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--- --- --- ---- ---- CCCCC OOOOO RRRR EEEE | H | / A \ | R | |D \ C O O R R E |---| |---| |--/ | | C O O RRRR EEEE | | | | | \ | / C O O R R E --- --- --- --- -- -- ---- CCCCC. OOOOO. R R. EEEE. Vol. 3, Issue 1 Januray, 1995 The electronic magazine of hip-hop music and culture Brought to you as a service of the Committee of Rap Excellence Section 1 -- ONE ***A*** Table of Contents Sect. Contents Author ----- -------- ------ 001 The introduction A Da 411 - table of contents staff B Da 411 - HardC.O.R.E. staff C Yo! We Want Your Demos staff 002 What's Up in Hip-Hop A Golden-Stick-O-Butter Awards juonstevenja@bvc.edu B Best of 94: O-Dub Speaks ollie@uclink.berkeley.edu C Laze's Ten Best of 94 rmacmich@s850.mwc.edu D Kori G.'s Favorite MC of 94 korig@aol.com E 95: Year of the Reality Check davidj@vnet.net F The Atlanta Scene martay@america.net G Jeru the Hypocrite Pt. 2 juonstevenja@bvc.edu H NJHHA: Nominees isbell@ai.mit.edu I Roots-N-Rap: Calypso rapotter@colby.edu J Lyrics: I Used to Love H.E.R. Common Sense K Feature Review: isbell@ai.mit.edu Black Sheep, "Non-Fiction" 003 The Official HardC.O.R.E. Album Review Section A Artifacts ollie@uclink.berkeley.edu B Blackalicious ollie@uclink.berkeley.edu C Brand Nubian chharris@email.uncc.edu D Da Phlayva martay@america.net E DJ Mixinmarv juonstevenja@bvc.edu F Fesu rmacmich@s850.mwc.edu G Fu-Schnickens rmacmich@s850.mwc.edu H MC Solaar style@gate.maloca.com I Method Man juonstevenja@bvc.edu J Month of the Man juonstevenja@bvc.edu K Mooney, Paul juonstevenja@bvc.edu L Redman juonstevenja@bvc.edu M Stolen Moments rmacmich@s850.mwc.edu N Roots, The davidj@vnet.net O Slick Rick ollie@uclink.berkeley.edu P Spearhead rapotter@colby.edu Q Street Fighter rmacmich@s850.mwc.edu ***B*** The C.O.R.E. creed We at C.O.R.E. support underground hip-hop (none of that crossover bullshucks). That means we also support the 1st Amendment and the right to uncensored music. The C.O.R.E. anthems I Used To Love H.E.R. Common Sense Crossover EPMD Mostly Tha Voice Gangstarr True to the Game Ice Cube Outta Here KRS-One How About Some HardC.O.R.E. M.O.P. Time's Up O.C. Straighten It Out Pete Rock and CL Smooth In the Trunk Too $hort Remember Where You Came From Whodini Access info: Gopher: gopher.etext.org: Zines/HardCORE FTP: ftp.etext.org: /pub/Zines/HardCORE/ Email: to subscribe: listserv@vnet.net (with this line of text in body of message: "subscribe hardcore-l" ***C*** Aight, 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 publicity. Well, 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. You can e-mail me at dwarner@cybernetics.net or Flash at juonstevenja@bvc.edu, and we'll let you know where you can send your tape. Keep in mind that we're pretty honest with our reviews (if we think your shit is wack, we'll say so to your face), but if you think you got what it takes, you'll see a review from us before you know it. All you have to lose is a tape, right? Peace... the HardC.O.R.E. Review Staff Section 2 -- TWO ***A*** Steven J. Juon -------------- FLASH'S GOLDEN STICK-O-BUTTER AWARDS With all the negativity that surrounded hip-hop both in the media and in the music, I thought this would be a good time to reflect on the positives of 94. Frankly, I think it turned out to be a great year. Peep these lists and see if you agree... peace! Albums that lived up to or exceeded their advance billing: Beatnuts Street Level Gangstarr Hard to Earn Jeru the Damaja The Sun Rises in the East Nas Illmatic Organized Konfusion Stress: The Extinction Agenda Pete Rock and CL Smooth The Main Ingredient Redman Dare Iz a Darkside Scarface The Diary Welcome return of old favorites: LL Cool J Milk Never Dated (EP) Public Enemy Muse Sick in Hour Mess Age Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock Break of Dawn Treacherous Three, The Feel the New Heartbeat The year of phat previously unreleased b-sides: (AKA how your muthaphukkin dollar gets stretched beyond the breakin point) Alkaholiks, Tha Relieve Yourself A Tribe Called Quest One Two Shit Black Moon Reality (Killin Every...) Craig Mack Shinika De La Soul Ego Trippin (part III) Del the Funky Homosapien Undisputed Champs Gangstarr The ? Remainz Ice Cube My Skin is a Sin Masta Ase, Inc. The B-Side KRS-One Hip Hop v Rap Kurious Mansion and a Yacht Phat vinyl that many hip-hop fans (myself included) would kill to have: Black Moon I Got Cha Opin (12") De La Soul Clear Lake Auditorium KMD Black Bastards Volume 10 Sunbeams (12") Best new label and artists of the year: Bad Boy Entertainment, feat. Craig Mack and Notorious B.I.G. Managed by that hip-hop entrepeneurial genius (the next Russell Simmons) Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs. Way to go brotha! Best new hip-hop periodical of the year: rap dot com, inspired by HardC.O.R.E. and created by Harry Allen Anyone who wants the few remaining copies of 1.1 can send $1 and a self-addressed large manila envelope (55 cents postage) to rap dot com GPO Box 7718i New York NY 10116 Butta smoove remixes that make phat songs even BETTER: Alkaholiks Mary Jane Artifacts C'Mon Wit Da Git Down A Tribe Called Quest Oh My God Black Moon I Got Cha Opin Craig Mack Flava In Ya Ear Common Sense Soul By the Pound Fugees, The Nappy Heads Ice Cube Check Yo Self Organized Konfusion Stress Redman Tonight's Da Night Best artists that you didn't hear enough about: AceyAlone Bahamadia Boogiemonsters D.O.A. Dru Down K.M.D. Lord Finesse Mac Mall Raw Produce Supernatural The year new female MC's caught wreck: Bahamadia Concious Daughters Hurricane G Nefertiti Shorty No Mas Simple E Smooth Suga T The best lyrics of 94: Common Sense I Used to Love H.E.R. O.C. Time's Up Organized Konfusion Stress Queen Latifah U.N.I.T.Y. ***B*** Oliver Wang ----------- BEST OF '94 -- O-DUB SPEAKS I like Charles Isbell's Poll and all, but that's not going to stop me from dropping my own opinions about 1994 and what it meant for hip hop. And rather than bore y'all with yet another Top Ten list that is as arbitrary as people's personal tastes, I'm going to bore you with my personal analysis and projections. In others, it's just as arbitrary, just more specific. Anyway... Artists On the Way Up: Nas: Despite his overhype, Nas is an incredible lyricist, bar none. Notorious B.I.G.: I can't see his shit falling off for a long time. Mad Lion: A KRS-One co-produced album on the way? On Wreck? Butter. Black Moon: Each new release just increases the legend. Fugees: If the singles show anything, the next album should be the bomb. No ID: After a fantastic production job for Common Sense, he's got some stuff with Fashion from the Beatnuts on the horizon. Easy Mo Bee: Are we ready to forgive him for the Miles Davis/Rappin is Fundamental LP and the 3rd Bass cut "Gladiator"? I have. Coolio: Say what you want, but his album was among the best out of LA this past year. Saafir: His LP could have been MUCH better but his stock is only on the rise. Getting Better With Age: Beatnuts: Yeah, their lyrics could be more meaningful, but their album had some of the fattest beats of the year. Common Sense: Best sophomore album of the year. Best album of the year? KRS One: He's doing cameos, but his shit on Channel Live's "Mad Izm" plus his alias "Big Joe Krash" shows that there's no limit to his ability. Pete Rock: His beats are only getting better. I wish most of his remixes would be the same way. Gangstarr: Premier's pretty much an institution, and Guru's making moves all over the place too. Together, their shit is dynamite. The Alkaholiks: I think their next LP will be better than the first. The lyrics on "Daaam!" were hella on point. Most Influential Albums of '94 (and '95): The Roots, "Do You Want More?" The album hasn't even dropped domestically yet, though the import is available and the promo has been around for a while, but even on the strength of the three singles, the Roots just might become the most influential group since De La Soul and/or A Tribe Called Quest with their first albums back in 1989/90. I'm arguing that "Do Want More?" will not simply become a classic, but one of those classic's that signal that a change gonna come, on par with albums like "Paid in Full" and "Criminal Minded," which reconstructed hip hop as we knew it. I say this because The Roots have done what no other group prior has managed to do: fuse hip hop and jazz in a sound that exists on both planes. Gangstarr used jazz in their hip hop. Artists like Greg Osby used hip hop in their jazz, but neither manages to achieve the fusion that they seek. The Roots don't use anything -- their music is both hip hop and jazz. Listen to what they've come out with and wait for what's to come. Their live instrumentation doesn't sound as forced as other artists have sounded. In fact, few people can tell that it's not sampled or looped. On the other side, their lyricism is kin to the freestylin' saxophoning or piano playing, spontaneous in both sound and feel. Name the last artist that managed to do any of this. US3? Please. Digable Planets? I don't think so. Seriously, listen to their music and tell me who they sound like or who sounds like them. Some groups might achieve the feel on one level, but it's not the same when you consider that there are no samplers, drum machines or even turntables being used. It's straight live. Yet it's still hip hop. The other significant thing is that I don't think The Roots have changed hip hop in such a way that will spawn biters galore like Das EFX had. They're not significant because they're trendsetters but because they've managed to show a side of hip hop that's never been achieved before. Furthermore, they're living proof that hip hop is NOT stagnant. Project Blowed, "Freestyles" Blackalicous, "Melodica EP" Again, I'm picking two albums that haven't even been widely available, but nonetheless, they're signs that hip hop is changing in ways never seen. Both albums dump conventional ideas of what hip hop is supposed to be about. Whole forms and functions are thrown out the window to make way for new experimentations. With Project Blowed, the former members of the Freestyle Fellowship have exposed an LA hip hop underground that isn't on the G- funk tip and isn't spending all their time with synthesizers and gang bang lyrics. Honestly, not everything on the album was on hit, but I was impressed by how innovative much of the album was. It was very freeform and diversely mixed. I'm predicting that a lot of the artists featured might be making waves in '95. As for Blackalicious, the "Melodica" EP was some of the best hip hop MUSIC that I've heard in a long time. Producers Chief Xcel and DJ Shadow put a lot of time into their work and it shows. Moreover, Blackalicious is willing to forget all normal "conventions" of hip hop. They'll design songs that run seven minutes long with half of that in instrumental intros and outros. Chorus? Who needs one? Same old beats? Throw 'em out. Same old rhyme styles? Throw those out, too. They do hip hop on their own terms, and they do it well. Definitely peep the EP when it drops -- you'll see what I mean. IMO, these two albums signal the beginning of a new facet of hip hop which I think more artists will move into. It's nothing alternative, just evolutionary. Hip hop's on the move, and they're at the forefront. ***C*** Ryan A. MacMichael ------------------ LAZE'S TEN BEST OF '94 1994 started off looking like there wasn't going to be anything decent for miles and miles. Luckily, as we got further into the year, more and more albums came out that truly represented a cross- section of the real hip-hop that's keeping the music alive. So, here are my top ten picks (in no particular order) for the best albums of the year: SAAFIR -- "Boxcar Sessions" Saafir has, perhaps, the oddest rhyme style since Kool Keith. He's on beat, off beat, still off beat, and maybe back on beat -- it depends. This kid does whatever the fuck he wants on the mic. But he doesn't come off corny, because his lyrics are deep and call on strong metaphors and parallel structuring. The production on "Boxcar Sessions" was a bit confusing and garbled, but I think that's exactly what Saafir and Jay-Zee were going for. Thumbs up to my man for a year full of freestyles and dope tracks. COMMON SENSE -- "Resurrection" Rashid came back this year with the sequel to "Can I Borrow a Dollar?" If that album was a clock, "Resurrection" is Big Ben. Common pulled some crazy ol' shit out his ass for this one, and the production was right on point, with not one song missing it's mark. This is one kid we can count on to never come off corny. O.C. -- "Word... Life" "Time's Up" caught everybody's ear this summer on the Wild Pitch compilation, but the rest of the album was sweet, too. "O-Zone" kicked out a nice sax sample and "Constables" had the fast, furious, into-the-headphone flavor Paris used to drop back in the day. His lyrics and delivery were right on with the type of shit to grab hold of your ear and yank that shit right off. ORGANIZED KONFUSION -- "Stress: The Extinction Agenda" Despite all the sample problems these brothers had, "Stress..." was still one the dopest albums of the year. With thick basslines, lyrics to twist a mug's mind into knots, and an all- together package that pulled together massive talent, OK's album was the bomb. GANGSTARR -- "Hard to Earn" No question that Gangstarr had their shit together, making a comeback after the mediocre "Daily Operation." They pounded hard from beginning to end with every damn cut on the album, not to mention the fabulous B-side, "The ? Remainz." These guys will never quit. JERU THE DAMAJA -- "The Sun Rises in the East" Even though Flash may not totally give respect to Jeru because of the hypocritical statements, he had one of the most well- constructed albums of the year. Perfect production by Premiere on tracks like "Come Clean" and "D. Original" worked just right with the lyrical wizardry on "You Can't Stop the Prophet" and "Brooklyn Took It." ARTIFACTS -- "Between a Rock and a Hard Place" My boys from Jersey were used to leaving their names on buildings, but now they've left their name in the industry with their solid debut. Thick basslines and well worked samples complimented the lyrics and delivery. And I swear MC El the Sensai did a solo track back in '91 -- and it was great. What the hell was the name of it?! [Editor's note: I believe Laze is referring to "Do You Wanna Hear It?", Artifacts' duet with breakbeat masters Nubian Crackers.] PETE ROCK AND C.L. SMOOTH -- "The Main Ingredient" Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth can do no wrong. Their first effort was an extremely long, yet consistent one. Their followup LP works just as well with wonderful production and smooth delivery. The only thing that caught me was the identical beat that O.C. used for "Born to Live." VOLUME 10 -- "Hip-Hopera" Fuck it, even if he didn't hit nationwide, this kid had the most, diverse style of anyone. He rocked it from normal speed all the way down to about 75 bpms. '94 uniqueness at its best. And for my tenth album, I'm going to give it up to something a little harder to pick up -- shouts to Dmad for putting together a thick ass freestyle compilation from radio shots on the west coast. Saafir, Supernatural, Ras Kass -- all of them kids. I want to thank him for hooking me up. If you want your copy, catch the review in HardC.O.R.E, Vol. II, No. 6 [Section 003, Letter K]. Peace... Laze ***D*** Kori G ------ BEST OF 94: KORI G's FAVORITE MC I'm stuck down here in Texas, Redneck, USA. Therefore, I feel I'm not exposed to the best of ANY year. I just sort of have to pick what I think is prop-worthy of that which blew up this year, and makes assessments as deemed necessary. (My high school English teacher would like that last sentence.) Believe it or not, I was just gaga over Warren G. this year. Those who know me know the miracle involved in this situation. I hate Dre with a passion, and can't help but transfer these feelings to just about anything and anyone he is connected to. But li'l bro had his shit in order. First of all, he had his BIDNESS STRAIGHT. No Death Row poison, either label or management-wise. Second, and most important, the boy was playin' his own game. I don't know who actually originated the "G Funk" concept - Dre or Warren, but one thing's for damn sure. Warren perfected it. He had the tracks, the cuts, the rhymes, and (to my utter surprise) dropped some science. "Who's the real victim? Can ya answer that? The brotha that's jackin' or the fool gettin' jacked?" And my fave: "There's only one gang a brotha should be throwin' up, peace!" Sure, he wasn't the best thing to hit stores in this country, but of the stuff that had to saturate the airwaves and end up in just about every damn home in the country, Warren's joint was one of the few deserving of such success. And from a shallow, physical-attraction-takin'-over-clear- thinkin' point of view, brotha ain't bad to look at. (Hey, in a year of Method, Craig, Dre and Snoop, a sista can't help but notice such things.) KORI "You don't see...what I see.....every day as Kori G." ***E*** David J. Warner --------------- 1995: THE YEAR OF THE REALITY CHECK A local MC by the name of Too Much who frequents the same mix shows in Durham, NC, that I do had this to say about hip hop fans in 1994: "People are sleeping on Common Sense, people are sleeping on O.C., and people are sleeping on what it *really* means to be real. Wake up." While I never slept on Common Sense and picked up on O.C. only after Wild Pitch bothered to distribute his stuff to this area, I did spend a lot of time pondering what that third statement meant. Some MC's talk until they're blue in the face about what's real and what's true in hip hop. But what do they mean? After all, this is 1995, the year of the Blackwatch Revolution, the year that we twist to this as we raise our fist to the music, as Chuck D. put it. In a world that seems even more chaotic than usual, assuming you believe everything the media throws at you, SOMEBODY needs to figure out what reality really is, and it certainly ain't the one-sided negative gangsta-ism those old farts in Congress wasted our tax dollars on in '94. (Way to bridge the generation gap, guys. Will you be holding hearings on how we dress, next?) So what is real in this hip hop game? All that matters, really, is how you present yourself to the public. Are you true to what you say? Or are you a sissy? Take a look at Hammer. Here's a touchy subject in rap music - Mr. "Can't Touch This" and his three-album ride toward mass appeal. You've never seen so many people point a finger and shout "sellout." But for those first three albums, Hammer wasn't really selling out at all. That was just his style -- the dancers, the glitz, the beats made for the dance floor, the catchy slogans, etc. Sure, it was corny to a lot of people, and yes, he milked it for all it was worth, but how many of you wouldn't have minded being in that same slot -- all that loot, millions of adoring fans, the slickest dance steps this side of the Bay? Even Nas says he's out for dead presidents to represent him and little else. And Hammer never once swayed from the image he presented. Until 1994. This was the *real* sellout for Hammer. All of the sudden, the man who prayed his way to the top of the charts flipped the script and turned O.G. on everyone. He hooked up with Snoop Doggy Dogg and claimed the hood like he was some sort of real gangsta. That's not Hammer. Hammer's the guy with the gold lamee jacket and the million-dollar stage show. Now he's hardcore? Only a desperate run for some cash could have made Hammer flip so fast. He turned his back on everything he did before just so he could sell a few more records with a new image while gangsta rap was still in fashion. Would Hammer be a "real G" if G-Funk never hit it big? I doubt it. Hammer may have been ridiculed before, but you could never accuse him of being a fraud. You can now. Living up to an image can be tough, though. Just ask Tupac Shakur. He wasn't a thug in the beginning, either, just another guy clowning around with Digital Underground, out making some decent records. ("If My Homie Calls" is still the phattest track he's ever done.) Then, out of nowhere comes Thug Life, and Tupac becomes the hardest of the hard rocks on wax. But he still kicked a little knowledge here and there to keep fans up on his music. Somewhere on the way to presenting Thug Life on his records, though, Tupac got caught up in the image he tried to portray, got in trouble with the law, and got shot. You can imagine how many other MCs would be in the same boat if they tried to live up the images they portrayed on wax. Just imagine Buckshot "killin' every nigga in sight," or Da Brat puffin' as many blunts as she claimed on her debut record. You know none of that ain't really true. The fact that Tupac tried to live by what he said certainly doesn't make him a hypocrite, but judging by what he said, it certainly made him a fool. But where does leave the concept of reality? Well, you figure it out. What are these MCs saying on their records? Are they telling the truth about who they are and where they're from, or are they just spouting nonsense because the record company told them it would sell? Sure, everyone wants records that sell, but as I can tell you from experience, selling your music takes a certain level of talent and years of practice at the craft. If you ain't got it, all the image- twisting in the world won't help you. Don't sit there and tell me how many cops you've gunned down. Show me how well you flow. Don't tell me about how many bitches are on your jock. Show me that phat beat you just made. If you're political, be political. Don't flip and be a clone of someone else just because some A&R man told you to. If you want to drop some Bass on people, go ahead. You won't appeal to me, but I'm not your target audience, and they're the ones who'll flip if you switch to G-Funk just for the money. Tell me something I don't know. Just because every other MC rhymes about guns, blunts, 40s and hoes don't mean you have to -- especially if you don't mess with that stuff. Take some action on your words and take responsibility for your actions. THAT is what's real in 1995 hip hop. There's nothing wrong with making some money in this hip hop game -- that's the only way to achieve anything in AmeriKKKa anyway. The secret is to earn it like you mean it and not to make up some wack story that means nothing to you just to sell records. If you're real to yourself first, everything else will fall into place, and this hip hop nation will accomplish more than it ever imagined. The real question, though, is whether this nation is ready to put the fallacies and the hypocrisies aside. I have a feeling that will be answered in 1995. ***F*** Martin Kelley ------------- THE ATLANTA SCENE Atlanta has been on lockdown for the winter. All the moves were made last quarter, and everybody is waitin' to start off the new year. I guess you could say we're hibernating at the moment. Y'all shouldn't sleep on upcoming Atlanta flavor, though. Fourtie, who some might remember from unsigned hype in the source, has been riding his single "Shawn b/w 3000 Long," trying to create a buzz for himself and his crew, Plead tha 5th Productions (which has apparently worked 'cause PD5th has been gettin' production work lately from out of town artists like Shorty Long). The work has also paid off for Fourtie, who signed with Tuff Break/A&M records recently. So, congratulations to him. Ichiban wants to strike again with some familiar names like Kwame with "Incognito," and as if the reunion album of the Treacherous Three wasn't enough for you old school heads, T3 group member Kool Moe Dee will release another solo LP called "Interlude". Bahari records will release a bass project in the 1st quarter, however, the name of the group and LP have been classified. Reign of Terror is in negotiations with a label as we speak but have vowed to release "No One is Safe" in the first quarter '95 regardless. So look for a review here in HardC.O.R.E. soon. I would like to take some time here to big up Talib Shabazz who has recently ended his time as the co-host of Rhythm & Vibes and Tha Bomb on WRAS 88.5 FM. He's definitely gonna be missed on the airwaves, but he'll still be on the scene. That's about it for now, but as always I'll keep ya up on it. Peace, Martay ***G*** Steven J. Juon -------------- JERU THE HYPOCRITE, PART II In our last installment of HardC.O.R.E., I mentioned how Jeru the Damaja had not been living up to his reputation as a 'prophet', both in concert and via his beatdown of a reporter for what was said to be unfavorable comments. Since that time Jeru has appeared on Yo! MTV Raps and made a few statements regarding his situation. For those who missed it, I've got a run-down on his comments, interspersed with a few of my own. Jeru on journalism: "Journalists, a lot of the time, try to attack me with words, you know what I mean? And, for all y'all people that's supposed to be educated or whatever, they say that then pen is mightier than the sword. So, if the pen is mightier than the sword, by what you're writing, gonna hurt me longer and worse than me beating you up." Jeru diverts our attention here with the finesse of a politician, by making us perceive the pen of a journalist as a sword. But lets break it down mathematically -- journalists use the written word, and so do rap artists. So if a journalist "attacks" with words, does it makes sense for a rap artist to use fists? Many rap artists have deconstructed and demoralized their opposition with a clever use of wordplay, thus creating legendary hip-hop battles. Did Saafir and the Hobo Junction take it to the streets when the Hieroglyphics had beef? No, because just like Kool Moe Dee and Busy Bee before them, they pulled out the "swords" and battled on the microphone. A physical beat down never has and never will equal a lyrical one in my mind. One is intelligent, the other the last refuge of the incompetent. Jeru continue: "It's because he published my government name, how much I made at the show... This is still the streets. This brother that's starving who needs money too, they might think I'm walking around with fifteen hundred on me, two thousand or whatever. So in a sense, he set me up." On the surface, this seems a legitamate beef. In part, publishing Jeru's name without his permission is an error of bad judgement, but what in the establishing of his 'government name' is harmful to Jeru? Publishing what he made at the show without his permission is again an error of bad judgment. But on the other hand, individuals and corporations have that kind of information published on a daily basis, some willingly and some not. The majority of these suffer no more than a bit of outrage, and are generally not robbed. Do you think O'Shea Jackson (Ice Cube) gets jumped when his name is in the paper for a speeding ticket? Oooh, brother had to shell out 75 bones for a fine, so he must have a wad on him at all times... Smack upside your fool head! If you read it in the newspaper, it's ALREADY changed by now. By the time somebody reads about his ticket or Jeru's take from the show, that cash is GONE. And people don't get mobbed just cause somewhere in the paper it mentions their name and money together. We all have amounts of it that come, go, and are published occasionally. The guy who gets jumped though is the one flashing gold chains and medallions, walking down a Bronx alley at night. One thing you can say for Jeru -- he's not that type. More from Jeru: "It's like if you got to come to me with a knife and I got a gun, do I put my gun down and get a knife, or should I just shoot you? I'm using whatever weapon I have, you see what I'm saying? And what a journalist try to do, is they try to use their weapon, the magazine or whatever, like to destroy you." It is in part true that positive or negative reviews have shaped many the career of an artist (I, in fact recently gave a man the option that I would not review his demo in HardC.O.R.E., because being the honest man I am I would have to write a negative review). But so do a lot of other forms of mass media. When you create a piece of art intended for mass consumption, you expose yourself to the criticism of the populace and should be prepared to accept it. A negative review may hurt your career, but that's the chance you take. As to hip-hop reviews, I'll say this -- magazines like Rolling Stone, which wield more influence in the music industry, often make or break albums. But a negative review of a hip- hop group in their pages never broke one of their albums, because Rolling Stone doesn't speak to the hip-hop nation. Magazines that do speak to hip-hop heads publish their own reviews. Consider that when you consider the mass media. Whom does it influence, and how much influence does it have? In some cases a lot, in some cases little. Then, consider whether physical retaliation for negative coverage will achieve your purpose. Not likely. If small media targets you unfavorably, ignore it or dig into the underground below it to establish the true facts at grass roots. If large media targets you unfavorably, establish or court another large media in your favor. There are ways to counterract negative PR, and violence is not one. It just creates more negativity. That's a lesson even the 'Prophet' needs to heed. ***H*** Charles Isbell -------------- NEW JACK HIP-HOP AWARDS NOMINEES Well, my fellow hip-hop fans, this is it: The Fourth Annual New Jack Hip Hop Awards. In order to make this easier on the rest of us, I ask that you follow the directions below EXACTLY. This is the Official Voting Form(tm). To fill it out, get a copy of this document to your local machine in whatever way you normally would (some common ways of doing this are listed at the very end) and edit it. DO NOT DELETE ANYTHING BETWEEN THE LINES THAT TELL YOU NOT TO. It is perfectly okay to have ">" or "|" or spaces or whatever before each line (many mailers and news programs insert such so-called quoting characters) *but* DO NOT DELETE ANYTHING BETWEEN THE LINES THAT TELL YOU NOT TO. Please. After each award, there is a list of nominees. DELETE ALL BUT THE NOMINEE for whom you wish to vote. If you don't want to vote for a particular award, leave all the nominees. For any award, if more than one nominee is listed we assume to didn't want to vote for that award. When you're done, mail it off to me in whatever way you normally would. That's "isbell@ai.mit.edu". BTW, I'd appreciate it if "votes" appeared in the subject heading somewhere. Here's an example. When editing you might see: ... >---> Rappers With Big Heads Awards > Woman with biggest head > Da Big Head > Queen Really Big Head > MC Lyte-But-Big Head > Man with biggest head > Kool Moe Head > LL Big Head > Head Mack ... So, then, you might vote: ... >---> Rappers With Big Heads Awards > Woman with biggest head > Da Big Head > Man with biggest head > LL Big Head ... You get the idea. Anyway, nominations are open from Wednesday, January 18, 1995 to Friday, Februrary 10, 1995. That should give everyone plenty of time. You can only vote once. Invalid voting forms will be ignored and may be returned. One more thing, a *group* must have more than one rapper. Example: The Coup and Public Enemy are groups, but neither Gangstarr nor DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince are. Peace. Happy Holidays. ------ Don't even think about deleting anything below this line ----- ====----> Progressive/Jazz Rap Phattest Progressive/Jazz Rap Group Digable Planets A Tribe Called Quest The Roots Fugees De La Soul Phattest Progressive/Jazz Male Rapper Guru CL Smooth Q-Tip Jeru tha Damaja Prince Paul MC Solaar Phattest Progressive/Jazz Female Rapper Ladybug Lauren Hill Simple E Me'Shell NdegeOcello Phattest Progressive/Jazz Rap Single "Distortion to Static" by The Roots "9th Wonder" by Digable Planets "Oh My God" by A Tribe Called Quest "Stress" by Organized Konfusion "Got a Love" by Pete Rock and CL Smooth Phattest Progressive/Jazz Rap Album _Blowout Comb_ by Digable Planets _The Main Ingredient_ by Pete Rock and CL Smooth _Midnight Marauders_ by A Tribe Called Quest ====----> Political Hip-Hop Phattest Political Group Public Enemy The Coup Fugees Organized Konfusion Digable Planets The Goats Phattest Political Male Rapper Paris Chuck D. KRS-ONE Boots (from The Coup) Ice Cube Jeru The Damaja Phattest Political Female Rapper Queen Latifah Lauryn (from the Fugees) Nefertiti Phattest Political Rap Single "Give It Up" by Public Enemy "Takin' These" by The Coup "Can't Stop The Prophet" by Jeru The Damaja "Guerilla Funk" by Paris "So Whatcha Gone Do?" by Public Enemy Phattest Political Rap Album _Muse Sick N Hour Mess Age_ by Public Enemy _Genocide and Juice_ by The Coup _Guerilla Funk_ by Paris _The Sun Rises In The East_ Jeru The Damaja ====----> Gangsta Hip-Hop Phattest Gangsta Group Wu-Tang Clan Outkast The Dogg Pound South Central Cartel Phattest Gangsta Male Rapper Ice Cube Snoop Doggy Dogg MC Eiht Scarface Phattest Gangsta Female Rapper Rage BO$$ Yo-Yo Phattest Gangsta Rap Single "I Never Seen a Man Cry" by Scarface "Natural Born Killers" by Ice Cube and Dr Dre "All For the Money" by M.C. Eiht "Gin and Juice" by Snoop "Really Doe" by Ice Cube "Murder Was the Case" by Snoop Doggy Dogg "Game Recognize Game" by JT the Bigga Figga Phattest Gangsta Rap Album "DoggyStyle" by Snoop Doggy Dogg "Lethal Injection" by Ice Cube "Bootlegs and BSides" by Ice Cube "The Diary" by Scarface ====----> Braggadocio Phattest Braggadocio Group Wu-Tang Clan Alcoholics Organized Konfusion Phattest Braggadocio Male Rapper Nas Casual Jeru The Damaja Craig Mack Guru The Notorious B.I.G. (Biggie Smalls) Phattest Braggadocio Female Rapper MC Lyte YoYo Bahamadia Phattest Braggadocio Rap Single "Flava In Your Ear" by Craig Mack "Come Clean" by Jeru The Damaja "How Many MCs" by Black Moon Phattest Braggadocio Rap Album _Illamtic_ by Nas _The Sun Rises In The East_ by Jeru The Damaja _Fear Itself_ by Casual _36 Chambers_ by Wu Tang Clan _Stress: The Extinction Agenda_ by Organized Konfusion _Between A Rock and A Hard Place_ by The Artifacts _Ready To Die_ by The Notorious B.I.G. (Biggie Smalls) ====----> Nasty rap Phattest Nasty Group Outkast Dogg Pound 2 Live Crew Gravediggaz Phattest Nasty Male Rapper Luke Snoop Doggy Dogg Too $hort Phattest Nasty Female Rapper Rage Yo-Yo Bo$$ Phattest Nasty Rap Single "Toostie Roll" by 69 Boyz "Me and my Bitch" by BIG (Biggie Smalls) Phattest Nasty Rap Album _Freak for Life_ by Luke _Doggystyle_ by Snoop Doggy Dogg _Non-Fiction_ by Black Sheep _Gravediggaz_ by Gravediggaz ====----> Crossover Rap Phattest Crossover Group Diggable Planets Beastie Boys Ill Al Scratch Spearhead Phattest Crossover Male Rapper Heavy D MCA (of The Beastie Boys) Michael Franti (from Spearhead) Common Sense CL Smooth Keith Murray Phattest Crossover Female Rapper Queen Latifah MeShell NdegeOcello MC Lyte Phattest Crossover Rap Single "Sabotage" by The Beastie Boys "Vocab" by The Fugees "Breakfast At Denny's" by Buckshot LeFonque (Branford Marsilas and DJ Premier) "I Used to Love Her" by Common Sense "Where My Homies" by Ill Al Scratch "I Remember" by Coolio Phattest Crossover Rap Album _Buckshot LeFonque_ by Buckshot LeFonque (Branford Marsalis and DJ Premier) _Ill Communication_ by The Beastie Boys _The Main Ingredinet_ by Pete Rock & CL Smooth _Do You Want More?_ by The Roots _Blowout Comb_ by Digable Planets _Home_ by Spearhead ====----> The Dope Thangs Funniest Rap "Freestylin' at the Fortune 500" by The Coup "Ice Froggy Frog" by Ice Froggy Frog (Fear of a Black Hat) Phattest Lyric "Time's Up" by O.C. "I Used to Love H.E.R." by Common Sense "Come Clean" by Jeru the Damaja "Mental Stamina" by Jeru the Damaja "One Love" by Nas Most Slammin' Beat "9th Wonder" by Digable Planets "Come Clean" by Jeru "Natural Born Killaz" by Dr Dre and Ice Cube "Recognized Thresholds" by Boogie Monsters "Stress" by Organized Konfusion "The World is Yours" by Nas "Code of the Streets" by Gangstarr "Herb Is Pumpin'" by Keith Murray Phattest Remix "Flava in Ya Ear" by Craig Mack "I Got Cha Opin" by Black Moon "Nappy Heads" by Fugees "What Can I Do?" by Ice Cube "Oh My God" by A Tribe Called Quest "Stress" by Organized Konfusion Phattest DJ DJ Premier for _Hard to Earn_ Pete Rock for _The Main Ingredient_ Pam The Funkstress for _Genocide and Juice_ Terminator X for _Superbad_ and _Muse Sick N Hour Mess Age_ Phattest Producer(s) DJ Premier for, well, everything Pete Rock for _The Main Ingredient_ Dr. Dre for Snoop Doggy Dogg's _Doggystyle_ Rza for Wu Tang Clan, Method Man and others Beatnuts ====----> More Dope Thangs Leaders of the New School _Illmatic_ by Nas _The Sun Rises in the East_ by Jeru the Damaja _From the Ground Up_ by The Roots _Stress: The Extinction Agenda_ by Organized Konfusion _Hiphopera_ by Volume 10 _Resurrection_ by Common Sense _Genocide and Juice_ by The Coup _Blunted on Reality_ by The Fugees _Boxcar Sessions_ by Saafir Best fusion of Hip-Hop with non-Hip-Hop _From the Ground Up_ and others by The Roots _Ill Communication_ by The Beastie Boys _Red Hot and Cool_ by Various Phattest Non-USA Artist _Prose Combat_ by MC Solaar _Subliminal Simulation_ by The Dream Warriors Rascalz Phattest Reggae Hip Hop artist "Take it Easy" by Mad Lion _Kids from Foreign_ by Born Jamericans "Make My Day" by Buju Banton "Romantic Call" by Patra with Yo Yo "Destinaton Brooklyn (Nika)" by Vicious Provider of Phattest Samples The Isley Brothers for "Between the Sheets" (for examples, see every song released this year) Parliament/Funkadelic/George Clinton (for examples, see every other song released this year) Michael Jackson for "Human Nature" (see "IT Ain't Hard To Tell") Slick Rick in "La Di Da Di" (see in O.C.'s "Time's Up") Most Innovative Use of a Sample Craig Mack for using the Days Of Our Lives theme in "Real Raw" Pete Rock for KRS-One's "woop, woop" in "The Main Ingredient" ====----> Dope Videos and Other Visual Stuff Phattest Short Form Video "Flavor In Ya Ear" by Craig Mack "Natural Born Killaz" by Ice Cube and Dr. Dre "Never Seen A Man Cry" by Scarface "Light Sleeper" by Saafir "Can't Stop The Prophet" by Jeru The Damaja "Give It Up" by Public Enemy "Strange" by The Boogiemonsters "Sabotage" by The Beastie Boys Phattest Long Form Video _Sabotage_ by The Beastie Boys _Murder Was The Case_ by Snoop Doggy Dogg _Enemy Strikes Live_ by Public Enemy Phattest Hip Hop Video Show Rap City (on BET) with Big Les & Joe Clark Yo! (MTV daily) with Dr. Dre and Ed Lover Yo! MTV Raps! (Friday) with Dr. Dre and Ed Lover Yo! MTV Raps! (Friday) with Fab Five Freddy Hip Hop Fridays on California Music Channel with Andy Kawanami Best live performance/tour/live album KRS-One (various tours) Organized Konfusion/Artifacts/Rass Kass (various tours) De La Soul/A Tribe Called Quest (various tours) ====----> Whackness and former whackness Biggest Sellout Hammer Dr Dre Warren G Eazy E Nice & Smooth Whackest Rapper Snoop Doggy Dogg Hammer Warren G Shaq Da Brat Nice & Smooth Vanilla "I can be hard too" Ice Biggest Disappointment PMD Big Daddy Kane Public Enemy Nice & Smooth Black Sheep Ice Cube Most Overrated Rapper Snoop Doggy Dogg The Notorious BIG (Biggie Smalls) Warren G. Nas Craig Mack Keith Murray Da Brat Best Comeback Slick Rick Public Enemy Black Sheep Dougie Fresh Hammer Rza Hardest and Ugliest Dis' "Dollars & Sense" by DJ Quik "The Wake Up Show" by Saafir "Don't get mad; UPS is hiring" (Flava remix) by The Notorious BIG ====----> What you've been waiting for Most Unfairly Slept On Album _Resurrection_ by Common Sense _Genocide and Juice_ by The Coup _Stress: The Extinction Agenda_ by Organized Konfusion _Muse Sick n Hour Mess Age_ by Public Enemy _Between a Rock and a Hard Place_ by The Artifacts _Riders of the Storm_ by The Boogiemonsters Phattest New Hip Hopster _Illmatic_ by Nas _Project: Funk Da World_ by Craig Mack _Ready To Die_ by The Notorious B.I.G. (Biggie Smalls) _The Sun Rises in the East_ by Jeru the Damaja _The Most Beautifullest..._ by Keith Murray _Boxcar Sessions_ by Saafir Hall of Fame Ice Cube Eric B and Rakim Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five Slick Rick A Tribe Called Quest Album Hall of Fame _It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back_ by Public Enemy _Criminal Minded_ by Boogie Down Productions _By All Means Necessary_ by Boogie Down Productions _Straight Outta Compton_ by N.W.A _3 Feet High And Rising_ De La Soul _Paid In Full_ by Eric B & Rakim _AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted_ by Ice Cube Phattest Rap Single "Flava in Your Ear" by Craig Mack "I Used To Love HER" by Common Sense "The World Is Yours" by Nas "Give It Up" by Public Enemy "Stress" by Organized Konfusion "I Got Cha Opin" by Black Moon Phattest Rap Album _Illmatic_ by Nas _Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik_ by Outkast _The Sun Rises in the East_ by Jeru the Damaja _Hard to Earn_ by Gangstarr _Blowout Comb_ by Digable Planets _Muse Sick N Hour Mess Age_ by Public Enemy ====----> And that's it. ------ Don't even contemplate deleting anything above this line. ----- Well, thanks for your time. Go back to sleep. I'm out of here like last year. As promised, some ways to include this document: For USENET people using 'rn' 'gnus' and similar such programs: To send this to me, you can probably just hit "R". This usually includes everything that I've posted with ">"'s or " "'s before each line. This is perfectly okay. If you want a local copy to edit, try "s" in 'rn' or "o" in 'gnus' to make a copy of the file. For people on mailing lists: To send this to me, you can probably just hit "r". This usually doesn't include everything, so you need to figure out how to do so. If you want a local copy to edit, try saving a copy with "s" if you're using un*x mail or "o" if you're using one of the 222 variants of RMAIL. For those surfing on the web: Get a copy of this file on your local machine using one of the commands for doing so (in Mosaic it's under FILE) and edit to your heart's content. For everyone else: I have no idea, but hopefully you can figure it out if you don't already know. Email me if you need help. Peace. ***I*** Russell A. Potter, Ph.D ----------------------- ROOTS 'n' RAP Calypso: Roots of the Roots Hip-hop's West Indian connection has always been strong, from DJ Kool Herc's legendary sound system parties, which were founded on the example of Jamaica's "system men," to contemporary collaborations between dancehall and hip-hop styles such as those between Ice-T and Daddy Nitro ("Depths of Hell"), Yo-Yo and Patra ("Romantic Call"), and Q-Tip and Tiger ("Who Planned It?"). Yet the connection to Trinidadan music, particularly Calypso, is rarely made, even though its roots run deep -- deeper, in some ways, than those in Jamaica. The basic elements of hip-hop -- boasting raps, rival posses, uptown throwdowns, and political commentary -- were all present in Trinidadan music as long ago as the 1800's, though they did not reach the form of commercial recordings until the 1920's and 30's. Trinidad was first colonized by the Spanish, but eventually was taken over by French-speaking Catholics from the French West Indies. These colonists brought with them European traditions of Carnival, which they celebrated among themselves. Yet with the emancipation of Trinidadan slaves in 1838, Carnival was reclaimed by Trinidad's Black population, who brought to it African elements such as massed drums, stick-dancing, and Shango ceremonies. By the later part of the nineteenth century, Trinidadan Carnival had evolved into a much more complex social ritual. In the city of Port-of-Spain, bands of stick-fighters, each led by a "big pappy," would roam the streets; if they encountered rival groups, they would throw down a challenge in song, know as a 'calinda.' Tensions often escalated to a fight, in which the sticks, carried to beat rhythm for the songs, turned into weapons. Various regimes of police tried to put down the stick- fighting, but as often happens, this attempt to drive the resistance of the people down only led to its springing up in new forms. The Calypso style, drawing from the traditions of Carnival and calinda songs as well as from the kind of small-combo dance music that was performed in tourist spots in Port-of-Spain, became a new medium for the boasts of the Carnival crews, as well as a vehicle for political commentary and oral history. Calypso music, like early ska, made use of bits and pieces of music from the U.S. and Europe, but added African rhythms and call-and- response structures. The pleasant, festive tone of the music, however, often belied the rage and resistance embodied in its lyrics. The first generation of Calypso singers -- men like the Growler, the Tiger, Lord Invader, The Lion, and Atilla the Hun -- had a wide repertoire of cheerful tunes for their regular gigs at nightclubs in the Port-of-Spain, but at the same time wrote many songs of resistance which were performed at Carnival or large outdoor tent parties. Some, like the Lion's "Boo Boo La La," threatened the symbols of colonial power with its chants of "Burn Down the London Theatre / Burn down the Big Empire" (and this in 1938, over fifty years before "Burn Hollywood Burn"). Others, such as Atilla's calypso "The Commissioner's Report," which attacked a report that attempted to whitewash the brutal government force used to put down a 1937 oil workers' strike and the mass protests that followed in its wake, were much more specific: "They said through the evidence they had That the riot started at Fyzabad By the hooligan element under their leader A fanatic Negro called Butler Who uttered speeches inflammatory And caused disorder in this colony The only time they found the police was wrong Was when they stayed too long to shoot the people down A peculiar thing of this Commission In their ninety-two lines of dissertation Is there is no talk of exploitation Of the worker and his tragic condition Read through the pages, there is no mention Of capitalistic oppression Which leads one to entertain a thought And wonder if it's a one-sided report" Atilla's bitter irony here is underscored by the way he mocks official language, and makes explicit the oppression of the workers as the fundamental cause of the protests. Like rappers in South Central, Atilla has to make this argument because the 'civil' authorities would much rather see it as a 'riot' than a rebellion -- sound familiar? As WC and the MAAD Circle might say, "Ain't a damn thing changed." Yet Atilla, like other Calypso stars, was not only a social commentator. Like everyone else, he frequently engaged in verbal duels with the rival singers; when The Lion recorded "I'm Going to Buy a Bungalow," a song in which he talked up the fine house and furnishings he would get with the money from his calypsos, Atilla shot back with "I Don't Want No Bungalow," which manages not only to make fun of the Lion's inventory of furnishings, but throws in an advertisement for Atilla's doctor and lawyers: "An' believe me, for health protection Or in case of an action Mister Marcano, me doctor, O'Connor me solicitor An' Hannays me lawyer" Current events and everyday struggles were also central calypso subjects. The Growler talks about the color line in "High Brown"; Lord Executor reports on the "Seven Skeletons found in the Yard" in 1938; the Lion and Atilla the Hun boast of a radio session in which they met Mae West and Rudy Vallee; The Tiger narrates "The Whe Whe Banker Wedding." These early recordings, made by various American and European labels, were originally targeted at the white market for tropical or 'exotic' music. Under such circumstances, it seems remarkable that so many of the political calypsos were recorded. Then again, it may have been rather like the situation described by Alex Haley in _Roots_, where the slaves on board a slave ship are brought out on deck and forced to jump and sing (lest the "cargo" be ruined for lack of exercise). A Mandinka woman leads them in a chant of "Tuobob fa!" -- Kill the White People -- and before long, "even the tuobob were grinning, some of them clapping their hands with pleasure." Similarly, white audiences for Calypso records may have simply ignored the message, listening only for the "happy" music they expected to hear. ^1^ Yet whatever the international interest in the music, Trinidadan artists continued to evolve and expand their calypsos, fighting for prizes at each annual Carnival. The Mighty Sparrow, who is still active, got his start by winning the Calypso crown in 1956, and frequently attacked American exploitation of Trinidadan labor and natural resources. Enraged by the U.S. oil refinery built on the island of Point a Pierre, Mighty Sparrow cut a calypso that showed how American exploitation was only a new form of colonialism: "Well the days of slavery back again I hope it ain't reach in the Port of Spain Since the Yankees come back over here They buy out the whole of Point a Pierre Money start to pass, people start to brawl Point a Pierre sell the workmen and all." While remaining true to this spirit, Calypso -- like other forms of music -- continued to evolve through the '50's and '60's. When rock-steady and reggae bands looked to make their music a form of national and even international Black resistance, they took Calypso's example. Calypso itself, like Jamaican music, moved back and forth between the predominance of boasting and toasting songs packed with 'slackness' and sexual innuendo and a more topical, political, 'conscious' style. And, as with reggae, tempos increased in the '70's and '80's, giving birth to the high-speed dance music known as 'Soca.' Younger artists such as Black Stalin, Drupatee, Superblue, and the United Sisters now dominate at Carnival, and are reaching a new international audience via labels such as Eddy Grant's Ice Records (and yeah, that's the same Eddy Grant who dropped "Electric Avenue" back in 1983). Grant has also worked to acquire rights to large back- catalogs of classic Calypsos stars such as Roaring Lion and the Mighty Sparrow. The oldest Calypsos, for many years available only to those who collected the 78-rpm discs, are being re-issued on CD by Rounder Records, with first-rate research and liner notes by veteran collectors such as Dick Spottswood. Grant, for one, is optimistic about the future of Soca, which he prefers to call "Kaisoul" -- an amalgam of Kailso (Calypso) and Soul, and has been working the business end hard. A sign that something is changing is the fact that I was able to pick up Grant's "Soca Carnival '94" compilation at K- Mart, and some chain stores now have added a divider for Soca in the world beat section. Yet no divider can really separate off Calypso from the musical web of what cultural critic Paul Gilroy calls "The Black Atlantic." From Port-of-Spain to Kingston, from Miami to the South Bronx, from Cleveland to South Central L.A., Soca and other Black musics fuse and recombine the call-and-response, the beat, and the rhymes in one continuous yet ever-changing flow. -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= NOTES ^1^ Thanks to Dick Hebdige, in his book _Cut 'n' Mix: Culture, Identity, and Caribbean Music_ (London: Methuen, 1987), pp. 26-28, for noting this example. See also Robin Balliger, "The Sound of Resistance," in Kommotion International #7. DISCOGRAPHY: Calypso Carnival: 1936-1941 -- Rounder Records CD 1077 Calypso Breakaway: 1927-1941 -- Rounder Records CD 1054 (contact: Rounder Records, One Camp Street, Cambridge MA 02140) Soca Carnival '94 -- Ice Records 940802 (contact: Ice Records, 110 Greene St., New York, NY 10012) ***J*** Common Sense ------------ "I Used to Love H.E.R." (transcribed by Flash) Verse One: I met this girl, when I was ten years old And what I loved most she had so much soul She was old school, when I was just a shorty Never knew throughout my life she would be there for me on the regular, not a church girl she was secular Not about the money, no studs was mic checkin her But I respected her. She hit me in the heart A few New York niggaz had did her in the park But she was there for me, and I was there for her Pull out a chair for her, turn on the air for her and just cool out, cool out and listen to her Sittin on bone, wishin that I could do her. Eventually if it was meant to be, then it would be because we related, physically and mentally And she was fun then. I'd be geeked when she'd come around Slim was fresh, yo, when she was underground, Original, pure untampered and down sister. Boy I tell ya, I miss her. Verse Two: Now periodically I would see ol' girl at the clubs, and at the house parties. She didn't have a body but she started gettin thick quick, Did a couple of videos and became afrocentric Out goes the weave, in goes the braids beads medallions. She was on that tip about, stoppin the violence. About my people she was teachin' me By not preachin' to me but speakin' to me in a method that was leisurely, so easily I approached. She dug my rap, that's how we got close. But then she broke to the West coast, and that was cool 'cause around the same time, I went away to school. And I'm a man of expandin', so why should I stand in her way? She probably get her money in L.A. And she did, stud, she got big pub but what was foul, She said that the pro-black, was goin out of style. She said, afrocentricity, was of the past, So she got into R&B hip-house bass and jazz. Now black music is black music and it's all good I wasn't salty, she was with the boys in the hood, 'cause that was good for her. She was becomin' well-rounded. I thought it was dope how she was on that freestyle shit Just havin' fun, not worried about anyone, and you could tell by how her titties hung. Verse Three: I might've failed to mention that this chick was creative. But once the man got to her, he altered her native. Told her if she got an image and a gimmick, then she could make money, and she did it like a dummy. Now I see her in commercials, she's universal. She used to only swing it with the inner-city circle. Now she be in the burbs lookin' rock and dressin hippy, And on some dumb shit, when she comes to the city Talkin about poppin' glocks servin' rocks and hittin' switches. Now she's a gangsta rollin with gangsta bitches, Always smokin blunts and gettin drunk Tellin me sad stories, now she only fucks with the funk, Stressin' how hardcore and how real she is. She was really the realest before she got into showbiz. I did her, not just to say that I did it, But I'm committed, but so many niggaz hit it That she's just not the same lettin' all these groupies do her. I see niggaz slammin' her, and takin' her to the sewer But I'ma take her back hopin' that the shit stop. Cause who I'm talkin bout y'all is hip-hop... ***K*** Charles Isbell -------------- Damn, what a week. ----- New Jack Reviews LIII: _Non-Fiction_ by Black Sheep ----- Baaaaah--cough, cough---baaaaah This time: _Non-Fiction_ by Black Sheep Next time: _Hiphopera_ by Volume 10 _Boxcar Sessions_ by Saafir _Blowout Comb_ by Digable Planets _Black Business_ by Poor Righteous Teachers Last time: _Genocide and Juice_ by The Coup _Muse Sick-N-Hour Mess Age_ by Public Enemy _Illmatic_ by Nas _Hard To Earn_ by Gang Starr _Be Bop or Be Dead_ by Umar Bin Hassan Catch Ups: _Tricks of The Shade_ by The Goats _Enta Da Wu Tang (36 Chambers)_ by Wu Tang Clan _Cypress Hill_ by Cypress Hill -------------------------------------------------------------------------- Distinctiveness: Sure, why not? Dopeness Rating: Phat. No less, no more. A little uneven, with a few dry spots in the middle, but there's not much variation really. A solid, safe bet. Rap Part: Phat. Dres lays much lyrical pipe and does it in style. He often gets a Phat+ for skill but on average, with his partner and the various guests factored in, we get a slightly lower score. Sounds: Phat. But also creative... and that's worth something. Predictions: Steady as she goes. Rotation Weight: More than _A Wolf In Sheep's Clothing_. Message: Sometimes. -------------------------------------------------------------------------- Tracks: 17 tracks at 75:49 Label: Mercury Producers: Black Sheep and others Profanity: Yep. -------------------------------------------------------------------------- Black Sheep is Dres, our lyricist, and Mister Lawnge, our intrepid DJ and sometime-rapper. A couple of years back, they hit it big with _A Wolf In Sheep's Clothing_. Now they're back with a new album and a new style. So, what's different? Well, the music is better. Mr Lawnge's lyrical presentation is better; however, he really does suffer by comparison to the ever-flexible Dres who's delivery has gotten better over the years and who's lyrical pipe has grown much longer. What else? They curse more and seem at bit more concerned with spliffs and the like. On the other hand, they try to be a bit more politically aware (something they manage to be without giving the impression that they take themselves too seriously). In other words, nothing has gotten worse since their first album and several things are better. This is a no-brainer: if you like the first album or anything you've heard from Black Sheep in the last year or so (including anything off this album), this is worth the price of admission. As for the rest of you who aren't sure, allow me to break it down as best I can. The first track, "Non-fiction Intro" declares their newly-political stance. It's about a minute and a half of nice funky beats and appropriately cool muzak featuring--as so many hiphop albums do in their intro's--exposition on the meaning of all things by a brother from the Nation. "Non-fiction is that which is based on real" "Autobiographical" features Dres. While the soundz are surprisingly sparse given the intro, the lyrics are energetic, creative and expertly delivered. I suppose the fact that Dres has skillz should come as no surprise; however, he's clearly a level above where he was two years ago. Furthermore, the stuff he's talking about is hella more relevant and interesting than anything they've ever done before. In particular, this track tells the story of one kid growing up in The City(tm), going away for school and returning home. "A menace, but still I played tennis Ain't that cruddy? Advanced with the Reeboks They called them cut-buddies I hung with one, only one younger brother Shorty Do-wop could cut and scratch up any other" "Pals of mine, peoples though we down I graduate next week and, yo, next week I'm New York bound Seven days from that one I'm leavin' love that weighs a ton I'm gonna miss you niggas Yo that rappin' sh*t was crazy fun" Dres' understated delivery keeps this predictably depressing story from being overly heavy-handed. "I took pop off the sh*t-list 'cause he had the fitness to help Tiki get this... What the f*ck? Pop, Jehovah Witness? What the f*ck? Pop, what's with the fist? Plop! I'm like I can't put him down but the sh*t don't stop" This represents a very promising start and "B.B.S." continues the promise by adding a funkier and more interesting sound. "Ah, oh, who? you! so I'm rockin' it on the regular I pick it up like a 'fro" Jazzy muzak, a nice warm chorus and nicely-delivered lyrics. "It's been three joints Everybody think we're smugglin' Huh! Well, yeah you know me I put dope inside your vinyls, cassettes and CDs" Nice. The fourth track is "City Lights." Mr Lawnge gets half the mic time. "I know your eyes are filled with tears Because Polygram paid my bills for years When they tore up my contract, in fact, Now I drop science like 3-2-1 Contact!" He's improved his lyrical gymnastics routine, but he's still a bit too obsessed with his endowments. Personally, I'm not too impressed. I mean welcome to the club, homeboy #:-/, but I got the idea last album. But really, that's a quibble. He's got the skillz and deserves appropriate props. He mainly just suffers by comparison. "And now damn, I jam, I slam I jump-start cars without so much as a cable No fable, I'm able, I'm willin', I'm chillin'" Anyway, this brings us to "Do Your Thing." The muzak is different on this one. At first I had to fight an urge to skip to the next track, but now I find myself boppin' to the beat. "Think about it baby You know me I tried to play low key But everybody knows where the dope be" Besides all that, the lyrics work well and the delivery and muzak are juuuuust right. "Nobody confronts We hide behind guns and blunts Now the powers that be happy gettin' everything they want Because now there is a deficit for lack of slave labor Por favor Somebody, my people need a saviour." "God bless the child that has his chrome" "I woke up this morning with the world on my shoulders." "E.F.F.E.C.T." takes a different turn altogether. Here we have the first appearacnce of guests Showbiz and AG. "I drop facts over tracks They go rat-tat-tat F*ck the red, white and blue I'm with the Black, Black, Black" Some of this stuff is just slammin'. "You know how it goes, you know how we do it. You can't blow the spot cause we already blew it." It's different than the most of the rest of the album but, well, that's okay 'cause this one works. This is a track that is meant to be played loudly, I suspect. "Bah, you can't stop me I do what I wanna I know ya wanna so, yo, come on I gots skills" "You play yourself like PeeWee when ya knock it" And this brings us to "Freak Y'all" "Nicer than your mother on your birthday Gettin' mad attention Like the planet does on Earth day" "Put your mind where's you nine at and shoot to be free" I like the lyrics and the flow, but I think the chorus is, well, wack and the music doesn't quite fit. "My style is wetter than hose that blasted H2O in the 50s on Negroes Still Brothers of today out to get it done Don't call us Bigger Thomas We got a bigger gun" I can't say that about "Gotta Get Up": forceful delivery, nice muzak and nice lyrics. In fact, there are some particularly nice moments in this one. "Niggas best not blink" "Fake niggas can't acheive it Fake b*tches can't be-weave it" Oh, I don't know, it just sounds good. "Now I stick with nothin' but my own clique I'm gettin' paid--for what?--for talkin' 'bout my own d*ck" (Now... can you guess who uttered that line?) On that note, let's move on to "Let's Get Cozy" which has the nerve to use a sample from "La Di Da Di." "Not to be braggin', your tonsils I'll be taggin'" "You won't get no money but I can tempt your tummy with taste of nut'n honey" While I'm impressed that they can make this stuff sound good and I'm impressed that Mr Lawnge talked Dres into getting into this, I'm just not moved. I feel like I did with "Get Off My D*ick and Tell Your B*tch to Come Here" on Ice Cube's _Amerikkka's Most Wanted_ and _Kill At Will_. Sure it sounded good in some sense, but, given the way the rest of the album goes, WHY do it? Why? Maybe that's just me. Whatever. Let's move on to "Me & My Brother". "We're gettin' paid like crime." For reasons I can't quite figure out, this one does nothing for me. I'm mean, some of the lyrics are nice and the muzak isn't offensive at all, but somehow it just doesn't come together. Shrug. "North South East West" is better. It's got no real purpose for existing other than being something that should make you move... "Ready to make mad noise like Hendrix The surgeon I take a nigga out like appendix" ...but that's better than some of the alternatives, so who can complain? Besides, there is some definite phatitivity here. And Mr Lawnge even manages to keep up with Dres. The next track, "Peace to the Niggas," is, well, the jam. "Now to all the shorties in the world Listen up, that sh*t is just TV far from reality And half the niggas you see on TV are frontin' They ain't sayin' nuttin' So take your little ass to somewhere and watch Barney or something" Now, personally, I have a moral objection to "Barney," but I respect the idea. "Summa Tha Time" follows. It opens with some harmonizing and sounds pretty good. This is too sparse, but the patented Dres delivery more than makes up for it. "I'll be standin' out like a fat African" And Lawnge gathers some props as well. "We got more niggas rollin' up than even at the car wash." A Cannonball Adderly sample is again featured on "We Boys". Mr Lawnge mentions his d*ck again because, well, that's what he does. "I run deep as if my name was Jacques Cousteau" Still, ya gotta like it. It's solid. Not spectacular or amazing or anything, but better than average. "Who's Next?" (about a woman who gets around) sounds cool with a musical reference to _She's Gotta Have It_ in the chorus. "You hit em all off it wasn't just me I then heard you boned Chi-Ali DAMN I said, oh no ho, you got to go But take my number though 'Cause, yo, you never know" The topic is kinda stupid and it's really ironic to hear Mr Lawnge call someone promiscuious, but what are you gonna do? Besides, Dres rises above the material with some good lines and a laid-back delivery. "Niggas was playin' close like rice and Goya" This brings us to the last track if you don't count "Non-fiction Outro". "Without a Doubt" is a nice way to end things. It's fairly representative. Solid, nice lyrics, good sounds. Not spectacular, but impressive. "You can't checks it, when I flex it, yo I wreck shiiii You turnin' me off like you're naked and anorexic" "Black Sheep, we're mighty like Isis" And that's that. So... The bottom line is this: this ain't their first album by any means. It's much more creative--you're more likely to notice that spark of brillance that made you appreciate the thought behind "You Mean I'm Not?"--it's funkier and it's more mature. Sure, it has it's low points, especially in the middle and I'll likely program around some of their excesses, but even at its worst the listener is generally treated to good hiphop. In short, it's a just plain better album... if you like this sort of thing. If what you really liked about them was the waaaay laid-back sound and mostly puffy topics, you might be disappointed, but I doubt it. This is one of those efforts that makes it fairly simple for would-be reviewers. This is a good solid album. No, it's not a classic and it couldn't even dream about replacing _It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back_, but it's certainly worth having. It's a safe bet. Get it. Well, that was easy, wasn't it? But that's just one Black man's opinion--what's yours? (C) Copyright 1995, Charles L Isbell, Jr. All my Hip Hop reviews are available on the World Wide Web. Use the URL: http://www.ai.mit.edu/~isbell/isbell.html and follow the pointers.... Section 3 -- THREE **************THE OFFICIAL HARDC.O.R.E. REVIEW SECTION*************** HardC.O.R.E. pH scale 6/pHat - EE-YOW! A hip-hop Classic! 5/pHunky - Definitely worth the price of admission. 4/pHine - Solid. Few weaknesses here. 3/pHair - Some potential, but not fully realized 2/pHlat - Falls well short of a quality product 1/pHukkit - Get that Vanilla Lice shit OUTTA HERE! ********************************************************************* ***A*** Oliver Wang ----------- ARTIFACTS, "Between a Rock and a Hard Place" (Big Beat) If this album had been released a month earlier, it would have been hailed as a near classic. Unfortunately, Big Beat waited a bit too long. Most of the written hype over the album had already faded into people's memory and the album was dropped in heavy competition with new albums from Digable Planets, Brand Nubian, Keith Murray, etc. Plus, the latest single, "C'mon Wit Da Git Down" was released on promo WITHOUT the promised Buckwild remix. Bad move. Plus, the two tracks weren't as fat as "Wrong Side of Da Tracks." BUT, none of this takes away from the fact that the album is tight as a MF. The worst any of the three producers (T-Ray, Buckwild, Redman-in order of frequency) could do was drop an ok beat, never approaching wackness. And when the shit was on, it was ON. T-Ray's presence is easily felt here. He produces 8 out of the 13 tracks and his use of basslines and drums is HUGELY better than his 93 shit for Cypress Hill. It blends in well with the lyrical styles of the Tame One and El. Speaking of which, some people have commented that they don't think either Artifacts rhymer is all that. I dunno. I thought their flow was ill back in the day when they teamed up with Nubian Crackers on "Do You Wanna Hear It?" The candence and way they wrap their rhymes is distinctive and hard to copy. I like the shit, period. The only thing is that I didn't hear it enough on this album. Outstanding Cuts: "Heavy Ammunition": From the opening samples, horns and bassline, the tracks has a fierce energy. Rat-tat-tat... "Whayback": My favorite track. The horn loop is tooooo smooooth. It's not a complicated track: bassline and crisp drums...basic...basically fat. Good lyrical flow all through. "Lower Da Boom": Slow and FUNKY. Better than most of the cuts on the Brand Nubian album. T-Ray works this type of shit well; it's his forte. Hands in air, heads all be nodding. The BOMB. "What Goes On": My favorite Buckwild produced cut, it's somewhat reminiscent of the stuff he did on the OK album. Very jazzy, especially the drums. A bit lighter compared to the T-Ray beats, but far from wack. In general, I like this as much as the new Pete Rock album, but for different reasons. Not to take away from T-Ray and Buckwild, but Pete Rock hooked up some sweet ass beats on his album, no joke. It's just that out of 16 tracks, some are bound to fail. The worst the Artifacts manage to do is drop some mediocore stuff, and not even that much. The album deserves more props than I've seen it get. Don't sleep. pH Level - 5/pHunky ***B*** Oliver Wang ----------- BLACKALICIOUS, "Melodica" (Mo Wax) "I never ran from the feds wearing red Pro-Keds..." I've been talking a lot about this EP, and it's not even commercially available yet. Still, it's quickly become one of my favorite records for 1994. Blackalicious is MC Gift of Gab and Producer Chief Xcel. They are part of a very talented crew united under the Sole Sides label. Other people include my patron saint DJ Zen, rhymer Asia born, the incredible DJ Shadow, hype man Jazzbo, and two up-and-coming rhymers: Benj and Lateef. Anyway, Blackalicious embody a sound that is very much unlike any of the mainstream hip hop out there. When I say mainstream, I'm not talking about pop, I'm talking about what most hip hop sounds like: jazz and funk loops set to a drum track (sampled of course). Don't get me wrong, I love all that, but it doesn't mean my musical tastes are limited to it. Blackalicous is one of those rare hip hop groups that seem to care a lot about the MUSIC. They craft soundscapes and blend instruments that stand above a simple SP 1200 loop. A lot of it is subtle but like a tune that keeps running through your head, it'll stay with you even if you don't consciously recognize the effect. Of the six cuts, about four are clearly jazz influenced but they are evade easy categorization. The closest thing I thought of was the LA underground "Project Blowed." But in and of itself, Blackalicious has a distinct, if not unique sound. Lyrically, Gift of Gab is versitile, almost to the point of confusion. Compare his flow on "Lyric Fathom" with "Swan Lake." Two very distinct styles. One is a frantic, Hiero-like freestyle flow (sorry, but it's true) the other is laid back and to the point, with a clarity that is sometimes too lacking in a wanna-be abstract rapping world. Blackalicious manages to have the abstract feel without any of the confusing complications. Myself, I prefer his more laid back flow to the hyper one, but his freestyling is incredible if you've ever peeped it before. Outstanding Tracks: "Swan Lake": The latest single is one of the best. The intro is deceiving, using a way old school Cold Crush Brothers sample but then it jumps into a smoothed out track of simple drums and a bass line, flavored by a horn loop that I last heard on a Prince Paul produced Justin Warfield intro and outro. "Attica Black": A very different hip hop type of song, a lot of call and response and sing-song talking. But don't think R&B and don't think Nate Dogg or some shit like that. I don't know if it would appeal to a lot of people, but I think it's very listenable and enjoyable. You have to peep it to understand. I'd say it's almost avant garde hip hop except with out the pretentiousness that comes with anything "avant garde." "40oz": My favorite track on the EP. It starts out with a simple drum track and then soft vibes drop in. Then another bass line (again uncomplicated but kinda fly), and then a second, crisper drum loop drops in over that. Progressive hip hop in the most literal sense b/c two bars later the vocals drop. The full name of the song is "40oz for Breakfast," and as you can guess, Gab rhymes about being an alcoholic and the troubles that come from it. The lyrics are great and the track is sonic beauty. Long, too. The whole track is over seven minutes and only about two and a half of that is vocals. The other tracks (with the possible exception of "Lyric Fathom") are superb as well, but these three are my big favorite b/c of the stylistic components they incorporate. Also, those who buy the import EP get an added bonus of instrumentals to everything except for "40 oz" which is a vocal and instrumental combined.) That's NICE, let me tell you, especially since "Lyric Fathom" is the only song that has a vinyl instrumental available. Anyway, I think the EP is great (if you can't tell), and it's definitely a good sign of hip hop's evolution to bigger and better things. Also look for a single (import) on the Mo Wax label called "Changes" with Gift of Gab and DJ Shadow. It's pure butter, but it won't be on the EP. I hesitate calling this a classic b/c 1) It's a bit short (it is an EP after all) and 2) a classic suggests that it establishes an era. Get back to me in a year and I'll let you know. Nonetheless, it gets my highest rating. Don't sleep. pH Level - 6/pHat ***C*** Chris Harris ------------ BRAND NUBIAN, "Everything is Everything" (Elektra) In a nutshell, Brand Nubian left more than a lot to be desired with their second release minus Grand Puba. Not that Puba would have made "Everything is Everything" a better effort if one based his opinion on Puba's "360 Degrees," but it could have been guaranteed that the lyrics would have been a bit more imaginative. It seems that *everybody* gots to tote a pistol, whip a nigga's ass, run a little game, and stand up in some guts (read: hit some ass). True or not, for the Nubians to verse like that is indicative of the mindlessness so many MC's succumb to. Not because of the "street life" vibe, but because they've just plain flipped. Sub-par production consisting of tired-ass loops, unimaginative use of so-so samples, and far from acceptable lyrical flow (even in comparison to their own previous releases) mar this project. Metaphors are non-existant. Lord Jamar: "...worldwide girls slide backstage, lookin' for a free ride, legs divide at a young age. Lord Jamar is like Jesus, speakin' in parables, and todevils it's a miracle - to see this, but they ain't got no choice, no escapin' the penetration of the voice..." Sadat X: "...I want the mic in the clutch, 'cuz it's too cold to hold, too hot to touch, I'm like a thoroughbred searchin' for cheese, you can't cut off the head of a fatal disease." Lord Jamar: "...M.C.s freeze at 32 degrees below, justice served, now watch us bust this herb in the head with another jam sent by the brother man, lead is for the other man, understand?" Nope, I don't. And it goes on... Lord Jamar: "First up it's the knots up, what's up? To the niggas from the projects - Prospect Park and Brooklyn - I'm lookin' at another crime scene, committed by the brothers on this rhyme team. Just freestylin' in a cipher might take the life a' M.C.s if you're wack, we got the right to seize..." Etc., etc., etc. And, in the interest of fair play, here's one more rhyme courtesy of Sadat X on "Sweatin' bullets:" "For the next couple of seconds or however long it takes, I'ma hit ya'll with something for the low price of nothing, couldn't get a better deal if this was Vegas, ain't no cards on the table just a bottle of Black Label, and a picture of your girl who I said was sweatin' bullets, reach for it, pull it, or we'll always have beef, you'll be scared to walk the streets..." There's only one track that even remotely caught my attention, and now the name escapes me. In case you get a chance to preview the CD, that track is number two. It's cool because the Nubians try to freestyle (the qualifier being "try to") and the track is butter smooth, but the flow leaves a lot to be desired. I could go on, but I won't. pH Level - 3/pHair ***D*** Martin Kelley ------------- DA PHLAYVA, "Phlayva for dem All" (Verticle/Solar Records) Da Phlayva represents from tha Carolinas like YAGGFU Front. However, they aren't quite as original as those guys. I first saw them two years ago at Rappin' in the Ayem at Jack the Rapper. It was 6:45 A.M., and B-Right and I were checkin' them out as they were the last group on performing in front of about 30-40 dedicated heads who were gonna see all the hip-hop they could. They had heart and put everything into the performance even though most of the crowd left after the Run-D.M.C. set. The single they had at that time was called "Nite Life," and they were called Madd Phlayva. Well, they changed their name and they hardened their style and they lost something in the transformation. They do have skills, and they do come off the wall in some cases. However, the album is full of formula. With that, I'll just give you the highlights: "Identity" a cool cut to introduce themselves individually. "Phlayva 4 Dem All" the title track is nice and represents them well. "Geechie Squaw" -- I don't like the name they use, but this song does big up the sistas that they can relate to and those sistas would probably enjoy this except for the title they've been given, which I can't explain why here, but if you're familiar with the South you know why. "Hookers" is a cool posse cut with some other rappers from Carolina that got some skills. "All Things is Madd" is another nice cut that represents well. I can't say that Da Phlayva is Da Shit, but I can't front on brothas from the South representin' on the hip-hop tip instead of on some ol' funk or bass shit. So David J., peep these kids in your area. And everybody else might enjoy them too, I just can't promise ya. pH Level - 3/pHair ***E*** Steven J Juon ------------- DJ MIXINMARV, "Acid Jazz/Hip-hop" (self-produced) Well, here's a first for HardC.O.R.E. -- reviewing mix tapes. I suppose pretty soon we'll be putting Ron G and Funkmaster Flex in the mix (although he actually does have a record coming out on Nervous/Wreck). Why'd I do it? Simple, B, I got a free tape out of the deal :> In this case it was certainly worth it. DJ Mixinmarv knows his shit. On the Plus Side: A lot of cool shit from acid-jazz/trip-hop artists I've never heard of, and it all sounds phat. These, he very smoothly blends with some of hip-hop's jazziest artists (The Roots, Digable Planets, etc.) and the shit comes off nicely. This guy can cut nicely, too. Just listen to how he slices up the intro of "Proceed"... maybe not mind blowing but I like it. :> Let me lastly say I can't front on the remix of Common Sense's "I Used to Love H.E.R." -- sweet! On the Minus Side: This guy can obviously blend any two songs seamlessly, but on a few occasions, he really shouldn'ta gone there. Case in point -- "Vocab," by The Fugees. Did he honestly think anybody would enjoy hearing them rap at double speed? Not only that, it makes the once funky guitar licks sound like the twanging of a rubber band. If you have to distort the speed that much to make them work together, don't even bother. On the Whole: Kid has potential, yo. He knows his shit when it comes to pHat music, bringing the best of two worlds together on this one casette. If he can fine tune his skills, the next Mixinmarv tape you see might be sellin' for $15 on the corner of 125th. pH Level - 4/pHine ***F*** Ryan A MacMichael ----------------- FESU, "War With No Mercy" (Nuff Nuff/Continuum/Fang Records) I read a lot of positive reviews about Fesu in various hip-hop magazines, from Rap Pages to URB, so I picked up the disc to peep this Texas boy for myself. It's clear from the beginning about this boy's stance. On the lead track, "War With No Mercy," it takes him only two pairs of rhymes before he gets to: "I'm wishin' these white folks dead, / Puttin' fear in they heart, just to see the devil turn red." He's one serious brother. Fesu is a follower and compadre of Minister Louis Farrakhan, and though the Minister has voiced his disapproval to Fesu about his language, slang, and such, he understands that this is how Fesu is getting through to the people. Fesu's delivery is a very laid back, comfortable one. His flow is natural and can't really be pinpointed to sounding like any other one MC. His structure is relatively basic; often there's a break at the beginning of a line, then Fesu jumps in with his lyrics on the up beat of one or down beat of two (a la Scarface). Fesu makes good use of internal rhyme: "This is what you do, / Suck a dick up and hiccup and you heard that from Fesu." His actual lyrics aren't overly complex, and there is certainly a lack of creative metaphors. The "ho shit bitch" routine tires after a while. Production by Ronald "T.K." Mims is right on. The title track uses Johnny "Guitar" Watson's "The Real Deal", "Goosebumps" (my favorite cut because of the addictive chorus hook) loops "Body Heat" by Quincy Jones, and "Life Out Da Matchbox" samples "Anger" by Marvin Gaye. Oh, such sweet flavor. I'd have to say that while Fesu is one of the better things to come out of Texas recently, there is a bit of room for growth. For a freshman effort, though, "War With No Mercy," ranks among the better of 1994. pH Level - 4/pHine ***G*** Ryan A. MacMichael ------------------ FU-SCHNICKENS, "Nervous Breakdown" (Jive/RCA) The Fu-Schnickens broke onto the hip-hop scene with "Ring the Alarm" in 1991. Chip-Fu's wild style stood out from all others and their debut album, "F.U. -- Don't Take it Personal" sat well with both hip-hop heads and the more mainstream listeners (mainly due to "True Fu-Schnick"). Their 1994 return brings with a continued uniqueness with occasional flaws. An entertaining first side starts off with "Breakdown", a funk-filled romp through the wild Fu-Schnicken minds. Chip-Fu is insane, as usual, with random coughs, sneezes, and hiccups thrown in to complicate his flow. Unfortunately, as is with most all Fu-Schnick tracks, Moc and Poc Fu just don't step up to the challenge. They're mediocre emcees when taken alone, but put in the same group with Chip-Fu, they seem almost skill-less. Lyrically, they come off, but the delivery doesn't quite hit the mark. Perhaps next album. In any event, the rest of the first side features the crew at their collective best on the mics and the production at its pinnacle (with "Aaahh Oohhh!" being produced by Diamond D). Flip the tape over, though, and the second side is an extreme disappointment. The three new tracks that start the side off are OK, but just not quite right. The fourth cut is a poor remix of an already only so-so song, "What's Up Doc". The Dunkafelic Remix of "Breakdown" closes the album out with a whimper. Overall, the album is not bad -- the first side gets much rotation in my deck, but there is certainly room left for improvement. pH Level - 3/pHair ***H*** Rawlson A King -------------- MC SOLAAR, "Prose Combat" (Polydor) MC Solaar can wreck any facility. But what type of facility can he wreck? Not an average North American hip-hop club. Hip-hop niggaz ain't trying to hear his type of joints, for they are too foreign to our ears, and his illustrations do not allude to our urban environments and lifestyles. Tracks off his new long play "Prose Combat" such as Nouveau Western prove that. Did I mention that MC Solaar is French? He has been billed as Europe's champion rapper, and sells the most albums of the "hip hop" genre on that continent. But does that mean he should be classified as "hip hop"? Those in North America do not believe that he should. They believe that he deviates from the cultural ideals of hip hop; that have been formulated by its east-coast creators. Thus, many in America classify it as acid jazz. They testify that his album is so saturated with jazz samples, and that his music is of such an ambient nature, it could fit into a disc jockey's acid house set faster than it could slip into his hip hop set. However after one listen to Solaar's album, this argument is open to debate. Tracks such as "Superstarr" and "Relations Humaines" utilize hard-worn hip hop samples and could be inserted into rap sets with ease. "Relations Humaines" is also a track not to be taken lightly. It's backbeats emanate with a hard bass sound of dancehall origins. Meanwhile the champion rapper drops slick, quick rhymes with puns which reminds one of hard lyrics off the streets of New York-- Etait l'occupation principale de mon ami Steph Le black mga mac etait pris dancs un mic-mac D'un cote le coeur et de l'autre crac-crac However, even though the rapper can sound hard at occasions, do not believe that he is. He makes no claim at trying to imitate hardcore b-boy or gangsta styles. His raps are about life, love and relationships, yet they cannot be deemed as inherit pop, hippie or whack styles. This factor gives Solaar an image of legitimacy in the rap world, and could be the reason he gets along with American collaborators such as Guru, since he doesn't front. More kudos should also be awarded to this album for its production. Jimmy Jay must be the most progressive, contemporary acid jazzy/be-bop beat creator of the day. His integration of hip hop beats with complex jazz and soul samples are mind-blowing, and will have any facility bumpin'. The beats are so creative that one can be so contentious to say that his instrumental efforts exceeds A Tribe Called Quest in intricacy. But of course, all of the above is up to you to determine. Whether it be hip hop or acid-jazz, it is phat and a must for the collection. pH Level - 5/pHunky ***I*** Steven J Juon ------------- METHOD MAN, "Tical" (Def Jam) "I'd like to try your Wu-Tang style... let's begin" One-two, one two one two... what's that shit he be smokin? Tical...tical. Enter the Wu-Tang Dragon, the man with monumental methods, that pHat ass husky voice, and the mad clever lyrics: Mr. Meth. Be forewarned though... those swords the Clan sharpened on 36 Chambers seem to have gotten a little rusty. "What? Hell no, he ain't dissin Method...he buggin..." No, I am dissin Method, best believe it. Even Pete Nice did better when he broke from 3rd Bass. The beats were pHat. Out of this entire album, 8 of the 13 tracks can be called nice, and perhaps 3/4ths of those are pHat. Meth may be a lyricist supreme, but he can't save this schlock. There's a difference between sounding "raw" and sounding noisy, and apparently the RZA does not have as fine a grasp of that line as I once thought. There's something else, and I really hate to say it, since people are gonna jump this like a dead man with fat pockets. Regardless, it has to be said -- SOME of these rhymes aren't fresh. I've heard Meth kick "Smokin on a Spike Lee joint, hey I'm Mo Betta, hopin niggaz get my point" before when he was FREESTYLING! You see why I question what's going on here? Then again, mama always said if you can't say anything nice... So I'll just skip the first two tracks and get straight to "Bring the Pain". I can't front. RZA did come correct on this one and Meth kicks it slick: "I came to bring the pain, hardcore from the brain lets go inside my astral plane find out my mental's, based on instrumental records, he so I can write monumental methods. I'm not the king, but niggaz is decaf, I stick 'em for the C.R.E.A.M. Check it..." It's depressing to listen to this track though, cause it's so GREAT, the essence of hip-hop distilled and purified. If this is what the Meth and the RZA are capable of, why do many of these songs miss the mark? I can give props to "All I Need" for the subject material, and the production, although nothing to write home about, doesn't stink. But rather than dig into the positivism he be showin to sisters here, I'm gonna skip to another one of the few pHat tracks (another unfortunate thing is that most of the best shit is on side 1, so unless you got the CD you're up shit creek). "What the Blood Clot" has an ill-style piano lick, and this is the strength of flow we should expect from Meth on the regular. "It's akward, I'm rollin with my click Owl backwards, and Phillie's smokin' sess blunts, mixed with illy got me flustered. Now the whole world looks dusted. I'm in the area, with the steel that never rusted..." He never really stops here, he just keeps kicking mad metaphors and clever similies in one long verse that SOUNDS freestyle. At this point I'll say this is one of two spots on the album where you could actually listen to four tracks in a row and survive, cause next is the as pHat if not pHatter "Meth Vs. Chef". Peep the skills on this finely honed track: Meth -- "They caught a bad situation, 'cause I'm a sandwich short of a picnic picture aide-equipped with the sickness style, blowin up the spot like ballistic missles..." Chef -- "Goin all out kid, no turn back. You can try to front, get smoked, and that's that. Lyric assassin, dressed in black, rugge sixteen shots, now you're marked, from a slug then, I go to war..." Since they both kick it nice and the track is butta, there's no complaints EXCEPT that Meth wins handily. He kicks more metaphors and cleverness. It sounds like Raekwon didn't really come prepared. The next two tracks, "Sub Crazy" being the last of side one, and "Release Yo Delf" both have beats problems. Apparently the idea with "Sub Crazy" was to make it rattle the Sub-woofer -- sure, it does, but so does 95 South -- that's no excuse. It's just weak. And what's this Rocky IV/Gloria Traynor crossbreed shit on "Release Yo Self?" And what does Meth think he's doing? Brotha, chill and flow. Stop screechin', screaming and yellin' like a one-man Onyx. "P.L.O. Style" exemplifies what I call the 'Snoop Doggy Dogg' syndrome. Qualification -- overuse of phrases on your solo album that you coined elsewhere. Listen to this track, the chorus in particular, and then see if you can tell what I mean. The introduction of the smooth-flowing Carlton Fisk is interesting, but that's it -- he doesn't kick anything mind-blowing, just like RZA and this track. To close out Tical, we have another four-set that you can almost listen to without skipping a track. "I Get My Thang in Action" has a subtle smooth music and Meth kicks his patent "one-two, and-then- one-more, and-another and-then-another-one" flow. I guess that's actually another problem I have with this album -- the flow pattern gets a little monotonous. On the good tracks you don't really notice, but on the bad ones, LOOK OUT. "Mr. Sandman" comes off for several reasons. One is the all- star posse of The RZA, Inspectah Deck, and Meth with newcomers Carlton Fisk and Street Thug. Plus I ain't mad at Blue Raspberry, she got an OK voice, but you have to check the fact that without her the "Mr. Sandman" title wouldn't fit this track. You coulda just called it Wu- Tang All Stars Get Bizzy. Carlton Fisk really comes off ill on this joint. Kid has potential: "What evil lurks in the heart of men it be the Shadow, street-life flowing again I had a plot, scheme, got loot for sure only one kid would knock the hinges off the door... Nigga said "Carlton yousa ill motherfucker" 'cause I made it look like they both killed each other and I'm out" -- now peep it yaself for the rest in the middle." And here's the one out of four that slows me up. They call it "Stimulation". Ironic, that. The track sounds like some old theatrical shit, which doesn't stimulate, and neither does Method's keep-a-monotonous-tone-as-long-as-possible track delivery. Now the chaotic shit in the remix of "Method Man", now THAT'S stimulation. I love the distorted re-use of the piano loop, the staccato beat, and Meth flows nice: "Yeah, Method, bring it to em proper potnah, you ain't got no wins in mi casa straight up, you're moving too fast, so baby wait up took one, added seven more, now you eight up..." What's the point? This effort is too uneven. The greatness of 36 Chambers was that like the Shaolin style, it was pretty damn hard to find a weak point. But Meth's own solo, hyped up to be even stronger, has many holes. I don't really blame Meth. He could change up his flow a little more, but the lyrics he kicks are tight. Rather, the man who is supposed to have his back, the RZA, leaves him hangin on some weak beats. Even if this release hadn't been overhyped, this 60/40 mix would not be acceptable. If you're a fan of the Wu-Tang or Method Man though, pick it up. pH Level - 3/pHair ***J*** Steven J Juon ------------- REDMAN/METHOD MAN, "Month of the Man" (Def Jam) Well, if this sampler was supposed to set off the buzz for the Month of the Man, it didn't for me. In fact, this release worried me. Yeah, it wasn't all wack, but based on the tracks I didn't think shit would live up to the hype that had been built. Of the two, Redman had the better chance. On his side of the tape were "Rockafella," "A Million and 1 Buddah Spots," and "The Promo." "Rockafella" is without a doubt the BOMB, and was in instant rotation on my radio show. "Droppin the flavor stay Sky high like Pager I'm magical like Fantasia on paper... Are there any more imitators in the house? There are no. Bust like NBA Jams, and you can have Chicago" Sure, Erick Sermon gets slammed around for freakin the familiar funk, but you can't deny that it rocks the boulevard hard. That, and the fact that Redman somewhere in his lifetime swallowed twelve dictionaries and an encyclopedia, plus he knows enough pop culture to whoop ANYBODY in that Jeapordy category means his shit will rock from now to infinity squared. Knowing that, I was severly dissapointed by "A Million and 1 Buddah Spots." Last time Redman devoted an entire song to the buddah blessings, it was the X-tra pHat "How to Roll a Blunt". This isn't even come close. The funk is blah, and Redman ain't really kickin any cool metaphors. "Who can get swift with the microphoneness Plus I'm crisp like CD's on LP's and VD" Say Whut? Not impressive. The Promo is actually a pretty cool cut, but for some reason it vanished after this sampler. It's nonexistent on the new Redman LP. I'll just keep the gems in this little jewel to myself, but someday if I feel generous I'll upload the lyrics to the Rap FTP site. Suffice it to say I was feeling pretty good about Redman's album, with two out of three cuts being phat. But Meth's side ain't gonna improve that equation. When you total his side and Redman's side together, the equation equals pHair at best. OK, his side is four cuts: "Tical," "Bring the Pain," "All I Need," and "Subcrazy." All I Need shouldn't really count, since this is a short snippet of what, as a full length cut, is one of the better songs on his LP. I'm down with the positivism he's kickin to the sistas here, and the track is at least tolerable. "Shorty I be down for you anytime you need me It's you that I need in my life, believe me. Nothin' make a man feel better than a woman Queen with a king that be down for whatever" "Bring The Pain" *almost* compensates for the rest. This is the best song on the entire sampler, no question. On this one cut alone he kicks the kind of verbal gymnastics worthy of an MC trophy, and the RZA went to extra lengths to give this shit a creamy track. It's richly sparse, with a quiet noise that roars... sounds contradictory I'm sure, but that's the best way to describe it. This is why the rest of Method's shit can't hold up. He kicks average to above average lyrics each cut, but not on the par of "Bring the Pain." and the shitty (yeah, I said it, SHITTY) production on the rest just makes it untolerable. "Tical" is marginal at best. And what the FUCK was RZA thinkin on "Subcrazy?" I ain't tryin to hear it. Conclusion: If you were to guess what their full-length albums would be like from this sampler, Redman gets (some) props and other than one pHat cut, Method Man is in trouble. But like Guru said at the end of "Daily Operation," stay tuned... pH Level - 3/pHair ***K*** Steven J Juon ------------- PAUL MOONEY, "Master Piece" (StepSun Records) "Michael, Michael, Michael, the whole family... they're dysfunctional, the whole fuckin family. They remind me of like the black Adams Family. They're the black Adams! They're kooky and they're spooky, the Jackson family! Da-na-da-dah!" Paul Mooney: nightmare of the politically correct. Don't matter what race -- black, white, caucasian, asian -- he'll probably offend you sooner or later, and he's just fine with that. That's because, at the heart of his comedy, is the african-american experience, the joy and the pain. He'll express it, as abrasively as possible, and target it directly at his urban audience... all the while takin' no shorts. "It's hard being a black man... look at Ted Danson. He was a nigga for an hour and look how much trouble he got into!" Master Piece is an interesting title for this comedy CD (recorded live at the Uptown Comedy Club in New York). Most 'masterpieces' in art are in my opinion obscure and hard to understand. If you can't understand Paul Mooney, though, you aren't paying attention. Everybody has SOME kind of reaction, because he's so direct and to the point. That though is what makes this album a masterpiece: the raw, unadulterated expression. "But the Bobbitt shit... that lady, she deserves an award. She went in and found it, she found them pair of tweezers and she found that shit didn't she... oh, you know she found it! She got 20/20 cause she went up in there and found that shit!" About the only bad thing on this album is that 14 of the 39 tracks are dedicated to O.J. Simpson. It's likely he did so to underscore a point about media overcoverage. And yes, he digs up the motherlode of O.J. humor -- every joke and pun known to man. Therefore, let's hope O.J. dies as a comedic topic after Mooney, because it's been done to DEATH. Fourteen tracks is about ten too many. It could have been compiled into 4 three minute tracks, and two probably could have been cut with no big loss. There's not much more to say beyond this: If you think even Def Comedy Jam is 'white bread', then this is your loaf. If you're too hung up on politically correct language and four-letter words, don't even take a bite or you'll have a bad taste. Personally, I think this is some BUTTER bread... and most people in a hip-hop audience will love the taste. pH Level - 5/pHunky ***L*** Steven J. Juon -------------- REDMAN, "Dare Iz a Darkside" (Def Jam) It's that Funkadelic figure, the man with more rhymes than the NRA has nines and bullets, grab this CD from the rack and pull it. No question, the selection on this session will cause an eargasmatic erection and point you in the right hip-hop direction! That said, let's break down this album like my car on the highway. Producing this chumpie is a Death Squad (read, the remnants of EPMD's Hit Squad) trio including Erick Sermon, Rockwilder, and the phillie blunt king himself. Those who dismiss the funk as tired and played out just don't know what funk is all about. If you hook it up right, the shit ROCKS no matter how much you've heard it. And these guys know how to hook shit better than a Chinese dry cleaning service -- funk for days and days. Of course, what's funk if you can't freak it? You need those skillz that pay the bills. The incredible thing is that the already gifted Redman got MORE wicked since album number one. His voice is rougher, but not to the almost overdone levels of Everlast, and his rapid sporadic word bursts have become deadlier than an DC-10 crash. Let me say at this point that this CD is one of the most well designed I've ever picked up. The shell is clear red, the photos for the covers kick ass, and there's a wicked side profile of Redman laying underneath the CD tray itself. Let's start with Noorotic, it seems like a good place to start. Thick, crunchy funk beats supply the background for Reggie Noble to get bizzy all over the place -- peep: "Abuse niggaz verbally so call diapers I'm a warrior to the heart, but I didn't kill Cyrus Neurotic, my style format rocks the projects. I get as ill as chief of police on narcotics..." You can pull any two or three lines from this song for a rap quote of the week, month, or YEAR. How many MC's can you say that about? And we're just getting started. There are even BETTER cuts on this LP. Peep the unholy trio of Erick Sermon, Redman, and Keith Murray on "Cosmic Slop:" Erick -- "Like Gangstarr, step up, it's Hard to Earn But I change up the mode, and blow up the globe The bandit, spittin dialect, umm Catchin wreck umm, one two microphone check ummm..." Reggie -- "I lost my mind on cloud nineteen Visine for eyes, when I blew Alpines Dial, nine zero zero, for the hero of the weirdos I hope my brain don't bust..." Keith -- "I orbits the solar system, listenin' guzzlin', never sippin' or slippin' sympin when the track is rippin' I got cha brain cells bendin and twistin'. Man listen, I give your whole crew an acid drenchin..." God damn! OK, let me clean off my Discman... Now then, as if Redman wasn't already schizophrenic, he develops a 3rd lyrical persona on Green Island -- that of Uncle Quilly. The laid back funk here will make you feel like you are on a green tropical island for real, but anyway... "Motherfuckin' ladies and gentleman my style's rugged like Timberland When I cock lyric then women give me more love than Wimbledon, uhh My style flow local like New Jersey transit And I can't stand it And you need Teddy to un-jam it when I cram it..." Well, I could take any other cut on here, describe how funky the funk is, and break out some phat lyrics. So perhaps the best thing to do is break down the vitals. 20 tracks, 4 skits, and at least 14 of the 16 songs are the BOMB. We even get a nice bonus -- the superphat remix of "Tonight's Da Nite" with the all new lyrics. I suppose to be fair, I should at least criticize something... the skits, which are unnecessary, as is the minute long intro crammed before "Can't Wait" which is a very pHat song. That aside, this is a very strong sophomore album, a rare treat in today's overcrowded hip- hop marketplace. pH Level - 6/pHat ***M*** Ryan A. MacMichael ------------------ STOLEN MOMENTS, "Red Hot & Cool" (Impulse) With "jazz-rap" still looking for its true spot and righteousness within both communities, Impulse decides to venture out and bring out some jazz-influenced hip-hop of their own. The first cut is listed as being by "Donald Byrd with Guru and Ronny Jordan." Though Guru is on stage talking, some other uncreditted emcee does the rapping. As a whole, the song is OK, but there have certainly been much better performances from each member of the group. MC Solaar broke the international boundaries of jazz-influenced hip-hop with his American debut, "Prose Combat," a true work of art. "Un Ange En Danger" ("An Angel in Danger") pairs Solaar with bassist Ron Carter, who doesn't exactly break into groundbreaking new riffs, but carries a thick ass bassline. "Positive" features ex-Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy member Michael Franti with a new band, Spearhead. This track, which deals with a man receiving results of an AIDS test, appears on the debut Spearhead album, "Home." It features an addictive groove and the patented laid-back Michael Franti flow, dropping knowledge supreme. "Nocturnal Sunshine" couples Me'Shell NdegeOcello with piano great Herbie Hancock (perhaps his first hip-hop effort since "Rock It"). As always, Me'Shell comes off beautifully. These two are a natural pair. "Nocturnal Sunshine" is followed by "Flyin' High in the Brooklyn Sky" by Digable Planets with Lester Bowie and Wah Wah Watson. The end result is nice, but not remarkable in any way. The remainder of the album features somewhat forgettable tracks with a few exceptions: "The Rubbers Song" by The Pharcyde, who can always be counted on for a good cut, no matter the source. (STREET FIGHTER's "Pandemonium", etc.) The DJ Smash Remix of "Rent Strike" by the Groove Collective works well, as did the original. And lastly, "This is Madness" brings Last Poet Umar Bin Hassan to the mic. This track was from "Be Bop or Be Dead" but nicely represents this album for AIDS as a whole. As a nice bonus, there is a three-song bonus CD that features John Coltrane, Alice Coltrane, and Pharoah Sanders, bringing this double-CD set to over 90 minutes of music. While there are some unremarkable songs, as with any compilation, there are no *bad* songs, persay. As a whole, this album is a worthwhile listen from beginning to end and proves that "jazz- rap" is continually improving. pH Level - 4/pHine ***N*** David J. Warner --------------- THE ROOTS, "Do You Want More?!" (Geffen) There weren't too many contenders in the race for Album of the Year in 1994. Sure, there were plenty of phat tracks, but beyond Common Sense, Nas and maybe Jeru, nobody really did a whole album that was worth listening to all the way through, save for maybe one or two tracks that were good, just not as phat as the rest. With the release of "Do You Want More?", The Roots have just raised the ante for 1995. I'm going to go out on a limb and make this my early vote for the top LP of '95. Sure, we're barely one month into the new year, but one listen to this Philadelphia-based live band's first American album will have you agreeing -- it just don't get much phatter! Of course, it helps a bit when 4 of the 6 tracks on this album come from an equally phat EP released in the U.K. in September ("The Roots From The Ground Up", hc205.txt, pH Level - 6). When I talked to Mr. Black Thought, one of the group's two MC's, a few months ago, he seemed to indicate that only a couple of tracks from that EP would make this album. As it turned out, only two cuts, both of which made reference to London, where the group spent a lot of time in '93 and '94, were omitted, giving hip hop fans stateside a real treat. The Roots are probably the first live band that truly captures the essence of hip hop music. The crisp drumming of B.R.O.The.R.? (pronounced "Brother Question"), who produced most of the album, added with some fresh keyboard and bass licks, which are repeated enough to give the music a real breakbeat feel, creates music that's just plain butter and would be worth listening to even without the MC's. Black Thought and Malik B. are the ones that give this album its real flavor, though. Just one listen to "Proceed," the group's second U.S. single, will have you zooted on their unique lyrical style, which rhymes only when it wants to and still comes off. Even using conventional flows, Malik B. kicks much flavor: "I can make a hundred-yard-line start to dash. I can make a whole lake of fish start to splash. I can make Conan and the Titans clash, and I can make Metallica and Guns'N'Roses crash." Black Thought, meanwhile, shows off some tremendous skills on the microphone, most notably in "Mellow My Man," one of the four tracks from the U.K. EP on this album: "Ladi dadi, who likes to party? Like Slick Rick, the ruler, I'm cooler than an icepick. Got soul like those Afro-picks with the black fist, and leave the crowd trippin' like John the Baptist. It's the cause of that 'Oh, Shit!', The skits I kit flow like catfish. I got many MC's on the blacklist. I'm sharp as a cactus, plus quick to bust gymnastics tactics. Us Roots is really true to that rap shit." Beyond the music and the lyrics, though, The Roots are capable of creating moods with their tracks. From the hard, freestyle beatboxing of "The Lesson Part I" to the jazzy, laid back "What Goes On," to the danceable, sometimes comedic "You Ain't Fly," to the mellow, romantic flavor of "Silent Treatment," The Roots are capable of hitting nearly any aspect of hip hop music with relative ease. Beyond this, they sound phat live -- that is, judging from the one live track featured on the album, "Essay Whuman?", in which Black Thought does his best imitation of all the group's instruments during an impromptu "sound check." Then there's "The Unlocking," the last track on the album, which is a spoken-word cut featuring a woman whose name I do not know (the promo copy of this album didn't have that info), but whoever she is, she paints a lyrical picture that make the most notorious mack daddy speechless. You have to hear it to believe it. I only have a couple of complaints with this album. First off, some of the cuts on the U.K. EP were edited down a bit to be put on this album, most notably "Datscat" and "Do You Want More?", and they didn't really need to be. Plus, "Lazy Afternoon" sounds like it should have been edited down a couple of minutes, as Black Thought kicks the same verse three times in a row. (Must have been a *really* lazy afternoon) "? vs. Rozell", which highlights The Roots' resident beatboxer, Rozell the Godfather of Noise, tends to get a little long as well, though it makes up for that with a couple of breaks that would make for excellent samples. None of these minor problems make this album any less a hip hop delight. The only thing that kept this album from challenging Common Sense and Nas for Album of the Year in '94 was its delayed release date. Originally slated for October 25, it didn't hit stores until January. Why the album was delayed is a mystery to me -- there certainly weren't any recognizable samples to clear, and advance copies were out and around as early as November. If Geffen is trying to build up some hype for the album, it's working. '95 is off to a good start. pH Level - 6/pHat ***O*** Oliver Wang ----------- SLICK RICK, "Behind Bars" (Def Jam) Let me be straight up...I liked a lot of the cuts off the last album "The Ruler's Back" but this new one is weak. Maybe it's b/c Slick Rick only had like a week to do the lyrics and beats on furlough, but I was SEVERELY disappointed by the quality of everything. It's funny, because one of Rick's own criticisms of the second album was that the beats were too fast. But on the new one, most of the shit is over 100 B.P.M. Worst yet, most of the shit is just BORING... or even worse, recycled. The beat on "A Love Of My Own" parts I and II are basically a revamping of "The World Is Yours". Listen to it and tell me I'm wrong. Pete Rock remixes two cuts and both were way below the quality that one can witness on "The Main Ingredient." Nice N' Smooth remix one cut too, and after hearing it, I'm not surprised "Jewel of the Nile" is selling as badly as it is. I found two cuts that were cool. The best track is "Cuz It's Wrong" which some people might have heard on the latest NMS sampler. It's an Easy Mo Bee beat, and it's got a fat bassline and good samples laid over it. Then there's a Vance Wright song "Sittin in My Car" that samples "Sittin in the Park" which is kinda simplistic old school type shit, but I like it, especially Doug E. Fresh's beatboxes. BUT, apart from this and the previously released Large Professor remix of "It's a Boy" and the Warren G. remix of "Behind Bars" the album is EASILY the weakest LP I've heard in a long time. Rhyme-wise, Slick Rick is still Slick Rick and I love his smooth style and two-track bouncing. But he lacks the storytelling quality of "The Adventures of Slick Rick" and "The Ruler's Back." Too fast, too slick almost. Maybe his next album will be the bomb, but until then this short review has said everything that it needed to. pH Level - 2/pHlat ***P*** Russell A Potter, Ph.D ---------------------- SPEARHEAD, "Home" (Capitol) A while ago, I saw a note on the funky-music list about Spearhead; after peeping a track, someone wanted to know whether or not Spearhead were "straight hip-hop." Hmmm. Crooked hip-hop? Crossover? Nah, fuck categories, I'm gonna take my cue from Charles Isbell and just say what Spearhead IS. SPEARHEAD IS: Michael Franti, Vocals; Mary Harris, Vocals; Le Le Jamison, Keyboards; Keith McArthur, Bass; David James, Guitar; James Gray, Drums; and Sub Commander Ras I Zulu. SPEARHEAD IS: Funny. Political. Funky. Rootsy. Acid-jazzy. Gil Scott-Herony. World-beaty. Hip-hoppy. Hop-hippy. SPEARHEAD IS: The funkiest, jazziest, rootsiest fusion of sound this side of the planet. I'm a longtime fan of Michael Franti, ever since he was a part of the first "Afro-Industrial" band, the Beatnigs. Along with Rono Tse, he went on to found the Disposable Heroes of Hip-Hoprisy, whose album "Hypocrisy is the Greatest Luxury" broke down a lot of barriers, both musical and cultural. Their version of "Television, Drug of a Nation" (originally recorded by the Beatnigs) caught a lot of peoples' ears; here was hip-hop that called on its listeners to re-think their attitudes about television's "cathode-ray nipple." DHH also took on Amos-n-Andy stereotypes, attacked gay-bashing, and thrashed California Governor Pete Wilson with "California Uber Alles." But, like many other hip-hop crews, DHH eventually split as Tse and Franti went their separate ways. When I heard Franti had a new group, I was curious -- what next? Spearhead was the answer to that question, though it wasn't the one I expected. It's different on every front: Tse's metallic noises have given way to 70's style wah-wah guitar and loose-jointed funky bass lines; sampled beats are replaced by live drums; and Franti's urgent baritone has softened a bit -- though it still comes on strong, it's more Gil Scott-Heron than Chuck D. The social messages are still there, but Franti and crew aren't just dropping politics, they're having fun. The music and the lyrics share a will to chill, but we're not talkin' blunts and elastic-band vocals. Spearhead walks quietly but carries a very big stick. Right from the opening track, "People in tha Middle," you can sense the difference. Where is the middle? The middle class? The middle of the road? The middle of a battle? All of these things, Franti seems to say; whether you come straight out the hood or straight out the suburbs, 'it ain't where you're from, it's where you're at': "I am not a Muslim, but I read the Final Call Because within its pages there is something for us all And I am not professional, but I love basketball The squeakin' of my sneakers as they echo in the hall But if I don't have enemies I'm not doin' my job I might throw out a curve ball, but I never throw a lob People criticize me, but I know it's not the end I try to kick the truth, not just to make friends" The mood continues to build over funky basslines and Mary Harris's soulful vocals with "Love is Da Shit" Then it's time to flip the script into a rootsy groove for the anthemic "Piece o' Peace"; over Ras I Zulu's hypnotic refrain of "every million mile ya haffa tek a firs' step," Franti intones: "A piece of peace for you, a piece of peace for me A piece of peace for every peaceful person that you see A piece of peace for you, a piece of peace for me But I don't act peaceful if you're not that way to me "Food for the soul is the flavor of the music," and Spearhead's groove here goes down smooth as a plateful of jerk chicken, red beans and rice. Then it's on to "Positive," the tense but understated interior monologue of a man waiting for the results of his AIDS test; the cool, acidjazzy beat is haunted by the moody bass and Stevie- Wonder-style harmonica of Charlie Hunter (this cut can also be heard on the "Stolen Moments: Red Hot & Blue" anthology). Then the tension breaks with the mellow, reflective mood of "Of Course You Can." Spearhead shifts gears again with the smooth guitar loops and dusty vocals of "Hole in the Bucket." Franti's little parable, about his indecision over giving money to "a man with dirty dreads" is a little maudlin, but that's quickly overlooked once this groove has its hooks in you. Then, after a brief ambient interlude ("Home"), Franti slips back into his DHH sneakers for "Dream Team." Franti's political dream team is as potent as it is funny, and includes enough of the living and the dead to stir up heavenly *and* earthly shit: "Well, Chuck D's announcing, Flava's doin' color Halftime entertainment by Dre and Ed Lover Malcolm X is the coach, he's drawin' up the strategy He's choppin' up Amerikkka's anatomy 'Cause they're the ones we're up against of course Our general manager is Chief Crazy Horse Huey Newton, 'cause he was extra hard He's the one who would be playin' at the shootin' guard And I dreamed Charles Barkley would be played by Marcus Garvey..." It may be a fantasy, but it gets you to thinking... The next couple of cuts are equally hard-hitting, even though the grooves are more quietly infectious. "Crime to be Broke in America" is an especially strong cut, with a spare drum and hammond organ combo sound that underlines Franti's vocal barrages perfectly. When he catches hip-hop critics in his sights, sucka journalists duck down: "They say they blame it on a song When someone kills a cop What music did they listen to When they bombed Iraq? Give me one example, so I can take a sample No need to play it backwards If you wanna hear the devil." Word. The last few tracks don't pack as much punch as the first ten, but when the ten are a solid as these, it's no matter. From industrial ranter to hip-hop chanter, Franti has run the spectrum -- but it's with Spearhead that he hits his stride. The knowledge drops hard and clear, effortless yet uncompromising, and the music is some of the tightest live funk you'll find anywhere. It's like hearing Gil Scott-Heron, Sly and the Family Stone, and Eddie Harris all rolled into one -- and then again, it's not, 'cause Spearhead is happening right NOW. Is it jazz? Hip-hop? Acid Jazz? You don't need a list of ingredients to tell when Home cooking is done right, and _Home_ doesn't need one either. pH Level - 5/pHunky ***Q*** Ryan A. MacMichael ------------------ SOUNDTRACK, "Street Fighter" (Profile) Just looking at the corny pictures from the movie, it seems that most of the money was put into this almost purely-for-hip-hop- heads soundtrack. No problem there, I'd rather pay $11.99 for a decent CD than $7 for a movie. Let's run down this one by one... "Street Fighter" -- Ice Cube I was a little worried about this track since Cube seems to have been on more of a "Bop Gun" kick for the last few albums. However, the title cut is a pleasant surprise. Eerie production and classic Cube lyrics make this his best cut a long while. "Oops! as I smell my fork / It smells like sweet and sour pork." "Come Widdit" -- Ahmad, Ras Kass, and Saafir I bought this album almost strictly for this song and it didn't disappoint me. King Tech produced this basic, choppy cut and let the MC's make the song shine. Ahmad, the 19-year-old that brought us one of the many songs called "Back in the Day" (and honestly, the best version), comes off nicely: "Don't doubt it that they just be OK rappers, overratted/Who hate it that a nigga from the west blew up and made it." Ras Kass, perhaps the most impressive rhymer out right now, steps and steals the whole album with his verse. Peep: "Expect the exception syllables to be the next man's umbilical / cord. Catch distortion. / Ras Kass kills kids like abortions..." and: "... I'd still find a way to grip mics, hold my tit when I piss, and pick off pubic lice / 'Cause see, I've always been nice, but first brothers slept, / Now I come back twice like Christ to resurrect the west." Saafir is more choppy and off-beat/on-beat than usual. He's already been criticized for it, but honestly, he comes off fiercely. Saafir is hard to quote, but take my word for it -- he's a programmed robot that raps certain words at exact times (on beat, under the beat, between the beat -- whatever) and is perhaps too damn complicated for a lot of simple-minds. "One on One" -- Nas The debut Nas album left a little to be desired, but "One on One" is more like how it should be done. A perfect Nas flow and smooth production. The only downpoint is where he mentions Street Fighter characters -- it could have been done without them. "Pandemonium" -- The Pharcyde If you passed 'em by the first time, no way you could this time. Production is perfect and could not be improved... a thick bass line and sweet piano lick grace live-sounding drums and lets each member flow flawlessly. This is perhaps the best Pharcyde thus far. "Street Soldier" -- Paris More Dre-style drivel just like on "Guerrilla Funk," only worse. There's no knowledge on this cut. Where are the rest of the "The Devil Made Me Do It" cuts, damn it? "Something Kinda Funky" -- Rally Ral EA-Ski and CMT, the premiere Bay-Area gangsta rap producers, lay down a nice full, thick beat (with an odd cartoon style squeal thrown in). Rally Ral flows much like the rest of his compadres, Totally Insane, RBL Posse, etc. It's not classic, but it beats the hell out of the Paris track that preceeds it. "It's a Street Fight" -- The B.U.M.S. The name made me skeptical, but the thick bass line gave me some hope. The first brother stepped to the mic, and I was convinced: these guys are good. It's not overly complicated, but the flow is continuous, deliberate, and in general, a nice song. Future cuts from these brothers should be worth a listen. "Life As..." -- LL Cool J It's Easy Mo Bee is back producing _another_ LL comeback attempt (yeah, I'm calling it a comeback), the other being on the _Jason's Lyric_ soundtrack. As much as I like LL, the production is lame and the flow is way off what it used to be. "Do You Have What it Takes?" -- Craig Mack Personally, Craig Mack did not impress me with "Flava in Ya Ear". He can't flow to save his live and the production was so boring that I fell asleep I hear it. And basically, "Do You Have What it Takes?" holds onto the coattails of the successful single. I especially wonder about the "hittin' harder than a Tonka trunk" metaphor. Those little pieces of shit never hurt me. "Straight to My Feet" -- Hammer and Deion Sanders For some odd reason, this was the most heavily promoted song on the album, yet this has to be the worst trash I have ever heard. (Remember the Rapping Duke? He was better) Hammers lifts the same lift as De La did on "Me, Myself, and I" and adds corny ass Funkadelic- like-bass riffs. As for Deion Sanders, he should have taken a lesson from Keith Jackson: football players play football -- they don't rap. "Rumbo n da Jungo" -- Public Enemy introducing the Wreck League Chuck D produced this quick, jungle-like track. On that tip it works - stripped down drums drive the lyricists to move fast. That's where it falls flat. They all kind of come off, but the whole package is lacking. If the same verses were slowed down and the production was appropriate, it would have worked nicely. "Rap Commando" -- Anotha Level The bassline and stutter-drums work so so well that even though the lyrics leave a little to be desired, it all pulls together for a laid-back track that is just something different. "Worth Fighting For" -- Angelique Kidjo "Something There" -- Chage & Aska What corny-ass mid-80's piss-poor-attempt-at-pop-rock compilation did these tracks come from? Please... Overall as a compilation, STREET FIGHTER does OK. Good showings by Ice Cube, Ahmad/Ras Kass/Saafir, Nas, The Pharcyde, The B.U.M.S., and Anotha Level make up for the rest of this mediocre trash. pH Level - 3/pHair _____________________________________________________________________________ Yes, that's right. This is the first release of HardC.O.R.E. Volume 3, and as always, 3 is the magic number. We expect 1995 to be an even more magic number for us, though, as HardC.O.R.E. will soon be opening up its own WORLD WIDE WEB site, courtesy of our homeboy Chris Harris in Charlotte, North Cakalaka. Plus, with even more big names on the HardC.O.R.E. mailing list this time around, we're looking forward to taking this joint to the next level in more ways than one. So don't be jumpin' off the bandwagon just because you haven't seen a lot coming out of the mailing list lately. Stick around. We'll have all the dope stuff for you in '95. And don't forget to vote in the New Jack Hip Hop Awards. As sick as we are of waiting for him to review that Goats LP, we would like to keep him busy this time of year. =^) Be on the lookout for the next issue around Final Four time. PEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank