This Is Where Ilebrity Begins…With A Mix Tape





Okay, kids – here’s the deal … I take my hip hop very seriously. Like Chuck D., I, too, believe that it can serve as “CNN for Black people.” But that’s not all that’s at stake these days. Hip hop is the new jazz – a truly American-born music phenomenon/style/genre that has yet to be rivaled by contemporaries in the form of social consciousness, intelligent wordplay and overall swagger.

This disc represents what I regard to be the cream of the hip-hop crop as of late (with a few solid throwbacks dropped in for good measure, natch).

Whew. Anyway, on with … how you say? Ah, yesss … the Show …

Track Listing:
Intro – ???
A to G – Blackalicious
Concentration – Quannum MCs and Jurassic 5
New and Improved – The Herbaliser ftg. What What (aka Jean Grae)
C’est la Introduction – General Elektriks
Suntoucher – Groove Armada ftg. Jeru the Damaja
If – Maroons (Lateef the Truth Speaker and DJ Chief Xcel)
Rhymes for the Deaf, Dumb and Blind – Blackalicious
Underwater Rimes (Remix) – Digital Underground
The Blend – The Herbaliser ftg. What What (aka Jean Grae)
Matter of Time – Maroons
Blazing Arrow – Blackalicious
Building Steam with a Grain of Salt – DJ Shadow
Central Park – General Elektriks
Ghettochip Malfunction / Hell Yes – Beck (8-Bit Remix)
Introduckling – Ugly Duckling
The Pjays – Del tha Funky Homosapien
Packet Man – Digital Underground
Lausd – Jurassic 5

Liner Notes:
Intro – Honestly, I have no idea who this is. Last summer, a cute little indie rock friend made me a mix and this was her A-1 choice of an opener. Totally sets the tone. It’s a bit on the commercial pandering side at first, but the closing soundbite about getting behind in your listening coupled with the rewind advice is just gold, Jerry. Gold.

A to G – Blackalicious. “A to G” is a basic exercise employed by many MCs (along with their collaborating Djs, when applicable) and this track is a solid example of just how good Gift of Gab and DJ Chief Xcel are at nailing down the basics. Remember when your Little League coach said “strong fundamentals are the key to success”? He was talking about this kind of shit right here.

Concentration – Quannum MCs and Jurassic 5. Joining the J5 crew — everyone’s favorite Bay-based hip-hop success story — on this track is: Lateef the Truth Speaker, Gift of Gab and Lyrics Born on vocals and Chief Xcel, Shadow and Cut Chemist on the wheels. Just … well, damn!

Chillin’ like a big ole’ PIMP, indeed. This is the shit that keeps me alive. It’s better than oxygen, nitrogen and hydrogen combined. I’m in the process of gathering material for an involved article or perhaps a full-on book about the Quannum MCs. They’re simply the best in the game. I don’t know what more I can say but … just listen to this in an undistracted state – preferably on headphones.

New and Improved – The Herbaliser ftg. What What (aka Jean Grae). Jean Grae was all of 19 years old when she recorded this masterpiece with the two British Djs better known as the Herbaliser. The flow is pure silk and the beats are almost as hot as the lyrics.

C’est la Introduction – General Elektriks. GenEleks is one of the newest additions to the Quannum crew and is merely the nom de 1200s of a French DJ who knows textured beats the way Shakespeare knew iambic pentameter.

Suntoucher – Groove Armada ftg. Jeru the Damaja. Pure sonic bliss. Beat maestros Groove Armada recruited Jeru to drop a few lines over phat loops and the resultant track is aural crack.

If – Maroons (Lateef the Truth Speaker and DJ Chief Xcel). Thoughtful political dissertation over the Chief’s signature beats. WOW. Challenging hip-hop at it’s absolute apex. This is far and above the best musical political examination I’ve heard in years. I have no words to describe the significance of this song, so I’ll just try to stick to the historical facts.

Lateef and XCel are both founding members of the inimitable Quannum crew and, well, just listen closely to the chatter under the beats throughout the last 30-40 seconds of this one. These guys really care about things. Like, important things. We need to clone them.

Rhymes for the Deaf, Dumb and Blind – Blackalicious. Yet another example of how solid the Blackalicious crew is. This is just your basic freestyle exercise, but Gift of Gab knows exactly how to manipulate his pitch and inflection to perfectly convey both the literal and emotional significance of his lyrics.

Underwater Rimes (Remix) – Digital Underground. From the seminal 1990 release, “Sex Packets.” “Packets” is arguably the best hip-hop concept album produced to date. This track is an unrelated segue tune that generously spotlights the DU’s beats and scratching skills while simultaneously pushing the flow and lyricism to the forefront. This track is just fucking silly good. Don’t miss out on the “MC Blowfish” spit over the last minute of the tune. You’ll recognize him more easily as “Humpty.”

The Blend – The Herbaliser ftg. What What (aka Jean Grae)
I have no idea why this lyrical vixen isn’t a major superstar (Jean Grae, that is – and named after an X-Men character, no less). This track is simply sublime and Ms. Grae’s flow is just unreal. Rock this one on the h-phones and you’ll totally get it. It’s a li’l muddy on the low end, though. Sorry. Lower the bass (and maybe mid-range) level and you’ll still get the gist of it.

Jean Grae’s lix wit’ the Herbaliser are truly otherworldly. Her solo debut is redonkulous and the respect that she commands among the Roots crew is insane. This girl has already given us revolutionary material and I’m guessin’ that she ain’t stoppin’ anytime soon. Let’s just pray that she doesn’t take the Black-Eyed Peas route, though, no?

Oh, hell – here we go … these lyrics are just too perfect to skimp on. Again, headphones required. Sing along, if you like:

The Herbaliser w/ What What (Jean Grae)
The Blend
Got subjects locked in my cerebral cortex
On Ampex tape I’m circulating like a vortex
Check out my techs that use a synonym as inspect
Mentally badgering emcees with my dialect
When I inject memory cell motors retrospect
To recollect; too genuine skills I resurrect
Directed live from the 2-1-2, 7-1-8, and 5-1-6 area
Throughout borough to borough, state to state, world thorough wide
I ride, driving mass tracks to genocide
Verbal defender, the brain infiltrator
Break and fracture a sucka emcee’s structural delegator
The pen and the pad and the microphone get blessed
With Nest, with ease now how I digress
Brothers are getting busy grabbing Teks while I apex
Verbal backshots coming without the latex
Watch the caption spin as the wax begin
How I’m rapping in to hit the backspin
Now end first verse in the blend
Herbalise to Resource done done it again

Chorus (2x)
One of the three the Natural R-e to the source
In the b-l-e-n-d
City to city (state to state)
Borough to borough
NYC to worldwide rock thorough

See me and rhymes are like:

Tooth to picks
Sides to kicks
Chops to sticks
Seas to sicks
Hard Mr. Bricks
Chest to Vicks
Corruption to politics
Sticks to stones
Stones to sticks
Not opposites flips
Cheese to cakes
Beefs to steaks
Bones to breaks
Decks to tapes
Good food to plates
Movies to dates
Cities to states
Odes to papes
Shaking MCs off their mics like earth to quakes

And now the hand of fate dealt me the higher intellect
Connect verbs, dissect words down to lecterns
W serves as the first repetition
H lines and curves take second position
A plays the third
The fourth brings the T
So hit two times so you get ummmmmmm

One of the three Natural R-e to the source
In the b-l-e-n-d

Chorus (2x)

My verbal attacks react to mental stimulation
I’m leaving gaping contusions caused by lyrical abrasion
No pausing, no waiting
I play the plus and starting to get in, shining like the sun
Lyrical patterns double up on the one
Like the name when exposed to flame
I combust like aerosol or kerosene contained
Deaf ears turn the conversation severed
I set it off like Lateef and getting
Debted, forget it, it only happens because you let it
I move, swift tongue sliced crews beheaded
I said it again so let the repetition end
Resource and Herbaliser in the blend

Matter of Time – Maroons. More audio dynamite from Lateef and the Chief. These two mesh together so fucking well it’s downright scary. Lateef is probably the best male MC out there for my money.

Blazing Arrow – Blackalicious. I think it may be best for me to rock a li’l cut ‘n’ paste here. Following is the most recent piece I penned about this crew:

Rakim. Kool G. Rap. KRS-One.

The aforementioned emcees represent the holy trinity of vocal verbalizers. Enter Gift of Gab of the sorely unsung Blackalicious. Seriously, people, how can you sleep on this one?

As the hip-hop world turns, the list of playaz who continue to give a damn about their lyrically-endowed predecessors continues to shrivel. Nonetheless, an elite few continue to soldier on.

Case in point: While there’s no denying that a track or two on Blackalicious’ recent effort strive for commercial recognition (‘Powers’, ‘Give it to You’), most still stand out and scream to be recognized.
When Gift of Gab lays out the rationale supporting ‘Rhythm Sticks,’ even the most jaded hip-hop fan is sure to follow. (Consequently, XCel’s beats on this joint rival his work with Lateef the Truth Speaker on their 2004 ‘Maroons’ effort (just buy it – really – it’s called ‘Ambush’). )
Additionally, the true hip-hop kidz are destined to recognize the flat-out goodness of Gift of Gab’s ridiculous flow and Xcel’s beautifully sinister beats.
While fans of the previous Blackalicious jawn – the amazin’ ‘Blazing Arrow’ – will be initially disappointed by ‘The Craft,’ y’all are invited to afford this one an extra listen or two. Remember how tough it was to accept to accept ‘Amnesiac’ after hearing ‘Kid A?’
Yeah, it’s kinda like that, G.
Building Steam with a Grain of Salt – DJ Shadow. From Shadow’s major debut, “Endtroducing,” this track is a prime example of Josh Davis’s (Shadow) mastery of the tortured soundscape. He creates a picturesque tableau with two turntables and a mixing board here and it’s heartbreakingly staggering in its depth and vision.
Central Park – General Elektriks. More uncategorizable studio trickery from GenEleks. Whenever a DJ disc falls into my ‘Misc.’ stack of music, I can usually count on it to knock my socks off on a consistent basis. No complaints on this one.
Ghettochip Malfunction / Hell Yes – Beck (8-Bit Remix). As if the original track on “Guero” was lacking, 8-Bit breaks this one down and builds it all up again — “Bigger, Stronger, Faster!” This song is the cat’s pajamas, kids. Biotch.
Introduckling – Ugly Duckling. Ah, the clown princes of the Long Beach, Cali, hip-hop scene. Holy Beasties, Batman! This trio makes no bones about their affinity for those Jewish Brooklyners, but they really pull it out on all levels. The superb flow of Andy C. and Dizzy Dustin belies the fact that these two are just a couple white boys from the laid back surfing Mecca. The lyrical trickery is what really sets UD apart from the rest of the crowd, though.
With lines like,
“Leave it up to me to put the ‘b’ in b-boy.
I’ll bring a point to your ear — like Leonard Nimoy.”

“Gettin’ Wilder than Gene ’til the crowd says, ‘hey!’”

make these guys almost overbearingly charismatic.

The PJays – Del tha Funky Homosapien. Del – who is now better known as ‘that rapper in Gorillaz’ – manages to toe the fine line between empathy and humor in this startlingly realistic aural snapshot of life in the projects. His flow and tone are unmistakable. In a good way, of course.

Packet Man – Digital Underground. One of the keystone tracks around which “Sex Packets” was cobbled, “Packet Man” relates the trials and tribulations of the pimps and johns tangled up in the virtual-reality sex trade. The storytelling style is buttery smooth, as is the lyrical flow.

Lausd – Jurassic 5. An intelligently crafted morality play of sorts about life in the City of Angels. Do I really need to hype J5 any more at this point?