7 posts categorized "Music Reviews"

November 08, 2010

Statik Selektah and Termanology’s ‘1982’ Is a Classic

Duo Soars with Broadly Complete Album

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

BeatTips Rating: 5/5

The uncompromising creativity of 1982 splashes at you like a golden razor, slicing away your angst for what mostly purports to be hip hop/rap music these days. In fact, not sense Ghostface Killah’s Supreme Clientele, or Gang Starr’s Moment of Truth have I heard a more defiant, well-balanced, and self-defining album in hip hop/rap.

There is an aggressive freedom within 1982. This album roams confidently (decisively) where it wants. Indeed, 1982 is not an overtly ambitious medley of varying tunes for everybody. On the contrary, 1982 is clearly for somebody. It’s for me. And if you like boots-in-the-speaker hip hop/rap music along with an occasional "smooth operator" boom bap selection, then it’s for you. But if you incline towards contrived “emo” tracks or clumsy Southern bounce knock-offs, you’re at the wrong parade. 1982 is a street hop convention, wherein there's a celebration of two of the rawest and coldest fundamentals of the hip hop/rap music tradition: beats and rhymes. It's also a magnificent lesson in musical balance, as the milder cuts on the album enhance the range and depth of an otherwise hardcore LP.

BeatTips Rating Breakdown

Favorite Joints

"Still Waiting"
This is my absolute favorite joint from 1982. A classic song that actually reminds of me of how eloquently Bruce Springstein and Billy Joel accurately deliver the day-to-day "common man" vibe of a working class "joe" with big dreams. Termanology is at his best here, offering up a confessional rhyme jaunt that leaves you cheering for him and Stat to hit it big.

"I'm still waiting for my day/I'm still waiting to par-lay with hell-a loot/I'm still waiting ti' my moms livin' better, too/shit, cuz my life's still raw/I'm twenty-somethin' years old and I'm still poor."—Termanology

As for the beat, Statik Selektah demonstrates his superb ear for soulful samples and his master-touch chopping. What's especially dope is how Stat handles the track overall. His treatment of the primary sample is precise. Rather than cloud it with a schizophrenic drum framework (something a less skilled beatmaker would most likely have done), he anchors it with a steady kick-snare pattern, while beefing up on the cymbals.

"Life Is What You Make It" ft. Saigon and Freeway
A deceptively simple arrangement that draws you into the rhythmic prisms created by the beat and each rhyme flow. I particularly like this joint because of Saigon's work on it. And the beat for "Life Is What You Make It" is currently my favorite from 1982. Using a three-note bass sample, the beat drags and pulls with one of the illest swing qualities I've heard on a beat in recent years.

"Freedom"
With this song, intellect and social scholarship take center stage. I dig songs that teach and uplift without preaching.

"The World Renown"
This joint is proof positive that beats inspire flow, and the iller the beat, the iller the rhyme—well, at least that's how it is when there's a capable lyricist on the beat. Fortunately, Termanology proves to be more than capable here. Term uses "The World Renown," the first cut of the album, to announce that he's entered a new lyrical zone of complexity, flow, and stylistic machismo.

As far as the beat, once again, Statik Selektah shows off master art-craftsmanship. The beat simmers. At the center is a soul-jazz fusion sample that's surgically chopped (one of Stat's best traits), but not over-extended the way many "auto-choppers" of today like to often do. And the drum framework is a silhouette of smoothness. Each individual element is tucked well, with the bongo punch of the snare and the casual lift of the kick grounding the whole beat in a soul lounge essence.

"People Are Running"
This joint is bare-bones creativity at its finest! On some other-world storytelling shit, Term comes off with deftly penned imagery, offering up an apocalyptic view of what amounts to be the hood through a Matrix lens. And Stat anchors the vocals with an eerie and deceptively simple beat. "People Are Running" features a kick-snare pattern that's steady yet remarkably chaotic, seemingly ready to break fool at any moment. And the 8th-bar mark drum roll is nasty, proving that Statik Selektah is most at home when he explores what he can create with his custom drum sounds. "People Are Running" is hauntingly fresh hip hop/rap music, and fortunately, like most of the cuts on 1982 it's not encumbered by a useless hook.

"You Should Go Home (for breakdown, see Sureshot Singles below)

Sureshot Single(s)

"You Should Go Home" ft. Bun
Dig it, most so-called "for-the-ladies" contraptions usually lean towards the superficial "baby-I-need-you" schlock. But this isn't the case with "You Should Go Home." Here, Statik creates a beat that cooks and bangs just as much as it conjures up that obvious "R&B" feel. The rumbling bongo pattern, flanked by snare brushes "on the 2's," both sub-frameworks shrouded by a tempered hi-hat scheme: genius! The entire measure of the song shuffles with a swing quality often only found with a great traditional live drummer. "You Should Go Home" wonderfully displays Statik Selektah's range as a beatmaker/producer.

Also, the rhymes that grace "You Should Go Home" are not the typical "R&B" filler, either. Termanology proves that he knows how to temper his tone and flow, without sacrificing his subject matter and delivery. And Bun B doesn't just show up making am appearance, on the contrary, he sounds comfortable and confident, completely at home with the tapestry and scope of the beat.

Finally, I'm compelled to point out that ordinarily, I dislike hearing an "R&B" type joint on a hardcore album, but 1982 is no ordinary album, and "You Should Go Home" isn't your average hip hop/rap-"R&B" hybrid—it's both magnetic and catchy. In fact, I anticipate that "You Should Go Home" is going to pick up heavy radio traction.

Sleeper Cuts

"Wedding Bells" ft. Jared Evan
"Wedding Bells" puts you in the mind frame of Color Me Bad's "I Wanna Sex You Up," one of the hardest hip hop/rap influenced joints of all time. But while "Sex You Up" features the sappy sing-pleading of a 90s urban boy band, Termanolgy's dead pan rhymes about a guy with "conflicting" thoughts on marriage makes "Wedding Bells" glide into a whole new zone.

On the surface, "Wedding Bells" is light and humorous, as Term rhymes, "I might bring you a rose/but then I'm stripping ya close/wanted the kid to propose/sorry I'm dippin', I'm gost." Then there's Jared Evan on the chorus singing (masterfully), "She's hearing wedding bells." But listen beneath the surface and you'll hear how seriously Statik Selektah has approached this whole "new jack swing" aesthetic. The sound simply doesn't feel like 2010. Instead, it carries the good vibe nuance of the "new jack swing" sound of the early 1990s. Some might think Stat and Term were taking a chance with this joint, considering how much of 1982 is hardcore. But I beg to differ. "Wedding Bells" isn't only a refreshing change of pace, it's a great example of music makers exploring (and committing to) a variety of their musical interests and influences.

Perhaps on any other Stat and Term album, "Wedding Bells" would stand out as the cold-handed hip hop/rap, R&B-tinged joint. But "You Should Go Home" so powerfully commands that slot that "Wedding Bells" may be slightly overlooked by some. It's a shame, though, because "Wedding Bells" has an entirely different feel and scope than "You Should Go Home." Moreover, "Wedding Bells" has a special power: if you listen closely it will beam you back to 1991.

"Thugaton 2010"
"Thugaton 2010" is stick-up kid background music. Eight bars of it will have you amped up and ready to go rob somebody, even if your name is Becky and you're from Long Island. What's more, "Thugaton 2010" features M.O.P. on a slower tempo beat, a rarity for sure, as most M.O.P. features are usually up-tempo, high octane affairs. Indeed, the beat for "Thugathon 2010" is a deceptively subdued masterpiece. Brilliant, Stat!

Gripes
Absolutely none!

Final Analysis

1982 is an impressive collection of high-grade quality hip hop/rap music.
In addition to the standard fare of male hip hop/rap bravado, this album contains songs with a variety of topics. "Wedding Bells," one of two joints certain to appeal to the ladies, is a cleverly made tune about mis-perceived relationships. "The Hood Is On Fire" and "People Are Running" eloquently describe the perilous and claustrophobic nature of life in the ghetto. "Still Waiting" vividly captures the anxieties of an artist dealing with everyday life while trying hard to make it in the face of uncertain success. "You Should Go Home" is a monster of a mainstream hit that bangs and stays fresh after frequent repeat listens. "Freedom" is a sobering scholarly effort and uplifting anthem that makes you reflect on the social obstacles that face people of color. "World Renown" and "Life Is What You Make It" are songs that aggressively celebrate quality complex lyricism... 1982 is loaded!

While I dig the fact that each song on 1982 executes its aim, what I appreciate more is the fact that there are no gaps in focus or any haphazard attempts at styles and sounds that do not favor the duo or their featured guests. Instead, Statik Selektah and Termanology navigate their collective influences in a manner that registers well with the overall ambition of the album, which I gather was to simply offer the most sincere representation of the pair's skills and genuine interests. In fact, Stat & Term openly embrace their influences. Which doesn't mean that they try to be or even mimic their stated inspiration. Instead, they orchestrate the best of themselves—influential references and all. Thus, any direct comparisons of 1982 to any album by Gang Starr or Pete Rock & CL Smooth (both duos explicitly mentioned in 1982's intro) misses the point and scope of 1982, entirely.

And while Statik Selektah's beats continued to demonstrate why he has quickly risen to the 1st tier of today's beatmakers/producers, I was pleasantly surprised by Termanology's rhymes. On past efforts, I found Termanology's rhyming to be average at best. But his lyrical command on 1982 has forced me to recognize him as a solid lyricist, one with serious depth and much poetic imagination.

Why Statik Selektah and Termanology's 1982 Is Undoubtedly a Classic

Overall, what makes an album a classic? Illmatic, perhaps my most favorite hip hop/rap album of all time, was a collection of abrasive street cuts; it contained no so-called "radio friendly" joints or any "for-the-ladies" selections. And despite what some might want to say otherwise, by 1994, the year Illmatic was released, the radio was already on the road to the "top 8 at 8" pop induced format that it is now. Thus, one of the things that makes Illmatic a classic to many is it's defiantly hardcore street stance. And what about Dr. Dre's The Chronic? Another classic, and another one of my favorites. But unlike Illmatic—an album who's track listing I know verbatim—, I honestly struggle to name any song off of The Chronic beyond "Nuthin' but a 'G' Thang" and "Let Me Ride." Then there's 50 Cent's Get Rich or Die Tryin', an album that MANY hip hop/rap music journalists failed to initially dub a classic, despite it's obvious appeal both under— and above ground.

Even a superficial listen of the three aforementioned classic albums by Nas, Dr. Dre, and 50 Cent, respectively, tells you that there is no exact science to coming up with a "classic." But if there's a quality that all three albums share, it's their defiantly personal nature, flying in the face of conformity. Statik Selektah & Termanlogy's 1982 shares this same quality (as does The Left's Gas Face; BeatTips.com's review coming next week). At a time where many (if not most hip hop/rap acts) are scrambling to conform—and in many cases, scrambling to openly bite (carbon copy) the sound of their more "successful" contemporaries—, Statik and Term opted for a different, but well-established course.

For 1982, Statik Selektah and Termanology combined to formulate an album that was at times, intellectually interesting and socially engaging; and at all times, musically rewarding. And they did it all using the guide set forth by a number of hip hop/rap's important stalwarts, most notably Gang Starr and Pete Rock & CL Smooth. What's more impressive, however, is the fact that Stat & Term deliver a classic using their own ingenuity: They stand defiantly on their own apparatus of honest music making.

As such, 1982 is an album full of hip hop/rap's best aesthetics. The intentional absence of useless hooks are welcome. The range and high quality nature of the beats are inviting; from beat to beat there are sharp examples of the beatmaking tradition's most fundamental characteristics. Termanology's successful reach for the upper tiers of lyricism are encouraging. The mesh of high profile features is impressive and well-used. Even the song arrangement of the LP (a subtle but important variable in a good album's equation) should be applauded. Thus, 1982 is not only aesthetically pleasing, it's an album worthy of serious MusicStudy.

I’ve long maintained that one of the best “self-preserving” qualities of the hip hop/rap music tradition is its self-defiant nature. Hip hop/rap music is no longer a surprise guest at the big ball. It has arrived by every metric that you can imagine, and now it permeates sharply through American culture as well as major cities around the globe. Moreover, hip hop/rap has gained widespread acceptance as both a formidable entertainment sub-industry and as a serious academic discipline. But despite hip hop/rap’s ascent into the mainstream as well as the upper crusts of society and even high art circles, in its fundamental essence, hip hop/rap still speaks loudest to the “common classes”. That Statik Selektah & Termanology have a strong grasp of this component of hip hop/rap is what makes 1982 so engaging, encouraging, and of course, refreshingly enjoyable. Classic work.
—Sa'id


July 22, 2010

BeatTips Music Review: Nico The Beast - 'The Beast Within'

Rhyme Brawn And Reason

By Amir Said (Sa'id)

BeatTips Rating: 3/5

Nico The Beast's album, The Beast Within, opens with a question: "Are you a talker or a doer?" Fortunately for fans of non-watered down hip hop/rap music, Nico's an aggressive "doer." In fact, the entire offering plays out like the journal of a hard-nose man who's lived it, and more poignantly, lived thru it.

On the track, "You Mean Everything" (beat by Rhythm J), an incredibly emotional and painful track, Nico uses a hushed delivery (something that works here, but shouldn't be repeated) to drop a wrenching recounting of the loss of his infant song. And Nico's vocals are made whole by Rhythm J's haunting instrumental, which taps the essence of the doo wop era, with searing touch and mastery. This song embodies musical artistry, and presents Nico in its finest moment. It also gives notice that the rest of the album is worthy of a close listen.

Despite the softer vocalizing of "You Mean Everything," you can't be fooled by Nico's hush-tone side. To be certain, his default flow and vocal hue is harsh and appropriately aggressive. Indeed, the track "Never Stop" f/ N.I.Z. (beat by Kornswagger) bears this out rather matter-factly: "I was a numbskull/hated all my fuckin' life/fuck a mic/This is war, pussy, gun ho." And on "Grown Man" f/ 2ew Gun Ciz & Streetz Da Gooch (beat by Rhythm J), Nico's harshness is tempered a bit, but the aggressiveness is certainly still there. And Ciz and Streetz more than represent on this absolute heatrock, proving that Nico's also adept at picking his rhyme partners.

BeatTips Music Review Breakdown

Favorite Joints

8. "Grown Man Music" f/ 2ew Gun Ciz & Streetz Da Gooch (beat by Rhythm J)
This joint is full of soul—literally. It shuffles with a delicate smoothness that is offset by an anchoring drum framework that helps stab the beat into your better senses. What about the vocals? Here, Nico rolls up and down with the scheme of the beat, in an effortless flow that meshes in one of the best rhyme and beat marriages I've ever heard. And again Nico is joined by Ciz & Streetz, who this time black out over the beat, just as much as Nico; each interprets a path that compliments the sketch of the beat. Finally, the soulful sung hook—"Going in circles trying...—" really puts this song over the top. These days, sung hooks are often contrived, nasal, and forced. None of that appears here on "Grown Man Music." The singing is determined and undoctored, steady and natural. A certain compliment to a stellar song.

15. "Make Believe" (beat by Vanderslice)
Dope! Nico is right at home on the more straight-away, emo-free beats. This joint solidifies the fact that solid rhythms are Nico's best chance for musical glory. Beat personified by a Piano and drowning sax sample, backed up by a drum framework that features a hard hitting kick, a succinct snare, and effective 1/4 hi-hat pattern.

The High Points:

3. "Number One Single" f/ 2ew Gunn Ciz & Toke Jones (beat by Kornswagger)
This is clearly the *lead single* joint off of The Beast Within. Song features a "feel good," ready and steady instrumental that matches up well with Nico's smoothed out flow. Throw in respectable rhymework by 2ew Gunn Ciz & Toke Jones, plus a sung (but not annoying) hook, and what you have is a solid single with mass (and critical) appeal.

12. "Golden" f/ Vixon (beat by Stupid Genius)
One of the highest points on the album. Utilizes the synthetic-sounds based style and is personified by its boom bap drum structure. Nico sounds natural; he's clearly right at home with the more "direct," straight forward beat arrangements.

16. "Last Ride" f/ Ashley Howard (beat by Distant Starr, Steve Leevy, and Noochman)
Story rhyme that details the loss of a close friend to a fatal car crash. Beat is dope: bouncing kick, syncopated tambourine, and an understated clap. Synthetic-sounds based arrangement that's warm and well thought-out.

The Low Points:

6. "The Beast's Symphony" (beat by Samik)
This song features an "emo" style beat that's very overbearing. There's simply too much going on with the beat; so much so, it made it hard for me to decide what to listen to, the beat or the rhyme. Great songs never force you to make that choice, or even ask the question in the first place.

9. "What Do They Want" (beat by Samik)
Song sounds like an attempt at club/pop radio play. I'm sure beatmaker (producer) Samik's future is bright, particularly if he's aiming for R&B or the more *urban pop* centric type hip hop/rap, but his ambitious (over produced) tracks seem to neither inspire Nico, nor match his naturally intimate, but aggressive, rhyme style.

11. "Appear To Be" f/ P. Shaw (beat by Kels of TN2 Productions)
Another "emo" song... This joint was difficult to listen to. The beat seems to want to be several different styles all at once. There's the Southern bounce in full effect: heavy syncopated kick and hi-hat and the proverbial clap. But then there's this strong dose of synth ambiance. The drumwork I can handle, but the ambient arrangement was too much to bare, kept me thinking of the inside of an insane asylum, or a transitional scene in the teen vampire drama, Twilight. This song just doesn't fit on the album.

Final Analysis

Nico is a solid lyricist, in the sense that he can pen interesting rhymes and switch up his rhyme flows. Thing is, I'm not convinced that all of the flows that he showcases on The Beast Within match his knack for subject matter and intricate detail. Moreover, I just don't think all of the flows are even necessary. On "emo" style beats (notably "The Beast's Symphony," and "Appear To Be"), Nico is out of place; he seems to be forcing out a flow rather than lyrically cutting loose. However, on solid rhythms and boom blap influenced tracks, Nico sounds natural, confident, and certain. On the more straight-ahead beat affair, Nico flows with charisma, and his voice comes thru clearer.

As far as the beats go, there's a welcomed balance of sample-based and synthetic-sounds-based joints. And if Nico is the star lyricist on The Beast Within, then I'm convinced that Rhythm J is the spotlight beatmaker on this album. But I would be remiss if I didn't note that Vanderslice and Kornswagger shine incredibly bright as well. In fact, Kornswagger delivers the album's sure-shot single, "Number One Single." And although the tracks made by Samik might catch some attention for their sheer "density," they are ultimately more suited for R&B and not Nico's straight-edge rhymes and flow.

Overall, The Beast Within's stand-outs are very dependable. But, unfortunately, the album suffers because of a common case of quality control. There are quite a few stellar joints on The Beast Within, but it's a shame that they have to shoulder selections that simply don't measure up. If The Beast Within would have been smaller in scale—perhaps just 10 songs, instead of *16*—, it would have been a much stronger album. (If I had executive produced this project, I would have lobbied hard to keep tracks 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, and 13 off!) A straight dose of 10 songs would have tightened up the whole effort, creating track-to-track consistency, and making repeat listens more enjoyable. Nonetheless, The Beast Within is a solid effort that I feel comfortable recommending.

July 05, 2010

BeatTips Music Review: Brother Reade's 'Rap Music'

Some Potential, But Far Short Of Robust Title

By Amir Said (Sa'id)

If you name your album after a music genre—specifically, "rap music,"understand this: People will expect a lot from you. Either Brother Reade knew that, and sincerely believed that their debut LP, Rap Music (2007), packed the material to deliver on those high expectations, or, as I suspect, they were directly answering critics who question their legitimacy. Thing is though, critics are best answered with solid material, not incredibly bold album titles. And unfortunately, although there are a few bright spots on Rap Music, the album falls way short of the expectations that the ever looming title seems to promise.

For starters, Jimmy Jamz is more than capable as a lyricist. He comes off as comfortable and content with his rhyme abilities. However, far too often on Rap Music he's weighed down by Bobby Evans restrictive, bounce-less programming, which includes stuck drumwork that's low on swing and high on a patchwork of similar sounding simple drum patterns. For instance, on "The Marcie Song," a standard rapper's opus to a turbulent youth and family life, Jamz gets out ahead of the beat and never comes back to it. Here, Evans would have been well-advised to remix the tune with a track that could handle the style and flow of the rhyme.

Things aren't all bad, however. On "Everywhere I Go," to me, the standout of the album, Evans appears to reach for the roots of the beatmaking tradition, drawing on a clever use of rupture, structured cuts, and well-timed drum rolls. What's more, on this track Evans employs a magnificent rapidly-looped bass sequence that serves as the perfect context for Jamz to flow naturally over. Then there's the song, "Like Duh," the official lead single off of Rap Music. "Like Duh" has the most bounce and movement of any other track on the album. And aside from the stellar "Everywhere I Go," "Like Duh" sports a very confident and relaxed Jamz on the mic.

But apart from "Everywhere I Go" and "Like Duh," the album is pretty much an exercise of Jamz trying to hold up the mostly flat beatwork of Evans. In fact, by the time you get to track 12, ("Like Duh" is intentionally buried at 11), the album seriously collapses, extending examples of Evans' mostly dull and dreary, slowish-tempo electro-like beats.

Bottom line: Brother Reade's Rap Music offers a couple of glimmers of hope. Jimmy Jamz' rhymes are stable and at times thought provoking; and Bobby Evans demonstrates that he can bring quality beatwork to the table. However, what does this effort in is the unequal-ness of the rhymes and the beats. On this album Evans seems to be caught between going after a polished sound and staying true to the sound context of fellow NC native 9th Wonder. The result is less than impressive, and, unfortunately, not always easy to listen to, in particular because so many of his beats sound pretty much the same. However, that being said, I do give props to Evans for demonstrating that he could bring some decent beats...I just would have preferred that he did that more consistently, especially on an album called Rap Music.

Listen to Brother Reade, Rap Music here.

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The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted source for information on beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

June 18, 2010

BeatTips Pick of the Week: J Dante x Man Mantis - 'Whole New World'

Steady Rhymes and Ready-for-"Prime Time" Beats

By Amir Said (Sa'id)

Listen to enough "mainstream" hip hop/rap (not all of it's bad, by the way), and you just might buy the nonsense that hip hop/rap is dead, or has been dying. However, those who embrace and are in the hunt for new music know damn well there is a lot of explosive, enigmatic, experimental, and just otherwise dope hip hop/rap music floating all around. Such is the case with J Dante and Man Mantis (Worldaround Records).

On their 5 cut EP, Whole New World, J Dante (rhymer) and Man Mantis (beatmaker) stew up a refreshingly easy-to-listen-to collection of music. Part art-house, part philosophical, part just plane dope ass sample flips, Whole New World is a quality music teaser that does exactly what an EP is supposed to do: invite you; engage you; and of course, make enough word-of-mouth noise to warrant a full length send-up. On Whole New World, J Dante and Man Mantis summon various hip hop/rap influences (notably Little Brother in their prime, Kanye West pre Graduation, and even Outkast), but they standout precisely because they build upon their influences, earnestly working to carve out and maintain their own sound (and vibe) identity.

J Dante's rhymes are carefully (patiently) delivered; he's comfortable with his rhyme flow, not concerned with trying to overstate and/or "gimmick up" his voice. Instead, his rhymes are steady, relaxed, and certain. On the beats, Man Mantis builds out five quality stated joints that take on a slightly different style, texture, and characteristic while adhering to an overall unique sound composite—exactly what you want out of beatmaker who handles ALL of the beatwork on a project.

Bottom Line...

Listen to music long enough, and you'll drop an array reactions. From everything like, "this shit is dope;" to "this shit is whack;" to "it's all right—needs garlic." But that' cool, because that's the journey of music. You never know what you're going to get at the next stop. So fortunately, my arrival at J Dante and Man Mantis' music has been more than worth the travel time.

<a href="http://jdantexmanmantis.bandcamp.com/album/whole-new-world-ep">Intro by J Dante x Man Mantis</a>

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The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted source for information on beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

June 13, 2010

Jewel Droppin': Rsonist (of The Heatmakerz), pt. 1

Beat Vet Talks Detailed Shop

Interview by Amir Said (Sa'id)

"What I do with my tracks, 9 out of 10 times, depending on like… if it’s American samples and not Reggae, I’ll filter the bass line all the way out of the original; I won’t even use the original bass line! Because it’ll be so thin that it won’t even make sense to use the original bass line, because then you might hear it a little in the background and it might throw the beat off. So I’ll filter it all the way down, and just have a lot of the highs and the mids in there, and then I’ll play my own bass line in there, to sort of give it some new life. A lot of the older bass lines were straight live bass lines… I’m not a dude who plays the bass guitar, but I can play the keys enough to figure out a bass line and get it poppin’. So what I’ll do, like I said, filter out the bass line, then I’ll put in my own bass line. But my bass line will be real hard and straight forward. It won’t even be as, you know, musical, as the original that was in there. But when we do it like that, that’s what brings our sound to life."

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The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted source for information on beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

January 02, 2010

Hasan Insane Strikes Gold Again; Jay Electronica - "Exhibit C" Remix Shines Bright

There are remixes...then there are Hasan Insane remixes! Here, again with a rework of Jay Electronica's "Exhibit C" (beat by Just Blaze), Hasan's beatwork manages to come close to outshining the original, while reinforcing the rhyme and bringing a new mix of the rapper's voice to the forefront. Indeed, I listened to both Just Blaze's send up of Billy Stewart's "Cross My Heart" and Hasan's work-over of the same jewel, and for me, Hasan Insane's reconceptualization rivals—but doesn't quite surpass—the original in both feel and scope (modest as the programming is).

First time I heard the original "Exhibit C," I thought it was decent, (really more than anything I was more drawn in by the flow and density of Jay Electronica's verses). Cue in Hasan Insane, who I imagine like all of us beatmakers, schemes on how he would flip a decent joint and make it doper. Fortunately for fans and supporters of Hansan's work, he doesn't hesitate when he knows he can fly the original to a new dimension. As is the case with his current remix, which helps unpack and showcase some of the better lines that Jay Electronica drops on the original.

Finally, whether or not Jay Electronica and/or Just Blaze reached out for Nas to swing by on the track, we may never know, perhaps they did. But, thankfully, Hasan "reached out" to Nas and got 'em on one of the best remixes I've heard in 15 years. And the crazy thing is, this ain't even my favorite Hasan Insane remix (at least not yet). That distinction probably belongs either to "New York" featuring Jay-Z and Raekwon (off of Hasan's An American Gangster The Mixtape), or his rework of Jay-Z's "Fallen" (currently only available at Hasan's myspace page: http://www.myspace.com/hasaninsane.

All in all though, this Hasan Insane joint gets me thinking: There was this one cat who was known for coming up with remixes that always managed to rival the originals it reworked. True indeed, I can't help but to believe that Marley Marl would be proud of Hasan Insane's latest remix...

Jay Electronica feat. Nas - "Exhibit C;"
remixed (new beat) by Hasan Insane

November 30, 2008

Pete Rock NYs Finest

*Initially published by BeatTips on 10/22/08*

By Ivan Rott

Inspired by Hell, James Brown’s double-LP from 1974, the cover of NY’s Finest finds Pete Rock paying homage to a fellow Soul Brother. Owing much of his success to legends like Brown and others, Pete Rock has established himself as one of hip hop’s premier producers and crate diggers. A testament to his longevity in the trade, NY’s Finest finds Pete once again leading the pack as a pioneer making his reemergence. Surrounding himself with a solid lineup of talented emcees, Pete’s latest contribution offers some unconventional choices as well. The Jim Jones and Max B-assisted first track, “We Roll”, will surprise listeners who question the unlikely collaboration. Laid over some smooth Kool & the Gang cuts, Pete’s fingertips channel Jones’ mellow candor, crafting a jazzy journey worth bopping your head to. Other tracks like “The PJ’s” (built atop the same bass-heavy David Matthews sample which Large Professor flipped in ’96 for “The Mad Scientist”) features Wu-brethren Raekwon the Chef and Masta Killa flossing their lyrical swords over Pete’s relaxed soundscapes.

Most of NY’s Finest, is strictly hard-body material waiting to be ripped by raw emcees. Case in point, the song “914” featuring Styles P. It’s a collage of looped horns, grimy and dusty drum knocks and a sample of ESG’s infamous “UFO”. Likewise, Redman comes consistent on the high-energy breaks of “Best Believe”. Other key feature tracks include the heavy horn-accompanied “Bring Y’all Back” featuring North Carolina duo Little Brother, and “Comprehend”, the sentimentally-charged track that features a rock-solid performance by Brooklyn-bred rhymeslinger Papoose.

Primarily known for his production skills, Pete Rock again takes a shot at the mic on roughly half of the album’s tracks. Delivered over the intimidating clicks and clacks of “Till I Retire”, for instance, Pete aims a speculative jab at Kanye West (reacting to Yeezy’s verse on Slum Village’s “Selfish”) while dropping knowledge for the critics: “Y’all niggas hatin’ on the South, cause they getting’ the shine/ I advise y’all rap dudes better get on your grind/”.

Nonetheless, NY’s Finest has it’s fair share of misfires, most notably the reggae-tinged “Ready Fe War”, a blatant and uninspired knock-off of Damian Marley’s “Welcome to Jamrock”. Then there’s the disappointing Lords of the Underground collabo, “The Best Secret”, where Pete borrows MIMS’ lines to proclaim: “this is why I’m hot.” And though the album’s two R&B efforts with Rell and Tarrey Torae flow comfortably and smooth, they lack replay value, making them easily dismissible as nothing more than filler. Finally, the awkward and choppy “Don’t Be Mad”, (which was actually crafted by DJ Green Lantern), offers nothing more than one memorable line from Rock: “Don’t be mad ‘cause you not me/ I’m the fucking poster boy for the MPC.”

It would have been a mistake to name the album Pete’s Finest, as its various inconsistencies and filler tracks prove it to be anything but. Nonetheless, the album’s high marks like ‘We Roll’, ‘914’, ‘Best Believe’ and ‘The PJ’s’ speak for themselves. Aptly titled NY’s Finest, Pete’s latest contribution undoubtedly offers some of the best, raw Hip-Hop to come out of The Big Apple in quite some time: and that’s something to be proud of!

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