Monday, November 26, 2007

Back When he was Nasty...but not quite Esco

In my humble blogosphere relevant opinion you can't like Hip-Hop and not like Nas! There I said it. Am I a fan? Yup! Do I think he won the Ether/Super Ugly war? Man.. Ether was like being locked in an elevator with Kimbo Slice after telling him you skeeted on his was pretty much finito, man. This ain't about Esco or Mr. Kelis, this is about young Nas...Nasty Nas...if your nasty...or something like that.

This collection(which I "leached" earlier this year before I started blogging. Big ups to whoever I got it from.) showcases a post BBQ/Illmatic Nas growing as a lyricist. This also contains real freestyling in it's purest form. "What does that mean" you ask? Stuttering, pauses beteween bars and some lines that will make you wince more than cheer. That's what comin off the top of the dome is about. Not your cribbed 16 on a sheet of notebook paper that will be on your next album. There are even some structured sets as well as him kicking his "Barbecue" verse again. He's no MC Supernatural or Craig G but Mr. Jones is definitely skilled.

While I believe it's incomplete, it's definitely a keeper. Some of the stand out cuts are The Foulness, a cautionary tale about jockin your neighborhood thug, a DJ Clue assisted spit session with The Firm wrecking the Road To Riches beat as well as a few Stretch and Bobbito appearances. Listen for young Akinyele and Noreaga as well as Cormega making guest appearances. Be warned: It's copied from tapes (remember those things?) so the sound is pretty tinny on some tracks but it's worth it just to get a glimpse at one of the greatest MC's who was developing his style at an early stage in his career.

Nas: The Early Freestyle Collection

Thursday, November 22, 2007



Monday, November 19, 2007

Rappers Don't Dance...Anymore...

Kane, Scoob & Scrap, Heav & The Boyz, Chubb Rock and Hot Dog, remember when it was cool to know how to shake your ass? Not this forced, "how to" finger snapping, let's name a dance after food or a cartoon character garbage but that good old Kid n' Play kind of kick step shit. Call me nostalgic but damn, it seems like everything was better back then when dudes were worried about mackin' chicks and looking cool doing it than how many bodies they caught. Then again rappers don't dance anymore.

I remember back in high school when me and my boys would watch Video Music Box and try to catch all the steps and learn them before we went to the clubs or parties. From Redhead Kingpin's leg catching trick to anyone of MC Serch's nonsensical moves, we wanted to do that. We never thought dancing was corny or soft (...OK, Kid n' Play would present a strong argument to the contrary but y'all all loved House Party! DON'T FRONT!). LL danced in Jingling Baby and even when Kane did Arsenio Hall, we knew when he finished rhyming, he was gonna get busy with moves...and he did and everyone talked about it the next day.

I think dancing got a bad rap when everyone and their mother wanted to be Nino Brown . Gangsta-ism pretty much put a stranglehold on the creativity and originality in Hip-Hop. Like I said before, it even had Cool J talking about "puttin slugs in domes". Dudes even stopped smiling unless they had a woman's ass in their face. One interview in particular always stuck in my mind: Fat Joe was asked about Hammer during his Pumps And A Bump phase and he said: "He all dancing around in a bathing suit, with a waterfall and girls, THAT'S NOT Hip-Hop." Fast forward to the last six years and any Terror Squad video and you can see the silly posturing and hypocrisy behind that.

All I'm saying is: It's ENTERTAINMENT, man! Entertain me. I don't care how many of your childhood friends you can fit on stage with white towels in their hand ice-grillin', do something! And not these cats who make songs about dancing. That's gimmicky and all they talk about is how to do the dance. Unless you're gonna actually start shooting people in your videos, smile a little. Move a little. If you really got skills, no one will think you're a cornball. Look at the "Hip-Hop honors" from last year, Common was break dancing and Kane did his thing. IT WAS THE HIGHLIGHT OF THE WHOLE DAMN SHOW! 'NUFF SAID!

Ahhhh, I'm taking it back to the early 90's. Older heads watch these vids and remember how good it was.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Know Your History: Hugh Masekela...Still Grazin'

"Sure is mellow grazin' in the grass"-Nice and Smooth knew that 16 years ago. However, you'd have to go back 23 years before that to truly understand the impact of that one song.

In 1968 South African trumpeter, Hugh Masekela had a huge hit with his jazzy instrumental Grazing In The Grass. The 4 million selling song was a giant mash up of instruments including: cowbells, drums, horns and piano. It was also one of the few instrumentals to reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Only a year later the R&B group The Friends of Distinction had another top 10 hit with their version of Grazin' now with lyrics.(Nerd Trivia: In "I'm Gonna Get You Sucka" when Jim Brown and Isaac Hayes are driving around it's playing on the radio. The irony is Brown used to manage the group back in the day. Can you imagine telling that dude he can't get more than 10% of your shit?)

I have to admit, I had no idea the two were the same song. It wasn't until I started reading liner notes as a DJ that I got the correlation. In '91 Nice & Smooth effectively used the sample on One, Two and One More Makes Three off of their album Ain't A Damn Thing Changed. It was a noisy homage to Masekela's original with the "impeach" break draped over it and classic Greg Nice-isms like: "Almond Joy/Butta Finga/rapper actor and a singer/jump start the mic like it ain't no thing-a". While The Friends version has been used in everything from GAP commercials to the Anchorman trailer, I prefer the jazzy, laid-back vibe of the genuine article.

Check 'em out and see for yourself.
Grazing In The Grass (1968)-Hugh Masekela
Grazin' In The Grass (1969)-The Friends Of Distinction
One, Two And One More Makes Three-Nice & Smooth

Monday, November 5, 2007

Looka What I Got: Hard To Find Album Drop

Back in the early 90's, the Blackwatch movement was in FULL EFFECT. X Clan dropped two well received albums and with that success comes spin off joints. Rebel Soul is one of those offshoots and Isis (Lin Que to the uninformed) is a capable MC. Out of the three including Queen Mother Rage and Professor X's own solo joint, this one showed the most promise. She delivers her rhymes with an intensity that makes you take notice and her lyrical content wasn't about "I'll steal your man" or how fat her ass was, she spoke of love of her African heritage and black unity (whatever happened to that, Hip-Hop?). Stand out cuts are title track and The Power of Myself is Moving. Didn't change the face of rap but it's a nice piece for X Clan completists.

Rebel Soul-Isis

Rebel Soul (3:49)

Face The Bass (5:42)

Great Pimptress (3:37)

In The Mind Of One (4:16)

Hail The Words If Isis (5:04)

To The Crossroads (6:42)

The Power Of Myself Is Moving (3:12)

The Wizard Of Optics (3:54)

The House Of Isis (5:32)

State Of Mind (3:51)

Pretty much in the tradition of the Mr. Magic series, The Propmaster puts his own stamp on the compilation market with a nice collection of hits at the time. Kinda hard to find and I may have to re-up as I'm having problems.

Red Alert Goes Berserk-Various Artists


Salt 'N' Pepa-My Mic Sounds Nice (4:52)

Black Rock & Ron-That's How I'm Living (4:42)

Boogie Down Productions-South Bronx (5:06)

Ultramagnetic MC's-Bait (2:27)

Kings Of Pressure-Armed & Dangerous (3:40)
Producer -
Carl Ryder , Hank Shocklee (Bomb Squad drop, Trav!)

Ultramagnetic MC's-Ego Trippin (5:28)

Salt 'N' Pepa-I'll Take Your Man (6:05)

Masters Of Ceremony (2)-Cracked Out (5:03) (old school PUBA!)

Sparky D -Don't Make Me Laugh (5:17)

Saturday, November 3, 2007


Remember the weird kid in class? Not the booger picker or the dude that had the doo-doo breath and big ass dandruff but the kinda cool kid that talked to them? The one you would scratch your head and ask: "Why the hell is he doing that?" Ultra was that weird kid. In 1988 when It Takes A Nation Of Millions was making most of my friends angry at "the man", Critical Beatdown was making me nod my head. It's not that they didn't care it's just that it wasn't their niche.

Sometimes I feel Ultra gets a little disrespected with their place in "history". While Keith's rhymes are definitely some of the most bizarre lyrical tangents on wax, Ced's production is often overlooked. He was one of the first producers to cull different samples together and form cohesive songs from that...yes, pre-Bomb Squad! His uncredited work on BDP's Criminal Minded will attest to that. A perfect example of this is Traveling At The Speed of Thought with it's guitar-heavy, "Wild Thing" sampled riff.

After Beatdown they released Funk Your Head Up, which to me missed it's mark and didn't really stand out other than the immortal Poppa Large and the subsequent East and West Coast remixes(if anyone has that West Coast, holla!). The Four Horsemen is actually my favorite Ultra album. With the assistance of Godfather Don on the boards, they really laid down some dope shit. Raise It Up has my second favorite Keith verse (They said yo Keith yo Kool you usin big words/I went to college I'm even more stupid herb). Also give The Saga of Dandy, The Devil & Day, Yo Black and the Man On The Street a listen. More of a companion to the first album then Funk in my opinion.

For nostalgia's sake, I'm putting up Beatdown for a limited time.
Critical Beatdown-Ultramagnetic MC's
If you want to get Horsemen which is a great album, purchase it here:
The Four Horsemen -Ultramagnetic MC's