Born and raised in Harlem, New York, Kurtis Blow participated in the earliest stages of Hip Hop in the 1970’s. Kurtis would take part in the culture as B-Boy and a DJ. He would then come into his own as an emcee. He would go on to become a songwriter, record/film producer and public speaker. He is the first commercially successful rapper and the first to sign with a major record label. He is also the first rap artist to tour nationally as well as internationally. He had Hip Hop's first commercial endorsement deal with Sprite back in 1986. Kurtis Blow is the self titled debut album released on September 29, 1980, by Mercury Records.
The album starts off with “Rappin’ Blow Pt. 2”. This track has a Disco Funk feel to it and allows the listener to travel back into time to experience a live party atmosphere and hear how it was done in 1980. Full of call and response chats throughout the song “Now the people in the back, if you're not the wack, Say (Don't stop the body rock!)” Kurtis Blow certainly makes it clear and solidifies himself as the self-proclaimed baddest Emcee on the Earth.
Probably the most popular track on the album is track number 2. "The Breaks" It peaked at #87 on the Billboard Hot 100.It was the first certified gold rap song, and the second certified gold 12-inch single. The song begins with Kurtis saying “Clap your hands, everybody, if you got what it takes, 'Cause I'm Kurtis Blow and I want you to know that these are the breaks”. Musically it has a funk feel to it along with an infectious hook.
Track number 3 “Way Out West” is a story about a showdown between a fictional character named Ganamede. “The showdown came at three o'clock. The stranger said, "I'm gonna make you rock. I'm gonna make you move, I'm gonna make you dance, They're gonna take you out in an ambulance” In the end Kurtis Blow was the victor.
"Throughout Your Years" is track number 4. In this song Kurtis Blow sets out to aspire to inspire. “Throughout your years, your ups and downs, your highs and your lows, I'm the man with the mic who rocks the house, the man called Kurtis Blow. So get out your seat and grab a girl because I'm about ready to rock the world and listen to my story because it got to be told like an Oscar-winning actor when he is playing a role. When I wasn't the best, there was something in my head to be a rapper was my dream like in the morning with the bacon and the eggs and the coffee and the cream”
The 5th track on the album is titled “Hard Times”. On this song Kurtis Blow addresses social issues. “Hard times's got my pockets all in change. I tell ya what, it don't have my brains. Will I ever-ever-ever reach my peak? We need that dollar every day of the week! Hard times you know, it's a natural trip. I'm gonna keep about it, so we'll not slip. Hard times”!
The album is not all Funk and Disco driven. "All I Want in This World (Is to Find That Girl)" is a ballad influenced by the Chi-Lites where Kurtis Blow sings. One may not expect Kurtis to come off as a singer on track number 6 but he absolutely held his own to make it work! I wonder if it got any play on “The Quiet Storm”
The final track on the album is "Takin' Care of Business" which is a cover song. "Takin' Care of Business" was originally written by Randy Bachman and first recorded by Canadian rock group Bachman-Turner Overdrive (BTO) for their 1973 album Bachman-Turner Overdrive II. Before Run-DMC did “Walk This Way” with Aerosmith or Fat Boys did “Wipe Out” with The Beach Boys. Kurtis Blow manifested his versatility as an artist from the jump. He not only experimented with Soul he was able to execute delivery on an arena Rock song!
Surprisingly, Christmas Rappin’ which was released in December of 1979 does not appear to be on the original album. It does seem to be a bonus track on Compact Disc releases as well as streaming platforms along with the “Breaks” instrumental. Glad that I went back to listen to this album.
Written by Righteous
Known for their 1979 hit "Rapper's Delight" The Sugarhill Gang’s Michael "Wonder Mike" Wright, Henry "Big Bank Hank" Jackson, and Guy "Master Gee" O'Brien. released their self-titled debut album February 7th, 1980 via Sugarhill Records. Orchestrated by Sylvia Robinson, this 6-track release consists of several down-tempo soul tracks along with an equal balance of rap. It has a rare groove funk feel to it. The album also has a feature from “The Sequence” the first all-female group to release a rap record "Funk You Up" which was also the second rap single released by Sugar Hill Records.
The album starts off with "Here I Am" A smooth soulful love ballad that one might expect to hear on the quiet storm. Long before Whodini’s “One Love” MC Shan’s “Left Me Lonely” or LL Cool J’s “I Need Love” The Sugarhill Gang appeared to have something to sweep the ladies off their feet. It was written by Craig Derry and Nate Edmonds. A few years back Craig Derry would reveal that he sang the lead vocals not Big Bank Hank who was credited on the record. "Here I Am" was well put together and one of the better songs on the album.
“Rapper's Reprise” is next up and features The Sequence. The female Hip Hop trio from Columbia, South Carolina, consisting of Cheryl Cook, known as "Cheryl The Pearl", Gwendolyn Chisolm, known as "Blondy", as well as R&B singer Angie Stone, known as Angie B at the time. The Sequence certainly compliment The Sugarhill Gang on this track. A party vibe that picks up where “Rapper’s Delight” left off.
"Bad News (Don't Bother Me)" is another track that seems to appeal to the quiet storm market. It has a soulful rare groove; funk feel to it. Well produced but might not be for everyone. Nevertheless, it’s a decent track. While reading the credits a group called Positive Force seems to be the architects behind the overall production of this tune. Positive Force were known for their single titled “We Got the Funk” released via Sugar Hill Records in 1979.
“Sugarhill Groove” is another party themed track on the album with a funk vibe. It falls in line with both” Rappers Delight” & “Rapper’s Reprise” but has a lot more edge to it.
“Passion Play” is musically reminiscent of the times. Positive Force makes their presence felt throughout this soulful/rare groove track. While digging deeper into the history of this track I found out that Sugarhill records released it as a 12-inch in 1979 titled “Give You My Love” by Positive Force. Great song though. Positive Force played the music on most, if not all the Sugar Hill Gang's tracks including their biggest hit “Rapper's Delight".
The Sugarhill Gang’s self-titled album ends off with their biggest hit “Rapper's Delight". The track interpolates Chic's "Good Times" which led to Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of Chic being credited as co-writers. The album features a shortened single version coming in at 4 minutes and 55 seconds. Rapper's Delight was the first rap single to become a Top 40 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. and has been credited for introducing rap music to an audience that spans the globe. It would be revealed sometime later that a substantial amount if not all Big Bank Hanks verse came from Grandmaster Caz.
Overall, the album is balanced out with soulful rare grooves, funk and rap in between. It has been said that Sylvia Robinson did not believe an album consisting entirely of Rap music would be commercially viable in 1980. “Here I Am” and “Passion Play” are timeless. After going back and listening to this album after so many years I have a newfound appreciation for “Rapper's Reprise” and "Sugarhill Groove". There is a lot more to The Sugarhill Gang then “Rappers Delight”
Listen to the album here https://open.spotify.com/album/1cbO3L6JK5M6LxaVMUrUBC or https://music.apple.com/us/album/sugarhill-gang/549037069
Written by Righteous
Pusha T: It's Almost Dry - Rating 6.9 out of 10 As the Drake War dust finally starts settling (we gon' let that slick Jack Harlow verse slide), Pusha T is back like cooked crack with his first full-length rap re-up/shipment in 4 years, Pyrex-cheffed up with half Neptunes/half Kanye West production. Chisel that extra long pinky nail, break out the tiny spoon or wipe down that tiny mirror and roll up a clean Benjamin/Borden, cause Mr. Nose Candy is back for the '22! 'Brambleton' starts (obviously) with more coke-selling storytelling over a waterbed of low-tone keyboard vibrations and a sprinkle of a little Neptunes G-Funk. "It was sad watching them do them Vlad interviews/ really it's me, he channeled it through you..." Shots fired! And since Aubrey hasn't done a Vlad interview, it's obvious out the gate on 'It's Almost Dry': anyone can get it, whether subliminal shots or "champagne-filled SuperSoakers". Pusha T is in laid-back uzi-spraying drive-by mode already, punctuated by the emphatic "They're gonna dieeeeeee!" proclamation poppin' off from jump. "Ferrari's getting ordered now.../ we really used to roll around/ coppin quarter pounds from the border towns... roles are different now, n!ggas need to tone it down..." is how the hook educates us 'bout the days of wayback. I always wondered that: How much cocaine has Terrence sold in 2022 or 2021? Isn't he signed to a major label, plus married with child? Can someone really rap about their glory days forever, or even the same one or two subjects for their whole career? We gon' see with this 'It's Almost Dry' jawnt, because after 'Daytona's somewhat underwhelming chart impact after Drake-gate in 2018, the streets was watching how Push would retaliate. Aubrey obviously won the numbers battle, but there's a die-hard group of heads who rate 'Daytona', though it wasn't even a full album. It's time to flex.
"Let The Smokers Shine The Coupes" takes us to some new Kanye West production: urgent pitch shifting, "Bound-2"-ish vocal-sample layers and piano stabs over rubber boot-stomping kickdrums. 808s reinforce the second half, but what's on Pusha's mind? Snippets of various cashmere thoughts, random class-conscious couplets, and honestly... stuff a little too abstract to impact deeper with vague lines like "the first 48's the clue/ your jail cell's made for two". It's not his story, and it's not anyone's story I can identify, therefore it's coming across a little too Rick Ross and not enough Jay-Z/Young Jeezy. "If kilograms is the proof/ I done sold the Golden Goose... rich b!tches that love to boost/ the cocaine's Dr. Seuss!" It's alright, but it's not real...ly classic. Abstract crack rap technically peaked in 1995 with Raekwon & Ghostface on 'Cuban Links', but there's been many moments of gully, grimey greatness ever since. I'm not feeling like this is 'Lord Willin'/'Hell Hath No Fury'-level bezel-shining rhyming, though.
THEN 'Dreaming Of The Past' slaps the speaker with that chuuuch-baptized souuuul-sampled, headnod hip hop as Kanye drops a real speaker slapper on us, laced with John Lennon audio fentanyl to keep the streets hooked. But once again, I need to hear more than random drug rap. That's the first rule of drug-dealing and Terence should know it: if you keep feeding the fiends the same product over and over, they will either cop your product less because the buzz doesn't last as long, or eventually seek a higher high elsewhere. "You hollering Top Five? I only hear 'Top ME'/ award shows is the only way you bitches can rob meeee...." is funny, though. Lots of flossy talk, lots of braggadocio, lots of arms-length baller banter... that feels like smoking above-average kush lyrics in a gold-24-karat leaf blunt of a beat. Third verse starts going Styles P and Jada on us with some back-and-forth goodness, spitting: "Huff and Puff in the club? Then I gotta be Shyne!" as someone who I can't quite identify, but sounds like CyHi the Prince saying: "Properties across the board/ this Monopoly's mine..." whlie the hook celebrates success... kinda sounds like Pharrell singing over this Kanye beat. A semi-anticlimactic ending to the highlight so far, and Pusha T's latest continues to deliver simultaneous highs and mids, not lows. 'Neck & Wrist' works hard to radiate greatness with those menacing subwoofer 'bow-throws and squeaky, tweaking paranoid high-pitched tones, adorned with glowing vocals by Pharrell talmbout "filming our own Narcos". Pusha adds a early-Common-Sense/Charlie-Brown-like vocal inflection, which is new, but the subject matter just isn't. At least Jay-Z makes up for his super-subpar 'The Harder They Fall' verses with solid cleverness like "they put me on lists with these n!ggas inexplicably/ I put your mansion on my wall, is you shitting me?/ I blew bird money, y'all talking Twitter feed/ we got different Saab (sob) stories, save your soliloquies..." Clever G. His statement about "What If Biggie lived?" is also an eye-opener. Let's just keep wishing we got the Commission. Moving on...
"The purest snow/ we selling white priv-i-lege/ ...the Book of Blow, just know that I'm the Genesis..." is the best line in the next verse, a syrup-rich bassline looper with no snare that samples "Tomorrow Only Comes When It's Too Late". Pusha brags: "a song with any of you n!ggas, I'm disinterested!" which is arrogant enough, but why would he add "the needle is sharp, but they ain't shooting insulin/ you missing the point: these drums ain't Timbaland's." Damn, son. Do them two have beef too? There's not even any drums on this song, even more oddly. I feel conflicted about the coke sniff sound that is heard next, like it's Pusha doing a rail on record. NOT that I judge anyone's drug use, lord no, but it's just a bit weird to hear considering he seemed to hold a hard line (no pun intended) for being the supplier/dealer and never the user. Welp, Jay-Z used to only drink Cristal and not smoke weed, and now he smokes weed and has Basquiat-inspired dreadlocks. Things done changed, apparently. But, this song doesn't change enough things in enough new ways.
"Diet Coke" was first song we sipped early this spring. Big up 88 Keys and Fat Joseph Cartagena. "Yesterday's high is not today's high!" Ha ha ha. And then apparently-last time we will hear Kid Cudi over a Kanye production is a chipmunk-soul sample chopped and baked into some grinding, groovy jam, where Pusha goes: "We don't make mistakes here/ we don't take no breaks here/ my son is like a work of art, his father's like Shakespeare..." I'm not going to stretch like that might be a subliminal jab at Drake here, but I will say that it's the very FIRST time on 'It's Almost Dry' that Terrence has directly talked about his son, and it's the kind of elevated insightful confession that I expected much more of. We know you can raise a brick into a pound, homie. Can you raise a boy into a man, or a crackhouse into a community center? Still listening for signs. "Every time we wyle, it's rock and roll, baby!" oozes out as the hook Kid Cudi amps up for with a distortion pedal on his vocals, and I wanna put respeck on whoever's name decided to put Kanye on the bridge to sang his heart out for another K*m K*rdashian-inspired sixteen, scraping his soul to say: "I ain't something you deny/ I was selfish thinking you was mine..." then continues: "...are you coming or going? make up your mind/ I ain't come to pick up the kids to pick a fight/ going off all of the time, showing off all of the time/ pushing me over the edge, don't know if I'm falling or flying..." So, there's our latest audio update on Kanye's emotional & mental health, for those interested.
"Everything don't need to be addressed/the pull up's like a FedEx truck..." is how this maudlin-voiced subtle threat anthem slinks through the soundscape next. Can't say this mid-tempo, sample-free, electro-tone Pharrell beat moves me much, but Pusha T still chose it to say cute little things like: "Calling my bluff, gon' answer: hello/ service with a smile when I hand out halos..." and "Sometimes I wish my fanbase was more like J. Cole's/ but cokeboys gotta be the man like they know...", yet he still hasn't made enough grandiose statements or given enough timeless observations to make this long-awaited album resonate as much as one wants. Moving on. The trap/young head song "Scrape It Off" sparks itself with a Rhodes-soft 808 pounce and Lil Uzi Vert spraying his mind around before Don Toliver chats about scraping it off the top... yadda yadda yadda. It's not wack, but it's not special, either. It's that heroin rap music, only for certain appetites and audio addictions. I don't do needles. And honestly, the next two songs "Hear Me Clearly" & "Open Air" are the damn near exact same chemical rush we been getting all album: random unpersonalized coke rap with no new thoughts or new feelings we haven't gotten a hundred thousand times before from Pusha T, or any other D-boy/plugtalker. At this point, new concept songs, new emotional vulnerability, hell, even new drugs themselves are necessary to keep this street-hop shit really interesting. On "Power: Force", the amazing show produced by 50 Cent, Tommy & Liliana been selling Dahlia in Chicago now, cocaine money is hella old news! Pusha T really could have stopped acting like Father Flynn, and been a little more like Claudia, and change up the formula for the family business. Speaking of family, the last track features Malice, the Christian-converted brother of Pusha T, on a song called "I Pray For You", dripped in that Yeezus-Christ-like holy gospel rap sound. This shit SLAPS when Pusha comes in. "Reluctantly a role model/ that drowned in too many gold bottles" he eventually spits as the (tired) dope talk floats between bars of life insight, manhood metaphors, FYI facts about "Grindin'", and such... before he proves he is his brother's keeper, and ushers Malice back like he never left the rap game for years, fiercely sparking his triumphant return with:
"TELL ME WHAT I MISSED?! New designer drugs and emotions I don't get!... Vietnam flashbacks, I get triggered by a sniff..." as he holds the tension and release of powerful expectation in every line he laces the angelic loops with. "Today's Top Fives only strengthening my myth!" Swish. Well played, Malice. "Belong on Rushmore just from chiseling a brick/ still fighting demons, see that curse is now my gift..." and I won't ruin the rest of the immensely quotable verse Malice blazes the end of 'It's Almost Dry' off with. Just know, it ends on a very high note, pun obviously intended, word to Terrence's bottomless bag of coke and Malice's most high Clipse-reuniting contribution. I just want to say once: did Pusha T get murdered on his own shit by Malice? You be the judge, jury and rumor executioner. That song is hellfire hot, tho.
All in all: it's merely good music, and definitely not great, though better than 'Daytona' (to me). Pusha's cocaine-dipped messages just aren't fresh enough anymore. To sum it up in the immortal words of Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter: "please don't die over the neighborhood that ya mama renting/ take your drug money and buy the neighborhood: that's how you rinse it." Or when he said "streets is finished." Coke Rap has dried up in 2022, listening to Pusha's newest. We need 'I'm a Business, Maaaan Mogul' Pusha, 'Black American Father' Pusha, even 'Street-Hop Philosopher' Pusha next time. Can't sell dope forever. But the buzz was fun while it lasted. Pusha T's career could use a bit of inspiration from the Book of Malice... Top Three Songs: I Pray For You, Rock and Roll, Dreaming Of The Past
Respectfully, Addi "Mindbender Supreme" Stewart
To this day, Detroit Rap God Elzhi unfortunately remains one of the most slept-on rappers on the planet. I been loving the dude's syllable-stacking cerebral bars on so many projects, from 'El-matic', 'Jericho Jackson' to 'Lead Poison' to 'The Preface' to his first pandemic surprise 'Seven Times Down, Eight Times Up', and all of them are SO close to being the ones that breaks him through the impenetrable ceiling that keeps him beneath the appreciation of the masses, and in more conversations with rappers like Black Thought, Lupe Fiasco, Common, Crooked I, Kendrick Lamar, and more.
So in 2022, Elzhi hooks up with Georgia Anne Muldrow (Stones Throw Records alumni, husband of Dudley Perkins, collaborator with Madlib, producer of over 20 albums, etc.) for some new vibrations, and it brings some supreme new energy that both of them are enhanced by. Mid-tempo funky, airy, piano-blessed thumper 'Amnesia' ("don't forget/ you are loved/ by someone") is the first offering we get that merges 'Zhi over Georgia's beats, and Elzhi just spits random lyrical knockouts for about three minutes straight, proclaiming: "I knew that one day paparazzi would do the most and flick us/ it's funny, me making moves is the cause of your motion sickness", and more random heat to let you know Detroit's Finest ain't been sleeping since.
'News From the Ship' was the very first track, but it's a sonic signal into your cerebral space with GAM asking "Do you copy?" like an alien transmitting trippy space echoes from one galaxy to another, which is a valid metaphor for their 2022 album collaboration. Hip hop just got an album from Black Milk teaming up with Cypress Hill as with Kool Keith teaming up with Del the Funky Homosapien. Why not mix and match another dope combination? I'm into it.
'Every Moment' slides out with that Dilla-bop and that SA-RA funk, lurching forward and sideways in a circular fashion before Elzhi rhymes in a start-stop stutter pattern that fits like a fist in a boxing glove, and punching brains with bars like: "I spit these dope rhymes/ like it was white dust/ but think how bright must/ your future be to put under scrutiny/ and the ceiling light bust/ put your faith in me/ still the right trust..." The imagination keeps expanding and reaching for a better life and better self-determination as Georgia affirms our collective ability to create our own lives how we see fit. Really dope to hear this usually cold-beat-killing Midwestern MC get down on some West Coast sunshine funk with the upbeat energy and colorful vibrations. It's nothing more or less than pure beats, rhymes and life and it's just what the culture needs at this time.
The rich low-end of the bassline of 'Understanding' would wake a body out a coma before the righteous keys layer in. This is one of the most conceptual and focused songs so far on the project, allowing El to wax poetic on conspiracy theories about crack-addicted mothers, language, children, ownership and other important subjects. "The energy from the cotton field/ is subconsiously why my folks get shot and killed" is spit in a dope drop in the slow-creeping jammie as a sweet trumpet floats and echoes through the bassline. Very wonderful to hear Georgia sing on this, but it could have used another verse in the same train of thought as the first. The reprise takes the beat to a higher echelon, and it's dope to hear elegant and patiently-sequenced multi-part productions instead of low-attention span pop rap tracks that cut off before three minutes.
'Already Gone' finds Elzhi talking that deep wisdom/higher self/I Am God talk, imagining his origin from other levels of reality and potential over another funky looper, dropping word mathematics and language science apart and piecing new insights back together in the process. "El is God/ Zhi is seven/ the spirit number from the highest heaven/ so I'm light years ahead/ I could wake up in dreams and put nightmares to bed..." That's what I'm talmbout! Nevertheless, this song silently & simultaneously captures the best and worst of this project so far: it's a bit reminiscent of the other tracks, and not quite as sonically unique with a new cadence, tempo, sample or flow... but it's still dope as hell with lots of ill lyricism to decipher. It's track six out of twelve, so the beats, rhymes and life are fly, but if the journey is short, each different step would hopefully takes us to very new places. I just want the best for my homie Elzhi and for the world to stop sleeping on his sick skills. But how can he meet the audience half way between his brilliance and the modern, restlessly shifting desires of the masses?
"Strangeland" was the first song I heard from this project and it was a breath of fresh air: hella long verses over a laid-back jazzy mid-90's mid-tempo head-nodder. It somewhat sets the tone for the album, and if you like this song, 'Zhigheist' should satisfy sufficiently. "If I put my hands on you, it's to heal/ but the thought alone would kill y'all..." is the kind of clever couplets of witticisms Elzhi pours out effortlessly, but it takes a touch more attention than average rap savage, because his coldass Rock City voice is a little subdued, yet I always find it well-worth my time to check the former Slum V homie. 'Pros and Cons' got Elzhi just doing some real Alphabet Aerobics with a massive verse written full of words starting with 'pro': "let's begin with the pen, or shall I proceed/ to jot down what's profound/ I pray you don't acquire beef, but get your protein..." on top of a sinewy, silky, smooth and slick beat filled with jangling pianos. I don't want to take away from the intricate revelations found in his profound process, so just propel yourself toward this profound production. You'll consider yourself constantly in the presence of continual creativity when you hear how they flip the concept of the song at the halfway point. Congradulations, Elzhi. Another stupid dope concept track in your catalogue.
Awesome to hear that they decided to make a tribute to Black women, in the tradition of 'Mahogany' by Rakim and "Brown Skin Lady' by Blackstar. The track "Nefertiti" causes a nice bodybob with its heavy claps and zig-zag vibes as El pours out poetry for whichever queen or peasant inspired him to say: "Queen! You got all that in your jeans from all that's in your genes/ God blessed you/ the size of your lips is very special/ your curves is more extraterrestrial...". There's more interesting lines to make you think twice, such as: "not a lot of make-up, but you good at hiding scars", or laugh like: "can it be/ you walk by, make a young boy use profanity (DAMN!)". The hook is wonderful, and I won't even quote it, because to hear it will make thine head nod in absolute affirmation, not only because the song is a banger. Fitting that it is before the next track. The Interlude is a calling from the universe, Georgia Anne Muldrow, and it's simply one of the best expressions of Life Purpose one's ears will be blessed enough to receive in this existential journey.
One of the heaviest beats on the whole album comes stomping and skipping its way through the speaker, as 'Compassion' takes us out. Elzhi does what he does well and interestingly: speak on his childhood and how people would sleep and underestimate and doubt a dude in glasses and smaller than the rest, or whatever other reason he was considered the underdog. To all the underdogs out there, I think Elzhi often spits rhymes that speak their life succinctly, but this often gets in the way of becoming a bigger star in the music industry. Whether it's MF DOOM or its Quelle Chris and Jean Grae, some people are just too dope for their own success. I offer a tiny bit of constructive criticism to brother Elzhi: I want bigger songs, bigger ideas, bigger ambitions for your brilliance. The grand finale outro isn't as massive as hoped and dreamed possible, after receiving a surprise collaboration album like this, but it's equally sincere, humble, honorable and admirable, with Georgia Anne breezily cooing "I just want to thank youuuu" under the melody while Elzhi leaves us with some final thoughts. 'Zhigeist' unfortunately doesn't even have a song CALLED 'Zhigeist', where Elzhi illustrates why he should be/and/or definitively IS part of the hip hop/rhyming zeitgeist, and a minor absence like that might be one of the microscopic reasons why such a brilliant rapper like Jason Powers isn't even as well known as one of the other great underdogs from Detroit, Royce the 5'9". But 'El-Matic' remains my favorite body of work from Elzhi, (I actually lyrically superior to 'Illmatic', yeah I said it) and probably is one of hip hop's very most underrated albums of all-time. Why can't the homie ever drink from the victory's cup? Maybe it's something in the fucking water. Peace to Flint, differently still.
Written by Adhimu "Mindbender Supreme" Stewart
Released February 10, 1987 “Yo! Bum Rush the Show” is the debut studio album by Hip Hop group Public Enemy. This 12-track album is full of timeless tunes.
The album begins with “Your Gonna Get Yours” Chuck D references the 98’ Oldsmobile as a symbol of power. What stands out for me is how relevant the lyrics are today as it was in the past regarding racist police and driving while black.
The second track on the album is “Sophisticated Bitch” which was controversial at the time but I would say that it was much needed advice for a young man to hear to avoid women like this. Is it no different then what the Fit & Fresh podcast brings to light in this day and time? (minus Fit & Fresh's anti-black woman rhetoric) What is also interesting about the single is that on the B-Side was “Rebel Without a Pause” which was the 1st song created for “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back.”
“Miuzi Weighs A Ton” has a catchy hook. “Rock - get up - get down - Miuzi weighs a ton - Hold it” Backed by a hard-piercing beat as well as cuts by Terminator X “Miuzi Weighs A Ton” is a metaphor for how Chuck D’s mouth is a gun and his words are his bullets. Not anyone can pick up the microphone and do what he does.
“Timebomb” is one of my favorite tracks on the album. Flavor Flav starts off by saying “Hey Chuck, we got some non-believers out there” The 70’s funk vibe sets the mood and of course Chuck begins with “You go ooh and ahh when I jump in my car - People treat me like Kareem Abdul Jabbar” Although this track is without a hook, it didn’t need one! The riff, bassline & bars is enough to have the listener addicted. Chuck D briefly touches on social issues within the black community as well as the government while emphasizing the Black Panther Party.
Flavor Flav takes the lead on “Too Much Posse” which calls attention to the realities of gang culture as well as the tragedies. This was another favorite from the album.
“Rightstarter” (Message To A Black Man) was certainly influenced by Elijah Muhammed’s book “ Message To The Blackman In America” If you weren’t awaken by what Chuck D had to say by this point you would have been by the time you saw there live show.
“Public Enemy No.1” was another favorite from the album. Public Enemy No. 1 is a term that was used to describe dangerous criminals, particularly in the U.S. in the 1930s. The funky synthesizer sample and intro by Flavor Flav establishes the tone for the track. Chuck D takes over with a commanding flow” “Known as the poetic and lyrical son - I'm Public Enemy number one” The chorus and turntablism by Terminator X certainly helped to make the group’s name unforgettable.
If “Public Enemy No.1” didn’t do enough to ensure that the listener remembers the name of the group on “M.P.E”. They made sure that the listener new the name of the group. Both Chuck D & Flavor Flav share lead vocals and compliment each other on this track.
The title track “Yo! Bum Rush The Show” is musically reminiscent of the times. Chuck yells "yo!" in the chorus and is responded by the vocal sampling which says, "bum rush the show!". Flavor Flav’s commentary after each chorus lets you know that Public Enemy is nothing to be played with.
What stands out for me in “Raise The Roof” is how Chuck D’s vocals were purposely recorded to make him sound as if he were distant. On this track Chuck D states” Takes a nation of millions to hold me back” Public Enemy’s sophomore album is titled “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back”
“Megablast” is another favorite from the album. A precursor to “Night of the Living Baseheads”. Flavor Flav’s voice stands out and is backed by Chuck D.
The album ends off with “Terminator X Speaks With His Hands” which is simply the instrumentals for “Timebomb” mixed into “M.P.E.”
The summer after the release of “Yo! Bum Rush The Show” college radio went nuts with the release of Public Enemy’s “Rebel Without a Pause”
Fast forward to December 26th, 1987 Pioneer Hip Hop Promoter/DJ/On Air Personality Ron Nelson brought Public Enemy to the Concert Hall in Toronto Canada.
During the day a handful of us went down to the local collage radio station CKLN 88.1 FM to meet Public Enemy after Ron Nelson interviewed them on air (The Fantastic Voyage Program). We welcomed them to the city. They certainly appreciated the warm reception. Especially, Professor Griff. That night I would witness one of the best Hip Hop shows I have ever seen to date. Posted up front and center against the stage we witnessed Chuck D and Flavor Flav like clockwork go back and forth across the stage. As the hype man, Flav certainly brought the humor. Terminator X brought showmanship on the turntables. Professor Griff and the S1W’s brought a more serious presence to the show. Their performance was flawless.
Public Enemy would go on to record several more album’s such as classics like It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988), Fear of a Black Planet (1990) & most recently What You Gonna Do When the Grid Goes Down? (2020).
Tune in to allthewaylivehiphop.com as we celebrate 35 years of “Yo! Bum Rush the Show”
Written by Righteous
A complete concept album in a time where rap concept albums are sadly not that prevalent, Che Noir comes through with all gunz blazing for the Kanye / Dr. Dre / El-Producto / Q-Tip etc. spot for "Best Producer on the Mic", and starts off her ambitious year quite right with 'Food For Thought'. The first song goes straight for the throat, grabs you by the back of the spine, and forcefully yanks it back and forth as you headnod fiercely to ridiculous bars like "I rap better than these n!ggas, do not compare me/ these bars give you food for thought, the shit is like commissary/ ...n!ggas trying hide they scary/ type of beef that never ends, this shit like Tom and Jerry" (!!) as scrunched faces and crumpled lips feel the impact of hardcore hip hop b!tchslap your eardrums. 'Split The Bread's chorus features vicious cuts & samples sliced up like a ninja's wedding cake, something we don't hear nearly enough. Producing six out of the twelve tracks (Tricky Trippz, Chop, Gods Children & others cook up the rest), Che Noir spits out hella flavorful bars ("the rap game left blood on my hands, so now I'm fingerpainting") over Cartune Beatz's opening song, then slides into her own grimy groove on 'Eat or Starve', where Jynx716 nyams up the leftovers of the beat up pretty completely, after Che devours most of it like some starving pitbull. Every guest MC on this album delivers the goods, and thankfully there aren't too many, since it's all just over a half-hour of caliente-hot soul food, and hip hop simply doesn't have enough female MCs in it. Another three plates (aka songs :) of this gourmet chef MC serving sharkfood woulda been cool, But I'm ain't mad at her. Always good to hear "Trust!" after a buffet of brilliant bars.
And without question: Trust Gang BEEN consistently delivering some of the world's very best hip hop music in my humble magnificent opinion. And Che Noir been honestly one of the illest MCs in the game, MALE OR OTHERWISE, since she went bar-for-bar with Benny the Butcher on 'Tyson' in 2017. Had to take it back to that joint, noticing that she spit "yeah, I yearn for riches and my words is vicious/ ain't concerned with b!tches who fill their verse with disses/ giving food for thought, leaving you with dirty dishes/ n!gga, fuck a handout, you better work to get it!" Which is exactly what she has done repeatedly since then, with rappers as fierce as Black Thought, Planet Asia and Skyzoo, plus the Griselda Gang. This was after solidifying her connection to 38 Spesh from Rochester, one of the entire rap world's best modern MCs in my personal opinion. Che Noir was one of the FEW god/goddess MCs invited to rock 'Son of Kool G Rap' with 38 Spesh, the Upstate-to-Queens underground classic featuring immortal street king Kool G Rap & the Trust OG. Spesh laced 'Thrill of the Hunt, the sequel, and 'Juno' for Che Noir, which all have been extremely solid and respectable street-hop releases of the highest caliber and creating immense momentum leading up to 2022's 'Food For Thought'.
So, as she proceeds to give us what we need, skits like 'Daily Bread' with the eternal children's prayer, the 'Water to Wine' intro, and the 'Eat to Live' track are like fresh-baked breadrolls and palette-cleansing appetizers to round out the concept album's details, a nice touch that we don't often hear on too many long-players these days. On top of that, there is no shortage of literal food for thought in bars like "I got dreams and visions, my passion pouring/ but it's tricky when your ambition don't match your focus". There's an extremely highly-appreciated amount of maturity, confession, self-awareness, life wisdom and straight up street smarts embedded in damn near every verse Che Noir spits, and people who run around talmbout Nicki Minaj, Remy Ma or Cardi B are the best female MCs right now really need to nize that and take a bite of what Che Noir is serving the rap game. "Don't trust a grown woman always trying to beef witcha/ or 40-plus dudes still trying to be street n!ggas". Some motherfuckin' food for thought to chew a lot for the petty and foolish opps. But, I digress.
Rich, rugged and rough mid-tempo 90's-era-inspired boom-bap bangers provide the majority backdrop for her bars. Lushious basslines, twinkling keys, snapping snares, and sharp sonics overall give this the feeling of a 1995 hip hop album that earned itself 4 or 4 1/2 Mics in The Source. No Auto-tune, no 808 trap beats, no blatant chart aspiration songs... just pure pyrex pasta and hot gyal sauce cooked up on a ghetto-ass Buffalo stove and served to the truth-style-starved hip hop fiends of the world. 'Ladies Brunch' is a trinity of sick female MCs stabbing up the crispy and cold beat, with 7xvethegenius dropping a hard subliminal (?) that caught my ear: "speeding through Toronto/ probably blasting Miss Mulatto/ I recognize you the best of your guys, to me you probably not..." That's not a gender-swapped Drake diss, is it? Either way, it's out there for people to interpret, before Armani Ceasar comes in and deads off the track with rich slick talk: "I'm with my dogs furred up on some Cruella shit/ on my way to get my spread, no Nutella shit". Ha ha. The food references are all tasty on this album.
'Table For 3' continues in that tradition, a slow-wine-pouring, Mafia-restaurant soundtrack song with Che Noir, Ransom & 38 Spesh sharpening their blades on each other's bloody butcher knives. Ransom has this ridiculous syllable scheme that mentions "the Devil's Lullaby" then goes "to summarize, I'm unapologetic, although I've come to find/ the sharpest pupil be the fastest student to cut his eye". Ugh, the filthiest of flows and brutal bars! Then my dude 38 Spesh comes to clean up the table saying stuff like "you know the ink in my pen feed us/ but longevity in this game? the chance is a Slim Jesus", which is goddamn hilarious to those who know about the fake fools that have come and gone in rap over the years, trust.
Che Noir gives some extra revelations about her personal life, her struggles with family members that have passed away, even personal dark discussions of sexual abuse that are incredibly powerful and liberating. She also delivers a lot of subtle bars about her religious beliefs and her understanding of the Bible and Christianity, and the dopeness of her divine darkness comes across like Prodigy's or Ghostface's personal reflections on faith mixed with fear that comes from living the street life, but still wanting to get right. It makes for constantly compelling lyrical content. And it culminates in a very apt and amazing pinnacle track 'Brains for Dinner', a perfect metaphor for so many things in life and art. Zombie-izm infests damn near everyone in this greedy-ass age! "I'm hungry, I eat all summer and pray in winter/ seven heads on my fireplace, eating ya brains for dinner!" She does it proper justice with an eerie backdrop and a Jean Grae level of zero fucks given when rhyming about eating for a killing.
Is it consistently good? Overall, yes. Personally, I found all the lyrics more impressive than all the beats, but they both compliment each other like ackee and saltfish or oxtail and rice & peas, so it's still kosher. Before she was done spit-roasting the mic, she said: "so ahead of my time/ when I sleep, I wake with jet lag". Yeah, Che Noir got them bars that Big L and Jay-Z would rewind back twice and respect as mad nice. A cascading waterfall piano soundbed with a church-like crowd listening to her confess provides the last platter Che serves, called 'Communion', on her well-rounded, nutritious, sweet, savory and downright delicious album 'Food For Thought'. It even has a tinge of '22 Two's' by Jay-Z with the crowd clapping and such, and even the host wanting the MC to not swear. Don't know if all that was intentional, but if it was, I see what she did there, and I fucks with it heavy. Without a reasonable doubt, can't knock the hustle and value of an album outro song with timelessly wise insights like:
"Get to days of life where maintaining is harder/ wasted days when liquor started tasting like water..."
"Got a man that I love, we both been through it, it's hard to see romance/ I'm trying to love a man that was never taught how to be a man..."
"I don't stress about bills, I know how to get cash/ shit, I'm stressing about losses I'll never get back... for real."
Chef's kiss emoji and belly rubs of culinary delight for Che Noir and her first serving of 2022, 'Food For Thought'. It should be placed alongside Prince Paul's 'A Prince Among Thieves', MF DOOM's 'Mmm... Food', and Little Brother's 'The Minstrel Show' as concept albums to absolutely not sleep on. With much more on her plate to serve with the Trust Gang in 2022, I'm hungry for more hip hop health food from top shotta chef Che Noir.
Upstate NY, stand up. Raise your champagne glasses to one of the future greats in this rap shit: Marche Lashawn!
Peace and respect
from Addi "Mindbender Supreme" Stewart
ESG is the debut EP by American post-punk band ESG. It was released by 99 Records in 1981. The EP received positive reviews from music critics. "Moody" became popular with house DJs, and "UFO" came to be one of the most sampled tracks in hip hop music.
Ed Bahlman discovered ESG while serving as the judge for a talent show and became the band's unofficial manager. Tony Wilson from Factory Records approached the band after a performance at Hurrah in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and three days later they began recording with Martin Hannett. They recorded "Moody" and "You're No Good" in the first take. Hannett had three minutes left on the master tape, so he had the band record "UFO". The recordings helped bring Bahlman's focus to the band. On December 3, 1980, he recorded ESG's performance at Hurrah, which became the B-side for ESG. Bahlman formed a partnership with Factory so that his 99 Records label could release the EP in 1981. By July, they made a second pressing of the record.
The band's name—and the EP's title—stands for emerald, sapphire, and gold. Emerald and sapphire are Valerie and Renee Scroggins' birthstones, and gold refers to the record certification. The blue, green, and yellow cover artwork was adapted for ESG's 2000 compilation A South Bronx Story. The artwork for its 2015 Record Store Day release of The Moody EP is loosely based on the ESG cover. Lead vocalist Renee criticized the adaptation, saying it looked like someone had "puked it on a canvas".
ESG is a minimalist take on funk music, removing brass, saxophone, and synthesizers to leave vocals, bass, and percussion. It was received positively by music critics. Robert Palmer called it one of 1981's "freshest records". For Billboard magazine, Leo Sacks wrote that "the beauty of this album is that it is so natural, so kinetic, and so compelling." The New York Times placed ESG second on its list of the best EPs and cassettes of 1981, and The Village Voice placed the EP third on its Pazz & Jop critics' poll.
"Moody" was released by ESG as the band's debut single. A 12-inch remix single followed, and both versions found popularity at clubs in New York and London. Because of the single's release through Factory, many New York DJs assumed ESG was a London-based act. Paradise Garage listed the song in its top 50 all-time tracks. It became a foundational track for the emerging house music scene. House producer Chip E. used the song's bassline for his 1985 single "Like This". Swedish producer Christian Falk covered "Moody" with Neneh Cherry on his 1999 album Quel Bordel and released a second version with singer Kenny Bobien.
"UFO" is inspired by the conclusion of Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind, where government officials communicate with an extraterrestrial craft using music. Renee wrote the song imagining what would happen if a UFO had instead landed in the housing projects. "UFO" has since been sampled in over 300 songs, becoming one of the most sampled tracks in hip hop music. ESG did not receive royalties for the sampling for around 20 years. The band referenced this with the title of its 1992 EP Sample Credits Don’t Pay Our Bills. Wikipedia
This may sound funny. Mr. Smith, LL Cool J’s sixth album during his legendary run with Def Jam, was his coming-of-age LP.
Released in 1995, Uncle L was living out his 10thyear as a national recording artist. He’d never known any other level but the highest, and he went through growing pains as a person and a performer.
Smith wasn’t an MC clinging to his youth, trying to be an extension of the artist who debuted in 1985. This was LL leaping forward, realizing he’d reached an entirely different level. It was a level of personal, creative, and artistic maturity.
Cool J commanded respect. Hence, the album title.
On the topic of subject matter and lyrics, we could point out any song from this 15-track set - “Doin It”, “I Shot Ya”, “Make It Hot”, “Life As” - to highlight its grownup direction.
But let’s call attention to “No Airplay”, arguably the grittiest song on the album and definitely the boldest. On it, LL goes raw with no mix and no levels editing. It’s just him in the booth, the microphone, and someone to press record. Done.
Thirty years later, Mr. Smith still deserves airplay.
THE GHETTO BROTHERS were not initially a rock band when they formed in the Bronx / NYC back in the late 60s. The gang eventually spread to much of the Northeastern United States. Like the Young Lords, they were involved in Puerto Rican nationalism, including, in the case of the Ghetto Brothers, an association with the then-new Puerto Rican Socialist Party. This gang had political motivation to uplift young Latino and Black men in the community.
THE GHETTO BROTHERS, especially in their early years, had a reputation as one of the more politically minded and less vengeful of New York-area gangs. After Cornell "Black Benjie" Benjamin was killed in 1971 trying to prevent a fight between two rival gangs, the Ghetto Brothers did not seek the expected revenge on those responsible for his death. Instead, under Melendez's leadership (and that of Carlos Antonio Suarez, also known as Carlos Melendez), they were instrumental in achieving a moderately successful truce among South Bronx and other New York-area gangs at the December 7, 1971, Hoe Avenue peace meeting.
It is said THE GHETTO BROTHERS used to plunder a local music store, Mary Lou Records, from time to time where then young Bobby Marin, a leading figure in the field of 1960s Boogaloo music and later on famous record producer up to the present day, used to work in. As the store owner thought about using a shotgun to solve that problem, Bobby Marin convinced him not to do so to avoid that anybody gets hurt and took the chance to speak personally with the gang leader Benji Mendelez who turned out to be the lead singer of a band formed by members of The GHETTO BROTHERS. Meanwhile Benji Mendelez found out about Bobby’s engagement in the music industry and both made an agreement. Bobby would produce an album by THE GHETTO BROTHERS, and this is what we now will talk about.
In what way is this an outstanding gem of Latin American funky rock music from the steamy, loud and dirty streets of the South Bronx / NYC? Well, it is of course rare as gold dust in its original pressing. This is an aspect that makes it interesting for collectors of 70s Music and the seed from which the legendary reputation grows. But does the music really match with the status the album enjoys among music lovers? It does. My first impression was that THE GHETTO BROTHERS were a very talented band mixing earthy garage rock with the one or another occasional fuzz guitar and Latin American sounds and atmospheres to create an exciting, simmering version of current rock music. The garage rock stamp still fits perfectly with this album as the sound is quite basic and vivid, just as if you were standing with the band in a dusty basement room where they either rehearse or play a show to a crowd of frantic youngsters. The music itself is quite relaxed in most parts, with the one or another exception. „Got this happy feeling“sticks out with flashing rhythms and a cheerful lead vocal line upon a bed of likewise flashing guitars with a funky touch. So, these funky elements also make you realize that there is more behind than meets the ear. And when the band goes into sheer groove passages with the percussions and drums taking over the lead role, I am certain nobody will be left on his seat. This song reminds me of a more primitive version, if I can say this, of what SANTANA did a couple of years prior during the time they released their debut album and played Woodstock. And indeed, these Puerto Ricans have the talent even to be on par with good old Carlos and his mates, who already were superheroes by the time THE GHETTO BROTHERS released their sole album. No idea who even might be the greater in terms of musicianship and composition values but with a major production this album would probably have given SANTANA a run for their money. But gang life is tough, and casualties appeared leading the band to the land of myths and fables. But with many folks who love this music the band stayed for nearly 50 years and this reissue on EVERLAND RECORDS happens as always at the right time to keep the flame burning brightly and maybe even brighter than ever. A few old members, including leader Benji Mendelez, are no longer with us to enjoy the late success of this masterpiece but those who remain will. If you like Latin garage rock such as LAGHONIA from Peru, this is the real deal for you. Grab your copy and celebrate life as this is what THE GHETTO BROTHERS always had in mind. https://everland-music.bandcamp.com/album/ghetto-brothers-power-fuerza-1972
Ya mans Yaowa dropped this 'Autograph' album because boombap and lyricism will never leave New York, and I'm so happy he chose to write this fire in the air. Upon pressing play, hearing that Heatmakerz sonic logo always makes a head like me feel comfortable we're going to get a banger of quality. Even though Joell doesn't come with a Cam'ron-level smash with the album opener, a slick synth subtle smasher where Joell pours out his life story in more explicit detail than he did on 2018's 'Mona Lisa' still sets a strong standard and sparks one's attention. There's so much heat on hard joints like 'Housing Authority' featuring one of my GOATs, Crooked I, where he spits gangsta comedy like "on and on, you talk about your chrome/ but I got a big glock, it's too heavy to clutch/ feel like it's as big as Noah's Ark, I call it Rosa Parks/ cause it sits in the front and it's ready to buss!" These guys been making fire since 2019's 'H.A.R.D.', and Slaughterhouse. So nice to hear them keep tradition alive.
But don't think Joell gets murdered on his own shit at any point. Not with sick slang editorials like: "big rocks in my socks/ all tied in a small ziplock/ stiff glock on my hip had them dancing before TikTok/ waves cap skully and my braids all ugly/ pitching: y'all should want a signed baseball from me!" Chef's kiss bars!
'Uncle Chris Car' catches Joell doing some intriguing storytelling where he tells his life story of being born and how grimey his mom's environment was when he came to earth. Very vivid painting of the Bronx streets during his youth, then time speeds up to discussing the pitfalls of life paths chosen, where his story literally changes with a twist ending depending on every single decision with every direction of life steps and travels. Interesting. Even though he continues to make crack music, Joell figures out various ways to keep things fresh sounding, and continues to keep his Slaughterhouse brethren impressed with mind-expanding wit and wordplay. The syllable-towers keep building up to ill punchlines, from shockingly-timed ones like "there's a whole lot of bums in your circle/ before rap, I got money off-white before fucking with Virgil" (RIP Mr. Abloh) on the firey, ethereal 'Masked Up' or "I catch myself staring at my beauty when she sleep/ then glance at her booty, then turn beauty into beast" on 'Lifeline'. That's that ill shit.
What I also like about Joell is that he's a confident, ambitious New Yorker like most others, but he also isn't afraid to discuss his losses, his failures and his mistakes in the streets. He's not on some Rick Ross shit like he's some invincible Scarface. "One Day" is that smooth, warm, circular-loop hypnotic hip hop funk with great moments like shoutouts to Stretch Armstrong, putting paper in cassettes to tape freestyles off the radio, and what beat-hunting is like on the come-up of every rapper. Joell has a lane, and he stays in it comfortably. He doesn't always make the same song on some DaBaby shit, but he's exploring the various ways to spit autobiographical and ambitious bars over four-on-the-floor sample-based bangers. Can't go wrong with Heatmakerz, Apollo Brown, Namir Blade
Hesami, and especially Salaam Remi, nope. The beats all sound damn dope on 'Autograph'.
It's also really endearing to hear music from a guy who rubbed shoulders with Dr. Dre on Aftermath for many years, almost getting the Busta Rhymes treatment, but eventually getting the Rakim treatment... yet, he still feels compelled to drop the deepest life jewels he has crafted, and not aim for some wannabe pop rapper mainstream spot. On "OG", Joell wisely teaches: "...this IZOD on my wrist is tough/ I wear it over the scar where my wrist was cuffed/ all my real n!ggas: listen up/ you'll always love your hood, but when you leave, you won't miss it much..." Facts. "Lifeline" almost sounds like a Common/Erykah creation with Juliet singing happily on the hook, but more honesty and revelation comes through this song that Joell makes for his wife, to the point he apologizes to her father for any crass lyrics in it, ha ha. Humbly magnificent. Verse one of 'Goin Thru It' with Mark Scibilia is a touching tale of a terminal young woman and rap songs like this are truly modern folk music joints for people to live and feel. Verse two gets even realer, about a sad convict. Both of them touch on how social media posts hides the deeper things we all go through. Relevant rap shit. But why does the God CyHi the Prince spit such a short verse on 'Holy Ghost'? Especially when his pen was in a zone like "I'm on that shit that Fred Hampton teach/ I put the man in humanity/ gotta pay the price for peace, can't let 'em Huey P. Panther me". Damn, homie. Yeah, besides that, there's not much else wrong with 'Autograph'. Songs all get to the point. No waste of time skits, no corny pop radio attempts, no hot rapper of the moment cameos, no trash or filler. All songs are like three minutes with two full verses, boom. Sheek Louch comes through to bless Joell with a funny personal verse too on 'Love is Love', some of that classic NYC street hop to nod ya head to.
Before the 13-track album closes out, the YAOWA God goes in on a Old-Kanye-like track where he continues to autograph beats with his personal story and big himself up while talking about the good rap life on 'Doors Up', spitting "tops get dropped, seatbelt unfastened/ top in the drop, seatbelt unfastened/ drop by the spot, no lines, just gappin/ fake patdown, they just let you bring the gat in". Jokes. So yeah, this Joell Ortiz album is solid. I hella co-sign 'Autograph' as ill.
Peace from Mindbender Supreme
KRS-One knew just what to do when the authenticity of hip-hop was in dire straits.
By the early 90s the purity of the genre was in question, its subjects dominated by violent tales and street anthems. The Blastmaster countered the culture with a brilliant, brutally honest set, 1993’s ‘Return of the Boom Bap’.
Produced mostly by himself, DJ Premier and Kid Capri (Showbiz produced KRS’ now iconic hit “Sound of da Police”) this scratched-up, sample-laden LP of change-the-status-quo gut punches and socially nutritious brain food was half throwback, half forward thinking.
Popular rhymes depicted neighborhood wars, splurging drug money, and the conquest of classless women. To survive amongst this trend artists portrayed themselves accordingly.
What was first eye-opening, unique, and taboo became trendy.
A flood of disingenuous copycats left hip-hop stagnant. Traditional MCs were being lost in the casing smoke of “gangsta rap”. If an artist didn’t fit the mold they were ignored, forced to conform, or excused from their label deals.
On the Primo-laced “Mortal Thought” KRS-One rhymes, “Are you tired of lyrical liars, passing fliers / Wannabe MC's, but really good triers / Tripping over mic cords, getting you bored / A total fraud, this kind of thing I can't afford”.
Here The Teacher educated on authorities’ participation in Black-on-Black violence (“Black Cop”), contemplating what happens once your career fades (“Outta Here”), lacking social and behavioral awareness (“Uh Oh”), and strictly, unequivocally being a dope MC the way hip-hop intended (“Return of the Boom Bap”). These subjects found on this LP, and how KRS-One delivers them, proves to be valuable yet today.
“We will be here forever, and ever, and ever. Do you understand that?”
Fun fact: nearly a decade ago, London, Ontario-raised Shadrach Kabango won the Juno Award for Rap Album Of the Year with 'TSOL', over Toronto-raised Aubrey Graham, who had just released his platinum smash debut 'Thank Me Later'. And even though 'Thank Me Later' went on to smash records and establish the legacy that Drake has created, climbing to the very top of the mainstream pop industry and global music mountain... quiet as it's kept, some heads knew that Shad DID make a better Canadian rap album than Drake in 2011. Here we are in 2021, and... history has silently and secretly repeated itself.
'How, Sway?!', you may ask? Well, Drake's anxiously anticipated 6th album 'Certified Lover Boy' was delayed since January's expected delivery date, but alongside a very public, very petty, very personal, very problematic beef, Kanye and Drake finally had the commercial Billboard Chart clash of titans that has been brewing on and off since Pusha T released 'The Story of Adidon', and The Boy Adonis Graham was revealed to the world. And after Kanye's own messy but massive rollout and much-delayed release date, on the first weekend of September, Kanye's double album 'Donda' was released with a quickly-evaporating burst of hype. A scant few days later, Drizzy eclipsed Yeezy in basically every way by finally dropping 'Certified Lover Boy', from also having a rare Jay-Z feature on his album, to having bigger sales, better beats, better guests, and bolder bars. Regardless, CLB won The 'Drake Verzuz Ye' Battle, but the streets seem to say it's another "mid grade" Drake album, not the bonafied classic that was promised, and thus Drake kinda took an L in The History War. All that being said: as both those epic legends met at the top and somewhat neutralized each other's releases in 2021... when the dust settled a month later, let history speak of the superior greatness, released on October 1st, that has emerged from the chaos of the year. That chaos is the brilliantly-ordered-and-balanced album: Shad K's 'TAO', a 12-track platter of chef's kiss soul food folk-flavored hip hop artistry, delivering everything the people need in such originality-deficient (or leadership-deficient) days and times. With mostly one-word song titles and crisp, banging beats, Shad delivers an undeniable treatise on many of life's grandest ideas, especially in tracks like 'Work', (a raucous, turntablism-touched affair demolishing the air with long-time guest-DJ/producer Scratch Bastid), 'Body' (No reason), 'GOD', 'Storm', and the trilogy, 'TAO Pt. 1, 2 and 3', each of which are almost embarrasingly overstuffed with timeless quotables and clever couplets, chock full of life-affirming consciousness, modern insight, life hacks, excellent questions and simply: refreshing rapping. Peep these flagrantly fresh bars from a variety of funky-ass songs, and ask yourself if anyone besides Black Thought has a pen game this sharp:
'TAO Pt 1': "Man alive/ it's like the whole game been sanitized/ what we've done to the young, it's like infanticide/ infantilized the dumbed down and amplified via algorithms that are anything but randomized..."
'Slot Machines': "My friends in hard times, like this mademoiselle/ who always thought she'd own a boat, now she's having a sail/(sale)..."
'Slow': "I'm not anti-screen/ but what seems a sight for sore eyes is just a eyesore/ I'm sorry: we cyborgs!/ one-eye short-sighted, borderline blind, bored/ overtime, minds warped..."
Each song has its own structure, often somewhat stripped down to bare acoustic pianos, bombastic trumpets, grumbling upright bass guitars, and such. Not anything close to the production style of most modern hip hop, thank goodness, and sonically more aesthetically approachable than beats from Shad's last slept-on concept album 'A Short Story About A War', and notably less electronic and jagged than on 'Flying Colors'. Shad is in the zone all over here, or as the kids say: in his bag. The bad news? Barely any, but one of them is wishing the album was longer. Most songs run under/around three minutes, shrinking attention spans be damned. And the few guests (the underappreciated triple-threat pHoenix Pagliacci, plus Mah Moud, and Yung Tone) deliver vocal textures and messages to counter-balance Shad, but there's no guest verses, for better and worse. A sick 16 from pHoenix Pagliacci would have been a Canadian rap collaboration miracle! The great news is hearing George Elliott Clarke wax poetic on a rap song, and whether that's Shad's grandmother on 'GOD' or another family member, bless her heartfelt sermon. Furthermore, big shoutout to the arguable crown jewel of the album, 'Black Averageness', which finds Shad beautifully creating an Old Kanye-ish church-kissed anthem for the blue collar Black person, complete with hilarious off-key mediocre singing hook, and insights like "Not broke, not rich/ only Chalet that we going to is Swiss/ I relate to a Fred Van Fleet, I'm like swish! or I miss...". The video makes it even better, with Shad clad in plain black hoodie and plain black jogging pants, missing free throws and gardening. Genius. And when I use the word 'genius', I mean it literally. Doubters and skeptics: please immediately refer to 'TAO Pt 3', one of the most astounding poetic presentations of the year, and beyond. Here's three of my favorite life lesson quotables today. The whole 6 minutes is thoughtful gospel, please believe it. Three Special Moments to showcase:
3. "We supposed to lead, supposed to be masterminds/ the catalysts, the capitalists have us tied/ now we satirize the same things we advertise"
2. "So accustomed to corruption, that we shrug it off/ I'm surprised any time that we uncover fraud!"
1. "Emotional sickle cell is the new normal/ so as far as who is and who isn't well:/ well, everyone's too sick to tell!"
I won't ruin the blood diamond he drops on African slavery connected to modern day life, nor the sparkling circular unity of the final song's complete lesson from start to end. I keep hearing new jewels and jokes (mans said "all of these vultures thinking they fly cause The Cloud's where they get their clout from", LOL) and levels to the largesse of Shad, to bless the people with a 40+ minute feast of freshness, fun and fatherly maturity in a modern hip hop culture awash in artistic irresponsibility and lucrative wilful ignorance. Shadrach still ain't swear once on the album, but I swear to God this is one of the most f^#&ing hardcore hip hop offerings of 2021. Drake & Kanye both need to get into 'TAO'-ism for a good hot minute, trust. You do, too! I humbly bow to 'TAO', and happily hope we all appreciate it equally, like a ray of sunshine on a regular day.
Adhimu Stewart aka Mindbender Supreme