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--- --- --- ---- ---- CCCCC OOOOO RRRR EEEE | H | / A \ | R | |D \ C O O R R E |---| |---| |--/ | | C O O RRRR EEEE | | | | | \ | / C O O R R E --- --- --- --- -- -- ---- CCCCC. OOOOO. R R. EEEE. Vol. 2, Issue 4 July, 1994 The electronic magazine of hip-hop music and culture Brought to you as a service of the Committee of Rap Excellence Section 1 - ONE ***A*** Table of Contents Sect. Contents Author ----- -------- ------ 001 The introduction A Da 411 - table of contents juonstevenja@bvc.edu B Da 411 - HardC.O.R.E. juonstevenja@bvc.edu C Note from the interim Editor dwarner@indiana.edu D YO! We want your demos. dwarner@indiana.edu 002 What's up in Hip Hop A The Art of Freestyling r.macmichael@genie.geis.com B The Flavor Unit Misrepresents amcgee@netcom.com C Thoughts on Exploitation wwhitfie@afit.af.mil D The CD Counter-Revolution dwarner@indiana.edu E Back To The Old School r.macmichael@genie.geis.com F Lyric of the Month Jeru The Damaja G Feature Review of the month: isbell@ai.mit.edu Nas "Illmatic" 003 The Official HardC.O.R.E. Album Review Section A Afro-Plane r.macmichael@genie.geis.com B Ahmad korig@aol.com C Anotha Level juonstevenja@bvc.edu D Arrested Development dwarner@indiana.edu E Beastie Boys juonstevenja@bvc.edu F Born Jamericans dwarner@indiana.edu G DOA (demo) juonstevenja@bvc.edu H Ed O.G. & Da Bulldogs gt7214b@prism.gatech.edu I Fun^Da^Mental sbhimji@horror.ersys.edmonton.ab.ca J Reg E. Gaines r.macmichael@genie.geis.com K Gangstarr juonstevenja@bvc.edu L Heavy D & The Boyz juonstevenja@bvc.edu M Jeru The Damaja dwarner@indiana.edu N Kurious klm3298@ritvax.isc.rit.edu O Mad Flava dwarner@indiana.edu P Marxman, Power dwarner@indiana.edu Q Mo'Fessionals r.macmichael@genie.geis.com R M.O.P. klm3298@ritvax.isc.rit.edu S Nefertiti juonstevenja@bvc.edu T Outkast dwarner@indiana.edu U Raw Fusion dwarner@indiana.edu V Raw Produce (demo) juonstevenja@bvc.edu W Dred Scott r.macmichael@genie.geis.com X Shyheim ollie@uclink.berkeley.edu Y Terminator X dwarner@indiana.edu Z 2-Low korig@aol.com AA Union of Authority (demo) r.macmichael@genie.geis.com BB Volume 10 r.macmichael@genie.geis.com CC Warren G. dwarner@indiana.edu ***B*** The C.O.R.E. creed We at C.O.R.E. support underground hip-hop (none of that crossover bullshucks). That means we also support the 1st Amendment and the right to uncensored music. The C.O.R.E. anthems We In There (remix) Boogie Down Productions Feel the Vibe, Feel the Beat Boogie Down Productions Crossover EPMD Hardcore EPMD True to the Game Ice Cube Come Clean Jeru the Damaja Hip-Hop vs. Rap KRS-One Straighten It Out Pete Rock and CL Smooth It's Not a Game Pete Rock and CL Smooth Brothers Gotta Work It Out Public Enemy Fight the Power Public Enemy "Leave your nines at home and bring your skills to the battle" - Jeru Asalaam alaikum from Flash (juonstevenja@bvc.edu) ***C*** A Note from the interim Editor For those of you who are just discovering us, welcome to HardC.O.R.E. the first and still the only internet zine dedicated to hip hop and rap music. We've had to do a little adjusting in the past few months. First and foremost, our regular Chief Editor, Steven "Flash" Juon, came down with mono after we finished our third issue of Vol. II. Because of this, Flash has asked me to take over the reins of this zine for the rest of the summer so that he can catch up with his schoolwork. He'll still be writing for us, but as far as getting the next two issues of HardC.O.R.E. organized and distributed, that's all up to me. So I will do my best to serve you, the hip hop junkie, with the best possible zine we can offer. We do have some expectations to fulfill, though, thanks to our recent coverage in Vibe magazine, Urb magazine (both of which are online and subscribe to HardC.O.R.E.) and RapPages magazine. Of course, I *wrote* the RapPages article, but hey, exposure is exposure. A lot has been going on in hip hop lately, so we'll try to cover as much as we can this issue. Our main focus this time around, though, will be album reviews. When you have to wait five months between publishing dates, you've got a *lot* of catching up to do. Of course, we are very interested in submissions from our readers. Just drop us a line if you have something you think hip hop fans should be reading. We hope you enjoy reading this issue of HardC.O.R.E. as much as we enjoyed putting it together. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for us, please feel free to e-mail me at dwarner@indiana.edu, or Flash at juonstevenja@bvc.edu. L8A... David J. Interim Editor ***D*** A'ight, let's say you got a demo that you've been trying to shop around. A few people like it, but nobody with some clout is buying. Or let's say you know someone who's got some skills, but you don't know what you can do to help 'em get on. Suppose even further, that you've got an internet account (chances are you do, else you wouldn't be reading this), and want to give you and your friends' efforts a little pub. Have we got a deal for you. HardC.O.R.E.'s review section isn't just for the major labels. We don't even GET anything from major labels. In fact, some of us would much rather review what the independent folks are making, since they aren't affected by the A&R and high level decisions of major labels. So we want to hear what you guys are making. A few groups are getting their demos reviewed here among the likes of Gangstarr, Heavy D. and the Boys, Terminator X and Arrested Development. Who knows? You might even hear bigger and better things from The Mo'Fessionals, DOA, Raw Produce, and Union of Authority before you know it. With all the people subscribing to HardCORE (not to mention the number of people reading HardCORE via FTP and Gopher), you never know who might want to hear your music. Give us a shout out. You can e-mail me at dwarner@indiana.edu, or Flash at juonstevenja@bvc.edu, and we'll let you know where you can send your tape. Keep in mind that we're pretty honest with our reviews (if we think your shit is wack, we'll say so to your face), but if you think you got what it takes, you'll see a review from us before you know it. All you have to lose is a tape, right? L8A... David J. Section 2 - TWO ***A*** Ryan "Laze" MacMichael ---------------------- The Art of Freestyling Yes, freestyling is an art. And it seems that more and more these days it's being brought up by fans, rappers, and countless magazines. Fact is, back in the day, freestyling was more than an art, it was a necessity. First, let me define freestyling. I'm not talking about being able to take any prewritten lyrics and drop them over a given beat. That is a form of freestyling, but not what I'm focusing on here. I'm referring to the skill of being able to rhyme about anything, coherently. In the days of the MC battles in New York City, if you couldn't come off-the-cuff, you were as good as ruined. An arsenal of prewritten lyrics could run out or be forgotten with the excitement of the moment. Therefore, any MC wanting to step to the mic *HAD* to be able to come off-the-top. It's said that the classic Moe Dee-Busy Bee battle was a total freestyle battle. The idea of "going with the flow" isn't exactly new. Improvisational theater began as early as the 1400's. Actors would deal with what they were given and work from there. It became a very popular form of theater and developed even more through the years. On the music tip, and almost completely paralleling hip hop, anyone that wanted to be considered a "true" jazz artist in the 50's and 60's had to be able to improvise and work with only the simplest, most basic chords preconceived. Miles Davis and John Coltrane were part of a select group that epitimized the make-it-up-as-you-go-along jazz artistry, and this was shown on the classic 1959 release, "Kind of Blue." But when it comes to hip hop, it may seem difficult to be able to have a DJ throw a beat on and just come off with whatever comes to mind and have it make some sort of sense. There's so much to worry about as an MC coming off-the-top. Your flow has to be consistant with the beat that's spinning, your style should not be a "ah beedy- beedy beedy-beedy beedy-beedy bah, / ah beedy-beedy beedy-beedy beedy- beedy dah" flow -- it has to switch up and be interesting, and most of all, the rhymes and lyrics have to be creative. As an example, I will take a freestyle that I did for my upcoming album. The flow can't be picked up on paper, but the style switches after almost every line. And, yes, this was 100% freestyle: Time to freestyle, off the cuff, with the stuff, That just might prove that I'm so... rough. But you can't mess around, 'cause I get down, With the funky fresh phat ASS... sound! L-A-Z-E, ohhhhh boy! What's it stand for? I don't know, but don't / TOY... With me, 'cause I'll bust ya in ya head Like a Busta, Rhymes maybe from a Leader of the New School, I'm so cool, you can't fuck with me So just step to me, and you'll see, How an MC, named L-A-Z-E, will bust ya in your H-E-A-D, fool. I'm so cool, as I said before, But now I must kick a little more, 'cause ya mama's a whore. So: what do you call this when I get wild? A REAL Lazy B freestyle. On paper, those lyrics may not seem to be anything all that great. But, much of the meaning is in the delivery. The flow and vocal inflections switch up constantly, as I was focusing heavily on it during the recording. One potential problem came up when I said "I'm so cool" for a second time in line 13 (said for the first time in line 9). An MC has to be prepared for his mouth to occasionally work quicker than his mind. There are times when you'll find yourself saying what you didn't mean to. And there are also times when you'll say something a different WAY than you meant to, like I did in the third line (buy the tape, you'll hear). Don't hesitate! If you make a bad word choice, make it seem like it was the exact word you wanted. If you stumble, make it part of your flow. General rule of thumb: if you make a mistake, WORK IT IN! Don't let whoever is listening know that you fucked up! Freestyling for an album may not seem to be the best example. Fact is, that was a totally spur-of-the-moment recording and is as good of an example as any. But, just to prove a point, I also was forced to freestyle acapella at a short performance I did at my prom. About 500 people were packed into the room and I was up there with mic in hand, closing out my set. "And we gonna' end it a little something like this..." As I said "this" I didn't know what I was going to rap. I eventually started in with the second half of a verse from my last album, but about halfway through, I fucked up and started to do a verse I had started my set with. So, after I repeated the one line, I realized what I did and freestyled a few more lines to close off the verse. No one noticed. I guess I'll have to believe what they said and claim I came correct, because for the life of me, I don't know what the fuck I said. After all this, new jacks wonder "why even bother?" Take 2nd II None. They crucified themselves a couple of years back when they were asked about freestying on Yo! MTV Raps, and they said that wasn't something they did. Something along the lines of, "It's not for us." Yeah. OK. The whole basis of writing efficient, yet eclectic, lyrics is freestyling. Too many MCs are worried about being polished and squeaky clean with their syllable-per-line count and not worried enough about what they're going to put across. A new flow isn't based on something you come up with on paper, it's based on being forced to say a set of lyrics (written down or not) that may not seem to fit a beat the right way. It's up to the lyricist to do something innovative and original. Das EFX's style was so unique when it came out because they were taking the first syllable of selected words and extending it with an "iggidy" or whatever (y'all have heard what I'm talking 'bout) to match up with a beat. Masta Ace and Scarface developed a choppy off-beat flow that people jumped all over, because they worked on it through necessity to be unique. That same necessity is driven by freestyling. It's getting back to the point that if you can't freestyle, you shouldn't bother coming out and expecting to get respect. Refine the skills. Work it. Freestyle God Supernatural has said that when he is freestyling (which is damn near every performance), he's thinking three or four lines ahead of what he's saying and how he's going to flow. There's no question that you have to have a good memory and fast reflexes. Supernatural has rhymed off-the-skull about everything from sneakers to camcorders. Which brings us to the near future. Supernatural will be releasing the world's first totally-freestyled album, done entirely in one take. Let's just hope that he won't scare other MCs so much that they'll refuse to freestyle for fear of looking wack. To close things out, I want to leave a couple of messages to MCs out there. If you're just starting, study your roots. Throw on a break beat and freestyle by yourself. Work on it and see how smooth you can get yourself. If you've been rapping for some years now and you still can't freestyle worth a shit, take some time and work on it. It's a must, 'cause if you ain't got caught empty-minded yet, you will someday soon. And lastly, to all the MCs out there that know what they're doing, 'nuff respect given. Most Peace from the East Coast... Laze ***B*** Arthur R. McGee --------------- [Editor's Note: Rep. Cardiss Collins made headlines a month or two ago when she chaired hearings on rap music, accusing it of being the cause of the problems in Black America today. After witnessing most of the hearings, Arthur McGee wrote this brief commentary, which we are reprinting with his permission.] I'm going to say one name: Tammy Riley. Please, before I begin my remarks let me say that I LOVE my Black/African sisters, and am prepared to do just about anything to protect and help them. With that I mind, let me begin. Last night, I was watching the House hearings on music content, specifically Rap/Hip-Hop music, on the public cable channel C- SPAN. Several people were there to testify before the committee headed by Rep. Cardiss Collins, who is, as you know, a Black woman. There was someone from Motown, someone from the RIAA, a couple of university professors, one from the University of Michigan and one from NYU, and another individual who is a public school administrator. In the midst of these somewhat articulate individuals was one Tammy Riley, currently of Flavor Unit Management. As a side note, Ms. Riley was apparently of mixed "current" heritage, herself professing to be Native American, while having the outward appearance of your average, everyday, Black woman. Now, what I want to know is, why did Latifah, or whoever is in charge while she is on tour and promoting her album, send this bright young woman to a House hearing OBVIOUSLY UNPREPARED?! From my vantage point it was clear that Ms. Riley needed some serious public speaking lessons in addition to some instruction on the very issues that were being discussed. She was repeatedly unable to articulate herself in a clear and consistent manner, and I found myself wincing each time Rep. Cardiss Collins or anyone else would ask her a question. It was almost as if she had just woken up in the middle of the night, threw on her slippers, and while going to the 7- Eleven for a snack, decided to stop by the House of Representatives to say "Hi." I know that she is intelligent, or else Latifah/Flavor wouldn't have hired her or sent her to the hearing. What I want to know is why didn't she or those who sent her make sure she was prepared so as not to embarass herself or The Flavor Unit?! I know you folks have connections, so please get on the horn and "politely" make Latifah and Flavor Unit Management aware of the poor performance of their representative. Not only does it reflect poorly on them, but it is dangerous, as the generation gap between younger and older African-Americans could have serious consequences. I know that Harry (Allen) has testified before, so he definitely knows about sister Collins. This woman wants censorship, plain and simple. For her, warning labels are not enough, she wants record companies to start restricting not just bad words, but the very concepts, thoughts, and ideas that artists put out. Yes, I know that rap and hip hop are rotting with Misogynistic, Masochistic, and Sadistic tendencies, but I also remember a time when folks were writing articles talking about this "violent" and dangerous group known as Public Enemy. Remember when they started talking about how they couldn't understand why the "nice" boys in Run-DMC would want to hang out with them? Remember that BS?! Now those same punks fall all over themselves trying to praise PE. My point is that censorship is NOT the way to go. Label if you must. Create a seperate "adult" record section in the store that kids can't go into without permission. Do whatever, but the minute you start censoring is the moment when the TRULY dangerous music get's clipped, and the drivel that only keeps us down is allowed to flourish. ***C*** Walter Whitfield ---------------- In each era of music, there has been a dominating black artist in the thick of things being exploited. Though the artist was grateful for the chance to share his music with the public, they were not up on the business end of the industry. The 90's rap artist is wise to the industry/pitfalls to the extent that they're willing to open an independent label to release the music. But the big wheels are the ones who agree to distribute the material for a % of the cut. Even Symbol Man (Prince) was very popular (exploited). He was granted his own label to recruit new acts. When he decided to retire and release hundreds of unrelease material, Warner Bros. (Animaniacs) decided to no longer afford his record company citing financial losses and lack of new musical groups. Even though Madonna is a grey-girl, and when controversy can no longer afford her, Maverick records to will be yanked from her citing reasons agreed upon (contract negotiations). The issue is complex, the bottom line is money, but its not the issue. The listening/general public has been labelled the main issue, but it has and it will always be MONEY as long as you are "Banned in Amerikka". Those on top don't give a fuck!!! They're paid anyway! It was only until up-standing citizens (M&M's) Moral Majority, good christians etc., decided they've had enough, lets tackle this issue head on, for a better more positive change for society. Fuck them!! I want the bomb, I want the P-Funk, un-cut. Home of the extra terrestrial brothers!!!!!!!! Really Doe. ***D*** David J. -------- THE CD COUNTER-REVOLUTION How hip hop has been had, and what we can do about it. Ah, the wonders of CD technology. Everywhere I look, I read another article about the latest in CD technology. Some major stereo company has a portable 20-CD changer for your stereo system. Sony has a new model coming out that will play movies, music and a few interactive games. Sega has a new model with Sonic 47 due out soon. 3DO will have all kinds of gadgets to add on to its floundering system. Countless others are stepping into the market with all their latest toys, but the message is always the same -- compact discs are it. It is the technology of the present and the future. Jump on the bandwagon as fast as you can, and get the perfect multimedia machine for your home. Of course, what all these bandwagon riders won't tell you is that the perfect multimedia machine has no software. This is why 3DO's stock has plummetted 70% since its initial release. This is also why consumers still wait for technology they heard was available more than a year ago. Technology isn't the main thing at stake here, though. It will come eventually and become standard. What is really at stake is the future of hip hop as we know it. Hip hop was born out of vinyl. It was born out of the skillful hands of disk jockeys in the clubs and the parks, looking for that perfect 3 second loop, then turning it into a 30-minute flourish of sound without missing a beat once. It was born out of two turntables, a mixer and a microphone, and it has grown into well-sized portion of today's music industry. Today's music industry, however, is an industry that looks upon vinyl as today's video game players look upon an Atari 2600. It's this archaic piece of technology that doesn't deserve our attention. We should be with them and get with the latest technology. Music labels (no longer "record labels," since records are so passe to them) are discontinuing record production, seeing more opportunity for profit by jumping on the technology bandwagon. As a result, hip hop DJs are finding less and less vinyl in their stores and in their collection. But the technology is getting there, they tell us. You can adjust pitches on CDs to mix them. Pretty soon, you'll be able to cut and scratch CDs as well. And just think of the other wonderful things CDs can do. Just look at what CDs have done already. They virtually replaced records in music stores and forced customers to pay an extra $3 for their favorite albums, not to mention an extra $200 for a new stereo system. They have forced turntable manufacturers to lower their production and raise their prices to make a profit, making it harder for DJs to get started. The rumor that Technics was going to discontinue production of their SL1200 line of turntables sent shivers down the spine of DJs everywhere. Thankfully, it was just a rumor, and CDs haven't killed the Tech-12 yet. So hip hop has obviously survived in the throes of the CD revolution, but at what price? The history is slowly fading to some, and it's lost on others. Just listen to your favorite rap album, and you'll hear it. Where's the DJ? Where are the cuts? Where are the skills? DJ Premier pops up in plenty of places, Evil Dee drops an occasional scratch within the Black Moon cipher, E-Swift still adds a few licks here and there, but who else is there to flex on the Tech- 12s? The art is slowly drowning in a sea of technological wonders. Some will call these advances progress. I call it a damn shame. That old Atari may not have the astounding graphics capabilities of the 3DO, but it has something the 3DO may never have -- games that are still fun to play around with over a decade after they were made. This is why I'm selling my CD player and all my CDs for good. I'm making those last dubs of music that I'd like to keep, but after those are done, it's over. I won't rest until all those CDs have been purged from my apartment and from my life. From this point forward, I vow to buy all my hip hop on vinyl, and if I can't buy it on wax, I'll get a tape. If I can't get a tape, I won't get it. In the words of Whodini, it all comes down to the money. CDs can be mass produced for $3 each, and the music labels sell them to rec shops for $10-$11 each, and the rec shops have to sell them at a higher price to make money and stay in business. The opportunity to make more money was there in CDs. As a result, hip hop DJs became expendable, a casualty of technology, of "progress." It is up to all of us as hip hop fans to make sure that vinyl never dies, else hip hop may be soon to follow. There is only exception that may lead me back to CDs in the future -- if recordable CDs become cheap and affordable. A good CD-R audio machine costs $3000. It should be $300. Plus, if you can record and erase items from CDs, why can't you make a CD VCR that will record my favorite shows and keep them safe on a disc for decades? And why can't you make a CD-EPROM for my computer? If a CD can store 500 MB, I could load, save and delete everything from that CD and not have to worry about the failure of a cumbersome, outdated hard drive on my PC. The technology has been there for years. Of course you can record these things on CD. How could the music get there in the first place? Of course you can store computer files on CD. CD-ROMs are almost a necessity in this era of PCs. Of course you can make a Video Compact Disc Recorder. MPEG compression for video/audio already exists on a wide scale, and the equipment to play movies stored on CDs is already there. Admittedly, it may take longer for it becomes readily available to the public, but who's to say it isn't ready for public consumption? Oh, no! shouts the bandwagon. If that happened, then nobody would buy any CD products! They could just make perfect copies of our movies, albums and game from their friends! Can you imagine how much money your favorite artists would lose for that? For every penny said artists lose, these bandwagon-riding corporations lose hundreds more. That's the nature of their game. That should also be the nature of our game. We've bought into these foolish advertising schemes about the "technological breakthroughs" of compact discs. It's time to sell it back. Until manufacturers give us what we deserve -- CD-Rs, CD-VCRs and CD-EPROMs that are both quality and affordable products -- we should give them what they deserve -- not one red cent of our hard-earned cash. And we should keep hip hop where it belongs. On wax. ***E*** Ryan MacMichael --------------- Back to tha Old School by Laze (r.macmichael@genie.geis.com) It's interesting to note how MCs and hip-hop fans that are brand new to the scene are the ones that scream "bring back the old school" the loudest. Perhaps the Alkaholiks said it best: "Everybody's talkin' 'bout back to the old school, / You never should've left in the first place, fool." First off, I'd like to bring to notice a 3-CD old school set that is, plainly put, the bomb. It's copyright 1992, but this year was the first I had seen of it, perhaps due to the fact the record company is in England. Sequel Records decided to re-release a handful of old singles that were originally put out on the Sugarhill label. This is one kick-ass set -- each CD pushes close to 80 minutes (none of them clock in under 77 minutes), and every inch of aluminum is packed with that true old-school flavor. Among the 34 cuts are the original, 15-minute "Rapper's Delight", the Funky Four Plus One's "That's the Joint" (with the music sample that newer heads will attribute to "I Got a Man"; it was also an inspiration for the Beastie Boys), and Grandmaster Flash's "Scorpio". There are also two interesting previously unreleased cuts: a radio commercial by the Sugarhill Gang and "The Mayor" by Melle Mel. And the simple fact that most of these songs are finally available on CD is worth the price of admission. I picked this up entire set for $30, but Tower is selling it for $37. In any event, with groups like Trouble Funk, Treacherous Three, Busy Bee, and Crash Crew representing 1979-1983, there's no true head that should be without "The Sugarhill Story Old School Rap -- To the Beat Y'all". With that plug past, I made my way back to the Pennsauken Mart here in Jersey. Once again, I stocked up on classic old school shit nice and cheap. I got a still shrinkwrapped copy of Sparky D's "Sparky's Turn (Roxanne You're Through)" 12". Spyder-D's production made this an interesting addition to the seemingly never-ending Roxanne saga. I also picked up Doug E. Fresh's "Bustin' Out (On Funk)" 12" -- this was put out in 1992 during his brief stint on Hammer's Bust It! Records, before it, uh... busted. I dunno about y'all, but I never knew anything about this track. It was listed as part of the "Doin' What I Gotta Do" album, which, to my knowledge, never came out. Makes me wonder two things: 1 -- Is "I-ight" going to go the same way this single and "Summertime" did...without an album? 2 -- Exactly HOW MANY unreleased Doug E. Fresh cuts are there out there? A nice thing about "Bustin' Out", despite the weak-ass production, he kicks a little beat box. Unfortunately, it says "Public Enemy appears courtesy of Def Jam Records", but the only trace of P.E. is a quick Flavor Flav "going, going, gone" sample real quiet in the background. My cousin, the one I credit to getting me into rap at an early age, hooked me up with copies of BEAT STREET and WILD STYLE (his KRUSH GROOVE video is long gone, unfortunately). And he had a handful of WILD STYLE soundtracks on vinyl laying around, so he gave me one. Aw man... that's the shit... that's the shit. "Shut the fuck up, Chico, man..." And ain't it funny how Fab 5 Freddy looks and talks the same now as he did in 1983? I also want to give props to the Treacherous Three for putting out (albeit, quietly) a sweet comeback record on Wrap. That one cut with Grandmaster Caz, Melle Mel, Tito, and the crew is wicked as all hell! But, damn, Kool Moe Dee is still wearing those corny-ass plastic glasses. Before closing out, I want to spit out one more thought I had. Other record companies like Profile and Wild Pitch are putting out "old-school" compilations (one with WILD STYLE-biting cover art), but the shit on them is from '87-'88 (Dana Dane, etc.) or even '90-'91 (UMC's). Is this considered old-school ALREADY? Signing out like Lady B... "To the beat, y'all..." ***F*** Jeru The Damaja --------------- LYRIC OF THE MONTH: "Ain't the Devil Happy" by Jeru the Damaja (transcribed by Flash) Verse One: As devils search for the secrets to immortality I alter my physical chemistry Walk through the valley of the shadow of death I exist even when no things are left Vibrations transcend space and time Pure at heart because I deal with the mind That's why I compose these verses Audible worlds, my thoughts are now universes Written on these pages is the ageless wisdom of the sages, ignorance is contagious So I hope you keep your focus There's no hocus-pocus, in the end, it's just us Devil got brother killin brother, it's insane Goin out like Abel and Cain Wisen up and use your brain There'll be no limit, to the things that you can gain In positivity, balance it with negativity Until then, ain't the devil happy Verse Two: I hate when the devil's happy, so I wear my hair nappy Now it won't grow out like John Gotti He came from the caves to destroy everybody And we like fools destroy our own bodies Too many niggaz chillin, bad boys boom boom This leaves no room for the flowers to bloom Seeds blow in the wind, another drug killing What, are we accomplishing? Nothing What's, the matter? Why everytime I look around another brain gets splattered? Some pockets get fatter but it don't matter The devil's the only one who really gets fatter Lead ruptures flesh, spleens are shattered Dreams are shattered, another Queen without a King What will out children become without proper guidance? Probably nothing, so ain't the devil happy Verse Three: Niggaz are in a state of nothingness Hopelessness, lifelessness If you're in range I hope you hear this And try to change this, cause it's disatrous Who gets the most loot, who gets bust? Dollar bill y'all, is the god we trust THe days blow by like dust Even Men of Steel rust We're out here acting ridiculous When, only we can save us Mentally enslave us, for little or nothing kill our neighbors Animalistic, caniballistic, behavior Look to the sky for your savior He won't save ya, he didn't save your forefathers Why bother, brothers? You must discover The power of self, know thyself, or find thyself Hating thyself, killing thyself While he collects the wealth that you sit back and murder for Ain't the devil happy ***G*** Charles Isbell -------------- Apparently, the world is Nas'. This time: _Illmatic_ by Nas Next time: _Super Bad_ by Terminator X _Zingalamaduni_ by Arrested Development _Black Business_ by Poor Righteous Teachers _Black Reign_ by Queen Latifah_ _Enta Da Wu Tang (36 Chambers)_ by Wu Tang Clan (and PE) Last time: _Hard To Earn_ by Gang Starr _Be Bop or Be Dead_ by Umar Bin Hassan _Plantation Lullabies_ by Me'Shell NdegeOcello Catch Ups: _Tricks of The Shade_ by The Goats _Cypress Hill_ by Cypress Hill -------------------------------------------------------------------------- Distinctiveness: Well, Nas himself is, but I've heard some of the sounds stylin' before. Dopeness Rating: Steadily Phat+- (just a *shade* below Phat+). I have to go with the Hip Hop Nation on this one and give a prop and a half. Rap Part: Oh. Often very nice. Just a bit below Phat+ on the bad ones. And there are some serious Kodak moments, so overall it gets a Phat+ for style of speak and lyrical lengthness. Sounds: Solidly Phat. Don't get me wrong, g, they're often mad nice, but not as inventive at they could be. What Nas is missing is a distinctive sound to go with his style... at least that's how _Illmatic_ strikes me. Predictions: Good question. I reserve judgement until the second album for long-term predictions, but it's not hard to see how he's doin' in the short term. Rotation Weight: It's the summer jam so far. It's got legs, too. Message: A bit more of that New York politicalness mixed with some NY style gangsterishness. -------------------------------------------------------------------------- Tracks: 10(!) @ 39:49(!) Label: Columbia Producers: Faith N and MC Serch are the executive producers on this one, but individual tracks sport such big names as The Large Professor, Pete Rock and DJ Premier. And even Q-Tip shows up. Profanity: Yep, yep. -------------------------------------------------------------------------- So... who's Nas? I dunno. He's that brother who's apparently blowin' up left and right. One day, I'd never heard of him and the next he's takin' up half the posts on alt.rap. Well, I'm wary of these overnight sensations and I decided not to believe the hype. But then my boy mass@mit.edu--that jamaican knockin' out jafakins--told me not to sleep. So I woke up. I went to the record store and picked it up. And here we are. I didn't really give it a good listen for a good while... and when I finally did I was in a pretty bad mood. I was lookin' to be upset over $11.98. I picked up the CD, ripped off the shrink rap, fought with that stupid glue seal and stared at the cover. My first reaction was: "What is this? That's not him as a kid on the cover is it?" I remember how disappointed I was when Whitney Houston put a baby picture on the back of her second album. Ugh. I flipped the jewel case over. My second reaction was: "Ten songs? What is this? 1985?". My third reaction was: "MC Serch on executive production?". I tried to remember the name of his first solo album. I couldn't. Wary, I placed it in the Sony (my Denon is in Boston and right now I'm in New Jersey). "The Genesis" starts us off. My fourth reaction: "Not bad." For a meaningless intro track ("That leaves nine songs," I thought with a little bitterness), it was pretty hype. Nice muzak. Made me bop my head. "Regardless how I go down we gonna keep it real" "'There ain't nothing out here for ya.' 'Oh, yes there is... this.'" Fighting a good mood, I let "N.Y. State of Mind" boom-bap out of my baby speakers. Dammit, it actually sounds good. That was my fifth reaction. "I don't know how to start this sh*t, yo." "It's like the game ain't the same Got younger niggas pullin' the triggas bringin' fame to their name and claim some corners Crews without guns are goners In broad daylight, stick up kids they run up on us" One of the nice things about doing reviews the way I do them is that you're forced to listen to the tracks over and over very carefully so that you get the lyrics half right. It's time like these that one appreciates how well put together some lyric actually is. Nas has got some good flow goin' on here. And mix that with some DJ Premier production and you gots somethin' goin' on. My sixth reaction. "I got so many rhymes I don't think I'm too sane Life is parallel to hell but I must maintain It be prosperous though we live dangerous Cops could just arrest me Blamin' us we're held like hostages" My seventh reaction was mixed. The muzak on "Life's a Bitch" was too slow for my mood (that'd be "Yearning for Your Love" by the Gap band, apparently). "We were beginners in the hood as five percenters but something must've got in us 'cause all of us turned to sinners Now some restin' in pieces some are sittin' in San Quentin Others such as myself are tryin' to carry on traditions" But the lyrical pipe is long. And the flow is good. "Now it's all about cash in abundance Niggas I used to run with is rich or doin' years in the hundreds I switch my motto Instead of sayin' 'F*ck tommorrow' That buck that bought a bottle coulda struck the lotto" Depressing chorus. Nice trumpet (Olu Dara is credited for that). And A.Z. (the "featured vocals") did a good job. All in all, I gots to give dap. By the end of the song, my seventh reaction had faded into my eighth: "Phat." So by the time "The World is Yours" rolled around, I was actually in a good mood. This, of course, is Nas' big hit. Of the five songs I hear in any given day, this has been one of them since it came out. I'm tired of it and it isn't even the best song on the album, but if I hear it in the mornin' I'm singin' that chorus all day. Pete Rock wins again. "I'm out for dead presidents to represent me" And there *is* a nice bridge. "And I'm amped up They locked the champ up Even my brain's in handcuffs" So, I'm still feeling good for Large Professor production on "Halftime." "You couldn't catch me in the streets without a ton of reefer That's like Malcolm X catchin' the jungle fever" Nice one. "I set it off with my own rhyme 'Cause I'm as ill as a convict that kills for phone time" Insert prop here. This brings us to "Memory Lane (Sittin' In Da Park)." "One for the money Two for p*ssy and foreign cars." The muzak is phat. The flow is phat. It's too bad these aren't two great tastes that taste great together. They don't quite mesh. It's still nice, mind you, but the muzak and the style of speak don't mesh as well as they do on, say, "N.Y. State of Mind." Not a big enough deal to force a ninth reaction. I'll stick with eight for now. That brings us to "One Love" with A Tribe Calle Quest's Q-Tip on the production, um, tip. "Flippin' talkin' about he acts too rough He didn't listen, he be riffin' while I'm tellin' him stuff I was like yeah, Shorty don't care, she's a snake too F*ckin' with that fake crew that hates you" "It's bugged Plus little Rob is sellin' drugs on the dime Hangin' out with young thugs that all carry nines. I kinda like it. Skillz that pay the billz. "The streets had me stressed somethin' terrible F*ckin' with them corners have a nigga up in Bellvue or HDM hit with numbers from eight to ten A future in the maximum state pen is grim" In fact, it's very nice. Very nice. And so is "One Time 4 Your Mind." Nice muzak. "When I'm chillin' I grab the buddah Get my crew to buy beers and watch a flick, illin' and root for the villain" Nicer lyrics. "I'm tryin' to get this money g*d you know the hard times kid Sh*t, cold be starvin' make you wanna do crimes kid But I'mm'a lamp 'cause a crime couldn't beat a rhyme Niggas catchin' three to nines Muslims yellin' 'Free the mind'" Mad madness. "Represent" follows up. More Premier beats behind Nas lyrics. "Straight up, sh*t is real And any day can be your last in the jungle Get murder on the humble Guns'll blast, niggas tumble" Yet another example of Nas dopeness. "Before the BDP conflict with MC Shan Around the time when Shante dissed the real Roxxanne I used to wake up every mornin' see my crew on the block Every day's a different plan that had us runnin' from cops" Good. Reaction number eight is still holdin' steady. Only one more chance for me to have to change my mind. The last track is "It Ain't Hard To Tell," another recent release. "Nas is like the afocentric asian Half man half amazin'" Oh, look, it's the "Human Nature" sample. Still, the lyrics are tight and the muzak works well enough. I stay with my last impression. It's all good. So, I slept. I'm a man. I can admit it. In the end, this is a good album. I mean it ain't _It Takes A Nation of Millons to Hold Us Back_, but, then, what is? Look, this is more than just a collection of some for-the-moment phat beats. This will get more rotation in my ride than, say, Souls of Mischief--last year's new phat hype sensation--did. Nas is a talent for sure. The lyrical beef is steak. The flow is distinctive and good. The muzak and production behind him is top notch. My only cause for complaint is that there's a certain lack of distinctiveness and originality that makes him stand out and keeps him from being more than just another damn good rapper. If he had that on _Illmatic_, I'd defintely be able to place him up there with the folks we'll be talkin' about five years from now. But it isn't too late. There's always album number two. So where does this leave you? "N.Y. State of Mind," "The World Is Yours," "One Love" and "Represent" are pretty representative. If, after listening to those, you can feel your head boppin', go for it. If you don't feel that groove, listen to them three more times. If you still get no rise, punt. I suspect you'll be boppin' though. The bottom line? I'm still waitin' for this year's big bomb to drop on me. _Illmatic_ ain't quite it, I'm afraid, but while I'm waitin' for whatever it is I'm waitin' for, this'll do fine. But that's just one Black man's opinion--what's yours? (C) Copyright 1994, Charles L Isbell, Jr. All my Hip Hop reviews are available on the World Wide Web. Use the URL: http://www.ai.mit.edu/~isbell/isbell.html and follow the pointers.... [Editor's Note: I'll get a record deal before Charles EVER reviews "Tricks of the Shade..."] --------------------------------------------------------------------- Section 3 - THREE **************THE OFFICIAL HARDC.O.R.E. REVIEW SECTION*************** HardC.O.R.E. pH scale 6/pHat - EE-YOW! A Hip Hop Classic! 5/pHunky - Definitely worth the price of admission. 4/pHine - Solid. Few weaknesses here. 3/pHair - Some potential, but not fully realized 2/pHlat - Falls well short of a quality product 1/pHukkit - Get that Vanilla Lice shit OUTTA HERE! ********************************************************************* ***A*** Ryan MacMichael --------------- AFRO-PLANE, "Afro-Plane" (Kaper/RCA) I don't try to hate albums. I really don't. In fact, I try to find something redeeming in every one I review, and I've found something almost everytime (except for maybe Icy Blu, Gerardo, and Marky Mark). Unfortunately, Afro-Plane is one of those albums I just could not get into. They bill themselves as "90's Hip-Hop + 70's Funk + 60's Psychedelia: Acupuncture for the Mind". And though they do live up to what they claim, the shit's SO BLAND! All the funk has the same waa-waa flavor (ya know -- that guitar that was in every damn funk song in the 70's?), the singing is either boring or downright weak, and the rap is repetitious, monotone drivel. Tracks like "First Born" and "Daisy's Mission" are total yawners while "Shine" and "Flower Child" are cheap Arrested Development rip-offs. In order to truly come off with the hip-hop/funk/psychedilia flavor, you have to kick it like Divine Styler did on "Ain't Sayin' Nothin" and "Tongue of Labyrinth." I'm sorry to say it -- no I'm not. This was a total waste of CD and promo material -- of which I've seen TONS. pH Rating: 2/pHlat ***B*** Kori J. Garland --------------- AHMAD, "Ahmad" (Giant/Reprise) "Ahmad? Who's that?" "You know, that song 'Back In The Day'?" "That song? I thought it was some new shit from the Pharcyde!" No doubt this is how most of us came to know this newcomer. He has a distinct voice and style reminiscent of both the Pharcyde and Souls of Mischief, two of the best groups to come upon the scene recently. Like these two powerhouses, his tracks include infectious jazzy, soulful, laid-back hooks and loops, as well as a significant amount of original beats. Also like them, he has mad skills on the mic and a mad flow that hooks you from the get-go. The hype tracks do their damnedest to grab you and bring you to your feet. Most impressive is how he pulls all this off, without the gun-totin', gangsta-soaked lyrics so characteristic of his homebase, South Central L.A. Ahmad, the 18-year-old, self-proclaimed "niggaroe", co-wrote and produced his album, giving the listener a true portrayal of Ahmad, and not a corporate-manufactured character. The album includes three versions of "Back In The Day", most likely in an attempt to lure people to check out his entire album and not just the maxi-single of the debut track. Personally, I prefer the original version, which loops a sample from Curtis Mayfield's "Lets Do It Again", even though the version sampling Teddy Pendergrass' "Love TKO" is the one blowing up around the country. But don't avoid the album because of this sales ploy. Those who fall into this lure of buying the complete album aren't cheated. You actually will be very pleasantly surprised. Two tracks, "The Jones'" and "We Want The Funk", feature Roger Troutman's vocal-altering abilities, representing one of the several old school elements in Ahmad's mix. "Can I Party" includes a mass of infectious hooks and loops, mainly Parliament's "Flashlight", that will grab you whether you want them to or not. Almost equally infectious is another party track "Touch the Ceiling". But the most significant track on the album has to be "You Gotta Be...", which tells of how Ahmad resisted peer pressure from the boys in the hood pushing him to be hard, and his resistance to their efforts. (He credits his older brother for keeping him out of gangs so he "couldn't 'G' thang.") For a bit of hip hop male bonding check of the cut "Homeboys First" in which Ahmad follows tight-knit friendships from youth to present day. In an uncharacteristic move for a West Coast rapper, Ahmad comes out and proclaims he ain't gangsta, and he ain't gonna say he is just to get the attention that other West Coast G-funk rappers have secured with their violent themes and sexploitations. He throws down mad skills as Kendal lays down mad tracks. It may sacrifice a large fan base, but Ahmad holds strong and stays true to his OWN game. pH Level: 5/pHunky ***C*** Flash ----- ANOTHA LEVEL, "On Anotha Level" (Priority) This crew would at first seem to have the right connections, as both the Pharcyde and Ice Cube have guest starred on the CD. And while Bambino, Ced Twice and Stenge flow well, they seem to be covering ground that has already been done better by the Pharcyde. These guys have pretentions to be as dope as the Pharcyde, but they need to give it some work. Level Lounge -- An instrumental that clocks in at 1:24, and is a pretty smooth way to kick off their joint... in fact, they should've put some lyrics on top of it... Let Me Take Ya -- If the leadoff rapper does not remind you of the Pharcyde's Imani, then you obviously haven't heard the Pharcyde. The track is some ol funk we've all heard, slowed down and fattened up for the ride... it's OK, but I'm not jumping out my drawers to rave about it. Just Feelin -- Oh shit, it's Grand Groove again... I'm so sick of everybody jumping on this loop. Fortunately, these guys give it a slick funk edge that Heavy D never touched... and the flow by these MC's is on. Still, I'm not busting a nut about it... Don't Stimulate -- It's a catchy chorus, with a nice Ice Cube sample, but I have to at least mention that it's blatently misogynist. That aside, it's pretty smooth... still though, I haven't heard anything lyrically or musically yet that pushes them to Anotha Level... rather, they seem to be on the same plain as every other artist out there. It's followed by a short 24 second skit called Stimulating, in which the female of the last joint kicks it back and basically says "I used you, chump". A Question 2 Ask -- Finally!! OK the track is some fresh shit, and Bambino rips it open with his leadoff... quickly we hear lines like "I'm sharp like a syringe" that get ya head open and make you check twice. Now I'm starting to believe these guys have a lil potential... Don't Fight It -- This sex tale is supposed to be interesting? Nope, sorry, I'm snoozing like I just swallowed a bottle of NyQuil. The track is mediocre and so is this tale of hitting skins... What's That Cha Say -- OK, this track is pretty smooth... I seem to recall that this was their first single, and if so it was a good choice. It's got that you-could-light-a-spliff-and-smoke-it groove, and the crew seems to be enjoying it... with lines like "My third leg is fatter than a Jenny Craig patient... I was in like Clinton, now I'm out like Bush". I give it props. Swingaz -- This is a one minute skit in which some guy working for a store is desperately on their jock, giving them free gear and trying to get them to hear his demo. Doesn't matter much to me, just a waste of space... Caught You Swingin -- OK, this one is in there... unlike the similar sex themes of Don't Fight It, this joint is enhanced by a swingin track and smooth lyrics. Bambino is definetly the one in the crew to watch... I honestly think he could bust off a whole song by himself and come off more than the crew combined. On Deck -- The first half minute of this track is just more skit, that wasn't seperated into a skit of it's own. However, if you push that track forward button you'll miss a nice track. These guys seem obsessed with their own sexuality, but they make up for it again with shit like "You couldn't see me with a telescope". This release gets better the farther into it you get (which I'm sure they would say about their women and their bozacks). Level-N-Service -- This song features Ice Cube, and he comes off sorta like he does on "Down For Whatever". As usual it's good to hear Cube, but I still feel that he is slippin a lil... used to be that a Cube cameo could make a track happen, but this one will not push the track over the precipice. It's OK over all, but I'm not extremely impressed. Fo Sho Shot -- Why do they keep leading off their shit with unnecessary talking? Anyway, this sparse funk track works well, and the over-testosterone laden lyrics kept to a minimum. It has a nice groove you can move to, and I definetly recommend this one. It is followed by another unnecessary skit of 2:55 known as "Late". Phat-T -- I seem to remember this being the B-Side of their first single, but it is proclaimed to be "available on CD only". It is certainly worth the extra price, cause Anotha Level hooks up with the Pharcyde and comes off twice as nice. Fat Lip makes a HILARIOUS entrance as Farmer Brown, and the freestyle skills of the whole crew over this fat track wil have you BUGGIN. There are a few outstanding tracks, and the rest are average. Nothing on here is WACK, per se. I think if they put in a lil work they really could take it to Anotha Level. pH Level: 4/pHine ***D*** David J. -------- ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, "Zingalamaduni" (Chrysalis) There were a lot of people who couldn't get into Arrested Development's first offering, "3 Years 5 Months and 2 Days In The Life Of...", for one reason or another. Considering the success that followed them, that may seem hard to believe, but a lot of hip hop heads just couldn't embrace the music of Speech & Co., and for a moment, I thought I was in the minority. The first time I heard their debut single "Tennessee," I fell out. This was PHAT! Funky music, great lyrics, solid message, everything that a jam needed. The first time I heard the album, I could feel the funk in a lot of it, especially in cuts like "Mama's Always On Stage", "U", and "Fishin' 4 Religion." This is why I was disappointed with some of their singles, because I felt it didn't really represent the best AD had to offer. So I looked forward to hearing "Zingalamaduni." I enjoyed hearing their music before, and I wanted them to show everyone they weren't just some passing fancy for eMpTyV to embrace one year and forget the next. Then I saw the album credits... "Produced by Speech for Vagabond Productions." Oh, please, no. Please don't let this be another Gumbo LP, with only one track worth listening to (the educational anthem "I Know You're A Virgin"). Please let there be phat music again. Please let Speech's production improve after a disappointing first attempt with "Droppin' Soulful H2O on the Fiber." So I put the needle on the record. (Power to the Vinyl, right?) The AD style is there, no doubt. Speech's delivery is in there, cool. The messages abound, some of them different, some of them a little surprising, but always on point. The celebration of the music is still ongoing. There's even a little tribute to the African ingenuity that created hip hop. Just about everything that made Arrested Development as big as they are now is there.... ...except the funk. There's nothing on this album that makes me want to get up and dance. It's not without rhythm, of course, but that feeling I got from the first album, the one that made me want to run up and dance with Baba Oje and Aerle Taree, just isn't here. That's not to say I wouldn't recommend "Zingalamaduni," especially if you liked AD's singles. There are plenty of bright spots on this album. Speech certainly hasn't forgotten to have fun, (on "Achen' 4 Acres", Speech shouts out, "If you owned your own land, you could have your own DJ booth right there in that field!") and he delivers some important messages throughout the album. He calls out the hustlers and drug dealers and calls them sell-outs and Uncle Toms on "United Front", he delivers a strong anti-abortion message on "Warm Sentiments", and he lambasts technology at the price of humanity, wishing we could all live "In The Sunshine." These words need to be heard, and that alone makes this album worth a listen. Add to that the respect given at the intro and the radio station theme (WMFW Fm stands for We Must Fight & Win), and you've got most of the ingredients for dopeness. But the lack of the great beats that phattened AD's debut album disturbs me. Speech, you've got everything going for you, and I wish you all the success in the world (even if you ain't really into that, as you say before "Ease My Mind"), but I wish you could have worked on your production a little more before doing this album. It's missing something important that would help you spread your message even further. It may be the only minus this album has, but it's a big one. pH Level: 4/pHine ***E*** Flash ----- BEASTIE BOYS, "Ill Communication" (Grand Royal) The Beastie Boys are the perennial Rodney Dangerfield of hip- hop. No matter how good their lyrics are, how phat their production is, or how funky their live playing gets, they are written off as perpetrators and frauds by hardcore headz everywhere, mostly due to their skin color. Even 3rd Bass took a few cheap shots at them back in the day, saying that THEY were more legit. Face it guys, y'all are legit, cause y'all make good music. The way to stay true to the game is keep doing your shit no matter who you are, what color you are, where you come from, or who criticizes you. And the Beastie Boys do just that. Year after year they keep representing. Last year it was mostly the alternative crowd that checked into "Check Your Head", but this album should bring together punk-rockers and b-boys alike. If you like good, CREATIVE hip-hop (no g-funk or tired gangsta cliche on this album), don't sleep. The album opens with one of the best tracks, "Sure Shot". A few songs suffer from over-distortion of the Beastie vocals, but on this one they come through loud and clear. The drum track kicks and the flute loop lilts in and out with the right amount of spice just like a Pete Rock horn. And with braggadocio like "I got more hits than Rod Carew", how can you not come away jammin? Unfortunately, the next track is one of those infamous four songs I mentioned, "Tough Guy". It's some sort of punk-rock/trash- metal experiment that I loathe. If you buy the CD, skip right over this one with your track forward button. "B-Boys Makin With the Freak Freak" -- it's good for the most part. I find the sample that they draw the title from annoying. A plus however is the "If it's that kind of party..." Richard Pryor sample... this one is a humerous joint that seems to mostly be freestyle. The track changes up more than a Gangstarr posse joint, and it works well. BTW, the album comes with all the lyrics in the inset, this is a nice touch. "Bobo on the Corner" -- It's an instrumental that isn't one of my favorites, but it's OK. "Root Down" -- hip-hop historians will love the references to Busy Bee and Kool Moe Dee in this funky joint. It has a bouncy guitar line that swings the Beasties from one lyrics to the next, and it's a definite head-nodda in my book. "Sabotage" could be the theme song to a nuclear holocaust, and it is WICKED. If the music itself doesn't give you a wake up call, the ferociously screamed lyrics like "What you see you might not get!" will more than do the trick. You've all probably heard "Get it Together" with Q-Tip, and if you haven't stop sleepin!! OK, admittedly, this song makes about as much sense as UltraMagnetic's "Two Brothers With Checks", but like that song it is so damn funky you don't care! I can listen to this one ten times in a row and STILL not get tired of it. "Sabrosa" is smooth instrumental. Little else needs be said. Second of the four UGH tracks on this album is "The Update"... the track and the lyrics are OK, but the vocals are just too far distorted to make it listenable, IMHO. Last on side A for you tape owners is the instrumental "Futterman's Rule". This one is OK too, it also has a little scratching action along with the funky jam. But for the real scratching action the next jam "Alright Hear This" is the BOMB. Somebody tell me where the hell that funky intro sample they use comes from? It's killer! I digress though... "Eugene's Lament" -- you'll either think it's corny or you'll love it (I take the latter). It's an instrumental with violin player Eugene Gore playing an eerie haunting snake charming type of song to a funky drum track. "Flute Loop" takes a familiar flute sample I know was used elsewhere, extends it, and loops it fully throughout the entire song while the Beasties rap on the track. This jam is FLAVA! "Do It" -- A cool number featuring the ever-indecipherable Bizmarkie in a cameo chorus role (yes, it's hard to tell, but he is saying "Let's do it"). We all knew he'd pop up on this LP somewhere, and this song is as good as any (dual meanings of that sentence intended). "Ricky's Theme" -- My only complaint is that it drags on just a BIT too long. Other than that it's a good instrumental. "Heart Attack Man" is another punk-rock number, but it is WAY more tolerable than "Tough Guy", and it even has a nice hip-hop breakdown halfway through. This one would have been worthy of the Judgment Night soundtrack. "The Scoop" -- It has a plucky bassline that works nicely, and the Beasties kick the real like they do on nearly every track. Braggadocio is in full effect with "I keep my rhymes in a little black book, and I know you want to take another look!!" and some Jamaican keeps saying "This is ruff and tuff" everytime through. Slammin! We round out the album with a Buddhist chant instrumental called "Shambala" that as far as I am concerned is only tolerable the first time around, and it drags even more than "Ricky's Theme" except that it isn't half as good. With almost no pause it flows into "Bodhisaattva Vow", which unlike the instrumental proceeding it works well. I don't claim to understand Buddhism any more than any other religion, but the song flows well. The album closes with "Transitions", a short instrumental. So of twenty tracks, only four are unendurable, and at least 8 are definite qualifiers for HardCORE pHat status. The rest kicks so well you won't mind the little potholes on the road to funkiness. If you didn't know they were white you wouldn't even bother to question their hip-hop status, with slamming tracks like this. Let's hope the Beasties are around for many years to come. pH Level: 5/pHunky ***F*** David J. -------- BORN JAMERICANS, "Kids From Foreign" (Delicious Vinyl) You can't talk about dancehall reggae in the past 18 months without talking about the Born Jamericans' dubplate "Boom Shak-A-Tack." Any DJ that said they played dancehall had to have this record SOMEWHERE in their collection, and they played it until the groove on the record wore through to the other side of the wax. It was quite possibly one of the biggest things to hit dancehall since....well since Supercat did the hip hop remix for "Ghetto Redhot" in 1992. But umpteen remixes later, people were wondering -- is this all we're going to see? When are Born Jamericans coming out a new single? Or an album? Is this a one-hit wonder? With the long-awaited elease of "Kids From Foreign," the answer is a definite no. Their distinct style combines the rough, rugged vocals of Edley Shine and the smoothed out singing of Notch to produce a solid collection of head-noddin' dancehall good for parties anywhere. The main reason for that, though, is that most of the songs sound the same. Producer Chucky Thompson took the formula that worked so well on "Boom Shak-A-Tack" and essentially used it ten times. Several things keep this technique from flopping, though. First and foremost on that list is the quality music of the music. Almost all of these songs are potential singles, especially "So Ladies" and "Ain't No Stoppin'," both of which could follow up Jamericans' current single "Cease & Seckle." Second is that the album is so short -- only eleven tracks -- that the jams don't cancel each other out (i.e. Mecca and the Soul Brother syndrome). Third is that Edley Shine and Notch compliment each other very well with their different vocal styles, and that shows on the whole album. It's a shame that neither member of the group went solo just for one song on this album. That alone would have shown some instant development in their styles. If you're sick of "Boom Shak-A-Tak" and don't want to hear that anymore, chances are you may take a pass on this album. But I wouldn't. This is a solid debut to a group that shows lots of potential in dancehall. Be on the lookout for them. pH Level: 4/pHine ***G*** Flash ----- DA OTHER ASIATICS, "Demo" (unsigned artist review) This, for me, was the eagerly anticipated and long-awaited demo EP from the stars of the alt.rap.unsigned.tape, D.O.A. I've been on the dillznicks of Chops, Styles and Peril to put out some new shit ever since I heard the song "Mind Your Business", and they put me up on an advance copy of their new EP. They had been hoping I would put this review on the net to promote the EP, and had I not come down with Mono and been unable to finish it I would have gladly done just that. Now however, I have a chance to rectify the scenario and let the hip- hop nation know about a crew that deserves major label status more than Ewing deserves an NBA trophy. (Editors Note: Unlike Ewing, they may get what they deserve. *grin*) Yin Side: No Escape -- Once again, the DOA crew shows their penchant for samples of Del the Funky Homosapien, and I can't front because I love it every time. Over a sparse track that could give "Come Clean" a run for the money, Styles and Chops drop nuggets such as "I rock like Woodstock" and "like Wu-Tang kid, Protect Ya Neck"... my favorite is "Here's a quarter G, go buy yourself some skills". These guys exude confidence in their flow and can rip one-liners in their flow that should make Akineyle and the Alkaholiks sweat! Very pHat track. Married to the M.O.B. -- Unfortunately, this track is one of the reasons I can't unreserverdly give the EP 6 out of 6. The flow is OK but neither the lyrics or the tracks excite me... and the samples are straight up annoying. Conciousness is OK, but GUYS... you're better when you just rip it up. It should be noted that before the next track is a short beat- boxing skit. It's neither wack nor great, just sort of... there. No-Shadow Fist -- Outstanding!! "My rhymes are fat and stupid like Rush Limbaugh..." The lyrics in this one are fierce and the track itself sounds worthy of the Beatnuts... fat bassline with smooth horn spikes. Undoubtedly the best song on the EP... I'd have paid money for this one alone. P Off the Top -- Peril freestyles over this quirky sounding track, nearly getting stuck, but "what the fuck" he keeps going. I've heard better tracks and better freestyling, but for the humor element alone I'd give it props. Yang Side: DOA -- The Wu-Tang themselves would be impressed by the samples that kick off this track (I mean, really KICK OFF the track) and recur throughout. The bassline hits, and the way they string together samples during the chorus is beautiful... to me, their excellent sample usage is quickly becoming their trademark. There is a short skit that seems to be a part of the next track... it leads right up to it... Enter the Duck -- At first, you'll wonder why they turned down the track and let the metallic reverberation of the studio dominate what is obviously a fat loop (with the trademark fat sample, from the BeatNuts no less). Then "The Duck" knocks on the studio door and enters. He's an A&R man without a clue. Now this is another reason I can't give the album full props. This is cute, but not really funny or interesting -- in fact, it gets annoying. They should have just done that tracks they started this song off with, cause it was PFAT, but instead they wasted it. All the Way From China -- You can probably guess what Alkaholiks song they pulled the chorus of this song from. The track almost sounds like a Saturday Morning Cartoon gone hip-hop, but the lyrics, scratching, and chorus give the song the juice it needs. So I guess I should say I'm a little dissapointed, but not very... one song was a flop, and one potentially outstanding track was wasted on an A&R skit, but overall this is still an incredible demo. If they had dropped "Married to the M.O.B." and "Enter the Duck" and replaced them with the songs they did on alt.rap.unsigned.tape, this would be pHat -- without question. pH Level: 4/pHine ***H*** Martay ------ ED O.G. & THE BULLDOGS, "Roxbury 02119" (Mercury) This album wasn't exactly the most anticipated LP this year but I know that a lot of people were wondering what this was gonna sound like. Ed OG created quite a buzz with his debut. "I Got to have it", "Be a Father to Your Child", etc., were dope and he even had an embarrassing hit "Bug-a-boo" (wick wack). What about this album? It's A'ight? Some of it is excellent while some of it is just okay. "Love Comes and Goes" is by far the best cut on this album and what a track, I love this song. It's an ode to friends gone and Diamond spreads the butter track nicely. The other standout cuts are "Less than Zero" (about police brutality), "I'm Laughin'" (Guess), "I'll Rip You" (speak for itself), and finally "Dat ain't Right" (about girls teasin' to much and not breakin' off none for tha fellas and I know the feelin'). As for the other cuts, A'ight. Nothin' special. I know that's hard to believe with Diamond producing almost half the album, you'd expect tha bomb and you get the fuse cut. One cut that might catch hell with the heads is "Try Me" an R&B cut that gets on my nerves with the Ice Cube sample alone (if I hear "get with me" with his voice again I might puke) but it's not terrible. However, if you're gonna do an R&B flavored cut you better make it slammin'. Anyway to be honest I had hoped for more. I enjoy Ed OG and hope he can continue to make music but he needs to be more consistent if he expects to be a versatile solo artist in the land of the "group thang" that is Hip-Hop. I can only give a slight recommendation for this album. pH Level: 3/pHair ***I*** Saleem Bhimji ------------- FUN^DA^MENTAL, "Seize The Time" (Nation/Beggars Banquet Ltd. (U.K.)) [Editor's Note: At the request of the reviewer, excerpts from a usenet post about the group are included in this review to provide more information about them.] FUN^DA^MENTAL have been releasing records in this country for about two years on the ultra dope Nation label (also home to Transglobal Underground and Hustlers HC). They first came to prominence with the release of the superb double A-sided single "Wrath of the Blackman/Sista India" in the summer of '93, and have consolidated their reputation with some excellent singles, finally their debut album early this month. FUN^DA^MENTAL is now the brainchild of Nation records supremo Aki Nawaz (Propaghandi) and Impi D, with rapper MC Mushtaq. Due to legal problems several songs were recorded and renamed for their debut album (e.g. "Wrath of the Blackman" became "Seize The Time" and "Sista India" became "Mother India" etc). To tell you the truth, their sound is somewhat like Consolidated or Disposable Heroes of Hipocracy, but they will still appeal to the hip-hop heads out there. With 14 tracks spread out onto 2 CDs, you are looking at just over 90 minutes of social, political, and religious messages mixed over dope beats. You even get a chance to hear some well known speeches from Malcolm X and some lesser known speeches by Minister Farrakhan. Starting out with "Dog Tribe" (which for some reason was banned in the UK) you get a sense of where these brothers (and sister) are coming from. "Skin-headed warrior fightin' for the country, killing black children, burnin' Bengalis. Enough is enough, ah...People say I've gone and lost my mind 'cause I'm not afraid to die gee..." The impression I get is that the "Dog Tribe" are the skinhead Nazis of Europe. This track lets them know that they are up for a fight if they step to anyone. Also on the platter is "Mera Mazab" which in Urdu means My Religion. This is an "Islamic" track, both lyrically, and musically. They have combined the best of early Indian musical styles with the latest in hip-hop, and it sounds great! Then there's "President Propaganda," which opens with a really good speech by Minister Farrakhan... "Listen, Europe is getting together again, as they did at the turn of the century. But they got together to carve up Africa. They're getting together again..." Kickin' it first on the m-i-c is a brother who sounds so much like Chuck D. I thought I was listening to the new Public Enemy joint! This is followed by a bit of a change of style as another brother picks up the mic, and it seems as if his lyrics were inspired by Ice Cube's "Enemy". "Back in the days of the slave ships, you had us whipped, raped and lynched. Took away the Qu'ran, you gave us the Bible, now we're living in a nightmare, where black is bad and white is supreme...Fuck that shit, I'm comin' at ya!" Starting off CD2 is "Mr. Bubbleman" which I can't really get into, but I'm sure someone might enjoy. At almost 7 minutes, it is one of the longest tracks on the whole album! "English Breakfast" is next and there is that Chuck D. voice again! The background music is quite interesting, and every so often, you can hear profanity in Urdu... "Out of Europe whence they came. Demons and devils in a land of gods. Hunting the prize like hungry dogs. In the British museum is where you can see 'em. The bones of African human beings." The next track reminds me of The Last Poets with the drums and the whistles, and the poetry flowing smootly over all the melodious sounds. You get a taste of some South African tribal songs on "White Gold Burger" which is another upbeat track. If I could use only two words to describe this track, those words would be 'boom bap!' "The white man fights for his so-called land, but that so-called land belongs to us the original people of the land. So rise, rise Aboriginee, rise. Rise up, rise native tribes of America, rise. Rise, South America, rise Kayappa. Take what is rightfully yours. Rise against materialism, capitalism. Take what is rightfully yours by any means necessary!" _BACK TO BASIX_ is a phat 9:16 instrumental with snips of Malcolm X thrown in here and there, and once again, some African chants. I would have to say this CD is one of the best in my collection and would rank it up there with PE's "Fear of a Black Planet" or Professor Griff's "Pawns In The Game" or even KRS-ONE's "Return of the Boom Bap." I picked mine up from London, England but it should be available in the US and Canada as in import, but seeing as how it is a double CD, it might be expensive. None the less, if you see it, I would recommend that you pick it up. pH Level: 5/pHunky ***J*** Ryan MacMichael --------------- REG E. GAINES, "Please Don't Take My Air Jordans" (Mercury/Polygram) [- courtesy of HI-TECH HOME Weekly magazine, available on the BBS Press Service, Inc.'s BBS, 1-913-478-9239. -] "Spoken word" has been around for a while now. Or, at least, longer than the mainstream would know about -- poetry slam sessions have gained popularity in recent years. Poets go to a small club or book store and read their poetry to music, giving a whole new angle to the words, an angle intended by the poet himself. Reg. E. Gaines was featured on the MTV Spoken Word UNPLUGGED episode reading his title track, "Please Don't Take My Air Jordans", a frank look through the eyes of a ghetto teen out for a new pair of shoes. This may have been the only cut he could read on TV without being heavily censored. Reg. E. Gaines deals in raw, street poetry. The backing music ranges from jazz to fusion to rock. Whatever the back-up cuts are, they fit each individual poem's mood. The focus is not on the music, however, it's on the words. And there is a lot of power behind these words. Extensive wordplay, internal rhyme, alliteration, assonance, and strong imagery are all prevalent in Gaines' poetry; one simply cannot follow his words during only one listen -- this shit was made for analysis and careful consideration. And far be it from Gaines to take the easy way out topically. He attacks America's power structure often, most notably on "For the Lady in Green Who Shits in the Harbor": "Hard nipples / Cripple / Cancer-infested breasts / Which test / My will / I should KILL that whore!" And I'm not sure, but "My-A-Y-Ya Write Dat Poem" sounded an awful lot like a shot at Maya Angelou... This is a powerful and very important album that anyone concerned with the state of America today should have in their collection. pH Level: 5/pHunky ***K*** Flash ----- GANGSTARR, "Hard To Earn" (Chrysalis) For anybody who had a massive overdose of NyQuil and has been sleeping like Rip Van Winkle, here's what you should know about Gangstarr. For the past six years they have been one of the funkiest crews on wax, vinyl, and CD. They started out slow with their 1st album "No More Mr. Nice Guy", but caught mad buzz thanks to a good remix and video (directed by Fab 5 Freddy) for "Manifest". Then they blew the FUCK up with "Step in the Arena", which to many hip-hop fans is a classic album. It includes such gems as "Who's Gonna Take the Weight", "Just to Get a Rep", "Lovesick" and more. They followed up with the equally impressive "Daily Operation" album, which spawned several more hit singles and one b-side that was so nice they used it TWICE, a duet with Nice and Smooth known for some incomprehensible reason as DWYCK. Well, the Gangstarr crew is back again to slay the weak and wack. In the interim the duo has been putting in work. DJ Premier did production for everybody from Heavy D to KRS-One with impressive results, while Guru put together a project of jazz legends and stars known as Jazzmatazz. While both Premier and Guru deny being a "jazz rap" group, their use of such classic songs as "Night in Tunisia" has placed them at the forefront. Primo's fat beats combined with Guru's smooth and slightly raspy voice have earned the respect of hip-hop fans worlwide. With this joint, they are indeed proving that props are Hard to Earn in hip-hop, and they are one of the few crews worthy of limitless praise. On "ALONGWAYTOGO", Guru himself sounds like he's been hitting the NyQuil... it's so slow that it is ALMOST annoying. Primo works it like a pro though with a fat track, and some incredible sampling and cutting of A Tribe Called Quest's "Check the Rhime". "Brainstorm" is one of those Premier tracks like Jeru's "Come Clean" that just makes you drop ya jaw in awe. He creates an incredibly phat sounding track with just a bare bones track and some samples whistling in the wind around it. Guru kicks heavy braggadocio and lyrical intensity, cause if you try ta fuck with him he'll "burn out your eyeballs, and leave a note in Braille". "The Planet" is another standout -- a five minute plus narrative of the life and times of the Guru. In detail, he describes moving out to follow his dream of being an MC, catching various jobs to support himself, rolling a joint now and then, and struggling his way to success. Primo provides a good track, with a nice bit of self-sampling from their last album (you may also recognize it in the recently released Crooklyn single). One of the things that can be frustrating about Gangstarr, though, is that DJ Premier seems to have so many good beats and loops that on occasion he'll just toss off the extras, and you think to yourself DAMN that could've been a fat song. Last time out he did it on "93 Interlude" (which he eventually did put to good use in a Heavy D song), this time he makes "A'ight Chill" with an INCREDIBLE drum loop... as a background for some phone messages. I guess it proves how dope he is though... who else could make you WANT to listen to three minutes of phone messages? Then there's "Words from the Nutcracker," another incredible loop clocking in at only a minute twenty-nine. However, they make up for it by letting Gangstarr Foundation member Melachi the Nutcracker flex his incredible diction... "Sick thoughts on my mind with no self-control/ uplift your soul and make the brothers wanna roll/sixteen years old with a heart that's gold/yo check it check it out like this, here we go..." Other Foundation members make cameos on the album, including Jeru The Damaja & Lil' Dap on "Speak Ya Clout" (the '94 version of "I'm The Man") and Big Shug on "F.A.L.A." "Mostly Tha Voice" is my PERSONAL favorite on the album. A very chunky and funky bassline, a great chorus, a great EPMD sample, and fantastic lyrics. Truer words were ne'er spoken of a rap MC... "Some rappers have flava, some have skills, but if you're voice ain't dope then you need to CHILL". What can I say? A Gangstarr album is like a bottle of fine wine -- with time it just gets better and better. This one falls instantly into the ranks of hip-hop classic, and one can only hope Premier and the Guru keep hookin' up butta hits for years to come. pH Level: 6/pHat ***L*** Flash ----- HEAVY D. & THE BOYS, "Nuttin' But Love" (Uptown) The Heavster has long been one of hip-hop's most succesful MC's both in the underground and on a commercial level. For me though, his more commercial tracks like "Now That We Found Love" tend to be a turnoff. Last time around I was pleased that Heavy D released a full album of raw underground hip-hop. Songs like "Who's the Man" and "Here Comes the Heavster" are definite hip-hop classics. On this album though he has returned to a more commercial sound. Now if anybody CAN do hardcore rap with a commercial twist and still make it come off, it's Heavy D. However this album is full of recycled beats and uncreative lyrics, nowhere near his potential. One has to wonder WHAT he was thinking. First off, the "Friends and Respect" intro is straight up annoying. We all know you got juice Heavy, and we all give it up to you on the regular, so why are you wasting album space by dragging out everybody to give you props? Yes Kool G Rap, KRS-One, and Queen Latifah are down wit you, BUT WE ALREADY KNEW THAT. Yeesh. "Sex Wit You" is no improvement... Pete Rock recycles the same beat from De La Soul's "Ring Ring Ring (Ha Ha Hey)" wholesale and does nothing to improve it. This song in fact makes the De La Soul song even BETTER in comparison. Heavy D was 'D for Dangerous' on his last album, but on this one his lyrics are what MC Lyte so aptly refers to as "Music you can play in front of your moms." Peep these lines -- "It ain't all about sex wit you, cause all I want to do is get next to you" -- BORING! "Got Me Waiting" is a vast improvement, and a good choice for first single. Pete creates a fresh beat and bassline, and Heavy kicks a tale of the honeydip who plays mind games with him. Even the sung chorus sounds good. For this song at least, I give it up to Heavy D. Why does Kid Capri continue to make trax I don't like? I know he's supposed to be a great DJ n all that but I have yet to hear a song he produced that I like (unless it was a song on which I didn't know it was him). Like his remix of "Roll With the Flava" (on which Heavy D appeared), "Nuttin But Love" doesn't seem on point musically. The ingredients are there, but when mixed together they don't create the bump and thump in the ride like they should. The chorus is annoying too. I'm not even gonna bother to repeat it. "Something Goin On" -- this Marley Marl produced joint is better than the last song, but not by a whole lot. Once again, the lyrics do not inspire or cause you pause and rewind... nothing new here. Thumbs DOWN. "This is Your Night" -- OK, I like this one. It's got that old school funk/disco flavor (where have I heard that loop), and while the lyrics are not complex, Heavy flows them well. It's a good song to get up and break out on the dance floor. The remix of "Got Me Waiting" is an almost polar opposite to the original. Featuring Silk's Lil G, the song switches up to a very slow R&B beat and slow flow by Heavy. Yawn. No, I don't hate R&B, but this has none of the fire of an R. Kelly "Bump and Grind" jam. This is just plain awful. "Take Your Time" -- Erick, how could you? Mr. Sermon, couldn't you have used a Zapp loop instead? Nope, it's the recycled loop scenario all over again -- if you think you are listening to the Intelligent Hoodlum's "Grand Groove", you'd be right. Hearing straight up jacks like that with no creative use whatsoever makes me want to toss cookies. The lyrics, who cares? I can't stand this. "Spend a Little Time on Top" -- Hmm, Marley Marl seems to be hitting off some of the better tracks here. Yes it's a familiar beat, but used well (I think I last heard it on Black Moon). And this song is indeed the Dangerous D -- he flows ruff "and in between the sheets I'm a ruffneck scout". Now THIS is the shilznit -- not raw like 2 Live, not freaky like AMG, this is classic Heavy D-ism. Why couldn't the rest of the album be like this? "Keep It Goin" -- Never, EVER let somebody named "Druppy Dog" produce your tracks, a'ight? This song has good lyrics, but the track bites and the choral group who repeats Heavy D's phrases is just PFUCKED UP. For the lyrics and flow alone it's OK though. Check lines like "I cause havoc like when Magic made his announcement" -- I can dig it. "Black Coffee" -- Ya know, if Heavy D hadn't decided to play musical producers on this album, the end result might have been better. I'd recommend either Marley Marl or Easy Mo Bee as producer, cause their tracks on this album work. The latter did this number, and Heavy works the metaphor well, saying he wants a dark, strong woman that can give him energy, and I can't argue wit dat. "Move On" -- And for our last entrant in the musical producer contest, we have a joint by the TrakMasterz. It's a good groove, and while it is obviously message oriented (stay out of crime and live right) it isn't didactic or preachy. Kudos to the TM for hooking this up well and to the Heav for ripping it. "Lord's Prayer" -- Those same annyoing kids who keep popping up in unnamed skits make an appearance here, for -- what else? -- the lord's prayer. You know, "our father, who art in heaven" and all that shit? So what? The first and last tracks on this album were/are really unnecessary. All in all, This album is a dissapointment. If Heavy D had taken more chances, come with bolder lyrics and a unified, one- producer sound, this could have been THE summer joint. It isn't a *complete* failure -- Heavy still flows as good as he ever did, and some of the songs do work well -- but overall, this is the weakest of all his albums. pH rating: 3/pHair ***M*** David J. -------- JERU THE DAMAJA, "The Sun Rises in the East" (PayDay/FFRR) We were first introduced to Jeru The Damaja on the Gangstarr cut "I'm The Man," in which Jeru flexed mad skills as he told prospective battle opponents that he would tap their jaw. Suddenly, before you could say "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," Jeru hit us again with another bomb, the DJ Premier-produced "Come Clean," which is already being hailed as a hip hop classic. The stage was set. Could The Damaja follow up this sudden success with a debut album worthy of his already growing rep? No problem. Call up Premier and Guru to hook up the tracks, and just add flow, and BOOM! -- instant dope. "The Sun Rises In The East" is one of the phattest albums I've heard in a long time, thanks in part to Jeru's impressive lyrical ability. He flips metaphors like coins in the fountain, and with Premier behind him, it's easy to see how phat the combination is. Primo alone makes the album worth buying. He saved some of his better beats for Jeru. What really moves the album, though, are the lyrics. Jeru is just too dope on the microphone. He pushes Brooklyn back on a West Coast-dominated map of rap on "Brooklyn Took It," and procedes to show off his "Mental Stamina" with fellow Perverted Monk Al Foo. Peep this out (Al Foo's parts are in parentheses): Pugilistic linguistics, check out the mystic. We're fantistic. (you mean fantastic) Fuck it. You'll get your ass kicked. Challenge my verbal gymnastics. (for acrobatics) Vocabulary calesthetics can understand the mathematic or esoteric. Watch the track, but also peep the lyrics. My lightning, my thunder -- way back I stomped out Eric Alese, but now I stomp out MC's. Can't chill, because the sun don't freeze. Heavy metal, hard like titanium, I'll commence to turn wax into platinum. And that's just the beginning of Jeru's ability. He procedes to separate the real women from "Da Bichez" with the class that a lot of MC's fail to show. Then he flips the most amazing extended metaphor in "You Can't Stop The Prophet," a James Bond-like story which pits the Black Prophet against his arch nemesis Mr. Ignorance, his wife Deceit and his henchmen Animosity and Despair. Jeru also manages to mix a message into his music, speaking out to the black man on "Ain't The Devil Happy" and giving tribute to all forms of black music on "Jungle Music," complete with samples sounds from a cage of monkeys at the Brooklyn Zoo. His ability to speak out on something while still flipping dope lyrics keeps him a step above the rest. I can't front. This whole album is a future classic, a true representation of hip hop at its finest, and quite possibly the album of the year. Unless KRS-ONE surprises me with a new album this year, I can't see too much competition for Jeru besides Nas' "Illmatic", and production-wise, "The Sun Rises In The East" has that beat. Go buy it. Now. pH Level: 6/pHat ***N*** Kevin "K-Mello" Murphy ---------------------- KURIOUS, "A Constipated Monkey" (Hoppoh/Columbia) Late 1992, and a kid named Kurious dropped a single called "Walk Like A Duck". I wont front. When I first saw the video and heard the track, I was like, "Oh shit! This shit is the bomb!" I quickly went out and bought the single and played it to death (I put this jam on mad types.) At this same time, as far as production went, the Beatnuts were THE crew. I just knew this album was gonna be phat. 1994, and the album drops. After hearing so much about this kid's skills on the mic, I just knew this album would be phat. Well, the Beatnuts production is cool, but does not vary enough. A lot of the samples and beats were either too predictable (especially "I'm Kurious"), or too familiar. If these tracks were not all on the same album, they would be fairly dope, but they dont. Lyrically, I get tired of hearing Kurious say "Kurious the magician", "I'm Half Cuban, half Puerto Rican", or talking about receiving "services" from or giving them to females. Its a sad thing when the best rhyme on your album isn't done by you. Some tracks I had to straight up ask myself, "How the hell did they have the nerve to put this on an album"? "Nikole" comes to mind. That chorus is THE WORST! The skits are barely funny, when they are funny at all. Although some of the metaphors on the album are pretty cool, and I can't entirely hate someone who samples one of my favorite songs of all time on their album (The "Jimbrowski" sample on "Spell It Wit A J".), this album was another one of what seems many disappointing albums in 1994. Hopefully, Kurious' sophomore effort will be better. This constipated monkey needs to go see the doctor, and get that shit cleared up! pH Level: 3/pHair ***O*** David J. -------- MAD FLAVA, "From the Ground Unda" (Priority) "The gimmick is there is no gimmick." It's certainly a simple enough concept in hip hop. It's all in the music. If you do it well, you'll find a pretty big audience for your stuff. Somewhere. Usually it's not that easy, though, and the end result is that a lot of quality groups get slept on, while the ones with the gimmicks jump ahead of everyone. Just look at what's "selling." If that's the rule, then Priority is taking a calculated risk on the Dallas-based Mad Flava. This 4-man outfit doesn't really offer anything that's necessarily new or original. They don't offer any gimmicks in their rhyme style or their production sound. They don't bring any major innovations to rap music as we know it. They just give you some old-fashioned hip hop. And it works. Cold Cris The Soulman is the main MC, and he shows that he has plenty of braggadocio skills on the mic. The Don Kasaan and Erich "Hype Dawg" Krause don't jump on the mic as much, though Dawg provides most of the beats, as Cut Selectah Baby G sits in the back and speaks with his hands. The beats are very reminiscient of some of the older sounds of the Bomb Squad -- very noisy, but not chaotic, rather musical and just groovin'. Maybe that was the reason that former Bombadeer Eric "Vietnam" Sadler worked with Mad Flava on the remix of their first single. It's not innovative, but it's a very solid package, and it's nice to hear someone set all the BS aside and just come with the hip hop, especially with tracks like "Housewreckers," "Freak 'Em," and "Bump Ya Head." If you're just looking for something to nod to, this is it. You may hit the fast forward button a couple of times, but overall, it'll be worth it. pH Level: 4/pHine ***P*** David J. -------- MARXMAN, "33 Revolutions Per Minute" (Talkin' Loud/A&M) P.O.W.E.R., "Dedication To World Revolution" (Nettwerk) I decided to review these two albums together because of the surprising number of parallels I saw between them. Both groups are very political and anti-establishment, but each finds very distinct ways of delivering their message. We'll start with Marxman, a four-man group out of the U.K. that makes House of Pain's representation of the Irish look downright phony. Marxman's CD insert is littered with messages attacking an ill and ill-fated society with the roots of Marxism. Their lyrics go even further, blaming the free market for the destruction of Britain ("Sad Affair"), the drug-addictions of their friends ("Do You Crave Mystique"), and the lack of familial instinct among the people ("Father Like Son"). The lyrical images of Hollis, Phrase and Oisin leave nothing to the imagination. They come out and slap you with reality before you even heard them. The best example of this is "All About Eve," a song about an abusive boyfriend and all the telltale signs of a destructive relationship that nobody could see until the woman herself was killed. It's almost a prophecy of O.J. & Nicole, which makes the story that much more chilling. Despite the harsh reality of Marxman's lyrics, their delivery is so laid-back you hardly hear the message. Their music sounds like microwavable British pop, and their voices are almost a mumble -- very little enunciation, and not always on beat like it should be. Even the production of the SD50's on a couple of tracks and DJ Premier on another (Damn, he's EVERYWHERE!) can't quite make this sound as good as it could. Guru may call this "a unique representation of the British rap scene," but the rap is lost somewhere in the mix. On the other hand, P.O.W.E.R. (which stands for People Oppressed by the World Entire Ruling-elite) isn't afraid to give their music that hard edge. Where Marxman musically reaches out to shake your hand, POWER reaches out to strangle you. Their production is very reminiscient of Paris, another political MC who smacks you with an open hand across the dome with his music, and their lyrics are often more political than even P-Dog himself. They leave no doubt in your mind that they're fed up with bigotry and greed, and they want revolution yesterday. Che is as lyrically blunt (as opposed to blunted) as an MC can be. He treats Uncle Sam as the ultimate devil (even Cube doesn't diss Sam *this* much) and spits on his plot to make a few people rich and oppress all the rest. He denounces the U.S. as a "Death Machine" and its techniques for oppresion as "Modern Day Slavery." He attacks the notion of racial separation in their first single "Race Mixer." All the while, producer Krys Kills supplies polished beats and appropriate samples of racists and revolutionaries strewn all over the breaks, all of which add a very nice touch to the music. The problem with POWER is that it's all so predictable. Yes, it's a good message, but by the third or fourth track, you know it all already. Che may claim that he's "Not trying to preach to you, just hope this rhyme reaches you," but in the end, that's exactly how he sounds. POWER comes off more than once or twice here, and the potential is there for something phat, but overall, it tends to get old after a couple of listens. The only surprise you get on this album is the lack of the infamous Nettwerk 808 prevalent in all of their artists' LPs. Both Marxman and POWER have deep messages that they want to tell, but in the telling, they fail to take it to that higher level where it needs to go to keep the listeners interested. Making the statements themselves are worthy indeed, but just saying it isn't enough. In this day an age, it's got to be phat. It has to have that impact that "It Takes A Nation of Millions" and "By All Means Necessary" had, or that some tracks by KRS-ONE and Jeru The Damaja have today, and while these albums have their bright spots, they lack that same impact that could have pushed them over the top. pH Level (for both albums): 3/pHair ***Q*** Ryan MacMichael --------------- THE MO'FESSIONALS, "Live at Slim's" (Mo'Fessional Music (indie)) The Mo'Fessionals are an extremely talented young bunch representing San Francisco. This independant CD showcases the Mo'Fo's live skills as well as their musical skills. Where to start, where to start... An 11-man band with trumpets, trombones, trap drums, bass... the full spectrum is covered here. It's this wide variety of instruments that give the Mo'Fessionals such a thick, complex sound. It's very impressive how well the instrumentalists work together -- the horns mesh with the bass, the sax adds just the right amount of the "smooth factor", and the drums bring it all together, occasionally jumping on and off the beat for variety, but always riding it through to the end. Female vocalist Zoe Ellis adds her uniquely entertaining voice, driven obviously by her soul. Ellis has more umph in her lyrics than anyone since Aretha herself. And just when she's done adding her singing vocals, she grips the mic and rips it on the rap tip coming off sounding almost like Boss without the curses. My favorite cut is "Games", a track nearing the 13-minute mark. Zoe and her male counterpart, Chris Burger, go back and forth on the "I Got a Man" tip, and then halfway through the cut, a 6-minute driving jazz solo begins. And in the words of Big Daddy Kane, "Awwwwww shit!" The talent literally oozes out of the speakers... The majority of this album was recorded live at Slim's (hence the title) just over a year ago. A couple of the tracks are studio cuts, and they have the same thickness about them as the live cuts. "Not the Blues" comes off with Ant Banks-style production (lots of nice keyboards over a phat bassline and little horn shots dropped throughout). So what's wrong with this album? Well, musically and such: absolutely nothing. My only problem was that out of the two track listings on the CD inserts, neither were correct. The track listing on the actual disc has the correct order. But hey -- when the music's this good, who gives a fuck? What would I classify this album? Rap, soul (real classic old- school flavor), funk, and jazz. Quite simply, the Mo'Fessionals are the best instrument-oriented rap group around, and "Live at Slim's" is the best live CD that I've ever heard. These kids are blowing up in San Francisco, but have very little distribution throughout the rest of the country -- so pick up your copy a little something like this: Call: 1-510-845-6844 for info & to order. CD is $12.00 (CA residents add sales tax) S&H $2.00 (they go out 1st class in padded bag) Total cost is $14.00 Check, MO, VISA or MC OK. (Add $1.00 to get send lyric sheets when they're ready.) All right, Mo'Fo's -- time for y'all to come out to Philly and kick a couple shows. And hook me up with backstage passes (or at least some yarn from Loring's mom's store ). Keep it up, y'all. pH Level: 6/pHat ***R*** Kevin "K-Mello" Murphy ---------------------- M.O.P., "To The Death" (Select Street) In 1992, an album quietly dropped called _The Hill That's Real_. Out of this compilation of songs from these Brownsville, Brooklyn (also known as Gunsmoke Hill), came the obviously featured artist of the album, Li'l Fame, judging by the fact that he had more songs on the album than all other artists combined. In 1994, Li'l is joined by Billy Danzenie to form M.O.P. After dropping one of the most talked about underground singles of the year("How About Some Hardcore"), they are coming at us with a full album. The production on this album alone makes this one of the best albums of '94 (unless your more into the "West Coast" sound. Then you only have "To The Death" to fall back on. It is definitely an East Coast sounding album). The lyrics also compliment the beats, although their subject matter is uni-dimensional. The lyrical flows on this album help where the actual lyrics do not carry the songs. This is an album that is extremely easy to listen to without getting up and skipping tracks. The only song that was hard to listen to was "Rugged Neva Smooth", because the guitar was just too heavy metalish for this reviewer. If "Crooklyn" had been another ghetto-life movie, the first track, "Crimetime 1-718", would have been a phat track to use as an intro to the movie. Although they could have done without most of the little skits on the album, the skits do accomplish one thing, and that is a change in tempo between songs where they are inserted between. Even if you dont like the "gangsta" style of rap (although I dont consider this a gangsta rap album because it is just telling about life where these kids are from. It comes off more as reality than fantasy, like most gangsta rap albums do.), you will enjoy this album. The beats are phat, and these kids have mad energy. And if you know anything about the life, you will be able to relate. (DJs will love the double vinyl.) Clack-clack, salute! pH Level: 5/pHunky ***S*** Flash ----- NEFERTITI, "L.I.F.E. (Living in Fear of Extinction)" (Mercury) We last saw this TRULY concious daughter making a small appearance on King Tee's album, wherein she was smokin joints. Here King Tee returns the favor on a tribute to MC Trouble, but that is just a small part of this high quality debut. A few songs slip a little musically, but her lyrics are always on point... a nice blend of concious, hard, and funky. Birth -- A speech by Malcolm X set to a funky drum track, no doubt to inform us of Nefretiti's afrocentric and pro-black inclinations. Good intro. Mecca to Watts -- Although lyrically this track excels, musically, it's not quite in there. I don't know what it is about DJ Pooh these days, but he seems to have lost his golden touch. Don't Drink the Water -- This song was actually written by Threat, and this time DJ Pooh produced some funky shit. If you listen carefully, this song actually samples "Mecca to Watts"... go figure. Regardless, I like it. Nefretiti displays her harder edge, which is what makes the album's better songs work. Revolving Into Zero -- This is just a short instrumental produced by Kenyatta for the New Vibe Messangers. Can't say I've ever heard of them, but I like this track. Family Tree -- This track is produced by Diamond D, and was apparently remixed by the Yaggfu Front and once again, Kenyatta for the blase blah. I like it. "I've got much more to bring to the table than Bush or Gore." The sample of Arrested Development is a nice touch. No Nonsense -- A duet between Nefertiti and the Guru, well known to most of us as the MC of Gangstarr. Guru actually produces this track, and flexes the same talent he showed on "Code of the Streets". Not bad. And of course, DJ Premier provides the scratches. Ruff Shit -- Another short instrumental, this clocking in at one minute even and produced by Kevin Perez. I really don't understand the purpose of all of these instrumentals, but they're all slamming, so who cares? My Soul Good -- Another DJ Pooh production, this one is so-so. Nefertiti kicks black conciousness over this slow track. Not bad... Walkin Da L.I.F.E. -- What is it with all the unknown producers on this joint? Whoever A.J. and Chucky are, they are desperately in need of a name change and a fresh track. I'd have to label this one average overall. Come Down, Baby -- Diamond hooked up the butter, and Nefertiti swings on it, kicking both a mental level and a smooth freestyle flavor at the same time. Too bad more of the album wasn't like this. Just Move Yo -- Whoever Nicole is, she must be an R&B producer. If you like that kind of flavor, you'll swing on this. It's OK to me, but R&B flavor isn't really my thing. No Feelin Inside -- What's up with this G-Funk? Nefertiti has a hard edge which Pooh showcased well on "Don't Drink the Water", but this is practically Warren G. type shit, and she tries to match it with a g-style flow that ill suits her. Visions of Nefretiti -- A.J. and Chucky did an OK job on this one, which features an Eric B. and Rakim sample from "In the Ghetto". I would actually have liked this one better if Nefertiti had flowed more on the track. There seems to be more music than lyrics, and even if the music is dope, that's not what I'm here for, dig? After Birth -- This being a one minute skit which you could just as well skip. Obviously meant as a companion to Birth... and it's wack. Miss Amutha Nature -- When I bought this CD, I expected the funky piano version I had heard and seen on Yo! MTV Raps... no such luck. The lyrics are good, but this track really doesn't represent the flavor of her lyrics. Trouble in Paradise -- Dedicated to MC Trouble, who if ya don't know was a gifted female MC that had an epileptic seizure and passed away several years ago. Nikki Kixx and King Tee both make good appearances, but this track pushes the R&B envelope at points. Overall, I'm giving this album pH 4 out of 6 status, because most of the tracks work musically and Nefertiti excels both lyrically and with her flow. pH Level: 4/pHine ***T*** David J. -------- OUTKAST, "Southernplayalisticaddilacmusik" (LaFace) Those of you who have been following HardC.O.R.E. since its expansion probably know how sick I am of the gangsta genre of rap. I haven't much that is new or original within the whole style in a couple of years. So naturally, when Outkast first dropped, I was quick to judge it after one listen. "Aw, shit, another one of THOSE records. As if 'Death Certificate' didn't put an end to it all. I think I'll just file this..." Big mistake. This isn't your typical Gangsta Galaga (i.e. shoot everything that moves) record. Andre and Big Boi are both saying something, and they're saying it very well. Even though the blunt, pimp and pusher references abound, they don't seem to matter much here. It's all in the delivery, and both Outkast and their producers, Organized Noize, have it. Big Boi sets the tone from the beginning in "Ain't No Thang" with the line "Y'all ask me what the fuck I'm doing, I'm releasing anger" as both MCs flaunt some impressive skills over some *real* funk. This is some Southern-fried funk that hits you like pork grease and candied yams in your gut. That makes for some quality tracks that compliment the quick drawl of the MCs. There are plenty of jams for you to move to. But this goes beyond the standard funk party jams (like "Players' Ball," "Call of the Wild" and the title cut). Outkast is actually trying to say something. "Are you an Outkast? If you understand and feel the basic principles and fundamental truths contained within this music, you probably are. If you it's all about pimpin' hoes or slammin' Caddilac dogs, you probably a cracker, or a nigga that think he a cracker, or maybe you just don't understand." As the B-Side rolls on, you hear that Outkast's definition of real isn't about just the gang mentality, but about upliftment. In the chorus to "Crumblin' Erb" they set it straight: "There's only so much time left in this crazy world....Niggas killin' niggas, they don't understand what's the master plan..." Then, over another slow, smooth R&B track (which is all good on this B-Side), they join the Goodie MoB in telling their audience to "Git up, git out and get something. / Don't let the days of your life pass by. / You need to git up, git out and do something. / ... 'cause You and I got to do for you and I." The B-Side is what puts this album over the top for me. The messages are real, and the music, which is some pure Atlanta flavor, compliments the vocals almost perfectly. This is the album that the cars SHOULD be bumpin'. This is the future of gangsta rap. It may not be pretty, but no matter how you slice it, it's dope. So shout Hootie Hoo for Atlanta's Outkast. This is where it's at. pH Level: 5/pHunky ***U*** David J. -------- RAW FUSION, "Hoochified Funk" (Hollywood Basic) For those who haven't been paying attention, Raw Fusion is Money B. and DJ Fuze, who are both members of Digital Underground. They got their own thing, too, though, which a lot of people missed the first time, thanks to the lack of promotion Hollywood Basic (quite literally, a Mickey Mouse label) gave their first offering, "Live From The Styleetron." The Styleetron is still active in producing jams, and with a title like "Hoochiefied Funk," it's obvious who the target audience is. Money B. makes that clear from the beginning -- "No matter what the size of the speakers in your trunk, as long as you got the hoochiefied funk, the hoochies say, 'HAAAAAAY!'" So the bass remains boomin' throughout the entire album, while it still delivers some funk reminiscient of the D.U. Money B. is still a freak of the industry, as he uses his skills to boast about his sexual exploits, as he does in the X-Rated slow jam "Freaky Note," and his techniques in O.P.P., which he details in "Do Your Homework" and "Red Riding Good." He also takes time to diss the "Do Doo MC's" and give props to his father and all the fathers who stick around for their children in "Yo Daddy Yo," which earns points for its message if little else. This album slips a little when Money B. tries to do some dancehall, with a little help from Undaprivileged Courtney Shankkin. Money B.'s voice doesn't sound good when it gets gravelly, and Fuse doesn't supply a good background track for cuts like "Action Packed." Raw Fusion is better suited to that head-bobbin' funk that they supply in "Dirty Drawls" and "A Penny For Your Thoughts," which showcase Money's wit and style better than anything else. Overall, it's a hit-and-miss album, but when it hits, it hits with that solid funk. Shock G.'s cameos help out a little, and the samples are well-chosen, so if you like the sounds of the Underground, you'll like this album. If you don't, you may be left shaking your head instead of bobbin' it. pH Level: 4/pHine ***V*** Flash ----- RAW PRODUCE, "Selling Celery to Make a Salary" (unsigned artist review) Next up to bat in my continuing coverage of unsigned internet MC's is the stunning debut of Raw Produce. This duo consists of Damian Roskill, aka Pitch (who can be reached at pitch@world.std.com) and Seth Boyd, aka Cadence. Pitch is already well known on the alt.rap newsgroup for his excellent insight into the record biz, and for his production talents (although not released, he has done remixes for De La Soul, LeShaun, M.O.P., and UltraMagnetic MC's among others). I already knew his rep as a producer and had heard several of his unreleased remixes, and was duly impressed. Those skills behind the board are matched in front of it in a way Warren G can only dream of. Although the demo cassette is listed as having six tracks, it also features a humorous "Victory Garden" intro which sets the tone for the album (Pitch tells me it was taken from a Greatest Radio Bloopers album). Obviously these guys take the Raw Produce concept seriously, and they work it well again and again throughout the album. Nervous -- "Oh lord, how'm I gonna pay the rent/I rub the phone cord twice to generate a red cent" is how the track is kicked off. These guys seem to operate on the abstract yet solid level that Posdunos himself often refers to. In fact, it was MHO that fans of the Native Tongues would really dig this demo tape. They also kick good braggadocio, such as "If you don't like it don't buy it then the label will drop me/if not you got the power not to come to my show/if you don't like it WHY THE FUCK you want to play the front row?" I like the bassline and the piano licks, the only minor gripe I have is the chorus, but that's VERY minor. It's a fat track, with good cutting, good lyrics, and good samples. Sink or Swim -- Nervous ends abruptly and with little pause goes into this track. The guitar strum and flute sample is a very smooth groove, and the lyrics are in effect again. Check out these: "I'm as corny as they come, controlling crews like a missle" with the obvious double crews/cruise meaning. I can't front, these guys write dope lyrics and produce dope tracks. The title is indicative of the subject manner, as they attempt to survive the struggles of life and being MC's. Tried & True -- Another smooth groove with a sprinkling of bells, this one even more laid back than the last. This is perhaps what impresses me most about their debut -- it makes you wonder what all the major league acts are doing wrong, when they all resort to Parliament and Bob James. Pitch and Cadence seem to realize there is much more out there in the crates... in fact, that's the subject matter of the song: "I'm cuttin records on a straight-arm belt-drive/still too young to drive/though I would arrive/cause I had the ear of a producer/so I started buying sample records I didn't have a use for/yet...". It shows... healthy hip-hop produce seems to have been grown and nurtured out in Somerville, MA. Fruit of our Labor -- This song brings in the whole Raw Produce concept... "I don't want it sounding like compost/and you know how most rap, is growing from coast to coast so you can boast about a ho-slap/ well this ain't about that...the Produce is raw and we're constantly harvesting more/of the kind of green that's keeping you healthy/not the kind of green that's keeping record executives wealthy/selling celery to get a salary..." They are very serious about the Raw Produce concept, and is reflected in the excellent metaphors and lyrics of this song. Not only that, it boasts my favorite sample of the album, and the track is FUNKY. Green is the Color -- I didn't like this one at first, but the off-key piano loops steadily grow on you. The color green = being naive in this song, and again they take their concepts very seriously in the lyrics. The chorus has some incredibly strung together series of samples that can't be described but must be heard... Cadence flows well on this track, which is no doubt the darkest sounding of the demo. The Taker -- This final track is about friends who take advantage of their friends, and keep crawling back to take what they can. I swear TO GOD, there is not one song on this demo where the title doesn't reflect the lyrics. When was the last time you could say that? These guys are very concept tight, and YOU JUST CAN'T FRONT on the production. In short? These guys don't need to break into the industry... they ARE the industry. Everytime I think I've heard the most amazing demo, I get one-upped... first it was MGA, then it was D.O.A., but now Raw Produce takes the cake. They could sell this tape out the trunk and make plenty of vegetables, cause they take their celery seriously. pH Rating: 5/pHunky ***W*** Ryan MacMichael --------------- DRED SCOTT, "Breakin' Combs" (Tuff Break Records) The cover says it all: Dred looks like he's coming straight off an old Blue Note Record. On the back, he's chillin' in a barber's seat, dreads 'nuff flowing. The boy comes off funky as Cannonball Adderley on "Dat Dere" with the finger-licking jazz-in-the-barber-shop flavor. The production is on point like cross-stitch, and, as Dred says on the credits: "Yes, I do my own beats." There are so few rappers out there that could make a beat worth half a shit, and that's a shame since they best know the mood they want for a particular track. But, for real, he comes off with thick bass, driving drums, and totally laid back jazz melodies. Vocally, Dred Scott's got skills that overflow like a baby's bladder. On some, it sounds like he may be biting other MC's like Q- Tip ("Check the Vibe") or Grand Puba (like MAD on "Swingin' From the Tree"), but fuck that! The kid's flows got crazy variety, and everyone should be glad he can switch it up like he does. Straight up, though his flows are similar, he manages to add something... that Dred Scott something that just makes it pure butter. Lyrically, Dred's right on: Who the hell said I couldn't kick... the whole kit-kaboodle, when the thought hit the noodle, Somethin' told me I could pull da Yankee Doodle off the pony with ya phony, razza-matazza, yo bro we ya know it sounds faker than your girl's orgasm. ... Pick a nap, any nap, and I'll break ya comb, Critter, I was molested by this CUTE babysitter, at the age of eight and naw no, don't push me punk, I'll tie your dick to a shoestring and make ya bungee jump. That's from one of the best cuts on the album, "Rough E Nuff", metaphors and wordplay running rampant throughout. Some absolutely wonderful flavor comes in the form of Rastine Calhoun. 'Nuff respect for mad sax skills, but wow -- the flute is just so damn sweet. Those high-register tweets are just perfectly laced into the beats, weaved just right with the bass and drums. Additional vocals are provided by Da Grinch, Big Domino, and Tragedy (who really comes off, too!). Lots of people have slept on this album, but it has as much variety as anything else out there. And with this variety comes quality out the ass, Dred knew what he wanted to do, and he did it just right. pH Level: 6/pHat ***X*** Oliver Wang ----------- SHYHEIM, "A/K/A the Rugged Child" (Virgin) Before you can say, "What? Another kiddie rapper?" here's Shyheim, a/k/a the Rugged Child, the Wu Tang wild child straight from Shaolin. Surprisingly, after a field of wack ass "kid" rappers, Shyheim comes with good freestyling abilities, thoughtful writing and a flow that should make a lot of MCs out there envious of this 15 year old. Tag on an album done by newbie RNS, at least new to the rest of the nation, this is a solid package, especially for a debut. It's not "Illmatic" or anything but it's one of the better albums I've heard from the East. For those expecting the next "36 Chambers" production-wise, don't. RNS is down with Wu and all that, but he sure as hell doesn't produced like 'em. He favors jazzy cuts with bigger emphasis on bassline that flow smooth. Don't get me wrong, I loved "36 Chambers" but it's nice to hear something new and fresh. RNS has got some skills...it's just a matter for him to get some exposure. Here Come the Hits: On a more energetic track, Shyheim attempts to keep with the quicker flow, and it doesn't work really. The track itself is kinda boring...the drum track plays fast but sounds slow...horns flavor the chorus and shorter hits are heard during the song, but for the most part, I thought this particular cut lacked energy. The lyrics didn't impress me at all either. On and On: Smooth and thoughtful, a good choice for the first single. Pass It On: Wasn't too impressed by this cut on the "On and On" 12". It's not a bad cut, just not overly exciting for me. I think they needed to emphasize the bassline more and slow the track down a bit. Lyrics are cool, Wu Tang and all that ya know. Never Say Never: It's just a interlude -- don't know what the point is, but at least it's short. One's 4 Da Money: The chanting is the first thing that catches your ears, just some voices doing a two note hymn-like hum. Bass well compliments the track...two notes too. Slower paced track and a nice bap on the snare drum. Shyheim has good lyrics on this one...excellent flow. Here I Am: The track stands out for the singing sample. Unfortunately, the track then goes bare with just a drum track. It's not that you can't get away with just having drums, but if you're going to go that route than at least you could get some fatter drum loop. Shyheim does the braggadocio ont his one, but I wasn't too impressed...typical lyrics as far as I'm concerned. Keep It Moving: The bassline is rather familiar, but I'm not tripping. Drums do a good job here for complimenting the track. Nice snare kick, better lyrics though I think Shyheim needs to get off the braggadocio tip, at least in this context. It just sounds tired. Buckwylyn: Um...RNS, can you say, "Horny Little Devil"? As in Ice Cube's track off of "Death Certificate" that used the same sample you used? C'mon, anybody who knows Cube can spot this bite a mile away. The chorus needs ta go too. However, Shyheim's lyrics are cool. He does better as a storyteller than as a battler. Maybe it's the voice... By the way, the Gangstarr sample, from "Just to Get a Rep" was cool, but I was waiting to hear it when I started the tape. Too easy... You the Man: My favorite track if nothing else for the sample...which I suspect is from the Stax collection, though I can't put my finger on it. Shyheim and K (K what? I dunno...I had a promo tape without any liner notes) trade off lyrics well. This is track to swing to. Napsack: The track starts off slow with a loopy horn sample...then Shyheim comes in yelling, "Napsack on my back!" A slower flow for Shy, but one that he takes nicely. Good track to bob ya head to. Unfortunately, the lyrical content isn't as clever as Shyheim could be. The Rugged Onez: Nice Pete Rock sample, "Here comes the Rugged One..." Anyway, this cut is the most Wu-like. The drums are set against this dark funk synthesizer loop. The guest rappers (Wu Tang) bring in good flavor. One of the better tracks thought the chorus was sorta wack. Little Rascals: Another Wu-like track -- familiar drum loop with a buzzy horn in the background, and a piano loop during the chorus too. Might not have been a bad Wu Tang track, but while I give Shyheim credit for trying to beat the kiddie image...I dunno...too cliche to be hard... 4 the Headpiece: Here's the Clan again, but it's a fly track. Slow tempo with a subtle, but effective bassline and eerie sample floating in and out. Only problem is that this track is all of a minute. C'mon ya'll... Party's Goin' On: The bassline along gets props...bouncy in a different way. Drums trip along in file. Again, Shyheim goes with the story telling style which I think is his strongest. Only problem is the sample during the chorus...straight jack move from "36 Chambers". I can't recall which cut right off, but when you hear it, you'll know what I'm talking about. Luckily, it's only during the chorus. Also, RNS switches up the track midway through...cool move. Shouts on the Out: Track's cool enough, but I've heard better outros. Compared to Juvenile anything (Delinquents, Committee, etc), Kris Kross, Mobb Deep, Da Youngstaz, and possibly Illegal, Shyheim wins out as the baddest little rapper of the bunch. Strictly production-wise, RNS came correct. Lyrically, Shyheim manages to be neither pop, nor wanna-be hard, which is hard considering most other kid rappers try to come off as bad ass lil' gangstas and other bullsh*t. If Shyheim hangs around, he'll be someone else's nightmare for sure. As for now, this isn't a bad buy. Like I said, "A/K/A The Rugged Child" isn't going to force "Illmatic" or "Hard to Earn" off the "best of" lists, but there's hella worse sh*t out there for sure. pH Level: 4/pHine ***Y*** David J. -------- TERMINATOR X & THE GODFATHERS OF THREATT, "Super Bad" (ProDivision/R.A.L.) Hip hop has been in need of a father figure, someone to step up and guide it through the tough times, no matter how painful they may seem to some. At a time when rap music is being attacked from all directions, it looks like someone is about to step up and knock some sense into heads. And it's none other than DJ Kool Herc. Thanks to the folks at ProDivision, better known as Public Enemy's branch of Rush Associated Labels, one of the true founding fathers of hip hop finally is on wax. Kool Herc was mixing records in the parks and clubs and basements of New York City while most of today's hip hop heads were being potty-trained, yet surprisingly, this is the first time his voice is on wax. This historic event alone makes "Super Bad" worth buying. But it don't stop. Terminator and Chuck D. have produced an album that is truly a great tribute to both the power and the history of rap music. Invited along for the ride are old school vets Whodini ("It All Comes Down To The Money"), Grand Master Flash ("G'Damm Datt DJ Made My Day"), the Cold Crush Bros. and the Fantastic Five. The last two groups put together an old school party jam, "Stylewild '94," that is worthy of the heritage of mic-passing at the parties. But the new school and the now school bring plenty of flavor here as well. "Sticka" is an all-star attack on the parental advisory notes on nearly every rap album today, featuring Chuck, Ice-T (who finally got some good rhymes to go with that new style of his), MC Lyte and Ice Cube (who both come off as dope as they ever have). Then in the mix you've got the Punk Barbarians, who make an impressive debut; Joe Sinistir, who's "got mroe skills than Cheers had beers" in "Under The Sun"; The Flatliners, whose gothic "Scary-Us" makes for an interesting debut; Prince Collin, whose "Mashitup" is as impressive a dancehall cut as you'll hear; and Bonnie 'N' Clyde (they're baaaaaack), who finally have a follow-up to their Jeep Beats classic "Homie Don't Play Dat." Similar in style to "The Valley of the Jeep Beats," TX throws in a bunch of snippets between songs, but this time around, they mean a little more, as some of them delve into the origins of rap and how much it means to people that hip hop exists. The voice of Herc is a calming presence at these times, sitting back and talking from experience, just like the old jazz musicians telling war stories about getting gigs and selling their blood back in the day. Some skits border on ridiculous (the "1994 Street Muthafukkas Gong Show" goes a little too far, I think), but they're all there for a reason. Even when TX goes Miami Bass on us on "Put Cha Thang Down," it works. There isn't much that doesn't work, actually. This is a fitting tribute to the music we all love. It's good to finally hear Herc's voice on wax. It's good to see hip hop's future respecting its past. It's even better to see ProDivision drop something this dope. pH Level: 5/pHunky ***Z*** Kori J. Garland --------------- 2-LOW, "Funky Lil Brotha" (Rap-A-Lot) I have been around little Cedric about a hundred times. He is as permanent an accessory on Brad (Scarface, for you non-H-Towners,) as a 40 and at least one ostentatious gold chain. Whether at the radio stations or the clubs, he is at his side. First we went through the introduction: "Here's the newest member of the Rap-A-Lot crew, our Funky Lil Brotha, 2 Low!" with Rap-A-Lot's semi-good intentions towards this youth's material: "...he won't be using all the adult language", "he'll speak honestly about what kids his age and from his hood are goin' through here in Houston" and my personal favorite, "...we've already told him we won't record his album until his grades improve." (I didn't see a report card before these statements, and I still haven't seen one. For all we know, if they were following their statements, he could have brought his F's up to D's, and the recording would go into effect, although he claims to be making B's now. But it's my educated guess his album was in the works from the beginning.) The first thing that stands out to me is the album cover: An obviously overly-doctored Texas Driver's License, adding in his personal info where required. Notably, they've left the birthdate, (who's I don't know....I'll call the DMV,) as is, making this 14-year-old 2 years older than I. (For lack of a better term...NOT!) All pictures have him looking like any other Rap-A-Lot artist: a straight hood off the streets whom no one with half a mind would want to have anything to do with. (Why Rap-A-Lot insists on this image and DAMN cheap album artwork, I don't quite fully understand. Guess they still holding on the that "street" edge as tightly as they can.) 2 Low's voice is extremely distinctive, like one of those voices either you'll adore or will compare to fingernails down a chalkboard, (such as the whining voices of Pharcyde, for an example.) Cedric consistently sounds like a pre-voice change boy with a slightly congested nose. I keep on expecting him to run out of breath and ask for a Kleenex. Plus, they use a reverb on his voice often, similar to the annoying constant echo on 2PAC's last album. But one thing is for sure, on both his album and live at the club, the boy can flow. He doesn't miss a beat. I don't know if this is a natural ability or the result of intensive training from Scarface, but it's there, and in many cases, you can't keep up with him. Bido, Scarface, and N.O. Joe have laid down some smooth original tracks here, noticeably above the typical Rap-A-Lot material. There are heavily-used old school samples here, of course, such as P-Funk loops, but they are added to enough original or obscure tracks that they don't in any way resemble such overly sampled stuff and Dre or Snoop's work. Yes, there is cursing here, but it is kept to a minimum. (Nuthin' much more than you would hear on prime time network TV, even if people don't like such words coming from the mouths of babes.) "Pain" is a little more than I would want to hear coming from a kid, not to mention its misogynistic overtones. The track "Comin' Up" features a bunch of up-in-coming Rap-A-Lot artists, the youngest being 5, with some interesting young talents. Although I really like the remix of the title track, I loved the tracks and hook of the original, but now that I reconsider the original, there we some lyrical changes that needed to be made for national release. "Growing Up Ain't Easy" truly has some thought-provoking lyrics concerning the point of view of kids in the hood today, and kids in general. If you're a Rap-A-Lot fan in general, this is a gem. If you are more a gangsta-street fan, this is a good little flow to roll to. If you dislike this sector of rap in general, you might be pleasantly surprised by a few of its cuts. If your a Scarface fan, it's a must, especially, the track "The Groove With Mr. Scarface". pH Level: 4/pHine ***AA*** Ryan MacMichael --------------- UNION OF AUTHORITY, "Frank: Portrait of a Cereal Eater" (unsigned artist review) Union of Authority came atcha' with "Backstreet Buddhabop" on the alt.rap.unsigned.tape, and their newest six-cut release, "Frank: Portrait of a Cereal Eater" is a more polished effort, but remains funky and quite unique. The album title suggests a likeness to Henry Lee Lucas and the album cover suggests a likeness to John Wayne Gacy. And yeah, it is a ittle crazy -- that's the UOA style, y'all. Musically, "Frank..." is a combination of mid-80's rock guitar, Beastie Boys flavor lyrics, and straight-ahead driving beats. It's far from the same ol' same ol', and so pure hip-hop heads might cringe, especially at "Breakout", but the hard-as-nails delivery and surprising samples (like the organ stab on the afforementioned cut) show and prove that UOA is putting Canada on the map beyond Main Source and Maestro Fresh Wes. Contact: UOA c/o Jason Kotsopoulos 2 Ruskin St Ottawa, Ont, K1Y-4A, CANADA (613) 725-9350 e-mail: ab542@freenet.carleton.ca (Ollie's address) pH Level: 4/pHine ***BB*** Ryan MacMichael --------------- VOLUME 10, "Hip-Hopera" (Immortal/BMG) Volume 10 is not for everybody, that's for sure. His style is just too complicated for a lot of people (for one, the fools up at THE SOURCE). But the way I see it, there's no reason for a true head not to pick up this album. 10 made his voice heard on the Freestyle Fellowship track with his crew the Heavyweights. That particular track made for one of the phattest cuts off the left coast in a damn long time. Production is right on point, with contributions by the Baka Boyz, Bosco Kante, Fat Jack, Moe Doe, and Theodore Stanley, among others. It's quite varied, but 10's voice perfectly matches every cut. That brings us to 10's flow. It is some of the most far out shit I've ever heard. He jumps on and off beat more than Masta Ace and Scarface combined and then will break into a singy-song voice like Snoop (but not the pussy style, his voice is deep and rough as all hell). He'll be rapping very slowly, then will speed up to a ridiculously fast speed and slur a string of words seemingly without thought. By now, a lot of people are already lost. The rest of the pack will get left behind if they're looking for typical West Coast gangsta rap. 10 is extremely versatile and occasionally kicks it on the "Tricks-N-Hoes" tip, but he runs the whole spectrum of topics from deterioration of the black race ("Where's the Sniper?") to the need to carry weapons ("Pistolgrip- Pump", the first single). 10 even delves into topics that are new to hip-hop, like on "First Born" where he tells the story of his first born, carefully examining the emotions of a to-be father. It's clear that he put all of himself into this project from beginning to end. Guest MC's throughout the album are Ganja K (who is gaining quite a rep, understandably), Smooth 7, RKA, and Jay Smoov. It's clear from cuts like "Stylesondeck" and "Hip-Hopera" that Volume 10 has skills beyond many, many MC's out there and is due props something fierce. pH Level: 5/pHunky ***CC*** David J. -------- WARREN G., "Regulate...G Funk Era" (Violator/RAL) The story has been through the magazines many times over by now -- Warren G. introduced the Dogg Pound to Dr. Dre, and he planned on doing some big things with them. He even produced most of the material on Snoop Doggy Dogg's multiplatinum debut "Doggystyle." But Dr. Dre took the artists, took the credit, took the money, and left his own brother nearly high and dry. So Warren took his G-Funk sound and went his own way, looking for his own deal and some new talent to produce. The end result is "Regulate...G Funk Era," for which the title cut is, naturally, his big duet with Nate Dogg that was the splash of the "Above The Rim" soundtrack. As much as I hate to say it, welcome to "The Chronic, Part III." In this writer's opinion, this is the type of funk that has just gotten old and tired. It's the same old thing being pumped out on the market because it is the big thing for anyone to produce right now. Snoop is hot, Dre is hot, so anything associated with them is hot. How "Regulate" got so big is still a mystery to me. The beat is an obvious jack of Michael McDonald's "I Keep Forgetting" (just about as obvious as Hammer jacking Rick James or old Eric B. & Rakim jacking James Brown) and the lyrics aren't much on quality. Warren G. wrote some piss poor rhymes for this album., and Nate Dogg's sing-song style is just recycled. The other talent on here isn't much to write about. Ricky Harris, The Twinz, B-Tip, The Dove Shack, and all the various instrumentalists just don't save this album from being the doldrums of gangsta garbage. It has all been done before, and it isn't saying anything new. The only difference between this and "The Chronic," really, is the lack of Snoop and D.O.C.-written rhymes. There is one lone bright spot on this album. The track "Super Soul Sis" introduces an MC of the same name whose voice was made for Warren G.'s production style. She flows very well, and it's a shame she wasn't on the album more. A whole album with the two of them together (with Warren sticking to production and letting Soul Sis rap -- he just *can't*) just might make me get into some G-Funk for a change. I can't fault the production on this album -- it's as good as anything on the market. But the musical style and the lack of quality MCs and the tired old topics (the '94 Ho Draft skit just isn't funny anymore) make this album just another in a long line of Chroniced-out junk. Warren G. is giving people and album that is similar (almost too similar) in style to that which has moved much product in the past year. If that's what hip hop fans want to buy, that's their decision. I cram to understand why they would want it at all. pH Level: 3/pHair _______________________________________________________________________________ So, was it worth the wait? Are you glad we're back on the scene? Don't fret, because now that we're back, we ain't slowin' down at all. Be on the lookout for the next issue of HardCORE in August. We promise to have a few less reviews and a few more articles next time around. Drop us a line and tell us what you think. LET US KNOW WHAT'S UP, A'IGHT? Until next time, love, peace and chicken grease. L8A...


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