Incredibly slept on
Incredibly slept on
Review: Kevin Gates, "By Any Means"
Foxy Brown and Dru Hill set it off with an interpolation of the ever-infectious “She’s A Bad Mama Jama” for "Big Bad Mamma," which is typical Trackmasters sugar water jams but also leaves the distinct impression that Def Jam (who produced the film and naturally released the soundtrack) thought Foxy Brown was next. “Ain’t No Nigga” was probably the signal that she’d be a star, but be real, Hard Core > Ill Na Na. Too bad Nas couldn’t ghostwrite that too.
Rick James serves up a revisited version of "Hard To Get" with Richie Rich, an Oakland rapper who apparently inspired Snoop to form 213 with Warren and Nate. Best thing about the track is DJ Quik did it. Foxy Brown and Playa take those ‘91 piano stabs from N.W.A. (which would be used to much better effect two years later) for "I Gotta Know," hereby concluding the somewhat wack front part of the tape.
From there, things look up. Junior M.A.F.I.A. recruit Mase and Cam (inexplicably credited as Kam) for “Young Casanovas,” where Mase jacks the melody from “Pusherman” for the hook. Big doesn’t show up, but Cam courts proposals of indecency so it’s cool. Mase should have spit a verse though.
Redman follows with a grungy throwback on “Down Wit Us” produced by E Double. If you’re not fucking with this soundtrack right now, I feel you, but this song should remind you why you’re here.
This is a little weird, but Mic Geronimo has a song called “Usual Suspects” from his sophomore album that appears here. The thing is, the album version features Jada, Styles and Tragedy Khadafi, while the version that appears here has Cormega and Fatal Hussein instead. Not X’s best verse (though he has a way of making conversational rhymes chill your spine), so either Mega or Trag has the best verse between both versions (Jada and P go back n forth, but i’ve never been a fan of that verse structure).
You don’t have to profess your love for all things No Limit to realize that Master P knew how to sound singular. “How To Be A Playa” features Silkk The Shocker and Fiend, and the former doesn’t even sound that bad (you can hear the left-of-beat influence that Noz mentioned recently). Early Fiend is something more people should indulge in, because while I know him primarily for his later work with Curren$y, he was a thorough No Limit player (*cue the scoffs of No Limit dickriders at such “no shit” logic).
Now things pick up. Too $hort shows up with a song that features fucking George Clinton vocals called “It’s A Cold Day (Funk Wit U Mix).” $hort is concerned - he’s got too many girlfriends. You could never know his pain. “You’ll never hear me rap about the same bitch.” I feel like this hook jacks a melody as well, but I can’t put my finger on which one.
Jayo Felony provides the best hook so far on “Street 2 Street,” where he says delectable things like “bringing paprika to your speaker,” so your loss if you skip this shit. Plus, CMT and E-A-Ski did the beat so it’s a no-brainer. Peace to Willie Lump Lump.
Next are Eightball and MJG with “In The Wind,” a rare instance where I fucks with MJG more than Ball, even though the latter is in the club smoking on “sticky catnip.” (!) T-Mix’s beat is also flawless. This chorus is some other shit. I’m not even high and it lifts me up.
EPMD come with the original version of “Never Before Seen” from their ‘97 album Back In Business (the remix is fresh too), followed by some bullshit about your feelings, but Crucial Conflict makes us stick around with “When The Playas Live.” Wildstyle’s beat sounds like the soundtrack to a late night blunt ride, and the track should be an impetus for newcomers to peep some of the music this unheralded Chicago group released. Start with their rare EP from ‘93, if you can find it.
Final stretch. Pac lends a hand with the studio version of “Troublesome" (not "Troublesome ‘96"), raising the question of where else you can hear two "UFO" samples on one project. Suga Free’s "If U Stay Ready (Remix)" is a hidden gem. See his brand new second verse for confirmation. I don’t quite prefer this to the original, but where the beat slacks, Suga Free more than makes up.
Now we should be done, but one last thing. The last song is by a guy named Black Azz Chill, and I have absolutely no idea who that guy is. “Don’t Ever” naturally handles the topic of being a player, but I wouldn’t mention him if the song wasn’t worth checking. OK i probably would because of a name like Black Azz Chill, but I wouldn’t put the song here for you to check.
Obviously I don’t have the last word on anything (pro tip: learn to love relinquishing the “last word” in arguments - it will set you free), but the debates on whether recent albums are “classic” or not needs to stop.
Everyone’s definition of “classic” is different. There are “personal classics” like 6 Kiss and the first S. Dot mixtape, but that label doesn’t speak to a wider acceptance of their quality or impact. The truth is no one knows what the fuck “classic” means. It’s a vague term that necessitates a consensus. It also necessitates a passage of time.
Merriam Webster defines “classic” as “serving as a standard of excellence” and other dictionaries offer similarly useless definitions (fuck your standards), but I think Oxford nails it: “Judged over a period of time to be of the highest quality and outstanding of its kind.” I know hip-hoppers love bucking tradition, so why bother with some old white person’s book telling you what words mean, but they’re right here. Time does very tricky things to our perception. A lot of the music that sticks with us makes no sense upon first listen. The easier it is to digest, the quicker you shit it out. I’ve said this before.
Don’t bother wasting breath on whether an album that’s been released in the last five years (maybe even ten) is classic or not. I hate rules just as much as the next rap fan, but just because you want to be viewed as some sort of Expert with incredibly wizard-like insight into the *true value* of any given piece of music doesn’t mean you need to insert the word “classic” into your contemporary judgement of said music. You don’t look smart; you look like an idiot.
Inherently built into the word “classic” is the assumption that a certain amount of time has passed. Please do not tell us whether or not you think albums that have dropped in the past five-to-ten years are classic or not. You make your own opinion null and void when you say some dumb shit like that.
thedesolategoonrides asked: You've shown your dislike of Schoolboy Q's "Oxymoron" before, but whats your opinion on his work the years between it and "Habits & Contradictions"? I personally like that album alot and the early Oxymoron singles.
That’s odd that you would say I’ve “shown” my dislike of Schoolboy Q’s Oxymoron because I don’t actually dislike Schoolboy Q’s Oxymoron. I don’t like Schoolboy Q’s Oxymoron, but I don’t dislike it either. I feel no type of way about that record whatsoever.
Looks like Wu-Tang/RZA is trying to cash in on their legacy the year after they were supposed to.
"Why Wu-Tang Will Release Just One Copy Of Its Secret Album" http://t.co/UqTZmLI1iA
If you don’t want to read RZA’s sales pitch about the Ark of The Covenant, here’s the deal: There is a finished “Wu-Tang” album that’s probably just a Cilvaringz album. It’s a double-disc and it’s different from the other new rumored project, A Better Tomorrow.
Here’s the kicker:
"…the plan is to first take Once Upon A Time In Shaolin on a “tour” through museums, galleries, festivals and the like. Just like a high-profile exhibit at a major institution, there will be a cost to attend, likely in the $30-$50 range.
Visitors will go through heavy security to ensure that recording devices aren’t smuggled in; as an extra precaution, they’ll likely have to listen to the 128-minute album’s 31 songs on headphones provided by the venue.
This is fucking absurd. It’s basically copying Jay-Z’s MCHG strategy and making it even more pretentiously stuffy. A Wu-Tang album in a fucking museum? That’s like listening to Master P at the opera. How blind can you be to what’s really happening in music that you think that’s a good idea for your fans? (Hint: they probably know it’s not but see big dollars in this so it’s automatically a great idea)
I don’t want to come off like Lefsetz, but if you want people to listen to your music, you have to make it as available as possible. If you want to squeeze your fans for every cent, then you’ll put your album behind a glass case and forcefully control their listening experience. They can suck my dick if they think I’m going to the Museum of Natural History to listen to a Cilvaringz album that’s being disguised as a Wu-Tang album. I’ll steal that shit when it leaks, though.
All the innovation is going on in tech and marketing now. How much do we want to bet that the Wu aren’t talking about revolutionary shit on this “secret” album? These kind of stunts are ephemeral. And does RZA really want some old arts patron to scoop up the Wu-Tang album for millions of dollars so that some corporate ass brand can then control the distribution in what will be an attention grab? Is this going to be the fucking Pepsi album? How depressing can this get?
Nobody is ponying up 1/10th of $1,000,000 for a Cilvaringz album. Nobody is trekking to the Met to hear a Cilvaringz album. Nobody is buying this kind of bullshit, especially Rae and Ghost.
Museums puts art onto whitewashed walls and charges admittance to experience them. They control facets of how you experience that art. Museums basically dictate what is entered into history books and what is left out. I can see why RZA might be trying to disrupt what is traditionally a space dominated by whites with a rap album from a bunch of black dudes. But looking for a rich angel investor to privately fund the album doesn’t seem to serve the same purpose. Wu-Tang is already in the history books. Are they really so old to miss the fact that this is pathetic?
This week’s soundtrack selection is ‘Hoodlum’ from 1997. It’s based on the history of Jewish/Italian gangsters vs. black gangsters and features Laurence Fishburne as Bumpy Johnson, Tim Roth as Dutch Schultz, and Andy Garcia as Lucky Luciano. Interesting premise, solid cast choice. Doesn’t intrigue me though. I should watch these movies, if only to fish for vague connections to the music like a good writer would do.
Mobb Deep - ‘Hoodlum’ (Feat. Big Noyd & Rakim)
The single was ‘Hoodlum’ with Mobb Deep, Big Noyd (a national treasure), and Rakim, who sounds very old here. Prodigy still had it at this point. The flip is also reason 5345436 why Havoc is one of the most underrated producers ever.
Davina ‘So Good’ (Feat. Raekwon)
Davina grabs the Chef for this gem on which Raekwon reminds the uncivilized the mind is “the jewel of life.” Also note Rae’s spectacular rap hands in the video. Davina produces a gloomy, dope enough beat, but I’m not hot on the name Davina. Too manly.
112 - ‘I Can’t Believe’ (Feat. Faith Evans)
Realizing I really don’t want to write about the non-rap, rap and bullshit type tracks that they fluffed these soundtracks with, so unless I’m writing these shit on a weekend morning, I’m just gonna skip ‘em all unless I fuck with them. The 112 and Faith Evans collaboration is worth a drop, i guess.
Wu-Tang Clan - ‘Dirty The Moocher’
Test your allegiance to ODB with this, which samples old ass Cab Calloway’s "Minnie The Moocher." Some consider Cab to be the original rapper. This also features co-production from Cherokee Chief, who worked with ODB on songs like 'Ol Dirty's Back' which appeared on another soundtrack, ‘Tales From The Hood’ in ‘95. Besides that, I can’t find shit else about no damn Brooklyn Zu member Cherokee Chief a.k.a. Mango on the internets (not to be confused with Popa Chief). This would have been better on ‘Wu-Tang Forever’ than ‘Black Shampoo,’ as would the sound of bleating goats.
lol at some cabaret jazz garbage coming after an ODB song. It features co-production from Dred Scott.
Cool Breeze - ‘Gangsta Partna’ (Feat. Big Boi)
Here’s my favorite part. Cool Breeze and Big Boi over Organized Noize for a song that wasn’t on East Points Greatest Hits. More producers should consider how ON used electric guitars on their beats. Breeze is also probably the most slept-on Dungeon Fam rapper.
After that it’s some other shit. Big Bub has a cool name. The Rahsaan Patterson shit is actually dope, especially the drums at :26. The Debarge song might have reminded me of ‘Lollipop’ for some reason, and the Tony Rich song is garbage.
Yesterday, 20 years ago, on March 18, 1994, Master P dropped his third official album, The Ghettos Tryin To Kill Me! on No Limit Records / Solar Music Group.
Martorialist said it right - certain members of the bloggerati have, in recent years, inflated the legacy of No Limit Records to trump any praise (or lack there of) they received from critics in the 90’s. Despite selling millions of records, the label wasn’t exactly recognized as a bastion of talent. It was more like an orphanage for rap refugees, many of which escaped street crime through the creation of music. Silkk the Shocker was known to search for the beat on any given song, Snoop hit a low point on Da Game Is To Be Sold, Not To Be Told (yes I’m a Doggfather fan), and even P slipped slightly after making the transition from Richmond to Calliope (though he gained some more character in his delivery during the move).
But Ghettos Tryin To Kill Me! hits the sweet spot as P turned his sights to the South; it balances G-Funk with more Southern orchestration, as if main producer Bigg Nate was trying to emulate the styles of N.O. Joe, Mike Dean, and Pimp C. Funky, layered beats like ‘211’ and ‘Everyday Thang’ feature squiggly synths while imparting a homey, local sense of community.
Percy released his first album, Get Away Clean, in ‘91, selling it out of the trunk of his car in Richmond, California. It had an incorrect tracklist printed on the back of the insert for the CD and featured his wife, Sonya C, just as his third album does. That close-to-home infrastructure was a sign of times to come for the head of No Limit Records, as the label stayed independent through the end of the millennium and went on to experience explosive profits. You often hear how the most revered of rap legends started by selling their CDs out the trunk.
The centerpiece of the album is the four-song stretch of ‘Anything Goes,’ ‘Study Being A Gangsta,’ ‘Ghettos Tryin To Kill Me!’ and ‘Bastard Child.’ Guests on the original version of the album include C-Murder, TRU, Lil Ric, and King George, but when Priority rereleased the album in ‘97 with two bonus cuts and others left off (like my favorite ‘Study Being A Gangsta’), King George had been edited off after beefing with Master P for unknown (at least to me) reasons.
'Rev. Do Wrong' reminds me of Ghost's first verse on 'Wu Banga,' invoking those employees of the church who may stray from God’s path and what not. ‘Hands of a Dead Man’ reminds me more of Scarface’s 'Seen A Man Die' than the title track reminds me of 'Mind Playing Tricks,' a comparison that Martorialist draws in the link above. ‘No Limit Party’ is like the antecedent for Mobb Deep’s 'Party Over,' with a similarly zanned-out vibe to it. Basically, I fucking love this album and can play it non-stop on repeat woo-hoo.
Are you okay? Is New York getting to you? Are things not going according to plan?
Stop whining. For fuck’s sake.
The plan you don’t plan for isn’t the plan you planned but it’s usually more original. Isn’t that why you moved to New York? To be original?
God, you didn’t move to play make-believe, did you?
A couple months ago I wrote a piece on the best Rawkus singles for Pigeons & Planes. It was actually the best slept-on singles, because who cares about trying to hammer out a definitive list or highlighting songs everybody knows, but I still had to a little bit.
During my research, I stumbled upon an early artist on the roster, one Poppa Bear Kool Breez, who has one of the best rap names ever. I didn’t know much about the guy, besides the fact that he released an album with Baby Wise in 1992 named Now Ya Know!!! that I’ve yet to find/care about finding.
Ends up that Kool Breez was on an early Rawkus sampler called Sample These. Back when Rupert Murdoch funded the launch of the label, the two Brown University chums who started it went for an eclectic mix of artists - some rap, some “industrial rock,” some ambient…sounds. Kool Breez was actually something of a dancehall/rap hybrid, which wouldn’t have interested me if I’d known at the time of my search for his music. But Rawkus’ third release was a Kool Breez 12” called Lighter / What’s The Word in 1995, and since I was listening to every single rap single in the label’s history to compile this list, I looked it up. Only the B-Side, “What’s The Word,” was available online, and it didn’t sound like anything dancehall related. “Lighter” was nowhere to be found.
This kind of shit drives me crazy, so I began combing the net for this random single. It popped up on Sample These, the label’s eighth release, and I was so obsessed with finding this single after hours of searching that I copped a used CD copy off Amazon for $1.
A couple days later it came and as I played “Lighter,” I was immediately disappointed. But I’ve found on the Internet that if you commit yourself to finding one thing, whether or not you find it, you end up finding hundreds of other ancillary things. Hence the true gift of Sample These, "Some People" by 7 Universal, an early rapper signed to Rawkus.
7 Universal dropped one single during his stay on Rawkus, Talk That Talk / Ain’t A Damn Thing in 1996. Apparently produced by a guy named Forté (who did another fucking crazy single called "Beaches & Creme" by The Rose Family), both songs are so dope, it’s a wonder they aren’t more discussed amongst Rawkus’ best.
The rest of Sample These is kind of bizarre, as it demonstrates that rap was far from the label’s prime focus at the time, but if you’re curious, you too can participate in the letdown that is finding “Lighter.”