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Forgotten Classics

Forgotten Classics: Public Enemy – Yo! Bum Rush The Show

Simply put, Public Enemy changed my life. That is not an exaggeration. I was in my late teens when I first heard the legendary group and their music guided me throughout my youth. They were that group for me rebellious and fiercely intelligent; the soundtrack to your most tumultuous years when you start getting out into life and begin figuring out who you are and what you want to achieve. P.E. launched my fascinations with Hip Hop, music, history and Black cultural studies, and provided a canvas for my college years. While I was nearly two decades removed from the groups heyday, the music and the message still resonated to me more than anything else Id heard in my life up until that point. Chuck D, Flavor Flav, Terminator X and the Bomb Squad got me listening, thinking and writing. They got me inspired, got me passionate. This is all thanks to their second album, It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. Now, their first record? Wellto be quite honest I kind of slept on it. Public Enemy was originally known as Spectrum City in the early 80s, a collective comprised of emcee/deejay/visual artist Chuck D, Bill Stephney and Hank Shocklee. The trio worked at WBAU, the student radio station of Adelphi University in Hempstead, NY. The group dropped a few early singles, which gained some burn locally thanks to Chucks socially conscious lyricism. But it was a response record entitled Public Enemy No. 1, targeted ... Read More »

Forgotten Classics: Prince Paul – A Prince Among Thieves

When I started Forgotten Classics back in 2011, I had a master list of albums which I wanted to spotlight. Some I’ve written about, others I’ve yet to cover, but there’s one particular record which has been sitting on the list since the beginning which I feel is time to talk about. It’s a joint that seemingly only the staunchest of Hip Hop listeners who, to put it bluntly, know their shit, know about; a classic amongst classics that never got it’s time to really shine, though it has earned admiration and praise from all who knew the artist and appreciate truly dope work. I’m talking about super producer Prince Paul’s magnum opus, A Prince Among Thieves. Hailing from Long Island, New York, Paul Huston got his start in the mid-‘80s by being a member of arguably the first Hip Hop band Stetsasonic, operating as the group’s DJ. Although the Stet was gaining commercial and critical success with their records, 1986’s On Fire and ‘88’s In Full Gear, Paul wasn’t exactly getting his dues. His role was that of a little brother in the group, getting shunned when trying to help out in production duties and passed over when it came time for the photo shoots and groupies. Though he had talent behind the boards and a twisted sense of humor, it wasn’t until he met up with three kids out of his hometown of Amityville who dubbed themselves De La Soul that he got his chance to shine. De ... Read More »

Forgotten Classics: Da Grassroots – Passage Through Time

“Take it back to Grassroots…” In the late ‘90s, Canada’s Hip Hop scene was undergoing a renaissance, returning from years of being on the backburner. Poised to explode in the late 1980s with emcees like Toronto legends Michee Mee and Maestro Fresh-Wes gaining attention at home and abroad, cosigns from major American rappers like KRS-One, and a pioneering Hip Hop radio program known as The Fantastic Voyage hosted by deejay Ron Nelson at Toronto’s Ryerson University, several stumbles sidelined the rise. Lack of attention by the American public and dismissal as a fad at home, as well as lack of a true Hip Hop radio station in many major markets, Toronto, in particular, kept the scene north of the border very low until 1998. That year, a legendary collaboration between several prominent Canadian emcees — Rascalz and Checkmate out of Vancouver and Toronto artists Kardinal Offishall, Thrust and Choclair — changed the game. The track, called “Northern Touch,” reenergized the community, bringing dope rhymes and a much-needed spotlight to listeners on talented emcees and producers who aren’t from America. It didn’t take long for other local artists to shine, and one of the most stellar crews present during this rebirth was Da Grassroots. The trio of Mr. Attic, Mr. Murray and Swiff had been producing for Canuck rappers throughout the ‘90s, with a string of singles and close connections within Toronto’s Hip Hop scene. In 1999, they dropped their one and only record, a compilation known as Passage Through Time, ... Read More »

Forgotten Classics: Zion I – True & Livin’

True and Livin’ is my comfort record. The third LP from the Bay Area duo Zion I is that go-to joint, perfect for throwing on and vibing. It’s a steady record with soul, substance and infectious tracks which have remained on my playlist for a long time.  It’s a record which definitely needs more shine and respect, and an easy selection for this edition of Forgotten Classics. Zion I, the duo of emcee Zumbi and producer Amp Live formed in Oakland around 1996 and wasted no time getting to work on creating dope, socially conscious tracks with a strong Left Coast feel. They began releasing several mixtapes in the late ‘90s before dropping their 2000 debut Mind Over Matter. The record was critically acclaimed, and the first major shot from a promising duo. The next LP Blackwater Slang 2.0 hit in 2003, further pushing the snappy and smooth beats of Amp Live and the lyrical depth of Zumbi, getting us prepared for what would come next. Dropping in April of 2005, True And Livin’ is a top-flight listen. Zumbi and Amp knock it out of the park, broaching topics such as hometown pride, issues of gentrification, violence in the Bay, the state of Hip Hop and race relations in America with contributions from guests such as Del Tha Funky Homosapien, Talib Kweli, and Gift of Gab. From the moment you press play, the jams will make you feel and get you nodding ya head. The first song on the record, ... Read More »

Forgotten Classics: Louis Logic – Sin-A-Matic

Louis “Louis Logic” Dorley released Sin-A-Matic in 2003. He ran into some comparisons as this album came on the heels of The Eminem Show and before Encore, notable as the point where a comparison to Eminem meant, “You’re trying to do what Marshall’s doing but you can’t.” When I listen to songs like “Mischievous” and “Coochie Coup,” the connection is apparent. But, I can also hear something else where Eminem only dabbled: Louis Logic is a masterful storyteller. Besides a knack for flowing with multi-syllabic rhymes and carrying a rhyme scheme for more than the standard two bars, Louis puts his songs together in such a way that Sin-A-Matic can come off as a collection of short stories. It helps that the production crafting is limited to four people, predominantly longtime associate J.J. Brown although Celph Titled, Memo and The Avid Record Collector contribute occasionally. This allows for a sense of cohesiveness throughout, as the quartet seem to have coordinated their efforts to give their records a particular, sinister and playful sound. Louis was once a member of The Demigodz, and this relationship set the stage for the coupling of “Best Friends” and “Revenge!!!” The former brings Apathy into the fold as an ersatz friend who Lou enlists as a companion to his lovely boo, only to have the Connecticut emcee seduce his girl: “One night over some Hennessey we started messing sexually/ and well, now we’re dealing with an unexpected pregnancy.” He calls up Celph Titled for comeuppance and ... Read More »

Forgotten Classics: Latyrx – The Album

One of my earliest Hip Hop obsessions was with the Northern Cali collective Quannum Projects. Originally known as Solesides, the group all met up at the University of California at Davis in the early ‘90s, which included the duo known as Blackalious, DJ Shadow and DJ Zen (aka prominent music journalist Jeff Chang). Blackalicious and Shadow were particular revelations for me, Blackalicious with their intelligence, positivity and eclecticism seen in records like Nia and Blazing Arrow, and Shadow’s ominous masterpiece Entroducing… taking over my life and playlist for a good while. Digging deeper into the roster, I stumbled onto emcees Lyrics Born and Lateef the Truth Speaker, known together as Latyrx. Their woolly debut, The Album, is one record which is not totally forgotten, but an often overlooked classic which definitely needs some recognition. Formed around 1992, Latyrx was a striking union. A founding member of Solesides/Quannum, Lyrics Born brought soulful sounds and thoughtful rhymes while Lateef brought spirituality and spitfire lyricism; both artists shared a desire to create more experimental Hip Hop. Latyrx took a few years to formulate, as both emcees issued individual singles, and around 1996 finally dropped their first track together, a B-side to Lateef’s single “The Wreckoning” simply called “Latyrx.” And a hell of an introduction it was. Leery, lo-fi and spacy thanks to DJ Shadow’s production, “Latyrx” catches your ear simply due to one aural trick: for the first third of the track, both emcees rhyme at the same time, creating a cacophonous mix ... Read More »

Forgotten Classics: Da Lench Mob – Guerillas in tha Mist

Best way to describe Da Lench Mob? Call it “music to scare white people.” The South Central Los Angeles group of J-Dee, T-Bone and Shorty were brought together by all-around bad mofo Ice Cube on his debut solo album, 1990’s AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, providing vocal appearances on tracks like “What They Hittin’ Foe” and “Turn Off The Radio” as well as assisting in the record’s production. Cube had big plans for the group and molded them in his image as pissed-off revolutionaries from the street who internalized every single terrible thing about the United States, and in particular, treatment of Black people by the nation since the beginning of American history. The group threw it back in the face of white critics, alarmists and listeners everywhere with total seething rage. After Cube dropped his ’91 polemic Death Certificate, one of the angriest and most controversial records popular music has ever seen, he helped put the Mob on; by the next year they released their debut, Guerillas in tha Mist. Released several months after the L.A. Riots and shortly before Cube’s The Predator, Guerillas — the title a play on the Dian Fossey book and a reference to a quote from an LAPD officer referring to a domestic incident concerning two Black males — is a blisteringly furious and funky record. On 13 tracks, the crew goes off, spraying shots everywhere and laying out threats and verbal lacerations at targets like the police, the government, racists and many more. The record ... Read More »

Forgotten Classics: Jungle Brothers – J. Beez Wit The Remedy

The Jungle Brothers are most one of Hip Hop’s most unsung figures. In the late 1980s, the NYC trio of Afrika Baby Bam, Mike Gee and DJ Sammy B were the catalysts for a new path in Hip Hop, championing Africa with a rejuvenated sense of youthful expression and uniqueness as well as a very positive style of rhyme and attitude. They were the first out of the collective known as the Native Tongues, which included legendary artists such as De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Queen Latifah, Monie Love and others. And with their first release, 1987’s Straight Out the Jungle they sparked the Afrocentric movement which would become a major facet of Hip Hop through the early ‘90s. While the originators of the new style, the JBs, unlike their fellow Natives figureheads De La and Tribe, were unable to land mainstream success. Their ’89 classic Done By The Forces of Nature sold poorly; De La’s mega debut from the same year, 3 Feet High and Rising, threw salt in the wound. It took four years before the JBs returned. By 1993 the Tongues had matured, and had splintered. De La had “killed” themselves and their exuberant, odd past with 1991’s De La Soul is Dead, and were looking at things in a much more focused and seasoned manner on ’93’s Buhloone Mindstate. Tribe had grown jaded with the music industry, as seen in ’91’s The Low End Theory, but in ’93 were defining matters on their own ... Read More »

KN “Future” Forgotten Classic: Billy Woods – History Will Absolve Me

So we’ve made it. December is winding down and barring any apocalypse, 2013 will be arriving soon and I can’t wait. However, looking back, 2012 has been a pretty dope year for Hip Hop with some strong releases so for this special year-end edition of Forgotten Classics, I wanted to tackle a record from the year, which I can’t call a classic yet but a terrific album that definitely deserves some recognition and praise and one which will remain a mainstay on my playlist for a while. I’m talking about History Will Absolve Me, the second solo release from the D.C./Brooklyn rapper and ½ of the Super Chron Flight Brothers, Billy Woods. I’ll be honest when I say that Woods caught me by surprise with this record, which dropped last April, but it’s a record, which grows on me with every repeat listen. The title adopted from Fidel Castro’s famous speech and the album cover depicting a young Robert Mugabe (Woods is of Zimbabwean descent), History Will Absolve Meis certainly an intriguing record; one which requires a close ear and an open mind. Once you give it a few spins, the record really opens up revealing striking lines, fascinating characters, and plenty of dark humor. And at the center of it all is Billy Woods: part gangster, part stark-raving mad prophet, and part conspiracy theorist delivering each bar like a haymaker with his mind running a mile a minute as he takes on ideas and concepts large and small. Take ... Read More »

KN Forgotten Classics: Y Society – Travel At Your Own Pace

“Travel at your own pace.” Those are most definitely words to live by and Insight and Damu the Fudgemunk (quite the name) definitely take that mantra to heart as the duo of Y-Society. Emcee Insight hails from Boston and has gained a lot of props from the underground for his grounded lyrics across several solo efforts as well as membership in the groups ShinSight Trio (with Japanese artists Shin-Ski and DJ Ryow) and super group SOLOPLEXUS (which features him taking on six personas!), while Damu is from Washington, D.C., bringing a considerable body of instrumental and remix work along with deejay duties for groups like Panacea. Their 2007 debut, Travel At Your Own Pace, is a burner for the ages; an intelligent, thought-provoking listen with snappy production and assured lyricism. Travel At Your Own Pace is a record which definitely plays to its strengths: positivity, knowledge of self, a firm appreciation for old school artists like KRS-ONE and De La Soul, and Damu’s penchant for eclectic, quirky, and sample-heavy productions. It’s a record, which simply aims to empower, make sense of a hectic world, and provide some great head-nodders. The first track, “This Is An Introduction” goes beyond a typical intro as Damu hits us with a flute loop and horns making an easygoing melody, which will bring a smile to your face as Insight delivers his opening manifesto with one particular passage, which defines his mindset and the goals of the record well: “Wish that I could rhyme all ... Read More »

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