Category Archives: i used to love h.e.r.

I Used to Love H.E.R.: Adam Farrell at Beggars

The 14th installment of I Used to Love H.E.R., a series in which artists/bloggers/writers discuss their most essential or favorite hip-hop albums (read intro) comes to us from neither an artist nor a blogger, but Adam Farrell, head of marketing for Beggars Group, proves to be a pretty damn good writer. (Also, he calls me a “publisher,” which is flattering/hilarious.) Adam rekindles some memories from his childhood with this hip-hop mixtape.

The Most Freshest Mixtape Ever Made By A 9-Year-Old

First of all, big apologies to the publishers of So Much Silence for such a delay in pulling this together … even though they assured me the world was waiting. First excuse, I had a daughter about four months ago. Her name is Ella and I hope to hell she has good taste in music. Second excuse, I’m not a writer so the idea of me putting something up on a blog that I’ve written scares the baby formula out of me.

So as I sit here on paternity leave watching And You Don’t Stop on my DVR, it’s kicking my ass into starting this little missive.

My relationship with hip-hop is deep and varied. Often times, it was a way for me to distinguish myself from all my hessian, metal-loving friends during high school in almost rural Pennsylvania. Other times, it was at the core of a connection to memories past.

But my relationship with hip-hop really started during the Summer of 1984. My family was about to move to Copenhagen, Denmark, and fuck if I even knew where that was. So, in between watching Edwin Moses and the aliens in “V” bust havoc, I ended up ripping songs from radio stations (just like people do when they listen to White Stripes albums nowadays) and made what ended being a most freshest mixtape.

I’m recalling this all from memory, but I’m pretty sure side-A on the Normal Bias went something like this:

  • 1. It’s Like That, Run-DMC (Profile)

This was the perfect opener for any 9-year-old’s mixtape whose previous experience with music ranged from Billy Squier to Billy Idol. Of course, Billy Squier went on to be the second most obviously sampled rock artist in history (only outdone by Steve Miller), while I think Steve Stevens was asked to play the guitar part on King of Rock, but declined because in late 1984 his career didn’t need saving (Vince Neil would step in for that later). Anyhow, this was a super fresh way to open a hip-hop mixtape in 1984.

  • 2. Basketball, Kurtis Blow (Mercury)

I really hated basketball growing up. Being a stumpy, low-to-the-ground kind of kid, I was more suited for bicycling and playing catcher. Plus, I lived in Milwaukee and Sidney Moncrief, the Lamont Sanford-esque baller from the late 70s, was simply past his prime by 1984. In Denmark, they played handball on b-ball courts. So, it took going to a b-ball powerhouse of a school like Arizona to realize that basketball was an awesome excuse to make out with drunk chicks at sports bars. This song had a catchy as hell hook.

  • 3. Jam On It, Newcleus (Mayhew)

Every night that Summer of ’84, we’d dial up JAMZ 103.7 (or some shit like that) because they played Jam On It precisely at 10pm. It was a ritual. We’d grab some Capri Sun, a box of Nerds and wait for our Swatches to hit the hour. Once that first intrepid basline hit, we’d just sit on the floor in front of our crappy boom box and FEEL IT. For like 37 days straight, we felt it. We also thought the track was called “Jamoney”. We got my dad into it and every time he’d see us he’d go all dad-style, “Jamoney”, and give us a high five. Jam On It, I know this now. My dad doesn’t.

4. Can You Feel It, Fat Boys (Sutra)
This might have been the first hip-hop song where I heard beat boxing. But once I did, it was my mission to be a fuckin’ sick-ass beat boxer. But I didn’t get much practice in Copenhagen and by the time I got back to Milwaukee, Mark Joyner had pretty much mastered all 3 beat box moves. I decided to take up drums. Mark Joyner only had one arm.

  • 5. Fresh, Fresh 3 M.C.’s (Profile)

This put the word “fresh” into my personal lexicon, especially anything relating to everything. It all became “fresh” – Now N’ Laters, glacier glasses, and my first pair of Nike AF 1s. To be honest, even though I love all my Nikes, from this first pair I picked up in ’84 to my most recent, they’ve always felt like shit on my DD wide hobbits feet. Sometimes, my friends, being fresh comes at a cost.

6. Roxanne’s Revenge, Roxanne Shante (Pop Art)
A few years ago, when Landspeed re-issued a heap of Dr. Roxanne Shante stuff on The Best of Roxanne Shante, I picked up a copy and remembered this being on my mixtape and how it was my favorite song. Like a lot of other hip-hop artists at that time, Roxanne had a combative, freestyle flow. Unlike a lot of hip-hop artists at that time, she probably a lot to do with the trajectory of producers and artists that would eventually be the biggest names in new school (Marley Marl, Large Professor, Eric B to name a few). This song is like a manual on how to flow. I also believe this song was a diss on some dude who wore a Kangol. I never rocked a Kangol, but they are cute as long as you keep your shirt on. Yeah, I’m lookin’ at you L.L.

7. The Message, Grand Master Flash & The Furious Five (Sugar Hill)
Probably the most obvious jam on this mixtape, but definitely the most classic. It was pretty rad that they were the first hip-hop act ever honored into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame this year. And quite an honor to be along side Patti Smith and The Ronettes, even if the Hall is a bit of a red herring for how we recognize great achievements in music.

8. Tour De France, Kraftwerk (EMI)
So, what does a Kraftwerk tune have to do with a fresh hip-hop mixtape? Blah blah blah…. Bambaataa and Flash brought Kraftwerk to the hip-hop scene in the South Bronx and yadda blah. Not the point here. This song was on this mixtape because I was big into cycling at the time. And this before America’s Armstrong-loving, Nike-footwear, freedom-loving, French-beating love of cycling. Back in Milwaukee, I was the weird kid who rode a ten-speed instead of a BMX, and rocked a Colnago cap instead of a Brewers hat.

But once I got to Denmark, I found that people biked everywhere. And not just that, people have a bike to ride to work, a bike to ride on weekends and a bike for the grocery store. The Danes fuckin’ loved bikes and I was into that shit. And it was all Danish-cute with bike paths running everywhere with their own stoplights, lanes and signage. Cute like LegoLand. Putting a Kraftwerk jam on this mixtape could have been some kind of 9-year old prescience, but I put this jam on the mixtape because I loved (and still love) bicycles.

Besides strong legs, I got more hip-hop living in Copenhagen than you could imagine. By the end of the year, my brother was a pretty well known “wild style” graffiti artist (even featured in the Martha Cooper-esque Dansk Wild Style book … if anyone can find a copy hit me up in the comments) and we hung out in a crew of people that eventually got famous, like Lukas (yeah, the “with the lid off” Lukas).

By the time I got back to Milwaukee, all my friends were into INXS, Peter Gabriel and Pet Shop Boys – decidedly white music. But I kept my mixtape (and subsequent ones) close and every track begat some other discovery in hip-hop music leading to this very day.

Upon reflection, I most likely reveled in the fact that I was one of the few white kids into hip-hop in my neighborhood. Or maybe, I just was a fuckin’ fresh-ass kid.

I Used to Love H.E.R.: Jamie Radford

The 13th installment of I Used to Love H.E.R., a series in which artists/bloggers/writers discuss their most essential or favorite hip-hop albums (read intro) comes from Jamie Radford, a Georgia-based hip-hop artist, lawyer, freelance writer and general Internet impresario. Jamie responded quickly and intelligently when I asked him to take part, and he schools us on the South.

Jamie Radford on MySpace | Jamie Radford’s blog | Jamie Radford at Last.fm

Goodie Mob
Still Standing (LaFace, 1998)

“Still Standing” was one of those albums that hit me kind of late. It was something I bought early on in the history of my hip-hop fan-dom, probably because I found a used copy of it at Troy, Alabama’s only CD store, and I had heard “They Don’t Dance No Mo’” on Montgomery rap radio. And for a long time, it sat in its case, in my stack of neglected CD’s, until one day I randomly put it on, looking for some new sounds for my ears. I remember lying in my bed, half-asleep, just letting the music wash over me, when “Black Ice” starting floating through the air, and I was unexpectedly moved.

I say “unexpected,” because, at the time, South Alabama was being slammed with rap records out of New Orleans and Memphis: hard-hitting, instantly gratifying, glossy beats under drawled out hooks and shouts. For some reason, I had put Goodie Mob in the same mental compartment as these other Southern acts – like Atlanta’s version of Tru or Three-Six Mafia or something. I mean, they had “Mob,” in their name, and “They Don’t Dance No Mo’” usually followed “Make ‘Em Say Ungh” on the radio, so, why not?

But “Black Ice” was so smooth, and the raps were so … mentally stimulating. Listening to other Southern rappers, I had never been struck with the sense that rapping was a very difficult skill to acquire. But the opening verses were so complex, so quick, and what was this beat? This light organ floating in the background, these carefully placed kicks, this tick-tick that I sort of recognized. And then Gipp’s verse, then Big Boi’s, then.. holy shit.. Andre Benjamin’s. This was actually one of the first moments at which I really listened to either member of Outkast in this kind of light. This was probably the most skilled rapping I had ever heard.

When “They Don’t Dance” came on, I noticed elements I had never appreciated about this record. That little synth sound popping in the background, the depth of the verses. Then “Beautiful Skin!” Who was this strange-sounding rapper with this amazing verse about skillfully chatting up a dignified woman at a respectable singles joint? Was there other rap music out there like this? Needless to say, in the next weeks I got my hands on every Dungeon Family album available (Witchdoctor’s ” S.W.A.T. Healing Ritual, another favorite; Cool Breeze’s joint; all the Outkast albums available to date; the first Goodie Mob album). And for a while, these albums became permanent fixtures in my listening–I had been looking for a replacement for the Nirvana albums that had previously gotten me through each day, and I had found it. There was a darkness, a seriousness, an emotion in Goodie Mob that the other hip-hop I listened to hadn’t provided. It was a brand new kind of music.

The production on “Still Standing” is something that is still rare on hip-hop albums. The beats, like other Southern rap albums, are slow, with a prominent tick-tick double time represented in nearly every song. The vocal delivery has as much to do with inflection of the voice as with the content of the rhymes. But there’s also something unique about it. The samples are typically light and smooth (like the guitar part on “Beautiful Skin” or the brief piano and string hits on “Gutta Butta”), rather than the synth-blasts on No Limit or Cash Money records. The vocals have a heavy level of reverb, spreading the sound out throughout the beat, and smoothing out the overall mix.

And the lyricism is among the most complex recorded to date. Both Cee-Lo and Khujo’s raps take the form of fairly straightforward, interesting narratives, but both T-Mo and Gipp fill their verses with rhyme-heavy, drawled out word-pictures, packed with meaning and open to interpretation. Topping it all off are a couple of highly-memorable verses by Cee-Lo, most notably the tragic story of drug-dealing and prison at the end of “I Refuse Limitation” (which is also one of the most compelling hip-hop beats ever crafted), and the car-jacking tale in “Gutta Butta” (“I value both of our lives more than this here car!”).

“Still Standing,” along with the Fugee’s “The Score” is the album that most contributed to my love of and respect for hip-hop. And its still the album against which I sound-check all my own music: trying my best, usually in vain, to match the balance of bassy lows and stimulating highs, the level of reverb on the vocals, the gain on the snare. And now that I’ve moved to Atlanta, the album has acquired more meaning, as I pass by the name-checked streets and landmarks, and begin to better appreciate the city that inspired this music. I will forever remain in awe at the skill and attention to quality that went into this album, and can only hope that, in my own music, I maintain the integrity that Goodie Mob did in crafting “Still Standing.”

  • Goodie Mob | Black Ice

I Used to Love H.E.R.: Palomar

The 12th installment of I Used to Love H.E.R., a series in which artists/bloggers/writers discuss their most essential or favorite hip-hop albums (read intro) is a fantastic breakdown by Dale W. Miller, drummer for Palomar, on a straight-up classic. Palomar released All Things, Forests (on Misra) last month to heady reviews (7.4 at Pitchfork among them). Miller takes on this album from the viewpoint as a fan but also puts it into a context of its effect on him as a musician.

A Tribe Called Quest
The Low End Theory (Jive, 1991)

It was only when a friend of mine started playing Public Enemy’s “It Takes a Nation..” as his hardcore band’s intro at shows that I first tasted true hip-hop. Inspiring lyrics with groundbreaking production really set P.E. apart from so many old school & commercial rap acts of the time. Their raw energy really grabbed me the same way so many hardcore and punk bands did, but it was ultimately that same aggression that later wore on me in both genres. You see, long after discovering P.E. I started to turn into the person I am today, and the teen angst that had fueled my love for hardcore and P.E was fading away.

It all happened at once. I was in college at the time broadening my scope on music listening & studying the likes of Miles Davis’s “The Complete Concert 1964 My Funny Valentine and Four & More” and the Tribe’s “Low End Theory” fell in my lap, literally. My roommate recently bought “Low End” and when he read the credits stating Ron Carter was on the bass on some tracks he immediately brought it in my room knowing my love of his playing on Mile’s records.

Though not performed by Carter, the opening bass line of “Excursions” immediately drew me in. Like jazz, it had a heaviness that filled the speakers without anger, just power. Even within the first few lyric lines, Q-tip drew that same connection I was seeing between jazz & rap; “You could find the abstract listening to hip hop, My pops used to say, it reminded him of be-bop”. I knew right then I was on to something.

Q-tip’s delivery was extremely laid back, yet his vibe was coming through strong. Lyrics such as “I am a bona-fide, Not too modest and not a lot of pride, Soon to have a ride and a home to reside, If my momma is sick I’m by her bedside”, shows he had quite a mature outlook at such a young age yet still managed to keep it fresh. His co-MC Phife Dawg was a bit more energetic, but never stepped over the tone that was set from both the music and Q-tip. Phife’s lyrics showed his age a bit more by speaking of all the girls that he “Used ta love ‘em, leave ‘em, skeeze ‘em, tease ‘em”, but you still never felt like you were hanging at a frat party.

“Beats that are hard, beats that are funky, It could get you hooked like a crackhead junkie”. This album paved the way not only for Guru’s obviously jazz influenced 1993 record “Jazzmatazz Volume 1″, in which he had the entire Blue Note catalog at his disposal, but it also set the tone for the entire genre of trip-hop that was to follow a few years later in Europe. Even the collaboration between the Antipop Consortium and avant jazz pianist Matthew Shipp on their 2003 album shows obvious influence from “Low End Theory”. I personally remember spending countless hours repeating those footy kick drum patterns from “Low End” over and over again until I got them to swing.

The jazz flavored upright bass and hypnotic drum patterns were the key to this whole record. But as the album ends, Tribe decided to make an immediate left turn, letting you know there is still a good time to be had. “Scenario” was the hit off the album and the theme song to many people’s house parties that fall. Though the album dates itself a bit by talking about the obsolete usage of pagers and what “Bo Knows”, the overall production and message continue to be relevant today.

  • A Tribe Called Quest | Excursions

BONUS:

  • A Tribe Called Quest | Scenario (Young Nation Mix)

I Used to Love H.E.R.: Honeycut

To be honest, I’m surprised it took 11 installments of I Used to Love H.E.R., a series in which artists/bloggers/writers discuss their most essential or favorite hip-hop albums (read intro), for someone to write about this album. But I’m more than pleased to hand over a post to Tony Sevener, drummer/beats programmer of San Francisco trio Honeycut, whose LP, The Day I Turned to Glass, was released on Quannum last year. (Read previous post.)

delasoul3feethighandrisingalbumcover.jpgDe La Soul
3 Feet High and Rising (Tommy Boy, 1989)

One of the most important (and favorite) hip-hop albums in my collection is De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising. At the time of its release (1989), sampling had already taken over as the method-of-choice for hip-hop production. Hot producers of the time were pilfering every James Brown breakbeat known to man, and for the most part, the art of sampling hadn’t strayed too far from James and other “classic” funk breaks. Rhyme styles of the time were still largely bragadocious, and in the wake of Run DMC and LL Cool J a few years earlier, it seemed that MC’s were all trying to out-yell each other.

Enter: De La Soul.

From the second you approach the album cover to 3 Feet High you get the hint that this rap album is a horse of a different color … literally – day glo! Florescent flowers replaced the usual tough-guy posturing seen on rap record covers. Leather medallions replaced the obligatory dookie gold ropes of the time. And asymmetrical dread styles replaced…well, any orthodox hairdo I’d ever seen.

Once you dropped the needle on the record, your suspicion that this was something new was quickly confirmed. The first surprise was something that has now become commonplace on rap records – the skit (a hip hop facet pioneered on this album.) “Hey all you kids out there, welcome to 3 Feet High and Rising”… you were suddenly in the middle of a wacky game show, complete with nerdy host, and idiotic sounding contestants. It’s immediately apparent that these guys have a sense of humor – an odd one at that. Then the first track kicks in – a Led Zeppelin break sampled by way of Double Dee & Steinski’s Lesson 3. “The Magic Number” hits you over the head with a fat beat coupled with a vibe and lyrics that sound more influenced by Sesame Street than The Juice Crew. Track after track, the genius of producer Prince Paul is revealed to you thorough multi-layered sample collages which broke down the boundaries of what was then considered “sample-able.” Hall & Oates, The Turtles, Johnny Cash, Schoolhouse Rock, bits of French language instruction records, were all digested into a most unexpected sampledelic stew. Not only what was sampled, but how they were incorporated was next level.

As playful as the tracks and cuts (courtesy of PA Pasemaster Mase) were, so followed the rhymes conducted by Posdnous, and Trugoy. No LL-style yelling going on here. Their style was a sing-song, limerick-like flow that had yet to be heard in the rap arena. Although fun and funny, they were also smartly constructed, full of inside jokes and cryptic brilliance sometimes only revealed after a few swipes at the rewind button.

Surprisingly, the first track I heard from 3 Feet High and Rising was not the P-Funk inspired hit “Me, Myself and I.” I first heard the track “Eye Know” which dared to blend a Steely Dan’s hit “Peg”, Otis Redding’s “Sitting On The Dock of the Bay”, and thick Sly Stone break, with the MC’s spitting game to a girl in a manner which I’d never heard (and probably never will again). Growing up in the ‘70s, I knew Steely Dan’s “Peg” all too well, and when I heard this track, I bugged the f*** out! I couldn’t believe they had the balls to sample something this … soft (for lack of a better term). It was the complete opposite of what most hip-hop artists were trying to achieve at the time … and THAT’s genius. This track had me running to the store the same day to cop the record.

Front to back, De La’s debut is one of the biggest musical coups in hip-hop that I can remember. It, with one fell swoop, broadened the scope of rap music tenfold. The artistic door, which was slightly ajar, was now kicked wide open. It now seemed like anything was possible. It was not unlike a hip-hop Sgt. Pepper. Writing this piece makes me smile and long for those days a little. The days when it seemed like anything might happen. The days when people still valued something so sorely missing from much of today’s hip-hop … originality.

  • De La Soul | Eye Know
  • BONUS:

  • De La Soul | Eye Know (The Kiss Mix)

Related:
De La Soul: 3 Feet High and Rising (video press kit).

I Used to Love H.E.R.: Tim Fite

The 10th installment of I Used to Love H.E.R., a series in which artists/bloggers/writers discuss their most essential or favorite hip-hop albums (read intro), is unlike any contribution I’ve received so far; frankly, I was blown away by the idea. It comes from Tim Fite, a folk-rock eccentric whose new album Over the Counter Culture (Epitaph), a sharp-witted hip-hop satire, will be available as a free download on his Web site on Feb. 20. (See previous post.)

    Tim Fite | I’ve Been Shot (From Over the Counter Culture)

(Click for full size.)

Tim Fite's favorite rappers

I Used to Love H.E.R.: Jonah Matranga

The contributions have been coming fast and furious of late, and I’m more than pleased to offer up the ninth installment of I Used to Love H.E.R., a series in which artists/bloggers/writers discuss their most essential or favorite hip-hop albums (read intro). Jonah Matranga (ex-Far, New End Original, Gratitude, aka Onelinedrawing) takes a stream-of-consciousness approach in discussing two seminal hip-hop groups, the type of entry I love about doing this series because of the freedom contributors have to shape their thoughts.

(Note: Jonah will appear March 18 at Modified in Phoenix with Joshua English and Frank Turner.)

Jonah Matranga
On Public Enemy and Boogie Down Productions

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

PE, BDP, Youth Speaks — San Francisco, late-night, 15Jan2007

“I put this together to…”

Not sure what was holding, resistance is quiet sometimes, just digs in and somewhere you just stop wishing, but tonight at YouthSpeaks all different melanin counts surrounded resistance and took it down.

My favorite remains the girl in the ‘Philippines’ shirt, humility without affectation, the first person to speak before she spoke, and be more reforming than performance. There was, though, someone I missed half of, and an older guy that actually reminded me of KRS, which is as good a place to jump as any, though we’ll come back to this thing that got me coming back to this, this ode to PE and BDP, these people that keep reminding me of that great place between chaos and too slick, between boring practiced licks and bricks through windows for no better reason than cos you miss someone.

Chuck did really sound like Martin in the best way (Luther King, the reason for the thing tonight that got me thinking), and in the last poem by the host, she spoke so eloquently about King’s humanity and taking the shackles of archetype off — just like Johnny Appleseed in The Botany Of Desire, these wires running through our very nervous systems — but Martin Luther King was that huge and beyond and the duality is inevitable, the myth-making and immature disappointment when the people we drape our dreams on turn out to be people.

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I Used to Love H.E.R.: Douglas Martin

The eighth installment of I Used to Love H.E.R., a series in which artists/bloggers/writers discuss their most essential or favorite hip-hop albums (read intro), comes from Douglas Martin, a blogger who used to go by the name the Armchair Novelist and is now heading the folk/experimental act Fresh Cherries From Yakima (Web site / MySpace).

Douglas thoroughly deconstructs an early Wu-Tang solo classic, so much so that I had to invoke the “more” link to jump his contribution. That said, I strongly suggest taking in what he has to say about an album that, in no small part, influenced the modern game of “cocaine rap.”

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingRaekwon
Only Built 4 Cuban Linx (Loud/RCA, 1995)
Note: Cassettes of this album were produced in a purple-tinted plastic, an idea that is analogous to how drug dealers mark their items (via). (And, for what it’s worth, Ghostface Killah was named the all-too-Caucasian-sounding “Ghost Face Killer” on this album.)

“Let’s cut to the chase: concept albums and “coke rap” are two of the most furiously popular musical trends of the past two years. being a fan of not only the album-length narrative, but also of the street-level workings of the drug trade (my next book purchase is the autobiography of “nicky” barnes, one of the most notorious snitches in history), i should let it be no secret that only built 4 cuban linx by raekwon (and co-starring the most brilliant wu-tang clansman, ghostface killah) is my all-time favorite hip-hop record. when sequencing my forthcoming debut album (also an album-length narrative), i took a few cues from cuban linx, which is probably something you don’t hear every day from a folk singer.

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I Used to Love H.E.R.: SupremeEx

The seventh installment of I Used to Love H.E.R. comes from Philadelphia producer SupremeEx, whose latest project was a collaboration with Hieroglpyhics/Souls of Mischief emcee Tajai on Nuntype (available on Rumble Pack Records). Instead of an album, SupremeEx gives his due to a groundbreaking hip-hop track from an unlikely source.

Grandmaster Flash
“The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash
on the Wheels of Steel”
(K-Tel Breakdance cassette)

“I guess arguably the most influential hiphop album of all time for me is this K-Tel cassette I got waaaay back in the day simply entitled, Breakdance. It was the first hiphop tape I ever bought. It came with a huge fold-out poster with breakdancing moves on it. But a defining moment for me on that tape was Grandmaster Flash’s The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel. That track alone changed my life, and certainly planted the creative seeds for my desire to tell stories through production and instrumental beats. And although I credit Herbie Hancock’s Rockit as the first hiphop song I ever heard, it was the Breakdance tape from K-Tel that set me up for the rest of my life as a hip-hopper. PS – I still have the tape.”

Grandmaster Flash | The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel

Related:
K-Tel breakdance commercial (via YouTube).
Tajai and SupremeEx: Nuntype
Nuntype: Instrumentals (free download)

Previously on I Used to Love H.E.R.:
Devastations (Ultramagnetic MCs – Funk Your Head Up) || The Gray Kid (Black Moon – Enta Da Stage) || Sarah Daly of Scanners (Run-DMC – Tougher Than Leather) || Pigeon John (De La Soul – De La Soul is Dead) || Joel Hatstat of Cinemechanica (Digital Underground – Sex Packets) || G. Love (Eric B. & Rakim – Paid In Full) || An introduction

I Used to Love H.E.R.: Devastations

The sixth installment of I Used to Love H.E.R. is a perfect example of why I love doing this feature. Conrad Standish of Devastations comes out of nowhere and surprised the hell out of me with his selection: Funk Your Head Up by Ultramagnetic MC’s, who are best known for their classic debut Critical Beatdown. Kool Keith’s influence knows no bounds.

The Devastations’ new album, Coal, was released on Brassland on Oct. 24. Available from Amazon, eMusic and iTunes.

[mp3] Devastations | Sex & Mayhem

The band is wrapping up a US tour w/The Drones.
November 2006:
11/10: Vancouver, CANADA – Media Club; 11/11: Seattle, WA – Crocodile Club; 11/12: Portland, OR – Doug Fir; 11/14: San Francisco, CA – Bottom of the Hill; 11/15: Los Angeles, CA – Club NME @ Spaceland; 11/17: San Diego, CA – Casbah.

December 2006:
12/10: London, UNITED KINGDOM – Luminaire (w/ Damien Jurado); 12/12: Brussels, BELGIUM – Botanique; 12/13: Gronigen, NETHERLANDS – Vera; 12/14: Tilburg, NETHERLANDS – Cul De Sac; 12/15: Den Haag, NETHERLANDS – State X New Forms Festival; 12/17: Munich, GERMANY – Atomic Cafe; 12/18: Cologne, GERMANY – Prime Club; 12/19: Hamburg, GERMANY – Moltow; 12/20: Berlin, GERMANY – Magnet; 12/21: Dresden, GERMANY – Star Club.

Ultramagnetic MC’s
Funk Your Head Up (Polygram Records, 1992)

“Rappers know I’m cool, rappers know I’m Keith, like Charlie Brown – good grief” – Kool Keith, on Pluckin’ Cards

“Thus, I was hooked onto Ultramagnetic MC’s second, and completely overlooked, album, Funk Your Head Up.

“At the time I was a 15-year-old bonghead, avoiding high school as often as possible, taking acid a little too often for a growing mind and staring into MC Escher prints for far too long. No, MC Escher is not an MC.

“Kool Keith is like the MC Escher of rappers. The guys’ complexity and sci-fi-deranged stream-of-consciousness raps were something I hadn’t really encountered before. I had always been a big hip-hop follower (you know, being pubescent, white and middle class). BDP, Schooly D, EPMD, Public Enemy were mainstays, but upon hearing Keith start kickin’ it, they all seemed like rank amateurs. Songs like Pluckin’ Cards, Funk Radio, Message From The Boss and Bust The Facts blew my mind six ways to Sunday. The production was so fucking funky, the rapping was totally off the hook, and better yet, they seemed to eschew the whole guns’n’bitches mentality of many of the other rappers of the time, which even I was getting a little bored by at that point. I think this was around 1992 or so.

“I got into their first record, Critical Beatdown after this, which I still love, but for me the one is still Funk Your Head Up. It’s fucking impossible to get now. I only had it on a dubbed cassette. If I ever turn into one of those bored rock stars with a record label (fingers crossed!), this will be the first thing I re-issue.

“Good grief.

“Kool Conrad Standish/Devs x”

[mp3] Ultramagnetic MC’s | Pluckin’ Cards

Previously on I Used to Love H.E.R.:
The Gray Kid (Black Moon – Enta Da Stage) || Sarah Daly of Scanners (Run-DMC – Tougher Than Leather) || Pigeon John (De La Soul – De La Soul is Dead) || Joel Hatstat of Cinemechanica (Digital Underground – Sex Packets) || G. Love (Eric B. & Rakim – Paid In Full) || An introduction

I Used to Love H.E.R.: The Gray Kid

The fifth installment of I Used to Love H.E.R., a series in which artists/bloggers/writers discuss their most essential hip-hop albums (read intro), is a thought-provoking and entertaining piece from The Gray Kid, who released what’s shaping up to be one of my favorite albums this year, … 5, 6, 7, 8. He dissects Black Moon’s bangin’ debut Enta Da Stage with his typical gusto and well of knowledge that goes deep beyond the surface.

[mp3] The Gray Kid | Lonely Love (see also, The Gray Kid’s PaxilBack spoof.)

Black Moon
Enta Da Stage (Nervous Records, 1993)

“Mount Up: Enta Da Stage = Enter the Posse”

“I bought my first cassette copy of Black Moon’s Enta Da Stage in 1993 on the strength of a song that wasn’t even on the album, the irreplaceable “I Got Cha Opin (Remix).” The song had exploded at radio following the first proper single from EDS, 1992’s “Who Got the Props?,” and had immediate appeal to a 13-year-old boy who was still hiding the bulk of his RapLove from his parents. I wore out the unmistakable horn sample from Barry White’s “Playing Your Game Baby.” The defenseless cardboard sleeve where Buckshot donned a bright yellow poncho and trademark Timz didn’t stand a chance either, its black ink ceding from soon-rounded corners. It only took a few complete listens, though, for Enta Da Stage to enter my Top 5 for good, hit remix or not.

“In an era that was made up of more rap groups than we’ll ever see again (*Star* culture can’t afford to spread the love like that), Black Moon was wedged in between A Tribe Called Quest and Onyx: a veritable rock – ATCQ was on top, releasing Midnight Marauders in ’93 to critical acclaim – and a hard place – Onyx was set to redefine what a fear-instilling rap squadron was supposed to look like. Good thing “Who Got the Props” was, without question, a party song at the same time as being the tune which established Buckshot as the hard-ass Brooklyn MC not to be fucked with. EDS, on the whole, was a violent record. It was unforgiving in its content, from the song titles (“Buck em Down,” “Niguz Talk Shit,” “Black Smif-n-Wessun”) to the Beatminerz filthy and often-mangled sonics (particularly on “Slave,” my favorite track). Yet, EDS succeeded largely because it was intensely groovy, comprised of clear and memorable samples (“How Many MCs…”) that let Buckshot shine for the lyric-obsessed just the same.

“What was so fresh and visceral about Black Moon, though, and what really had such a broad impact on the surging New York hip-hop scene, was their relentless posse nature. Remember, this is the group that ushered in the Boot Camp Click, the crew that, for my money, was the most accomplished in the ’90s, releasing multiple records from their sprawling team to consistent musical and cultural acclaim (“Lefleur Leflah Eshkoshka” was FUCKING WEIRD – these guys had their own ideas).

“The way the posse functioned for Black Moon, however, was even more psychologically disarming. Buckshot was not afraid to remind you of his physical stature (“yo who’s the shortie?”) with the same breath he used to remind you of the physical harm you’d subject yourself to if you crossed his path (“I’m bustin’ niguz with my six-shooter“). He was the littlest guy you didn’t want to fuck with the most. His occasional partner-in-rhyme was another 5-footer, and the rest of the squad at the time (Smif-N-Wessun and the young Mobb Deep) were hardly Ruck and Rock (who came a couple years later).

“In retrospect this seems anomalous, but upon re-listening to Enta Da Stage everything makes perfect sense. Of the album’s 14 cuts, 10 contain legit posse choruses made up of emphatic multi-dude overdubbing, one (“Powerful Impak”) contains a sample of 4 screaming Busta Rhymeses, one (“Shit iz Real”) contains loosely recorded chilling 10-deep in the studio, and the rest (the KRS-One sampled “How Many MCs” and the ahead-of-its-time for being psycho-maniacal “Slave”) are just plain fire. This shit is terrifying if you think about it in musical terms: the hooks as close to horror as you’d want them to come whilst remaining musical, engaging, and ultimately hip-hop. Mad dudes are yelling at you. The MC is threatening you 80 percent of the time. He knew he could truly spit with anybody, and he knew his click could throw down just as well. It was more like enta da stage, at your own risk.”

[mp3] Black Moon | Who Got Da Props?

Previously on I Used to Love H.E.R.:
Sarah Daly of Scanners (Run-DMC – Tougher Than Leather)
Pigeon John (De La Soul – De La Soul is Dead)
Joel Hatstat of Cinemechanica (Digital Underground – Sex Packets)
G. Love (Eric B. & Rakim – Paid In Full)
An introduction