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once upon a time in new york



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


mad brick


Ain't nothin' changed but the weather. Still don't nothin' move but the money. Bae it's cold outside.

Cold world. Cold hearts. Cold cash. Tell me about it. Sometimes I think I'm getting a little frosty myself.

The hawk is out. Mad brick, son.

10 Bricks - Raekwon, Cappadonna & Ghostface Killah / Money - Guilty Simpson / Bring 'Em Up Dead - Joell Ortiz & Statik Selektah / Survived Winter - B. Dolan (feat. Prolyphic, Alias & Sage Francis) / Gremlins - Danny Brown / Bloody Money (Zilla Rocca Remix) - Capone-N-Noreaga / F.U.B.U. - Armand Hammer / Snow (Uncommon Nasa Remix) - Roc Marciano (feat. Sean Price) / 2 Wrongs - Onyx / All Season - SHIRT / Alligator - Action Bronson / Cold World - P Brothers (feat. Boss Money) / Fur Coat - Mix Master Mike / Lonely & Cold - Roc Marciano / Flurry - Ratking / …down 155th in the MCM Snorkel - Shabazz Palaces / CV-1 - Cannibal Ox x 3:33 vs. Snow - Roc Marciano (feat. Sean Price) / Vein (Instrumental) - El-P / Cold Facts - Ka / Winds From The North - Oddisee / Winter In Manhattan - Deepspace5

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.

a thousand angels standing on the head of a pimp



Like it or not, pimpin' is a leopard-skin swatch of hip-hop's patchwork tapestry. Mostly you gotta try and laugh at it. So I come to bury the pimp not to praise 'em.

Prostitution is an ugly fucking business. But those old Cadillacs were mighty fly.

42nd St. (A.M. Breakups Remix) - Super Chron Flight Brothers (feat. Lord Superb, Pastense & HiCoup) / Pimpin' Chipp - Ghostface Killah / Somebody Gotta Do It (Pimpin' Ain't Easy) - Ice-T / Pimp of the Year - Dru Down / Pimpin' Ain't Easy - Slick Rick & Dana Dane / Who Are the Pimps? - Boogie Down Productions / Bitch I'm a Pimp - Too $hort / I'm Your Pimp - Skull Snaps / Theme From The Mack - Willie Hutch / A Film Called (Pimp) - Common (feat. Bilal & MC Lyte) / Macula's Theory - Prince Paul (feat. Big Daddy Kane) / Hookers At The Point - Action Bronson / Pimp Shit - DJ Babu / Superhoe - Malcolm & Martin / Hardcore Hustle (Instrumental) - Madvillain / Signifying Rapper - Schoolly D / A Thousand Angels Standing on the Head of a Pimp

blue street ills



Throwback to Cadillacs and the dawn of crack.

Ill St Blues - Kool G Rap & DJ Polo / Reign of the Tec - The Beatnuts / One Shot, Two Shot - Ol' Dirty Bastard (feat. Thirstin Howl the 3rd) / 6 In the Mornin' (Bunky Mix) - Ice-T / Night Of The Living Baseheads - Public Enemy / Simply Dope, Part 2 - DJ Mark the 45 King / Life in the Fast Lane - Geto Boys / Bring It Back - Roli Rho / Life's Ill Pt. II (The Empire Striketh) - Vast Aire (feat. Breezly Brewin & Vordul Mega) / Stillmatic (Paid In Full Mix) - Nas / Code Of The Streets (DJ Critical Hype Blend) - Gangstarr / Beware of the Ghetto - Fokis (feat. E-Cashe$ & Don Chi) / Cars & Shoes - The Coup / Army Fatigue Rap (Damu The Fudgemunk Redef Remix) - Kaimbr & Kev Brown (feat. Roddy Rod, Hassaan Mackey & DJ Marshall Law) / Get That Money Black - Meyhem Lauren / Jungle City - Bey Battery, Pruven & Agartha Audio / Bad Bad Man - Fat Joe / Blue Street Ills

dedication to all b-boys



B-boys in the front, back, side and middle. Check out my b-boy rhyme and riddle.

No samples this time. Sometimes I just wanna hear the beat. Also my doctor advised me not to watch either of the Breakin' movies.

'B-boy' was originally an all-purpose term for anyone who rocked with the hip-hop elements, then it was used strictly for breakdancers (or maybe the other way around).  I don't know what we're all called now. Maybe we're too many, too varied. I mean, Kitty Pryde doesn't rock shelltoe Adidas. Jay Electronica probably wears...moccasins.

But this is a dedication to all b-boys.

Dedication To All B-Boys - Schoolly D / B Boys Style - Lil' Jazzy Jay & Cool Supreme / B-Boy Beat - Wild Style Allstars / 5 elements/B-Boy Breaks - Z-Trip / Tribute to the Breakdancer - Grandmaster Flash (feat. MC Supernatural) / B-Boy Contortionist - Idiot Proof / Return Of The Funky B-Boy Drums - Zeb.Roc.Ski. & Ms. Def Cut / Lords of Cardboard - DJ Format & Kid Aroe / Breakdance Electric Boogie (Junior Cartier Remix) - West Street Mob / Street B-Boy Beatz - Calagad 13 / Dedication - Brand Nubian / Invocation - Common / Dedication - Beastie Boys / Boombox - Blueprint / B-Boy - Orko The Sycotik Alien / B-Boy Stance - Global Phlowtations / Dedicated To Hip-Hop - DOOM vs. Mos Def (DJ Phonetic mix) / A B-Boy's Alpha - Cannibal Ox / I Remember - KRS-One




Kryloniqatsi I / Writing On The Wall - BPMZ / Aerosoul - Tommy Tee / The Taking of Pelham One Two Three - David Shire / Lune TNS - Company Flow / It's All Destroyed - Zeb Roc Ski / Kings In The Game - Sick Jacken (feat. B-Real) / Wholetrain - KRS-One & El Da Sensei / The Trains Are Now So Clean - Daedalus / Third Rail - Masai Bey / The Manhattan Project - Typical Cats / Homage 2 Da Bomberz - Tame One / The Amphitheatre - Grandmixer DST / Antivandalism - Sixtoo / Search & Destroy #1 - Tenshun / Hisstory - Material (feat. Rammellzee) / Armed With Krylon - Dälek / Kryloniqatsi II / Krazy Kings 3 - El-P

Graffiti is ephemeral by definition.  It's going to be buffed, washed, painted over.  When it first started, a piece could run a year or so on a train.  But when the buff came in, writing became not only more of a protest against disenfranchisement but almost a philosophical one as well--against entropy, against mortality, against the inevitability of gradualism.  The futility combined with the incredible craft is part of what makes it so powerfully defiant: I AM HERE. YOU CAN ERASE THIS, BUT I AM HERE.

There's also the aspect of a cultural guerilla war.  Writers took on a lot of guerilla tactics, thinking, language, and brought war into art.  I remember an interview with Max Roach around 1987 where he said the drums on LL Cool J's LP sounded "like war drums, like armies on the move."

Graffiti isn't dead by a long shot. There's hardly a city in the world you can go to without seeing some great pieces.  But New York subway art, that's been dead for almost a generation.  And in a lot of ways, graf is a lot poorer for it.  A giant wall mural gets the scale right, the setting right--graf looks bad in galleries on canvas because it's too clean, too small, too quiet, too de-urbanized.  (I'm feeling Seen's new metal wild style sculptures though.) I think it's a mistake, and a serious reach, to try and jam graf into art history. It is of itself, for itself, and by itself.  But I think really it needs that thunder of sound, that movement a train gives it to really come to life how it was meant to, as the writers used to:

...in some deserted midnight yard, they will find their natural canvas which is of course that metal wall of a subway car ready to reverberate into all the egos of all the metal of New York, what an echo that New York metal will give into the slapped-silly senses of every child-psyche who grew up in New York, yes, metal as a surface on which to paint is even better than stone.

If you weren't there, you can only imagine what it was like to be down there in those dark, dank stations, all dirty tile and I-beam pillars and filthy bums and shit.  And suddenly with a roar and a screech a twenty-foot explosion of color rolls in right in front of you.  A gift of beauty. In the form of someone's name.

"The name," Cay 161 told Norman Mailer, "is the faith of graffiti."  What did he mean by that.  Mailer interpolates:

You hit your name and maybe something in the whole scheme of the system gives a death rattle. For now your name is over their name, over the subway manufacturer, the Transit Authority, the city administration. Your presence is on their presence, your alias hangs over their scene. There is a pleasurable sense of depth to the elusiveness of the meaning.

Sometimes I think hip-hop is how I figure out what it was like to grow up in New York as a child who was afraid of everything. Because graf artists weren't afraid of anything. That shit they did in the yards and tunnels was on some ninja nibelungen shit into the dragon's lair.  They had a passion and commitment and fire that I wish I could even aspire to.

So, also this is something I saw:

People who rented STYLE WARS (DVD) also rented...KNIGHTS IN ARMOR...POWAQQATSI

And what the fuck is up with that, because Rammellzee is dead, and who else would rent that combo of flicks?  Dondi is dead.  Iz The Wiz is dead. Kase 2 is dead.  Stay High 149 just passed last week.  Even the subway cars they wrote on have been dumped into the sea.

But yeah. Knights In Armor. Powaqqatsi.  Kryloniqatsi--in Hopi, 'qatsi' means 'life.'  Spraycan life.  Did anyone ever tell you what was written on the trains?

the spraycan diaries



Subway Theme - DJ Grand Wizard Theodore & Grandmaster Caz / Out To Tag - Serve 1 & Sue Works / Platform Rapform - The Chemist / Graff Time - Chali 2na / Out For Fame - KRS-One / Ambush in the Night - Looptroop / Tagz, Throw Ups & Pieces - Da Nuthouse (feat. El Da Sensei & Sak One) / End To End Burners - Company Flow / Wholecar - Roger Rekless / Slow Burna - Akrobatik / Getting Up Anthem: Part 1 - Talib Kweli (feat. Rakim) / Wrong Side Of Da Tracks - Artifacts / 4 My Writers - MC Juice / Got The Fever (Lewis Parker Remix) - Meyhem Lauren / Graff Life - Literates / Bombing (Snippet) - L.I.F.E.long & Shamalex / The Escapades of Futura 2000 - Futura 2000 & The Clash / Pump Me Up (All City Mix) - Trouble Funk / Telemundo (Bombing Theme) - El-P

Graffiti, and I guess breaking, were the first prominent aspects of hip-hop...graf artists were having gallery shows before any records hit the charts, and for sure New York's general public noticed their subways turning into riots of tags and burners before they heard 'Rapper's Delight.'

Let's skip the whole boilerplate history of graf, what it meant, voice of the disenfranchised, frustration into artistic expression, art as vandalism, claiming part of the city as their own, the word 'palimpsest' which really gets on my fucking nerves, and FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD. (Also just for the record, this thing about Egyptian hieroglyphs. That wasn't graffiti, unless you also want to claim the Sistine Chapel as an end-to-end burner.)

There's so much you could say about graf, but it's been done better by many smarter motherfuckers than me, especially on the sociopolitical steez.  There's the creation of a whole new art form--a wholly original one--out of raw talent plus what was available: the spraycan, the marker, pop's turntable...and the improvisation to build on that: the caps off your mom's oven cleaner, the blackboard eraser, breaks on old records, power from the streetlight.  And the jawdropping results.  How the fuck did you make that detailed, precise painting on the side of a goddamn train, in the dark, with a couple of spraycans?  How did you take some wack disco and old R&B records and make that hard-ass funky beat?

There's the exclusionary, internal messages; writing for the initiated.  The rebirth of the anonymous and ignored into superheroes with aliases and powers (you don't think doing 3D letters is a superpower? Or spitting a tight 16?)  The repetition of these names, the power of the names. And this obsession with language itself, using letters as an artform, using speech as a musical instrument--that's real interesting to me. It starts with the names and becomes this transformation of language into a medium, an implement itself--the twisting of letters into wild style, the twisting of words that rhyme.  Rammellzee saw this as graf's most subversive aspect, it's just that nobody understands what the fuck he was talking about. In 1959 Burroughs said 'writing is 50 years behind painting' and changed the game. By 1979 painting was 20 years behind writing. Graf caught it up to the year 3000.

Anyways. There's only about 50 songs about graf writing. Why is that? Why isn't there an acknowledged classic graf theme besides the Artifacts joint? Maybe because the golden age of graf was over before the golden age of rap started, thanks to the buff, Koch and the MTA. (Imagine if the crackdown on sampling had started in 1987! The entire culture would have been snuffed out in infancy, on some Moses-falls-out-the-basket dolo. Bullrush the show.)

So this mix is a non-identical twin to Hevehitta's The Writers Bench, which you should peep out because he killed it. No drips. We shared tracklists so there's some overlap but like I said, there's only so many tracks.

This is The Five Elements, Part One. Destroy all lines.