Wednesday, December 30, 2009

His beats my rhymes are a perfect blend

I was planning to end the year with a monster Best of the Decade post but I've read so many of them now across the blogosphere that I'm sure the world doesn't need another. What the world can never have enough of is old school hip-hop, so instead I'm rounding off the year with a corking ten track selection - Can't Stop Won't Stop Volume II - a follow-up to the one that accompanied my post about Jeff Chang's amazing book, Can't Stop Won't Stop (definitely my book of the decade) that you can read here. Happy New Year! See you all in 2010...

1. M.C. Craig "G" - Shout (Rap Version)

The man like Marley Marl is at the controls of this magnificent cacophony from 1985. Clattering beats, jittery edits, a cheeky Tears for Fears sample and the teenage Craig Curry belting out his rhymes. And who is credited for the brilliant, chopped-up edits? None other than techno legend Jeff Mills.

Find it on Beat Classics LP (DC Recordings)

2. MC Shan - Down By Law

Another masterly Marley Marl joint here, this time in tandem with his cousin MC Shan with whom he fought the Bridge Wars in the mid-Eighties. Down By Law was the title track of Shan's debut album and makes great use of the keyboard riff from 7th Wonder's Daisy Lady. Traffic released an awesome 2CD special edition of 'Down By Law' a couple of years ago (packed with rarities) that is well worth hunting down.

Find it on MC Shan - Down By Law LP

3. The Classical II - New Generation

This funksome underground classic was produced by Teddy Riley, the "King of New Jack Swing", when he was just 15 years old. Riley would go on to work with Bobby Brown and Jacko, but here his bumpin' New Jack beats underpin rhymes from The Lord K Born & L.A. Bru, a pair of rappers from the Bronx.

Find it on Word Vol. 1 (Jive Records) LP

4. True Mathematics - After Dark

A nifty companion piece to Whodini's Freaks Come Out At Night, After Dark was credited to True Mathematics, a mysterious rap act generally thought to be a collaboration between Public Enemy's Chuck D and the producer Hank Shocklee, with raps by Eric Sadler who, along with Chuck D and Shocklee, formed the devastating production unit The Bomb Squad. The laidback funk and smooth raps of After Dark couldn't be farther away from the incendiary beats and rhymes of Public Enemy - could it really have been created by the same people?

Find it on Champion 12"

5. Three Times Dope - Once More (You Hear The Dope Stuff)

Philly hip-hop trio and once part of the Hilltop Hustlers crew along with Steady B and Cool C, Three Times Dope (3XD) made one brilliant album (1989's Original Stylin'), from which this awesome song is lifted) and two less good efforts, before main rapper EST went on to become an award-winning songwriter, penning ditties for RnB royalty like Destiny's Child. This is classic late-Eighties hip-hop fare - packed full of funk samples, fat beats and EST's rasping flow. Quality - or as 3XD would put it, "acknickulous".

Find it on Three Times Dope - Original Stylin' LP

6. Schoolly D - Gangster Boogie

For his fourth album, Am I Black Enough For You, Schoolly D eased back on the posturing and consigned the thug-raps about gangsta life to the trash, opting instead to convey a fairly positive, pro-black message (if you ignore the lamentable Pussy Ain't Nothin'), while musing on the difficulties of life in the ghetto. It wasn't a huge critical or commercial success, but it's my favourite album of his. Notable for using extremely long, largely unaccompanied, samples of well-known material, including chunks of spoken word and loads of James Brown and old funk tracks. Gangster Boogie is the bomb - uptempo and insanely funky. The Chemical Brothers got their Block Rockin' Beats sample from Gucci Again, another killer cut on this album.

Find it on Schoolly D - Am I Black Enough For You LP

7. Marley Marl Allstars - The Symphony

Marley Marl again, showing modern hip-hop producers how it should be done. Cue up a dope beat and get a group of quality MCs to drop science all over it - simples.

Find it on Marley Marl - In Control Vol. 1 LP

8. EPMD - So What Cha Sayin'

Ranked seventh by Chris Rock in Rolling Stones list of the Top 25 Hip-Hop Records of All Time, Unfinished Business is about as good as it gets, and opener So What Cha Sayin' is the album's stand-out track. You can even let them off for murdering Luther Vandross's So Amazing - stick to the rapping guys. I don't think anyone used samples better then EPMD - this one appropriates If It Don't Turn You On (You Outta Leave It Alone) by B.T. Express, One Nation Under a Groove by Funkadelic and Impeach the President by The Honey Drippers to totally devastating effect.

Find it on EPMD - Unfinished Business LP

9. Ultramagnetic MCs - Poppa Large (East Coast Mix)

Everyone bangs on about Ultramagnetic MCs debut album Critical Beatdown (and with good reason - it is one of the greatest), but when it comes to individual tracks, Poppa Large is up there. Taken from their second album Funk Your Head Up, the East Coast Mix by the mighty Beatminerz is a party-starting chunka killer funk and a guaranteed dancefloor filler. Kool Keith is on fire, as per usual.

Find it on Ultramagnetic MCs - Funk Your Head Up LP

10. Eric B & Rakim - Juice (Know The Ledge)

There are very few songs that could follow Poppa Large but this is one of them - the title track of the 1992 film 'Juice' (which starred the late 2-Pac) is Eric B & Rakim's finest hour (or four minutes) by a country mile. Its inclusion on the Chemical Brothers' Live At The Social Volume 1 - one of the finest mix albums - seals its place in my affections.

Find it on Juice - The Original Soundtrack