April 26, 2011

Crack is Wack!!!!

Well don't let the person about to wardrobe the video smoke it before choosing the outfits that you hope will launch you to worldwide fame!

Here we have the largely undiscovered but very funky Nu - Sounds and their dopeness personified 'Condition Red', underground classic. A compelling commentary on the damage Crack was doing to both user and community. Now it may look as though our protagonists have covered themselves in glue and ran through a violently outdated provincial sports shop stockroom for this videoshoot, but i can assure you the shell material sported here briefly replaced the tradition fine weave as the cloth of choice for all but the most conservative lawyer during the 1980's.

These are Hip Hop wardrobe lessons not just for life, but for M.C. Hammer also! "Kids, you literally can't touch this". "Why Mr. Hammer?" "Because kids, the material i'm wearing is now so loaded with post exuberant dance routine static, that even the unintentional twitch of an innocent pubis will see many of us on the 'memories' board at SpontaneousCombustion.co.uk.

Now our dedicated reader might be forgiven for thinking they may have stumbled upon a fashion blog of virtually no influence. Incorrect. We are moderately influential. Unfortunately this is not qualification enough for us to find much in the way of background information on our duo. Nothing on Discogs, Wikipedia and nothing on Amazon. So if anyone reading this can fill in any, and by any i mean all, of the gaps regarding this group then please feel free to drop us an email. I have their first, and i assume only album 'Mackin', but if you are aware of further output then we would love you to drop us a line. To my ears their rhyming was superbly constructed, and the two's unique, but complementary styles and diction made for a very fine album that seems to have been completely slept on. A real shame as they must be the only group in Hip Hop who confidently marched into their barbers and demanded something of uneven height and intimidatingly angular. The clipper connoisseur duly delivered. Enjoy the video!

April 21, 2011

Silver Anniversary Series - Eric B & Rakim (1986)

First up in the Silver Anniversary Series has to be a record that wasn’t just a significant release in 1986, it’s probably one of the most important records in hip hop history. So, let me break it down a little further in case you might not be convinced.

The record in question is the 1986 12” release from Eric B & Rakim – Eric B is President b/w My Melody. You can listen to the remix version (from the Paid in Full LP) after the jump as well downloading a full copy of the original 12” (which has the non remix version for comparison).

For me personally, it is an all time favourite that I have never got tired of hearing. It’s a track that drew me further into hip hop and opened my eyes to what the future might hold. It provided optimism, particularly as I was starting to tire of electro which was becoming weaker and more mainstream and we hadn’t yet been blessed with the likes of PE or Cool J etc. But don’t let my personal feelings, memories and affections justify the accolade that I’ve given to this recording.

I’m not going to be breaking new ground or making any revelations if I say that Rakim is one of the greatest emcees of all time, or if I say that this is where it all started, or by listing the number of people he influenced, or by dissecting his use of internal rhymes. These topics have already been well documented and discussed, so instead, I’ll briefly explain why I think this record is so important and then provide some interesting points that are less well documented for your consideration.

April 20, 2011

Silver Anniversary Series

This is a new series I'm starting where I'm going to take a look back at our hip hop heritage from 25 years ago (hence the silver anniversary title), and pull some records from that era out of the crates and put a spotlight on them.  Some will be classics and will provide an opportunity for us to reflect on just how influential and ground breaking they really were, whilst others will be rarities that you may have previously slept on or completely forgotten about.

25 years ago it was 1986, a time when the music and culture had already grown way beyond the New York party scene and was now a world wide phenomenon.  Fresh new artists were springing up every other minute, the music and movie industries were starting to see the potential and were therefore showing a considerable amount of interest and investment (though not much of it actually hit the artists pockets at that time!), and thus one of the most significant era's of hip hop evolution was occurring. 

Despite the Streetsounds record label releasing four of their immensely popular 'Electo' series that year (volumes 12-15), electro had started to fade and 'Hip Hop' had begun to emerge as the future direction, and accepted terminology, for the art form we know today. 
Nerdology: - It was in 1986 when Electro 12 was released that Streetsounds started dubbing the series 'Hip Hop Electro'.  Prior to this they were just called Electro, and by volume 17 the term electro had been dropped completely.

Apart from terminology changes, and the shift from electronic and synthesised music to the heavier beats and rhymes, the most significant change had to be the lyrics.  The style, delivery and content all started to change considerably, and for the most part it was for the better (I'll touch on this in more detail in my first review of a record from that era, see my next post). 

This new era and style was ushered in by a host of artists, many of whom were pioneers of their different styles and approaches.  But this was also the time when artists started to have more than one or two 12" hits and, probably more significantly, they started to have more than one album!  This is when rap careers were born and it could also be argued that this is when 'the industry', as we now refer to it, started to form and the money started to change the music's direction (but that's a different topic for another day).
Some examples of those emerging artists are Eric B & Rakim, Schoolly D, Sir Mix-a-lot, Stetsasonic, Roxanne Shante, Salt n Pepa (I'm sure there are many more but I'm sure you get the gist).

One very notable exception to this broad summary is Run DMC.  By 1986 they had already released 3 studio albums and a dozen or more 12"s and they didn't evolve from the former electro styles of the early 80's.  Just a few of the reasons why they are seen as one of the most significant pioneers in hip hop culture, they were years ahead of the game.

So there's my reasoning for starting this series 25 years ago and not 15, 20 or 30 years ago.  There is plenty of good and varied material from this era to choose from, so hopefully over the coming months I'll be able to give you an enlightening trip down memory lane.
If you have any good suggestions for records that you think deserve to be put into the spotlight then either leave a comment below or drop us an e-mail with your suggestions.  Alternatively, if you would like to contribute an article of your own then we'd love to hear from you.

April 14, 2011

Immortal Technique - Dance With The Devil

Back in 2002 I heard Immortal Technique’s debut album Revolutionary Vol. 1 and instantly knew that it was something special. But despite there being many stand out tracks, Dance with the Devil was by far the most intriguing and disturbing track that I’d heard in a very long time. At the end of the track I instantly had to press rewind and do a double take, did I really just hear that?

I remember the initial emotional confliction of being so happy to have discovered something so brilliant whilst at the same time feeling deeply uncomfortable with its content. But on successive listens the true magnitude of the track really came to life and for me this was storytelling emceeing at its finest. With material like this it didn't matter that Immortal Technique didn’t have the backing of a major label or distributor, word of mouth amongst knowledgeable underground fans was enough to stir up interest and achieve critical acclaim. Or was it?

The one caveat in all of this is that without a record label or other financial backing, producing a decent music video to promote your material is almost impossible. For me, this track was screaming out for a video that would compliment the story and focus the listener, in much the same way that the Gang Starr video for Just to get a Rep did. Well, fast forward a year or two and director Daniel Zhao did make a video for it.

It’s a well executed attempt that mirrors the dark and sinister message of the song, and Zhao has utilised lighting and shadows to great effect to create a video that’s distinctive from most other rap videos. However, my initial enthusiasm for a visual accompaniment to this song quickly dwindled as I realised that what made this song so incredible the first time I heard it was the disturbing and graphic picture that my imagination had conjured up. This is a classic example of the book being better than the film, sometimes there just isn’t a visual that can be effective enough to tell the story as well as it deserves.

Conclusion – Whilst the video may not live up to my expectation, it does have more than 300,000 hits on YouTube (more than Immortal Techniques total sales figures) so it has certainly had the desired effect of taking his music to a wider audience.
It’s a quality piece of work and conveys the songs message without the need for graphic detail, but I’ll let you decide for yourself whether it’s better to close your eyes when you listen to this track or keep them open and watch the video.

Download Link (Hotfile - 60mb)

April 7, 2011

Dead Prez & KRS One - Live from L.A. DVD

I’m not sure where this DVD has emerged from as there appears to be a distinct lack of information surrounding it. A Google search just finds a dozen torrent sites with it on their lists and the title claims it's a DVD rip, but not one major outlet has the DVD for sale and I can’t find any reviews or reference to it. This seems pretty strange given that it’s a professionally made DVD with two of hip hops biggest political heavyweights collaborating. So it falls to me to give some insight into what is in store for you.

Neither KRS or Dead Prez should need any introduction, but despite their similarities as conscious rappers who are not afraid to point out political errors, highlight deprivation or berate the corrupt record industries, I still would not have foreseen them collaborating in this way. That said, I’m glad they did as this DVD is a perfect blend of old school meets new school.  Each artist compliments the other as they highlight the different styles that they have adopted in an effort to achieve the same desired outcomes.

The crazy thing is, KRS wasn't even on the bill that night, he was in the audience watching the performance when M1 invites him to join them.  Kris then jumps on stage and rips through a collection of his own hits before dropping into some freestyle's.  In usual KRS fashion, he doesn't just do a quick 5 minutes, no, he gets right into it and pleases the crowd with a medley of hits.

The concert was filmed at the Key Club on the Sunset Strip in L.A. in August 2006.  Dead Prez perform a range of their best material from their first 3 CD's.  It's an incredible performance from both artists and I can definitely say that 'it's bigger than hip hop'.

If you enjoy this DVD then I would normally say go and buy it and support both of these artists as well as conscientious hip hop, but as nobody is selling it you'll have to make do with this DVD rip, enjoy.

Download Link (Hotfile - 690mb)

April 1, 2011

Dr Dre Mix

I may not know when (or whether) Detox is being released, and I probably don't really care, but what I do know is that Mike 2600 has done a lovely little Dr Dre mix over at Soundcloud.com.  Mike has dug out the original break beats for many of the classic records that Dr Dre has produced over the years for a range of artists and then blended together the originals with Dre's version for an hours worth of pure funky pleasure. 

I highly recommend listening to this, so either hit play or download a copy for later consumption.

NB: - If you're viewing this posting on an iPhone or through some blog readers, then you might not be able to see the audio player as it uses Flash.

Man, You Been Doin' All This Dope Producin' by Mike 2600

Download Link (Hotfile - 82mb)