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abbott & costello meet the super chicken


Yes fam, the dub-hop isht returns with another one.  Come down eggselector!

Cold Rock A Party (Upstate Remix) - MC Lyte / The Message (Paul Nice Justified Mix) - Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five / Insane In The Brain - Prince Fatty (feat. Horseman) / Blue Chips - Action Bronson / La La La - Snoop Lion & Major Lazer / Some Seeds - Fred Ones (feat. Vast Aire) / Ghost Town - Fiend / Come Around (Remix) - Collie Buddz (feat. Busta Rhymes) / Seven Eleven (Theory 77 Mix) - Schoolly D / Late Pass - Jel / Brooklyn Rock (Chris Macro Mix) - MC Lyte / City Of God - Maffew Ragazino (feat. Rockie Evans & The Mad Stuntman) / Brooklyn No No (Chris Macro Mix) - ODB & Dawn Penn / Binaca - Live Percenters (feat. Jamalski) / Panta Move (Max Tannone Mix) - Talib Kweli / Bucky Jax (Bluntskull Rework) - INI & Lee Perry / Abbott & Costello Meet The Super Chicken

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b-bop for b-boys (take 4)


Fourth and last installment of the jazz-meets-hip hop joints.

2 Deep - Gang Starr / what if i - Skipp Coon & Mr. Nick / The Hunt - Mumbles / Sidewinder - Black Chamber / We Eat It (feat. Cavalier) - Quelle Chris / Roof Jazz Player - Mr. Moods / The Document - Killah Priest / Strictly Turntablized Intro - DJ Krush / The Interview (Ode to John Coltrane) - Mononome & DJ Hellblazer / Boombox Union - Es-K / Funky Cannonball - DJ Mentos / Breakfast @ Denny's - Buckshot LeFonque / Basin Street Blues - Kid Koala / The Prophecy - Roc Marciano / Hit The Disco (MC Enuff Mix) - Steinski / Dirty Bastards - Nickel Killsmics (feat. Citizen Kane & Keef Wookie) / The Untravelled Road - Dälek

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the year in freshness


2013 left me with 400 songs worth keeping, amounting to a full day of good shit. That says something about the quality year we just had (and that I’m rap game audio packrat).

My top records has a lot of usual suspects you’ve heard me hosanna about before, but hell, they keep putting out consistently good music. I think the underground just keeps getting bigger, stronger and more diverse…and also more recognized: a grip of these picks also made big-time lists. Part of that is ‘nobody doesn’t like Danny Brown,’ and 'everybody was feeling that Run The Jewels shit,' but Ka is getting some serious love too. Anyways let’s get into this shit.


Top 3 of the Year
In little more than a year or so Ka’s become a ‘rapper’s rapper,’ beloved by those who know what it’s about, and slept on by those who don’t.

The Night’s Gambit is a fully realized epic novel pared down and pared down and whittled down once again until each line can stand alone, like the letters are cut into steel by steel, then polished smooth with his sandpaper muttering. He’s taken GZA’s line-twisting, syllable-by-syllable build and compressed it even further. 

I read this article the other day saying that, if you apply enough pressure, molecules and atoms and particles rearrange themselves—so much so that peanut butter ups become diamonds. That’s what happens here: he slices down to the bone until the words glisten with lapidary brilliance. He’s taken rap’s entire history of street tales and boiled it down to a rust-dark sea that fits in a 40 oz. bottle.

There are two undercurrent themes on Night’s Gambit—the slum Bible, the ill Tarot: the spiritual search for meaning and the discipline that comes with it; and chess. While chess has been the 6th, 7th element of hip-hop since the Wu era, for Ka it becomes not only another mode of self-mastery, and the countering view of us as pawns in the game, but also a call of resistance—that the knight can champion, move sideways and attack.  There's other thematics—about luck, about chance, about destiny, and the search for grace.

No doubt the world Ka gives us is bleak, unrelenting—there is only the city, the man, and the struggle. There’s little bravado or humor. It’s Escape From New York Reloaded and Ghost Dog Returns. But if this is a Brownsville The Grey where Ka is solo punching the wolves with broken glass, well, it’s a cold world out there. Sometimes I feel like I'm getting a little frosty myself. But the hope comes from how we rise up against it; the record closes with the celebration of the art in “Off The Record”—as Chuck D said, hard times get me down I pump the hard rhymer. The music is where the salvation lies.

The beats once again are ghosts of fat beats for the man who plies his trade outside the ghost of Fat Beats: stripped down to base metals, barely loops but so finely chosen, only a hint of drums, like it’s been unraveling slowly off that same damn ‘Lo sweater from ’93, til infinity.

The world ground on him and he grinds back. The record is not simply good, it’s necessary. All praise is due; deserved.

This is probably cheating and unfair and gonna piss people off, but over the course of the year Elucid and billy woods (mics), A.M. Breakups, Blockhead & other great producers (beats) created this huge Oort Cloud of illness, a sprawling, four volume testament broadcast on dead city radio.

Cult Favorite brought down some Rap Game Blood Meridian shit, Elucid croaking out prophecy somewhere between Charles Manson and Stokely Carmichael, live from a combo command center and shooting gallery basement where A.M. cooks beats from formaldehyde, dirty pigeon wings and infrared light.

Over some dirty Blockhead beats, “bout it like Victor Bout,” Woods chewed on some dour candy to give us a Rap Game Manhattan Transfer, compressing geopolitical, sports, hip-hop and old school street references into a collection of portraits and vignettes on some No Exit From Brooklyn tip.

Together as Armand Hammer, they gave us “black steel in the hour of layoffs,” chewing bitterness and spitting nails. You got apostasy in my Clockers! No, you got Clockers in my apostasy! When woods says “go hard like Old Testament God / You burning bush? They livin’ large” and Elucid spits “catch him breaking fast where the angels laugh,” among other drops, the records catch the true spirit—the Yahweh who shits on Job to settle a bet with the Devil, kills the firstborn then lays down the law.  That's the world we living in. Woods be “pimping where the water ain’t fit for drinking,” and Elucid is “dead man’s Bally’s I’m sporting,” and us? We learning.

Like a rabbit leaves all those little poops, Milo's series of short records/EPs add up to one big album. Which is not what rabbit poops do, I got rabbit poop on the brain here. Though 'myxomatosis' sounds like the title of a Milo song. Though he’s been around for a couple of years, this was definitely his breakout year with a string of four incredibly strong releases.

Using minimalistic but lush off-kilter beats that kinda fall into the shoegaze/illbient/witchtit whatever the fuck they call that shit now, Milo wears his heart and his brain on his sleeve, giving us a look into his life and worldview so far beyond anything we’ve heard before. There’s been a lotta rappers lately making blogs swoon that I thought were just riffing or biting on DOOM, Kool Keith or Odd Future, whereas everything about Milo’s style is fresh and unique.

Playing PhD-Nice to Open Mike Eagle’s KRS-LOL, sort of, (OK not really, judges also would have accepted ‘Kool Moe PhDee to Hellfyre Club’s Persnickety Three’) there’s a syllabus level of references and name-checking ranging from Kierkegaard to Mamet to Mobb Deep, an intense love of wordplay, humor and quotables. The meandering, conversational tone creates an intimacy but also hides the level of work that’s gone in—not a throwaway line in sight.

But what is it that Milo is doing, exactly? Is he really even rapping? Is this more like poetry slam than what we’d define as hip-hop—what with the laidback-on-the-futon flow, the lack of beats or steadily staying on them? Is this taking nerd rap/art rap/emo rap into Moleskine rap? Is this Rap Game Whole Foods Wasabi Peas?

No, I think it isn’t. It’s far too sincere for that, ironic without being cynical, funny without just riffing, and smart without being pedantic. All I know is, for me, the Fried Rice Nietzsche raised the bar to another level. I heard a bunch of records this year which were decent, standard meat & potatoes joints about guns/drugs/lyrical ability/high-end footwear and just thought, ‘well, it’s pretty good, but ever since Milo it’s just not that interesting.’ Keep your eye on this kid, he’s gonna go all the way.

Best of the Rest
Aeon Grey :: Lead Breakfast Years in the making and it definitely shows. The level of craft is superlative, with guitar-tinged beats and well-wrought rhymes. A little bit of a throwback to mid/late ‘00s independent hip-hop but also a really personal and unique piece of work.

Danny Brown :: OLD Danny Brown still sounds hungry and came out hard as fuck on this one. Side A is some of his strongest work, and while Side B is that wooba-wubba shit the kids like, you can’t fuck with the party-gone-horribly-wrong anthem “Smokin & Drinkin.” Brown’s breakthrough was The Hybrid, and once again he shows he’s the hybrid of Ol’ Dirty and Spalding Gray on the wrong meds. Did Tina Turner have some kinda prancing, devilish, shabby court jester in Beyond Thunderdome? I forget. She shoulda. Cuz that dude woulda been Danny Brown.

Guilty Simpson & Small Professor :: Highway Robbery Guilty never fails to deliver and Small Pro really hooked up some slaps on this one. This just some old fashioned, hardbody, brolic, gully, knocking type shit, music to wear Timberland boots and army jackets to. Serious business.

Greenhouse (Blueprint & Illogic) :: Bend But Don’t Break I been tryna put you peoples on to Blueprint for years now. I think some of his tightest work comes out of the Greenhouse Crew joints he does with Illogic, and BBDB is once again a really strong record combining tight drums and the expansive, Radiohead/Blade Runner sounds with the gruff and intelligent rhyming. Cop the deluxe edition with the instrumentals.

Jean Grae :: Gotham Down Never having gotten the props she deserves, and maybe feeling liberated by that to do whatever she wants, these three EPs are a lot more experimentalish and impressionistic than you might expect. That don't mean they don't bang though.

RA The Rugged Man :: Legends Never Die Look fam everybody knows RA can rap his fucking ass off. On this record, he raps his fucking ass off. There’s other MCs who can do that, but not many in his weight class…and there’s always this slightly disturbing undercurrent that there is something just not right in the head with this dude. Also having lost my father too, I’m man enough to admit “Legends Never Die (Daddy’s Halo)” had me weeping. Not too many hip-hop joints you can say that about.

Run The Jewels :: Run The Jewels You know what, I held a bias against this for a long while because I have this alternate-reality grudge where the El-P of a few years ago doesn’t go and hang around with indie-rock guys but gets all arty like he almost did when he did High Water, and does the best film soundtracks ever, and collabos with Philip Glass or some shit. But then I got that “Get It” beat stuck in my head for three days and decided actually this album kicks, because boop boop, BOOP boop, boop boop, BOOP boop, boop boop, BOOP boop, for three days, OK, it’s all good.

YC The Cynic :: GNK Political without being polemical, intelligent without pretension, PREACH! without being preachy. More than anything YC gets to the complexity, contradictions, struggles not yet won and battles both personal and historical in our supposedly ‘post-racial’ nation.

Instrumental Albums
3:33 :: Bicameral Brain Coming hard off the back of last year’s In The Middle of Infinity, Brain is more diffuse and ambient and less with the back-breaking drums, but no doubt a sonic journey through your nether neurons.

A.M. Breakups – Pull Back EP A.M. had a great year, dropping his 924 Myrtle LP and production on Cult Favorite. This EP had some more of his great beats.

Bartholomäus Traubeck :: Years You smoke trees. He makes records with them. Unique sounds that really have a non-human quality, of deep time.

Black Chamber :: Black Chamber Actually a jazz album, but it’s so incredibly tight and definitely shows hip-hop influences. Peerless work.

Dr. Quandary :: Wayfarers Quando grabs the crown of Ali Farka Toure-like beat conducting. His loops are dusted with desert sands and imaginary palaces.

Mr. Moods :: Prototype 68: Structures Moods puts out about an album a month it seems like, which is mad prolific to a point of insanity, but this one was on point from start to finish.

PSY/OPSogist :: The Secrets in The Shadows If you’re not hip to the OPS by now, what I gotta do, inject it directly in your earholes? Secrets is the soundtrack to Stan Brakhage’s lost X-Files episode.

Walter Gross - Dear Dirt McGirt Tributes to Ol’ Dirty have ranged from the tasteless (THIS HOLOGRAM COSTEDED A LOT OF MONEY) to a pretty awesome boxset. Gross’ glitch-hop tribute takes snippets and distorted samples of the man himself to create a woozy hallucination that’s a near death experience in itself. Aka Shimmy Shimmy I’m Drowning In A Broken Washing Machine.

Bil Basmala :: Brother From Another Planet The homie née Autolect had a prolific-ass year again, building a solid label/platform on FKA Co. and dropping this head-knocking audio journey laced up with samples from the seminal Sayles flick.

DJ Moneyshot :: Solid Steel & The Hour of Chaos Moneyshot deconstructs Nation of Millions on its 25th anniversary, then reconstructs it with samples, sample sources and interview snippets. 

DJ Yoda :: How to Cut & Paste: The Asian Edition because Orientamalism, great mixing and an undercurrent of commentary on portrayals of Asians in film and hip-hop.

See you cats around the way.
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ninja pennies

Last best-of 2013 mix. On some cold wind shit for the long winter of our dis contents.

Side A (Old) - Danny Brown / Rikki Tikki Godly - Live Percenters / Piggy Bank - Troy Ave / Juggaknots Control - Breeze Brewin / Who's Really In Control? - Jasiri X / The Pacs - YC The Cynic / Nothing Is - Ka / Owl - The Child Of Lov (feat. DOOM) / Bend But Don't Break - Greenhouse (Blueprint & Illogic) / Mourn - Tame One / The Cauldron - Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire / Degrassi Picture Day (Hellfyre Jackets) - Open Mike Eagle (feat. Busdriver) / Manteca - Billy Woods / Native Sun - Armand Hammer / Capacity (Lynn, Bronx) - Vijay Iyer & Mike Ladd (feat. Lynn Hill) / Costly Bottle - Gorgeous Children / Long Tokes - Quelle Chris (feat. Cavalier) / Monologion - Milo
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never put me in your giant flying stone head if that shit eats tapes

The best of PSY/OPSogist, curated by me and laced with Zardoz...now that shit is on a limited edition cassette on Formerly Known As (run by the maestro Bil Basmala).

You can hear it first here, but for the cassette the audio's been much cleaned and punched up.  Don't sleep, there's only 25 of these and they're only nine bucks.

I made mixtapes that were actual tapes from 1988-1996. I been making digital mixtapes since 2007. Now one of those is on a real live, back-in-the-day, sold-from-the-trunk cassette. We building out here. We going full circle.

six degrees of laceration

This here is the first half of your best of underground hip-hop selection for 2013.

So it seems like more than ever, underground hip-hop's connecting and collaborating beyond local scenes and crews. Real rap nerds can connect every artist on this mix in less than six degrees. Real heads can feel the lacerations on their earholes.

Jackson & Travolta - Action Bronson & Party Supplies (feat. Meyhem Lauren) / It's Nuthin - Guilty Simpson & Small Professor (feat. AG) / Journey Into The Mind - Al'Tarba & Lord Lhus / Splendid - PremRock & Talpas / My Backpack - The MC Type (feat. Prof) / Big Kahuna Burger Pt. 3 - Jean Grae / Graphite - Megabusive / Live From Pimpstead - 14KT (feat. Roc Marciano) / Tylenol Fluid - Ill Clinton / Others on the Board - Zilla Rocca, SelfSays, Castle, David Little & Has-Lo / Black Jesus Remix - Je$u$ & DJ Hellblazer / Technoccult - Cult Favorite / Microlastic - A.M. Breakups / After Hours - MidaZ The Beast (feat. Aahmean) / Death From Above - Atari Blitzkrieg, C-Rayz Walz, Breeze Evahflowin & Masai Bey / Fabian Cortez - Rheteric Ramirez & Nocando / Laying Hands (UglyAss Remix) - Carl Kavorkian / Kareoke - Issuez (feat. Billy Woods & Shortrock) / The Bleedout - Aeon Grey / Pasta w/ Butter - Uncommon Nasa

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Remember about ten years ago everybody was bugging off sampling Bollywood for their beats?  That came and went around the time Madlib killed it with 85,000 loops. But across hip-hop history, cats been sampling Far East music in interesting ways.

Look peoples, you know how I do: I curated the dub-hop, the jazz-hop, the Spaghetti-Western-hop. This is another one.  But not just on some OCD digging tip.

Sometimes peoples are all, 'why do you only listen to hip-hop? You need a varied musical diet to stay healthy god.' Son. SON. Hip-hop contains all other musics. There is not one single type of music that hasn't been flipped, sampled, popped and locked, and if it hasn't, it will be soon enough. There is no other genre that does that. 

Hip-hop production is magpie music, finding the shiniest nuggets and weaving them into nests. It's alchemy, turning a few bars of Chinese opera into a beat that makes you wanna bodyrock. It's prestidigitation: makes you say, wait, how the fuck did they turn that into this?

On top of that, with this set you also have the deeper relationship between kung fu movies and hip-hop, which has been explored with art exhibits and fucking incomprehensible scholarly shit. While Wu-Tang foregrounded and embedded kung-fu shit into hip-hop permanently, it goes back earlier and deeper. A lot of breakers were also into martial arts, and kung-fu movies were all over the cheap theaters in the '70s, '80s. Some say the original b-boys admired the code of honor, the discipline; the plots of revenge and fighting against injustice--but same could be said about Westerns though...I guess aside from being a definitively white genre there's also not the cool and acrobatic action. There is that--the poise and posing; the ritualistic squaring off before the battle--that's hip-hop. Hip-hop iconography, movement, the stylized practice--it's sometimes like a Noh play. Peep this:

So kung-fu is another strand of hip-hop's earliest appropriations to make something new with what was at hand, what was hot on the streets. There's actually a whole lot of other facets though...how does this play out, or contradict with, long-standing tensions between Asian shopkeepers and ghetto residents (c.f. 'Black Korea', 20 D Energizers, Latasha Harlins)? Why have no Asian rappers really broke through--is it the inability to overcome the stereotype of Asian dudes as nerds, not hardcore enough? (OK, yeah, Jin, that one dude from 2 Live Crew, Bambu, Cool Calm Pete and uh...Boo Yaa Tribe, but that's a handful outta 80 billion black, white and Latino rappers.)

Last, what happens when one dispossessed subculture idealizes another minority culture, borrows from it, but also reduces it to stereotypes of high-stepping, face-kicking wise men, moo goo gai pan, submissive females and plinkety-plunkety music? Given the lack of a power play, can hip-hop really be accused of orientalizing the Orient? Maybe we should call it orientamalism because it's not really driving in Edward Said's lane? Oh you want me to unpack all that for you? Nah b. You don't. You wanna hear KRS go the fuck in over this flip of Song Of The Shenzen Widow or whatever that shit is.

Hideyaface (Reminder Version) - Prefuse 73 / I Already Know - Nas / Emperor's Main Course in Cantonese - Kid Koala / Enter the Ablist - Rob Swift / Watch Your Step  - Percee P (feat. Vinnie Paz & Guilty Simpson) / Hawaii Dark - Booka B / Tall Tale of Denkufucious - Taiyamo Denku / Once Upon A Rhyme in Japan - Rakim / All In Japan (DJ Sardonic Smirk Mix) - Aesop Rock & Plasticman / Never Give Up - KRS-One / Dope On Plastic (Scratch Perverts Mix) - Uptown / Big Trouble in Little China - DJ Yoda (feat. Action Bronson & Alice Russell) / Live From Hue - Onra / BigaBand - Sizemen / How High (Isjberg Mix) - Wu-Tang Clan / Cellular Antiquity - DJ Espionage / Nightfall's Messenger - Hermitude / Bodhisattva Vow - Beastie Boys / Boong4 Boong3 Va Thet - Ban Nhac Le Go Vap (vs. Eric B)

I didn't know this existed before I started or I might not've bothered: DJ Yoda - How To Cut & Paste (Asian Edition). His is a lot different though. We got different crates.

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poetry with a splash of blood

Deep Cover (Main Title) - Michel Colombier / Jump Fence, Run, Live - El-P / The Things They Carried - Billy Woods / Poetry - Boogie Down Productions / 2 Wrongs - Onyx / All Along the Watchtower - The Psycho Realm / Dead Serious (Instrumental) - Verbal Kent & Kaz 1 / Trigganomics - Vordul Mega / Skrilla - Ol' Dirty Bastard (feat. RZA) / Krazy Kings Part III (3:33 Mix) - Company Flow / Scarface N***a - Roc Marciano / 4 28 1967 pt 1 - Skipp Coon & Mr. Nick (feat. Melaphyre & PyInfamous) / Trust - Guilty Simpson & Paul White / I Know What It's Like - Ka / Decisions, Decisions - Goodie Mob & DJ Muggs / Where My Homiez? (Come Around My Way) - Ill Al Skratch / I Can't Go To Sleep - Wu-Tang Clan

Some visuals for these aurals: Khalik Allah's photos and writing.
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