One of the cooler items I came across in whilst #digginginthetapes is a demo tape I received from Ill Brothers circa 1994.
This was a Southern California crew, lead by Ill Bro Chat and Snizake. They hit my radar in ’94 with “Mescaline” and it’s possible that they sent me both the single and demo at the same time. The demo tape does feature one song that made the vinyl 12″ – “Valley of Broken Necks” but as far as I know, everything else on the tape only exists in that format.
My favorite song off here is a song that wasn’t titled on the cassette sleeve so I just call it “Quickly Disposed Of” (based on the scratched hook).
(From what I gather, the demo also includes a different demo on the B-side for Of Mexican Descent (OMD). It’s not credited as such but it would make sense since those two crews were friendly.)
Ill Brothers had two other official 12″s after “Mescaline,” including “Funkbreak,” a killer b-side off their “Olestra” single.
I also found another demo/single tape by an Orange County duo called Origin. I found next to nothing about these guys besides a single they put out in 1996 that features one of the songs off this 3-song EP (“Last Compound”). Other than that, a complete mystery!
The #digginginthetapes adventures continue. Since I already have Vol. 1 and Vol. 3 up, why not Vol. 2 too? Of the three, I spent the least effort on pitching this one around so even people who’ve heard my 1 or 2 probably haven’t heard this before.
On the other side of the tape, I created an early attempt at a “semi-obscure hip-hop b-sides and remixes” mix that, a few years later, would take fuller form as Incognitos Vol 1. (four songs are included on both).
I recently picked up one of these USB cassette players because I wanted a cheap solution to digitizing my old tapes (let’s just say this thing is cheap in all senses of the term). One of the first things I digitized with it was my third mixtape, made back in *gulp* 1995.1 This was perhaps my most “experimental” mixtape insofar as many of the songs were dubbed onto here from tape advances and demos and I also included some parts from the infamous KMEL Hiero vs. Hobo battle plus opened with a freestyle the Roots delivered on my old KALX radio show in 1994 (previously shared here).
For real, it doesn’t feel like I made it 21 years ago. F___, I’m old. ↩
I decided, over the weekend, to open a time capsule to my 20s: my boxes of cassette tapes, most of which I recorded/collected over the course of the 1990s. I hadn’t bothered to touch any of these in at least six, possibly ten years, since I boxed them up to move down from the Bay Area in 2006.
It was a little overwhelming but I’m glad I held onto all this even if the idea of trying to sort through all of it fills me with a tiny bit of regret. I did, immediately, try to hunt down what I was looking for: my very first mixtape, aka O’s Dub Vol 1, recorded on a Tascam 424 Portastudio, back in 1994.1 All praise due to DJ Ajax whose Jax Trax Vol 1 tape was my introduction to multitrack mixing and the main reason I went to hunt down that Tascam.
Sadly, I also realized that I should have followed Nas’s advice and avoided using my old cassette deck because that shit eats tape. But before I managed to mangle O’s Dub Vol 3 (who’s got some splicing tape for me?), I did pull off a few extra joints for you to peep.
Maybe I’ve told this story before but back in ’94, I had a show on KALX that began at noon on Sundays. The Sunday Morning Show was a long-standing hip-hop show at the station and on this morning, The Roots were supposed to shoot through – they had just played their first gig in San Francisco one or two nights before – but they were running late and so I accidentally inherited them on my show instead. I had been to that show at Bimbo’s the night before and it still ranks as one of my top 3 live shows ever. As you might imagine, I was hyped to have The Roots on as a guest, especially since Rahzel and Black Thought were kind enough to hit me with a freestyle, live on air, plus tape a drop for me.
One of the first things I tried to learn how to do with multitrack mixing was to create a “beat suite” remix of Nas’s “It Ain’t Hard to Tell.” It’s on O’s Dub Vol. 1 above, if you scroll to around 4:17. All said, I thought it turned out pretty decent and that gave me confidence to try it again on a later mixtape by thematically remixing Common’s “I Used to Love Her.” I can’t remember if I had already heard DJ Spinbad’s insane-o remix of KRS-One’s “Hip-Hop vs. Rap” at that point but I have to imagine that was the inspiration.
I, however, am no Spinbad. The Nas remix worked ok because it was relatively simple but with the Common remix, I tried to up my game and instead, it came off rather sloppy and, in hindsight, far less ambitious than what I could have done with a 4-track. Whatever though.
The reason I even went looking for my tapes was because, on the spur of the moment the other day, I decided to try doing another beat-suite remix of the same song, but this time, using Reaper and a bunch of favorite funk 45s. Straight up: this doesn’t sound lined up properly at times. I have nil experience with producing so even something as using software to create a loop and tempo map it is all new for me. I might make another run at fixing the small problems here but as this is what launched me down memory lane to begin with, I figured I’d share it regardless of its current state of imperfection.
I was trying to remember when I bought the thing and in the course of looking through my email archives, I remembered that it was DJ Vlad (yeah, that one) who suggested I look for the 424 specifically. I can’t recall how Vlad and I crossed paths back then but I do remember he was the first guy to hep me to the Idris Muhammed LP with “Loran’s Dance.” ↩
We may be deep in a much ballyhooed vinyl revival but surprisingly, record cases haven’t seemed to have kept pace. With all these folks buying records again from their local record store Whole Foods, you would think there’d be more variety in boxes/cases available. RSD has nudged this along incrementally, especially with prestige releases that tout special packaging but compare the variety of vintage cases you might find on eBay or Etsy vs. new cases being manufactured now and you feel like there’s a missed opportunity.
The last time I saw anyone drop an interesting new case was Numero Group in 2012 for their massive Omnibus release. Even though I found the specs just a hair too tight, it didn’t feel like they were simply slapping a new skin on the same base case that everyone else uses.
I’m thinking about all this (again) because I recently got in the new Beat Bop Bundle from the folks at Get On Down. They already have some decent cases out there, including a faux reptile case that I use as my standard go-to 45 tote though I also like the canvas skin on their People Records case. Both are probably just skins-on-base-cases but the inner removable tray is a smart design feature for gigging out since it allows you to pack the case but then use the tray as a way of having twice as much room to rifle through your records.
This LP/12″ case that comes with the Beat Bop Bundle is something else though. Maybe it’s all that black but it just feels…substantial and slightly severe (in a good way). It’s certainly one of the bigger cases I have; even a couple of inches in height goes a long way. The reinforced corners, much like an anvil-style case (albeit this uses plastic corners) also makes you feel like this thing was built for abuse or the like.
This said, if I’m being candid here: it feels a bit bulky for its own good. It’s heavy just empty so I imagine that at full capacity (50 records/25 lbs), this would be a challenge to slog around, especially without a shoulder strap to even out the load. The lid is also substantial enough that if the case isn’t that full, the whole thing will tip over with the lid open; not ideal.
On the flipside, if you needed a case that could double as a blunt force weapon in a club scrum, this might come in handy. And if you were to combo this with a mid-90s Brooklyn throwback outfit – 20 below Timbos, black bubble goose – you’d be looking real proper. I know I haven’t even gotten to the music but while it’s cool to have a special edition of “Beat Bop”, complete with liner notes by Noz, it looks quite lonely inside that massive case. The disc feels like the bonus but the real package here is the box itself.
I also recently got in Cultures of Soul new Brasileiro Treasure Box of Funk and Soul 7″ Box Set. Inside, you get seven 7″s, with about a third of them featuring songs that, far as I know, were never on 7″ single to begin with. That includes one of my favorite funky Brazilian cuts: “Bananeira” by Emiliano Santiago. I’m also feeling this one by Célia: “A Hora É Essa“. All in all, I didn’t know most of the songs on here so at the very least, I’m getting an education.
As for the actual box…eh. It’s ultimately a box for shelving purposes; it’s not designed for travel and odds are, you wouldn’t take the entire collection out to a gig but simply select a few 45s. I’m not a fan of the top-loading lid here, namely because it’s too shallow to allow you to flip through the 45s without first pulling them out. That’s a similar issue with “fold out” boxes (see below) but at least with those, you have cleaner lines on the front cover since you don’t have the lid breaking things up horizontally.
I also wish they had printed the track listing on the back. What they have is an insert that lines up on the back…if the box is still in the shrink. But once you take it out, the insert has no place to go (it’s slightly too big to fit into the box itself so it seems like you’re just meant to toss it).
Last but not least is the Big Box of Afrosound that Vampisoul released, with the curatorial help of DJ Bongohead. Musically, it’s the most generous: ten 7″s. And for me, it’s definitely the one that I vibe the most with sonically if only because I’m such a fan of the Afrosound, er, sound.1
I especially appreciate that more than half the songs on here were never on 45 to begin with, including “Salsa Boogaloo” by Sexteto Miramar, which I wasn’t familiar with prior. As with the Brasileiro box, even those songs that have been on 45 before aren’t exactly records you’re going to stumble across in your local U.S. store, especially standouts like Wganda Kenya’s wicked “Fiebre De Lepra” or one of my all-time favorite cumbias: “Cumbia De Sal” by Cumbias en Moog (which is as awesome as you may guess).
The Big Box had fold-up/out lid which is a decent compromise in terms of keeping the cover art intact and still allowing you to flip through the 45s from right to left once fully opened. If I had to nitpick…not a big fan of the cover art but c’est la vie.
There you go: a few boxes (literally!) for you to sample.
Full disclosure, I helped Bongohead with this project at a very early stage though I can’t remember if it was with “Mammy Blue” or a different Fruko song that didn’t make the cut. ↩
Speaking of summer music: the new Vince Staples is killing it. I don’t think any other hip-hop album is going to move me off To Pimp A Butterfly as my favorite of the year but Vince comes pretty damn close. Now pardon me, I gotta go get a Louis Burger.
Truth be told, this is one of the best Primo beats I’ve heard in a minute. Not like no one’s ever messed with those Shirley Bassey hornsbefore but I’m surprised more folks haven’t tried to squeeze juice out of it. Monster.
I’ve been reading Scarface’s new memoir and by coincidence, also picked up this early Geto Boys 12″ the other week, back when 1) they were called the Ghetto Boys and 2) before Scarface had joined the crew. This song, for example, is pretty much a Willie D Johnny C. solo track.1 Nice use of “Slippin’ Into Darkness.”
365 Days of Soul, #157
Oops. For some reason, I thought Willie was originally from NY but either way, clearly I can’t tell people’s voices apart. ↩