Found On: “Beyond Real”/”Dead Man’s Walk” 12″ (1996, Beyond Real)
Sampling Gazar Szabo & The California Dreamer’s “A Day In The Life”, one of Hip Hop’s most underrated producers, DJ Spinna, supplied partner “in rhyme” Kriminul with the perfect backdrop for what would be the first in a succesful string of singles from the duo. “Dead Man’s Walk” with it’s eerie vocal sample and pumping drums would tide fans over, along with bangers like “Iz U Dee”, “Last Will & Testimony” and “Original” prior to the debut of Jigmastas first full-length LP, “Infectious” which wouldn’t release until nearly 5 years after this single.
Found On: “All Time Einstein”/”The Tech’s Technique” (1997, Mass Vinyl)
Not to be confused with the super producer from Ohio or 1/2 of Reflection Eternal, Hi-Tech, the man behind one of my favorite indie singles of all-time, 1996′s “Book of Life”, delivered another heat-rock just one year later with the Jeru The Damaja sampled (vocal tidbit from “Come Clean”) “The Tech’s Technique”. Produced by DJ Shok, whom later went on to produce for the likes of DMX, Rah Digga and..ahem..Drag-On, “The Tech’s Technique”, the B-Side to “All Time Einstein”, is another quality single from Hi-Tech. Sadly, despite dropping three solid 12″s, and his tracks appearing on numerous mixtapes from the likes of Evil Dee, JR Ewing and PF Cuttin’ to name a few, we would never be blessed with a full-length LP from the slick rhyme spitter with a very dope voice and delivery.
Found On: “Time To Shine”/”Playin’ For Keeps” 12″ (1997, United)
Comprised of Blackstarr & Jack The Ripper, and more recognized for their affiliation with DJ Premier and Group Home, Brainsick Mob (also known as Brainsick Enterprize) first appeared on Preem’s “New York Reality Check 101″ with their single “Mixmaster USA” (which was released in ’96). However, it was the Big Greg-produced “Time To Shine” which released a year later that really got me open to the duo. A little more lyrically advanced then their Group Home counterparts, but lacking the stellar production from Premier that could be found on “Livin’ Proof”, Brainsick released a few decent 12″s, with “Time To Shine” being their last. However, as the reoccuring theme in indie Hip Hop, no album surfaced from the duo, but in 2009 Brainsick released some unearthed gems from 1996-98 titled “Best Of Brainsick”-Complete Works”, which is definitely worth peeping.
Found On: “Die Laughing” EP (1996, Columbia)
Taken from “Die Laughing” a track/ep that’s not very hard to track down, Strong Island crew Hyenas In The Desert were actually the first release/venture on Chuck D’s Slam JAMZ imprint in 1996. This EP is a very solid release that is slightly overlooked. This, even after receiving great reviews from Hip Hop Connection and a 4 outta’ 5 from Rolling Stone (I think it may have received in the ballpark of 3-3.5 mics from THE SOURCE). Comprised of Gary “G-Whiz” (Bomb Squad) and “Kendo”, Hyenas In The Desert actually released not one, but 3(!) separate versions of “Can You Feel It”. However, I’m sure you’ll have to agree with me that this O.G. is definitely the strongest of them.
Found On: “MOElogical”/”Actin’ Up” 12″ (1999, Fat Stash Ent.)
You’ll be hard pressed to locate a better “underground” 12″ than that of this one released in 1999 by Dirty Face Angels on Fat Stash. I’ve seen this selection on quite a few blogs on the ‘net over the years, but most of them have highlighted “Actin’ Up”. Yet, it’s “MOElogical with it’s “Summer Breeze” sample and a Rampage vocal tidbit from the “Flava In Ya’ Ear” Remix that’s sealed the deal for me.