Taken From: “Strictly Business”-EPMD (1988, Sleeping Bag/Fresh)
Damn, for those of you who have the 3G IPhone…well, it’s a beautiful thing. Amongst the countless “Apps” that you can download for the gadget, there’s Pandora internet radio. What makes Pandora so special is that you can customize a station simply by keying in the name of your favorite group or artist. The other morning while flipping through my customized EPMD station, “Let The Funk Flow” surprisingly blared through my Bose headphones (which, while somewhat pricey, are well worth the extra coin). Prior to this listening, it had been soo long since I’d heard the 3rd track from EPMD’s seminal (and debut) LP, “Strictly Business”, even though just over a decade ago Nas offered his clever twist on the track with the lead single from his album of the same name, “Nastradamus”.
Sampling Otis Redding’s “Nobody Knows You (When You’re Down And Out) and the JB’s “(It’s Not the Express) It’s the J.B.’s Monaurail”, “Let The Funk Flow” is Erick and Parrish at their slow-flowin’ finest. The bassline and signature funk epitomizes the formula that made EPMD one the most often imitated, never duplicated duos in Hip Hop. Even if there may not be a drastic change of pace within the track, and after a few listens some may find the sampled loop to be a bit monotonous, true school heads will enjoy this trek down memory lane while recalling why many of us fell in love with EPMD in the first place. Still, I can’t quite figure out why this track wasn’t released as a single from “Strictly Business”.
Taken From: officially Pete Rock’s “Hip Hop Underground Soul Classics”-”Center Of Attention”-INI (2003, Rapster)
Synonymous with the name Pete Rock (who handled the album’s production) and recorded in 1995 shortly after the Pete & CL split, INI’s debut “Center Of Attention” was slated as the first official release on Pete Rock’s Soul Brother Records label. The debut single, “Fakin’ Jax” (which also featured Pete, and featured a CL-directed first verse from Mr. Phillips), garnered quite a bit of attention (no pun intended). Unfortunately, shortly thereafter, Rock’s distribution deal with Elektra Records fell through, and plans to release the albums were subsequently cancelled due to issues over ownership of the masters. “Center Of Attention” did, however, find its way onto the underground market through heaby bootlegging and simply put is an “underground classic”.
My favorite cut from the album also served as it’s title cut, the very subtle, soulful grooves of “Center Of Attention”. Although, the loop that fuels this PR masterpiece wouldn’t grace my ears until a few years after the release of INI’s debut, via the intro to GangStarr’s “Rep Grows Bigga”, the added piano stabs that Pete sprinkles amongst the clever Jeff Beck sample truly pushes this track over the top and only adds to it’s elegance. A true “must-hear” for any Pete Rock fan, and sadly one of the Soul Brotha #1′s most overlooked productions.
Taken From: “That’s Them”-Artifacts (1997, Big Beat)
More important than what the ‘Facts brought to their music with 1997′s “That’s Them” was what they actually choose to leave out, which in turn made “That’s Them” such a refreshingly easy listen. Void of gaudy “bling” references or illegal narcotic distribution tales, instead there is just straight emcee bravado with a hint of inebriated B-boy wit. The Brand Nubian assisted “Collaboration Of Mics” and the Run-DMC sampled “This Is Da Way” found the Artifacts unleashing a lyrical onslaught aimed at fake ass, doo-doo rappers over bonkers production courtesy of Lord Finesse (”Collabortion…”) and the Mighty V.I.C. (”This Is Da Way”). But the true “oh shit!” moment on “That’s Them” is delivered via the spacey and progressive “Ingredients To Time Travel”.
On “..Time Travel”, Tame seemed to be experimenting with a new and hypnotic time-delay style over an equally mystical beat that was produced by a little-known producer who went by the name of Gruff Rhino. To truly witness the depth of “Time Travel” you’ve gotta’ bump it in your headphones… even a well assembled car stereo or a boombox just doesn’t give the track it’s due as the track fades from right to left within your ear candy. If I was to do a “Most Played For The Week” post, this track would have the #1 spot on lock, no question! And the lyrical wordplay on this joint is strictly “rewind” material!! Truly one of my personal sleepers EVER!
Taken From: “Body Of The Life Force”-Afu-Ra (2000, Koch)
Originally slated for release a few years prior to 2000, the collapse of Gee Street Records led to Afu’s release on the underground upstart label, Koch (who, nowadays, seems like they sign everybody and their Mother). Many of you will recall the DJ Premier blazer “Whirlwind Thru Cities” as your first exposure to the unique, distinctive vocal stylings of Afu-Ra. Afu’s debut didn’t quite match the intensity of the debut single, as “The Body Of The Life Force” played more like a “Body Of Unbalanced Material”. Simply put, the great tracks on the album were GREAT, however, the flops really came off as just….ehhhh? The album certainly didn’t lake variety as there’s a parade of solid productions led by Muggs (of Cypress Hill) on “Soul Assassination” and DJ Premier on “Mic Stance” and “Defeat.” Afu-Ra also invited a few guests, and the collaborations were more than welcome: GZA matches wits on “Bigacts Littleacts” and the Cocoa Brovaz (aka Smif-N-Wessun) and Jahdan show up on “D&D Soundclash” (Afu-Ra’s salute to his roots at the legendary D&D Studios.
Try to capture the scenery that surrounded the recording of this Beatminerz produced classic when you listen to it. Certainly Rasta-influenced, the Beatminerz dug up their signature dirty, dusty, dingy drums for this masterpiece as Afu, Tek & Steele sound more like a cohesive trio than two separate acts pieced together for the sake of a notable “guest appearance” intended to generate more album sales. Being that this track was released around the time when the Down South movement had just begun to generate a head of steam, one could only imagine what a breath of fresh air was when this track played out on my DiscMan.
Taken From: “HII”-DJ Honda (1998, Relativity)
In the mid-’90s, DJ Honda released a slew of singles while making international headway in the club scene and made his debut with “Out for the Cash” which featured the Beatnuts, Fat Joe and Problemz in 1995. Hll followed-up his debut nearly three years later, showcasing collaborations with De La Soul and KRS-1 on the Relativity-released “HII”. Honda’s self-titled debut was fairly solid and 1998 only brought forth more goodness in the form of “HII”, namely the album’s finale, which featured (at the time) a little-known MC by the name of Mos Def.
My love for “Travellin’ Man” was recently rekindled in the last few years, after hearing CL Smooth rip the track on his J. Period assisted mixtape “Man On Fire”. Honda hit the nail on the head when he was able to tie down Mos Def for this track. “Travellin’ Man” features one of the best produced beats I’ve ever heard from Honda as Mos Def wails: “Memories..don’t live like people do..they always remember you..” without being annoying or “Ja-Rulish”, if you catch my drift?