Total Pageviews

Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 in Review - [#2] Pete Rock/S-N-W + K-Def

Since the late '90s two of my absolute favorite producers of the hip-hop game has been Pete Phillips better known as Pete Rock and Kevin Hansford, better known as K-Def. Whenever a single had a remix or an original made by either of them, or even better when they laced entire albums, you'd know that this was something out of the ordinary. And while many people claim that producers like the ones mentioned above have slacked off through the years, don't you dare me lump me in with that mindless crowd as both K-Def and Pete Rock has produced two of the three best albums of the year, respectively so I thought it was only fair they get to share the #2 spot on this countdown.

I reviewed both records around their release date, so this will be two rather short reviews and if you want to hear more then check out the original reviews ("Nightshift" here and "Monumental" here). Let's start with this years Smif-N-Wessun, Pete Rock produced album,"Monumental". My favorite album of the year at the time it dropped altough that would change about a month or two later (hint, hint). Pete hadn't produced an LP in full since "Soul Survivor II" (which wasn't really up to par) and the underrated "New York's Finest" featured all but one beat from Pete. On here he does it all; he produces, mixes, the cuts, and I don't have my copy here right now but I trhink he was even part of the engineering, And it does sound great, there's a few beats that's not's up to par but the vast majority of the tracks are absolute bangers and the best tracks ("Roses", "Time to Say", "Do It", etc.) might evne be too hot for Ray's Boom Boom Room.

You can tell that Pete was an actual part in the record studio when the tracks went down which gives the album a sound of authenticity. I know he said in an interview that he wanted to create an album that was their best joint since Smif-N-Wessun's classic "Dah Shinin'" (1995) and despite other dope releases from the Brownsville duo, I think they actually pulled it off. Unlike their debut though, there's alot of guest artists that I guess Pete had the biggest hand in getting together; but for the most part these collaborations are fantastic and the few joints with just Tek N Steele like the "instant classics" "Go Off" and the beautiful album closer "Time to Say". Pete Rock himself appear on two joints himself and it's evident that he's a much better emcee than he has been since at least the "Soul Survivor" LP more than a decade ago. Other suprcharged guest features that add to the overall product is the BCC features; Rock on "Feel Me" that also features a killer verse from Bun B; Buckshot on the grimey "Night Life" that features both one of the albums hottest beats and one of those classic Pete Rock interludes that helpe make him his name from day #1.

Not all the songs are fantastic and it's not a masterpiece but it's a damn shame that hot records like this don't sell jack anymore. This should be in any serious collector's crates or shelf but people not only buy records but they also wouldn't know hot music if it fucking hit them in the face. It's definitely one that grew alot too over the months so for y'all who might've heard the songs a couple of times, do yourself a favor and listen to it front-to-back at least 7 times during a  maximum periiod of a month. I've said it before, and I'll say it agian - DON'T SLEEP!


K-Def has come along way from the '94 days; back then he was creating classic hip-hop tunes with Marley Marl @ The House of Hits using an all analog set-up. These days he's a respected, but misunderstood, super creative and original artists with an almost all all digital set-up that enables him to totally rearrange and recompose classic tracks K-Def style without even using samples. He's clearly the master at that and I doubt anyone will come along that's better pr even on the same level. He recently hooked up with very respectable underground label Redefinition Records; a label that treat the artists with 100% respect, giving them full creative control over their own projects.

K-Def - "Escapizm" (Ft. Rob O)

"The Night Shift" is either an EP or a mini-album depending on what fornat you choosed to pick up (and fuck a downloader as far as small indie records like this goes); the vinyl version is a typical EP with 8 songs and 20 minutes in time while the CD and Cassette versions features five additional bonus tracks (inclúding the three mindblowing tracks from the previously released tracks from the 7" single he released through Reddefintion this summer; a mega fat hardcore but still atmospheric remake of Jay Dee's instrumental to De La's classic "Stakes is High"and at the end is an unlisted track that happened to be the classic but just to this year previously unreleased monster K-Def collaboration with LL Cool J that was recorded for "14 Shots to the Dome" along with some uncredited goodies such as "Funkadelic Relic" and probably other unknown heaters from that LP.

K-Def / LL Cool J - "Year Of The Hip-Hop"
All in all it's a super dope record that I strongly recommend that you pick up before it's out of print. It's new year's eve and although I've written these reviews beforehand and just finetuned them, I'm out to celebrate the new year so check out my original, more extensive, review of the EP if you're interested), Tomorrow I will reveal my #1 favorite album of 2011, any guess or thoughts on my list so far?

Happy new year to you all!

2011 in Review: [#3] The Roots

[#3] THE ROOTS - "undun"
The Roots are back with (what they call) album number #13 although I personally would make the argument that this is closer to being their eleventh official release as a group. But that really doesn't matters though. What do matter is that the crew are still as progressive as ever, they still make music with substance and their mixture of live instrumentation and samples is still not to be fucked with. And maybe most importantly, Black Thought is still probably the best emcee of the day and the same can be said for ?uestlove as one of today's best drummers, any genre.

The group's last album "How I Got Over" and "undun" are, to me, companion pieces. Not only are the music much in the same vein but conceptually they both describe the struggles of finding one's own identity while fighting for survival when growing up in a troubled inner city area where the hustler mentality has become the norm. "How I Got Over" represented the triumph of coming out victorious from that situation by making the right choices and not backing down. "undun" is the opposite side of the spectrum and tells the story of a fictional character named Redford Stephens (portrayed by Black Thought a.k.a. Tariq Trotter) who basically starts out with the same premisses. But by making altogether different and wrong choices, the album plays out like a requiem for a troubled young man that I believe many of us can see parts of ourselves in, whereas its predecessor was a celebration of overcoming.

It is true that "undun" is a concept album, but it is not at all as direct or as obvious as "A Prince Among Thieves" or Sticky Fingaz's "Black Trash". The casual listener might not even notice that the music in fact follows (or rather forms) a storyline and it will most likely take you several listens before you can really grasp the full scale of events. Therein also lies its brilliance and trust me when I say that The Roots have made another brilliant record with "undun". There's not many emcees that could pull off an album like this with such belivability but luckily Black Thought's portrayal of Redford Stephen's could be an Oscar nominee if this was an actual flick. The story is not told in chronological order as it's not even a "traditional story"; instead each song works as a glimpse into Redford's mind and with each peak we gets closer to understanding who he is and why he is doing the things he are. Luckily we are not introduced to the character only through his bad actions which easily could become rather cliché. Instead the listener gets to know the person through his thoughts which, like for any of us, are often conflicting and confused as he struggles to find himself in the midst of good and bad times. It's understood that he most of the time is feeling trapped by his enviroment and surrounds himself by likeminded persons (portrayed by guest artists like Dice Raw, Big K.R.I.T., Phonte, Truck North and Greg Porn). Through the virtuosic performance by Black Thought and a good supporting cast, you'll actually feel strongly for the character(s) of "undun" and once the faith of Stephen's is sealed, you'll feel like you're catching a rock hard punch to the stomach as "reality" forms screaming.
So, the vocal parts and concept of the album is obviously pretty damn fantastic, but how does the actual musical tunes hold up?`Well, although several changes has been made in The Roots line-up throughout the years, the long-standing musical relationship like the one shared by the powerhouse of the band - ?uestlove and Black Thought - enables the large band to think, function and act like one unified mind. The instrumentalists are of course brilliant in their own right too; Kamal Gray and James Poyser share keyboard duties and besides the trusted Fender Rhodes (which I'm so glad they returned to after the sinister synthesizers that fueled "Rising Down") one of the most featured sounds of the LP is that of the electric organ which helps underline the feeling of a requiem. The same can be said about the string sections, orchestrated by long-time affiliate Larry Gold, which can be heard on many songs either in the background like on the haunting "Tip the Scale" or right upfront like on the long outro for "I Remember".

Just like the lyrical content the musical moods are many and although I wouldn't say it's their best album, I have to say that ?uestlove is becoming a better and more varied producer with every year. There's plenty of instrumental bits and pieces on here, including long Jay Dee influenced codas like the one heard on the atmospheric stand-out "Make My" or the similiar opening theme "Dun". Matter of fact, the LP closes with an instrumental suite divided into four sections that are all very different in tone but all featuring variations of a musical motif which is Redford's theme. The meaning behind this long album coda are up for interpretation, but to me they represent the spirit of Redford Stephens rising up from his physical body after comitting suicide and after a struggle (represented by the awesome free jazz section) finally makes it into the light.

It's often been said that The Roots never dissapoints and have one of the absolute best discographies out as far as rap music goes and it pleases me to honestly being able to say that "undun" fits right in with the rest of their superior back catalouge. It's a well executed and well written concept; it has Black Thought spitting verse after verse of absolute masterpiece quality; the musical backdrop are often moody, somber and atmospheric but there's several exceptions to this rule such as the summer-y "Kool On", the agressive Sean C & LV-produced anthem "Stomp" or the pleasant piano-driven "One Time" on which the element of Mercedes Martinez guest vocals takes the song to the next level (remember the "Illadelph Halflife" days?). 

Don't mistake this long, analytical review for me saying that "unun" is perfect though, because it isn't. There's a few hooks that a little too light for the subject matter, a little too alternative indie pop choruses here and there (why get Dice Raw singing when you got Phtone, Bilal and Mercedez): and although they often do more than OK like the last two Roots album there's way too many guest artists (I loved The Roots when the albums were like B.T. solo joints, or when it was just he and Malik B.). For the next joint I hope that they make Dice Raw an official member already and have him and Black Thought do all the rappinng with only the occassional (and dope) guest artist. I wouldn't mind another concept album from these guys though and even more I hope for a vinyl release of this soon - I very rarely buy CDs these days but I had to cop this, M.O.P. and Common's new ish though. Bottomline; this is without a doubt the best semi.-commercial hip-hop release of the entire year and if this loses to some new Eminem album next year in the vein of "Recovery" I'm gonna have a GOOD LAUGH!!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011 in Review: Honorable Mention

Although not officially included on my countdown of this year's best albums I want to give an honorable mention to Sputnik Brown's "Three Shades Of Black" which is another equally impressive debut release that heads first got to hear this summer. The reason I don't think it would be fair to include it is because the group actually recorded it for release in 2008 but due to label conflicts the LP was shelved. The crew decided to give away the full LP in free digital format for a short period of time of about two weeks on July 7. I recently asked group member Oxygen if it would be possible for me to bring it out once more for those who might've missed it but  because there are plans to later release it one way or another y'all who missed out on it then will have to wait a bit longer - and as always to respect the artist's wishes is A and O of The Lost Tapes.
Sputnik Brown - "U Havin' Fun Yet" (Raw Demo Version)

So what is "Three Shades Of Black" and who are Sputnik Brown. The group is a rather big crew of emcees, producer and DJ's on that pure hip-hop shit; Oxygen (who's also part of Soundsci and SPOX-PhD), Xis10s, Slim Don and Howard Lloyd all spits excellent verses while the latter also provides the majority of the prouction together with fellow group member E Tha 5th. Also included in the group is turntablist DJ Shark so like I said it's a family thing where the team is bigger than the individual. There's plenty of crazy verses all over the album; just check Ox on tracks like the low-key funk banger "Power" or Xis10s short but deadly darts on "Titles" or them both going head to head on the late '80s sounding, vibes heavy "Mic, Pen & Pad". Unlike Oxygen's recent project with DJ Spinna (SPOX-Phd), here Ox is instead of the singular leading voice, one part of a sum and with several verses from him, Slim Don, Howard Lloyd and Xis10s over mostly in-house production, "Thee Shades Of Black" creates a sick feeling of unity that's often missing in rap these days.

The few guest productions comes from the two legends known to the world as DJ Spinna and DJ Jazzy Jeff but no matter who's behind the boards, the music has a strong true school feel to it; chopped funk and soul samples, atmospheric vocals, distorted guitars, vibraophones and muddy piano lines, hard ass rhythm tracks and the type brings back memories of the golden era whether you consider that to be the late '80s or early to mid '90s. There's much goodies on here but if I have to pick one, I'd have to go with the beautiful and soulful posse cut "Straight Down" which features a sick cameo from John Robinson who appears alongside Lloyd, Xis10s and Ox. Hopefuly this will get the proper release sooner than later; it's a shame a lot of great, independent hip-hop records gets caught up in limbo like this when they truly deserves to be heard by the world.

2011 in Review: [#4] Rasheed Chappell

[#4] Rasheed Chappell - "Future Before Nostalgia"
Just like every year, there's some good new underground scenes that makes their mark on the scene, but if you ask me it's today a rare occassion when a young up-and-comer comes through with what I guess will be a future classic debut album. New Jersey emcce Rasheed Chappell is the exception to that rule in 2011. Chappell's voice and delivery is laid-back, a little nasal and distinct and charismatic. And for the actual lyrics they are very clever and well-written, brutally honest, dealing with a number of topics ranging from government conspiracies and looking sharp. Bottom line is that all throughout the album Chappell is keeping it #100 real - it's clear he never tries to be someone he ain't - he even rather use his birth name than an artist alias.

The story of Rasheed Chappel as a serious artist (read my interview with him for further info), leading up to "Future Before Nostalgia" was when he met underrated DJ Kenny "Dope" Gonzales. The hip-hop, funk and house producer, who was once part of Masters @ Work with "Little" Louie Vega, had been missing from the hip-hop scene for some time until he met Rasheed. The two instantly clicked on both a personal and musical level and the emcee became the first signee to Kay-Dee Records and as a result Gonzales also produced Chappell's album front to back. A very wise decision indeed it turned out. As dope as Rasheed are on the microphone, the musical chemistry between him and Gonzales are something absolutely extraordinary and in all fairness I would say that this is a true collaboration between the two, rather than a solo record by an emcee produced by one guy.

From the introspective opening "Invocation" to the similair closing joint "Thankful" the album never gets boring and the rhymes and beats are always on point. This album needs to find its way to vinyl; hopefuly we could get a very limited run because I would buy it in an instance. Right when the album dropped, I wrote a longer more analytical review that the artist himself absolutely loved, so rather than break it down more here, you can read my original review here.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2011 in Review: [#5] eLzhi

[#5] eLzhi - "eLmatic"
Although Elzhi's "eLmatic" is technically a mixtape, it could just as well be an album since there's nothing but full songs on there and No DJ shouts over the vocals which are also all brand new. The album is, of course, a true homage to Nas' classic 1994 debut "Illmatic" and it's as anyone should know one of those albums that are often considered the perfect hip-hop album of all time - in other words it's something that not many emcees have the right to fuck with in my opinion. eLzhi treats the project with enough respect to manage to make it his own though. Instead of using the original '94 instrumentals like Fashawn's pointless "An Ode to Illmatic" last year, eLzhi has appointed madly underrated Detroit live band Will Sessions to create update live instrumentation versions of the original that captures the original flavor so close that DJ Premier and Pete Rock were absolute blown away; at the same time their production can stand on it's own as a respectable homage to the original.
While the beats is close to the original instrumentals without sounding like straight rip-offs, eLzhi's lyrical performance is equally superior - while his lyrics are completely new, with some homages to the original Nas lyrics, it's almost as he's channeling the spirit of Nas when it comes to flow and delivery. I could quote several amazing quotables and even full verses that blew my mind on this "tape" but what's the point? - You need to hear this for yourself as it's without a doubt one of the best lyrical performances of the year. You could call this eLzhi's redemption after all the bullshit that went down with the last and final Slum Village album that caused the group to break up on bad terms.

The original "Illmatic" only featured 9 songs and the intro "The Genesis" (that's equally classic though and are rearranged here as well), but just like on Fashawn's tape for some reason there's no remake of one of my favorites, the freestyle chill-out joint "One Time For Your Mind". Oh well, you can't win them all - instead as a bonus track a mindblowing version of "Verbal Intercourse" has been included; one of Nas' most praised cameos that originally appeared on another one of hip-hop's true masterpieces - Raekwon's 1995 "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...".
eLzhi has created a fantastic homage to one of the best albums of all time and is worth hearing by any fan of Slum Village, Nas and Will Sessions. My only gripe with the record is that it has only been released in a very limited 2xLP set that I would want badly but due to my economy this was one album I had to pass up on this year. I can only hope for a reissue!

2011 in Review: #6 - Common

I would like to say that "Resurrection" or even "Can I Borrow A Dollar?" was the records that put me on to Chicago's finest, Common Sense, but in fact it was the J Dilla/Soulquarian's collaboration masterpiece "Like Water For Chocolate". From there I worked my way back throughout his catalouge and fell in love with "Resurrection" and "One Day It'll All Make Sense" which showcased the strong musical compability Com' and his original producer and friend No I.D. showcased. Since the latter of those was released in 1997, the rapper moved to New York City and hardcore fans has basically been fiending for a new Common album fully produced record.
In 2011 the prayers have been answered with the 50 minutes long "The Dreamer/The Believer", but does it live up the sky high expectations. It's known that both the emcee and the producer has changed immensely over the 15 years since their last collaboration. The answer is yes and no - it's not a perfect record like "Resurrection" and besides their 1992 debut, it's the weakest one of their four LP:s together. That doesn't mean it's wack though, far from it - it is actually a very dope record, especially by 2011 standards and I would say it easily surpass Com's two preceeding ones and No I.D. delivers alot of beats that are straight up vintage sounding compared to much of the pop stuff he's been doing with people like Big Sean and others lately.

Long-time fans of the duo gets the occassional hardcore joints that could've been lifted straight out the '90s. Tracks like the superior first boombaptic "Ghetto Dreams" featuring sharp vocal performances by both Common and the LP:s only guest emcee, the always reliable Nas. Other glimpses of their past sounds can be found on the agressive "So Sweet", "Raw (How You Like It)" and "Gold". While the rhythm patterns are driving and overall grimy but the producer makes sure to always add a sort of counterpoint to the rawness by at the same time drenching them in soul samples. Common is in fine form, continuing his mission to wake people up through his loving message and let people know that anything you want for your life you can achieve. This message is especially well executed on the two separate title tracks, the opening "The Dreamer" and the beautiful John Legend blessed "The Believer". On both songs No I.D. create backing tracks that perfectly suits the motivational message, proving that after all these years the chemistry between two long-time friends who started making music together is still as evident this far down the line.
"The Dreamer/The Believer" is not the "perfect" album it could have been however. There's a couple songs that really doesn't fit the picture at all; especially the boring and cliché sounding "Celebrate" that sounds like one of the worst tracks on Kanye West's and Jay-Z's extremelly dissapointing "Watch the Throne" this year. Despite a few flaws, the album is not the album of the year many hoped but it's still a really good album, and at least 40 of the 50 minutes the LP consists of is a blessing to hear. I'm a believer in future collaborations, that's my word.

Serum & Manifesto - "Insurgemcees"

Serum & Manifesto is a new duo from Miamo repping some sick hip-hop for all the heads. Their new video "Insurgemcees" can be seen above. The song is taken from their debut album "The S&M Project: Hott Waxx" released on underground label Tyranno Serum Records. The album is actually available for free download via their Bandcamp with the option to purchase the physical CD for a donation of $10. I haven't listened to the full-length yet but the single/video produced by California's Ekcel Beats and directed by Lex One is definitely enough to make me check out the entire thing when I find the time. Download the full 17-tracks production below while you still can.


2 new Sadat X Bangers

Even though I think the Brand Nubian legend is kinda overflooding the market I am always up for some new music from the X-Man. He hasn't really released a near flawless album since 2005 but all his later LP:s has at least featured a bunch of bangers and there's been plenty of hot loose joints appearing on the net throughout the last couple of years. 

Today no less than two songs from Derrick X has been made available; the most interesting being The Beatnut's Psyco Les produced "X & Sandman", a collaboration with Stones Throw's Homeboy Sandman. The second track of the day, "Here I Am", and is a solo X record produced by his long-time affiliate AG's producer; Mike the Martyr. Enjoy!


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2011 in Review: [#7] Pharoahe Monch / [#8] Greneberg

Queens legend Pharoahe Monch rarely disappoints; from his Organized Konfusion days to his two previous solo albums and countless guest spots, there is no question that Monch is one of the most technically gifted emcees out there. No matter how complex his rhyme scemes are and how many hidden messages, metaphors and punchlines he packs within his verses, he always makes it sound so goddamn effortless. And that’s exactly how his outstanding performance can be described on “W.A.R. (We Are Renegades)” – an album that from a strictly technical standpoint is very likely the most lyrical record of the year.
But great lyrics will only get you half the way to the top, or in an emcee of Pharoahe’s caliber maybe a little more even, but still – you will need phat beats to really make a worthwhile record since, after all, it is music we’re dealing with here. While much of his earlier material has been self-produced, on “W.A.R.”, Monch enlists a great mixture of veteran’s and up-and-coming underground beatmakers who provides serious heat that really help get the rapper’s messages across to the listener. Diamond D does a great job with the vibraphone heavy laid back “Shine”; on “W.A.R.”, Marco Polo creates one of the hardest joints of the entire LP. Using distorted guitars, electric pianos and marching rhythm it’s the perfect backdrop for Monch’s attack on the government and the physocological warfare that they use to control the %99 precent of the human population through fear. Immortal Technique’s heavy hook and Vernon Reid’s brilliant guitar solo at the end makes the song the #1 anthem of the year, and that’s not a small statement.

Despite having all the rights in the world, Pharoahe doesn’t waste his talents on braggadocio rhymes but rather uses it to get across important messages in an attempt to wake up the part of the population that's still mentally dead. Besides personal reflective joints like the closing “Still Standing”, topics include the government's control of the people, racism, reflections on how we can evolve, future apocalyptic storytelling (check the amazing posse cut with Jean Grae and Royce on “Assassins”) and more. It's definitely a smart record full of well executed concepts, defined by great production work.
Pharoahe Monch signing to Duck Down Records was a wise move and if “W.A.R.” are an indication of what’s to come, the future are looking very bright. With superior cuts like the ones mentioned above and equally heavy joints including “Let My People Go”, “Clap” and “Black Hand Side”, there’s no question that the man who's already spent 20 years in the music business ain't going nowhere anytime soon.

New York’s two cameo kings of this year have without a question been Roc Marciano and Raekwon. Besides Madlib, I would say that the hardest working producer of 2011 might very well have been The Alchemist as he’s been popping up just about everywhere, dropping loose tracks and even entire projects for newcomers and established veterans alike. Of course, Oh No ain’t no slouch when it comes to creative beatmaking either and had a fairly active year.

Put together the twisted minds of these three rap OG’s and you get Greneberg – Alc & Oh No had an album out last year as Gangrene and at the same time Marciano of course solo debuted with the critically acclaimed “Marcberg”. Joining forces for a beautiful picture disc EP (and a digital version) that was an instant addition to my collection, “Greneberg” is one of the most played records of the year for me. Consisting of just six or seven songs, depending on which format you favor, the production and rhymes was far superior to what we’re used to these days all the way through. In fact the five Roc Marcy joints was just as hot as anything on “Marcberg” and the same can be said for the four songs from the artists behind 2010’s “Gutter Water”. In Alchemist and Oh No’s case, the reason is that they have had time to fully perfect their formula, getting more used to the duo format and just creating some absolute killer beats that sounds as fresh now as they did when I first dropped the needle on the record.
GRENEBERG - "Sewer Gravy"
Marciano is always incredible; I still have yet to hear a weak verse from this monstrous Long Island emcee, and to hear his laidback but hardcore flow effortlessly molest some of Alchemist and Oh No’s weirdest and dirtiest beats ever can create a moment of ecstasy. Check out the darkness of “Hoard 90” with its boom bap rhythm and wild synthesizer loop or the Oh No produced bonus track “Jaws” where Marciano attack sucker MC’s and wannabee G’s over a repetitive but never boring, grimy as hell chop. Just to prove a point, one of Marcy’s hottest tracks of the record is the super funky opener “Momma Told Me”, which he happened to produce himself. Both sides has one song that feature all three rappers attacking the microphone and the chemistry displayed on these two bangers (“Jet Luggage”, “Sewer Gravy”) are something out of the ordinary.

Although just an EP clocking in at less than 25 minutes (bonus track included), “Greneberg” is simply too mindblowingly good not to be included as one of the greatest releases of the year. Crazy quotables on every Roc Marcy verse; fantastic beats all the way through; chemistry between both producers and rappers that’s not often matched; mad replay value… Yeah, I say this extended play is more than earned its place on this countdown. Had they made it a full album while managing to keep up the quality this would without a doubt been in the top three. Well, maybe next year!

Classic Verses - KRS-One

From time to time I want to shine a little light on some of my favorite verses of all time; it might be a classic piece from the '80s or the '90s or even something from the new millenium. The verse needs to not only be incredibly well written but equally incredible in its performance. For the first entry in this series I'm gonna put the spotlight on The Blastmaster KRS-One and the second verse on the Diamond D produced "Squash All Beef" from Kris' 1995 self-titled LP; arguably his last true masterpiece. His metaphysical teachings of peace and love and how the traditional school system teaches us everything but the truth very closely reflects my own beliefs and conveys a message that anyone should at least try to consider before dismissing it.

"If I ruled the schools, from pole to pole,
 The entire judicial system would fold/
 I would get rid of the books, cuz they bogus,
 and in school, knowledge of self would be the focus/
 Kids would flock to the school like locusts,
 Cause school now relates to them, and you would notice/
 Violence in society would be a minimal,
 Cause the education would now be metaphysical/
 Not livin' by laws, but livin' by principals,
 If you disobey, the universe gets with you/
 We would study so no one would steal,
 And we would reach each other's magnetic fields/
 Petty crimes times petty crimes equals prison for lifetime/
 The universe divided by two, equals me and you,
 Me & You going into the universe once, as one united front/
 But listen up, when I was growing up and hip-hopin',
 We had a lil' thing called jailhouse boxing/
 That's why I'm still here rocking, 
 Because my competition never pulled a Glock in" - KRS-One

[EP] Bugsy Da God / Falling Down

Napalm Records artist Bugsy Da God released one hell of an album with his Dom Pachino approved "The Terrorist Advocate". To give a little something back to all his supporting fans in the spirit of Christmas, he made a promise to drop a free track EP today. The seven feature tracks are all produced by none other than long time Killarmy affilliate Falling Down who previously laced such classics as "Street Monopoly", "Monster", "Bum Rush", "Originators" (Killarmy and members), "He's A Rebel", "Cradle to the Grave" (Inspectah Deck) and the majority of the criminaly slept on real debut from Dark Skinned Assassin in 2009. In other words this project is hotter than burning christmas trees and tracks like "Purgatory Theory" and "Rapid Fire Snipers" will have you in full army mode! You can pick it up directly from Mediafire link supplied by Portis24 below or sign up to get it directly from the artists (which also allows you to stream before downloading) via MixConnect and DatPiff , respectively.

01. "Purgatory Theory"
02. "Maquerade Of Killaz"
03. "Perfect Plot"
04. "Rapid Fire Snipers" (Ft. Dom Pachino)
05. "Pool Of Tearz"
06. "Fire & Brimstone"
07. "Lost Souls"

Monday, December 26, 2011

PRODIGY - "When You Up"

Since Prodigy got released from the belly of the beast he's been heavy at work in the studio. The latest Mobb Deep album "Black Cocaine" didn't have much to show for although it had a couple of songs that was heavy as hell. He also spat impressing verses on albums like Evidence's latest, the Currensy/Alchemist EP and much more so there's no question he still can when he wants to. Matter of fact I need to make a compilation of all the great P stuff that's been released since his new won freedom.

Today another little gem from Albert Johnson hit the net, which might be lifted from a forthcoming third sequel to "H.N.I.C.", and is called "When U Up". Link spotted @ 2DopeBoyz,


Sunday, December 25, 2011

2011 in Review: [#9] Neek The Exotic

Queen’s rapper Neek the Exotic made his recording debut in 1992 on a soundtrack joint by Main Source called “Fakin’ the Funk”. This meant that a working relationship with fellow Queen’s rapper and super producer Large Professor was established. Since then these two gentlemen has collaborated on a number of projects, including mixtape joints, 12” singles and soundtracks. Although Neek never made an appearance on any of Extra-P’s solo releases doesn’t mean that the chemistry they always displayed isn’t something out of the ordinary as this year’s “Still On The Hustle” is a true testament of.

Although criminally overlooked, many fans of New York styled hardcore hip-hop rejoiced over Neek’s exotic street rhymes and The Mad Scientist’s soul infused bangers. Neither beats nor vocals are in the most technically difficult lane; instead the music is straight to the point and hits right where it’s supposed to, each and every time. Cries for the authentic sounds of that ‘90s true school music are silenced as soon as this is by far the most throwback sounding record in quite some time. As soon as Extra-P’s amazing sample manipulation of the title track’s beat kicks in, so does fond memories of hip-hops past glory days. Chopping up a melodic soul loop over a dusty drum and bass pattern and an infectious sampled vocal hook, Large Pro makes it clear that he’s still one of the five illest producers of all time. “Still On The Hustle” charges our emcee to reflect on his past and his present, spitting memorable verses with that distinct, ruff and grimy voice that creates a superior contrast to the soulful music. This is one of the things that constantly make their collaboration work so well.

The stylistic vibe provided on the abovementioned joint is obviously a winning formula and is wisely reprised on the majority of the LP; switching it up just enough to never let the music become stale or repetitive. Large Professor and Joell Ortiz, respectively, join Neek on the equally impeccable two-punch that is “Guess Who” and “Street Rebels”; a pair of typical throwback boom bap headnodders that are some of the absolute finest music I’ve heard all year. The same can be said about “My Own Line”, one of two Marco Polo productions, and the piano driven “Head Spin” where the emcee carves out his own little niche in the game with several memorable quotables. The two mentioned songs are also the ones that take something of a left turn as they are far darker and sinister than the soul drenched music the rest of the LP has to offer.

As great as the album is, it does have its flaws which could easily have been fixed by pushing it back for just a few months. First of all the record is credited to Neek the Exotic and Large Professor so why shouldn’t we expect a full collaboration between the two? Out of the eleven featured songs, Extra-P only provides beats for six of them – in other words just over half of the music. These six joints are all straight fire and together with his own “Key to the City” 12” and work on Torae’s album, I feel confident in saying that The Live Guy Wit’ The Glasses deserves the producer crown of the year.

Marco Polo’s and Lord Finesse’s guest beats are similarly fantastic and has the same hardcore hip-hop sound that goes so well with Neek’s deep vocal tone. However, a young beatmaker named Carnage provides music for “New York” and “Stack That”; two songs that are not bad but compared to the contributions from the three A-list producers they stick out like a sore thumb on an otherwise incredible piece of work. Of course two joints out of eleven aren’t enough to really drag down an album full of dope beats and rhymes. But when you are supposed to get an album full of Large Professor beats, Carnage’s work just don’t cut it. Add that to the fact that the whole record clocks in at only 35 minutes and it’s clear that there’s no room for any mistakes at all.

To be fair though, there’s really nothing wack on the Fat Beats release that is “Still On The Hustle” so the abovementioned statements is basically nitpicking. Neek the Exotic with the help of Large Professor has here created one of the albums of the year; a record you can enjoy from front-to-back that easily has earned its place in the record collection of any lover of that mid-‘90s sound with a modern twist. Don’t sleep!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

[Free EP] Ras Kass - "The Yellow Snow EP"

One of West Coast's finest rhymers drops a strangely titled but very sick three track EP as a lil' Christmas gift to the fans. "The Yellow Snow EP" is a collaboration with a lyrically charged Ras and producer Loui Rubio a/k/a Doc Hollywood and the Bandcamp page mentions two future projects titled "Spit No Evil" and "F.I.L.A." to drop in 2012. Maybe that's the full-length project recorded between this emcee and producer and juging by the sounds of this single I'd most def check for further collaborations. Thx to The Soul Controller!

01. "Yellow Snow"
02. "The Grinch (Who Stole Dubstep)"
03. "Jack Frost II (White Christmas)"

Raekwon - "This Shit Hard"

Wu-Tang's currently hardest working rhyme slinger shows no signs of slowing things down anytime soon. His new mixtape is called "Unexpected Victory" and will be available on New Year's Day so make sure to check back here to grab the whole thing. Here's the first leak from the project, "This Shit Hard" which features Don Primo L.E.P. Bogus Boys (who recently also made a banger with Mobb Deep). Production by The Olympicks and a fierce verse by The Chef; link spotted @ FreeOnSmash!

RAEKWON - "THIS SHIT HARD" (Ft. LEP Bogus Boys & Don Primo)

KRS-One - "Holiday Gift Style"

The Blastmaster drops another Mad Lion produced single from "Just Like That" as a little Christmas gift for us. It's definitely my least favorite record I've heard from the album so far but KRS drops some dope lines as always and it's a blessing to hear Mad Lion grab the microphone on a Kris record again. Like the previous videos from the album, Lion also directed the visuals for this song which also features a rapper by the name of Shinehead. Happy holidays y'all!

Friday, December 23, 2011

2011 in Review: #10 - Saigon

Few albums could to build up the hype “The Greatest Story Never Told” did. Saigon’s few singles and guest verses leading up to the album spoke for themselves and any album produced by Just Blaze should be worth your money, right! First promised in 2006, fans had to wait five years more before The Greatest Story was finally told. So was it worth the wait?

The majority of Saigon and Just Blaze’s long-awaited album does not disappoint but at the same time it could have appeared higher than #10 on this year-end list. When it’s good it’s absolutely amazing, both as for The Yardfather’s performance and Just Blaze’s blazing production. What drags it down a bit to me is a bunch of songs that unfortunately can’t live up to the high standards of the larger part of this project. This made “The Greatest…”’s impact lesser than it should’ve been. The reason that some of the tracks didn’t meet the high expectations was the extreme amount of hype that had been built up throughout the years coupled with some cheesy hooks that didn’t at all fit the vibe of the album. Add a few beats that were skippable and the album, which should and could have been flawless, instead only manages to come close to the perfection many had hoped for.

On a positive note though, Sai’s lyrical performance was nothing short of brilliant throughout the whole project; brutally honest, heartfelt delivery, clever metaphors, important and well-executed concepts and overall great songwriting. Tracks like “The Invitation”, “Oh Yeah (Our Babies)”, “Better Way”, “Preacher”, “Greatest Story Never Told”, “Come On Baby”, the brilliant two-part concept in “Friends” and “Enemies” more than made up for the less inspired songs. His voice is distinct and outstanding and he knows exactly how to captivate the listener and now with Just Blaze by his side he clearly got a bright future. Just and Sai’s chemistry are as amazing as some of the best MC/producer duo’s out there; they both bounces off eachother and bring that much needed street element to their music here. Just chops samples like a true champ, dwelling deep in the soul records crates to ushers Sai’s ghetto tales in dreams of high-pitched gospel and hard R&B; and always with the real heavy drums on top. And you can count on it sounding so damn good!

I’m still waiting for a proper vinyl edition of this album so in the meantime I’ve been banging my own iPod version since it first leaked and it’s one of the few albums that haven’t been deleted it since it was first added. The version I bump is slightly modified though; instead of the 17 tracks on the CD I bump a tracklist of 11 songs (including the intro and “The Winner Is…” outro). This shorter edition makes for an absolutely mind-blowing, close to perfect front-to-back listen that’s reminiscent of old rap classics that featured 9-12 tracks over about 45 minutes time.

So in closing, the production is fantastic; Saigon is fantastic with the execution of concepts and that remarkable delivery and distinct voice proved that he’s one of the most charismatic emcees to emerge in quite some time and if he can make his next album even more focused (like making it 45 minutes rather than 78) it will probably be the classic I now know he has in him.

FASHAWN - "Generation F"

Fashawn's official debut album, "Boy Meets World", was one of my absolute favorites of 2009 and made me regard him as one of the freshest new artists on the block. Since 2010 the young California native has dropped a few mixtapes, some loose tracks and even the occassional video but nothing that, to me, was anywhere close to what he's proven capable of. 

That's why this song and video "Generation F" really once again got me hyped for him; Fash got the vocal parts and lyrics on lock and the production, provided by ATG, suits the tune fine. The track is one of twelve to fourteen original Fashawn tracks to be released  in March as "Champagne & Styrofoam Cups". If I understand correctly that project is not the artist's real official sophomore (which will also be produced by Exile) but rather a soundtrack to a 45 minutes mini movie directed by Punit Dhesi (click here to see a seven minute clip) that will accompany the release of the album. Gonna be interesting to both see the flick and hear the music, no question about that!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Heather B's "Open Bar"

It's now almost been a full decade since we last was blessed with a full-length album from monstrous femcee Heather B.In 2002 she released "Eternal Affairs", a relatively neat LP that featured production by DJ Premier and Pete Rock but her real crowning achievment was her 1996 debut "Takin' Mine"; fully produced by BDP's Kenny Parker. Between '96 and now she has dropped several quality verses via various cameos and soundtracks, proving she's still one emcee you certainly wouldn't want to battle.

I'm glad to announce that brand new Heather B. material is currently on the way and we already got a few sneak peaks of what to expect which you can check out at the bottom of this post. A mixtape entitled "Spit Queen" is on the way but what we're really anticipating is Heather's new full-length album, "Open Bar"; eight years in the making and an executive producer credit to DJ Premier promises great things! Below you can peep three relatively new songs from the true Queen MC - "The Game Don't Stop" is laced by her original P.N.C. Kenny Parker, "Dreamer" and "Flying High" are both mixed by Preemo and the former is produced by Nottz Raw while the latter lacks a production credit (and has also been out for almost a year by now but for anyone who might've missed it, don't sleep). Enjoy these  bangers and many thanks to Chris Moss for sending these over to me!

RZA as Prince Rakeem - '91 EP

Probably the biggest rap group of all time is the nine piece crew from Staten Island known as Wu-Tang Clan who between 1992 and 1997 seriously infiltritated the record industry like no one before them. First hitting with a group putting them on the map they followed with solo projects from six of the group's most prominent member's sall brilliantly produced by The RZA  p/k/a "Prince Rakeem". But before there even was a Wu-Tang, Clan, cousinss Robert Diggs and Gary Grice found themeselves signing  respective deals with Tommy Boy Records and Cold Chillin'. Grice, or The Genius, in '91 released his "Words From the Genius" LP on the C.C. label while Prince Rakeem released an eight track EP called "Ooh, We Love You Rakeem" the same year. Despite both releases spawning one minor hit each (Rakeem's title track and The Genius' "Come Do Me"),both releases were considred flops and they ended up being dropped from their deals.

Anyways, Diggs was very unpleased with the way he was being treated by Tommy Boy; he had little to no creative control aof his músic nd couldn't even choose the subject matter. He has often been quoted as saying that he was a rugged motherfuca back then sporting baggy hoodies and timb's, something the labael hardly approved of as they saw him as a "ladies man" resulting in a sound way to happy-go-lucky for his personal taste. His cousin The Genius had a similiar experience at Cold Chillin which was a blessing in disguise for them both as these bad experiences lead the two to gather the finest emcees in their home borough of Staten Island to make it on their own terms. And the rest is, as you know, history...

"Ooh We Love You Rakeem" is quire the typical commercial rap song from the early '90s with RZA rhyminga laundry list of all the sweet chicks he's dated while growing up. It's a typical self produced party record for its time with glaring trumpet, a melodic bassline and the occassional scratches during the verses. A funny fact is that the A-side actually sounds a little like a De La record; this is no coincidence being that Prince Paul was something of a mentor to the young producer at this time. In fact , Paul even programmed the drums on the single. For what it's worth, is it's actually a pretty good reocrd if you take it for what it is - something totally unrelated to anything Wu-Tang!
The B-side is, at least to me, the more interestng song on the EP. "Sexscapades" is another jam about the ladies produced and arranged by none other that the legendary Easy Mo Bee who provides the Prince with a more agressive sound that's heavy on the funk and points forward to the future and the Wu-Tang Clan; This rings especially true on the the aptly titled "Wu-Tang Mix" with is even edgier than the original (DMD) version. Last but not least, the single includes a bonus cut called"My Deadly Venoms" which also features traces of what was to come with asian sounding samples, guitar breaks and of course RZA's unmistakable off-kilter delivery.

Prince Rakeem's Tommy Boy debut is not a wack record, but it is one of those fairly standard singles that were produced excessively and was the popular sound of the day between 1990 and 1992. Had it not been for what happened further down the line the single would have been totally forgotten by now. However it does have several signifcant tradesmarks that mkes it an important part of The RZA's legacy; not only is it the single that fueled his venegance against major record labels, it was the seed for The Gravediggaz and Wu-Tang Clan and it was the first time Diggs worked with both Prince Paul and Easy Mo Bee - two producers who would both play supporting roles in his career as one of the greatest of all time. Have you not yet heard this EP, then it's really about time you do so; it's actually remotely interesting in its own right, so sit back, grab a blunt and let the World According to Prince Rakeem & Tomnmy Boy take you on a journey to a slightly cheesy hood Playboy Mansion.

01. "Oh, We Love You Rakeem" [Baggin' Ladies Mix]
02. "Oh, We Love You Rakeem" [Baggin' Instrumental]
03. "Deadly Venoms" [Vocals Up]
04. "Sexscapades" [DMD Mix]
06. "Sexscapades" [Wu-Tang Mix]
07. "Sexscapades" [DMD Instrumental]
08. "Sexscapades" [Wu-Tang Instrumental]


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wu-Tang's "Iron Flag" - 10 years later

 By the late '90s the once kings of hip-hop, Wu-Tang Clan, were not as attractive to the public anymore; while all nine generals was of course still great rhymers in their own right, it was the production they chosed to rhyme over that made the people's interest in their music decline. Their original producer RZA was the one who had created the Wu sound and helped the emcees create their timeless solo albums in the mid-'90s that in a way played more like Clan LPs than solo joints.After the release of the brilliant Wu-Tang Forever", RZA took a backseat from production; only lacing one to four tracks on each of the generals second solo LP:s and while they still put out entertaining music with great displays of top class lyricism, the lack of The Abbot's involvement was impoisslbe to overlook. In 2000, however, all the rappers and their original producer reunited for Loud Records and dropped the group  album "The W". A somewhat overlooked album, it was a great project that brought back the old school Wu soundwith a modern twist that should have satisfied long time fans as well as getting them some new ones in the process.The lyrical content was much more stripped down from the hardcore,  slanged out goodies heard on its predecssesor. The album spawned two singles, whereas one is prorbably to the #1 popular Wu tune of all time -  "Gravel Pit". Besides the hook it's got a heavy bass line, booming drums and well put together sample and was an exercise in lyricism.

Only a year later, Steve Rifkind's Loud Records (The Clan's home for almost ten years at the time), was trying everything he could as the label had become a shipping ship. This meant that only about eight or nine momths after "The W" another Wu-Tang Clan album was recorded and released, "Iron Flag", possibly as a favor to Rifkind. The album featured many vintage Wu sounding heaters but as a project it sounded rushed and in parts unfinished although it did manage to sell gold. But on the other hand, it's a Wu-Tang Clan album mainly produced by RZA and features all new verses from some of the best rhymeslingers in New York. In other words it's adefinite listem for any Wu head fiending for some new material, and it does of course have some outstanding moments. Since it's exactly a decade since the album was released and Wu-Tang Clan has been my favorite crew for more than fifteen years I wanted to do a track-by-track breakdown of the LP. It will be a long post so bare with me if you're interested, if not feel free to skip it altogether.

The album starts with a brief, and rather neat, freestyle into by The RZA dropping some hilarious lines before the first track "In The Hood" kicks in. It's boombastic ragga-hip-hop monster where Streetlife, Masta Killa and Ispectah Deck all drop impressive verses about the struggles of growing up in a ruff hood and how you always gotta be prepared  for the wost with lines like "the illest drugdealer on the blog is a cop" to name one. Suga Bang comes through between verses kicking his typical ragga ridim over the pounding productions that's filled with baby screams, blowing grenades and so forth. All in all, a great opener!

This is followed by "Rules", an Allah Mathematics joint that I didn't give much thought abut at first but is one that has really grown on me over the years. Math chops up a few bars as the main loop but he incorporates at least five or six samples on this complete with cuts, guitars, horns and James Brown vocals and all this together is enough to really make this one a winner. Most of the Clan appears on this record as well, including Streetlife who goes back-to-back with Meth and two impressive verses. Another stand-out verse comes courtesy of Ghostface Killah who talks up about the recent Twin Towers destruction. It comes off as a bit cheesy but at the same time I'm glad he touches on the subject although it could have been done in a much more fitting way.

"Chrome Weels" is the first joint on the album that shows that parts of "Iron Flag" uses songs not originally recorded for this Clan album, but rather songs that didn't fit earlier solo project. "Chrome Wheels" is a synthesizer heavy track with Prodigal Sunn, Madame Scheez, 12 O'Clock, Prodigal Sunn and RZA in his Bobby Digital persona. An eight bar verse from Raekwon The Chef is also here but I'm willing to bet that's something that has been added later to make it more Wu.. This is clearly an outtake from Bobby Digital's "Digital Bullet" but at least a nice thump to it. The real question here is if his really fits in on s Wu-Tang Clan album.

"Soul Power (Black Jungle)" is a song that I believe is RZA's homage to the early '80s hip-hop records he grew up on where songs were mainly guys rapping over drums and beats. If the execution is right then something like this that can be a really sick concept, but for some reason RZA loops the sample one bar before the drum and bass pattern even completes a sentence making it sound like an unfinished demo. Shame though since it features most of the emcees and they all do have plenty of quotables. Another homage to the '80s is the inclusion of Flavor Flav. Although he's not rhyming or doing any ad-libs, he has a long and hilarious conversation with Method Man at the closing of the song.

"UZI (Pinky Ring)" Aaah, back to basics; this is a really sick track that perfectly captures what The Wu-Tang Clan is about. RZA cooks up a funky, horn driven, beat heavy composition that has all the eight members dropping some impressive verses (ODB was in prison at the time and could not participate). A sample of legendary jazz trombonist J.J. Johnson  gives The Abbot's production an extra drive with the trumphant horn and with solid verses from U-God, Raekwon, Inspectah Deck, Masta Killa, RZA and Method Man. My two favorite verses on "Uzi" comes from GZA/Genius and The Ghostface Killah who are also two of my favorite rappers of all time. Like every Clan album, a posse cut is obvious and this is hardly no exception o that rule. Very good choice for the video to (see above)!

"One Of Those Days"
I dont know what this song is doing here to be honest. The RZA is clearly one of the most innovative producers of our time, True Master, 4th and Mathematics are great too and if he wants to go outside the box why not get Pete Rock, Marley Marl, Premier, Q-Tip, or someone along those lines. The beatmaker for this track is Nick "Fury" Loftin which makes absolutely no sense. The track is not horrible but it's an average joint, it has some nice soul elements but as a whole it doesn't ft with the rest of the album at all. On top of that, U-God drops a horrendous verse over this with quotables like "I ain't no dummy!". Well, nuff said! 

"Y'All Been Warned" - Had True Master been a more prolific producer through the years it would suprise me if he often occassionally wasn't mentioned among the greatest. "Y'All Been Warned" is a prime example of his unique style and talent. The marching drums are progressively moving forward, it's dark and giritty as hell and the way he picks and chops up samples are out of this world. This is what we want to hear Wu-Tang records to sound like! The four emcees appearing on here sounds energized by the hard backdrop with each rapper coming off as the lyrical monster he truly is; even inspiring Raekwon to drop the infamous line "we're like nine Bin Ladens". This was of course backmasked on the actual retail considering that this was released in December 2001 and all.

"Babies" - RZA are great at creating moody and introspective beats and some of the generals share a similiar quality; mainly Raekwon, Ghostface and GZA/Genius. There's no coincidence that these are the tree emcees who here weaves together three different street tales. Ghost paints a picture about a crooked police officer in the hood who have no respect for the people around him, even going so far as to kill suspects; Raekwon's tale is about a young drug-using girl who gets caught up in some serious trouble, accidentally killing a cop and is sentended to life; GZA's take's a little different stand; talking about a boy caught up in the wrong business but also gives a message to all the kids with similair problems out there. RZA's trumpet, live instrumentation and heartfelt chorus by Madame Scheez gives the song an extra quality; in fact making it one of the best Wu songs in a long time.An iinteresting fact is that Ramsey Jones (ODB's brother) play live drums on this,

"Radioactive" - This was originally a song recored for Masta Killa's "No Said Date" but as the team player he is, he instead gave it to his team for the album. Many heads say this is the most Wu-Tang sounding joint on the entire album but I was never a big fan of it. The production doesn't do anything for me as it's too repetitive and non-saying and Masta Killa spits one of the weakest verse I've heard from him and on top of that Method Man actually quotes "N'Sync?!? What the fuck.... Its not a bad song but it is an average track in my humble opinione.

"Back in the Game" - Alot of heads were outraged when they first heard that The Trackmasters was supposed to produce on the new Wu-Tang Clan album but the fact is that the joint sounds alot more like a Wu beat than one of Poke & Tone. There's plenty of Kung Fu flick samples, banging drums and percussion and an án addictive piano loop that really works. Ron Isley on the hook is another plus as he really adds some flavor to the joint. Lyrically the Clansmen spit fire too, especially GZA, who compare rhyming to a game of chess, and Ghostface Killah, who take shots at biters in the game with hilarious line like "Now everybody wanna change their name, like 'What you call yourself; I'm a fasionabe´le james¨- 'I'm fashionable James". That shit gets me every time haha!! Overall a great song; why this wasn't a single is beyond me though.

"Iron Flag" - Without a question the illest song on the entire LP, RZA re-uses one of his beats from the "World According to RZA" sessions which is only right. Boom Bap drums, addictive strings, a sped-up vocal sample and some ill scratches - THIS right here is WU-TANG. If you call yourself a Wu fan and were dissapointed in this you'd better off finding another group. My only complaint is that it could have had more emcees on it but Raekwon, Masta Killa and Inspectah Deck all do a great job at killing this hardcore jam. Rumor has it that this was actually an old unreleased song from around '97 or '98 that was originally made for Cappadonna's debut but got lost in translation somehow only to be found years later and included on "Iron Flag". Whether that is true or not, the title track to Wu's sixth album is one of their illest joints this side of the new millenium. Period!

"Dashing (Reasons)" - So we've now come to the end of the album and the last song on the actual official US edition of "Iron Flag" and it's, not suprisingly, anther RZA production. It's more of that digitized synthesizer sound of the sophomore Bobby Digital album but does not feature a RZA verse so whether or not this was a "Digital Bullet" outtake is discussable. The bass pattern are extremely similiar to "Jingle Bells" which has´to be a "fist for a hip-hop joint". If you can ignore the bass it's actually a pretty dope track with gritty drums and a rather cool xyleophone melody that drops in and out at times, The two rappers featured are two of Wu-Tang's best; Rebel INS and The Genius who both absoluely kills it. Deck flows like their no tomorrow while GZA comes off more calm but lyrically he obviously kicks an equally superb verse.

There's also the European bonus track, "The W" which will please fans who we heard an unfinished snippet off between two tracks on the previous album, It has a memorable string-driven producion with verses by Raekwon, Mehod Mank, GZA and U-God who really closes the album on a good note. To make the album better other tracks recorded around the same time should have been included in favor of weaker songs like "One Of Those Days" and "Soul Power". I'm mainly talking about "Spotlite" which is a certified Wu banger produced by Maethmatics that's alot better than the two songs mentioned above; the same goes for the True Master laced "What You In Fo'" that appeared on the OZ: Soundtrack in 2001 which easily could replace the out-of-place "One Of Those Days" and also "The W".could have been added on the US retail. It's only two or three tracks but by replacing them with two-three stronger trackks the overall album would've been damn good all the way through.. As it is now, "Iron Flag" is a good album but considering how dope the other Clan albums are  I still think this is their weakest and if I had to rate it, I would probably give it a rating of 3.5 out of 5.