Filed under: Album Reviews
…but didn’t. Internet time is a bitch: as soon as something’s dropped everyone’s had their say and I feel like too much of a lazy douche to even bother. Still, this is my soap box and I’ve been meaning to say something about the following four albums for a while, so here are my brief, rather belated thoughts on The Renaissance, Main Source, Remind Me In 3 Days and Stick 2 The Script. Deal with it.
Q-Tip – ‘Feva’
taken from The Renaissance (Universal/Motown, 2008)
The most highly written about album of this quartet is of course the long awaited Amplified follow-up and rightly so because in short, it’s brilliant. Tip sounds as lively as ever, the beats are all great (bar the Norah Jones collab) and it actually feels like a properly conceived album rather than a thrown together collection of random cuts. If for whatever reason you haven’t listened to or bought this yet then you’re doing yourself a horrible disservice and need to take a long hard look at yourself. That’s right, feel ashamed. Along with the P Brothers’ album this is my favourite hip hop release of the year and I can’t imagine much changing in the remaining weeks of 2008.
I’ve thrown up ‘Feva’ because it looks to be a bonus track left off the American release so I’m assuming some of you may not have it. To be honest, it’s not a great loss if you’re missing it, but if your completism tendencies run as deep as mine then it’s essential. Thank me later now.
Large Pro – ‘Rockin’ Hip Hop’
taken from Main Source (Gold Dust, 2008)
More boom bap legend comeback action? You betcha, and despite this seeming to have a relatively limited impact on the blog scene this is an enjoyable return to form that houses some undeniable bangers. Large Pro doesn’t sound any better or worse on the mic than at any other point in his career and since I always fell down on the ‘I actually kind of like his rapping’ side of the fence I’m fine with that. The production is on point too, your man Extra P effortlessly finding that fine balance between something new and heavily trodden ground that a project like this needs to succeed. Sure, there are a few missteps and it ain’t The Renaissance, but I’ve got a soft spot for this album and its unabashed ‘true’ hip hop aesthetic. If Main Source passed you by then give it a whirl: I suspect you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
The Knux – ‘Fire (Put It In The Air)’
taken from Remind Me In 3 Days (Interscope, 2008)
A surprising deviance from my usual musical diet, but thanks to Jeff’s championing I’ve been really enjoying bits and pieces from this album. It’s a little goofy in places and some of it just isn’t to my taste, but at a base level this is a refreshing pop album that deserves much wider exposure and a significantly heftier push from Interscope who clearly don’t realise that Remind Me In 3 Days possesses serious mass appeal. I obviously lean towards the more straight up hip hop offerings like ‘Parking Lot’ and ‘Fire (Put It In The Air)’, but the vibe in general is honest, enjoyable and more than worthy of your time. As a bonus, your girlfriend will probably love it. Keep that lady in your life happy fellas…
Statik Selektah – ‘Talkin’ Bout You (Ladies)’ feat. Skyzoo, Joell Ortiz & Talib Kweli
taken from Stick 2 The Script (Showoff/Brick, 2008)
Before listening to this album I assumed that it would be a relatively well crafted producer compilation drop flooded with too many guest MC spots and production that was well-executed yet simultaneously dull. I was right. However, dip in and out of Stick 2 The Script and there’s some short-lived fun to be had here with tracks such as ‘Talkin’ Bout You (Ladies)’ and ‘So Good (Live From The Bar)’ having enough substance to get your nod on. This will inevitably end up gathering dust somewhere in my CD collection only to be broken out in a year or two for another brief spell in rotation but I figure it’s just about worth it. Just.
In an alternate and completely self-centred universe I’d have the man at the helm trim down the collaboration list and get a little less polished on the beat next time around, but since he’s unlikely to do so and said universe’s existence is solely in my head I won’t bore you any further. Dismissed.
Filed under: Album Reviews
Illa J – ‘Sounds Like Love’ ft. Debi Nova & ‘Showtime’
taken from Yancey Boys (Delicious Vinyl, 2008)
During the outro section of ‘Sounds Like Love’, one of the tightest grooves on Illa J’s debut LP, he soothingly states that he’s, “sitting here, trying to think of what to say in space/It’s just the music, it speaks for itself.” Whether this is a canny acknowledgment of the fact that most people who choose to give Yancey Boys a whirl won’t be doing so in order to hear what he has to say anyway or simply some smoothed-out ish that just sounds kinda cool over a dusty groove remains to be seen, but you’ve gotta feel for the man’s position. Ultimately, whatever Illa’s got to say, the use of his older brother’s musical backdrops means that Yancey Boys is always going to be about the beats.
And for the most part it is, although writing off Illa’s style completely would be a little unfair because within the context of the music on offer here he feels comfortable and reasonably accomplished, neither taking away from nor particularly adding anything to any of the songs. He mostly writes about love, it’s tidily delivered, feels relatively soulful… it’s pleasant yet almost completely uninspiring. The sung content, which features quite regularly, will inevitably grate quite quickly and become a sticking point for a lot of listeners but I don’t mind it when dipping in and out of the few truly choice cuts that the album has to offer.
But seriously, who cares? What we have on our hands here is some early Dilla material that should be treasured by anyone who hasn’t simply jumped on the post-mortem bandwagon. However much I love the material that the mighty James put out over the course of his whole career, I’ll always have a serious soft spot for the work that he did on the Pharcyde’s Labcabincalifornia, Madd Skillz’s From Where??? and as a part of The Ummah and these are essentially off cuts of the era characterised by deft sample choices, subtly executed chops and big crunchy snares. Granted, in places they feel underdeveloped and lack the fierce, bouncy momentum that his top choice material delivers so devastatingly, but beggars can’t be choosers. The smokey brilliance of ‘Sounds Like Love’, simmering thump of ‘Showtime’ and smack you in the face snare hits of ‘Air Signs’ are worth the price of admission alone for this particular Dilla devotee.
Expect big things and you’ll be disappointed. Take this for what it is – a bunch of Dilla’s unused/rejected beats from the infancy of his career with uninspiring rhymes laid over the top – and you may find that Yancey Boys adds up to something that exceeds the sum of its parts. I can’t front: this has been in and out of rotation for me since it dropped. The music speaks for itself, don’t ya know.
P Brothers – ‘Outta Control’ ft. Roc Marciano & ‘In A Zone’ ft. Milano
taken from The Gas (Heavy Bronx, 2008)
(Excerpts at artist’s request)
Rap music in 2008 just ain’t grimy enough. Any long-winded criticism and discussion of the contemporary scene seems to conveniently pass over the fact that at a base level the aesthetics of the music have now, for the most part, become so polished and glossy that the very grittiness that defined the genre in the first place seems drowned by a swelling flood of auto-tune, pseudo-electronica and abstract post-lyrical rapping. Not that there’s anything wrong with that stuff: it has its place and it’s taking things in an interesting (if at times questionable) direction that is clearly pushing the boundaries in order to more firmly establish hip hop’s next creative phase. Thank you messieurs West and Wayne: I appreciate the service you’re doing us all. Kinda, sorta.
However, all this stuff seems to miss the point a little for me. I listen to rap music because I want it to transport me to heaving basements where condensation licks the inside of blacked-out windows. I want it to make me body slam a pensioner through a glass table and spit in their face for encouraging me to do so in the first place. I want to be moved into throwing Molotov cocktails into abandoned tenement buildings at midnight so I can stand back and watch them burn to the ground with bass and drums as my co-conspirators. Figuratively, that is. Nevertheless, I miss the unbridled aggression and ruggedness that was such an intrinsic part of the music in days gone by. The one crew that seems to understand this sentiment more than any other in 2008 is Nottingham’s very own DJs Ivory and Paul S, collectively known as the P Brothers. Who would have thought that Robin Hood’s stomping ground could produce something as sublimely raw as The Gas? Five boroughs pay attention: it’s the East Midlands who are stepping up to bring New York back.
Despite Robbie’s coverage of the crew over at Unkut, it seems valuable to briefly reflect on their output so far. Despite remembering Malcom McLaren’s ‘Buffalo Girls’ as “a big point early on” in this interview with ukhh.com from a couple of years ago, this is surprisingly the Brothers’ first full length album of their career. This isn’t to say that they haven’t been busy though, steadily dominating the well-established scene in Nottingham and pleasing more discerning UK heads with their Heavy Bronx Experience EPs and through regular collaborations with the Out Da Ville crew and protege Cappo, most notably on the overlooked 2003 release Spaz The World. They’ve dipped their toes into cross-Atlantic ventures as well, most recently working with Sadat X on Experience & Education on top of the string of 12″s that have preceded the release of this album with Boss Money, Milano, Smiley Da Ghetto Child and Ress Connected. Despite all of this you’d be forgiven for letting them slip under your radar, as it’s a position outside of the spotlight that feels entirely intentional. Showboating media-courters they ain’t and they’ve also managed to stay admirably clear of the tangible insecurities of the British scene that have been brought on by the towering shadow of its all-conquering older sibling. They just make great, universal hip hop music with no hidden agendas or chest-beating jingoism.
Onto the album. From start to finish (that’s right, the whole thing) The Gas represents a coherent cluster of cuts that are unabashedly hard and completely devoid of trend-pandering or gimmicks. ‘Cold World’ successfully sets the tone with a soulful vocal hook, melodic keys and crunchy drums that serve as the perfect platform for E.C. and Bago to get busy in style. From this point on there’s no letting up and although a discussion of every song on the album would be warranted, I’m going to stick to my personal highlights for the sake of your attention spans: ‘Outta Control’ puts forth the most mesmerising bassline I’ve heard since ‘It’s Bigger Than Hip Hop’; ‘Digital B-Boy’ marries together brutal drums and twisted digital noise in a veritable assault on your inner ear; ‘In A Zone’ is what Pete Rock should sound like in 2008 but doesn’t; ‘Don’t Question Me’ combines swirling guitar licks with downtempo drums so beautifully that I can’t even listen to it without closing my eyes. The guest MC spots are pleasingly restricted to a small handful of underground Bronxites giving the whole work a sense of continuity and in an age where most people don’t even care about albums anymore, The Gas literally demands a front to back listening experience to be fully appreciated. Ultimately, it feels like the whole package is bolstered by a sense of unwavering confidence: this is music made by aficionados, for aficionados. Don’t like it? Then screw you.
Except you will do. A lot. And it’ll be with good reason because this is hands down the most honest, genuinely slammin’ rap album I’ve heard all year. Granted it’s not exactly reinventing the wheel, but when it sounds this good who cares? The P Brothers certainly don’t, and that’s exactly why The Gas is a collection of some of the very best beats and rhymes you will hear all year.
Filed under: Album Reviews
I picked this up whilst on a random tangent through Discogs, and the fact that there were a couple of Large Pro beats on here sold it to me (and the fact that it was only a cent on Amazon). Unfortunately, this is a prime example of excited anticipation giving way to a perhaps inevitable disappointment: this ain’t great. However, for Large Pro completists and those interested in the more commercial side of hip hop in the very early ’90s, this may be something that you will be interested in hearing.
To be fair, the cover art alone did ring a few alarm bells, featuring The Don in various ‘party’ style poses (his get-up is straight wack), but then you can’t judge a book by its cover. There is very little information out there on this release which doesn’t surprise me as I had never come across it before or even heard of it, and this is perhaps indicative of the fact that this is indeed a lukewarm release at best (and I mean at best). I assume that this may have been attempting to reach a similar audience as releases such as the UMCs’ ‘Fruits Of Nature’, although this record pales in comparison to what is in my opinion one of the strongest pop rap/daisy age records of the era.
The Large Pro contributions are worth hearing, although relatively forgettable. Given that this was released in 1991, I had high hopes of ‘Breaking Atoms’ style beats that would compensate for below par skills on the mic, but this was not to be. ‘On Tour’ bops along pleasantly enough with a funky little guitar loop and a nice variety of interpolations as the song progresses, but it lacks punch and the necessary depth to get you hyped. ‘Step Aside’ is the other Extra P contribution, and its passable, although spoiled by almost two minutes of shouts and ‘heys’ at the beginning of the cut. Once it finally gets into it, the snares are crispy enough to maintain your interest and as with the aforementioned track there is a nice variety of samples that keep the groove moving.
Elsewhere on the album there is some production from Wolf & Epic, but in all honesty, none of the other cuts have drawn my attention and I do not anticipate this being an album that I come back to regularly, if at all. Still, as a relic of a time gone by in hip hop and with the added bonus of the two Large Pro cuts, I guess I can’t complain for a cent plus shipping: let me know what you think.
Marco Polo ft. Masta Ace – Cut Of The Year So Far?
Obviously there is loads of hype surrounding the forthcoming Marco Polo ‘Port Authority’ album that sees a release in mid May on a rejuvenated Rawkus Records. I got put onto this track via WYDU, so you can check in there for the video.
I love this track, and it has got me seriously amped about a release that I am unsure about at this stage: is it going to be as good as the hype suggests? I’ve avoided getting an advance internet download because I want to cop this when it’s released and pass judgement at that stage. For the moment though, ‘Nostalgia’ is in heavy rotation: the big drums, chilled out summery vibe, Ace’s deep verses and fantastic scratch chorus section have plastered a smile to my face for at least the last 48 hours. Definitely my favourite single of 2007 so far, and almost reason enough in itself to get the album when it is officially released.
Filed under: Album Reviews
‘Return Of The Product’ is one of those albums that has been on my hit list for a long time, and which I finally acquired a couple of months ago. Having read a bit of negative press regarding the album on the net, I wondered if my ‘this is going to be great’ hunch would be wrong, but I am glad to say that although this is by no means a sensational album, it is still a quality release that I would argue should be held in the same regard as his former bandmates’ joint venture ‘Dust To Dust’, which also seems to get largely ignored by even the more educated of hip hop fans (I’m no exception, having slept on these until only recently).
In some ways, you can see how ‘Return Of The Product’ was doomed to failure. With the success of 3rd Bass (both of their full length studio albums went gold) and the critics behind them, it is no surprise that the slightly more hardcore aesthetic on Serch’s first solo outing would be resented by those that had held the group in such high esteem. To be perfectly honest with you, I’m no expert on 3rd Bass and so don’t want to get too heavily into drawing comparisons between Serch’s earlier work as a member of that group and his own solo work: let’s get down to a discussion of the album.
The lead single here was of course the excellent ‘Back To The Grill’ featuring Nas, Chubb Rock and Red Hot Lover Tone which essentially acts as a sequel to the undisputed classic ‘Live at the BBQ’. I remember first hearing the former cut on a J Smoke mixtape around 2001 and was instantly taken by its bangin’ drum track and upbeat party vibe. I also love the album opener ‘Here It Comes’ which features some creative and interesting layers (check the African chants in the verse section and the bell during the chorus… quality) and the funky drum track means that this cut easily gets your head nodding. The remix that appears at the end of the album is also excellent, with an aggressive and seriously upbeat flava. ‘Can You Dig It’ is another favourite, with live drums and a multi-layered chorus hook that works very well. Serch handles co-production on the majority of the tracks, with T-Ray and Wolf & Epic chipping in, and the result is a pretty consistent album that successfully utilises live instrumentation whilst maintaining a relatively gritty vibe.
Match the beats with Serch’s unquestionable skills on the mic and you’ve got a winning formula. I have always liked his flow which feels relaxed and fluid, and his voice has a powerful quality that means he resonates over the music below. The content is also pleasingly varied with comments on society, bragging verses and I think he even kicks a little bit of 5% wisdom at one stage (!) although I can’t remember what track this appears on.
If you’ve been sleepin’ on this album like me then I think you will be pleasantly surprised. Although it is by no means an exceptional album, it deserves far more props than it has ever garnered, slipping off the hip hop map for all but the most dedicated of fans. Right this wrong: hit the link.
Filed under: Album Reviews
Although my sensibilities lie firmly in the east, I’m trying to open my mind a little bit to stuff from the other side of the US in an attempt to expand my hip hop palette. Despite ‘At The Speed Of Life’ being a relatively high profile release, I only got a hold of it the other day and have been so impressed with it that I thought I’d throw it up almost immediately. To be fair, I feel like I’m cheating a little on the ‘broadening my horizons’ front here, as although Xzibit hails from California, there is no denying that this album is musically closer to counterparts from the five boroughs than from the so-called ‘City of Angels’. Still, it’s a step towards branching out a little bit, and I’m happy to be so pleasantly rewarded. Who knows, I may be bumping some low-riding, gun-toting G Funk before the year is out…
As an affiliate of the Likwit Crew with King Tee and The Alkaholiks, the east coast influence found in this album is hardly surprising as both of the aforementioned artists also lean towards a more New York oriented sound. Indeed, it also seems significant that this was released by Loud, who traditionally had always handled the business of those representing those on the Atlantic coastline. Favourite cuts for me at this stage are ‘Eyes May Shine’ which incorporates some sweeping strings with heavy drums to produce a serious banger, and this is followed by ‘Positively Negative’ which continues in the same rugged vein with a verse from King Tee to add to the lyrical side of the track. Diamond D’s contribution ‘Bird’s Eye View’ is also solid and as with ‘Positively Negative’ benefits from guestspots, this time from J-Ro and Tash of The Liks. Although I don’t feel like I know the album inside out yet, the overall impression I am left with is that the production is pretty consistent from start to finish, and I had no problem in giving the album a full listen through straight out the blocks.
I also enjoy Xzibit’s work on the mic, which is characterised by his deep voice and raw delivery. The content of his verses is relatively standard, but there is an intelligence here that means his street narratives work well (perhaps ‘The Foundation’ is one of the best examples where he details the struggles of street life by relaying the information to his son). It seems like ‘Paparazzi’ is often cited as the standout cut, but X’s brutal dismantling of those artists in it for the money feels a little ridiculous now given his current profile in the game: ‘Pimp My Ride’ ain’t exactly street level.
All in, I have been genuinely impressed with this release and I regret sleeping on it due to my irrational prejudices against the west. This is gritty, rugged hip hop that easily stands up against east coast releases of the era, and it goes down as another quality release from the Likwit Crew that is opening my eyes to the west in more depth. If you’re sleeping like I have been then who knows, it may do the same for you.
Filed under: Album Reviews
Although the vast scale of hip hop means that the music is inevitably broken down into numerous sub-genres, the category of ‘Christian Hip Hop’ has always filled me with a vague sense of dread. The thought of somebody ramming their religious ideologies down my throat is not exactly desirable, and as such, the tag often has the effect of putting me off a work. The Boogiemonsters do fall into this sub-genre, and the religious aspect is more present on their second release ‘God Sound’ than on their classic debut, but it avoids being overly preachy and although it is not an astonishing album, it is well worth a listen.
The group are perhaps best well known for their single ‘Recognized Thresholds of Negative Stress’ and deservedly so. This is a fine example of mid ’90s hip hop at its best, and although it was the clear album highlight, the rest of the release kept pace with a chilled, summery vibe and well delivered verses.
Their sophomore release is definitely not as strong, losing the sense of fun that categorised the first album in favour of a darker, more monochrome sound, but in places this does work well. ‘The Beginning Of The End’ has some tight rolling drums and brooding samples that make for an effective album opener. ‘Whoever You Are’ has a spacious feel and some atmospheric strings, and ‘Whistles In The Wind’ has a seriously laid back flava with echoing rim hits and, you guessed it, some whistling. These tracks are the highlights for me, and I rarely delve much deeper into the album. The beats lack impact overall and I do not feel that there is enough to keep a listener engaged properly over the album in its entirety.
MCs Vex and Mondo are effective on the mic, with nice flows and intelligent lyrics, but as with some of the beats, there is something lacking here that means my attention is not completely held. Don’t get me wrong, their deliveries are accomplished, but if you asked me to detail their work content-wise, I would struggle to tell you as the verses do not demand that you take notice. There are of course references to their religious beliefs, but thankfully these do not feel overly preachy and avoid detracting from the quality of the album in some places, although as already mentioned, this is rather spasmodic.
If you are expecting something as good as ‘The Underwater Album’ then you will be inevitably disappointed, but there are moments on ‘God Sound’ that warrant a good listen. This is intelligent hip hop that despite its shortcomings will reward you in small doses. Enjoy.
Filed under: Album Reviews
When I was thinking about a name for this blog back in December, I didn’t really labour over the task too heavily. I knew I wanted to reference the first LOTUG album in some way as it holds a special place in my heart, and I also wanted something that sounded good. Whether I achieved the latter or not is down to personal opinion, but I still like it and I enjoy the fact that it hints towards the urban nature of the genre (bricks = buildings, get it?!). What I didn’t really consider was the reference to Jersey (Newark is ‘The Brick City’), and it is only really as a by-product of writing this blog that I have fully realised the significance of ‘Da Bricks’ within the culture as a whole. Redman, Naughty, Artifacts… the list goes on. Of course, I wasn’t unaware of its role in hip hop, but I just hadn’t really thought about it that much and given it the full credit that it deserves.
With this in mind, today’s post focuses on Miilkbone, a Jersey resident whose debut release ‘Da Miilkrate’ seems to get overlooked despite a satisfying combination of beats and rhymes. A Naughty By Nature affiliate, it is no surprise to see Kay Gee popping up on the production credits a number of times, and generally speaking, the beats are solid with a classic mid ’90s flava: big drums and well chosen samples. Mufi is the lead producer on the album, putting together no less than seven of the cuts here, and this surprises me as he is a relatively unknown entity whose only other major production credit is on Queen Latifah’s Grammy winning track ‘U.N.I.T.Y.’. Highlights for me are ‘Keep It Real’ with its jazzy piano sample (the remix is also excellent), ‘Move Wit’ Da Groove’ which has a real ‘party in the summer’ vibe and ‘Check Me Out’ that features some classic sleigh bells and an enjoyably broody soundscape. This is not to say that the production is exceptional as there is some filler here, and I do find myself reaching for the skip button on a number of occasions when listening to the whole album: they’re not awful, but some of the beats lack punch and are easily forgotten.
Miilkbone can handle his business on the mic, with a flow reminiscent of his Naughty By Nature affiliates but without the finesse that make Treach and Vinnie so engaging. The lyrical content essentially falls back on the staple diet of boasts, brags and parties, but he carries the style off well enough over the course of the album. What really grates for me is his relatively consistent reference to the colour of his skin, and many of the skits revolve around the idea of his rejection of the ‘traditional roles of the white male’ as a result of growing up ‘next to the projects… with just flat out hoods’. If Miilk was so keen to prove that the colour of his skin was irrelevant to his music, then why the hell did he choose to bang on about it all the time? The irritatingly simplistic vision that he puts forward with regards to notions of race and identity in hip hop end up coming off as superficial at best, and at their worst, highly ignorant. Perhaps this is overly harsh given that this was released in ’96 when issues of colour in relation to hip hop had not been addressed in the same depth that they have been in more recent times, but there is no doubt that these overly earnest ‘justifications’ of his place within the genre feel heavily played out over the album in its entirety.
However, putting this issue to one side is worthwhile, as ‘Da Miilkrate’ is a solid release that contains enough highlights to keep the majority of heads happy. Don’t expect to be blown away, but in places this will have your head nodding and feet tapping: show Jersey some props and hit the link.
Filed under: Album Reviews
I’ve said before that there is always a satisfaction in finding early works by artists who have subsequently made a big impression on the genre. ‘Lost In Brooklyn’ is not only a slept on and enjoyable release from ’94, but it is also the album on which we find Shawn J. Period’s first production credits (highlighted in the picture). If you don’t know Shawn J. by name, then you will inevitably know the tracks from the late ’90s that saw him become a major player in the Rawkus boom, providing beats for Mos Def, Blackstar, and a host of other artists at a time when hip hop was still in the wake of the golden era.
Featuring production from Shawn J. himself as well as T-Ray, The Beatnuts and Stretch Armstrong, the beats here are what you would expect: horn loops/stabs, big drums and funky basslines. The album is in fact split between a ‘south’ side (the first six tracks) and the ‘north’ side (the rest of the album) but to be honest this split is rather arbitrary as the sound throughout the album is relatively consistent. Beat-wise, this is clearly oriented in the east, although there are some nice ‘southern’ touches with the odd country and western guitar appearing that provide a little twist on the stock New York sound. Favourite joints for me are ‘Southern Comfort’ (which interestingly features the same sample utilised by Da King & I on the ‘Crak Da Weazel’ chorus hook) which has a nice summery vibe to it and a slightly cheesy chorus vocal; ‘Lost In Brooklyn’ is a straight up banger with infectious horns and tight snares; and I also like the album closer ‘Open Sesame’ which features classic Beatnuts production and verses that revolve around cracking open a brew and indulging in some fine liquor (content that the Beatnuts are no strangers to).
MC Soda Pop does a good job on the mic, although I think it would be fair to say that his verses are nothing sensational. The southern influences in production carry over into the rapping with multiple references to their roots in the lands of ‘tractors, rakes and hoes’, and Soda’s flow is capable enough to be carried by the quality of the production work underneath him. The presence of DJ Myorr is also felt on the record, handling all scratch duties and even scoring himself a DJ only cut, ‘Oh My’. Ultimately, the trio work well together, and any weaknesses in specific areas of the work are easily forgotten by the cohesiveness of the record overall.
‘Lost In Brooklyn’ is unlikely to blow your mind, but it is a solid effort that stands up relatively well amongst the plethora of quality releases that ’94 witnessed. From my Google searching for images and a bit of info, it also seems like this may have gone pretty much unnoticed, as the pickings were slim. This is a shame, as this album deserves to be dusted off and given a little bit more recognition than it seems to have done since its release: give it a listen and help it along its way.
Filed under: Album Reviews
It doesn’t take much thought for me to realise that I am essentially a music addict. Through the purchasing of CDs and with the revelation of hip hop blogs, I am in the enviable position of simply having too much of it on my hands: there are literally not enough hours in the day to listen to everything that I acquire with the due care and attention that I would ideally like to. The upshot of this is that I regularly buy albums, give them a quick listen and then do one of three things. If it instantly grabs me, it will stay in rotation for a period of time that equates to how much I like it and in all probability I will dip in and out of it as the years pass by. If I don’t like it, it simply goes up on the shelves with the rest of my ever-increasing collection and may or may not see the light of day again for a significant period of time. Finally, and perhaps best of all, there are occasionally albums that I listen to and enjoy, but for whatever reason, I do not fully appreciate their greatness at the time and it is only at a later date that I am struck by their true quality.
Da King & I’s ‘Contemporary Jeep Music’ is a perfect example of an album that falls into this latter category of my music-listening habits, and has ultimately become one of my favourite albums of the era combining slammin’ production with masterful wordplay that perhaps contradicts the image of the band presented by the album artwork and title: this is fun, uplifting, positive, party hip hop at its absolute finest.
The crew is made up of MC Izzy and DJ Majesty and although Izzy makes some contribution on the boards, the majority of the beats are produced by Majesty. Released in ’93, the album is horn heavy, featuring squealing saxophones and trumpets that root this firmly in the early ’90s era. However, there is a subtlety to the beat crafting here that takes it beyond the simple drums and loops formula. With each track, various samples come and go throughout four, eight and sixteen bar sections, seamlessly weaved into the compositions to create a highly engaging sonic landscape. The marvel of the album is that these transitions do not feel forced, each coming at exactly the right moment in time to keep your head noddin’ and the smile plastered firmly across your face. It is a signifier of the work’s brilliance that all too often I find myself reaching for the rewind button as a track ends: at times, I feel like I just can’t get enough of it. Just check out ‘Mr. All That’ and ‘Let’s Take A Trip’ and you’ll see what I mean.
Incredibly, MC Izzy is more than up to the task of matching the beats with his skills on the mic. The subject content here is varied, swinging between more reflective numbers like ‘Tears’ where Izzy details the trials and tribulations of lost love with heart-warming honesty all the way through to straight up braggin’ verses such as those found on ‘Flip Da Script’. His uptempo delivery is highly accomplished, splattered with internal rhymes and complex rhythmical patterns that carry the listener along the paths of his intricately spun narratives. Perhaps one of the tracks that captivates me most is the album closer ‘What’s Up Doc’ which takes the standard ‘shouts’ track to another level:
I give thanks to my Pops for being around,
Used to be seeing a frown when I let him down,
But on this day I apologise,
I’m 20 so I don’t see things through a child’s eyes,
I was rough but I wasn’t bad,
I had more of a relationship with my Mum than with my Dad,
‘Cos I was used to seeing Daddy stressed,
Which means that I wasn’t seeing Daddy’s best,
If I could turn the clock back ten years I would,
I guess it was for my own good,
‘Cos I believe that God gives you what you can stand,
You’re only in training to be a better man,
I thank God for my loving family and I plan to be
A family man myself, what else, check it,
When I blow up, my boys blow up,
I ain’t selfish, thinking of yourself you better grow up
And get off that foul mentality…
Far from coming across as corny, these lines feel so genuine and heartfelt that I would challenge anybody to resist their charms. In a genre that is all too often associated with the darker sides of ghetto existence, Izzy makes you bop your head and feel warm inside with wonderful eloquence, steering well clear of the stereotypical gangsterisms that were beginning to take a firm hold of hip hop during this period. At the ripe old age of 20, the maturity and fun that he brings to the album are invaluable, and help to set it apart from other works released during the second half of golden era rap.
I could honestly rant and rave about this album until the cows come home, but the bottom line is that ‘Contemporary Jeep Music’ comes highly recommended here at From Da Bricks. Unfortunately, this was the only output by the crew save a few production credits scattered here and there, but I like to think that Izzy and Majesty may have fulfilled their dreams of comfortable and soul-enriching family life and look back on their time in hip hop with happiness and nostalgia. What they have left behind is a demonstration of how wonderful, uplifting and musically creative hip hop can be, and I know that this is an album that I will continue to enjoy for many years to come. I can only hope that it brings you the same amount of joy that it has brought me: check it.