Request... Here is the unreleased full album from P.E.A.C.E., Fat Jack, Ric Roc, and Supa Nat, sometimes called No Foreplay. In my opinion, it's a much better effort than either their cd ep or the vinyl 12". Sorry for the digital pops and clicks, that's how it is. I had the intention to try to clean it up, but you know how intentions go. Thanks go to the generous homie Alex for hooking me up with this in the first place! Camp Freestyle
Request... The most cohesive effort from Circus, and the last completed solo project of his to date. Beats provided by AAA; and although they retain the same essence of his work with the Shifters, they are more minimal and sombre, sometimes dirge-like in their slow spaciness. Circus has a lot to say on this, and not just about conspiracy theories and UFO's. Political views are expressed, and personal releationships as well. His unmistakable voice is present, but his style has changed for this release, delving into oldschool deliveries and at times, an almost spoken word style. Quite a sober piece of work. This record, along with The Weather, Slanguage, and Free Kamal, were some of the most out-there records at the time, and hinted at the creative heights the Shifters could have achieved if they had pooled that energy and continued in a collective fashion. It's been a while since they got together, but it could still happen.
There's nothing quite like a Disturbers project. Falling somewhere between The Dwarves and Non-Phixion, this tape from '99 features LukeSick pretty much up to his own awesome devices, spitting track after track of punk and alcohol-fueled heat. Curator produced, with guests including Z-Man and Unbreakable Comb. Head over to DiscoG's to purchase the remastered cd for cheap!
Possessed with one of the most distinctively grimy voices in the underground, Metfly (aka Andre Legacy) released this fast and dirty dust-devil of an album in 2000. Something about this guy exudes sleaze, and he just gets nastier with age, like fancy French cheese. This debut is dope from beginning to end, due to his vocal delivery and flow, and for the diamond-in-the-rough loops from Paris Zax. Andre's partner in crime Existereo joins in on a couple tracks, and The Relevant (aka Mickey Avalon) guests on a couple more. Watch out, this record may give you hep-C.
Request... More from these particular Afterlifers. This here is their hard debut cd-r from 2000. Featuring a strong set produced by CVE, and containing the classic track "Prison Of The Mind". It should have been song of the year, it's so good. Guest shots from Medusa, Pink Panther, Jayne Doe and Michole (at least I think). Songs recorded between 1996-2000. Thanks for FaxCool for the original link!
Request... Afterlife! This is Got Struggle!, the self-released album from 2004. I don't have much info on it (check out disco G's for all I know about it). No typical CVBeats here, but the music is still street-level and gritty, (in contrast to the occasional sci-fi lyrical content) and utilizes some seriously dope samplege. These guys are blessed with tight deliveries and voices that carry a menacing undercurrent, which makes a captivating listen each time I hear this album, like right now. The guest artists listed on the cover don't actually appear on this album, but don't let that worry you. Everything these guys put out was dope, so you can't go wrong here. Check it out.
Request... the big-ass compilation album from Aaron, collecting a bunch of his colabs, guest spots, and other various non-ATU album cuts. The variety that multiple producers and a gang of vocal talent bring to the table makes this album an engaging listen, but at 18 tracks in length, it's hard to find the time to listen from beginning to end. Still, this is Abby here, so you know it's imperative that you DO FIND that TIME. Sooner than later. Take a look at the image to see who else you're dealing with here. Gives me shivers.
Check out the remastered version of this rare-ass Northwest classic! The vocals have been placed back into phase and the record has been expanded by 6 tracks! Beats by Vitamin D, Specs Wizard, Bean One, King Otto and Dropcast. Big thanks to Castro for remastering and re-releasing this crucial document. bandcamp
This is one of the illest from the classic Shape Shifters era, 1998. Featuring the folks from the Shifter exended fam (English League, Of Mexican Descent, Chain Smokers, Ex Vandalz), as well as Kut Master Kurt, this 12" must have been a great intro to the Shape Shifter universe. The wacked-out Circus-driven vibe present in the version of "Swollen Brain Fish" found here only, as well as the distinct styles of the satellite groups, set a nice shot of the many sides of the Shifter camp. "Pot Full O' Gold" is here in an exclusive version as well, and it's one of the best tracks the 'Shifters ever produced, as it depicts them at their arguable apex. Besides The tracks on the A-side, the flip has "Strange Birds" (same version as on the Adopted By Aliens album) plus instrumentals of "Triple Threat" and "Strange Birds". "Rob One Mixtape Anthem" rounds out the set. If you know me, you know I loves me some Shape Shifters. Check it out!
As requested, here is 2004's comp Very Special People. Featuring everyone cool who ever lived. Existereo, Awol, Abby Rude, Grouch, Gershwin, Phoenix Orion, Acid Reign, 2Mex, Busdriver, and lotsa others reprezent. Neila's here too, making the world just a little better.
The 206 hip hop guru Specswizard recently bestowed us all with quite the treasure: His 1997 American Music tape. Coming out after the legendary Crew Clockwise and Elevators, American Music is a departure of the previous mellow, jazzy sounds of those projects. This is almost entirely instrumental, with only a few scattered freestyles and one crew cut (Eyeshock along with Erex the Exposer, Vanviesbrook and Oh Laslo DDS - I think). The beats are frenetic and scratchy - instantly recognizable as a Specs creation, but with an unusually anxious and restless vibe. It's been out of print basically since the day it was made, and apart from a handfull of tracks he upped on myspace back in the day, this has been impossible to get ahold of. So feast your ears on this chapter in his long and varied history! Link to the set below.
It's been a few months since I posted up one of these "monthly" mixes. Sorry, I been running. Here is Volume 7 of beetbak's soiree into current Pac Northwest hip hop. I usually try to create a sense of continuity between tracks, but not this time. This is mostly mid-tempo, melancholy, Fall-ish tracks, in anticipation of the half-year rainy gray misery we call winter out here. There are also some uptempo tracks, some dope posse cuts, and some other tracks that don't quite fit the dominant vibe I was going for. Continuity be damned, just sit back and listen. Hunker down around your coffee cup, turn your collar up, and check out Black Stax, Dawhud, Nathan Wolf, Inkubiz, Kingdom Crumbs, and all the rest. There are some rarities here, too!
1.Black Stax and Castro: Never Take Drugs
2. Narcotik: Narconomix09
3. Central Intelligence: Call It As I See It
4. Knox Family (Jerm Dee, Julie C. and DJ B-Girl): Make Music
This is a classic. The first I had encountered of the Songodsuns was on the wonderfully nostalgic Connect The Dots compilation, featuring the dreamy, OD-produced 2Mex track "Galileo". From that I assumed the Songods was a collab effort between OD and 2Mex, and so it was with some confusion that the next time I saw the name was on this 12" from a year or so later. Here we have 2Mex, but instead of Omid we have the likeminded Nobody, and Dj Esp has crawled up out of the woodwork as well. Since OD was my favorite producer at the time, I was initially a little disappointed to see he wasn't on the credits. Still, being the dedicated fan of all things Blowed that I was, I shelled out the food money and bought this anyway - besides, 2Mex is dope, Nobody's dope, Esp is dope, so what could go wrong?
Nothing at all, except that I was low on frozen burritos that week.
The three songs here are perfect; in my opinion, among the very best that any of the players have ever created. Nobody's murky, somnambulistic beats and psychedelic sonic textures are perfect for Esp's abstract scratching style, and 2Mex is a dirty hippy, so he fits too. In fact, in all of the collaborations between him and Nobody I've always been aware of a kinship they share that ads strength to each others' art. That is strong here. "Love Fights Back" is presented in a new form from the OG version on the Unreleased Hits cdr from Afterlife, "Keeper of the Keys" utilizes (I think) a brillian HP Lovecraft sample, and Audible Angels is presented as a much different remix from the Visionaries version. Instrumentals are also included.
So silly me, I thought this incarnation of the Songods was the definitive one, and I was again surprised to find their full-length featuring all kinds of collabs between 2Mex and others, not just Nobody and ESP. I can't be sure, but I'm thinking the Songodsuns is a state of mind, and 2Mex surrounds himself with whomever fits into that particular state. Check this out, before summer is gone. To me it's a cornerstone in 2Mex's music, and to the golden age of LA underground.
Check out the brand-spanking new video from Graves 33. Seriously real here. Great hip hop in that filthy style. Also, it's nice to see my old neighborhood get some videographical love. Junction and Admiral reprezent!
From 2011, the stylistically-endowed Tru-ID teamed up with production master and all-around b-boy Graves 33 on this 8-track album. The sound presented is a big departure from Tru-ID's debut album Stranded, or from his work with Ricky Pharoe. This is due mainly to the maturing of his craft and the like-minded production from Graves. Stranded was an epic, cinematic record, full of signature Reigncraft studio drama. A synthetic orchestra accompanied him on that release, and his styles were intense, bombastic, and rapid-fire. His subsequent release with Ricky Pharoe was a relatively subdued one, with both production and styles toned down a notch. Tru abandons the emcee acrobatics even further on this release, placing the focus on storytelling and getting his point across; of which he proves to be just as much a master as he is with spitting. The melancholy, multi-textured beats of Graves compliment him well here, creating a sense of sophisticated melodrama as opposed to Reigncraft's all-out war. Graves joins in on vocals on one track, as does AudioPoet. Great music from the Northwest, as if you didn't know by now. Tru-ID and Graves33
This is a rare treasure: A document of a singular moment in time, fueled by wild creativity with the force of a pressure cooker. Beauty made under the gun. Phreewil, Nathan Wolfe, and Graves33 wrote and recorded this album, inspired by the book by the same name, in a matter of weeks. Each track represents a different story or parable from the novel, and therefore the songs play out in a connected fashion; not linearly, but philosophically. Raw and brilliant work, at times jaw-dropping in its psychedelic urgency. Despite the other-worldliness, this is not some Piper At the Gates of Dawn, "Listen To What the Flower People Say" sort of album. This is vehement and craving, conscious of it's mortality. Which makes the hurried and inspired beauty found in each song all the more poignant. Phreewil noted that this is his favorite contribution to music, and although I'm not familiar with all his work I would be duly impressed to find another such passionate, metaphysically-connected contribution to the art, from him or anyone else. Quite generously, the ETS crew opened their doors to several of their friends for contribution, including Asun/Suntonio Bandanaz, Leland Jones, Tru-ID, Milo, Khanfidenz, Audiopoet, and Page1. Amazing work. From 2010. Ethiopian Tattoo Shop
The debut album by Cloud Nice's Kingdom Crumbs is the long-awaited culmination of the Cloud's experimental and forward-thinking sound, image, and attitude. Not so much a collection of songs as a loosely-knitted tapestry of impressions, Kingdom Crumb's debut LP plays like a song-cycle from the Mad Hatter; whimsical and random, but with elements a little edgy, and sometimes dangerous. Inspired insanity! With songs that rarely stay fixed in place for long, the album constantly morphs from style style; from sleek, Chic-influenced soul, to ambient, dreamy washes of colorful tonality, to tribal chanting - often within a single song. Production visionary Tay Sean's trademark airy synths dominate the mix, accompanied by clean, stuttering beats and lots of reverb. Electronic rhythms and patterns fade in and out, sometimes ending abruptly, sometimes derailing, going where the wind takes them. Emcees Tay Sean, Mikey Nice, Jarv Dee and Jerm masterfully fit every vibe. With so many talented lyricists it would be hard to keep ego out of the mix, but they do just that, combining their talents in the right way for the betterment of each song and the album as a whole. With the ever-changing and experimental quality of the record, it comes as no surprise that the three most cohesive (and for lack of a better word, standard) songs are the ones already released as singles: "Pick Both Sides of My Brain" and "The Mezzanine" are two addictive head-nodding, groove-based gems, while "For The Birds" serves as a distilled vision of the album as a whole - sedated and dreamy, with unexpected changes and breakdowns in the music. However, when placed within the maelstrom of sounds that is the Crumbs' album, these three tracks fit perfectly, bubbling up at just the right moment to link one passage with the next, or to gently wake the listener from a music-induced trance.
As a genre this record is obviously difficult to classify. Certainly hip hop plays a big role - the lyricism and stylistic technique is present, as are the cultural references and the swagger - but other influences are nearly as dominant. Disco and soul play huge parts, and so does late-sixties-era electric jazz of Davis and Hancock. The ambient electronic music of Kraftwerk and Brian Eno can also be heard. Just as evident as the influences is the certainty that this is something entirely knew and unheard of, something that might even not have a name yet. So I'll call it like I see it: this is evolution. Check it and be amazed. This has been my most anticipated record release yet this year. Based on the three singles the Crumbs have released so far, I knew this was some future shit. And guess what, the album is finally about to drop, and even more exciting is the cats over at Ziibra.com have this album for sale right now! Like, a week before official release! Ziibra has come together with several independent artists to help promote and sell their music, in a unique way. According to their faq, ZIIBRA's pricing works so the cost of an album drops incrementally as the number of people who buy it grows. So the more people who pledge to buy the album, the lower the cost is for everyone. You don't get charged until the end of the sale period, when the buyer then pays the final price based on the total amount of buyers. So hype this! Get the word out! Dope record over here!! Support the Cloud Nice collective by snagging this, the album is more than worth whatever the price will ultimately be. Check out the debut album from Kingdom Crumbs below, at Ziibra.com. Cloudnice.com. Kingdom Crumbs
Northwest cat Dawhud put out this debut album in 2008, but it could have easily been from 20 years previous. Written, performed, and produced by the man himself, this 27-track record, for those reasons alone, is quite an accomplishment. But this Basement Sessions is more than just a collection of songs, this is a cohesive document from start to finish, that plays out like a well-scripted screenplay. It's in effect a concept album, that seamlessly combines Dawhud's personal experiences in the world of hip hop with the more universal sounds and concepts immediately identifiable to those of us tuned in to what hip hop was at it's arguable apex.
To say it's a unique project doesn't quite describe how I feel about this record.. It is an album unlike any other, but when a term like "unique" is thrown around one might think of Divine Styler's "Spiral Walls" or Boom Bip, or something else self-indulgent and perhaps difficult to listen to. Not so here. Although in its hour-length duration Basement Sessions rarely visits anything remotely similar to today's mainstream hip hop, it is far from difficult or alien listening; and although it's Dawhud's personal story, it manages to be masterfully very un-self-indulgent. The reason being is that with Basement, Dawhud has peeled back the layers of hip hop down to it's core elements, to something universal, and keeps the language basic, pure, and easily understandable (and quite likable) to anyone familiar with the art form. Combining the story of his musical upbringing with an appropriate musical backdrop, and using the novel/film Fight Club as a fitting metaphor to weave the albums' many songs, skits, and spoken word fragments into a cohesive, flowing monologue, this is his story of a man lucky enough to come of age at the same time hip hop did, and therefore speaks to a huge cohort of listeners who can immediately feel where he's coming from. Basement is a colorful patchwork of breaks, funk and jazz loops, classic hip hop samples, and storytelling; with the inclusions of the afore-mentioned skits and historical audio documents to illuminate the story further.
He says it plain early on: he's not out for money, he's out for respect. It's a reoccurring theme, and it's an attitude that can be applied to his feelings about the commercialization of hip hop in general. But with Basement Sessions he razes all the extraneous garbage that has infested hip hop culture in recent years to the ground - no dilution here, no watering down of the pure essence of hip hop. The 4 Elements are present, and that's really all that matters. Dawhud paints a picture of himself that throughout the record comes into focus: That of a young man frustrated with the bullshit in life and in the garbage found in hip hop, and throughout the narrative this man strives to better himself and through him, the art.
Other reviewers have heard echoes of the second golden age of hip hop when describing this record, but to me I hear more evocation of the first: I hear Premier's beats in the forefront, Ced Gee and Kool Keith's cadences, KRS's message, Eric B's loop-digging. Like I hesitate to use the term "unique", I also don't want to say this is "old school", as that implies something tired-out and nostalgic. But as much as the music and lyricism evoke and pay homage to the golden age of hip hop, there is nothing tired about this record. This is fresh and vital music, as youthful as the man depicted in the story. It's vibrant with energy, and that energy flows through the space between the drum breaks, the lyrics, and the loops. This is true school, that's what it is, and so it never gets old. There are no tricks here, no gloss, no lasers. No choruses of "Make money money," no glorification of drug use, no violence, no misogyny, no hating. At the same time, this isn't some vapid party soundtrack, either. This is a testament to personal achievement, through hard work, constant refinement, and long, sleepless nights. This is taking it back to one mic and two turntables - and the holy Akai. This is strictly beats and rhymes. Dawhud does it almost completely alone, and as a personal testament it should be that way. He is more than capable at handling all the chores here.
Dawhud has other releases out there which I will present shortly, but this is the place to start. Download it, then put it on a tape, if you can find one, then put it in your walkman or boom box, if you can dig it out of storage. Turn it on, then listen; remember the past, and use that memory to build a better tomorrow.
This free EP from 2009 appears to be down everywhere, so why not post it up here? Jerm and Asun/Suntonio Bandanaz from Alpha P present three tracks, with (I think) production from Tay Sean of Cloud Nice. These emcees are two of the most stylistically versatile that Seattle has to offer; Jerm croons on SOTA and Helladope's iconic "Extrahelladope" just as proficiently as his quadruple-speed spitting on "Primetime", the first track on the EP here. Asun sounds like a classic-era Blowedian, and in fact that's exactly what he is. Tay's clean, sparkly beats give these two rugged lyricists a little added swagger, as if they needed it. Short but sweet from some Seattle all-stars.
Seattle collective the Mind Movers released this ambitious release in 2008. City-wide in scope, the talents of over 30 Town emcees, vocalists, DJ's and producers were utilized in the creation of this solidly underground compilation; probably exposing many of them to an audience that may have not heard them before, thus making it somewhat of a Do The Math for the Northwest's third wave of hip hop. It's 21 varied and energetic tracks in length, and each song has multiple contributers. Crew cuts! I for one had only known of a few of the collaborators when I picked this up; it certainly opened my ears to a ton of great talent.
The Mind Movers are made up of emcees Khanfidenz, Inkubiz, Mic Flont, Open Hands, Phreewil (who also handles production, and now resides in Hawaii) and producer/DJ Dead Noise).
Besides those cats, the massive Seattle crew Alpha P/First Platoon represents as well, with features from emcees Jerm (also of Cloud Nice), Inkubiz and Phree Wil(again!), Kasi Jack Gaffle, Diez, Asad, Rajnii Eddins, Rufio, Jerz, Julie C, Yirim Seck, and Asun, who especially kicks it all over these tracks.
Other names appear as well, see below for track listing and a list of who's who. Musically the beats are heavy, dusty underground gems. With six beatmakers in attendance, the tracks are surprisingly cohesive, although the ranges of styles are vast. Drum-heavy, broody, atmospheric tracks are heard in abundance (thanks mainly to Phree Wil), alonside upbeat soul samples and mellow jazz piano loops. Whatever, it's all nice; no beats out of a can here, this is artistic craftsmanship from the bottom up.
Despite the huge undertaking, only the surface of the last decade's hip hop scene has been scratched with this release. The Town is bursting at the seams with talent. This is just a decent slice of it.
1. America - Rajnii, Rick Rude (Fresh Espresso), Kasi, WD4D (Cyphalliance) on cuts
2. Progress Report - Rufio, Asun (Kids With Guns), Khanfidenz (Waves of the Mind), Phil in the Blank
3. Espionage - Language Arts, Phree Wil, WD4D on cuts
Request... This is the laid-back collaborative effort from Ricky Pharoe and Tru-ID, from 2007. Both emcees are adept at fire; Ricky P's debut album was an angry young paranoiac's manifesto , while Tru-ID's played out like the diary of a poet in front of a dramatic, cinematic score. Here they tune it down a few notches, creating an album together that rarely achieved the energy of either emcee's solo outings, but instead played out easy like a late summer afternoon. Neither emcee tries any stylistic acrobatics in favor of relatively basic flows and sing-song choruses. The beats are likewise relaxed and mid-tempo. Mr. Xquisit, Jewels Hunter, and Camila lend their vocal chords, and Budo, Apoulo, Laidback Luke, Stuart Rowe, Graves and Artistic Propaganda produce. The album was recorded and mixed by Macklemore (who also contributes lyrically to "The Real Kings". Up until recently I wrongly thought Ricky was getting beef for making this record; as it turns out for whatever reason it was Ricky who didn't feel it was up to par with the rest of his work. He may not be naked on the news screaming "come and get me" on this album as much as his previous efforts, but I for one appreciate it as a fine stand-alone record, and as my introduction to these two distinguished emcees.
From 2005, this is the debut full - length from vitriolic Seattle emcee Ricky Pharoe, also know as Art Vandelay, Greasy Earl, etc. Co-billed with beat maker Budo, Pharoe raps articulately over the layers of samples and beats, wastes no time getting his point across. Ricky evidently has a lot to get off his chest here, and he addresses each gripe head-on without fear of critique or retribution. The commercialization of hip hop is addressed, as is the vapidity of American capitalism, in abundance. Mixed in thoroughly is a bold-faced pro-sobriety stance, a deep-seated hatred of club culture and the misogyny it feeds off of, and a general disgust with the hoops one must jump through to traditionally be successful in the arts in this country. It's rare that an emcee has the guts to preach his ideals when those ideals are so outside the norm - not only is he anti-club and anti-drug, but he openly mocks those who partake in those lifestyles, both of which play a big part in hip hop culture. Overshadowing the entire 53-minute rant that is Civilized is Pharoe's frequent references to the Illuminati conspiracy, which plays a role in everything else he expounds upon, a force in control of the world's governments just as much as it controls our thoughts and actions. I've never read Robert Anton Wilson, or Behold A Pale Horse, or any conspiracy theorists, so I can't support or discount what he's saying with any authority, and I'm guessing much of what Ricky's preaching is lost on me. But obviously he slung quite an undertaking over his shoulder with this record; a record that never quite has enough time or space to plumb the proper depths, but still manages to compel the listener. I imagine he's probably made himself a few enemies in the process of his career as an emcee; but as a cohesive, clever, and articulate statement, this album's successes far outweigh its shortcomings.
Pharoe is a white underground rapper with a dense, articulate flow and a penchant for self-exploratory poetry, so comparisons to Slug and Aesop Rock are unfortunately unavoidable. And yes, the comparison is somewhat warranted, as all three lyricists examine hip hop from a personal perspective and capture images through the lens of an outsider. However, Pharoe separates himself from the others with his subject matter and his unapologetic stance on the issues he tackles. He's gutsy with his various interconnected foci; on the commercialization and dumbing down of hip hop, which has been a subject of controversy in the past when coming from white mouthpieces in hip hop (Remember Dj Shadow's "Why Hip Hop Sucks In '96"?), Ricky takes his critique several steps further, siting specific and often-reverent examples in popular hip hop culture, mocking them to pieces, and beating them with a squeaky dog toy into submission. He manages not to sound like a prude with his anti-drug stance, due to his relating his own chilling drug-addled past. As much as he rails against the backwards capitalist system this country employs he readily admits taking advantage of it whenever he can. This gives him some credence; he can genuinely critique these things because he's been there.
Although the mainstream is in the hot seat, Ricky's underground compatriots also fall victim to his particular knife, as well as bona fide hip hop legends. The most poignant example falls on the apocalyptic track "The Not So Great", where Ricky both tells his own story as well as that of a man much like himself, aware of the sickness that infests his world. But this character chooses to ignore the honorable person within and gives in to temptation. Most effectively, and also most brazenly, he lifts the famous line from The Wu's "Method Man" as his chorus (I got myself a blunt, I got wide owl dub and I'm about to go get lifted. I'm about to go get lifted. I got myself a forty, I got myself a shorty and I'm about to go and stick it, yes I'm about to go and stick it). The intent is blurred, with only the vehemence in Ricky's voice to show that he's passionate about what he speaks even when the borrows from another and the philosophy is on another planet, but tantalizingly within reach all the same.
Although masked in self-depreciation and humor, Civilized is an articulate work of anger and frustration, generally at the world Pharoe has been placed in, and often specifically at his very audience - the drunk club-goers and stoners that are too busy listening to themselves bullshit to hear his music and his message of the peril surrounding us. I get the feeling this is music from an artist who's driven to orate, and receives little, if any, satisfaction in the process. Despite the laugh-out-loud moments on the record, I don't here Pharoe smiling during his delivery. Besides Budo on beats, Pharoe does it pretty much by himself here, with the exception of in-line contributions from PacNW heroes Billy the Fridge and Jewels Hunter. After this record he put out a collaborative effort with the stylistic master Tru-ID, then released a couple funny-as-fuck online EP's before resurfacing as Art Vandelay. His new album under that moniker,Face Tattoo, is dope. But this is where you should start. Special thank you's go out to Northwest hip hop collector and archivist Renee "MC Ren", for hooking me up with this album. It's been a favorite of mine for quite the while now. Check out her dope collection here.http://flavafoyoear.wordpress.com!
It's that time again. Here's the sixth installment in the monthly soiree into the current-ish Pacific Northwest music scene. Mixed Mediums, Black Lab, Cloud Nice, Alpha P, Sota, MADK, ... This is some of the best hip hop planet Earth has to offer.
1. Intro - LA (Language Arts)
2. Gimme More - Julie C
3. Walkman - Blue Sky Black Death and Nacho Picasso
4. No Such Thing ft. Jewels Hunter - Graves33
5. All Natural Causes (Graves33 Mix) -Verbs, Always Pro, AlphaMC, Everybody Knows, Julie C, Open Mic Eagle, Asun, James Barrie, Graves33
6. I Do (Pose A Threat) - Inkubiz
7. Part Time Ventriloquists feat. Robust - Jewels Hunter
Ah, the Shapeshifters, what a many-layered onion that topic is! I feel like a masters thesis could be written about them and their interweaving ideologies. They are a bunch of B-boys involved in all Four Elements, and they are all at times also nerdy conspiracy theorists. They dabble in anarchy and also in religious morality. They are the racially privileged who are also antagonists of racial privilege. They are informed sociologists who are politically charged, and also slacker winos who are only a half-step away from being back in their mothers' basements. They are glamorous emcees that hold down day jobs. They are cavemen, and also futuristic robots.
They also have a prolific output, both collectively and as solo artists - but nowadays I ain't seen 'em. I remain a hungry fan, and although some of their output remains new upon each listen (ie Gangstaz Fo Gawd, Know Future, Planet of the Shapes), other releases have received less headphone treatment and sometimes go overlooked. Hence this review of this particular record at this particular time. Bleek's debut solo joint went under my critical radar for years, and I'm sorry it did. The reason being for omission is that he's not really a Shifter any more. He has a distinct voice and flow, and had some key verses in the old Shifter recordings, but more recently he's had a bigger spot alongside other ex-Shifters Perk One, Meck and Deeskee in their group, the Ex Vandalz. He also joined up with rapper/producer Avatar in their Speak Easy project. Dispite his affiliation, Ex Vandalz and Speak Easy are not the same animal as Shape Shifters. Vandalz are a crew of graf writers who also make graf-centric music; as opposed to the psychedelic sounds of the Shape Shifters - who consists of Circus (doing whatever the hell he wants) and some other guys trying to be heard above the din. Basically, that means when I'm in a Shifter mood I need to hear Shifters - or sometimes a Circus Solo joint. That's the only thing that will do it. Not Ex Vandalz, not Chain Smokers, not English League, not Awol or Radio or Exist. The Shifters as a unit are unlike anyone else, even themselves.
But something happened to them at some point. Maybe they lost their focus, or got some focus, or something. I feel like, as with anything Shifter related, that it had a lot to do with Circus. He stepped back, and let everyone else have a turn. If you listen to their last collective album, Was Here, it sounds like they're parodying themselves. They dumb it down, go through the cliche'd subject matter of alien abduction and illuminati crap, and have their girlfriends sing the hooks. An inspired Circus rant is not heard once throughout the entire record (unless you count "We R The Dinosaur"). Maybe he was just being nice, and wanted his bandmates to do their thing. But even his solo record with Asmar from around the same time is a little lackluster. His record with Odd Nosdam never materialized, and now he's saying that evil forces (involving alien persecution) are conspiring against him to keep him from finishing his newest album. Psychotic break? When exactly did he become schizophrenic?? 2003, maybe.
So where do you turn to when your hero dies? Naturally, you start bugging his friends. The Shifters cast a prolific shadow, but like I said earlier, it's hard to go for a Shifter solo joint unless you want to hear something besides the Shape Shifters. It seems absurd to say it when talking about this act, but in order to appreciate a solo outing from these guys, you have to have an open mind - not because the solo material is so far out (Except Slanguage, that record is so far out), but because the solo material is so conventional in relation to the classic group efforts. The Ex Vandalz are like that - they are conventional in the sense that they craft no-bullshit hip hop. Bleek also falls into that category - and he does it really, really well. In fact, it's great to hear him on his own. As Circus historically overshadowed the rest of the Shifters, Perk One overshadowed the Vandalz. His voice is loud and bombastic, vs the quieter deliveries of Bleek and Meck; and his love of graf writing kept the subject matter limited. Here Bleek stretches out, and although he tends to rap in a soft-spoken manner and his flow can be a little rusty, he excels at poetry and conceptualism. The subjects of graffiti and governmental conspiracies are revisited, but he also speaks out about his hip hop history, the role race can play in entertainment, and just being a b-boy in general. It's his record, he can rap about whatever the hell he wants. Unfortunately he takes a couple ill-advised detours (the unfortunate "Love's a Bitch" and the just plain stupid "Hub Cabs and Mud Flaps"), but those are truly the only deviations from an otherwise accomplished and continuously surprising record. The Shape Shifters it isn't, and it shouldn't try to be. Bleek owns his work, and it's a good record by any other standard in hip hop.
Although a solo record, Bleek doesn't shy away from collaboration. Avatar provides the lion's share of ill beats, along with Meck, Polyhedron, Jizzm, Mascaria, and Life Rexall. Joining him on vocals is the always welcome Meck, as well as Perk, Jizzm, Exist, Awol, Akuma, Fat Head, Biru, 2Mex, and the rest of the Shape Shifters (on "Words of Wizdumb" and the Danny Styles-remixed "Kornbizkit", a superior version to the one found on Adopted By Aliens). Besides this record, Bleek released a record with Avatar as Speak Easy, and a full-length Ex Vandalz record as well. But since 2009 he's been off my map. I hope he's still making music, because I look forward to hearing more, probably more than I want to hear the next Shifter's colab. And that means a lot coming from me, possibly the sweatiest Shifter nerd in the world.
2002 was a good year apparently, as I've been posting up a lot from that year. Take this as another example then of the greatness of a decade past: the slab of wax off of EX2's sophomore full - length, Nemesis. On their earlier releases EX2 always filled up the space in their music, with an impenetrable wall of battle raps and heavy, heavy beats. It's hard to catch a breath listening to those first records, which is awesome, but also not for every mood. So it was with some welcome that I heard this 12" featuring fewer emcees and more skeletal beats. However I always tend to miss the old styles when an artist progresses, and it's no different here. What I remember most about their old sound was the cacophony of different voices and styles fighting to be heard above relentless rhythms. Here it's all relatively subdued, nowhere near to the point of complacency, but definitely tuned down a notch. Syndrome shares the lead-off track with Roach the DJ, over an unmistakably and endearingly scruffy Mike Nardone beat. WD4D returns to the Elements' producer's chair for a track with Syndrome and Gel Roc. And Daddy Kev produces a non-album track on the B-side with solo rap by Gel.Virus and Regret also appear, but only on the hook of the first track, "Look Away". This single is indicative of the album it promoted, as the album also had a little more space to breathe, due the diminished roster of lyrical talent and less tempestuous beats. It's a great album, incredibly well-rounded, which is kind of a scary thing to say about the group in question. But don't worry, EX2 are never soft. They still kick major ass to this very day.
Awol dropped this understated 12" back in 2002. Fat Jack produced "Trilobites" (off of the Propaganda EP), and DJ D produced "Static" from The Worker's Union project. Clean, street, and instrumentals included.
1999 wax from Los Shape Shiftaz. Wonderful cover art, and dope songs too. I've said before that I really go for the rougher sound of the earlier recordings found on Planet of the Shapes and Know Future, but you can't really compare that stuff with this. The same players may be present, but here they came together to make straight ahead hip hop, whereas Planet and Know Future are more like experimental noise collages. Even Circus reigns in somewhat here, with a cleaned-up and truncated "Mos Eisley". Five tracks deep, with instrumentals for "Prevail" and "Reiterate".
From 2000, the 12" off of my favorite Awol release, Four Eyed Mortalz. This one has the classic Jizzm-produced "Permanent Paradice" plus instrumental on the A-side, and the non-album track "Motermouth" and instrumental on the B-side. Also included are three of the abstract ESP - produced tracks from the album, "Diablos Y Brujas", "Exagerating MC and DJ 100%", and "Patterns Instruments Dreams of Nightmares".
Folks have been requesting this one, so why the hell not? Patrick Nagel, Xololanxinxo, Tommy V, Ceschi and David Ramos (all players who never quite fit the usual conventions of hip hop) join up on a collection of tracks that also never quite fit the usual conventions of hip hop. If you know these guys then you know that the only thing expected is the unexpected. Joining them on this CDR release are Afterlifers Ridd?, Bus Driver, and 2Mex; 'Shifters Circus, Awol, Exist, and Life Rexall, and Acey, Lord Zen, and PSC.
Dancing With Skeletons Edit: For other releases, as well as this one, check out my man the Thirdman! http://thethirdmen.blogspot.fr/search/label/Toca
From Jewels Hunter, one of the masterminds behind the legendary Black Lab in Seattle, comes probably one of the most ambitious records in hip hop history, A Moment In Time. At nearly 80 minutes, this album plays out like a well-scripted primer on race, class, metaphysics, religion, art, science, and time; and the way their paths all interconnect and fold in on top of one another infinitely... Humans always know how to complicate shit.
I love this record. Dark, broody beats reminiscent of Shadow, Geoff Barrow or Blockhead, with plenty of fascinating dialogue and found-sound experimentation throughout. Jewels handles most of the emceeing and production, with some help from Graves 33, Phreewil, Ricky Pharoe, Tru-ID, Robust, Rufio, and others. I had been wracking my brain for a while now, wondering how I would go about adequately explaining this record in writing, until I realized Jewels had already done so. His explanation follows the link:
Right now, in the present day, the very moment that you read this, I'm writing it; in another dimension parallel to your own. These dimensions are virtually identical. They both have air and water, they both contain gravity and light, they both are abundant with life and teeming with intelligence; THEY BOTH ARE EARTH. The only difference between these two realities, is time. The past and the future are only constructs of the human mind. All we have is now, this present moment. No matter where you've been or gone, no matter what you've done or what you've experienced in life; whether or not it was within a past moment or an obscure, future moment that has yet to come, everything is always happening in the present. These MOMENTS IN TIME are spread out like a wave, creating infinite possibilities, forming an opposite for every choice you have ever made. Some of these dimensions of space/time, are made up of decisions that you never had to make, but all are manifesting different variations of yourself perpetually. Some of these variations are so closely woven together, that it can give one, an incredible sense or feeling, that what they're experiencing in the present moment, has already occurred. We refer to this phenomenon as Déjà vu. Try to visualize a piano, with many keys and every key signifies a single note; all remain separate from one another, all are unique and have their own individual tone and characteristics; but at the same time, every key on this grand piano is connected with the other. All remain smaller parts of a bigger whole. Even though these keys might play different notes, they can, in certain moments, become entangled through a chord. It is through the harmony of these magic chords, that all separateness and chaos become order. It is the will of the chord, that allows the subconscious mind to effect the conscience; and, it is through the will of conscience intent, that many separate notes become a single chord(E. Pluribus Unum/Out of Many, one). All of this is possible through vibration. Therefor, just as two separate notes can become entangled through vibration, two separate moments can become entangled, no matter how far apart they may seem; the straight line that connects these past and future events together, Doesn't exist. The shortest distance between two points isn't a straight line and time is not linear. To demonstrate this philosophy, the majority of this material was created from sampling old records and taking from many new sources as well. That was very important to the theme behind the album as a whole; because the music itself is always being created in the present. So, each sample that was taken, whether it was from the past or more modern, becomes a piece of captured time. There is only a few ways to actually capture time and it is very important to note, that all, have they're roots deep within the arts. Paintings, drawings, sculptures and writing are some of the earliest ways of capturing a moment. Photography, film and recording are the most advanced ways of containing the very essence of an era and holding it, so that future generations can share the same moment, any time, at a later date. And it is this very point, that brings us to the meaning behind this work; THE TIME CAPSULE. Every time you see a portrait, watch a film, or listen to a recording you are making a mental, spiritual and emotional connection with another dimension of space/time. In fact, art is the only way of containing these fragments of time and this is why the artists are so influential in the trends, ideas and social development of our society; artist are a kind of archetypal icon, that are imbedded in our psyche and admired by millions. The artist never dies, but lives on through captured moments that we cherish and love. This is why the art of sampling is so important and has become the head cornerstone of the Black Lab. Every sample that we take, is a way of documenting history and preserving an era; and since this project is likened unto a vessel, with many compartments, every one, holding a different captured moment; this work becomes a time capsule. Hip Hop is a memorandum! So, let us end this section of the memorandum, by giving a summery with a few more quick examples. There are tracks that were conceived, produced, written and recorded in 2007, 2008, 2009 & 2010. There are songs that were written, but I waited to record the song until the following year; I even waited a full year to record the dub tracks on the songs, A Moment in Time and The Lack Thereof. I would even record half a verse or song, then record the other half, on completely different days or months. I waited almost three full years before recording any of the scratching and almost every live instrument throughout. This was all done, so that each song would be made up of multiple moments and truly embody the full essence of the project's theme. The song writing for this album was very unorthodox, in that, I wrote each verse to reflect the many views that one may have, on the same subject, at a different time; because as one moves forward through life, he or she's views may change as apart of their growth and development. That way, on every track, you're not just getting one experience or feeling that made up a single moment or event, but you're actually hearing a mesh of feelings and perspectives, some of which aren't mine at all, but hopefully yours. The subject matter and topics actually become collages in Super Position with one another. All of these things, have really confused a lot of the people that have been watching me piece this album together over the last four years. Creating an album this way, was not only very experimental to say the least, but took a lot of patients as well. All of these little, subtle things were done, as a way of adding a touch of ritual magic, to the process of this alchemical experiment. It is my intent, that every person reading this, has a better understanding of the principles and philosophies therein; this explanation was provided to serve as a foundation, to help you become better equipped, so that your ready to take this Quantum/Alchemical Journey with me. And so goes the theory of time and captured moments. WRITTEN BY JULIAN MILES HUNTER (2009-2011)
I never noticed the reflection of the Elephant Man until now.
Here's some light, sunny, fluffy hip hop courtesy of young Bus Driver. This is the debut solo single by this household name, long before he got all serious and counter culture. I remember seeing him live around this time, and being amazed at how much his eyes popped when he rapped. I was afraid they'd fall out of his skull. This was during a tour with top-billing Abby, grumbly Awol, angry 2Mex, bitter Dj D, and eye-popping Bus. It sent chills up my spine thinking about all of them stuck in a van together for hours on end. I did not want to get on that particular bus. This one here is okay though. I long for the good old days...
Here is Da 5 Footaz official debut album, after the bootleg/mixtape/whatever/The Lost Scrolls material from 5 years previous. 2000 sound here, with a broader pallet to work from. The music is updated and expanded, incorporating underground, new school, and hardcore elements to the g-funk formula. Also, the entire crew represents a lot more on this record than on The Lost Scrolls - Neb Luv and Jah Skillz still obviously run the show, but Cobra Red, Knee High and K-Bar can be heard throughout, as well as MC Lyte, Sticky Fingaz, Warren G, Kurupt, Xzibit and Nate Dogg (RIP). I honestly prefer the earlier stuff of theirs more than this record, and I think that has to do with the focus presented by the narrowly-defined musical style and the energy worked by the Jah, Neb and Warren G triumvirate that was apparent in their earlier work. The material presented here is a little more scattered, and although all 5 emcees spit heat, Neb and Jah have a synergy that is hard to beat, and certainly difficult to maintain when part of 5 distinct voices.
I know Da 5 Footaz have more material out there. For example here's the video for the brilliant track "Gimme Sum" from some tape or something. Hopefully more surfaces from this unfortunately looked-over crew.
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