If I’d told you near the middle of ’08 that Duck Down signees, Kidz in The Hall, would create one of the most depressing tracks in recent memory, would you have believed me? Well, believe it as the duo (and certified preppies) of Knawledge and Double-O proved that things aren’t always as they are portrayed in the video for “Drivin’ Down The Block”. Let’s face it, Kidz’ Rawkus debut “School Was My Hustle” kind of presented the duo as a care-free, all about a good time, life of the party group. Maybe it had something to do with their youth, however, the time between the release of “School…” and “The In Crowd” has obviously done wonders for the duo. As this is a much more concentrated and honest record than what I’ve come to expect from Kidz In The Hall. The production on “Inner Me” is sick! Double-O (whom I believe produced ALL of “The In Crowd”) does an A+ job of provided Knawledge with a heartfelt, bass-heavy banger with a fading sample that flows from right to left in your headphones. The track builds even more momentum near it’s close, and being that the track is over 5 minutes in length, you never begin to grow weary and reach for the fast-forward button.
As far as the rest of “The In Crowd” is concerned? Well, that’s really not for me to say as I’ve been enraptured by the recent releases from 14KT and Evidence, that I really haven’t been able to really “sit down” and take this album in from start to finish that many times over the duration 2008. However, from what I’ve read thus far regarding “The In Crowd” it’s received alot of praise. Although, I squirmed in my chair a bit when a few of those same exact sites dubbed Kidz In The Hall as today’s version of GangStarr, Eric B & Rakim, and even Pete Rock and CL Smooth….now, that’s pushin’ it a bit, wouldn’t you agree? In the meantime, be sure to bump “Inner Me” in the headphones as it is one of the hottest beats (and songs) of 2008.
**PLEASE READ**-Stop sleepin’ on Seez Mics and t.E.C.K.!!! Over the course of the last two years this duo has dropped some of the dopest sh*t you’ve never heard, starting with last year’s extremely refreshing “Write Hear”. And just in case you haven’t noticed the Consumers most recently blessed the masses with another solid effort, “The Waiting Room”, which also happens to be available as a FREE downlod. “Can’t Front/Confront” showcases Seez “the lyricist” over t.E.C.K.’s dusty drums, which you can’t help but nod along to. What makes this track soo damn catchy (besides the obviously dope production) is the break, which features one of those hooks that you’ll be mumbling to yourself througout the work day: “Can’t front/confront your reality/Handle your stress/and don’t take it out on me”. I Can’t wait to hear more from this duo in 2009…WAKE UP!!
Damn, Timbaland must have been pissed! Considering that Polow The Don’s (of Rich Boy’s “Throw Some D’s” fame) production not only had the opportunity to be showcased on Nas’ long-awaited, controversial follow-up to the disappointing “Hip Hop Is Dead” but he has also seemingly crafted a track that sounded eerily similar to Timbo’s production style (BTW, isn’t Timbo actually a mentor to Polow? Hmmm). Sh*t, “Hero” even followed suit and jerked R & B chick Keri Hilso, who appeared on three cuts from Timbaland’s “Presents: Shock Value” to fuel the hook for this banger. Whatever the case, “Hero” has truly had me amped for Nas’ new shit and this was comin’ from someone who all but wrote Nas off after his last album….especially, when you consider that the best produced track on your album came from the likes of the Black Eyed Peas’ Will I Am (”Can’t Forget About You”).
“Hero” was one of those “momentum-builder” type tracks that always did the job in “hyping you up”, much like Jay-Z’s “P.S.A.”, Redman’s “Time 4 Sum Akshun” or the Mash Out Posse’s “Ante Up”, a great track to listen to while your running, working out or even preparing yourself for a long night out on the town. Too bad Nas’ most recent album couldn’t hold the same weight or carry the momentum that “Hero” set out to do.
In what may be one of the year’s biggest surprises, AsideWorldWide’s Now On virtually came outta’ nowhere to deliver one of 2008′s best-and perhaps-most slept-on albums. Now that 1/3 of the crew, Haircut is making major waves with his catchy-as-hell hit “Just Ain’t Gonna’ Work Out” (under his alias Mayer Hawthorne), hopefully those that have taken notice will also pave the way for all the “sleepy-heads” that may have been snoozin on this gifted trio until now. Featuring some of the year’s best production Haircut breaks down the story behind my favorite beat on “Tomorrow Already”, “This Way” in the disc’s linear notes: “The main keyboard sounding part of the beat was actually made using my voice through a synthesizer called a vocoder. I made a short mix of the beat that was only 2 minutes long, but we all liked the arrangement-so we decided to record verses to the beat just as it was. It’s mostly a message to the recording industry. Get with the New Model”
Ha Ha! “Get with the New Model” indeed! Again, I’ve been ranting and raving about everything that has dropped on Aside’s roster in 2008, but I have to agree with Haircut-this beat is ENTIRELY too short! The escalating bassline rattles your eardrums and Haircut unleashes some of the crispest production to bless these eardrums in recent memory, leaving you foaming at the mouth for more of that good ol’ Lab Techs flavor.
Three things have become very clear to me after bumpin’ Blueprint’s “mash-up” with Funkadelic:
1. This little 8 song (well, it’s closer to 6 being that track one is an “intro” and “Check Mate”, even though it’s a great track, is sadly only a little over a minute long) EP may very well be one of the most well executed releases thus far in ‘08. Now, this year hasn’t blessed us with half of the quality material that we were bumpin’ last year around this time, but as of late the “quality” has seemingly picked up with dope releases from the likes of The Roots, Atmosphere and believe it or not…Prodigy’s “H.N.I.C. Pt. II” is surprisingly solid as well. However, it has been the Has-Lo’s, Braille’s and Danger Zone’s of the underground that have truly held me over amidst the flood of releases that have been fairly disappointing and this latest EP release from Blueprint is very satisfying as well.
2. The combination of Funkadelic’s Rock meets Funk style meshes perfectly with Blueprint’s lyrics, delivery and unique vocal tone. I mean, I’ve always loved Blueprint and his collabos with RJD2 as one half of Soul Positon, as well as Blueprint’s solo outings, the instrumental opus “Chamber Music” and “1988″ but this sh*t was a brilliant move on Blueprint’s behalf. Score a major win for Weightless!!
3. Damn, I truly need to go back and dig up Funkadelic’s catalog, these cats were most definitely waaaay ahead of their time. Peep the ill guitar lick on “Day To Day”, and this track blossoms into a funky “free for all” even after Blueprint’s lyrical barrage ends near the 2:16 mark. Don’t miss out on this funky expedition, ’shrooms not included.
Ahhh, and speaking of Weightless Recordings-another one of the roster’s major players, Illogic recently offered up his new EP “One Bar Left” (click to DL) to the masses in preparation for his full length LP, “Diabolical Fun”. Produced entirely by Ill Poetic, “One Bar Left” is as solid a 5 cuts as you can pack into one EP. Lyrically, Illogic is as cold (no pun intended) as it gets, and his story-telling and narrative abilities take center stage on the thought-provoking “Cold November Day”. I’d been looking forward to this track ever since Illogic posted it on his MySpace player a few months ago. Packed with depth on both the lyrical and production side of things “Cold November Day” is a fitting end to a very uplifting EP that is sure to raise more than it’s fair share of eyebrows in Hip Hop’s underground. I can’t wait to see what Illogic (and Ill Poetic) has in store with the forthcoming “Diabolical Fun” which is sure to please.
Man, I don’t know who in the hell produced “It Don’t Stop” but I know that Marco Polo is definitely one of the producers who did contribute beats to Live’s forthcoming LP, “Then What Happened?”. My best guess is that Marco laced Live with a banger on this one as well. The comparisons of “It Don’t Stop” and the Polo & Masta Ace classic “Nostalgia” are going to be inevitable. Both of the “breaks” on the two cuts sound nearly identical as does much of the lyrical content as Live offers up his current take on Hip Hop, much as Ace did on “Nostalgia”. So what does all the comparisons lead to, you ask? Yep, you guessed it another classic from a well-revered underground artist who never seems to get his props from the over-ground. I received a press advance of “Then What Happened?” near the start of 2008 and let me tell you, just in case you’ve hit the snooze button….you NEED to check this album out. Don’t be like me and overlook much of Live’s discography prior to this release as well, as Live is a well-spoken emcee who definitely has much substance to offer Hip Hop’s underground demographic.
Maaan, after the first few listens to Common’s new LP, “Universal Mind Control” I’m left speechless….and not in a good way either. Amongst, the numerous “WTF’s?” and “What is he doin’s!?” I’ve repeated to myself each time I’ve tried to make it through the album, “Universal’s..” one saving grace is the very funky “Inhale”. Produced by the Neptunes, “Inhale” is actually one track on the album that showcases the Common of the past over a very danceable track that kinda’ reminds me of the work that Organized Noize used to churn out on Outkast’s classic albums (which, looking over the production credits for the album-makes perfect sense being that Mr.DJ lends a helping hand on a few choice cuts). Although, I’ve read mixed reviews for the album Common, “Universal Mind Control” may very well be Common’s last hoorah as an emcee.
In yet what proved to be another solid outing from a member of the prestigious “Rawkus 50″ campaign, Silent Knight continued to drop quality material with the release of “Restoration” his follow-up to his highly overlooked debut, “Hunger Strike”. Featuring production from…yep, here he is again…Chicagos’ Rashid Hadee, “Forgotten Boro” is an elegant, airy track that fits well with Knight’s reflective rhymes as he recollects his days as a youth growing up in Staten Island (which even includes a visit to “Wu-Wear”). Fresh off of the buzz of the Rawkus Records digital re-release of his debut, Silent Knight delivers a nice collection of rare, unreleased tracks and previously released material, remixed by some of today’s finest beat-smiths. “Restoration” boasts a line up of what many would say is some of today’s best up and coming producers. Along with Hadee, Analogic, M-phazes, E.Jones, DJ Vadim & Quincey Tones all stop by with some heat. If you did indeed miss “Hunger Strike”, be sure not to miss out on this one as Silent Knight is another cat to keep your eye open for.
If the melodic “Bad/Good” is any indication, over 20 years deep in the game, Diamond D’s still got it!! In what is probably my favorite Diamond D track aside from mostly anything that appeared on the CLASSIC “Stunts, Blunts & Hip Hop”, “Bad/Good” is an ill recollection of-as the hook states-”growin’ up in the hood”-from one of the founding fathers of the D.I.T.C’s. Featuring a crazy slick production from little known producer, Anthony Accurate, “Bad/Good” takes Diamond’s most recent LP “The Hugh Hefner Chronicles” out with a bang. And while the album is a far cry from “Stunts..” (as in the case with an abundance of releases), in my opinion, I prefer it over Diamond’s sophomore release “Hiatus” and most definitely over 2003′s “Grown Man Talk”. I mean, damn….Diamond’s gotta’ be approaching his forties and to be able to still churn out bangers in traditional Diamond D fashion is quite an accomplishment in itself.