To Pimp a Butterly is rapidly becoming the most discussed album of the year, Kendrick Lamar’s mammoth opus igniting the literary love from all corners. I’ve absolutely loved it to death (you can vist my review here) but the early release did stunt me a little from a writing perspective. I’d penned close to 1500 words of a eulogy to Lamar for Getintothis about whether he could follow on from good kid MAADD CITY which I was due to polish into a final article the week commencing only to get a etxt saying the album was out early on Spotify. As I excitedly listened to the brilliant new album part of me was proper gutted that this meant the end for my words, which it turned out, were prophetic. Only me and my laptop knew this though…
Even though some of that went into the review I wrote, I still felt like I needed to really shine a light on a different component of the album, and the more and more I listened to it the more and more I was drawn to Rapsody’s verse. It was so beguiling because it was understated dopeness, not the instant standout verse on the album but still one that just became more and more interesting the more I listened to it, one of the many layers and textures to the release that had still not been truly picked up (to my knowledge at least) by critics.
So I started writing about it, and mindful of already missing out on getting my point across I tried to come at a different angle as possible. It’s weird really that I could wrench 2000 words about a single verse on an album so jam packed full of ideas, but everything from the lyrics up to the decision to even enlist her spoke volumes about the concept of the LP and how it fits in the lexicon of great hip hop releases. The fact a woman was the only person who properly guest rapped on the album differs from hip hop; every solo guest of real punch has always been a man, which says so much about the dominance of men in the genre despite a plethora of great female rappers.
The reception was by far and away the best I’ve ever had for an article, 9th Wonder retweeting it on a few occasions, Rapsody herself tweeting at me saying she was honoured (below) and sharing on her Facebook (above). It’s also something I’ve not seen mentioned elsewhere, although once I’d written the piece I read this interview on Complex where she talked about how a lot of the thematic similarities were a coincidence. Normally that kind of assertion reaks of bullshit but I thoroughly believe her, and it blows my mind about the verse even more.
Kendrick Lamar is the best rapper alive right now, end of. His brilliant third album To Pimp a Butterfly (more here) has been the biggest and best thing in hip hop in ages and the first video to drop since it was released in march is now here, a glorious love in to the west coast he reps so brilliantly, tying in with the languid Dre and DJ Quik infected beat he rides in the song itself.
Low riders, check. Gangsters decked out in colours, check. Wife beater vests and ridiculous booties, double check. King of Hip hop? You know it.
Wow, just wow. King Kendrick’s third album has had me more excited than any other release I can think of in recent years, and the best part is the anticipation wasn’t even half the fun. The end result is ridiculous, hugely ambitious, varied in sonic scope and just all round boss. Even the 2Pac interview, which I wasn’t sure on at first, might even be an artistic merit. I wrote a review for Skiddle, but elsewhere the internet lost it’s shit in many ways, as the below video from Complex outlines.
The lovely folk at GIT asked me to do a top ten of the Wu’s best moments ahead of their release of new album next month. A top 100 would be easier to do than a top 10 for the WU, their shit is so good, so I made a few rules. No album could have more than one cut (so no ‘CREAM’, ‘Da Mystery of Chessboxin’ and ‘Tearz’ – sigh), I’d include at least a couple of guest slots on non Wu albums and above all I’d tried a tell a story about what the breadth of Wu represents into my fleetingly short snapshot of the greatest mob hip hop has ever seen.
Obviously there’s close to 98787587567645 records missing, and even though I’ve tried to be varied there’s a lunge towards Rae and Ghost more than anyone else. The former has two solo cuts and the big guest verse on there, even though I omitted my favourite Wu cameo ever (Tash’s ‘Rap Life’, above) because his handful of bars alongside Outkast was a proper event in hip hop. He’s not the best rapper in Wu but Rae travels better than anyone else, just shading it from Meth. Tony Starks though is the finest in the clan, end of.
It also got me thinking about writing a story about the impact of RZA’s controlling attitude and the clan above all approach which ruled from Enter the 36 Chambers up to Wu Tang Forever. Raekwon and GZA did rather well out of that deal, U-God and Masta Killa definitely didn’t, and then if only that flood hadn’t scuppered all Inspektah Deck’s beats. One day…
It’s 20 years to the day since the Notorious BIG drop kicked the world with one of the greatest LPs ever. To cleebrate a man who may very well be the greatest of all time, I wrote a lengthy love in on Getintothis about the album and what it’s meant. Hit the quote above to see it. RIP Chris Wallace
This is DOPE. Illmatic is certified hip-hop royalty, arguably the finest album the genre has ever created, and this is a full length demo version of outtakes and tracks not used. It’s heavier on guest verses, with QB thoroughbreds Cormega, Screwball and of course AZ, with old school heads MC Serch, Kool G Rap and Biz Markie spitting too. It’s bloody great.
There’s a lot of repetition lyrically of what Illmatic’s lyrics would become, Back to The Grill flips a lot of the lines used in Represent and Nas will Prevail would go onto become ‘IOt aint hard to tell’ (and might have been better keeping this more subtle nod to MJ). But listening to this you can imagine this would still have seen Nas elevated to the upper echelons of rap had this appeared in the stead of Ilmatic.
Vocabulary spills he’s ill.
1. Understanding 0:00
Featuring AZ & Biz Markie
2. Life Is Like A Dice Game 3:12
3. Just Another Day In The Projects 5:51
4. Déjà Vu 9:04
Produced by Chris Winston
5. Back To The Grill 12:51
Featuring MC Serch feat. Chubb Rock & Red Hot Lover Tone
Produced by T-Ray
6. Everything Is Real 17:53
7. I’m A Villain 20:09
Produced by Large Professor
8. Number One With A Bullet 24:31
Featuring Kool G. Rap & Whiteboy
9. Nas Will Prevail (It Ain’t Hard To Tell Original) 28:47
Produced by Large Professor
10. On The Real (Original) 33:45
Featuring Akinyele, Screwball, & Cormega
11. Live At The BBQ 37:13
Featuring Fatal & Akinyele
Kendrick Lamar delivered what the internet, bar Shyne, agreed was a bona fide masterpiece last year in ‘Good Kid MAAD City’, a luscious, fluid tale of life in Compton. Part of the majesty of the record is though that the narrative isn’t particularly clear or consistent, and the chronology is completely at odds with the way the album gels musically. It’s a delicious irony, that something so stylistically coherent is essentially jumbled up. As anyone who’s listened avidly to Ghostafce kill ah make next to no sense on the regular, a lot of the time that’s par the course in hip-hop.
Anyway those folks at Noisey have attempted to break down the stroyline a little more. Clcik the starting quote for the full details. rest assured though that it still makes no sense!
In two weeks time Liverpool is going to get schooled by the don. Big Daddy Kane is coming to town and you better believe it. Alongside the likes of Kool G Rap, Rakim, Slick Rick and Biz Markie, Kane is part of the pantheon of truly great late eighties solo rappers. Everything about him is iconic, from his ultimate braggadocio rhymes to the ridiculousness of his garbs, he had it going on.
Any rapper stunting owes him so much, Biggie’s avuncular arrogance, Kanye’s fashionista flyness, Jay-Z’s smooth swagger – Kane paved the way for all this and much more. In fact Jigga’s debt stretches further, with his early 90s pre rocafella days spent acting as an intermediary hype man for Kane at his shows. His first two albums are absolute classics, and there’s the fact that Rakim, RA FUCKING KIM, cooled the prospect of beef with him. You know when the God thinks twice about entering a battle with you, you’re pretty good.
While primarily a record in the classic Big Daddy batting off all competitors mould, he does deliver a few bars implying his acumen with the females, but it’s not as much as the title would have you belive. It’s less of a response to the anti-male diatribe of the same name from Sade than you might initially think, particularly as alongside the MJ Girls there’s samples from two of Marvin Gaye’s sexjams (‘Lets get it on’ & ‘Sexual healing’). Instead it’s just Kane doing what he does best, holding court like the don he is.
This is the ronseal of 80s hip-hop. Marley Marl’s splicing of James Brown and Bobby Byrd just about manages to avoid being dated and Kane just goes, as you’d expect, raw. He’s an absolute animal on the mic in this, just a relentless barrage of skill that is the calling card of one of the greatest. An absolute monument of the genre.
As posse cuts go this is up there with the best of them. The roll call features people who earned their stripes repping verse after verse in the Juice Crew, Tribe Called Quest and Grand Nubian, all coming together to show that they don’t need to swear to keep it going. It was of course an answer to the proliferation of Parental Advisory stickers which were rampant in hip-hop in time. It’s not the greatest 8 bars from Kane in his career, but he’s still smooth as ever and the track and video are amazing. Heavy D also looks ridiculous in prison style pyjamas, what’s not to love about that?
What marks Kane out from some of his peers is how graciously he’s aged. No rapper can ever maintain a scintillating appeal, but some slip from world domination to head in hands moments quicker than most. I’m looking at you KRS and Rakim. Kane however, has gone down the Slick Rick route of touring off the back of a legendary status and the odd track since his heyday and this gem from 2003, produced by DJ Premier, proves his mettle.
He’s still nice on the mic but rather than being on that arrogant tip here he is slipping into the paternal figure of hip-hop a man of his status should do. And his voice fits Preemo’s as ever on point production perfectly. The two recently joined up again for a nike commercial with the brilliant 28 bars, which features the genius closing gambit “I went on 28 just to raise the bars”. Don’t doubt this an emcee still with it.
Still the one. This is just a relentless surge of look at me I am boss; put-downs, big me-ups, the lot. From a lyrical point of view it’s hard to think of many songs that deliver an aura of greatness quite like this, and the calling card ‘I’m awesome’ records of rappers, be them Biggie’s ‘Unbelievable’, Jay-Z’s ‘So Ghetto’, Big L’s ‘Flamboyant’ and so on, all stand behind this. Everyone is a butter knife compared to Kane’s machete faced with this.
The video is gloriously lo-fi, a reminder of the lack of real money in hi-hop at the time, when you get the impression that the combined cost of the tracksuits worn by Kane and his dancers probably outweighs the overall budget. That’s not to say he isn’t looking hella fresh, with a chain that probably cost the GNP of an eastern European country and a general persona that is dripping swag. The iconic BDK tune.
Most importantly though, 1999 was the year hip-hop got good again. Really good. Slick Rick did what the likes of KRS-one and Rakim had been incapable of in recent years, return with a scintillating degree of relevancy, the dirty south started to get really hot with the help of Mannie Fresh and an upstart from Detroit proved being melatonin deficient wasn’t a guarantee of being poor. That rapper in question, a certain Eminem, also brought with him maybe the most important development in hip-hop’s post millenium popscape… the return to prominence of Dr Dre. But most of all the music was just fantastic.
I recently linked to the Czarface album as they heralded the year as a golden age for hip-hop and whilst there’s better points historically for sure, this definitely stands up as one of the finest 12 months the genre has ever seen. Here’s five of the choicest cuts from that time period, and apologies in advance for the andre heaviness.
Few rappers go onto live up to their earlier work a decade afterwards. Nas did so last year with ‘Life is Good’, his second best album after Illmatic, but 1999 was a time when two of the biggest forces in late eighties rap appeared from the doldrums to capture the critical consensus once more. The first was golden age icon Slick Rick, who’s ‘Adventures of Storytelling‘ is an absolute classic. Peppered with star turns from big hitters of the time such as Nas, Raekwon and Canibus, it brought his sinister sense of humour back to the forefront alongside that butter flow. One of the standout tunes was Big Boi returning the star turn Ricky gave on the remix of Outkast’s song of the same title, with the glorious Street Talkin. So, so good.
From 1993-1997 Wu Tang were flawless. Raekwon, GZA and Ghostface delivered classic debuts, whilst Method Man and ODB managed to put forward compelling visions of their personality which if not classic were still very good, not to mention a litany of guest appearances across albums from 2Pac, Mobb Deep and Biggie. Of that five only one managed to deliver on their sophomore, in fact he went better on it. Ghostface.
Supreme Clientele is the greatest non debut Wu solo album ever, no question, and I’d probably say it was the best solo joint full stop. RZA tearing through awesome beats, Ghostface’s patented gibberish and this record, an example of how to go R&B and stay grimy. U-God putting a ruff rider on his dick and busting right through them vying for Tony Starks and that dressing gown for the finest jaw dropping moment in the three minutes of bliss, as the Wu shows Bad Boy how to take an obvious disco sample and keep it street. Jiggy Y2K style.
Slick Rick was the hot rapper from the 80s to come full circle, but undeniably Dre was the producer. Part of the story of how he clambered back to the forefront comes in lieu of this record…
Slim Shady had caught the attention of the underground with a runners up slot at the rap Olympics, a slew of underground bangers with Rawkus and the catchy ‘Just Don’t give a Fuck‘, but he really blew up with what seemed like a novelty single in the shape of ‘My Name is’ in early 1999. Dre produced it and has since said the plan was to make it as annoying as possible to ensure the word was out and follow it up with Eminem showing his true class. It was a tactical masterclass Jose Mourinho would be proud of and this record, the two of them sparring together on record, was the first of a series of relentless OMG moments from Slim.
The good/evil combination isn’t exactly original but the way it’s played out certainly is, Dre suddenly being reinvented as a paternal figure and then Eminem exposing the hypocrisy of ‘Mr NWA/Mr AK’ dishing out advice. If it had been a diss record it would of been a milestone, but for it to be something that he convinced Dre to do (and almost certainly ghost-wrote the lyrics that he responded with) it shows so much about the level of trust and respect Dre had gifted his protege at such an early stage, and the start of a glorious two years of shared creativity. It also shows as much as Em was a savagely humorous extortionist of questionable subject matter, he also utilised balance in his yarns, even if through the voice of overs. This would reach it’s staggering apex with Stan – incidentally introduced to the Slim Shady entertainment world in the second verse.
That subject matter was as disgusting as Eminem would become known for, advocating under-age rape, armed robbery and murder (even if done with delicious humour – the way he berates Dre’s explanation with ‘slipped, tripped, fell, landed on his dick’ a prime example), but at the time it was ridiculously exciting, unquestionably. Music fans very rarely get to live through super-stardom in real time (the percentage of Beatles fans on the planet around at their peak must be minuscule) but Eminem’s finest three years I lived through every step of the way and watched how the music only a few people in my school liked suddenly became omnipresent.
The Doctor again. Dre was ‘back’ through working with Eminem but he was doing so through the medium of a white trailer trash kid from Detroit and with a poppier focus; the next dawning of g-funk wasn’t hinted at yet. 1998 saw a blistering Dre production creep under the radar with the shape of old sparring partner Kurrupt on ‘Ask yourself a question‘ but one record snapped into focus and threw up the dubs. When ‘Bitch Please’ appeared on Snoop’s ‘No Limit Top Dogg‘ as one of three Dre productions, you knew this shit was back on.
Everything about this joint is perfect. When the beat kicks in with the drums and the low end rumbling it was seismic, I remember hearing this for the first time better than most milestones in my life. Xzibit, at that point an underground emcee with plenty of heat and no dodgy MTV show, drops the verse of his life which is littered with quotables, referencing his likwit connections, slick rick and Canibus in 24 breathless bars. He would go on to tread water for the majority of the rest of his career, but this was the reason why.
It was also the point where Snoop realised his future career, hot singles where the focus was on how he sounded over a ridiculous beat. His delivery here is this out there hybrid of crooner, pillow talk and street slang, completely alien to anything else and tailor made for the Dre sonics. And if that wasn’t enough Nate Dogg decides to turn up at the end and say ‘hey oh’ in the most amazing fashion. All four protagonists deliver resoundingly for what is a beyond brilliant masterpiece.
Pharoah Monche ‘Simon Says’
That riff. Those drums. The four note sample from Godzilla was inspired, and Pharaoh drifting brilliantly between his usual cerebral self and straight up club thug stance made the whole thing so much more accomplished. The added whut-whuts on the chorus deliver a broad chested swagger (that’s already evident in spades) and the lyrics flip between self-deprecating humour (“you sold platinum round the world, I sold wood in the hood”) and the clever way both verses end with 2if you holding up the wall then you missing the point” meant an emcee known for technical genius could dumb down with the best of them whilst still having that lyrical subtlety. This is a cat remember that no less an authority than The Alchemist cites as the greatest of all time.
The impact of the record was so much certain commentators even labelled it as the beginning of the end for Rawkus who suddenly saw a product rather than an artform, which is a delicious irony considering the impact it has when it sounds. It’s just brasher and louder than everything else going, M1 & Stic-Man aside. Big and clever? Only in the hands of the Pharoah. An anthem of epic proportions.
This is beyond mega. Preemo instrumentals with Biggie acapellas over the top, cut and spliced together with the right amount of deck technique. There’s nothing worse than a DJ thinjking his skills are more important than the music being played and Finesse lets Biggie’s bragging and Preemo’s pounding do the talking here. The result is astonishing.
Personal highlights include the laconic bounce of ‘Going Back to Cali’ riding deep over arguably Premier’s finest hour, the beat for CNN ‘Invincible’, and the feel-good genius of both Juicy and Nas is Like combining. And then he sacks it all off to let ‘Unbelievable’ sign things off. A fitting tribute to awesome talents.
Grab your dick if you love hip-hop.
DJ Finesse “B.I.G. Over Premier” Mixtape Tracklist:
1. DJ Premier Intro
2. Flava In Ya Ear rmx over I Gave You Power
3. Big Poppa over Ex To Next Girl
4. Dead Wrong over 2 Thousand
5. 10 Crack Commandments over One Day
6. Who Shot Ya over Come Clean
7. All About The Benjamins over Supa Dupa Star (1994 Demo Version)
8. One More Chance over Recognize
9. Long Kiss Goodnight over You Know My Steez
10. Things Done Changed over The Format
11. I Got A Story To Tell over Shit Is Real
12. Real Niggas over Ready
13. Juicy over Nas Is Like
14. One More Chance rmx over Freaky Flow
15. Warning (Freestyle) over Mind Ya Business
16. ’95 Freestyle (7 Mac 11′s) over Who Got Gunz
17. Victory over Project Boy
18. Kick In The Door over Come Get Me
19. Going Back To Cali over The Invincible
20. Mo Money Mo Problems over Golden Child
21. Party And Bullshit over Now Your Mine