Found On: Smif N Wessun’s “Reloaded” (2005)
One of the most choice cuts that sounds as if it would be just as well served on Tek and Steele’s classic debut, “Dah Shinin”, was the Talib Kwelli-assisted “We Came Up” (Crystal Stair). With the production touch from none other than long time collaborators Da Beatminerz, one of my favorite duos in all of Hip Hop took it back to Brooklyn atop the oft-used “breakbeat of choice” from Mr. Walt and Evil Dee.
Yet, sadly, “Reloaded” along with Sean P’s “Monkey Barz”, 9th & Buckshot’s “Chemistry” formed the “Triple Threat” of the BCC during 05′, but this album came off the weakest. – Danger Mouse & Jemini f/ J-Zone
– Danger Mouse & Jemini f/ J-Zone
Found On: “Ghetto Pop Life” (2003)
Fans of Jemini The Gifted One were delighted when “The Funk Soul Sensation” partnered up with Danger Mouse (who was creating quite an identity of his own with his Beatles/Jay-Z mash-up, “The Grey Album”) in 2003 on Lex Records with “Ghetto Pop Life”. This album is where DM really began to climb the ladder, working alongside the entertaining Jemini. Mouse has talked about himself as an auteur before, and this is proof, it’s a producer’s album and you feel as if Jemini is really just dancing to Mouse’s tune on certain occasions. Yet, it was also refreshing to discover that Jemini hadn’t lost his touch on the lyrical end of the deal. “Ghetto Pop Life” was more than just a nice introduction to Danger Mouse, but it also proved that sometimes the “odder the connect”, the better results you’ll uncover.
Found On: “Jesus Price Superstar”
Produced by 9th Wonder, “Violent” has gotta’ be one of the most overlooked, underrepresented cuts in Sean P’s catalog! While I’ve fallen outta’ love with 9th’s simplistic, at times lazy, production over the last few years, you gotta’ love when Sean kills it with “dat’ ole’ smoove sh*t”, lyrically. Not nearly as dope as his debut, “Monkey Barz”, “Jesus Price Superstar”, while fine lyrically, failed with it’s it’s dull, easily forgettable production. Quick, aside from “Violent”, name a cut from the album!? That’s what I thought….
Found On: “Free At Last” (2007, Roc-A-Fella)
Lyrically, the biggest “beef” that the average Hip Hop fan has with Freeway as an emcee will always be his voice. On “Free At Last” there were moments such as the album’s opener “This Can’t Be Real” where Free’s vocal tone sounded a little less “strained” even when discussing the details of the Roc’s demise. The thing that hindered “Free At Last”, and more than likely….the majority of the releases from the future of the Roc is undoubtedly the poor timing of their actual releases. Confused? Let me expound…for example, we first heard that Jay was working on a solo joint (“American Gangster”) when? Not much longer prior to it’s release, right? So the point I’m trying to make here is that Jay rushed to get “American Gangter” out (just as with “Kingdom Come”), in the meantime, we’d been waiting on a new album from Freeway for nearly 3 years! So when “Free At Last” actually dropped, everyone (including myself) is just left in limbo…..like ehh, “I’m not really checkin’ for Freeway anymore”. Yet, you’ve GOTTA’ recall the Bink! produced flame, “When They Remember”!?
Found On: Waajeed’s “The War LP” (2007, Octave/Fat City)
If you have any sort of Military background whatsoever, you’re bound to love “Dusk”. Hell, even if you’ve never made it to a morning formation or had a sloppy joe (and I mean SLOPPY) in the chow hall, the forcefulness of Waajeed’s production will damn near make you wanna’ drop and grind out twenty push-ups! Continuing in the tradition of talented beatmakers hailing from Detroit (Dilla, Black Milk, etc.) Waajeed brought a less “Neo Soul” approach to “The War LP”. The album, which was released as a dual disc that featured a mixed and unmixed version…is a collective of talent comprised mostly of Wajeed’s Bling 47 compadres Timbo Lockhart, Ta’ Raach (who released two equally dope LPs last year. While the album is still very soulful, you will no doubt identify the more Hip Hop driven feel of this disc. With pulsing beats, cleverly placed samples and SUPER crisp production this album deserves to be heard.
Found On: “Illumination” (2005, Definition)
Purchase via Ill Poetic’s BANDCAMP
Taken from Ill’s solo debut “Illumination” that was released in ’05…no matter, I just heard the album in 2007. Talk about beautiful imagery, Ill relates “suicide” to writer’s block and bypassing all the bullshit in Hip Hop. If you don’t get “goosebumps” at about the 2 minute mark of this song, I’m calling your bluff. While Ill’s solo debut (“Illumination”) is still mad impressive it’s not “The World Is Ours”, “Suicide Note” however just may be the best song that Ill Poetic ever recorded. The Biggie vocal, intertwined with the buttery vocals on the hook and Ill’s always crisp, crystal clear production make “Suicide Note” a definite must hear. Oh, and listen closely for the Marvin Gaye sample. Do yourself a favor and be sure to check this one out!!
Found On: “Hell’s Winter” (2005, Def Jux)
I’ve always found Cage’s “Hell’s Winter” to be easily better then his debut in just about every way, even if I still have trouble really getting into his awkward delivery. Cage made his early reputation from being a battle tested lyricist of sorts and even on “Movies For The Blind” he was clearly aiming for a sense of shock rap.
With “Hell’s Winter”, and “Good Morning” serving as one helluva’ opener, he’s moved fully into confessional, despairing life story mode, which was fitting once he joined the Def Jux roster. The production lineup on “Hell’s Winter” was pretty amazing, RJD2, EL-P, DJ Shadow etc. Yet, aside from “Good Morning”, none of them really turn in any masterpieces, even if the combined effect is good. Most of the time on this record, Cage dedicated to talking about his deadbeat dad and how godawful the man was, though time is also spent talking about ex-girlfriends as well. I wish I could have gotten into Cage’s delivery a bit more, I feel like I’m missing out sometimes…
Found On: “Changes Of Atmosphere” (2008, Drink Water Music)
If there is one thing that occurs within underground Hip Hop every year, there are supposed “Great” albums that, when released, surely weren’t deserving of half the hype they received. On the flip side of the coin, there are always the less-hyped acts that drop surprises. You can add “Dela” the later list as “Changes Of Atmosphere” dropped outta’ nowhere in 2008 and was extremely refreshing.
Hailing from France, similar to the Jazz Liberatorz, he connected with a slew of American artists to shine over his soulful productions. “…Atmosphere” had a mellow jazzy vibe with deeply textured beats, think “Main Ingredient”, yet remaining innovative and distinctive. Dela showed his love for Pete Rock on the Large Pro assisted “Chill”, which is one of the best Pete Rock produced beats that the Soul Brother #1 never did!! I really loved the whole album, the production was just so slick and the range of guests, from Blu to Talib Kweli really sparked my interest as well. “Changes…” was a truly fine display of talent from an International cat, that really proved that Hip Hop has turned into a worldwide affair!!
Found On: “The Bootleg Of The Bootleg” (2003, BabyGrande)
The lyrics “Raps Dead/ Rap Sucks” can be heard on the highly slept on classic from Jean Grae, “My Crew” and back in 2003, one could argue that truer words were never spoke. However, “My Crew” was extremely refreshing with it’s sultry vocal sample and the borrowed Jay-Z slice, “All I Need Is The Love Of My Crew”. Yet, here we are, nearly 8 years later and Jean still remains one of the most mysterious, quirky personalities in Hip Hop, when she should be dropping sh*t like this, at the very least, on an annual basis. I ALWAYS sleep on this cut, yet I will always group it amongst my favorites from the last decade and if I’m not mistaken this track also appeared on a compilation (about “street ball” nonetheless) prior to it’s inclusion on “The Bootleg Of The Bootleg”?
Found On: Stereotypez (2007, Duck Down)
While Special Teamz’ (Slaine, Jaysaun & Ed O.G.) first official full length “Stereotypez” never really made much noise, I’ve been bumpin’ “Long Time…” ever since I received the promo a few years back. Trav and I have already touched base on the overall quality of the album (click the archives to read the review), “Long Time” finds Special Teamz at their best. With production that is somewhat reminiscent of Rockwilder’s on Red & Meth’s “Da Rockwilder”, newcomer Xplicit delivered a crisp track that should have had emcees lined up on his front doorstep beggin’ for a beat. With beats on the album from household names such as Pete Rock, Primo & Jake One, it’s good to see a producer that’s not as well provide the highlight of the album. Also, Jaysaun’s verse is crazy nice but solid performances from both Slaine & Ed O.G. only add to the dopeness dispayed on “Long Time Comin’”. Pick up the album if you haven’t already. Plus, how can you lose with Devin on the hook?