3/29/20

$LR - Lysergic Energy

While we're using analogies to describe sounds, $LR is to NYC-based "New New York" flag bearers like Mike and Medhane as De La Soul was to then-new-school forebearers Ultra Magnetic MCs and Boogie Down Productions. Or, if you see Southern-influenced New Yorkers as the crème de la crème, the same applies; Lysergic Energy is to Always Strive and Prosper as Buhloone Mindstate was to Critical Beatdown.

It's a similar mileu but driven further, like that hazy day-trip along the 495.

That said, $cott LaRock is his own man with his own vision, and it's substantial regardless of the substances involved. As $LR writes in Lysergic Energy's disclaimer, "DONT DO DRUGS BUT IF YOU DO TAKE IT DONT LET IT TAKE YOU." The PSA recalls $LR's handle on his cadence, which doesn't so much conform to the beats as it does use them, thereby taking them places that less capable rappers couldn't without ODing.



Lysergic Energy is $LR's first release of 2020 but his fourth in the past 12 months, follwing The Don LaRock EP, Out w the Old & In w the New and No Sleep Vol. 1. It's a long trip so catch up.

3/26/20

Nomad Carlos x Inztinkz - Blxvk Desert

Nomad Carlos and his Council comrades have long mixed rude boy attitudes with boom-bap aesthetics, but has it ever sounded so seamless? A far cry from the up-tempo anthems of reggae-rappers like Smif-N-Wessun, Blxvk Desert finds Nomad Carlos painting patois portraits of poverty and dejection across Inztinkz’s bleakly barren soundscape. If Clint Eastwood outlaw Josey Wales, dancehall deejay Josey Wales and Marlon James character Josey Wales were one, they might sound something like this.

Or how about "WWW" [Wild Wild West]? "If I had a dollar for every criminal act / Poverty stricken victims would be living relaxed," Carlos concedes in his opening bars. "Circumstances in a yard with a quell / Streets clean not a single sight of a shell / Is this a dream? But still..." What's next? Police shootouts, hopsital beds, surviving off meds, etc. Even when his gun bars shoot for gain, they're not glorified. They just point, shoot, kill, and keep it moving.

Nomad Carlos' Kingston roots could place him among that long lineage of Jamaica-influenced hip-hop artists, from Kool Herc to KRS One to Tek and Steele to Curly Castro and Soopah Eype. But this isn't that. It's more like what Prodigy was to the Queensbridge rap tradition: a colder, purer distillate.


Blxvk Desert was actually Nomad Carlos's 2nd release of 2019 following Cipher, which was produced entirely by London's Farma Beats. Both are available on CD via Bandcamp.

3/25/20

Darc Mind Was Here: Kevroc & X-Ray Reflect on 30 Years "Going Through It"

"Darc Mind was the theme, the thrust and the emphasis..." -Kevroc
Darc Mind has never been a household name, but if there’s ever been a time to get familiar it’s right now, when darkness abounds and mindfulness is needed like never before. Long Beach producer GM Web D aka X-Ray da Mindbenda and Elmont MC Kevroc have been making music together since the late ‘80s. Despite that, until the mid-00s, Darc Mind’s commercial discography consisted of one radio single and two soundtrack appearances. Over the past 15 years, however, the group has been rediscovered, their previously unheard works remastered and released. Still, as for public appearances, there have only been a couple interviews and a few photos. The duo didn’t put out a music video until 2019. If MF Doom is hip-hop’s masked supervillain, Darc Mind are The Watchers, cosmic beings surveying the universe from above, an unseen omnipresence inextricably woven into the culture’s quantum fabric.

Before Roc Marciano and The U.N., before I.G.T., Darc Mind was the first Long Island rap group to sign with Loud Records. In 1996, they were label mates of Wu-Tang and Mobb Deep, with rhymes equally cerebral to the former and beats damn near dustier than the latter. In the early to mid-2000s, when another longtime collaborator of X-Ray da Mindbenda, the aforementioned supervillain MF Doom, became the world's most popular underground rapper virtually overnight, and when his and X-Ray’s Monsta Island Czars crew released an album on Rhymesayers followed by a seemingly never-ending string of solo efforts, MC Kevroc remained on the “Outside Looking In,” his unmistakable bass vocals reserved almost exclusively for Darc Mind, album or no.

I first heard Darc Mind sometime shortly after their previously unreleased ‘90s sessions were issued on LP by Anticon Records in 2006 as Symptomatic of a Greater Ill. It immediately became one of my favorite Long Island rap records (hence one of my favorite albums in general) and has maintained that standing since. In fact, as I’ve aged, the duo’s music has taken on greater significance for me as a listener, the depth of Kevroc’s pitch exceeded by the depth of emotional resonance and lived meaning in his lyrics. Likewise, as more and more Darc Mind records have been unearthed over the years, it’s become increasingly apparent that X-Ray reserved some of his most progressive beats for Kev, that this MC could push this producer’s sound further than could any of the myriad talents in their shared cipher.

Now, a pandemic has engulfed the globe. We’re all inside looking out. Darc Mind has a new album. What Happened to the Art? is a rhetorical question posed by quietly prolific surveyors, as much an overview of the current post-cultural mileu as a retrospect of the moments leading up to this penultimate hour. It’s also their first collection of wholly new material in over a decade. The world might be about to end, but if it must, it first has to know: Darc Mind was here. Let it be known then.

Below: Long Island Rap Records humbly presents an extensive discussion with Darc Mind MC Kevroc and producer X-Ray da Mindbenda, which took place Saturday, March 21, 2020.

3/12/20

ADUM⁷ - The Prototype / Ephemeral

ADUM7 finger-drumming on the Akai MPK 49.
Last fall, ADUM7 released two full-length instrumental albums just one week apart from each other. To hear him tell it, this wasn't so much a rollout strategy as an artistic purge. "Sometimes as artists, we create so much material that the world never gets ​to see or experience it​," ADUM7 said. "We end up hoarding our divinely inspired ideas and vibrations for whatever reason ​we create for ourselves. It makes me think about all of the amazingly unique material that has gone unreleased via countless friends of mine that have already ascended back up​ to the stars." As someone who's been spending more and more time cataloging rarely heard music, I too think about that often.

The Prototype and Ephemeral — released October 24 and November 1, respectively — were both made entirely with the Akai MPK 49 and Propellerhead's Reason 10 software, but the range of sounds between and even within the two albums is astounding. Sure, there's an electronic underpinning to both, yet in this application genre seems almost like instrument, a tool for expression rather than a box for confinement.

As for the expressions, they too run the gamut, from loss to triumph, wistfulness to blissfulness and everywhere in between these extremes. "I’ve been going through a ton in life outside of music," ADUM7 shares."The experiences continue to remind me of how precious and delicate our human existence is. Literally like wings of the butterfly.... like the butterflies that are taking flight for the first time, we need to slow down and just enjoy the vibration of life itself. The bonus would be if we can actually slow down to love each other. For me right now, nothing else matters to me much these days, besides learning from nature, being fully self-expressed and enjoying the quality of human exchange. Please enjoy, share the music with friends and family."

3/10/20

"You can't front on Long Island; we put too much into the game." An oral history of I.G.T., the Ill Got Team.

Left to right: Lagato Shine, Belly Valentine and O'Hatch
I.G.T. (Ill Gotten Team, Ill Got Team, In God we Trust) was a Nassau County rap crew that released several singles and street samplers with Loud Records before the label folded in 2001, leaving the group's finished debut album, Alpha & Omega, to languish unreleased.


Their story could've ended there, but it didn't and hasn't. After Loud closed shop, I.G.T. released several albums independently as well as mixtapes under the auspices of the group offshoots L.I.P.A.A. and Last Run Entertainment. Roosevelt's Lagato Shine has remained most active of all I.G.T. members, putting out numerous solo projects. His longtime partner and I.G.T. co-founder, rapper/producer Belly Valentine aka Belly White aka Crack Val also enjoyed an active solo career, producing songs for the likes of Ghostface Killah and Tragedy Khadafi among others before tragically passing away just three years ago on March 6, 2017 at age 41. R.I.P. Lakeywen Brown.

Left to right in I.G.T. shirts: Da Nomad Dough,
Ace Hardware and Lagato Shine
During their Loud Records days, the I.G.T. roster consisted of Lagato, Valentine, O'Hatch, and Klee Klepto aka Klee Kevlar. However, Klee was incarcerated during the bulk of the recording sessions that would form Alpha & Omega, so he appears only on a few interludes culled from demo takes, as well as on album closer, "The Ritual," the song that landed I.G.T. its Loud deal. Da Nomad Dough aka Bloody Dough (of Freeport) also made appearances during this period and would later front the L.I.P.A.A. offshoot along with rappers Blaze and Fly Gee. Other MCs from the area, such as Sol Ace fka Ace Hardware (of Hempstead), also count themselves among the extended I.G.T. family. (In addition to Ill Got Team and In God we Trust, the I.G.T. acronym has also been said to stand for Illgotten or Ill Got Ten, perhaps suggesting there may have been as many as 10 members at some point.)

The following "oral history" consists of quotes that have been attributed to I.G.T. members and their label mates in numerous interviews and articles that have been written about them over the years. A complete list of sources and incomplete discography appear at the end of the post.



"The Ritual"

Val: Me & La was rhymin' together for a while, and O and Klee always rocked together. We hooked up to do a joint called "The Ritual." It was spontaenous. We clicked and it just happened.

Lagato: We were the nicest cats in town. It only made sense that we combine it into I.G.T.

Anonymous Ex-Loud Records Source (ELRS): They were signed by Schott Free, the legendary A&R who brought groups like Mobb Deep to Loud.

Schott "Free" Jacobs, A&R, Loud Records: They just pressed play and it was like straight-up steak and potatoes. It's not often that you catch a group and everybody gels. I remember listening to the demo alongside Inspectah Deck. Deck was like, "What a brother gotta do to get a deal?" So we had to get Deck on the album.



"L.I.F.E. (Long Island Forever)"

Lagato: Roosevelt, Long Island in NY is a rough urban town where we scratch and pull to make ends meet, but it’s love amongst the neighbors.

Val: You can't front on Long Island; we put too much into the game. We got legends that everyone knows.

Lagato: We're tryin' to start a movement.

O'Hatch: We all got our own style. We just listen to the beat and let the beat move us. We try to break the rules too.

Val: We rap for ordinary people. I know the music we make is good, but it doesn't mean anything if no one's listening. We gotta get that plaque.

Pete Rock: "Word to Life" is a record that everyone can relate to. It's a song by regular people, for regular people.

Lagato: When they hear us, I just want niggas to respect us, like "Yo, them niggas is nice and they be spittin'. 'Cause I would be doing this regardless. It's a business and we want to be paid, but it's really a respect thing for us.

O'Hatch: We just want to show people that there's more out there than what they hear on the radio. If they listen to it for 30 seconds, they'll realize what they were missing.




Alpha & Omega

ELRS: [Schott Free] largely had a different view of how they should sound. During the making of the album group member Klee Klepto unfortunately went to jail and his only salvageable vocals from their demos were used as interludes. As the album was being finished up, Loud Records was nearing the end of its lifespan and there was a lot of pressure to deliver hit records from Sony ... but the album was made in the vein of classic Loud albums and Schott’s influence meant that the album was largely void of a single for the changing commercial times. The group felt that they had other strong tracks but they were blocked from putting them on the album because they didn’t fit the vibe of the album. So a great album that featured production by Large Professor, Alchemist, Sean Cane, Mahogany, Buckwild, EZ Elpee and group member Belly White never saw the light of day.

Reek da Villian: I remember being in I.G.T.’s first studio session at the legendary Chung King Studio In Manhattan, New York. I freestyled for A&R’s Schott Free, Matty C, and Shawn C. After rapping for them for hours, they all fell in love with my flow and spoke of signing me.

Dino Brave, The U.N.: Even the way we got on was sort of a fluke. Schott Free, we met up with him off the strength of another rap group – a dude that we was doing demos with around the way – he mistakenly played our stuff trying to cue up their stuff. It was I.G.T., it was their session. They were one of the last groups to sign with Loud Records before they folded, and my man G. Gary was up in the studio playing some beats for them and he played a song that The UN did, and Schott Free was like, “Yo, who’s that?” That’s how is started. Schott Free and Matty [C] had signed [I.G.T.], but they didn’t drop. They recorded the album and everything, but by the time they were gonna come out Loud Records had closed their doors. Those were some good brothers though.



Incomplete Discography
G.I.T. Live 12"/CDS, Loud Records RPROLP 4350, 2000
Word to Life 12", Loud Records CAS 32682, 2001
Class By Emself 12"/CDS, Loud Records RPROLP 4486, 2001
Street Music 12", Loud Records, CAS 16843,
Street Music - The Preview, CD Sampler, Loud Records, LOUD9059-1, 2001
Illgotten, CD Sampler, Loud Records, 2001
Eat 2 Live, CD, Ill Gotten Inc., 2002
The 4 Fathers, CD, Ill Gotten Inc., 2006
I.G.T & Drama Squad - Bad News, 2007
Alpha & Omega, CD, Last Run Entertainment, 2015
Lagato Shine & I.G.T. - Ill Gott Till We Rott, Last Run Entertainment, 2017
Lagato Shine & Nomad Dough - Red Zone Ridin', Last Run Entertainment, 2018



Sources
"Everyday People,"Vibe, December 2001;  "One team of MCs Attempts to Reignite their Hometown Torch and Carry the Legacy into the Next Generration," Unknown Magazine; "Shelved Albums #1: I.G.T.," Fat Lace Magazine, January 2008; Reek da Villian Biography, FlipmodeFans.com, January 2009; "Dino Brave [The UN] - The Unkut Interview," Unkut.com, May 2014; "Lagato Shine Takes All Responsibility on His Own Shoulders," Skilly Magazine, August 2016.


3/8/20

Lil Pharo - "F4mous" / "Hendi" (New Apollos Remix)

"I've been walking around like I'm famous / Fuck around might give you a baby / I can't wait til we get out the basement / Tell my brothers we finally made it" might be some of the most Long Island shit I've ever heard in my life, no shade. That's Lil Pharo on "F4mous."On "Hendi," he's even more to the point, that being fast fucking ("slide in your pussy like jelly") and faster escapes ("text me tomorrow girl, I gotta catch my plane").

If there's a common denominator to Lil Pharo's one-offs, it's a penchant for melody. Pharo's flow is drawn to it like a moth on spilled Hennessey to a club pateo heater flame. Just add Jordans ... and trunk bass. Lil Pharo's poised to crack the algorithm like Howard Carter outside King Tut's tomb.

3/6/20

Dreddy Kruger Spotlights LI Talent on Think Differently Two: The Audio Film

Album cover photo by Theophilos Constantinou
On February 7, 2020, longtime hip-hop A&R, executive producer, and jack of all trades Dreddy Kruger quietly dropped the follow-up to his acclaimed 2005 project, Think Differently Music: Wu-Tang Meets the Indie Culture

For those who were heavy into Wu-Tang and undground rap 15 years ago — yours truly included — that album was a touchstone moment, pairing some of the era's most respected indy rappers like MF Doom and Sean Price with Wu-Tang generals like RZA as well as killa bees like Prodigal Sunn, Timbo King and others. The project also featured several spoken word interludes voiced by independent filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, known throughout hip-hop ciphers for casting RZA and GZA alongside Bill Murray in the film Coffee & Cigarettes and for giving RZA his first big film-scoring gig with the modern cult classic Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai.

In a sense, Think Differently Two: The Audio Film picks up right where the earlier Think Differently project left off, once again drawing some of the most respected lyricists from both the Wu-Tang family and today's independent hip-hop scene. This time, however, Kruger has crafted the project with the stated intent to explore the cinematic potential of hip-hop music. Thus, in addition to cameos from Jarmusch and Quentin Tarantino, we hear several intrumental interludes arranged like on-screen transitions and intermissions. Like its predecessor, The Audio Film is quite the ambitious compilation, but this is no conventional sequel as the new project has a totally different sound and concept, at once grittier and more cohesive than its precursor.



That sound is achieved in part via the new cast of independent rappers who appear on The Audio Film. Most of the tracks that include vocals feature more than one rapper, with just a few exceptions that are especially noteworthy here as two of the four MCs who get the opportunity to stand alone are Long Island rappers. One is Don O., of Hempstead, who has the honor of setting the scene for the single "Slate" alongside Academy Award winning screenwriter and world-famous auteur director Quentin Tarantino. Don O. aka Don the Jeweler, who's also known for his work as part of Schott "Free" Jacobs' Team Frozen, actually manages to set several scenes on the track as his restless reel jumps from "moves like the Earth's crust" to pistol whips that leave a "Rahman knot." Ouch.

The other Long Island-bred MC going for dolo on The Audio Film should be no stranger to this site's longtime visitors, as we were covering him years before the Dutch started pressing him on limited-edition colored vinyl. I'm speaking of the inimitable Rome Streetz, originally of Elmont. Rome closes out The Audio Film with the appropriately titled "End Credits," where he unspools a whole roll of slick shit in his trademark spilling syllable style.


Some cynical fools might wonder why Dreddy Kruger, a man who lives and breathes NYC, would showcase LI so prominently on this project. However, those who think back will note that the Wu-Tang Meets Indie Culture lineup featured a who's who of LI MCs, namely Rock Marciano (four years before Marcberg when he still went by Rock instead of Roc), MF Doom, Aesop Rock and R.A. the Rugged Man. Furthermore, Dreddy's Think Differently was also the label behind 2008's The Box, the unreleased album from Merrick brothers Folk & Stress. But that's a story for another day. For now, nuke yourself some popcorn and enjoy The Audio Film, available on Bandcamp and Apple Music.

Thoughts on a couple semi-obscure De La Soul songs from 1993 and their legacy...


Now here's something that's both an interesting find and a shining example of how YouTube can simultaneously be one of the best and worst platforms on the internet. Above is a 9-minute clip from Tony Touch's Hip-Hop 35 mixtape, featuring a here-untitled track by De La Soul, followed by Tha Alkoholiks' "Bullshit," with plenty of Tony's cuts included. One of the YouTube commenters identifies the song as the ostensibly unreleased "Come On, Yeah," based apparently on the fact that the words for that song on several lyrics sites match the words here. The commenter also takes issue with Tony's scratching, saying it "ruins the song." Which, I mean, come on... Further, if we check the Discogs page for Hip-Hop 35 (which, to be fair, might not have been around eight years ago when this was posted on YouTube), we find that the title of the song is "Ego Trippin' (Part 3) (Egoristic Mix)."



(So, you might ask, why even post the YouTube stream if I've found the source? Simply because this is how it came to my attention in the first place and I like Tony Touch's scratching.)

Far from unreleased, "Ego Trippin' (Part 3)" appears on the Ego Trippin' (Part Two) single, which was released by a well known record label in 1993 as the second single off De La Soul's third LP, Buhloone Mind State. (Fun fact: Discogs catalogs 21 editions of this single!) However, unlike the A side's LA Jay Remix, "Ego Trippin' (Part 3)" is not really a remix at all. "Ego Trippin' (Part 3)" is a whole other song, with completely different lyrics from Pos and Dave and music by Xavier Hardgrove aka Spearhead X, who's credited with co-remixing the track along with The Beat Messiahs. Curiously, this is the Messiahs' only credit on Discogs. Hardgrove, however, you might also recognize as the producer of "Dinninit" off De La Soul's next album, Stakes Is High. There's also another connection to Stakes Is High here, as Posdnuos spits a line that would later appear on that album's intro ... I won't give it away, though, as his whole verse is utterly fantastic.

Speaking of incredible and incredibly overlooked Posdnuos lines from this single that would pop up elsewhere, later on the B side we get to "Lovely How I Let My Mind Float," which features Biz Markie and also does not appear on any other De La Soul albums (though it was on some versions of the Breakadawn single). Here, Posdnuos drops another ingenious couplet that might sound somewhat familiar: "Now, I'm a rap fan who never saw Bam rock the parks in the Bronx / But I still snap skulls in the dark." Can you remember where else you've heard that?

Here's a hint: it's not on a De La Soul song — in fact, it's not from a Pos verse at all...



...Give up?

Ras Kass delivers those lines verabatim as the hook of "Sonset," his response to the East Coast/West Coast beef, which appeared on his debut album, Soul On Ice, from 1996. For those keeping track, that's three years after this single was released, so there can be no doubt as to who came up with the bars. However, before we accuse Ras Kass of biting, we should consider the context. Again, "Sonset" is Ras Kass's response to the East vs. West bullshit that had engulfed hip-hop in 1996. Like many other rappers, Ras Kass took a critical view of the situation, basically at once representing the West while showing love for the East. Quoting De La Soul on the hook — and not just any De La Soul song but a semi-obscure, three-year-old b-side to "Ego Trippin' Part 2," itself a critical forerunner to the East/West beef, homage to the Ultramagnetic MCs' classic, and really a gushing love letter to the hip-hop medium — could have been Ras Kass's way of showing just how much of a "rap fan" he truly was at heart. As if to say, "If you get this reference and what it stands for, you really get where I'm coming from."

It took me 24 years to get it, but I see you, Ras Kass.

Returning focus to De La Soul, I find it somewhat odd that neither of these songs were included by the group on their Impossible Mssion TV Series Pt. 1 compilation. Maybe they were saving them for Part 2? Maybe they were deemed insufficiently obscure? Or maybe the masters were lost in the label's vaults? At any rate, "Ego Trippin' (Part 3)" did find its way onto De La Soul Rarities & Remixes, which is apparently a GZ Vinyl bootleg, as well as onto a fan-made mix by one El Rey, wishfully titled Impossible Mission pt. 2: The Search for AOI3. In the spirit of rap-nerdom, I'll leave you with that. (Also, props to Montreal's WEFUNK radio show archive, from which both of the above mp3s were ripped, and to Tony Toca of course.)

3/1/20

Lisaan'dro & Timepiece - "Much Better"

If I was the sentimental type, I might say something like "Here at Long Island Rap Records, we're all about bringing people together, no matter how far the distance between them." I'm not, at least not enough to write like that, but I must admit it was cool to get an email from Timepiece that read: "I am a producer from Perth, Western Australia and initially discovered Lisaan'Dro through your blog a while back. Last year I had the chance to work with him and the song has just dropped."

Even cooler, however, was hearing the product of a collaboration between two artists so far apart they're in different days more often than not. "Much Better" for real.

2/29/20

Chilo & Mane Event - No Such Paradise

Challenging a paradigm while arguably operating strictly within its confines might seem courageous or hypocritical, depending on where you stand, but for Chilo and Mane Event it's essentially hip-hop. Take a song like "Real Is," featuring John Jigg$, for example. Where Chilo and Mane Event offer definitions of reality as in/tangible truths, Jigg$ re-ups the ante with an assault on perceptions that dictate false narratives over real ends, e.g., "How you gon deal with a guerilla that rap / I done been to Brazil and back spitting ignorant raps."

The title cut then doubles down as Chilo kicks his verse off with one of the album's tightest couplets — "Wicked intentions abound here / Regardless of what transpired we out here" — then goes deeper, expounding on that opener with, "Spirits scream nightly while you dare to dream / Telling of the treachery that the land has seen." A global studies teacher by trade and Nuyorican poet by practice, Chilo has quotables for days, but concepts as provocative and layered as No Such Paradise's are not built on bars alone.

Mane Event's production m.o. — "slice dusty samples in the precisest angles" — succeeds in part because the beats too seem bent on challenging their own structure. Beat changes pop up not just between song parts but also mid-verse, and almost every song concludes with an outro that sounds like the beat devoured its own extremities only to regurgitate an even doper, albeit possibly unrappable, version of itself. In that sense, the album's production im/perfectly echoes one of its core themes, showing there's always more than meets the ears and eyes, minds' or otherwise. However or whether listeners divine divinity in that message, there's No Such Paradise. It's always something else.