4/30/22

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.

4/12/22

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.

4/10/22

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."

4/9/22

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. 

3/28/22

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.

3/26/22

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.
 

3/25/22

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...

2/23/22

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. 

2/9/22

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. 

2/7/22

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."

1/29/22

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.

1/27/22

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! 

1/26/22

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.

1/25/22

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." 

1/24/22

Rakim - "Black Messiah"

With Fred Hampton Jr. (l) and DJ Free Leonard (r)
Every year around this time of year, Long Island Rap Records takes a week to celebrate the works of Rakim, one of the greatest poets and performers in history, who happens to be from Wyandanch, Long Island, and whose birthday happens to fall on January 28. A new Rakim song is always a cause for celebration and as it happens, the newest also fits into a playlist posted in a previous year's Rakim Week.  Released February 12, 2021, "Black Messiah" is an ode to Fred Hampton from the soundtrack to the biographical film, Judas and the Black Messiah, about the Black Panther Party leader and his betrayal at the hands of FBI informant William O'Neal. In his autobiography, Rakim wrote about his love of biographies, so it's no surprise that his song about Hampton succeeds in telling the revolutionary's story with much the same resonance as the Oscar-winning film. What is surprising is that Rakim was able to bang the song out in one day at the request of Fred Hampton Jr. himself (per a lecture at Grand Rapids Community College).

 

 "Black Messiah" has been added to Long Island Rap Records' YouTube playlist of Rakim's Soundtrack Work, which first launched in February 2018 and has been updated several times since.