Found On: “Body Of The Life Force” (2000, Koch)
Released on the label “where rappers go to die”, Koch, in the Fall months of 2000, Afu-Ra, who first appeared on wax back in ’94 at the tender age of 15 (!) on Jeru The Damaja’s “Mental Stamina”, took nearly five years for the follow-up and the results were a little disappointing. Had Afu emerged with “Body Of The Life Force” back in 1996 we would probably have received a few more high quality Premo tracks. Instead Premo is a little rusty here as one would expect. Meanwhile, Afu resembled a lighter version of Jeru, but also lighter on skills. It’s a good album, with some great tracks. But it falls short of the potential it could have had if it didn’t come out so late compared to “The Foundation’s” heyday. Yet, one of the LP’s most booming tracks is the dancehall-tinged “D & D Soundclash”. Featuring the artist’s formerly known as Smif-N-Wessun, Cocoa Brovaz, the trio unleashed a bouncy, head-nodding expedition thanks to the classic production of Da Beatminerz. -Ill Bill
Found On: “What’s Wrong With Bill?” (2004, Psycho + Logical Records)
I first heard Ill Bill’s anthemic, “American History X” on a bonus “mixtape” that HipHopSite.com sent along with the purchase of Madvillian’s “Madvilliany” and Pete Rock’s “Soul Survivor II” while I was stationed in Iraq. I’m tellin’ you, while Freeway’s “Philadelphia Freeway” and..believe it or not, Young Gunz’ “Tough Luv” were some of my unit’s favorites, the one track that we always used to bump in our “cave” prior to patrols was Ill Bill’s “American History X”. Produced by Necro with assistance from Bill, himself, “American History X” samples Italian singer, “Fred Bongusto’s “chi ci sarà dopo di te” for an unforgettable, honest and driven track that takes no prisoners.
Found On: “UN Or U Out”-The UN (2004, World Records)
While I’m not so sure if it’s a possibility that a Pete Rock-produced cut can go “overlooked”, I’m very certain that The UN’s 2004 opus, “UN OR U OUT” went largely unnoticed by the masses. Featuring Peter Phillips’ signature blaring horns, “Ain’t No Thing” was also rediscovered by many, years later, thanks to it’s inclusion on the P.R. compilation, “Underground Classics”. Now, in 2010, it’s good to see cats finally recognizing Roc Marciano’s ill-lyrical skills, yet as witnessed with “Ain’t No Thing” dude was murdering sh*t nearly half a decade ago on this release. Also, it’s only proper that “Ain’t No Thing” follows the Necro-assisted “American History X” on this list, as Necro also utilized the string sample found on this cut for his own “Do It”.
Found On: “Total Eclipse” (2003, Duck Down)
Yes, I know, “Stay Real” isn’t the most original title for a track. However, when you have a trio that in fact was on top of the world during “Stay Real’s” heyday (’93-’94) it’s quite acceptable in my book. Now, the first thing that’s gonna’ pop in your head when you first hear, or revisit “Stay Real” again is: “hey, that’s the same sample that Just Blaze jerked for Jay’s “P.S.A.” Wow, what a keen ear you have, but here’s where the real argument begins; I’m fairly certain that “Total Eclipse” dropped a few months prior to Jay’s “Black Album”, and if my memory serves me correctly, I also recall hearing the sample on Non-Phixion’s debut LP (as well as on O.C.’s “Word..Life”). Nevertheless, “Total Eclipse” which dropped a full decade after Black Moon’s classic debut “Enta Da Stage” is arguably a better album than their sophomore effort “War Zone”. Well worth digging out for another listen or two.
Found On: “The Healing” (2006, OM Hip Hop)
So, just who is this S1 (Symbolyc One) cat responsible for the production of Kanye’s most important, and arguably best “leak” to date, “Power”? Well, as a 1/3 of Strange Fruit Project he was also heavily involved in one of 2006′s more overlooked projects, “The Healing”. Produced by Nicolay, who was riding high on the success of Foreign Exchange’s critically-acclaimed LP, “Connected”, “The Plague” found the Waco, Texas trio of Myone, Myth and the aforementioned S1 spitting smooth verbals over equally buttery production from Nicolay when he was still dabbling in Hip-Hop. No diss intended, but I just can’t get with this new F.E. sh*t, dude lost me after “Connected”.
O.C. f/Pharoahe Monch
O.C. f/Pharoahe Monch
Found On: “Starchild” (2005, Grit Records)
Initially dropped as a “Japan only” release Omar Credle’s 2005 LP, “Starchild” is albeit impossible to track down, which is a shame because the album really was a nice release from one of the D.I.T.C.’s finest. Grit Records planned U.S. release of O.C.’s originally exclusive-to-Japan album. However, there were issues with it’s release and all of the copies that were pressed up were given away to fans on the label’s website instead of sold to distributors, retail, etc. What’s even crazier, is that will I’ve bumped the Monch-assisted “Everidae” on hundreds of occasions, prior to today, I never even realized that the producer responsible for the airy, atmospheric backdrop was none other than the ATL’s Floyd The Locsmif (listed on this LP as “The Locsmif”)!
Found On: “The Realness” (2001, Landspeed)
Yet another ode to Ms. Hip Hop in the vein of “I Used To Love H.E.R.”, QB’s Cormega kept it simple with “American Beauty”. Fueled by ‘Mega Montana’s signature lazy drawl, “American Beauty” is simplicity at it’s finest. A haunting break, no doubt, Southside Movement’s “I’ Been Watchin’ You” is one sample that I’ve never been able to get enough of since first hearing it on Scarface’s solo debut. Released on the equivalent of Koch, Landspeed, Cormga’s “The Realness” is definitely worth revisiting, largely in part due to “Beauty” as well as the notable gems, “Get Out Of My Way” and “Fallen Soldiers”.
Found On: “Eastern Philosophy” (2006, Babygrande)
Just as hard as it is to believe that Celph Titled’s forthcoming CLASSIC with Buckwild, “Nineteen Ninety Now” is considered his official debut, just as amazed was I when copping Apathy’s insanely well-crafted debut “Eastern Philosophy” back in ’06 on BabyGrande. It was and still is, extremely difficult to find fault in this LP. However, doesn’t it feel as if Ap’ and Celph have been grinding forever? While the Emilio Lopez-assisted “9 To 5″ may have been one of the more laid-back and harmless cuts on “Eastern Philosophy”, the well-placed Jay-Z vocal riff paired with Ap’ and Emilio’s pass the mic a la EPMD vocal musings comprised of everyday struggles make this track one of the LP’s most timeless tracks.
Found On: “Change” (2005, Angeles Records)
I really don’t know if you can start an album any better than this? The Self-Titled (pun intended) cut from DJ Khalil and Chace Infinite’s 2005 release on Angeles Records release also featured a brief social commentary “outro” from Sway (of MTV, Sway & Tech, etc.). Although, compared to Khalil’s boisterous production nowadays, “Change” may come off as a bit “tame” or “basic”, this track, along with “Tears” (which was also featured on Up Above Records’ 2007 compilation LP, “Carving A New Standard: Volume 1″) has kept “Change” a mainstay on my Ipod. Damn, why dont’ these cats drop another album already!?
Found On: “Oxygen” (2005, Listen Vision)
Yet another one of those “Aren’t you tired of writing about these cats yet?” groups. Another overlooked gem in ’07 was the Jazz Addixx re-tweaking of ’05′s “Oxygen”, “Oxygen Refreshed”. Like DJ Ragz (1/2 of Jazz Addixx) once told me, “Mudd’s (the other half) got beats for days”, and judging from what I’ve heard on both “Oxygen” & “Refreshed” I be hard-pressed to digress. Admittedly, Mudd’s flow can be….umm….almost “too” consistent at times, choosing to deliver much of his lyrics in a “conversational” form. Don’t get me wrong, dude is still highly effective and enjoyable on the mic, but it’s just a suggestion from a die-hard fan. Still, “Far From Your Average” is pure uncut on plastic, crazy production and lyrics from Mudd (damn, that Puba sample was mad clever), while DJ Ragz “takes em’ out with tha’ fader”……”Please don’t even go there with that…..dig it!!” (insert Puba voice-over).