August 20, 2012

It's A Demo

I'm often found digging around in the bowels of the internet trying to find rare and elusive stuff that I've failed to obtain over the years, and sometimes I find things that I didn't even know existed until I stumbled upon them.  It's much like crate digging, but I'm not restricted to vinyl, I'm not seeking any holy grails and I'm not in dusty old record shops inducing frequent fits of sneezing!  Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking crate diggers.  I've happily spent many months of my life in those dusty old dungeons, but that was the old days, I'm mostly digital now. And besides, there isn't a high street store or online retailer that sells that old TV clip, concert footage or demo tape that I'm looking for, so alternative methods must be adopted.

While researching hip hop archaeology via the power of the internet, I usually wind up on some defunct blog page that once shared a rare gem, but the download link is now dead.  This sets me off on a wild goose chase to find that item elsewhere.  Successfully finding what I want is currently about 50/50 (it was higher before the demise of Megaupload!).

There is one minor problem with this hobby and the techniques I employ.  Just like a crate digger, you tend to overlook the main retailers.  This rarely concerns me, but every once in a while I find that hidden gem sitting somewhere fairly obvious and easy to find, which brings me to this post.

I was recently digging around when by fluke I came across a gem of an article on the website.  Now maybe in the week this was published I was heavily dozing or on holiday or something, but whatever the reason was, I completely missed it.  What surprises me most though, is that something this good wasn't blogged or tweeted much more widely [if someone tells me it was, then I'll have to admit to being in a self induced coma!]. 

So what is this little gem that I'm banging on about..... well, it's only 30 demo tapes from some of the biggest and most influential artists in the rap game!!!  Each of these tapes has been digitised for your listening pleasure and most of them are essential listening. 

You may have already heard some of them as a few of them have previously received widespread review and publicity (Nas Will Prevail which is the original version of It ain't hard to tell springs to mind along with Big L's demo) But the majority of these are likely to be new to your eardrums.  What's so beautiful about these recordings are that they show the artists at their most hungry and going all out to impress an A&R or label exec.  They show the potential talent that's waiting to be nurtured and matured and it reminds us all just how much many of these artists have evolved.  These recordings are exactly as the artist intended them, with the original and uncleared samples, the original lyrics, and in some cases, the original members of the group.  For hip hop purists, you can't get more 'real' than this.

Some of my personal highlights in this collection were; hearing DMX before he contracted incurable laryngitis and learned to speak canine!  Eminem sounding like a corny white high school kid and sporting a doorstep hairdo.  A different sound from Pete Rock, but C.L. sounding just the same as he does today, and anything by Lord Finesse is essential listening.

I've reproduced the list of featured artists below.  I don't want to spoil the countdown, but to be honest I don't think you'll all agree with the order, I know I didn't!  It's almost mandatory nowadays that if someone creates a list, or a top 10, that everyone debates it's accuracy.  So this list is just to help you skip to your favourite artist or the demo you think might be the most intriguing.

And, if demo tapes or unreleased tracks from your favourite golden era artists is a good thing, then check out DJ JS1's recent mix that I posted a few weeks ago.

30. J Rock
29. DMX
28. Artifacts
27. Last Emperor
26. UGK
25. Tha Alkaholiks
24. Big L
23. Showbiz and A.G.
22. Cage
21. Brand Nubian
20. Casual
19. O.C.
18. Del Tha Funky Homosapien
17. Ras Kass
16. DJ Shadow
15. Pete Rock & CL Smooth
14. Cypress Hill
13. Eminem
12. Hurricane G
11. Lord Finesse
10. 213
09. Jay-Z
08. Wu-Tang
07. Organised Konfusion
06. Mobb Deep
05. Souls of Mischief
04. Common
03. Public Enemy
02. Nas
01. Biggie

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