Roger Ebert & Gene Siskel made a living off the team concept of reviewing movies. After the untimely death of Siskel, Ebert when on to team up with Richard Roeper and the two continue to review movies weekly and I’m sure making a decent little pay check while doing it. One of the great things about watching Siskel and Ebert review movies came from their quite divergent tastes in music, which led to some great arguments while reviewing a movie. It made for good TV.
How this is going to work: On a rotating weekly basis, one site will host that weeks reviews. The host blog will pick two albums for the weekly reviews and the two of us will sit down and discuss the albums, then hopefully insanity will follow. This week we were rather tame toward each other, but we’re just getting warmed up. We hope it makes for good reading, I think the two of us share a lot of the same historical sense of the culture, I’m a tad older, so I have three or four years on him, but that shouldn’t matter much. Most of the material we review will be new releases or stuff that has been sent to us from A&R’s, Labels, or Artists themselves (we both get a handful of albums a week these days). We might sneak an older album in every once in awhile, especially if its something that we know we have conflicting views of.
Top Shelf – 8/8/88
This being the first week and being my turn to pick the albums, you know I had to sneak this “new” album. There are plenty of suspicions that this is not actually from ’88, and I tend to believe that as well, although you could bring up valid reasons for both arguments. What matters is that if this is really a clever marketing scheme, its still a DOPE (a little ’88 vocab for ya) album. In case you have been living under a rock…or just haven’t visited many blogs, here is the low down for the album:
“Introduction: 17 years ago a small recording studio, TOP SHELF, located in the basement of a brownstone in the East Village section of New York, was looted during the Thompkins Square riots of 1988, displacing the recordings of many soon-to-be Hip Hop stars. The studio had been the meeting place for many rappers, neighborhood kids, and producers that would later be responsible for the greatest period of the Hip Hop age, “The Golden Era.” A search commenced soon after the recordings were lost, but nothing was ever found. So sought after were the tapes, they soon acheived Holy Grail status amongst Hip Hop circles. Despite years of searching, and dozens of hopeless crusades, the tapes remained lost. No one was quite sure who took them or where they were… until now.
After an extensive investigation and search that lasted two years, the recordings have finally been recovered by Fab 5 Freddy and myself (Benjy Grinberg). They were found dozenss of miles from the site of TOP SHELF in an abandoned strage faciilty in North Jersey. …We sought after the lost recordings of TOP SHELF because they were rumored to be among the hottest songs from that era, and we thought it was a tragedy that the world never got to hear them. It turns out that these two-inch tapes are truly a treasure chest–a time capsule of the energy and excitement of 1988 Hip Hop.”
Regardless of the debate, the album is very well done….shit, why am I telling you this now? Read our opinions on this album…..
Eric: Whatcha’ think about that Top Shelf joint? That Doug E Fresh (“It Ain’t Nothin’”) shit was nuts!!!
Trav : The “mythical” lost album pops up on the scene after years of supposed searching. The Doug E was pretty dope, it was good to hear him kick the party vibe like he used to.
Eric: I thought it was Greg Nice for a minute
Trav: I was all about the Biz’s track, “My Name Is”. Reminded me of why I loved Biz back in the day like that.
Eric: Yeah, you’re right, that surprised the hell outta’ me as well. I’ve never been a big fan of Biz either.
Trav: I’m still not sure what to think about the legitimacy of this project.
Trav: Do you really think this album was made in ’88? If it isn’t, they did a pretty good job making it sound authentic enough.
Eric: I don’t know, some of that production sounds very dated (but still sounded real nice)…you just don’t he
ar cats rhymin’ over BPM’s that uptempo anymore.
Trav: But the quality just sounds….. Almost too good, too polished to be lost for the last 19 + years.
Eric: Yeah, the Dres/Black Sheep (“I’m The One”) joint is suspect, it’s also waaay too short.
Trav: I agree, that Black Sheep joint needs to be longer, but damn, Dres and Black Sheep in ’88? I’ve never even read anything about them being around during that time. I could be wrong, but they would have been unknowns in ’88.
Eric: Yeah, you got a point there. I don’t think that Kane joint (“Like That Y’all”) was from ’88 either.
Eric: Awwww….no way!
Trav: yeah, listen to “Looks Like A Job For” then listen to “Long Live The Kane”, Kane sounds different and this sounds like the “Long Live The Kane” Kane.
Eric: Man, that’s pushin’ it, but his flow does sound similar to the flow he had on “How U Get A Record Deal”?
Trav: Yeah, the flow does, but his vocal tone though sounds like the late 80ish Kane.
Eric: Wasn’t the beat used for Kane’s joint from “Come On Down” w/ Busta & Tip that was on “Prince Of Darkness”?
Trav: Shit, I don’t know, I avoided that album like the plague.
Eric: Awww…..”Brother Brother” w/ the Barry White sample was and still is one of my all-time favs. BTW, Do you ever remember Caz & Melle Mel spittin’ “lyrics of fury”like that?
Trav: Yeah, that was another example that made me think this album isn’t exactly from ’88, although they were both beasts on the mic in their own right.
Trav: Hmm…..I’d say no, he sounds like the more advanced Ace
Eric: I think that one’s too close for comfort. The subject matter similar to some of the raps from the same time period in ’88, rappin’ about po’ po’ beatdowns kinda’ dates it.
Trav: Yeah, you’re right, it is, but then again…shit I don’t know….listening to it now….I don’t know what to say about that track, it could be the Cold Chillin’ Ace. I like it though, the beat is kind of basic, but it works.
Eric: You can’t tell me that was an 88′ Smooth B. You would have never heard him without Greg Nice in those days
Trav: Yeah, that was another one that made me think it was newer. Plus Smooth sounds better than he did in those days.
Eric: Sounds better? No way, that’s probably my least favorite cut on the album
Trav: I mean as an MC. Let’s fact it, he was never a great MC, but I’m just saying he sounds more polished than say his earlier material on Sleeping Bag. He always sounded awkward on those joints with Nice & Smooth, but his solo stuff later, he sounded better (that doesn’t mean good).
Eric: Greg Nice wasn’t exactly Nas himself. Listen to Smooth B’s chorus again, that’s some funny shit
Trav: No, you didn’t listen to Nice & Smooth for the lyrical prowess. Yeah, it’s kind of a corny chorus, but you expect that and enjoy that from a Nice & Smooth related project.
Eric: Ha Ha! Greg Nice said “Dizzy Gillespie plays the SAX” when he actually played the trumpet…..classic shit right there from a nonetheless entertaining duo
Trav: “I guess he “could” play the sax”, that’s what Nice said later, uh-huh, yeah sure. He might have, but I’m not sure he knew that originally. I love that beat on the Biz’s joint.
Eric: How can we forget about Chubb Rock? “Jump, jump with the man, with the plan….Chubb Rock”!
Trav: Chubb is the shit, although I’m not sure about this song yet. I like Chubb’s vocal, but….shit never mind, I’m liking it.
Eric: All the beats on the album are CRAZY uptempo. Uncle Luke could’ve thrown a “Doo Doo Brown” adlib in there and called it a d
Trav: I think I’m going to do a “kick step”, with this Chubb track, “Chubb Rocks The Party”.
Eric: Don’t even knock Kid N Play!
Trav: I’ m not, it makes me want to do that Kid n’ Play kick step, the beat just makes you want to cut a rug up.
Eric: That’s right, I was about to say….
Trav: I bet Hot Dog went to town on this shit
Eric: Ha Ha, yeah no shit. Hell, even the Jungle Brother track(“Back In The Jungle”) had me dancin’ in the shower….(that’s when I first listened to the album) perfect album to get your day goin’. Real good to get the blood pumpin. The hell with Folgers, give me “Top Shelf”!!
Trav: This album makes me miss the old school shit…since you know, we are golden age geezers or whatever that dude called you on your blog.
Eric: That Jungle Brother joint makes me want to go back and listen to their old stuff. Afrika & Mike G always had dope ass voices and flows, I just never really checked for them after hearing em’ on the “Buddy” remix
Trav: I never was a big JB fan, for some odd reason when I worshiped the rest of the Native Tongues family.
Eric: By me saying “go back and listen” to their old stuff translates into “I need to dl it , cause’ I’ve never owned any of their albums, even on tape back in the day
Trav: Yeah, I never did either. I’m sorry though, you can’t tell that 95% of the shit out now a days is anywhere as good as this stuff
Eric: Just talking about this album is making me appreciate it more for it’s…… hmmm, what’s the word I’m lookin’ for???
Eric: Word! Oh, and another thing…wasn’t the Just Ice joint mad short? I don’t even remember hearing it
Trav: Yeah, that track,”I Run The Streets”, comes in 1:32, yeah, but that was another reason I thought it might actually be from ’88, that sounds like Ice from back then. What’s your least favorite joint?
Eric: There’s nuthin’ that really hinders the album, maybe Lyte’s joint, “Listen Up” .
Trav: I like the beat, but it was used on Positive K’s album. I’d probably go toward the Special Ed as my least favorite, it’s not bad, but I don’t think its the same quality as the rest of the album.
Eric: Now way, not Special Ed.
Eric: Although, the chorus on his joint is kinda’ lame
Trav: The beat doesn’t do much for me.
Eric: That Puba cut (“Let’s Go”) sounds like it was a leftover (in a good way) from “Reel to Reel”. It’s most definitely on some SD50 iddish.
Trav: Yeah, agreed.
Eric: Just us converstatin’ about this, I think I’m going to fall asleep with this in my headphones tonite.
Trav: This is some quality golden age shit.
Eric: What have we not touched on?
Trav: Craig G’s “Catch A Lyrical Beatdown”?
Eric: That’s right, never been big on Craig G “The Kingpin” other than Marley’s remix of “Droppin’ Science” but this truly does have that genuine, old school feel.
Trav: Craig G was always the weak link to me in the Juice Crew…meaning my least favorite. I think he also lacked the charisma that the others had.
Eric: To me this sounds more like a early 90′s album rather than ’88.
Eric: He does say “Signed to Cold Chillin”, bam, there you go.
Trav: I’m still not sold all these are from ’88 though.
Eric: Some of the beats sound a little “too advanced” for ’88, but not much past 92′. I think that’d be pushin’ it
Trav: I’m not sure, the Craig G sounds like a classic 45 King beat, so its so hard to say. Marley was pretty advanced too for that day in age.
Eric: yeah, just peep Uncle L’s “Jinglin’ Baby” remix for evidence of that.
Trav: Oh hell yeah. For a compilation, it sounds pretty cohesive, like a lot of the same producers did it. I’m guessing we both agree that this is a quality release. Good luck tracking it down, since its a Japan only release.
Aesop Rock – None Shall Pass
Eric: Aesop’s real name is Ian Bavitz per Last fm
Trav: I read that shit, good little Jewish boy. Aesop is getting some heat for this album in some of the major publications, like Spin, Rolling Stone and that shit. Not that anyone who is into Hip Hop will pay much attention to those mags.
Eric: What do you mean heat? Is he getting good or bad reviews?
Trav: Bad reviews, if you consider three’s bad.
Eric: Three out of 10?
Trav: Nah, three out of five.
Eric: Where does it stand for you when you compared it to El-P’s “Ill Sleep…”?
Trav: Well, for now, not as good, but they remind me of each other in more ways than one. I don’t know if I like this Aesop because I was expecting the worse or what, but it’s better than most of the stuff I’ve heard from from him.
Eric: Yeah, I picked up “Bazooka Tooth” when I was in Iraq, just on the strength of the Camp Lo cameo. When I first heard it I was like “awww, hell no, what is this??
Trav: I don’t know what is wrong with me though, liking El-P then this Aesop. I disliked both and pretty much all Def Jux stuff from day one. Yeah, they are both…umm an acquired taste. I wanted to pull my hair out most of Aesop’s past albums I have heard in the past. Its mostly HIM, the beats were never all that bad.. They were kind of weird, but I like weird. But sometimes, an MC bugs me so much, that despite the beats being at least good. MC’s like Aesop Rock and Esoteric are two MC’s that I could never handle, no matter who’s beats they were on.
Trav: Yeah, I think the gibberish just got to me, that coupled with his weird flow…just never did it for me.
Eric: Fo shizzle, as far as the beats, “Getaway Car” is the highlight of the album, hands down.
Trav: Yeah, I like “Getaway Car”. It was dope with Breezly Brewin showing up in the track.
Eric: I knew you’d love that shit, being you’re so big on “Use Your Confusion”.
Trav: I was shocked actually when I first heard that. I guess it makes sense, being from NY, but didn’t see an underground cat like Breeze being on an Aesop album, but then again, Camp Lo was on the last album.
Eric: Do you know who produced it?
Trav:I’m taking a wild guess here, but I’d say Rob Sonic. That’s what we get for “previewing” the album, but this album is a perfect reason why I download shit. No way in hell I would shelled out money to hear this album. Now Aesop has a good chance of me buying it.The beat sounds like some of the stuff that was on Cage’s album though, who was also on the track.
Eric:Trav, did you hear, “Pigs”, which is the bonus track after “Coffee”? Man, that shit is crazy. It’s really nothing but some hand claps and a smooth guitar lick, but it’s real nice.
Trav: Yes, it’s a dope hidden track. Sounds like some bluesy shit. “I Know thats one ugly fucking tie, asshole….” hilarious from “Pigs”. He says some funny shit on that track.
Eric: That’s the only beef I have with Aesop in particular, he’s really hard to follow at times. Maybe it’s just me, I’m thinkin’ too slow.
Trav: No, not just you, that was my beef as well.
Eric: I really liked “Pigs”, plus, “Coffee” itself was one of my favorites on the album. I’ll tell you what, “Coffee” sounds as if it was backed by a live “rock” band or something. It’s on some really, if you will, “Def Jux bounce”? Those tracks, the double track (Coffee & the bonus “Pigs”) is a helluva’ strong finish to the album, which at that point…it really needed…would you agree?
Trav: I love both of those tracks. “Coffee” ends shit off on the right note, I’m digging that shit big time but let me ask you this, why in the fuck do they put two great songs like that together??? They are “one song” as far as the CD is concerned. There was a song like that on Atmosphere’s “Seven’s Travels” and I think the Roots did something like that to. It bugs the fuck outta of me.
Eric: I know what you mean, even on the advance of Blu & Exile’s “Below The Heavens” had something similar to that, but they were sequenced different on the retail, but I know most cats out there are still bumpin’ the advance. It does makes for a bad mix CD though, huh? Especially, if only one of the tracks knocked.
Trav: There are a couple tracks like that on here. I got an old rock feel from the first track “Keep Off The Lawn”, like Pink Floyd or some shit. I’m not sure I have a favorite yet. Thats where it reminds me of the El-P album, it’s something that you almost have to play at one sitting to get the whole “feeling” of the album.
Eric: If you check my “def jux” bashing a few months ago, I ripped El-P’s joint up one side and down the other but I would seriously place “Poisonville Kids No Wins” as one of my tops cuts of the year. That beat,well, it’s really just an acoustic with no bassline, it’s just crazy, real epic shit
Travis: Def Jux beats in general are usually kind of “weird”, espeically El-P. I usually can’t handle his shit. It sounds like howler monkeys in a garbage can getting beat with a baseball bat.
Eric: Surprisingly, as you mentioned the beats, on this album, they really impressed me and this is comin’ from someone who has never owned anything from Def Jux.
Trav: I’m not sure how many beats El-P did, but usually Aesop has different producers than most Def Jux releases.
Eric: Some of the producer names on the album threw me for a loop. I’d honestly never heard of “rob sonic”, I can see the nike dunks and backpacks flying my way now. Didn’t he make death metal??
Trav: Shit, he could have for all I know.
Eric: Nah, that’s Rob Zombie
Trav: He should do a track for Aesop. There are some “rock” influenced tracks on this it seems like. I guess thats the Blockhead production.
Trav: I was going to ask you your take on that track. I’m not sure what to think of it. It kind of sounds like some New Wave 80′s shit or some love scene from a John Hughes 80′s movie or some shit. Not that is a bad thing.
Eric: Without a doubt, it was my favorite track on the album “initially” but it has been far surpassed by “Getaway Car” & “Catacomb Kids”. Trav, what in the hell is a “Catacomb Kid” anyway?
Trav: I think I like it (None Shall Pass track), but damn, its just so weird. I agree with the “Catacomb Kid” that shit is kind of cool as well. According to Wiki, Catacomb’s were some kind of Ancient burial ground in caves and shit. Sounds like something most MC’s rap about, he is so unoriginal.
Eric: “Knock em’ out the box Aes, Kn-Kn-Kn-Kn-Knock em’ out the box Aes”…my highlight of “Catacomb Kids”!
Trav: Of course we would both gravitate to the old school references. The middle of the album kind of starts to blend together, that would be my major beef with it so far.
Eric: No, I’d have to disagree with you there, the album starts to take a decline shortly after “Getaway Car” well. I guess your right, track 7 (getaway car) would be the middle of the album, but you’ll never here me say “you’re right” again! Milk!
Trav: Yeah, “39 Thieves”, “The Harbor is Yours” and “Citronella” all kind of sound the same to me. Not my fault your lactose intolerant.
Eric: Not to get off the subject here but that albums has received a quarter of the downloads that all the albums I’ve posted this week have. Craig Mack = 300, Milk = 44.
Trav: Cause everyone already owns Milk! I take my original statement back though, I kind of like “Citronella”.
Eric: Yeah, the “..kill the television..” sample is dope, that’s Krs right?
Trav: Yeah, from “My Philosophy”.
Eric: What about the second track, “Bring Back Pluto”? I kind of liked it, the groggy bassline and the staggered sample piece the song together quite nicely.
Trav: Naw, I’m not feeling that song, that is the weak link in the first six songs
Eric: Did you ever hear “Bazooka Tooth” or “Labor Days”?
Trav: I’ve heard both. I’m still trying to clean my ears of “Bazooka Tooth”. I’ve heard bits of “Labor Days”, but I heard it after I heard “Bazooka Tooth”, so I didn’t pay much mind to it. Although many people have told me to really sit down and listen to it.
Eric: You mentioned earlier that the album has received a few “skeptical” reviews but check this out http://www.hiphoplinguistics
Trav: Whoa…I wouldn’t say that. I’m not even totally sure I like it yet. I mean I do, but it’s hard to accept I guess
Eric: I’d put “Getaway Car” in my favorite songs of the year. Do you have any cuts from the album that wo
uld merit the same placement?
Trav: Not yet…”None Shall Pass” might either drive me nuts by the end of the year, or I might fall in love with it, the track that is
Eric: Damn, those last two tracks, I foresee a lot of play this weekend for those two.
Trav: Yeah, I’m playing “Coffee” right now, shit’s dope. What’s your take on the El-P cut?
Eric: I mean, no doubt Aesop & El-P make white rappers look good lyrically but two complicated (but still ill wordplay) emcees are just a bit much for my a.d.d ass to comprehend especially when spittin’ over an average (being generous) beat.
Trav: I still don’t think El-P is all that gifted lyrically, but so be it. Aesop, well, I’m not sure either. I will say this, he seems to have slowed shit down a little. I’m able to follow what he is saying and surprisingly enough, it’s not all gibberish he is spitting, he is actually spitting something worthwhile.
Eric: Bottom Line, best lyrical performance on the album belongs to Breezly. Dude says “dummin’ out” in like every track he’s on, I love that shit! So slept on!
Trav: We all know how I feel about Breeze as an MC…haha.
Eric: I was playin’ “30 Something” on the way to the movies on labor day with my wife. She was like “damn, that shit’s dope!” Well, really she said “That song has a good beat” in a non-threating manner.
Trav: Yeah, don’t get me started on my love for that album.
Eric: So gimme x outta 10 for a rating….or your “panties” rating I should say?
Trav: I didn’t do that on the last ones. Well, its kind of difficult. Like with the El-P album, it took me a couple weeks to get used to it. One day I just heard it and said, “this shit is fuckin’ nice”. I see that happening with this album. It might take me another week, but i could see this creeping into some major rotation on my listening habits. Right Now, I’d say 6.5 or 7 right now. And you?
Eric: Well, believe it or not I was gonna’ say 6.5 myself. I think that I speak for you as well in saying this but…..we both got a little more than we bargained for with “None Shall Pass”. Hell, I downloaded the album just out of curiosity. My past experience with Aesop is much like your past Aesop Rock experience, it was heavily tainted. When I first heard the opening three tracks on the album I was able to put my “def jux” prejudices aside and give this one a chance. Who would have thought my friend? We’re gonna’ give some shine to the label that was on your dilznick a few months ago!
Eric: I will say this about Aesop Rock, his material is definitely an “acquired taste”. I just wanna add one last thing in regards to Aesop Rock’s “None Shall Pass”,”this promo copy belongs to Magnown Wosh”….hahaha. You got anything else to add?
Trav: I’m not sure how I feel about liking this album. I thought the El-P album was hard enough to deal with liking and now this. I’m starting to question my hip hop credentials. I’m going to go listen to some Primo shit.
Eric: Maybe it’s the age thing??
Trav: It’s kind of like realizing you like nerdy girls….you have to go bone a cheerleader to make yourself feel okay.