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

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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.

bloodstained elevators

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Roundup of the best of 2012 so far.  Because fuck it, that's what most podcasts do, and agonizing over finding that perfect James Coburn sample gets real old.

I'm gonna guess you already heard that new Nas joint and El-P going full retard though.  If not, maybe that cave you live in is not what's popping. 


Bloodstained Introvators / Spaceship Earth - DJ Format (feat. Edan) / Salute - Fokis (feat. King T & Sadat X) / Coca Cola Freestyle - Heems / 103 & Roosy - Action Bronson / No Downtime - KA / Tote Gunz - KRS-One / JSA - Jel / Nhomadz (Spit 16) - L.I.F.E. Long (feat. Breeze Evahflowin, Shabaam Sahdeeq & Swave Sevah) / Big Day for the Little People - Godforbid & Thirtyseven / I Strangled the Accordion - Third Sight / High Heals... - P. Kaye / The Birth of Slim Fussy - A.M. Breakups (feat. Teddy Faley & ADAM) / Green Velvet - A Tribe Called Death / Vast Vehicle - Zilla Rocca & Dr. Quandary / One Foot in Front of the Other - Routiger Slob / Spaceships - Bisco Smith & Peter Jay / Arrival - Bil Basmala / The Miracle - Homeboy Sandman / Grown Up - Danny Brown

Here's some other good shit from 2011 I only just got hep to recently, or it's only streamable, or collects older joints or whatever:

M.O.A.T. [bay yarea edition] :: L*Roneous

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I could be wrong in naming L*Roneous a Most Overlooked of All Time...maybe he's huge in the Bay and I just don't know about it.  I'll tell you what though, I didn't discover 1998's Imaginarium until this year, and it is a certified classic.  Definitely a high water mark for late-'90s hip-hop, and I can't believe I slept on this jaw-dropper draws-hopper.

I don't do the whole biography blahzay blahzay (he runs it down his own self here), but let's just say Da Versifier's credits stretch back to 1990.  On the meaning of the name:

I was reading some ancient Roman stuff and my nickname is L-Ron, “Eous” of course means the nature of something. My name means the nature of L-Ron. That’s what my music has been all about. I was always reading about cats like Maximus, my friends starting joking around saying I was L’Roneous, and I decided to keep that. [UGSmag interview 2001]

Now don't think he's on some Rammellzee tip, L*Ron isn't one of those psycho/mystical rappers, he's just a highly intelligent scholar type for real.  Imaginarium picks up maybe where Digable Planets left off, but dips into introspection, the re-invention of conscious/underground hip-hop of the late '90s, and what you might call a friendly raised fist a la Black Star.  This is dedicated, to those who view hip-hop as a voyage... begins the LP, and damn if he don't take you on one.

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M.O.A.T. [instrumentaliste division] :: Dday One

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I don't remember when I first came across DDay One's stuff; I used to spend hours and hours scouring rap blogs for new shit and just hoover it all up.  See, I came up in the record store days with no pockets.  I'd agonize over which records I could afford to buy, and dream about being in an endless record store where they had everything and you could listen to anything.  Hey presto, papi: internet.

I got really into instrumental hip-hop a couple of years ago, and it seems like the '00s were definitely their peak period.  Problem has always been separating the great from the meh. Partially, we got eighty gazillion Japanese DJs putting out so many instrumental jazz-hop LPs you could have a whole website built around nothing but.  Led by the late Nujabes and Fat Jon--to get opinionamated now--this shit mostly sounds the same, goes for the noodly-sounding bullshit, and when it does get a groove on ruins it with pathetic flute loops or weak-ass female vocal hooks.  And the beats?  The beats are weak as fuck.  Some of it is good, no doubt, but it's not head-nodding.

Remember when illbient and trip-hop were actually a thing?  That made it easier, I guess, because the line's really blurred between 'electronic' and 'instrumental hip-hop.'  If I'm on the fence, I listen closely to the beats.  Do they go dit-dit-dit-dit-dit?  Electronic, get the fuck outta here with that.  Do they go boom-bop-bop-boom-bop-bop-boom?  Hip-hop.

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M.O.A.T. [indie MC division] :: C-Rayz Walz

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So in Greek mythology, you had the Titans who ruled over the Golden Age.  Cronos was the king Titan, but because he heard this prophecy his kids would overthrow him, he'd eat them as soon as they were born.  This one time his wife gives him a rock instead and raises the kid in secret.  When Zeus grows up he cuts his pop's stomach open and frees his siblings, who all grew up in there with only that baby-Zeus-sized rock to play with.  (That must've pretty much sucked.)  They establish the Olympic pantheon of the Greeks, Romans and all those paintings and sculptures of swan rape and flying sandal wearing naked muhfuckas from your high school art history class.

Where was I going with this?  Uh...shit.  Oh, right: if we cast El-P as the Zeus of the millenial indie-rap pantheon, the best and most overlooked MC from there is C-Rayz Walz.  He's like the Hephaestus of that click, the blacksmith god: he stays underground steady pounding iron and steel.

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autolect :: autology volume two

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I already said all I had to say about Autolect and then some last time.  Controlled by dendera light.

Props to Jazzpants, Tony Grands, Beatbox Radio Show, Under Emergent, and Haas Muhzak for upping Volume One.  Big old 1989 style gasface to all that didn't.

This is the (mostly) instrumental volume, giving you the full taste of Auto's power behind the boards.  It will seep into your bones.  Dusty bootsteps on cracked pavements.

Prize (vs. Derek Walcott) / Non Other (vocal) / Psycosis / The Differance / Others / Circumvent / Live / Supernova Combust / Shukem (elmattic loopstrumental) / Therapy (vs. Saul Williams) / Burnout (vs. Amiri Baraka) / Bb77 / Huh / Weekends / Collectors Choice / At One (vs. Ben Okri) / Evolve Or Die (vs. Langston Hughes)

Check out the new Bil Basmala isht here or on Souncloud...many, many new joints on the way and the catalog is mad deep.

autolect :: autology volume one

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I've been meaning to do a series on M.O.A.T.s-the most overlooked LPs and artists of all time. Not talking about ‘oh Black Moon is so underrated' or ‘oh Biz Markie is actually a very accomplished lyricist by Keatsian standards' but cats who are incredibly talented and so under the radar they're like those cyborg housefly Predator drones the C.I.A. wants to fly up Ahmadinejad's nose. At the top of the M.O.A.T. list was Autolect: the greatest MC/producer you never heard of.

So I felt mighty blessed when Autolect himself reached out to me. I'm amped to be the DJ Whoo Kid of the underground, but for reals there aren't many others I'd be this lucky to hook a mix up for. For one thing, not many have a catalog this deep-everytime people get wood over a new Jay Constipatica song I'm all baffled, because Autolect's been doing that since 2004 and has about literally 15 times as much material.

I've been feeling Autolect's stuff for about three years, and between Every Mans Universe and Between God And The Deep Blue I was no doubt finna collect every last track. This meant some Mickey Spillane isht to hunt him down under his different monikers-AHMM (Autolect & His Meltdown Movement), BSML77, Hasan and even that one record where he called himself Velox Nur (after his favorite housepaint and/or alien reptilian overlord).

The namechanges are a reason why you maybe haven't caught on to his genius yet. But in the mains it's because he's a true iconoclast.  I don't do the whole bio-blazhay-he's-from-he's-influenced-by-blahzay; it don't really tell you nothing about the work, and the work speaks for itself. You want a logline? OK, imagine Butterfly or Jay Elecetcetera over Marcberg beats. If you like DDay One, Shabazz Palaces, Saul Williams (pre-rock star), Flying Lotus or RZA's Ghost Dog score, you are feeling Autolect.

The flow. Autolect doesn't really rap. He's not singing, he's not talking. I don't know what to call it. You just gotta listen. It's serious business. It has some Digable Planets flavor with a dash of Mos Def. It's spiritual in the real sense, not the patchouli-smelling PM Dawn sense. It's intelligent and conscious without being didactic or preaching.

The production. Dusty. Intricate loops and samples. It shimmers, not on some fairydust isht but like rain on concrete. Like neon through a tumbler of scotch on the rocks. Hard jazz, deep funk sounds, but taken so far and so deep from the source as to be absorbed and transformed. From some alternate reality where Dolphy and Mingus invented the MPC and jazz never ended, kept on going. Or some time traveler went back with a sampler and crafted some parachronistic Dendera light grooves, Bebop On The Edge of Forever.

So Autolect is being retired, as the man moves on to a new era of music under Bil Basmala. As per usual, he's got a huge slew of material lined up which is bound to be dope.

Autology both celebrates and closes the books on the Autolect era. What you got here is 13 of his greatest tracks with some interview snippets which give you a little taste of his larger thought.

Soon enough we're gonna drop a Volume Two to give a full flavor of his instrumental productions, but for now, sit back and marinate in this. Then pick your jaw up off the floor and hit his Bandcamp.  Welcome to Autolect.

Doorks / Lubrication / Autio Therapy / Accepted / Shukem / Equation (feat. Nac One) / Define / Coco Cloe / Heavy Duty / Bridge The Gap / Levitate / iAM (acurate mix) / Antidote: Out Of Space (feat. Megan Davis)

live at the overlook :: blueprint

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Blueprint is one of those wickedly talented, underrated and undercelebrated cats, just as nice on the mic as on the boards, which is rare indeed.  (RZA, I'm looking in your direction: Please. Stop. Rapping.)  Coming hard off the Greenhouse joints, he's dropped a free sampler for y'all:

In preparation for the release of the new Blueprint Who EP that I will be dropping next week, the upcoming tour w/ Atmosphere, and my upcoming full-length album Adventures in Counter-Culture scheduled for release on Rhymesayers Entertainment later this year, I created this free “Best of Blueprint” mix.  I hope it will serve as a refresher for those who are already familiar with my music, and a good introduction to those who are new to my music. [props to Bloggerhouse]

Get it here.

You can grab a couple more free DLs and breathe deep:

Now you see what I'm talking about?  Get over to Weightless and cop some CDs.

prince paul vs. the world

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When people rate their '90s producers, I never understood why Pete Rock came close second to Premier and Prince Paul way down the list.  (Not to be confused with this Prince Paul, or this one or this one, though it's typical wacky PP stylee that they all share the same name.)  I mean, Pete Rock's done some great joints, no doubt, but he kinda defined a sound in the way Nathan's defined hot dogs.  It's just a type of frankfurter.

Prince Paul produced a steady string of some of the most creative and groundbreaking LPs before going for the gusto and cutting loose with the best (and only successful) concept records in all hip-hop, and some of the most innovative.  And the funniest.  Not too many actually funny cats in hip hop.  And I mean check the man's credits--Stetsasonic, 3 Feet High & Rising, Gravediggaz, Chubb Rock, Big Daddy Kane, Latifah, 3rd Bass, B.D.P., remixes galore.

Anyways, two of his unreleased LPs have seen the light and coming from his best era, they're slammin':

Resident Alien - It Takes A Nation Of Suckers To Let Us In (1990) [via Bloggerhouse]

Horror City (1995) [via T.R.O.Y.]

And if you don't have Prince Among Thieves, Psychoanalysis or Gold Dust, you should go buy them.  No money?  Paper route, motherfucker, paper route.

DJ Pain Makes The Earth Stand Still

There's a new breed of DJ emerging in the subterranean.  In the mainstream, you have these cats making their name off of mixtapes of the latest shitty, ringtone gangstaism nonsense, where they yell their stupid name every 3 seconds with some dumb-ass sound effect.  (Hey, mixtape DJs: you know who thinks the sound of whooshing fighter jets is really cool?  Six year old boys. And what's with the air raid siren? Is that like the only other sound effect you have? Are you reppin' the Blitz? What's the story?)

But underground there's a new breed emerging.  Like C.H.U.D.s with Technics.  Technichuds?  Whatever, these cats are killing it.  They're creating whole soundscapes out of other people's tunes, ones which are thoughtful, engaging, rocking, playful, explorative, fascinating, and just plain dope as fuck.  What they're doing is long-wave sampling.

Originally DJs took just the best breaks to make records.  Then you had a limitation on the early samplers of 8 seconds or something, so samples got shorter.  Innovators like the Bomb Squad started taking minute slices and making songs with them; RZA took this to another level by using isolated shards of funk.  By legal necessity samples got shook, shrunk, sliced and diced.

These cats do it galaxy-size.  They make cohesive hour-long songs out of other people's breaks, songs, movies, what have you.  They're not constrained by genre or style or legality.  If it's dope, if it fits, it goes in.  Just as old school DJs soaked the labels off their vinyl so no one could jack their breaks, these DJs mix it and lump it and don't show off their tracklistings.  Just like when DJs use a sample or a break you recognize but can't quite put your finger on right away, these cats do it with songs.

They're jumping off from the mixes Steinski, Coldcut and Cut Chemist did, but using a wider variety of stuff, and using the newer, iller sounds that are around--the illbient, sneakergazer, dubstep, all that other unclassifiable shit.

They ain't doing compilations and this ain't your Spring Break Party Mix or your Mixtape For Girl I Want To Screw.  This is DJ art in album-length.  I will never be as good as these cats.  I will study them.  I will try to do what they do.  I will ape them.  I will fail.

I'm gonna talk about Dday One's new approach to jazz/hip-hop and Gaslamp Killer's fusion of hip-hop, eclecticism and serial killer stylee another time.  But today it's DJ Pain.

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Pain brings down a serious vibe, not as heavy as Gaslamp Killer but there's a definite hardness and weight to his beats. All of his shit appears to be free, so there's no excuse not to check 'em out. His scratching is Grade Fuckin' A. His mixing is seamless--you just can't hear quite where one song goes into another. He drops some seriously ill samples, mostly movies but just enough hip-hop signifying that you don't go, 'wait, this is a bunch of arty Ninja Tunes type of electronic crap.' I think he's dropping beats in there, too, because the beats are superb and hard-ass, and if he's actually crate-digging that much ill, moody stuff with such ill beats, well, I want those crates.

The Day The Earth Stood Still samples a bunch from the original flick, not the dumbass Keanu remake, on top of sick beats.  It's almost exhausting, it brings you through so many moods. This is maybe the absolute strongest. Get it here.

The Road To Oblivion brings the nuclear heat, with samples from Wargames, Miracle Mile, The Day After, Bay of Pigs interviews, and other shit.  Let me put it like this: He drops in samples from those Bush State of the Union remixes I ran earlier over what sounds like a Prefuse73 or Four Tet beat, then drops the beat for a Meryl Streep in Adaptation sample.  Get it here.

Hermanos Del Pulpo (which means brüder der krake or 章鱼的兄弟, for my Chinese brethren) with DJ Chaps One. This one is the weakest, I think, much more eclectic in bringing in rock and more straight electronic type stuff. Enough good shit on there to curse the lack of a tracklist though...  Get it here.

The Odd Side of the Sun is a megamix of Odd Nosdam beats.  If you like Odd Nosdam, this is like fucking manna.  If you hate Odd Nosdam, well, it's probably like sticking a dentist's drill in your ear for an hour.  I have to say a lot of it I didn't recognize, which might be the weaker ON tracks I've ditched, but he does do some good mixing with it and brings in that large, distorted fuzz-beat sound. Maybe not the strongest outing though. Get it here.

You know what, there's not all that much I can say about these except drop a bunch of adjectives, 'cuz he doesn't do tracklistings and I can only pick out a few breaks here and there.  If you like that weird, heavy instrumental shit with proper hip-hop flavor, check it.

In a lot of ways these DJs are hipsters of a kind, on the underground, totally eclectic and crate diggin', but there's something egoless and humbling about being a DJ: you can only be so egotistical when you only speak with your hands, only be so pretentious in crafting a good mix.

Pain in the Myspace

DJ Pain.com

Pain on Sun Dialect Records site