Archive for November, 2007

Common – thisisme then: The Best of Common


Resurrection Download
Take It EZ Download
from thisisme then: The Best of Common (2007, Relativity)

In 1992, 20-year old Chicago-born and raised freestyler Common Sense (as he was first known) could hardly imagine where the future would take him. One decade later, his heartfelt rhymes and uncompromising hip-hop attitude earned him his first Grammy Award (Best R&B Song for the #1 “Love of My Life (An Ode to Hip-Hop)” with Erykah Badu), and the first of several high-profile movie roles. Film has expanded the scope of his art into new directions, climaxing with his part in American Gangster, starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe, opening November 2007. Four months earlier, Common’s most recent album, Finding Forever (produced mostly by Kanye West) debuted at #1 the Billboard Top 200 Album chart – Common’s first #1 debut. In the school of hip-hop noted by the positivism of such literate (and often jazz-influenced) artists as De La Soul, Digable Planets, the Roots, A Tribe Called Quest, Pharcyde, Jurassic 5, Gang Starr, Mos Def, Talib Kweli and others – Common has staked out his own unique and important position. That position is explored fully in the CD booklet liner notes essay written by Leah Rose.

The road to Relativity began on Chicago’s teeming South Side, where Lonnie Rashid Lynn, Jr. (son of pro basketball player Lonnie Lynn) was raised by his single mother, a doctor, in an environment isolated from the feuding East Coast and West Coast rap scenes. He admired mc’s from both factions – Rose’s liner notes cite “Big Daddy Kane, KRS-One, and the other MCs he grew up admiring … everything from Rakim to N.W.A.” He was even in a high school rap group of his own before going off to college. At Florida A&M, he continued to write and record demo material. In October 1991, some of his rhymes were featured in The Source magazine’s “Unsigned Hype” column, which led to a signing offer from Relativity, and a slot on its primarily core-metal label, Combat.

Dropping out of college to the disappointment of his mom, Common packed off to New York with an entourage of 15 Chicago friends, and his producers No I.D. (aka Immenslope) and Twilite Tone. Can I Borrow A Dollar? was recorded in a fast two weeks at Calliope Studio (where A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul made some of their early records). The rapper was barely out of his teens when the album was issued in September 1992, and spun off two well-received hits on the Rap charts, “Take It EZ” and “Breaker 1/9.” They were distinguished by their decidedly breezy jazz-inflected non-gangsta approach – at a time when gangsta was dominating rap.

Three more tracks from Can I Borrow A Dollar? are included on thisisme then: “Soul By The Pound” (the third single, and first to cross over from Rap to the R&B chart; from this point onward, most of his singles were crossovers), “Charms Alarm,” and “Heidi Hoe,” produced by the Beatnuts, the album’s only outside production.

A fast-track process of socio-cultural, religious and musical maturation took place over the next two years, which ran the gamut from absorbing John Coltrane (who “influenced the way he put his rhymes together,” Rose writes) to exploring Islam via the teachings of the Koran. This personal growth took shape on October 1994’s Resurrection, the second Relativity album, as he moved over to the Ruthless imprint. Most significant was the single “I Used To Love H.E.R.,” his personification of hip-hop as a lover who has become debased and exploited – an allegory that was openly critical of West Coast gangsta style.

“I Used To Love H.E.R.” sparked a well-publicized cross-country feud with Ice-Cube that was eventually mediated by Louis Farrakhan. In addition to the follow-up title tune single, “Resurrection,” the album is represented by “Book Of Life” and the track that gives this compilation its title, “thisisme.” The success of Resurrection also had another unexpected result, when a reggae group named Common Sense threatened to sue unless he changed his name – thus, he became Common.

By the mid-’90s, so-called ‘alternative rap’ had come into its own, eschewing lurid themes of misogynist sex and violence, in favor of thoughtful rhymes that assayed social and political and interpersonal consciousness. Common was at the center of this movement, and one of the reasons that One Day It’ll All Make Sense, his next album, was not completed until September 1997, was because of the quorum of like-minded hip-hop and R&B artists who wanted to get on-board. Another reason was the profound effect on Common of the news that his girlfriend was pregnant (his daughter was born soon after the album was released). Impending fatherhood added another layer of responsibility and introspection to Common’s poetry.

thisisme then includes five high-profile guest appearances from some (some!) of Common’s collaborators on One Day It’ll All Make Sense, starting with “Retrospect For Life” with Lauryn Hill – who gave birth to her own first child the month before the album release. The track was issued as a non-chart single with a video directed by Hill. The second single was “Reminding Me (Of Sef)” with fellow Chicago R&B singer Chantay Savage, which became a Top 10 Rap hit.

Other notable partners from One Day It’ll All Make Sense heard on this compilation are neo-soul icon Erykah Badu (“All Night Long”), whose debut album was issued at the beginning of 1997; Atlanta’s Goodie Mob heavyweight Cee-Lo Green (“G.O.D. [Gaining One’s Definition]”), nearly a decade before Gnarls Barkley; and New Yorker Q-Tip (Intro/Outro on “Stolen Moments Pt. III”), the founding leader of A Tribe Called Quest, who was about to begin his solo career in 1998, when the Tribe disbanded. In 2007, Common and Q-Tip have organized a supergroup named the Standard.

The audio portion of thisisme then ends with “High Expectations,” Common’s contribution to the Relativity movie soundtrack of Soul In The Hole, a 1997 documentary about Brooklyn playground basketballers who dream of turning pro. Common was in the company of Wu Tang Clan, Dead Prez, M.O.P., Big Pun, Exzibit, Mobb Deep, and others.

Following his initial success at Relativity, Common was signed to major label MCA in 1999, where he scored an R&B hit single with “The Light” in 2000. It sent his first album for the label, Like Water for Chocolate, to Top 5 R&B and RIAA gold. In 2002, Common’s Electric Circus album managed a Top 20 R&B hit with “Come Close To Me” featuring Mary J. Blige. But it was Common’s collaboration with Erykah Badu on “Love Of My Life (An Ode To Hip-Hop)” from the Fox/MCA soundtrack of the Taye Diggs movie Brown Sugar, that won him his first Grammy Award: Best R&B Song, as a writer (shared with Badu). Interestingly, the song was an extension of the personification concept first suggested in 1994, on “I Used To Love H.E.R.”

Common was heard from again in 2005 with Be, his first album produced by Kanye West, a #1 R&B/#2 pop smash that passed the RIAA gold mark without the benefit of a major hit single – although “Testify,” “The Corner,” and “They Say” collected nearly a dozen BET, Grammy, NAACP Image, MTV VMA, Soul Train, and Vibe Awards nominations. To his credit, Common had become a true album artist, who had transcended the singles market – as proved by the success of Finding Forever this past summer.

With music as his artistic foundation, Common has followed the footsteps of other rappers (such as Ludacris and Mos Def) into film. His first support role was last year’s Las Vegas-based action-comedy Smokin’ Aces, starring Ray Liotta and Jeremy Piven. Following his current role in American Gangster, Common will be seen in two films next year: The Night Watchman, a rogue cop thriller with Keanu Reeves, Hugh Laurie, and Forest Whitaker, written by James Ellroy; and Wanted, the adaptation of the graphic comic novel, starring Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman.

“Common’s first three albums are truly a coming of age,” Leah Rose concludes. “As one of rap music’s most talented MCs, he literally grew up in the music that his loyal listeners still cherish more than a decade after its initial release. This collection of songs draws from that much missed era in hip-hop, when lyrical prowess was the hallmark of a rapper’s success.”

“It would be hard to imagine hip-hop without Common Sense.” – Leah Rose


Mick Boogie +Busta Rhymes + The Great J Dilla

Dillagence Download
(2007, Mick Boogie)

01 – Words From Ma Dukes
02 – Dillagence
03 – Takin What’s Mine
04 – Step Up
05 – The Conversation (feat. Talib Kweli)
06 – Code of the Streets (feat. MOP)
07 – Lightworks (feat. Q-Tip and Talib Kweli)
08 – Baggage Handlers (feat. Raekwon)
09 – How We Roll
10 – Best That Ever Did It (feat. Rah Digga)
11 – Psycho (feat. Cassidy and Papoose)
12 – The Range (feat. Rah Digga)
13 – Not Right Now
14 – Other Side Of The Road
15 – Who Tryin To Kill You
16 – High
17 – Dillagence Outro

Busta Rhymes has teamed with Mick Boogie to release a new online mixtape entitled “Dillagence” that they hope will continue to showcase the talents of the late J-Dilla.

The new mixtape features exclusive songs produced by Dilla for Busta that have never seen the light of day. It also features Papoose, Cassidy, Talib Kweli, MOP, Rah Digga and more.

“When I called Busta with this idea, he was so excited,” said Mick Boogie. “One day I woke up and my in-box was flooded with songs and songs of crazy Busta/Dilla material. I’m honored to be a part of this project.”

“When Mick brought this concept to the table, I felt the timing was right. Dilla left so much incredible music behind with me personally,” says Busta Rhymes. “It’s almost like he knew I was a vessel for him, and would be able to continue to champion his movement.”

Kidz In The Hall – New Label, New Mixtape

Kidz In The Hall

Detention (Mixed by Mick Boogie) Download
(2007, Duck Down)

01 – Detention Intro
02 – Detention Freestyle
03 – Lose Your Mind
04 – Kickdrums Freestyle
05 – Never Forget
06 – Get Busy
07 – Work To Do
08 – Train Of Thoughts
09 – Clothes, Hoes & Liquor
10 – Hush
11 – Real Life Shit
12 – Slippery Shoes
13 – Move on Up Refix
14 – Keep It Movin’
15 – Feelin’ Good
16 – Tha Wall (feat. Nick Stylez)
17 – Detention Outro

Duck Down Records, in an effort to continue to expand its roster, is proud to announce the signing of Kidz In The Hall. Double-0, the Producer/DJ and Naledge, the Lyricist/MC, Kidz In The Hall are looking to become one of hip-hop’s most admired acts, destined to leave a legacy of artistic brilliance and after recently finishing their latest mixtape, “Detention,” and tour dates with Redman and their forthcoming sophomore LP, “The In Crowd,” they are well on their way to doing so.

Kidz In The Hall were previously signed to Rawkus Records and released their debut, “School Was My Hustle,” on the imprint, but felt Duck Down Records would be the home that could help propel them to the next level and as Matty Marcus (founder of Major League Entertainment) asserts it’s a win win for all parties and a unique joint venture between Duck Down and Major League entertainment as both companies will be intimately involved in all aspects of marketing and promotion “the Major League team could not be more excited to partner with Duck Down Records for the next Kidz in the Hall album (entitled “The In Crowd”). The loyalty the label has shown to their roster over the years was a definite selling point and Dru Ha and the Duck Down team are the perfect partners to elevate the Kidz In The Hall brand to the next level. This new exciting partnership is a welcomed change and a breath of fresh air for our entire team.”

Kidz In The Hall group members Naledge and Double-O are equally excited about the union as Double-O adds “I think that this deal is an excellent opportunity to spread our wings. Duck Down Records has proven that they can successfully promote independent acts on a major scale and their enthusiasm in our music let’s us know that they are 100% behind making the Kidz In The Hall movement successful.”

Kidz in the Hall’s upcoming sophomore LP “The In Crowd” is set for release in March 2008 on Major League/Duck Down Records

Make sure to grab the FREE Download of Kidz In The Hall’s latest Mixtape “Detention” mixed by: Mick Boogie! Check out the video teaser for Kidz In The Hall’s forthcoming single “Driving Down The Block”.

The Hunt For Gingerbread Man

MF Grimm

My House Download
Earth Download
from The Hunt For Gingerbread Man (2007, Class A)

The Hunt for the Gingerbread Man is the 4th full-length album from underground Hip Hop personality MF Grimm, an artist with one of the most powerful stories in music. Confined to a wheelchair after an attempt on his life, He went on to play an essential part in the mid 90s independent Hip Hop boom, recording with Bobbito’s Fondle’Em label, working closely with MF Doom on the landmark “Operation: Doomsday” album, and starting one of the few totally independent label/distribution companies in NYC Grimm’s new album “The Hunt for the Gingerbread Man” is based around the adventures of his criminal alter-ego the Gingerbread Man in the metaphorical world of Candy Land. A fully realised and highly conceptual album, it’s also the darkest of his career, and finds one of hip hop’s most creative storytellers reaching his full potential. With production by international beatmakers Stricknine (production credits include Thirstin Howl the 3rd & Rack Lo, Tim Dog and more), Prowla (Celph Titled, 7L & Esoteric’s “Protocol”), Sammsonite (Thirstin Howl III) and Aksim (Block McCloud, Edgar Allen Floe), the sinister sound suits Grimm’s style perfectly, and will be appreciated by fans who have always lauded the darker tracks on his earlier albums.

Masai Bey & BMS – C87

Masai Bey & BMS

Xtra Curricular Download
P.S. 73 Download
I.A.A. Download
from C87 (2007, Uncommon Records)

Uncommon’s own Masai Bey and original Indelible emcee BMS (who hasn’t been heard on record for about 6 years until now). Bringing that ill hiphop back!

Army Of The Pharoahs – Ritual Of Battle

Army Of The Pharoahs

Time To Rock (feat. Celph Titled, Demoz & Vinnie Paz) Download
Seven (feat. Planetary, Chief Kamachi, King Syre, Reef The Lost Cauze, Doap Nixon, Demoz, Celph Titled & Vinnie Paz) Download
from Ritual Of Battle (2007, Babygrande)
Buy at iTunes Music Store

Army of the Pharaohs (AOTP) was initially conceived by lead emcee Vinnie Paz of the independent powerhouse group Jedi Mind Tricks. His vision was a constantly-evolving, collaboration of epic proportions that would include MC’s, producers and DJ’s. AOTP’s first incarnation included Bahamadia, Jedi Mind Tricks, Chief Kamachi, 7L & Esoteric and Virtuoso and resulted in the wildly successful 12” single, “Five Perfect Exertions.” The response was beyond all expectations and fans worldwide have clamored for more material ever since. 2006 saw the long awaited debut The Torture Papers, which has scanned 20,000+ units to date. The supergroup’s sophomore offering, Ritual of Battle, reunites the winning formula, once again featuring the legendary lineup of underground emcees/artists including Vinnie Paz of Jedi Mind Tricks, Outerspace, Apathy, 7L & Esoteric, Celph Titled, Chief Kamachi, King Syze, Faez One as well as first time AOTP constituent (and renowned former Jedi Mind Tricks member) Jus Allah & many more. Of particular note (and to rabid core fan delight) is the inclusion of the first collaborative effort of original material between Jedi Mind Tricks’ founding members Vinnie Paz & Jus Allah since 2000’s Violent By Design.

Faculty – Phar From Home


A Lil’ Sum Download
Run Shit (feat. Wildchild & Ras Rebel) Download
from Phar From Home (2007, D&H / Fat Duck)
Buy at iTunes Music Store

From the record opening skit broadcast live from the fictitious MC training ground Camp Get Down, it’s pretty clear that Oxnard, CA tag team Faculty are all about making music to rock crowds. Their debut full-length, Phar From Home, doles out a healthy balance of bouncy dance floor shakers where verses simply fill the gaps between the sing-along hooks and the few cuts where the message is key. Producer Jake One provides the first heavy hitter with “A Lil Sum,” a snapper of a shoulder shaker that pairs a tough Congo/kick rhythm with funky guitar licks and random soul croons. Fellow Oxnard beatsmith Oh No switches up speeds with a jittery head nodder laced with stuttered sound snippets before Jake One returns to take things down south with a start-and-top rhythm beneath Faculty’s double-time rhymes on “Feel It.” The record wraps up with a Nate Dogg-styled, bass-heavy West coast groove in “That Pay,” closing out the Faculty’s opening school session of tight, to the point, body rocking hip-hop.