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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
Table of Contents
Sect. Contents Author
----- -------- ------
001 The introduction
A Da 411 - table of contents firstname.lastname@example.org
B Da 411 - HardC.O.R.E. email@example.com
C Note from the interim Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
D YO! We want your demos. email@example.com
002 What's up in Hip Hop
A The Art of Freestyling firstname.lastname@example.org
B The Flavor Unit Misrepresents email@example.com
C Thoughts on Exploitation firstname.lastname@example.org
D The CD Counter-Revolution email@example.com
E Back To The Old School firstname.lastname@example.org
F Lyric of the Month Jeru The Damaja
G Feature Review of the month: email@example.com
003 The Official HardC.O.R.E. Album Review Section
A Afro-Plane firstname.lastname@example.org
B Ahmad email@example.com
C Anotha Level firstname.lastname@example.org
D Arrested Development email@example.com
E Beastie Boys firstname.lastname@example.org
F Born Jamericans email@example.com
G DOA (demo) firstname.lastname@example.org
H Ed O.G. & Da Bulldogs email@example.com
I Fun^Da^Mental firstname.lastname@example.org
J Reg E. Gaines email@example.com
K Gangstarr firstname.lastname@example.org
L Heavy D & The Boyz email@example.com
M Jeru The Damaja firstname.lastname@example.org
N Kurious email@example.com
O Mad Flava firstname.lastname@example.org
P Marxman, Power email@example.com
Q Mo'Fessionals firstname.lastname@example.org
R M.O.P. email@example.com
S Nefertiti firstname.lastname@example.org
T Outkast email@example.com
U Raw Fusion firstname.lastname@example.org
V Raw Produce (demo) email@example.com
W Dred Scott firstname.lastname@example.org
X Shyheim email@example.com
Y Terminator X firstname.lastname@example.org
Z 2-Low email@example.com
AA Union of Authority (demo) firstname.lastname@example.org
BB Volume 10 email@example.com
CC Warren G. firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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 (email@example.com)
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
firstname.lastname@example.org, or Flash at email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org,
or Flash at email@example.com, 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?
Section 2 - TWO
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
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
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
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."
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
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
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.
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!!!!!!!!
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
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.
Back to tha Old School
by Laze (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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
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
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
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..."
Jeru The Damaja
LYRIC OF THE MONTH: "Ain't the Devil Happy" by Jeru the Damaja
(transcribed by Flash)
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
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
Niggaz are in a state of nothingness
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
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
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
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_
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(!)
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 email@example.com 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
"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
"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
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,
"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
"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
"You couldn't catch me in the streets without a ton of reefer
That's like Malcolm X catchin' the jungle fever"
"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
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"
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.
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"
"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'"
"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
[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!
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
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
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
Kori J. Garland
"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
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
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
ANOTHA LEVEL, "On Anotha Level"
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
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
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
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
ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, "Zingalamaduni"
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,
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
pH Level: 4/pHine
BEASTIE BOYS, "Ill Communication"
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
BORN JAMERICANS, "Kids From Foreign"
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
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
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*)
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.
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
ED O.G. & THE BULLDOGS, "Roxbury 02119"
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
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
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
pH Level: 3/pHair
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
"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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
REG E. GAINES, "Please Don't Take My Air Jordans"
[- 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
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
pH Level: 5/pHunky
GANGSTARR, "Hard To Earn"
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
HEAVY D. & THE BOYS, "Nuttin' But Love"
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
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
JERU THE DAMAJA, "The Sun Rises in the East"
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)
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
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.
pH Level: 6/pHat
Kevin "K-Mello" Murphy
KURIOUS, "A Constipated Monkey"
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
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
MAD FLAVA, "From the Ground Unda"
"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
MARXMAN, "33 Revolutions Per Minute"
P.O.W.E.R., "Dedication To World Revolution"
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
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
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
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,
pH Level: 6/pHat
Kevin "K-Mello" Murphy
M.O.P., "To The Death"
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.)
pH Level: 5/pHunky
NEFERTITI, "L.I.F.E. (Living in Fear of Extinction)"
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
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
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
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..."
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,
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
pH Level: 5/pHunky
RAW FUSION, "Hoochified Funk"
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
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org) 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
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
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
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
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
pH Level: 6/pHat
SHYHEIM, "A/K/A the Rugged Child"
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
TERMINATOR X & THE GODFATHERS OF THREATT, "Super Bad"
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
Kori J. Garland
2-LOW, "Funky Lil Brotha"
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
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
c/o Jason Kotsopoulos
2 Ruskin St
Ottawa, Ont, K1Y-4A, CANADA
e-mail: email@example.com (Ollie's address)
pH Level: 4/pHine
VOLUME 10, "Hip-Hopera"
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
pH Level: 5/pHunky
WARREN G., "Regulate...G Funk Era"
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"
As much as I hate to say it, welcome to "The Chronic, Part
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
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
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...