A fantastic kickstarter campaign has just started to publish some unseen photos of Biggie Smalls as part of an exhibition. The photos were took by a then aspiring photographer David Mcintyre for Interview Magazine, with the negatives lost up until recently (full story on the video below). They’ve since been found, but David has eschewed the usual push up on social media for exposure route to put them on in an exhibition, but after encountering a lack of funding took to the good old internet to get it. Fund the campaign here.
You can read what I thought about BIG’s classic debut Ready To Die, the album these photos originally promoted, here.
It’s 20 years to the day since the Notorious BIG drop kicked the world with one of the greatest LPs ever. To cleebrate a man who may very well be the greatest of all time, I wrote a lengthy love in on Getintothis about the album and what it’s meant. Hit the quote above to see it. RIP Chris Wallace
In two weeks time Liverpool is going to get schooled by the don. Big Daddy Kane is coming to town and you better believe it. Alongside the likes of Kool G Rap, Rakim, Slick Rick and Biz Markie, Kane is part of the pantheon of truly great late eighties solo rappers. Everything about him is iconic, from his ultimate braggadocio rhymes to the ridiculousness of his garbs, he had it going on.
Any rapper stunting owes him so much, Biggie’s avuncular arrogance, Kanye’s fashionista flyness, Jay-Z’s smooth swagger – Kane paved the way for all this and much more. In fact Jigga’s debt stretches further, with his early 90s pre rocafella days spent acting as an intermediary hype man for Kane at his shows. His first two albums are absolute classics, and there’s the fact that Rakim, RA FUCKING KIM, cooled the prospect of beef with him. You know when the God thinks twice about entering a battle with you, you’re pretty good.
While primarily a record in the classic Big Daddy batting off all competitors mould, he does deliver a few bars implying his acumen with the females, but it’s not as much as the title would have you belive. It’s less of a response to the anti-male diatribe of the same name from Sade than you might initially think, particularly as alongside the MJ Girls there’s samples from two of Marvin Gaye’s sexjams (‘Lets get it on’ & ‘Sexual healing’). Instead it’s just Kane doing what he does best, holding court like the don he is.
This is the ronseal of 80s hip-hop. Marley Marl’s splicing of James Brown and Bobby Byrd just about manages to avoid being dated and Kane just goes, as you’d expect, raw. He’s an absolute animal on the mic in this, just a relentless barrage of skill that is the calling card of one of the greatest. An absolute monument of the genre.
As posse cuts go this is up there with the best of them. The roll call features people who earned their stripes repping verse after verse in the Juice Crew, Tribe Called Quest and Grand Nubian, all coming together to show that they don’t need to swear to keep it going. It was of course an answer to the proliferation of Parental Advisory stickers which were rampant in hip-hop in time. It’s not the greatest 8 bars from Kane in his career, but he’s still smooth as ever and the track and video are amazing. Heavy D also looks ridiculous in prison style pyjamas, what’s not to love about that?
What marks Kane out from some of his peers is how graciously he’s aged. No rapper can ever maintain a scintillating appeal, but some slip from world domination to head in hands moments quicker than most. I’m looking at you KRS and Rakim. Kane however, has gone down the Slick Rick route of touring off the back of a legendary status and the odd track since his heyday and this gem from 2003, produced by DJ Premier, proves his mettle.
He’s still nice on the mic but rather than being on that arrogant tip here he is slipping into the paternal figure of hip-hop a man of his status should do. And his voice fits Preemo’s as ever on point production perfectly. The two recently joined up again for a nike commercial with the brilliant 28 bars, which features the genius closing gambit “I went on 28 just to raise the bars”. Don’t doubt this an emcee still with it.
Still the one. This is just a relentless surge of look at me I am boss; put-downs, big me-ups, the lot. From a lyrical point of view it’s hard to think of many songs that deliver an aura of greatness quite like this, and the calling card ‘I’m awesome’ records of rappers, be them Biggie’s ‘Unbelievable’, Jay-Z’s ‘So Ghetto’, Big L’s ‘Flamboyant’ and so on, all stand behind this. Everyone is a butter knife compared to Kane’s machete faced with this.
The video is gloriously lo-fi, a reminder of the lack of real money in hi-hop at the time, when you get the impression that the combined cost of the tracksuits worn by Kane and his dancers probably outweighs the overall budget. That’s not to say he isn’t looking hella fresh, with a chain that probably cost the GNP of an eastern European country and a general persona that is dripping swag. The iconic BDK tune.
Most importantly though, 1999 was the year hip-hop got good again. Really good. Slick Rick did what the likes of KRS-one and Rakim had been incapable of in recent years, return with a scintillating degree of relevancy, the dirty south started to get really hot with the help of Mannie Fresh and an upstart from Detroit proved being melatonin deficient wasn’t a guarantee of being poor. That rapper in question, a certain Eminem, also brought with him maybe the most important development in hip-hop’s post millenium popscape… the return to prominence of Dr Dre. But most of all the music was just fantastic.
I recently linked to the Czarface album as they heralded the year as a golden age for hip-hop and whilst there’s better points historically for sure, this definitely stands up as one of the finest 12 months the genre has ever seen. Here’s five of the choicest cuts from that time period, and apologies in advance for the andre heaviness.
Few rappers go onto live up to their earlier work a decade afterwards. Nas did so last year with ‘Life is Good’, his second best album after Illmatic, but 1999 was a time when two of the biggest forces in late eighties rap appeared from the doldrums to capture the critical consensus once more. The first was golden age icon Slick Rick, who’s ‘Adventures of Storytelling‘ is an absolute classic. Peppered with star turns from big hitters of the time such as Nas, Raekwon and Canibus, it brought his sinister sense of humour back to the forefront alongside that butter flow. One of the standout tunes was Big Boi returning the star turn Ricky gave on the remix of Outkast’s song of the same title, with the glorious Street Talkin. So, so good.
From 1993-1997 Wu Tang were flawless. Raekwon, GZA and Ghostface delivered classic debuts, whilst Method Man and ODB managed to put forward compelling visions of their personality which if not classic were still very good, not to mention a litany of guest appearances across albums from 2Pac, Mobb Deep and Biggie. Of that five only one managed to deliver on their sophomore, in fact he went better on it. Ghostface.
Supreme Clientele is the greatest non debut Wu solo album ever, no question, and I’d probably say it was the best solo joint full stop. RZA tearing through awesome beats, Ghostface’s patented gibberish and this record, an example of how to go R&B and stay grimy. U-God putting a ruff rider on his dick and busting right through them vying for Tony Starks and that dressing gown for the finest jaw dropping moment in the three minutes of bliss, as the Wu shows Bad Boy how to take an obvious disco sample and keep it street. Jiggy Y2K style.
Slick Rick was the hot rapper from the 80s to come full circle, but undeniably Dre was the producer. Part of the story of how he clambered back to the forefront comes in lieu of this record…
Slim Shady had caught the attention of the underground with a runners up slot at the rap Olympics, a slew of underground bangers with Rawkus and the catchy ‘Just Don’t give a Fuck‘, but he really blew up with what seemed like a novelty single in the shape of ‘My Name is’ in early 1999. Dre produced it and has since said the plan was to make it as annoying as possible to ensure the word was out and follow it up with Eminem showing his true class. It was a tactical masterclass Jose Mourinho would be proud of and this record, the two of them sparring together on record, was the first of a series of relentless OMG moments from Slim.
The good/evil combination isn’t exactly original but the way it’s played out certainly is, Dre suddenly being reinvented as a paternal figure and then Eminem exposing the hypocrisy of ‘Mr NWA/Mr AK’ dishing out advice. If it had been a diss record it would of been a milestone, but for it to be something that he convinced Dre to do (and almost certainly ghost-wrote the lyrics that he responded with) it shows so much about the level of trust and respect Dre had gifted his protege at such an early stage, and the start of a glorious two years of shared creativity. It also shows as much as Em was a savagely humorous extortionist of questionable subject matter, he also utilised balance in his yarns, even if through the voice of overs. This would reach it’s staggering apex with Stan – incidentally introduced to the Slim Shady entertainment world in the second verse.
That subject matter was as disgusting as Eminem would become known for, advocating under-age rape, armed robbery and murder (even if done with delicious humour – the way he berates Dre’s explanation with ‘slipped, tripped, fell, landed on his dick’ a prime example), but at the time it was ridiculously exciting, unquestionably. Music fans very rarely get to live through super-stardom in real time (the percentage of Beatles fans on the planet around at their peak must be minuscule) but Eminem’s finest three years I lived through every step of the way and watched how the music only a few people in my school liked suddenly became omnipresent.
The Doctor again. Dre was ‘back’ through working with Eminem but he was doing so through the medium of a white trailer trash kid from Detroit and with a poppier focus; the next dawning of g-funk wasn’t hinted at yet. 1998 saw a blistering Dre production creep under the radar with the shape of old sparring partner Kurrupt on ‘Ask yourself a question‘ but one record snapped into focus and threw up the dubs. When ‘Bitch Please’ appeared on Snoop’s ‘No Limit Top Dogg‘ as one of three Dre productions, you knew this shit was back on.
Everything about this joint is perfect. When the beat kicks in with the drums and the low end rumbling it was seismic, I remember hearing this for the first time better than most milestones in my life. Xzibit, at that point an underground emcee with plenty of heat and no dodgy MTV show, drops the verse of his life which is littered with quotables, referencing his likwit connections, slick rick and Canibus in 24 breathless bars. He would go on to tread water for the majority of the rest of his career, but this was the reason why.
It was also the point where Snoop realised his future career, hot singles where the focus was on how he sounded over a ridiculous beat. His delivery here is this out there hybrid of crooner, pillow talk and street slang, completely alien to anything else and tailor made for the Dre sonics. And if that wasn’t enough Nate Dogg decides to turn up at the end and say ‘hey oh’ in the most amazing fashion. All four protagonists deliver resoundingly for what is a beyond brilliant masterpiece.
Pharoah Monche ‘Simon Says’
That riff. Those drums. The four note sample from Godzilla was inspired, and Pharaoh drifting brilliantly between his usual cerebral self and straight up club thug stance made the whole thing so much more accomplished. The added whut-whuts on the chorus deliver a broad chested swagger (that’s already evident in spades) and the lyrics flip between self-deprecating humour (“you sold platinum round the world, I sold wood in the hood”) and the clever way both verses end with 2if you holding up the wall then you missing the point” meant an emcee known for technical genius could dumb down with the best of them whilst still having that lyrical subtlety. This is a cat remember that no less an authority than The Alchemist cites as the greatest of all time.
The impact of the record was so much certain commentators even labelled it as the beginning of the end for Rawkus who suddenly saw a product rather than an artform, which is a delicious irony considering the impact it has when it sounds. It’s just brasher and louder than everything else going, M1 & Stic-Man aside. Big and clever? Only in the hands of the Pharoah. An anthem of epic proportions.
This is beyond mega. Preemo instrumentals with Biggie acapellas over the top, cut and spliced together with the right amount of deck technique. There’s nothing worse than a DJ thinjking his skills are more important than the music being played and Finesse lets Biggie’s bragging and Preemo’s pounding do the talking here. The result is astonishing.
Personal highlights include the laconic bounce of ‘Going Back to Cali’ riding deep over arguably Premier’s finest hour, the beat for CNN ‘Invincible’, and the feel-good genius of both Juicy and Nas is Like combining. And then he sacks it all off to let ‘Unbelievable’ sign things off. A fitting tribute to awesome talents.
Grab your dick if you love hip-hop.
DJ Finesse “B.I.G. Over Premier” Mixtape Tracklist:
1. DJ Premier Intro
2. Flava In Ya Ear rmx over I Gave You Power
3. Big Poppa over Ex To Next Girl
4. Dead Wrong over 2 Thousand
5. 10 Crack Commandments over One Day
6. Who Shot Ya over Come Clean
7. All About The Benjamins over Supa Dupa Star (1994 Demo Version)
8. One More Chance over Recognize
9. Long Kiss Goodnight over You Know My Steez
10. Things Done Changed over The Format
11. I Got A Story To Tell over Shit Is Real
12. Real Niggas over Ready
13. Juicy over Nas Is Like
14. One More Chance rmx over Freaky Flow
15. Warning (Freestyle) over Mind Ya Business
16. ’95 Freestyle (7 Mac 11′s) over Who Got Gunz
17. Victory over Project Boy
18. Kick In The Door over Come Get Me
19. Going Back To Cali over The Invincible
20. Mo Money Mo Problems over Golden Child
21. Party And Bullshit over Now Your Mine
This weekend is a big bad dollop of 1997 for me. Tomorrow, 16 years ago to the very day, one of the greatest of all time was gunned down, and in Manchester I am off to see easily the best hip-hop album released that year performed live in it’s entirety, Camp Lo’s ‘Uptown Saturday Night’. And seeing as 1997 was the first full calender year where I was in love with the music from start to finish this week’s instalment of Five for the Funk simply had to celebrate the year.
Turns out thought that 1997, when peering beyond the sepia tinted memories, was a weak one for hip-hop and probably the worst in the decade. Even though I was enthralled by the genre at the time the lack of being on the money (I was 15 and living in a RAF base in the Midlands) meant it was mainly old albums (Doggystyle, All Eyez on Me, 36 Chambers) that I liked (Camp Lo aside), and a confirmation of a look at this list shows rappers were more about sales, quantity and that horrible beast in hip-hop; the double album.
That said there was still some decent music this year, and none of those pesky double albums were classics in my eyes but they did throw together some great tunes. Here’s five of the best hip-hop videos and tracks from 1997…
They didn’t quite nail it with ‘Wu Tang Forever‘, but you genuinely do have to admire the Wu for their balls. I can remember the hype on UK and European MTV for this album and in turn this single, which still wasn’t that in tuned to hip-hop compared to the way it was with rock, and to announce the return of the whole clan with a lead single that was straight up lyrical wordplay at six minutes long was insane. The closest thing it had to a chorus was ODB screaming out that ‘Wu Tang was here for ever mutherfuckers’, and this was the record they were taking over the world with at the very inception of the shiny suit era in hip-hop. I mean come on! Stateside it sold over 600k in the first week and smashed it to the top of the charts. Killer figures from the killer bees, and that opening verse from Insepktah Deck.
‘Triumph’ was just that, the Wu knocking the shit out of the rest of the world. One of ten or twelve very good records on the album, although it might not be as dynamic as the likes of ‘Da Mystery of Chessboxin’, it was still a relentless slab of stark hip-hop. And nothing on TV looked so gully at the time. A grimy as fuck two finger salute at the staunch sound of selling out.
Biggie knew he was the epitome of the best of both worlds. The ugly as fuck fat boy who was so silky smooth he made women forget his appearance as their panties fell to the floor. The rapper that could make an album that featured a rags to riches radio joint side by side with tributes to stick-up kids and paranoia soaked suicide notes. And an absolute club and radio banger that had some of the tightest flows ever on it. It shone of the real Biggie, braggadocio to the hilt but gloriously self aware.
A genuinely brilliant record, and although technically a 1996 joint an anthem both sides of the Atlantic throughout 1997. And every year since.
Boot Camp Clik ‘Headz R Ready’
Wu weren’t the only hoodies and timbs NYC hip-hop crew bringing that rugged and raw vibe in 1997, so too were Boot Camp Clik. The collective consisted of Black Moon’s Buckshot, Smif N Wessun, Originoo Gunn Clappaz and Louieville Sluggah, and this was a tight record that featured a lovely nineties era drenched video. If you were one of those teenagers, like me, who lived for that one or two hours a week in 97 when Yo MTV Raps rounded up the best videos of the time, this was more often than not what would greet you.
Tha Alkaholiks ‘Hip-Hop Drunkies’
The West coast was flatter than usual between 1996 and 1999, but in the midst of it all was an underground antidote to the chronic flavoured riddims of the G-funk sound. And one of the better crews repping it were tha Liks. Their 1997 album ‘Likwidation’ is an underrated beast, straight up beats and rhymes tomfoolery from J-Ro, E-Swift and Tash, and this video sums up their vibe brilliantly.
An inspired pairing of their alcohol focused swagger with hip-hop’s fav substance abuser ODB, it flips a sample of Marley Marl’s piano riff off ‘The Symphony‘ to create a posse cut for boozers. Like the video for ‘Triumph’ ODB’s role is played by an actor, laying the groundwork for his troubled years ahead. He rips it up on here though, particularly with the “no disrespect to any architect who tries to perfect, oh what the heck” lyric, riffing brilliantly on the production of the song and his own role in hip-hop with a flurry of densely packed inner rhymes. An absolute genius.
To say I’m a fan of Camp Lo’s ‘Uptown Saturday Night’ album is an understatement. Released in 1997, it’s one of those rare records that I loved just as much when I was a teenager as I do now, an absolute joy from start to finish. Everything about it is perfect, from the ridiculousness of De La’s Trugoy guesting with clown central lyrics about eating his honeycomb cereal with his big spoon on’ B Side to Hollywood’, the mesmerising slang on the ode to parlaying ‘Sparkle’ or the get rich soon heist classic ‘Luchini’ (see below). Even the artwork was amazing, aping brilliantly Marvin Gaye’s classic ‘I want you’.
So when Liverpool’s hip-hop mainstay Paddy of No Fakin‘ took a rare moment outside of ripping me for my lack of hip-hop involvement to let me know that Sonny Cheeba and Geechi Suede were playing live in Manchester, I was pretty happy. When I did some more research and uncovered the fact it was one of those play the whole album in full gigs, dedicated to ‘Uptown Saturday Night’, the excitement reached untold levels. Props to More Bounce for picking an absolute stone cold classic to ring in their first birthday celebrations, and better yet for doffing their caps further on the hip-hop tip by putting it on on March 9th, the date of course when Biggie Smalls was shot.
This couldn’t get any more in the throes of 1997 if it tried, and what with that being the year where Hip-hop fully gripped me in a full never ending clinch, I’ll be definitely in attendance at the show. There will be bubbly flowing through me for sure. Hype!
Over the Christmas period I had a pretty thick and heady DJing stint at Salt Dogs, with four gigs in the space of nine days. One of the bands that kept popping up all over that period were the Isley Brothers, who truly are one of the greatest soul combinations in history.
Forming in 1954 as a gospel act, they then spent the next thirty years traversing a variety of genres and in the process became one of the most diverse bastions of longevity in popular music. Funk, Rock, Soul, Doo-Wop, even shades of disco, they had it all, and they can also lay a claim to a pivotal role in the Quiet Storm era which transformed radio programming. Basically they’re boss, and Ronald Isley’s voice is just butter. They’ve also been sampled on some of hip-hop’s finest moments, but we’ll get to that shortly.
Anyway I’ve been rinsing Ron and his siblings over the Christmas period, so I thought seeing as it’s Friday I’d share my five favourite jams from the group. Here we go…
One of their most famous records, this is the perfect combination of laid back soul, languid funk and hazy rock. And the outfits were always amazing on Soul Train.
More seventies rock soul crossover, Jimi grinding with Marvin vibes. And the outfits, again!
“Are we really sure, can a love that lasted for so long still endure?” As opening gambits go that’s a pretty heart wrenching mantra and if this doesn’t melt that iron heart nothing will. And Ice Cube licked the beat brilliantly for ‘It was a Good Day’.
The record that they made it big off, the 1959 finger snapping classic. Much better than every cover as well.
The absolute one! To be able to go from Shout in 1959 to being able to deliver this a full 24 years later is awesome, even taking into account the odd personnel change over the years. It’s been reworked brilliantly as a languid hip-hop jam, first by Tribe on the hootie mix of ‘Bontia Applebum’ and then even more memorably by the man like B.I.G. on ‘Big Poppa’. Both kept the bump and grind ethos of the original close to heart as well, either as a backdrop for Q-Tip to drop science on big butts or Biggie to proclaim he had more mack than Craig and in the bed, urging you to believe he had enough to feed the needy. Awesome.
We love ol Jessie! And she’s got a new video which follows the Bugsy Malone template of featuring kids in her stead, with a cute Jessie and Julio Bashmore in the mix who produced the cut. Which reminds us of this brilliant way of glossing over the fact Biggie couldn’t appear in the video to single ‘Sky’s the Limit’.
Last month I mentioned I was compiling a playlist for the Font and here is the final edit. There’s 150 tracks of pure aural goodness on the go, the thinking the same as last year in that it’s designed with a student friendly bar in mind. There’s a definite influence from Breaking Bad prevalent – as I’ve been a late comer to the series and completely engrossed by the music involved. Alongside that there’s everything from bass heavy hip-hop from Tyga and The Pack over to music raided from some of my favourite albums of the year so far – Jessie Ware, Frank Ocean, Justin Martin and Nas.
It’s also a bit more ‘current’ – the last one was much closer to the classic records that had been part of my DJ sets over the years whereas this is definitely more of a home listening experience with some slabs of bass music form Bondax, Disclosure and Last Japan all freshening up the student indie disco vibe, and things get a bit noisy towards the end as well. It’s tailored to fit a full day in the bar, so it’s a bit weighty to get stuck into but go for it anyway. Or just rock up to the gaffe and experience it in the environ with a pint of Liverpool Organic for yourself.