Sunday, July 29, 2007

Tearing down the myth that “Return Of The Mac” is a good album.

On the music discussion message board of my choice there lies this notion that Prodigy just put out a worthwhile solo disc. The same Prodigy we loved on The Infamous, Hell On Earth, Murda Muzik*, HNIC, Free Agents**, Amerikaz Nightmare***; just because Mobb Deep dropped a stinker with the G-Unit affiliated Blood Money and he’s back spitting hard over Alchemist beats folks have deluded themselves into believing he’s still the one. I have a close listening, discerning ear and I don’t easily buy into dreams. Much like the way I want Nas to put out completely solid albums in this day and age and I’ve accepted the fact that he’s lost the ability, Bandana P barely cares about this rap thing anymore. I have a set formula for what makes a good song: good beat + standard verse + decent hook = good song. You take Nore and your expectations for him, if the beat and hook are cool then he made a good song. By this line of reasoning Prodigy hasn’t been living up to the bar that he previously set for himself, and that’s when you should hang it up as a MC.

Perhaps P has never recovered from a depression brought on by the SummerJam screen, maybe his well documented physical ailments have debilitated him from really focusing or he could just be going through the motions of trying to maintain street respect knowing at the end of the day he answers to Curtis. In any case, I’ve played this album he put out on “The Graveyard” twice or thrice and while I tried to convince myself it was hitting the first time, it became more underwhelming with subsequent listens. I’m giving it one more spin just to be sure it isn’t me who’s tripping.

The Rundown:

Return Of The Mac – He’s spitting very hard, but saying absolutely nothing. It seems like he put no thought into the verses, just running with Busta’s “New York Shit” rhyme scheme and talking tough. I can say why people would be so enraptured in the beat that they’d consider this a great song.

Stuck On You – The beat/sample is killer, 8 years ago P would have done damage to this. He was actually spitting on the second verse, although he could have done better than “I got big jumpoffs that fit down my pants leg”

Mac 10 Handle – Again it’s very hard, but very empty of substance or originality. Not to mention how much this sample has been used.

The Rotten Apple – Boring from the beat to the verses

Take It To The Top – The beat makes the song, the hook is pretty strong. But he isn’t saying much

7th Heaven – He started off the first 4 lines rhyming I’m feelin’ good with I’m feelin’ good. Uninteresting overall

Bang On Em – Good beat, the verses didn’t hold my attention

Nickel And A Nail – Okay he was spitting here, no complaints.

Legends – He killed it here too.

Stop Fronting – The hook is classic cocky Prodigy, but the verses were kinda blah.

In sum I likely wont be revisiting this album again. Alchemist came through for the most part, but my ears say Prodigy mailed his performance in.

* - I don’t have a substantive verdict on this album, I played it like twice. But everyone loves it.

** - Criminally underrated

*** - The last time they really put their heart into it as a group.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Camp Lo is officially my favorite group of all time (3 new songs)

ATCQ will always hold the throne as my personal greatest rap group of all time (maybe I’ll do an entry on it soon), but Sonny Cheeba and Geechi Suede are my favorites. The first time I saw the video for “Cooley High” my mind was blown and when “Luchini” came out I knew I was buying Uptown Saturday Night the day it dropped. Cheeba has the voice, Suede has the lyrics and they always combine forces for abstract pieces of soulful wonderment.

If you missed their solid sophomore effort Let’s Do It Again, stop sleeping and go hunt it down. Last year they put out the Fort Apache mixtape (on ITunes I believe) and have recently dropped Black Hollywood. This winter they will be releasing a whole new album Another Heist under Ski Beatz’ company Redefinition Records and if you’ve heard the stellar “Trip For Two” you know it’s going to be crazy.

The 3 songs I’ve put up:
Soul Fever has that John Travolta Saturday Night Fever pointer finger in the air flavor, like Q-Tip said “the beat feels like a never ender”(off of Black Hollywood)

Sweet Claudine is a tale about a black girl lost, listen to the strings. It’s nothing short of beautiful (off of Black Hollywood)

I Couldn’t Care Less could be a club banger, about lost love (off of Fort Apache)

Black Hollywood is available now on Traffic Entertainment/Good Hands Records

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Ski Beatz - Beatz, Rhymes and Samples

If you dont know the name Ski Beatz by now, you've been living in a cave the past decade. He's responsible for classic work by the likes of Jay-Z, Camp Lo, Sporty Theivz, and Pacewon's "I Declare War" amongst other bangers. This is a compilation of his career's highlights and samples he used done by JNOTA and DJ Raize, two good dudes I came up through some bulls**t with. Ski still has it nowadays, proven by this heart breaking Jean Grae joint on here.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Xzibit - 40 Dayz & 40 Nightz

I discovered this album in late 1998 by browsing the legendary Davey D's forums. It was all everybody was talking about, so I went out and copped it. There are a few cheesy joints but plenty of heat ("Chamber Music", "What U See Is What U Get", "Handle Your Business", "Focus", "Deeper", "Los Angeles Times"), and "Shroomz" was where I discovered the infamous "Funky Worm" sample. Lyrically Xzibit was focused and killing it, before he got the wack car detailing show on MTV.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Knock (Unofficial Mix)

No concept that took much thought here, the essence of a hip-hop "banger" is the drums for me. This is just a collection of tunes and instrumentals I dig primarily from the mid-late '90s era, if you scrunch up your face or risk neck injury then my job is done. This is a mini Dilla tribute of sorts but there is heat from plenty of other sound providers.

Enjoy and leave comments.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Skyzoo, Torae and DJ Premier need to form a group together

These two songs display incredible chemistry on the part of all three.
Skyzoo is a great street rapper with a dash of intelligence, I'm late on the bandwagon but he's been grinding it out for a few years now and will be dropping a new mixtape Corner Store Classic in the coming days. Torae shows great promise as well and I look forward to discovering more of his work.

"Get It Done" and "Click"

Skyzoo's myspace page:
Torae's myspace page:

Count Bass D – Dwight Spitz

Repping Nashville, TN Count Bass D is quite possibly my favorite slept on artist in the game. For over a decade now he’s held his own behind the boards (producing with machines and playing instruments) and on the mic. Anyone worth their weight in underground Hip-Hop is already aware as he carries family ties with the honorable MF Doom, J Rawls and other underground acts. This album features guest appearances by Doom, Edan, J Rawls, Rayna Shine (she’s ill, trust me) and Dionne Farris amongst others. Count’s rapping is a bit of an acquired taste to be deciphered but he kills it. His beats? Forget about it, next level. My boy Squeeg put me on to this when it came out (in 2002 I believe) and I’ve been a diehard fan ever since.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Cru - Da Dirty 30

One of Def Jam's last "Hip-Hop" albums before they started chasing trends and/or letting Jiggaman and DMX carry them on their shoulders. "Pronto", "Just Another Case" and "Bubblin'" had New York radio on fire in the summer of 1997. Yogi, Chadio and The Mighty Ha brought it hard (no one else would dare sample Sade on a song about their "everlovin' bitch"), kept it true to the city's heart (we haven't heard Antoinette since) and just delivered a comedic smorgasbord full of bangers. It's a shame they never came back out, last i heard Yogi was down with Diddy's Hitmen team of producers.

An Open Letter To Talib Kweli

As a diehard fan you’ve thrown me for a loop for what has been nearly the past decade. I wont pretend to know every word of “The Manifesto” but when Black Star jumped off I was all the way on board. Everyone preferred Black Dante, but aside from his show stealing thunder on “Thieves In The Night” I always felt you held your own, even preferring you as my favorite half of the duo. Reflection Eternal? Forget about it, Train of Thought was pretty much heat all the way through. People claimed you were too commercial with “Waitin For The DJ” but it was a soulful club banger and I loved Quality ("Wont You Stay" is my second favorite Hip-Hop love song of all time) “Get By” is recognized as a universally certified classic at this point (the remix with Busta and Jay-Z did wonders) and your appearance on College Dropout’s “Get Em High” introduced you to an audience who was still sleeping and only knew you as “the nigga who did Get By”.

You were on the cover of XXL with Dave Chappelle, and Jigga’s infamous co-sign on “Moment Of Clarity” made the world stand on its ear. You were next in line to break through to the mainstream, already receiving the respect of heads in the know and working with commercial acts that were renowned for their artistry. What happened? I know of the well publicized Geffen debacle, but there’s no defending some songs on The Beautiful Struggle, that was your Nastradamus. For ’05-’06 you fell out of my good graces, releasing forgettable mixtapes and collaborating with “hard” rappers in hopes of expanding your audience. Although I’ve never been too tough on Strong Arm Steady, the Jean Grae & MF Doom affiliations have been a great look. Nonetheless I had written you off as a dude who had lost his hunger and traded integrity for a piece of shine (see: Fat Joe, Jadakiss, Fabolous, Nas on “You Owe Me”). Liberation dropped and I was intrigued enough to listen, happy that one half of Black Star still cared enough to attempt making a difference in music. You regained some of the lost love here, as this was a pretty thorough release.

Which brings me to the point of writing this: Your legion of fans are awaiting the forthcoming Eardrum and early hype from the press says you’re back stronger than ever. Can the once mighty champion of “real” Hip-Hop return to his roots, moving people to the light now that he’s nearly a household name? The answer is a resounding yes as you’ve come into your own with your most focused and complete effort in years. The soul is back in your music, no longer are you trying to make songs that can spin alongside G-Unit (“Back Up Offa Me”) or leaving your lane hopping in the Delorean to the future (“We Got The Beat”). Your craft has gone to levels previously unseen, managing a UGK collab that doesn’t sound like a New Yorker pandering to the South’s present reign on “Country Cousins” and "Soon The New Day", a tale of pulling women featuring Norah Jones sensually killing it over a Madlib beat. This is masterful achievement of things that just shouldnt go together on paper.

The album is a return to your roots without sounding like you’re stuck in the ‘90s as “Hostile Gospel” is one of the best songs in your catalogue to date, with Just Blaze incorporating classical music and the black church into his standard knock and you coming back for the people who need your message most. Then you even proceed to take it a level deeper and criticize religion from a worldview on “Hell”, this is topic material extending past the outer reaches of “I’m real Hip-Hop to the core.” However, avid supporters of that facet will be more than pleased as “Say Something” is lyrical murder with Jean Grae, Pete Rock produces “Electrify” (reminiscent of the late great Dilla’s classic soul phase) and KRS-One appears on “The Perfect Beat”. Never one to exclude the ladies, “In The Mood” finds Kanye meshing Roy Ayers with the subterranean, while Will I Am takes it to the clubs (all the while not sounding fluffy) on “Hot Thing”.

I’m glad to see you’re operating on all cylinders and having fun doing you once again rather than trying to fit a label-driven mold. Eardrum has heat for the streets, as well as Hip-Hop purists and anyone in between. Man, woman and child alike seeking to zone out, nod their heads, think and elevate will assuredly be moved by this work of art.

Young H

P.S. – That “I don’t make music for my fans” rigmarole you said on The Roots website a few years back was cockamamie jive talk. On behalf of your sometimes fickle fan base, I thank you for this album. Now, stop toying with our emotions and stay at it like this. Blacksmith, keep it rocking.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Struggle & Swagger

Backstory: Maybe a year or so back, our fearless hero (always in search of creative inspiration) said to himself “I’m going through some things, let me put together some music for when I’m stressed out.” His problems weren’t that immense and his self-confidence always helped him pull through, thus Struggle & Swagger. It was just a working title that was scrapped, but then 2007 started kicking his ass in ways unimaginable.

What happens when:
- Your funds are low, you can barely pay your bills and there’s nothing in the fridge you really wanna eat.

- You’ve been waiting 2-3 weeks for this job to call you back with a start date, doubting if you’ve actually even been hired.

- It’s summer, you’re in a hot apartment with no AC and a fan would be a luxury.

- Your ex (who used to be one of your best friends) is coming at you with that “C. Grizz 9 to 5” fuck you attitude, because you’re not busting your ass to make her happy POST BREAKUP.

amongst other setbacks and disappointments you’ve experienced this year?

You go back to the drawing board

Typically I feel anything over 16 songs borders on overkill, so the original plan was to do 8 songs encompassing struggle and the other half swagger. But then all of that above and then some happened, so it’s 75% struggle and 25% swagger these days.

This is for anyone out there presently going through trying times. Let go of fear and keep pushing, we’re gonna make it.