A decent pile of wax has accumulated since Kinja accepted me back into its warm embrace. So let’s get back to what we do best at You Made Me-
piss people off talk about highly listenable rap records.
Park Blvd. Records opened up in Oakland... maybe a year ago? Being a grown man intent on relying on his almost-nonexistent familiarity with the street numbers in a neighborhood he hasn’t frequented in 20 years instead of looking at a map had me convinced this would be up a little higher up on Park Blvd. closer to the Togneri Estate. Naturally, it’s at the bottom, making it perfectly accessible to anybody inclined to jump on BART, get off at the Lake Merritt station, and enjoy a lovely 15 minute stroll around the southwest side of the lake. Slight bummer to be reminded that Merritt Bakery no longer exists, my favorite place to ogle delicious-looking pastries when I was in elementary school, because it just had to make way for a fast-food fried chicken joint and a Walgreens in the name of progress. But if you’re not over that by now...
I initially rolled through last September, found a couple things, found a couple more things that were priced low enough to actually make me mad. They had a kinda beat but apparently solid enough copy of The Picnic Song 12" for $40, and the 3 Shades of Rhythm 3xLP for $50, which is about half of what I paid for it if you include the international shipping.
They also have as good a selection of brand new old rap tapes as any B&M you’ll be stumbling into. And it’s their stated philosophy to sell everything at prices that people will want to pay, as opposed to a price that one guy in Germany who is the heir to a watch-maker fortune that has been looking for that piece for eight years is just willing to pay.
I’m guessing that’s why the bins had indeed been pretty much turned all the way over when I made a second trip back a month ago. That’s what it’s all about for me- how often can I come through without picking through the same shit? At Park Blvd. Records, in stark contrast to a lot of other boutique-y record shops, that answer appears to be fairly often. The shop is run by some dudes that have been reasonably big wheels in the rap collector’s scene for awhile, one of whom I’ve bought and sold records with a few times and went above and beyond when a tape I bought through the mail snapped upon the first rewind. They are “those guys” to the extent that you might get a funny look if you don’t connect the dots between the same East Palo Alto dude you’re currently listening to also being on the record you’re presenting for purchase, but they’re stocking brand new releases of various sub-genres. You can get your new new Future record with your new old IMP tape, if that’s your thing.
I swooped up the repress of the last Oddisee LP The Good Fight, a lovely yellow and brown marble splatter that appears to be a tribute to the time Ozzie Smith tried to leg out a triple his rookie year after eating too many hot dogs and threw up all over his Padres jersey. It’s coo- I’m in the process of getting a late pass on Oddisee, but I dig his programmed tracks more than the instrumental stuff with the band. Was also super stoked to find the Dope Folks pressings of the Alkaholiks’ demos and the Parts Unknown album at a B&M. The former didn’t bowl me over at first but has been growing on me big time- it’s not the Liks we know otherwise. The latter is typically enjoyable sample-heavy pre-G-funk Bay rap. I also grabbed the Above The Law- “Call It What You Want” and Totally Insane- “Here We Go Again” 12"s for a couple bucks apiece.
One new LP that’s pretty much come and gone, two more that I never expected to catch up to without USPS getting involved, and a couple other low-cost/high enjoyment joints is a solid day’s haul. They got some non-rap down there too, but who the fuck cares about that. Get your ass down to Park Blvd. Records.
And what else we got here...
Ron Jon Bovi- Neaux Mursi
Ron Jon Bovi is Casual and Phat Kat, with Hiero camp member Unjust on the entirety of the production. News of this broke maybe a month before it dropped, and I think I got too geeked up for it- another record that didn’t bowl me over upon first listen. But it has been growing on me, and is a keeper.
Pretty sure my buddy got a shout out from Casual on here. I bumped into him at the post office and asked him, explained the reference, and he was all blase about it. I get a shout out from Casual, especially if it takes some connecting of dots to figure out, it’s “AYO KENT, YOU HEAR CASUAL RAPPING ABOUT YA BOY?” Man, Kent’s a dick.
Couple cameos on this one, including a verse from Guilty Simpson. I had not been checking for him lately but he put it down, inspiring me to pick up on my next trip to the record store...
Guilty Simpson & Small Professor- Highway Robbery
Vinyl release of a project that originally dropped last year. Been hearing a lot of good things about the awesomely-named Small Professor, who’s been building up enough buzz for a reputation to precede the name even with my living-in-a-bubble ass. This is more of an EP than an LP... but that’s the only potentially unflattering thing I have to say about it.
This shit is really good. There are a handful of bangers, one of which is a slow plodder based around the ill Shogun Assassin sample. I don’t really do slow plodders. Once you’re dragging me out of my comfort zone and still getting me super stoked, you da man. Looking forward to more Small Professor beats.
Ivan Ave and Mndsgn- Helping Hands
This is the best record I have heard in a long time. This record is better than everything I bought last year. I could very well be burying the lede of this whole post by dropping this shit in the middle like it isn’t worth writing the review in the clouds with laser beams. And it’s motherfucking Scandinavian rap?
Ivan Ave is some preppy-looking Norwegian (I think) cat who looks like Macklemore’s stunt double, like perhaps Macklemore is paying a doppleganger to walk through urban neighborhoods on his behalf. Ivan Ave makes good music though. He’s a born MC, he’s got it. You could play that whole 3rd Bass-at-the-label-meeting “Guess what? He’s WHITE!” type of shit with him, he doesn’t sound like a white rapper, just a good rapper. A little new school to his flow, maybe even a drop or two of the swag steez, but he’s coming with an entirely artistic aesthetic on here, no frontin.
Mndsgn has been one of my favorite producers coming out of the new beat scene and was the reason I bought this record. I was extremely excited to hear that he was producing an entire album for an MC even if I didn’t know the first thing about them. You gotta figure he had to reign the glitchy and weird time signature shit in at least a little to work with an MC, and he did. There’s the occasional nu jazz and modern funk (not to be confused with nu funk and modern jazz- never that) touches, but the more minimalist vibe here than with his solo work is way more accessible. It’s some night-time smoketastic shit going on here, and it’s amazing. It’s also a fairly short LP. Sometimes that feels like a ripoff. This one I just want to listen to over and over again.
I will be surprised if this doesn’t end up being my favorite record of the year... he says on March 3.
Betty Ford Boys- Leaders Of The Brew School (2013)
As a man who called his weekly at the clubby-club two years ago “T.I.M.E.,” allow me to say that’s a fantastic name for a record. Was pleasantly surprised to see it in the used bin for $5.
The Betty Ford Boys are Dexter, Suff Daddy, and Brenk Sinatra. My familiarity and affinity for those three guys increases as you go down the list. Brenk Sinatra’s recent solo offering is still getting a lot of play around here, and this is on the same vibe. Slow, sparse, a little on the electronic side with some vocal hooks cut in. More great late night stoner music.
This is the one that has finally ruined me for the Euro production scene- I’m on the jock now. I can no longer just rock the Klaus Layer and keep the rest at arm’s length. Now I’m going to be after all these shits. Fuck.
Compton’s Most Wanted- Music To Driveby (1992)
This has been sitting near the top of my wantlist for awhile now. It’s not the most prohibitively expensive collectible record I can think of by any means. But it never turns up. I engaged in a rare breech of digging etiquette and let out a profane exclamation when I flipped onto this guy in the used bin. This is why I play the game.
It’s probably been more than 20 years since I’ve listened to this, and it holds up incredibly well. The LA gangsta shit can be iffy for me- that, some of the Bay gangsta shit, and the 15 year old nerd rap is pretty much all that my tastes have turned on as I’ve aged, generally speaking. This still bangs. Ain’t even trying to sell anybody on it past that. You’re either knowing and getting a high five, or not knowing and getting the duck sick. I could give a fuck either way.
Above The Law- Livin Like Hustlers (1990)
Caught up to this guy the same day. It appears to be some Latin American press that I found. Unlike Music To Driveby, I vaguely recall snagging a copy of this a few years ago and not feeling it. I can’t remember if it was the quality of the music or the pressing. If it was the music, damn I’ve had a big change of heart since then. This shit is slammin. I bought the tape when it came out and wasn’t the biggest fan- it’s hard to make a whole album of songs that can live up to “Murder Rap” to a 15 year old who largely fell in love with rap off It Takes A Nation Of Millions... at 41 though, it’s going in the crates for good.
SOMEBODY PLEASE REPRESS BLACK MAFIA LIFE. There is no worthwhile pressing in existence of that classic album, and that’s bullshit. All the lackluster East Coast randomness that gets pressed and repressed these days, and we still don’t have usable wax for that and the Total Devastation LP, or any wax pressings of the second DJ Quik LP? Fucking bullshit.
Bop Alloy- Another Day In The Life Of... (2014)
Bop Alloy is the collaboration of Substantial on the mic and Marcus D on beats. I believe they both have strong ties to the Japanese rap scene, Substantial for sure. Found this in the used bins and gave it a shot off the strength of that, and it’s pretty good. Like The Good Fight, it has more of a live instrumental than boom-bap sound. This is one of several records on here I wish I had more hours in the day to listen to over the past month. But it’s a definite thumbs up, reminiscent of the Panacea records I have recommended over the past couple years that make for decidedly above average grown folks rap.
It’s also now or never to shout out collaborators of Nujabes and Shing02 as Shingo’s US Nujabes tribute tour wraps up back east this week. They came through Oakland with the closest thing to a Japanese rap show I’m probably ever going to get on this side of the Pacific two Sundays ago, and of course the wife was wrapping up a cold as I was starting one so we sat it out. Not too thrilled about that, still. Pretty sure they are doing performances in Boston and New York in the next couple days. You’re able, you should go.