elmattic

elmattic header image 1

b-bop for b-boys (take 8) (final take)

00:0000:00

bb4bb8.jpg

Anybody can play. The note is only 20%. The attitude of the motherfucker who plays it is 80%.

                                                                                                                 -Miles Davis

Kinglish - Mach Hommy / WristStraining Order - Defect & Quixotic / Off The Record - Nocturn / Man With The Movie Camera - The Cinematic Orchestra / The Imperfect Cinema - Busdriver / from Hail the Jewel in the Blue Lotus - DJ Spooky / Sirius B - The Heliocentrics / d'Matrix - Mach Hommy / Borrowed Time - The Cinematic Orchestra / Spiritual Healing (Remix) - Zu, Okapi & Dalek / Emission Nebula - DJ Krush / York - Messiah Musik / Street Corners (MF Doom Remix) - Masta Killa, Inspectah Deck & GZA / Boardwalk (Instrumental) - Autolect / Spat - Cut Chemist / The First - The Tao of Slick / Sloth 01 - Tenshun / Time To Build - Bugseed / Overseas (Epilogue) - Armand Hammer

 

Previously...

killah priest’s heavy mental at 20: the empire never ended

killah_priest_by_brainmachine.jpg

Few years back I wrote about Killah Priest's Heavy Mental for Passion of the Weiss. The album turns twenty years old today, and I had a few extra thoughts on its extreme depths. It's easily in my top twenty all-time LPs.

What Priest is doing on Mental is a pan-cosmic mystagogy linking Biblical times and concrete jungles, Exodus and the Middle Passage. Salvation from the 4D holographic galaxy will only come through music.

Why does he say on ‘PriestHood’ “I’m having constant dreams I’m Constantine?” Or on 2007's "The Maccabees," drop a vision of JFK, Jesus and "a vision of Malcolm X/sitting at the Last Supper/Elijah passing the butter/I'm at the end of the table with my gat tucked up" and then "Romans rush in / I start busting." Because the Empire never ended. 

On ‘B.I.B.L.E.,’ he says: "the white image of Christ is really Cesare Borgia, the second son of Pope Alexander."  This theory—that our modern image of Jesus comes from a 15th century Italian nobleman's portrait (by da Vinci, no less)—gets kicked around a lot here and there, but doesn't have much historical basis.  Not the point.

In medieval portraiture popes & aristocrats would have themselves inserted into Biblical scenes—here’s me cooling at the Crucifixion, here’s my wife the duchess suckling baby Jesus. Time travel selfie shit in oils. But this wasn’t just artistic license.

Benedict Anderson posits in Imagined Communities that people didn’t have a linear sense of time before newspapers—you were born in your village and shit was the same for your grandfather. It was all one thing. And in Auerbach’s ‘Figura,’ he illustrates all the times one person is a pre-figuration—a jataka tale—of another. Moses is a figura of Jesus. Or in another way, they are all the same. Everything is happening on repeat and at once. Nothing here now but the recordings. 

See, those samples that lace Heavy Mental? Aside from 20 seconds of Judas from The Robe, they’re all from 1954’s The Egyptian.

The Egyptian is about a doctor who gets caught up in Pharoah Akhnaton’s effort to change Egypt’s religion from all those cat- and alligator-head gods into a monotheism around the sun and the ankh—the cross of life. Some say (including Freud) this is a figura of Judaism or Christianity—the movie ends with big letters saying “THESE THINGS HAPPENED THIRTEEN CENTURIES BEFORE THE BIRTH OF JESUS CHRIST."

And there’s others who think Akhnaton’s portrayal as a long-limbed, egg-shaped head dude means he was an alien. So an alien in 1300 BC was trying to start Christianity or at least its doctrines of pacifism and humanism. That’s some Killah Priest shit for real.

On a literal tip, there's increasing evidence from Einstein onwards that, in fact, time takes place all at once, and we only perceive it to be linear.  It's a long-standing philosophical debate (since at least Taggart's B-theory of time), but in real (or at least theoretical) scientific terms, efforts to reconcile relativity and quantum mechanics, like the Wheeler-DeWitt equation, point towards the universe being a 4D block which we only experience as individual slices of 'now.' 

So Priest is saying that it's one long story of bondage leading up to today, until we escape it—because it's all happening at the same time, that each element prefigures another. Where then, is escape from this time/space cube Cell Block 4D?  Outside of time and space.  What is outside of time and space?  Music.

In Philip K Dick’s VALIS, Horselover Fat asks if the soon-to-be-born savior child is Christ returning, "or another one," i.e. a new cosmic redeemer.  He gets the reply that:

"It's him again but not him; another one.  There are many Buddhas, but only one.  The key to understanding it is time...when you play a record a second time, do the musicians play the music a second time?  If you play the music fifty times, do the musicians play the music fifty times?"

Dick spent his entire life probing the noosphere to find out what was behind our reality and how we could get to a better one.  In 1974 he either went nuts or got zapped by a beam of pink light from an alien satellite and/or godhead.  Either way he had a vision of a Golden Doorway and spent the rest of his life trying to get back to it.   But there isn’t any way out of the physical world from the physical world.  "We fall asleep," Priest says on 'Temple of the Mental,' "and they handcuff us in our dreams."

The Golden Doorway is heavy mental and Heavy Mental—and "the only time you could catch jet lag is if your cassette drag."

The problem with an eternal string of prefigured martyr-saviors is that they will always be martyred, right?  As Burroughs says, "nothing here now but the recordings."  So we have to sidestep.  Into the Temple of the Mental.  Stop the tape.  STOP IT.

THESE THINGS HAPPENED TWENTY YEARS AGO TODAY.

death & life of great american cities

00:0000:00

death_life.jpg

The Long Goodbye, Part 2.

Crime & Punishment - Cyrus Tha Great (feat. Roc Marciano) / (Don't Worry) If There's A Hell Below We're All Gonna Go - Curtis Mayfield / Illusory Protection (Instrumental) - DJ Muggs / Affair With A Gun - Lewis Parker / Gun For The Whole Family (Instrumental) - El-P / Gazzillion Ear (Thom Yorke Remix) - DOOM / Nihilism 2 - Tenshun / Ne pas - 6RME / Of Machines Humming - Gasoline Monk / Wonderbread - Danny Brown / Sticky Trap - Ratking / Crayon Ruins - Jean Grae / The Healer - Erykah Badu / Thief of Baghdad - Lee Erwin / Represent - Nas / Woman of the Ghetto - Marlena Shaw / Food Stamps - The 24 Carat Black / $ Cash Rules (Reprise) - Bronze Nazareth / Gang Fight/The Jungle Is a Skyscraper - Folkways/Ornette Coleman Quartet / New York Is Killing Me - Gil Scott-Heron (feat. Nas) / Marksmen - Roc Marciano (feat. Ka) / Robespierre -billy woods (feat. Barrie McLain) / The Meaning of the Name - Gang Starr / The Message from the Soul Sisters, Pts. 1 & 2 - Vicki Anderson

life & death of great american cities

00:0000:00

street_chess.jpg

The Long Goodbye, Part 1.

A Hustler's Soliloquy (Walkingshoe Remix) - Roc Marciano / Murder Game - Danny Brown (feat. Guilty Simpson) / The Badlands - Raekwon (feat. Ghostface Killah) / Simply Dope Part 2 - The 45 King / Maxine - Ghostface Killah / Clockers - billy woods / Pounds of Pressure - Mr. Lif / Black Roses - Bigg Jus / Life Ain't The Same - Godfather Don (feat. Sir Menelik & Mike L) / Catch A Bullet - Blue Sky Black Death / The Cookout - Crimeapple / Neva Die Alone - Capone-N-Noreaga / Respect Mine - Fat Joe (feat. Raekwon) / Red Tops - Conway (feat. Westside Gunn) / Don’t Trust a Soul - Westside Gunn / Survival of the Fittest - Mobb Deep / More Trife Life (Instrumental) - Mobb Deep / The City (Instrumental) - 4th Disciple / Peace Akhi - Ka / Science Project - Killah Priest / Day One - Killarmy / Unsolved Mysteries - Super Chron Flight Brothers (feat. Vordul Mega)

miraculous weapons

00:0000:00

miraculous_weapons.jpg

Nobody loves language the way rappers do. Outside of some poets and writers, nobody. This is why I don't listen to non-instrumental, non-rap music: the lyrics are stupid. (Oh but Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize! *makes jerk off motion*)

Rappers love words, the sound of words, the play of words, the double and deep meanings. Burroughs said language is a virus: rappers weaponized it like biological warfare. Language is a curse. Rappers are real good at cursing.

Rappers use language as a miracle, rappers use language as a weapon against oppression and the entire universe of Ten Thousand Things. They spit with miraculous weapons.

This is the Best of 2017.

This Is What It Comes Too - Raekwon / U.S. Embassy - Da Buze Bruvaz (feat. Ruste Juxx) / Smash The Crowd - Public Enemy / Bannon - B Dolan (feat. Jasiri X & Bambu DePistola) / Colonizers Corpse - Elucid / American Robot - Buy Muy Drugs (feat. Open Mike Eagle) / Welcome to Quazarz - Shabazz Palaces / Retro - Camp Lo / You Don't Stop - Killah Priest & 4th Disciple (feat. Raekwon) / Look What You Made Me Do (Taylor Swift Freestyle) - RA The Rugged Man / Smoke (Supa Dave West Remix) - The Difference Machine (feat. Homeboy Sandman) / Corrupt Novelist - Career Crooks (feat. DJ Manipulator) / The Chase - Controller 7 / Gingerbread Hag - Uncommon Nasa (feat. Brzowski & C-Money Burns of Vinyl Cape) / Refrigerator P! - Sean Price / Malt Liquor - Son Of Sam (feat. Guilty Simpson & Fat Ray) / Bottom Dollar - Jihad the Roughneck MC / Vigilantes - Wiki & Your Old Droog / Actual Facts - Ockz (feat. Conway) / XXXtras - Conway / The Chairman's Intent - Action Bronson / Facts - Royalz (feat. Roc Marciano) / Camel Crush - Meyhem Lauren & DJ Muggs / Saga City - Tha God Fahim (feat. Mach-Hommy & Your Old Droog) / Fear Is The Key - Diabolical Doctor Strange (feat. Zhaoski) / It Was Written - Armand Hammer / Bodhisattva - Words Hurt / Babaji - Atma / Samsara - Movement I: Existence, Movement II: Reoccurence, Movement III: Resurgence - Has-Lo / Rapper - milo (feat. Busdriver)

best hip hop of mmxvii

bradley.jpg

What kind of fucking neighbourhood is this?

2017's year-end lists look more schizophrenic than ever--Drake rubs elbows with Elucid, Run The Jewel's December '16 LP taking top slots, people actually remember Rick Ross dropped a record at some point, not everyone is worshipping at the Kendrick altar, and '4:44' is for some still of-the-moment and others it's already 5:02.

Also Wu-Tang released an album. Yeah, I'm trying not to remember that too. Remember when a Wu release date filled you with joy and unbridled anticipation, instead of gut-clenching dread for the worst?

At the same time the whole year went by without the Trump-era Sleeping With The Enemy or even 'FDT3'.  I was really expecting at least B. Dolan or Bambu or even Immortal Technique to come out of retirement to drop that.  Maybe the era of the polemic rap album isn't coming back any more than DJ scratching or beatboxing is. Maybe the art's moved on. Maybe the personal is the political.

Oh wait, Eminem took care of it with his BET freestyle. Never mind. We're good.

Still, though. All this is because rap is getting broader, more nuanced, wider, more artful, more mature, and despite a firm headlock by big splash releases and Soundcloud bullshit with face tats and dumb hair, it feels like people are more willing and able to dabble here and there to find what they like. Cats are fucking with Brockhampton and Quelle Chris, Lil Pump and Snoop, whatever they feel.

Maybe we're in a short sweet spot where Spotify isn't quite yet choked at the gate by corporations making sure you hear their heavy investments. Rap Caviar and 'curated' playlists and robot-made ambient chillout will soon enough bring us full circle to spoon-fed tastes--that is, back to radio days.

If anything, there's more and more records where I was all, 'is this even rap? I mean, it feels...rappy...but...'  Moor Mother has more in common with Diamanda Galas than MC Lyte.  The dälek record swerved even further towards indie rock.  This Brzowski is some spoken word/punk rock.

What's not lost is the urgency, the personal, the flipped linguistics, the fire-and-ice beats.  The raging against power, the heart, raw thirst for fame, money, for more life.

People are under a lot of stress, Bradley.

Either way, I racked up about 30 or so albums as solid keepers, which at my usual hit rate of 5-10% means I peeped out...a lot of records.  There were a lot of great loosies too, some kinda randomly collected here.

What I still don't fuck with though: made on a 1985 Casio watch beats. Jesus fuck, fam. You could sample any sound in recorded history from a 60,000 year old Neanderthal flute to all the BRAAAAAAAMMMMMMMMPPPPPPPs of the entire Blade Runner 2049 soundtrack and this blippity-blip crap is what moves your booty? Maybe I don't go to enough strip clubs to feel that.

The shit I like is the multi-layered, the don't-know-what-he-said book, the Genius-annotators-don't-have-the-PhDs-to-handle-these-lyrics-sonTo quote Allen Poe quoting a Busdriver tweet, which is a very 2k17 thing to do, word to Digital Piglet: some of the best American writing is locked in these dense rap songs that no one likes.

Not numbered and not a countdown. This ain't Amerikkkan fucking Bandstand. Hit the titles to peep 'em out and buy 'em.

Albums Of The Year

The Fall & Fallerer of the Amerikkkan Empire Trilogy

valleyofgrace.jpgknownunknowns.jpgrome.jpg

Elucid :: Valley of Gracebilly woods :: Known UnknownsArmand Hammer :: ROME

These three records work as a triple-LP for me: like Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy--the first two books following two characters individually, bringing them together for the bleak denouement at the end of the Amerikkkan dream--*sigh*, OK fine, it's like The Defenders, except with Luke Cage and Another, More Sarcastic Luke Cage. Fucking triumphant nerd culture.

This is 'airport music for the perpetually detained,' no Tom Hanks or Otm Shank. It's the slow noose tightening on a fat neck. Milly rocking out the casket. Words stolen from neighbors in bodegas. The soundtrack to the 2019 Netflix series, Ghost Dog Returns: Bitter Wastelands which is 8 episodes of him waiting on line with QR ration coupons and regretting how shit turned out, laying awake waiting for that call in the night. Roll the dice, fuck around lost your life.

woods' newest--strangely for a Trump-era record--felt more expansive, less compressed and dare I say fun, thanks to the Blockhead/Aesop beats, but still blew more hard-crafted words out your dome than Hemingway's shotgun. Still requires multiple re-listens to unpack the footnotes. Every woods song sounds like the closing track from a long road's discography, an epitaph and epilogue. ROME was the fiery fiddle diatribe we were waiting for, a tag team cage fight between Nemesis The Warlock and Frantz Fanon vs. Baked Alaska and Steve Bannon.

What I always love about these cats is the way they cross the Biblical 'in the beginning...' God-body voice with Across 110th Street:

And the Henny flowed like rivers
And the blunts was like Shaq's fingers
And mens was men, bitches was bitches
All was paradise until the first one started snitching
It was written

If I had to choose, Valley of Grace was the record of the year I kept coming back to, that shook my dry bones. It felt like a complete work of rap reaching to higher art. It felt like the record we needed.

dollarmenu.jpghbo.jpgdumpmeister.jpg

Mach-Hommy x Tha God Fahim :: Dollar Menu / Mach-Hommy :: HBO / Dumpmeister / etc.

By general consensus (in the category of rappers I fuck with), Mach-Hommy won 2017. Despite his weird-ass business model of monthly $1,000 albums and barely being on anyone's radar a year ago, that's some talent son. I felt like the Dump Gawd Business School thing got really old fast--I don't wanna sort through 10, 15 tracks every month to find the best or have $777 to spend. And no doubt there was some true fire--Dumpmeister was the standout for me--the first drop of Dollar Menu was a truly drum-tight, crafted record. Fact is his 2013 F.Y.I. is as good as anything he dropped this year, maybe better, but we all slept on it: this is a well-honed blade. There's always a sense of a dude who really, really knows his craft.

Mach has a crisp, shot-pellet cadence and never-ending flow, with Jenga-stacked lyrics on lyrics that never unravel, and a good ear for lofi beats to ride on. He clips out lines one after another, with the precision and skilled relentlessness of John Wick popping head shots. His compressed density stacks like quantum microchips rather than loops from here to there in the more associative freewheels of other MCs; there's no variation in voice or tone, just a GZA-level science. Let's see where he goes next.

 

MVPs: The Griselda Microphonic Universe

griselda.jpg

Conway :: Reject On Steroids,  More SteroidsG.O.A.T. et al. / Westside Gunn :: Hitler On Steroids et al. /  Benny :: Butcher On Steroids et al.

The way they were killing it last year, this was supposed to be Griselda's year. No doubt across a slew of releases and weekly guest verses, they were everywhere. And no doubt, they killed every single verse. But with spotty distribution--sometimes DatPiff, sometimes Soundcloud, sometimes their weird data-mining website--and lack of definitive product (which is an 'album'? Which is a 'mixtape'? What do those things mean anymore?), it felt more diluted. And it's gotten to the point (like with Mach and Marci) where I just peep out the beat to see if it slaps, since the verse will be--but none of this is resulting in classics we'll be talking about years from now.

Think about this crew vs. Wu-Tang: they arrived big and came hard, but there's no definitive classic--there's no 36 Griseldas, no Only Built 4 Westside Cackling. Maybe that's how we roll now, but people's attention is starting to slip, and you can only imagine what this crew coulda done with a RZA plan of staggered, tight releases.

When it works it's gold--the ice grill lyrics and the warm, drum-light Daringer beats is pure essence of street rap. Conway's regretful warrior with the thousand-mile stare, Gunn's Jimmy Jump devil-trickster, and Daringer's static crackle, haunted Cadillac beats--they've created their own classic sound.

I collected up the best joints here for the Academy's consideration.

You Already Knew...Right?

think.jpgbrickbody.jpgquazars.jpgwikimtns.jpgfire.jpeg

milo :: who told you to think??!!?!?!?! 

milo just gets better and better with every record. He coulda easily disappeared on the college-tour gravy train, rapping clever about Nietszche and Harry Potter, but he doubled down on X-Clan and tapped his fury and his sadness for a record that's personal, political, artistical, uncompromising, heavy, funny and majestic in every way. The 8-bit and breezier beats are swapped out for lusher, funkier, jazzier ones, and it gives a heavier gravitas. In his own words: 'Rap is like speaking through time to black people. And I love it. I love it. I love that it's just the grand fucking compendium of black thought.' Still leaving room for the Borges, Jack Spicer & Nabokov checks, it's another solid one from an artist who keeps growing. 

Open Mike Eagle :: Brick Body Kids Still Daydream

This record's gotten a lot of well-deserved praise--it's rare for a record like this to hit the lists of NPR, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, etc.--and better writers than me have tackled it in depth.  Maybe this is the Trump-era defining record we needed, without the gunshot-revenge fantasies Paris would've brought: one about Black Lives Mattering, about real people, real losses. This was rap's Invisible Man meets The Jungle. This was music about the literal search for home. A eulogy, both wry and dry, mournful and playful.

Shabazz Palaces :: Quazarz vs The Jealous MachinesBorn on a Gangster Star

Double album with no filler, light years ahead literally and figuratively, Palaceer and crew never disappoint. Jealous Machines goes somewhat better than the more quiet nebula storm of Star, and maybe at the heat death of the universe I'd still ride a cyberlaserbeam for their first nameless and unknowable LP. Either way, we'll be living on Kepler 3000 before anyone catches up. This is Black Panther by way of the '80s Flash Gordon. Flow my beats, the timecop said.

Wiki :: No Mountains In Manhattan / Wiki & Your Old Droog :: What Happened To Fire?

Wiki decompressed his lyrics from the Naked Lunch-level street abstraction he brought on Ratking for a much more heartfelt, personal paean to New York today and yesterday. It's a bodega Basketball Diaries. His team-up with Droog is a hardbody microphone joyful noise, as close as we'll get to a 2k Meth & Red record--and man, y'all slept on that one. Listening to these two youngbloods flex their muscles, knowing they're heavy on the rise is some bravura balling shit.

  

Pillow Factory Kings: Most Slept On

These ones were so fucking great, and y'all didn't pay no attention.

camp-lo-the-get-down-brothers.jpgdrstrange.jpgtriangleschemes.jpgDont_Sit_On_The_Speakers.jpg

Camp Lo :: The Get Down Brothers

Solid ten tracks of shit that just goes, it goes it goes it goes.  So funky, so fresh. This was just unarguably fine-ass hip hop. 

The Diabolical Doctor Strange & Frients :: s/t

Complete mystery who these cats are or where they're from, this LP is a peerless throwback to '97. Alternating between old school Tims/bean pies/street raps and early Jedi Mind-type interludes with the spooky beats (really, really excellent beats) and sci fi/UFO/Atlantis/MK Ultra samples, it's proudly un-2017 in a really unique way. There's a new mixtape just out, The Friday Night Philosopher, which is exactly the dusty, echoing sound of the inside of my head in the mid-'90s when I used to chase the dragon and listen to Red Alert.

The Difference Machine :: Triangle Schemes

Remix compilations rarely as good as the original, but this collection of revisits/loosies/deleted cuts from last year's equally great, equally slept on 4th Side makes for a slightly more hip-hop version of the Zach-de-la-Rocha-in-Funkadelic sound. 'Bruce Willises' got more props and stunts than lemonade, and the remix of 'Another Tomorrow' takes an already psychedelic joint out to Nibiru's orbit.

Killah Priest & 4th Disciple :: Don't Sit On The Speakers, Vol. 1 

Priest plus Wu guests like Ghost and Rae flip and flow over heavy old, old school beats--1980s beats, block rocking, power-from-the-streetlight beats. It's some time travel shit of the Wu 10 years early, when they would've been Prince Rakeem & The Ninjafied Nine or some shit. What could you not fucking love about this?!

 

Undergr...Independ...Prog...Abstract...?

So nobody knows what this kind of hip hop is called anymore...because 'Chance The Rapper is independent' and 'DJ Booth says everyone's mainstream because of the internet' and Open Mike Eagle's mad love across the board--I mean, when you get props in Entertainment Weekly, you ain't subway tunnel level.  And Career Crooks and Jihad The Roughneck go right alongside Sean Price in the solid rappity-ass rapping department.  I can't even fit shit into my own categories.  Let's call it...uh...arthop...abstroprog...indieground...smarthop...I got nothing. Those all suck. I'm going with...

Young Club Sandwich Club

goodluck.jpgendangered.jpgjukeboxbuddha.jpgwretched.jpg

lnych.jpgatnight.jpgsoulmusic.jpgdrmolotov.jpg

Career Crooks :: Good Luck With That

Zilla Rocca & Small Pro brought their A-game on this one, with top-notch, Ghost-worthy storytelling ('Cold Ten Thousand') and headbangers Chuck Chillout woulda bugged out for a hot August Friday night show ('Corrupt Novelist'). This one's for the Suzuki Samurai. This one's for the rap nerds who still have a tight fade.

dälek :: Endangered Philosophies

19 years deep and still bringing it, Philosophies continues from last year's Asphalt for Eden in waveform wavering between industrial noise-hop and a more melodic sound, but still comes correct and brings that beauty-in-the-car-crusher distortion and smart, raging lyrics.

Dr. Quandary :: Jukebox Buddha

The good doctor's been my primary care beat physician for a while, and he's settled on his own sound of delicate melody with a strong Afrobeat/Ali Farka Toure feel. He's rounded up lyrics from PremRock, Zilla, Louis Mackey, Has-Lo and Godforbid to lace these medications. Shit is better than Lexapro to re-align your chi.

Jihad The Roughneck MC :: The Wretched of the Verse

Stepping out of the Third Sight shadow he's cast for years but still chilling with dead bodies in a b-boy stance, Jihad brings a more traditional, solid rap record with a funkier, more flowing set. Great beat picks, still with the hype cadence. 

LNYCHPIN :: s/t 

Hey you know those superhero movies the kids like? Imagine if there were one where all the superheroes teamed up to fight aliens, or robots, or alien robots. That would be cool, right? Now imagine that, except with East Coast underground rappers like SKECH185, Teddy Faley, Warren Britt and...all of them.  Brought together by Lt Headtrip & Willie Green in a Rap Nick Fury style, this is Soundbombing 2017. Man, we need more comps like this. 

Uncommon Nasa :: Written At Night 

So many of the cats I been rocking with for years really stretched themselves and went for it this year, stepped up their game in a big way, stretched their wings and flew in your face like a rabid NY pigeon.  Nasa definitely did, lining up guest verses from some of the best MCs in the game, known and should-be-more-known (Open Mike Eagle, Guilty Simpson, Skipp Coon, Quelle Chris, the legendary Mike Ladd).  His production game is tighter than the jeans on rappers we denigrate. It's a long night's run through the city on drum-driven adrenaline.

Words Hurt :: Soul Music for the Soulless

Alaska unleashed his sardonic, witty rage against the stupid fucking country Amerikkka's become, and Lang Vo brought basement-cracking beats to the table for this one. Maybe it's Old Man Raps At Cloud but I was scorched by that Henry Godzilla radioactive fire breath.

Unpacking that sentence, Lang needs to lend me his Home Depot card and Alaska better give up his insurance details. C'mon son, fun is fun but we're responsible fucking homeowners here. 

Yikes The Zero :: Doctor Molotov's Gallery of Portals

Amazingly accomplished and polished record with rhymes like a steampunk Earl Sweatshirt (Earl Steampunk?), alternating with instrumental joints which are sometimes like Herb Alpert nodding on lean on the deck of the Pequod and sometimes like Godspeed Whoops You! Dropped The Boston Philharmonic Down The Stairs In 4x Slow Motion. This cat's new to me, and I can't wait to delve into his back catalog.

 

Part Of A Complete Breakfast

action-bronson-blue-chips-7000.jpggems-from-the-equinox.jpegRoc-Marciano-Rosebudds-Revenge.jpgimperiusrex.jpg

Action Bronson :: Blue Chips 7000

I like Bronson more when he sticks to his gluttonous construction of gourmet food+baroque substance abuse+sexual perversions, when he really revels in his tremendous appetites.  He does less of that here, but it definitely goes and it's a lot less hit-or-miss trackwise than his earlier LPs.

Meyhem Lauren & DJ Muggs :: Gems From The Equinox 

Muggs continues the Vs. series of collabos with rappers who aren't in many people's GOAT lists, but elevates them to a higher level while high. Meyhem brings his best to this, and it definitely delivers.

Roc Marciano :: Rosebudd's Revenge

There will never be another Marcberg anymore than there will be another Cold Vein. That's some Louvre shit that can't be repeated. Still, another Roc LP that rolls like a brushed-copper Escalade with butter-leather seats is always worthy of our worship. He simply runs the fucking game, and we're living in the Marcazoic Era where every new MC is carbon-dated against his 2001-monolith shadow.

And once again for the fifth year running, Marci ruled the guest-verse-recorded-in-a-private-Per-Se-dining room.  Hand-picked selection of 16 of those here.

Sean Price :: Imperius Rex 

The best posthomous release ever assembled. How could it not be? Price was such a microphone fiend, guest verses he did are still dropping two years after his death. It's a fitting closing act to one of the most solid discographies in the game.

 

Old School University

 redux.jpgdesert.jpg

Prince Paul :: The Redux

Crazy mixtape of lost, forgotten, b-side, remix joints with always-dope Paul production and featuring a jaw-dropping list of greats--Breeze Brewin, Jean Grae, Horror City, Trugoy, Guru, DOOM, Masta Ace...man. This is probably gonna disappear soon, so cop it while you can.

Public Enemy :: Nothing Is Quick In The Desert

Free LP celebrating PE's 30 years in the game that's now disappeared from official release, they sound as good as ever. This one really fucking goes as good as anything they've dropped since Muse Sick* (*insert your last favorite PE record as directed by your dentist).

 

Dept. of Illstrumentals

controller7.jpgartifact.jpg

Controller 7 :: Right Handed Straw 

Been a long, long time since I heard a straight-up instrumental album of this quality--acrobatically flipping from track to track, great drum precision, wide-ranging samples and styles. Watch the boy flex his chops, it's a bravura performance.

DDay One :: Artifact EP

I've been riding for DDay One's peerlessly crafted sounds and hard-be-bop drums since 2008's Heavy Migration, and he still keeps it haunting, head-nodding and opening up new worlds in the brainpan.

X to the L

00:0000:00

cake_graffiti.jpg

Intro

Ten years in the game today.

So many of the blogs I came up with, or fucked with heavy--all gone. I'm still standing here.

Ever since I can remember, I wanted to be a DJ.

Not some long-haired bitch in the club in an ironic t-shirt. And I didn't have the skills to be a Grandmaster. But I wanted to be DJ Red Alert.

I started making pause tapes in 1987. Off the Marley Marl, Mr Magic, Chuck Chillout and Red Alert shows. One night Red Alert started cutting up 'South Bronx,' spinning it, scratching it. That was when I saw what hip hop was, what it could be.  Something ever-elastic, ever-changeable; you could always add something new, remix it, play elements off each other. It was like a living thing.

And Red Alert would always bring you the best new shit. You knew he was gonna let you know all the latest fire.

I made 50 pause tapes through to 2007. The MP3 era. How was I supposed to get a digital file on to a cassette? Went digital. Went worldwide.

X to the L

There's 153 posts up in here, 116 are mixes. There's about 2,500 different ill joints I brought you. I had over 300,000 listens from almost every country on earth, except like North Korea and Vatican City.

I only had three reasons for doing this. First, there's that feeling when you hear a joint that's so tight, so perfect: you feel like grabbing cats by the shirt and hollering, 'LISTEN TO THIS!' You gotta share it with someone, some how. That's why people start music blogs, until they get married, get bored, or get pimped out by Complex.

Second, rap's given me so much, I wanted to give something back--especially to the fam who are so fucking talented and don't get enough shine. I been hyping up the best of the year shit since 2008. I feel like I championed a lotta cats early on who went on to get respect--Ka, milo, Elucid, billy woods, Open Mike Eagle--and other cats who I'm still waiting for you to catch the fuck up on, like Shirt.

Third, I wanted to see if the mixtape could be--maybe not an artform, but a medium. Could you sonically paint with it, collage with it.

Could you even make narratives with it? So over three mixes I tried telling a story about robots--robots as slaves, robot revolution, a melding of human and machine.  I never felt like 9/11 got any kind of artistic treatment that really felt like the thing itself. And so much of it was visual, the video, the photos--what could you do with just sound?  So The Falling. That's probably the best thing I ever did.

Could a mix be a kind of curation, cataloging--that's been another side of it. What kind of juxtapositions could you do without it being stupid? How incredible is the art of crate digging and sampling--transformation, alchemy from any element into strictly dope?  Here's all the best joints with Asian samples. With classical music samples. I gave you eight Super Chicken dub-hop mixes. Seven B-Bop For B-Boys mixes of the illest jazz-hop.  The spaghetti Western ones.  I can't scratch or beat juggle or any of that shit. But I got a mean ear and I curate. This is the place where I explore what hip hop can be, because it covers so much ground--so many styles, so many topics, so much life.  Never forgetting that at its core, hip hop is political.  Hip hop is street stories. Hip hop is about injustice.

Outro

Thing is, I kinda feel like I did all I set out to do here. It's getting old. There's not really another level to take this to. Once you do the Old and New Testaments in mixtape form, where you gonna go with it? The odes to graffiti, They Live We Sleep--that's as tight as it gets.

I could do interviews but nah. I could do more label-oriented mixes I guess, like the ones I did for Uncommon and World Around. I could do more single-artist mixes I guess, but anyone could do that. The Autolect two, PSY/OPSogist vs Zardoz and Rammellzee ones are tight, not sure I could top those. I thought about trying to get artists together for compilations to raise money for good causes, but man--they gotta eat.

I could try making my own beats but they would be pretty strictly amateur hour, and there's so many talented people trying to eat off their beats--I'm not gonna add to the competition.  I could be more of a blog--but nobody reads fucking blogs and there's talented writers trying to eat off that too. I used to write press releases for rappers for $100 back in the day: there's only so many ways to say 'it's got a funky beat and you can dance to it.'

I might write some stuff for other sites or throw it on Medium though. Thirteen Ways of Looking At Critical Beatdown, Letters To A Young Rapper, Towards A Complete Theory of Rap Music--look out for those eventually. Who knows, if I find an 808 in a garbage can you might hear beats from me some day.

Also all the mixtape sites that used to show me love are gone--Pearson Towers, Mr Blentwell, Mixcrate, and the mighty Percussion Lab. And everyone has a goddamn podcast now. And everyone's making Spotify playlists instead of mixes. Shit, Spotify makes playlists for you.  Apple Music has 'playlist curators.' You got an algorithm DJ, fuck you need me for? Go ask the robot DJ what lives in your phone. And you can't put no Joe Pesci samples up in your playlists fam.

iTunes won't fuck with me because I only speak with my hands. I got a Mixcloud but who doesn't?  Pay for SoundcloudPro? Nah g. These dudes won't fuck with me because...whatever. But I don't do this for clicks, I'm not interested in building a brand, never was. I do it for those of you who listen, and I thank you. But I done run out of ideas, places to go with this that aren't like what anyone else does.

So there's four, maybe five more mixes to come, and I'm out.

If you fucked with me along the way, I'm grateful--I really am. I might throw up some of the pause tape archives. Hollering retirement and then making a comeback is the 68th Element of Hip Hop, so you never know, right?

But I'm still looking for the perfect beat. The perfect beat was already made by The 45 King in 1987. The perfect beat is Roc Marciano's 'Snow.' The empire never ended. The search is the thing. You never stop searching for the perfect beat. It don't stop.

once upon a time in new york

00:0000:00

new-york-graffiti.jpg

A hundred times have I thought New York is a catastrophe, and fifty times: it is a beautiful catastrophe. 

-Le Corbusier

There are eight million ways you could do this mix. But as they say about a Marine's rifle: there are many like it, but this one is mine.

NY NY (Domingo Mix) - KRS-One / NYC Crack - Wu-Tang Clan / I Run New York (Grade A Megamix) / New York - AZ (feat. Raekwon & Ghostface Killah) / New York - Nas / I Am New York (End To End Fiend Mix) - MC New York / I Love New York - C-Rayz Walz, Karniege, Vast Aire, Access Immortal & Poison Pen / Open Letter To NY (Green Mix) - Beastie Boys / New York New York - Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five / Streets Of New York - Nas, Rakim & Alicia Keys / New York City - Troy Ave, Raekwon, Noreaga & Prodigy / Streets Of New York - Kool G Rap & DJ Polo / Walk In New York - Onyx / NY Zone - Karniege / New York Undercover - Call O' Da Wild / Born King N.Y. - Ka / Handle That - Vordul Mega & Vast Aire / Leaving New York - B. Dolan / Juicy (New York New York Remix) - The Notorious B.I.G. & Frank Sinatra / Delancey Street - Dana Dane