Sunday, August 28, 2005

Strictly Beats: Subterranean Instrumentals

The Ill Saint Presents

Rob Swift: "Rhythmic Wind"
Prince Paul: "One, Check, One"
Afrika Baby Bam: "NiteStalker"
from The Ill Saint Presents: Subterranean, Vol. 1, 1998

Been maaaad busy, as those readers who know me can well attest! Three truly underground hip-hop instrumentals from Wordsound Records' The Ill Saint Presents Subterranean Vol. 2. The most well-known releases from this label were the first edition of Prince Paul's classic Psychoanalysis, and MC Paul Barman's debut. Most other Wordsound records were less accessible, pushing the boundaries of hip-hop for better and for worse. Artists like Sensational (p.k.a. Torture from the Jungle Brothers' underappreciated J Beez With The Remedy) and Anti-Pop Consortium's M. Saayid found refuge in Wordsound's willingness to print up unorthodox hip-hop sounds that had zero potential for cross-over.

Rob Swift's "Rhythmic Wind" (insert gastrointestinal pun here) is a mellow, minimal instrumental designed for late nights in dark rooms. Prince Paul's "One, Check, One" is recognizable to those who picked up Paul's excellent Itstrumental, reappearing 8 years later as the basis for "It's a Stick Up." And lastly, Afrika Baby Bambaata contributes the upbeat "NiteStalker" that begs for some Mike G presence.

Special thanks goes out to Notes from a Different Kitchen, Vinyl Addicts, Pyramids to the Projects, Broken Language and The Broke BBoys for recommending Manifest Destiny to its readers.

Extrablogicular reading
Wordsound Store

Monday, August 08, 2005

Humor in Hip-Hop 1: Kwest Tha Madd Lad

This track is butter

Kwest Tha Madd Lad: "Lubrication (Safe Sex)"
Kwest Tha Madd Lad: "Lubrication (Unprotected)"
Kwest Tha Madd Lad: "Lubrication (Instrumental)"
from Lubrication 12" 1993

Biz Markie. Slick Rick. The Pharcyde. Redman. Ol Dirty. Devin the Dude. Humpty. Humor in hip-hop is one of the more neglected areas of lyrical craftsmanship in the 2000-era. Throughout the 80s and 90s, however, it was practically expected to hear rappers kick comedy routines like Slick Rick's "Indian Story," or EPMD's "Jane" saga...suffice to say, it was part of the standard repertoire of Skills. In 2005, true lyrical comedy seems few and far between, and the purpose of this series is to bring some of that ol humor back into the limelight.

First up: Kwest Tha Madd Lad's "Lubrication", with the Pete Rock sample anchoring the chorus. Kwest's debut on Def American was doomed to be his last; the cover depicts the rapper wearing only diapers and socks...the concept works for the logo (see above pic), but best not executed with live actors, much less with Kwest himself! And it's too bad because he proves himself to be a versatile MC, providing some classic laugh-out-loud moments, including "I Met My Baby at VIM" and "101 Things To Do While I'm With Your Girl". Dan Charnas laces three of the doper productions, and captures the trophy credit for the aforementioned cover concept.
I put my arm around her squeezed and shorty said, "Uh uh, please
You don't know me to touch, you might have some disease"
Ohhh, so now I look like I got somethin, stop frontin
on the skillz squally, you know I'm a little bumpkin
Do I look like I got gonoh-syphla-mydia phase III
Walkin round beggin people TO MAKE LOVE TO ME

The Safe Sex version's got some reworked lyrics compared to the Unprotected version, and the instrumental is simply...butter.

Question: What artists today are putting humorous verses to beats? Luda, Jay-Z ("Girls, Girls, Girls"), MURS ("Bad Man", "Trevor", etc), come to mind...who else should I be checking for? I'm talking about real funny shit...not G-Unit gangsta humor and little punchlines. What's The Pharcyde "Oh Shit" of 2005? "Looked at her shoes and her feets was real long..."

Extrablogicular Reading
"Lubrication" lyrics at
The Complete Discography at Werner VonWallenrod's Humble, Little Hip-Hop Site
Treat Williams *just* covered this like a week ago, with additional song downloads.
Fithy Choice asks, "Where Are They Now?"

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Talk Strange Like Bjork: Stressed Out Remixes

ATCQ: "Stressed Out (Bjork's Married to the Mob Mix)" feat. Bjork
ATCQ: "Stressed Out (Bjork's Dandelions Mix)" feat. Faith Evans
ATCQ: "Stressed Out (Bjork's Say Dip Mix)" feat. Faith Evans
from Stressed Out 1996

This trio of remixes is definitely a different take on one of the stronger singles from Beats, Rhymes, and Life. Horns in hip-hop are nothing new, but the way Bjork drops in the fluttering woodwinds is unusual. The short "Married to the Mob Mix" is the most radical interpretation, layering a line from Phife over Bjork's emotive vocals with the drums subtracted from the equation.

"Dandelions Mix" is a step closer to convention, but remains interesting with the industrial soundscape around the 3:45 mark. And finally the "Say Dip" mix is clearly the result of Jive demanding a mainstream remix from Bjork; even so, the sax melody is a nice accompaniment to Faith's "someday we gon' make it" chorus.