STRAIGHT OUTTA AOTEAROA

Scribe: Theme From The Crusader & Stand Up
From The Crusader (Dirty, 2003)

Professor April Henderson, who teaches in Aotearoa/New Zealand, put me up on Scribe, a Samoan/Chinese MC living out in Aotearoa. He’s the hottest MC out there right now, not simply sounding like Jay-Z but standing on top of the local rap scene like Hova too. What’s interesting about both these songs is that after years of finding int’l hip-hop (i.e. anything outside the parochialism of American hip-hop) to be subpar, it’s pretty damn that at this point, folks outside of the U.S. can easily hang with many of the Yankee rappers out there.

To be sure, Scribe really does owe Jay-Z some royalty points for how blatantly his style borrows from Jay’s…their voices aren’t that similar but on the album, he uses very similar phrases, from a simple, “yep” to proclaiming, “we made it” just like J does. That said, Scribe’s flow is mostly his own and he pops nicely in the pocket with his rhymes, rhyming sans-accent and if you told me dude was out of L.A. or N.Y. I certainly would have believed you without question.

Both songs I choose here are Aotearoan anthems that big up the home country as much as Scribe himself. Of the two, DJ P-Money’s beats for “Theme From the Crusader,” is superior, though both of them seem to borrow a page from Just Blaze’s playbook (see a trend here?). “Stand Up” is a decent club cut – I don’t know if it’ll have fools in the States raising the roof but I suspect that if you dropped this in some grimy Auckland club, shit would be set off like a dropped bottle of nitro.

What say ya’ll?

EDGE OF THE NEW SCHOOL

The Future Sound: Sucka Set
From The Whole Shabang (East/West, 1992)

Original Flavor: Brainstorm.
From This Is How It Is (Atlantic, 1992)

Neither of these were extraordinary albums or artists but they represented a fascinating snapshot of hip-hop right at the fading edge of the New School. Positive, conscious, jazzy, both of these Dame Dash-managed groups came on the heels of the Native Tongues, Leaders of the New School, Brand Nubian, etc. but were two years too late to truly capitalize. That said, these two songs represent the better side of both artists. “Sucka Set” sounds like a KMD b-side while “Brainstorm” has more of a Kwame-throwback feel (but not in a bad way).

SOUL SIDES, THE AUDIOBLOG BEGINS

DUH, WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THIS EARLIER?

I don’t know why it never occured to me to post sound files for select songs on this blog but hey, better late than never. Shouts to Pop Nose, Fluxblog and Sasha Frere-Jones for the inspiration.

So here’s how it’ll work. I’ll try to post up a song every day or so. They’ll stay up for at least 1-2 weeks and then I’ll cycle them out (I need to be conscious of server storage).

Please do not email me, asking “how can I get this?” Thanks.


Let’s start it like this…

Dizzy Gillespie: Matrix
From The Real Thing (Perception, 1971)

This has long been not only one of my favorite Gillespie cuts of all time but one of my favorite soul jazz tunes, period. Based on the original composition of Gillespie’s pianist Mike Longo, “Matrix” just grooves with a smooth, smoky beauty. The recurring horn riff is super funky and catchy, the main guitar line is similarly memorable and the bassline breakdown? Sublime. Throw in some snappy drumming and you have one helluva dance floor spin not to mention excellent listening material. The Real Thing has been recently reissued as part of a double-CD package along with Portrait of Jenny, another one of Gillespie’s Perception LPs.

Added bonus: Marc Marcello points out that there’s a new Gap ad with Shannyn Sossamon, Rob Swift and Shortkut that uses “Matrix.” How ’bout that?

Crooklyn Dodgers: Return of the Crooklyn Dodgers
From The Clockers Soundtrack (MCA, 1995)

I wouldn’t say this is the best DJ Premier production of all time – there’s just so much competition – but it’s definitely in the top 5. This beat is incredibly beautiful in a melancholy way, tapping into the nostalgia that’s inherent in the song itself. Brooklyn has always inspired a mythology of its own greatness and “Return of the Crooklyn Dodgers” feed directly out of this and into it. Chubb Rock rambles here – I could have done without his unfocused conspiracy theorizing but O.C. brings the song back full force with his caustic flow. And with Jeru at anchor, the song closes with a series of hammer strokes: “Make money money/get money/take money/I can’t understand that concept/’cause Jah rules everything around me/Fire burns the unjust/like arson/larceny/melt MCs/with mental telepathy/with precision/we’re slicing and dicing/peace to East New York/Perverted Monks/and Mike Tyson.” That’s that shit.

LP LOVE

Since it’s been a while, I decided to step up and drop some album flavor.

1) King T: Thy Kingdom Come

I wrote up a much longer review of this bootleg on my main blog, complete with sound clips but the short story is this: this was the Aftermath album that was supposed to have come out in 1998 but for whatever reasons, Dre deaded it and there went King T’s career with it. The crazy thing is: this LP is REALLY fucking good. I mean, even at six years old, the production still sounds solid and King T is in fine form. He’s really one of the best MCs to ever come out of LA – smooth and cool like a real OG should be – and he’s just killing shit on here. Makes me wonder what that deaded Last Emperor album on Aftermath sounded like too. What was Dre thinking?

2) DJ Danger Mouse: The Grey Album

Folks seem to be mixed on this but I’m 100% positive that this is such a great mix-CD. I’m writing it up for the Bay Guardian but the gist of what I said is that 1) it’s incredibly well produced and not some hatchet, fly by night job, 2) the creativity that went into figuring out how to flip the Fab 4 to fit Jigga is commendable and 3) it just plain SOUNDS GREAT. Pure matter of opinion of course, but this mix-CD actually made me appreciate both “the Black Album” and “The White Album” (see below) better and that’s a powerful effect for any mix-CD to engender.

3) The Beatles: The White Album

Ok, I feel a little foolish in posting this because, hey, it’s the fucking Beatles but I had NEVER listened to this album before and I have Danger Mouse to thank for creating an incentive to finally peep it. I grew up listening to the Beatles, but it was always anthologies, never complete albums and I could kick myself in the ass for having slept so long. There are just so many great songs on here: “Dear Prudence,” “Martha My Dear,” “Blackbird,” “I Will,” “Julia,” “Sexy Sadie,” “Helter Skelter”, “Long Long Long,” “Cry Baby Cry” – ya’ll know the deal. A lot of folks hate on the Beatles b/c they think they’re overrated but shit, sometimes, you just need to bow down and recognize talent, yaoming?

4) Kanye West: College Dropout

First of all, this cover is genius – it’s on some Fatlip tip. Kanye isn’t the Answer with a capital “A” but dude makes some great songs (“Jesus Walks,” “All Falls Down,” “Two Words,” etc.) and does so with both introspection and a sense of humor. You don’t have to feel like you’re hopping on a bandwagon just to throw homie some love with coming with a solid debut. Don’t be all insecurrrr – feel him.

5) Michael Jackson: Got To Be There

Ah, remember the gold old days before Michael Jackson became Wacko Jacko, one of the biggest freaks in pop culture and potential child molester? Remember when he was, you know, a great soul artist? This isn’t even necessarily his best solo LP but I just dig how dude is chilling on the front in his big cap and cord jacket like, “hey, I’m the shit, I know it, but I don’t need to floss. Just feel me.” Plus he’s singing “Ain’t No Sunshine” – that gets automatic props but then he smacks you with “I Wanna Be Where You Are,” which makes you think that maybe the days of polyester and visible chest hair weren’t so bad after all. I guess this isn’t that surprising but I wasn’t expecting that he’d have different arrangers on each song, splitting duties b/t James Carmichael, Gene Page, “The Corporation” and Dave Blumberg, who only drops one song (the title) but does a great job with this light and pretty soul ballad. And flip the B-side and you get a sorta funky rip on “Rockin’ Robin” – cheesy but not wack. As for “Maria”…whoo…Mikey be killing it. Seriously. Damn, what happened to him?

SUN ALWAYS COMES OUT

Ghostface Killah: Bulletproof Wallets Promo 2xLP (Epic 2002)

“The Sun”, a song feat. Slick Rick and Raekwon, was supposed to start Bulletproof Wallets but I’m assuming sample clearance (or who knows? Slick Rick’s never-ending legal drama?) prevented it from being included on the final release. Pity too since it’s one of the best Ghostface songs like…ever. How can you possibly front on a song that 1) has Slick Rick on it. That should be good enough but 2) features three rappers talking about how ill the sun is. That’s ill to the 3rd power. Whoa. And 3) features a rhyme by Ghostface (“the sun could never be pussy/he always comes out”) that was quoted in The Boondocks which is just a way for both Ghost and Aaron McGruder to flash just how much cooler they are than the rest of us. We’re not worthy. (This double LP clean promo also features the never-released original mix of “Flowers” which is radically different from the final version. Be careful though – Epic apparently put out another promo version of this same album which includes “The Sun” but leaves off the “Flowers” mix. However, the version listed here is missing “Love Session” and I think one other song – you sort of need to buy both to get the whole set intact.

ONLY A FEW SOUND TRUE

Gang Starr: 2 Deep

7″ (Chrysalis/Cooltempo 1992)

Why is it always the British that come with ill remixes while Americans kind of snooze by on just the album cuts? Don’t get me wrong – there’s a fine tradition of hip-hop remixes right here in the U.S. of A but you can always, always count on the Europeans to come with some bonus mixes just because they feel like it. Case in point, this 1992 7″ of Gang Starr’s “2 Deep”. First of all, who knows who thought the song was really worth putting on 7″ to begin with? But hell, if you’re going to go through all that trouble, you might as well get a remixer and Cooltempo invites on IG and Dodge to remix the track. It’s no Dimension Ball remix of “One Love” or anything, but the chunky drum break and slick bassline make this sound as good as the choppy, jerky, horn-y original. Personally, I think it’s an improvement – a tall statement since it’s rare that Gang Starr need a remix to begin with.