Review: Smoove is back with another of his magical conceptions. This is one of the most bold and adventurous projects he's ever undertaken on Wack Records and finds him layering up hundreds of samples taken from more than six full lengths by A Tribe Called Quest, and he's one of the best to ever do it. The result is a magnificent and mellifluous 7" that brims with soul, jazz, rich beats and vocal snippets that interplay so smoothly you'll be in awe. Both sides are alive and authentic and picking apart the pieces is all part of the fun.
Review: Before his tragic death in a car accident in 2010, beat-maker Nujabes was renowned as one of Japan's best exponents of hip-hop/jazz fusion. He released numerous albums in this style, with 2005's "Modal Soul" being widely accepted as the finest example. Here it gets the reissue treatment, remarkably appearing on vinyl for the very first time. Featuring some notable collaborations with both rappers and vocalists (see Terry Callier's re-recorded vocal on Nujabes' cover of his "Ordinary Joe"), the album blends both live and programmed beats (some hip-hop, others looser and jazzier) with impeccable jazz instrumentation, drowsy electronics, deep samples and more intricate musical touches than you can shake a stick at. In other words, it's a genuine fusion classic that has arguably long been overlooked.
Review: When it comes to delivering party-starting funk and soul 45s, Jorun Bombay has an impressive track record. His latest seven-inch is rather fine, too. On the A-side he joins forces with a trio of musicians to offer up "Peas In An Alternate Universe": a riff on JBs classic "Pass The Peas" that layers extended organ and trombone solos over a groove dominated by crunchy breakbeats and virtuoso bass guitar. Flipside "Mister Magic" is a deeper, warmer and more laidback affair, with tidy electric piano parts, toe-tapping drums, occasional string-laden disco samples and warm bass being joined by a simply wonderful new vibraphone solo.
Review: It's been almost 11 years since Featurecast dropped their heavyweight revision of Aretha Franklin's "One Step" on Wah Wah 45's "Dubplate" series. Here the sought-after side is finally given the reissue treatment. It remains one of their finest revisions: a loose, languid and head-nodding fusion of hip-hop beats, subtle dub skank, occasional Marvin Gaye samples and seduction sections from Aretha's sugary, string-drenched original. Over on side B you'll find another gem from Featurecast's vaults: a tidy hip-hop style revision of Marvin Gaye's "Too Busy Thinking About My Baby" from 2016, which was made in collaboration with Washington D.C pal The Gaff.
Review: Given that Gang Starr recently reformed and jazz is now all the rage, it seems fitting that Mr Bongo has decided to reissue the rare 7" version of the group's 1990 masterpiece "Jazz Thing". It's a wholehearted tribute to the greats of jazz - and the role jazz records have in hip-hop's sample culture - that comes in two distinctively different mixes. On the A-side you'll find the "Video Mix", a bouncy and suitably jazzy DJ Premier production that layers Guru's fine rap flows above loose-limbed drums, smoky horn samples and his own super-tight scratches. Turn to side B for the "Movie Mix" - so-called because it was created for a Spike Lee flick - where Guru's vocal rides improvised horns and an entirely different beat crafted from Kool & The Gang samples.
King Most - "Rhythm Rug" (My Favorite edit Ever) (3:29)
Altered Tapes - "Ego Drip" (Outta This Horn remix) (4:20)
Review: If hot-to-trot and heavyweight funk re-fixes are your thing, you should already be familiar with the work of Chicago-based Heat Rock Records. Their latest limited seven-inch delivers two must-check workouts. On the A you'll find the "Rhythm Rug" edit by San Francisco scalpel fiends King Most, a cut-and-paste concoction that peppers a sunny, hip-hop tempo good-time soul-funk groove with excerpts from the acapella version of rap classic "Can I Kick It?" Over on the flip, label regulars and Windy City heroes Altered Tapes provide something even wilder: a hot-stepping fusion of Afro-jazz horns, dancehall style drums and what sound like occasional Q-Tip vocal snippets.
Review: The first missive from the reissue-focused Throwdown imprint takes a deep dive into the bulging back catalogue of West Coast hip-hop legend Ice Cube. Side A offers us another chance to own 1992 hit "It Was A Good Day" a languid, sun-kissed Golden Era jam crafted from elements of a familiar slab of laidback jazz-funk. Over on side B you'll find 1999's "You Can Do It", another once high-profile single featuring additional verses and vocal contributions from Mack 10 and Ms Toi. For those who've forgotten it, the track is a punchier and heavy club cut that utilizes all three rappers' distinctive flows to ratchet up the intensity throughout.
Review: First released way back in 1999, Raphael Saadiq's Q-Tip-sporting "Get Involved" is a warm and woozy, retro-futurist chunk of soul/hip-hop fusion that harked back to an earlier musical age. It remains an arguably underappreciated dancefloor bomb and here gets the reissue treatment courtesy of the freshly lauched 45 Jams imprint. It comes backed by another stone cold classic from Q-Tip, "Vivrant Thing" - a cut first featured on the flipside of the Tribe Called Quest member's much more celebrated "Breathe Don't Stop" single. It's a little more stripped back than the A-side, with Q-Tip delivering his distinctive flows over a crunchy and fuzzy, Jay Dee produced backing track crafted from samples from an old funk record.
Review: Peak time dancefloor action with this 45 with the familiar classic b-boy sampling fodder coupled with an infectious r & b vocal club monster. It's never had a physical release till now. On the flip it's instrumental breaks galore for B-Boy/B-Girl back flips action from a sought after uk trio release now in handy 45 form with tuff breakbeats and smattering of electro vibe...Only 200 copies..
Review: The Atlanta based B Boy Breaks series continues with another drop of serious cuts to get beat jugglers, sample diggers and just straight up funk lovers going hog wild over the lashings of drum breaks. First up on the A side there's some widescreen, expansive beatdowns taking place with the massive "Show Me The Funk Breaks" - a fela esque sax screaching ,hammond organ swirling classic you already know from the many times it's been lifted for its treasured sonic ingredients. "Harder Breaks" on the flip is another monumental jam, presented here in instrumental form most recently used for the theme tune of a UK TV show . The evergreen groove is just crying out for someone with the skills to drop some serious turntablism all over this one.
Review: There's a reason that Massive Attack's Blue Lines frequently appears in "greatest albums" lists. To put it simply, it's brilliant, and arguably remains the Bristol-based outfit's finest work to date (though some would argue that the dark and paranoid Mezzanine is possibly better). As this weighty vinyl reissue proves, it's lost none of its hazy, dub-propelled trip-hop charm. All-time classics such as "Unfinished Sympathy", "Safe From Harm" and "Hymn of the Big Wheel" have lost none of their soulful, mood-enhancing brilliance, while lesser celebrated cuts such as "Five Man Army" and "Lately" still sound great despite their vintage.
Review: The second salvo on the Street Knowledge series of golden era hip-hop reissues comes from legendary East Coast twosome Gang Starr. It offers up a pair of much-loved 1990s club bangers: 1999's "Full Clip" and '92's "DWYCK". The former is a classic DJ Premier production: a toe-tapping, head-nodding bounce through rubbery beats, jazzy guitars and toasty bass topped off with the fine flows of the late MC Guru. "DWYCK" meanwhile is a more bass-heavy, floor-friendly affair, with Premier's on-point scratching complimenting Guru's vocal and the addictive weightiness of the groove. In other words, these are two golden era classics you definitely need in your life.
Foxy Brown - "Oh Yeah" (Featuring Spragga Benz) (4:12)
Review: The first volume in the Lickshot series serves up two almighty slabs of reggae and dancehall-influenced hip-hop from two of the biggest names in the game. On side A you'll find an edited version of Jay-Z's "Bam" from 2017 album "4:44", where the long-serving rapper trades verses with Damian Marley over a sparse beat and sampled reggae horns. Over on the flip dancehall vocalist Spragga Benz guests on Foxy Brown"Oh Yeah", a hybrid hip-hop/ragga workout . Like its' A-side companion, it's a weighty, club-ready rocker that should be in every hip-hop head's collection.
Review: Nearly five years after the first seven-inch appeared, the seventh volume in J Rocc's on-point "Funky President Edits" series lands. As with the tracks contained on previous volumes, the showcased cuts have long been staples in his DJ sets and should be considered "tried and tested bombs". First up on side A is "Flight #2", a shuffling, ear-pleasing affair that combines jangling elements from a semi-acoustic Afro-Soul cut with borrowed chorus vocals and languid, laidback percussion. "Greddy Foot", on the other hand, is a low-slung funk bomb -a slightly dubbed-out revision of a James Brown original with additional vocal samples from other Godfather of Soul workouts.
Review: The Altered Tapes crew's sneaky remixes are amongst the finest around, as this latest must-check "45" proves. "Cherchez" has been doing the rounds for a couple of years digitally, so it's great to see it finally land on wax. It's a flip of Ghostface Killah's "Cherchez La Ghost", with the venerable rapper's verses rising above a weighty backing track crafted from hand picked samples of classic funk jams. Weighty and floor-friendly, it's the kind of bootleg revision that's guaranteed to get the party started. "Cherchez La B-Boy" on the flip strips out most of his vocals and instead chooses to base the action around fat funk breakbeats and an even more sizable bassline.
How We Do The Show (Doc Flex & NMX Westside mix) (4:14)
Review: They make you wait 15 months for a new release, then put out two in the same few weeks. Dusty Donuts, now five years into their mission to serve up the biggest party breaks and funkiest funk, this time offer the low riding Cali g-funk of "I Get Juiced (Doc Flex & NMX Mix)" which will be familiar to anyone who has heard "I Get Lifted" by Gwen McCrae. The flip is even more smooth and seductive, with the boom-bap grooves and early r&b flow of "How We Do The Show (Westside Mix)" making it a superbly sweet set.
Review: To our ears, there are few greater golden era dancefloor hip-hop workouts than Main Source's "Looking At The Front Door", a stone-cold classic that remains a much-played anthem decades after it was originally released. Here the 1990 jam gets the reissue treatment. It's available in both vocal and instrumental versions, with both sides doing a great job in showcasing the duo's killer beat - a fine mixture of crunchy drums, woozy electric piano chords, scratched-in samples and toasty bass. Naturally it's the vocal version that we'd reach for more often than not - the trio's flows are particularly good on 'Looking At The Front Door' - but the instrumental is nevertheless a useful tool to have at your disposal.
Review: First featured on Nas' peerless 1994 album "Illmatic" - a classic that really should be in your collection - "The World Is Yours" is a classic Pete Rock production that has never appeared on a seven-inch single before. Mr Bongo has decided to set the record straight, pairing the album version, which includes some of Nas' most potent lyrics, delivered in fine style as you'd expect, with an instrumental take that showcases Pete Rock's brilliant beat and tight, on-point scratches. It's a deliciously baggy beat all told, with sampled pianos and subtle jazz lifts combining cannily to create a suitably laidback, golden-era groove.
Gotta Work The Funk Breaks (instrumental Breaks version) (3:14)
Review: Super limited colour wax issue with a 45 on a relatively new Stateside label that does what it says on the tin. Big drum breaks that work in their own right in instrumental form for these two massive dancefloor funk breaks soul classics with the debut release for both tracks in a single 7" vinyl format (albeit here in a small run on white wax). Heavy on the drums, heavy on the brass with driving instrumentation to take your dancefloor to B-Boy moves heaven.
Review: It may have been released digitally six months ago, but Kanye West's "Jesus Is King" album - his 12th solo set in total - has finally made it on to vinyl. By now, most will have already heard it, but for the uninitiated "Jesus Is King" sees West meditating on Christianity, offering up a tight 27-minute set of tracks that draw influence from (or explicitly sample) gospel music in all its forms. It's still a hip-hop album of course, it's just that the beats, musical choices (gospel choirs, loops from killer records by gospel soul act The Whole Truth etc) and lyrics are closer to the black American gospel tradition than anything West has released before.
Review: There is nothing subtle about these mash ups. They are big tunes to blast mud from any sealer you can get your hands on. Block party starting rip snorters, each one draws on a wealth of hip hop standards from Slick Rick to Notorious BIG. Audacious, shabby hitting and full flavour, they are restless and energetic edits designed for nothing other than dance floor destruction. "Love Be Faithful" kicks off with big beats and flutes, iconic vocals and more, while "How We Rumpshake" is a slicker rap jam turned low riding bumper.
Review: This mini-album marks a shift in emphasis for Lustwerk Music, with boss Galcher Lustwerk choosing to showcase the work of another producer for the first time. He's apparently been nurturing Florida-based Quavius for some time, encouraging the young producer to "experiment more" while following his instincts. It seems to have worked, because the majority of music on this debut release is top notch. It covers a lot of ground, with the A-side alone moving between R&B-inspired hip-house ("Love The Way"), hip-hop ("Magic Man"), woozy electronica ("R 'n' V") and spacey deep house ("Composure"). There's naturally plenty more to enjoy on the flipside, too, from the old school deep hip-hop bump of "M 320", to the crunk-tinged, cut-up goodness of closer "Can I Be".
Keep Rising All Night Long (Sunday Service mix) (6:19)
Review: GAMM has been a treasure trove of edits, golden old soul and forgotten funk gems for an eternity and they come correct again with this monstrous dance floor dynamite on a loud, one-sided vinyl pressing: Ukokos & Jabco's hip hop and gospel styled rework of the world renowned clip of Kanye West's Sunday Service band doing a live cover of "Keep Rising". A majestic, triumphant and real floor filling, crowd pleasing bomb that will bring everyone together for many years to come.
Review: Tyler, the Creator's fifth studio album was produced entirely by the Californian artist himself, but it does feature guests like Solange, Playboi Carti, Kanye West and Lil Uzi Vert. It immediately debuted at number one and it's easy to see why. Rich with a complex fusion of funk, rap and r&b that glides on Cali-synths and neo soul melodies, the whole thing is tethered to the ground with a hefty low end and follows the narrative of a love triangle as told by American comedian Jerrod Carmichael. Arguably his best work to date, the production is next level and storytelling wholly involving.
Review: Fresh from the release of his tribute to hip-hop culture's dancefloor roots, the essential "Disco Rap" single, DJ Moar returns to familiar territory with a guest-packed album of boom-bap beats, blink-and-you-miss-them skits, and deliciously deep rap songs. Moar's backing tracks ripple with warm and woozy instrumental flourishes and jazzy samples, while the accompanying raps, from MCs including Napoleon Da Legend, Dirt Platoon, Sadat X and LS Brigandes, are on-point and entertaining. Such is the all-round quality, in fact, that it sounds like a long-lost set from hip-hop's golden age.
Review: There can be few hip-hop heads who don't know Eric B & Rakim's "I Know You Got Soul", a Bobby Byrd and Funkadelic-sampling beast from 1987 that remains one of rap's most recognizable moments. The rap from Rakim is iconic, but it's the Eric B beat behind - all loose-but-heavy, snare-heavy beats, recognizable guitar licks and chorus-style blasts of Bobby Byrd vocals- that makes the track such a club-ready hip-hop classic. Here it gets the reissue treatment on "45" courtesy of Mr Bongo, with the duo's brilliant vocal version being joined on the flip by the overlooked, delay-laden "Dub Mix". For those who covet alternate versions of classic cuts, this instrumental revision is a must.
Review: Following their launch with Jay Airiness in May, super-limited French edit imprint return with two more juiced up feel-gooders. This time fellow Frenchman MOAR takes the lead with two untitled hip-hop edits of the funkiest order. "B" takes us for a run up Sugarhill on a groove made of salubrious sub bass, dubby horns and vocal clips while "BB" takes Nas into pure electro boogie territory with incredible results. Genuine edit magic... Feel the Loves.
Review: Originally issued back in 1998, Mezzanine remains the most commercially successful album released by Bristol troupe Massive Attack, thanks in no small part to the Liz Fraser-featuring "Teardrop". This third album signalled a change in sonic direction that played more explicitly on the darkness and tension that was always an undercurrent of their much loved debut Blue Lines and successor Protection. After numerous bootlegs over the years, Virgin have done the right thing and presented this official reissue of Mezzanine to appease fans of Massive Attack and it's clear the LP has lost none of it's bewitching power. The Quincy Jones and Isaac Hayes sampling "Exhange" and "Exchange" remain a delight in particular.
Review: Mr Bongo's Eric B & Rakim reissue series continues via a fresh pressing of the hard-to-find U.S seven-inch single release of the NYC duo's second single, 1987 gem "I Ain't No Joke". Rakim's distinctive vocals naturally take centre stage on side A, albeit over a sparse-but-strong Eric B beat high on the kind of crunchy drums, headline-grabbing scratches and sampled horn motifs that marked out the duo's best collaborative work. As with the original American single, the B-side boasts "Eric B On The Cut", a quality cut-and-paste affair in the style of Grandmaster Flash's "On The Wheels Of Steel" that's little more than a highly impressive DJ routine.
Review: For those whose Californian hip-hop collection is missing a few gems, the West Coast Classics series should be a must-check. The latest edition in the series of the light-touch "45 Edits" by Ronnie Frazzle serves up two more essential cuts from the peerless Dr Dre and lesser-celebrated Death Row Records signee The Lady of Rage. Side A boasts the superb "Nuthin' But A G Thing" from Dre's iconic 1992 album "The Chronic", in which the main man and Snoop Dogg trade verses over a typically on-point G-funk style beat. The Lady of Rage's 1994 jam "Afro Puffs" is a darker, sleazier and tougher affair, with the Virginia-raised rapper's distinctive flow rising above punchy beats, creepy chords and a filthy analogue bassline.
Review: Some fans argue that "It Ain't Hard To Tell" is the best production on Nas' legendary "Illmatic" album. Large Professor certainly did his job in making it pop: the beat is killer, and the whole thing is driven by a Michael Jackson sample of "Human Nature". As if that weren't enough, samples from Stanley Clarke and Mountain are layered in to perfection and the smooth, sweet rolling beat draws you in over and over and Nas' creamy delivery finishes it in style. Flip over for the instrumental and bask in the glow of it all. Classic.
Review: Second time around for London singer/songwriter/beat-maker Tom Misch's debut album "Beat Tape 1", a set appearing on vinyl for the first time some six years after the digital download version appeared online. It's well worth your attention, in part because Misch's blend of crispy hip-hop beats, warm and sun-kissed instrumentation (think Rhodes, gentle jazz guitar, boogie bass, toasty bass, and woozy backing vocals) is both highly entertaining and uniformly on-point. Those who study instrumental hip-hop will spot subtle nods towards some of the sound's greatest beat-makers - Dilla, DJ Cam, Mitsu The Beats, Guru etc - but Misch's sound is undeniably his own. A previously overlooked underground classic.
Review: Although they've been dropping gems digitally for the best part of five years, the Heat Rock Records crew only recently upgraded to vinyl. This is the cheeky rework collective's third "45" and the good news is that it's every bit as heavy and club-ready as its predecessors. Pickster and DJ Melo handle side A with "Saturdays (110 Edit)", a head-nodding, mid-tempo roller that layers snippets from classic Mighty Ryeders and De La Soul cuts over a chunky, disco style 4/4 beat. Label mainstays Altered Tapes take over on the flip and serve up the chunky hip-hop/soul/jazz fusion warmth of "It's Like Butter". It's not quite as instantly arresting as the A-side, but it's every bit as good.
Review: Kid Frost's "Terminator" might well have turned 35 this year, but it still sounds fresh and from the future. Often spoken about as a perfect track by real electro heads. It has sleek bassline sounds, a slick DMX beat and flawless Oberheim synth-pads all finished off with a self-built vocoder vocal. Kid Frost's MC work here is as good as any you will hear and helps this tight title track stand head and shoulders above many others. Flip-side "Rough Cut" is just as essential. This tidy 7" is limited so grab one before it's gone.
Review: By the time they headed into the studio to record Protection, Massive Attack were still riding high on the success of their peerless debut album, Blue Lines. While the resultant set, released in 1994, does quite hit the same dizzying heights, it remains a thoroughly great album. Of course, we all know the highlights by heart - the stoned bounce of "Karmacoma", evocative downtempo bliss of Tracey Thorn hook-up "Protection", string-drenched lusciousness of "Sly", and the gentle dub-house soul of the Horace Andy-voiced "Spying Glass", for example - but even the forgotten album cuts (see "Weather Storm" and "Better Things") have aged remarkably well. If you don't own a copy on vinyl already, you definitely should.
Vex Oh (feat Goldlink, Eight9fly & Ari Pensmith) (2:42)
Scared To Death (2:33)
Freefall (feat Durand Bernarr) (3:05)
Culture (feat Teedra Moses) (4:08)
The Worst In Me (feat Tinashe) (3:48)
September 21 (1:57)
Midsection (feat Pharrell Williams) (4:44)
Review: Canadian Kaytranda's second album from late 2019 was defined by its exceptional collaborations and high class sound. Iman Omari, Mick Jenkins, Estelle and many more contribute to what is a gloriously fun, accessible album that is all about making you dance. Snapping beats ride over bumping bass on "Taste", "10%" with Kali Uchis has three different betas going on and a cameo from Estelle on "Oh No" is first class. The whole record is sequinned lie a Dj set, with appropriate ups and downs, thrill and spills, all keeping you locked. party starting yet meaningful, Bubba is coherent record full of charm.
Review: Quavius finally follows up on his self-titled debut LP for Lustwerk Music three years later, and it's worth the wait. As you'd expect of an artist snapped up by the close-knit crew Galcher Lustwerk orbits, there's a hazy, dreamlike mood lingering over all the tracks on "Find Ready", but there's plenty of variety taking place within that context. "Heaven Is In You" is as peppy as it is spaced out, while "Let It Rock" lays down a melancholic synth twist on trap. There's spacey acid, dusty, mechanical house and plenty more besides. Fun, varied and drawing on an angle that's all his own, Quavius has more than delivered on the promise of his first record.
Review: To celebrate the dawn of a new decade, Bristolian cut-and-paste maestro Boca 45 has decided to serve up a series of seven-inch singles under a new label, 2020 Donuts (his previous imprint was just called Donuts). A-side "Powerful" is a real treat: an inventive chunk of low-slung, horn-sporting spy-funk goodness topped off with wayward electronic flourishes and a powerful soul vocal by Hannah Williams. Flip-side "Sparky Evans" is a sample-heavy club rocker in the traditional Boca 45 style - all heavy bass, even heavier breakbeats, Sly and the Family Stone style fuck-rock guitars and hip-hop vocal snippets.
Review: When rapper and multi-instrumentalist Mac Miller died of an accidental overdose in 2018, he left behind an unfinished two-part album project: "Swimming" (released last year) and "Circles", which has now landed on wax after getting a digital release earlier in 2020. It's a musically diverse and mostly introspective affair, with Miller shuffling between styles wearily and switching roles (singer-songwriter, rapper, multi-instrumentalist, beat-maker) seemingly at will. While such role hopping could have resulted in a sonic mess, the set sounds surprisingly coherent, not least because the thread running through it all is Miller's painful soul searching and well documented mental health issues. As a posthumous full stop to a life ended all too soon, "Circles" certainly hits home hard.
Review: If pure party-starting pleasure is your thing, you'll find plenty of instant gratification within the bulging catalogue of Bristol boys The Allergies. Alternatively, you could start with the pair's new seven-inch single, which boasts two steaming summer anthems in the making. Their old pals the Cuban Boys guest on A-side "Let Them Know", adding their distinctive rapped and sung vocals to a hip-swinging mambo-influenced backing track full to bursting with Cuban rhythms, jaunty guitar licks and barrio horns. Over on the flip, regular collaborator Andy Cooper raps his way through a fiery funk-rock-meets hip-hop bomb that will have hands shooting skywards faster than you can say, "Mine's a Tequila shooter!"