rileysbest, Weekly

ATCQ Drop Their Long-Awaited Final Album [Review]

Listening to the newest Tribe Called Album is a strange experience. I liken it to the final episode of Fresh…

Listening to the newest Tribe Called Album is a strange experience. I liken it to the final episode of Fresh Prince. ATCQ have always seemed like the most amazing, compelling, innovative and revered novel in its genre that just happened to have the last few chapters ripped out; that was the case, until early this morning. Following and emotional re-connection, a handful of performances and an undeniable demand from longtime fans, We Got It From Here, Thank You 4 Your Service finally hit [digital] shelves. It is the first focused studio album from the quartet since 1998’s The Love Movement and unfortunately, following the heartbreaking loss of Phife, their final collective effort.

When discussion of a possibility of an album first floated following their handful of festival appearances, Phife was quoted as saying, “Man, we was only 18–19 when we first got started. [When] We broke up we were still like 28. Now we are 35-36. It’d be real different being in the studio. It would be real interesting to see where Q-Tip is. It would all be on a much higher level.” His instinct was correct—We Got It From Here is a smorgasbord of production sensibility that pushes the musicality of the overall product. It seems to appeal to more to Midnight Marauders frame of mind than the darker ‘Umma’ sound that the group explored on The Love Movement. The project feels like a family reunion, with the original crew (including Jarobi) on deck, as well Consequence and Busta Rhymes. It’s a combination of political, socially conscious content blended in with some of the lovable sucker emcee squashing bars we grew to love back in their heyday.

There are a few guest spots, though. Outkast and Tribe may not have gotten it together to do their joint album, but we do get an Andre 3000 siting. On “Kids,” 3 Stacks laments “Kids don’t you know that all this shit is fantasy?” Meanwhile, Tip and Cons speak from a kid’s perspective while dropping gems on them, it’s a cool concept. And that’s not all; Anderson Paak pops up on “Movin Backwards” and Phife, Kendrick Lamar team up for “Conrad Tokyo,” which is an incredible song, and Talib Kweli and Kanye West appear on “Killing Season.” It’s hip-hop history all over this album—no collaborations are out of place.

While the project delivers everything fans have been dreaming about—and more—there are a few moments that resonated especially well with me. Phife’s verse on “Black Spasmodic” which kicks off with “Who want it with the Trini Gladiator…” and the cohesive chemistry on “Dis Generation” have all the elements I’ve always loved about Tribe over the years. The album doesn’t pretend that Phife is still here, though. Much like the lauded D.I.T.C album that dropped almost two-decade ago, there is a ‘tribute’ of sorts to their fallen comrade, “Lost Somebody.”

It all comes down to “The Donald,” the album’s final record. Phife asserts his status, calling out any emcee who believe they can beat him in a battle. The record is built around him and almost puts me in mind of classic 80s jams where the crew talked about how dope their DJ was (see “Jam Master Jay” or “I Wanna Rock“). As Busta chants “Phife Dawg” for the last time, the curtains close on a chapter of hip-hop that will never actually be duplicated. To round back to my original “Fresh Prince” allusion, it feels like the final scene after Will and Carlton hug for the last time—a final goodbye. The album is a wonderful way to honor Phife’s memory for generations to come while giving longtime fans, like me, one last ride on the vibe bus. I have been a fan of Tribe since I was (literally) a child and their music has stuck with me throughout my adult life. They’re my Beatles, in a sense. So as much as my initial listen gave me feels, it’s quickly going to become a staple in my collection. I can’t wait until my pre-order vinyl comes.

Farewell, Phife—and salute to the whole circle. “Linden Blvd., represent, represent.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yLuOHqmtauo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjowfzlbx5s

Riley here — father, artist, videographer, professional writer and SERIOUS hip-hop head. I'm a member of the Universal Zulu Nation, and I think everything is better on vinyl. Add me on Twitter! @specialdesigns
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Director Myster DL Chats About His New Cypress Hill Documentary

Myster DL, rapper and trusted video director who has an excellent portfolio of over 250 videos with acts like Redman,…

Myster DL, rapper and trusted video director who has an excellent portfolio of over 250 videos with acts like Redman, Sean Price, Styles P, Chuck D, Cormega, and more, recently dropped a new documentary about Cypress Hill, a group he fondly credits for helping him to make Hip Hop himself.

The Haunted Hill Documentary was filmed in one night in Boston, Massachusetts, at the legendary House of Blues. “I worked on the edit for a few days and sent a few drafts over to the guys and management,” DL tells AAHH. “They do a three-day tour annually—and I usually catch a couple of those shows.”

“Earlier this year I had released a video for Cypress Hill’s Eric Bobo, and we are always planning our next project,” he continues. “We are in the process of possibly doing a few music videos for the band.”

As DL explains, he’s been aquatinted with the iconic group for over a decade. “I’ve known B-Real the longest; I met him in roughly 2004 while living—and DJing—in Miami. I made an edited version of his Gunslinger Mixtape and sent it to him via AOL instant messenger. He was grateful and said if I ever needed anything to contact him.”

At first, DL didn’t take the open invitation seriously. “I just thought this was something people say and took a chance and asked him for a verse,” he recalls. “Within two hours I had an email and acappella. I put the verse on my iPod Nano and walked around listening to it for three weeks. We did a song together in 2004, and that blossomed into a cool relationship with the whole crew.”

“I have a song with B Real, Sticky Fingaz, Rockness Monsta and Kool G Rap that will premier on the soundtrack of my next film,” DL says proudly. “Cypress Hill inspired me to make music which eventually turned into a successful film career, so its a trip to even know them.”

According to DL, this is his most significant project to date. “It’s my first documentary film; however I do have a series of short documentaries called “Rewind The Scenes” where I look back at the making of some of my biggest music videos,” he explains.

The Haunted Hill Documentary is a must-watch for any Cypress fan; check it out below.

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The Hoodies Are About To Be Two Of Hip Hop’s Brightest Stars

If we’re keeping it all the way 100, the schtick of rhyming in a car is beyond played out. Whatever…

If we’re keeping it all the way 100, the schtick of rhyming in a car is beyond played out. Whatever “cool” factor it did possess probably decimated after Carpool Karaoke became your mom’s fav thing to share on Facebook. At least that’s what I thought, until I stumbled onto E-Class (21-years-old) and his younger brother Young Poppa (11-years-old). Collectively known as The Hoodies, they’ve taken a stale concept and (with sheer quality bars) spun it into national viral fame.

To be frank, I haven’t been this excited about a new artist in quite a while—especially not a group. Especially not a group from New York.

Their chemistry is ridiculous. If their recent appearance on Flex didn’t have you Googling “who the fuck are The Hoodies and why have I been sleeping,” let me help you out with some of their must-watch episodes of In The Whip, their ongoing YouTube series.

First up, episode 5; these cats ran through a sneaker scheme, a math scheme, and a fucking cartoon theme so seamlessly I had to watch this shit multiple times to catch the blends.

Next up, episode 4, which featured a surprise cameo by (perhaps) the only other emcees in recent memory with a back and forth chemistry as thick as these two, Styles P and Jadakiss.

Lastly, Young Poppa flamed one of my fav instrumentals “Banned From TV” in episode 7.

After binge-watching their videos, I couldn’t help but wonder what these two had in store. It’s rare to be so acknowledged without any actual songs or traditional videos out. “Mixtape dropping sooner then you think,” E-Class revealed to me. “It’s going to change the whole face of Hip-Hop.”

The way they tell it, this is in their blood. “I been rapping for almost 12 years now,” says E-Class. “I’ll be 21 in February, and I started at nine on a serious level.”

“Poppa got into rapping at a really young age,” E-Class continued. “I’m talking diapers young. He just loves everything about the culture. He loves NWA, Pac, Nas, and 50 Cent … he’s an old soul and very intelligent, so he knows how to put words together. Plus, I was a heavy influence on him.”

Young Poppa doesn’t dispute that last point. “[I’ve] been rapping since I was 4-years-old,” he says. “I came up watching my brother and learning from him.”

They have an aura of excitement surrounding them; you can just tell this is the calm before the storm. Any doubt of that was washed away when Ellen’s team reached out to the duo—literally on the strength of their videos—and asked them to appear on the show.

“We were in complete shock when they reached out,” E-Class says. “Even though we are passionate and believe in ourselves, we never thought we would be on Ellen … especially off of our In The Whip series.“

Since their Ellen appearance and their much-lauded performance on Hot 97 industry heads seem to have the duo under their microscope. “Labels have reached out … we can’t disclose too much information, but they know we out here killing it.”

Whether or not a bidding war is on the horizon has yet to be seen, but one thing for sure, it’s Hoodie season in more ways than one.

https://youtu.be/eRrKDnXWC3A

“We have our mixtape Family Business coming out real soon, music videos, and our In The Whip series is still killing the streets. We ain’t going nowhere anytime soon, so get used to hearing The Hoodies.”

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#SALUTE: Slick Rick’s Debut Turns 29

As the gap between the old school and new school becomes broader and more apparent, so does the necessity for…

As the gap between the old school and new school becomes broader and more apparent, so does the necessity for icons like Slick Rick to be honored. On this, the 29th anniversary of his classic Def Jam debut The Great Adventures Of Slick Rick, we thought we’d take a few minutes to help newer/younger fans understand why us “old heads” hold Ricky D in such reverence after all these years.

It’s kind of hard for anyone under 25 to conceptualize a time when Hip Hop wasn’t a well-oiled machine with multiple touchpoints and sub-genres, but there was a time when it was a lot more … straightforward, for lack of a better term. Much like Rakim, who came in the game with a level of wordplay that blew people away, Slick Rick — a member of Dougie Fresh’s Get Fresh Crew — brought a level of storytelling to the genre that has carried forward and created a platform for generations of artists after him to bring that thematic, content-rich song layout to the game.

“Children’s Story” and “Mona Lisa” were marvels on so many levels; the way that Rick switched up his voice to give life to multiple characters, his crystal clear vocals, the friendly/approachable English accent — it changed the game. His entire debut was full of gems, like “Moment I Feared,” which follows Rick on a possibly the most unfortunate series of back to back events ever, or “Kit,” where he and the infamous car from Nightrider attempt to find Rick’s stolen crown (a reference to bummy impersonators).

“I was never the type to say freestyle raps, I usually tell a story, and to do that well I’ve always had to work things out beforehand.“ — Slick Rick

Then there was the letter to the youth of the late 80’s “Hey Young World,” which I’ve written about in detail in the past:

“The average (young) hip-hop head in NYC in the late 80’s, early 90’s lived through some arguably wild shit. 1989–1993 saw the highest crime rates in the history of the city, teen pregnancy levels were at an all-time high, and the effects of the crack epidemic were everywhere. This was the breeding ground for much of the golden era that hip-hop heads revere so much. It was also during this time that Slick Rick addressed the youth of the time with his classic record.”

Rick did suffer some setbacks in the 90s after catching an attempted murder charge for shooting at former bodyguard — also clipping a bystander in the foot. However, Behind Bars, released during his incarceration, is in my top 50 records ever list, and his Art Of Storytelling LP was a cornerstone of my High School years.

All that to say, if you were born in the 90s, Rick hasn’t done very much for you. However, your fave artist with a storytelling style was likely influenced by another artist who was affected by the greatness of Ricky D. Lets revisit some of our fave cuts from his debut, below.

Salute.

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Made Me Wanna Do This Episode 1: Saukrates

The largest divide between the younger and older generation of Hip Hop artists is the sheer barriers to entry that…

The largest divide between the younger and older generation of Hip Hop artists is the sheer barriers to entry that the OG class had to overcome to become notable names in the industry. In a landscape that predated online streams and even easy-to-set-up studios contained within a MacBook, artists had to work traditional “played out” media streams (radio, physical networking) and print media. Even the ownership of Music was more cumbersome, as the price of a Tidal subscription wasn’t even enough to purchase one album, making music purchasing decisions so strategic.

This was the climate that birthed my love of Hip Hop as both a listener and—in my pre-journalism days—as an artist. My need to have the newest and greatest music bred an obsession with mixtapes, which I made taping College radio stations in the wee hours of the morning weekly. As a Canadian, I found myself listening to the golden era line-up of Toronto artists who were holding it down, but the lack of industry here was apparent. The “6” was far from on the map to the degree it is today, so any artist with love south of the border was a big deal.

While artists were touring and making decent bank, there wasn’t yet a Drake to prove worldwide domination. While there had been a few exports only a handful had managed to blend themselves seamlessly into the playlist of golden era playlist across the border. One of these artists was Saukrates; Big Soxx was the artist who made me want to take this shit serious.

His record “Hate Runs Deep” remains as one of my fave songs ever.

In 1997, he released an EP called Brick House, which featured verses from Chicago rhymer Common, Juice Crew alumni Masta Ace and “Time’s Up” rapper OC. While the rapper suffered label issues, he managed to release a proper debut LP in 1999 and reach a deal with Def Jam by way of GILLA House (owned by Redman) in 2000.

Redman is—and always has been—in my top 3. Seeing Soxx taken under Red’s wing, appearing alongside him on Much Music, and on the cover of Pound, was the most inspirational shit ever.

Made Me Wanna Do This Episode 1: Saukrates

Made Me Wanna Do This Episode 1: Saukrates

It made me feel like a Toronto artist could earn respect and a decent living for straight up rhyming his ass off—without selling his soul.

Soxx was plagued with setbacks but has still managed to release a super dope body of work, and his production work is also super commendable. If you haven’t given him a full listen, do it; also, if you’d like to get to know him better—check out my interview with him from a few years back.

Salute Big Soxx, an artist who made me wanna do this!

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