On September 4, Southern California’s Blu & Exile return to their collaborative origins with the release of Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them, the long-anticipated followup to the duo’s landmark debut, Below the Heavens. Featuring Fashawn, Homeboy Sandman, Johaz of Dag Savage, Black Spade of Hawthorne Headhunters, and ADAD, the new album on Fat Beats / Dirty Science is both an evolution from and complement to their first: a cohesive, kicked back collection of hip-hop buoyed by Blu’s gymnastic wordplay and Exile’s soulful, sample-driven beats. While Blu’s penchant for introspection and analysis remains intact, his perspective ebbs from the sun-soaked nostalgia of Below the Heavens to a more playful realm where raps about lost love and forgotten dreams find equal footing with those about Gondry films and delivery cheesecake. Together Blu & Exile have taken the raw materials of rap and crafted charmingly idiosyncratic, album-minded mu- sic that transcends coasts and continents alike. As with Dilla & Common, Hi-Tek & Talib Kweli, and Pete Rock & CL Smooth, there’s a kindred understanding between Blu and Exile that invites instant ease and empathy. Although Exile has produced tracks for Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa, Big Sean, Akon, Aloe Blacc, Jurassic 5, Kardinal Offishall, and Mobb Deep, it is with Blu that his production feels most at home. Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them, though undoubtedly a logical progression in both sound and scope, defies all the hype, precedents, and expectations to reaffirm the duo’s position at the forefront of LA’s burgeoning beat scene.
From Hempstead, Long Island, representing an area that boasts some of rap history's most iconic giants (Eric B & Rakim, Public Enemy, EPMD, De La Soul), Roc Marciano will settle for nothing less than greatness. After a long history with Busta Rhymes and The Flipmode Squad in the late 90's and early 2000's, Roc found himself in limbo without a solo deal. Undaunted, Roc continued to record at his Long Island home studio which became the meeting grounds for his brain child The UN. With his solo debut on Fat Beats Records, and collaborating with some of the new producers in the game (Marco Polo, DJ Babu and The P Brothers), Roc plans to show the world his raw lyricism and production savvy. "I just remember sitting next to the radio trying to tape Marley Marl’s Rap attack" adds Roc. "It was all about Rakim, EPMD, Big Daddy Kane, Granddaddy I.U all of that. Back then whoever was the nicest on the mic had to get dealt with. You couldn't just be talking about anything on the mic. That was millions of blunts ago. I wanna bring a little of that feeling back." With songs like "Snow" and "Thug's Prayer" he is well on the road to doing just that. "[Marciano] stakes his claim as one of Hip- Hop's most original and exciting artists, with his pulse-pounding 90s throwback of a debut" -Hip-HopDX (Top 25 Albums of 2010)
Donuts began simply enough as an idea to turn a particularly good demo beat tape into a full-length release, and has since became a classic hip-hop album, one of the defining works of the artist’s life. Completed during a year in which J Dilla spent mostly in a hospital bed at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, Donuts would gain particular poignancy when, only three days after it’s release, February 10, 2006, the artist passed away, losing his battle with a rare blood disease. Back late 2005 when Stones Throw was getting ready to release J Dilla’s Donuts, they made a casual decision to use a drawing for the cover of the 2LP vinyl release, rather than the standard cover photo of Dilla used for the other releases. But now here it is, better late than never: J Dilla’s classic album Donuts now released on vinyl with the smile on the cover. Cover & illustrations by Jeff Jank; photo of Dilla by Andrew Gura. Just a few months ago Stones Throw published a short back-story on the cover photo.
The world moves faster than ever these days, and even in the digital age, things can always be counted on to go in cycles. Despite all of the advances in computer recording technology, home studios, and electronic instruments, there is a flourishing interest in analog recording techniques and in recreating the mood and sound of vintage soul records. With one foot in the past but their eyes firmly set on the future, El Michels Affair are among the leaders of a resurgent funk & soul movement from New York City that's sweeping both the music community and the charts. Led by saxophonist/organist Leon Michels and producer/engineer Jeff Silverman, El Michels Affair began as a loose collaboration of session musicians (including members of top-selling acts Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, the Budos Band, and Antibalas) that looked to blend some of the vibrant quality of soundtrack records with the recording aesthetic of early reggae, and the rawness of 60's rock--they called it 'Cinematic Soul.' This delicate balance was evident on their 2005 debut album Sounding Out the City, which earned critical acclaim and acted as the inaugural full-length release for Michels and Silverman's burgeoning label Truth & Soul (also the moniker for the duo as a production team). The buzz generated from the album and a series of moderately successful 7" vinyl singles from Truth & Soul led to an invitation by Toyota's Scion division for El Michels Affair to accompany the rapper Raekwon of Wu-Tang Clan for a promotional concert. As avid Wu-Tang fans, not only were the band leaders thrilled with the opportunity, but Michels found that the 'Cinematic Soul' sound was consistent with the moods of RZA's gritty soundscapes on the classic Wu-Tang releases. The concert was such as success, El Michels Affair went on to play several more concerts nationwide backing Raekwon and other members of the Clan, and the shows led to the recording of two smash 7" singles featuring instrumental reinterpretations of the Wu-Tang classic songs "C.R.E.A.M." and "Bring Da Ruckus." The singles combined to sell an extraordinary amount of over 7,000 units worldwide, and their success led to a contract in 2007 with indie hip hop powerhouse Fat Beats Records to record an entire album of Wu-Tang Clan interpolations entitled Enter the 37th Chamber. Since the contract was inked, a worldwide explosion of retro soul led by Amy Winehouse, Mark Ronson, and Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings has transformed the pop music landscape, and the Truth & Soul production duo have been in strong demand, recording with everyone from breakthrough Grammy-nominated artist Adele to punk rock innovator Iggy Pop. They've been commissioned for official remixes of Amy Winehouse and Dinah Washington (for the popular Verve Remixed series), and produced for Australian multi-platinum acts Jet and Gabriella Cilmi. Despite the eclectic group of clients for the Truth & Soul production company, El Michels Affair continued to build an audience within the hip hop community. A track from Sounding out the City was sampled for Ghostface Killah's 2007 track "Shakey Dog Lolita," and a horn part written and performed by Michels (for Menahan Street Band) was famously lifted for Jay-Z's smash single "Roc Boys." Truth & Soul also worked in the studio on original productions with multi-platinum producer Just Blaze (T.I.'s "Live Your Life," Jay-Z, Usher). With their increasing presence behind the scenes in the industry, El Michels Affair looks to have their status as recording artists rise significantly in 2009. With the release of their finally-completed album Enter the 37th Chamber, they can finally step out of the shadows of the retro-soul trend and establish their status as one of the most exciting and versatile bands in modern recorded music.
POSSIBLY THE BEST HIP HOP ALBUM OF 2010 NOW INCLUDES NEW BONUS CUTS! From Hempstead, Long Island, representing an area that boasts some of rap history's most iconic giants (Eric B & Rakim, Public Enemy, EPMD, De La Soul), Roc Marciano will settle for nothing less than greatness. After a long history with Busta Rhymes and The Flipmode Squad in the late 90's and early 2000's, Roc found himself in limbo without a solo deal. Undaunted, Roc continued to record at his Long Island home studio which became the meeting grounds for his brain child The UN. With his solo debut on Fat Beats Records, and collaborating with some of the new producers in the game (Marco Polo, DJ Babu and The P Brothers), Roc plans to show the world his raw lyricism and production savvy. "I just remember sitting next to the radio trying to tape Marley Marl’s Rap attack" adds Roc. "It was all about Rakim, EPMD, Big Daddy Kane, Granddaddy I.U all of that. Back then whoever was the nicest on the mic had to get dealt with. You couldn't just be talking about anything on the mic. That was millions of blunts ago. I wanna bring a little of that feeling back." With songs like "Snow" and "Thug's Prayer" he is well on the road to doing just that. "[Marciano] stakes his claim as one of Hip- Hop's most original and exciting artists, with his pulse-pounding 90s throwback of a debut" -Hip-HopDX (Top 25 Albums of 2010)
On the crime-infested east side of Lost Gates CA, there is a vinyl pressing plant whose brochure says, “we will do anything for a price.” Back in the 70s & 80s, they specialized in private press porno soundtracks, but these days Madlib is their only customer. Stones Throw took them a couple Quasimoto tracks and a drawing or two, and here’s what we got: a custom-shaped record, half picture disc, half clear, thick vinyl. One side is Quasimoto’s “Planned Attack” from the album Yessir Whatever, and the flip side is the previously unreleased “Talkin’ Shit,” a short track with Lord Quas doing what he does best. Both tracks are produced-by and featuring Madlib. Pictured below is the front, family-friendly side of the vinyl. The backside of the record, the “x-ray” portion, show’s Quasimoto disgusting insides. Artwork by Jeff Jank.
Quasimoto first came to life on Madlib's personal beat tapes in the producer's early years in Oxnard CA – private music, not meant for release, made for himself and a small circle of local smokers and their car stereos. By the time of Quasimoto's debut The Unseen, most had caught on to the fact that Madlib and Quasimoto were one in the same. The MC as artistic alter ego, like a talking dummy from surreal rap vaudeville. Quasimoto is usually the "bad character," doing and saying what the producer doesn't, with Madlib along side as a noncommittal collaborator. The Unseen (Stones Throw, 2000) was among the new decade's first sleeper hits, ranking on Spin's year end list at a time when the producer and label were unknown outside hip-hop DJ circles. After a subsequent journey through jazz production and now-legendary collaborations with MF DOOM & J Dilla, Madlib called on Quasimoto again for The Further Adventures of Lord Quas. The album played something like a smoked-out comedy/crime Blaxploitation flick, and continued to build Madlib's reputation as one of the most creative and fearlessly skewed creators in hip-hop. As for Quasimoto – usually represented by pen & ink with brick in hand – he has been many things over the years: rapper, cartoon, the poor-man's Gorillaz, a toy, bad tattoo, internet meme. To all this Lord Quas might say, yessir ... whatever. It's all about the music. Yessir Whatever collects 12-tracks made by Madlib and Quasimoto over a roughly 12-year period. A few were released on rare & out-of-print vinyl, while a few others are previously unreleased, now mixed and mastered for the first time. Take two & pass. Yessir ... whatever. Artwork by Jeff Jank. Mastered by Dave Cooley.
"Before we get this started, let me explain it. It's Ruff Draft. For my real niggaz only ... Sound like it's straight from the ma'fuckin' cassette! ... Let's do it." ...Thus begins Ruff Draft. These self-produced tracks make up one of the late J Dilla's least known works during his lifetime. Released on vinyl only in February 2003 this sought-after release was elusive and virtually unknown to the casual Dilla fan until Stones Throw's reissue in 2007. Recorded in the wake of a failed deal with major label, Dilla returned to solo recordings as a fiercely independent artist with Ruff Draft. The CD contains photos from this era and detailed liner notes by Ronnie Reese discussing Dilla's career in 2002 when Ruff Draft was recorded. Tracks on this disc were taken from J Dilla's original master tapes, where additional previously-unreleased tracks “Wild” and “Take Notice” were also discovered.
Mos Def & Talib Kweli are Black Star was released on August 18, 1998, to critical acclaim. The title is a reference to the Black Star Line, a shipping company founded by Pan-Africanist Marcus Garvey. The album deals with modern-day issues, philosophies and life in Brooklyn. The two MCs had planned to release solo albums around the same time, but decided instead to collaborate on a full-length album. The first single, “Definition (song),” is a reaction to hip-hop’s fascination with death, dedicated to both Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G., with a chorus that gives a nod to Boogie Down Productions’ “Stop the Violence.” “Children’s Story” is a re-imagination of the Slick Rick original, featuring Mos Def cautioning against materialism. The second single, “Respiration,” featuring Common, includes a Hi-Tek produced beat that samples Don Randi’s “The Fox” and another from the hip-hop documentary Style Wars. The track offers a melancholy ode to city life, with references to organic life functions such as breathing, eating and sleeping, but with an ominous edge, as Kweli raps about “sitting on shitty steps/we stooped to new lows, hell froze/the night the city slept.” The album peaked at No. 53 on the Billboard Top 200 and No. 13 on the Hip-Hop Albums chart, but has become considered a classic since then.
The debut album from the Wu-Tang Clan.
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What began as a simple idea to pay homage to Pink Floyd birthed a new persona, West Side Of The Moon was the incubator Dert Floyd was hatched in. Donald “DertBeats” Baker has been carving up samples and drum breaks since his adolescent days in West Covina California, but something happened while making the Floyd beat tape. Dert found a voice hidden deep in his psyche that longed for fuzzy guitar licks and aquatic synth lines. Dert Floyd is an avatar emblematic of the rebellious and experimental nature of the records that inspired the moniker, while also holding steadfast to the the concrete cracking boom bap backbone one has come to expect from him. “E C L I P S E” is a new voyage to the outer reaches of sound. A middle passage through varying stages of frustration, rage, depression, and heartache, eventually landing in a place of reconciliation. Wild loops, precise chops, and Dert’s signature bounce all set a course for the side of the moon few have seen, and this time we get to peer into the shadows a little deeper.
House Shoes recently started his quarterly “Flip Sessions” series where he selects a sample and producers get the opportunity to create their own interpretation. This time around Shoes picked his personal favorite 3 tracks submitted. The winning entries were pressed up on a VERY limited run of 45’s. House Shoes Presents: Flip Sessions Volume Two featuring Dert Beats b/w Chanes & Juicy The Emissary.
Birthed in the back alleys of Baltimore, nurtured by NYC, and ultimately coming-of-age on the highways of the southwest on their way to California, Silk Rhodes are the dynamic duo of astro-traveling producer Michael Collins and singer Sasha Desree. Their voyage began in a 1997 Honda CRV turned DIY recording studio built to capture and share light-bulb moments as they happened. The approach was simple: run a microphone into loop pedal, connect the looper to the car stereo via cassette-tape adaptor, and start spitting out ideas.Then Collins and Desree, alongside a host of roving lunatics and pranksters, would broadcast their experiments to the streets, commenting on their observations in rhyme, soliciting ideas from strangers, and inviting people into the car to contribute vocals, or loop beats.These experiments spawned sound collages, and stream-of-consciousness hymns, as well an an electric boogie tune with nods to Joe Jackson and George Benson (“Face 2 Face”), and a lonesome ballad that sounds like a still-lost Donnie and Joe Emerson song produced by Gamble & Huff (“Pains”). Under the banner of Silk Rhodes, Collins and Desree challenge preconceived notions of what Soul Music is, can, and should be. Steeped in the human experience, Silk Rhodes debut is a collection of songs that exemplifies their free spirited vision for future soul music.A touchstone for exploring inner visions.
It’s odd that while Ghostface Killah is critically revered as a defiantly independent lyrical auteur, Method Man is consistently derided as a thoughtless stoner, crassly pandering to his audience’s lowest expectations. Though such criticism may carry some weight in 2007, it’s important to remember that with the superlative Tical, Method Man released what may be the most impenetrable, dissonant, and unnerving album in the entire Wu-Tang catalog. The very fact that such an inaccessible album was a commercial success is testament to Meth’s immeasurable charisma as an MC. Even in his most deliriously dusted moments Meth always manages to inject a pinch of devil may care charm into his drug damaged badinage, and the infectious refrains that made “M.E.T.H.O.D. Man” stand out on the Wu-Tang’s debut can be found all over Tical, emerging out of the sonic chaos just as things are about to become completely unhinged. Rza is in fine form throughout, and provides Meth with a set of shambolic but inspired productions that completely upend conventional notions of what Hip-Hop should sound like. Every beat, from the eerie wails of “Mr. Sandman” to the mesmerizing “Sub Crazy,” is an unqualified masterpiece, and Meth is more than up to the task of blessing these beats with the finest in sly come-ons, raucous threats, and mumbled madness.
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A boom-bap study on the discography of Pink Floyd. This vinyl and tape release features twenty of Dert’s personal favorite tracks from the Dert Floyd/Westside of the Moon beat tape remastered and sounding better than ever.
He made remixes matter more than the original songs. He introduced dramatic, forceful horns to rap’s sonic discussion. It almost goes without saying that Pete Rock is one of the greatest hip-hop producers of all time. His latest album features a roster of cult hip hop artists that includes Wu-Tang’s Raekwon and Masta Killa, Dipset’s Jim Jones, Papoose, D-Block and Redman amongst others. Check the classic singles “We Roll,” “914,” and “The PJs” for proof that Soul Brother No. 1 is still crafting timeless music. This limited-edition vinyl repress includes a bonus 45 with the exclusive track “It’s So G” featuring Roc Marciano.
Detroit’s Black Milk’s 6th solo LP, If There’s A Hell Below, painted pictures from a first person perspective of someone raised and living in one of America’s toughest cities, and the ups and downs of pursuing a career in the arts. The stories reflect how he and the people where he’s from feel or have felt - if there’s a hell below, maybe we’re already in it. This limited edition Record Store Day double LP features the previously unreleased instrumentals showcasing the versality and impact of Black Milk’s production.