Amoeba Music Berkeley Hip-Hop Top Five: 06:19:09
1) Mos Def The Ecstatic (Downtown)
2) J Dilla Jay Stay Paid (Nature Sounds)
3) Black Eyed Peas The E.N.D. (Interscope)
4) DJ Quik & Kurupt Blaqkout (Mad Science)
5) Eminem Relapse (Shady/Aftemath/Interscope)
Following two less than impressive albums (2004's The New Danger and 2006's True Magic) from an artist who has the skills to deliver more, Mos Def returns with his strongest release in many years, The Ecstatic on Downtown. This is the New York emcee's fourth solo release. The new 16 track album, this week's number one hip-hop release at Amoeba Music Berkeley, returns Mos Def to closer to the magic captured on his debut Black on Both Sides ten years ago and his earlier Black Star days than he has been in quite a while.
Maybe the renaissance man (who also has a successful active acting career, including the award nominated role he had in last year's movie Cadillac Records) was spreading himself too thin up til recently to deliver a solid hip-hop album like this one. Or maybe the fact that for this record he had, among others, Madlib, his younger brother Oh No, Preservation, Mr Flash, and even the late J Dilla on production duties, all of whose beats and mixes perfectly compliment Def's smooth flow. J Dilla's production was for the song "History" featuring Talib Kweli, Mos Def's other half in the legendary hip-hop duo Black Star.
Kweli, Slick Rick and Georgia Anne Muldrow, are the select few collaborators that Mos Def chose to enlist on The Ecstatic, which was a wise move since oft times artist's albums get bogged down with way too many guest appearances that only end up taking away from their host. Not here, where Mos Def has room to shine on such tracks as "History," "Twilite Speedball," "Life in Marvelous Times," "Quiet Dog (Bite Hard)," and "Casa Bey," which has been just been made into an official music video. Below is a live acapella version of the song by the artist from a few months ago while he walked down the streets of Osaka, Japan. Video footage courtesy of Current TV, who were doing a longer piece on the artist.
Other new albums charting this week include the latest Eminem project, the late J Dilla's Jay Stay Paid, and the Black Eyed Peas' The E.N.D., which stands for Energy Never Dies and is actually less a hip-hop album and more an upbeat pop album (and that's not necessarily a bad thing, since they do it so very well).
The other new chart entry is DJ Quik and Kurupt's new duet Blaqkout, which finds these two Left Coast legends in fine form, both equally represented with neither dominating on standout tracks such as "Do You Know," "9 X's Outta 10," and the North African flavored "Hey Playa (Moroccan Blues)." The production was handled by Quik, who strikes a nice balance between West Coast gangsta and radio ready, hook-driven tracks.
Forthcoming releases of note include New York's reformed Anti-Pop Consortium, who got back together about a year ago to do some shows and have recently been putting finishing touches on a new album, reportedly titled Flourescent Black and slated for an October release on Big Dada Records. This is very good news because Anti-Pop Consortium, comprised of Beans, M. Sayyid, High Priest and Earl Blaze, has made some of the most progressive and unique hip-hop that was always way ahead of its time.
Another act that could come under the broad "alternative hip-hop" umbrella is Awol One & Factor, the emcee/producer duo (respectively) who impressed many with 2007's underground hit Only Death Can Kill You and who in a few weeks will release the follow up, Owl Hours on Fake Four Inc.
It's a really diverse album that sometimes strays from straight up hip-hop -- it will appeal to you if you don't mind your hip-hop taking off into other territories. The eleven track album features several guests, including Aesop Rock, Myka 9, Xzibit, and Tash and Eswift of Tha Alkaholiks. Awol One & Factor will be playing together in Los Angeles at The Knitting Factory on July 19th. Speaking of Tash from Tha Alkoholiks, he will be releasing his solo album Control Freek in two weeks. For more info click here.
That's a while away, however. You will have several much sooner chances to catch Awol One solo, including tonight when he is scheduled to play at Malones in Santa Ana, or at Angelos in Pomona next Thursday, June 25th. Meanwhile, Daedelus, who played in San Francisco last night, is on a short West Coast tour that will find him back in his hometown when he plays The Echoplex in Los Angeles on Thursday next, June 25th.
Tonight in the Bay Area, DJ/producer Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest (ATCQ) fame performs at Mighty. Click here for more info. The artist has been far from idle since the legendary hip-hop group split. Artists he has produced include Mos Def, Angie Stone, Shaquille O'Neal and Faith Evans, and he has also done remixing for Janet Jackson, Maxwell, Meshell N'Degeocello and KRS-One.
And let's not forget Lucy Pearl, the group he formed with the Bay Area's Raphael Saadiq and Dawn Robinson (En Vogue) ten years ago. Five years ago he launched the solo project Shaheedulah and Stereotypes, which featured the producer also getting on the mic. Check out the ATCQ video for "Check The Rhime" from 1991 featuring the Ali Shaheed Muhammad along with Q-Tip and Phife Dawg.