Tag Archives: Warner Music Group

Saafir – Boxcar Sessions

Saafir
Boxcar Sessions
May 10, 1994
Qwest Records/ Reprise Records/ Warner Bros. RecordsWMG
053/100
Saafir - Boxcar Sessions - Front (1)
1. Grap the Train // 2. Swig of the stew // 3. Poke Martian (feat. Poke Martian) // 4. Playa Hata // 5. Pee Wee // 6. Battle Drill // 7. Westside (feat. King Saan) // 8. Worship the D // 9. Light Sleeper // 10. Rashinel (feat. Rashinel) // 11. Can-U-Feel-Me? // 12. No Return (Goin’ Crazy) // 13. Big Nose (feat. Big Nose) // 14. Just Riden // 15. Hype Shit // 16. Real Circus // 17. Bent // 18. The Instructor // 19. Joint Custody

Well that was unexpectedly boring. Saafir, a Digital Underground associate and an Oakland CA native, released his solo debut Boxcar Sessions in early 1994. It apparently has a cult status of sorts. This album is a combination of his own battle rhymes and awkward flow with mostly dusty, shuffling jazz drums, booming basslines, scratching and very little more in the way of melody. Every song on it sounds the same to such an extent that I literally can’t remember a single one of them for positive reasons, and I’ve just listened to this album three times. I’m a well-documented fan of all of Digital Underground’s projects so far but both the vocal side and the instrumental side of this album are underwhelming and pretentious, both of which could’ve been helped by adding some Shock G. Where the fuck is he at?

I would wonder why 2pac decided not to show up on this album but I can’t think of anything on here that he would sound appropriate over. There are many criticisms one can throw in 2pac’s direction but boring he was not.

This album was released on Qwest records which means Quincy Jones inked him a deal. Maybe Q doesn’t actually care about rap music and his only demands of the genre are for it to not interfere with his afternoon nap, in which case Boxcar Sessions achieves its goal nicely. Don’t pay too much attention to the lyrics either because when I finally forced myself to do so something apparently called Worship the Dick was on.

Boxcar Sessions is simply not very interesting and besides that, at nineteen tracks there’s much too much of it. Reviewing it however isn’t difficult, so at least it has that going for that, which is nice.

Best track
Worship the Dick

Recommendations
What do you think?


Al B. Sure! – In Effect Mode

Al B. Sure!
In Effect Mode
Uptown Records/ Warner Bros. RecordsWMG
May 3, 1988
080/100
Al B. Sure! - In Effect Mode
1. Nite and Day // 2. Oooh, This Love Is So // 3. Killing Me Softly // 4. Naturally Mine // 5. Rescue Me // 6. Off on Your Own (Girl) // 7. If I’m Not Your Lover // 8. Just a Taste of Lovin’ // 9. Noche y Dia

I wonder if it today still would be possible for an R&B singer to be on the cover of his major label album with his unabrow fully intact (not to mention that peach fuzz on his upper lip) and sell records. I guess that grooming habits have changed for men as well as women since 1988.

Al B. Sure! was the second act to release an album on Andre Harrell’s Uptown Records after making his debut appearances on Heavy D’s Living Large… in the prior year. Apparently he got his break in the music industry performing at a talent show organised by Sony Music Entertainment in 1987 where he was picked the winner by music industry legend Quincy Jones. How he went from Sony to MCA-distributed Uptown records, and then had his albums distributed through random, unaffiliated Warner Bros. is unknown to me but that is what happened.

New Jack Swing inventor Teddy Riley was supposed to produce the album wall-to-wall but after finishing two songs with Al he got called away to supply his beats to Keith Sweat’s Make It Last Forever in stead (presumably to cash a bigger cheque). The two songs he did produce were If I’m Not Your Lover and You Can Call Me Crazy. The latter didn’t make the cut of In Effect Mode but was transplanted to the 1988 epinomous debut album of Teddy Riley’s group Guy with Timmy Gatling on vocals. The same Timmy Gatling who left the group right after the first album was released. Oh the music industry trivia.
After Teddy left Al B. decided to produce the album himself with assists by his cousin Kyle West, which turnt out a fortunate turn of events since the instrumentals these two created were actually a little different from Riley’s. Sure! and West infuse their New Jack Swing quiet storm with quirky soft rock guitar riffs, percolating synths and groovy synth funk basslines, which helped Sure! create a niche of his own in the budding New Jack Swing movement. Keith Sweat was the soul man, Bobby Brown would be the bad boy, Teddy Riley was the svengali and Al B. Sure! was the romantic soft-rocker.

Nite and Day is about as graceful as an R&B ballad can get with Al’s floaty falsetto riding the atmospheric instrumental and the lyrics about ‘making love in the rain’ and ‘feeling so deep it comes within’. It is the perfect soundtrack to a romantic daydream. Actually that description fit the entirety of In Effect Mode. It’s a dreamy exercise in romanticism that’s so high above the clouds that even the earnestness of it all can’t weigh it down. Wow.
Off On Your Own (Girl) has the sort of tumbling groove you could lounge equally well to as you could dance to it and its pleading subject matter is something that’s easily relatable and Sure! turns out to do uptempo numbers just as well as he does his signature balladry.
Oooh this Love Is So manages to make something seductive out of fingersnaps, keyboards and not much more and is probably the best showcase of Sure!’s voice on this album.
The worst of the lot on here is probably the ‘hard’ sounding numbers If I’m Not Your Lover and Just a Taste of Your Lovin’ tacked on at the end, and even those are fairly decent. It’s just easy to imagine Bobby Brown doing a slightly better job at performing them. But they do contribute to the album in creating more variety.

The rest of these songs are pretty cool too. Besides a Spanish language version of Nite and Day there isn’t any filler on here and like Make It Last Forever its length of only eight tracks is a prime example of ‘less is more’, one many of today’s artists could learn a thing or two from.

In Effect Mode is a terrific R&B album. It’s got this veneer of old school romantic class over it, as though it is willing to wait until the second date to get into your pants (if you are capable of restraining yourself, that is) with a slight hint of hip-hop swagger. Also it’s short, which with albums is never a bad thing.

Best tracks
Nite and Day
Oooh This Love Is So
Off On Your Own (Girl)

Recommendations
Buy this album.


Keith Sweat – Make It Last Forever

Keith Sweat
Make It Last Forever
November 24, 1987
Vintertainment/ Elektra RecordsWMG
080/100
Keith Sweat - Make It Last Forever
1. Something Just Ain’t Right // 2. Right and a Wrong Way // 3. Tell Me It’s Me You Want // 4. I Want Her // 5. Make It Last Forever (feat. Jacci McGhee) // 6. In the Rain // 7. How Deep Is Your Love // 8. Don’t Stop Your Love (feat. Jacci McGhee)

Keith Sweat’s Make It Last Forever is often seen as the startingj point of New Jack Swing, the musical genre that first succesfully blended soul-styled vocals with hip-hop styled beats, but that’s only because Teddy Riley is behind the boards. This album is in fact simply a quiet storm album on which nobody plays actual instrument beyond Teddy and the off keyboard. The only thing that ties this to the hip-hop of 1987 is the use of the same tinny drum machine clatter and the same sparkly keyboards one might find on a Heavy D album, only this time around they’re used to create something for the ladies, not the B-boys.

With that said, it is a really good quiet storm album. Keith’s yearning tenor is a terrific instrument and blends well with Riley’s beats which go back-and-forth between ballads (Right and a Wrong Way, Tell Me It’s Me That You Want, Make It Last ForeverIn the RainHow Deep Is Your Love) and midtempo funk numbers (Something Just Ain’t RightI Want HerDon’t Stop Your Love).

Make It Last Forever is instantly datable to 1987, but not in a corny or bad manner. The songwriting may be a little too earnest and lacking in the four letter word and house beats-departments for many a modern R&B aficianado but its old fashioned charm may just be what Chris Brown’s output is lacking for others.

The guest appearances are kept to a minimum (no rappers here) so these fourty minutes, divided into eight tracks are quite sufficient to get to know Keith and watch him drop a couple of classics in the mean time, most notably the title track and I Want Her.
Keeping the album brief has the advantage of making you want even more when the album is done spinning, and isn’t that what a guy called Keith Sweat should strive to achieve?

Best tracks
Make It Last Forever
Don’t Stop Your Love

Recommendations
Pick this one up.


Johnny Gill – Chemistry

Johnny Gill
Chemistry
April 22, 1985
Cotillon Records/ Atlantic RecordsWMG
065/100
Johnny Gill - Chemistry
1. Half Crazy // 2. Can’t Wait Til Tomorrow // 3. Don’t Take Away My Pride // 4. One Small Light // 5. The Way That You Love Me // 6. Because Of You // 7. Chemistry // 8. I Found Love

It can’t be stressed enough in reviewing a Johnny Gill album. The voice you hear on the record does not fit the little boy on the cover. Even though he was eighteen by the time Chemistry dropped he looked fifteen and had the voice of a thirty-plus year old. A very exceptional thirty-plus year old even. Gill’s husky, masculine baritone could give the likes of Luther Vandross and Teddy Pendergrass a run for their money in its sheer power, seductiveness and sultriness.

Unfortunately for Gill up until the 1988 New Edition album Heart Break, on which he replaced Bobby Brown, he had never gotten the material to unlock his potential. His epynomous Freddie Perren-helmed debut had been boring as hell, as had Cotillon Records’ attempt to sell the boy to starlet Stacey Lattisaw’s audience: the far from perfect Perfect Combination. Producers Freddie Perren and Naranda Michael Walden couldn’t come up with material that was either memorable or did more for Gill than showcase his excellent voice.

The Linda Creed-helmed Chemistry isn’t quite the instafix to Johnny’s problems, it shares the same questionable ’80s production values and dime-a-dozen R&B songwriting that evaporates from memory as soon as the record stops playing. But moreso than either of Gill’s two prior albums it’s rather entertaining when it is on.

Half Crazy and Because of You are decent piano ballads. They may be corny but they are corny by design and bear their queso with pride.
Can’t Wait ’til TomorrowOne Small Light and The Way That You Love Me are the sort of uptempo ’80s post-disco soul songs that brings to mind Lionel Richie’s Running With the Night and summon nighttime joyrides.
Don’t Take Away My Pride and I Found Love take a cue from Freddie Jackson and JG does this type of song as well as the man himself (take that how you will).
Chemistry makes it’s titular subject a metaphore for sexy business and doesn’t quite manage to have fun with it, but doesn’t outright suck and its sticking to a subject makes one wonder what the hell happened to songwriting as of late.

At only eight tracks Chemistry doesn’t overstay its welcome, which is never a bad thing, and although it’s not a very substantial album it is, very much like, and certainly no worse than Whitney Houston’s debut (it’s a shame Cotillon didn’t put more effort in pimping it to her fanbase), a pleasantry (albeit a carbon dated one), and sometimes that is all music needs to be.

Best tracks
Half Crazy
Can’t Wait ’til Tomorrow
Don’t Take Aaway My Pride
Because of You

Recommendations
Chemistry is not for everyone. It’s some seriously cheesy, slight ’80s R&B/Soul, which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But for what it is it’s pretty good. So white, middle aged housewives easy listening/ adult contemporary audiences, if you come across this one for a reasonable price, go for it.


Fabolous – Ghetto Fabolous

Fabolous
Ghetto Fabolous
September 11, 2001
Desert Storm Records/ Elektra Records/ WMG
050/100
Fabolous - Ghetto Fabolous
1. Click & Spark // 2. Keepin’ It Gangsta // 3. Young’n (Holla Back) // 4. Get Right // 5. Ride For This (feat. Ja Rule) // 6. One Day // 7. Trade It All (feat. Jagged Edge) // 8. Right Now & Later On // 9. Take You Home (feat. Lil’ Mo) // 10. Get Smart // 11. Can’t Deny It (feat. Nate Dogg) // 12. Ma’ Be Easy // 13. We Don’t Give a Fuck // 14. Bad Guy (feat. Pain in Da Ass) // 15. Gotta Be a Thug // 16. If They Want It

Another rap album that dropped on that uneventful date (september 11, 2001) was Roc-a-Fella Records’ house DJ, DJ Clue?’s protégé Fabolous’ Ghetto Fabolous, although the fact that this shit actually came out may have done more damage than the 9/11 attacks. Fabolous’ debut is anything but fab, although I’ll be the first to admit that the man himself is almost entirely blameless.

Fab had been making a name for himself ever since he first appeared on a major label realease (DJ Clue?’s own major label debut the Professional) with his lackadasical, monotone flow (which got him compared to blingy cuddly-gangsta turned preacher Ma$e) and his funny/corny punchlines (which got him compared, a lot more flatteringly, to the likes of Big L)
The album had two songs that were moderately succesful on the U.S. charts back in 2001 (Can’t Deny It and Young’n (Holla Back)) but there’s really only one single sort of, kind of related to this album that people occasionally still listen to, which is the glossy Puff Diddy-featuring remix of Trade It All released on the soundtrack to the Ice Cube movie Barbershop.

Still this album could be considered a commercial success since it had moved over a million units by 2003, which was the time Fabby started having some real charts success with singles off his sophomore album, on which he emulated Ja Rule (who makes an appearance on Ghetto Fabolous), romantically dueting female R&B singers Lil’ Mo and Tamia over bootylicious beats.
Except unlike Jeffrey Fab brought his punchlines with him to these radio songs and knew better than to sing the refrains on his own material and in stead let the hired help do that. This is probably what saved him from the sort of riducule Ja would endure as soon as the hit songs stopped coming.
But I digress, suffice to say that this album earned its platinum plaque probably not because of its own merits, but rather because his 2003 album Street Dreams hit the jackpot and people in record stores (yes people bought actual physical copies of music they liked in stores, as late as 2003) picked this one up since they were there and expected Ghetto Fabolous to be another album of Into Yous and Can’t Let You Gos. I’m sure the people who bought Ghetto Fabolous for this reason women were pissed when they actually listened to it. (Street Dreams itself was hardly all acoustic guitars and Commodores-interpolations either, but we’ll get to that soon enough.)

Clue? and his cohort DURO, his colleague mixtape jackass DJ Envy, as well as relative unknowns Rush da Spyda, Omen, Armando Colon produce most of Ghetto Fabolous, and they don’t do a particularly good job, serving up overly glossy store brand imitations of what East Coast hip-hop tended to sound like at the time, that are too clean to be hard and too incomplete to be poppy (somewhat sketchy beats are what marred the first two installments of Clue?’s the Professional series. And it’s no different here.)
Surprisingly the Neptunes contribution and second single Youngn (Holla Back) is boring as hell too. I’m quite confident Pharrell and Chad don’t remember having ever made it. Maybe Clue? stole it out of their reject-bin while the guys were having an argument.
Get RightMa’ Be Easy and Right Now and Later On‘s beats were made on sleep walking strolls too, except this time by Rockwilder, Just Blaze and Timbaland respectively.
Can’t Deny It has Rick Rock selling Fab the exact same boring-ass beat he reused several times on most of his Dynasty contributions (I bet he charged full price too) while the usually reliable Nate Dogg jacks an old 2pac hook over it to meh results.

The other guests don’t add much either, Ja Rule gives Ride For This a DMX-esque overly shouty hook.
Lil’ Mo does that early naughties thing where an R&B singer jacks an old hook of a soul song (In this case I Wonder If I Take You Home by Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam and Full Force) and goes out of his/her way to gangsta it’s lyrics up (In this case by unnaturally jamming the word “thug” into it). Yuck.
Speaking of uninspired, unneccesary gangstaness; Bad Guy has Roc-a-Fella skit-personality getting his bullshit Scarface on between Fab’s verses. It wasn’t funny on Reasonable Doubt and it still wasn’t on Ghetto Fabolous.

The only exception to this is Jagged Edge who give Fabby’s ode to a special lady a sunny hook over an uncharacteristically nice Clue?/DURO beat. It’s not quite as groovy as the Barbershop version, but it comes close and it compensates by not having that wack P. Daddy verse. Regardless it’s Ghetto Fabolous best song, hands down, it’s also the most pop (coincidence?)

As for Fab’s rapping, he is obviously a more than competent punchline rapper, one not devoid of pop appeal either, which is something Canibus or Big L can’t say about themselves. That’s not to say he doesn’t make any beginners mistakes. For instance he all but reuses the same outdated (it wasn’t even fresh in ’01 when Ghetto Fabolous dropped) New Jack City punchline on the album’s first two songs. Also the guy uses the same “swallow my babies” line on two of this album’s songs. This kind of fuckery makes Clue? come across as a sloppy executive producer and Fab as an uninspired rapper. Keeping in line with the corny movies-references; Leathal Weapon gets namedropped on Keeping It Gangsta as well. Not that referencing old movies is a major offence in and by itself (Although rappers, including Fab on this album, definitely overdid it with the Scarface-enacting. And the next rapper who goes and pulls that shit on his album needs to get his recording contract torn-up. One could quote the entire movie verbatim without having ever seen it if one has heard enough rap albums from the ’95-’05 timespan.), but as a running theme it makes it seem as though Fabby hadn’t entered a cinema in the decade prior to relesing his debut album, in which case movie-references may not be a good idea at all.
While he stays on beat and doesn’t fuckup majorly that often besides the minor offences dropping the occasional cheesy clunker of a punchline and tired gangsta’ism, but over these shitty beats he sounds like a complete tool, even if he simultaneously does show his ability to write actual songs as opposed to srings of bad jokes while keeping his style consistent, which isn’t exactly a given with rappers, especially punchline rappers.

Despite Fab having considerable talents there is absolutely no reason to revisit Ghetto Fabolous, an album that gives off a promise of a pretty decent sequel on the condition that the guy cops some proficient production, but has absoloutely nothing else going for it.

Best track
Trade It All

Recommendations
Don’t bother.


Kara’s Flowers – The Fourth World

Kara’s Flowers
The Fourth World
August 19, 1997
Reprise RecordsWMG
060/100
Kara's Flowers - The Fourth World
1. Soap Disco // 2. Future Kid // 3. Myself // 4. Oliver // 5. The Never Saga // 6. Loving the Small Time // 7. To Her, With Love // 8. Sleepy Windbreaker // 9. Pantry Queen // 10. My Ocean Blue // 11. Captain Splendid // 12. Buddy Two-Shoes

Kara’s Flowers, an L.A. based alternative rock band consisting of Jesse Carmichael, Mickey Madden, Ryan Dusick and Adam Levine, released their debut album on Reprise Records, to the sounds of crickets in the summer of ’97. The only single off the album Soap Disco failed to make a splash on the charts and the guys gave up those silly rockstar dreams and went to college never to be heard from again.

Well that’s what should have happened, but in stead the foursome returned around the turn of the millenium with bringing guitar player James Valentine and the funk with them under the name Maroon 5, started to making hits doing catchy come on- and kiss off-numbers, and continue to be a thing to this day.

Maroon 5, once they became successful, maintained their success by moving (or mooOOooOOoo00ving) with the times, adjusting and incorporating trends into their formula, and therefor it is not surprising that The Fourth World sounds as though Adam and co. temporarely put away their Prince and Police records, took a time machine to 1997 and recorded a post-grunge record.

Off course Adam Levine has as about much in common with Kurt Kobain as Justin Bieber has with 2pac, and therefore it is commendable that Kara’s Flowers stays completely clear of Nirvana’s emo angst and alienation generation X-shtick and just writes pop-songs with a grunge-influence in stead.

The resulting album could serve as the score to a mediocre, late ’90s-to-early-naughties “search of self” young adult roadtrip-movie (Being that this album came into existence in ’97 it baffles me that a Kara’s Flowers roadtrip-movie wasn’t commissioned. That would not only have helped The Forth World move some units, but that would also have gotten the three band-members that aren’t Adam out of anonymity.)

I don’t know much about this particular genre of music, but as usual with Maroon 5 everything is, if nothing else, neatly done. These songs are catchy and inoffensive my ears. Making music that is both catchy and acceptable to people who aren’t fans of whatever particular genre they’re dabbling in at that particular moment in time has apparently always been Maroon 5’s forte (which conversely amost certainly means that purist fans of “real” grunge, garage rock, Brit-pop, power pop and other genres that are namechecked in other, better informed reviews of the Fourth World will probaby hate the everliving shit out of this album, for “watering down” their beloved music for “pop” audiences.)

Kara’s Flowers keeps things brief with eleven tracks, clocking under fourty minutes, which is also positive since nothing sticks out, and consistency tends to turn into dragging if stretched out too long.

The Fourth World should be taken for a spin by M5 fans, but not because it’s interesting to see the band form into what they eventually became . Their catchy songwriting and music, as well as Adam’s nasal falsetto are fully formed here already, all that’s missing are the funk/ soul influences, (Besides, the M5 boys aren’t that interesting to begin with, they make catchy pop-tunes, not progressive, avant-garde music)  but rather because there is plenty to like here for fans of Adam’s distinctive singing and these songs are fairly catchy and fun which is all one can want from a Maroon 5 album.

Best tracks
Soap Disco

Recommendations
If you find this album in the used bin for the price of some loose change you might as well take it with you.


Johnny Gill & Stacey Lattisaw – Perfect Combination

Johnny Gill & Stacey Lattisaw
Perfect Combination
February 27, 1984
Cotillon Records/ Atlantic RecordsWMG
055/100
Johnny Gill & Stacey Lattisaw - Perfect Combination
1. Block Party // 2. Fun And Games // 3. Falling In Love Again // 4. 50/50 Love // 5. Perfect Combination // 6. HeartBreak Look // 7. Baby It’s You // 8. Come Out of the Shadows

Johnny Gill’s debut album hadn’t sold very well or provided the charts with any hits (the internet provides no clues of the opposite being true), so the people of Cotillon/ Atlantic records decided to put him in the studio with proven success and labelmate Stacey Lattisaw (Wikipedia says they were childhood friends as well, believe what you will) to pimp him to her fanbase and to create a cute teeny 1980s update of a Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell duet album (although those two things are actually one and the same thing.)

That this album isn’t  as horrible as that description makes it sound is largely to thank the vocalists for, Johnny with his singing that sounded like it belonged to a man twice his age, and miss Lattisaw sounding capable and confident beyond her years as well, but to a lesser extent (they were both seventeen when they dropped this).

The sound is fine for those who enjoy this particular brand of queso (not me.). The midtempo cuts sound like store brand imitations of SOLAR Records svengali Leon Sylvers III’s post-disco electro-pop jams. (Shalamar’s A Night To Remember, Lakeside’s Fantastic Voyage, Dynasty’s Midas Touch et al.) and the ballads sound like they are rejects from the An Officer and a Gentleman soundtrack.
That’s not to say anything sounds horrible, in fact the songwriting itself puts most of today’s R&B music to shame in it’s ability to choose a subject/ concept and stick to it, and this Naranda Michael Walden guy seems at least adequate in putting together a record, but that is not to say you should give a fuck.

That the best thing on here is a cover of an old Shirelles song, previously covered by the Beatles, written by Burt Bacharach is telling about the songwriting. Kinda how Johnny’s debut‘s best song was a cover of an old Sam & Dave song written by Isaac Hayes.

Best tracks
Perfect Combination
Baby It’s You

Recommendations
Don’t bother.


Michel’le – Michel’le

Michel’le
Michel’le
October 23, 1989
Ruthless Records/Atlantic Records/ WMG
080/100
Michel'le - michel'le
1. No More Lies // 2. Nicety (feat. Dr. Dre) // 3. If? (feat. Michael Holmes) // 4. Keep Watching // 5. Something In My Heart // 6. 100% Woman // 7. Something In My Heart // 8. Silly Love Song // 9. Never Been In Love // 10. Close to Me // 11. Special Thanks // 12. If? [Reprise] (feat. Michael Holmes)

While Ruthless Records is rightfully known as a quintessential gangsta rap label they also dabbled other genres, such as R&B (back when hip-hop and R&B were distinct musical genres sorta, kinda). Michelle Toussaint, Dr. Dre’s then-girlfriend, was the first non-rap act to release an album on the world’s most dangerous record label. With Dre and Yella producing the album wall-to-wall, Eazy-E overseeing everything and Jerry Heller walking away with most the money Michel’le is every bit as much an N.W.A offshoot as Eazy-Duz-It yet it is always overlooked or straight-up ignored by hip-hop fans, ostensibly because it isn’t a hip-hop album. But for those open-minded enough to listen to something different every once in a while, it has plenty to offer.

For those expecting an album full of Straight Outta Compton-styled beats, with singing over them in stead of rapping, because Dre was involved, Michel’le might come off as a bit of a disappointment. Dre was and is more malleable than that and actually goes for broke in an attempt to create a legitimate urban soul album and wholly succeeds in making the proceedings sound authentic in the instrumental department, providing an intoxicating mix of dance, quiet storm, hip-hop lite and new jack swing. If the credits said everything was produced by Babyface that would’ve been completely believeable, which isn’t something one would expect from a Dr. Dre-produced record, having listened to Straight Outta ComptonEazy-Duz-It or No One Can Do It Better.

If today an R&B album is released on a label that houses several famous rappers, said rappers are usually all over the album dropping verses, trying to be good employees and bidding for crossover appeal. Except for a blink-and-you’ll-miss it Dre verse on Nicety no-one in N.W.A, JJ Fad or Above the Law appears in anything but skit or background vocal capacity giving our hostess the room to show her talents, a smart move.

Michel’le is a talented, confident singer who could easily go toe-to-toe with more famous contemporaries such as Toni Braxton or Tamia. Her strong, full bodied, thunderous singing voice (which forms a hilarious contrast with her squeaky Betty Boop speaking-voice, which can be heard on the second last track Special Thanks) is ripe with emotion without her trying to hit every note in existence, Whitney Houston/ Mariah Carey/ the Voice-style. The lyrics, written by Laylaw and the D.O.C. and Michel’le herself are classy, consistent, clever and sticking to a theme in a way that is completely absent from a lot of R&B music these days.

She shines on both the uptempo ass-shakers (No More LiesNicetyKeep Dancing100% WomanNever Been In Love) and the slow jams (If?Something In My HeartSilly Love SongClose to Me)

With only twelve tracks, ten of which are actual songs, there is little room for filler and the album doesn’t overstay its welcome at all.

Michel’le was a hit upon release, racked up a bunch of hit songs, sold tonnes of records and helped pave the way for other hip-hop-soul songstressed, including but not limited to Mary J. Blige, TLC, Faith Evans and SWV. Unfortunately for her and music lovers her career more or less ended with this album, after which she was relegated to the occasional cameo appearance on Ruthless-released albums (and later on on Death Row Records). And she wasn’t able to put out another album until 1998 when everyone had forgotten all about her, on the sinking ship that was Death Row Records. That record flopped accordingly.

Michel’le is a very entertaining album that despite you never having heard of it is worth your hard-earned cash and is deserving to be known as the classic that it is.

Best tracks
No More Lies
Nicety
Keep Dancing
100% Woman
Never Been In Love
If?
Something In My Heart
Silly Love Song
Close to Me

Recommendations
To those who enjoy soulful, well-put together R&B with a vintage sound Michel’le is a must-own. For those who dislike today’s R&B because they find it overproduced, lacking in the musical department and/or sounding like it was recorded by cyborgs rather than humans, by all means should give Michel’le a try.


The D.O.C. – No One Can Do It Better

The D.O.C.
No One Can Do It Better
June 16, 1989
Ruthless Records/Atlantic RecordsWMG
090/100
The DOC - No One Can Do It Better
1. It’s Funky Enough // 2. Mind Blowin’ // 3. Lend Me an Ear // 4. Comm. Blues (feat. by Michel’le) // 5. Let The Bass Go // 6. Beautiful But Deadly // 7. The D.O.C. and the Doctor // 8. No One Can Do It Better // 9. Whirlwind Pyramid // 10. Comm. 2 (feat. MC Ren) // 11. The Formula // 12. Portrait of a Masterpiece // 13. The Grand Finalé (feat. Ice Cube, MC Ren & Eazy-E)

The story of the D.O.C.’s rapping-career is a tragic one. After his rap group the Fila Fresh crew got to take part in what some consider to be N.W.A’s first album N.W.A and the Posse the world’s most dangerous recording group probably learnt of the man’s existence when they finally got to listen to it themselves after they found out Macola Records released the damn record, which was a collection of some of their singles, with some unrelated songs by random artists thrown in for good measure, without their permission while they were touring.

Fortunately for N.W.A though their “posse album” sold a ton of copies, birthed their career and fortunately for D.O.C. they liked his contributions enough that he could parttake in the recording of the seminal gangsta rap classic Straight Outta Compton, writing rhymes for Dre and Eazy and lending vocals to several tracks, such as on Fuck the Police (it’s Doc on the intro).

Then as a reward for helping Eazy and Dre sound competent behind the mic he got to record his own album No One Can Do It Better, released in the summer of ’89,

In 1989 rhyming about how good you are at rhyming (rhymeception, if you’re into terrible cornball-ass gag-humour) was the thing to do. Everyone from RUN-DMC to the Sugarhill Gang had proclaimed their dominance over the rap game as well as their own superiority over “sucker MC’s” at one time or another, and perhaps rightfully so since RUN and DMC’s nursery rhymes had been cutting edge when the world first heard them. When the D.O.C. proclaimed dominance over the rap game however it was simply a matter of fact beyond a shadow of a doubt. No one could do it better indeed, bar maybe Kool G Rap, Rakim or KRS One.

D.O.C.’s rhymes and delivery were lightyears ahead of even his boys in N.W.A in terms of multi-syllable complexity. Peep this.

Ship it, ship it to the stations
in your jurisdiction
Others say I’m dope
and the others think I’m bitching
No crowd can avoid the D O to the C
When I’m P E R F O R M I N G
D.O.C. – It’s Funky Enough

And besides his lyrics and flow being on point the D.O.C. had enough skill to make it all feel natural and unforced. For all it’s expertly constructed complexity the guy is here for you entertainment first and formost, and even if his vocabulary is larger than average he doesn’t repeatedly and offensively smack the listener in the face with it, like for instance Canibus does whenever he drops one of his fucking albums. Also helping matters is the wall-to-wall pre-chroniced Dr. Dre-production, which brings a distinct funky, dusty scratchy atmosphere for our host to rhyme in. The combination of these beats and these rhymes make the D.O.C. one of the few old school rappers whose music could challenge the works of rappers from the second golden age, such as Nas, Biggie, Jay-Z or the Wu-Tang Clan when it’s enjoyability that’s concerned.

No One Can Do It Better has aged perfectly, with everything sounding vintage rather than outdated.

The best-known song It’s Funky Enough‘s opening line “One, and here comes the two to the three and four” is one of the most re-used in the hip-hop genre. The song’s instrumental is funky aplenty, and the song is hands-down the catchiest thing on here. With no profanity to speak of and and a beat that makes people want to shake their money makers and yet doesn’t compromise the Ruthless Records gangsta rap sound it’s a lesson in making a lead single for a rap album.

D.O.C. and the Doctor is the mandatory ode to the DJ that appears on all early hip-hop album, back when hip-hop albums had one producer per album, rather than five new producers (and twelve guest rappers as well as eight autotuned R&B singers) per individual song. Rather than the corny dickriding that constitutes most such cuts this is a display of actual chemistry between the rapper and the producer.

Mind Blowin’ is another display of the Doc and the Doctor’s combined potential being reached with Dre providing some percussive piano keys for his boy to play around with his words and his flow over to great effect.

Lend Me an Ear is sonically a much faster paced Straight Outta Compton with D.O.C. ripping the beat to shreds and quite succesfully  making a case for him being one of the best rappers ever.

The Formula may be the point where Dr. Dre discovered the G-funk sound that would revolutionise the rap world when he put out his solo debut in ’92.

Beautiful But Deadly, the mandatory ode to gold digging evil women, has a Licensed to Ill-era Rick Rubin-esque instrumental, what with it’s hard rock quitars and its distinctly funkless sound. It’s an interesting enough diversion since it sounds like nothing else on here, but it still fits in with the rest since it shares Doc’s golden voice, rhymes and delivery with the rest of the tracks.

The album ends with the Grand Finale, a Ruthless Records posse cut with Doc plus everyone in N.W.A minus Dre going for broke over the most Straight Outta Compton-esque instrumental of the album, and Doc being on par with the world’s most dangerous group.

Every song on here bangs, even the two commercial-themed interludes have their place. No One Can Do It Better leaves one salivating for more. Unfortunately for the world of hip-hop and for Doc himself he would lose his ability to rap soon after this album’s release when his vocal chords were severed after he flew through a windshield in a car crash, leaving him a thin rasp of a voice that was lightyears removed from his pleasant smooth voice displayed on here, relegating Doc to perform on skits on N.W.A’s and later Dr. Dre’s albums, as well as the ghostwriting that had made him the unofficial fifth member of the Comptonite posse in the first place.

Make no mistake, the D.O.C.’s loss of voice was every bit as much of a loss to hip-hop as the murder of the Notorious B.I.G., and No One Can Do It Better is all the proof one needs for it. Unlike Biggie and 2pac however Doc, who didn’t die a martyr’s death (he’s still alive today), wasn’t namedropped as frequently by other rappers, which means that very little of today’s rap music fans actually know who he is. (On the plus side Ruthless Records has withstood the temptation of pairing every shred of D.O.C. vocals with the likes of T.I. and Lil Wayne on frankensongs with krunk beats, released on “Tribute albums”.)

This is all the more reason to revisit No One Can Do It Better, a criminally underrated rap album that has stood the test of time a lot better than most rap albums from the 1980s. An album that gives off an unfulfilled promise of a long and prosperous career in music.

Best tracks
It’s Funky Enough
Beautiful But Deadly
The Formula
Lend Me an Ear
Portrait of a Masterpiece
The Grand Finalé

Recommendations
Pick this one up, now.


Prince Rakeem – Oooh I Love You Rakeem

Prince Rakeem
Oooh I Love You Rakeem
July 1, 1991
Tommy Boy RecordsWarner Bros. RecordsWMG
050/100
Prince Rakeem - Oooh We Love You Rakeem
1. Ooh We Love You Rakeem [Baggin’ Ladies Mix] // 2. Ooh We Love You Rakeem [Baggin’ Ladies Instrumental] // 3. Deadly Venoms [Vocals Up] // 4. Sexcapades [DMD Mix] // 5. Sexcapades [Wutang Mix] // 6. Sexcapades [DMD Radio Mix] // 7. Sexcapades [DMD Instrumental] // 8. Sexcapades [Wutang Instrumental]

Like his boy GZA, RZA had something of a career before Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) came out, gained a cult following and started a hip-hop dynasty. Not that it was going anywhere in the direction of what one could consider succesful, but Ooh I Love You Rakeem, which isn’t named after the single Ooh We Love You Rakeem, exists, so therefor it is an inevitable speed-bump in the Wu-Tang discography, much like GZA’s Words From a Genius.

Ooh We Love You Rakeem, officially called an EP, but in reality it is a glorified maxi-single, what with its instrumentals and remixes sequenced right after their original incarnations. It would seem that the intended audience for this is DJs and, once RZA became the legend he is today with the Clan, Wu-completists. (Just kidding, I don’t actually think Tommy Boy had the foresight to predict Rakeem becoming what he is today. Everything on this EP more or less points to them pushing RZA in the opposite direction.)

Eight tracks long this “album” has only three actual songs; the sorta, kinds title track, Deadly Venoms and Sexcapades: all of them about how much play he gets from the ladies. On most of these songs his rapping sounds like a mix of LL Cool J’s and label mate Shock G’s, and not as this album cover implies: the Fresh Prince. Allegedly (according to himself) he already was in fact already the grimy rapper the world would get to know on later releases, but Tommy Boy records forced this radio friendly style upon him.

The surpise is that it doesn´t suit him that poorly. Except for the Ooh We Love You Rakeem on which he goes balls-out Digital Underground on us, which should be left to Humpty, nothing here sucks balls. Deadly Venoms, which would an have all-female Wu-Tang offshoot group named after it, definitely wouldn’t sound out of place on 36 Chambers if it had Meth, ODB, Deck, Rae or Ghost on it. Both the Wu-Tang Mix and the DMD Mix of Sexcapades knock, although they don’t sound different enough to warrant inclusion of both.

Also, the instrumental versions of Ooh I Love You Rakeem and the two Sexcapades may be interesting to own for aspiring rappers, but offer little to the average listener.

So, there you have it. Two, or three out of these eight are commendable whereas the rest isn’t. Devout Wu-followers should have a peep at this, although even they have little reason to pay for something that includes three instrumentals, two remixes and only three actual songs.

Best tracks
Deadly Venoms
Sexcapades [Wu-Tang Mix]

Recommendations
Get the above two tracks off iTunes.


J.J. Fad – Supersonic

J.J. Fad
Supersonic
1988
Ruthless Records/Atlantic Records/ WMG
070/100
J.J. Fad - Supersonic

1. Supersonic // 2. Way Out // 3. Blame It on the Muzick (feat. Dr. Dre) // 4. In the Mix // 5. Eenie Meenie Beats // 6. My Dope Intro // 7. Let’s Get Hyped // 8. Now Really // 9. Time Tah Get Stupid // 10.  Is It Love

On N.W.A and the Posse Dre, Eazy, Ren, Cube, Arabian Prince and Yella hadn’t yet figured out whether they wanted to be hardcore gangstaz, as in Boyz In da Hood or electro-hop party starters as on Panic Zone. On Straight Outta Compton they had mostly made their choice and they had mostly kept their most electro-inclined member; Arabian Prince out of the proceedings. Apparently he was working on this in stead.

J.J. Fad’s Supersonic is what Straight Outta Compton could’ve been if the world’s most dangerous group would’ve gone for the dancefloors rather than the streets. High energy beats with lyrics that are mostly commands to dance and some boasting about the rhyme skillz of the artists you’re listening to, as well as general freshness, thrown in for good measure. It’s an infectious mixture that’s more in line with what Teddy Riley was cooking up at the time than the work of the Compton residents with attitude issues who were working on this behind the scenes. (Dre, Arabian Prince and Yella produce this in its entirety while Eric Wright and Jerry Heller took all the revenue. Whether Cube, Ren and D.O.C. wrote any of these raps I know not.)

Supersonic is split in two halves, the pop-side and the hip-hop side. The first half of the album may be a little too vanilla for fans of N.W.A., the beats are more slick and polished than on Straight Outta Compton or Eazy-Duz-It and no profanity is being dropped anywhere. But it contains some first-class, pop-rap. Especially the title track, which was resurrected some time ago as Fergie’s Fergalicious, is some cornily endearing fun.

The second half however contains some vintage late-80s Dre/Yella beats that one can imagine Eazy, Cube, Ren and D.O.C. ripping to shreds. Let’s Get Hyped in particular wouldn’t sound out of place on an N.W.A disc, if the b-word were dropped more than once, that is. Now Really is a dis-track aimed at competing female rap-group Sugar and Spice and seems to be included mostly to start some shit so that Supersonic might have some street cred, not the best idea that, but Dre saves the day by providing another banging-ass beat. Time to Get Stupid is a short DJ cut on whitch Dre has some turntable fun. And Is It Love closes out the album by going after LL Cool J’s I Need Love. All the music is on point and instrumentally this album is really good, if a bit all over the map.

As for J.J. Fad themselves, they are perfectly serviceable rappers. That is; they know how to flow and stay on beat. But a lot of their lingo (“time to come correct”, “cold gettin’ stupid”) dates this album as much as the outfits they sport on the album cover do. Also it’s really hard to tell MC JB, Baby D and Sassy C apart since they all sound identical. In fact, one could almost convince this reviever that there was only one girl rapping here.

As a whole Supersonic is a nicely executed piece of pop fluff that was probably born out of Eazy and Jerry seeing the pop-rap thing going down and wanting a piece of the action, or maybe Dre made the electro beats featured on the first half of the album for Straight Outta Compton, but used them for this project in stead after N.W.A switched directions. Don’t read these theories as a dismissal though. Supersonic is some campy fun and does in fact deserve to be revisited, especially so that the teen-aged girls who like to bump Fergalicious know where she got it from.

Best tracks
Supersonic
Blame It On the Muzick
Let’s Get Hyped

Recommendations
If you find this album in the discount section of your local record store, or in the used-bin or for cheap on the internet by all means pick it up.


Johnny Gill – Johnny Gill

Johnny Gill
Johnny Gill
January 16, 1983
Cotillon Records/ Atlantic Records/ WMG
055/100
Johnny Gill - Johnny Gill (1)
1. Super Love // 2. Thank You // 3. Show Her Love // 4. Guilty // 5. When Something Is Wrong With My Baby // 6. Every Radio // 7. I’m Sorry // 8. I Love Making Music // 9. You // 10.  Half Steppin’

If you can spot the crime against style on this album cover please leave a comment, hint: it isn’t the Jheri curl.

Johnny Gill the singer was always something special, even though Johnny Gill the album wasn’t, well not his 1983 debut anyway. His 1990 album, confusingly also titled Johnny Gill is actually quite good.

What’s most striking about this album is how little the teenager on the album cover resembles the man one would imagine the voice you hear on record to belong to, indeed the powerful soul vocals sounds really mature. And not in a preteen Michael Jackson way either, Michael just sounded extraordinairily skilled and experienced for someone his age, Gill actually sounds like a thirty year old.

Not that he sounds gimmicky, au contraire, he’s one of the top R&B vocalists of his era when it’s reach and power that is concerned, not unlike Whitney Houston, with whom he would in the future affiliate through New Edition.

Also not unlike Houston’s Gill’s debut album suffers from a serious case of professionally made but generic sounding ’80s pop/ R&B material the boy had to sing his way through. And not in a trashy fun sense the way his future group New Edition’s debut Candy Girl was.

Props to Gill for making the ride as enjoyable as it actually is. Shame on Cotillon for not getting him the musical collaborators he deserved. Not that they didn’t get Johnny a prefessional producer, Freddie Perren is a former member of Motown Record’s production company The Corporation, which produced hit singles for the Likes of the Jackson 5, Gloria Gaynour, the Sylvers and many other Motown Greats, but he brings none of that heat here.

That is; He doesn’t land a classic record but that doesn’t mean he’s entirely useless, Super Love and Guilty are passable post-disco stabs at electro funk. Show Her Love is an okay drum-less R&B ballad in the vein of MJ’s She’s Out of My Life. These songs certainly aren’t bad and should satisfy fans of early-to-mid ’80s R&B.

Best of all is Johnny’s cover of Sam & Dave’s When Something is Wrong With My Baby, which is actually a ’60s soul song, and showcases Johnny’s range really well.

I’m Sorry and Every Radio are some cornball bullshit, though. I Love Makin’ Music and Half Steppin’ fall flat in their attempts at funky. And You wants to be classic Motown-ish slow jam, but is too flaccid to compete.

So, one good track, four okay ones and five terrible ones. That leaves this one at barely passable. Luckily Johnny got another shot at recording an album, because the boy certainly would eventually turn out to have good music in him, not now though, since this was not only a critical failiure but also a commercial one.

Best track
When Something is Wrong With My Baby

Recommendations
Nothing on here warrants a purchase.


the Genius – Words From the Genius, volume 1

the Genius
Words from the Genius, volume 1
Februari 19, 1991
Cold Chillin’ Records/ Reprise Records/ Warner Bros. Records/ WMG
060/100
the Genius - Words From the Genius

1. Come Do Me // 2. Phony As Ya Wanna Be // 3. True Fresh M.C. // 4. The Genius Is Slammin’ // 5. Words From a Genius // 6. Who’s Your Rhymin’ Hero // 7. Feel the Pain // 8. Those Were the Days // 9. Life of a Drug Dealer // 10. Stop the Nonsense // 11.  Living Foul // 12. Drama // 13. Stay Out of Bars // 14. What Silly Girls Are Made Of // 15.  Superfreak

The story of the Wu-Tang clan is a long one. One that, god willingly, will take this blog and any uneventful reader through a stack of 214 albums – and counting – released the group as a whole, its members, its affiliates and even through soundtracks of films the group’s leader, the RZA, scored.

The obvious starting point would be Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) since it is the album that actually started the movement. Fate however would have it that one of the ten core members of the clan; Gary “GZA/Genius” Grice actually had released an abum before the Clan existed. Words from the Genius is that album.

Released on the Juice Crew’s record label Cold Chillin’ Records in februari of 1991 and produced by Big Daddy Kane’s beatmaker Easy Mo Bee doesn’t show a trace of RZA, Meth, Rae, Ghost, Deck, U-God or ODB, which isn’t strange considering where and when this was released. What is strage is that there are no assists from Big Daddy Kane, Biz Markie, MC Shan or Marley Marl. Considering that he was signed to their label and was a complete unknown at the moment one would think that a guest verse by at least one of these legends would both be a major selling point and something that shouldn’t be too difficult to arrange.

But no, this is just Easy and GZA and the occasional no-name producer for the entirety of Words from the Genius with zero guest appearances, which in today’s rap music landscape is almost unthinkable.

Words From the Genius‘ instrumentals shouldn’t be compared to the dark cinematic instrumentals the RZA would serve up on Enter the Wu-Tang. Easy Mo Bee’s classic old school beats have little to do with Prince Rakeem, in stead one should put it toe-to-toe with albums by the aforementioned Kane and Biz Markie, classic, swinging and a bit simplistic but still comfortably above the old school average. Still this album released at the end of the period in which this style of rap was popular doesn’t add much to Cold Chillin’ Records’ list of achievements as Kane and Biz had done just about everything there was to do with this particular style of rap. Also since nobody purchased it it didn’t earn anybody a gold plaque.

As for GZA himself, sounds exactly how he would on subsequent releases, which is to say he’s in fine form, all that’s different this time around is the beats. Lyrical themes include GZA’s mic superiority over other rappers (Genius is Slammin’), nostalgia (Those Were the Days) and the dangers of pubs (Don’t Go Into bars).

As a whole Words is pleasant, jazzy oldschool affair that’s fine when it is on but evaporates immediately from the listener’s conscience when it stops spinning. It’s a pretty consistent release, the only song that outright sucks is the Wu-jack swing opener Come Do Me. The rest is just fine, but nothing special.

Best tracks
Those Were the Days
Drama
Genius Is Slammin’
Stay Out of Bars

Recommendations
If you’re a fan of the Cold Chillin’ records brand of rap music and you haven’t yet heard this you should definitely give this a spin. Fans of the Wu needn’t really bother.


Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes

Lykke Li
Wounded Rhymes
25 February 2011
LL Recordings/Warner Bros. Records/ WMG
080/100
Lykke Li Youth Novels

1.Youth Knows No Pain // 2. I Follow Rivers //  3. Love Out Of Lust // 4. Unrequited Love // 5. Get Some // 6. Rich Kids Blues // 7. Sadness Is A Blessing // 8. I Know Places // 9. Jerome // 10. Silent My Song

2011, the year of Lykke Li’s Zachrisson second album, is more than an uneven number, for Wounded Rhymes is very different from Youth Novels. Björn Yttling again teams up with Lykke Li and their gem of a single I Follow Rivers gives Lykke Li enormous exposure over TV and radio. Remix after remix follows of which The Magician version in some ways obscures the original single. I found the Magician’s Remix rather boomy sounding but more danceable. I guess ‘danceable’ sells much better…

Where Youth Novels mostly tells stories with a girly frailty Wounded Rhymes sounds rougher and more grown up. Youth Knows No Pain is pretty much a live-it-up-song inspired by being youthful. The intro though via subtle hints makes way for a bombastic rhythm driven yet melodiously interwoven track that sounds as if I imagined I travelled back at least 40 years in time. Nostalgia leads to the Doors, I dig that sound. That organ… Back to my senses I Follow Rivers is more dance oriented yet sounds more heavy than dance floor material. Beats pound, percussion patterns do a rhythmic dance while Lykke Li sings a bit lower with her voice sounding a bit more raspy. This song works with its intriguing lyrics about clinging to her lover while the rhythms move you and induce curiosity melodiously accompanied by that organ again until the echoes lure you to Love Out Of Lust.

Love Out Of Lust continues the adventure of I Follow Rivers with a call to celebrate love via dancing. The lover vocals work miracles with the overall production of this track. Peter Bjorn and John’s Björn Yttling gives you a gentle wall of sound with whistle tones, echoes, slow grooves and rhythms that carry a vibe that is perfectly described by the lyrics. Unrequited Love bursts the bubble though. A foot taps, an electric guitar plays and the raspy sounding voice is being backed up by the choir in an acoustic song. Unanswered love makes way for lust and dominance. Bombastic beats and rhythm patterns pull you in while the electronic groove pulls you into Get Some while I can’t sit still. This is real dance floor material with a sixties vibe. The overall production again is worth of a attentive listen. Björn Ytlling’s musical approach is a pleasure inducing the listener into repeat listens.

Rich Kids Blues continues the sixties sound with an organ driven song. As the song becomes more bombastic the rock sound becomes more apparent while Lykke Li sings about being in her rich kid bubble. The bubble bursts again as the slow Sadness Is A Blessing becomes audible. “My wounded rhymes make silent cries tonight”, which provides this album a title, is the first line of this song and as the song progresses the bombastic productions gives this song and extra dimension. Counting the layers is almost mandatory. Oh yes the lover is gone again, back to being a single. Sadness leads to I Know Places. It’s an acoustic song about shelter and comfort. The feeling of a small tear tells me enough.

The slow fade out leads to Jerome. Possessive desire for Jerome is found. As the song becomes more bombastic and more layers become distinguishable while the screams increase. “You’ve got me for nothing Jerome” should be enough of a clue. Silent My Song continues the plot as the bombastic instrumentals emphasize the intensity of the emotions expressed in the lyrics. Intense pleasure and pain silent the song. This track is quite the closer.

As you might have noticed this album is different from the first album. Lykke Li sings with a lower and more raspy voice increasing her reach. The lyrical content is more grown up and the instrumentals induce nostalgia with the typical organs and the bombastic wall of sound from several decades ago. The Doors, Kate Bush and many other names come to mind with this album.

Best Tracks
Unrequited Love
Get Some
I Know Places
Silent My Song

Recommendations
If you liked Youth Novels get this album. Whether you liked the debut or not this album is at least worth a listen. This album is an adventure and the production sounds super amazing, especially through a good sound system.

My regards,

Rura88


Digital Underground – This Is an EP Release

Digital Underground
This Is an EP Release
July 1, 1991
Tommy Boy Records/ Warner Bros. Records/ WMG
065/100
Digital Underground - This Is an EP Release
1. Same Song (feat. 2pac) // 2. Tie the Knot // 3. The Way We Swing [Remix] // 4. Nuttin’ this Funky // 5. Packet Man [Worth a Packet Remix] // 6. Arguin’ On da Funk

Sex Packets was some terrific stuff and left me wanting a chaser badly. This isn’t it. Although This Is an EP release isn’t without merit it seems mostly something cooked up by Tommy Boy records to make some quick cash by throwing together remixes, songs that may or may not be Sex Packets outtakes and a single taken from a soundtrack. While they were at it couldn’t they have thrown in the songs that were exclusively available on the casette version of Digital Underground’s debut album as well?

That said: This Is an EP Release is still hella fun to listen to when it’s on. The remix of Packet Man and Tie the Not take Digital Underground and blends it with Soul II Soul’s creating something more slick than you’re used to from these guys, to great effect.

Same Song taken from the Dan Aykroyd film Nothing But Trouble is also some good stuff with it’s electronic funk instrumental and 2pac’s atypically unthuggish blink-and-you’ll-miss it debut on record appearance. Ain’t Nothin’ this Funky hardly lives up to it’s title but is passable nonetheless.

Argiun’ On the Funk is Shock G and his alter ego arguing over a beat without so much as dropping a rhyme and doesn’t add anything to the Digital Underground catalogue, nor does the remix to The Way We Swing.

And then This is an EP Release is Over. With six tracks there isn’t much room for filler, but still there’s two tracks that are wholly inessential and one that walks the line. That leaves three dope cuts that might as well have been bonus tracks on Sex Packets or maybe Digital Underground’s Sons of the P. Considering that they weren’t this EP is still something every DU fan should check out.

Best tracks
Same Song, Packet Man [Worth a Packet Remix]

Recommendations
Beyond these two songs only real Digital Underground fans should spend money on this.


Digital Underground – Sex Packets

Digital Underground
Sex Packets
March 26, 1990
Tommy Boy Records/ Warner Bros. Records/ WMG
080/100
Digital Underground - Sex Packets
1. The Humpty Dance // 2. The Way We Swing // 3. Rhymin’ on the Funk // 4. The New Jazz (One) // 5. Underwater Rimes [Remix] // 6. Gutfest ’89 [Edit] // 7. The Danger Zone // 8. Freaks of the Industry // 9. Doowutchulike // 10. Packet Prelude // 11. Sex Packets // 12. Street Scene // 13. Packet Man // 14. Packet Reprise

Listening to Sex Packets it’s hard to believe that Digital Underground would go on to produce one of hip-hop’s biggest stars and most polarizing figures. It’s not just that there isn’t so much as a trace of 2pac’s actual haunting baritone on here, but stylistically Humpty Hump and his merry band of, um… well… band members don’t seem to be too preoccupied with writing pro feminist raps, tales of ghetto life and dissing the shit out of Bad Boy records. Although if we are to believe Wikipedia Digital Underground was initially supposed to be militant, political and spreading social awareness until Public Enemy chose to take possesion of that niche. Oh well.

If this story is true then it was Chuck D, Flava Flav and co. who freed the Underground’s hands to create a solid party record, owing more to George Clinton than they do to any hip-hop predecessor or contemporary. Digital Underground’s style is probably best described as the love child of George Clinton and Sir Mix-a-Lot. With Shock G being the schizofrenic ringleader, Money B being the second in command, DJ Fuze, Chopmaster J and a whole lot of others being regular players and so many people in the shifting stable of vocalists and musicians going in and out of the studio that it’s usually hard to figure out who’s present and who does what.

If you’re looking for enlightment, poetry or even well put-together flows Digital Underground isn’t for you. The album is filled with instructions of how to dance, party and have a good time in general as well as lots of goofy, surreal humor in the place of lyricism, not unlike what LMFAO does today. Shock G, the alpha male of the group oft resorts to the use of alternate personalities such as the nasally voiced goofball Humpty hump.

The intrumentals are also great throughout. Although within a couple of years after this album every rapper and his grandmother had spit over one or more of these Parliament-meets-Zapp beats one has to keep in mind that when Sex Packets came out it wasn’t yet as played out. Also Shock and his lieutenants don’t put in stale funk or lazy straightforward sampling.

If you are looking for a good natured party rap album that’s light and funky Sex Packets is definitely the way to go. Songs such as the Humpty DanceDoowutchalikeRhymin’ on the Funk and Underwater Rimes [Remix] are hella fun to listen to and overlooked hip-hop classics. And that more or less goes for the entirety of this consistently dope album. The good times are rollin’ and everyone is invited and advised to join in.

Best tracks
The Humpty Dance, Rhymin’ on the Funk, Underwater Rhimes [Remix], Doowutchyalike, Sex Packets

Recommendations
Buy this one.