We’ve spent the last couple weeks going over what a committee thought were the best “obscure” tracks. What did we learn? Get nine people together to discuss hip hop music and make a “best of” list of any kind and it’s nearly impossible. Oh, and that the term “obscure” is rather relative.
As we put the cherry on top and put an end to this little series, I figured I would post up my personal FAVORITES (read: joints I like) hard-to-find, not your run of the mill, not found on an album, or any other term I can use for “obscure” without actually using it. I wouldn’t say this is all of them, but they are the ones that were off the top of my head AND actually on my computer. I’ve long had personal favorite songs that were not necessarily readily available to every Tom, Dick and Harry with a blog. Not saying that these are super hard to find either. I haven’t tried, but I’m sure if you did some looking, you could probably track down most of these (most of these have appeared in one form or another on this blog) nor am I any better for having these. I’m still the same chump working a crappy job, dreaming of being the next Paul Rosenberg, Russell Simmons or Kevin Powell. Enough with the introductions….my ass is tired so heeeeere we go…..
I mentioned last week that you would see Ace Lover pop up on this list before it was all said and done. Ace Lover had two singles out during the turn of the century that I loved, “Weed Spots” and this single, “Area Codes 1(212)”. Produced by DJ Rust, the beat was sparse, with a simple drum track that had a piano loop on top of it. It was basic but effective. The true gem of this song is listening to Ace Lover kick his rhymes. I’m someone who listens to be beats first and foremost, so it takes an extremely talented or catchy MC for me to be about the lyrics and Ace Lover is both. I remember hearing this track on UGHH back when you could listen to tracks before purchasing (maybe they still do that) then went and found it on Audio Galaxy or maybe it was Napster. Regardless, this track got a ton of play and is still one of the reasons I’m waiting for a full length album from Ace Lover.
R.A. The Rugged Man feat Akinyele – What The…… (White Label, from the 12 inch of “What The…” b/w “Stanley Kubrick”, 1998 or 1999?)
“What The….” is as crazy as you might think when looking at this pairing for the first time. Armed with what sounds like a kids choir singing the hook, which consists of saying “Whaaaaat the fuuuuuck, whaaaat the fuck is going on”. The beat is minimalistic in nature, but it’s perfect to hear RA and Ak just rip shit to shreds. I’ve had a hard time finding any info on this track at all. No year, no producer, not much of anything is listed about it nor do I hear many people talking about this classic track. What the fuck?
Amad Jamal – The Renaissance (ABB, from the “The Renaissance” 12 inch, 2001)
One of my most puzzling mysteries came to a close last week, when one of Amad Jamal’s band members emailed me, alerting me that AJ was still making music and planning on dropping an album in the next month or so. Great news, since I’ve often wondered what happened to Amad Jamal after dropping two DOPE 12 inch singles back in 2001. Every song he has put out has my stamp of approval on it, but “The Renaissance” was my favorite out of the handful of tracks he did. Produced by Joey Chavez, the track uses a sample that again I should know, but don’t. Regardless, it’s beatufully produced and full of the LA underground goodness that I loved during this time. Amad Jamal is also one hell of an MC. He drops many memorable lines on this track. Good to hear him coming back (and the songs I’ve heard have all been dope, like he hasn’t missed a beat).
Common – Can-I-Bust feat Y-Not (Relativity, from the “Soul By The Pound (Thump Mix)” b/w “Can-I-Bust” & “Heidi Ho” 12 inch, 1993
Hailing from one of my favorite 12 inch singles ever, or in my case, favorite cassette singles, I was having troubles trying to decide whether to include the b-side or the a-side. I figured most heads should have heard the “Thump” mix of “Soul By The Pound”, so that left the equally dope flip side, “Can-I-Bust”. I wasn’t crazy about Common as an MC on that first album, but this track, which dropped quite awhile after “Can I Borrow A Dollar”, gave a glimpse at what Common would later become as far as a talented MC. Even his guest, Y-Not, was entertaining as well. The beat uses an upright bass sample for the schizophrenic bassline along with some horn samples littered around the track. Truly one of my favorite b-sides.
Craig Mack – Wooden Horse (from the “What’s The Worse That Could Happen” OST, 2001)
You learn something everyday. I just learned that Craig Mack’s “Wooden Horse” was on a movie soundtrack. Never knew. So this might not be so hard to find as I once thought it might be. Oh well. Regardless, I was a Craig Mack fan, well I enjoyed his first album at least, but then he kind of disappeared. He would pop up again, after his sophomore album fizzled, in 2001 with this Frank Sinatra sampled track that his a certified head nodder. I’m actually surprised this didn’t have sample issues, since Frank isn’t exactly the easiest artist to clear samples for. Regardless, if you haven’t heard this track in the past, it’s worth a listen.
Das EFX - Hard Like A Criminal (East/West, from the “Straight Out The Sewer” b/w “Hard Like A Criminal”, 1992)
When I learned that there were equally wacked out kids out on the internet collection hip hop like I was, “Hard Like A Criminal” was one of the first tracks I started looking for. The track has long been a favorite of mine, after I bought the cassette single for “Straight Out The Sewer” way back when. The track was also mentioned in an interview with Das in The Source as the only track that wasn’t included
on their first album. The reason being was it didn’t seem to fit, which they are right. The sound, the story telling, all would have stood out like a green thumb on an album that featured mostly freestyled lyrics. No question that I had to include this track.
Donte (of Mood) – Heat (4 Da Streetz) (Wish Masta Entertainment, from the “Heat (4 Da Streetz) 12 inch, 2003)
One of the newer songs included on this list, “Heat” is one of those songs that never got the attention it deserved. It’s actually kind of surprising though, since the beat was produced by Hi-Tek, who at the time was still carrying a strong reputation as a beat maker. The beat is the shining aspects of the track as Hi-Tek hooks up some booming drums that reminds me of the drums used on “Move Somethin’” from the Reflection Eternal album. It’s also very dark, with an ill vocal sample that fits the mood well. Donte, who was Hi-Tek’s crew group member in Mood, is a strong lyricist as well, which makes me wish he’d drop his own album one of these days.
Frankenstein – Rain Is Gone (Knowledge of Self, from the “Rain Is Gone” b/w “All Hands” 12 inch, 1996)
Another artist that I’ve pumped up quite often on this blog. To me, Frankenstein is my all-time favorite “Obscure” artist and I don’t have a problem using that label on his either. The T.Dot producer/MC is one of the more underrated cats in the game in my humble opinion. Frankie Ano aka Frank Fallico aka Frankenstein first dropped his first single in 94′ and by 95′ he had his “Knowledge Of Self” label that he dropped numerous 12″ singles along with his only “Official” LP, the UV album, which was more of an EP with some of his tracks and instrumentals. He also had a white label album “Live From New York Remix Album” the same year back in 97′. Some of his remixes for artists (unofficial remixes) are so dope that cats should have been checkin’ for his production skills back then instead of messing with some of the crap that was out there.
I’m not sure what it is about Frank’s sound that is so appealing to me, but he definitely has a “sound” to his beats that are very compelling to me. I first heard him on a Salt Lake City hip hop radio show when they played “The Rain Is Gone” back in 98′. Immediately I was fiendin’ for this track. Luckily enough I had the tape deck recording that night and that tape became a prized possession. The only problem though, was that I didn’t know who he was and at that point in time, if I didn’t know who an artist was, it was sure that no one else that I knew would know who he was and this was before the internet really took off (it’s crazy, but true, we didn’t have the internet to look up all this shit back in those days…and I walked up hill in the snow both ways to school). The internet did pay off in the form of these blogs about a year ago, I ran into someone that posted up some tracks and “The Rain Was Gone” was one of them.
Frescho & DJ Miz – We Don’t Play (Tommy Boy, from the “We Don’t Play” “Ain’t U Frescho” b/w “Now Ya Know”, 1990)
What do you get when the 1989 New Music Seminar DJ Champion hooks up with the 1989 New Music Seminar MC Champion? Well you get a pretty dope 12″ and a song that got some play on “Yo! MTV Raps” back in the day. DJ Miz continued the legacy of the Philly DJ’s during the late 80′s and has some great cuts on this track. Frescho was a Brooklyn MC, that seems to pop up from time to time, but never really took off. He had a track called “Planet Brooklyn” that was produced by Primo. It’s said he is on the Christian Hip Hop tip now.
The group never released an album, which is unfortunate, because it would have been interesting to see what they could have done. This track was the A-side to said 12″, the b-side was “Ain’t U Frescho?” & “Now Ya Know”. This track is pretty dope in terms of lyrics and scratches. Frescho has a pretty quick rapid fire type flow and a commanding voice. Miz cuts up shit nicely through out the whole song. The beat itself seems kind of dated. I played it for a friend of mine and he curled his nose up and said it sounded wack, guess you had to be there to appreciate it. I’ve been told that that is was all they released, which is unfortunate.
Masta Ace – N.F.L. (Not For Long) (Replay Records, from the 12 inch “N.F.L. (Not For Long)” b/w “Warfare”, 1999)
I would probably dare to say “NFL” is my favorite non-album Masta Ace track. It features J-Love on the beats, and to this day, I’ve never understood why he hasn’t produced any tracks for any of Ace’s albums. Ace displays some good old fashioned story telling with this track. It deals with the fact that if you are on top, it won’t be for long. The track would drop when Ace was in between his “Sittin’ On Chrome” LP and the “Disposable Arts” LP, when he was dropping a lot of 12 inch singles. A lot of those are said to be from the lost Big Beat LP (no don’t ask me, because I don’t have it) that got shelved in ’97 or so, but I’m pretty sure “NFL” was made after that fact. Production wise, the beat is remarkable. The strings are melodic and you get sucked into the story, although short and sweet. I’ve often played this beat over and over in my head. The beat just fits it all together nicely.
Ras Kass - Oral Sex (Priority Records, on the “Oral Sex” 12 inch promo, 1999)
Just why a Ras Kass track that was produced by the Beatminerz wasn’t properly released is a perfect example why Priority dropped the ball more than once when it came to Ras. Probably on top of the list for my favorite and most talent left side artists, this track is nothing but fire. Da Beatminerz dropped some serious shit on this track, with their trademark deep ass bassline and dusty productions. Ras is on some other shit lyrically on the track. Dropping one liner after one liner. It was songs like this that made him one of the best and also marks why it was such a waste that he never blew up.
Sticky Fingaz – Jackin’ For Beats ’99 (White Label, on the “Jackin’ For Beats ’99″ 12 inch promo, 1999)
Before my addiction to the Black Album/AG remixes, I had an addiction to the “Jackin’ For Beats” tracks that were coming out at a weekly clip at one time. I loved the original from Cube, I’m not sure what it was, but it just got me amped. In ’99, Sticky Fingaz released his version of “Jackin’ For Beats” complete with a 50 cent dis and some GREAT lines. You can’t help wanting to get up and punch someone while listening to this version. This is right when Sticky went solo and it was a great way to throw his hat in the ring. He jacked bigged name stars such as Jay, Nas, and Busta, and in some cases, sounded better on the beats than the original artist. That was the reason Cubes original version became so wildly popular in the first place. Unfortunately, or fortunately, I quickly became cured of the “Jackin’ For Beats” obsession when I realized that most of these songs sucked.