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Artifacts“Ingredients To Time Travel” ( Gruff Rhino w/co-production from Tame One)

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For those that know me, I’m a huuuuuge Artifacts “Stan”. After falling in love with the grit and ruggedness of the Artifacts’ debut “Between A Rock And A Hard Place”, I’d be a bold-faced liar if I didn’t admit that I was slightly disappointed with Tame One & El Da Sensei’s sophomore outing “That’s Them”.  At least, until after a year or so of letting the LP “sink in”. As you already know, the production found on the Artifacts debut couldn’t have been any crispier, Buckwild and T-Ray laced Tame and El with some of the most timeless production, that seemingly gets better with each listen.

With “That’s Them”, even though the production was handled by V.I.C., Lord Finesse, Showbiz and The Beatminerz, something just seemed different, even after the release of the “set it off” single, Show’s remix to “The Ultimate”. Couple that with the fact that 1997, to me, was just a sh*tty year.  I was kinda’ lost in the sauce trying to find my place in life. Plus, being from a small town, I wasn’t quite hipped to the “underground” releases from the likes of the Rawkus & Fondle ‘em camp. I didn’t have access to that underground flavor, all I had was The Source and BET, and with that being said, Hip Hop in 1997 had already begun to shift (see: The Bad Boy Camp, Busta, Missy, etc.). So, some of the acts that banged in 1994, the ‘Facts, Beatnuts and nearly Jeru (“Wrath Of The Math” dropped in ’96) just seemed out of place to me. I know, hard to believe right? Yet, over the year’s “That’s Them” has almost surpassed “Between A Rock..” as my favorite Artifacts LP.

Here’s where it gets weird, and my brethren Travis Glave can tell you, once my evening is settled in (Wife is an R.N. working 12 hour shifts most of the week) and I have my two daughters squared away for the day ahead and off to bed, the Ipod goes in the pocket, the headphones are on and it’s usually coupled with a few rounds of NBA2K…whatever year it is, lol. I can remember the evening exactly: I’d say it was late summer 2007 and I just couldn’t get this release that found one producer and one awe-inspiring emcee, the next Nas (..then), outta’ my headphones or outta’ my car. Yep, you guessed it Blu & Exile’s “Below The Heavens” was in HEAVY rotation, but for some odd reason, I needed something new. So as I scrolled through my Ipod, heading directly for one of my go-to albums..let’s see “should I go with “Stress”, “Word..Life”, “The Main Ingredient” or “Between A Rock..”? Wait a minute, “That’s Them”? Ok, I’ll give that some burn.

So, after listening to “That’s Them”, and revisiting what are now classics to me such as “Art Of Facts”, “Collaboration of Mics” and “This Is Da Way”, I arrived at the oft-overlooked “Ingredients To Time Travel”. Simply put, I’ll make no bones about it, “Ingredients To Time Travel” is one of my Top 5 beats and well-constructed tracks EVER. Listening/bumping “Ingredients..” in your car just doesn’t do the track proper justice! I’m telling you, this sh*t gives me goosebumps each time I listen to it.

As the track opens with the Keith Murray track from Mary J. Blige’s “My Life”, you know, the one with the “Who Shot Ya” beat, coupled with a few Redman vocal samples, a thundering bassline shreads the speakers and and a deep, and I mean DEEP horn sample travels from East to West in your headphones. This track is so masterfully produced, it’s really jaw-dropping.

Here’s the kicker though, so just who in the ‘uff is Gruff Rhino, who is the producer of “Ingredients..” (Tame One is also listed as a Co-Producer)? Well, for one, he’s the man responsible for THIS mixtape, and judging from other posts associated with this “blog”, I’m assuming he is the blog’s author or has a direct association with whomever is responsible for the website, as the profile is set as “Rhino CMZ”. Needless to say, there is no “contact” button listed under the profile and we all know what has happened w/Megaupload, of which the link for “The Loose Tape”, which features Gruff’s producton prior to the release of the Artifacts cut, is down.

So, the ? Remainz, who exactly is Gruff Rhino?  Well, I think I have it figured out.  Judging from THIS soundcloud page, which is under the alias of Rick Rhino, I can scroll to the bottom of the page and see a few tracks that are supplied with the cover art for “The Loose Tape”.  Secondly, there’s a track with Tame One on Rick’s page titled “Smokin’ MC’s” (which I’ve posted below) and according to discogs the pair linked up again in 2000 for Tame One’s “Crazee”.   This morning, I contacted Rick via his Soundcloud with the hopes of him re-upping the link for “The Loose Tape”.

One can only hope that the production on  “The Loose Tape” is half as good as “Ingredients To Time Travel”, but we shall see.  It’s just a damn shame we didn’t hear more from Gruff Rhino back in the 90′s because “Ingredients..” is just straight up mind-blowing to me!  Stay Tuned…..

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Bryant Dope-Queens Kids“Queens Kids” -Bryant Dope (DOWNLOAD)

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Found On: “Queens Kids” mixtape

Paying homage to one of Hip Hop’s most influential boroughs, Bryant Dope laced this lovely Hannibal King (whom you’ll no doubt being seeing more throughout this list) instrumental with enough competent rhymes to make “Queens Kids” one of the year’s most chill tracks.  Serving as the warm-up to Dope’s mixtape of the same name, “Queens Kids” stood apart from the rest of the fodder as the rest of the free effort was somewhat of a disappointment.  Still, at 18 years of age, there’s plenty of room for growth, but dude has a long way to go before reaching Bada$$ status.

Reap“Coming Up” – Reap ‘n Chillow

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Found On: “NY2BE”

The first release of Belgian producer’s “N’ Chillow” series, Chillow linked up with, up until now, little known Queens MC, Reap. As a whole, “NY2BE” was a very enjoyable LP for someone whom is borderline stuck in 1992-1997, like myself.  To boot, that era is captured best on “Coming Up”, complete with a smoove horn loop and the mandatory sleigh bells.  Also, Reap showcases his finest lyrical performance on the track as well.  I’ll give Reap plenty of credit though, dude has one of the smoothest voices in Hip Hop that I’ve heard in 2012.  Keep your ears peeled for more from Chillow as he is slated for a collabo LP with the likes of El Da Sensei of The Artifacts.

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Robust“Fillin’ In The Potholes” – Robust

Purchase The LP HERE

“Northern Soul”

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Prior to my learning of Robust’s “Filling In The Potholes” this past Thanksgiving, I’d never even heard of him.  However, to some, Robust’ s debut 2004 release “Potholes In My Molecules” is considered to be nothing short of an independent classic in many circles. What’s even crazier, is dude has no less than 7(!) releases in the last 8 years.  Maaaaan, talk about hitting the snooze button?!   Representing Chicago to the fullest, Robust has re-emerged to deliver an album that was nothing short of one of 2012′s most surprising efforts.

This album starts of EXTREMELY strong, it’s hard to find an album from 2012 with a better 3-song stretch than that of  the title track, the self-produced “Soloist” and my favorite track from “Fillin’ In The Potholes”, “Northern Soul” (that horn loop is soo damn sexy!)  Lyrically, Robust is very effective, nothing mind-blowing or over  our heads, but Robust’s lyricism and delivery has a nice ebb & flow to it.  With production ranging from the likes of Hip-Hop veteran Maker, Meaty Ogre, Pore and PNS (of Molemen), “Fillin’..” is not really a so-called “throwback” album, but it does do a great job of capturing and revisiting the true essence of what Hip-Hop is all about, funky break-beats, well plucked loops and deft lyricism to keep your ears eager to listen.  What I love most about the LP, and what is very advantageous for someone whom is as A.D.D. as I, is the track length.

While the LP clocks in at 16 tracks, surprisingly, only a select few stretch past the 3-minute mark, which I love and I think is an extremely smart move on Robust’s behalf as many of the tracks are crafted on well-selected breaks and loops.  Nothing that is too daring production-wise, but this LP has become a quick favorite of mine and has garnered quite a few spins in the last month.  There’s only a few albums from 2012 that I can burn 3-5 times in succession, Darktime Sunshine’s “ANX”, Melanin 9′s “Magna Carta” and Kendrick’s LP, but I’m almost to that point with “Filling In The Potholes”, a great LP for someone to keep your ears peeled for in the near future.

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P BlackkAfter releasing “Blackk Friday” in 2011 under the watchful eye of Fly  Union, Columbus ,Ohio’s P. Blackk was looking for a new “sound”.  Remaining in Ohio, Blackk made a beautiful connection with another OHIOan, J Rawls (Lone Catalysts) to craft the lovely, “Contemporary Nostalgia”, released prior to the new year on December 30th, 2012.  “Contemporary Nostalgia” is a classic case of “New Meets….nah, seasoned“.  Blackk’s lyricals are punctuated with self confidence and typical emcee bravado and a new school, cocksure delivery.  Simply put, dude can spit!  Couple that with the classic production from J Rawls, filled to the brim with classic breakbeats and loops, “Contemporary Nostalgia” is a win/win situation and thus far into 2013, my favorite LP.

Tracks like the neck-snapping “GitDaFunkUp!”, “Diamonds & Furs” and “2MPH” can be mistook for your regular swagger-type tracks; plenty of metaphors without much substance, right?  Nah kid, don’t let the track titles fool you.  While the tracks do find Blackk, for lack of better wording, grabbing his nuts, they come together perfectly with Rawls’ consistent, but not overwhelming production (which is 100% true regarding much of Rawls’ discography, dude has never produced a wack beat, IMO).  Yet, it’s on tracks like “Milkshake”, an ode to a fellow fallen soldier and both versions of “Beautiful” where this pair truly sounds at ease.  I mean, with the “blink of an eye” rise to stardom of fellow emcees such as Joey Bada$$, Action Bronson, Meyhem Lauren and the whole Pro Era crew, Blackk fits right in, I can only hope that he receives the notoriety and recognition of the aforementioned “New School”, because it’s truly deserved!

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Corown Da Sensei“Line For Line” – Corown Da Sensei

Found On: “Line For Line” Bandcamp Single

Not only did the Netherlands 6-man crew (MC’s Corown Da Sensei AKA CDS and Blabbermouf, (often referred to as Blabber) & the production team of DJ Propo’88, DJ Truffel The Phunky Phaqir, DJ Realize and Kick Back) make noize in 2012 with the well-received release of “From The Top Of The Stack” (Propo88 & Blabbermouf), but in late December the crew let loose “Line For Line”.

This jawn is pure raw!! Is it any wonder that producer Truffel The Phunky Phaqir (I can’t even imagine how he created that moniker) lists his favorite album of all-time as Redman’s “Dare Iz A Darkside”?  You can hear the production influence on this spacey joint that is bound to ruffle your speakers.  Lyrically, Corown is above average, but could definitely use some seasoning.  However, no hate, “Line For Line”, even though technically released in 2012, is gonna’ go down as one of my favorites this year. Don’t sleep on this crew, these cats really capture the essence of the Golden Era with their production and lyrically.

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More Backpack Goodies Pt. I

by Eric on January 14, 2013

Drug Game1. “Drug Game” – Ready Ta Roll

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Found On: “Drug Game”/”Taste The Flavor” 12″ (1994, Chanpen)

Sampling Lonnie Smith’s “Spinning Wheel”,  and garnering enough attention with “Drug Game” to earn an appearance in the “Sure Shot Singles” column in a 1994 edition of “The Source”,  Chilltown, New Jersey’s Ready To Roll left an imprint on the underground scene with a track that’s held up quite well for nearly two decades with the thumping, “Drug Game”.

With a catchy chorus in tow: “It’s A Shame/You Claim/The only way you know how to make a living is in the drug game!”, Ready To Roll served up a healthy slab of street bravado on the platter with their second single release.  A quick nugget, the founder of Ready Ta Roll was Bad Boy affiliate Mark Curry, whom also went on to produce for the likes of Queen Pen, LL Cool J and even A.Z. (he handled a hefty bulk of production on “Aziatic”) under the allias of Chop D.I.E.S.E.L. Also of note, you can also find Curry on “Dangerous MCs” from Biggie’s forgettable post-houmous LP “Born Again”.

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Automatic“Art Imitates Life” – AUTOmatic

Download via “Bandcamp” or cop the vinyl via Dope Folks

Yes indeed, today I spotlight, and will continue to focus on some of 2012′s most overlooked efforts throughout the weeks ahead.  With that being said, some of you may recall the duo of A.P.R.I.M.E. (emcee) and Trellmatic (producer) via their 2010 LP, “Transistor”, which featured one of my favorite tracks of that year with “The Rhythm” and some of you may have even heard their 2008 debut, “Audiology” which…ahem, I never knew existed prior to visiting the crew’s BandCamp today.  With the October release of “Art Imitates Life”, AUTOmatic captured the essence of the Native Tongue family and delivered honest and passionate verses with a sonic backdrop that will instantly draw comparisons to Panacea.  And with influences spanning from The Beatles to Ahmad Jamal, it’s obvious why originality and capturing that “classic feel” takes precedence on this record.

The first of what is slated to be the a three LP series from AUTOmatic, “Art Imitates Life” was released on the heralded (at least to us underground heads) Dope Folks label, which is also based in Milwaukee and is also responsible for the re-surfacing of popular indie records from the likes of Omniscience, Lord Aaqil and Rock La Flow, to name a few.  Without the risk of being pigeonholed as “stuck in the 90′s”.  Tracks such as the thumping “Zulu Beats” (trust me, invest in a solid pair of headphones for this one!), “Get Up” and the album’s outro cut “Vespa” f. Logic (which will take you back to the days of “I Left My Wallet In El Segundo”) are all fueled by that good ol’ Boom Bap, yet laced with a new school feel to keep it current.

Highly recommended, “Art Imitates Life” is now available at a “Name Your Price” feature below, but all the true headz can peep the vinyl at Dope Folks.

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672967555-1Lesson learned, it’s never too late to peep one of the best releases of the year with less than a week remaining in 2012.  As I’ve become increasingly active in the forums again, which can be attributed to the fact that I’m playing “catch up” with a lot of what dropped in 2012, I stumbled across “Lasting Impressions” as it has received quite a few nominations in the “Album of The Year” category.

New Jersey lyricist Umang Khosla, a.k.a uMaNg dropped pure crack with his sophomore LP, “Lasting Impressions” , fueled with brilliant production from the likes of Sweedish beatsmith, B.B.Z. Darney (whom I’d never heard of prior to this release).  Without the risk of sounding corny, which tends to happen more often than not when trying to recapture that “Golden Era” feel, ‘Darney revisits some of the most used loops throughout the ’90s and makes them sound even fresher in 2012.  Peep both “2013: A Space Odyssey”  and “What I’m About” (which, you guessed it utilizes the oft-used Lord Finesse vocal slice for the hook) as they both utilize “Funky Drummer”.

Lyrically, while not quite as dramatic and offensive (in a good way, lol) as Chino XL, uMaNg is most comparable to the legendary lyricist than anyone I can recall in recent memory, especially when it comes to vocal pitch and delivery.  Matter of fact, it’s a shame that Chino XL didn’t have this kind of production to back him on his 2012 double LP release, “Ricanstruction” (minus one exception, the Apollo Brown-produced “Take It Back”).  Earlier  last week I posted my thoughts on Melanin 9′s insanely good “Magna Carta” and truthfully “Lasting Impressions” parallels the LP in terms of vibe and feel.  Honestly, “Lasting Impressions” left a “lasting impression” (ohhhh….too soon, lol?) on me and is one of the year’s Top 10 releases, undoubtedly.  Do yourself a solid and get the best return that money can buy with eight bones via the bandcamp link posted below!



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