Filed under: Uncategorized
As a certified beat head, a pleasing trend in hip hop over the last few years has been the release of innumerable instrumental releases by some of the finest producers in the game. At their best, these works can be creatively exciting and as engaging as those with rhymes (think Donuts and K-Def’s now shelved Willie Boo Boo The Fool, both of which are prime examples of this formula working exceptionally well) but unfortunately the picture ain’t entirely rosy. For every great instrumental album released there are also a slew of albums that fall victim to a permeating sense of mediocrity and a feeling that somebody simply threw together their off cuts in an attempt to put something out there: quality control doesn’t always seem to be at the top of the agenda. With this in mind, which camp is Large Pro’s recently released Beatz Vol. 2 gonna fall into? Let’s find out…
Let me start by saying that the first installment of the series, the aptly named Beatz Vol. 1, was a disappointment for me. It wasn’t that any of the material was terrible, far from it in fact, but the overall package felt somewhat half-baked. Whereas the aforementioned success stories relied on around 40 beats or so and relatively swift transitions to maintain momentum, Beatz Vol. 1 was sixteen cuts deep, with the majority hovering around the three minute mark. Although every joint on the album had something to say for itself, the release as a whole lacked punch or dynamism and the result was a collection of songs that ultimately left me feeling a little flat. Having said this, a few of the cuts do still manage to drift into my consciousness from time to time, and this has meant that the album has managed to stay in rotation over the past year despite not really delivering the goods: it is Large Pro, after all.
Thankfully, Beatz Vol. 2 is better than its predecessor. For starters, a funkier aesthetic imbues the album as a whole, making this feel a little more like the much loved Extra P of the early ’90s. Tracks such as ‘We Have A Winner’ and ‘The Highst’ reek of hip hop from days gone by, and despite a lack of originality (’The Highst’ even employs the much used Lee Dorsey drum break), they’re more than enough to get you open. The album also feels more consistent than the last, and with very few skippable numbers, it’s certainly entertaining. Nevertheless, despite these pluses, it’s not likely to be a release that you listen to front to back that often.
And why? Put simply, just like Beatz Vol. 1, there just isn’t enough here in terms of quantity and what there is lacks economy. Listening to a whole album of instrumentals is all well and good, but unless it is music of the very highest calibre, your interest is likely to be lost long before the track comes to a close. Unfortunately for Large Pro, this is the case with the latest installment in his instrumental series.
However, this doesn’t totally destroy its appeal. If you’re a dedicated fan like me then you definitely shouldn’t hesitate in copping it, but bear in mind that the album requires that level of passion from its purchasers to really warrant the price of admission. Although I’m gonna enjoy Vol. 2 while it lasts, keep your fingers crossed for Vol. 3: I know I will be.
When Mos Def and Talib Kweli dropped their Black Star project in ‘98 on Rawkus, the album became one of several that reignited my interest in hip hop and saw me take the first baby steps towards becoming the geeky blogger that I am today. For a lot of people reading this I imagine that this album was celebrated for its return to b boy values and a more socially conscious outlook, but for me at that time it was simply some dope hip hop shit the likes of which I hadn’t heard before. References to BDP and Slick Rick were lost on my sixteen year old ears, but I knew that I had found something that felt creative, honest and musically engaging. As the years have passed by, my passion for the album has actually decreased, but it endures as a work that played a seminal role in my engagement with hip hop culture and as such will always maintain a special place in my heart.
According to the liner notes, ‘Brown Skin Lady’ was in fact the first song that Mos and Kweli recorded as Black Star, a beautiful ode to the ‘kind of girl you meet at a 4th of July backyard cookout and she’s wearing like a real pretty floral dress and she’s just real real nice’. Although this experience unfortunately passed me by as a North London dwelling teenager, it’s a fitting image to accompany the song and it encapsulates the easy, laid back vibe of the track which seems to drip with a sense of warm ghetto nostalgia. One of the two J Rawls’ contributions to the LP, ‘Brown Skin Lady’ remains one of my favourite songs from the album for it embodies the aesthetic that the Brooklyn duo tried to capture on the album: it’s what Mos Def and Talib Kweli aresupposed to sound like.
J Rawls does a fantastic job with the beat, sampling Gil Scott-Heron’s ‘We Almost Lost Detroit’ to devastating effect. The song comes from his album with long time collaborator Brian Jackson entitled Bridges, an infectiously cool track laced with lilting guitar riffs and some subtle electronic twists. As I’ve mentioned before, my knowledge of Scott-Heron’s body of work is relatively limited, but what I do know is that every time I come across a song like this it makes me wonder why the hell I haven’t already submerged myself in his full discography. I gotta get my act together on this one…
Back to the beat. Taking various chops from the opening of the first verse (check for the sample around the half minute mark), J Rawls successfully rearranges the guitar track to create a suitably nostalgic feeling beat that acts as the perfect accompaniment to Mos’ and Kweli’s musings on a particular brand of ghetto hotty. His use of the electronic sounds that open the Gill Scott-Heron original are well placed and add another layer of interest that slips cohesively into the mix, thus demonstrating that this is much more than a simple drums and loop composition. To add to this, the numerous changes in the groove throughout help maintain a steady pace and keep the beat feeling pleasingly organic.
Even in the depths of the British winter, ‘Brown Skin Lady’ makes me feel like the sun is setting on a warm summer’s night as I take a slug from a nice cold beer. With temperatures now hovering around freezing that’s no mean feat, and it’s a testament to the easy mood created by the song. Imagine it’s still August and ignore the winter: ‘Brown Skin Lady’ will help get you there.
An uncharacteristically short post from me today party people. I’m off to London in the very near future (i.e. the next ten minutes) and in truth, I’m not sure how much I have to say of genuine substance about Q-Tip’s momentous remix of ‘The World Is Yours’ beyond what you probably already know. Remixing a track of such magnitude in its original form is a task in itself, and although Tip’s reinterpretation falls short of the Pete Rock version (but then, what wouldn’t?) it is still an excellent song that deserves a place in your digital crates.
The beat reminds me of Tip’s contributions to The Infamous, which makes sense given the fact that his work on Mobb Deep’s seminal LP would arrive only a year later. All the hallmarks of those later productions are here, with melodic samples given a darker twist by way of heavy hitting snares. Plenty of manipulations throughout keep the beat moving, and I’m particularly fond of the ‘lah, lah, lah’ vocals that creep into the composition during the chorus sections. Nas’ lyrics feel remarkably at home as well, and to my mind this is the true triumph of the remix. Despite being removed from their more familiar sonic backing, his expertly constructed rhymes sit comfortably over one of The Abstract’s darker beats and the end product feels beautifully homogeneous.
I wasn’t kidding when I said this was going to be brief: I’m outta here.
Da King & I – ‘Flip Da Script’ (Remix)
taken from Flip Da Script VLS (Rowdy, 1993)
If you’ve been tuning into FDB for a while you’ll know that one of my discoveries of the year has been the fantastic Contemporary Jeep Music from Brooklyn duo DJ Majesty and MC Izzy Ice aka Da King & I. The definition of slept on, the crew’s first and only full length really is a forgotten gem, and if you’ve still failed to check it out then you’re playing yourself something terrible. It was a great pleasure for me to get in contact with the production half of the duo, DJ Majesty, and discuss things past and present: apart from being a hero, he’s also one of the nicest guys I’ve had the pleasure of talking to about hip hop. Here’s how it went down…
From Da Bricks: I’m really happy you agreed to the interview man, I’ve been listening to hip hop for a long time now and when I first heard Contemporary Jeep Music at the beginning of the year it blew me away.
DJ Majesty: Thank you, I really appreciate it.
FDB: Why do you think it endures as such a slept on release?
M: At the time, when we first put the album together, it was kinda an experiment. Not as far as us doing what we do, but for the label Rowdy it was. It was the same label as Monica. At the time they didn’t really know anything about hip hop because they were from Atlanta and we were from New York, so when they put us out no-one really knew what the project was until a couple of years later. People such as yourselves, on blogs and stuff have been like ‘yo, that album was so crazy! I don’t understand!’ but we didn’t get the promotions. We didn’t bicker about it though, we just did the music we felt we were supposed to do. We grew up around Special Ed, Chubb Rock… I came up under Howie Tee, he showed me a lot of stuff. Being in that environment, that music was kind of normal for us, it’s just what we were always around and what we heard so when we felt that we had a chance to do an album, that’s the way we were gonna do it. We didn’t think about the money, we didn’t think about anything like that, we were just doing music from the heart and that’s just the way we do music.
FDB: Can you fill me in on how you and Izzy got together and on some of the earlier releases like the ‘Soul Man’ 45?
M: Wow, you went back! ‘Soul Man’ was actually produced by Howie Tee. Me and Izzy lived around the same neighbourhood and we kinda grew up together. We actually met through Chubb Rock who was a friend of mine who lived two doors away from me. I used to go to Chubb’s crib and just listen to records. I didn’t know how to do beats, but I always had ideas from the block parties and breaks, so I would bring breaks to Chubb and Howie. They would use the record but it wasn’t like I produced it, I’d just bring them ideas.
One day, me and Izzy were sitting out and we decided to form a group. We used to do most of our music using pause tapes, and we used to bring our music to Chubb and Howie’s place to critique it. How the group really got going was when I went to get a 950, my Moms was gonna give me the money, and I went to World Music and that’s when we started venturing out and doing our own music. I bumped into Shadez Of Lingo who were also on Rowdy at the New Music Seminar. We had an agreement that whoever got hooked up first would reach out for the other group. They kept their end of the bargain and introduced me to Dallas Austin and the rest was history.
FDB: The Shadez Of Lingo album is another example of something that has kinda picked up attention long after its release through blogs.
M: Right. We really vibed musically and gelled really well together. I think the problem with hip hop right now is that guys are scared to take chances and be themselves. That’s what’s really making the music stagnant. It’s not so much that hip hop is dead, I just think the creative process of being free has been lost. Everybody’s scared to take chances, and if you can’t just be yourself then you’re kind of scared to live, you know what I mean?
FDB: So when did the two of you start work on Contemporary Jeep Music?
M: In 1992. I was in the movie Juice that came out in ’92 and we got signed in June. The funny thing about it is that we did all of the singles in one day.
M: Yea, because that was like all the pre-production from the house. I had the MP-62, the 950 and an eight track board. When the politics came into play, that’s what took the rest of the album so long. We had ‘Flip Da Script’, ‘Krak Da Weazel’, ‘Tearz’, ‘Let’s Take A Trip’ and ‘Ghetto Instinct’ all done in one day.
FDB: That’s crazy.
M: We didn’t know how the business angle was supposed to turn out, and when we got into the politics of them picking singles, and ‘you can’t do this kind of sample’ type thing that’s what kind of messed us up with our flow. We probably could’ve done about 80 songs back then because we used to just work, work, work and we figured out the rest later.
FDB: When I talk to people about the album, I tend to describe your production style as being quite playful, with lots of different samples coming and going throughout each track. What was the genesis of that style?
M: Pretty much my upbringing, man. In my household we listened to all kinds of music, from jazz, to David Bowie and onto James Brown so coming up my ear was always tuned to different kinds of music. That, and being around lots of different individuals who liked lots of different things meant that I was never the kind of guy to say ‘I’m gonna sample horns’, or ‘I’ll sample jazz breaks’, I just sampled whatever I liked to hear. I like to feel good, so when I go to choose my samples I choose those that’ll make you feel good.
The funny thing about Contemporary Jeep Music was that we used a lot of samples that other people rocked, but they didn’t rock it like we did. We never felt like samples were sacred ground that you couldn’t go over again, so we’d look for things in records that other people hadn’t seen.
FDB: One example of that is the piano loop from ‘Mr. All That’ that had already cropped up on one of the Spencer Bellamy produced tracks on the preC.I.S.E. MC album.
M: How did you remember that?! [laughs]
FDB: I interviewed Spencer recently so had been listening to the album again.
M: That’s crazy! Yea, we both used the Ramsey Lewis joint. That’s my boy too. We all used to be in the basement together. Me, Spencer, Howie Tee, Chubb Rock… so many people used to come to that guy’s basement it’s not even funny. Just what he did with two 950s was amazing to me. He taught me patience, he taught me to listen to the whole record, arrangement, just watching him doing his thing was crazy. He’d take something that 50 people had used but it would be his that you remembered: his was always the most distinctive. I would say it was him and Marley Marl that were groundbreaking to me at that time. The things that they did were like ‘woah!’ [laughs]
FDB: Another thing that really strikes me about the album is the cohesion between beats and rhymes. What was the process for you working together as a pair?
M: Everything we did pretty much started as a concept. We always thought about something before we did the beat. He’d be like ‘I wanna talk about girls’, so we’d make sure that there was some emotion in the beat. When he rhymed over it, it was more believable, because the content felt the same as the energy from the music. That’s pretty much how we did it.
FDB: What part did Izzy play in production?
M: He’d suggest where to put a change, or to add a bridge, or which beats should go with which samples. We were open-ended when it came to ideas, we were never selfish when it came to the production route. Anybody could come in a room with us and contribute if they had some ideas! [laughs]
FDB: You mentioned earlier about Dallas Austin, what was his involvement in the project?
M: The record label was his and he kinda geared us up to be ourselves. He came in and said ‘for you guys to be different you need to avoid pigeonholing yourselves’. What I really noticed about him was that we were the same age, but he had that knowledge and individuals around him to guide him, so he was ahead of his years. He’d produced Boyz II Men, Madonna, every popstar you could name he had produced when he was only 22 years old, so it would’ve been dumb for me not to listen to him. He knew what he was talking about. I just sat back and listened whenever he talked about putting together songs, and that’s where we got our ideas from. He told us to arrange our rap songs like R & B songs, have it change up with a bridge or something, and that’s why our music always changed and why there were lots of things going on. That’s what I got from him.
FDB: One thing that always surprised me about the album was the cover art, because it seemed at odds somewhat with the content of the album. How did that come about?
M: We were from Flatbush and Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn at the time. We knew musically we were different, but we still wanted to fit in. Visually at that time it was the Timberlands, Carhartt, and we wanted to lure people in just from the look. When they got the album, we hoped it would blow them away because it wasn’t what they thought it was going to be just from the cover. It was kind of like a double standard: you looked at the package and think one thing but when you open it up you got a little bit more.
FDB: I guess that contrast is fitting with the name of the album as well, where you’re still paying tribute to more street level records but offering something different musically.
M: The funny thing about the album title was that we came up with it on a tour bus with Teddy Riley. We were on a promo tour with Wreckx N Effect, Teddy and a few other guys and Teddy listened to a few tracks from the album. He was like ‘wow, it’s kind of real laid back and smoothed out’. I was like ‘that’s not really what I was going for!’ but he was like ‘nah, it’s laid back, but it’s hip hop, jeep bangers’. That’s how the name was born.
FDB: I know you posted a credit on the Yall So Stupid album around the same time.
M: Yea, I did ‘Plant’ and ‘Bootleg Beatdown’ on that album.
FDB: Did you have anything more to do with those guys because they were on Rowdy as well, weren’t they?
M: When we were mixing the album they came in and they asked us if we did production for anybody. At that time, we didn’t really like to work with other people that much because we were so concentrated on the concept of the group, but when they asked I offered them a few beats and those were the two that were on the album.
FDB: Did you post any other production credits at that time?
M: Yea, I worked with Missy, Timbaland’s first two albums, SWV. I did a lot of R & B work after that because I was trying to work with other rappers but for me, I gotta get motivated to work with certain cats and sometimes their subject matter just doesn’t do it for me. I wanted to challenge myself and go in a whole different direction, that’s why I didn’t do a lot of rap production at the time. I also worked with Medina Howard, did a remix for MC Lyte, a few other bits and pieces as well.
FDB: So what have you been up to since then?
M: I kinda faded into the background. I had a couple of songs with Elektra, I did some Keith Sweat stuff, some LSG, stuff that’s out there but I’m not the cat to get in the videos and shout my name so if you don’t look at the credits you’re not gonna know.
FDB: Do you approach R & B production in the same way you do hip hop?
M: It depends. With Missy, she’s kinda abstract. Getting with her was a challenge because she doesn’t like you to do any pre-made beats, so that made me work on the spot with a concept. She wants to be a part of the whole situation. Working with her got me motivated and inspired, because let’s say she’d be on a Stevie Wonder vibe but on that day I might be in Jimi Hendrix mode! [laughs] To have to turn it on and off, it takes your production to another level. It’s still sample based but there’s a lot of instruments as well.
FDB: Do you play any instruments?
M: I play the guitar a little bit, the keyboards a little but. I wouldn’t say I’m a keyboardist but I can play enough to get the job done.
FDB: What about Izzy? What happened to him?
M: He fell back for a minute. He started up an internet company that he’s working on now. He still always rapped, that wasn’t the problem, we just felt like we didn’t really get the just-do we deserved. Instead of being angry, it was just time to tackle something else. But now, we’re like seven songs deep on a new joint so we’re just going to keep going.
FDB: Is the way that you work together still the same?
M: It’s the same, it hasn’t lost a thing. People are gonna think ‘wow, I can’t believe they didn’t drop a second album!’ because it’s still timeless stuff… maybe this one will last another ten years! [laughs]
FDB: How would you describe the sound of the new album?
M: Wow… I would call it more heartfelt in terms of concepts. We’re not talking about money or anything like that, we’re talking about the regular working class guy that’s still trying to pay his bills. Those are the people we’re trying to reach. It’s still sample based but it’s a new twist on the samples. I’m chopping up a lot of breaks like you never heard ‘em before. That’s going to be the main theme of the album.
FDB: When are you hoping to have that done?
M: We want to finish by the end of the year, so we’re trying to get it out during the second quarter of next year. The thing is that we’re fifteen years on, we’re grown, and we want to do it because we feel like there’s people out there who we left a void and we just want to add on to whatever we had back there, I’m not trying to really make any new fans. That was the real motivation for the new joint.
FDB: I can’t wait to hear it. Have you got a distributor lined up?
M: Nah, we’re gonna do this one independent. We may get some international distributors, but now with the internet you don’t need to get bogged down with one situation or one label. I know it’s going to be a growing process, a tour here for a month or two, a tour somewhere else, so to be stuck in one situation… we’re not a million a week group. I don’t think a label would be into us.
FDB: So what role do you see the internet playing in this one?
M: We’re gonna set up a website where you can go and download the album. But just as far as getting out to people it’s just so much easier, you don’t even have to leave your living room to meet new people. We don’t need to waste a load of money on posters and stuff like that like when we first started.
FDB: And what do you make of the internet hip hop scene? Is it something you regularly engage with?
M: I love it because it educates cats that don’t know. People often don’t know the history of certain types of music, and I think the golden age era hip hop should be the blueprint for any type of hip hop that you’re doing. That’s when you had so many different styles, so many different artists, but we were all in one big pot. You didn’t feel like you had to be one way. Now you have a Jadakiss, a 50, but it’s pretty much the same pot. Back then you had Slick Rick, BDK, Kool G Rap, KRS One, Public Enemy, Black Sheep, Pete Rock, Gangstarr, all different styles and we all loved ‘em. We all took something from everyone of those artists but now there just isn’t that versatility that you got back in the 90s.
I think what people like you are doing is such a great thing because you’re giving away so much information and educating people. I was blown away when I saw what you’d written about us because it made me feel like we’d accomplished something and that people had absorbed our music. That made me feel good! [laughs]
FDB: That’s great, thank you. So who are you still checkin’ for nowadays?
M: I like Common a lot, I love his music because he always brings that punch with the lyrics and his production never lost a step. I like Kanye… I love something from everybody. I may not like the whole album, but there’s definitely something I love from everybody. I like Just Blaze, Dr Dre of course… loads of stuff. The only thing I’m not into is the empty raps, you know the snap raps, it’s good for some people but it’s not my thing.
FDB: Thanks again for taking the time out to chat man.
M: Thank you, I appreciate it.
Big shout out once again to Majesty for filling us in on all of the ins and outs of Contemporary Jeep Music and things to come in the future. To say I’m excited about the prospect of new material from the duo is such a ridiculous understatement that it’s not even true. Keep your eyes and ears peeled people, we may have our hands on a few exclusives here at FDB in the near future…
Filed under: Album Reviews
It is entirely coincidental that this second installment of recently slept on releases features another one producer/one MC outfit, but it is perhaps indicative of the success that the formula can bring to those who eschew current trends within hip hop. The Scenic Route dropped on Rawkus (not a bad year for the label…) at the beginning of September, and although it garnered a brief fanfare from a couple of disparate corners of the internet around the time, it amazes me that an album of such quality fell victim to the fierce and ruthless momentum of the blog scene. As with Travel At Your Own Pace, The Scenic Route is a work that clearly engages with boom bap aesthetics, but it does so in an exciting and engaging way that feels remarkably original: if you’re sleepin’, consider this a friendly wake up call.
K-Murdock’s production style has developed substantially since the crew’s first release, a well-judged blend of punchy drums and richly textured samples that gradually mutate as each track progresses. His flair is demonstrated by the incredibly spacious quality that his soundscapes possess; the result is a sensation of the beats almost wrapping themselves around you, permeating all of the available space in which you dwell. ‘Square 1′ is one of the tracks in which this quality is most fully realised, a truly beautiful composition that demonstrates K-Murdock’s production style perfectly. The combination of organic sounding samples with electronic touches manages to achieve a satisfying balance, and it provides the beat with a modern twist that feels right at home when punctuated by the aggressive drum track. ‘Aim High’ is another of my favourites, a seriously jazzy number that is propelled forwards by its energetic drum track whilst maintaining a smooth, laid back vibe through astutely chosen samples. Both are fine examples of the delights to be found here, and they demonstrate K-Murdock’s skill at combining a range of sample sources into remarkably coherent end products that still bang.
Raw Poetic’s contribution is also significant. A relaxed, conversational style is the perfect match for K-Murdock’s production, and he is skilled at weaving together a range of images when constructing his narratives that give his rhymes serious depth. He’s also able to switch up his style when the beat demands it, and his lyrical gymnastics on ‘Between Earth And Sky’ prove that he is no one-trick pony. Unfortunately for Raw, I find that really my focus lies in the beats on The Scenic Route, although this is as much a result of my own personal preferences as anything else: his performances on the album are as accomplished as you’re likely to hear this year.
It’s not all perfect though, and there are a couple of missteps. The electronic element to the songs can prove overbearing at times, the most fitting example being ‘Pops Said’, which feels a little flat when compared with the lusher textures to be found elsewhere on the album. Still, there is very little here that could be defined as categorically skippable, and a sense of consistency and variety is successfully maintained throughout.
In a recent review in Hip Hop Connection, Hercules Rockerfella (yea, I wish that was my name too) commented that what is saddening about Panacea’s sophomore outing is that it is unlikely to find a wider audience outside of the hip hop community, as its potential fanbase are still ‘too busy blindly collecting J Dilla paraphernalia’. This is a real shame, because it is exactly this brand of modern hip hop that I would feel proud to be representative of the contemporary culture. The Scenic Route is soulful, beautiful music that deserves to transcend the confines of genre: cop it.
Filed under: Uncategorized
Although certain album releases get more than their fair share of exposure around these internets (American Gangster being the obvious flavour of the last fortnight or so) there are an even greater number of LPs that only muster a brief mention or two before sinking rapidly into relative obscurity. This is in part reflective of the sheer volume of easily accessible releases kickin’ about at any one time, but also of the resistance of bloggers (myself included) to cover anything that is already deemed to be old news, even though old news in internet time could mean a time frame that is measured in units as small as hours. This is a damn shame, because in this hectic climate of quick fixes and a relentless focus on ‘the next big thing’ there are often albums of serious quality that really don’t seem to get the credit they deserve.
As a result, the next couple of posts here at FDB will focus on recent full lengths that have struck me as grossly under-represented by the blog scene, and which deserve further exposure despite their moment in the virtual sun having already passed. Nothing exclusive here people, just some recommendations that may have understandably flown under your radar as you duck and weave your way through the vast and treacherous skies of an ever-expanding blog scene.
Many Stories To Tell – Y Society
About six months ago I was briefly obsessed by some guy referring to himself as ‘dopegraffhead’ on YouTube. Having rampantly digested each and every one of his videos in which he recreated classic jams with incredible deftness behind the boards (you can watch them all here) I was left wondering if he might translate these skills into his own production work and officially release something. Sure enough, last month saw Travel At Your Own Pace, a collaboration between the man in question, Damu Tha Fudgemunk, and one of my favourite active MCs, Insight.
Clearly rooted in boom bap aesthetics, Travel At Your Own Pace is a fine example of how to use the past to your advantage whilst avoiding an end product that is entirely derivative. Damu’s beats contain all the hallmarks of hip hop’s golden era, but their rich texture and infectious head-nodding vibe mean that there is enough here to keep the formula feeling modern and fresh. ‘This Is An Introduction’ is one of the clear standouts for me, featuring a couple of tasty loops, a perfectly executed scratch chorus hook and a hefty dose of reverberating horns all backed up by a drum track that has a satisfying punch. Fortunately, it’s not the only cut to savour here, and it is a general indication of the consistent quality you can expect from the album as a whole: just check ‘Scientist’ and ‘Setting The Example’ if you’re looking for the proof.
It’s always pleasing to see a one producer/one MC effort in these days of jam-packed production rosters and multiple guest verses, and Insight holds up his side of the bargain admirably. A tight flow and energetic delivery are the key features of his style, so much so that the content is somewhat lost on me: it’s the inherent musicality and sense of passion in his rhymes that captivates me above anything else. Having thoroughly enjoyed Insight’s previous outings on wax, it’s great to see the Bostonian MC still killin’ it over some dope production in 2007.
With very little skipping material and a sense of real cohesion, this is an album that has stayed in rotation for me for months (how many albums have done that for you recently?!). Chisel out a window in your hectic schedule and give it a well deserved spin: although this may not be ground breaking material, I have enjoyedTravel At Your Own Pace as much as any other release this year.
Buster Williams – ‘Vibrations’
taken from Crystal Reflections (Muse, 1976)
Given that I’m now approaching the one year mark in the blogging game, I’ve been feeling a little reflective of late. Although I feel I’ve covered the majority of my favourite artists during this period, there have of course been others who have slipped through the net one way or another. One such artist is the late Big L, who to my mind was undoubtedly one of the most naturally gifted MCs to emerge from the New York scene during the dying phases of the golden era. Lifestylez Ov Da Poor & Dangerous ranks as one of my favourite albums from the DITC camp, an unforgiving portrayal of ghetto existence whose success relied on both exceptional production work and L’s inimitable attitude and swagger. Of course, the album is not exactly one for the faint of heart, but it executed that gritty mid-’90s sound as well as any other album from the era, and twelve years on its status as classic material remains fittingly intact.
Today’s beat deconstruction focuses on the album opener ‘Put It On’, a Buckwild produced number that served as the perfect introduction to the album as a whole. Although the adage ‘they just don’t make ‘em like they used to’ is perhaps somewhat played out when referring to a genre which seems caught in a constant state of reminiscence, it rarely feels as applicable: ‘Put It On’ embodies a bangin’ simplicity that will sadly never be seen again within the genre.
Buckwild finds his inspiration in Buster Williams’ ‘Vibrations’ track taken from his 1976 release Crystal Reflections, a smooth jazz/funk cover of a Roy Ayers cut that features a vibes track as its central melodic focus. Although the opening section of the song will seem immediately familiar, it is in fact the octave jump that leads into the section at the 0.31 mark that forms the backbone of ‘Put It On’. The sample contains a multitude of components: vibes, Williams’ deftly executed doubles bass, rim hits, synth strings and a subtle Fender Rhodes track, although in reality it is only the vibes, strings and bass that feature prominently in Buckwild’s beat. Naturally, the drums hit hard, and despite an extremely simple kick pattern they provide the song with a tremendous sense of momentum. Indeed, I find it almost impossible to understand how anybody could listen to this song with their head still: this is boom bap at its absolute finest.
When paired up with the Kid Capri chorus shouts and Big L’s rapid fire braggin’ verses, the track succeeds in taking itself up yet another notch. There is something particularly cohesive about the feel of ‘Put It On’ as whole; the track is a perfectly balanced mesh of beats and rhymes that is truly infectious. Grab your neck brace and indulge yourself people: things really will never be the same again.