1) DJ Qbert - Extraterrestria + GalaXXXian (Galactic Butt Hair Records)
Although only released digitally in 2014 following a successful Kickstarter campaign (vinyl to arrive at Amoeba in 2015), this instrumental album (Extraresstria) and its rap/emcee counterpart album (GalaXXXian) rate as my top pick(s) for the best hip-hop released in 2014. Apparently I'm not alone in thinking so; Extraterrestia is up for a possible Grammy award. The stated goal of DJ Qbert's new album, which the artist considers as a Wave Twisters Part II, is to present the sound of skratch music in the future as he sees it, or - as he said upon the release of the new project - "the time capsule response and interstellar transmission to any galactic civilization, alien or far-future human." The "Jimi Hendrix of the turntables" ably accomplishes both solo as producer/DJ as well as with such album collaborators as Kool Keith, Del the Funky Homosapien, Mr Lif, Dana Leong, and Chad Hugo, who (along with Tipsy) co-produce the album's best track - the soothing, dreamy, ethereal "Ascender (Agartha)."
Hiero Day 2014 -- happening Monday, September 1st in Oakland in the blocks surrounding 95 Linden Street (Linden Street Brewery) -- may only be in its third year, but this ambitious, annual, refreshingly non-mainstream, all-ages East Bay hip-hop festival has quickly become the best Bay Area hip-hop festival of the year. Hiero Day features the extended Hieroglyphics hip-hop collective along with a slew of equally talented hip-hop friends (mostly Bay and Cali hip-hop acts) performing on three different stages throughout the day. I attended last year's Hiero Day and was so impressed with how fun and how peaceful this musically rich event was!
Hiero Day is free and all-ages with a truly indie feeling, and no nasty corporate overtones. In fact it is more like an expanded modern day continuation of the Living Legends' Unsigned & Hella Broke jams back in the day. Fittingly, Mystik Journeymen are among those on the bill at Hiero Day 2014 - a day that will attract hip-hop appreciative fans in the thousands to enjoy great music, a variety of tasty food trucks, tables selling cool hip-hop clothing, a skate contest, and (for vinyl fiends and crate diggers) the beat swap meet.
Dilated Peoples "Good As Gone" (2014)
1) Dilated Peoples Director of Photography (Rhymesayers Ent) (also on clear vinyl LP format)
2) Kendrick Lamar Good kid, m.A.A.d city [Deluxe Edition] (Aftermath)
3) Quasimoto "Planned Attack" / Talkin' Shit" [Picture Disc] (7") (Stones Throw)
4) Freddie Gibbs Pinata (Madlib Invazion)
5) J-Dilla Donuts (45 box set) (Stones Throw)
At the Los Angeles Amoeba Music store this week the number one album in the latest hip-hop chart is the brand new, anticipated album from hometown heroes Dilated Peoples who return after eight long years (but don't call it a comeback!) with an incredible album. Director of Photography on Rhymesayers Entertainment, that was also pressed up on clear vinyl LP format, is a wonderfully executed work that's all tied together with the theme of photography (see the video clip below - one in a series that the group explain the meaning behind this theme). With lots of references to hip-hop and to their hometown Directors is intricately produced with layered seductive bass-lines, bone tingling beats, and engaging rhyme flows that find Evidence and company at their finest. Well worth the wait. See video above for “Good as Gone” and check out such tracks as “Show Me the Way” featuring on the chorus Aloe Blacc. Writes the Amoeba.com reviewer: "Though it’s plenty rooted in classic hip-hop, Directors of Photography mostly avoids feeling dated with some of its more adventurous tracks. Record pops, lo-fi mics and a dark guitar lick give “Let Your Thoughts Fly Away” a terrific modern underground feel, its wicked bass comes through partway in to keep it engaging amid lyrics about “dreaming even though we’re wide awake.” And “Opinions May Vary” featuring great young hip-hop duo Gangrene is head-spinning in the best way, like riding out a bad trip and just going with it. Ditto the rest of Directors of Photography, a heavy dose of chemically altered yet classically minded hip-hop."
As one of the many industry folk interviewed in the documentary I was among the lucky ones to get invited to last weekend's premiere screening. (I had produced a SoulBeat TV show dedicated to the Hieros back in September of 1993 upon the Souls' 93 release - portions of which are interspersed throughout the new doc). After the midday screening finished at New Parkway on 24th Street attendees moved over to the Rock Steady on San Pablo at 18th for the after party / photo exhibit (Phesto and Shomari Smith's Souls tour photos). It was outside that venue, a part of the New Parish, that I conducted the above video interview with Shomari Smith. At the recently relocated New Parkway (which looks great by the way) Shomari addressed the audience that, along with all of the Souls and most of the Hieros, included such film interveiwees as Lyrics Born, Equipto, and Dante Ross. "It's been an amazing journey," stressed Smith of the film that took two years to make. Like most good pieces of art the film took on its own direction and vibe based on the material Smith culled in the seemingly endless hours of interviews he conducted. The documentary clocked in at two hours he but before the screening Smith promised that the time would "go by quickly" (it did) adding how what the audience was about to view was "the directors cut" since due to licensing and other factors the film will have to go through another round of editing down and a series of alterations.