May 31, 2013

What do you ask god?

It's been an interesting month on the internet.  Aside the drama around Tim Dog's supposedly fake death, and the passing of one half of Kris Kross, there's also been some retro goodness.  Here we go....

The Microphone Master

The Red Bull Music Academy has been consistently representing good hip hop for a few years now, but now they bring us nearly 2 hours of discussion with hip hop's greatest emcee.  I don't think I need say any more, let Ra do the talking.

NYC Live Throw Down: 1979-1985

Just take another look at that image!  26 hours!!!  Props to Janka-man for sharing this.  It turned up on one of the best websites there is for finding obscure and out of print records.  I'd never seen it before, so I'm assuming many of you won't have either.  Here's the description:

Over 1 full day (33 live performances) of vintage and official live throwdowns, spanning from 1979 to 1985.  New York City's original school together in one complete set.  This collector's set includes one data DVD containing 3.5 GB of high quality (320 Bit Rate) mp3's.  Each show is ID'd and sequenced, resulting in convenient use and enjoyment, as opposed to each show being one thirty to ninety minute-long continuous track.  
No collection is complete without the infamous Kool Moe Dee / Busy Bee scuffle, or the notorious routines of the Force MCs, Treacherous Three, and Cold Crush 4 MCs.  The list of essentials on this disc is endless. Includes a 24 page full color booklet of vintage NYC show flyers and artwork.

If you're an old schooler with a passion for this type of stuff, then download, buy some food supplies and lock yourself in a room for a couple of days whilst you reminisce.  All the links and a detailed track listing can be found here:



Last month was the 3rd anniversary of Guru's death.  Somehow this tribute track from Marco Polo, Talib Kweli and DJ Premier completely passed me by, which is a shame, because it's pretty nice.  See what you think.

Would You Like a Demo of ESP?

Nope, I'm not offering to read your mind, or bend a spoon.  I'm talking about the demo tape of Tha Alkaholiks when they went under their previous name, the Educated Street Poets or ESP.  I've previously covered this demo (and 29 others) here, but the tracks were embedded and were not available for download, whereas this downloadable version contains all 6 tracks.  Props to Warlord for sharing this rarity.

More of the God MC

Producer Dominic Owen has released the 3rd instalment of his unreleased Rakim tracks.  This time round we're blessed with Get Visual (which eventually made it onto Rakim's debut LP The 18th Letter under the title When I'm Flowing).
For me, this is an interesting piece of history that adds another layer to this track.  As you can see from the Soundcloud title, Dominic produced this track in 1995, but the LP wasn't released until 1997!  This version is far superior to the album cut, but then I've always hated the LP version.  Why?  Because there is another (bootleg) version that ranks as one of my all time favourite Rakim tracks.  Both versions are presented here, you decide which is better, but don't waste your time with the LP version.

May 21, 2013

A Smooth Operator's History

I've had the privilege of seeing Big Daddy Kane perform live twice in the last year.  Admittedly, I would have loved to of seen him in 1988 or 89, but that didn't happen.  So instead I have to be content with 2012 and 13.  But that's no hardship, Kane is a true performer on stage.  The big difference between BDK and most of these other old school artists who are reforming and touring, is that Kane has never stopped performing.

When I saw him last year in London, he tore it up with Biz Markie.  Not only did he rip through every one of his classics that you could wish for, he even did verses from cameo spots on other peoples records!  Kane covered every significant release in his career.  And to top it off, his interaction with his audience and his sheer ability to entertain (even attempting to dance like he did back then) makes him one of the best performers I've seen in a long time.

And so I realised that I've not really given Kane much shine on this blog.  He's easily up there as one of the greats and is often recalled as being the only real challenge to Rakim's crown in the late 80's.  So to put that right, here is the TV One documentary on the Smooth Operators history.  There's some great stories in here, and a good explanation of why he went all R&B for a period.  But then they bring it up to the present time (well, up to the point it was recorded, which is before his latest Las Supper venture) and Kane shows he's still got what it takes.  Check out the track that plays when he's performing with Connie Price & The Keystones (towards the end of the documentary), this material needs to drop and re-establish Kane as a current artist.

Who said it's nearly 25 years since his peak?  Shut up!

Mike Check

May 11, 2013

Wu Excitement???

1996 was probably the last time I put those two words in the same sentence.  Maybe that's a little harsh, individual members of the Wu have certainly shone at various times, but in my mind the Wu Tang have been fairly underwhelming since around 1996/97.  That is, until now.

You've either been in a coma, working on the international space station, or stranded in a desert somewhere if you've missed all the hype around the latest Ghostface Killah project Twelve Reasons to Die.  But just because there's been a lot of hype, it doesn't mean that you've paid it any attention.  I haven't, because experience has taught me not to get excited about the Wu, and I'm sure I'm not on my own.

Last year I really enjoyed the Trophies  album by Apollo Brown and O.C., in fact it ranked in my top three.  So when I saw that Apollo Brown had remixed the new Ghostface album I felt compelled to pay some attention to it, and I'm glad I did.  
I should probably mention now that the Apollo Brown remix is currently only available on a limited edition free cassette that accompanies the CD album.  Most (if not all of these) have been sold, but I can help you out there so keep reading.
Before I get into the music, let's just read the concept for the album, how it was conceived and understand that this album was recorded live.  

From the official website: As those involved tell it, the story came first, the music second and the lyrics last. Twelve Reasons to Die is the creation myth of a black superhero set in 1960s Italy, which looks a lot like 1990s Scorsese. The curtain opens on a young man born into a life of crime. But anyone familiar with Robert De Niro’s characters in Goodfellas and Casino knows what’s coming next when Ghostface’s character rhymes, “I was a boss among white boys, rocking a ‘fro.” He hits the ceiling, leaves to start a black syndicate, falls in love with a boss’s daughter and makes a ton of money importing cocaine. For these crimes, the criminal organization he came up in murders him and dumps his body in a vat of acetate. His former friends press 12 records from his remains, but when those records play, his vengeful spirit arises. Though he was rebuffed and disrespected in life, in legend the Ghostface Killah becomes immortal.

And just like it's cinematic concept, the album plays out like a film.  The production quality is akin to the same creativity that Rza showed in the early days of the Wu, often using simple, effective, stripped back melodies and beats that give everything space to breathe.

It's not my intention to write a review of this album, so that's enough of my analysis.  Why not check it out for yourself without having to part with your hard earned cash.  Even better, why not check out the Apollo Brown remix for free too?  And just for good measure, I'll even embed the video too.  If you're feeling this album, or just a fan of Ghostface, then you've got a full hit to you main artery here.

Mike Check.

Stream the original full length album...

Stream the Apollo Brown remix album - The Brown Tape...

Or watch the video for the lead single...

May 3, 2013

Which Authority?

As the weather begins to heat up, so does the music.  With several decent albums having dropped this month (more on this in my next post), and potentially several more in the near future, hip hop is looking quite good right now.  The winter drought appears to be over, and here are a few pieces of interest from around the world wide webz that reflect this.


Somewhere In between 1 and 2!

Next month Marco Polo releases his follow up to his 2007 debut LP Port Authroity that is imaginatively titled Port Authority 2 (I guess it tells you what to expect from it!).  As expected nowadays, some early marketing and hype is required in the form of a mixtape, so Marco has released the free to download Newport Authority 2.  It's slightly confusing as there isn't a Newport Authority 1.  

Well aside the confusing and effortless titles, the mix contains some better tracks than I've come to expect from these promotional releases.  This is due to the fact that these tracks were only left of the final cut because of legal issues around sample clearances etc.  I found the Tragedy Khadafi track particularly head nodding (and it's good to see Trag back in action), but there's a few others that are worth a listen too, not to mention the already leaked tunes from Big Daddy Kane and Rakim.  

Zoned Out

I've been a fan of J-Zone's production from the beginning, so it was nice to watch this short clip of him crafting something new using a well known break and chop it up with some more unusual samples.  And if you've ever wondered where all those retro movie sound bites come from, well he answers that too!

Mister Warz Taking Over

If you're over 35 years old and haven't yet stumbled across the Disco Scratch site and its frequent radio shows, then you're missing out.  Disco Scratch is dedicated to providing suitable hip hop to B-Boy's of a certain age.
This month saw Mista Warz make his debut appearance on Disco Scratch with an eclectic showcase of music that was all held nicely together with crazy snippets and sound bites.  For me this show has that unique balance of playing classic cuts that are familiar, but still rare enough for you to say "hell, I've not heard that in ages".
Check out the show (embedded player or download link) and the full track list here:

An Educated Mind

A friend brought this to my attention, and whilst it might not be strictly hip hop, it's urban poetry which is only one step away.  I'd highly recommend you watch this as the message is delivered with good punchlines and thought provoking ideas that most of us can relate to.  This is the type of message that hip hop used to convey to the kids, what happened?