Sunday, December 04, 2005

"I'm eager to find my equal at rhyming..."

For an artist who has collaborated (either production-wise or vocally) with the likes of Large Professor, Ghostface, Nas, Mobb Deep, MOP, Kurupt, Alchemist and Hi-Tek, not to mention his shout-out on 'Illmatic', Corey "Cormega" McKay still has a relatively low profile, despite a 4-album catalog and endless guest appearances from NYC to the Bay. Any wack motherfucker can jump on a track with Nas and attempt to rip it, but the fact that Cormega has exhibited immense lyrical prowess on more tracks than I can count makes his almost inexistence from Hip-Hop consciousness all the more shocking. Let's get things straight, 'Mega does push serious numbers indie-wise and has a healthy army of fans from every corner of the globe, but there is no shortage of even 'enlightened' heads dozing on his shit.

Bursting onto the scene in the mid-90s, Cormega appeared on fellow QB comrade Nas' "Affirmative Action", and consequently joined The Firm, Nas' answer to a Hip-Hop supergroup consisting of himself, 'Mega, AZ and Foxy Brown. However, 'Mega was unceremoniously dumped in favour of Nature for reasons unclear ('Mega's unwillingness to sign a production deal is cited by himself, but Nas' preference for Nature is spoken of by others). As a consequence, Cormega landed a deal with Violator/Def Jam and recorded 'The Testament'. Unfortunately, the album was shelved, yet it had lit a fire amongst industry insiders and everybody and his mother was claiming to be in possession of a copy. 1996-2001 was a quiet period for 'Mega musically, excepting the scathing 'Fuck Nas and Nature' record he penned and fed to the streets. However, 'Mega should've known better than to take on Nas, who obviously had the money and resources to produce a killer response, "Destroy and Rebuild", which appeared on the otherwise rather poor 2001 album 'Stillmatic'. Yet by this time, 'Mega had already dropped his "debut" album 'The Realness' on Landspeed Records, and was clearly unfazed by the prospect of every Nas dickrider from the US to Russia sniggering at his efforts. Regardless, the 'Mega/Nas beef was squashed earlier this year, anyway.

Although 'Mega was - as ever - on point lyrically for the bulk of 'The Realness', I'm not a personal lover of the album, despite it carrying two of my favourite Cormega joints - "American Beauty" and "They Forced My Hand". My real interest in Cormega was sparked upon the release of the 2002 album 'The True Meaning'. This album was altogether more polished, and truly reflected 'Mega's position as a dealer-cum-rapper and other hardships, not least his experience of having seen his own mother shot to death. 2004 saw the release of 'Legal Hustle' on Koch, which was he subject of mixed opinions. Personally, I think it's dope, and tracks 1-8 represent what could be the dopest succession of tracks appearing on any album in the new millennium. It was marred, however, by the over-appearances of 'Dona', some bitch 'Mega signed to his label and was trying to showcase. She holds her own for the first 2 or 3 tracks, but then becomes a bit sameish. But everytime I think that, I just shut the fuck up and remind myself that "Beautiful Mind" is easily one of my favourite tracks of all time, despite it being immersed right amongst an overdose of Dona and other nondescripts.

Fortunately, 'The Testament' finally saw the light of day and was released early this year on 'Mega's own Legal Hustle label. Although he has clearly evolved lyrically over the years - more notably in the increasing inclusion of more personal, introspective material as heard on 'The True Meaning' and 'Legal Hustle -, this is still light years ahead of 90% of anything released in 2005 (fuck Kanye, fuck Paul Wall, fuck Juelz), so go and cop it. With the beef squashed between him and Nas, here's to hoping 'Mega spits fire on the Nasdaj/Dow Jones bullshit Nasir has slated for release.

62 Pickup
American Beauty
Verbal Graffiti
Beautiful Mind
Bring it Back

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And you wanna know what I think about those fake cats, think that rap is just one fat wage pack?

Shit it's been a minute since I dropped knowledge up in here so it's time to get things poppin again.

First and foremost; apologies for being AWOL these last few weeks, rest assured Peace, Prosperity and Paper is always rolling though. We've just been chillin for a bit.

Now I've got to speak my mind to all the UK fans out there. By that I don't mean the fans just in the UK, but also the fans of UK hip hop in general.

Over the last couple of years there has been a fair few UK mcs getting their shine. Top of these lists is generally Jehst, a man who is a lyrical genius but doesn't get the international shine he deserves. We also get Rodney P getting mad shine, as he should do (although I haven't been feeling him these last couple of years). We of course have Dizzie Rascal, who has been putting out stellar work for a minute and Kano. Now you can go ahead and call Dizzie, Kano, Roll Deep etc; hip-hop, grime, garage...whatever, but for arguments sake lets call them straight hip-hop here. Slightly off the radar we have; Skinnyman, Blade and Ty getting some much deserved shine. However for me, as much as I like many of these artists, I don't get that special feeling I do when I listen to someone like BDK, Jigga, Tribe...whatever. You either know what I'm talking about here or you don't, that special "fuck me I can vibe to this all year" sort of feeling. Don't get me wrong; Jehst is fucking awesome, Ty got mad plays from me this last year ("Upwards" still does) and Mark B and Blade's "The Unknown" is dopeness despite the fact people don't seem to agree. However despite this, there is only one artist to emerge in UK Hip-Hop that has me positively soiling myself in anticipation every time he has new ish out.

That man is Ricochet Klashnekoff (although he seems to have dropped the Ricochet now). This dude is straight up one of my favourite mcs in the world right now. Every time he picks the mic up I'm blown away, he seems to be able to do it all right now. His debut album "The Sagas of Klashnekoff" seemed to slip the radar of most people somehow, despite the fact that it was fucking dope. From the first track Klash just murdered it; talking about life on a council estate, dealing, his girl, his father’s death...shit he covered it all. This man just rips from the heart and that is what makes him the best right now for me. I know Jehst is the same in that respect but there is just something about Klash. So I played the hell out of "Sagas of" last year and practically wore a hole into it. Since then I’ve got hold of the odd track from compilations here and there but he generally seemed to have gone AWOL.

Then word on the street was that he was about to drop a new mixtape to let heads know he was still around. Shit I was so hyped up for it I copped it from HMV, which isn't like me at all because I know I'm getting ripped off. Either way I listened to it on the way home, waiting to see whether he can bring the same level as he did on "Sagas of". By the time I got home I had come to the conclusion that it was one of the dopest discs I've heard all year. The man matched the level he reached on his debut album...and then bettered it. "Focus Mode" has Klash spitting over Raekwon's - Criminology, Nas's - Get Down, Juelz Santana's - Mic Check and a bunch of other dope beats. Not to mention he gets some mic time over some new beats and he kills each one. There is not one moment in this mixtape where you feel like hitting the skip button, apart from to skip back and play each track again. The best thing about "Focus Mode" is that Klash gives us a taste of how versatile he can be, not only in subject matter but also flow. He switches it up, slows it down and generally just gives us a taste of what he can do. I also have to add for the record that DJ Skully really kills it on this, he needs to be getting more exposure as with so many cats we have in the UK.

So yeah to cut this short (ish), I'm a damn Klashnekoff groupie. For me he's one of the best around right now, UK, US...whatever.

If you haven't even checked him out before then here is a taster for you. If you like what you hear then get you're plastic out and go and order "The Sagas of Klashnekoff" and "DJ Skilly Presents: Klashnekoff - Focus Mode". Don't sleep.


Klashnekoff - Black Rose

Klashnekoff - Mr K-Lash

Klashnekoff - You (International Lover Remix)

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Friday, December 02, 2005

Production: Jay Dee (J-Dilla)

James Yancey (Jay Dee) came out of the early 90's pre-Eminem Detroit undergground scene that produced other notable acts such as MC Breed. As a teenager he was introduced to the MPC and beat making by Amp Fidler; quickly putting together beats and a band, Slum Village. His big break came in 1994 while attempting to shop his bands sampler Fantastic Vol. 1, Amp Fidler introduced him to a guy named Q-tip of the band A Tribe Called Quest (ATCQ). This chance introduction quickly led to production opportunities with Pharcyde and De La Soul, resulting in the certified classics "Runnin'" and "Stakes is High" respectively.

Jay Dee, like most 80's and 90's hip-hop producers, cites that he was musically influenced by his parents funk and soul music collection - artists like Parliament, Zapp, Prince, the JB's, Jack McDuff and Sergio Mendez. Jaydee's production is heavily drum based and loop driven.

Jay Dee teamed up with Q-tip and Ali Shaheed of ATCQ to form The Ummah, one of the most progressive mid-90's hip-hop production teams, producing numerous tracks including from Busta Rhymes first album The Coming, "Woo Hah". The mid-90's saw Grand Upright Music vs. Warner Brothers Records (The Biz Markie Case) severely restricted the use of uncleared samples in hip-hop music and in so doing, the sample ladend production of the early 90's evolved into a primarily beat driven artform. As the primary driving force behind The Ummah, Jay Dee is often credited (or blamed) for the subdued sound of ATCQ's last album, The Love Movement. However the sound is probably as much a product of the decreased use of sampling as much as it was affected by Jay Dee's production style. The Ummah parted ways in the late 1990's.

In recent years, Jay Dee put out the Slum Village's Fantastic Vol. 2 album in 2000, a solo album Welcome 2 Detroit in 2001 and produced the majority of Common's Electric Circus in 2003. Jay Dee officially left Slum Village after their first album, although he has contributed beats on their subsequent releases. Jay Dee teamed up with MC Madlib to form the group Jaylib, releasing the album Champion Sound. In 2005, Jay Dee worked with Kanye West on the producing the new Common album, Be; contributing the tracks "Love Is" and "It's Your World (Pop Reprise)".

Other Notable 12" Singles:

The Pharcyde - Drop 1996

De La Soul - Itzsoweezee/Hot (Remix) 1996

Slum Villlage - 4th And Back 1997

The Brand New Heavies - Sometimes 1998

Floetry feat. CL Smooth - Floetic (Remix) 2003

Janet Jackson feat Q-tip - Got Til It's Gone (Remix) 1999

Most Recent Production Credits:

Jaylib - Champion Sound 2003

De La Soul- Shoomp 2004

Artists Produced For:

De La Soul, Phat Kat, Madlib, ATCQ, Brand New Heavies, Slum Village, Common, Busta Rhymes, The Pharcyde, Jay Dee, Amp Fidler, D'Angelo, Bobby Caldwell, Bilal, Poe, George Clinton, Rahzel, The Roots, Black Star, LSK, Lucy Pearl, Jack McDuff, Bahamadia, Talib Kweli

Originally Posted at:

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