General Jimmy

Writer / DJ / PR Manager / Fat Bastard

Archive for the tag “Rakim”

Five for the Funk – Big Daddy Kane

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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.

So in honour of this epochal event, encased in the soon to open East Village Club, five for the funk delivers five bits of greatness from BDK. Large.

‘Smooth Operator’

Mary Jane Girls’ ‘All Night Long’ is one of the most sampled records in hip-hop history, everyone from LL Cool J, Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, Redman and Ice Cube being among the fifty people in total who have used the saccharine soul 80s classic. I’ve even built a modest dj career off playing it in 90% of my sets of the past five years. But few have done it as well as on Smooth Operator.

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.

‘Raw’

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.

‘Don’t Curse’ (Heavy D ft Kool G Rap, Pete Rock, Cl Smooth, Grand Puba, Q-Tip & Big Daddy Kane)

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?

‘Any type of Way’

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.

‘Ain’t no Half-Steppin’

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.

For ticket info hit here.

‘The rap Generation Gap’ J-Zone – Ego Trip

“The music we grew up on will last forever for us to enjoy and get nostalgic over, but the circumstances that created it are long, long, long gone.”

Excellent article form j-live which analyses the way hip-hop means different things to different people of ages. I’ve never really got the likes of Trouble Funk, Treacherous Three and Kurtis Blow even though I love disco, and whilst getting my face melted by PE, gawping at Rakim or Kane’s lyrics or just basking in the eternal glory that is everything about Slick Rick, De la’s ‘3 Feet High’, NWA’s ‘Straight Outta Compton’ and nigh on everything done by Run DMC doesn’t go above very good in my eyes.

My generation of hip-hop is very much 1992+, and as well versed as I am in the music before then less and less of it hits me the way that the music form that period does. Likewise with everything after about 2002… you’d be completely right if you said the aforementioned Three Foot High or even Kanye’s ‘my dark twisted fantasy’ was more of an influential and worthier piece of art than say Black Moon’s ‘Enta Da Stage’, but I know which one I’d rather lash on.

Anyway; read what J-Live has to say. Essential reading for anyone digging hip-hop at any point.

Happy Birthday Slick Rick

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Oh lordy, I love Slick Rick! If your Rakims, KRSs, Biggies and Nas’ are the heavy hitters that everyone digs, Slick Rick is always my number one. Easily the greatest voice hip-hop has ever witnessed, he also possesses quite probably the most vivid imagination we’ve ever seen across any musical platform. In terms of lyrics and concepts, he is the Picasso of this here music, portraying gloriously panoramic visions that have spanned everything from cautionary tales for the youth devoid of bad language, right up to an analysis of why men love bumming women. Versatility and then some.

On here I’ve waxed lyrical enough times about the magic and magnificence of him, whether it’s digging great re-edits of his tracks, marvelling at him chilling with fellow hip-hop royalty or the plain absurdity of his outfits, he gets more props and stunts than Bruce Willis from me. But Ricky is 48 today, so it’s time to throw him even more love.

The way I’m going to do this is offer three unheralded gems from Rick, all alongside the above links, to show what a fantastically brilliant rapper he was capable of being. Drum roll…

Rick’s second album wasn’t as vaunted as his first but this lead single was up there with everything on Misadventures. Bolstered by his signature pared back storytelling vibe, the energy of the beat means he’s a little bit faster in his delivery than usual, squeezing the words into the bars, but not on some Bone Thugs or Das EFX’s rapido vibes, literally just a quick rick. Add the brilliant ‘La Di Da Di’ refrain of ‘I’m feeling Sad and blue’ cut up for the chorus and we’re talking Uncle Ricky gold.

The ability to combine the absurd and the macabre is pretty much what makes Rick the genius he is, his gentle humour imbued delivery capable of offsetting the sheer lunacy of his lyrics. This record, detailing his plans to murder a obese wife who no longer does it for him, is an emphatic example of that manner in which he delivers. An absolute classic of lyrical monstrosity.

The briefest of cameos from Ricky on Montell Jordan’s 1996 jam takes the record from decent R&B number to quirky track, and obviously the presence of all that gold in the video just makes it ten times better. Rick was adored on the west coast as well, his languid patter perfect for that sound and its shows up across a pantheon of the artists over there. Obviously the Snoop love is well known, as is Montell sampling Children’s Story on the immense ‘This is how we do it‘, but he had major love form the likes of Warren G and Too $hort (see main pic) as well. They knew what I knew.

Happy Birthday to The Ruler…

#GJHH25 22-21 The Streets ‘Original Pirate Material’ & Eric B & Rakim ‘Paid in Full’

22 The Streets – Original Pirate Material

Although hip-hop was in the midst of a global boom and the UK scene was pretty thriving, Roots Manuva’s ‘Witness’ aside there had been no mainstream acknowledgement that we could do something positive with the genre on our own terms since the early nineties. Mike Skinner aka The Streets changed all that.

Original Pirate Material is an absolute gem of an album that is so inherently British and brilliant you can’t but help fall in love with it. A gorgeous melting pot of garage, house, hip-hop and much more, it even manages to make you fall in love with Skinner’s at first grating delivery and voice as he showcases a rather deft lyrical ability and wicked observational humour, in the process creating something that was a truly unique manifestation of the UK take on hip-hop not seen since ‘Blue Lines’.

He attacks the contradictions of our alcohol focused culture in the brilliant ‘The Irony of it all’, explores the macabre influences that make mischief makers of men on ‘Geezers need excitement’ but better yet, gorgeously sums up the appeal of ecstasy and club culture on ‘Weak Become Heroes’, a record which would also brilliantly benefit from an Ashley Beedle re-rub.

The same formula would also be applied to his sophomore effort to devastating effect, particularly the way ‘Blinded by the Lights pre-dated the current pop-dubstep craze AND summarised the process of taking ecstasy in one of the finest drug observations ever made, but it was this d├ębut which still sounds perfect a decade on. Arguably one of the greatest British pop albums ever made.

21 Eric B & Rakim – Paid in Full

Paid in Full is the only album on this list that is quite flawed. The production is at times dated, Eric B’s turntable skills weren’t even particularly impressive at the time let alone now and the sound is often amateur in feel and a relic of hip-hop supposed golden age. The reason it’s in here above complete masterpieces and other unsullied collections of music? The presence and lyrics of Rakim.

Even if you’ve never heard this album you have heard the lyrics. If James Brown’s breaks and funk licks are the most sampled backbones that make their way, Rakim’s lyrics are the ones scratched and sampled by DJs and producers and the one’s paraphrased by everyone from Nas, Jurassic 5 and Jay-Z. Even now, 25 years on, they are breathtaking. He brought the concept of internal rhymes to hip-hop (dropping a rhyme mid sentence), applying the freeform spirit of jazz to the way he constructed them with one of the most scientific flows and deliveries hiphop has ever seen.

Every other rapper let the words hang off the end of drum kicks, affecting each part of the rhyme and made sure you saw the process behind why it happened, working with the production. Rakim threw the rulebook out and created some of the deftest lyrical manoeuvres that subverted the very idea of hip-hop’s braggadocio. Everyone else told you how nice they were, with Rakim if you didn’t get it you were like everyone else, beneath him. And this is the way his lyrics made me feel when I really took time to listen to them in 2001. I can’t even fathom how jaw-dropping it would of been at the time.

So if anything, the skeletal and at times questionable production simply enhanced what Rakim was all about. Had he been riding shotgun over the frenetic energy of the Bomb Squad his innate subtlety could of been lost. And the production on the record wasn’t all bad, the title track was a gloriously languid shuffle for Rakim to again rip up the rulebook. The song is a classy break, a bit of a discussion about what to do and one verse. A single verse and not even a chorus! One of the most influential hip-hop records of all time is essentially a Dennis Edwards bassline and 24 bars; the ultimate exercise in hip-hop minimalism.

It’s a formula repeated on the rest of the album, not least ‘I know you got Soul’, ‘My melody’ and ‘Eric B is President’. It’s also, in my eyes, the first full length player hip-hop delivered that stands up as more than just a crucial moment in the history of the genre. Run DMC were important but their music, delivery and power seems at best quaint in 2012, where as Rakim’s crushing lyrical ability still stands up. He was an emcee who elevated the power of the rapper simply by the style and delivery they did, not based on look, subject matter or vibe, simply on how good you were. pretty much everyone has been playing catch-up since.

To read 20-19 click here.

Rakim, Raekwon & Ricky D – Good Lookin Kiiiiiiidddddd

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Hip-Hop Royalty on the flex here, courtesey of Raekwon’s instagram. Deffo one for the family album.

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