December 28, 2020

9th Wonder & Buckshot - Chemistry (2005)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: DDM-CD-2012

© 2005 Duck Down Music Ltd.
espite all the campaigning done on 9th Wonder's behalf (slow down already, ?uestlove), the North Carolinian's most successful efforts have been in rallying to the cause of MC's bleeding on the cot. After his group Little Brother's decent debut, The Listening, 9th pre-empted Dangermouse's ballyhooed Grey Album by rethinking Nas' God's Son as Illmatic's reprise, an achievement which bought him studio time with Nas nemesis Jay-Z on The Black Album. Convolution is a wonderful thing-- his Hovi track, not so much. Following his work with rap's fave retiree, 9th spun an album of breezy takes on Left Coast G-funk on Murs' 3:16. Now, he's teamed with the oft-forgotten Buckshot of Black Moon/Boot Camp Clik for an album that breathes life, yet again, into the mid-90s NYC sound. Here, as opposed to some 22-year-olds nostalgia jacking, it's fitting, as Chemistry blends 9th's backward-glancing production and Buck's timeless street talk to results that find both pushing the outer limits of their natural abilities.

Chemistry's biggest surprise is Buckshot's energy. It's been a rough road for the BDI MC, and he's starving here, taking large bites out of the new guard. For instance, "Everybody got a label or a mixtape/ Saying you gettin' money/ But next week, it's back to your shift and break/ 'Til your back shift and break." Spoken like a man who's been touted as the Next Man but realized he isn't.

Buckshot still stretches his syllables like a rubber band, letting the ends of lines snap with the beat. The sing-toast style that is the calling card of Boot Camp's finest merges nicely with 9th Wonder's rolling bass, swooning string samples, and stop/start drum programming. Buckshot's decision to partner with 9th says as much about his self-awareness as his business acumen, linking up with the one producer in his price range that can recreate the Beatminerz/Large Professor/Premier aura of Buck's heyday. Working with new blood with old ideas has Buck feeling his fighting legs again; Buckshot's soft talk/big stick approach always has and always will sound best in front of a string section and pulled taffy basslines. Put him up with some synthed-out thugtronics and his allure would be lost amongst the clamor. Apparently written on the fly after hearing 9th's tracks for Boot Camp alum Sean Price's album, Buck's rhymes are a reminder of the verbal wizardry that had him mentioned alongside Nas, Big, and the Wu fellows once upon a time. His voice has always been a simmering fire, a gravelly, almost whispering menace certainly inspired by some Rakim mirror mugging.

Albums like Chemistry are written off by a lot of people who don't get down with its retro leanings-- and it certainly doesn't help that 9th Wonder is only a serviceable replacement for those with whom he's compared. His sample selection is tasteful, but someone needs to buy my man some drums. It's a simple question of technique. His predecessors-- Pete Rock, Primo, Large Professor via Paul C (Google "Dave Tompkins Paul C"), and even Boot Camp's own Da Beatminerz-- all chopped sampled drums, and the results were full, thick slabs of marbled beats. 9th programs his own, and they are hollow and processed. But, that's how it goes when a snare can be traced and tapped for royalty payments.

Thankfully, Buckshot doesn't seem to care he's rhyming over a facsimile of the salad days. He's thrilled to be back in the game, even if it's one he can't necessarily win.

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tags: 9th wonder and buckshot, chemistry, 2005, flac,

9th Wonder & Buckshot - The Solution (2012)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: DDM CD 2175

© 2012 Duck Down Music Inc.
After working out their Chemistry on their collaborative 2005 release and offering The Formula on their 2008 return, rapper Buckshot and producer 9th Wonder reunite and offer The Solution on this 2012 release. If you're a whack rapper who's hung up on getting paid, then the solution this duo pushes forward is "Stop Rapping," a key cut that features the choice line "Everything ain't for everyone kid, stop rap." Throughout the album, Buckshot drives his truckload of disgust toward the current state of hip-hop, pining for the days of Black Sheep and Pete Rock, but unlike his like-minded competition, the rapper leads by example rather than just speaking ill of the current crop. 9th Wonder's beats are a perfect complement for this with their usual vintage soul and fine, not flashy, hooks, but he's adaptable as well and puts a slow, dense ball of chaos under Buckshot during the simmering "What I Gotta Say." Grab this one, along with The Final Adventure with Murs, and you've got 9th Wonder's awesome 2012 collaboration set, or just grab it because you're sad the Lyricist Lounge is closed, Rawkus Records is gone, and true hip-hop is hard to find. The nostalgia and artistry will take you back and warm your Coogi-covered heart

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tags: 9th wonder and buckshot, the solution, 2012, flac,

9th Wonder & Buckshot - The Formula (2008) ☠

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: DDM-CD-2070
.FLAC via Mega (Link)
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 2008 Duck Down Music Ltd.
AllMusic Review by Clayton Purdom
The consistent high quality of 9th Wonder's beats is the sort of constant blessing that looks better from afar, or, taking cues from Jay-Z and Erykah Badu, as a sanguine respite from other producers' ideas. Front to back, though, an album of his lushly proficient work can be underwhelming. On The Formula he sounds best at his most sedate, as on "Only for You (Lou)," which drapes a lilting vocal sample over loose keyboard stilts. An album of such exquisite downtempo hip-hop might be something to behold. But even a pillow fight should thwack sometimes, and the 13 tracks here largely refuse to do so, nor do they bounce, bump, nod, shake, or even doze off blunted. "Hold It Down," for example, features typically dexterous but blithe Talib Kweli verses and a whole lot of aimless crooning, neither terribly meaningful nor matched to the other. 9th Wonder seems caught between hip-hop and R&B, unable to commit to either. For his part, Buckshot keeps an affable pace, but topically and tonally he strives to be little more than accompaniment to the beats; his rhymes are so soft-hearted that the harshest diss he gets in to his nebulous haters is "some of your LPs stand for long punishment." The same could not be the said for this entirely listenable affair, but little more could be said for it either.

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tags: 9th wonder and buckshot, the formula, 2008, flac,

December 26, 2020

3 Steps From Nowhere - 30° Below Funk (1993) (Reissue)

*Reissued in 1995 by So-Lo Jam Records
This reissue is contains the same track listing, track total, 
label number and audio mastering as the original 1993 release. 
Contains 13 tracks total.

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: 8117

© 1993-1995 So-Lo Jam Records
*No professional reviews are available for this release.

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tags: 3 steps from nowhere, 30 below funk, 30 degrees, 1993, 1995, flac,

December 25, 2020

2Pac - 2Pacalypse Now (1991)

*U.S. first pressing. 
Contains 13 tracks total.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Conscious Rap, Gangsta Rap
Label Number: 7 91767-2

© 1991 Interscope Records
When 2Pac's full-length debut, 2Pacalypse Now, came out in 1991, it didn't have the same immediate impact, didn't instantly throw him into the upper echelons of rap's elite, as Nas', Jay-Z's, or even his biggest rival, Notorious B.I.G.'s did, but the album certainly set him up for his illustrious and sadly short-lived career. Part of its initial problem, what held it back from extensive radio play, is that there's not an obvious single. The closest thing to it, and what ended up being the best-known track from 2Pacalypse Now, is "Brenda's Got a Baby," which discusses teenage pregnancy in true Pac fashion, sympathetically explaining a situation without condoning it, but it doesn't even have a hook, and most of the other pieces follow suit, more poetry than song. The album is significantly more political than the rapper's subsequent releases, showing an intelligent, talented, and angry young man (he was only 20 when it came out) who wanted desperately to express and reveal the problems in the urban black community, from racism to police brutality to the seemingly near impossibility of escaping from the ghetto. He pays tribute to artists like KRS-One, N.W.A, and Public Enemy, all of whom he also considered to be provoking discussion and reaction, but he also has cleanly carved out an image for himself: articulate and smart, not overtly boastful, and concerned about societal problems, both small and large (and though he discusses these less and less as career progresses, he never leaves them behind). Yes, the edges of 2Pacalypse Now can be a bit rough, yes the beats aren't always outstanding, and yes, the MC's flow can be a little choppy, even for him, but it's still a great look at what 2Pac could offer, and a must-have for any fan of his, or hip-hop in general.

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tags: 2pac, 2pacalypse now, 1991, flac,

2Pac - Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z... (1993)

*U.S. first pressing. 
Contains 16 tracks total.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Conscious Rap, Gangsta Rap
Label Number: 7 92209-2

© 1993 Interscope Records
On 2Pac's debut album, 2Pacalypse Now, the rapper showed himself to be a supremely passionate man, brimming over with ideas and anger and ready to voice his political and social opinions, call things like he saw them. This same kind of energy and lyrical acumen is found on his sophomore release, Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z., a record that, while it begins exploring the MC's more gangsta side ("Last Wordz," for example, which features verses from Ice Cube and Ice-T), still includes the provocative, reflective lines on which he first made his name as a solo artist, and which he continued even as he became more and more popular (and, for some, more and more frightening). "Keep Ya Head Up," one of his biggest hits, and his tribute to black women, especially single mothers, is deeply thoughtful and poignant ("And since we all came from a woman, got our name from a woman, and our game from a woman/I wonder why we take from our women, why we rape our women, do we hate our women?"), expressing opinions that aren't often equated with hardcore rappers, while tracks like "I Get Around" brags about his sexual conquests. But this was what 2Pac was, anyway, a juxtaposition between tough and sensitive, social consciousness and misogynistic boasting, and Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. shows this. The angry protest songs calling out police and politicians, reminiscent of Public Enemy -- and with Bomb Squad-esque beats to boot (albeit a lesser version of) -- the screw-the-world mentality, the soft introspection, the preaching-but-not-proselytizing, and the party anthems are all here, and though the production sometimes suffers, especially in the middle of the album, where it's utterly forgettable, the record shows a continually developing MC, with increasingly complex lyrical themes, well on his way to becoming nearly unstoppable.

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tags: 2pac, strictly 4 my niggaz, for my niggas, 1993, flac,

2Pac - Me Against The World (1995) ☠

*Re-released in 1998 by Amaru/Jive Records
This pressing is identical to the original 1995 pressing in 
terms of track total and audio mastering. 
Contains 15 tracks total.

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Consious Rap, Gangsta Rap, G-Funk
Label Number: 01241-41636-2

© 1995-1998 Amaru/Jive Records
Recorded following his near-fatal shooting in New York, and released while he was in prison, Me Against the World is the point where 2Pac really became a legendary figure. Having stared death in the face and survived, he was a changed man on record, displaying a new confessional bent and a consistent emotional depth. By and large, this isn't the sort of material that made him a gangsta icon; this is 2Pac the soul-baring artist, the foundation of the immense respect he commanded in the hip-hop community. It's his most thematically consistent, least-self-contradicting work, full of genuine reflection about how he's gotten where he is -- and dread of the consequences. Even the more combative tracks ("Me Against the World," "Fuck the World") acknowledge the high-risk life he's living, and pause to wonder how things ever went this far. He battles occasional self-loathing, is haunted by the friends he's already lost to violence, and can't escape the desperate paranoia that his own death isn't far in the future. These tracks -- most notably "So Many Tears," "Lord Knows," and "Death Around the Corner" -- are all the more powerful in hindsight with the chilling knowledge that he was right. Even romance takes on a new meaning as an escape from the hellish pressure of everyday life ("Temptations," "Can U Get Away"), and when that's not available, getting high or drunk is almost a necessity. He longs for the innocence of childhood ("Young Niggaz," "Old School"), and remembers how quickly it disappeared, yet he still pays loving, clear-eyed tribute to his drug-addicted mother on the touching "Dear Mama." Overall, Me Against the World paints a bleak, nihilistic picture, but there's such an honest, self-revealing quality to it that it can't help conveying a certain hope simply through its humanity. It's the best place to go to understand why 2Pac is so revered; it may not be his definitive album, but it just might be his best.

* Due to past abuse, comments for the Hip-Hop have been disabled. 


tags: 2pac, me against the world, 1995, 1998, flac,

2Pac - The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory (1996)

*U.S. first pressing. 
Contains 12 tracks total. 
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Gangsta Rap
Label Number: INTD-90039

© 1996 Death Row/Interscope Records
Everything about The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory smacks of exploitation. Released only eight weeks after Tupac Shakur died from gunshot wounds, Death Row released this posthumous album under the name of Makaveli, a pseudonym derived from the Italian politician Niccolo Machiavelli, who faked his own death and reappeared seven days later to take revenge on his enemies. Naturally, the appearance of Don Killuminati so shortly after Tupac's death led many conspiracy theorists to surmise the rapper was still alive, but it was all part of a calculated marketing strategy by Death Row -- the label needed something to sustain interest in the album, since the music here is so shoddy. All Eyez on Me proved that Tupac was continuing to grow as a musician and a human being, but Don Killuminati erases that image by concentrating on nothing but tired G-funk beats and back-biting East Coast/West Coast rivalries. Tupac himself sounds uninterested in the music, which makes the conventional, unimaginative music all the more listless. If he had survived to complete Don Killuminati, it is possible that the record could have become something worthwhile, but the overall quality of the material suggests that the album would have been a disappointment no matter what circumstances it appeared under.

* Due to past abuse, comments for the Hip-Hop have been disabled. 


tags: 2pac, the don killuminati, the 7 day theory, seven, 1996, flac,

2Pac - All Eyez On Me (1996)

*U.S. first pressing.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Gangsta Rap, Pop Rap
Label Number: 314-524 204-2
             *****

© 1996 Death Row/Interscope Records
Maybe it was his time in prison, or maybe it was simply his signing with Suge Knight's Death Row label. Whatever the case, 2Pac re-emerged hardened and hungry with All Eyez on Me, the first double-disc album of original material in hip-hop history. With all the controversy surrounding him, 2Pac seemingly wanted to throw down a monumental epic whose sheer scope would make it an achievement of itself. But more than that, it's also an unabashed embrace of the gangsta lifestyle, backing off the sober self-recognition of Me Against the World. Sure, there are a few reflective numbers and dead-homiez tributes, but they're much more romanticized this time around. All Eyez on Me is 2Pac the thug icon in all his brazen excess, throwing off all self-control and letting it all hang out -- even if some of it would have been better kept to himself. In that sense, it's an accurate depiction of what made him such a volatile and compelling personality, despite some undeniable filler. On the plus side, this is easily the best production he's ever had on record, handled mostly by Johnny J (notably on the smash "How Do U Want It") and Dat Nigga Daz; Dr. Dre also contributes another surefire single in "California Love" (which, unfortunately, is present only as a remix, not the original hit version). Both hits are on the front-loaded first disc, which would be a gangsta classic in itself; other highlights include the anthemic Snoop Dogg duet "2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted," "All About U" (with the required Nate Dogg-sung hook), and "I Ain't Mad at Cha," a tribute to old friends who've gotten off the streets. Despite some good moments, the second disc is slowed by filler and countless guest appearances, plus a few too many thug-lovin' divas crooning their loyalty. Erratic though it may be, All Eyez on Me is nonetheless carried off with the assurance of a legend in his own time, and it stands as 2Pac's magnum opus.

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tags: 2pac, all eyez on me, eyes, 1996, flac,