General Jimmy

Writer / DJ / PR Manager / Fat Bastard

Archive for the tag “Beastie Boys”

#GJHH25 – The Mighty Mojo’s top 10 Hip Hop Albums of All Time

The next guest selector is Bido Lito scribe and Liverpool DJ the Mighty Mojo, a jock who was an institution in Bumper for a few years and now lays down beats in heebies on a Saturday and Santa Chupitos on a Sunday. I’ve chewed the fat with Mo about hip-hop at a ridiculously high amount of after-parties over the years so he was a natural choice to contribute… even if he took a bit more coaxing than I expected after he believed his choices would be too similar to the earlier ones made by Darren Williams.

Which was odd, because I didn’t consider Darren’s selections to subscribe that readily to the classic hip-hop canon (No PE, Dre, De la for example) and what Mo mustered equally only paid lip service to a few of them. Anyway; I’ll let the man himself breathe his voice, and be sure to check out his weekly discourse on his blog The View from the Booth.

To distill all of hip hop down to 10 albums is very tricky for me, and not just because I’m an indecisive bastard. A lot of my favourite hip hop artists never quite nailed it over a full album, hence the likes of Nas, Redman, NWA, Roots Manuva and A Tribe called quest aren’t represented. There are some obvious choices in here, but that’s because the main criteria is which albums have given me the most joy down the years. I accept that I could wake up tomorrow with a very different list, but right now, these are the pinnacle.

10. Labcabincalifornia – The Pharcyde
I discovered this off the back of the best video of all time (c) for Drop, and realised there was so much more to be had. Most people I know prefer the cartoon energy of Bizarre Ride, but to produce the difficult post-fame 2nd album they had to freshen up their style a bit. Songs like Something that means Something and the peerless Runnin’ are testament to how well they did it.

9. The Grey Album – Danger Mouse
Controversial! I know there are people who will never acknowledge the creativity necessary to produce an album like this, but as a man who has attempted to do something similar, I can tell you it takes a truly deft hand. The way he twists the Beatles’ work into a hip hop template while retaining a lot of the original melodies is remarkable. I like that I can still tell which Beatles song was used, and there isn’t one single track on which I prefer the original production. The Black Album is probably Jay’s most consistent set, but he could be singing nursery rhymes and I’d still love this album.

8. Deltron 3030 – Deltron 3030
This was a straight toss up with Dr.Octagon, but due to consistency across the whole album Deltron takes it. Dan the Automater, Del tha Funkee Homosapien & Damon Albarn may have received more praise (and pounds) for their Gorillaz work, but this is their best collaboration. The murky atmospherics are the perfect background for Del’s flow as he weaves his way through complicated themes of space and oppression. For some they may take the space opera bit too far, and they probably didn’t need 9 skits, but when they set about making tunes, they don’t fuck around.

7. Blow your Headphones – The Herbaliser
Some may argue against The Herbaliser’s hip hop credentials, but even a cursory listen would knock those complaints into a cocked hat. The best example of female MCs outrhyming their male counterparts, even the idea fragments such as More Styles are fantastic. Had more plays than every album on this list bar the top three.

6. Quality Control – Jurassic 5
A lot of people prefer the J5 LP, but to me that’s more of an EP, as there’s really only 6 songs on there. Plus Concrete & Clay is much better than Concrete Schoolyard. Quality Control is when they were at the top of their game, taking 4 MCs and making them sound like 1. Like Mos Def, the Jazz influence is integral to what makes them great – Jurass Finish 1st, Monkey Bars and Swing Set is the kind of hip hop your parents can tolerate, but isn’t Will Smith.

5. When Disaster Strikes – Busta Rhymes
I almost didn’t put this in once I’d seen Darren’s selection, but it would do a great disservice to a hitherto criminally underrated album. Despite greater chart success later on, this was when Busta was at his peak. The strength of Album tracks like Survival Hungry, There’s not a Problem my Squad can’t Fix and Rhymes Galore makes a mockery of the quality control of most modern LPs.

4. Doggystyle – Snoop Doggy Dogg
Over the course of my DJ career I have played every single track on this album, at least once. There is no other record I can say that for, of any genre. Probably in the collection of every single hip hop fan. Even those who detest what Snoop has become can’t deny the laid back genius at play here.

3. Enter the Wu-Tang (36 chambers) – Wu-Tang Clan
There is nothing new to say about this album, except to tell you that it was the catalyst for my introduction to a whole new world of raw, abrasive, discordant hip hop. And for that I am eternally grateful. Oh yeah, and GZA’s verse on Protect ya neck is probably my favourite in hip hop history.

2. Black on Both Sides – Mos Def
One of the best records of all time regardless of genre. Mos Def comes on like a cross between Marvin Gaye & Chuck D, intelligently dissecting the troubles of today’s society in a way that makes you want to move. I even love the OTT thrash-out at the end of Rock’n’Roll, although I’d be interested to see if his stance on the Rolling Stones has changed since he worked with the Black Keys…..

1. Hello Nasty – Beastie Boys
I could have picked ill Communication and/or Check your head for this list, but for sheer blow-your-balls-off impact, on it’s release and since, it has to be Hello Nasty. The depth and variety is pretty stunning, and I have played this album in full at many parties without ever needing to reach for the skip button. Super Disco Breaking, Just a Test, The Negotiation Limerick File, Remote Control, 3 Mcs & 1 DJ – so many straight up bangers, which contrast brilliantly with the poignancy of I Don’t Know, or the Beasties Britpop of Song for the Man. This isn’t a sentimental vote in honour of MCA – no other hip hop album has given me as much joy as this one.

Honourable mentions also go out to Outkast’s ‘Stankonia’, A Tribe Called Quest’s ‘The Low end Theory’, Kool Keith dropping weird science with ‘Dr.Octagon’, West coast polar opposites in Cypress HIll’s ‘Black Sunday’ and Ugly Duckling’s ‘Taste the Secret’ and finally, UK hip-hop selections from Braintax & Skinnyman with ‘Panorama’ and ‘Council estate of Mind’ respectively.

#GJHH25 25 – 23 Beastie Boys, Roots Manuva, Massive Attack

Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique

I’ve never been that massive a fan of the Beastie Boys in all honesty, but this record is just awesome. The ultimate exercise in sampling, it’s one of the few hip-hop albums where a production outfit not only adds to the sonic palette of an artist, but they enhance the very personality of what they’re about. Furthering the Bomb Squad’s approach of throwing everything into the mix this album also helped pave the way for instrumental hip-hop and turntablist albums from the likes of DJ Shadow, The Avalanches, X-Cutioners and even Jurassic 5’s dj enhanced releases, marking it not only the best Beastie’s cut but also probably the most influential, especially considering the path Mixmaster Mike would go on.

The result is a ridiculously madcap, off kilter and wondrously weird pastiche of near enough every musical genre under the sun. The rowdy frat feel of Licensed to Ill is replaced by a much more endearing, humorously woven together masterpiece that most Beasties fans would agree is their best album. Of course it bombed commercially, but it helped set them up for the alternative role they would fulfil in the wider world of music up until MCA’s death last year.

There’s always something very brave about artists who rip up the rulebook when dealing with success and this is one of the best executions of doing so (see also De la Soul and 2Pac with Makaveli), and hip-hop at it’s most irreverent and fun. It has to be listened to as a whole opus as well, somehow cohesive despite the madness.

Roots Manuva – Brand New Second Hand

As a teenager the world of UK hip=-hop wasn’t something I delved into particularly deeply, but I can remember Roots being on the cover of HHC around the time I regularly started buying it in early 1999. The reason was this album, and in the midst of one buying surge at HMV based on some kind of offer like 3 for £20 (there was always a second tier of needed albums which only got bought if they made it to this area, £14+ was the cost back in these days) it landed in my ownership.

I was impressed, the use of strings at various junctures made it extremely atmospheric and ‘Motion 5000’ peppered one of the many tape compilations I made for me and my mates at that time. Albums for us then were resources for said tapes, very rarely anything to listen to in full, and this opus to my ears sounded like something a bit different for the continued process of one-upmanship that these tape exchanges were, but not much more. Then I went to university.

Uni changed the way I listened to music, mainly because I had more free time and but also because I wasn’t always in control. Very few of the gangster dominated songs from Tupac, Biggie, Scarface and so on was getting a chance and seeing as there was no tape players I couldn’t revert to the tried and tactics of wowing them with a rare Yukmouth stomper. This was one of the albums that I managed to coerce in, and when I did I realised the languid glory of it. Undeniably British, roots’ created a mellow masterpiece that is the perfect blend of Caribbean culture and the black British experience so redolent in Bristol and London, which although still pretty far from my middle class white Midlands existence was still closer to my mindset than the gang soaked streets of the states.

It’s near flawless (‘Dem Phonies is an aberration), gorgeously cohesive and a record that breathes with humour and individuality at every stage. It makes sense at 3am in the morning smoking and letting it absorb your eardrums, or lazily caressing your ears of a weekend whilst doing the housework, and has some absolute monster records alongside the strings of ‘Motion 5000’ such as ‘Inna’ and ‘Juggle Tings Proper’. The influence of dub as well, weaving a tapestry of sound underneath, means the space of the record is brilliant and the juxtaposition of all these disparate influences makes for a beguiling album that is still unique nearly fourteen years later.

Roots would go on to smash out the indomitable Witness and create a glut of albums that have made him one of my favourite rappers ever. He’s also perhaps behind the greatest live performance I’ve ever seen, his gig at the Lomax in September 2001 when he was accompanied by a string quartet was nothing short of sensational and, despite it following ‘Run Come Save me’, was mainly made up of tracks from this album. I’ve heard some people say ‘Awfully Deep’ is his true masterpiece but for me this one will always ring true.

Massive Attack – Blue Lines

Is this a hip-hop album? In my eyes yes; whilst what followed from Massive Attack and erstwhile member Tricky would go onto become the fabled trip-hop movement, this offering was probably the first ever truly great UK album that existed outside yet still belonged to the underground hip-hop scene. Sample led, bolstered by rap turns that welded British slang and Caribbean patois and very much born from the Streets of Bristol, ‘Blue Lines’ is undoubtedly carved in the same spirit of musical expression that exploded from the Bronx in the early seventies, reflective more of our mongrel culture of integration as opposed to the US’ segregated values (although the subject matter would delve into the class divides).

Deliciously short it’s near perfect, featuring some delectable soul turns and in ‘Unfinished Sympathy’ one of the most heartfelt and beautiful pieces of music ever made, and certainly the most emotionally wrought use of a cowbell ever. The video also ingeniously transported singer Shara Nelson to South Central Los Angeles, the vanguard region for hip-hop at that time, before the other members of the band joined her. This was famously homaged or pilfered, depending on your viewpoint, both musically and visually by The Verve with ‘Bittersweet Sympathy’, and the influence of the band saw the album acclaimed by the wider music press. The other four videos that sprung from the album were also pretty special.

Such was the power of the album that it is understandably classed as more than just hip-hop, but for me it has a special place in my heart on those very core characteristics of the genre it shows so well. Much more worthier voices than my own put this album in higher echelons of importance and influence too, and I’ve heard it suggested as one of the most important pieces of soulful music Great Britain has ever created. It’s a legacy it deserves.

22-21 is here.

Beastie Boys – Sabotage / MCA tribute

Great, great tribute to MCA and the Beasties as a whole.

RIP MCA

I’m not going to claim to be the biggest Beastie Boys fanboy out there (never really liked License to Ill that much), but you can’t fuck with a legend. MCA passed away after a three year battle with cancer yesterday and hip-hop is mourning a true pioneer. ‘Paul’s Boutique‘ is by far and away one of the greatest albums ever (if sadly also a snide girl’s clothes make) and the ultimate love letter to sampling, ‘Intergalactic‘ is a beyond brilliant party record and their influence knows no bounds. Rolling Stone did a great Spotify playlist showcasing all his finest musical moments; check it below.

RIP MCA.

UPDATE

A few days after I roginally osted this post the Mighty Mojo, another DJ from Liverpool who has a blog, wrote this tribute to MCA. Check Check Check, Check it out.

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