*New Cesar Luciano Album* – CATCH ME IF YOU CAN

It’s Here. My lil bro from Providence is ushering in Gemstars Season lovely with his most complete release yet!

Click either image to download straight from DjBooth.net

All produced by Marv X.

As promised, I added the Big Video for “We On”. Directed by PUMA and featuring the whole Gemstars Fam except for me. 

New Redhead album – “The Schemata”!!!!!

I got 2 treats for you kiddies in the spirit (he he, get it?) of Halloween. The first being the long awaited album from the kid Redhead, The Schemata. A pretty much autobiographical project, Redhead takes us on a ride thru his journey from birth to the now, in always entertaining and introspective fashion. He even features one of my songs from my upcoming album that’s been remixed! Dopeness!

Click on the image of the cover to download and listen 

or

For mobile users, click on this link http://www.box.net/shared/ky7o1k6ub4xmm387a47o

In the meantime, to whet your appetite further, here’s the second trailer for the album.

Redhead drops the trailer for his new album “THE SCHEMATA”

On the kid’s birthday, it makes sense that I post his brilliant trailer to get you guys ready for the release of his album The Schemata, dropping on Halloween.

Who is Redhead? and what the Fuck is The Schemata?? Well, that’s pretty much the question that he’s posing here.

Piece it together…

 

*New Brandon Carter Album* – “They’re Trying To Kill You”

It’s Here.

Ya’ll were warned. It’s A CLASSIC -I said it. Click the cover above to download.

And just as a bonus, here’s a clip for the intro/title track and the making of it.

Happy Birthday Homie.

*New Brandon Carter video – “Blood Money”*

Awww Man!! I should have told you that the Homie Brandon Carter was about to release a classic album earlier this year, but I was waiting for the perfect time. And I couldn’t think of any perfecter way to set off the month of September than with the lead off video from Carter’s They’re Trying To Kill You album, which will be dropping on his birthday, September 15th!!

I gave you guys the audio to this song a few months back in preparation, but Brandon’s added a few things to that original version and put together a super memorable and thought provoking clip to set the tone for what you can expect off of this album.

This is the first of the albums in a birthday series with his dropping during Virgo season, and the first of my 2 debut LPs dropping on my Birthday(it was my idea first – but no shots, no shots)in October (Libras all day!!). Oh by, the way, that album will be produced entirely by Brandon. Get ready… For now, chew on this

(13) Classic Sounds…

Like

Somewhere I got it horribly wrong. I reviewed Salt N Pepa‘s classic album Very Necessary in January. It’s officially Women’s History Month, and somehow I’m reviewing the most misogynistic and exaggerated piece of crap in the history of classic Hip-Hop.

Nevertheless, a classic album it is. And it’s undeniably Hip-Hop. So we rate it and review it, because that’s what we do here.

This album is super significant because of its place in the N.W.A. timeline. It marks the solidification and full bloom of the group as an indelible and influential force in Hip-Hop, but it also marks their demise. As their second full length studio album, following the EP 100 Miles And Runnin’, the group already suffered internal setbacks and aimed at reforming themselves and affirming their position. While it didn’t produce as many memorable individual songs and singles as their first album, this is where they step up musically and lyrically. Dr Dre‘s production here introduced us to what would become his signature sound and define west-coast hip-hop and g-funk. The bombastic kicks and rich drum patterns and bass lines mixed with clever 70’s funk samples and dj scratches make gangsta rap wet dreams.

My first time hearing this album was in 2006 when I ran thru my brother’s stash of cassettes and figured I ‘d see what it sounded like since I’d already heard Straight Outta Compton. It couldn’t have happened at a better time in my opinion because I felt better equipped to understand the evil genius of Eric Eazy E Wright after being exposed to such controversy-mongers as the 50 Cent‘s of my generation. Everything down to the title of this album is a reflection of Eazy’s strategy and a study in pushing the envelope.

As most of us with knowledge within the Hip-Hop world have come to discover after all this time, none of the members of N.W.A. have any significant documented criminal history and their backgrounds are actually quite tame in comparison to the lure surrounding their rap personas. That makes it all the more interesting how Eazy manipulated this wave of California streetlife- based rap and took it to crazy proportions. Back in the early 90’s, you would’ve sworn N.W.A. was a gang.

The affirmation begins with “Prelude” where the group decidedly approaches from the rap group angle, ironically taking shots at lesser groups who fall off and fail to show staying power.  From there, it becomes all about them being simply “Niggas”.

Hearing this album in later years for the first time also has the effect of holding more weight musically due to the ability to point out how much of it has been sampled by more recent rap songs, and by the same token how much of it actually consists of samples. Dj Yella incorporates cuts from famous comedy albums from the Soul era as well as pivotal spoken word excerpts from the likes of The last Poets. All of the incendiary vocal snippets add to the fervor of the songs and the underlying theme of anarchist niggerhood. Coupled with Dre’s dissecting of notorious parts of classic funk jams and splicing them together in menacing arrangements, the production is perhaps the most clever part of this album.

Yet and still, it suffers from 2 things that I absolutely hate in sequencing. It’s clear that with bringing in the 90’s, the group fully embraced the rising trend of incorporating skits, which makes the album longer and more reckless. The skits, full of moments of extreme sociopathic humor and hyperbole including shooting prostitutes and cameramen, serve to contrast the otherwise dark sonicbed that the songs provide. However, this ridiculous comedic element adds to the overall tragic reality that this album takes no responsibility for. The other horrible move in the track listing is the bunching of all of the songs dealing with female-related subject matter. Between the “To Kill A Hooker” skit to Eazy E’s obnoxious solo “I’d Rather Fuck You”, there’s 4 other tracks that do more damage to the depiction of women in rap than Hip-Hop has done in the last 15 years collectively. To hear these songs back to back is like hearing all of those Mel Gibson recorded phone arguments with his ex-wife.

Unfortunately, besides the silly parody song “Automobile”, (that laid the groundwork for hardcore rappers to allow themselves to break character and let loose a la Biggie in “Playa Hata”, and may have actually been funny in 1991) most of these songs sound Dope! These songs are detestable, but the raps go over so smoothly between the pairings of Eazy’s voice with Dre and MC Ren’s deep, creepy snarls with the beats that lend themselves to trunk rattling fullness on the choruses and open allure for storytelling during the verses. I particularly wrastle with myself over the song “She Swallowed It”, which has one of the best beats in rap history and catchy parts that you might find yourself singing if you don’t use your personal filter. I remember hearing kids singing this song when I was a preteen, knowing it was super inappropriate. Hearing it takes me back to that time in my head, almost making me want to cover my ears due to the abrasive nature. As an adult however, I understand the comedy in it, tho I can’t get around how extreme it is. 

The other 2 songs “Findum Fuckem and Flee” and “One Less Bitch” are the ones that make me want to go back in time and join the Rev. Calvin Butts in steamrolling over those gangsta raps CDs in the street. Shit like this was all designed to live up to the hype the group first created by being sought after the FBI for their breakout songs like “Fuck Tha Police”. They chose to direct their shock value towards the female angle this time around by going as far as they possibly could. If you listen with scrutinizing ears, you can hear that literally almost every other word is a curse word with the intent to sensationalize the impact of what’s being said. If you don’t think this was apart of their M.O. purposely, then you must also believe that punch lines are coincidental. On “Findum…” although its pass-the-mic ethos is clever, you get a barrage of sentences like “…there ain’t no joking, when the pussyholes are open/Ready to fuck until my dick is raw/yo, the muthafuckin’ Devil’s son-in-law/ (Peter-Peter, the pussy eater)/ no it’s the E, the muthafuckin’ pussy beater/ and I’m the quicker picker upper – quick ta pick up a bitch/ so come here bitch!, and lick up the – lick up the – lick up the dick!”. And on the loathsome “One Less Bitch” with a deplorable plot about killing women to avoid drama, everyone’s favorite west coast legend – Dr. Dre, goes too far with rhymes forever sealed in recorded history about rape.

But it’s not like Dre wrote any of this stuff anyway. With Ren and ghostwriter The D.O.C. penning most of the bars on this album, the stepping up of Ren and Dre to the forefront of the group compares boldly to the first LP where Eazy and Ice Cube were the dominant presence and Cube was the man with the magic words. Cube’s overly publicized departure from the group was yet another focal point for the group to eschew their controversial stance and ruffle feathers. Where they had already made their point clear about having no love for Cube on 100 Miles and Runnin’, as a group with limited subject matter, they felt the need to rub this sentiment in. Once again they harped on this topic for several tracks, and of course, lumped them together back to back. So from the single “Alwayz Into Somethin” to the skit “Message to B.A. (Benedict Arnold)” and the revisit of “Real Niggaz”, they spend an adequate amount of time dedicated to berating their one-time lead man and what some consider to be the heart of the group. 

What makes this album an album, however, and not just a collection of tracks is the strength of it’s first 2 real songs and it’s last 2 real songs. This is the only part of the album where you will receive any semblance of depth from the group. The heaviness and rebelliousness of what they speak of on these tracks is memorable enough that where reflection and contemplation is not present, so much can be taken from their words alone and used as food for thought. Their social commentary came from an inwards-out perspective, whereas most other artists make statements about the world around them and their place in it. Songs like “Real Niggaz Don’t Die” and “Approach To Danger” precede yet predict the atmosphere of L.A. life both during and soon after the infamous riots that would happen a year after this album dropped. 

In a way, N.W.A. had to exist. If they were truly an outfit designed to alert the rest of the world to how crazy life was on the inner-city streets of Los Angeles and represent a microcosm of what poverty was really doing to young Black Men around America, then mission accomplished. I just wish that their arrival didn’t also signify the start of the glorification of that very violence that they were making everyone aware of. Perhaps it’s only poetic justice that the group fell apart after this record and they were meant to exist for only that short time and leave one hell of an impression.

A contrived group with contrived tactics that succeeded somehow in bringing us some of the realest shit ever. Although I cannot tolerate too many of the songs and I NEVER play or will give this album any other play, I always judge music objectively first. Especially when Iam reviewing it. Therefore, my favorite songs on this LP are “Real Niggaz Don’t Die”  and “Niggaz 4 Life”  both for their social relevance and politically incorrect credos that are evidently timeless. I like the latter so much so, that I remade it for my West-Coast themed mixtape, Westside Til I Die with a more in-depth and conscious spin. My other favorites (and I hesitate to say favorites) include the eerie “Approach To Danger” and “The Dayz of Wayback”.

Overall, against my personal opinion and better judgement, this album gets 8 Candles out of a possible

4812 or 16.

4(Classic Just because where it stands in Hip-Hop, whether it be the time of it’s release, it’s influence, or the popularity of it’s singles overall)

8(Classic because it was solid for it’s time, but may be a little dated or less than amazing by today’s standards)

12(Classic as a complete release and probably celebrated widely on the surface, but possibly lacking one key element – be it one song that doesn’t fit, a wack guest appearance, lyrics, lack of depth or beats)

16(Classic all around)

My alternate rating for this album is 1 fucking Candle but you know…

 

(6) Classic Sounds

Like…

You could tell from the intro that you’re in for a one of a kind experience like nothing else you’ve ever heard in your life. We were blessed to be in the midst of the height of the Wu-Tang fervor and fanaticism because we were accepting of almost ANYTHING Wu related. I say this because I fear that if not for that fact…let’s say if, Russell Jones was just random Joe rapper from random place U.S.A., we wouldn’t have gave him the time of day and wrote him off as some crazy novelty act instead of as a misunderstood genius. Sure, if he had come out alone in this digital age where crazy wins for the moment, he’d be a viral sensation just because of word of mouth and maybe that would translate into success. I could see the Youtube frenzy now. But in the 90’s, rest assured he’d end up in the same bin of hip-hop obscurity as Akinyele, and Dr. Octagon, Maybe Tech N9Ne if he was lucky.

Fortunately for us, we never have to find that out.

We’ve all been marked with an indelible O.D.B. moment. The sanity question surrounding the man was his allure. You’d see the charm, the raunch, and turmoil all in one setting if you heard him speak. You’d see, much like another hip-hop outcast and performer better known for his legal woes, clownish antics and drug use, Flava Flav, that there was a keen sense of self awareness, perceptiveness and waning intellect under the ultra-ghetto exterior. But comparing Russell Jones to William Drayton may be unfair. Ol’ Dirty was far from just a hypeman, or merely a character. While both are equally charismatic, Dirty had a method to his madness. He would freestyle songs and punch the best parts until music was made. He always made sure his projects displayed and incorporated all of his musical influences, from blues, to hardcore Hip-Hop, to a little pop/rock. He has given Wu albums some of the most memorable lines, full of poor man’s profundity. And he was totally in control of his voice and mastered the ideology of it being the final and most key instrument on a track. He also embraced the power of shock value. In both song and interviews, Dirty had the knack for perfectly timing rants and saying things in ways designed to raise eyebrows. Sometimes it’s just him on his Scorpio shit. Or coke. What can you expect??

The tragedy of his life, gave us the artistry of his career. In the intro to his album, (which sounds like 5 different ideas that he couldn’t decide on so he put them all together into one long-ass intro), he compares himself to James Brown. I don’t think anyone who has listened to a substantial amount of  Big Baby Jesus will contest that notion.

And that intro prepares you for what you’re going to get on this album; all of the facets of Ol’ Dirty’s personality/(personalities?) clear and present. It goes from him assuming some kind of Redneck impersonation, to him attempting to speak sincerely, to him going into a comedic anecdote that turns into mock-melodrama which finds him singing a humorous yet crass rendition of a Burt Bacharach classic, then finally, the standard Wu-Tang trademark Kung-Fu flick clip, which I’m sure RZA insisted on. This all leads us into the song that O.D.B. may arguably be best known for, “Shimmy Shimmy Ya”. I don’t need to say much about this track, because if you’ve never heard this song before, where the fuck have you been? But I will point out that MC Eiht is in the video for this. Have you ever noticed that?

Now it could’ve been Dirty’s attempt to diffuse the tension stirring amidst the whole supposed East Coast – West Coast beef at the time and make a show of solidarity. Then again, it could also be Dirty being so high that he didn’t even realize that there was a beef at all and these were just some of the kinds of rappers that he was just genuinely cool with because he was always on some other shit.

This album can kinda be broken down into some kinds of pockets of Dirty’s style. I assume it depends on exactly how high he was during the recording of each track. There’s the drunken rants that are beligerent non-sequitters that make up the majority of the project, usually taking place over the more grimey boom bap beats. Then you have the playful stuff where it seems like even Dirty is laughing at himself as he’s in session. But then, there’s those brief moments of steady focus where his rhymes have some lyrical value and it’s not just amusement. You actually get a glimpse of what a young Russell Jones may have been like when he first embarked on his quest to grab the mic. Or maybe he was always a little touched.

“Shimmy Shimmy Ya” falls into that category of playful Dirty, where he just has full command of the show, but just wants you to party with him and feel him. But the gritty stuff is what dominates this album, thanks to Dirt’s constant daze and RZA’s sway to the darkside and ability to get away with it due to that Wu Mania that I mentioned earlier. Tracks like “Snakes” and “Raw Hide” (which is one of my favorites on the album) find Dirty doing just what I said; going off on half angry tangents and sometimes yelling his bars if not just yelling! (no, seriously…listen to the end of “Snakes” where he screams for about 10 seconds)

This isn’t more present than on “Brooklyn Zoo pt.2 – Tiger Crane” where he rehashes a verse from the earlier portion of the tape (yeah, I had it on tape, not bought – but borrowed), from the song “Damage” which I’m sure, The GZA, who’s featured on it wrote most of. Anyway, in this regurgitated version which sounds just like that; regurgitation, Dirty skips, backtracks, stumbles and slurs his way through what sounded almost pristine 6 tracks prior. The thing that saves this song from being the low point on the album is a good verse by fellow Clan member Ghostface Killah, and a random ass montage of pieces of songs from the album that leads into some audio clip of a live performance over a hypnotic loop where Dirty engages the crowd and displays what an intriguing presence he has as a performer. This is one of those moments on a record where you revisit after an artist has died and feel like it was foreshadowing, or like you were personally there to experience them. Sort of like when Pac would talk to you at the end or beginning of his songs. Or those Death threat skits on Big‘s second album. Or when Pun said he just lost weight and he ain’t “goin nowhere!” This doesn’t mean that there aren’t bright points in the crevises of these dim spots, like where Dirty spits alongside Raekwon and Meth, “See Murder which is caused, when you fuck with the negative and positive charge, then I came up out my garage, with the hit that’s gonna be laargee! I’m tired of sittin’ on my Fuckin’ ass..Niggas I know, you walk around with mad fuckin cash! Who the Fuck wanna be an MC – if you can’t get paaaaiiid, to be a fuckin’ MC!!”

It gets even rawer on the Posse cut “Protect Ya Neck 2 – The Zoo” where Ol’ Dirty assembles a Motley Crew of C-List Wu Affiliates – most of who would become apart of Sunz Of Man – over a haunting demonic boom bap beat. I’m almost afraid to listen to it. It’s not far from listening to a Marilyn Manson, Goth-rock cut, but it’s undeniably Hip-Hop.

It’s not all Hardcore dizziness tho. The playful moments balance the album out. Moments like “Don’t U know” segue the listener out of the bash n crash mode, into lighter stuff because it still incorporates the grit, but moves the subject elsewhere to Dirty’s favorite subject; The Ladies. This is my least favorite joint on the album. It’s just too murky and crass for me. And I’m sorry, there’s just too much Killah Priest on this album for me. However, it’s when he full out releases and lets loose, like on “Baby C’mon” or the other female joint “Sweet Sugar Pie” where we get a smile from Dirty. On the latter, he croons over some kind of Casio ballad template and sings an interpolation of…something, in a half-drunken stuper as he shouts out classic female eungenues and gorups of yesteryear and then concludes in a mock female and male(?) orgasm. That’s also a little too much for me! But then, to top it off, he yells at the top of his lungs as the instrumental fades “NOOO! I’m the Baddest! Hip-Hop Maaaan! Across the World!!! I don’t care, what you care! I just give, What you receiveeee!!” If ever you needed proof that Osirus was off his rocker…Exhibit A

On the aforementioned “Damage, there is a prime example of those moments when he’s tamed and somewhat refined. I still have my suspicions about why tho. Just like on The RZA assisted “Cuttin Heads”, I think that these 2 tracks were either old recordings from a less indulged version of Dirty, or penned largely by his two cousins with Z‘s in the middle of their names.

The best songs, in my opinion, are the ones where there is a meeting of both his playful side and his focused side. Songs like “Goin Down”, and “Stomp” and my personal Favorites “Hippa to Da Hoppa” & the original “Brooklyn Zoo” . You just gotta listen to them in order to see the best version of the man known as the O.D.B. The beats are even the most different on these tracks.

So that makes 4 favorite tracks for me; “Baby C’Mon”, “Hippa To Da Hoppa”, “RawHide” and “Brooklyn Zoo”.

Overall, this is not an album that I’m sure the kids now would enjoy if they weren’t apart of the Wu era, but Iam confident that Dirty’s personality would prevail and make this a timeless piece of work just because he’s irreplaceable. It’s one of those rare projects where the Artist themselves outshines the material and the lack of subject matter is not a fault. It’s almost secondary as this album is more a character study of a turmoiled man. A rough genius, something similar to those stories we’ve come to know about down-on-their-luck winos who were virtuosos in their glory days. Except we witnessed Dirty’s glory days during his wino phase.

because of this, I give this album 12 Candles out of a possible,

4812 or 16.

4(Classic Just because where it stands in Hip-Hop, whether it be the time of it’s release, it’s influence, or the popularity of it’s singles overall)

8(Classic because it was solid for it’s time, but may be a little dated or less than amazing by today’s standards)

12(Classic as a complete release and probably celebrated widely on the surface, but possibly lacking one key element – be it one song that doesn’t fit, a wack guest appearance, lyrics, lack of depth or beats)

16(Classic all around)

(4) Classic Sounds…

Like…

Since I’ve spent the last 2 weeks doing all of this female rapper coverage, it only makes sense that my next classic album review would be of the feminine persuasion.

Now even tho Lyte is my favorite female rapper of all time, I’m not quite sold on whether I think her debut album is better than her sophmore effort, Eyes On This. As a matter of fact, I don’t know which album of hers is her best.

I imagine the beginning is the best place to start.

I remember always liking Lyte for some reason as a kid. I would get hyped when her part came on for the “Self-Destruction” compilation cut. It’s almost like no one patronized her for being a woman, she was just that confident and made you a believer. Certainly, in my young mind, there was no difference. She was just another fly rapper with an unmistakable voice. I don’t ever recall anybody crying nepotism because of her brothers in the Audio Two. She came thru flawlessly with an ill rep and the best geometric hairstyles this side of 80’s pop music.

I wasn’t so much aware of her singles at the time or the top selections off of her album, because none of them were super radio smashes like Rob Base‘s “It takes 2” and me being a child, I wasn’t able to experience the thrill of hearing dj’s crank “Lyte As A Rock” at the Latin Quarter or The Rooftop. What did seem to trickle down to young me, however, was the impression that she was pretty raw and spoke her mind like her male peers. I got the hint that I wasn’t supposed to be listening to her music just like Kool G Rap and some of Big Daddy Kane‘s records with curse words in them. Heavy D and Doug E. she was not. But hey, she’s a Brooklyn Chic – it’s to be expected.

Now as an adult, going back into the crates to hear the largely touted classic from Ms. Moorer has a mildness to it. I can see how this was a big deal in it’s 1988 glory. Besides, at this point, a female rapper with a major release was unheard of. She broke records by going gold. Her acceptance in the game has always been monumental.

It’s almost as tho she was aware of this going into her album, as she sets the stage with an intro track that isn’t even a song!(“Lyte vs. Vanna White”) Just a damn-near 3 minute track of beat with slight scratches and voiceovers concluded by a halfway humorous and rare comedic moment of role-play by Lyte at the end. From here, we go into the title track which we all have come to know and love; if not by growing up on it, then surely by it’s reintroduction and rise in popularity on the soundtrack to the much over-rated but now Black-girl-classic, Love & Basketball. Her now Iconic, KRS-1 like inflection is cemented here, and the big deal aesthetic is continued as she drops one of the best 80’s rap videos ever, to accompany her song.

The voice is one thing. The flow is another.

The defining thing about this album is the varying of her delivery. And not necessarily in a good way. Much like how Biggie‘s first album showcased his growth of style and a time lapse, leaving an album comprised halfway of his more nasal, projected delivery and his more calm, big poppa cadence, Lyte vacillates between having an on-point, fluid 80’s flow, to a more prose-like, run-on flow that doesn’t exactly catch the beat in the right places. No matter how much you like her, this can get annoying after a while. I could only imagine if this album was 15 tracks as opposed to the perfect 10. For every “Lyte As A Rock”, where she seems to attack the beat with matching energy and pace and slickness, there’s a “Lyte Thee M.C.” that falters a tad.

Fortunately, what made this album a classic was it’s singles and the way in which they came to the public’s attention. The singles are actually the best songs on here. The ones that you probably know or have heard of, all came out in a way that would give you the impression that Lyte is a multi-layered emcee. The truth is that if you cop the album it’s all a boom-bap laced pile of diatribes of her uniqueness and superiority, which is surprising considering the era that she came out in, where socially conscious themes were the trending topic. Her approach was more typical of early to mid 80’s rap realeases, where it was all about bragging and boasting. Although Lyte’s brand of braggadoccio is much more cool calm and collect than the guys’ (which always made her cool), knowing the Lyte we’ve come to know by now with all of her insight and cautionary tales, it’s a little disappointing that none of that is present on her seminal release. But then again, taking into account that this is her coming out record (no pun intended) and the fact that she was in fact the first female rapper with a major release, I’m assuming that proving herself amongst the big boys was more important at the time than talking about the crack epidemic, or domestic violence.

To Lyte’s credit she tries a little. There’s moments where you can see that it’s important to her to wave the female flag high as indicated by titles like “Iam Woman” and “Don’t Cry Big Girls”, but it seems her focus isn’t quite there. On both songs, she starts off strong but then ends up trailing off into her usual spiel, making what seemed to be a possible rally for women everywhere just a guise to bring the spotlight back to the one-woman show. So the feminist ethos is sprinkled in there loosely, but ultimately lost.

The only time Lyte breaks out of self-aggrandizing mode is to take the heat off of sucker mc’s and place it in the face of corny 2-timing men and would-be suitors. This is why the singles off of this project made such an impact; You got what is now the modern formula for most successful rap releases, a party song (“Lyte As A Rock”), a Street hit (“10% Dis”) and 2 songs geared towards the opposite sex (“Paper Thin” & “I Cram 2 Understand U”). The latter 2 contain some of the best flowing and lines of Lyte’s career.  She was classy, but blunt, and the lyrics were easily relatable. These songs did wonders to quell any notion that she wasn’t interested in men, and helped her establish a female audience whereas she might’ve already proved herself to the male crowd already. This is pretty much the reverse of most female rappers’ entrances into the game. Another memorable video for “Paper Thin” took it over the top and made it an instant classic – not to mention one of the best simple beats in hip-hop history. From hearing only these joints, you would hope the rest of the album sounded like this.

“Kickin 4 Brooklyn” is another track that remains one of Lyte’s most popular, tho not an official single. In a narrative style, over a stuttering drum beat, it’s the rare instance where you get a touch of Brooklyn from the female perspective, before it became super-commonplace to shout it all over hip-hop records. Lyte may actually be responsible for adding to making that a norm. She exuded Brooklyn pride like none before her. This added to her street cred, but what really set it up was the incredibly infamous “10% Dis” where she devotes a whole record to then-contender Antoinette. As I mentioned in the previous post about forgotten female rappers, Antoinette’s career got put to bed early by not one but 2 songs directed toward her by Lyte. This one being the most clever and amped up, had to be the most pivotal. She murders her with lines like “30 days a month your mood is rude, we know the cause of your bloody attitude (a reference to Antoinette’s static-charged single “I got an attitude” and an all around female to female classic dis) and “Unlike Rakim, you are a joke”. In fact, how many lines from this song have actually been used and re-used??! This is one of the best battles of all time. In effect, Lyte also changed the game slightly by raising the bar for battles.

And that’s what it really boils down to. This album is classic undeniably for where it stands in both hip-hop history and female rap history, not for it’s sonic presentation, or depth. It is the dream introduction for any female aiming to make her stamp, and the kind of entrance every spitter strives for.

Having that said, my favorite tracks are the Prince Paul produced “Mc Lyte Likes Swinging” ,

which would have a whole different connotation given today’s interpretations and the longtime talk of Lyte being a proud lesbian. And also “I Cram 2 Understand U”, “kickin’ 4 Brooklyn” and “Paper Thin”.

And due to the fact that this fellow Libra made an album that perfectly evens out with flaws and miss-steps as well as Milestones and breakthroughs, I give Lyte As A Rock 4 Candles out of a possible

4812 or 16.

4(Classic Just because where it stands in Hip-Hop, whether it be the time of it’s release, it’s influence, or the popularity of it’s singles overall)

8(Classic because it was solid for it’s time, but may be a little dated or less than amazing by today’s standards)

12(Classic as a complete release and probably celebrated widely on the surface, but possibly lacking one key element – be it one song that doesn’t fit, a wack guest appearance, lyrics, lack of depth or beats)

16(Classic all around)

New Brandon Carter Album Drop – NEVER GIVE A FUCK!

Click the Cover below to download

Today is the day!

There may be plenty of releases, but none quite like this one.

My boy Brandon Carter returns to glory with his second LP, and yes, that’s the title!

Every last track is written, produced and arranged by Mr. Carter himself, complete with live instrumentation by frequent collaborators, The Vanguard, with some guitar strumming of his own. And of course I make a couple of appearances as well.

I might revisit this with a review and interview, but we’ll see…

In the meantime, go cop that! It’s Completely FREE and well worth you adding into your music rotation.

Don’t forget to click the pic to download!

(2) Classic Sounds…

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In this second installment of the Classic Sounds review library, I want to focus on an album that’s heralded as a classic, but possibly not for the right reasons…

This album is one that is and was critically acclaimed, and cemented by many fans, southern rap heads, and of course Georgia natives as the foundation, but rarely mentioned.

You don’t hear much about the fact that all 3 videos from this LP actually all lead into each other. Or, the dope comic book that came with the CD. Nor, that the first song on this album gave birth to the name and tagline of one of the most popular Hip-Hop blogsites out right now.

In my mid 90’s quest for something new and fresh and deviating from the Champagne drenched, Italiano/player/mack syndrome that had just flooded hip-hop, I stumbled across this under-appreciated body of work and got a taste of what I wasn’t ready for. This album which went over the heads of many, actually hit mine directly and blew my mind.

But it wasn’t an initial blow (PAUSE). Much like the fledging public, I didn’t quite appreciate nor understand the genius of ‘Twan and Dre at the arrival the ATLiens.

Here I was: the kid with his finger on the record & pause buttons of the stereo. Master of the straight from radio to cassette mixes. There was a radio segment that used to come on at primetime called the “Battle of The Beats” (back when programmers were at least trying to pretend to attempt to care about breaking new music in). And sure, you may have heard of other battle of the beats segments in your region, but this was uber important because this was New York’s battle of the beats. And us being notorious for not being open to newness makes it even more significant when you consider that this was during the period of the much over-hyped East Coast/West Coast beef where every area inbetween fell in the shuffle and if it wasn’t immediate northeastern state hip-hop, it landed in the westside or “other” box. So more than ever before, this segment of programming was used to show that we can play fair, and introduce the New York audience to rap from outside their immediate (and close-minded) scope.

One of these such purveyors of outside hip-hop on one faithful night happened to be Outkast.

Now I  had a leg up on the general demographic of NYers who mostly at that point didn’t know the first thing about them. Truth is, I secretly hated Outkast but was a closet fan because I was familiar with them and their music from my previous 2 visits to The ATL area. I first got tuned into Kast between 94 and 96 when I was visiting my family and heard a song they did off of the New Jersey Drive soundtrack (ironic) entitled “Benz Or Bimaz”. I thought it was Das Efx at first due to the pace of the rapping and the fact that I hadn’t been exposed to ANY real variety of hip-hop region wise. But that summer was about to hit me like a ton of bricks as my cousins prepared me for the slew of southern hits that were about to smack me in my face in my time down there. See at that time, since everyone was picking sides and aligning with whatever coast, Atlanta radio favored California hip-hop and anything leaning from south to southwest. So you better believe I got my fair dose of “Po’ Pimp”, “Bout it, Bout it”, and other noteworthies from Scarface, Too Short, Mystikal and The Luniz. So once I realized how slanted things were going with this type of music that was so foreign to me, I built up a disdain for the simplified lyrics, R&B sounding beats and funny twangs. I wanted my New York Mobb Deep and Nas gritty narratives full of words I didn’t understand!

And NONE of this helped when it was revealed to me that the group behind the ONE song that I took a liking to on that radio was made by OutKast. Not THOSE guys!! As soon as I heard that, I stopped liking the song. I distincly remember seeing them previously while we were watching the first ever SOURCE Awards in Atlanta, and they won best new artist or best new group over a bunch of people who I knew and felt as though should have won. They came up and Dre was wearing a dashiki and sounding so angry as he accepted the award talking about “the south got something to say!”.  My reaction was, ‘who the fuck are you??!’  Of course I knew who they were…I saw their “Players Ball” video at some point the year before, but I just thought that was just some of that bammafied country shit from some local niggas from them gated communities that me and my cousins used to be at in Stone Mountain and Decatur.

You can see why hearing these guys on my New York station at this point was a mixture of foresight and reluctant acceptance for me…

The song being premiered was “Elevators“. I don’t even remember what song it was put up against in the battle of the beats. All I remember is wanting the Outkast song to win. And it did. I never heard anything like it. It was a deep groove that sounded like driving down the ATL backroads, but had a boom bap to it like it was spawned in the Bronx along with all my New York hip-hop. The lyrics were Crazy, yet and still the hook and the accents wouldn’t let you forget it was southern.

By the time the video for the song came out, I was sold.  But not enough to call myself buying a whole album of theirs. Leaving Middle school that summer, my boy Errol had bought ATLiens and kept going on and on about this song called “Wheels of Steel”. So I went to my local Mom and Pop record store (yeah, we used to do that), Rainbow Music on 125th street, where they had listening stations for new or popular CDs and gave it a go. I didn’t know what I was in for. The beats were nothing like the stuff I heard in Atlanta. I was expecting wah-wah guitars and funky worm synths with double-time drums, what I got was moody crunk and dj scratches on melodious backdrops.

Somehow I ended up borrowing Errol’s tape (Yeah, tape) and held it down for a few days before deciding to go buy it. I still didn’t jump right out and get the album because as you have and will see, I had other purchases to make that satisfied my more immediate New York hip-hop needs and wants. But I eventually copped it and it stayed in rotation in my tape deck until College came around.

Now I realize that Aquemini is the Starting point for many Outkast fans. I get it. It’s the media darling, I was there on the train that morning when it seemed like everyone was reading The Source and saw how it got a 5 Mic rating. I couldn’t believe I was even alive to bear witness to a 5 mic rating in my time. That’s how important The Source used to be. They were behind my inclination to check out ATLiens as well because I saw it get a 4 mic rating next to Ghostface’s album which was unheard of. I was thinking like, if their album is comparable to his, then I gotta do what the rating says and at least check it out. *Sigh*, young impressionable hip-hop fans…      Their rating pointed at the dj scratches, the hooks, the feeling, the represntation of Atlanta and a new voice for southern rap in general. They review had a tone of ‘nice try guys, come back harder next year and maybe you’ll have a hit on your hands’. Little did they know…

But what the review didn’t touch on, and what most reviews of ATLiens don’t, is the seriousness of this classic. The artistry of it and it’s cultural significance to hip-hop history is crucial and unmatched, making it even more important than Aquemini. There’s 3 angles here that this album needs to be taken from:

Historically

This is the sophmore album, coming off  platinum success, a 4.5 mic rating in The Source as well as a Source award, and establishing a name as Atlanta flag carriers and wavers, making a mark for southern hip-hop with content. This is also after the point where the Dungeon Family of producers and rappers were cementing their name and kast opened the gate for the second group, Goodie Mob, to become local legends and an equally respected southern group in the hip-hop world. Everyone was clicking up in the mid to late 90’s. This was the age of Clans, posses, crew, cliks, and families. To see the solidarity between such a large collective of multi-talented artists from a then untapped region was revolutionary. This was a milestone period. This wasn’t the Atlanta that we know it to be in the last 10 years where half of the hip-hop population is from or lives there. This was when Kast and Goodie stood alone on a national level amongst some local hometown stars and put the world on to how the new black mecca was the place to be. Right when Blacks heeded this and flooded the city for the job oppurtunities, Cheap property, warm weather, or simply to catch Freaknik before it officially died. I remember after visiting Atlanta again after the album dropped and these guys being such a name out there that they were playing album cuts on regular radio rotation like they were singles. I remember asking my cousins to turn Up “2DopeBoyz” as it played after some ’96 summer hit. They planted the seeds in the soil to the point that every last Atlanta artist that followed showed and continues to show them respect in a way that no other group gets recognized in any other region. N.W.A. to Cali would be the only other close example I could think of, and even they don’t get as much love across the board. In Atlanta, kast is king. Point blank.

But this was that time. And to make it even more significant, the whole crew had so many members who each had different talents, and none of them sounded the same. This was the perfect set up for Dre to start expressing some of that, as this album marks the first glimpse we get to see of  the artist then known as Benjamin or just Andre, departing from the norm and doing his eccentric thing. He’d began littering his fashion and verses with more spiritually influenced nuances. This had the effect of distancing him from Boi not by isolating himself like he would do in later years, but more like standing out so you wouldn’t limp them together as one indistinguishable group, as people tend to do when a duo isn’t that dynamically structured or the members don’t bring anything to the table that’s super memorable personality wise.

He secured the group from ever facing that kind of labeling or scrutiny for sure. No more would you not be able to tell them apart by who had the fro and who had the braids, or who had the darker Braves Jersey on. No. Now it was getting to a point where folk were saying that Dre was light years beyond Big Boi as a rapper. This doesn’t sound any better when you take into account that in recent years, both Dre and Cee-lo have revealed that during that time Dre was sharing writing duties with Boi, due to whatever it may have been…boi being too busy in the trap, too high, or just not motivated enough. Or maybe Boi came to Dre and asked him to finish verses fro him because he himself thought of Dre as the better rapper. Who Knows? He surely wasn’t ghostwriting for Boi. But here you can hear it, because I fear without Dre’s influence, the disparity between the 2 rappers style and content would have been more evident and obvious like it was on Aquemini, and the overall theme and tone of ATLiens would have been compromised.

Here, the boys sound like they are cut from the same exact cloth, bobbing and weaving through flows and topics. But yet and still the difference is still there. As it should be.

The beginnings of this difference can be seen in something as minute as Dre’s wearing a turban in the “Elevators” video.

This is also the album where both members emerged as producers. While the Dungeon Family beatsmiths and masters of evocative music, Organized Noize, have been behind most of Outkast’s biggest hits, the production team they formed themselves, Earthtone 3 took the reigns here. I’m usually a fan of when Outkast lets Organized Noize do their thing and falls back on production because I’ve seen the mess they can make when they take too much of the load (Stankonia anyone?). But they were responsible for half of the production on this album, including the hits.  Which leads us to looking at things

Sonically

The music, yeah, let’s say music on this album was unexpected, unrivaled, and unprecedented. Not only were some of the directions taken on here unheard of for southern hip-hop, it was unheard of for all hip-hop. To this day, I’ve never heard some of these sounds utilized the same ways. Maybe they were really trying to capture the whole otherworldy vibe to play into the whole aliens thing, but the ethereal soundscapes took you elsewhere as you listened. Every track fell in beautifully with each other as it had some unidentifiable quality that tied it all together, but was so different from the next or previous track in huge ways. There’s no repeats here. No other percussion sounds that hit like sticks against fences the way “Elevators” did. No other deep, ominous piano chords like the ones on “13th floor/growing old”. Sampled voices, almost Gregorian chants and operatic harmonizing in the backgrounds made up some of the beats, while others incorporated futuristics synths and ambient effects. I do think in the end tho, it’s the vague voices you hear inside of the beats that bring that life out there and makes it feel like the album itself is the third member of the group. What’s crazy is that in the midst of all of this eclecticism, it’s still undeniably hip-hop. The drums remind you of that everytime. As well as the flows. Let’s speak on that for a minute…

Lyrically

What can I say? have you heard this album??? No wonder people started adding Dre to their lists of greatest MC’s.  We never saw his wave coming. Some of the stuff talked on in this album has never quite been said the same way, if said again at all. The boys have a way with words, mixing southern folk talk and ’round the way slang with sprinkles of SAT vocabulary. The expletives here serve purpose and aren’t just for randomness’ sake. You feel the profundity each time someone cusses on this joint. They teetered on gangsta consciousness, a move Dre later said was intentional, touching on social awareness issues while spreading a do what you do and learn later ethos. It was the perfect balance of  braggadocio and introspection. But what makes this album pop is that their kind of introspection moved you to do your own self reflection. Something about the southern wisdom in these 2 super young dudes (they were like 21 back then) was apart of the draw. Their warnings were like the old southern grandma that tells you not to mess with something and you do it anyway and get hurt and her response is like ‘I tried to told ya’. The depth here is immense. They touch on issues of over-saturation of commercial styling in hip-hop as well as lack of creativity. They lament on the impending loom of maturity, the plight of the ignorant negro and the state of black women and their changing roles in society from mothers to objects. The most important and dominant theme on this project is the boys place in the rap game, if not life, hence the whole aliens thing. They felt the pressure of holding their city on their backs and bringing the flyness and culture of it to the forefront, but they were aware of not exactly fitting into the neatly tucked boxes set up by the hip-world at the time.

It’s moments like on “Babylon” where Dre hits you in the head off the break with heavy shit, that you realize that the boys were waaaaaayyyy ahead of their time tho. He got the hip-hop quotable in The Source that year for his second verse off of this song, but I was always a bigger fan of the first because before the beat drops he starts off like

“I came into this world high as a bird,

from second-hand cocaine powder – I know it sounds absurd,

I never chewed it but it’s in my veins while the,

rest of the country bungies off bridges, without no snapback and bitches,

they say they need that to shake they fannies in thee,

Ass Club!

They go the other route, turn each other out, burn each other out,

where they goin’ a fine nigga like me can’t even get a backrub these days…

ain’t that bleak on their part?

But let me hold it down, cause they shut you down when you speak from your heart.

Now thats hard!

while we rantin’ and ravin’ about gats,

Nigga they made them gats! they got some shit that’ll blow out our back!

From where they stay at!”

And while Big Boi’s verses tended to lean more towards being street and pimpish, when he was on, he was on. His brief deviaition from topic was never one of non-focus that took away from the discussion at hand, just a reminder that he was different from his counterpart. The same way Dre began defining himself and standing out, so did mr. Daddy Fat Sax by reminding you were he came from and which elements he was comprised of. He has one of my favorite verses on the album on “Decatur Psalm”, a track that doesn’t feature dre at all, but has other Dungeon Family members CoolBreeze and Big Gipp with background from Cee-Lo. It’s one of those moments where even if you can’t relate, you feel him and agree.

He goes;

“Can you see what I be hearing?

talking to spirits when I sleep,

peep this out real quick-slick,

we gets on this beat.

Speak about that pimp shit, that walk-with-a-limp shit, hemp shit,

looking up in your grill I see a coward and a dimwit.”

And then further in the verse he concludes by saying

“I need to take my ass to the crib and drop the baby off,

cause them niggas at the corner store been looking at me for too long

-staring like accidents on highways,

high days are better than sobre ones,

– don’t need violence, but I know it’s bound to come.

So I put 2 in this guy to let ’em know I’m babysitting,

ya’ll don’t nothin’ bout BIg Boi cause that nigga steady pimpin’!”

Nuff said. It sounds even doper when you listen to the way in which it’s said.

So as I mentioned before, here are the 3 videos that were actually the singles from the album, making Outkast one of the ONLY groups I can think of, who made videos that ended with “to be continued” and actually picked up where the last one left off. Personally I hate the Video version of “JazzyBelle” with Babyface singing on it and a more r&b stylized beat to it, but the video is worth checking out just for the sake of completing the trilogy. Peep the Ancient Egyptian inspired imagery that blends in with the whole much talked about alien connection…

One of the GReatest Hip-Hop videos of all time.

And just because I don’t like the Babyface version (I guess they wanted to rock with each other at least once since they were on La Face records) that much, I’m including the original “JazzyBelle”.

And my Other Favorite “E.T.”

Really this whole album doesn’t have one weak song. The track “Ova Da Wudz” has a weak hook, but you can blame Witchdoctor for that. And even after you hear it a few times, you get used to it’s unorthodoxy and start loving it.

Encompassing all elements of a True Classic album, having commercial appeal while not sacrificing depth or innovation, and also having such chronological significance, I give ATLiens the highest rating I could possibly give a classic, 16 Candles.

And with that, I urge you to re-listen to it if you call yourself an Outkast fan or a hip-hop fan, or listen for the first time if you never have…