The 48th 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 and songs, comes from Curly Castro, the Philadelphia-based emcee who will be appearing with Zilla Rocca and Random on Friday at the Hidden House, where he will unleash a solo set and perform with Zilla as 5 O’Clock Shadowboxers. Check the new track, West Indian Rum, which Castro will debut on Friday.
Being asked to reveal the most influential Hip-Hop albums of my lifetime, the answers are almost infinite. So I decided to lessen the “Atlas pressure” on my shoulders, and focus on two albums that fortified and evolved my Past + Present styles of Rhyming.
Now I am a Brooklyn-raised 80’s baby. So i was present as the Hip-Hop lexicon was in its genesis. All the Top-to-Bottom pieces on the entire Subway system, the B-Boy exhibitions on every corner, and the new and fresh sounds coming out of Boomboxes as they pass each other on the block made up my New York state of Mind. And no release in the 90’s signified all those elements more than Funcrusher Plus, Company Flow’s LP.
From the audacity of Bad Touch Example to the illuminati-infused Population Control to the mastery displayed by The Indelible MC’s on The Fire in Which You Burn, Funcrusher Plus echoed dystopian/steel-sharpens-steel/NY Babylon Hip-Hop. I was into many a conspiracy theory and Co-Flow brought paranoia home with a pipe Bomb. The scissorhands cuts of DJ Mr. Len, the Graffiti-soaked lyrics of Bigg Jus (Lune TNS), and the Bombsquad-esque/Mantronix sound of El-Producto, made Company Flow the ultimate justification of my late 90’s Emcee-ing.
Co-Flow made it alright for me to rhyme on syllable overload, to drown my lyrics in New York Newspeak, and be part of the “Independent as F*ck” generation.
Fast-forward to now, as we witness the birth of Nu-Gangsta: Shabazz Palaces. I discovered the Gypsy Hip-Hop of Seattle’s Shabazz Palaces through their first video for Belhaven Meridian. It is an homage to the film Killer of Sheep by Charles Burnett, and features a selection of their records from their two debut EPs.
The track that stood out immediately to my rhythmic sensibilities was played during the opening of the video: A Mess, the booth soaks in palacian musk, palaeer in vintage LRG, yes pure NS, uppowndet watermelon lips beat. The lengthy titles alone signify the inherent DOPENESS of the release. The biggest record to drop in 2010 (my honest opinion) parallels my own musical evolution. The “Nu Gangsta” motif exhibited by Palaceer Lazaro (formerly Ish of Digable Planets) & partner Palaceer Doug-e is a testament to DIY ethics. And focuses on the Music above all Else.
The lack of interviews, the stubbornness of not naming the musicians involved, the staunch stance to not take redit for the Solar-powered Phunk work, all coalesce to bring that “Nu Gangsta”, that adrenaline shot to Hip-Hop’s limp arm. 32 Leaves Dipped in Blackness… will bust your lip if you are not careful while listening. This is not your brother’s Hip-Hop, it’s your Godfather’s. It’s Bambaataa in a time capsule, accidentally cracked while digging for ancient Egyptian artifacts. It’s Pure Uncut Dope.
Thank you to Kevin and SoMuchSilence.com. I will be performing in Phoenix on the 24th of September at the Hidden House, alongside 5 O’Clock Shadowboxers & Megaran (Random). Hope to see some of you readers there. Won L.