elmattic

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X to the L

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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

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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

 

b-bop for b-boys (take 7)

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Haitian Fight Song - Charlie Mingus Jazz Workshop / Gun In Yo Mouf - Danny Brown (feat. Chip$ & Marvwon) / A World Without Music - L'Orange & Mr. Lif / Point Blank - Mr. Moods / Tango & Cash - Da Buze Bruvaz / Junkyard Dogs - Quelle Chris / Wake Up Dead Man - Elucid / To the Streets (9mm Version) - Conway / History - Dday One / Over The Under (Instrumental) - SACH / Law Years (Paper Chase Interlude) - Ornette Coleman Quartet / Some Shit I Wrote - Common / Virginia (Pawcut Remix) - The Clipse / ColorBlind - DRTYDRDZ (feat. DJ Baloo) / Piggy & SF Relaxation - Controller 7 / Grey - The Higher Up / We Love Jazz - Dee La Kream (feat. John Robinson) / Mood Algorithms - Dday One / The Last Words of Dutch Schultz (This Is Insane) - William S. Burroughs & The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy

 

Previously:

Take One

Take Two

Take Three

Take Four

Take Five

Take Six

the scar spattered blather

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This American Carnage / fight - Skipp Coon & Mr. Nick / Kill Your Masters - Run The Jewels (feat. Zach de la Rocha) / Severed Heads Of State - Ill Bill (feat. El-P) / Pro Wrestling - billy woods / Captain Caveman - Demigodz (feat. Apathy, Celph Titled & R.A. The Rugged Man) / The National Anthem (National Resistance of America Remix) - Radiohead (feat. Dana Loesch) / America - Death Comet Crew / Amerikkka's Most Wanted - Ice Cube (Isjberg Remix) / Burn Baby Burn - 2 Black 2 Strong / Arrest The President - Tragedy Khadafi (Intelligent Hoodlum) / Amerikkkan Horror Story - Ras Kass / Fuck Donald Trump - YG (feat. Nipsey Hussle) / Illegals - Jasiri X (feat. Rhymefest) / Great Nation - Malcolm & Martin (feat. Bambu) / Proudhon - E.K. Collective / Capital Punishment In America - Lench Mob / Caesar's Rise - Kemba / Typical American (Instrumental) - The Goats / Discoverlude - Twilight of the Idols / Impeach The President - The Honeydrippers / Who Will Survive America? - Amiri Baraka / Fight The Power (Parts 1 & 2) - The Isley Brothers / Star Spangled Banner - Marvin Gaye / Fight The Power - Public Enemy

Previously...

this american carnage (oh hail no to the chief)

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Kick off your Independence (sic) Day weekend with this.

 

the classical (3rd movement)

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So yeah, some more classical sounds on deck. I like my strings son. I like my cellos and oboes and shit. Feel those choirs up in the beat.

On the Eve of War - Jedi Mind Tricks (feat. The GZA) / Blvck Blanka - Dub MD x C-Rayz Walz / Behold The Opera - The Black Opera / Turn the Lights Down - The Adding Machine / It's A Description - Danny Brown / Reject #20 - Odd Nosdam / Bottom To Tha Top (Instrumental) - Timbaland / Fatal (Instrumental) - The RZA / Imani (Willie Green Remix) - Vordul Mega (feat. billy woods) / Spartacuts - Rob Swift / A Quick 16 - NYOIL / Fabric of an Orchestra - Rob Swift / Chapter 7 - Saul Williams / PRAY - Kilowattz / Lower Level (2nd Movement) - Rob Swift / Etymological Perspective - The Jones Orchestra / Drinking Water For Lovers - Surface Tension Beekeepers & V8 / An Industrial Ton - Routiger Slob / Thule King

the classical (2nd movement)

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So since flute rap's suddenly mad popular, time to hit you off with another collection of classical sounds. You kids today. One fucking flute loop and your minds are blown.

Enigma - Sean Price (feat. Illa Ghee) / The Revolution (DJ Semi & DJ KG Remix) - The Notorious B.I.G. / Watch Ur Mouf - Wu-Tang Clan / Symphony - EPMD (feat. M.O.P.) / Best To Do It (magOwl Remix) - DJ K.O., Royce 5'9, Elzhi & Supastition / Rising To The Top - KRS-One & Marley Marl / Terror - Jedi Mind Tricks (feat. Demoz) / Bust 'Em In - Army of the Pharaohs / Pounds Up (Sagace Remix) - M.O.P. / It Gets Worse - Dutch Massive (feat. Vast Aire, Windbreeze, Alaska, Majik Most & Cryptic) / ILLJEWMANATI - Sneakas (feat. Iron Solomon, ILL Bill & MC Serch) / Greatest Rapper Ever (DJ Critical Hype Blend) - Danny Brown / Monumental - The White Shadow of Norway (feat. KRS-One, Bigg Limn, Raekwon & Immortal Technique)

 

what if…melle mel was the herald of galactus?

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So old school heads complain that hip hop isn't political anymore, by which they mean there aren't as many didactic calls for revolution.  I'd argue that the records cats like Elucid and Kemba are making are political--just more personal, more exploratory, more complex.  They're drawing on wider influences than slogans and fighting powers more insidious, more entrenched, internal as well as external.  If race, and discrimination based on race, is ever going to be eliminated it has to be treated for what it is: a social construct. We need to hear wider narratives than guns and butta. So the more subjective experience, complexity and nuance are explored, that's pushing beyond race a lot more than hashtag activism. And the furthest beyonds are space and the future. I mean, even W.E.B. DuBois wrote science fiction.

The Silver Surfer, in case you're not a nerd or don't have kids who read comics, was like the Invisible Man with the power cosmic, reflective (literally and emotionally) instead of transparent. You could write a dumb Master's thesis on Galactus, The World Eater, The Cosmic Hunger, as Space Whiteness (and The Watcher as Space White Liberal) and the Surfer as an afrofuturist slave narrative, but hey let's not (especially because you have to twist up a connection with surfing and there ain't enough lentils in all of grad school for that).  Let's put it in afrofuturism instead as another new cosmology, like Farrakhan's Mothership Connection.  But no doubt Galactus is about holocausts, genocides, the total erasure of civilisations. And the Surfer is the sole survivor, who's also morally compromised by what he's done to try and save his people. And loses everything.

When Galactus rolled up on his planet to eat it, the Surfer gave himself up to save it, but after years? Centuries? of servitude, he turns on his master and for this rebellion is exiled. He never finds his way home. That's the feeling imbued in the joints in this mix--they're not necessarily about flying saucers, but they have a celestial heft, whether it's raging against the planet-eating machine or the loneliness of the galactically disenfranchised.  They're shooting bars like energy beams all up in Galactus' Kirby-purple grill.

And let's not forget that in that shitty Fantastic Four movie, the Surfer's voice was provided by none other than Laurence Fishburne, aka Mr. Clean/Jimmy Jump/Morpheus/Ike Turner/Furious Styles/the guy who evaded the slave hunters in 'Predators' himself. (Uh, also Cowboy Curtis.) That's some afrofuturistic shit right there--'Time is this really fluid thing. Now is now, but the past is now and the future too.'  -Niama Safia Sandy

There's a superstring of the cosmic in rap's legacy, with seeds from Sun Ra, the Black Ark and P-Funk mythology...from 'Whitey On The Moon' to 'Planet Rock,' 'Space Rap' and 'Space Is The Place' to the O.G. (Original Galactic) Rammellzee, to Kool Keith to Divine Styler to Deltron to Killah Priest and even Killarmy--remember 'Galactics'?--through to Binary Star, Cannibal Ox, Shabazz Palaces, Cudi and on and on, you don't stop. An ever-expanding universe. There's always been that reaching for something up from the gutter, beyond the dirty streets, something higher, the strength within infused with power from beyond. Something above the clouds.

These songs from 2016 reflect the power cosmic, the soulfulness and loss of traveling the spaceways, the intersection of Sun Ra and The Message.

Intro / High John The Conqueror Speaks - War Church / Exquisite Cutlery - Bigg Jus / Kill Your Masters - Run The Jewels (feat. Zach de la Rocha) / Guaranteed Struggle - Dälek / A Palace In The Sky - L'Orange & Mr. Lif / Organ Donor (UZ Remix) - DJ Shadow / Sativa - Killah Priest & 4th Disciple / Testify - Guilty Simpson / That Cold and Lonely - Ka / Already - Kemba / M.A.B.A. - Atoms Family (Cryptic One & Alaska) / Blame The Devil - Elucid / Waves - The Quantum (feat. Vordul Mega) / Waiting For The Barbarians - Pawcut (feat. Billy Woods) / Open The Brain - Quelle Chris / Lordstaviour - Ill Clinton / Facts (Extended) - Yung Gutted (feat. Wiki) / All Coltrane Solos At Once - Saul Williams (feat. Haleek Maul) / Another Tomorrow - The Difference Machine (feat. Stacy Epps)

the year in litness :: mmxvi

Another year in rap, another list that I can't keep down to 5 or 10. And I still don't know how to pronounce Rae Smreurrd? Smruerdrd? and I really don't see what's so great about that 'Black Beatles' joint.  On the other hand, that stupid 'Panda' bullshit came and went.

 

Albums of the Year

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Ka :: Honor Killed The Samurai

Ghost Dog didn't die at the end of The Way of the Samurai.  He lives in a Brownsville basement, waking at 3am from PTSD nightmares and digging in the crates for the dustiest loops.  Another way: Illmatic never got released, and Nas has spent 20 years refining and compressing his craft for a wintertime debut.

Ka has blessed us with his fifth release, and it carries on the tradition of both reducing and elevating rap to its finest natural elements.  The sword-sharp writing, the pared-down beats, all delivered with exacting precision.  It's street-level frescoes carved on grains of rice.  Just as there's five elements of hip-hop (six including arguing about Wu-Tang), Zen includes the tea ceremony, sword fighting and calligraphy--the art and meditation practice of writing just one letter, just one thought, after long and careful clearing of the mind, with one chance only to get it right.  So it is, as always, with Ka. He soldiers on. He blesses us with his service.

Elucid :: Osage EP / Save Yourself

Did Amerikkka get the president it wanted or the president it deserved?  Elucid's one-two drops were the records we needed, and didn't know we wanted. Personal and political, strictly hip-hop yet reaching far and wide beyond it, it's a roam through what it means to be here, today. Like I said earlier, he's breathing ghosts on this one.  It's fractured blues and St. Augustine visions. Sipping on Flint water in ruined tabernacles. Sprinkling baby powder in kicks on power lines.  For real, god took a bag of coal and turned it into gems.  Every cut on these are repping some Jane Jacobs, some Amiri style.  Skinny Luther nailing it up son.

 

 Most Slept On

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Man. Y'all slept so hard on these, you got those pillow creases on your face.

The Difference Engine :: The 4th Side of the Eternal Triangle

Can't recommend this one enough. Huge, funky live sound but still with great drums and on-point cosmic, literate and political rhymes. It's like if Zach de la Rocha had been more into Fishbone, Bad Brains, Parliament and Heavy Mental than Anthrax and Minor Threat. Go get this one.

The Higher Up :: The Higher Up Album

An amazingly accomplished debut that bridges early Digable with '98 Juggaknots with today's lighter but still iller cats like Denmark Vessey. Polished production maintaining a consistent, lush sound, smooth & soulful but also rugged, introspective but also rhyming-about-rhyming, great storytelling without sparing the wordplay. It's the greatest record nobody was talking about this year.

 

MVPs :: Griselda Gang
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These cats ran shit in 2016, hands down. They had every guest verse on lock and ran the East Coast, no doubt. I mean, they never left the studio this year I don't think. They're at the peak of their powers, able to lace a verse on every track out there without any dip in quality. A lot of cats complaining about how many MCs out there copping the Marcberg style, but Griselda rode out the cold Buffalo winters to bring it back with a lot more Mobb Deep up in it.  I mean, these dudes named their crew after one of the evillest narcos there ever was, Griselda Blanco, a cold-blooded killer at 11 years old and dropped in a drive-by at 69. (Not The Story of Griselda like I first thought, which is good, I don't really fuck with Boccaccio.) 

WestSide Gunn brings the nasal, on some AZ with more attitude or the Troy Ave that shoulda been. Conway brings the million-yard-stare of Prodigy after thirty years on lockdown. I mean the dude been shot in the face and is still rhyming.  Together they go for that great high/low combo a la Cypress, PE and Rae/Ghost. They know how to ride a beat, drop their illest lines when you least expect, and keep it straight old school G.  The secret weapon here is Daringer, who produced all their best tracks--a close study of the grimy loop genealogy of Muggs begat RZA begat Havoc begat Alchemist begat Roc Marci. The kid goes deep and knows how to pull down that foreboding, smoked-out, hazy sound.

If you ever owned a pair of Timbs and don't fuck with these guys, something wrong with you.

You Already Knew

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A Tribe Called Quest :: We Got It From Here

I never was the biggest Tribe fan outside of a long drive or a drunken house party, but I definitely fuck with this (along with everyone else).  Thicker and heavier than their old stuff. It just. Fucking. GOES.

Danny Brown :: Atrocity Exhibition 

Didn't understand some of the older heads not feeling this.  I mean, it's a straight trilogy from XXX and Old, who's done that since P.E. or Gangstarr? What, you want him to go back to those shitty flip-phone beats from the Detroit State series? He keeps killing it, keeps putting more of his raw self out there, keeps experimenting, keeps making great records.

Also those 'When It Rain' and 'Pneumonia' joints though! Sounds like two cats fucking and one cat has a eye scratched out and both of them are on acid somehow and they're fucking in a pile of crushed up Adderall and spilled rum and it's smearing all over the place and they knock over a pile of dirty plates and THEN the party gets started. That's what that shit sounds like.

Underground Kings

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'Underground' hip hop...the term's a lousy catch-all for any record not on a major label, on Bandcamp not Youtube, getting more play in indie bookstores than strip clubs. But under that umbrella is incredible breadth, artistry, complexity and an ever-expanding definition of what it can be.  I mean you got your Def Jux vets (Aesop, Lif), your Original Dirge Rap (dalek), your Neo-Afro-Futurists-sic (Kemba, Saul Williams), your rising multiplatform 'art rapper' (Open Mike), your weird frustrated kid in a gold mask pouring his bitter heart out (NoEmotion), and your If-There-Was-A-Dischord-or-SST-for-Rappers-These-Dudes-Would-Be-Signed, Never-Stop-Rhyming-&-Grinding, Cats-I-Always-Fuck-With (all the others who I always fuck with).

None of these records are alike, except they're all outstanding examples of the art and the craft.

Aesop Rock :: The Impossible Kid

Blueprint :: Vigilante Genesis

dalek :: Asphalt for Eden

Kemba :: Negus

L'Orange & Mr Lif :: The Life & Death of Scenery

Mr Lif :: Don't Look Down

NoEmotionGoldMask :: A Freaking American

Open Mike Eagle & Paul White :: Hella Personal Film Festival

PremRock & Fresh Kils :: Leave In Tact

Saul Williams :: Martyrloserking

Short Fuze & Uncommon Nasa :: Autonomy Music

We Are Not For Them :: Captures, Vol. 1

Words Hurt :: Fuck That Pretty Boy Shit

 

Meat & Potatoes Just Goes Hard Shit

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Fuck your kale smoothie and cinnamon-spice frappucino.  There'll always be room in the rap diet for a Waffle House breakfast or the now-infamous bodega chopped cheese.*

Czarface :: A Fistful of Peril

DJ Rude One :: ONEderful

Vinnie Paz :: The Cornertone of the Corner Store

(*Offer may vary depending on your location.)

 

Ill True Mentals

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Best of the illbient, beat-driven shit this year I heard that made the hairs on my neck stand up.

Bugseed :: Street Mentality

FRKSE :: Rode A Horse Made of China

Ill Clinton :: Juniper

odd nosdam :: Sisters

Quelle Chris :: Lullabies for the Broken Brain