1/28/23

DJ not-I - In The Ghetto Tonight (Rakim & Phil Collins)

If Wednesday's post featured "one of the most perfect blends ever committed to wax," today's features one of the most perfect blends ever, period, end of story. 

DJ not-I's "In The Ghetto Tonight" was mixed sometime between 2004 and 2006. The video mash-up, also by DJ not-I, was posted to YouTube in 2015.

So concludes this year's Rakim week. Happy 55th birthday to the God MC.

1/27/23

The "Eric B. Is President" Beat that Never Was

"Using that 'Fonda Rae' bass line and putting it with 'Funky President' was impossible because the tempos did not match up," says Marley Marl in a video reconstructing how he produced the beat for Eric B. & Rakim's "Eric B. Is President." "Well to combat that problem, I needed to pull out my CZ-101 so I could replay it." But what if it weren't impossible?! What if one could line up any two samples regardless of their tempos and somehow stretch one or both of them to match? Of course, that's not only possible today, but done regularly through the time stretching feature that's a staple of modern production technology. 



Fortunately, Marley Marl is still around, mixing records live on the radio, and able to take advantage of said technology. So, on an episode of Golden Era Radio, he was able to make the impossible possible. "I guess that's what 'Eric B. Is President' would've sound like if I had the technology like I got today," Marley said after recreating the record on air using the original samples along with Rakim's acapella. "That's why I could do that, blend those together, but back then there wasn't time stretching and all the amazing things we're using these days in technology, so that's how it would've sound if I'd had that technology in my pocket."

1/26/23

DJ Mickey Knox - Forgotten Rakim Joints & Remixes

You know I already had this on hand back in August when I posted Mickey Knox's mix of lost Roc Marciano joints with links out to his Biz and De La tapes. There are plenty of rarities on here, some lesser heard than others, but one of the main attractions is Knox's mix itself: the transitions, scratches, all that good stuff. That being said, I will give Mickey extra credit for including at least one Rakim feature I had absolutely never heard or heard of in my life, that is, his appearance on "The Paragraph Chemist" by Norwegian DJ and producer The White Shadow of Norway, off that artist's 2013 album, Nightmare Concert. You know what they say. You learn something new every day (especially when you listen to Rakim daily).

1/25/23

Rakim's Games of Death & Life

In 1996, Shaquille O'Neal released his third rap album, You Can't Stop the Reign. Say what you will about Shaq's rap career; the album included a song with Rakim. And while Ra is technically the featured artist on "Game of Death," he essentially runs point, turning in not just a 16, but also a second eight-bar verse as well as the song's hook. Basketball-reference-laced "Punisher"-era bars abound — e.g., "Thoughts of torture terrify your team in the tournament" — as Rakim and Shaq execute a hip-hop tribute to Bruce Lee and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's famous fight from the 1978 film of the same title. Ironically, if not self-referentially, Rakim also used a basketball metaphor nine years later in his last lines on a song called "Game of Life." The track, also featuring Ice-T and Chilly Mac, appeared on the soundtrack of 2005 documentary Slippin': Ten Years with the Bloods. The film was co-produced by pioneering MC Kurtis Blow; hence Rakim's line, "First let me bust another verse for my man Kurtis Blow."



Bonus materials: Rakim's song "Welcome to the NBA" from the videogame NBA 07 (now retroactively included in LIRR's Rakim Soundtrack Work playlist) and a clip of Bobbito Garcia recalling a pickup game with Rakim and his friends from Long Island.
 

1/24/23

M.J. Rap / Billy Jean Knows You've Got Soul

In 1988, a house music label by the name of T.K.L.S.T. Production issued an unofficial white label featuring a Michael Jackson "Megamix" of several of his biggest songs. Bootlegs like this were not uncommon in the record club days of the 1980s. They'd sometimes include mashups and remixes, which often went uncredited as was the case here. Flip this 45-RPM record over and you'll find a track innocuously titled "M.J. Rap." But don't let that misnomer fool you, as this is not Michael Jackson rapping. In fact, it's one of the most perfect blends ever committed to wax: a mix of Eric B. & Rakim's 1987 single "I Know You Got Soul" and Michael Jackson's 1982 Grammy Award-winning hit, "Billie Jean." How perfectly do these songs align? So much so that eight years later, in 1996, another house music label called Cluedo? Records put out another version of the blend, with the much more descriptive title, "Billie Jean Knows You've Got Soul." While both are absolute body movers, there is a notable difference between the two. Where the first track slows the "Billie Jean" instrumental to match Rakim's vocals, the second instead speeds them up to keep pace with the music. Additionally, the first record was put out by a U.S. label while the second comes from the U.K. As for the DJs behind these blends, your guess is as good as mine. Regardless, both blends are well worth a spin and available via the following YouTube streams thanks to some generous record owners.

 

1/23/23

The 45 King & Rakim

Mark the 45 King's first Rakim remix was made for Kool
DJ Red Alert, seen above with a young Rakim.
Rakim's birthday is this Saturday. Rakim week starts now.

If you've listened to Funkmaster Flex much over the past year, there's a decent chance you heard him accompanied on air by the inimitable Kool DJ Red Alert, and if you heard one of those broadcasts there's an even better chance you heard Mark the 45 King's previously unreleased "I Know You Got Soul" remix played on Hot 97 ... in 2022. The track, previously played on Red Alert's Kiss FM more than three decades ago, was practically in Flex's regular rotation last year — a beautiful thing.

This got me thinking about the 45 King's other Rakim remixes, of which I knew there were at least a couple. Mark was behind the boards for the extended remixes of Eric B & Rakim's "Microphone Fiend" and "The R" off Follow the Leader, and it's even possible he had a(n uncredited) hand in the original versions as well. Additionally, he produced the club mix of "Let the Rhythm Hit 'Em," previously shared on this site in the first post of the first ever Rakim week. Then there was a white label release in 2000 for the remix of a song called "Feelin' You," which as far as I can tell was never otherwise released, thereby making the remix the original mix commercially speaking. Of course, before the last of those remixes dropped, the 45 King produced "How I Get Down" off The Master.

That makes no fewer than six 45 King-produced Rakim tracks, a nice EP's worth of music from two of the most transformational hip-hop artists of all time. (Let's not forget 45 King produced "Hard Knock Life" and "Stan" in addition to what's essentially a full discography of once-obscure now-familiar breakbeats.) If that sounds like the basis for a great playlist, then you're in luck as that's exactly what I've put together below. 

1/15/23

WXRTHY - The Journey

Can a multimedia executive make outsider art? Can a rap blogger drip immaculately? 

Like a new Kanye album with more focus and less fascism Like high fashion spun from Goodwill donation centers, WXRTHY's Journey makes alt-rap symphonies out of detuned instrumentals and bar-napkin bars. 

In fact, WXRTHY got his first SP while working as a donation clerk at a Goodwill. Talk about right place, right time. Call it fate or fortune, such circumstances could be seen as the yang to the mental health struggles that form this album's yin. (But also, imagine donating an SP!) It's pain- and pleasure-ful, and one of my personal favorite projects of 2022.


Ibrahim Maalouf - "Quiet Culture" ft. Pos

DLS' full catalog is coming to DSPs on March 3, 2023, and they're rereleasing 3 Feet High and Rising along with a bunch of related merch. 

Oui, oui, all very good news. 

In addition, I for one would take a Posdnuos solo album produced and arranged by French-Lebanese trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf. To be clear, as far as I know, that's not at all a thing. But after hearing Pos snap on this song off Maalouf's Capacity To Love project, I'd very much like to put the idea into the universe. 

"Quiet Culture" is must-rewind monolith of jazz-inflected, children's choir-backed rap in the grand tradition of "Trying People."

Don't miss the new for the old.

12/26/22

Blaq Kush - There's Always Hope Vol.1 & Vol.2

The problem with cyberpunk is that technocrats (today's, tomorrow's, always) read it aspirationally. Hence, while some selfless computational biologists are trying to leverage machine learning to predict and prevent diseases, many more developers are building AI to improve corporate efficiencies. Today, AI-empowered computer programs can draw, write, and code, all with some degree of effectiveness. But, as Blaq Kush so brilliantly elucidates across two volumes of nonstop quotables, There's Always Hope.

The first opens with what seems to be a child's solo performance of "Amazing Grace" before quickly scrolling off a series of "Intense Notes," including what has to be one of the funniest punchlines I've heard this year, with "You're not the man, you're a crew of kids inside a trench coat." Those who've been tuned in for a while will recognize this brand of humor as Kush's forte, but perhaps never before in his catalog has it been applied toward such explicitly noble ends, namely, offering hope. 

Of course, there's something of a Catch 22 there as well, one which Kush effortlessly relays through his trademark sardonic wit. Like books, kids can't eat hope. Indeed, it's in the best interest of the technocrats who would have this entire post created from an algorithm to inspire (false) hope as far and wide as possible. Hell, best interests? Try utter imperative. It can serve as the basis for entire entertainment platforms, let alone individual media enterprises.

But I digress. I recently learned that the spelling of Black in Blaq Kush's name is an homage to the Queensbridge rapper Blaq Poet. I recently sold a Blaq Poet CD to a German rap fan for $45. One of the high points of Vol.2, the TV writer titled "Dan Harmon," concludes with the line "Better days are not far away, I think that they're Canada." That push-pull of idealism and reality gives these albums their tension and release, but even if that's all made up, it's impossible to hear "I think you're Lucifer but you're more like Lil Uzi Vert in the multiverse" (from "2009") and not smile and think. 

And what more can anyone hope for.

12/22/22

Arrow Santi - Roanoke

Make the mystery of the lost (abandoned?) colony of Roanoke a powerful metaphor for emotional (romantic?) isolation. 

Challenge accepted, said Arrow Santi to (himself?) the universe and anyone in it who would listen. 

Like the Croatoan tree carving or that one engraved rock dug from a swamp in 1937 (not the 50-some-odd subsequent findings proven forgeries), the songs from the Roanoke EP carry the weight of historic artifacts. 

This is history as in one man's story, the lōn in colony.