (prod by The Producer Z)
13 Git Deal Wit
14 Turn My Music Up (prod by J-Slant)
15 Hit Em Kev (prod by The Soundprophets)
16 Speed Of Light (prod by J-Slant)

Monday, August 25, 2008

DJ Premier - Beats That Collected Dust Vol.1

One of the biggest influences on my production for over 15 years has been DJ Premier. I mean when it comes to the authentic sound of boom-bap he practically originated it. Who would've ever thought that a kid from Houston would have had such a huge impact on New York's hip-hop scene....It happened though. Premier has been in New York for all of it's great triumph's and disasters and his style of production has withstood the test of time. In addition to being one of the most highly respected and sought after producers in the game Premier has also defined what a DJ truly is as well. Premier took cutting to a whole other level and continues to do just that with his patented scratching in of lyrics from other songs on the chorus. One of his many trademarks that has made him so original.

Funk, Soul, Jazz, Rock, you name it and Premier Has flipped it and flipped it well. Many of his fans enjoy his sample manipulation to no end, but personally I have always enjoyed his drums the most. See, Premier is a genius. He knows that often times in music less is more. That's the mentality behind really good boom-bap beats anyway. You don't need a thousand different change ups in the beat, tons of drum rolls, crashes and crescendo's. Not at all. What you need is a good groove repeated over and again without interupption. Premier puts more time into the sound of his snare and Kick. Making sure that they have the right chemistry, the right swing. Some might try to say that Premier's drums are simplistic, but they're wrong. In fact, Preme's drums have always been just right. No weak emcee can hide out amongest a Premier production, oh no....those drums force you to be more than just an average rapper, you better come wit something ill, otherwise you will be outshined by Premo's musical concoction and that's the way it's been since 89' man.

Here we have more of Premier's much celebrated simplicity (the title explains exactly what your getting) in the form of a nice lil' mix of unreleased beats, that for some reason or other never got snatched up by anyone. There are a few familiar sounds on here, but don't be fooled, they are the original versions that Premier is being gracious enough to let us hear in their infancy. For me it's a really spectacular thing to be able to hear some of the things that Premier had just cooped away....nothing on here should have been kept from the true fans. "Beats That Collected Dust" is another solid release from Premier and will surely satisfy his longtime fans. We still haven't gotten that solo album but until we do (if we ever do) this will momentarilly placate our insaciable thirst. Premier has always just worked at his own pace man, what can I say. Some of his fans dispise his inactivity at times, but i think we need to understand that we've gotten a lot of great music because of that un-yielding and un-compromising work ethic. Premo can't be rushed, and won't be. No doubt, some of these beats are most likely from quite awhile ago, lol, but now we're barely recieving them in 2008. Better late than never I guess.


01. Spin Live
02. Sing Like Bilal
03. Blow Horn Joint
04. Pee-An-Oh
05. Mysterious
06. Dadaa
07. Dink
08. B-Line
09. Trackhorn
10. Waaaaaa
11. Droop
12. Original Represent

DJ Rhude & Present...Flagrant Cops

It seems like the best mixtapes that are dropping these days are coming from the lesser known DJ's who are trying futily to keep some semblance of respectability flowing in an oversaturated and dying section of the game. DJ Rhude is one such DJ and this his latest tape "Flagrant Cops" is dripping with great exclusives from the best and newest east coast talent. The message here is obviously "fuck the police", and I'm assuming that DJ Rhude like many New Yorkers, has had his fill of the tyrannical NYPD, their mistreatment of black and Latino folks in all 5 of the cities boroughs and wanted to send a message via his mixtape. Kudos to him on that. I'm no expert but usually when it comes to overt anti-establishment or anti-law enforcement messages hip-hop has always been the best suited medium. We say what the fuck needs to be said no matter what. Most of the time we do anyway....I just really respect the shit outta Rhude for doin' a tape like this man. Whiel every other DJ is putting together tapes that is promoting shit like weed, corny ass trends in fashion or any of the other bullshit consumer driven concepts that hip-hop is now mired in, here comes Rhude with somethin better. Somethin' real. He pays respect to the greats who delivered a few of the more well known "fuck the popo" type songs at the end of the tape too. After all, it's because of their formula that he is even able to conjure up the idea to do do such a tape. Provided are J Dilla's, Main Source's and of course N.W.A.'s head nodding ode's to social defiance and sneering vocals toward unprovoked police brutality. But before you get to those you'll have to check out the laundry list of ill material that preceeds these classic jams. From the start Cassidy, Styles, Drag-On and Talib Kweli get shit goin and mesh well on their newest collaboration "Stand Up"; one of the tape's highlights. There are quite a few talented and socially aware rappers that chime in on "Flagrant Cops", from Immortal Technique, Sha Stimuli, Joell Ortiz, Ghostface, Prodigy, Grafh, Papoose and Donny Goines. If your in the mood to hear some relevant hip-hop aimed at calling the crooked ass overseers' out, you'll wanna check for this tape. Not everything is brand new, but it's a concerted effort to make a mix that drives home a point. That being that we have just about had enough of the bullshit that's being done to us in U.S. cities and towns all over the country, from Amadu Diallo to Sean Bell, we're getting downright sick and tired of the games people play. It's time we all spoke up.


1. DJ Rhude - In Memory Of 0:11
2. Cassidy - Stand Up (Feat Styles P Drag On And Talib Kweli) 6:05
3. Sha Stimuli - Murder Me Pt.2 (Feat A-Alikes Steele And 5:26
Immortal Technique)
4. Grafh - Not Guilty 3:54
5. Joell Ortiz - 50 Shots 2:27
6. Prodigy - Field Marshall P (Feat Un Pacino) 2:17
7. Ghostface - Run (Remix) (Feat Jadakiss) 3:08
8. Rakim - Run Freestyle 3:03
9. Jon Hope - Blue Devils (Feat Termanology) 3:47
10. Esso - License To Kill 3:34
11. Mickey Factz - Im Sean (Sean Bell Tribute) 4:01
12. Suny Redd - Flagrant Cops 1:18
13. Donny Goines - Interlude 2:21
14. Donny Goines - Kill A Pig 3:52
15. Rod Da Blizz - Party Like A Cop Got Shot 3:57
16. Papoose - We Shall Overcome (Sean Bell Tribute) 3:05
17. Papoose - Change Gon Come 3:09
18. Soul Food - Tribute To Our Falled Soldiers 1:48
19. Q Da Kid - Sean Bell Tribute 2:49
20. Trick Trick - Dirty Cops 3:42
21. J Dilla - Fuck The Police (Classic Throwback) 2:21
22. NWA - Fuck Tha Police (Classic Throwback) 5:40
23. Main Source - Friendly Game Of Baseball (Classic Throwback) 3:17

Saturday, August 23, 2008

D.I.T.C. - Rare Breaks Stack 1

I have a saying about hip-hop producers. My saying is that none of the great ones ever work at putting together a beat the same way. I guess it's probably more of a theory than anything else, but I routinely stand by it whenever discussing production with friends or on message boards (places ripe with ignorant theories about hip-hop production). People just seem to think that every producer of hip-hop is just following the blueprint of someone else. Not true. I think often times because the results from various different producers sometimes might come out somewhat similar it's easy to confuse things. I digress...Hip-hop production when executed with true creativity and passion can be as varied and different in it's origination as most of the men (and now women) behind the boards themselves. That's another favorite topic of mine; the boundless diversity amongst all of us hip-hop producers. LOL, some of us are from the hood, some from the burbs, some use drum machines, others are on the software tip. I've seen hip-hop producers that looked like Woody Allen in his 20's wearing an Adidas track jacket and I've seen producers that were from far away lands that spoke absolutely no English, yet did communicate ever so beautifully through kicks and snares, samples and cuts. It's an amazing thing's my passion and the passion of hundreds of thousands of young and old people alike for over 20 years here in America and abroad.

One thing that's particularly special to me as a producer and special to a lot of sample-based producers in general is their record collection. We spend hours on end in the dustiest sections of record and thrift stores digging for these magnificent vinyl discs that just might contain that tremendous drum break, ear catching horn stab or a funky lil' instrumental break that's ready for looping. Yes, a producer's record collection can become their labor of love and perhaps even dictate the quality of their beats. Now many big time producers might venture as far as to tell you that the records they use don't really matter.....but in the same breathe refuse to let you know what record it was that they lifted that ill ass sample off of for their new LP. Many of the best producers are simply just the most eccentric record collectors. They understand music and they understand vinyl culture, which is a whole other monster in itself. The superior audio quality that the analog medium provides is what the saavy producer hears. The space and warmth on records make them the perfect foundation for musical experimentation. The game's best beatsmiths have known this for years and years and have entire rooms filled to the brim with records.

One of the illest, if not thee illest production crew within hip-hop is D.I.T.C. AKA The Diggin In The Crates Crew. Diggin In The Crates.......that's what the acronym in their group name stands for and that's what they do better than anyone else out there. They're legends for it and over half of the crew's members (Lord Finesse, AG, Showbiz, Buckwild and Diamond D) are all regarded as legendary producers in NYC and the world over. These Guys set trends, preserve important staples within the art of production and did I mention that they are all a bunch of vinyl hounds? With collections that would make any wax head salivate, the good bruthas in D.I.T.C. have put in their work for over 20 years, tirelessly searching for the dopest records and their music reflects just that. Be it Lord Finesse perfectly looping up a drum break from a 70's soul record, Buckwild chopping, re-arranging and vividly EQ'ing a sample from some obscure funk band or Diamond D programming individual drum sounds he's lifted off ten different records, D.I.T.C. producers are all my personal production heroes because they stuck to the script. I've sat back, watched and listened as they all have transformmed time and again managing to re-create and keep their patented boom-bap and sample driven sound relevant.

This time around the producers from D.I.T.C. wanna share some of the wonderful sounds from their vaults that only true producers and DJ's understand. "Rare Breaks" is a gem of a release brought to you by the crew that holds the rarest of the rare breaks that I assure you will become embedded in your hip-hop psychi for long time to come. It's the must have collection of hip-hop's musical tapestry, that's put together by the best in the business. Consider it an updated version of DJ Kid Capri's legendary "52 Beats" mixtape. Like "52 Beats", Rare Breaks is densely packed, providing 29 tracks and in true form of the secretive and reclusive producer, none of the tracks are titled. If you thought you was bout to get any clues as to where these ill ass breaks came from ya thought worng. Get ya own fingers dusty kid!


01 D.I.T.C. - Rare Breaks: Stack One 01
02 D.I.T.C. - Rare Breaks: Stack One 02
03 D.I.T.C. - Rare Breaks: Stack One 03
04 D.I.T.C - Rare Breaks: Stack One 04
05 D.I.T.C. - Rare Breaks: Stack One 05
06 D.I.T.C - Rare Breaks: Stack One 06
07 D.I.T.C. - Rare Breaks: Stack One 07
08 D.I.T.C. - Rare Breaks: Stack One 08
09 D.I.T.C. - Rare Breaks: Stack One 09
10 D.I.T.C. - Rare Breaks: Stack One 10
11 D.I.T.C. - Rare Breaks: Stack One 11
12 D.I.T.C. - Rare Breaks: Stack One 12
13 D.I.T.C. - Rare Breaks: Stack One 13
14 D.I.T.C. - Rare Breaks: Stack One 14
15 D.I.T.C. - Rare Breaks: Stack One 15
16 D.I.T.C. - Rare Breaks: Stack One 16
17 D.I.T.C. - Rare Breaks: Stack One 17
18 D.I.T.C. - Rare Breaks: Stack One 18
19 D.I.T.C. - Rare Breaks: Stack One 19
20 D.I.T.C. - Rare Breaks: Stack One 20
21 D.I.T.C. - Rare Breaks: Stack One 21
22 D.I.T.C - Rare Breaks: Stack One 21
23 D.I.T.C. - Rare Breaks: Stack One 22
24 D.I.T.C. - Rare Breaks: Stack One 23
25 D.I.T.C. - Rare Breaks: Stack One 24
26 D.I.T.C. - Rare Breaks: Stack One 25
27 D.I.T.C. - Rare Breaks: Stack One 26
28 D.I.T.C. - Rare Breaks: Stack One 27
29 D.I.T.C. - Rare Breaks: Stack One 28
30 D.I.T.C. - Rare Breaks: Stack One 29

Friday, August 22, 2008

DJ Warrior Presents DJ Muggs & Planet Asia - Pain Language The Mixtape

L.A. needs to prepare itself for the seismic activity that is soon to take place early next month and I'm not talking about the San Andreas faultlines. In September 2008, west coast production legend DJ Muggs will release the third installment of his highly acclaimed "Vs." collaboration series. Entitled "Pain Language" this time Muggs will be teaming up with Fresno, CA wordsmith Planet Asia to dole out some much needed love taps to the hip-hop landscape in the form of hard hitting production and dense lyricism.

But Before any of us are blessed with the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the crypticly fantastic stylings of Muggs Vs. Planet Asia we are gonna get a sneak peek at just how good this new project is going to be via a mixtape. While many a true hip-hop head has fallen out of love with mixtapes, this joint right here should be able to quell your thirst for the new album momentarilly.

Muggs and Planet Asia have enlisted one of the illest mixtape DJ's in L.A. to help them drop the Pain Language mixtape in DJ Warrior. Best known for his illlustrous "Cali Untouchable Radio" mixtape series, Warrior has quickly become one of the top street DJ's and mixtape personalities in La La land.

In true DJ Warrior form the Pain Language tape mixes and blends a lot of different material. covering a lot of new joints from the actual album, older cuts from Muggs's Cypress Hill Hay days and a couple rare gems, this is more than just a pacifier for those teething for a new Muggs/Planet Asia fix. It is however a more than potent and creative look at how Muggs's dark and sinister boom bap production meshes with Planet Asia's pronounced and speculative vocals.


1 - Intro
2 - God & Satan
3 - Shadows Of Hell
4 - Nine Milli
5 - Going In
6 - Like That
7 - Stoned Is The Way Of The Walk
8 - Who Can Fuck With Us?
9 - Spazz Out
10 - Slang Museum
11 - Respect Mine
12 - Southern Dreams
13 - Cops And Coke Sales (Freestyle)
14 - Dunn Dunn
15 - That’s What It Is
16 - Top Shelf

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Elzhi - The Preface

After a day or two of bumping "The Preface" it is now on my shortlist for Hip-hop Album of the year along with Rek's "Grey Hairs" and EMC's "The Show". The Detroit native known to his fans as Elzhi has returned with his most concentrated effort yet. This is far from Elzhi's first solo project and if your from the "D", you already know that he's been grindin' out for a hot minute on the solo tip. I feel that The Preface is special because of the fact that it's Elzhi's first project that will garner national distrbution and it's of a much higher caliber. Elzhi is no longer your favorite unknown, underground scribe. He's about to become a lot more recognized due to the spectacular work he's brought forth. For some time he's been on many a hip-hop junkie's radar as being one of the illest, most consistent and capable rappers in Detroit. Many of hip-hop's literary enthusiasts like myself have long been waiting for the excessively talented Slum Village alum to flex his muscles and show the hip-hop world that Detroit is still relevant on the other side of 8 Mile.

This project features a rising star in the production world as well. His name is Black Milk and if your not familiar with who he is than you've been comatose for the past year and a half. Milk's solo sophmore LP "Popular Demand" reaped a ton of critical praise in the form of flattering reviews and popular acclaim in 2007 and consistently has many hip-hop purists bellowing for new material. Milk's style is a big part of his success; his un-failing ear for soulful samples and his razor sharp arrangements of them are irresistable and when paired with a gifted emcee, Milk has a full proof recipe that yields a delectible treat without the guilt. Milk is no stranger to collaborating either and most of his endeavors in that category have been well recieved also....anyone remember "Caltroit" with Bishop Lamont? So it makes sense that Elzhi, one of the most gifted emcee's in Detroit would choose the hottest new producer in Motown to produce 14 outta the 16 tracks on The Preface. And he made the right decision. The chemistry between Milk and Elzhi is undeniable and infectious.

Elzhi's nasal, rapid release flow and multi-syllibic rhymes pair beautifully throughout The Preface with Black Milk's inventive and soothing soul chops. Even the staunchest opposer to sampling would be forced to nod his head while Milk and Elzhi do they're thing. And why not? If anyone has the right to flip all those wonderful soul hits that we're created in the height of and inspired by Motown artist's, isn't it two young kids from the streets of Detroit City? I would dare say yes. Elzhi sounds comfortably at ease weaving tales of shady females, street ethics and just plain anything he fancies at the moment. Gracefully, Elzhi shift's gears from subject to subject...his pace at times can be dizzying, but he's not rambling....he ties things together very well actually and doesen't get lost in his 16's. A gifted wordsmith as well, he's not redundant and has a broad vocabulary. Not bad at all for a emcee that until just recently was known mainly for being the "new guy" in Slum Village.

The Pace of this album is steady and even...something that might sound easy to do, but unequivocally is not. Often, I feel that's why many new artists stray away from making longer albums these days....they say that their album only had 10 tracks because "the listener's don't have a long enough attention span", resorting to the oldest excuse in the book: Blaming the fans. Meanwhile, reliable artist's like Elzhi give the people a solid 16 tracks that blend together as exquisitely as the paint on the canvas of a Van Gogh composition. Yes, the tide of good things on this album is very strong. The job Elzhi does emceeing this tasteful jaunt into "hip-hop street soul" is first-rate and the same applies to the other artists he chose to work with. Guys like Royce Da 5'9", Phat Kat, Fes Roc, TJ and Ayah. While a few of those names are probably a little foriegn to you, I guarantee eveyone on here brought their "A" game and were chosen to be collaborated with for a reason.

I wanna talk about the drums on this effort man!! My goodness man...Black Milk's lineup of production on here rivals that of any other of his works to date...I mean listen to the beat for "Motown 25" or "Yeah"; and tell me that this kid doesen't know what the fuck he's doin with that MPC man....his layering and sampling is really a joy but, I think personally that his selection of percussion sounds is really his hidden talent...what I mean is that in hip-hop production half of the battle is finding the right snare, the most resonant Hi-hat, the most flattering Kick drum etc., etc.,...the process is exemplified wonderfully by Black Milk who manages to blend the music so tightly and precisely...I mean, I know that production is supposed to only play as the backdrop to the lyrics, but honestly Milk's beats do steal the show at certain points. I think that's healthy. Hip-hop is competition and nothing is better than when an emcee can go back and forth with an ear catching opus; it adds tremendously to the chemistry. Few duo's today have that stirring appeal that producer's and emcee's had in the past. An appeal that Premier & Guru, Muggs & B-Real, Havoc & Prodigy or Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth all had as tandems....the "dynamic duo" formula in hip-hop has been all but replaced by the modern day, unskilled lames who wanna get more sales outta their album by working with a huge list of big name producers, whom he may or may not have any real chemistry with. Thus the true fan gets cheated. Not on The Preface Though...not at all...

Elzhi has made his mark on 2008 and without a doubt in the remaining months still yet to play out many more bloggers, hip-hop critic's and industry heads will both sing the praises and Berate The Preface. I don't know how anyone could denounce Elzhi's latest effort, but if I could take a guess, I might say that if there is any slight blemish that occurs on this more than worthy LP, it might be the fact that Elzhi recycled a few tracks from older projects and threw them on here. Other than that anyone who slanders this project is just full of shit. This is a great, great effort and both Elzhi and Black Milk deserve recognition for it being so.

The definition of the word "Preface" is to introduce, or to begin (something) with preliminary or prefatory material....truly, if I didn't know who either Elzhi or Black Milk was prior to listening to this album, than no other title would be more fitting for it after doing so. Hats off to these bruthas for putting together an exemplary album.


01 - Intro (The Preface) (Prod. by Black Milk)
02 - The Leak (Feat. Ayah) (Prod. by Black Milk)
03 - Guessing Game (Prod. by Black Milk)
04 - Motown 25 (Feat. Royce Da 59) (Prod. by Black Milk)
05 - Brag Swag (Prod. by Black Milk)
06 - Colors (Prod. by Black Milk)
07 - Fire (Remix) (Feat. Black Milk, Guilty Simpson, Fatt Father, Danny Brown & Fat Ray) (Prod. by Black Milk)
08 - D.E.M.O.N.S. (Prod. by Black Milk)r>09 - Save Ya (Feat. TJ) (Prod. by TJ)
10 - Yeah (Feat. Phat Kat) (Prod. by Black Milk)
11 - Transitional Joint (Baby Girl Glow) (Prod. by Black Milk)
12 - Talking In My Sleep (Prod. by Black Milk)
13 - The Science (Feat. Fes Roc) (Prod. by DJ Dez)
14 - Hands Up (Prod. by Black Milk)
15 - What I Write (Prod. by Black Milk)
16 - Growing Up (Feat. A.B.) (Prod. by Black Milk)

K-Def Presents...Beats From The 90's

Being that I have quite a bit of family from New Jersey and a little bit of a background there, I always was and still am a huge supporter of the Garden state's burgeoning and subterranean hip-hop talent. From little known groups like Da' Outsidaz to the nationaly recognized Naughty By Nature, I was always trying my best to endorse cats from New York's lil' red headed step brother, AKA New Jeru. One of the best producers that was ever cultivated in Jerz goes by the name of K-Def. Few people knew who K-Def was in the 90's or even now for that matter, but chances are that even though they're ignorant to his greatness, they probably have rocked to some of his stuff once or twice.

Using the MPC 3000 as his primary weapon of choice K-Def got his start in the game by co-producing a lot of work for the legendary Marley Marl. K-Def's main claim to fame is the work he did on the classic Album "Here Come The Lords", the debut LP from The group Lords Of The Underground. Def was also one of the first guys out east along with the Rza, DJ Premier, Pete Rock and Large Professor to really popularize and master the blues and soul sampling style that has now become a staple in the hip-hop world of production. Since the 90's have come and gone however Def has had to keep up with the Jones's so to speak and adapt to the times. Nowadays he mainly uses computer software to produce music, and while hardcore Boom bap fans like myself find that a real hard pill to swallow, this gem right here provides something that his longtime fans will appreciate because it will take them back to a time when Hip-Hop was more than just computers and a compressed, digital sound.

Apparently not too long ago while digging through some bags of his old tapes and DATS, Def discovered a heap of old and lost material....and now he wants to share it with all of his new and hardcore fans alike. Now if your first introduction to K-Def was the "It's Over" track on Ghost's Pretty Toney Album, your gonna need to pull back the reigns a bit and prepare yourself for something a lil' different on "Beats From The 90's. Well, maybe not so different...keep the drums and keep the ill piano loop from "It's Over"....maybe turn the Bass up a bit...maybe make the snare crack a lil' harder and...yeah...that's more of the stripped down, soul lathered and boom bap sound that will be provided on "beats From The 90's". Sorry digi-kids, these recordings are straight up analog, so get ready for the spacey "warmth" that only a well banged-out MPC can bring when being programmed by a true veteran and keeper of the genre. New Jeru stand up!


1. (00:01:42) K-Def - Been There
2. (00:04:33) K-Def - Ain't No Crime
3. (00:02:59) K-Def - Monty
4. (00:02:44) K-Def - Dramaz
5. (00:03:10) K-Def - For Da Family
6. (00:00:54) K-Def - Crusading
7. (00:04:02) K-Def - Inner City Blues
8. (00:03:13) K-Def - Jam On It
9. (00:03:19) K-Def - Mont Man
10. (00:04:47) K-Def - Ron Beat
11. (00:02:54) K-Def - Spinner
12. (00:04:10) K-Def - Getting Hot
13. (00:03:45) K-Def - Take Your Time
14. (00:03:50) K-Def - Turtle Man
15. (00:03:10) K-Def - Been There Part 2
16. (00:04:37) K-Def - Urbiank

Monday, August 18, 2008

Funkmaster Flex and Roc-A-Fella Present...The Live Hot 97 Freestyles

This is a real treat for any fan of Roc-a-fella Records circa 1999/2000. You remember those days don't you? It was a time when Jay and Dame were still boys and Jiggaman was still churning out respectable work ninety five percent of the time. He was still a bit more street in his appraoch to music and the recruitment of new artists as well. It was also a time period just before the immense and hostile takeover that the Roc would execute on the game via their enlistment of big up and coming and established names like Kanye West, Cam'ron, Twista and M.O.P.. This was when they were Still a much tighter knit family, and Jay still was an integral part of the selection process involving just who was down and who wasn't. Yup, it was a better time indeed....this mixtape is the recordings of the legendary events that unfolded when Jay-Z invaded the Hot 97 studios acompanied by his undominable Roc-a-fella Records roster for an onslaught of live freestyles. Jay, Bleek, Freeway, Beans and the State Property boys all fell in line and proceeded to thrill the listeners throughout the tri-state area at their general's orders. It was a magnificent show of skill and old school hip-hop promotion. Truly if Jay can look back at anything that ocurred during the hay days of the Roc and be proud, this is definitely something that should be at the top of his list. On one hand it's semi-sad because well, look at shit now; you got Jay runnin solo, Dame peddling over priced wrist watches, most of State Prop runnin' rogue, Beans in and out of jail and the Roc-a-fella name forever tarnished. On the other hand Jay's still around and still amazing people with his music, and I guess he wouldn't be where he is without having first split ties with his much more street influenced business partner and employees. Dame's not doing so bad either. I like to listen to this tape and remember how shit was back then...I was in high school and I coulden't get enough of the shit Jay and Dame were doin' wit the Roc-a-fella name. From the myriad of ill albums they gave us in the late 90's and the early 2K, to the Roc-a-fella clothing line that was surprisingly well done (still rock the Roc-a-fella jeans that I copped in 02') and good quality. The aesthetic of the whole Roc movement was just very special. I know it may seem like I'm getting all nostalgic over nothing more than a freestyle tape and a marketing mystique, but really all I can say is that you just had to be around when it was goin down. The way I felt about Roc-a-fella Records in the late 90's and part of the 2K is the way that cats felt about The Juice Crew when they were running things in the late 80's....shit was perfect....just perfect.....but alas, in hip-hop as we all know, nothing ever lasts. nothing.


1 Who Shot Ya Freestyle (Memphis Bleek, Beanz, Freeway & Oschino)
02 R.O.C. Freestyle (Sparks, Young Chris & H $ Bags)
03 Kick In The Door Freestyle (Beanie Sigel , O & Sparks)
04 Oochie Wally Freestyle (Freeway, H $ Bags & Young Chris)
05 I Shot Ya Freestyle (H $ Bags, Beanz & Freeway)
06 Oochie Wally-Dead Wrong Freestyle (Memphis Bleek, Oschino & Young Chris) MB
07 Tonite's Da Nite Freestyle (H $ Bags & Bleek)
08 Y'all Don't Wanna Freestyle (Beanie Sigel, Freeway & Oschino)
09 Hov Interlude (Jay-Z)
10 Comin' For You (Beanie Sigel & Freeway)
11 Quiet Storm Freestyle 1 (Beanie Sigel, Bleek, Freeway,Chris, Oschino & Sparks)
12 Quiet Storm Freestyle 2-Outro (Memphis Bleek & Jay-Z)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Mixtape Of The Month: DJ Davito, Big Es And Complex Present...The Intervention

Rarely do I get to use the word "superior" or "transcendent" when I describe most mixtapes that drop these days. Even more rarely do I get to use the word "Influential" or "Compelling" when describing the myriad of new Mixtape personalities and their crews that are floating around out there as well. "The Intervention" then, and it's primary host; DJ Davito, producer; Big Es, and emcee; Complex, must certainly then be true "rarities". Never mind that DJ Davito actually recruited only the illest up and coming and underground talent for this tape and furthermore never mind that he linked up with only the illest and most adept producers to boot. Oh no, nevermind those facts at all.....the primary reason you should check for this total embodiment of polished and proficient hip-hop in the form of a boom bap packed, thirty track mixtape is the feel. Yes, that's right the "feel". What I mean by that is by the time you hit the 3rd or 4th track you will realize that this tape is easily the most listenable street mixtape that you and I have heard in a couple years and I've heard thousands of em'. I just popped this into my deck and let it skipping over tracks, no zoning out to certain songs, no boredom with everything sounding the same lyrically or production wise, just a perfectly balanced effort.

From the gritty and resolute rhymes that Meyhem Lauren delivers on a constant basis throughout the mix, the blisteringly precise production from Domingo on "Rhyme Spitter", The eerie and intoxicating Biggie impersonation that Haffa delivers on "Haffa Dead", the subtle and touching messages ingrained within Arsonist's "Spread Your Wings" freestyle, the special and exclusive re-emergence Speech from Arrested Development Makes on "Da Da Da" and of course the surprisingly potent and fundamentally sound contributions from Davito's resident emcee Complex all make this tape literally unforgettable. A classic dropped in the fourth quarter of 2008.

I could go on forever with details about The Intervention's lineup od emcee's, producers and Boxing Champs, lol, and that's why I'm so excited. Usually most mixtapes are polluted with filler and sub par material. Finally someone has stood up and in the same fashion of mixtape DJ's from the mid and late 90's made a tangible effort to drop something respectable. Davito blends the hottest records out there from the more well known names with the hottest records from all the lesser known but perhaps equally talented styles of guys that are the Nas's and Jay-z's of their neighborhoods. He then sprinkles in some exclusive production and freestyles, which are always gonna be popular with tape heads and viola! He has himself a tape that I think should be regarded as the ideal composition for DJ's, producers, emcee's and whomever else wants to put a tape out. He came correct. It's supposed to be a time tested formula; you consistently put exclusive and rewind worthy material on ya tape and you become a DJ god. It worked for Doo Wop, it worked for Flex, it worked for Kay Slay, I hope it works for Davito.

That's the "feeling" that I have been searching for impetuously for quite some time. That classic and time-honored appeal....knowing that I'm not gonna throw this mixtape somewhere and forget about it permanently. See, In a mixtape game that is so over saturated with gun bustin' and dance clubbin' gimmicks, DJ Davito and his crew have decided to throw out a piece of excellence to the of charge and out of nuthin more than just the love for the art. That's what I'm talkin' about. No gimmicks, no greed, no quotas, just skill and will. Davito, Big Es and Complex all should be celebrated within the game for their noble efforts, yet you probably won't read about them in any of the big hip-hop publications that you see on newsstands or in 7/11. That's why I'm here, most likely unbeknownest to them, singing their that as it may, I will remain opening that door for all those burnt out hip-hop heads who are so desperately crying out for help, sitting them down and introducing them to "The Intervention".


1. The Intervention Intro feat. DJ Davito, Meyhem Lauren, Black Attack, Killa Sha, Shabaam Shadeeq, Doo Wop & Complex
2. 3rd Degree - Scram Jones, Saigon, Nino Bless & Crooked I (prod. by Scram Jones)
3. Payback - Immortal Technique ft. Diabolic & Ras Kass (prod. by Bronze Nazereth)
4. Music Industry (Remix) Termanology ft. Royce Da 5'9", Akrobatik, Crooked I & Consequence (prod. by Fizzy Womack)
5. The Last Lyricists - Big Lou ft. Papoose & Busta Rhymes
6. Alphabets - The Gza (prod. by True Master)
7. Syrup Freestyle 08' - Goretex
8. Haffa Dead (Conversation With Biggie) - Haffa (prod. by Scram Jones)
9. Spread Your Wings Freestyle - The Arsonist (prod. by Intackt)
10. I can't Take It Anymore - Sav Killz (prod. by DJ Snips)
11. It's Your Choice - Complex ft. DJ Davito (prod. by Big Es)
12. Wack Rap Niggas - Mayhem Lauren (prod. by Anabolic)
13. Praise Jesus And Pass The Ammunition - LSP (prod. by Anabolic)
14. Righteous Scroll (Hip-Hop Is Alive) - Tragedy Khadafi & P.A. (prod. by DJ Incise)
15. Rhyme Spitter - Detane ft. DJ Cazz (prod. by Domingo)
16. Words From The Irish Boxing Champ Oisin Fagen ft. Black Attack (prod. by Matty Fresh)
17. Like That - Black Attack (prod. by Mighty V.I.C.)
18. Freestyle - Tribecca (prod. By Team Demo)
19. Freestyle - Nut-rageous (prod. by Brain Blender)
20. Freestyle - Blaise B (prod. by Big Es)
21. Da Da Da - Speech (of Arrested Development) (prod by Big Es)
22. Swiss Alps - Meyhem Lauren & Action Bronson (prod. by thorotracks)
23. Shut Up And Listen - Kev Turner & Complex (prod. by Big Es)
24. Freestyle - Big Sinister (prod. by Stoney Blends)
25. Fresh - Cormega ft. Kool DJ Red Alert, PMD, Grand Puba, Krs-One & Big Daddy Kane
26. Because - Complex ft. DJ Davito (prod. by Big Es)
27. Growin' Pains - David S Dot (prod. by Black Ice)
28. Live Niggas - Nut-Rageous ft. Wando (prod. by Paul Seando)
29. Sugar Water - Big Lou (prod. by DJ Snips)
30. Listen Up - Cold Heat ft. O.C. & DJ JS-1

Also Available free on Davito's Myspace:

Monday, August 11, 2008

The OG Freddie Foxxx AKA Bumpy Knuckles Volume 1

Hip-hop's least known and most authentic and legendary tough guy returns....Freddie Foxxx AKA Bumpy Knuckles the bad dream that so many so-called "hardcore" rappers thought was behind them has emerged on the scene once again to scare the shit outta people. Bumpy has decided to release a new mixtape via his myspace and for free, that times out at just over 23 minutes long (11 Tracks) and is a spicy gumbo of beats and hardcore rhymes.

Things jump off with Bumpy going in on just about every new jack in the industry a la Ice Cube's and Sticky Fingaz's in their respective "Jackin For Beats" tracks. Impressively, the wiley old Bumpy Knucks wields flow after flawless flow continuously at whomever dares question his or anyone from his era's status within the game. While panfully short, this mix is still effective and highly entertaining. Bumpy reels in his listeners using quite a few of the beats off of 50 Cent's debut record "Power Of The Dollar" (also his best produced album might I add, yeah I said it!). His freestyles over "Ghetto Qu'ran" and "I'm A Hustler" completely steal the show and are easilly the best joints on this latest offering. Indeed, Bumpy has returned with a nice assembly of new substance that will leave you craving for more. His honesty and fearlessness harken back to a time when hip-hop had no limits and authentic street scholars exercised no discretion, saying whatever was on their minds. Bumpy is set to be releasing some more new material here shortly and I've heard rumors of a new mixtape with Pete Rock, but one never truly knows wit Bumpy. I certainly will be keeping tabs on any new developments. Til' he does give us another new reason to step the fuck back, enjoy.....


Side A

Side B

Bonus Material: Original Version Of Large Pro's "Hardcore" prod. by Marco Polo

Yo if you enjoyed the Large Pro album be sure to check out the Original version (and the better version) of "Hardcore" prod. by Marco Polo...


Large Professor - Main Source

Finally, after a really shitty weekend filled with bad news we have something to feel good about. That's right, your eyes aren't fooling you, right there smack dab in the middle of your computer screen is a brand new LP from one of the game's most profound and gifted beatsmith's. Staring you right in the face is Large Pro's new album "Main Source". It's been a little over six years since Large Pro has blessed us with a full length studio LP, and his last effort "1st Class", while a favorite of mine was met across the board with much more luke warm reviews. Since then Large has kept relatively busy thumpin out new beats and still comes highly requested as a producer for other projects. Earlier this year Large released "Beatz Vol.2", the second installment of the series that had many of his fans clamoring for a new album with someone actually rhyming over his thick, sample laden and boom bap infused rythmics. We asked and now we shall recieve. From the moment "Main Source" begins it's literally an aural treasure.

"The Entrance" leads off and sends you bobbing your head into the rest of the album via a funky sample and an uptempo pace. Large's rhyming skills haven't degraded at all, he still is keeping it pretty rapid fire, but under control and precise. There are plenty of really captivating beats on this album that feature that great, stripped down and swingin' production that was so popular in the 90's, so all of you hardcore Large Pro fans rest assured, he delivers the goods once again.

For the most part I think the people that check for a Large Professor album are expecting him to maintain his usual mode of work. While I'm very pleased that Large is sticking to the script, I do admit that many other critics most likely will complain about how he's coloring inside the lines too much. Those fans might have a point, but like I stated before, I know what I'm getting when I pick up a Large Pro album, and that's exactly why I pick them up. I don't wanna make it seem like this album is just totally "been there done that", on the contrary, there's a large dose of "new approach" on "Main source" you just have to listen for it because much of what Large does so well is translate stuff from the past into more modern terms so to speak. He makes sounds from the past come alive once again, but like never before.

If you wanna zone out to a hazy, laid back cut than "Maica Living" is for you, but if you wanna jump up and pump ya fist, then track four is most definitely gonna be your jam. Large delivers a hefty amount of lyrical word play this time around and to me definitely has stepped up his delivery and cadence quite a bit since 2002 and his last album. This album won't break any sales records and most likely won't break into the top 40 of anything, but it does provide something that I give Large the highest props for; Soul....long forgotten and ever so Sweet, Soul....this whole LP is drenched in it.

From the myriad of soul samples, funk loops and rock guitar riffs that Large lifted and re-worked so beautifully to the many choruses that were shouted with the same boisterous pride as James Brown's "I'm Black And I'm Proud", this album represents real music for real heads and a time when production didn't fear the now omnipresent royalty lawsuit. There is some definite history within the music on "Main Source" a history that many of hip-hop's new corporate-raised generation might not recognize and in turn shun. While this type of hip-hop might fly over the youngins heads', maybe a few will get it and then maybe a smaller few will even try to make it themselves. Alas, the cycle must continue, but it grows weaker.

Be sure to check out the Jeru Da Damaja, Lil' Dap and Big Noyd appearances, even though they're short they're ill and illustrate nicely how Large's beats should still be considered right up there with Premo's or Pete Rock's. All in all I really felt this album and I think it's one of the strongest of 2008 due in large part to it's consistent dedication to the legitimate aesthetics of hip-hip production and emceeing. That comes as no surprise to me though....just another day at the office for Large, who has been churning out great work beneath everyone's radar for such a long time and without complaint.


01. The Entrance 2:15
02. Hot: Sizzling, Scorching, Torching, Blazing 2:57
03. Maica Living Feat. Killah Sha & Guardian Leep 3:47
04. Pump Ya Fist Feat. Mikey D Lotto 3:13
05. Party Time 2:44
06. In The Ghetto 2:49
07. Hardcore Hip Hop 3:18
08. Frantic Barz 3:02
09. Swein' Love 2:58
10. Ru Dope Feat. Jeru Tha Damaja 1:01
11. Dap Feat. Lil Dap 0:41
12. Noyd Feat. Big Noyd 0:47
13. Classic Emergency 2:31
14. Rockin' Hip Hop 3:22
15. Large Pro Says 2:02
16. To The Meadows 1:46
17. The Hardest Feat. Styles P & AZ 4:42

Sunday, August 10, 2008

News: Isaac Hayes Passes Away At The Age of 65

It is with a heavy heart that I report that one of the biggest musical icons of this century has passed away. Singer, song writer and actor Isaac Hayes was found unresponsive near a treadmill in his Memphis home by a family member on Sunday. An hour later Hayes was pronounced dead at Baptist East hospital. This tremendous loss comes only a day after legendary Comic Bernie Mac passed away at the age of 50 due to complications from pneumonia. Both men made huge contributions to their respective industries and had a profound impact on the way I view both contemporary urban music and comedy. They leave behind families and huge voids.


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Poison Pen - Pick Your Poison: Who's The Master

For a minute now Poison Pen has been that excellent and elusive hardcore, underground rapper that has managed to elude too many people. The Brooklyn villian has been terrorizing beats for quite some time, but unless you stays up on ya underground browsing, or are all up on the net, chances are his work might be continually sneaking by you. First off I recommend all those who aren't familiar with Pen to go listen to or grab his 12" single "Im Fuckin You Up", which had a pretty ill B side on it as well in "Inner City Hoodlum". That 12" will properly introduce you to Pen's style and pretty much, in a nutshell what he's about. He doesen't pull any punches except for those in his punchlines and he's never been the type to shy away from saying controversial things. There's a method to Pen's madness however and many times you'll find that he will put aside his gutter musings to speak bluntly on a lot of socially aware topics. After you bump the "I'm Fuckin You Up" record I think it would be best to move onto some of Pen's more recent material like "Pick Your Poison: Mark Of The East" or "Dirty Urine". For now though I would you should just scoop up "Who's The Master"; the second installment in Pen's "Pick Your Poison" series. This time around Pen provides a higher dose of his illicit material and to me the mixing and continuity of this tape is much better than "Mark Of The East" due to Pen's new running mates J-Ronin and DJ Snips. If your into beats this tape is also definitely for you. The production is thick and there are a lot of really standout tracks on here that blend perfectly with Pen's style. No doubt a perk of knowing the heavilly connected DJ Ronin, who knows just about every ill, well known and unknown producer in the borough of Brooklyn. Guest features also predominantly resonate throughout this tape too. Pen recruits Immortal Technique, Swave Sevah, Akir, Littles, Ras Kass, Bishop Lamont and Shabaam Sahdeeq to rhyme aside him for his newest release. All of whom contribute very well to their respective songs. Truthfully though, the best guest spot in my mind, was between Pen and Littles for "QB 2 BK"; they tore that shit down and once again reminded the Bronx, Harlem and Staten Island why Queens and Brooklyn still are the reigning kings of hardcore street rap. All in all a great tape with some seriously funny skits. I think this is a good step in the right direction for Pen and I hope he sticks to this formula in the future. There are a couple tracks I didn't dig too tuff, but I also realize that songs like "Rat Race" feat. Nems, might strike a chord with a different kind of listener. I also have never liked Nems that well so maybe I'm just biased, to me the fuckin song ain't that great, that's all there is to it. "Who's The Master" is a pleasing and gratifying listen for any hardcore head, but it might fall short for the big time Poison Pen fans, as they might notice Pen's more modest direction in terms of content.


01. 01:48 Intro
02. 04:46 Squab Feat. Amplafire
03. 00:29 Shonuff Meets Bruce Leeroy
04. 01:43 Brassknucklerap
05. 00:35 Get Up Leroy!!!
06. 03:19 The Brooklyn Way
07. 04:05 The Arms Feat. Swave Sevah & J-Arch
08. 00:17 Untitled Skit
09. 04:29 Uptown Anthem Feat. Cvees (Ike P & Swave Sevah)
10. 04:02 Belignorant Feat. Immortal Technique & Diabloic
11. 00:51 A Word From Our Sponsor
12. 04:45 No Problems
13. 04:22 Reggaeton Feat. Ras Kass & Bishop Lamant
14. 01:06 Shonuff In Da Pizza Shop
15. 02:42 Emveez Feat. Supastar Billy Gramm & F. Jordan
16. 02:58 Rat Race Feat. Nems
17. 03:47 QB2BK Feat. Littles
18. 00:31 Shonuff Vs. Leeroy Round 1
19. 03:32 Freestyle Feat. Akir
20. 03:24 4's Feat. Long Life, Swave Sevah, Supastar Billy Gramm, Shabaam Sahdee
21. 03:31 Stronghold Grip Feat. Immortal Technique & Swave Sevah
22. 00:19 Shonuff Gets The Glow
23. 02:58 Poison Murdafest Feat. Nems
24. 00:14 Shonuff Finishes Leeroy
25. 03:31 Brooklyn Part 2 (Bonus Track)

Video: DJ Muggs Vs. Planet Asia - 9 Millimeter

What more can I say about this video man; Muggs flips some rock sample beautifully for this track man, damn he's still bangin out heat.....Planet Asia is in rare form on here as well, keeping pace with the uptempo beat while simoultaneously spitting tons of venom. The Video itself looks a lil' homemade, a lot of older effects used in this, lol, still really ill though man...Sep. 16th it's getting copped man, no doubt about that....everything that muggs and Planet Asia have dropped up to date for "Pain Language" has been top notch...this included.


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

K-Salaam And Beatnick - Whose World Is This

In the now ever so consciously un-aware and politically devoid world of Hip-Hop it's more important than ever for us as fans, critics, consumers and providers to seek out and support artists, acts, bands and whomever else within our genre that stands for something and is calling for action.

I was born in 1984, and unfortunately I wasn't around to hear first hand the ground breaking hip-hop music that was being churned out at that time. It was music that was ripe with unabridged political and social messages that the white corporate world hadn't yet corrupted. I was fortunate enough to have had a brother who was 18 years my senior and who was bitten by the hip-hop bug. He had all the records man....from Bambaataa to Kool Herc, he had it. I can remember as early as the age of about 7 or 8 hearing him play those records around the house. At the time all I liked were the sounds and the drum beat, I had no conception or understanding of the words that were being rapped, other than the fact that they rhymed together. As I got older and re-explored my brother's records post his ejection from my father's houshold I discovered that these "MC's" were talking about something on these songs. They were all saying something more than what they were sayng, but I didn't know what it was (sorta like the first time I heard Wu-Tang). At first the message was really alien to me, then I got a lil' older, and the world got a lil' colder. At the tender age of about 13 I was beginning to fully understand what many of the pioneers of hip-hop were trying to get across in their lyrics. After all I was very much apart of that disenfranchised sect of America that hip-hop artists were speaking for. I was broke, Latino and my parents struggled constantly to feed me and my siblings, as well as keep us on the straight and narrow. The music was reflecting what was going on in my neighborhood. Whether It was "White Lines" or "The Message" it was clear that those old records my brother had couped up in his old room were more than just music.....they were life. They were a documented history of what was going on in the mid to late 80's and even the early 90's. They were remnants of a time when hip-hop was boundless and the lyrics were simple, yet omnipotent.

I've waited for some time to see hip-hop take the reins over itself once again and return to it's true "golden age" and start reflecting what's really going on in America. In return I've waited well over a decade and seen more and more artist's focus on getting paid with corny gimmicks, silly dances and a sneering, contemptuous outlook toward women. Sure there's been a few twinkles of hope here and there...the 90's gave us many visionaries like Mos Def and Talib Kweli, Dead Prez, Public Enemy, Paris and Immortal Technique. Unfortunately, it has become increasingly harder for dudes like that to get a lil' change for their considerable effort and keep their careers goin' strong. Shiit, guys like that are having a harder and harder time getting shows as well. At this point I've given up hope in the "things gloriously returning to the way they were as a whole" dream for hip-hop and decided that maybe just gaining a healthy balance between the bullshit and the real shit would be okay.

Enter in K-Salaam; the ubiquitously talented producer of Iranian descent that calls Minneapolis his home, who has a penchant for including Reggae artists heavily in his projects. Creating a nice lil' stir within the game via his very scrupulous and civic minded music. Salaam has been lucky enough to have been able to routinely score the services of many of the game's most talented lyricist's. His debut album "The World Is Ours" alone boasted names like Mos Def, Saigon, Dead Prez, Papoose and Sizzla. His second offering "Whose World Is This" comes complete with all the amenities that Salaam is known for providing. Luxuries like a stellar lineup of well known and worthwhile talent, some of whom are making their sophomore appearance on a Salaam LP. Rakaa of Dilated Peoples, The Outlawz, Saigon, Anthony B., Sizzla, Buju Banton, Kardinal Offishall and Talib Kweli all headline what is sure to strike any political hip-hop and Dancehall fan's fancy. This time around Salaam also brings with him fellow beatmaker Beatnick, with whom he's already released a mixtape with for good measure. I suppose Beatnick has a pretty good presence on this LP, but really it's somewhat unnoticeable except for a few shoutouts. I don't have the production credits yet so I don't know who produced what exactly, so I really couldn't tell you his level of involvement, but I'm guessing that if they put the man's name on the cover it's pretty high. To backtrack for a moment though, I would like to say that the beats on "Whose World Is This" are excellent. I really was thoroughly impressed with Beatnick and K-Salaam's efforts in that department and that's big because a lot of times 2nd and 3rd editions of producer compilation albums have a tendency to be less meaty as their first installments, but that's certainly not the case here. One of the many highlights that sticks out to me on this album is the brilliant "Vieques P.S.A." joint brought to us by the legendary NY hip-hop radio personality Bobbito Garcia. Garcia goes in and describes the terrible consequences including contamination from toxic metals and other chemicals that the people of the Puerto Rican island of Vieques are enduring because of the United States use of the island as a weapons testing site. Shit was on point and Bobbito, who has been crusading against this mistreatment of his people since the late 90's, delivers a powerful message that should be spoken on much more often. Damn, that PSA is just one of the many masterful socio-political messages that intertwines magnetically with K-Salaam's conducive production. This is the type of music that can be the counter-balance. This is the type of stuff, that if we support it, can make waves in a very big pool. See, there isn't any difference between what K-Salaam is doing and the spirit of what MC's in the 80's were doing. They all are/were trying to entertain, no doubt, but they chose to use the reality of our world as the template for their expression. To me that's the riteous and truest way to be an artist. Don't get me wrong, I love music about love and about everything else, but damnit, there wasn't nuthin like the days when Kool Herc was spittin rhymes about "bein close to the edge", or when Pac was onstage roaring lyrics about "bein the son of a Panther". That was hip-hop and K-Salaam see's that hip-hop can still be a beacon of truth and he's down to bring the world some of the culture's new Pac's and Kool Herc's as well as some guys that hail from teh same country as a cat named Bob Marley, who if I remember correctly practically birthed all of these cat's state of mind politically or otherwise. I salute Salaam in his efforts, and I encourage him to keep it up. Tracks to check for are Saigon's "Bad Mind", Black Ice's "The Wurld Is Ours" and Talib Kweli's "Feel".


01 k-salaam & Beatnick - Whose World is This (intro) 02:22
02 Papoose & busy Signal - we gotta take it 03:16
03 Buju Banton & Trey Songz - street life 04:07
04 Talib Kweli - feel 04:14
05 Sizzla - sail on 03:57
06 Kardinal Offishall & Solitair - as we continue 04:49
07 Black Ice - the world us ours 04:39
08 Dead Prez - fallen soldierz 04:28
09 Young Buck & Sizzla - babylon (must be mad) 03:06
10 Luciano - what are we fighting for 04:37
11 Saigon - bad mind 04:30
12 Bobbito Garcia - vieques P.S.A. 02:10
13 Capleton - never let us down 03:54
14 Rakaa - where im from 03:09
15 Outlawz - the truth 04:37
16 Anthony B - revolution 03:51
17 Suheir Hammad - refugees 03:29

Legend and DJ Nice In Association with Okayplayer present...Torae - Allow Me To Reintroduce Myself

One very bright spot in the now considerably tarnished world of Hip-Hop's new generation of so-called "lyricists" and "conscious" artists is Torae. If the name sounds unfamiliar let me educate you. Torae, a skilled newcomer that burst on the New York City scene in the late 90's when one of his many ridiculous demos found it's way into the Bad Boy offices and an executive there chose to throw him on a compilation album off the strength of the brash Brooklynite's saavy wordplay and persistent attitude. After that Torae was courted by a bevy of big name record labels and even joined the Cash Money and Ruff Ryders cliques for their nationwide tour that went down in like 98', 99'. Still, Torae hadn't found a permanent home and decided that goin for his dolo was the route he'd take. Tor released a few 12"'s on his own imprint Internal Affairs Entertainment and through those recordings had a chance to meet Cam'ron on the set for his "My Hood" video. Tor rhymed for Killa and the two clicked from there on. Cam would invite Torae to roll with Dipset and adopted him into the extended Dipset affiliate family. Even after all that Tor was determined to put out his own record and make an impact on the game via his unique brand of lyricism. He pushed onward. Doing a lot of pro bono radio work was Tor's next move and it paid off. He linked up with several Hot 97 DJ's and did some intro verses for two of NYC's biggest personalities in DJ Camilo and Steph Luva all while continuing to bless big name mixtape DJ's nationwide with his highly demanded freestyles and exclusives. Never the one to rest on his laurels, Torae once again found a new market to infiltrate in the Internet and became a household name on huge hip-hop websites like and He was building a ravenous cult underground following. A following that recognized and loved him for his workmen-like demeanor and non-stop pace. Then finally in 2007, fresh off the heels of landing a spot on Marco Polo's critically acclaimed (and some would dare say classic) debut album Torae was finally given the chance to release his official debut LP, "Daily Conversation", which was also received well in reviews and held in high esteem by real heads around the globe. Featuring production from guys like 9th Wonder, DJ Premier, Khrysis and of course Marco Polo "Daily Conversation" was thought to be the perfect starting point for a talented and dedicated hip-hop artist. Not too overbearing and not a classic it has left many a fan yearning once again to see what Torae has cooking up, and yes, he definitely always has something brewing in his hip-hop kitchen. This time around Tor's newest concoction comes to us in the form of a mixtape entitled "Allow Me To Reintroduce Myself". The Coney Island kid has resurfaced less than a year later after his debut album dropped to give his many fans a healthy new dose of well, himself. "Allow Me To Reintroduce Myself" is actually much more of a run down of a lot of Tor's past work that surely has snuck by even the biggest hip-hop hound, but fear not hip-hop crusader, Torae has managed to include a few new and unreleased joints on here as well for all those that have been keeping up with their homework.


01. Heard It All Before w/ Emilio Rojas (Prod by Khrysis)
02. Merchant Of Dreams w/ Skyzoo & The Embassy (Prod by 9th Wonder)
03. The Takeover ft. Kil Ripkin (Prod by COS)
04. Uncomfortable (Prod by 9th Wonder)
05. Shake It Off w/ Tanya Morgan & Kam Moye (Prod by Brizzo)
06. Crash (Prod by Khrysis)
07. No Where No More w/ Eternia & Ms. Davis (Prod by 9th Wonder)
08. Higher Learning (Unreleased) (Prod by COS)
09. Told You That w/ Chaundon (Prod by Khrysis)
10. I Dont Care w/ Nefew
11. T.I.M.E. (Prod by Vega & Suede)
12. 3 Kings w/ Skyzoo & Chaundon (Prod by Analogic)
13. Lick The Balls
14. Best Out w/ Skyzoo & Draftpick
15. Good God (Prod by Marco Polo)
16. New Blood w/ Emilio Rojas, Skyzoo & Fresh Daily (Prod by Illmind)
17. Broken Dreamz ft. KoMika (Unreleased) (Prod by Vega & Suede)
18. Rise Up (Unreleased) (Prod by COS)
19. The People w/ ESSO
20. Hip Hop w/ Punchline & Stick (Prod by Madlib)
21. Getting Money w/ Magnif of Lawless Element (Prod by Magnif)
22. Promises w/ Kil Ripkin (Prod by Vega & Suede)
23. Its All Over w/ Supastition, Dan Jons & Finale (Prod by DR)

Saturday, August 2, 2008

AZ - N.4.L. hosted by DJ Absolut

If your like me than you always keep your ear to the grindstone anxiously awaiting any news about possible new projects from AZ. While he's not always busy and will usually drop an album before he drops any free street material (i.e. mixtapes) AZ has managed to put his "modern era hip-hop promotion" hat on and give the good people that which they always seem to be clamoring for.....a mixtape! Teaming up with DJ Absolut; who was one of my favorite DJ's from the late 90's and the early 2K up until he started selling out horrendously, AZ comes at his listeners with some serious new heat, that after they listen to I'm sure many will say is album worthy stuff. One can't help raising an eyebrow after listening to this tape as well due to, well, how can I put this...a title, subject matter and lyrical concepts that are strikingly similiar to AZ's old friend Nasir Jones's new quasi-untitled album. Before I go further into that dynamic of the tape, let's just pretend that we haven't heard Nas's new joint and just review this new and commendable AZ effort "N.4.L." AKA Niggas 4 Life. Many a Nas Hater will revel in iniquitous glee because of this tape's stellar work and somewhat stunning ability to outshine Nas's untitled and heavilly hyped new project. Undoubtedly, this is some of AZ's best work in the past few years, and definitely much better than his last album which was a mainstream "swing and a miss" at stardom and crossing over. A predisposition that AZ has been taking for the bulk of his albums post "9 lives". Even so, many like myself continue to solicitously seek out any type of original and new work from him. A lot of the new stuff that AZ has been releasing has been hit or miss, but make no mistake, N.4.L. is not at all apart of that recent underachieving archive that Sosa has doled out in the late 2K. Filled with penetrating skits, visual and vivid rymes, hardcore beats, and a solid, un-deviated theme, "N.4.L." is easilly the second best mixtape of 08' right behind Immortal Technique's leading achievement the "3rd World". I enjoyed this tape so much's been so long since AZ tested the hardcore waters, I was beginning to wonder if he would ever compose another well recieved venture that had some real grit to it. Not to say that all of his good material was totally intransigent....."Doe Or Die" and "Pieces Of A Man" both had their fair share of "jiggyesque" and "playalistic" attempts, yet you always knew he was the caliber of MC that could make a solid whole tape/album of nothing but real and unadulterated heat. More than a decade after he first strolled onto the scene via "Illmatic", AZ can fianlly say to the critics that he has always been capable of doing what so many other greats did, except he did it for free and gave it to the fans when they needed it the most.

AZ wields his knowledge of oppression, ruthless street tactic and inner strength like lightening bolts through our cloudy ears on N.4.L., making it a tall order for any of his limited amount of guests (Starkim, Sheek, KC and Charlie Rock) to even hold a candle to his burning inferno of lyricism and diction. The much re-visited sample of The Dells' "Love Is Blue" resonates yet again on the powerful kick starting track "Knowledge Freedom", finding our friendly nieghborhood AZ comfortably dishing out a few quotables over the soulful sample. From there AZ begins his ode to his career and lifestyle over some slick, west coast-circa-1996 synths and a funky drum loop. A special surprise is the Raekwon guest feature; the Chef goes in and totally bodies the whole song, providing a good pace. So by this time, you've sat up and started to really AZ gonna drop some ole' classic shit? That's when the "Heaven And Hell" skit starts....immediately catching your ear as the great activist/author/comedian Dick Gregory (I think) describes with a small tone of humor the utter lack of compassion and the overt denial of just basic emotions that white slave owners had and kept from slaves on their plantations. That perfectly leads into arguably the tape's most powerful song/beat "12 Jewels", where we find AZ verbalizing his beliefs in Islam, describing his contempt for this country's racist template and recanting the atrocities of slavery. AZ hasn't sounded like this, or picked beats like this in quite some's almost unusual to hear him gravitating toward real issues and toned down beats again. I know it hasn't been that terribly long since he's been making really good music, but when a talent like AZ stops making the kind of joints that he was for so long, it's like when Ron Harper stopped dominating above the rim in the NBA during the late 80's, and in exchange became a more mature and less than dazzling role player in the 90's. It's not necessarilly a bad thing, but you find yourself not anticipating watching him play like you used to. That was beginning to be the case with AZ until N.4.L..

So Now your really beginning to raise an eyebrow....AZ has delivered satisfaction without question for the first 5 tracks. This is not your ears playin tricks on you, rest assured....and press on. At this juncture the hardcore pleasantries begin. "Murder" and "Teks On Deck" both boast the type of hardcore stylings that the game currently lacks in a big way, and who better to revive that good ole' feeling than AZ? The production for both also is a refreshing retrun to better times, when claps didn't dominate and layering your snares and finding a dope soul sample to chop and re-arrange for a nice lil' 4 bar loop was the way real lyricists picked em'. "Negro Spiritual" is a mellow break from the action that catches us listening to a laid back groove while AZ references his younger days and momentarilly laments the loss of friends. Bouncing back from a more tender moment AZ shows off his rapid fire delivery and indefectibly balanced flow over a beat that most artists just woulden't be able to jump on and ride. "Conspiracy" provides AZ taking an introspective stance and examining the current dilapidated state of America's economy and racial bias over a melancholy Jimmy Kendrix production. "Runaway Slave" adds a nice touch of funk to a very hardcore outing and gives AZ a chance to flex his story telling chops, something that I think he's excellent at and doesn't do enough. "Nigga Games" and "I'm That Nigga" set off a tidal wave of powerful and important music that takes me back to the original points I was making about this project and Nas's latest offering, that is supposed to symbolize in a way, the new black experience in America. I find it incredibly amazing that AZ undertook the challenge of creating a project so similar to Nas's and then released it so quickly as well. Amazing and brash, lol. I think AZ is trying subliminally, to tell the extensive world of hip-hop something. I think he is trying to let everyone know that he is Nas's equal, if not his superior. He shows off throughout this whole tape in the form of razor sharp timing and delivery, goes out of his way to mirror some of the same topics that Nas has been touching on both in the media and all of this tantilizing sneering climaxes on "Originals", where he switches up his flow to turbo speed and then puts his old buddy Nasir squarely between his scope's cross hairs. "I'm as real as any rapper with a sneaker deal", delivers the BK wordsmith dismissively. Clearly sending a warning shot toward Nas and toward all his detractors who over the years discarded him as if he was some Nas crony, incapable of success without his "number one". It might sound like I'm reaching by pointing out that line, but I've been listening to AZ for a minute and I know that he practically perfected the art of the subliminal diss. He's most definitely trying to send a message and this whole tape and that line (and a few other lines) are definite swipes at Esco. We'll just have to wait and see if anything ever comes of this situation. With all the Hollywood crooning Nas does these days (catch that Colbert Report appearance?) and his penchant for alienating friends, I woulden't be surprised if he never even hears about this tape, let alone hears the line. It is a Shame however; that Nas might never hear his one time peer send a small jab right at his face.

For everything that AZ did do on this project he just coulden't keep it all the way pure, 100% authentic and without any filler. Yes, Sosa did submit but only one mis-step in the form of a cheesy "before we go to the club" type song in "I Just Wanna" that features the non-singing sensation Trey Songs and a very predictable Sheek Louch. AZ in fact kept it 99% real though, as he finishes up with the silky smooth outro "Self Savior" and lets the beat ride out for a good 9 minutes after he delivers a very effective and quick 12 bars or so. Truly, this was a very high-grade and competent piece of work for AZ to drop. While a whole lot of people will continue to say he's peaked, I think that after you listen to this, you will, as I did, consider it a magmatic regression to preferable moments in his career when he was deemed one of the elite in New York City and was your favorite MC's favorite MC. I can't say how pleased I am that the man finally decided to come home and drop something for the real heads. Something that is much easier to act like your doing already, rather than actually putting in the work to find a writing mode, beats and a direction that encompasses what you only might think the new "heads" are going to accept in 2008. It was a ballsy move, and a noisy one too. Not many people are going to be able to see past the cover and the theme, perhaps issuing accusations of "biting" and un-originality, but for those that take the time to listen and enjoy the music you'll instantly see and hear that AZ is once again creating pretty antecedent music, with tons of layers in it for us all to dig through and interpret. The Visualiza has truly returned, and not on anyone's heels, rather on his own and with a flair for rhyming that is both past and present. It looks like we all can once again continue to listlessly await his new stuff, as we always did, with great anticipation.


01. AZ & DJ Absolut - Introduction
02. AZ & DJ Absolut - Knowledge Freedom
03. AZ & DJ Absolut - The Secret (feat. Charlie Rock & Raekwon)
04. AZ & DJ Absolut - Heaven & Hell
05. AZ & DJ Absolut - 12 Jewels
06. AZ & DJ Absolut - Murder (feat. Charlie Rock & Starkim)
07. AZ & DJ Absolut - The Teks On Deck (feat. KC)
08. AZ & DJ Absolut - Negro Spiritual
09. AZ & DJ Absolut - Never Gonna Stop
10. AZ & DJ Absolut - Conspiracy
11. AZ & DJ Absolut - Runaway Slave
12. AZ & DJ Absolut - ***** Games
13. AZ & DJ Absolut - I'm That *****
14. AZ & DJ Absolut - Originals (feat. Starkim)
15. AZ & DJ Absolut - I Just Wanna
(feat. Trey Songz & Sheek Louch)
16. AZ & DJ Absolut - Self Savior

Friday, August 1, 2008

Ras Kass - Institutionalized Vol.2

For years I've regarded Ras Kass as the west coast version of Nas. To some folks the inferences I draw between the two are miniscule, but to others I seem to make a good bit of sense. The main reason I draw comparisons between them isn't because they sound similar or because they both used to rock the same kind of part on the left side of they fades or, I make the comparisons because they are/were both artists who at the beginning and the climax of their career's pushed the lyrical and artistic envelope within hip-hop, but are now a bit stale to me because they've started to bend a lil' bit. There was a time when These bruthas made some of the most poignant, riveting, socially aware, complex and relevant songs that hip-hop will ever see, and for short periods they still can. One of them rose to huge national stardom and is regarded as a protector of the culture, while the other began to straddle the fence of right and wrong within society more often, landing himself in prison and on the run repeatedly throughout most of the late 90's and the 2K. It was unfortunate that the Carson, CA native's debut was so nearly flawless; that would eventually become his ever-present mountain to try and ascend up once again with his new projects. I know that for me personally, after he dropped "Soul On Ice" his decline would almost certainly begin from then on. That album was damn near perfect and a true west coast classic. I dubbed it the "Illmatic" of L.A.. Still over the years it was tough to watch my prophecy about Ras's career unfold. He struggled at re-creating the magic from "Soul On Ice", and then he stopped trying to reach it all together, selling out in spots, doing songs over southern bounce tracks, slacking off on his writing duties and engaging some serious clowns in battles. That pitfall of having a classic first album combined with his legal troubles and lack of direction musically seemed to keep him out of the loop most times when people spoke about talented hip-hop artists who were entertaining but also had something to say. Fast Forward to about 05', 06'....Ras Kass is still somewhat in the same place as he was for most of the 90's....he's still duckin the law, Still not holding his tongue about those within the game or industry that he loathes, still as braggadocio as he is intelligent and still crafting intensely witty line after intensely witty line. Despite a few more legal setbacks, Razzy has managed to re-create a pretty decent buzz for the 07' and the 08'. Due to a slew of mixtape releases like "Return Of The Spit", "Eat or Die", "Institutionalized Vol.1" and a bunch of great guest spots he has his fans clamoring for his new solo project "Institutionalized Vol.2", as well as a new full length LP possibly sometime in the future. So here we are... Ras Kass has a major release on a big time underground label (Babygrande) that seems pretty apt at letting their artist's put out their music the way they would like to. Something that Ras always has been so adament to point out that he needs. So Institutionalized is sort of a retail mixtape project that is supposed to showcase Razzy's new material to a much broader audience than just the underground and net heads. So what's the verdict on this new material you ask? Well, I first wanna just say I've always been a huge Ras Kass fan and I'm really happy that he's managed to somewhat keep his legal troubles at bay for now. As far as Institutionalized Vol.2 goes.....I mean, it's a very precise effort. I heard that right off the bat when I bumped it. Ras was definitely aiming to reach a multitude of different hip-hop fans. Through the first 8 tracks your on a lil' bit of a roller coaster ride; Ras throws a very ill, very strong intro at you that lets you know he still has all his talents intact, but then strolls into more uncharted territory. The up beat and bass heavy tracks aimed at all the west coast club heads like "We Go In" and "I'm All That" don't resonate well with me. I felt that Razzy included those joints more so for mass appeal and in turn they proved to be the biggest mis-steps on Institutionalized Vol.2. Within the whole thing, there's only one track that I felt really captures all of Ras's potential and that's the intricate and densely written "Behind The Music", that finds Ras delving into the reality, the fantasy and the constant pitfalls that lie ahead in any artist's way in the music industry. All in all shit doesen't really get going until like track 9. From then on Ras really hits you in the head with a thick, meaty selection of lyrics and beats. "John Is Real" meshes Ras's perfectly timed flow with an infectious, Horn fueled Domingo production. From there Ras hits you with something different, yet ill in the beautifully produced "B.I.B.L.E.", where he explores the hypocrisy and the fallacies within' Catholicism and all religion as a whole in the most contemptuous of manner. "Ups and Downs" finds Ras pairing up with the late Proof of D12 for an up-tempo jaunt, that is sadly, pretty forgettable. "Elevate" is where all the hardcore fans get their wishes answered when Ras Kass teams up with the guy who arguably stepped in and took his place as the illest lyricist in L.A.; Crooked I. Newcomer Odious contributes as well, but his verse is really robotic and unless your a fan of battle rap I'm not sure your really gonna dig his chorus or his voice truthfully, lol. Ras steps up his game considerably for this verse but still gets out shined by a focused and menacing 16 from Crooked. I like the lyrical content and the direction of the track "Try Me", but it's easilly the weakest produced track of the second half of the album. A simplistic synth with a sloppy clap isn't how you wanna come back if your Ras Kass, nor is it how your fans from the days of Soul On Ice expect you to. The story is pretty much the same for "What It Is", Ras really skipped out on these tracks and they just aren't good in any way to me. They're filled with a bunch of no name, semi- talented cats that Ras is trying to do a favor for, but ultimately is just sacrificing quality to do so. Thankfully Ras finishes up strong with the last two tracks "I Just" and "M.V.P.", that both I think would've served him better to be in the middle of the tape somewhere, but go figure. It's a lil' puzzling as well, but the last track isn't Ras Kass at all. Not sure who the kid is rhyming, he's aaight, but still I don't wanna hear a full track by someone else on the new Ras Kass project. I don't think that Ras did enough this time out to change the opinions of all the critics out there that have been saying his best work is behind him. While there are some flashes of really ill material on here, it's in the crucial moments that Ras falls short or commits credibility suicide by conforming to the mainstream hip-hop status quo. I enjoyed a few of the songs on here a lot, but Ras really needed to show that he was more than just a hired gun and a skilled veteran on this. Unfortunately I think Institutionalized Vol.2 leaves the listeners with more questions about Rass Kass's future than answers.


01 02:37 Victory (We Shall Overcome)
02 03:09 Eyes Don't Lie
03 02:49 I'm All That
04 00:30 Capital
05 04:48 Behind The Musick
06 03:47 We Go In
07 02:32 Ironman Thug
08 00:26 The Call
09 04:36 John Is Real
10 05:22 B.I.B.L.E.
11 03:52 Ups And Downs Ft. Proof (D12)
12 04:40 Elevate Ft. Crooked I & Odious
13 05:26 Try Me
14 03:10 What It Might Be Ft. Wais B
15 04:39 I Just
16 03:37 M.V.P.