So this blog has been dead for a while. Chaos abounds, time runs short, and I no longer have the time or money or mental faculty to spend digging, critically listening, and writing. Bring That Beat Back has been a wonderful experience for me, I've heard some amazing music, and more importantly, I've met some really great folks out there in the virtual world. Thank you to the artists - the music I posted up here is among my absolute favorite, and each and every one of you have enriched my life and made the world a better place - and I'm so thankful none of you shut me down. Much love to record-science, ghettotyylit, thethirdmen, thisisforthehustlers, straightouttadotcom, basementaddicts, and knowthis - you're my tribe, keep it movin! And as always, thank you to the readers, your comments, requests, and enthusiasm kept this blog afloat. I can't say this is goodbye forever, but it is goodbye for now. Be well out there, and peace.
These dudes need to be heard to be believed, but it's like being sent back to the great, grim days of Black Moon, Channel Live and Mobb Deep. Add to that just the right amount of fresh, new school elements. They're sick, and their recent mention in XXL is way more than warranted. If you haven't yet checked them out then head over to Freshselects.net to get their latest album for free!
Until the release of the new MC Type joint "Bad Tattoos Vol 3", everything he has to offer on bandcamp is pay what you want! (Free for all the poor folk.) I got to see this Ballard emcee perform at the triple album release jam along with Griff J and Art Vandelay, and I have to say Type had the liveliest set. Many, many shots were passed to the stage, clothes were exchanged with audience members, and while he serenaded his sister, his bass player got naked... umm, and the show almost got shut down. If you get the chance to see him live, do whatever you can to do it. And go listen to his music!
This free album dropped at midnight last night at Illfightyou's website after weeks and months of great anticipation over here at beetbak (and the rest of the world too, it seems). Heavy, snotty, ignorant, ass-kicking, no bullshit rhymes and beats - sort of the much-needed opposite of the Town's predominant vibe right now. I'm sure it will be considered a favorite on many a year-end top ten list. So head on over to their website to listen and dl already!
Times change. This comp dropped in 1993, which to me was the year of the Great Upheaval in hip hop. At that time, gangsta had outlived its welcome and new acts like Heiro and the Pharcyde were grabbing my attention. In contrast, local artists like Mix-A-Lot and Kid Sensation had lost their cool and were the stuff of middle school dances. So, by the time my I heard about this album, my ears were closed. I was in high school, the future underground was in full swing, and local acts like the Elevators and Tribal had quite effectively turned the early-90's gangsta and r & b industry into a joke.
I may not have appreciated this record at the time, but listening to it in retrospect I can hear the value in it. Here is some top-quality hip hop attempting to assert itself in the face of change, And more poignantly, this is a declaration from Seattle's Afro-American community and a group of artists who were very much left out of the anglicized Northwest music explosion of the early '90's.
... Dark Side is a short record, but in its 35 minutes is effectively showcases an important time in the 206's long history of hip hop. Stay tuned, I'll be digging deeper into the past soon enough!
This 2001 full-length has been circulating around the webs in its OG form for a while. As far as I know this is GT's debut, and isn't included in his available releases - maybe there's a problem with getting sample rights or something, because it's not for lack of great music. It's definitely rougher than his later records, and he's still developing his flow here, but the fire, eloquence, and themes he's known for are already in place. At some point I would love to do a proper piece about this particular 206 artist, but I won't frame it at this time in the context of this album - for now just listen and enjoy. It's got that old-school, jazz sample-heavy flavor I love, and the rough, unmastered sound quality I crave in production. Jerm, Castro, and Khingz, among others, guest. This rip came to me via an anonymous benefactor - thank you! Track listing is intact, as this is the revamped version from 2002. It's the second edition, which features bonus tracks with a whole bunch of guest emcees (Orko, Macklemore, Moka Only, Deps, Patrick, Rajnii). Vivacious music, from possibly the 206's most impassioned orator.
Criminally overlooked, Central Intelligence was among the greatest Seattle hip hop acts in the 90's and early 00's. Similar in sound and style to Black Anger, Source Of Labor and Narcotik, these five emcees spit knowledge in styles that were concrete, definitive, and mature. The subject matter on this self-titled album from 2001 ranges from the personal to the political, spoken in 5 distinct, articulate voices. With like-minded beats from two of the major architects of the sound, Vitamin D and Bean One, this album is a hidden classic of the Tribal era.
I sadly learned about this group after the fact, when Mike Clark and Jake One's amazing expose on the history of Seattle hip hop showed up on Cocaine Blunts. Besides this album, CI also contributed to the crucial Sportn'Life Compilation from 2003. They also were reputed to put on a mean live set. A slim but 100% quality legacy.
Leave it to Khingz (aka Khalil Crisis, aka KA.lil) to make even a tossed-off mixtape a poetic work of brilliance. Dropped in 2007, he took a bunch of varying-in-quality beats and laid down verse after verse of Real Shit. 21 tracks in length, with guest appearances from Gabriel Teodros, Modus Operandi, and Jills Laxamana. His new album is about to drop - Between Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, on 6-4-13. Keep your ears peeled. His output over the last few years has been prolific, with a in-ordinant amount of quality, so I imagine this next chapter will follow form. Khingz County P.S. does anyone out there have his Bigger Than Jeezus Mixtape?
Yet another compilation, this time from the Northwest. This dropped in 2002 in response to the increasing hostilities directed towards the Middle East by the US. Many notable acts contribute, including (ahem... wait for it...) Khazm, The Flood, Yirim Seck, Castro, Specs One, Gabriel Teodros, Khingz (back when he was still calling himself Khalil Crisis), Kylea of Beyond Reality, Vitamin D, H-Bomb, Silas Blak, WD4D, E-Real Asim of Black Anger, Surge Spitable, and El Saba, who provides the defining moment with "God Bless Humanity". The album is an interesting mix of 2nd and 3rd wave Seattle hip hop, and captures the sound of the Town in a state of evolution. Executive produced by Khazm and G. Teodros, released in part through MADK.
These compilations from 1998-99 were also crucial pieces in my early underground collection. Alien Nation, Afterlife, Living Legends, ATU, Beneath The Surface, Hieroglyphics, Battle Axe, Black Love, and many, many others made their names known to me through these records. Thanks to Meeee over at Record-Science for upping these originally - click the link below to find these plus many other dope compilations from the same era!
Another compilation, again from '99. That was the year, apparently. The usual cats are present with strong contributions - Acey, Ab, Awol, Dilated, Hiero, Lootpack, plus many, many others. Some of these tracks wound up on proper albums later on, but there are still quite a few exclusives. Back in the day when music by these artists was relatively slim and hard to come by, comps like these were a precious commodity. Plus, inevitably I would get exposure to some unfamiliar acts.
From 1999, here's another compilation record from the olden days. This album was never my favorite overall, but due to the fact that it held a few brilliant tracks here and there it got lots of play time. Bookended by some strong tracks, the album frankly gets a little lackluster throughout the middle. Still there are dope contributions from Dilated, j-5, Divine Styler, Styles of Beyond, and ATU. What made the record for me though, was "Journey To Anywhere" from Ugly Duckling, "Project Bliznaiznowed" from Acey, and "Save the Music" from Myka 9 - which is in my opinion among the best songs he's ever crafted in his entire career.
I'm a posting fool tonight... Okay here's the first volume, of which I slept on back in the day. Back in '97, when this gem of a compilation was released, I was freshly back in the states after living in England the previous year. Pumped from all the watercress sandwiches and blood pudding, I was still soaking up Europe's brand of hip hop like a sponge. The future of rap music lay in Bristol and Paris as far as my young anglophilic self was concerned, so I missed out a bit on what was waking up over here. It took me a couple of years to finally start paying attention again, but I did, thanks in large part to the infectious sounds of the acts featured here: Living Legends, Project Blowed, and Hieroglyphics. All that's missing is a Quannum feature, but you can't ask for everything now, can you?
Here's another of those classic comps from back in the day, 1998 to be exact. Representing both coasts (but leaning heavily towards the left), this supplied heads with an undiluted helping of organic beats and stylistic prowess. This was considered an underground hip hop standard at the time; if you had any kind of cred whatsoever, you had this in your collection. (The predecessor from '97 was equally crucial.)
Back in the old days the compilation album was my primary means of discovering new artists. Internet speeds were slow, and the 15-second 28-bit audio snippets the online webstores had to offer were useless when it came to sampling an artist's sound. This was one of the many comps I picked up back then: I recognized a couple names I liked, and a whole bunch I didn't recognize. Here was my first introduction to The Mountain Bros, Eclipse 427, Zion I and many others, in the mix with a bunch of heads I already followed like Latyrx, Medusa and the Visionaries. From the dark ages of 1999.
Here is a classic, not to be forgotten, and a real shame that it never officially dropped. In the months of anticipation before The Platform came out, this cd started popping up on ebay. This guy would post up a copy, we'd bid on it like idiots, and then when the auction ended he'd just post up another one. I spent like 30 bucks for this "one of a kind" item, plus shipping, and to this day I still believe it was well worth the price. I felt like I had struck gold when I got this in the mail and stuck it in the ol' discman. It's ripped from a beat up old tape, sound quality is depressing, some songs are incomplete, you get the picture. It didn't matter to me though; I soaked up every muddy bar. The sound is youthful and fresh, and a completely different vibe from their later work. As for Get Hype, eventually the dude got shut down and ebay issued a general announcement about selling bootlegs. Ah, the good old days!
The apocalypse is finished, today it is the precession of the neutral, of forms of the neutral and of indifference…all that remains, is the fascination for desertlike and indifferent forms, for the very operation of the system that annihilates us. Now, fascination…is a nihilistic passion par excellence, it is the passion proper to the mode of disappearance. We are fascinated by all forms of disappearance, of our disappearance. Melancholic and fascinated, such is our general situation in an era of involuntary transparency. - Jean Baudrillard
The new album from emcee Ricky Pharoe and producer Mack Formway (collectively known as Art Vandelay, entitled Eye 8 the Crow) will be dropping April 2nd. Quite simply, it's the best thing I've heard from either artist. Direct and straightforward, it doesn't waste a single bar on filler, skits, or any of the needless stuff that so often clutters albums. Don't scan the tracks for the hit, I warn you now - several could fit the bill, but it's meant to be listened to as a whole. The album is thematic and sets a linear course, progressing from sober beginning to end. For those out there not familiar with the american colloquialism "to eat crow", it means to admit wrongness, to swallow your words and fess up to guilt. A more apt title would be hard to find, as the themes of guilt, transparency, and moral decay are prevalent.
Pharoe has always had the penchant for being articulate, scathingly humorous, and unapologetic. Historically playing the roles of astounded commentator and bemused informer, his previous works found him relating the absurdities of a myriad of topics from religion, to capitalism, to commercialism, to pop art; and revealed him as an ever-growing and passionate orator. Whether his storytelling placed him on the stage or on a barstool, he was quick to jab his finger at everything and everyone that pissed him off. Like a cross between Don Quixote and The Underground Man, he tilted at windmills, gleefully calling out in turn each of the malodorous idiots surrounding him. With Eye 8 the Crow, Pharoe has now turned inward, throwing all the passion he once held towards the outside world away, and presenting himself in a new, darker light. His usual barbed humor has been blunted down to a bitter resignation, and his finger-pointing and scorn is reserved almost entirely for himself, revealing a morally ambiguous, menacing, and dead-eyed persona beyond the typical existential crisis. He depicts himself as an indifferent and exhausted man, sickened and numb past any fear of consequence for his actions. Pharoe has not turned thug; in fact his level of eloquence and introspective depth has never been more poetic. For we are spying on him as he bares his soul and admits his atrocities in front of the mirror, spitting acid through a mask of grinning teeth.
Nihilism is the philosophical doctrine which argues that life is without objective meaning, purpose or intrinsic value. Moral nihilism argues that morality does not inherently exist, and that moral values are abstractly contrived. I say this because Ricky Pharoe and producer Mack Formway have created a nihilistic masterpiece with this album.It's a distorted, bleak, and desolate journey, both philosophically and musically.Beneath the minor-key melodies and layers of beats there is something dark, slithery and mechanically single-minded.Televisions hiss white noise, samples are sliced to a translucent thinness, mouths stutter and repeat mindless noise.Over this, Pharoe relates his most naked confessions and base secrets in a steady, medicated drawl, constantly employing violent imagery,sounding both detached and savage.
Thematically the album is connected: Personal achievement has been cashed in for the predetermination of fame and fortune; passion is discarded for materialism, and meaning and purpose are negated by the mere image of meaning and purpose. This is a violent and traumatic transition, and bloody imagery is pervasive. He burns his bridges, annihilates his enemies, screws his friends, sells his soul, and focuses on his empty goals to the exclusion of all else, so very people he scorns idolize him, and he becomes king of the mindless system he despises. It's a distilled and unrelenting listen, fatalistic and grim. "I ate the crow, and didn't even choke" he snarls on the title track - he coldly and readily acknowledges this transformation and has no issue with it.
There's a contrast and a duality with the characters he portrays, and Pharoe's perspective constantly shifts between accused and accuser. He rails against himself, angry when he screws up, just as he applauds himself for the same self-sabotage. Although obsessed with the image of fame and fortune, he cannot run from the crushing weariness of basic survival. When faced with the end of the world, he's indifferent. He arrogantly calls himself the center of the universe, but immediately follows with a shoulder-shrugging "I guess it sounds fine." "When I look into the mirror, it's only time i get starstruck," he states on "So What" - his ennui is such that his existence is bleak, that life is tiresome, and that nothing external brings joy. He is ultimately weary on this cut, disillusioned and jaded.
Where Pharoe's words provide the blueprint, beatmaker Mack Formway's music provides the architecture. The music of Art Vandelay has always dramatic and heavy, with layers upon layers of samples, guitars, synths and pounding percussion. The ingredients continue with Eye 8 the Crow, but as Pharoe's mood has changed, so has the music. Minor keys and descending melodies dominate, and hip hop structures give way to desolate, industrial clanging, digital distortion, empty creaking floorboards and unresolved tension. Where Ricky speaks about the monster he has become, Formway animates the golem. Oddly enough he's also responsible for the brief, few moments of brevity in the album, with refrains emerging through the dust and rubble to shed a little momentary, fleeting beauty to an otherwise desolate landscape.
The defining moment of the album is the oddly titled "Emilio Estevez". Naked and brutal it is the nadir of the narrative. "Who needs a family / All I need is money / And a burner just in case you try to take it from me / I passed ugly now I'm moving on to retched / Don't make your head and neck get somehow disconnected," he bluntly states to a tv screen in the promo video for the track. "I promise i'll deliver if it benefits me / Through long history it seems to me the victories / Are written by the ones who use the strategy viciously / So let's just do it surreptitiously." Vowing to take a page from the great tyrants of the world, and to do for self at the expense of everything else, he asks himself, almost - but not quite - hopefully, "It's that simple, right?"
The tone of the album subtly changes during the second half, gaining energy with guest appearances from 206 emcee Matic and the one and only Blueprint; culminating with the final tracks, "The Devil's Notebook" and "Eyeballs". These end pieces are concerned with the concept of freedom, although existence is still depicted as very much a meaningless construct. The nihilism is still very much present, but then anything less would only cheapen the dark perfection of the rest of the album. And I wouldn't expect different from a band who got their name from a show about nothing. Link to the Art Vandelay website below. Album drops on itunes/Bandcamp on April 2nd. Pick it up, it's my album of the year. Eye 8 The Crow
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