Archive for the ‘Beats’ Category

Dred Scott – “Breakin’ Combs” (1994)

September 1, 2008



As I get ready to go back to school, I’ve been trying to bookend my summer. Bookending always involve playing some dope music. I’ve been revisiting The Nonce’s World Ultimate for the umptheenth time (revisit my revisit), along with Down South’s Lost in Brooklyn (thanks to WTR for reminding me of this), and Dred Scott’s Breakin’ Combs. I put these albums on consecutively, and I have unbelievable beat, after dope beat.

Dred Scott’s funky beats are par for the course for 1994. Heavy with funk and jazz samples (check the beat and tale of the West Coast-sounding “They Don’t Know”). Scott handles all the production on this once-recondite classic (I think it’s more well known now, thanks to the blogosphere). I’m not sure why I didn’t know about this back then. Dred Scott’s beats resplendently parallel the beats of more notorious “Golden Era” producers, namely Pete Rock. And like Pete Rock, his music taste is incredible, and affords Breakin’ Combs with a constant layering of amazing samples. Many of these samples are, I’m sure, more well-known and recognizable now then they were in 1994 (again, thanks to the blogosphere), but I can’t help but think that had I heard this in 1994, I would have most certainly bugged out when listening to tracks like the opener, “Back in the Day,” and the closer, “Frankie’s Groove.” The latter is a jam-session instrumental, heavy on the piano and bass. And yes, Breakin’ Combs is also spotted frequently with all the horns one could want; see the aforementioned “Back in the Day.”

Dred Scott is comparably able on the mic. However, he doesn’t really have the presence or signature sound that many of his more popular contemporaries had, and I surmise that may have been a reason why Breakin’ Combs never found its niche. For example, some tracks have him sounding something like Brand Nubian, in both delivery and subject matter. For example, “Swingin’ From The Tree” has Scott doing his Sadat X as he delves into the many perspectives of black culture; in an indirect way of promoting unity, Dred Scott puts all people in a ship that is sinking as the differing groups fight to promulgate their way over others’. The story ends with everyone in the ship sinking together, in disunity. “Check The Vibe” is a Tribe Called Quest-sounding, laid-back track, complete with female singer on the chorus; for Tribe it was Vinia Mojica, while Scott employs Adrian Evans, whose debut album, Adriana Evans, Scott would lend lots of production to in 1997.

One of my favorite tracks is “They Don’t Know.” On it, Scott cooly talks of his skills. Of course, some fool in a club is bound to try and break the flow (don’t you hate when that happens?); in this case, it’s a blunted “fool” with “gold on the two front teeth.” After agreeing to a beat challenge, in which Scott puts his gear on the line, they shook hands, Scott “rocked it,” and walked away with “two gold teeth in his pocket.” That’s hip hop.

Breakin’ Combs, like so many albums from its period, plays amazing from front to back. Should you get your hands on this album, you’ll have a good hour of captivating and nostalgic beats, and lyrics that while not too heavy, are captivating and put most contemporary emcees to shame. In light of a what is considered lyrical content these days, Dred Scott shows how lyrics and flow were taken for granted back in the 90’s. This is particularly true when paired with the amazing beats that paint Breakin’ Combs.

Spring Mix

April 22, 2008

Just a brief list of tracks I’ve become cozy with:

1) Tanya Morgan – “Waiting for You,” Tanya Morgan is a Rap Group – Soulful production. Entertaining tale. Ilyas continues to come up with the hilarious verses/delivery. Although, I am underwhelmed with the other TM mix that came out this year, Tanya Morgan presents: Beat Thieves 2, Tanya Morgan is a Rap Group is one of my favorite 2008 releases; I’m really looking forward to their next album.

2) Buckshot f/ Talib Kweli & Tyler Woods – Hold it Down,” The Formula – 9th Wonder taking it back to The Listening days on this. I’m nervous about The Formula, however. Through a few previews, I’ve noted a handful of tracks that feature a female singer on the hook who can’t sing/sounds like she’s 12. What’s the deal with that? (Check De La’s “Much More” feat. Yummy from The Grind Date to get my drift).

3) Kenny Segal f/ Abstract Rude, Aceyalone, Busdriver, Dr. Oop, & Nocando – “Backyard BBQ,” Platinum Dreams – Platinum Dreams is a mix released from 88-Keys, presumably as a primer for the release of his Death of Adam project (due out soon I think). It’s a potpourri of artists, instrumentals, etc. I love the guitar sample in this. Reminds me of something that would have been on ATCQ’s Beats, Rhymes, & Life. And, Aceyalone is awesome.

4) Kidz in the Hall – “Work to Do,” Geniuses Need Love Too/Kidz in the Hall & Mic Boogie Present: Detention – Subtitled Obama ’08. I know this technically came out in 2007, but it’s a dope track.

5) Black Spade – “Evil Love,” To Serve With Love – Chopped up beat. Black Spade sings and raps his way through this love gone wrong plot, “Why do we make up just to break up like this beat here, here…” His stutter delivery is reminiscent of Dilla. A great track off a great album.

6) 100dbs and Ryan O’Neil – “She Got a Body,” The Adventures of The One Hand Bandit and the Slum Computer Wizard – Again, this album/track came out in 2007, but I love this track. Nothing groundbreaking as far as the story goes, think Mos Def’s “Ms. Fat Booty.” 100dbs’s production is solid through the album. I love the subtle horns and keys on this one.

Browsing the blogs…

January 21, 2008

Piggy-backing on the inclusion of Masekela’s “Grazing in the Grass” on my Morning Cuppa Go, I came upon this write up on “Grazing in the Grass” over at …And It’s Still All Good. Add in Stevie Wonder’s cover, and we’re starting to get a fuller picture here.

Also, check this interview with Damu the Fudgemunk from FROM DA BRICKS; if you haven’t checked Y Society’s Travel at Your Own Pace (alternatively, here) yet, make sure you do that – some really excellent beats on there, e.g. “Hole in Your Pocket” (great bassline), and the classic sounding, “This is an Introduction.” I also learned that Damu has done some work with Panacea (mainly as DJ), and I guess is kind of like the Jerobi White of the group. I actually found this interview at the perfect time: I’ve been listening to Damu’s instrumental, Spare Time.

Way back when…in 2007…

January 3, 2008

Aight, it’s January 3 and neither myself nor Kyle have shared any thoughts on the year in music that was 2007 (looking at our last post, looks like we’ve been hibernating). But, I’ve been listening to music incessantly, and been reading some fine wrap ups on some of the blogs I frequent however, and don’t feel it necessary to cut and paste some of the great albums and tracks that others have recollected, e.g. Ohmega Watts’ Watts Happening over at WTR. (“Model Citizen” still sits atop as my favorite, along with “Dedicated” & “Eyes & Ears.”) Sure, I really dug (or digged) Pharoah’s Desire, Hov’s American Gangster, Kweli’s Ear Drum (Madlib dressed “Everything Man” & “Eat to Live” smartly), and other top choices for top 5-10 albums of the year. There are a few albums that I felt didn’t get represented as well as they should have in others’ top 10 lists.

For example, one of my early favorites of the year was Black Milk’s Popular Demand, shown some love early in ’07. “Sound the Alarm” with Guilty Simpson has to be in the top five for gully of 2007. Through 2007, Black Milk lent some really dope production to a range of artists (not including how he laced up his own work, e.g. “So Gone” & “Take It There,” both from Popular Demand). If you haven’t, be sure to check his work on Wildchild’s Jack of All Trades. “Love at 1st Mic” is so Detroit, so Dilla, you have to love it, featuring the classic cut and stuttering soul sample. This beat could have easily been on Popular Demand. I really like the drums on “Ox to tha D,” but Frank-N-Dank don’t really do it for me, nor does the chorus…but the beat is still pretty hot. Black Milk also killed “Danger,” (shown love at WYDU, #81) from Phat Kat’s Carte Blanche; this track was also featured on BM’s EP, Broken Wax, but in my opinion, the highlight of that project was “U’s a Freak”: Classic tale of dude calling out a girl who’s a lady in the street but freak behind doors (very Slum Village-esque theme), but that beat is ridiculous.

Jneiro Jarel also put out, what I consider, and excellent album in 2007, in the form of his Shape of Broad Minds project, which is to Jneiro Jarel what Yesterday’s New Quintet is to Madlib: includes Jneiro Jarel, Jawwaad, Rocque Won, Dr. Who Dat?, and the only non-Jneiro creation, Panama Black. Craft of the Lost Art (digital version here) features the rare soul/funk samples of Madlib, drum arrangements of Dilla, non-self-absorbed lyrics of Ohmega Watts, and the free wheelin’ style of a Count Bass D release. Four elements that make for a great album. Led by the single “Let’s Go” featuring MF Doom working as a tribute to Dilla (whom I would guess Jarel was a student), Craft of the Lost Art is packed front to back with diversity, but manages to sound coherent in one listen. While tracks like “Let’s Go” & “Light Years Away” back the bangers, I really like when Jarel sculpts some more surreal backgrounds, as heard in “Changes,” which features a rolling sample that makes the track float, “Electric Blue,” one of my faves on the album, and “Lullabanger,” the latter very Madlib-esque in the use of rising tones, and, what sounds like a maraca. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t include the jazz tribute, “It Ain’t Dead!!” reminding us all that jazz still contributes greatly to hip hop music. Unfortunately, when I was in Philly and tried to check out Zanzibar Blue, I found it to be closed.

Other honorable mentions include:
100dbs & Ryan O’neal’s The Adventures of the One Hand Bandit and the Slum Computer Wizard – a long-winded title, sure, but it’s certainly worth checking out for 100dbs’s production. Sample-heavy it is, but as I always say, the ability to find an ill sample nearly precludes sculpting the sample into a track. 100dbs digs some good ones. Highlights include “She Got a Body,” “Get Down!” & “One Hand Bandit.”

Waajeed’s Waajeed Presents: The War LP – Again, here we go with Detroit. Waajeed’s production is on point throughout this “compilation,” which is comprised of both vocal and instrumental tracks. The instrumentals are worth it, but you throw in some excellent tracks from Ta’Raach, a few Dilla instrumentals, and 3 solid Tiombe Lockhart songs, and this album gets better and better, culminating with its final two tracks: “Escape from Stinktown” and the instrumental, “Tron.”

I first learned of Uncut Raw’s First Toke over at When They Reminisce. This was certainly a surprise banger for me, and due to this element of surprise, probably is in my top 5 for the year. Both Selfish & Fluent are capable emcees but for me, the production is definitely the selling point – the samples could hardly be more perfect, including so-soulful and funk, and it sounds like it was recorded in a dark basement; it’s got that dusty sound that made (or, makes) Wu-Tang’s Enter the 36 Chambers so appealing. “The Flying” may be in my top 10 tracks for the year, and is quite Dilla-esque if you ask me.

Sa-Ra’s Hollywood Recordings continues the Detroit ambiance and restores some contemporary Prince vibes to the ’07.

And last, but surely not least is Panacea’s The Scenic Route, which you can (or may have already) read about right here. I still maintain that Raw P is one of the premier story tellers out right now.

Here’s to 2007 – an excellent year, imo, for music. Both the underground and not-so underground came with some really solid albums; while I will occasionally get into a funk when I hear an awful hip hop song on the radio, or see some sloppy video on television, I cannot really complain about what came out in 2007. I’m optimistic enough to be quite interested in 2008’s releases.

Hip Hop, rock, rock on and…

Spotlight on Kidz in the Hall…

December 10, 2007

I had to throw this up cause I’ve been really feelin’ “Work to Do” from Kidz in the Halls’ mixtape, Detention. This is one of the most feelin-ess-good tracks out right now and I had to give props to Ivan over at hiphopisread for bringing light to a great track. What a sick theme song this would be if Obama strolled out for debates with this bumpin’.

Review: Wu-Tang Clan – 8 Diagrams

November 28, 2007

I’ve been bumping Wu’s new LP, 8 Diagrams, since about Friday and after about 7 or 8 listens, I’m ready to share my thoughts.

This is an extremely promising piece of work. I’m impressed. Mind you, this is coming from someone who does not own their sophomore LP Wu-Tang Forever. I’m not sure what more I can do to prove my Wu-hating credentials. Other than Ghostface’s last two LPs, I haven’t enjoyed a Wu-Tang album or a solo project since that 1999 Inspectah Deck album.

To tell you the truth, I didn’t even know about this project until I heard about Raekwon’s beef with RZA over the beats on 8 Diagrams (he said they sound like some “hippie shit”). As I mentioned to Pete earlier today, something in me said, “If Rae hates the beats, they must be good, cause dude hasn’t picked a good beat in like 32 years.”

This new CD bangs–and it does it with style. The beats are crisp. There’s a tempo to the album–that snowballing, gangstyle-beatdown type of momentum that only a group with 8 solid emcees can bring to a track. All of the emcees come correct, and show no sign of age–from what I can tell. I’ve been shaking my head at Method Man’s career for years now, but it’s like the Right-Guard commercials never happened. He kills tracks on this album.

I know the joke in some circles is, “yo, the white kid, Wu-Tang stans are going to go nuts for that RZA hippie shit.” But I don’t care if Wu has lost its street cred, I’m not afraid to say that this is some dope isht.

The album starts out fierce with “Campfire.” The main melody for this brooding track is provided by what sounds like an old black spiritual. The drums are crisp. There some changes. Method Man and Ghost deliver the first verses in classic fashion. As the tracks fades you you are left with this overwhelming sense that hip-hop has returned to a state of equilibrium, and the Wu-Tang of old is back on scene.

You should also check for “Get Them Out Ya Way Pa.” It’s a relatively bare-bones track with what sounds like a live bass, and some funky drums. But that’s what makes it an excellent canvas to reintroduce you to the Wu-Tang emcees–even Masta Killa sounds smooth here.

“Windmill” is a definitely a high point for the album. Classic Raekwon verse here. Note that there’s really no hook, just a subdued and sped-up soul singer sample over what is probably the album’s most uptempo track. U-God brings that fire too, I should add. This could have been left off of Cuban Linx.

I also recommend “Wolves” and “Unpredictable.” I take back what I said before, “Unpredictable” is the definitive track from this album. Some guy named Dexter Wiggle provides eerie, distorted vocals on the hook, which adds to the Hitchcock-esque staccato strings that RZA has trademarked. This ain’t no Gravediggaz track–no offense to their work–it’s more subtle than that, and less cheesy as a result. The screaming guitar, the power bass, and the eery vocals just work so well over that trademarked RZA sound. I really can’t do this any justice in writing. You have hear to believe it (I know if I read “screaming guitars” I probably would not check for the track–so you gotta just trust me here).

The “hippie shit” really comes to the fore on “While My Heart Gently Weeps,” a collabo with Erykah Badu and others. As you might expect, it is a cover of the Beatles track “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” It’s one of those “Can It Be All So Simple” themed songs, but it’s arranged in a way that keeps your attention. And Badu’s inclusion lends some legitimacy to what could otherwise be considered a stretch musically for the RZA. I probably won’t go back to specifically listen to this track. Not a good response to what I think is the first single, but not a bad song.

The lyrical high-point is “Stick Me For My Riches.” Check that, everything is well done here–even the sing-song hook (though it may turn off some, I suspect). It sounds authentic to me though, and doesn’t get in the way of the absolute fire that is spit on this particular track.

On “Sunlight” RZA takes over the studio and provides a theological sermon in that cryptic, stream-of-consciousness way that only he seems to understand. If you find the RZA’s idiosyncrasies as entertaining as I do, you’ll dig this one.

Track 4, “Rushing Elephants” is certainly a weak point. The generic symphonic sample sounds like that Pete Rock Soul Survivor track with Raekwon, and drowns out the otherwise quality lyrics. I’m also not crazy about Track 11, “Starter,” an ode to their respective “starter chicks.” Musically, there are some interesting things occurring on this track, but the theme, and primarily the hook, really kill this track for me. It’s somewhat cheesy.

The album ends on a fun note, with a track called “The 16th Chamber” that appears to be an unreleased track from way back in the day. You’ll hear elements of familiar verses from the various emcees. The track kind of brings the group full-circle, and for those of us who have been fans since 1993, it serves as a reminder of sorts as to why we liked these guys in the first place.

It may not make your top 10 list for 2007–like it will for me–but I think most hip-hop heads will have a hard time arguing that this is not a solid effort from a group who, save for Ghost, really needed it. Bravo.

NOTE: For further analysis, check out Ivan’s snazzy chart on his excellent blog Hip Hop Is Read. It breaks down which emcees have the most appearances on 8 Diagrams. Ghostface is quite low, and Cappadonna characteristically keeps his fans wanting more. Props to Ivan for keeping it original as always, and going Microsoft Office on that ass.

Time Machine: The Nonce’s “World Ultimate” (1995)

November 15, 2007

Right now I’m listening to The Nonce’s World Ultimate, and feel it necessary to give it its due props. Sure, in some circles it may be considered an underground classic, but I know there are some very knowledgeable hip hop fans who haven’t had the opportunity to listen to this. From experience in trying to get my hands on it, the album is out of print and your best bet is to scope Amazon or some other site that supports used record/CD sales. I’m sure internet savvy listeners can get their Sherlock Holmes on and find it online too.

Sonically, World Ultimate parallels a Digible Planets-Pharcyde tip. Members Nouka Basetype & Yusef Afloat handle all the production, as per my research. Like many producers from the early to mid-90’s, they utilize a rich blend of jazz samples, creating an extremely laidback sound. Generally, the album is without any hard drums (save for “West Is…” and maybe “Eighty Five,” but both still are low-key). Safe to say, you won’t have to worry about breaking any speakers while this album slips out of your system. Similar to the likes of ATCQ and Jungle Brothers, The Nonce feature some ridiculous basslines. “Mix Tapes,” the album’s lead single, is backed by a sturdy 1-2 combo from bass. Similarly, “Hoods Like To Play” sounds like it could blend nicely with Digible Planet’s “Rebirth of Slick.” And what would a mid-90’s album be without a horn loop? “Good to Go” sounds like a Diamond D beat (imagining Big L rippin’ it), with a horn dancing in and out, alternating in its presence throughout the track. The title track works as the album’s strongest in my opinion. It’s a little more playful compared to the rest of the album and is reminiscent of a Pharcyde track. I really dig the hook, which is simply “World, world, world ultimate” repeating; you have to hear it to appreciate it.

If you’re able to get your hands and ears on this (or if you have it and need to dust it off), do so tonight. With the consistent sound/production and relatively brief play time (@ 50 minutes), it’s easy to listen to from front to back.

The ARE & Dem Damb Jacksons

September 28, 2007

Another afternoon of unwinding. Today’s soundtrack includes The ARE’s featuring Dem Damb Jacksons (with Oh No & Kay [of the Foundation]). The ARE, to my knowledge half of the group K-Otix, has released a few free albums (mainly instrumental) through RappersIKnow. Other than them, my only experience has been random tracks from various albums, e.g. there is a K-Otix track on the second Superrappin volume, a cameo on the wholly underrated Art of OneMind (Illmind & S1), and a slew of production credits, i.e. “So Perfect” from Sivion’s Spring of the Songbird. (If anyone can identify the sample of the latter, it’d be much appreciated).

The ARE’s sound is quite reminiscent of Nicolay, and while I usually try to avoid the “if you like ‘x’ you’ll like ‘y’ ” I feel confident in suggesting that if you dig Nicolay’s bouncy-jazzy-synthy sound, you’ll be able to get into The ARE. Many of his beats are lined with distinct drums and you can count on an ill soul sample.

On Featuring Dem Damb Jacksons, so many things are going right I don’t know where to start. A brief synopsis may go something like this: Oh No & Kay both share the same last name of Jackson. The ARE does not. Oh No & Kay handle much of the writing and rhyming, hence the “Dem Damb Jacksons.” For The ARE’s role, he samples heavily from some other famous Jacksons, focusing mainly on The Jacksons/Jackson 5, but thankfully, on “Oh” using Michael’s “Baby Be Mine.” As with Kanye’s “Good Life” (and SWV’s “Right Here”), I’m always an instant fan when MJ is sampled. So, you roll Oh No, Kay, & The ARE out and what you have is a brief (@ 30 mins) listen which is soulful & hip-hop from 0:00 to 30:06 (the end).

Despite being a big Jacksons/MJ fan, the samples used aren’t easily identified. The ARE’s cutting is on point; he incorporates several synthy guitars, and heavy bass..at least on “Keep Trying,” one of my favorite tracks, which features D-Rose (also of the Foundation) and Donwill (of Ilwill & Tanya Morgan fame). On it, Donwill echos the sentiments of many hip hops fans (I know Kyle & I have admitted this several times): “Rap is a hell of drug/you can’t stop, won’t stop…” The track essentially works as a motivational, “this is the shit I had to go through” song.

Listening to this makes me want to listen to my entire The Jacksons collection. The sampling at times is so inconspicuous that I’ve been replaying over and over again trying to pinpoint the exact song. “So Far” is a perfect example – drifty melody backed by bangin’ drums, with MJ dancing in between it all. “I Want You Gone” uses The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” a track that has been sampled several times, yet The ARE’s use is subtle enough that it doesn’t jump out at you.

Another great aspect of the album is it’s free. That’s right. Just like I did, you can head over to RappersIKnow right now and download it (along with the instrumental version). And while your there, be sure to search The ARE and d/l his Still Climbing EP, which features a mix of instrumental and vocal tracks…including the dope “Hip Hop” with Strange Fruit Project.

Panacea – “Walk In The Park”

September 6, 2007

I’ve just nearly made my way through Panacea’s The Scenic Route for the second time. Although early, my original thought it that is sounds similar to the first album (not in a bad way). I think K-Murdock (producer) & MC Raw Poetic were on some brilliant shit on their debut Ink Is My Drink, so I’m glad to hear them keep it movin’ through the second release – sends a clear message that these dudes have a characteristic sound.

While “Walk In The Park” isn’t even my favorite track on the new album, I was really intrigued by the title. Before I even listened to it, the title conjured images of a breezy melody, and something that could be enjoyed with a female…much like a walk in the park.

Lo & behold, a breezy beat is exactly what we have here. When the track first hits, it sounds like vinyl cracking (great effect, but not all that original). What it turns out to be is the sound of outside, presumably in a quite urban/suburban setting (I think bus breaks can be heard if you listen carefully). It sounds like a walk through a quiet park…in my head during the spring. It also features a Sound Providers-esque guitar lick. Breezy melody – check.

Floating through the breezy track are some equally light, lyrics:

Fine as she wanna be from close up or a distance/irregular heartbeat, challenges persistence/I just wanna see ya so I speak through trees…

Hypnotized, her body booty swayin’/Eye contact, is what I keep on makin’/It may be, a chance that’s worth the takin’/nature is to love what God is to creation

I love the parallel between watching a tree blow in the wind and watching a female walk down the street.

While its title had me thinking somewhat along the right lines, it turns out to be an ode to a relationship, highlighting the whimsical breeze of a park walk, “I walk through a park on a lover’s quest.”

World Lee

August 27, 2007

Brief: Just wanted to add to my recent post regarding the flush of international flavor in this summer’s releases (e.g. M.I.A. & Madlib’s latest Beat Konducta) – I highly recommend swinging over to Rappers I Know and downloading Progress: An Audio Tribute to the Cambodian People by Rob Viktum. As per the artist, it features beats crafted sampling authentic Cambodian vinyl given to him…beats are really dope. I haven’t decided if the following comparison is odd, or makes sense, but some of the beats have a very RZA-esque sound to them.

Album features one of my favorite hip hop heads, Von Pea, along with Strange Fruit Project, etc.

Black Milk on point… again.

May 18, 2007

Not to get too far astray, but back in March while Pete and I were discussing Black Milk’s “Shut It Down”, I asked the question:

How is this not the hottest hip-hop record in New York right now?

Well it appears that this week Milk acted upon the sage advice of this lowly and irrelevant blogger (feel free to laugh now), and decided to drop this track as his next sing-lay. The “Sound the Alarm” remix is off the hook, with a grimey-ass new beat and a guest shot from Royce 5’9″.

This is sort of left-fieldish, but I have a feeling that if Funkmaster Flex can get his hands on this record, he might take to it and let it blow.  We’ll see…

RE: “Talent”

April 30, 2007

Not only does Madlib make crazy beats (plenty of hot beats out there) but his willingness to experiment – to take an accepted sound, and totally flip it around, interpolating seemingly incongruent samples with synths, and singers who can’t really sing – some how, through Madlib’s ears, sounds colorful and deep.

Kyle’s certainly right in that Madlib isn’t easily digested to all listeners. But I think across his discography, his respect and knowledge of music are evident – and I think it’s those qualities that make this project, and others, e.g. Quas, YNQ, brilliant. When I listen to much of his work, I don’t hear arrogance; but I do hear somebody who has the freedom to do as he wishes with his sound, and it is refreshing to hear an artist utilize the full spectrum of his artistic freedom. As it is, Dudley Perkins is a nice fit for Madlib’s production because his sound and style are as incongruent as some of the other ingredients Madlib uses…

You won’t find too many bigger Madlib advocates than me. He’s one of those rare contemporary musicians that is timeless, in that, you could take him and place him in any decade be it 20’s, 40’s, or 60’s (or anywhere in between) and he’d make hot shit. He’s got that ear and desire to push music boundaries, a la John Coltrane. Some jazz critics (back late 50’s) suggested that Coltrane was too unbridled and his sound was incongruent; he was constantly experimenting with sounds, e.g. trying different reeds, biting on them, etc.

In the words of Miles Davis (of John Coltrane), Madlib’s also a “bad mother fucker.”

“Talent”

April 26, 2007

Dudley Perkins can’t sing.

With that being said, the fact that he even endeavored to make an R&B album I think is worthy of some discussion discussion here.

It’s my view that singing talent isn’t a prerequisite to making great music. Disclaimer: the farther we get from my genre of choice–hip hop–my expertise dwindles. But nevertheless, I suspect that like most people of my generation, I listen to many different types of music.

That brings me to Bob Dylan. Dylan was an artist of many talents, but clearly, he did not possess what is traditionally considered a great singing voice. His talents were elsewhere. He had an amazing ability to convey a mood through the timbre of his voice and content of his lyrics, and the capacity to use that voice achieve these unorthodox, compelling melodies. Maybe this isn’t a perfect example, because Dylan could hold a note, but nevertheless, my point is simply that Dylan was able to make great music without what is the popular conception of a great singing voice.

Enter Dudley Perkins. Clearly, A Lil’ Light is not trying to be the next What’s Going On. DP and Madlib appear to intend their work together as a light-hearted musical experiment, one where Madlib can showcase his beats. DP is definitely able to achieve some unorthodox things with his falsetto, crackling, junkie voice.

If that characterization reminds you of another Madlib project–Quasimoto–you’re not alone. What the DP and Quas projects have in common with Dylan is that they are all trying to achieve some alternate musical goals; goals that are more aesthetic, and more tangential to the traditional goals of their respective genres.

The purposefully provocative question I pose to Pete is whether this approach by Madlib could be called arrogant. That is, I ask do these projects suggest that Mablib thinks his shit is so dope that he can make even the worst singer sound good?

Or does Mablib just not take his music seriously enough to think about these kinds of things? You get the impression that he genuinely does it for the fun of it; and if DP comes into the studio on some clownin’ shit, and Mablib’s feeling it, they’ll throw it on wax. Is there something wrong with that?

While I find this aspect of Madlib’s approach very interesting, I know that this lack of seriousness can turn off more traditional hip-hop heads.

Moreover, at one time or another, all of us express a wish that a favorite artist would do something differently or stop doing something else. So for my second question, I ask whether any fan is justified in asking why Madlib would waste his time and some crazy-ass beats with the Dudley Perkins projects?

DP’s “Money”

April 14, 2007

Classic Madlib production: funky bassline, simple drums, and lots of interpolating. I’m not sure who is directing this, but Stones Throw videos are becoming as recognizable as a Madlib beat…

Speaking of Madib…if you head over to here, you can read about Madlib & Karriem Riggins teaming up to form The Supreme Team; their track “Volta Por Cima” is featured on the elusive Stones Throw Hella International box set, as is the dope, dope Madlib remix to Dilla’s “The $,” which you can download for free from Stones Throw here.

Dudley Perkins – “A Lil’ Light”

April 7, 2007

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Dudley Perkins – A Lil’ Light
Stones Throw (2003)

Reflecting on some of the points that Kyle & I have made about hip hop since TT’s inception, I think Dudley Perkin’s A Lil’ Light is a good follow up; at the very least, it works as an effective contrast to some of the points we made about hip hop as an increasingly image-oriented genre. Hence, I chose A Lil’ Light for a few reasons:

1) Madlib production – Other than Dilla, there a few producers I respect more than Madlib. His sound is hard to sum up – funk & jazz samples; crazy drums; synth-[insert instrument]; and just when you think you figured him out, he’s using live instruments, simultaneously with samples. For some, his sound is an acquired taste (e.g. YNQ); while projects like Lootpack’s Soundpieces: Da Antidote! are palatable upon one listen. Needless to say, Madlib (and his numerous aliases) know music.

2) Dudley Perkins – I got into DP/Declaime only within the previous 2 or so years. I got to the point where I needed as much Madlib as I could get so as I worked my way through his production credits (in no particular order), I got to Declaime’s Andsoitisaid (which I almost picked for this selection). Declaime (Dudley’s emcee alias) is unorthodox, but it’s this quality that makes him perfect for Madlib beats. His voice quality reminds me of Ol’ Dirty Bastard if he could carry a note (which isn’t saying much because Dudley can’t really carry a note himself). It’s his seeming stream-of-consciousness flow that really catches my ear and compliments Madlib’s equally free association-esque production.

3) The marriage of Madlib’s production and Dudley’s delivery and subject matter – On the surface, it sounds like Dudley is as times piecing random thoughts together (a la MF Doom). Enhanced with the production, the album dips into cacophonous abstraction: with synthesized voices; interrupted falsetto chords; talks of prophesy. But then it starts to sound normal…

New Selection Coming Soon…

April 6, 2007

It’s been a minute, but with Easter break beginning, and school-related work at a whisper (if at least for only a week), I will be throwing up a new album for discussion this weekend. In the mean times, head over to Stones Throw and check out the Dilla Interview series…particularly the most recently posted Part 5.

I’ll never forget when I bought Jeru’s “Wrath of the Math,” and unknowingly copped the edited version. I thought I was hoodwinked, thinking that the album was less because there was no cussing (I was 17). But, that album got lots of spins, and I learned to like the edit, especially on tracks like “The Bullshit;” the edits seem a purposefully construct of the track’s message.

The reason I bring edits up is because I love the edited version of Dilla’s “Fuck the Police” (see link above). The release of the single (the week after 9/11) notwithstanding, this is one of my favorite Dilla beats and is a track that brings me back to my Aunt’s house (where I was living the first time I heard it) and the dichotomous message: in light of the support the NYPD, PAPD, FDNY, etc. were receiving during and shortly after 9/11, Dilla’s “Fuck the Police” was highlighting the corruption of police, particularly in in his city. (The personal story behind Dilla doing the track was unknown to me until I just peeped the video at Stones Throw). For what it’s worth, I think the release date was just that, a release date; the contrast between the track and the feeling in the country and world at that time was coincidental, a product of the historical events of the previous week.

The edited version is great because unless you heard the original, you wouldn’t know it was edited; Dilla’s stop & go flow on the track matches perfectly to create a seamless edit…

Click here to purchase at UndergroundHipHop.com!
Jay Dee – Fuck The Police/ Move

Crying over spilled Black Milk

March 28, 2007

No crying actually. This album is looking more and more likely as if it could be thee album of the spring/summer 2007 (I’m still holding my breath for Pharoah’s Desire). It’s good to see the love pouring in from other bloggers (pun intended)…at least the recognition that Black Milk has that quality in his beats to have some commericial spill-over success (pun intended).

Kyle & I have yet to show any love for the bonus disc which I’ve been bangin’ just as much as the main course. It features a eight instrumentals (and one vocal track) from previous releases, e.g. “Broken Wax,” Pressure,” and one of my favorite BM tracks/beats, “U’s a Freak [Bitch].” The vocal track is featured on BM’s Broken Wax EP, but the instrumental bangs just as hard. You know a producer is doing his thing when the instrumental cuts deserve their own disc.

I’m content to sit back and watch BM’s beats spread like wild fire.

One.

“Shut It Down”

March 23, 2007

How is this not the hottest hip-hop record in New York right now? It’s almost like some Midwestern producers are more New York than New York’s own producers…

Black Milk – “Shut It Down” (iTunes)

I’ll have some more thoughts on this track, but it’s Friday and I’m punching the clock for now…

Shades of Dilla

March 22, 2007

I get the feeling that this is going to be a recurring theme here, and I don’t think that it’s by accident, but I agree with Pete that some of the Dilla-isms on Popular Demand are downright uncanny.

In particular, “Three+Sum” (which I think should have been the B-side on the 12″, or even the next single) sounds like it was ripped from what I think you can imprecisely dub Dilla’s Donuts period (including all those 2005 beat tapes that hit the internet). Pete also aptly points out that the subject-matter is similarly Dilla-tastic.

Tracks like “Sound the Alarm“, on the other hand, remind you more of Dilla’s Welcome 2 Detroit/Ruff Draft period. I challenge anyone to pick up a copy of Ruff Draft, throw on “Reckless Driving“, and tell me that you don’t hear the similarities to “Sound the Alarm.” Even the hook-writing is eerily similar.

I’ll look for the quote, but I recall one reviewer describing Milk’s beats as J Dilla without the idiosyncrasies. I think that’s right on point. His shit is just a little more polished, and just may be a litlte more palatable for mainstream hip-hop audiences. We’ll see.

Manage a trois

March 21, 2007

Aight, I’ve been trying to slow my head-nod down long enough to listen beyond the beats. It’s tough, believe that. You know, the conspiracy theorist in me (and this hip hop ya’ll, the music where nobody but everyone dies), has me thinking that Dilla ghost produced (pun implied) some of these beats. The drums (particularly snares) are too familiar. Then I hear how Black flows.

A number of Detroit emcess/(producers) have a similar mic presence. T3, Dilla, Ta’Raach, Black Milk – they all have that punchy rhythm that hits at the right points throughout the beat. Dilla was the master of this – hitting at the kick, or pausing with beat; Black Milk brings a similar style on Popular Demand. No where is this more evident than on “Three+Sum,” “Action,” & “Take It There.” That latter is complete will “Let’s Go’s” & “Oh’s.” Of “Three+Sum,” it’s good to see a Detroit emcee come through with the manage a track (listen to Fantastic Vols. 1 or 2, Welcome to Detroit, and anything by Frank & Dank).

I’m not a producer (but I know one to ask so don’t test me), but it’s as if some producers (I speak generally) know their beats so well, that their lyrics aren’t lyrics; they are part of the beat. I watch those videos Kyle posted of BM toying around with a beat, and he’s nodding his head; listening for the slightest sound as he alters the bass’s timing here and there. The way he rhymes at times on PD, how he emphasizes sounds, and pauses – he, much like Dilla mastered, is part of the beat…I think that is the overall impression I get about BP lyrically. Not that there is some sociological message, or even that he’s glorifying some gangster image; and while the club, drink, and woman(izing) talk is present, it is ancillary to his real mission – the beats. BP, in the end (for me), is a beat tape.