Due to the sheer volume of really great new hip-hop dropping these days, this is the second Amoeblog hip-hop round up for this week. Click here to check out part one from Friday, which included the Berkeley Amoeba Music Top Five plus news items on A.G. Cubano, DJ Teeko, Diplo, and NaS.
Meantime, this second part round-up comes complete with my personal top ten hip-hop chart. This chart is song oriented rather than album based. The songs are all new 2008 releases, unless otherwise noted, and are culled from various formats including vinyl, CDs, mixtape CDs, 7" singles, and MP3s. Most should be available at Amoeba Music now or in the very near future. Ask Amoeba's always helpful & informed staff for assistance if you ever have questions on any music.
JAMOEBLOG TOP TEN HIP-HOP TRACKS: 08:10:08
1) NaS "Black President" (Def Jam)
2) Jean Grae + 9th Wonder feat K Hill, Edgar Allen Floe, & Joe Scudda "Smashmouth" (Blacksmith)
3) KRS-One "Pick It Up" (KOCH)
4) Rza as Bobby Digital feat. Monk & Thea "Drama" (KOCH)
5) Stacy Epps "Cosmik Dust" (JapanNubianMusic)
6) Keak da Sneak, E40 & Clyde Carson "All I Know" (KOCH)
7) DJ Quest "Killing The Cut" (ZQ Records)
8) Tony Matterhorn "Big Belly Guns" (Mad Decent)
9) dan le sac Vs Scroobius Pip "Look For The Woman" (Strange Famous)
10) Esen "Please Don't Leave Me" (Take A Record)
NaS' untitled new album has many amazing songs, but the very best one in my opinion is "Black President," (#1) the last track on the politically charged 15-track CD. Compared to all the other pro Barack Obama songs out there (and there are lots of them, with many more on the way), "Black President" is a really smart and well-thought through commentary on the first black presidential hopeful.
Built around a perfectly chosen 2Pac sample ("And though it seems heaven sent, we ain't ready to see a black president") plus a soulful vocal hook ("Yes we can ... change the world, change the world, they said!"), and sprinkled with some Obama speech soundbites, the veteran Queensbridge emcee offers a positive but honest piece on the "new improved JFK on the way" but, unlike some Barack fans, who seem blinded by their messiah, NaS maintains a healthy edge of skepticism, wondering aloud, "Im thinkin' I can trust this brotha. But will he keep it way real?.....When he wins - will he really care still?"
Knowledge continues to reign supreme as KRS-One continues to remain an integral voice in hip-hop culture for all these years. Not many hip-hop artists can remain as relevant over such a long stretch of time, but Boogie Down Production's Kris Parker has managed to do so by staying true to his commitment to hip-hop culture. What's popular in hip-hop may have changed around the Blastmaster over the decades but he has always stayed focused on his blueprint of hip-hop.
The guy is a living legend and is prolific as ever. This summer he has a fully booked schedule, participating in talks and interviews, concerts and festivals, plus cameos on several other artist's albums and mixtapes including the track "Peace" on Portland OR group Animal Farm's new album The Unknown. He also has a new album of his own that is actually an old album. It was supposed to be the last album he released on Jive almost a decade ago but it never came out. Now released by KOCH, it is titled Maximum Strength Two Thousand Eight and has some new stuff added. While it may not match his early masterpieces, it has some really tight tracks, including "Pick It Up" (#3) and the short track "The Kool Herc," which is dedicated to the DJ who started this whole thing called hip-hop.
Britain's super-talented, witty and intelligent duo dan le sac Vs Scroobius Pip, whose huge 2007 UK debut single "Thou Shalt Not Kill" is one of the greatest commentaries on pop culture ever recorded (read Mike Bee's Amoeblog), score with their single "Look For The Woman" (#9) from their forthcoming US debut album. The album also features the new single "Letter From God To Man." The more down-tempo, introspective "Look For The Woman," with its infectious chorus and engaging lyrics (delivered in the group's usual thick British accents) is a first person commentary about being in an aged and strained relationship on the brink of breaking up: "Love you too much to leave. Don't like you enough to stay."
These guys are usually really good in concert, so I was psyched to learn that they are planning on a brief upcoming US tour that will include one show at Echo in LA on September 30th and another at Cafe du Nord in San Francisco on October 1st. They will play two nights --Sept 25/26-- at the Mercury Lounge in NYC. Their album Angles is due out September 2nd. For more information on the group, their tour dates, and to hear samples of their music, including the songs mentioned here, check out their MySpace.
Jean Grae's new album Jeanius, with 9th Wonder's killer production, just gets better with every listen. The New York female emcee is such an amazingly talented wordsmith, a master at flipping vocab as she tales her engaging tales, which range from the most personal, such as "My Story," to the most braggadocios. "I'm the Eric Cartman of rap" she raps during the crew track "Smashmouth" (#2) on which, over a head nodding funky, funky beat, she is joined by the three talented mic guests, K-Hill, Edgar Allen Floe, and the real star here, Joe Scudda, who is such a bad ass that "even by myself I was the bad crowd, Grimey, no sweet odor, the mean kid in school never asked for sleepover."
In addition to the fact that Jean Grae is a great artist, it is refreshing to hear a powerful female voice in such a ridiculously gender-unbalanced genre. Hence, emcee/singer Stacy Epps' strong debut album The Awakening on JapanNubianMuzzik is equally noteworthy. An artist whose immediately unique sound ranges from hip-hop to soul and jazz and accurately self-described as "The spiritual essences of Alice Coltrane, mixed with the abstraction of Bjork, the spaciness of Radiohead and the drums of J-Dilla, her musical menagerie is packed with influences as diverse as her heritage."
The song "Cosmik Dust" (#5) is produced by Flying Lotus, who brings a nice dubby raw feel to it. The Atlanta, GA artist has scheduled a record release party for The Awakening at 330 Ritch in San Francisco on August 12th and at a location TBA in Los Angeles on August 16th. Check her MySpace for exact details as well as samples off The Awakening.
The Bay Area is represented by DJ Quest on the track "Killing The Cut," (#7) produced by T-Rock, off his recent Questolous album, and Keak da Sneak's pro weed anthem "All I Know" featuring E40 and Clyde Carson off the former 3XKrazy member's new solo album Deified.
Please Don't Leave Me" (#10) is a nice lo-fi, mid-nineties throwback hip-hop salute by Brooklyn emcee Esen. It's the B-side of a seven inch single from the underground artist.
The really great mix of Tony Matterhorn's "Big Belly Guns" by Diplo samples the Dead Boys guitar part of "Sonic Reducer" and even has a bit of the opening guitar from the Dead Kennedys' "Holiday In Cambodia." It is one of the many great tracks off the new Diplo Top Ranking Santogold mix CD on Mad Decent.
Finally, rest in peace to Bernie Mac, who passed yesterday (read Eric Brightwell's Amoeblog tribute). Below is a clip from the 1995 comedy Friday that Bernie Mac played a small role in. He appears around the 6:30 mark in the video clip below that also features Ice Cube and the hilarious Chris Tucker.