Saturday, July 30, 2005

Rap Oddity: The Rapsody

Black man, white woman, black baby

Xzibit: "E Lucean Le Stelle"
Puccini: "E Lucean Le Stelle (Reprise)"
Mobb Deep: "Nessun Dorma"
from The Rapsody Overture: Hip Hop Meets Classic 1997

Bonus Track
Bounty Killer: "Hip-Hopera ("Mr Punk")" feat. The Fugees
from My Xperience 1996

Rapsody: the sibling of Bushwick Bill's Rapera, or MTV's (or Volume 10's) Hip-Hopera. Will the mind-bogglingly clever wordplays on the melding of rap and classical (RAPsical, anyone?) music ever end? I could devote an entire post on analyzing the cover of this album, but instead lets focus on the music. This oddball import album that sported the Def Jam logo turned up in 1997 with an impressive tracklisting, featuring Xzibit, LL, Warren G, Redman, Onyx, Nikki D, Mobb Deep, and more. What really intrigued me, however, was the tagline "Hip-Hop Meets Classic," which implied the collision of hip-hop music with classic orchestral music. What the cover didn't mention was the wack European producer Klaus Voelkel stitching it all together with cheesy drum kits and synth sounds.

With that said, I present to you these rap oddities. Xzibit opens the album with a lyric reminiscent of "LA Times," and you have to wait til the chorus before the lilting oboe from Puccini's "E Lucean Le Stelle" solo appears. I wonder what Thayod, Havoc, or Warren G could've done with such a melancholic sample; in the hands of the German hip-hop hack, this album becomes a Frankenstein invention, neither hip-hop nor classical, but a grotesque and awkward union of the two.

"Nessun Dorma" (translated, "no one sleeps") is the gorgeous Puccini standard that Pavarotti is known to rip. On this album, it becomes an unwitting comic outro, as Havoc and Prodigy puff "spread it out," and "QBC!" over the orchestra warming up. When the actual beat drops, the production sounds straight out of an informercial, and the QB duo phone in their performances (can you blame them?). The operatic chorus appears briefly ("Vincero!!!!") following the first and only verse, and the listener can imagine what could have been: the combination of some of the most beautiful melodies that the world has ever known, mixed with the modern boom-bap. The concept still looks interesting on paper, but has yet to actually be executed by a producer who understands, respects, and has mastered both forms.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Lost in the Shuffle: The UMC's

Undisputed Masters of Charisma

The UMC's: "Blue Cheese (Smooth Mix)"
The UMC's: "Blue Cheese (Instrumental)"
The UMC's: "Any Way the Wind Blows"
The UMC's: "Any Way the Wind Blows (Boom Mix)"

I was about to post these cuts off the Blue Cheese single, but O-Dub beat me to it, literally the same day. I gave it a few weeks to mellow out, and figured I may as well put em up here. Ego Trip's Book of Rap Lists got it right: "Fruits of Nature" is one of the most slept-on rap albums of all time. The production by RNS throughout is the epitome of early-90's flavor, and their lyrics almost lived up to their acronym "Undisputed Masters of Charisma."

The pre-Wu Staten Island story has been told many times before, but the UMC's lack of success can't be blamed on the Wu-Tang Clan. Hass G and Kool Kim's whimsical approach had some appeal at the tail end of the Daisy Age, and by the time their sophomore album "Unleashed" came around, the entire East Coast rap scene had gone grimy. To make matters worse, the duo were on the Wild Pitch roster, then the poster child for rap labels you wouldn't want to be on ("you don't want to make a Pitch that's Wild"). In an interview I conducted with the UMC's back in '94, Hass's disappointment with his record label was not masked; when asked what the situation was over at Wild Pitch, he answered, "they are delete and void from my mind." In all fairness, their second album just wasn't very good, and their Ill Demonic Clique (read: weed carriers) were even worse.

Extrablogicular Reading UMC's posting
Review of "Fruits of Nature"
UMC's discography

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Dante is a Scrub?

Super scrub

Back in April I wrote a piece on the solid Long Island-based rap crew Hard 2 Obtain, and followed that article up with a related entry on Dante Ross. As with all Manifest Destiny posts, I do my best to provide readers with Extrablogicular Reading, and the H20 write-up had a link to a particularly scathing comment by Dante Ross. During his interview with Oliver Wang, Dante, looking especially scrub-like in the interview photo, replies to O-Dub: "...I never really liked [Hard 2 Obtain] either, I thought they were kind of wack actually and I kept saying that the whole time."

Fast-forward to July 14, 2005. DJ 67, aka Kevin Calhoun, aka Hard 2 Obtain's DJ, reads the Hard 2 Obtain post and comments with his side of the story. We have all laughed at the running "Dante is a scrub" joke, but this is no laughing matter. DJ 67 contends that Dante's taken credit for tracks that weren't his, suggests that internal SD50's politics weren't all gravy, and claims Hard 2 Obtain's weed-carrier status. And he's got some good points...who in the SD50's was really responsible for that soulful crate-digging flavor? Was Geeby Dajani the sole architect for such classics as "Step to the Rear" and "Pop Goes the Weasel," and who knows what else? Or is this the rant of an individual who learned #4080 the hard way? And last but not least, is Dante a scrub?

Extrablogicular Reading
DJ 67's comment on the Hard 2 Obtain posting
The Dante Ross interview that raised DJ 67's ire

Friday, July 01, 2005

Dusty Cassette: Maseo Mixes De La's Greatest

This is for all you De La heads out there

De La Soul: "Saturday (Ladies Night Decision) + WRMS remix"

Remix with new verses from Q-Tip, Dres, and all three Plugs. Also features many guests on the WRMS show that didn't appear on the original album version, including Kane, a special Bob Power moment, and reappearance from the biddies in the BK lounge. Not much to say here other than that this is a perfect mix for a summer Saturday. With or without rollerskates.

Special thanks to Selecta at 720 Records for this classic tape.

...Staring at my boob tube
Listen to the box for a new groove
If I don't hear it and then i get my spirit lifted
I sit and write a rhyme cause I am that gifted...

Listen....this is Dres from this group called Black Sheep
When I'm not returning bottles of Similak for nickel deposit
I'm rollerskating to the flavor of WRMS