Filed under: Lists
Having spent the last week and a half on the sunny shores (most of the time…) of the south of France, I’m glad to be back at home and have been itching to get back into the cosy world of hip hop cyberspace. I had quite a few ideas for posts whilst I was away, but I’m going to kick things off with a post split into two parts that will detail my holiday listening/buying habits. Of course, I listened to loads of stuff, but these are the albums that for whatever reason received more airtime than the others. Tomorrow’s focus will be on soul/jazz, but for now, let’s get into the hip hop…
Flippin’ Like Species – LL Cool J
Man, where do you start with LL Cool J? James Smith has seen it all in hip hop, and along with only a handful of others, has managed to carve out a career of serious longevity in rap music. It’s fair to say that his output has been a little hit and miss, but LL was there all the way back in the innocent mid ’80s, still kicking it through the more hardcore aesthetic of the early and mid ’90s and then onto teaming up with R ‘n’ B female vocalists and suchlike as the jiggy era dawned. The man is still recording as well, although I’m not really interested in checking out any of his material beyond 1995’s ‘Mr. Smith’, the first of today’s albums. Granted, this is by no means a sensational release, but it is rewarding in places and had me bopping my head whilst basking in the rays of the Med (it’s a hard life I know).
Let’s take this one step at a time. Of course, the album has the obligatory radio hits in the form of ‘Hey Lover’ and ‘Doin’ It’, the former of which is trash, but ‘Doin’ It’ is pretty much as good as any crossover hit from the era with bangin’ production and a pleasingly hard edge. The overly sexy shit on the lyrical side of things does grate, but I don’t have a problem with this song and although I’m a little loathed to admit it, I like it. The strength of these hits commercially was phenomenal, and amazingly pushed the album to double platinum status. Even I had it on tape when it was released: the exposure was substantial due to these two cuts (to put this in context, I was a spotty thirteen year old at this stage who had had little proper exposure to hip hop and was only just beginning to go out and buy it for myself).
What I genuinely enjoy about this album is that aside from these crossover hits, there is some pretty solid production elsewhere that is largely handled by the Trackmasterz. Naturally, there is a fairly large dose of cheesy chorus hooks, but the beats themselves are pretty dope: the ‘Who Shot Ya (Remix)’ being the most agreeably hard-hitting. Other tracks are well worth a listen as well: ‘Mr. Smith’ features some era-defining sleighbells; ‘Life As’ won’t fail to get your head nodding and ‘God Bless’ does a good job of flipping the heavily used Vickie Anderson break. Beyond these, my personal favourite is ‘Hollis To Hollywood’, where LL muses on the use of metaphor in the rap game and cleverly weaves together references to films backed by the best Trackmasterz’s beat on the album. I love the way that the double bass kick in the last quarter of the bar in the intro leads you into the verse section, and the lightly crashing cymbals in the background give the track depth and flava.
In addition to this, LL’s verses over the album are enjoyable, if not sensational. Again, the sexual references do grow tiresome after a while, but the delivery is complex enough to keep you engaged and there is no denying that the man has charisma and style, the hallmarks of any great MC. You have to admire his ability to stay current, and even appearances from Fat Joe, Keith Murray and Prodigy demonstrate that even though ‘Mr Smith’ was released ten whole years after LL’s first release, he could still hold his own alongside his big name contemporaries in ’95. If you haven’t heard this album in its entirety then give it a go: it ain’t going to rock your world, but you may find some joints that tickle your fancy.
The Most Underrated Album Of All Time?
I’ve already done a post on Da King & I’s slept on classic ‘Contemporary Jeep Music’, so no need to go into any detail here. However, I was still killing this album on the holiday: fun, witty, funky, amazingly consistent, intelligent… this is my current nomination for most underrated album of all time. From front to back this is an absolute banger and if you’re still sleeping on it then resolve the situation immediately and hit the link.
Que La Force Soit Avec Toi – Cut Killer
France’s equivalent to HMV/Virgin Megastore is Fnac, and every time I visit the continent I enjoy a couple of hours flicking through their selections and listening to bits and pieces as you can walk up to listening posts, scan the barcode and check out 30 second clips of each of the songs on the selected albums. I also like to try to walk out with at least one or two French releases as well, otherwise I may as well be surfing Amazon from the comfort of my own home. Cut Killer has already featured here on FDB, and this is another of his mixtape series that is well worth owning. There’s isn’t much to say here that I haven’t said already, but this is a two disc mixtape of quality boom bap beats blended with style. The tracklisting (click the second picture) only tells half the story as there are plenty of other instrumentals and acapellas dropped throughout the course of the mix and the result is a bangin’ selection from front to back. Enjoy.
Cut Killer Mix Disc 1
Cut Killer Mix Disc 2
FDB Cut Killer Archives
C’est Pour Toi – Onra & Quetzal
The final album for today is something that I had never come across before and I imagine will be totally new to the majority of you. The great thing about actually flicking through racks of CDs rather than just surfing on the net is that something can catch your eye that would have otherwise have passed you by entirely, and these can often turn out to be some of the most exciting things that you buy. I am not suggesting that this is a sensational release, but it is certainly a demonstration of well-crafted beat-making that will receive very little exposure outside French shores. Ostensibly, the ‘tribute’ in question is to soul records of the sixties and seventies that form the basis of the samples here, but this could also be seen as a Dilla tribute, as this clearly draws its influence from ‘Donuts’.
Featuring 35 beat skits with plenty of chopped up soul vocals and a progressive edge, Onra & Quetzal do a very effective Dilla impersonation here, clearly in line with the current trend for rich, soulful samples and slightly more abstract constructions care of a big stack of records and an MPC. This lacks the creativity of ‘Donuts’, but it is an enjoyable listen that demonstrates some real talent, and I hope to catch wind of more of their production work in the future. Although this was only released at the end of last year, I’m throwing it up because these guys deserve exposure and as yet, this is only available on the Fnac website and not on Amazon. I’ve put the link to the website below to make it as easy as possible: if you like it, bumble your way through the registration process and cop it.
That’s it for today, tune in tomorrow for the second installment of my holiday hits series which will focus on some soul and jazz… laters.