I concepted and organized this feature for Passionweiss, as well as part two.
Asking music writers to agree on one thing is an impossible task. Some think Young Thug’s otherworldly yelps ruled the summer while others would prefer he return to his home planet. One thing you can depend on is most of these tunes will inspire unrestrained dancing all the way into autumn. See below for our varied favourites from the sunny season.
Migos: “Handsome and Wealthy”
Read the rest here.
Originally published on Myspace
Originally published at Passionweiss
Presidential parties, museum tours and marriage ensure we won’t be getting ‘98 Jigga bars anytime soon, but in 2014 “Seen It All” is as close as it gets. Jay-Z shunned Kanye’s wedding to the Kardashian dynasty last month, so there’s a chance Jeezy may become his new best friend. They’ve worn matching pleather jackets, they knew Pimp C but probably locked their car door when talking to him and they’ve been collaborating since Jeezy’s 2006 single “Go Crazy.” While this evidence may be circumstantial, the duo has a solid track record and the rap Proleteriat needs a break from Jay’s rhymes for the 1%.
The Snowman will never be a lyrical scientist. He’s found his rap formula, which is strictly limited to raspy boasts and A-grade adlibs. No matter how many water features Jeezy adds to the mansion, he’ll never stop rhyming about selling drugs. “Seen it all,” delivers accordingly and Jeezy’s biggest decision is whether to blow the cash at Atlanta strip-club institution Magic or at the mall. His verse is nothing special, but most of us clicked play to hear his guest feature verse anyway.
Then it happens, Jay swoops in during the 1.30 mark and it’s tough to believe these bars came from the Magna Carter Holy Fail sessions. There’s no blatant flow jacking or overdone Basquiat references, just tales of his dope-boy past life over a melancholic instrumental. Jay-Z excels on this track because unlike Jeezy, he refers to specific experiences as a felon. There’s drug connects in Saint Thomas, expanding his fledging empire to Maryland, his uncle’s stabbing and more memories that make you thankful you weren’t Shawn Corey Carter before the fame. Despite snubbing DJ Khaled’s crew for the “They Don’t Love You No More” shoot, he might even attend the video for this one. While no one is proclaiming this as Mr Beyonce’s comeback, Jay can still deliver.
Download link and tracklist after the jump
I’m not sure, I guess it’s a little ambiguous but I think as long as you’re able to get something from it. I mean, I’m putting so much stuff into it. Everything from knowledge to just some cool sounds but as long as you like something that’s what I’m cool with. I think I just want to preserve and teach what I know as the truth or what I know as reality from my perspective and hopefully I can help create and cultivate an enlightened culture through hip-hop or music in general. Sun Ra is my dude and I really love what he stands for and I feel like him and I are on the exact same frequency in that regard. I know we have the same birthday but just in terms of the power of music and what it can do for humanity. It’s a great, great tool and I want to help cultivate, refine and make it as best as possible.
Not everyone will admit it, but many music fanatics have a gap in their knowledge – that one album they never got around to hearing and find a way to avoid when it comes up in conversation. For some unknown reason I’d never listened to Mobb Deep’s early work. Illmatic, Enter the 36 Chambers and Ready to Die were close friends of mine, but me and the Queensbridge duo had never been formally introduced. This is strange considering how intertwined these four groups are. Nas and Havoc went to school together, Mobb Deep toured with Biggie and they frequently collaborated with Wu Tang.
My twisted perception of Mobb Deep was as squabbling brothers rather than legendary East Coast pioneers. I incorrectly considered Prodigy, now 38, to be a has-been who was eternally bitter over former rival Jay-Z’s success. He couldn’t seem to recover from Jigga putting pictures up at Summer Jam 2001 of him dressed as Michael Jackson. Instead it appeared that he pacified himself by pretending Hova was a member of the illuminati, rather than just a smart businessman.
P’s output with producer Alchemist is solid, but so is almost everything the former Whooligan is involved with. Mobb Deep’s work with G-Unit was uninspired and nothing I heard stood out as particularly special. But in 1995, Prodigy and his partner Havoc made one of the best albums I’d never heard.
Unlike other rap albums that give the listener a respite from debauchery with a conscious song or r&b track, The Infamous shows no remorse. The angst of two teenagers being almost forced out of the industry and trapped in the cycle of poverty fuels the album’s hardcore subject matter. Havoc compares himself to the grim reaper on “The Start Of Your Ending” and Prodigy has no mercy for anyone who struggles with completing their prison time. From punching your nose bone into your brain to shooting at women, their nihilism is relentless.
On the outstanding “Shook Ones Part 2,” P informs the listener that “I’m only 19, but my mind is old” because of everything he`s lived through in the projects. However, just a few lines later he claims “It aint nothing really, hey, yo Dun spark the philly.” Mobb Deep were youths who had given up hope of change, they understood the hopelessness of their situation and embraced it.
Hav produced the majority of The Infamous and his rugged beats suit the album’s portrayal of their unholy lifestyle. If you’re a rap fan, you already know their stripped down sound is typical of East Coast rap in the 90s, but it works especially well here. The lack of complex production leaves room for the duo to make their threatening presences felt. This album doesn`t have the immediate appeal of catchiness, but as you hear more captivating narratives from the MCs involved it grows on you. Havoc’s beats also sound similar to RZA’s early work, which is high praise considering he’s one of my favourite humans. Q-Tip was reportedly heavily involved in the album behind the scenes and with his guiding hand, it’s probably no coincidence this is their magnum opus.
The Mobb are also joined by a small, but formidable list of guests. Nas retains his stellar 90s form on “Eye For An Eye” and his flow is impeccable. “New York metropolis, the Bridge brings apocalypse, shoot at the clouds feels like, the holy beast is watching us.” He recorded two version of this verse and it would be a safe bet to assume they were both godly. Nasir’s also joined by Raekwon, which makes the track a kind of prelude to the classic “Verbal Intercourse” off OB4CL. Rae returns later in the album with Ghostface Killah for “Right Back At You,” and my 90s rap nerd checklist is complete. Q-Tip also shows up to rhyme about personal vices on “Drink Away The Pain,” but other than the occasional verse from Mobb affiliate Big Noyd, Havoc and Prodigy solely run the show.
The duo kept their rhymes simple in comparison to Big L, but they both focus almost entirely on hardcore crime narratives and had no issue with playing the villain. Mobb Deep is also obsessed with beef. At every chance, they warn other crews not to mess with them and reiterate they are only loyal to the Mobb. Prodigy spends over two minutes threatening rivals on “The Infamous: Prelude.” He also disses Redman and Keith Murray, for their “crazy space shit,” which resulted in Murray later punching him in the face. At the time of recording, Mobb Deep were in a zone where their only concern was their own success. Prodigy thought both B.I.G and Wu Tang were cheesy when he first heard them, and he even believed Biggie had stolen some of his lines.
Mobb Deep have been rhyming together since they were 14 and close friends often fight like brothers, but airing out dirty laundry is never a good idea. This is an excellent album which has aged well considering it’s 18 years old, and it’s a shame to avoid such great work because the MCs involved have let personal disagreements taint their image. There’s something to be said for protecting your legacy. Thankfully, the Infamous remains indelible.
By Jimmy Ness and originally published at Passionweiss
During the mid to late 90s, Cappadonna spit deadly verses alongside his fellow Wu-Tang killer bees on “Ice Cream,” “Triumph” and “Daytona 500.” But those bars were nothing compared to Donna’s masterpiece: the final verse on “Winter Warz.”
Darryl Hill held a clinic on how to rap well. He effortlessly delivered some of the most entertaining verses on any Wu release, a huge achievement considering the quality of the Clan’s early work. In around sixty seconds Cappa Donna Goines rapped old English, rhymed a numerical code, compared himself to Freddie Kruger, put his face on a $20 bill and threateningly used the word “discombobulate.”
Cappadonna’s first album, The Pillage remains one of the most underrated releases from the Wu golden era and it seemed like he was only a small step behind Raekwon and Ghostface. Unfortunately, the Clan’s energies dissipated and his later career was inconsistent despite releasing a largely unnoticed, but quality project called The Pilgrimage in 2011.
We spoke about the ups and downs of his career including recording in the first Wu Tang mansion, being voluntarily homeless, claims that his manager was a police informant and sharing his lyrics with other Wu members. Cappadonna also laughed hysterically while telling me about the time he almost fought a midget Kiss tribute band, so you should read that.
In the early days, local rappers including some of the Wu Tang Clan called you the Staten Island Slick Rick?
The Slick Rick of Staten Island, yup. Because that’s the style that I had, you know. I had the clothes plus I had the big jewellery. Even when I was young I was doing that. I was wearing slacks. I didn’t wear jeans until I was about 18 years old. I dressed like a gentleman with slacks and dress shirts and wore stuff like that to school. I took a brief case to high school instead of a school bag [laughs.] Book bags were disgusting to me. I didn’t want to have anything on my back, you know what I mean? I was like “I’m so fly, I’m gotta put my books in this.”
Method Man said you were the best rapper he knew in the 80s and you would use each other’s rhymes in your music. Is there a particular rhyme that we might know from the Wu albums that was originally yours?
Most of my early demos were by myself, but me and Meth did some demos. We used to hook a speaker up to the window and make mixtapes.
I had so many different lines. I can’t even remember all of them myself, but we all used a little bit of each other’s stuff. I think one of them was “life is hectic” [The final lines from Inspectah Deck’s verse on Cream] or something like that. There were a couple of joints. “Life is hectic” was a song that me, Rae and Meth had a long time ago. We all basically took pieces of that and used it in other songs like “Cream.” Meth got so many songs on his album, I probably didn’t even hear them all. We just do stuff like that. Even like “love is love.” It just so happened it was part of another song and it just went well, so we’ve got: “Love is love love, love is love love” and that’s not even my song, it’s Meth’s song. [Cappadonna is referring to the hook he uses on Method Man’s track “Sweet Love.”]
What about “Run?” You used lines about running from the police on your album The Pillage, then Ghostface Killah made a very similar song on Supreme Clientele?
Yeah, Ghost took a lot of reference from the “Run” I did to do his “Run,” and he reworded it a little bit, but basically wrote the same song. A lot of cats did “Run.” Juvenile did his “Run.” Xzibit did a “Run.” They all basically came after the captain. They took a little piece of that, it was good and they just wanted to do it over man. It’s flattering.
When you were in prison, Method Man replaced you in the Wu Tang Clan. How did you feel about the success they were having at the time?
I felt great for them, but when I was in prison I was in combat mode. While they were doing all that, I was in Rikers Island like Three Upper. They call it 374: Adolescents At War. So I was in there. Big up to all my niggas locked up. It was about survival. So when all of my dogs were popping off and on the TV, niggas already knew that I was from Shaolin. They knew that I had skills on the mic. I wasn’t going around about all that though. I was focusing on my bid and after I got out of Rikers Island, I went straight up North. I went to Fishscale, from Fishscale I went to Elmira. I was in the hub for a little while, out all night and all that. So through that whole transition I been popping darts off and watching the Wu Tang grow and watching them do what they doing. Everyone knew I was a close affiliate. I had pictures and all that, of my brothers, with my brothers and when I got back, you know I didn’t pursue no music. I wasn’t looking to get on or nothin. I felt great about everything that was going on, but I had a different thing that I wanted to do. I was a hustler, I was just a hustler man, you know?
Tell us about when you did get back in the studio with them?
At that time, studios weren’t popular like that. You couldn’t just rent them at any time. I had been in some before. Some of them were exquisite and expensive, some of them were homegrown. The majority of them were homegrown studios. So you know, that wasn’t really what “did it” for me, but it was definitely an adventure to be recording in [RZA’s] studio for the first time. We did Ice Cream and another in RZA’s first homegrown studio and it got flooded out right after that, so you know we lost a lot of stuff.
So where did you record The Pillage?
By that time we were doing fairly well, the clan was doing very well. We did that in Jersey, at the first Wu mansion. We were still fixing that up, you know, just bringing in furniture, bringing in stuff and deciding who is going to sleep where and how many beds and rooms were available. So we basically slept there. I slept there to record that album and whenever any Clan members came over it was easy access for them to just jump in the studio with me. Like I didn’t have to go flying nobody out, we never had to do that because we were always right there and everybody could just hear what you were doing and just drop a verse right there. It was the best. It was beautiful.
How was recording with Wu producer Tru Master?
Tru Master was the one that was there engineering the whole time and he made The Pillage into a successful album. Like he was 75% of that album man, and he knew what kind of tracks went well with my voice. He had a special gift for that, you know what I’m saying? Probably not only for me, but for a lot of other brothers that he did work with. Peace to True Master man. Hold your head baby, come home soon. [True Master was imprisoned in 2011 for fleeing court on assault charges.]
Tell us about “Milk The Cow?”
Milking that cow, the best way we know how. It’s just trying to feed your family, and trying to make money and survive. Trying to keep your job, trying to survive, the best way we know how and sometimes to pay that rent you gotta have two jobs. Word.
A lot of your standout verses on “Ice Cream,” “Camay,” “Maria” and “Jellyfish” have been about beautiful women?
Yeah, those verses are kinda raunchy too at the same time. I was never one to try game a chick. I would always just kind of go up to them and be like “Yo, I’ve got four girls but I would love to sleep with you tonight.”
Have you ever thought of buying the number “917 160 49311″ from your verse on Winter Warz? There’s a lot of discussion about it online. Some people even claim they called it and spoke with you.
Nah, that’s a code. Only the ones who know, know what it is. I’ll tell you, the 160 part that’s my building number. 49311, only people who mastered it, know it. It’s just a code.
[On further investigation, 917 is the NYC area code and 49311 spells out a certain explicit word if you associate each letter of the alphabet with a number.]
After your second solo album, The Yin and The Yang was released, you were voluntarily homeless and working as a cab driver. How do you feel looking back on that situation?
At the time I did it, I had a lot of different reasons but one of the reasons was to test the people that were around me. I wanted to see who would be really on my side and there was no way for me to see that because everyone would stick around me because of whatever they thought I had to offer. Once everything was gone and I was looking back, I could see who was really on my side. It was basically a test you know, just to see where I stand and it also gave me the opportunity to annihilate myself. It was kind of like it equally damaged me as much as it gave me morality and strong morals. It definitely was a shot to leg.
Did you feel like you had to give up all of the material excess?
My family started to look at my value based upon what I could do for them and not really look at me as a loving individual. So yeah, I definitely had to give that up. I gave it away mostly to the ones that clung onto it and that’s what they ended up with in the end. They ended up with all of that and none of me.
Your manager Michael Caruso was fired after it was claimed in a Village Voice article that he had been or was a police informant. Can you tell us about that?
I don’t know. I don’t know about his personal life. We did some work together, he worked for me. He was good at what he did and I hired him on those basics. I didn’t do a background check on him. I’m not no kind of agency or anything like that, but he did good work and that’s how I know him. I have no information on his past life and whether or not he was involved with certain activity or not.
Here’s a random question. Ghostface said on Jimmy Kimmel that during a tour you nearly got in a fight with a midget Kiss cover band?!
[Laughs] I think I remember something like that very vaguely. I don’t know what happened, but I think they were more or less mad at me because I probably walked across their set. I think the anger came because I was so tall. They were kinda upset about that and when I came in there everyone started focusing on me, but at the end I was with them. I was bouncing with them on their lil set. We were together, so in the end everything worked out and we made it peace. But they definitely wanted to penalize me for stealing their limelight.
You’ve commented in the past that not all Wu Tang members have respected your position and have tried to pay you less than equal share. This is despite close friends like Ghostface or Raekwon claiming that you’ve been an important part of the group from the beginning.
Do you feel like the members respect you now?
It’s not a matter of whether they respect my position or not, it’s just the fact that if you’re dealing with greed, you’re dealing with greed. Word, because respect is something that you’ve gotta earn, it’s not something that you buy.
How have people received your latest album Eyrth, Wynd and Fyre?
The double album is a classic right now. I call it my “miracle album.” Right now it’s 89 on the Hiphop Billboard Chart, getting great reviews, getting front pages on a couple of websites, getting five mics in a magazine. It’s the highlight of what’s going on right now. It’s the force behind the upcoming album, The Pillage 2. This is the bird that I’m creating so they will know that I’m there. I’m in the area, I’m next door and I’m ready for war.
Speaking of The Pillage 2, how is that going?
It’s going well. I’m getting good cooperation from the involved parties. It was a little tender in the beginning, but now it’s breaking off.
What about the new Wu Tang album, have you contributed yet?
Nah I haven’t done my contribution yet, but the Wu album is in the making, recording and it’s getting done. It’s popping off and more things will be popping off soon, but it’s out there.
Remember Wu Tang is forever. Witty Unpredictable Talent and Natural Game HUH!?
Greetings. In case you didn't know/care I'm currently in Mexico dodging organ harvesters before heading to America, Iceland and London. I'm falling asleep on the beach and forgetting what day it is, but give me until late March and this website will be updated as per normal. If you want to pay me big dollars to write about music for you, I'll be checking my emails with a naive sense of hope. Peace and congratulations for surviving 2012.
By Jimmy Ness and originally published at Passionweiss
With my scorn for hipster Hermeticism in mind, I approached this project from a critical distance. Had all of the work gone into making obscure references in the track listing or would it be legitimately interesting? Luckily, it was the latter. As Above So Below is an instrumental EP dedicated to and featuring samples from progressive rockers The Alan Parson’s Project.
Music listeners are essentially dopamine addicts. The chemicals are secreted every time we hear a song we love. We all remember the CD that changed us from casual listeners into audio fiends. Maybe we enjoyed the smooth grooves of a boyband or decided Sisqo had some street cred, but there’s nothing quite like discovering that life-changing album. Even if it was Creed’s greatest hits. Allow us to wax nostalgic for a second.