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Friday, February 13, 2009

Sounds From the Sub-Basement

Posted by Tariq al Haydar



by Tariq al Haydar

I'll never forget the first time I heard the Wu-Tang Clan's "Protect Ya Neck"; nine MCs flowing sequentially with no hook. It was, to use Wu terminology, raw. I don't think I'll ever feel that way about a song again. I guess it has something do with age.

I was tempted to vent about how nobody is making good hip-hop anymore, but I don't think that's true. Nas recently dropped an excellent album. OutKast make some noise every few years. For all his detractors, I like Kanye. Common. Kweli. Lupe Fiasco. Q-Tip's "Renaissance" is outstanding. And, of course, the aforementioned Wu are still relevant. It's just that a lot of the mainstream rappers who get all the exposure are, well, not very good. So I decided to share some of my favorite artists who will not win a Grammy any time soon. Enjoy:

- Jay Electronica:

You'd be hard pressed to find a rapper who puts more thought into his words than Jay Electronica. Subtle wordplay, allusion, and thematic complexity are all staples of Jay's work. He might go 32 bars with no hook or rap structurelessly over the score of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. He's a monster. Here's a sample:

"So standardized education in this situation is useful/ I mean useless/ Pardon the slippage/ The dead'll probably talk but the jargon is jibberish/Meanwhile, I'm off in the stars warring with Iblis/ You see them atoms (Adams) spinnin/ You see them waves shimmerin/ You see them wisdoms grinnin/ The masculine energy make em feel feminine/ I transform, they start assemblin."

Unfortunately, I've been having a hard time getting a hold of his songs. I lost one of my favorites, "I Feel Good".

- Kidz in the Hall:

This Chicago duo make you feel like it's still 1995. They have this feel-good quality to their work, and punchlines abound:

"She said she like how I take charge like Battier/ But I ain't ballin, baby/ I'm more like a coach/ I'll let you be the judge/ Just like I'm under oath/ And I'm a tell the truth, so help me God/ Let me get inside stuff like Ahmad Rashad"

- Jazz Liberatorz:

Jazz Lib are three French beatmakers: DJ Damage, Dusty, and Madhi. The one album I found, "Clin d'Oeil", is basically a collection of beats over which underground MCs flow. As their name indicates, they try to take hip-hop back to its roots. I wouldn't say their sound is a fusion between jazz and hip-hop. Rather, Jazz Lib bridge the gap between hip-hop and its musical lineage. The result is a laid-back concoction which has a vintage feel.

- Black Milk:

I don't know how to describe the beats on Black Milk's "Tronic". I want to say "electronic", but it's more organic than that. As for Black Milk as an MC, it's not that he isn't lyrically sharp, because he is (To wit: "Who's the best? Heavy like dumbbells on your arm/ I bury you broads by spitting barbarian bars"), but I'd say that Black Milk's greatest gift is the ability he has to manipulate his flow to fit odd beats. "Overdose", "Try" and "Losing Out" are standouts.

- Elzhi:

I love Elzhi for his sense of lyrical adventurousness. He's willing to try anything. "Colors" is a track structured around the use of, you guessed it, colors: "I think it's quite foul while/ I sip the GREY Goose and ORANGE juice/ And twist the WHITE Widow in a WHITE Owl/How first you're painting the town RED/Beneath the night skies/Now you going to trial/For telling little WHITE lies."

"Guessing Game" is pure genius. The "game" in question is a word game in which the listener is asked to guess how Elzhi is going to change the last word of each line:

Now we can really begin
Long as this beat keep the treats falling out of my pen-
(piƱ)-ata. Rather slow or faster it's disaster
I come flowing harder than a master-
(mastur)-bator. Now in the streets we a mess, try to test
We drop it, you stop, pop a two in your rest-
(resp)-tory system. They claim they the best
Hey, you ask me I say maybe they were OK, yes-
-terday."

Seeing the lyrics to "Guessing Game" written down doesn't do it justice.

So listen.

P.S.
This is the 100th post on SKO!

6 comments:

Moose said...

I had a similar experience with "Nuthin' But A 'G' Thang". I listen to SO much different music, though (check my profile for that in the music section).

Hursty said...

Tariq is single handedly holding down the SKO fort right now.
Happy 100th!

Moose said...

And, Eboy, whenever you show up . . . how'd you get your name in NOYZ this issue?

TADOne said...

Yes Riq is. This was good. I really do need to get on my grind and post something.

Tariq al Hayder said...

I need someone to pay me for writing. Then I can abandon my less active compadres!

Zee said...

Every album you posted is straight HEAT.