Some of you might remember back in August of last year, that I was part of a “committee” created to determine the “Philaflava’s 100 Greatest Obscure Tracks”. A lot of cats wanted all the MP3′s associated with the list whenI originally posted it up on WYDU. Unfortunately, that never really materialized, with some people being lazy (guilty as charged), others missing tracks (guilty as charged again), and just a lack of organization. It was kind of put on the back burner and forgotten. Late last week when I was making my rounds on the Philaflava boards, I found a post from board member CharlieManson that had a link to all 100, well actually 98, apparently we can’t count.
Before the naysayers start with the “What? So&So track isn’t obscure”, let me address it. Some of this stuff might not be obscure to me, or to a lot of the visitors to this site. Even after a few months have passed, even some of the people involved in this list have admitted that “Obscure” probably wasn’t the best way to describe this list. The list was initially intended for an online community, Philaflava.com. You are dealing with a larger sampling of people (nothing wrong with that), many who probably have less exposure to these tracks than the average visitor to WYDU does. You have to take in account the audience the list was made for. It wasn’t meant for the hardcore vinyl collectors, the blog heads or the ebay nerds. I assume when I mention this list was intended for a message board, that readers will take that into account, but I found out last time I posted this, it’s wrong to assume. I was not solely responsible for the list, as I stated numerous times the last time I posted this, there were eight other people involved. Mine would probably look different than this, but I think this is a good starting point for the average hip hop fan that is either getting into the culture or someone who just wants to dig deeper. I was simply a contributor, only about 10 joints were my direct inputs. I agree that maybe “Obscure” wasn’t the best way to title it, but again, that was not my call. Do I consider songs such as “B-Side” or “The Ill Shit” obscure? No I don’t, but again, you have to take in account your audience and who the list was originally intended for. With that being said, there were also tracks that I have never heard before, so I know damn well there will be new material for even the most seasoned vinyl/blog nerd on here. Just enjoy and don’t rock the boat with the “That isn’t obscure” comments…..just roll with it.
I’ll be posting up the tracks in 10 track sections for the rest of the week. Some of the write ups will be from some of the contributors, some will be my own. I think some tracks didn’t have write ups with them and I’m not totally sure I can pick out the ones I wrote up myself.
Thanks goes out to CharlieManson (the PF member) for upping these, to have all of these in one area is HUGE. Thanks to Jason Gloss, owner of Philaflava for originally having me on the “board” then letting me post these up on WYDU and having one of the few message boards I can stomach.
Thanks also to the crew of people that came together and hammered these out….
Contributors: Dred Scott, Galvatron78, glavet (me), Killer Ben, madtapes, Magneto, MGP, Paragraph President & Philaflava.
Philaflava.com’s 100 Greatest Obscure Tracks
When 9 people come together and attempt to create a list of 100 tracks it isn’t an easy task. Collectively we brought over 350 nominations to the table but after much deliberation we finally came to an agreement. Unlike our previous lists we decided it would be best to leave this unranked. These tracks are great for their own reasons and we just wanted to make a list that represented the importance of the b-side, the significance of the remix and remind those of the self-satisfaction when finally laying your hands on that sought after gem.
You will see a few artists show up once and trust me there could have been several with a handful of worthy tracks such as The Artifacts, The Beatnuts, Mobb Deep and Money Boss Players. This list should serve as your guide into what we like to call the 100 Greatest Obscure Tracks. Use it to as a checklist and download these tracks. Look from them on eBAY, Half.com or your favorite blog. These tracks are all worthy of your time and I strongly recommend checking the write-ups (below list) for some very informative and insightful reviews.
We’ll have a discussion forum open for this list, as well as providing you Mp3’s of these tracks. We ask that you tell us what you think, share files, memories and enjoy the music.
The advent of the Mp3 blog has been rather kind to us nostalgic completists/ random rap collectors/ aging b-boys. In the ‘90s we dreamt of the day that static-free versions of elusive cuts by Money Boss Players and Govna Matic would be rendered instantly accessible to all heads. But no matter how plentiful the online supply of uncovered or resurrected gems, we are fundamentally unable, even as a collective, to recreate the most memorable characteristics of the fan culture of our beloved bygone rap eras. In fact, every step we take to enshrine these gilded epochs for all eternity (including the effort you are currently browsing) leads to the rapid deterioration of the values and practices that partly defined the The Rap World As We Once Knew It.
In this past life of rap (which isn’t entirely over but hasn’t been quite the same since oh, about 1998) a particular brand of makeshift resourcefulness and soldierly patience that was manifested by the genre’s most revered artists was regularly displayed and honed by its most enthusiastic and caring fans. Rap wasn’t necessarily ea
sy to come by, even though a continually wider spectrum of personalities and styles were made accessible through semi-mainstream outlets like Yo! MTV Raps and the Source Magazine that did a respectable if inevitably unsatisfying job covering the genre as a whole.
Searching for music from slept-on or up-and-coming artists was largely a localized, grass-roots hunt. Meaning, quite simply, that if you wanted to delve a bit deeper than Nas/Lauryn Hill collabos and Junior Mafia-esque tales of V.I.P. fuckery, you had to vacate the plush world of shiny compact discs and confront the grimy abyss of second-generation dubs of crackly after-hours college mixshows, where b-sides, demos, alternate takes, and songs that would be permanently cockblocked by industry politricks reigned supreme.
Nostalgic sentiments for this era of rap have often been dismissed as wistful elitism, a thirtysomething need to keep one’s treasures guarded while sneering at the ignorant masses. However, the “underground” rap culture of the ‘90s was defined less by elitism and more by a desire to subvert the system as a whole: you wanted to be the first kid in your high school to not only own the dub, but to distribute it. This lo-fi, grass-roots mentality paralleled both the DIY indie business philosophy and the musical aesthetic of the time. We opted for the sound of the low-budget environment, and because of that, listening to the rugged flows and hard beats of the time felt like being part of a genuine movement. Thus we present our selections for rap’s 100 Greatest Obscure Tracks. It surely isn’t the same posting these in CDQ online, but we have no choice but to embrace the new technology in order to keep the old culture alive. It’s not too bad of a conundrum to face. – Thun
13 – Slow Burnin’
Ahmad, Ras Kass & Saafir – Comewiddit (Fredwreck Remix)
Al Tariq – No Question feat. Black Attack, Rawcotiks & Problemz
Bas Blasta – The Rhythm feat. Lord Finesse, Fat Joe, JuJu, & Godfather Don
Big L- How Will I Make It
Black Moon – Murder MC’s
Black Rob- Permanent Scars
Black Sheep – Similak Child (Homogenized Remix)
Boogie Down Productions – Questions & Answers (Remix)
Boogie Down Productions – We In There (ATCQ Remix)
If I remember right, I nominated the track “Slow Burnin” myself. It has long been a favorite of mine since discovering it on UGHH.com back when you could listen a whole song in shitty quality on some Real Player format on the site. I would listen to music on the site, then track down a track I liked on AudioGalaxy (an early file sharing spot). Not many people mention this track for some strange reason and I would classify this as obscure. It was part of some dope L.A. underground hip hop coming out around the turn of the century along with Amad Jamal, Dilated Peoples, and Defari. In fact, it’s Dilated’s Evidence who is responsible for the production on this track. It’s packing an ill flute loop and some captivating strings. DJ Babu is also the man behind hardcore scratching that blesses the musical track as well. For those of you that old enough to remember the hip hop group Mannish, who released a solid LP in the form of “Audio Sedative”, 13 is Jekill, who was one half of Mannish. He is more than an accomplished MC as he attacks the track with vigor and just runs through shit like a lyrical version of “The Bus”. A great track that I highly suggest a download if you have not heard of it. If anyone has the 12 inch ripped and/or the 2002 single “Clear The Spot b/w Get It Started”, hook a brother up, it’d be much appreciated. - Travis
Ahmad, Ras Kass & Saafir – Comewiddit (Fredwreck Remix) (Priority Records, from a promo only release of “Come Widdit” 12 inch single. Original version was found on “Streetfighter Original Motion Picture Soundtrack”, 1995)
The original version of this track is fairly well known, showing up on the “Streetfighter” soundtrack and one of the only reasons I bought it back in the day. When I was a young pup, I never knew this version existed and for a good reason as it was never commercially released, but was released as a promo single. It’s produced by the heavily slept on west coast producer Fredwreck. Fredwreck has worked with everyone from Kurupt, to The BUMS, to Tash and even with east coast legend, Phife of ATCQ. The three MC’s should be fairly familiar, although some of the youngin’s might not be as familiar with Ahmad, who kind of gets a bad rap for having one radio friendly song, “Back in the Day”, but his album has been said to be fairly good (I wouldn’t know, I haven’t heard it, but Eric insists its good). Then of course you have 2/3′s of the Golden State Warriors in Saafir and Ras Kass. Of course the lyrics are on point. The remixed beat is on some smooth, jazzy type of flavor. Fredwreck brings in a mellow bassline and hooks up a sax sample over the hooks, which really adds to the track. I think I’ve posted another remix of this track on one of the WYDU Classics, which would be the Joe Quixx remix version, which I might slightly favor over this one, but they are both dope listens. – Travis
For the record, I personally wouldn’t include any track that can be found readily on any full album release. Not saying this isn’t a dope track, it certainly is. Also, Al’ Tariq’s “God Connections” is CERTAINLY slept on and isn’t exactly the easiest album to find without the help of the internet (read: Try to find a physical copy of this, you’ll have a tough time), but it kind of takes away from the “obscure” label. With that being said, this is a slept on track that would probably match anything his former group members, the Beatnuts, have released and is in no way a knock on the ‘Nuts. Produced by Chicago producer, No I.D., Tariq and his guests, Black Attack, Problemz and the NY group Rawkotiks basically just tear shit down in typical hip hop fashion (no pun intended). I’ve always been a big fan of both Problemz and Black Attack, so I’m always eager to hear them spit on anything dope as this hardcore beat. Rawkotiks would probably pass as both a slept on and obscure but might not be in the same league as the others, but no worries, cause there is nothing wack on this joint at all. – Travis
Bas Blasta’s shelved LP is hip hop’s equivalent of Big Foot, it’s rumored to exist, but no one has really ever seen it. Instead what we do have from the Caucasian MC is this single and an appearance on Nice & Smooth’s posse cut “Down The Line” found on the “Ain’t A Damn Thing Changed” LP. I’m never particularly cared for Bas Blasta as an MC as he has always came off as a poor man’s R.A. The Rugged Man (and that was even before I knew he was white), and that’s pretty hard to do. What this track really has going for it is One: The beat is just bananas on this track. Produced by the Groove Merchantz, who consisted of V.I.C. and the Godfather himself, Godfather Don (and I’m trying to remember if there was a third member but nothing is coming to my mind), the track is some classic gritty feelin’ 1994 hip hop. The second thing it had going for it is the guest list involved with the track. You have Lord Finesse, who was in his prime during this era. The Beatnuts own junkyard dog, Ju Ju jumps on the track. The Beatnuts were rumored to do some tracks on the lost Bas Blasta album and maybe one day we’ll be luck enough to hear if that’s true or not. Godfather Don and Fat Joe also drop their mark on the track with GFD doing a what he does best and even Fat Joe sounds decent, but you have to remember this is before the dreams of “Making It Rain” and making club joints clouded his mind. – Travis
Big L- How Will I Make It (No original label, Found on “Harlem’s Finest – A Freestyle History – Volume 2″ on Rawkus, 2001. Original year not known)
One of the very few pre-Lifestylez Ov Da Poor And Dangerous tracks that have surfaced after Big L’s untimely death. This demo was made available on the Harlems finest vinyl compilations, which were later released on CD. The intro sets the mood perfectly, while the basic and unpolished production are the perfect backdrop for Big L’s hard hitting lyrics. Big L, while known for his vicious punch lines, and braggadocios hardcore rhetoric, he was one of the better storytellers of his era and this track is an excellent example of how to utilize great imagery with a message of despair and anger. – Original Philaflava post
Black Moon – Murder MC’s (Wreck Records, originally from the “Buck Em Down b/w Murder MC’s” 12 inch, 1994)
Surprisingly, this track was a throw off of the “Enta Da Stage” LP. It could have easily replaced a couple songs found on that LP. The track was in the smooth flavor that was found on some of the “..Stage” tracks, but still had that rough Brooklyn feel to it. The Beatminerz were on top of their game during those early BCC days and this beat is a testament to that fact. A dope bass line is present and their hard drums grace the track that accompany the “sing-a-long” chorus that Black Moon employed on many of their tracks from that era. – Original Philaflava post
Black Rob – Permanent Scars (no label, unreleased track, 2003?)
When I heard Black Rob on 112 ‘Come See Me’ remix in 1996 the first thing that stood out to me about him was his voice- it’s one of the most distinctive in hip hop. ‘Permanent Scars’ was originally intended for his second album The Black Rob Report but was taken off it as the beat on the track was used by Beanie Sigel on ‘Feel It In The Air’. The melodic and sombre beat provided by Heavy D serves as the perfect backdrop for Rob’s storytelling rhymes: “Parole buggin/I’m tryin to be cakey/called the P.O./aight man fuck it, violate me/I’m on the run now/ask a few niggas in the Bronx who to come to if you want a gun/fam I did it all with different schools of niggas/late night back hallway smoking whools with niggas.” Rob’s loose, almost conversational flow comes to life here as he paints a vivid picture of the struggles in his life. What makes this track stand out even more to me is that he does with the raw emotion in his voice more than with anything he actually says. – Original Philaflava Post
Black Sheep – Similak Child (Homogenized Remix) (Mercury Records, found on the “Similak Child (Homogenized Remix) b/w “Still In The Ghetto” & “Similak Child” (Album Version), 1992)
This remix for “Similak Child” is a major departure from the original version as in employs some loud horn stabs and a dope bass sample that make the remix much more upbeat. It was remixed by Dres and Mista Lawnge, which reminds us that they had some skills behind the boards as well, which is often lost when their legacy is mentioned. I was never really big on this and probably should have pushed for the b-side track, “Still In The Ghetto”, but it’s still worth a listen if you have never heard it. – Travis
Boogie Down Productions – Questions & Answers (Remix) (? on all accounts, original version is found on the “Sex & Violence” LP from 1992)
I found this remix of “Questions & Answers” back on Cocaine Blunts waaaay back in the day. I can’t find much info on the origins of this release. No history, no story, no nothing. I’m assuming it was produced by Pal Joey, who is almost more of a mystery than this song. He did a handful of tracks for BDP on Edutainment, Sex & Violence, and also did “Black Cop”, a track on Cooly Live’s album and a track for MC Lyte on her “Act Like You Know” release. I always thought he was the quintessential of the “Boom Bap” sound. Then he kind of just vanished. Regardless, this track is kind of cool. I’m not sure if I like it more than the original, but it’s still fun to listen to. - Travis
Boogie Down Productions – We In There (Ali Shaheed/ATCQ Remix) (Jive/RCA, found on the “We In There” b/w “Feel The Vibe, Feel The Beat” 12 inch Maxi single, 1992)
Funny enough, when we originally did this list, I had never heard this remix. What’s so funny about it is that “We In There” is my second favorite song found on “Sex & Violence” as well one of my favorite BDP songs in general. I did find the 12 inch on a blog (Time 4 Sum Aksion, I believe) and while I don’t like it more than the original either, it’s dope in it’s own right. A Tribe Called Quests’ Ali Shaheed Muhammed is responsible for the beat. The beat is dope as fuck, and if I hadn’t heard the original version first, I’d probably go with this first. Ali encompasses the rawness of the track well, especially with the siren sound he lays over the ruffneck hook that the track has. There is even a different third verse as KRS changes shit up from the original. It’s a verse that is raw as KRS just crushes any “would be” challenger and spits them out like tabacco juice. - Travis
Part Two coming tomorrow