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.