Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Crack The 40 oz. - Not So Nuts about Retail 10

Regardless of whether or not you still buy everything that The Beatnuts put out, their first three releases are classic material. After setting things off lovely with the Intoxicated Demons EP, they hit us in the head with The Beatnuts (aka Street Level), which was pretty much a flawless album and a true testament to their production skills. It was also the only project to have Fashion on board for the whole trip. Around the time that this project was released, there were several tracks that didn't make the final cut, most likely due to to sample issues. A few years later, three of these songs were handily white labelled for our listening pleasure.

"Fluid" rocks the same loop as heard on Buckwild and O.C.'s "What I Represent" (as featured on Bootleggin' last month), while "40 oz." freaks the beat already heard on Tribe Called Quest's "Stir It Up (Steve Biko)". I can't remember if Midnight Marauder's was already out, although that may explain why this song got cut from the finished album...(yes, amazing as it may seem, there was a time when using the same loop as someone else was considered weak amongst beat junkies). Finally, the excellent "Sandwiches" is unleashed in all of it's full-length glory, extra verses and all. I'm a big fan of "40 oz.", as it combines a huge beat with classic, demented 'Nuts lyrics about losing pet dinosaurs and shit that would sound corny as fuck coming from anyone else, but the World's Famous were on fire at during this period and they could do no wrong.

The Beatnuts - "40 oz." (white label, 1994?)

Buy new Beatnus songs here...
The Beatnuts featuring Milano

Monday, March 28, 2005

Show's Original Recipe - No Retail Part 9

When Show & A.G. released Goodfellas in 1995, expectations were high. Following the popular Soul Clap EP and their acclaimed Runaway Slave album, the pressure was on, and the "Next Level" single certainly made a good first impression. But by the time the album saw an official release, a few things had changed. Show was no longer rapping, which was a dissapointment for many since he had one of the best voices in the game. His contributions were replaced by the Ghetto Dwellers, who had their moments but failed to recapture the chemistry of songs like "Fat Pockets". The final tracklisting was also differed quite dramatically from the version sent out for review, as well-received cuts like "Stand Strong" were nowhere to be found when I got the record home. The album still contained incredible tracks such as "Medicine", which is one of my all-time favourites, but I was fiending for the stuff that got removed.

About a year or so later, I was on vacation with this broad who I didn't really rate too highly, but she paid for my plane ticket so I wasn't too concerned. It turns out that this kid who was staying next door was the brother of one of the Beastie Boys, and he kept trying to (unsucessfully) hit on this girl I was with. This didn't bother me either way, but I took the oppurtunity to rack some records from the spot he was staying at - just on principle.

One of these pieces happened to be a bootleg containing all six of the tracks which didn't make it onto the vinyl version of Goodfellas. These include the CD-only "You Want It", "Ain't No Fun", "Under Pressure" (which also appeared on a Payday promo compliation), "Stand Strong", and the original versions of both "I'm Not The One" and "Time For...". The three unreleased songs were white-labeled again recently with instrumentals on the flip, so I've left those alone in favour of the original recipe "Time For", which was remixed by DJ Roc Raida for the album. Much like Show's version of "Next Level", this version opts for a more melodic angle instead of the stripped-down, minimalist sound of the remix. Not necesssarily better, but worthwhile nevertheless.

Also, two newish sites bringing some great unreleased music are Rhyme Crime Boss (named after the bangin' Poet joint no doubt), and The Rap Nerd.

Show & AG - Time For...(original version) (white label, 1995)

Friday, March 25, 2005

Japan-only D.I.T.C. heat (No Domestic Retail Part 8)

Exclusive Japanese release's started to pop up more and more frequently in the late '90's, as underground New York artists were offered nice chunks of change to provide previously unheard material for labels such as Next Level. Guesswyld artists' Mike Zoot and Lace Da Booms both released double 12"s exclusively for Japan, and groups like the Jigmastas have also released alternative versions of records over there (such as the "Iz U Dee" single without the remix but with an accapella), but the real gem was Diggin' In The Crates All Love CD. This actually turned out to be a stronger album than either Worldwide or The Official Version, the groups two domestic releases, as it focused more on older material and featured contributions outside of the key DITC members.

I've chosen three tracks which I haven't seen bootlegged on vinyl yet (although they may have been). "Revenge", a solo track Molecules from The Legion, sees the Bronx bomber get his storybook on over a sinister Show backdrop, while "Lyrical Threat" allows rookie Terror Tongue to do his thing over another quality Buckwild production. Finally, Show delivers another outstanding remix with his reworking of "Internationally Known", which replaces the original's played-out Cat Steven's loop (already heard on Dismasters' "Kiesha", KMD's "Nitty Gritty (Remix)" and Double XX Posse's "On A Mission") with a far-superior, vibe-heavy beat.

Molecules - "Revenge" (All Love, Next Level, Japan, 1997)

Terror Tongue - "Lyrical Threat" (All Love, Next Level, Japan, 1997)

D.I.T.C. - "Internationally Known [Remix]" (All Love, Next Level, Japan, 1997)

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Sort of Made Retail Part 7 - J-Live

This track is not exactly hard to come by, and since it's appeared J-Live's True School Revival promo/tour CD, a Fatbeats compilation album and even a Hiphopsite promo 7", the "never made retail" thing hardly applies, but this is easily one of his best moments. When he dropped "Longevity" / "Braggin' Writes" back in '95, J certainly impressed amongst a sea of mediocrity, and the DJ Spinna remix of "Braggin" certainly sealed the deal. His much delayed and heavily bootlegged debut wasn't entirely satisfying, but he certainly proved himself to a highly intelligent lyricist. His second album contained some great moments, but also saw him take the whole "positive rap" thing to disturbingly corny heights on several occassions.

In many ways, J-Live embodies much of what I don't enjoy about the New York indy scene - he can be so busy with creating clever/witty rhymes and concepts that whatever character he may have can get lost in the sauce, especially when his beats are less than compelling. Not to say that he's wack or anything, but a lot of his songs are just plain boring.

"The Day I Fell Off" is an example of a great J-Live record. There have been amusing songs about falling-off before, such as Kane's "Mr. Pitiful" and LL's "Cheesy Rat Blues", but the Live one plays it straight on this one, and manages to deliver an original and insightful track in the process.

J-Live - "The Day I Fell Off" (True School Revival, 2000)

Buy J-Live songs here...


Tuesday, March 15, 2005

"Mr. Record Company Man, please give me a push" - Large Pro in Retail Limbo Part 6

I've discussed this project already here, but these are two of the better tracks. Taken from the CD version that was given away with the 1st Class album, along with a t-shirt, "Stay Chisel" 12" and the Mista Sinista Large Pro Megamix...with all those freebies, I didn't really care that half of his Matador project was musically weak. Maybe that was the idea.

Previous to that super-promotion, the only place to cop The LP was a fifth-generation cassette dub that was ripped to an even worse sounding MP3 file with way too much bass and hiss. While it was difficult to listen to, I still enjoyed finally hearing this album, and when I saw it bootlegged onto vinyl I was quick to check it out. As it turns out, some moron had pressed-up the crappy version I already had. What a fuckin' rip-off! Good thing I didn't buy that shit.

When I got the promo CD taken from Large Pro's masters, it was great to hear it hear it with proper sound quality intact, but it wasn't long before I noticed that some of the illest songs were missing! "Queens Lounge" and "For My People, Part 2" (which features The Live Guy flipping phrases using the intials LP) were the two most sorely missed. And like clockwork, this CD was white labeled quicker than you can yell "Fuck them two deejays!". Included here are "For My People" and "Hungry", two songs that capture the kind of atmospheric feel that Large was bringing back in '96

Large Professor - "For My People" (unreleased, 1996)
Large Professor - "Hungry"(unreleased, 1996)

Buy Large Professor songs here...
Large Professor

Thursday, March 10, 2005

No Clearance? No Retail! Part 5 - Pudgee, Biggie and Lord Tariq

This whole Biggie Smalls murder anniversary thing isn't really something I give a shit about. The only "hip-hop" deaths that meant anything to me were Scott La Rock, Subroc and Big L, in that order. With that said, however, now's as good a time as ever to throw on some more uncleared sample action your way. This time, a hot Donny Hathaway loop spelled doom for this quality track, as Pudgee attempted his second shot at rap stardom. Having failed to impress on his poorly-titled (Give 'Em The Finger), punchline-driven debut, Tha Phat Bastard tried for a more rugged approach, enlisting hardcore heavyweights Biggie Smalls and Lord Tariq (Money Boss Players) to assist/overshadow him. While "Think Big" had all the ingredients for an underground smash, sample clearence issues deaded any chance of retail recognition, and this gem was restricted to test-pressing and inevitable bootleg status. Pudgee recorded a second version with a really wack new beat and replaced Biggie's verse with Bronx legend Sadat X (who gives an outstanding performance), finally granting the song an official 12" pressing. [Thanks to Jamaal for sending me the remake.]

Pudgee also shot his mouth off in The Source, claiming that he wrote most of Joe Fatal's verse for "Live At The BBQ". I spoke with Joe a few weeks ago (look out for the full interview on A Tribute To Ignorance in the near future), and he explained exactly who wrote which line on that masterpiece, and said that Pudgee was full of shit (he also insinuated that Pudgee was "the gay rapper"!). Whatever the case, this is a great song.

Pudgee featuring Biggie Smalls & Lord Tariq - <"Think Big" (original version)

Buy the new Lord Tariq EP here...

Lord Tariq

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Never Made Retail Part 4 - Tragedy, Havoc & Extra P

More white label shit from The Bridge, with another contribution from Steady Bootleggin' favourite - Tragedy. His second album, Saga of A Hoodlum, included a cut called "Pass The Tek" featuring Havoc, but there was another version of that song recorded with Extra P on the boards and the ad-libs. It wasn't released until around 1996, when it appeared on the Intelligent Hoodlum's own label (this single was also bootlegged a couple of years back). As with Akinyele's original, uncleared version of "In The World" (which itself had only seen a white label release until Eastern Conference issued Ak's Lost Files album), Large freaked his beloved Johnny "Guitar" Watson loop in classic fashion for "Da Funk Mode". Even more confusing is that the flip of this 12" includes another version of "Pass Da Tek", with the same chorus as the LP version but with different lyrics, an altered beat and no sign of Havoc.

This wasn't really a great period for Trag, as his lyrical style seemed to be influenced by some of the gimmicky deliveries that ruined a lot of records from 1993 (when everyone thought screaming phrases like "Mad props!" on the chorus was the way to go), but he soon got back on track and made great records like "True Confessions" and "Illuminati" a couple of years later. Another song that didn't make the final cut of the Saga LP was "Bullet", which was yet another victim of the the Ice-T/Bodycount "Cop Killer" fall out (if anyone has a copy of this track, please let me know). His last solo album, Still Reportin', was not what I was hoping for musically, but featured some of the most powerful, heartfelt lyrics ever laid down in the booth.

Tragedy featuring Havoc & Extra P - "Da Funk Mode" (b-side of the Pass The Tek 12", 25 II Life, 1996)

Buy Large Professor songs here...
Large Professor

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Never Made Retail Part 3 - Kamakazee, Nas & Cormega

Marley Marl's track for "On The Real" has certainly proved it's staying power, as no less than three versions of this song have released. The first incarnation was for a group called Kamakazee (KL and Kyron, who would later join Poet and Hostyle to form Screwball), which also featured verses from fellow Queensbridge residents Nas and Cormega. According to Brian Beck from Wisconsin: "this originally came out in 1995. It was the flip side of the super-rare Kamakazee "Da Bridge '95" 12", which was limited to a few 1000 copies. "Da Bridge '95", which is Kamakazee over "The Bridge" beat, never really made much noise but "On The Real" blew up on mixtapes and radio shows thus it got bootlegged". A few years later it appeared on Screwball's Y2K album, but replaced Nas' bars with Havoc from Mobb Deep, and featured a new verse from Mega, since Nas wanted too much money to for his appearance. (I originally reported that KL dissed Nas because of this on the next album, but I just found out that his verse from "Loyalty" was directed at fellow crew member Hostyle! More on this soon).

Finally, when Columbia released the "10th Anniversary" version of Illmatic last year, "On The Real" appeared as a Nas solo! Keeping the original verse, he simply added another two and claimed the song as his own. The original version still reigns supreme, so here it is in all it's crackly, poorly-pressed bootleg glory.

Also, stop past Cocaine Blunts if you haven't already to get the unreleased Mobb Deep burner "Cop Hell".

Kamakazee featuring Nas and Cormega - "On The Real (original version)" (b-side to "The Bridge '95", 1995)

Buy Cormega songs here...

Friday, March 04, 2005

Never Made Retail Part 2 - Nas, Tragedy & Noreaga

For some reason, a lot of Nas guest appearences seem to end up on the cutting room floor. This may be due to his management, Columbia's over-priced appearence fees or just Nas being an arrogant asshole, but a lot of songs he's made with lesser-known QB people never seem to make retail. A perfect example is "Calm Down", which was originally intended for Capone-N-Noreaga's classic The War Report. Over what sounds like an EZ-Elpee production, CNN mentor Tragedy sets things off in top form, while Nas lends both a verse and a catchy, off-key chorus which is based on Evelyn "Champagne" King's disco hit "Love Come Down" (thanks to Benny B for the tip). Noreaga wraps up proceedings in his trademark ignorant style, threatening to "put the lah out in your mug like ashtray" and ordering bitches to "sex me, suck me off - munch crunch - like a Nestle". Outstanding work. This has been white-labeled more times than I can remember, and also appeared on Tragedy's Thug Matrix 2 CD (which is where I got it from since it's a lot easier than locating the record in my shelves and recording it, hence the bonus intro).

Years later, Nas shot his mouth off and insisted that NORE "Step his rap game up", while Trag and the Superthug also went through some (now resolved) conflicts following some funny money issues, so the chances of seeing this line-up on a song again is as likely as The Grand Imperial Diamond Shell dropping another album.

CNN featuring Nas - "Calm Down" (unreleased, 1996)

Buy Tragedy songs here...
Tragedy Khadafi

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Never Made Retail Part 1 - Nas

As one of the most loved (and equally hated) verbal architects to grace the booth, Nasty Nas has been responsible for some particularly dope songs which never made the final cut of his commercial releases. So much so, in fact, that Columbia is about to release a second installments of his Lost Tapes. According to Illmatic Executive Producer MC Serch, the only track recorded for that project that didn't make the grade was the Large Professor-produced "I'm A Villain". I'm not too sure how accurate this is though, since there are demo versions of "It Ain't Hard To Tell" and "Represent" floating around....maybe he meant "finished tracks".

More recently, the original 12" promo version of "Disciple" featured the classic "Stilletto" break in all of it's stripped-back, park-jam glory. G Rap would have been proud. Billy Joel's publishing house wasn't however, which might explain why the album version featured an awful "cover version" of the beat instead.

Nas - "I'm A Villain" (unreleased, 1994)

Nas -"Disciple" (original 12" promo version, 2004)

Buy more Nas songs here...