Introducing the top Tape Decks podcasts ...Edge of Sports with host Dave Zirin and producer Dan Bloom connects listeners to a deeper understanding of what's going on in the sports world and its connection to society and politics. This podcast presents the voice of the athlete in a way that challenges listeners to think, read, and consider where they stand on various issues. Its bigger than sports and always on time. The most authentic, uncompromising voice in sports related broadcasts listeners can count on Dave to know the ledge...its all real on Edge of Sports podcast. Stay tuned at soundcloud.com/edgeofsports. Southern Vangard Radio is my go-to for what's new in the world of Hip Hop. The best Hip Hop podcast on the net broadcasts twice a week with hosts DJ Jon Doe and Eddie Meeks aka Cappuccinomeeks. These guys take me back to when I worked college radio and first discovered a promotional CD titled High Risk by the group Prophetix, made up of DJ Jon Doe, Mello and Meeks. Aside from the Dungeon Family sound I came up listening to in high school, years later I found out about an eMCee that went by Truth Universal out of New Orleans. Prophetix was my introduction to a whole other network out the South...projects like High Risk catered to listeners that recognized originality and the art of rhyme. Its one of those records you remember listening to the first time...one of those pieces of "fine art" that Marc Spekt from Broady Champs talked about on his Southern Vangard interview session. The Southern Vangard podcast is a sonic goldmine. Finding Southern Vangard felt brand new...a throwback feeling similar to discovering underground Hip Hop on the radio dial or stumbling across a stash of untapped vinyl. What Southern Vangard puts together is difficult to describe to someone who doesn't recognize the value or understand what it was like before music became so easy to access. In addition to the seamless blends and scratches of some of the best Hip Hop are countless hours of interviews with many of Hip Hop's unsung microphone and beat making masters...stories I'd never heard before...voices I'd never heard outside of the tracks they were featured on. The preparation of the program on a weekly basis is something to appreciate and pass on. The details is what makes Southern Vangard the top Hip Hop podcast on the net. The roster of interviews is unrivaled. No other podcast archive can compare. Its also a beat makers storycore...forreal. Listen in for the new and scroll back in time to catch past episodes at soundcloud.com/southernvangard. The first time I ever discovered a "podcast" was when I found Bill Burr's Monday Morning Podcast on MySpace. There was a stretch of time when the the first 20 minutes of my morning drive to work was spent listening to Bill Burr. The routine since has changed to scattered moments when I remember to revisit Burr's Soundcloud...Each time though I'm reminded how much a fan I am of Bill Burr...definitely on my #Top5DOA comedians. He was my introduction to the podcast world. To listen to the Monday Morning Podcast on Soundcloud check out soundcloud.com/themonday-morning-podcast. Next up, the Bruce Lee Podcast. This one's invaluable. I was born into my admiration for Bruce Lee through my father who practiced martial arts since before I came into the world. I was hooked on karate flicks as a kid and credit that to the Karate Kid and my intro to Nintendo video games in the late 80s...Nintendo games like Double Dragon had me open to flicks like Bloodsport,Kickboxer and animated shows like Karate Kommandos with Chuck Norris. It was The Last Dragon though that really caught my attention (Laura Charles!). It may have been a silly comedy to some, but along with flicks like No Retreat, No Surrender these films pointed kids like me to a primary source...Bruce Lee. As a child it put me on a mission to find everything and anything Bruce Lee...like Bruce Leroy in search of that "glow"...These moments prepped what was coming when it was time to sit down and watch Enter the Dragon. Early on it helped me separate what I believed to be real from fake. As the 90's approached it also introduced me to Bruce Lee's son, Brandon Lee. When my friend and I saw Rapid Fire, by the next day we discontinued our ties to anything Van Damme. Our time from that point forward followed Brandon Lee with the hope we'd better understand his father's influence. These are my earliest recollections of following something other than basketball, football, or baseball. When Brandon Lee was killed it raised a lot of questions creating a dark cloud above those first years of the 90s. At the same time cinema and literature introduced me to the demise of past leaders like Malcolm X, MLK, Huey P. Newton, and the tragedy experienced a couple of years later when we lost one from our generation...Tupac Shakur. It was a time for questioning mortality and exacerbated a sense of insecurity in a world that promoted and exploited senseless violence. The next couple decades of my life would be riddled with Bruce Lee moments. I discovered literature about Bruce Lee that went beyond just film and explored his philosophy and family life. Shortly after I discovered the Bruce Lee website. Social media would later connect me to news on Shannon Lee's development of the Bruce Lee enterprise, new documentary films, other authentic items, and scholarship opportunities through the Bruce Lee Foundation. Upon the 40th anniversary since Bruce Lee's death, I was inspired to create a mixtape project dedicated to Bruce Lee's life titled the Lee Jun Fan Tape. In 2016, I discovered the Bruce Lee podcast. The program is hosted by Bruce Lee's daughter Shannon Lee and her co-host & creative officer Sharon Lee. The Bruce Lee podcast has become the soundtrack of my garage workout regimen. Moments I save specifically for tuning into the podcast. You can check out the Bruce Lee podcast at soundcloud.com/brucelee. I discovered The Combat Jack Show driving between New Mexico and Texas. One night I searched and searched for some audio to cover the 60+ mile trip ahead. At random I pressed play and got introduced to the can't stop won't stop hilarity of Dallas Penn, Combat Jack, and Premium Pete. The podcast produced a lot of memorable listening moments which inspired me to see specific films, listen to albums, read books, or simply follow guests of the Combat Jack Show. This podcast is the King of New York podcasts and today is headed by Combat Jack himself. Check out Combat Jack Show podcasts at soundcloud.com/thecombatjackshow. Next up is a podcast I never saw coming...the Fearless or Insane podcast with host Chris Webber. Before anything I've been a basketball fan first and foremost. As a kid I stayed in the trading card shops working my memory into a mental register of sport figure names and numbers from every roster in the league. This included the alumni of Michigan's Fab 5 who saved a lot of us young kids from the embarrassment of the short short era during junior high basketball. When Chris Webber touched down in the league I set aside a special sheet specifically for his cards starting with my college Classic #4 of him jamming down a dunk in his blue Wolverine jersey. While we all remember the infamous game that would conclude his college years before transitioning into a professional, I remained a fan of Webber even living out my fandom through video games like NBA Live especially during his tenure with the Sacramento Kings. Upon retirement, I became an even bigger fan of CWebb when he got together with my main man The Glove to analyze b-ball games on television. Their analysis was unlike anything I'd ever seen...an uncut, unscripted litany of roasts with so many moments that reminded me of the comedy that duos like Martin Lawrence and Will Smith brought to the big screen. It was through a recent guest appearance on the Edge of Sports Podcast that introduced me to CWebb's footprints in the podcast world. When the Edge of Sports cosigns something I don't hesitate to follow up. I was able to catch the podcast early enough to tune in to every episode within a couple of months. Listening to the Fearless or Insane podcast will be worth every minute of your time as CWebb graciously points out before introducing listeners to featured guests. Listeners can find the Fearless or Insane archive at the Podcast One link podcastone.com/fearless-or-insane-with-chris-webber. On the next Tape Decks Podcast dial, I got the illest crew on YouTube Sway, Heather B, and Tracy G...Sway in the Morning. Sway's history is really something...Sway's story and his presence in our lives as a Hip Hop Alumni and media visionary going back to the MTV days...he's an important piece on the chess board of Hip Hop journalism. While I wouldn't classify Sway in the Morning as a "podcast" in the sense of the other programs I've referenced above, I do access Sway's interviews the exact same way. The interviews are structured just the same, and while the program can be heard live through satellite radio, its the YouTube uploads of interviews I feel connect to the podcast world. Beyond only listening to Sway in the Morning, this is a program you can watch. Sway's creative versatility includes classic "5 Fingers of Death" moments and even the most memorable Robert Glaspar set where he took on 5 fingers on the keys. Its this in the moment type content that makes this of my favorite free access programs to listen to. If I had satellite radio, Sway would be the first program I'd set. His interview catalog has no boundaries giving fans access to celebrities of all genres. And the story gets deeper considering the connection to the Wake Up Show alongside King Tech. Its what gives this story so much more meaning to Hip Hop history and its threads across the country in the Bay Area. Every once in a while I think about how ill it would be to revisit the Wake Up Show archive, from beginning to end. Like Sway & Bobbito's documentary I can only hope for the day we can celebrate the Wake Up Show's story and maybe even have access to its archive. Listeners (and watchers) can tune into interviews and more from Sway in the Morning at youtube.com/user/SwaysUniverse. On my list for true social justice radio is the International Media Project's station Making Contact. While not a podcast platform, its another program I access like any other podcast on Soundcloud via its main site at radioproject.org. This is a community centered broadcast with a wide perspective on issues that impact people around the world. Its a site any social justice minded instructor with objectives to broaden student's world views should have listed on their syllabus. On to the next is the most creatively produced youth radio podcast I've ever heard out of California, Soul Rebel Radio. The program is brilliantly produced and brings the voice and creativity of youth into key happenings in society and youth culture around the world. Layered with unforgettable skits, music clips, an assortment of audios, and spoken word, Soul Rebel Radio is a classic blend unlike any other broadcast you'll ever hear. Soul Rebel Radio is a birth place of tomorrow's media creators and a true outlet for the voices of young people. I track the latest updates from Soul Rebel Radio at facebook.com/soulrebelradio. Next to last on my Tape Decks Podcast dial for Spring 2017 is The Collision with hosts Etan Thomas and Edge of Sports mind Dave Zirin. Broadcasting outta WPFW, listeners can access the latest recordings off Etan Thomas Twitter handle at twitter.com/etanthomas36 or Dave Zirin's twitter handle at twitter.com/edgeofsports or directly from KPFA. When I hear that intro to the ((Bridge is Over)) beat and the clip of Barkley saying, "I don't wanna be like Mike..." I know its time! Between the two host you're guaranteed honest dialogue on sports, and politics and a range of topics these think champs bring to the listening audience. While not classified as a podcast, I'm basing this off how the program can be accessed and its availability online. Finally, I want to end out with a note on 900AM WURD, an online independent platform for Black media broadcasting out of Pennsylvania. My father put me on to this program which streams online all the time anytime. It's a connection to my father's Philadelphia roots and sets an example for the kind of media access I can only wish for all communities. It stretches the idea for how we can define "podcast" especially when a broadcast such as WURD is able to extend its reach over the world wide web. I recently started tuning into WURD and look forward to learning more about what's going on in the tri-state area. You can easily tune in hassle free at 900amwurd.com.
There are so many other podcasts out there. These are my primary listens which have long replaced anything worth tuning into on local radio outlets which I find restricting and contrived. Its what I value most about having access to a mobile device that in my imagination is like an upgraded transistor radio that connects me to the way I imagine broadcasts to be. These podcasts tell a story about who I am and my views on edutainment and its benefits to how we connect with people and the community. What's interesting is how new podcasting is and how we're experiencing the beginning of this broadcasting platform and essentially writing the rules for what it can be.
You'll find a list of links to other broad+podcasts to the left of this blog under ((The Listening)).
Ever since hosting college radio in 2000, I thought about new music through a perspective of my own top 10 charts. It's how I distinguished the new music I was listening to from the old. A few times I wrote blogs listing my top Hip Hop albums of the year and reported weekly to College Media Journal (CMJ). Some of it was based on promos the radio station received and most based on music I was checking for on my own. The last time I hosted a radio show was in 2008, a week before finishing school and moving on. The fun of being inundated with new music, listening to the unknown, rotating music live on air, and sharing my thoughts about music for eight years straight is how I continued to imagine music I accumulated post radio dayz. Its also what I wrote about from time to time on this blog under the #LHHSCharts and #HHbeAtz10 tags. In 2017, its time to let that go.
There is so much music out there. Every morning I turn the ignition in the ride and connect the auxiliary cord to listen to Southern Vangard radio, other podcasts, or a CD...or whenever I setup my iPOD for a run around the track or gym...Its a process free from my routine on radio to now as a casual listener. Especially when I discover music I want to replay a few times. It could be a record I pull from neglected crate...some mp3 files lost in folders disorganized after years of CD burns and downloads. I'm interested in being more patient with my music. More time to explore the details and remember the process I fell in love with before music and our access to it became an all-you-can-hear affair. Back to a time when I'd look through my father's record collection...to a point where a Weather Report album cover would came alive in my dreams.
I've conducted a lot of interviews with eMCees, beatmakers, writers, poets, and groups for radio and web. The same way I remember charting music is the same way I imagine questions I would ask today if I could. I'm a big fan of interview shows and podcasts and getting the chance to understand the interviewer and the kind of story they're trying to pull from the interviewee. I love that process and the preparation and research that goes into it. I'd like to find ways to channel that interest more and research what I'm listening to. Not just when something new comes out, but for any record at any given time. I look forward to using this blog to take time and document the stories of music, including some of my own. A process that's free from any sort of structure, time frame, and any order of charts, real or imagined...a process more conducive to someone who simply loves music.
With that said its time to close the book on #LHHSCharts. The collage of records above that pretty much defined my 2016 is the last of this idea of imagining top 10s inspired by the radio dayz...
Before the new year, I finally listened to A Tribe Called Quest's We Got it From Here, Thank You 4 Your Service. A line from Nate Denver off Grimm's American Hunger album came to mind..."there's no Tribe Called Quest if there is no Phife". I was only able to listen to the new ATCQ once wondering what it took to finally happen. It made me wonder if everything happened when it was suppose to or if we simply ran out of time at the dawn of a new era in this country. It made me wonder more about a Phife record than anything else and what he envisioned beyond the Ventilation LP...free from the anticipation and constant expectations of an ATCQ reunion that maybe was never meant to be in the first place.
Nobody hits on Hip Hop nostalgia and life to me like Junclassic. The ((Father's Day)) song he composed in 2016 to Wun Two's production had the emotion and power of a ((Dear Mama)) Pac track to me...to me it spoke for sons who grew up watching their fathers put in work and stand up to the insurmountable responsibility and resilience of doing their part to hold a family together through struggle, tragedy, set backs, and success. Better than Fiction Too is the kind of record that's gonna last my whole life which is how I've gotten to know Junclassic's music since day one. Better than Fiction Too is soul music with the poetic grit of of the Hip Hop we've come to love out of NYC since the beginning.
ScHoolBoy Q...The Blank Face LP is brilliant. Many of us that came up on Hip Hop in the early 90s in the Southwest were hit by that \/\/est Coast influence before anything else. For me it came by way of Ice Cube, Eazy E, NWA, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, DJ Quik, Warren G, Too Short, E-40, Rappin 4 Tay, MC Eiht/CMW, Cypress Hill and others. Much of it channeled through some of our favorite films, Boyz in the Hood, Menace II Society, etc. The mayhem of Pac's demise made me realize that the \/\/est went beyond what made it popular in the early 90s...the void of losing Pac introduced me to eMCees like Ras Kass, Hiero, Cali Agents, Paris, everything out of Stones Throw a few years later, Dilated Peoples, Sevin from Sacramento, and many more...through their sound I thought about styles differently and learned to appreciate the ground work of groups like Freestyle Fellowship, the Pharcyde, J5, Souls of Mischief and other eMCees/groups I never would've known about if I didn't search. I love thinking about what TDE records means in that context now and what they'll mean later. Especially since I'm more preoccupied enjoying TDE's music than trying to decipher the wordplay and beat production. The beats are an ill anomaly to me and makes me reflect back on Organized Noize production, the Dungeon Family, and ATLiens. I wonder about the magic of sampling listening to TDE...a scrapbook of what the \/\/est coast has experienced and what it has to offer today. Beyond the state of California, TDE makes me think about what Marc Spekt of Broady Champs said on a Southern Vangard interview session describing Hip Hop as fine art.
When I hosted radio and worked as program manager, I decided to do two things when it came to Soul music. One was set aside a slot specific to Soul music (shout out to Mz. Soulshine) and also bring everything together during my own slot...Soul, Hip Hop, Blues, Jazz, Funk, everything...whether released generations prior or present...only rule was that it go together real smooth and connect. I called my time slot The Representation Show/Soul Session and together it turned into 4 straight hours of all the music I could gather in time to go on air. Also the playlist always had to be unique, never duplicated. I also collaborated with fellow radio djs combining music slots and crashing concepts together for an unexpected marathon of anything we felt like rotating and talking about (shout out to the Moleman Rawk$hop). This year no record reminded me of the Soul Session days more than Maxwell's Black Summer's Night. Especially when I discovered Stuart Matthewman was involved with the sound. Its one of those records that I'll revisit often. A reconnection to everything I loved about Amel Larrieux rotations, Carl Thomas, D'Angelo, Sade, Dwele, Goapele, Alice Smith, and many other voices. Maxwell is one of a kind.
With The Greatest X by Reks, we're talking about the best Hip Hop record to drop in 2016, period. Its appropriately titled and reflective of all the unsung-blue-collar-hard-hat work that Boston eMCees like Reks have put into the game over the past many years. This record got anthems and is a collaborative case of organized rhyme. It goes beyond what you can burn on just one CD...a double disc respectively with enough weight to equal any three 2016 album releases combined. The Greatest X reflects the competitive lyricism with undeniable beat production that comes with having the right to stake claim to the crown. Beyond that its tied together with the storytelling of a for real eMCee....the King... Reks...the greatest unknown.
I'll wrap it up talking about four other records that made 2016 what it was for me. While Young Roddy's The Kenner Loop got me through the start of 2016, it was Isaiah Rashad's The Sun's Tirade that got me through a summer of decisions and time I needed to regroup. Masta Ace's The Falling Season is easily up there for one of 2016's best records and one of my favorite records of all time. Its what Masta Ace does...one of Hip Hop's greatest storytellers of Top 5 caliber rhyme... a music man of many scripts...his songs are definitely films in my imagination. J Cole's 4 Your Eyez Only is how I actually started 2017 but the track not included on the record ((False Prophets)) is how I made sense of the remaining weeks in December reflecting on 2016. It definitely gave me a chance to organize many faces, stories, and situations experienced throughout the year. I still need to reflect on what Cole's album means to me so I'll let time do its thing. As for the last album on the collage, I included a record I've written about already...Elzhi's Lead Poison. The last no. 1 album to grace the top of LHHS Charts.
With that said, here's to a new beginning of the Tape Decks blog. A new way of thinking of what I feel like writing about next when it comes to music. This is an end to the LHHS Charts and the HHbeAtz10 days and the beginning to responding to this simple question more often..."what are you listening to?"
p.s. This one is for the vinyl, CDs, digitals, & cassettes.
About half way into the year, here's the latest #LHHS10 update.
#LHHS10 is a top 10 break down of my favorite Hip Hop listenings. It dates back to the Lee Hip Hop Show #radiodayz and charting to the College Music Journal (CMJ). Charting is a process radio djs participate in to report their top 10 albums or singles in rotation. When I was on the radio CMJ sent magazines to program directors that included Hip Hop and other genre airplay listings from college radio stations around the country.
LHHS stands for "Lee's Hip Hop Show". That's what I called my Hip Hop radio program when I started broadcasting on KRUX 91.5 FM in 2000. A couple of years later I renamed it "The Representation Show" and "Soul Session". During the eight years I was on air, I charted the free music KRUX received from promoters, record labels, or directly from the artists themselves. Access to music was costly for a broke college student so it helped to be a part of what was referred to as a record pool. Today #LHHS10 is a music chart I created in memory of my radio program and to continue finding time to share, document, and write about music I love and continue to discover today.
This week I saw a 2016 interview with Mya on YouTube and she talked about how much has changed when it comes to radio and how people access music. Her thoughts of new R&B being extinct from radio was interesting to me since I was thinking the same thing a couple weeks ago listening to Jodeci's Diary of a Mad Band. On popular charts like the Billboard it appears all R&B groups have gone fishing. On the Billboard's latest top 25 R&B, there are no groups, only solo artist. Mya also discussed the pros and cons of today's digital music market. We've heard what artist don't like about downloading for years but whats interesting is how much digital continues to grow and render traditional marketing methods obsolete for certain artists.
I still like to buy CDs. I collect vinyl too but since last year I stopped to catalog and listen to what I've collected over the past fifteen years. On my desk I have a stack of CDs I've listened to since the start of 2016. I pulled most of the CDs from storage so that I could listen to them again, reflect, and organize them in three stacks I identified as classic, cool, or trash. In terms of store bought music, that day is dead. I haven't bought a CD from a store since last year. I've been a frequent buyer since my teenage years so for me that's a big change. It made me realize how less interesting stores become with less music. This year, all my purchases have been done online through Amazon for physical CDs and Bandcamp or eMusic for the digital. YouTube also has an endless search of full albums that can be accessed for free on any mobile device. Get connected to an auxiliary cord in the vehicle and you're set. At first I wasn't interested in listening to full albums on YouTube. The idea of being detached from appreciating an album cover, tracklist, and liner notes felt disposable. However, in the past couple of months I've changed my mind to stream certain listens during workout time or a long drive.
I haven't updated this blog since the beginning of the year after wrapping up 2015. I've posted a few tweets but made no effort to reflect and write about the music I was listening to. It makes me feel like the year is speeding by. I love how I think about the music I'm listening to, especially from an artist or group I've been listening to for a while. I've had a collector's spirit since childhood so the stories have always mattered. As a kid it seems like I had all the time in the world to become absorbed in what I liked. And there was nothing like simpler times between headphones connected to my Sony cassette walkman...
listening to Dre..
listening to Pac...
listening to the Wu.
Those moments are memories I value as part of my own history with music as a fan. When I found a spot on air I attempted to record every show on cassette. Writing today feels like an extension of why I wanted to preserve those radio programs as moments that were all part of the listening process. Watching 'I Am Ali', towards the end of the film viewers hear a clip from the recordings Ali made of himself talking to his children over the phone. In the clip he we hear Ali telling his family... "If anybody ever wonder why Muhammad Ali making these tapes, it's cause history is so beautiful..."
Reflecting and thinking about music also opens up the chance to do a different kind of digging that's focused on research and the stories behind the music. For example, when I revisited my Pistol Politics CD by Paris and returned to the Guerilla Funk Recordings site, I found out about a compilation project from a new member of the Guerilla Funk family who goes by DJ Justice. His compilation album is called Man of Steel. Looking back at what I wrote in January about Pistol Politics it reminded me to check in. Music occupies a powerful space in our lives, especially when we think about what it inspires us to do.
Moving forward, here are the notes for the latest #LHHS10 chart...
When it comes to new releases, 2016 didn't really jump off for me until I heard Elzhi was coming out with a new record titled Lead Poison. I heard about the new record through Junclassic's Twitter page. Junclassic is an eMCee out of Southside Jamaica Queens and when he's not creating his own classic music he's tuned in putting people on to who he listens to. I was introduced to Elzhi's rhymes on Dilla's Welcome 2 Detroit solo debut and more when he joined Slum Village for the Trinity (Past, Present, and Future) album. At the time I also read an article where someone referred to Elzhi as the "Detroit" Nas. At first, the connection wasn't there for me in so far as style, but I thought about it every time I heard something new featuring Elzhi. This was reinforced listening to his debut a couple years after Dilla passed when the The Preface dropped. When Elzhi dropped Elmatic though... For anyone not familiar with Nas debut Illmatic we're talking about one of the greatest albums of all time. Released in 1994 tracks like ((The World is Yours)) have a place in my life's soundtrack. From the beats to the rhymes Nas and Pete Rock captured a universal feeling with that single. To me, everything about the creation of Illmatic, from the production to the book of rhymes and the videos that were like short films made it a timeless record for 1994.
Elzhi's Elmatic, to me, went beyond a tribute. In detail, Elzhi rewrote Illmatic as a Detroit story. Sound wise its the art of sampling in reverse with the live band Will Sessions covering the original beats. Will Sessions are straight outta Detroit and one of the baddest bands I've ever heard because of the way they express Illmatic's sound. Similar to the Illmatic view of Queensbridge, the Elmatic videos shine light on Detroit's style and Hip Hop history. Listening to Elmatic I felt like a kid in 94' again watching Nas's ((It Ain't Hard to Tell)) video. In it, calm and cool as ever Nas rhymes soul deep in the now to a Large Professor beat sampled from Thriller sounds of the early 80s. Elzhi's Elmatic also took me back to the article I read years ago that compared Elzhi to Nas. To me, Elmatic represented something unique about the soul and relevance of Detroit when it comes to Hip Hop. It also made me rethink the art of sampling and how to turn a homage into a concept of music rememory.
It made me wonder what a Watt's Illmatic would sound like;
or a New Orleans Illmatic...
or who would be capable of pulling off an H-Town State of Mind...
I think of Planet Asia's ((Fresno State of Mind)) track. He was the first to do it.
With Elmatic we gotta recognize how much work went into translating the slang and relocating New York into a ((Detroit State of Mind)). Elmatic is a project that can only live once and it speaks to the power of Illmatic's inspiration. But man... even that title...Elmatic... quoting SV... it's fan...ta...serro.
Going back to Lead Poisonby ElzhiI have this album at no. 1 for my 2016 #LHHS10. The title and cover speak to 2016...from the power and fear of the pen to the biological oppression of a U.S. water crises. In 2016, Lead Poison is a labor of art, from how its arranged and connected track for track to the complex back story we learn from Elzhi's interviews promoting the record. Lyrically, it's not politically loud but there's an art to Elzhi's storytelling and how its put together. The title of the album itself is politically charged to me, as is the artwork just based off of where this record is coming from. As I listen to Lead Poison it brings memory to Dilla and Elzhi's verses on ((Come Get It)) from Welcome 2 Detroit. I also think of a track I must have listened to a thousand times on repeat over the years...((Love It Here))... thinking back to Elzhi's hook..."...but I love it here, just think if I wasn't here, my uncles and cousins here, my struggles and come ups here..." Lead Poison is no. 1 cause you won't find many eMCees releasing another album like they were just getting started; each time giving people's imagination a much deeper perspective of what Detroit's rhyme writers are capable of.
Following up with no. 2, I got The Kenner Loop by Jet Life soldier & Good$ense general, Young Roddy. There was no other record I listened to more so far this year then The Kenner Loop. When it comes to Jet Life, it was the New Orleans villain Trademark Da Skydiver that led me to an abundant online stash of Curren$y downloads, Jet Life compilations, the LE$ and Cookin' Soul tape, and this year debut from Young Roddy, The Kenner Loop. Years from now, reflecting back on 2016 I will remember and hear this album. In addition, nothing beats the access fans have to more Jet Life and Good$ense affiliated music on Dat Piff Mixtapes and plenty of YouTube media including The Kenner Loop documentary.
I've kept the Paris Pistol Politics on the charts. If how I charted was based on which records bump down others, Pistol Politics would not be moved. Eventually I'll have this one listed under my 21st Century Hip Hop Classics tab cause its #timeless.
Oddisee, man... what can I say? There's a lot artist can learn from Oddisee when it comes to the music biz, digital responsibility, and the world as a platform to an eMCee's brand. He's an incredible story of what it means to be unique and to "do you" like Slum Village said. With the Alwasta EP, even though it's only seven tracks its deep enough to be in conversation with any other eMCee's full length. Therefore I added it to the #LHHS10. Oddisee is one of the few artist on my radar that just as easily could top my #HHbeAtz10 instrumental charts. Check for Alwasta for free download from Oddisee's Bandcamp site.
For the life of me, I can't keep up with Moka Only. At the same time I can't complain. I just know any day I feel like listening to something out the Moka Only archive that I haven't heard yet there will always be something to purchase. This year I decided to start with his newest record São Paulo. It's dope... first listen no skips and by the end I wanted to know more about the record and dig back to listen to everything I missed. To learn more about each track on São Paulo visit Moka Only's Bandcamp page. Here's Moka Only's notes on one of my favorite feel good tracks on São Paulo ((One One))... “This is just some whimsical shit written for people that have lost and learned how to keep going. Keep your eyes on the silver linings. Feel it."
Next up I got a record from the beautiful mind of Saul Williams Martyr Loser King. Listening to him spit ((Think Like They Book Say)) on Sway in the Morning reminded me how much he's inspired going back to his 'Slam' film. His art breathes with a revolutionary spirit that I think people tend to lose track of when it comes to the arts. It's honest, strong, consistent, and something to think about when we reflect on the value of our own expression and what we're doing with it. Martyr Loser King is a landmine in your brain. Tap into it.
On deck for the remaining #LHHS10, I got Sevin's Purple Heart... I've said it before and to me, Sevin is among the \/\/est's best on the mic. Last year he set off on a spiritual journey with his camp H.O.G.M.O.B. (Hooked on God Ministry Over Bizness) to spread the gospel to every hood they could reach across the nation. Purple Heart is progression of Sevin's concept records with the word of God that brings life to every track. Next, I added Royce Da 5'9's Layers to the #LHHS10... just a dope record. The intro ((Tabernacle)) is the most personal I've heard Royce go though there's a lot I missed early on from his discography. During the #radiodayz I got introduced to his music through the Premier produced 12' single ((Boom)). This collab reached a pinnacle in 2015 with the release of the DJ Premier produced Adrian Younge sampled PRhyme.
Two records remain from the 2015 #LHHS10 and that's katO1O's On the Cusp and PE's Man Plans God Laughs. I wrote about both of those projects in the last #LHHS10 post.
Coming up, I'm listening to the latest from the Yancey family with the posthumous Dilla The Diary release (that track ((Trucks)) tho'!)... I'm also setting up my summer for the international collab between Junclassic & Wun on the Better than Fiction Too album.
Here's to a return to reflect and just write.
Til' the next blog...hopefully sooner than later. Peace. #LHHS10 -lee aka repshowhost
See the list to the left of the screen when you view the full web version of the blog
Moving forward for 2016, I updated the #LHHS10 Charts with records I got the chance to check out in the 4th quarter of 2015. At the top I have Paris 'Pistol Politics', a timely double disc release. It's the best Hip Hop record I've heard from a \/\/est coast eMCee in a long time. What's great is the opportunity fans have to hear Paris' perspective with what's going on today not only through the album itself but through interviews and the promotion he's been doing to get the word out. Pistol Politics sounds incredible and the social commentary educates listeners with no thoughts attached to label control or industry. It's about as honest a perspective people will hear from Hip Hop when it comes to police brutality, the economy, racism, US leadership, issues raised by the Black Lives Matter movement and other battles. The quality of the music and message is consistent with what Paris has delivered over the past three decades. I'm hopeful this means more from Guerilla Funk Recordings in 2016 as I also heard Paris talk about plans to release a new George Clinton record. Regardless, Pistol Politics is one to revisit again and again in the coming months and years, just like with everything else on Paris' catalogue. You can stay informed and up to date at guerillafunk.com.
Next up is the most talented Kato1o of Crown City Rockers who dropped On the Cusp in October. It's a dope followup to the Natural Phenomenons record and another addition to everything great about the creative output from members of Crown City Rockers. You can spend a lot of time learning and listening to everything they've worked on as a group, solo, and through collaboration (check for Raashan Ahmad, Woodstock, Headnodic, and Max MacVeety) . The Roots are my all time favorite Hip Hop group, but there's no doubt that Crown City is in that echelon if not even better considering their efforts to branch off and deliver solo projects such as Kato1o's On the Cusp. It's an incredible record, inspiring sound, and you can check out the music and more at Kato1o website kato1o.com.
On the list, we're keeping it \/\/est Coast, CA with the release of 90059 by Jay Rock. Definitely one of the year's most anticipated records for me personnaly and I dug the opportunity TDE gave fans to purchase an autographed CD copy. With the video release of ((Money Tres Deuce)) it was on. Rock has one of the most distinct voices in Hip Hop and along with the rest of the Black Hippy family is carrying the torch for something special out of LA. Especially for artist representing Compton. In this case though, Jay Rock is taking us straight to the source... \/\/atts, 90059 zip code. Through Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE), I hear a lot of influence on the millennials from the legacy of voices like Tupac Shakur and other artist from the Death Row days including Dre, Snoop, the Dogg Pound and the Warren G-Funk Long Beach crew...but also there's an element out of the dirty south I hear inspired by the Organized Noize sound of the 90s... I've always felt that way ever since listening to Good Kid Mad City and especially with 90059 on tracks like ((Gumbo)) produced by J.LBS. Keeping up with TDE over the years has been like watching the students of southern CA graduate to the world stage that once dominated the 90s. I'm looking forward to continuing to hear Jay Rock master his representation of \/\/atts story and I hope we hear more growth in terms of speaking on it's history and culture. Similar to how New York heralds the Bronx, I'm hopeful there's something more the world can learn about \/\/atts.
Keeping the #LHHS10 going was the latest release from Public EnemyMan Plans God Laughs which dropped Summer of 2015. It took me a little bit of time to pick it up. It was actually the audio book by Stuart Scott Every Day I Fight that inspired me to not let the year pass without tuning into the world's greatest Hip Hop group. There is a moment in Scott's audio book, where the narrator repeats the phrase "...man plans, God laughs..." and something about Scott's connection to Hip Hop's narrative inspired me to purchase PE's album. In condensing the record below 30 minutes the group, to no surprise, accomplishes more with less. While the listening time is shorter the experience is enduring in its message. A statement we can enjoy, think and talk about, learn and understand.
For 2015's 4th quarter I also got the chance to check out Curren$y'sCanal Street Confidential which got a dope sound, not to mention a feature from one of the illest international producers in the game, Cookin' Soul. I'm intrigued by Curren$y's story coming out of New Orleans as a No Limit soldier and coming up to become a Jet Life captain. Through Curren$y over the years I've became fans of eMCee's like Trademark Da Skydiver, Young Roddy, and a network of other artist I can now tap into whenever I need something to listen to in the ride. Listening to Jet Life also takes me back to the Chicago + Jacksonville connection that Chapter 13 captured in the earlier part of the century. That's where my mind goes and it makes me wonder how much of Chapter 13 may have inspired what we're hearing today... there is a real distinct sound, in both instrumental and subject matter that Young Valentine, Rashid Hadee, and the Neblina family were speaking on in the first decade of the 2000s. I like to think about that energy regardless if there's any connection cause its exciting to hear this style coming out of New Orleans and the success of Jet Life over the years... keep winning in 2016.
After that for #LHHS10, I added the Jadakiss record Top 5 DOA... it's a conversation fans of Hip Hop love to have and I dug the promotion run with the mixtape and just hearing Jada come back stronger and healthier than ever...A lot of good hardcore New York energy on this record, especially in the production from Swizz... ((Jason)) is a problem!! And its the ((You Don't Eat)) video that had me thinking Creed with Jada back in the ring. In addition for the charts I was locked into the GameDocumentary 2 double disc album and the high caliber force he carries for Compton's control of the microphone in 2015. Straight Outta Compton took the box office by storm and it was great to see that history connect through bonafied eMCees like The Game.
For 2016 charting I also decided to extend consideration for mixtape projects as there was no mixtape I was looking out for more than Houston's LE$ Steak x Shrimp 2. Datpiff.com became a primary source for the daily listen throughout the year (especially with the new app!) and on my radar was LE$, definitely. Next up I got Sean Price'sposthumous Songs in the Key of Price record. I can only imagine where the Brownsville Bomber was going with this effort and appreciated Duck Down for releasing this project as a mixtape, 30 tracks deep. He's a microphone barbarian and lyrical shooter, defines hardcore Hip Hop and has the most hilarious concepts and title comparisons...from the previously released Mic Tyson project to the titles I thought about and laughed when I saw the tracklist of Songs in the Key of Price, ((Sean Shank Redemption)). When you get the chance, look up the Seanwuar impression with Pharoahe Monch. Rhyme in peace Sean Price.
Last but not least, I added Sevin's I'll Wait album. Sevin is one of my all time favorite eMCees and his latest effort is far removed from the lyrical spirit of previous H.O.G.M.O.B. releases. The acronym stands for Hooked on God, Ministry Over Bizness. I first heard about Sevin through my cousin who did a lot of work with the church aspiring to become a pastor out in Fresno, California. I've been in tune with Christian eMCees ever since meeting the founders of Holy Culture over a decade ago when I did college radio. They opened my attention to a nation wide network of some of the most talented eMCees, beat makers, film makers, web developers and marketing professionals. A lot of high quality work with a platform that seemed to do a good job of promoting everything dope about the Christian Hip Hop community. However, I found out about Sevin directly from my cousin. Didn't notice any promotion on Sevin's music from anywhere else other than from Sevin himself and his ministry team. Sevin's purpose is admirable in thinking about his outreach around the country and the world and the power he scribes through the pen to rhyme, inspire, and help change the negative outlook of the gang affiliated or anyone in need of prayer. On I'll Wait though, he takes a chance (a leap of faith) into his vocal range delivering a spiritual soulful record... all singing. I recall listening to a Sevin interview and him mentioning his goals to develop in this area of his creative expression... he's explored his vocal range on several songs in the past. I included I'll Wait on the charts because it sounds incredible and it represents something bigger than what "fans" expect from the artist they follow. I'll Wait represents something far more personal for this particular artist and their spiritual journey.
Before we get 2016 going, I wanted to share these thoughts mainly to organize myself and everything I had the chance to hear in the final months of 2015. I'd like to keep the #LHHS10 charts up to date more often and stay balanced between the music I listen to from the past and what's new. Even though its been eight years since I've been on air, the fun routine of keeping up with the latest listens is still there and stronger than ever. Especially now as I utilize the blog to exercise my writing skills and document some thoughts to look back on someday.
Looking forward to a more patient and thoughtful 2016. One track, one album at a time.
This album has been at the top of my charts since I first heard it last year, January 2015. Its the 3rd following 2012's Good Morning Vietnam and Good Morning Vietnam 2, The Golden Triangle in 2013. The intro to MF Grimm's longest running collab alongside beatsmith Drasar Monumental. On a recent interview it was revealed that the two have formed a group called No Jugamos. Looking forward to Vendetta Vinyl in 2016, and learning more about The Illiad if more is revealed. It's a project referenced on the back vinyl cover of the first Good Morning Vietnam series under a track titled ((Mater Matuta)). Below is a video from Good Morning Vietnam III, The Phoenix Program titled ((Hands Up to Heaven, Feet Firm in Hell)).
GMVI (2012), GMVII (2013), & GMVIII (2014)...These records championed each year they were released like a Bulls or Lakers three peat...the third taking the listener back to the beginning in attempt to tie the story line together. I take away something new with each listen. It's structure is cinematic, movie-like... a work of audio art turning the volume up on the comic book world. The way it's composed from the beats to the rhymes inspires research. There's a lot of sound citations the listener can explore and revisit, rotate, and rotate again. I'm reminded of the radio skit on Enter the 36 Chambers where a caller requests Wu Tang's ((Protect Your Neck))... "Ahh yeah, again and again..." It's been like that over the past three years with the GMV series.
Good Morning Vietnam inspired a new section of the blog site titled "Timeless" specifically for records released present day that I feel will stand the test of time. GMVIII, representing for the entire GMV series will be the first certified #Timeless.
Added two new #listens to the #LHHS10 Charts featured to the left side of the blog. More information on Pistol Politics by Paris at guerrillafunk.com and Man Plans God Laughs by Public Enemy check out publicenemy.com.
Before this record even touched down I was out for Pete's beats. In my story, beats by Pete Rock detail major #listening transitions of my come up. Beginning with Mecca & the Soul Brother, Pete's sound is timeless. It's something I'll always think about when I reflect on my past and those moments that I can connect to songs. What's crazy is I know that if I'm around twenty years from now, I'll be reflecting on what Pete put out today, the same way I'm reflecting on what Pete put out 20 years ago. We can call it consistency, but I think its more about another C-word...creativity. Pete's sound is natural. It's like having the Barry White on I've Got So Much To Give in the 80s, the 90s & on & on. It's here to stay. Hip Hop forever.
This release right here, PeteStrumentals is the birth of The Representation Show on KRUX 91.5 fm... a shift from how the show started in 2000 when I referred to our slot as 'Lee's Hip Hop Show'. PeteStrumentals represented a new perspective in how I wanted my radio program to sound. A representation of different sounds of music while encouraging other people to bring personality and story to the booth. PeteStrumentals was definitely the voice over for this time period.
A major move for instrumental releases in the 21st Century.
Couldn't find much on video from the time for PeteStrumentals, but here go an interview posted online from 2001 w/ Pete Rock by Markkus Rovito of E-Gear magazine.
By Markkus Rovito
Nov 1, 2001 12:00 PM
Anyone who would call himself the Chocolate Boy Wonder would have to be either an egotistical fool or an incredibly talented soul. Fortunately, in the case of Pete Phillips, aka Pete Rock, it's the latter. Possessing both the skills and the résumé to deflect a landfill's worth of trash talk, Rock has remained one of hip-hop's most influential producers since he rose to prominence during the early '90s.
As a precocious teenager in the late '80s, Rock sat in on sessions with big-timers Marley Marl and Heavy D when most of us were still drooling on our Converse high-tops. After landing a weekly DJ spot on New York radio station WBLS's “In Control with Marley Marl,” Rock hooked up with rapper C.L. Smooth for a string of soulful releases that provided an alternative to early- and mid-'90s gangsta rap. Rock constantly mined his Smithsonian-size collection of vinyl to create compelling mixtures of jazzy horns, soulful piano, funky guitar, and smooth bass lines, defining one of the most influential hip-hop styles of the decade. After releasing an EP and two albums, Rock and Smooth split in 1994, but Rock stayed busy producing, remixing, and continuing to develop his sound.
By the time the first Pete Rock solo album dropped in 1998, an entire industry of on-mic talent was waiting to guest star on its tracks, including O.C., the Roots, and Wu-Tang Clan's Raekwon. One of the most critically acclaimed hip-hop albums released that year, Soul Survivor (RCA/Loud) was a stylistic tour de force. Vintage Pete Rock jazz and soul stylings were still in effect — he even flirted with straight R&B — but an aggressive edge had also entered his sound, helping him remain a step ahead of the industry. Rock brought new life to the Wu-Tang dark-piano sound on “Strange Fruit,” and he even may have taught Timbaland a thing or two about big pimpin' with the melody on “Tha Game.”
Enter the 21st century, and Rock's as sharp as ever. The second release in BBE's (Barely Breaking Even) Beat Generation series, PeteStrumentals, is the perfect contemporary instrumental chill-out hip-hop album. All of Rock's signature instruments are present, but the pace is slower, and the arrangements are not as busy as those in most of his previous work. The relaxed moods and sampladelic strings and delays make it sound almost as if Rock decided to merge his soulful style with abstract down-tempo breaks. The album possesses an up-to-the-minute vibe even though most of the tracks are leftover, unreleased efforts from earlier in Rock's career — some tracks date back seven to ten years. That makes PeteStrumentals a testament to just how classic and far ahead of its time Rock's music actually is.
Despite the title's suggestion, the album is not entirely lacking in lyrics. A couple of new tracks have Rock teaming up with a new crew of MCs called the UN, including Rock Marciano from Busta Rhymes's Flipmode Squad, as well as MCs Divine, Godfree, and Laku. Their dangerous style flows eerily well with Rock's smooth bass lines and the gloomy mood of his dark strings and music-box samples.
Currently hanging in his hometown of New York City, Rock is busy working on several projects at once. He says he's six or seven tracks into Soul Survivor II, which should be out next year. He adds, “I'm working on an R&B project secretly with a dope singer that a lot of people should know, but I don't want to reveal who she is until we lock this deal down.”
When we caught up with him, Rock was just getting back from a trip to London to promote PeteStrumentals. He says he has a “big-time” following all across Europe, where fans like to hear the old classics that he rapped on as well as his new productions. “In London, you don't really have to do too much,” he says. “I get behind the decks and talk on the mic, talk ****, play a couple of records; know what I mean? But they do want to hear songs that they're used to hearing from me.” Behind the decks, Rock prefers either Rane or Vestax mixers for their superior crossfader action. “Gemini is cool, but I like the new style,” he explains. “It's 2001, man. The Rane and Vestax mixers are the best right now.”
Does Rock plan to continue exploring instrumental hip-hop? “I don't know,” he admits. “My next album may not be instrumental. It may just be a solo Pete Rock album, but I'll mix it with some instrumental stuff as well.”
When BBE first approached you to do an instrumental album, what intrigued you about the project?
I had a lot of leftover beats I wanted to share with the world that never really came out back in the day. I've got trillions of beats, but these were kind of special. Some were old C.L. tracks and a couple of other joints that never got used. I just figured I'd put ‘em out there like that. Some of them were recorded songs where I just took off the vocals.
What about the tracks with the UN crew?
I recorded those tracks this year. We're working on an EP now, and I'm working on an album with them as well. We don't have a solid deal yet, but we've got people biting. Trust me when I tell you, some real bangers are on there.
Can you talk about your production methods?
You mean how I do my thing? I can't reveal how I do my thing. I can tell you to be versatile and to single yourself out from other producers. You gotta create your own identity in this game. That's very, very, very important.
How did you create your own identity?
I got inspired by producers like Howie T, Marley Marl, and people that had '80s rap locked down, even Larry Smith, who did Whodini, and Rick Rubin — what he did with Run-DMC was a big inspiration to me. So I said to myself, “I want to be like these guys, but how can I be like these guys and be myself, because I don't want to sound like the next person.” So I just kept trying to master that E-mu SP-12, and I wouldn't leave the house until I mastered the machine. I started working at it, and my beats started getting better and better and better. When I was about 15, I did coproduction on Heavy D's Big Tyme, and a couple of years later, I worked on Heavy D's Peaceful Journey. Between doing the coproduction on those albums, I turned 16 and I did my first project alone with a group called Groove B. Chill with nobody's help. Actually, one of the guys is now an actor. He was in House Party, and he's been in movies with Robert De Niro, Cuba Gooding Jr., and all that. That was his first album, and I did my first beats with those guys.
From then on, I started getting work. I got signed with [Heavy D's DJ] Eddie F [Edward Ferrell] to Untouchables Entertainment. He was also C.L. Smooth's manager at the time, and he was getting me work as a producer. By that time, I had a little bit of a roster on the coproduction side, and people just gave me a chance and tried me out. What really jump-started my whole career was when I got called to do the Public Enemy remix of “Shut 'em Down.” From then on, I basically created my identity from the music I was inspired by; I just did it a little different. I put more into what those guys didn't do. I wanted to do things that weren't done before.
You were pretty tight with Marley Marl. Did he teach you how to produce?
He didn't teach me anything, but he showed me a lot just by me coming to his house back in the day and watching him and Heavy work. I'm a very fast learner, and I learned from watching him. His music, along with that of a lot of other producers, inspired me. He's like a mentor to me as far as hip-hop's concerned.
Which producers can you learn from now?
Well, there are producers out there that are hot that learned things from me. I know you go through your days learning something new every day, but when it comes to music — I'm not saying I know it all — I've experienced a lot over the years. I've been doing this for 12 years straight.
Have you mentored any of your own protégés?
Not actually under my wing, but in the sense that if you listen to certain guys today, you can hear some of my inspiration in their music. Hi-Tek, for instance, Ayatollah, Da Beatminerz, DJ Premier — who I love — a lot of guys out there. I was thinking about opening up a school and teaching kids about music and how to make hip-hop and stuff like that.
What would be the first lesson?
Basically how to write music and how to listen for something good. How to dissect music with your ears. Teaching them how to listen would be the first lesson.
What piece of gear would you start young producers on at your school?
I would start them out on something simple like a [Boss] Dr. Rhythm, and then I'd gradually move it on up to actual drum machines that are used in the studio. I'd give them something they could play around with and sample. I would go through the steps with them and tell them what to do.
Was the SP-12 your first piece of gear?
Yeah. I've worked with other drum machines like the [Roland] TR-808, [Oberheim] DX, the Roland [TR-]909, and the Dr. Rhythm box. When the SP came out, it first was the SP-12 and then it was the SP-1200. The 12 had no disk drive; you had to use a separate disk drive with the SP-12. The SP-1200 already had one built in, and it provided a little more sampling time.
Were your first productions done solely on the SP-1200?
Yeah, and I've been using that ever since.
What about the Akai MPC-3000?
I have that still. I'm learning how to use that as well. So I'm not only working with the SP now; I have something alongside of it that I use.
Have you entered the world of computer editing and recording?
I've learned and I'm learning how to deal with Pro Tools. I mean, I'm an analog person. I like to record analog to keep that raw sound, but I've worked with Pro Tools where I've sampled vocals and moved them around. It's a much easier step to work with Pro Tools. It's like a faster way of making records or putting things together. I master to 2 inch to ½ inch to DAT. I basically master my music to DAT or even burn it to CD.
Is your home studio equipped to go from the first beats all the way through the mastering process?
It's a pre-production studio. It's not actually complete. I have a rack of digital effects and sound modules, and I have a 16-track board that I've used for a long time. I have an SP and an Akai S-950, an MPC-3000, and 60,000 records. If I want to play live instruments, I just get ideas from old records and try to play them over, or I'll sample and chop 'em up.
Do you play your own keyboards?
I play a little bit. I'm not as good as I should be, but I'm practicing. And I have session musicians who I contact. I just tell them what to play.
PeteStrumentals has a lot of guitars, bass, Rhodes, and horns that you can't really tell are sampled.
That's all me. The guitar stuff I didn't play. But some of the parts are chopped up where I'm playing it off the SP-1200, not actually playing the instrument. But also I have band guys I contact who play bass guitar or Rhodes. And I know several people who play keyboard. But a lot of that stuff on PeteStrumentals is basically me sampling from old instrumental records where they would just have, like, a whole album full of a Rhodes keyboard or a guitar or a bass or even drums and drumming. I've got drumming records, keyboard records, all that stuff. So that helps me create ideas when I want to do something live.
The album keeps you guessing, because you don't always know what is live.
Exactly, but most of the stuff that you hear on it is sampled. There are a few live joints on it, like the bass line on “Pete's Jazz.” I always make up all my bass lines and play them off the SP. The vibes and stuff are from an old jazz record. And then I just took some guitar chops and played “I Get Lifted,” an old song by George McCrae that went pretty well with the song. You know, once you get that basic beat, everything else comes easy.
How do you deal with sample clearance?
I have a pretty good method. I only clear the important ones. I find a lot of obscure music where the group ain't around no more, or cats don't know the music when they hear it. But I don't sample it to where they can notice it. I chop it up and do certain things to it so it doesn't sound the same.
Would you sample more and for greater lengths if you could still get away with it like people did in the late '80s?
I probably would. There are a lot of things I passed up that I wanted to just loop, but I knew they would come after me for it. And they always get what they want. Certain artists like James Brown now get, like, 50, 60 percent of a song — of your song. If you sample his song, he wants 60 percent. You know, certain cats come after you. Certain people will be like, “Okay, just give me this.” I like to deal with those kinds of people.
One vocal sample that goes “wow-wow-wow” shows up on two tracks.
That was because it was first used on the instrumental track “For the People,” and then you got a song I did called “Give It to Y'all” with my man Rock Marciano. That's a real hot song that Rawkus put out as a single.
Do you often reprise a sample from one song to another?
Well, sometimes. I just thought that was a good intro for the vocal song, and that's why I put the same thing in there. But I only do that once or twice. It doesn't hurt; it's just music. I could see if I did it on every track. Now, you got some producers out here who use the same sounds every single ****' time. That stuff gets played out, and you know, ten years from now you can't say, “Oh, that **** is still hot.” You know, a lot of that **** you hear today is not classic.
Do you do a lot of processing with the drum sounds?
Yeah, actually, I do. And when I'm listening to my collection, I find a lot of sounds on records like snares, kicks, hi-hats, you name it — timbales, whatever. There are a lot of sounds that come from records, but then I have sound-library CDs with drum sounds and other sounds that go into beats.
When a sound comes off a sample CD, do you usually have to fatten up the sound?
Yeah. Most of them you have to beef up — EQ them right and things of that nature, like adding another piece of sound to make it sound fuller. I always try to combine ****. I definitely layer sounds. I like to compress certain sounds and beats using the Tube-Tech compressors, because I can take any type of dirty sound from a record and clean it up. I like Eventide processors, and Rane has a few processors I like. Roland has a few compressors I like to use for vocals.
What advice can you give to the young beat generators out there?
My first piece of advice is never let somebody tell you that you can't do something. The second thing is to stick with what you love. If you have a passion for it, you're bound to unfold into something. As long as you stick with your craft and practice it every single day, something positive will come out of it. And stick with it. Try to be versatile with making beats; don't just pigeonhole yourself with one type of sound. Make various types of music.
Markkus Rovito (email@example.com) is a senior editor for E-Gear magazine. He's very grateful that Pete Rock didn't hang up on him as did a certain former Ultramagnetic MCs rapper, who shall remain nameless.