Thursday, July 28, 2011

Rum & Coke


Alcoholism

Sorry again for the cover image; I gotta get a new scanner soon...
From 2001, this is one of the singles from Erule's Cold Currentz album. If you're familiar with that record, you know it's hit-and-miss at best, and this piece of wax is indicative of that. The A-side is probably the weakest track on the album, "Rum & Coke", while the B-side has the superior "Rise", although it's also a little lackluster. The legendary Kingborn Allah produced both tracks, and you'd think that a team-up of such lyrical and musical talent would create a masterpiece, but alas. I won't go into that here; I'm posting this up because Discogs has no listing for it and so maybe some of you Erule fans may not know about it. Both cuts have street, clean, instrumental and acapella versions. Check out a great piece on Erule over at Swan Lake, and check out the 12" below.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Drunken Style


Kingdom Of Wax

Sorry for the shit pic of the album, but my scanner kicked the bucket a little while back and I couldn't find a decent picture anywhere online so...
This is Kingdom of Wax's "Drunken Style" EP from 2000. I don't really have any knowledge to bestow upon y'all about the Kingdom, except that they have that heavy-footed, boy-band-hating, sleazy, inebriated, bullshit-free sound similar to Blak Forest or BassLineXcursionists. Speaking of Blak Forest, Shaydie 3rd Degree from BF makes a tight guest appearance, as well as Tony Da Skitzo, Faxx, Dj JFX, and someone named Timmy. 5 songs, plus 2 instrumentals, 7 tracks in all. If anyone has anything to add about this crew, please feel free to speak up!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Chronik


Low Tolerance

2000 vinyl from the Living Legend Eligh. This arrived at the tail end of his hella prolific and productive period ('96-2000). As a solo artist, as a member of 3MG's, Righteous Brothers, G&E and Living Legends, he put out more records and made more appearances than I can even think about right now. And by the end, the strain was beginning to show in his work. The rough spark and creativity of his early tapes like 4 Tracks LA and Back and As They Pass was starting to get mired in what I considered sterile, clean production and relatively heavy-footed flows. 1999's Gas Dream was actually a pretty difficult album to sit through for me. Which is why I enjoyed this single so much: It provided three of the varied high points off that album - and when Eligh's on, he's on - without having to wade through a bunch of mid-tempo drum-machine-and-synth numbers. The title track actually has a great, psychedelic and ever-changing musical score; "Soul-Man" changes things up by including contributions from the Grouch and Pep Love, and "Lifedance" features atmospheric vocals and guitar from Eligh's mom Jo Wilkinson and Robert Miranda, respectively. "Chronik" has an instrumental version as well.
After this, Eligh put out two sick, sick Gandalf's Beat Machine albums in 2000 and 2002, then sat back for a minute before the dope and inspired Poltergeist in 2003. I haven't paid as much attention to his particular path as I once did, but whenever I do hear something new by the Crow I can tell he's keeping his chops up. And seriously, his new joint Grey Crow is the sheeit. Buy it, all of you. But go ahead and listen to this oldie but goodie as well.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Khalil Crisis


Savagery and Majesty

Here's the out of print debut solo effort from Maroon Colony's Khalil Crisis, now known as Khingz. Dropping in 2001, it catches Khalil at a unique crossroads. Known these days for releasing one of the illest albums in 206 hip hop history (the soul-bearing, tell-it-like-it-is exercise in self-actualization known as From Slaveships to Spaceships), this record paints a picture of a young man with one foot still in his violent, gang-land past as an adolescent; and the other just embarking on his personal transformation to becoming a conscientious and honorable man. Indeed, "Khalil Crisis" is an apt moniker here, as it presents the duality of this record: The struggle between the intellectual and the thug over one man's identity. And it's rare when a record has portrayed such a confused individual. With equal amounts he passionately condemns the violence surrounding him, and gleefully takes part in it. He fights for feminism while at the same time using the standard tropes used to degrade women. He acts like a hood and relates it like a poet.
Sonically, the album is much different from the new-school vibe of his later releases. With always-gorgeous, mellow production by Vitamin D, the record sounds beautiful, yet is often times at odds with Khalil's violent and impassioned lyricism. However this just adds to the overall mystique surrounding the record, as it mirrors the opposing forces at the heart of Khalil himself.
When taken alone, the album, despite these two master craftsmen at the helm, can only be a flawed one. There are just too many instances where the music misses the emotional mark, or where the lyrics are just too paradoxical. However, when taken in as the beginning of a long and varied transformation culminating with 2009's Spaceships, it's a fascinating document that should be considered the first chapter in an incredible story.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Foxhole


Revenge Entertainment

Produced by Sunspot/BFAP, this is the Foxhole EP from 1999. Most of it was included on the UHBIV album from around the same time, but there are a couple exclusive cuts on this 9-track EP: "Drunken Masters," featuring BFAP and Mic T from Camp Quest, and the Beatdie Delight "Tony's Theme". All the Living Legends show up (including the quiet one, Arata), as well as Muk-1 and the afore-mentioned Mic T. Classic tracks.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

CMA

The Best

For all the Cali stuff I put up on this blog, the Living Legends has a pretty slim representation. So, here's some Living Legends: The 12" from the Grouch and PSC, collectively known as the CMA, from 1999. The album track "The Best" is provided with instrumental and vinyl only "Quiet Mix", along with "Why I Crew" featuring Pep Love from Hiero. I've always appreciated how encouraging the Living Legends, especially the Grouch, have been for young up-and-comers. He's always had the mindset that you can get something if you really try. He's like the Jimmy Cliff of Oakland. Pep Love is always ill on the mic. Good stuff from the classic era.

The Best 12  

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

R.I.P. Dk Toon


Everybody Bangin

While we all go a little more crazy every day waiting for someone to finally leak Dk Toon's Folk Hop Blues, his sophomore release from 2007 has gone pretty well unnoticed by the legions of fans of "Sunny Side Up" and "Solo is So Low". This probably has a lot to do with the fact that (seemingly for no reason and without checking with us first) he changed his name, dropping the "Toon" in favor of "No Deal." It also has a lot to do with the musical and lyrical direction he has decided to pursue, that being most definitely industry-quality gangsta (aka overground, aka the great Satan to a lot of underground heads).
I only discovered this record a short while ago, and since then I've been alternately spinning it, then setting it aside in confusion and disappointment, only to feel compelled to play it again soon after. After weeks of this, it's settled in nicely in my car stereo, and I finally feel ready to write about it, which I feel should be done, as it's no doubt a notable release on several levels.
This debut album from Dk No Deal is called Fuck Yo Deal Sue Me, and it's evident that Dk must have been on two different planets for the creation of his two albums. From what I can gather based on early recordings of his, Dk has traditionally been a smooth, soulful and mellow emcee. His delivery was melodic and sing-song, akin to fellow Massmen Abstract Rude or Minister Too Bad. However, no matter how the message was masked in serenity, there was always a strong gangsta element to his music, as was the whole Good Life/P-Blowed scene, as evidenced by acts like Foesum, I Smooth 7, Menace Clan, etc.
For Fuck Yo Deal, Dk has shed any pretence of serenity in favor of a blatant audio celebration of the gangsta lifestyle, more often than not bellowed out or growled in menacing tones. Those expecting anything like "What Is Love" from Folk Hop Blues would probably be in for a shock. Likewise, those hoping for any cameos by the likes of Abby Rude or I Smooth 7 are also in for some bad news. In fact, throughout the entire 22-track album, Dk makes not one mention of his Massmen affiliation or his Good Life/P-Blowed musical upbringing. And instead of the underground representation, Dk enlists some of the top tier industry talent, such as Nelly, Ne-Yo, Snoop, Kurupt, and The Game.
Lyrically, Dk never strays a step from the tried-and-tested gangsta repetoire: Pimpin, hustlin, doing time, fucking the police, murder, and sex. With an album that's nearly 80 minutes long, the subject matter starts wearing pretty thin, but not as thin as you might expect. It's true that you can only hear about booty clapping and rollin' down Crenshaw with the three-wheeled motion so many times, but Dk is so fervent about it. The gangsta cliches are repeated over and over like litanies, that by the end of the record one has no doubt that this album is much more than just a money-making glorification, but a holy testament to his chosen lifestyle, even his entire existence. He apparently eats, drinks, and shits The Life.
The album is absolutely saturated with gangsterism; it doesn't let up for a second. When he says that he really sold crack, pimped ho's, been shot, served time, and killed, you have to believe him. And when he says he's a rich man because of the lifestyle, you believe that too. Ultimately it comes as no surprise that he's left his old name and his underground compatriots in the past, as there was obviously no place for him there. Furthermore, he seems to have his feet planted squarely in this new, higher profile, higher tax bracket incarnation. And from what I can hear, he's completely at home in it.
Like I said earlier, the album suffers from too much time and too little subject matter. The album is frankly top-heavy, with the three best tracks as the three openers. The rest of the album unfortunately tends to repeat itself, going through the same old themes that gangsta has used to define itself for the last 20 years. Notable tracks are peppered throughout the rest of the disc, and I only find myself skipping a few of the songs now (mostly at the end of the album). Dk's flow manages to keep most of the tracks afloat, as well as universally tight and full production from Battlecat, Joseph Leimberg, Rodney Jerkins, Touch, and others. Unfortunately, a little too much of the record is cluttered with mid-tempo booty jams and lackluster r'n'b infected hooks. If the album had been distilled down to a 40 or 50 minutes, it would have been much more effective.
Dk's delivery is as on-point ever, which is great after so long away from performing. Apparently he has been busy behind the scenes in the music industry (as well as Big Cartoon!), and I had honestly assumed he was out of the game or dead under a rock somewhere. It's great that he's continued to be involved. That syrupy voice is unmistakable and his flow hasn't diminished in the least. Fuck Yo Deal is an album that suffers from it's sameness, but ultimately that's the only complaint I have. The same can be said for nearly any record that stretches out as long as this one has. It took some work but I've come to accept Dk's new role in hip hop, and I feel he will do the genre a great service if he continues emceeing in his new capacity. I can't say what caused this change in him, from Massman to gangster high-roller, but it's evident that he needed to put the past behind him in order to reinvent himself. Dk Toon is dead, long live Dk No Deal.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Originoo Space Neighbors


Specs Wizard

New free shit from Specs One aka Specs Wizard aka M.C. Eyeshock aka Mic Mulligan and S.Future! This time he arrives with S. Future as the Original Space Neighbors, coming in peace with a full album, presented as side A and side B. The link below takes you to his Zoundklowd page, where you can dl the album as well as additional illness from the 206 mystic. Not to be slept on. Specs is an incalculable force for why Seattle has flavor, and in all his years pushing the movement forward he's done nothing but get better and better. So peep, damn you, peep!

A Square Peg


Beatbox Break

While we're here, I might as well throw up Click's second album as well. Basically a direct continuation from his first LP, this record from 2000 revisits much of what was laid down previously: His ample producing and beatboxing skills, his love for family and Latino culture, and his knack for clunky, sometimes humorous, sometimes self-depreciatory, but still on-point lyrics. Oddly enough he reminds me a lot of Source Of Labor's Wordsayer. Stylistically they are probably as far apart as you can get, but like Wordsayer, Click's ernest delivery is all about the message, rather than showmanship or lyrical acrobatics. His entire family guests, as well as Jurassic 5, Medusa, Derek Strong, and a bunch of others.

Friday, July 8, 2011

This Iz How I Know


Family Man

So I'm very happy and very tired here folks, as I'm a new proud papa of a baby girl. Born on July 5th, she's awesome and amazing. Her 20-month-old big brother has been incredibly sweet and loving towards her, and we've been surrounded by our family and friends. So I thought I'd post up an album that I feel is in the same warm, fuzzy vein: Click tha Supah-Latin's debut full-length from '97. He loves his family. He loves his heritage. He loves b-boying and beatboxing and producing and rapping. It's a refreshing, positive, ernest, and so-uncool-it's-cool record. I play it a lot.
Akil from J5, Derek Strong, 2Mex, Big Al, and a few other friends appear; as well as Click's son Click 44 - he guest raps on one cute tune. Even if you aren't feeling as blissed-out as I am right now, give the album a listen anyway, because it's all that I said before plus it's bangin.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Confusion


Confusion Is A Desert Mirage Illusion

More from the 1,000-year-old M.C. This single, and the album it accompanied, were Awol One's "Breakout" releases. Compared to his earlier records, he all of a sudden sounded confident, relatively polished, and professional. In large part this had to do with his enlisting of Daddy Kev as producer, as Kev's beats were incredibly distinctive and on-point; but equally this had to do with Awol's revised outlook on his role in the hip hop game. Since the mid-'90's he had been steadily building steam as a solo artist, as member of the notable Mass Men, and also of the Shape Shifters; and his atmospheric inclusions on OD's Beneath The Surface were probably the tipping point for him to reach international acclaim. From the moment "Little Piece Of Heaven" broke, he promptly quit being a struggling, raunchy emcee with a penchant for aping other emcee's styles (namely MCA); to become, seemingly overnight, the emcee a hell of a lot of other cats wanted to be.
His releases soon began to reflect this metamorphosis. Souldoubt was jazzy, upbeat, and even jaunty, and Awol's lyrics were confidently delivered in a melodic croon that seemed a far cry from the scratchy freestyles and potty humor of his earlier 4-track releases. Similarly, his past albums were always cluttered with guest artists, making Awol only one emcee among many. On Souldoubt he was very apparently the only voice present.
Awol was definitely aware of this new stage in his hip hop existence, and embraced it in an uncharacteristically fervent fashion. All of a sudden he was rapping without any irony whatsoever that he'd never do another album "without an advance". Sharing the byline with the well-known Daddy Kev seemed to give him more credence as an artist. But the clever title itself ("Sold Out/Souldboubt") perhaps speaks the most clearly on how he viewed his new status as a "legitimate" artist.
It comes as little surprise that this single was, for a long time, the only place you could find the song "Confusion". Here, Awol shares the mic with Abstract Rude (the King of the Mass Men), Gel (The King of EXII), Circus (The King of the Shape Shifters), and Goodlife/Project Blowed OG's Of Mexican Descent. With all this notable talent, Awol's newfound celebrity status might have seemed a little threatened. It's a hella lively track as you might expect, and I think he finally included it on reissues of Souldoubt, as a bonus track.
I have to say I prefer Awol's salad days, but at the same time I readily admit that I played the hell out of Souldboubt. And when I learned that he was actually getting radio play down in LA I beamed with pride for my boy Walrus Eye. But I also felt a little sad for the loss of the old Awol, the one that loved to rap about boogers and toilets. That's why I consider this release the Rubicon in Awol's career: His new-found glory is present, but on the flipside you can still see remnants of his past, when he was still just an emcee among many, still searching for his voice.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Kan You See?


Down Since The Day He Been Human

The debut 12" by Awolrus Eye from 1995. It's obvious he's still developing his trademark style here, although from the first gravely word out of his mouth you know it's him. That melodic, sing-song delivery is present, but he sounds a lot less beat-up and depressed on this record than he would become later on. At times his energy and sound approximates M.C. A from the Beasties circa License. Beats are scratchy and sloppy, just like they should be.