Wednesday, 29 August 2007

A Quick Non-Hip Hop Related Post...

Just read this recently and it was the first time in ages I actually started to laugh out loud while reading something...

Take Brad Pitt's following dialogue from Fight Club and replace the word 'fight' with 'wank' (for all non-British readers, find out what this means yourself). And you have...

The first rule of Wank Club is - you do not talk about Wank Club. The second rule of Wank Club is - you DO NOT talk about Wank Club. Third rule of Wank Club, someone yells Stop!, goes limp, taps out, the wank is over. Fourth rule, only two guys to a wank. Fifth rule, one wank at a time, fellas. Sixth rule, no shirt, no shoes. Seventh rule, wanks will go on as long as they have to. And the eighth and final rule, if this is your first night at Wank Club, you have to wank.
Immature? Yes. Funny? Hell yeahhhhhhhhhh!
I'm out.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Hip Hop & The World We Live In

This may sound stupid, but who knew working full time is so damn hard. I must sound like a 16 year old, but having my first proper job at 20 has made me realize how hard it is to earn an honest buck. No wonder your favourite rapper was probably a drug dealer or pimp before he made his name (or maybe not). Anyways, as Donnell Rawlings said...

"I'm rich, biyatch!"
Well, not quite, but you know what I mean. Anyway, there's nothing that I really need at the moment, I might just save up to get the Bose QC3's (and the added paranoia of getting them stolen off me that comes free with the 'phones) or just save up the cash for a later date. Or I might try and get a PS3 / Xbox 360 Elite in time for PES 2008. For all those who don't know, this is the equivalent of crack, or from what I've been reading on WYDU and WTR, the new Madden.
The title of todays post comes from the 2003 album by Aceyalone. Although he doesn't feature in the post, I decided to use this title because hip hop has truly become a global phenom, probably the fastest rising genre of music in the world. And the beautiful thing is that each region of the world is bringing its own flavour to the table, adding something unique to the original blueprints laid out by those pioneering few in New York during the 70's. So while the US's hip hop scene may not be at its strongest at the moment (with the current crop of mainstream artists being the worst I've heard in a long time. Once again, thank God for the underground), heads all over the world can keep their ears open to the music that's coming from beyond the shores. I've decided to highlight some of the best albums that have come out of certain areas of the world, mixing up the old with the new.
So, grab your popcorn, and come take a ride with me as we travel the world...
The UK
Ah, my homeland, the place I call home. First off, I must confess something. I hardly ever listen to UK hip hop, and always thought something didn't sound right when artists from the UK were rapping. This changed when I recently saw HHC's top 100 UK hip hop albums. I took a chance to check out a selection of the albums featured. Prior to reading the article, I had only heard the odd Roots Manuva track, and the commercial grime music that got some airplay on MTV when it was 'the' music to listen to. I didn't particularly like what I heard from the grime scene, and stayed away. My man Adam from Northern Authors (check his site out, it's on the links list) hooked me up with some more Roots Manuva, and now I've been hooked on the UK scene. There are so many albums I could have posted here, including London Posse's 'Gangster Chronicle', Roots Manuva's 'Run Come Save Me' or Blak Twang's 'Dettwork Southeast', but to name a few. However, the album I have chosen is...
Mark B & Blade - The Unheard

I first heard of Blade on the eve of the release of 'Guerrila Tactics', where HHC had a feature piece on the album. I didn't think anything of it, and just thought Blade looked like a right chav, with the cheesy poses for the camera. I speed-read through the article, and didn't even bother to listen to the free CD that came with the magazine. It must be said, normally, I don't judge artists with so much haste, but looking back, the assumptions I made about Blade were some of the worst ever. I had no idea that he, along with producer Mark B, were one of the most influential hip hop acts to grace the UK. Fast forward to this year, and I saw the album 'The Unknown', listed number 10 on the HHC list of best UK hip hop albums. I knew this album was good after the very first listen, no need for 'growing' here. I don't wanna compare Blade to any US MCs, because he brings his own style. The lyrics are hard and heavy, with a good mix of concepts, such as 'Hostile Takeover', which describes a dystopia in which hip hop is suppressed. Mark B's is a self-confessed crate digger, and uses extensive breaks in his production. My favourite track on the album has gotta be 'We Stay Rough', where Mark B uses a loop of a simple but effective beat. Rodney P also features on the track, and the two MCs simply kill it with some classic back-and-forth rhyming.
We continent hop over to Somalia to bring you one of the best rapper / poets...
K'naan - The Dusty Foot Philosopher

I've kinda cheated here. Although K'Naan was born in Somalia, he has spent most of his life in Canada, moving there when he was there 13. However because his skills began while he was still in his homeland, I thought I could get away with it. Plus the fact that while listening to his album, it is clear to see that Somalia has had a much bigger influence on it than Canada (if I'm wrong, and tracks like 'Hoobale' are ancient Canadian chants, please let me know). Released in 2005, the album received praise from all corners, but somehow seemed to evade my attentions. I recently had a chance to listen to it, and was plesantly surprised by K'Naan's mix of optimism and reality. He also has great story-telling skills, as shown in 'I Was Stabbed By Satan', which sounds much lighter than the title suggests. The album has some more upbeat tracks, such as the popular 'Soobax', which has a vibrant and carnival feel.
That's all for now, join me in my next post, where we'll be off to Australia, the land of convicts, and, as we find out, some decent hip hop music.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

We Got 1 DJ & 1 MC, And That's It...

As work begins to slowly take over my summer (waking up at 6.30am on a Saturday? That just ain't right), I'm realising that posting is gonna be more and more difficult nowadays. Add that to the fact that I'm experiencing a rare case of "What the fuck should I write about that hasn't already been done, and would still be worth reading?" (I'm sure some of me fellow bloggers out there can relate), bare with me if the next few posts seem weak. I always said that I can't make a blog like the late HHB & Bossplayer (RIP...or will they?), so writing some shit that keeps people entertained and informed is a hard thing to do. I'm trying my best here! Also, I've been keeping myself busy reading Eric's When They Reminisce, where many respected heads have been posting their favourite beats. I've always been shit at making lists, so it's nice to read other people's. On to today's post...
Chemistry has always been essential to hip hop. This chemistry can be seen in a variety of ways; it could be (1) the chemistry between the lyrics on a track with the beats, (2) between two MC's on the same track, or (3) between an MC & his DJ. In this post I'd like to take a closer look at the last of these three, and highlight what, in my opinion, are some of the best MC / DJ combinations throughout hip hop history.
I think that the 1 MC / 1 DJ combination is unbeatable. It must be incredibly difficult to create a great album, with all the beats handled by a single person, and nearly all the lyrics (barring features) by another. It must be so easy for things to become repetitive, with the DJ occasionally re-using the same looped sample, or the MC repeating a bar or two. In my opinion, it is the ultimate test of skill and versatility. The DJ must step outside his comfort zone, to produce a range of beats that will both suit the MC, and keep the listener interested, while the MC must continually use different rhyme patterns to match the beats provided, while simultaneously doing what so many rappers nowadays are forgetting...making sense.
So, with the criteria determined, here are some examples who have excelled at what they do...
Eric B. & Rakim
Might as well start with the best ever. Everybody knows how good Rakim is, but what if he didn't have Eric B's crazy-ass beats? And would Eric B.'s beats be forgotten if they wern't blessed with R's lyrical genius? Eric B. and Rakim were like two pieces of a jigsaw that fit perfectly together. It is still difficult to imagine any group surpassing the chemistry that these two had. Widely acclaimed as the innovators of jazzy hip hop, Eric B. brought sampling to wide fame, and Ra's complex rhyming patterns put most other MC's to shame. There could have been a million and one reasons that things could have stopped these from working each other (just look at their careers after they disbanded), but thank god they did. Hip hop wouldn't be where it is now if they didn't.
Gang Starr
They say that a Primo beat can make any rapper sound good. But when Guru gets on a Primo beat, things come together like clockwork. Those who say that Guru's monotonic voice bores them, slowly forget everything while they become too busy nodding their head to Gang Starr. Even more so than Ra on a Eric B. beat, Guru just sounds right on a Premo beat. And longevity? 7 albums deep, and they still sound as good as ever. It seems like fate that Eric B. & Rakim released their final album (Don't Sweat The Technique, 1992) just as Gang Starr were about to come into their own with the release of Daily Operation. The handing over of the torch? I think so.
Pete Rock & CL Smooth

Pete Rock has made some incredible beats. But has anyone ever sounded better on them than the one they call CL Smooth? Once you've gotten over how great 'T.R.O.Y.' is, it is easy to see CL's flow is incredible when Pete is backing him up on the boards. If you see the contrast of CL's preformance when with Pete Rock (on 'Mecca And The Soul Brother', 'The Main Ingredient') and with other producers ('American Me' and the recently released 'The Outsider') it is evident that these two were made to work together. If only they could get together once more and provide us with a final encore.
The Coup

Don't say that you're not interested in politics, that you don't even follow it. Cos if you do, then you're not gonna appreciate The Coup. Apart from having my favourite ever hip hop song (guess?), Boots Riley and DJ Pam The Funkstress are criminally underrated, even by the so-called hip hop heads. Originally starting out as a trio with E-Roc, The Coup became a duo after Roc left following the recording of 'Genocide & Juice'. Since then, The Coup have released 3 more albums, with praise from both fans and critics (and a little bit of controversy, as well). DJ Pam might have won the award for Most Unlikely To Be One Half Of A Great Political Hip Hop Duo in high school, but she continues to provide the music to Boots' lashing lyrics.

Ant & Slug are Atmosphere. It's weird how many people think that Atmosphere consists of just Slug (why change the name then? D'uh), and this confirms my thoughts of Ant being the most silent of partners in hip hop. I was a latecomer when it came to listening to Atmosphere, but once I did, I was hooked. The first song I heard of theirs was 'National Disgrace', a single which, with it's genius opening, shows Slug at his most pissed off. I went on to listen to their (many) albums I had missed out on, and found that the duo have progressed so much. It's weird, if you start from 'Overcast!' and move on to 'God Loves Ugly' to 'Seven's Travels' to 'You Can't Imagine...', it is easy to notice how Ant's producing has changed. This is evolution at its best. Slug, on the other hand, continues to bring it as hard as he can (no homo, yadda yadda). I haven't had a chance to hear 'Sad Clown Bad Summer 9', but I'm hearing good things.
Blue Scholars

Representing the new school, Sabzi and Geologic are hip hop's brightest new group, hailing from Seattle, WA. It's so interesting how BS (Blue Scholars, haha) have risen in popularity this year. Allow me to gloat for a bit. I remember downloading their self-titled album back in 2005 offa HHB (why? I have no idea, probably the nice artwork...), and casually putting it on while I was doing some maths homework. It was one of the few times that I can say that I heard something I instantly fell in love with. The album rarely had any reviews / praise then, apart from the few randoms, and largely fell into obscurity. That was until this year, when 'Bayani' was released. It was loved by all (I still don't know how this album became so huge, maybe the Rawkus factor, cos I still think their first album was better), and most people generally went backwards to find the self-titled album, and the EP. The internet at its greatest.
That's all for now folks, thanks for reading my largely useless opinions, and be sure to spread the word...hip hop lives!

Sunday, 12 August 2007

The Producer / DJ album...

So far in 2007, I have been pretty impressed with the quality of the albums being released from hip hop's finest. Both the underground and mainstream have provided me with valuable listening, and considering that we're just over half-way through the year, 2007 definately gets my seal of approval. I have heard people say that they have been disappointed so far, but then these are the same people that listen to 'Illmatic', all day every day, and still think that shell suits are gonna come back into fashion.

One of the significant things that 2007 has provided is the return of the producer / DJ album into the mainstream. We saw releases by Marco Polo, whose 'Nostalgia' tune with Masta Ace, received radio play here in the UK (very unusual) and also the return of the magnificant DJ Jazzy Jeff, to name but two. Although there have been some of these albums released in the past, this year's two noted contributions represented the breakthrough into the mainstream, and showed that producers / DJ's can hold their own when providing beats for more than just one artist. Versatility here is essential. Also, the MC's on the albums must be able to keep up with the beats in question, because we all know beats without rhymes = useless.
As a tribute, I have highlighted some of my favourite producer / DJ albums released. I haven't put them in any order in particular (cos I'm really shit at doing things like that), and so read this list as it is. I've try to mix it up with regards to the underground and mainstream representation, and have also tried to keep it strictly official, omitting any mixtapes / bootlegs. So, in the famous words of Slick Rick (the UK's finest!), herrrre we go...
Marley Marl - In Control, Vol. 1
I thought that this would be the best one to start of with because it was the first ever producer album I ever heard. Marley Marl gathers his Juice Crew homies to construct my favourite producer album. Just reading at the guest appearances on this album describes an entire period of hip hop; Masta Ace, BDK, The Biz, Tradegy, Craig G, Kool G Rap, MC Shan, Roxanne Shante...This was NY's finest here (bar that little known rapper who called himself KRS-Two, or whatever), and they bring their share to the table. The highlight of the album must be 'The Symphony', the definition of a classic. At the top of the song, you here the announcement...
I don't care who's first or who's last, but I know that y'all just better rock this at the drop of a dime baby
And they sure do deliver.
Mekalek - Live & Learn
A relative newcomer, Mekalek is quickly becoming one of my favourite DJ's. A member of Time Machine (whose 'Slow Your Roll' album has been posted somewhere on this blog), Live & Learn is his first solo effort. His scratch skills are top notch, and his ability to find a sample is second to none. However, it is his drum programming that sets him apart from every other DJ. They dominate most of the tracks on this album, but not to point where they are overused. Which features from everybody's favourite rapper who hasn't released an album, Percee P, his Time Machine fam and a plethora of underground talent, this album is definately worth picking up.
Pete Rock - Soul Survivor
I defy anybody to say that they don't like Pete Rock beats. Go on, I dare you. He's in everybody's top 5 producers, and for good reason. Pete Rock = consistancy. The beats on 'Soul Survivor' are amazing, with every MC tearing it apart. Rock specialises in my favourite genre of hip hop beats, which is the jazzy shit. The album sounds as if it has an almost hazy effect, with notable Pete-Rock style horn samples. Stand-out track has gotta be 'Verbal Murder 2' featuring Big Pun, Noreage and Common.
Dilla - The Shining
I hate it when people say that Dilla is overrated cos he passed away recently. Fuck that. Dilla was great when he was alive, and his music will stand to be his legacy to all those who don't believe. 'The Shining' has some already classis beats for an album that was released last year. What more can I say? The man himself showcases his rhyming skills on the track, 'Won't Do', which ain't half bad. Featuring artists old and new, Dilla left with a bang.
DJ Hi-Tek - Hi-Teknology
The man behind the boards for the 'Reflection Eternal' album released his solo joint in 2001. I think that Hi-Tek is so underrated, and this album has some great beats. The beats are so laid back, and the choice of MC's / singers is perfect. Talib features, of course, along with Mos Def, Slum Village, Buckshot and more. It was hard to choose between this and the newer Hi-Teknology 2, but this wins for me because the beats are more chill out, and I prefer the features on this against the more 'hip hop' representation on 2.
Handsome Boy Modelling School - White People
Prince Paul and Dan The Automator are Handsome Boy Modelling School. Apart from being one of the funniest albums I have ever heard (it's worth buying the album just for the skits), the album see's the pairing of two legends. Paul and Dan put together one of the best concept albums out, and the finished product is hip hop at it's finest. This is the second album they've collaborated on (see also 'So...How's Your Girl'), and my favourite, even though almost everybody else disagrees. Check out the track, Rock 'N Roll (Could Never Hip Hop Like This) Pt.II ft. Lord Finesse, Mike Shinoda, Chester Bennington, Rahzel, DJ Qbert, Grand Wizard Theodore, Jazzy Jay to see why.
That all for now folks. Honourable mentions must go out to...
Main Flow - 'Hip Hopulation
9th Wonder - 'Dream Merchant Vol. 1'
Dabrye - 'Two / Three'
Mr. J. Madeiro - 'Of Gods And Girls'
J.Rawl - 'The Essence Of Soul' (which is a must-listen to, and didn't feature on this list because I classify it more as soul (D'uh) than hip hop)
Domingo - 'The Most Underrated'
Nicolay - 'Here'
Thanks for bearing with me through this time of scarce posting, and I hope you enjoyed reading my faves.
Peace out.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

It's Been A Long Time...

Gotta give a quick apology to all of my readers (I know there are at least 6 of y'all out there...) for not posting anything in a long-ass time.

As it is, you're gonna have to wait a little longer. I've recently found myself a job, and it's taking up nearly all of my free time. I really miss those days earlier on in the summer when I could dedicate my time the blog, and so it has come to this. Hopefully if all goes to plan, I'll have a proper post by the weekend, fingers crossed.
In the meantime, I suggest you check some of the blogs that have been linked (to the right), and not miss me too much. Trav at WYDU respectively always some some good reads, along with an interesting discussion going on in the cBox about Blue Scholars' true status in hip hop today. Also, shout outs go to my man Kazeiro (or Sebaz) at Rap Dungeon, who's taken the discog game to a whole notha level. This time, it's the Ace a Masta, and he needs some of your help.
I must say, it's been a while since they've been gone, but I really miss HHB and Bossplayer. I mean I could survive without one of them, but with both of them gone, I don't know where I'm gonna get my shit from. Those sites gave me so much good music, I will eternally be in their debt. I've checked out some of the newcomers, but it doesn't quite feel the same. If anybody has any news on the sites, lemme know!
Meanwhile, straight of left field, I've discovered that matching up ties to shirts is difficult enough to do for yourself, but nearly impossible to do for someone else. However the gay guys at my work place find it shockingly easy. Go figure... Some other thoughts that have crossed my mind these past few weeks include...
Some parents need to understand that they ain't 18 anymore
Some kids need to have their ass kicked to show they can't always get their way
Learning is the single most important thing in the world, no matter how useless the information is
When meeting mates after a long absence, fuck the club and just drive round randomly catching up on times
Reading is a beautiful thing
Invest in a good pair of shoes
The Premiership starts next week!
Style cannot be bought
Asking questions and learning to listen to someone can be one of the most fulfilling things
Some of the coolest people you may meet may be from the other side of the world
Aweh... (to the South African homies)