11/22/21

Bronze Nazareth & Roc Marciano - Ekphrasis

Bronze Nazareth is perhaps best known for his production work, and that makes sense; his credits behind the board include the lion's share of the seminal Wu-Tang Meets the Indie Culture compilation and full albums for Willie the Kid and Canibus among others, as well as "that one track" for seemingly every third underground rap act of note from the past two decades. The irony here is that the Bronzeman has also been spitting some of the deadliest darts to blowgun out of the Wu encampment since he linked up with Cilvaringz and RZA in the early '00s. His 2006 debut full-length, The Great Migration remains an unheralded masterpiece, and he was murdering mics even before that if you go back to 2003's "Sinuhe's Impasse" or his early days rapping alongside late brother Kevlaar 7 as a duo called Unknown. Point being: if you don't know him as a rapper, it'd behoove you to get familiar.

Roc Marciano's reputation as a mold-breaking rapper/producer is at this point concrete. However, to date, the beats he has done for others aren't nearly as well known as those he's kept for himself. And that's not to say he hasn't been spreading the love. On the contrary, even before lacing albums for Stove God Cooks and Flee Lord, Roc had already built a respectable body of production work, including projects for Muja Messiah and The Planets among others. Nonetheless, when someone refers to "the Roc joint" on so-and-so's album, nine times out of 10, they're talking about a song he rapped on, not one he produced. Indeed, nearly all of Bronze Nazareth's collaborations with Roc Marciano heretofore featured the latter rapping over the former, and there are several, including "Think Differently," "Capos (Bronzed)" and "Avalon" (the one exception I can find is "Seal of Approval" off Messiah's Saran Rap).

Ekphrasis makes sense for a number of reasons, not least of which is it provides means for two parallel, yet in many ways opposite, artistic tracks to unanticipatedly coalesce. But beyond the logistics of the collaboration, this album also works in a purely musical sense. In other words, even if you didn't know that Bronze also makes beats and that Roc also raps, the former's vocals and latter's music pair seamlessly here. One gets the sense that the two artists really and truly hear one another, allowing for each of them to bring out in the other something the rest of us might not otherwise get the chance to experience. Right from the jump, "Crazy Horse" sees Bronze Nazareth giving intimate details about his mindset following the death of his brother, how the fragility gave way to an opening of lyrical floodgates. The effect of this introspection renders the beat's minimal loop darkly psychedelic. By the time we get to "Kettle Black," Roc's returning the favor, finding in Bronze's Jesus Feet persona the slick-tongued twang of a Motor City hustler archetype. 

There are so many ways to interpret this album, and from the title you can tell that's part of the point, but one shouldn't mistake this as music made only for headphones and solitary nighttime drives. That room for interpretation also provides space for moving about, with fantastic acoustics and many points of entry.

10/11/21

Lungs/LoneSword - The Birth of LoneSword

There are eight million stories in the naked city, and The Birth Of LoneSword contains multitudes. Various characters pass in and out of frame. Loops explode. Societies collapse. Many-faced plugs facilitate all. Lungs/LoneSword has been on one throughout 2021, and it's all been leading up to this project, his first for Purple Tape Pedigree, which has also issued releases from fellow Tase Gripper AKAI SOLO and has more from the Wrong Island camp in the works.

10/3/21

Hardcore - Take It from the Top / A Different Groove / High Time (Maxi-Single)

Back in April, I shared what little info I could gather on a group called Hardcore, who released two singles on NuBeat Recores. In writing about the first, 1987's We Got It All / The Power of Rhyme, produced and mixed by Prince Paul, I mentioned that the second single also involved a Long Island legend. In this case, 1988's Take It from the Top / A Different Groove / High Time maxi-single was mixed by none other than Hank Shocklee of the Bomb Squad. As it happens, Shocklee's isn't the only recognizable name associated with this release, as the back cover lists the group's manager as Lumumba Carson, who would soon after become known as Professor X of the X-Clan. In fact, you can even hear Carson saying "vanglorious ...  protected by the red, the black and the green" on each track (and if I'm not mistaken, that's him standing in the back right on the cover). As for the music itself, all three tracks are in keeping with the whole "hardcore" hip-hop angle. The first, "Take It from the Top," was even included on Priority Records' Hard Rap compilation, a project that featured gangsta rap pioneers Ice-T and N.W.A. along with the likes of MC Hammer and Kid 'N Play. Beyond that, there's not much to say. Cooley High raps about rocking parties and taking down rival MCs, and Double B scratches on every chorus. It's dope.

10/2/21

L.A.D.S. - Four What?

L.A.D.S. is the quartet of Boston's Lu Chin Chen, Binghamton's Awful P, Brentwood's DaMarco and Lindenhurst's Stryke. Those whose LI rap scene credentials go back a bit might recall the latter from his involvement with another group, Mic Shine (with MC Artifakt and DJ Spyncere), or All Business Records or numerous other associations. You also might remember DaMarco as Spectah from his group with Stryke, Double S. Regardless, the four have dropped two EPs inside of about six months, following up their debut, The FourWarning, with their latest, Four What? That one's below. Weathered but not worn, bullhorned bars abound.

Manny YS Sanchez - Small Introduction of Manny YS Sanchez ... In Search of Hylyfe

Haven't seen the name "Clams Casino" in a minute, hadn't seen the name "Manny YS Sanchez" ever. I found his (year-old?) tape reposted to Soundcloud the other day, hit play, and was blown away before I even got to the Clams beats, which is to say somebody find that man and tell him about this man. How's this for a chorus? "I'm from the home of the drop-outs pregnant at 14 / Still living at your mom's house at 33 / Lost dreams, abortions and court hearings / Kids that don't think, dads that don't see 'em, trapped and never leaving." Small introduction?

9/28/21

88-Keys' The Death of Adam, the Long Island Hip-Hop Album Co-Produced by Kanye West

Where have I been all month? Listening to Donda of course. J/K, just "Lord I Need You" on repeat. Nah but really work, birthday, work, ring shopping, etc. That album is great, though, and that's thanks in part to West Hempstead's 88-Keys, whose production appears on six tracks, including standouts "Jail," "Heaven and Hell" and "New Again." Of course, to those who know, Kanye's chemistry with 88-Keys comes as no surprise; the man contributed to "Blood on the Leaves" and "No Church in the Wild." Less well known is that Kanye executive produced 88-Keys' only solo album, 2008's The Death of Adam. Fun fact: Ye also rapped on it, on the song "Stay Up! (Viagra)," in which, to the point of the title, he rhymes, "Try imagining something passionate / Between you, Cassie and Kim Kardashian / Maybe that'll work when you get to hit that ass again." Talk about prescient!

All jokes aside, this album has aged really damn well, musically, lyrically and conceptually. As for its ties to Long Island, on the one hand, it's any high school's toilet stall graffiti as a brilliant album; on the other, there's a clear through-line from 3 Feet High & Rising to the entire backpack era to this. The Death of Adam retains all the humor of the former while building on the record crates of the latter.

  

8/29/21

the NAIT SIRK - SOMEHOW, SOMEWAY

The dude responsible for one of the dopest beat changes on LongIslandRap.comp Volume 4, the NAIT SIRK has dropped his official debut EP. The self-recorded, -mixed and -mastered SOMEHOW, SOMEWAY is a punch bowl of introspective fun featuring production from Jesepi Kicks, rapsody3000, Waylay Creations, Flousen, SKYE, and Benzine. It's hot non-gender-specific summer music, through good times and bad. As for the rhymes, they're all physical, diaphragmatic, sometimes mushmouthed, yet somehow, someway (!?) cogent, bile-logical if you will. "One standout, "Lying to Myself" is damn near balladry. RUNITUP!

8/27/21

Remy Represent - "Tranquillo" (Lyric Video)

One of Long Island rap's most elusive artists might be set to become slightly less so ... emphasis on "might be" because such is the nature of elusiveness. 

Little has been heard from Remy Represent since he first appeared on this site back in 2015, but that doesn't mean he hasn't kept busy. "I’ve been working in silence for a long time since 'Death Prone' and many things have happened since," Remy says. "But I’m finally back and ready to drop a new EP called LOST ON WHERE TO START, coming with a whole new brand relaunch, with a new clothing brand called “RA1NCL0UD."

If you fully took in "Death Prone," then you already know Remy as a multidimensional talent whose focus extends past music to video, illustration and beyond. Case in point: the lyric video for "Tranquillo." Premiering below, the animation somehow manages to keep pace with Remy's rapid-punch-combinations juxtaposing Japanese otaku and New York hip-hop, at least until he drops the word "trylophobic" to describe the aim of a retired cop, at which point the video basically says, "look it up yourself," and you do because it's that goddamn dope.


In conjunction with the above video and announcement, Remy Represent is also launching his new website, RemyRep.com, which will give you some additional insight into who this artist is and what he's been up to these past few years ... emphasis on "some" because there's more in the works. Look out for LOST ON WHERE TO START coming soon along with an interview furnished by none other than Long Island Rap Records.

8/24/21

Bellmore: The Unscene

Long Island Rap Records artist and longtime musician-friend Andy Koufax hipped me to this documentary about Bellmore punk bands from the '90s and '00s. It's bugged out. We used to frequent Ground Zero but were in separate orbits from the film's central characters as we went to all-ages shows, and they were 30-year-old dustheads. Highlights include the Agnostic Front and Kill Your Idols drummers talking shit.

The film appealed to me primarily because I haven't set foot in this venue since it closed, but think about it every so often. Note: the "final show" depicted here was actually not the venue's last. As director Frank Fusco mentions on his website, there was an all-ages show the following week, which, if memory serves, was headlined by sludgecore act Blood, Lots of Blood. Somebody threw something through the front window. Anyway, Fusco's site is also worth checking out as it's filled with information about Long Island-based musicians, some of whom have achieved some degree of recognition beyond the Island, some of whom have not. See Spooner Central for a '60s/'70s version of this. Hopefully you will find photos/video of an older relative that you can hang over their heads.

8/14/21

Uncommon Nasa - Only Child

"The grass here is super tall and there are frogs everywhere. They are very big and loud. Up close they go RIBBIT. When you put them in the can you can feel the can ribbit. I do not touch the fence because it is sharp and mom said no. Tomorrow we will take a trip to the city. There is less grass but the buildings are even bigger than the grass. You have to cross the water to go. There is a bridge we will go over to go to the city. It is very long like a long hallway but with other cars on the sides and deep water underneath. Mom said it is safe. Sometimes I get scared and run away but the car goes fast so we will be OK."

Only Child is about baby, toddler, child, and adolescent Nasas and their continuing lives inside the mind of adult Nasa. It's insular as fuck. If Written at Night was about collective consciousness, Only Child is about getting comfortable with yourself. Hard stop. For some listeners, it may be awkward hearing a grown man rap about getting to know himself. There are songs on here with subject matter that begs the question, why would you write a whole song about that? I was an only child for about eight years, so I am pretty good at occupying myself (see this entire website). It might help to think of Only Child as a very particular kind of take on a coming of age story. Baby, toddler and young child Nasa lived in Patchogue, and I take it there were many frogs there at the time, or at least enough that they populate adult Nasa's baby Nasa's perception of what Patchogue is. 

I went to Patchogue once for a book signing where they went up to the attendees and had them write on post-it notes what they wanted the author to write in their copy of the book. I wrote "Write whatever you want to write." The author did not take kindly to this, wrote "You've got a lot of nerve pal" above his signature, and then made it a point to tell me, "That was not what I wanted to write," which I took to mean he wanted to write "Go fuck yourself," because, I guess, asking a writer to write is akin to asking a comedian to tell a joke. To be fair, he was a comedian, but wouldn't it be more presumptuous to ask a writer to write something specific? What's up with book signings anyway? 

Nasa used to proclaim his music progressive hip-hop, but not so much anymore. ("I actually think I'm at peace now," he raps on "Vincent Crane.") Progressive-folk hip-hop would be a good way to describe Messiah Musik's beats on here and maybe in general; they're at the vanguard but humbly, even primitively so, shattering conventions without a multi-track maze to decipher, complex but not overly complicated. That also may be a decent way to describe Nasa's lyrics on Only Child. Endearing or offputting isn't the point; they're quirky. The universe is quarky. They make a good pair.