I’ve selected five examples of the best places to head off to get your boom bap fix at a festival this year, with everything from Kanye giving it the big un at Glasto to Run the Jewels begging you to put their dick in your mouth all day in Croatia. Check it here.
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
It’s a sad week for Boston. Whilst the city is reeling in shock from the marathon bombings it’s also the anniversary of one of their strongest musical exponents death this week, and more precisely today. Three years ago rapper Guru, one half of legendary group Gang Starr, died.
As well as that Keith Elam pioneered jazz focused hip-hop even more with his Jazzmatazz projects, as well as the occasional guest verse proving his clout over and over again. It’s only right that the monotone master gets some five for the funk love. Roll up…
This was the first song that really got me into Gang Starr. They were on my radar as a teenager but this video was a permanent fixture on MTV Base in 1999 when sciving school was a necessity so I could stay up all night watching hip-hop videos. The cameos in the video, the shout out to Big L (again someone who I was just abotu to discover properly), and Guru
I copped the album shortly afterwards as well and realised the full scope of the group’s longevity and ability. I’ve been head-nodding to them ever since.
‘DWTYCK’ ft Nice & smooth
Lemonade is a popular drink and it still is. That’s all.
Gang Starr’s early work in particular was very much focused on exploring old jazz, both from a sample perspective and the way DJ Premier approached his production ethos. Along with the Native tongues crew they were repsonsible for the re-appreciation of the genre in much the same way the music of three to four years earlier had grinded out the funk licks of James Brown and Amceo Parker. Gugu took the ideology one step further though with a number of high profile cooloborations with high profile jazz musicians on the Jazzmatazz projects.
Digable Planets were another crew that dug jazz, and this remains one of Guru’s dopest guest verses. Rhymes and rhymes and rhymes, this is a great smoky hip-hop joint.
‘You Know my steez’
Whilst Guru could do aggression he was best when mellowing it out, and even better when he was doing the former by being the latter. And it doesn’t get much better an example of that than this absolute gem. A hallmark Premier production, the melancholy melody sounding butter over the splurging bass, was met by a lyrical masterclass from Guru.
There’s gems everywhere, from the way “Dropping lyrics that be hotter than sex and candle wax, while one dimensional emcees can’t handle that” shows how to be about one thing yet in style the same minute he dismisses emcees for lacking his intelligence, the whole thing is perfect.
Hip-hop have had few as great in an understated manner.
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.
I left university in May 2004, and I genuinely reckon that there hasn’t been a better hip-hop album released in that time period than Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Good Kid Maad City’. Hand on heart, it’s better than everything done by Kanye, Nas’ also great 2011 masterpiece ‘life is Good’ and certainly anything by the colum inch hoggers of hip-hop during this period, Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, Jigga et al.
Anyway, I’ll try and reason that argument at a later date when inevitably I still think Kendrick’s opus is amaizng in a years time, but dig the latest video to drop form him here featuring Drake.
That Joey Bada$$ track ignited by Preemo got me excited for the hot Texan, so I decided to pluck five of my favourite beats he had gifted emcees over the years. Especially ones where he teased awesome performances out the of rappers sitting atop of them. Here we go…
Technically this track isn’t a premier production in the classic bring the best out of a rapper mould, because he instead replaced the original production by Ron Browz after Lamont passed. That though misses the point, this takes an already amazing track and gifts it a relentless urgency such to the point most people sleep on the original. And of course Big L, one of the best braggadocio emcees of all time, delivers one of the finest deconstructions of slang that would prove the template for rappers across the globe to do the same.
This strung out soul classic came to light on D’Angelo’s ‘Voodoo’ album and the soundtrack to watchable but basically a bit shit Hype Williams film ‘Belly’. This however is so far from a bit shit it’s undeniable, an astonishingly deep and dirty track you can listen to over and over again.
Gang Starr were relentlessly consistent, such to the point that there’s a gluttony of records worth salivating over from the duo. However this is definitely my favourite, the opening salvo from Big Shug introducing the posse cut brilliantly (high point rhyming fear with square), Guru anchoring things perfectly before Freddie Foxxx annihilates the track at the end. His verse is one of the scariest and hardest things hip-hop has ever seen, encapsulating his appeal with the gambit “When you speak of who’s the dopest MC, I don’t come up, But when you speak of who’s the livest MC, I stay what up, what’s up?” which is one of about fifteen equatable in there. It’s breathless stuff and for the full lyrical content head here.
And if you’re still fiending for Premier dig his latest radio broadcast below.
To counter the indulgence currently being wacked out by my drawn out saga of releasing my top 25, I asked a few others to contribute their top ten. Darren flips the script not only in his choices, but also in our usual blogging techniques by offering a great selection brilliantly streamlined in comment.
10. 6 Feet Deep – Gravediggaz.
Perhaps the most surreal concept album ever conceived in Hip-Hop, but also one also producing some of it’s most highly creative beats.
9. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – Kanye West.
Is he a member of The Illuminati? Why is the Album Art bizarre? Elton John’s on the record..!! Despite all these interesting questions, it will be remembered as one of the greatest artistic works in Hip-Hop history.
8. Illmatic – Nas.
Nas’ first ever long player has, due to the total brilliance, become something of a curse for his career as with each proceeding album leaves aficionados disappointed. Sort of how Wayne Rooney has never topped his début for Manchester United.
7. Midnight Marauders – A Tribe Called Quest.
Deliberately recorded from Midnight till 6am, the result was a unique sounding album that captures the collective at their zenith. Wide awake when the majority of their counterparts where sleeping.
6. When Disaster Strikes… – Busta Rhymes.
This album can only be described as perfect Saturday Night Warm-Up Music, ready for before the adventures begin. It’s just fun; something that’s sadly in very short supply within the genre & the lifestyle.
5. Doggystyle – Snoop Doggy Dogg.
Long before the Adidas contract & numerous other endorsements that he now promotes turned him into a brand, Snoop Doggy Dogg was a youngster with the aim of being the No. 1 on the Mic. When this came out he most definitely was.
4. Cypress Hill – Cypress Hill.
This entire album was in-fact intended to be the demo version, yet it was decided that it’s rough gritty sound perfectly suited the lyrics. At times, the imperfections are better.
3. Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) – Wu-Tang Clan.
It simply should work having that many members then including tooo many samples from badly dubbed 1970’s English Kung-Fu Films.
An Aggressive but also silly combination, yet one executed perfectly.
2. Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde – The Pharcyde.
A group of four very young 20yr old stoners from Southern California that have concerns about women, marriage & weed make a masterpiece without realizing. It doesn’t matter it you’re from Los Angeles or Leeds, you’ll instantly connect with this album as it’s about the Human Experience.
1. The Score – The Fugees.
Inspired by the later work on Bob Marley, it impressed both the ghettos & the suburbs across the globe.
According to urban-myth, for some reason the album directed connected with the Chinese Population making it currently the most bootlegged album in history.
Agree or Disagree with my selections? Send me a Tweet at @DazAltTheory using hashtag #GJHH25
The utterly brilliant Complex Mag is pretty much an essential read for hip-hop fans, and in amongst the articles worth checking is this one from nearly 18 months ago which focuses on the 50 greatest beef songs in hip-hop. All the usual suspects are in here, 2Pac, KRS, LL, Eminem, 50 Cent and Dr Dre, and it’s difficult to agree with the top slot really for what is one of the greatest attacks of savagery on a career ever. Despite what popular opinion stateside may ahve attributed the winner of that beef to. Dig in here.
Last month I mentioned I was compiling a playlist for the Font and here is the final edit. There’s 150 tracks of pure aural goodness on the go, the thinking the same as last year in that it’s designed with a student friendly bar in mind. There’s a definite influence from Breaking Bad prevalent – as I’ve been a late comer to the series and completely engrossed by the music involved. Alongside that there’s everything from bass heavy hip-hop from Tyga and The Pack over to music raided from some of my favourite albums of the year so far – Jessie Ware, Frank Ocean, Justin Martin and Nas.
It’s also a bit more ‘current’ – the last one was much closer to the classic records that had been part of my DJ sets over the years whereas this is definitely more of a home listening experience with some slabs of bass music form Bondax, Disclosure and Last Japan all freshening up the student indie disco vibe, and things get a bit noisy towards the end as well. It’s tailored to fit a full day in the bar, so it’s a bit weighty to get stuck into but go for it anyway. Or just rock up to the gaffe and experience it in the environ with a pint of Liverpool Organic for yourself.