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.


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.

COMA-CHI - Spiritual Bitch

It's dope to me to think that at the turn of the 21st century there were a bunch of really talented rappers who were so into kaiju that they adopted their names, and moreover, that one of said rappers so loved the culture that gave the world kaiju that he up and moved across said world to the home of said culture. MeccaGodzilla wasn't playing. He lived and worked in Tokyo for several years. While there, he crossed paths with a Japanese rapper/singer by the name of COMA-CHI. That was in 2010. Ten years later, amid the pandemic, they reconnected. The result of that collaboration: Spiritual Bitch.

"COMA-CHI reminds me of like a Japanese blend of MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, and Lauryn Hill but she’s a pioneer in her own right that has encouraged countless other women to rap and sing in Japan," MeccaGodzilla states. "I couldn’t wait to work with her and as I grew more spiritually and saw her music evolve more spiritually over the years, it was a no-brainer to reach out to her through a good friend to see if we can make some magic happen. Thankfully for me, COMA-CHI was 100% with it and working with her was the most fun I’ve had working with any artist to date – she’s super talented and amazing to work with.”

Peace to MeccaGodzilla, COMA-CHI, and everyone else around the world for whom the terms love and passion are synonymous.

A paragraph inspired by an ad lib to 2022's best rhyme

Five stops on the Hempstead Branch, five on West Hempstead, and five on Long Beach, but 10 on Oyster Bay and goddamn 13 on Babylon with another itty bitty idiot committee at each, all shitty, reeking of mommy and daddy's liquor cabinet. "Fuck you, fuck you." And the bastard collector had the nerve to eyeball me among all these "dickhead motherfuckers." Did he inspect their water bottles before asking to see my ticket a third time? He only should've punched it once, the fuck. He's probably daydreaming of his other job, getting high on his own supply, "slinging work." If only the man I'm going to see would stop calling me in that voice of his — nasal, the painful kind, the snowy apartment kind, the park-bench sofa kind — then maybe I could pay better attention. Then I could find my ticket. Then I could get to where I need to go.



R.I.P. Grand Daddy I.U.: One of LI's Greatest

Still reeling from the news of DOOM's passing in 2020, the last thing I wanted to do was end this year with back-to-back R.I.P. posts, but here we are. On December 13, 2022, Long Island lost yet another of its all-time greats, the hugely influential Hempstead rapper/producer Grand Daddy I.U. Most recollections I've seen over the last two weeks have touched on the impact of his debut album, Smooth Assassin, and his connection to the late Biz Markie, so I want to offer a few unrelated observations.

A few years back, in reviewing Roc Marciano's Behold a Dark Horse for Tiny Mix Tapes, I wrote a few paragraphs about his influences, meaning those who influenced Marc as well as those he influenced. Here, I made a case for his inclusion in the greatest rapper-producers of all time "discussion." Listing others, I purposely left two names out, reserving them instead for the review's "Others" piece (basically the website's equivalent of a record store's RIYL sticker comparisons). Those names were Q-Tip and Grand Daddy I.U. Which is to say 1) if you enjoy Roc Marciano's music in any way, you should also be able to find much to enjoy in Grand Daddy I.U.'s, and 2) even if only by virtue of the impact of those artists he inspired, Grand Daddy I.U. also belongs in "the discussion" about the most influential rapper-producers of all time.

About a year after that review, I put together a DJ Screw tribute mix called 6:31 'n the Mornin', which featured all the Long Island rap songs I could readily identify on Screw tapes. One of the grossest oversights in the history of LongIslandRap.com may have been the omission of Grand Daddy I.U.'s "Sugar Free" from that mix, and if so, I am grateful for Lance Scott Walker's DJ Screw: A Life In Slow Revolution for bringing to my attention that the song may have appeared on the seminal 3 'n the Mornin' album. Now, with all that being said, the song might be Juicy's "Sugar Free" like the internet says, in which case there are two errors in that one paragraph in Walker's book as he also refers to I.U. as a Queens rapper. Either way, it's fun to imagine Screw bumping I.U., perhaps hearing a kinship with other regional rap smooth-talkers like Too Short and Pimp C.

Lastly, I just want to point out that Grand Daddy's I.U.'s sophomore album, Lead Pipe, is one of the most severely overlooked and possibly one of the best rap albums to feature live instrumentation in the forefront rather than sample-based production. Like the early Roots projects, The Goats' two albums, and Schoolly D's Welcome to America (not coincidentally all by Philadelphia-based artists), Lead Pipe does not eschew any rawness in its embrace of studio musicianship, in this case arranged by I.U's brother, Kay Cee. On the contrary, if anything, Lead Pipe is I.U.'s most "hardcore" release.

That's all for my observations. Below you'll find some music and more, including in order: a Grand Daddy I.U. tribute mix by WUSB's DJ Cut Supreme, MF DOOM's remix of Grand Daddy I.U.'s "Slingin' Bass," and the three-part documentary TRB2HH Presents The Untold Story Of Grand Daddy I.U. by Kraze the King of Content.

"I just know this," says I.U. in the final moments of the documentary. "I just want n*****s to know that I am nice with my shit. That's all I ever wanted. I didn't even start doing this shit for money. I did it because I just wanted to do it. I did this shit before I got a record deal in my house just because I wanted to do it. I'd do this shit when I lost my record deal, when the shit collapsed. I just do it. And now once I've learned how to make records, I just do it when I want to just because I want to ... and I never did it for a check." R.I.P. Ayub "Grand Daddy I.U." Bey.


R.I.P. Spiga: Celebrating His Music and Its Legacy

Long Island rapper Spiga tragically passed away one month ago after a bike accident. Before scrolling any further, you can and should help out his family via this GoFundMe page and read more about him in this blog post by fellow M.I.C. member and Freeporter Ravage the MeccaGodzilla.

Having never released a solo album, Spiga is best known for his work as a member of two underground hip-hop supergroups — MF DOOM's Monsta Island Czars and billy woods' Reavers. In revisiting his catalog, it occurred to me that Spiga was one of a handful of rhymers who bridged the MF DOOM and billy woods eras of independent rap. The others would be Spiga's cousin, Kong, and early Backwoodz Studioz artists Megalon aka Tommy Gunn and Ravage the MeccaGodzilla. 

They connected styles and scenes not only through their rhymes, performances, and affiliations, but their collective energy and its conveyance. Their shared cyphers' crater-impacts have fossilized remnants in some of today's sharpest posse cuts. And yet, even among daikaiju raiders, Spiga stands out. I could try to write why, but I'd much prefer you listen for yourself. 

Below are three playlists including many of the released songs on which Spiga appears. He is featured on the first by himself, on the second alongside Kong, and the third among contemporaries. R.I.P. Traver "Spiga" Brown.


C.H.H.G. Interviews X-Ray da Mindbenda

I slept on this. Speaking with Uncle E of Long Beach's Get Yourz Posse and The Journalist Sinseer, X-Ray da Mindbenda went into great detail about his early days deejaying and making music in Long Beach. Historic revelations include the following:
  • Not only did X-Ray da Mindbenda go to school with Rick Rubin (for those who don't know, Long Beach and Lido Beach share a school district), but Rubin bought a mixer from him.
  • Rubin allegedly bit "the whole concept" for the Beastie Boys' "Paul Revere" from a song by Long Beach rapper Double P. "It was the same exact cadence and everything … we even had the beat going backwards at one time."
  • Former KMD member Prime recorded a whole album with X-Ray for Idlers records, and Ray still has the masters, "the DAT tapes and all that shit."
  • X-Ray also has a tape of an unreleased KMD song from when the group included Rodan (then Jade 1).
  • And X-Ray produced Public Enemy's "Tie Goes to the Runner" as well as Serious Lee Fine's "Cut It Up Chip" (with Suga Bear, both uncredited).
Revelations from digging around on Instagram the other night while working on a Spiga tribute post (coming soon): the KMD-MF Doom Way sign didn't get stolen. Somebody crashed into it, and hopefully the City of Long Beach will be putting it back up in short order.


BAIBEEBEAN - "Sunshine" / "Phantom Girl"

In recent years, the thought (finally?) occurred to me that I might be on the spectrum. I've brought it up in conversation with friends, half-joking-like. "It's a spectrum, we're all on it!" said a friend much more clearly on it than I am. And with my parents, did-you-ever-wonder-like. "I don't think so," their faces saying I'm just kind of an asshole. (Long Island Rap Records been problematic!) 

But at least consistent. While other one-weirdo writ-large outlets platform, transitioning to podcasts and other more easily monetized (read: socially acceptable) media, I'm damn near pushing 10 years on a Blogger site. Who else is doing this? Who even runs Blogger at this point? It's no small miracle Google hasn't shut this whole thing down by now, much less rolled it into some more easily monetized product (read: social media acquisition). 

But I digress. To those who aren't from Long Island, Long Island is The Hamptons. To those who are from Long Island, The Hamptons is like three hours away. To those who are from The Hamptons ... I don't know what the fuck, this maybe? 

Remember the scene in Casino where Nicky (Joe Pesci) tosses Ginger (Sharon Stone) out of his club? After literally dragging her down a flight of stairs by her hair, once he has her out the door, he suddenly restores decorum for the watching feds, as if by muscle memory. "Alright, be careful," he says as she curses him. We quote that scene a lot, my folks and I. As it turns out, we'd added the line, "Get home safe." He never says that. It's like when he has Dogs' head in a vice and says, "Fuck me? Fuck my mother?!" Dogs never said anything about Nicky's mother. He's just an asshole.


Kush Blank - "Talk to em Kush"

Goofy dads stash Delta 9 gummies in a Ziploc of non-cannabinoid gummies, thinking they're slick until that faithful phone call comes. Your wife's livid. Your daughter's in intensive care after accidentally ingesting 96 of them. 

"Ninety-six?!" (Talk to 'em, Kush.) 

The pack came with 100. The good news: it isn't brain damage. She'll be OK, eventually. They just need to work their way through her system. (This is the sound of that happening, the face-melt behind her eyelids.) 

And you should still have four left. 


Chilo - "Come Get This Humanity"

unofficial poet 
laureate, the late 
once said, 
"Being a poet is 
an excuse 
to be 
a human 
to really 
for what it is." 
Do with that 
what you will. 


Lil Taggs - "Froze" (ft. Taggs, Young Tio & 3rd Rail Phantom)

Part of the genius of Martin Scorsese's films is that their success depends largely on their going over the heads of their target audience. Success as subversion. Target in the literal sense. Over the heads as in an uppercut's follow-through. Love the dream unawares the sleeping part. "I'm not concerned with generational wealth, that's it's own curse," wrote my longtime acquaintance, Mr. woods. "Anything you want on this cursed earth, probably better off getting it yourself. See what's the worth." I haven't read it yet, but there's probably a quote in this New Yorker article my fiancé sent me, "Kim Kardashian and Kanye West's Quest to Become America's Favorite Superheroes," that applies as well. Applies? Yes, all of these comparisons make perfect articulable sense to me despite my inability to grasp the underlying mathematics, like free jazz, boxing and quantum physics. Lil Taggs is the son of Prime, the 3rd Rail Phantom and younger brother of Taggs. Here they are altogether in 2019, a rapping family. "El-beeeeeeeeeee."


Kai Fortyfive - If I Must I Will

I'm not a religious man, but listen attentively enough to SLUGSMOKE & MIRRORS, peer beyond the 'fog of war' spoken of in its presser, and you just may catch wind of something divine-like. Kai Fortyfive's latest masterpiece, If I Must I Will, lifts that fog like sunrise over a swamp. Here, the rapper/producer pushes his songwriting "into some exciting new territory, damn near spoken word/gospel," as I told him on first hearing the album. The result is timeless yet immediate, not only in how Kai addresses recent tragedies but also in the overall urgency of his themes and delivery. There should be more music like this, but there isn't ... at least, not yet. Kai issues the call and answers it boldly, If I Must I Will.  
Kai Fortyfive will be performing live at 117 Grattan Street in Brooklyn, September 11 (tickets available here). Also, a super limited quantity of SLUGSMOKE cassettes is now available exclusively at the Record Stop in Patchogue. Get yours before they're gone for good.


Coast & Hi-Q

Sometime in the mid-'00s I saw Diabolic tear down a rap battle in Boston judged by KRS-One, featuring a number of local acts and possibly California favorite Okwerdz. Depending on where you stood in the crowd, the night's narrative went "The guy from that hidden Immortal Technique song really killed it," OR "The fix is in!" Like the 2003 American League pennant race, many a New Englander went home hurt that night. 

All of this to say that during a decade today written off as something like a hip-hop Dark Age, there were at least a couple Long Island crews out upsetting the applecart with zero regard for applecart health and wellbeing. Dead Rabbits is one such crew that has kept this tradition (if you can call it that) alive and (mentally un)well. 

In recent months, the crew's in-house producer Hi-Q has put out two projects including Bowery Bruisers: The Remix and Coast & Hi-Q, a collaboration with Dead Hempstead Rabbit Coast LoCastro. It's angry as fuck, as if someone somehow channeled the collective disappointment of failed sports team fandom into a  28-minute character assassination. There's a song called "Muse" about inspiring self-loathing in a person. Any "you" mentioned, whether real or imagined, is doing real bad. 


Poetic's Recorded Battle with Cancer: Four of the Hardest Verses of All Time

July 15, 2022 marked the 21-year anniversary of the death of Anthony Ian "Poetic" Berkeley. Before passing, he wrote and recorded no less than four verses about his battle with cancer. Two were done as features. One of those, from Last Emperor's "One Life," is fairly well known and has been rightly recognized for Poetic's vivid depiction of the night he was hospitalized from what would turn out to be colon cancer, his diagnosis the next day, and subsequent fight to survive. However, this is actually the second of the two features to be released. 

The first dropped two years earlier, in 2001 (possibly before Poetic passed, but don't quote me on that). This verse appears on the song, "Angel Cries," by Canadian rapper Steve "Liquid" Hawley from his album, Better Days. Poetic actually co-produced much of this project — the photo accompanying this post shows him mixing it — which is an interesting story unto itself that I hope to delve into at some point in another post. But for now, let's run these back to back.

Paralyzed on the bathroom floor by pain
Last month I endured but now I can't ignore
Feels like railroad spikes being stuck in my liver
Am I dying? Eyes crying, body starting to shiver
Crawl upstairs from the basement calling my sister
"Dawn, help me, I ain't feeling to healthy"
Stomach walls burning, head spinning and turning
Waiting for the EMS three-ten in the morning
Rush me to emergency screaming like a newborn
The pain's too strong maybe my soul's trying to move on
He hooked me to the I.V., put me through some x-rays
Gave me Demerol to kill the pain, that was the next phase
Early the next day in the hospital room
Moms and pops in the room, three or four docs in the room
"Test results suggest your colon and your liver 
is so cancerous you got three months left"
Me and death is playing chess ever since then
My strength is the Most High, my fam and close friends
The Last Emp and Set Free blessed me with a verse
Staying healthy comes first, look at me, things could be worse

Hey yo, I'm standing on the Earth surface looking up
Reviewing my purpose in a world so corrupt
I look to the heavenly force with ebony thoughts
Cancer distorting, my whole chemistry's off
I'm mentally caught in the highs and lows
Of despising those guessing when my eyes'll close
Laying in the hospital room, feeling the gloom
They'll be wheeling me off to the O.R. soon
My family and friends all gather up in the lobby 
They probably praying for me when surgeons open my body
My niece gave me a kiss with a tear in her eyes
I hate it when the angel cries

Listening to and looking at the two verses side-by-side, at first it almost seems as if they could have both been from the same song. Upon closer review, though, the verses differ significantly in time-setting and tone. Whereas "One Life" has Poetic recounting his diagnosis and determination to fight on, "Angel Cries" takes place entirely within that fight. A devastating counterpoint to the almost uplifting ending of Poetic's posthumously released "One Life" verse, the "Angel Cries" verse illustrates his mental, physical and spiritual struggle with certain death. It's a significantly shorter verse, only 12 bars to the 20 on "One Life," and with each rhyme more concise as if reflecting his limited time left.

The poignant beauty of these verses is their unsparingly honest detail of someone so alive transitioning from the world of the living. Lyrics don't get much sadder than this, but that they could be written at all is about as powerful of a reminder of the enduring strength of art and human potential as one may ever encounter. The "hardness" of these verses is in Poetic's steely resolve, h/His will to survive two and a half years after the doctors gave him three months.

Poetic's other two known cancer-related verses are harder in the more traditional sense, that is, heavier-handed, bloody knuckled with no punches pulled. As such, they're also harder to listen to than "One Life" and "Angel Cries." On "Burn Baby Burn," from Gravediggaz' Nightmare in A-Minor (also from 2001), Poetic aka Grym Reaper positions death as the central character in his final horror story.

From the first day that I burst through the skin
Of a virgin, I was cursed by sin
A mammal of the sea, pop's name John Samuel Berkeley 
Out of his nuts came me
True indeed I had soul even as a tadpole
Grabbed hold of an egg just to have a mole
Grew up surrounded by darkness and blood
Swimming in the cut like Noah in the flood
Eh-eh-eh-ah drama, devils attacked me inside my momma
This caused trauma
While I was growing up she was throwing up, it got worse
That's how I met the doc and the nurse
They took an X-Ray, kept it to the next day 
To figure out the best way to possess me
Trapped in a pool of impurity 
Without security, nearly ruined me
No immunity to the curse yet
I saw the earth sweat as poppa prayed on the church step
In the place where they worship
As the nurse crept I got mad nervous

Pain builds my character, deranged cancer cells
Begin to damage my shell, tissues begin to swell
The human pin cushion, needles begin pushing
Through my melanin cover, blood begins gushing
Hunger pains fed through my veins
Trying to maintain body and brain under strain
Belly being drained from my nose through a catheter
To maintain my stamina game is high caliber
Flashback my dossier files, before the hospital
Flocks would pay their piles of cheddar to see me rock my style
Got lots of smiles from man, woman and child 
A Gravedigga here running wild like the Nile
Ghetto X-File: The Horrorcore Bringers
City morgue singers, new rap era beginners
Four years out of seven I remember touring
And this year I'm measuring my urine

Note how Poetic seamlessly adapts the tale of his fight with cancer to the tropes of the horrorcore style he pioneered. In a song dripping with all the gory details of a body-horror flick, Poetic saves the most grim detail for his last bar. It's a tragically ironic ending: Grym Reaper, a character spawned from the bloody politics of the music industry, works so hard to get his music heard that it kills him.


DJ Mickey Knox - Lost Roc Marciano Joints & Remixes

In anticipation of The Elephant Man's Bones out August 26, here's a compilation of Roc Marciano's deep cuts by fellow Long Island hip-hop acolyte DJ Mickey Knox. 

Only two other things need saying. DJ Mickey Knox has done a bunch of these, including for De La and Biz. And this new Roc has a song featuring Ice-T with a title inspired by Mandy.

"My flow hard to mimic like yiddish."


Dunbar x BP - Notorious Unbreakable

Why I don't write like they (critics) write. What when they say someone sounds like somebody and somebody else, but that somebody sounds like somebody else and that someone sounds more like this somebody else but not so much the other one? What then? Where you from? 

Michael Jackson's "Unbreakable" features a posthumously released Notorious B.I.G. verse that probably previously appeared on some mixtape some bork from Romania could tell you much more about than I could, and good for them (the bork).

J. Dilla did a song called "Time: The Donut Hole of the Heart," which, twice played as slowly as possible on a standard turntable, happens to line up pretty much perfectly with the final scene of Before Midnight, Richard Linklater's 2014 threequel to Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. 

Amity Villains whet expectations for this one. Notorious Unbreakable met those and then some.


RAVAGE the MeccaGodZilla Blacking Out for Over 3 Minutes on a 2007 Chong Wizard Posse Cut

Chong Wizard is today an indie rap household name for his masterfully curated label, which issues all types of ill music I can ill afford, but that's OK because much of it sells out before I have a chance to succumb to temptation. Anyway, he's been DJing and producing much longer and recently Bandcamp-messaged out a sci-fi-themed mixtape he did in collaboration with X-Clan's Brother J in 2007, which is every bit the fire it sounds like it'd be. 

There's a ton to love about They Robot III: Robots of Dawn and you should definitely check it out, but for our purposes today, what I really want to draw your attention to is track 3, "Robots of Dawn Theme," a 10-minute posse cut featuring (in order of appearance, I think) Rack Lo, Azeem, Lil' Sci aka John Robinson, AKIR, Bashir, Phoenix Jones and R(estore) A(rtistic) V(ision) A(nd) G(rowth) E(verywhere) aka RAVAGE aka Ryu Black aka ADUM⁷ then aka MeccaGodZilla of the Monsta Island Czars, who appear elsewhere on the project. 

See how I dedicated about 1/3 of that paragraph simply to RAVAGE's attribution? That's about how long his appearance on this posse cut is in relation to the full song. That he was allotted 3-plus minutes, virtually an entire song unto itself, on an already well stacked track, whereas everyone else more or less contributes a verse or two, speaks to how completely he annihilates the whole affair. Even crazier, it sounds like they probably cut off some of his starting rhymes! 


Lungs, Phiik & Cise Greeny Are Where Are The Bugs

Pigs that came to clear the last apartment needed to bring in reinforcements after the door team fell ill — nausea, itchiness, eventually skin clawing and crawling. The tenants' belongings, their archives they'd called them, reeking with the decadence of generations, were infested with microscopic mold-feeding insects once thought extinct, a pest/ilence that clung to the decades' detritus. It got in the officers' throats, thus the vomiting, and on their clothes, hence the rash. By the time they called in the Health Department, it was too late. Developers had Romania on the horn. Quarantine would satisfy the force majeure clause, the financiers advised. City Hall complied on the condition they'd pick up the PR tab. So it was settled. One of the environmental remediators had a curious streak, though. Always kept a souvenir, in this case a shoebox. Taped voice recordings of the tenants' final days.


Urbvn Architects NYC - "Can't Wait"

Loss-for-words rap, as in all you can do is quote stuff back. Blaq Kush: "Gritty and narrow, painting your name but it's missing an arrow / Drifting at sea it was misty and shallow / You empty the clip on the fish in the barrel / Stuck in the office, I'm talking to Carole / I told her I'm Darryl, why / You're going to Bed like you live in the Stuy / Reside in the tunnel, I'm missing the sky / Stuck on the corner, said give me a ride." 


Disco Vietnam - House Rabbi Vol. 0

One time, playing manhunt, hopping the metal fence along the north side of my parents' backyard, I unknowingly snagged my shoelace on the top of said fence such that I landed chin-first on a big rock. To this date, my beard doesn't grown in quite right in that one spot. Talk about "best beats of a misspent youth." That fence fucked me up so bad, it changed my future appearance. Here, Disco Vietnam hip-hop instrumentalist Barry Schwartz holds a funny face so long it got stuck like that. Some of these beats are older than some of you.

Kenny Orlando x NoahMadeThiss - Garbage Disposal

In 1998's City of Angels, Nic Cage plays an angel who elects to exchange his immortality for the ability to make love to Meg Ryan's character. 


In the scene where Meg Ryan takes Nic Cage's virginity, she goes "We fit ... we were made to fit together," quite the pillow talk for Meg Ryan. 

Soon thereafter she gets hit by a truck and dies.

It's a great '90s romance, worth watching even knowing all that.


Quey B - "No Limit Tank" / "Wise Up"

Nighttime on a Huntington side street, a parked car is illuminated by white overhead lights and the bluish glow of a phone recording the vehicle's occupant pouring his heart and brain into raps. I'm setting the scene for a trickle of tracks that landed on YouTube about six months ago, two of which appear below, all of which are dope in their own right, but really you'd do well enough to check out anything by Quey P aka Darkside Q aka Blueflame Ballers via DistroKid or ReverbNation or wherever you stream your music.


OSP - "One Last Pickle"

You can't spell gherkin without genki: a happy linguistic accident apropos of the song art below, or the kind of thought that only a truly deranged mind can conjure? While you consider that, I'll be once again winding back this King Pickle remix of Ariana Grande's "One Last Time." The appropriately titled "One Last Pickle" features Nicki Minaj elevating Wayne to KRS stature. What a pickle!

Murgolo De ArchiMago - "Psych Eval"

Typically submissions to this website include a song or a longer project possibly accompanied by a brief bio of the artist. Murgolo De ArchiMago submitted what can only be described as a screed attesting his undying love for hip-hop. No music. He asked me to hook him up with a producer. Asked for samples of his work, he followed up with a string of freestyled voice recordings made right there on spot. I put him in touch with a producer. I don't know what came of that. But here's a song he sent out of the blue the other day.


Theravada Hot 97 Freestyle

Speaking of Rosenberg, shout out to that man for allowing this to happen. Theravada recently appeared on the Real Late show on Hot 97, where he spoke about how he got into hip-hop; his recent Earl placement, "Tabula Rasa" ft. the best rap group in the world, Armand Hammer; losing his laptop; and some of his influences (Madlib, Timbaland, Nas, Tribe, Dilla). Then, as captured beginning at the 12:17 mark below, Theravada rapped live on Hot 97

Right now, as always, there are awful things happening in the world, but there are also some really great things happening, and, for me at least, this was one of them. "It's not 'Third.' It's not 'The Ravada.' Thank you."


Johnny Storm - Lunafreya

Around the 1-minute mark of "Pneuma," the penultimate song on Lunafreya, when the saxophone comes in, that's the sound of the fucking sky opening up, of the sun's heavenly rays parting clouds like Moses did the Red Sea, of all New York going quiet for a quick second as if to ask, "Oh damn, who's that?" That, my friends, is Johnny Storm, and he's about to channel some shit so slick it could've only come direct from that ethereal plane: "My weakness is kept secret, they might use it against me / So I sent it to a realm where the timing is endless / I tell the waiter add some extra truffle on that spaghetti / Yo fuck juice, all we sip is warm water with lemon let's get it." Lunafreya is Johnny Storm's third album since last October and all three have been among his best to date, but this one is truly special. Rosenburg knows.  

Centa of da Web - Beyond Human Comprehension EP

Execute command. Materialize avatar. Download itinerary. Charge phaser. Open portal. Enter portal. Traverse wormhole. Exit portal. Seal portal. Access itinerary. Pinpoint target. Port pin. Identify target. Execute target. Assess timeline. Identify contamination. Update itinerary.

Want to know what sci-fi-inspired underground hip-hop was like back in the mid-'90s? You don't have to hack autonomous computers sending shooters back in time at the behest of defunct message boards. Atoms Family's Cryptic One dug up a grip of his group Centa of da Web's Beyond Human Comprehension cassettes and CDs, and posted them on his site. You can also name your price below.

Recorded, I believe, in Da Cryptic One's parents' house, this EP sounds like decades of hip-hop's past and future folding in on themselves in a Westbury basement. Peace to Cryp, Molecule and Whichcraft for opening the portal. 


Lyrica - "Code 2113"

Political scientist Michael Parenti once said, "I could demonstrate to you that in every single bank robbery, that in every single case practically, the cost of the police was more than the actual money that the robbers took from the bank ... You see, there are people who believe that the function of the police is to fight crime, and that's not true. The function of the police is social control and protection of property."  A sample of that speech kicked off a Choking Victim song way back when, but it just as well might introduce "Code 2113," Lyrica's ode to one of the most harshly punished victimless ("shooters watching my six" notwithstanding) crimes of all.

Eternal Intellect - Da GreyWolf Series: Da Frost Giant

Also by way of the Ville, if that which is eternal can really hail from anywhere in particular other than the ether, it's the third installment in Da GreyWolf Series: Da Frost Giant, featuring an alcoholic allegory for interracial relationships, a glamor-free assessment of opiate addiction over the "Blow the Whistle" beat, and more flows than you can shake a Mjolnir-shaped stick at. Also, sometimes you just have to sing.


Rhyme Va-Lor - Holiday Boogie

You're hanging out, spinning records, soul joints mostly, shoulder moving stuff, and there's a mic just lying there. Nobody seems to notice but you. You imagine you're not DJing and subtly nod toward the mic as if to say to yourself, "Oh, you've got something? Well," and though it's been a while, it's also the holidays, and you're feeling right so you do what needs doing, a verse here and a couple more over there, just hanging out, spinning records, doing your thing.


Prince Paul Talks to Chuck D and Harry Allen about It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back

I'm not much for music podcasts. Why would I listen to people talk about music when I could just listen to music instead? Possibly the only nice thing about written music criticism is that it can be read or written while listening to music, thus allowing for some semblance of an attempt at direct engagement. But I digress. What I am much for is anyone giving Prince Paul a microphone and a platform to say or do basically anything, but preferably whatever he wants to do. If that thing so happens to be talking to Chuck D and Harry Allen about Public Enemy's classic sophomore album, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, all the better. And if that discussion has to be interspersed with readings from the 33 1/3 book about said album voiced by Open Mike Eagle, so be it. (OME's first season of What Had Happened Was, featuring a series of conversations with Prince Paul about his discography, is also a good music podcast as it happens.) Now if only someone would pay me to talk to Paul for 3 hours about It Takes a Nation of Suckers To Let Us In then I'll be really sold on the value of music podcasts...


humanBIEN - Warm Wind In Winter

Maybe it's just that I've been watching the first season of the original Star Trek series, but humanBIEN has me in my speculative fiction feels, like what if all the pandemic emotions in the world were so real they came together and birthed a whole other world complete with its own continents, oceans and ecologies. Warm Wind In Winter could've come from that place, its title talking about a fleeting but welcome reprieve from a season there, or just maybe feeling out of the ordinary. Regardless, humanBIEN's art is extraordinarily emotive and creative, such that no one should be surprised to learn he not only raps, sings, produces and mixes his projects, but also draws incredibly detailed and imaginative illustrations like the one featured here (see more on his IG), and such that I cannot recommend this album highly enough for anyone who fancies themselves someone who really cares about that kind of stuff.

Akari - edits vol. 1

One of the best parts of hearing a new Akari project is that going into it you don't know for sure if it's going to make you want to dance, bob your head or meditate, but you can bet it's liable to provoke all three of those responses and then some. His latest, edits vol. 1 showcases the producer's ever-honing mastery of the art of the remix. Akari describes the project as "a collection of edits, blends, and remixes" that "draws from the sounds of house, jungle, uk garage, juke and more." It succeeds in rendering all those nouns meaningless, all their sounds a soup. Stream it below along with a bonus "danse practice" cut pulled from Akari's Soundcloud, and do what it makes you want to do. 


BP & Bunchy Cartier - Amity Villains

On March 12, 2021, Ronald DeFeo Jr. died at the Albany Medical Center. An inmate at Sullivan Correctional Facility, DeFeo had been serving 25-to-life for six counts of second-degree-murder. According to the court, on November 13, 1974, at the age of 23, DeFeo shot and killed his mother, father and four siblings. The night of the murders, Ronald Jr. walked into Henry's Bar (later Cloud Nine, now Parisi's Pizza & Pasta) on Merrick Road and said "You got to help me! I think my mother and father are shot!" The next day, Ronald Jr. confessed to the crime. A heroin and LSD user, he pled insanity at trial. The court found him guilty in November 1975 and sentenced him in December. 

That same month, George and Kathleen Lutz purchased and moved into the house where the DeFeo family had lived at 112 Ocean Avenue. They moved out 28 months later, claiming they'd been terrorized by ghosts. This served as the basis for the Amityville Horror books and films, which made the village known across the country. Referencing its infamy as well as worsening living conditions there during the 1980s, some local residents started calling Amityville Horror City, which led to the rise of the Hip-Hop collective of the same name.

Though not part of that collective, Amity Villains BP and Bunchy Cartier likely came up hearing and experiencing many of the same stories; some true, some embellished, some complete fabrications, all equally capable of inspiring more stories. At one point, DeFeo Jr. blamed the killings on his great uncle, a Genovese family capo. The Amityville Horror books and films repeatedly allege the DeFeo home sat atop the site of a former resting place for insane or dying Shinnecock Indians. Neither of these claims is factual, but both are rooted in facts and fears. Many Long Islanders have a great-uncle with ties to organized crime. All Long Islanders live on lands once tended by Native Americans. Our imaginations fill in the rest. In many ways, Amityville is like any other Long Island suburb. Homes there cost about a minimum of $500,000. The informal economy thrives there. Ghosts lurk between those sentences like chambers of commerce between village halls.  

Amity Villains sounds like those phantoms, their half-told ghost stories the very essence of suburban myth: business and government. 


Darc Mind - Darc Mind Wuz Here

Drafting questions for my bucket-list interview with Darc Mind MC Kevroc and producer X-Ray Da Mindbenda, I briefly considered then quickly dismissed the idea of asking when their next project was coming. After all, 13 years separated the duo's 2nd and 3rd albums. So, you can imagine my surprise when, after I asked at the end of the interview if there was anything else they wanted to talk about, X-Ray volunteered that they had another project, an EP called Darc Mind Wuz Here, nearly completed. 

The coda on a brilliant if abbreviated body of work spanning multiple decades, Darc Mind Wuz Here landed at the top of 2022 true to its name; the writing on a crumbling wall, its section still standing strong even if destined for the rubble pile. Kevroc has one of the most marketable voices in the history of Hip-Hop; that it's never been "successfully" sold as such by the music industry is as much a testament to the genius of his lyrics as a casualty of '90s label politics. Simply put, he's not writing for the masses but for himself and those he might inspire. In liner notes and interviews, he cites as his major influences local MCs who never put out records and whose names virtually nobody else would be able to recognize today except maybe for their former neighbors and collaborators. Widespread recognition is not, has never been the point. 

Darc Mind's catalog is essential rap music, an ever-evolving oral tradition. Thus, even the bitter-sweet finality of this exclamatory installment comes with an unambiguous belly laugh. Its final song-proper is unironically titled "Now That I've Arrived." Its last track, "Phantom of the MLK Center," is not so much a rap song as a spoken-word lamentation, a love-hate letter from artist to art. Even after the tag fades from the broken bricks, after the last rhyme is done and the last boom bapped, this never ends. Its very existence is one of continuous advancement. That's what manifested it. That's what it manifests.

Whether or not there's a document to show for it, Darc Mind Wuz Here. "Cats who lived there will know what I'm talking about."


DJ Ran Cypher Session ft. Rakim (1998 Freestyle)

Sometimes somebody says freestyle and means live performance of an existing verse/song possibly over a different beat than the recorded version. See yesterday's post, "Rakim - Rap City Interview & Freestyle." But then sometimes somebody says freestyle and means otherwise undocumented maybe improvised performance, and when that performance is by Rakim, your ears damn well better perk up like they have radar antennae attached. 

This is that: a little heard freestyle by Rakim. Another YouTube post dates it to 1998, which sounds about right. The 2nd beat Rakim annihilates was produced by Erick Sermon from the infamous LL Cool J posse cut "4,3,2,1," which I somehow for the first time just realized is almost exactly the same beat as Def Squad's "Full Cooperation" (also produced by Sermon). If it ain't broke, don't fix it. If you don't know what the 1st beat is, how did you find me

This concludes the 8th (!) annual Rakim week. If you dug it, check out prior years' Rakim weeks as well as DJ Ran's YouTube, where you'll find more cypher sessions featuring other gifted MCs. Finally, happy belated birthday to the greatest rapper of all time, the God MC Rakim, and peace to anyone reading this.


Rakim - Rap City Interview & Freestyle

Here we have Rakim's appearance on Rap City Tha Basement. This was probably sometime in late 1999, as Ra was promoting his second solo album, The Master, which dropped in November of that year. In addition to plugging clothing company UBX (more on them later), Ra performs the DJ Premier-produced "When I Be On The Mic" and later kick his first verse from "It's a Must." Timeless! 


Rakim & J.PERIOD Present The Live Mixtape: God MC Edition

Rakim and J.PERIOD rang in 2021 with a very special installment of the latter's live mixtape series. Very special not just because it was the God MC Edition but because it was a three-parter, including a DJ set and a mini-documentary directed by Julia Liu in addition to a blazing live performance with speaking appearances by DJ Jazzy Jeff and Busta Rhymes. Total run time: 1 hour, 5 minutes and 18 seconds. Watch all three and stream/download the audio below.


Rakim & Damu the Fudgemunk - The Master Munk

As a rule of thumb, I've tried to avoid including blends in Rakim Week, opting instead for remixes if anything other than original songs. But this blend tape of Damu the Fudgemunk beats and Rakim vocals is in a whole other category. Seamlessly mixed and arranged by DJ Essential and Altered Crates, The Master Munk sounds so fluid it lives up to its time traveler back story, which essentially posits that the project stems from a crate of records that showed up on the DJ's doorstep in 1993, including several which hadn't yet been released, along with a note about "a seemingly limitless number of universes." Per Altered Crates, The Master Munk premiered "on this timeline" on February 5, 2021, putting LIRR almost a year behind schedule. Per physicist Julian Barbour, time is just "an illusion which emerges out of the law that governs the whole universe."