4/25/20

Dzoe - "Dash" ft. Dblock

The Driver's Ed instructor said I had a "lead foot," played that passenger brake like his life depended on it, which, to be fair, it probably did on at least one occasion. The concept of automobiles as "aluminum death traps" is even funnier when considered beside the concept of driver's education. "You see this? This could easily kill you and your loved ones. Here's how to operate it safely." Perversely, there's little fun in that compared to the adrenal rush of dashing past mini-vans and driver's ed cars. Dzoe's out in Bellport by way of Riverhead, which can be quite a haul ... unless, of course, you push the DeLorean speedometer to 88 mph, as such >>>

4/22/20

MF DOOM Tribute ft. Pete Nice, Kurious, Bobbito, Lord Sear, Jake One & MC Serch

In 2004, during my sophomore year of college, I came across Philaflava, a message board with blue skin, some bad attitudes and a lot of really good hip-hop music. Side note: joining rap forums in the '00s may have inoculated an entire generation of rap nerds against the trolldom that now runs the world. I've never met the site's founder Jason Gloss, but as the man behind the T.R.O.Y. blog, he was the first person to let me write about music for their website. So, in a way, all this here is his fault.

Anyway, Gloss is now a co-host of Take It Personal Radio. The podcast recently aired a HUGE (six-hour!) episode dedicated entirely to MF DOOM. I'm only two hours in, but already I've heard some amazing anecdotes about the Metal Faced Supervillain from collaborators Pete Nice, Bobbito and Jake One. Those alone are more than worth a click, but the kicker is the super-slick mix by DJ 360. In addition to the aforementioned guest appearances, 360 smoothly blends all sorts of pop-culture clips, highlighting some very obscure references in DOOM's lyrics — imagine random TV ad drops revealing product slogans from the previous bar while the instrumental track continues without missing a beat. There are also some very unexpected selections, including deep album cuts from DOOM's less-celebrated alter egos.

Bottom line: it's dope, and you should check it out. Also, Philadelphia (home of Philaflava if you didn't know) is the second best rap city, and if I can ever travel again, I can't wait to revisit.



P.S., If you're looking for more anecdotes featuring the artist formerly known as Zev Luv X, check out Long Island Rap Records' lengthy interview with Darc Mind, wherein producer X-Ray da Mindbenda briefly reminisces about the early days of KMD as well as his time with King Geedorah in the Monsta Island Czars.

4/19/20

Kasuf and the Mazz Muvement - Pan African Dub

Kasuf and the Mazz Muvement is the brainchild of composer/producer Kerwin Young, who's known in hip-hop circles for his work with The Bomb Squad and in orchestral circles for having composed seven-going-on-eight (yes, 8!) symphonies. Pan African Dub is his ninth (yes, 9th!) studio album under the Kasuf moniker. However, to hear him tell it, "It was never intended to be a Kasuf and the Mazz Muvement album, but…shit happens, and I had to improvise and keep it moving." Pan African Dub was meant "to feature spoken word artists and rappers, but I couldn’t get the cooperation I wanted," Young says.

It's hard to gauge without knowing which specific vocalists he had in mind for the project, but judging by the overall vibe, the instrumental outcome could be considered a happy accident. Kasuf and the Mazz Muvement's twanging guitar and triumphant horn lines draw the listener into rank and file in such a way that lyrics might've only distracted from the experience. Plus, there's a certain ease of refinement in how Young composes here; it's almost militaristic but pointedly so, always toward the cause of freedom. Besides, the song titles themslves succeed in setting scenes for the music to populate. Take, "Book of Poison Burn" or "Chopping the Claw (Of the Colonizer)" or "Black Woman Smash the Devil" for example. There's a cinematic quality to each – no surprise considering Young's experience composing for TV, film and video games. Having contributed music to everything from New York Undercover (1994) to The People vs. O.J. Simpson (2016), the producer knows how to tell stories through sound alone, and his background as a classically trained, jazz informed composer crearly aids in giving his take on dub a transportive quality.

The change in gears may have been an act of improvisation, but what is improvising if not composing in real time? And in terms of that, call him Kerwin or Kasuf, the man most definitely excels.

4/12/20

Aesop Rock Soundtracks Space Shooter Videogame Freedom Finger

Those who lost and found themselves in the voluminous lyrics of Aesop Rock back when his wordiness was alternatingly admired and assaulted but not yet cataloged for comparative data analysis might remember a verbosely titled song by the name of "The Greatest Pac-Man Victory in History." The song, off Aesop's second Def Jux full-length, Bazooka Tooth, chronicles the artist's adventures as a Long Island teenager whacked out of his mind on LSD, doing things Long Island teenagers who are whacked out of their minds on LSD tend to do, like hang out at the Beverage Barn and beat its Pac-Man. Seventeen years later, those who once obsessesed over the repeating L-S-D alliterations in the second verse of "The Greatest Pac-Man Victory in History," as well as those just now hearing about it, can delight to find Aesop Rock further blowing minds — his own, ours, animated space villains' — in Music from the Game Freedom Finger, which collects his soundtrack to the space shooter along with three new rap songs inspired by it. At this point in writing intentionally long sentences about the new Aesop Rock release, it also occurs to me that a middle-finger-shaped spaceship blasting explosive projectiles at a cigar chomping, uniformed brain beast may be a workable visual metaphor for the rapper/producer's entire catalog. Well played, Aesop Rock ... well played indeed. So put your quarters up!

UptownBODEGA - "Silly" / "Andriene" & "One Thing"



In these volitle times, consistency itself is a commodity of increasing value. Supplies may be short, but two reliable sources come in the form of Smif-N-Wessun instrumentals and the always reliable weed man. Now, I know what you're thinking: you texted your weed man two days ago and still haven't heard back. Well, clearly your connect isn't as reliable as UptownBODEGA, whose sense of social responsibility is such that in "Silly" he dons a surgical mask while making a sale. UptownBODEGA first came to my attention last year with his Hennesis project, also notably consistent. Since then, he's been consistently active, dropping well shot videos, hocking well branded merch, and rocking shows all acorss NYC and LI, well, at least as long as venues were open. He was even ahead of the curve on the masks. Note the balaclava below.

4/10/20

Public Enemy #2: "We're Down with the DJs"

It's a WBAU radio promo cut by MCs Chuckie Dee and Flavor, it hit the airwaves years before Yo! Bum Rush the Show, it was played in regular rotation by DJ Doctor Dre, and it's NOT "Public Enemy #1." It's "We're Down with the DJs," a track that's been online since at least February 23, 2008 but was recorded well over 20 years prior. The Slam Jamz website dates "We're Down with the DJs" to 1985, when Flav and Chuck were hosting back-to-back Saturday night radio shows on WBAU. The MC Flavor Show would air from 10:00-11:30PM, and the Super Spectrum Mixx Show with Chuckie Dee, Butch Cassidy, Wizard K-Jee and DJ Mellow Dee would come on from 11:30PM-1:00AM. Afterward, they might be heard at the Twilites Nite Club aka Entourage in Bay Shore. (Above, Chuck holds a Spectrum City jacket up outside the club.)

Slam Jamz also tells us this record was cut at 510 South Franklin studios, the home base of Pubic Enemy and the Bomb Squad. While comparable to the dissonant style of the latter, the beat on "We're Down with the DJs" is actually "Close (To the Edit)" by Art of Noise. "This promo was typical of what [WBAU] had in supplementing the records out at the time," says the Slam Jamz site. "DJ Doctor Dre flew this into rotation just as he did the Public Enemy number One promo the year earlier. DMC of RUN-DMC still says this tape was an influence. The names mentioned are all DJs who contributed to the pioneering WBAU radio scene." Among those DJs shouted out in the track's chorus are: Wizard K-Jee, Mellow Dee, Doctor Dre, Rusty J, Butch Cassidy, Hank Shocklee and of course MC Flavor and Chuckie Dee.

Read more about WBAU in Jesse Serwer's "Bomb the Suburbs" article from a 2006 issue of Wax Poetics and stream "We're Down with the DJs" below.

4/6/20

Leoskux - Boxer

Spoiler alert: a little under two minutes into the "waydown" video below, Leoskux ollies a guard rail into a manual down a hill then narrowly turns 90 degrees out of the way of a coming pickup truck. The driver stops, gets out of his truck and yells, "What are you a fuckin' asshole? You coulda got fuckin' killed just now, you dick!" He then turns to the cameraman who's captured this entire event, including Leoskux's shocked reaction at having landed the trick and avoided the truck. "What the fuck are you doin'?"

I'm spoiling this incredible scene, not because I'm a "fuckin' asshole," but because I think it perfectly describes the sound and modus operandi of Wrong Islander rapper Leoskux, formerly of East Northport, now presumably sheltering in place in Brooklyn. That is to say it's effortlessly spectacular. Wildly creative and philosophical thoughts leap over boundaries and somehow stick the landing with slickly stoned delivery. Onlookers are outraged. That these moments have been captured by recording seems equally amazing. Like ... how!?

For example, on "Porno," the kid starts off his verse with "Life's just a simulation that I'm always getting faded in / Wonder if god has favorites / Bet he fucks with the atheists, maybe Mormons / Bet we only here 'cause he's tryna see some porno." In the cadence of a more traditionally minded MC, those bars might fall flat like corny, half-baked punches, but instead they serve as a perfect window into Leoskux's mindset, one from which he promptly leaps and again, against all odds, sticks the landing.

"Waydown" and "Porno" are both on Leoskux's last project, January 2019's Boxer, streaming below.