The 90’s hip-hop sound had a very specific sound/feel to it. It’s often duplicated, and many artists claim to be “bringing it back”…but it’s not that simple. The music we grew up on was driven less by money and overt commercial intervention. It was motivated by the love of the culture. The sound that artists are trying to duplicate is comprised of gritty MPC beats, record pops and above all bars – unadulterated street hip-hop. The kind of shit that you heard on warm summer nights on college radio shows across your respective nation.

Every once in a while I come across an artist that takes me there, and I consider it my constant duty as a “curator of the real” to bring them to your attention. Let me introduce you to East Koast – a Harlem rapper with a super interesting background in the industry. His roots run deep, like Dallas Austin deep (literally). His cousin is Mr. Malik from the famed 90s group Illegal, and he came up as a background figure in the game, helping in the development of some seminal tracks for the duo – and others. While living in Decatur with Illegal (Malik & Jamal) and the late Lisa Left-Eye Lopez, of the trio TLC, East Koast learned first hand about the ins and outs of the game. Yes, you read that last sentence correctly. Left Eye, as he (and others) describe, handled putting the duo (Illegal) together:

The Sound Of Experience: Meet East KoastLisa Lopez (R.I.P) had the idea to put them (Illegal) together once she had heard from Treach (Naughty By Nature) that Malik was as mature as he (Jamal) was. Malik was a spitter and had won all types of contests in South Carolina where our family is from. Long story short, Left Eye came and picked us up at the waffle house, and we lived in a duplex hotel room for about two weeks before we shopped for a home.  We finally moved into a five-room house with a garage. I stayed downstairs, and Malik’s room was right across from Left eye. 

Crazy right?

I’ve been jamming his latest project with Lewis Parker, MK Ultra (Operation Hypnosis), on repeat all day. It’s ten tracks long and features no filler, just straight up hip-hop – seemingly void of time markers. It features 16’s from the likes of El Da Sensei, John Robinson and Shabaam Sahdeeq (amongst others). What instantly drew me in was the uniqueness of his voice. His beat selection is perfect. His subject matter varies, and never comes off as forced or dated. Stand out joints for me were L.A to New York, Hustlin Junkie and Superior MC’s (with El and Shabaam).

When asked about his approach for the album, Eastkoast explained:

“The approach was rooted around (the concept of) mind control, and how every “top shelf” artist has no identity. We thought of society as a whole, and how slavery was swept under the rug – as if it never happened.”

In short, I loved this album … I’m intrigued by him as an artist, and I’ll continue to champion his music here. Be sure to follow East Koast on Twitter!