Between this that and the other, quite the pile has accumulated since RSD. Let’s dive in.
J Dilla- The Diary
When I left you last, I was openly hoping for this to be rugged enough to scare lames off. It is indeed largely a record of shit-talk. No idea what the general response to it has been though, and ultimately I don’t care enough to put in the effort to find out.
This turned out to be alright, nothing too special. Originally slated for a 2001 release, I don’t think it would have blown me away back then either. There’s a couple great tracks, some decidedly not so great. The Pete Rock-produced song, with the instrumental included on the 7" exclusive to the RSD version, does indeed sound like some classic Pete Rock. I’m not the biggest fan of Soul Survivor, but this one sounds like something that could have been on PeteStrumentals, which was far and away his best stuff that came after his mid-90s classics.
We also won RSD off this. I had the day job in the morning so the wife was nice enough to roll by the spot to snag this for me. I heard the line usually starts to form as soon as the bars close and ends up stretching around the block. The wife just showed up at the tail end of it right when the doors opened, got in, got the Dilla, was at the cashier when all the lames were still running around breathlessly, and was down the street waving it front of my face less than 20 minutes after the shop opened. And they had indeed been all snatched up by the time I got to the shop in the afternoon. Boom.
J Dilla- Jay Love Japan
This guy has been floating around on bootlegs since 2007 and finally got a proper release a month or so ago. I sold my copy when I saw that it’s value had exceeded my appreciation. After copping this one, I’m not exactly sure what the reasoning was for that, as this is not bad. Definitely feeling this more than The Diary, it’s a more soulful, R&B-ish Dilla. The tracklist changed slightly from the bootleg to this one. I can’t help but wonder if the bootleg was a shitty pressing. This is a keeper though. A way more pleasing listen from start to finish than The Diary.
Also bubbling on the Dilla front... apparently I have a Jay Dee record that does not exist anywhere else than my crates. Never found a lick of info online the years I’ve been sitting on it. My #1 rap resource recently retired from his weekly engagement down the street, so I finally broke down and tried to crowdsource this thing on Facebook. Inquiries to people in high places have been made. Hopefully we will get to the bottom of this soon.
Cavanaugh- Time And Materials
It’s starting to look like we are entering a Golden Age of nerd rap.
I previously expressed my excitement for this last time around. It was not what I was expecting. I figured the concept of two dudes working as handymen in a mixed-income apartment building in Florida was enough weirdness for one project. Open Mike Eagle and Serengeti decided otherwise. This is quite the ABSTRACT account of two dudes working as handymen in a mixed-income apartment building in Florida. There are few if any hardware references, to the point that it would have been a deal-breaker had I known that going in. It’s a short record, like a half hour long. Open Mike Eagle handled the production, a first for him. And this shit still turned out to be super good. Nine tracks, five of them I bump. Open Mike Eagle is killing it right now. The stuff I don’t like is all of the noisier variety production wise. All the mellow shit is cool.
I actually looked up reviews for this to make sure I wasn’t just the one dummy it left saying “Huh?” It appears to have gone over well enough critically but may be slipping through the cracks somewhat commercially. Sure enough, even Pitchfork said they couldn’t make heads or tails of it lyrically. I was blown away by that, and very appreciative to see that for once. In my experience, rap reviews on Pitchfork are fucking insufferable. Don’t break yourself trying to impress me with big words and references to non-rap acts that I’ve never heard of. And it’s not like I’m on the lower-brow end of rap consumers, I would have to assume.
Reading that bullshit just reinforced that there really is a need for this kinda shit here- concise reviews written by somebody done with school not trying to be a fake-ass intellectual who actually listens to rap instead of the fucking Euro prog records they’re always talking about.
However, while I was over there I couldn’t help but notice that the new Open Mike Eagle and Paul White record was getting strong reviews...
Open Mike Eagle and Paul White- Hella Personal Film Festival
Probably now leading the field for record of the year.
Open Mike Eagle has roots in Chicago and LA, and appears to be becoming That Dude in the underground. We saw him live at Smart Bomb a ways back, and he put it down. According to the wife he did a few songs off this album, which I vaguely remember. His most recent release before this and the Cavanaugh album was a $20 EP featuring producers I’m not into so I have yet to pull the trigger on that one, and his last LP has become collectible and fetches prices I’m not inclined to pay, which really makes me feel great about the time I held it in my hands, waffled on it for as long as I ever will... and put it back. Fuck me.
I was not waiting on this as breathlessly as I was the Cavanaugh because Paul White’s production had never really done it for me. Pretty sure it was his electronic, glitchy shit that had me avoiding Homeboy Sandman until his 2014 release. He comes a lot more melodic and soulful on this one though. Open Mike Eagle is more than capable of rocking both the more typical nerd rap stream of consciousness flow and bouncy, almost swag-rap that would be acceptable to the lames at the club if he chose to do it over more formulaic production. What I’m feeling about him more than his peers is his style is more laid back, both in content and delivery. I was a pretty big nerd rap head through the early oughts. It’s probably not a coincidence that I stopped listening to that stuff when I stopped doing drugs. There will always be a place in my heart for The Shapeshifters, because they were hilarious. It can’t be unrelated that I do not retain similar esteem for their more emo peers. I’ve had zero desire to put on an Anticon record for at least the last decade. Boring heavy rap spat with questionable flows over boring heavy production. Yay! My nerd rap road dawg from back then is so scarred for life off all that he listens to Riff Raff now.
This new crop of dudes (with Aesop Rock still a big wheel in the scene) with more humor and self-awareness to make something other than consistent suicide music coupled with lighter, better production, they’re onto something. I can roll with this shit.
Homeboy Sandman- Kindness For Weakness
After getting all the props for Hallways two years ago, Homeboy returns, and he done did it again. My only issue with this record is it’s kinda on a similar vibe as the Open Mike Eagle and Paul White, just not quite as good. “It’s not you, it’s me. Sorry.”
The production is a little less conventional than it was on Hallways. That was a rap record, this is more of a nerd rap record. Homeboy Sandman lays it on a little thicker than Open Mike Eagle. His flow is more pointed and he’ll occasionally take it into spoken word territory, which isn’t so much my thing. He’s still light even when he’s earnest, this is not Dose IMPLORING US of anything, but it can still be a little on the hit-you-over-the-head side.
This is what happens when the day-job and internet maintenance and whatever else sees to it that I don’t write about shit until after it falls out of rotation- “this was a good record until I bought a better record. Next!” Whatever. This gets a definite thumbs up though. Last joint on there is winning the race for song of the year right now. If I had a better grip on Slovenian garage-rock I could pad this with useless references, but I don’t.
Sons Of Frod- Songs About H.E.R.
Sons Of Frod are Sir Froderick and DJ Harrison. I had never heard of either one of those guys previously. Not even sure how it ended up on my radar but it did, and then a br0 recommended it so I gave it a shot and wasn’t mad.
This is an instrumental release, all on the mellow side regardless of tempo. One review I read mentioned the dance-ability of it, and I have no idea what the fuck they were talking about. I can guarantee you nobody’s getting up if I played any of these tracks. I don’t know, maybe that’s a personal problem.
This is the kind of shit that dances on the edge of being glitchy and offbeat and lame but doesn’t go over it enough to piss me off. Is this just a mildly pleasing record inspiring few words, or am I just phoning it in now? You be the judge! As will I when I give this its first spin in a few weeks later today. Slippin...
I also picked up Ohbliv’s submission to the Fat Beats Bakers’ Dozen series. Not bad, but not good enough to recommend. In the same vein as the Sons Of Frod, but more repetitive. I did score a copy with the 13th track on flexi-disc again though, so I’m pretty sure this guy is destined for the sale crates in the very near future.
Sach- Seven Days To Engineer (1998, 2014), Essential, and inFIDELITY
Three records at once? OK, now I’m definitely phoning it in.
Sach is the surviving member of The Nonce. There are three groups of people when it comes to The Nonce- 1) you love them, 2) you’re not up on them, and 3) fuck you. Dope Folks is releasing an EP of some of their lost tracks and remixes actually any day now, so we’ll get more into them later.
Sach originally released Seven Days To Engineer on cassette only back in ‘98. It’s also a concept record of sorts- CAN YOU GUESS WHAT IT IS? It finally got a vinyl pressing overseas in 2014. I’m guessing I was made aware of that while in some kind of late night haze where I saw the price, ruled it out, and, with the help of subsequent marijuana use, completely forgot about it until I was searching online for a copy of Essential, which did not make it into my record shop of choice. “Holy shit! They pressed that?” Double vinyl with the instrumentals no less.
And then the decades of short-term memory loss paid off in spades when I was able to snag a copy for $21 including shipping from Germany. For me to ship a record from here to Germany costs $22.50 by itself. I have no idea how I got that so cheap, but I did and it’s here now so who cares. Pretty sure there are still copies on Discogs for around that much.
I had never heard any of this. It’s a nice bridge between the last Nonce EP and Sach’s first solo record... as a fan the overall sound made all the sense in the world. Yusef was still alive at the time and appears on two tracks. It’s interesting to listen to it in the context of The Nonce’s already minimalist sound and what forcing a project out in a week does to it. All the songs are short. Makes sense. And shit is pretty dirty. They always had an undeniable, at least dusty quality to their sound, but this one is straight lo-fi. Some of the samples are so crackly it makes me wonder about the quality of this pressing (seems fine otherwise). Yusef’s verse on Look At Me Mean is almost inaudible.
It all works though. Short tracks/records seems to be an ongoing theme here in 2016, and the inclusion of the instrumentals more than ease any misgivings about its value. This shit is really good.
While we’re kinda on the subject of lost and/or unknown pieces, I had another Sach tape I bought at Berkeley Amoeba in the mid-to-late 90's. Pretty sure it was him solo, in a funky case made of more flexible plastic. Can’t find any info on it. I used to read about some other rare stuff of his being out there, but not lately. And naturally, I can’t find the fucker. Five years ago I dug a bunch of rare tapes out of storage from my folks’ house, and a handful of them just fucking disappeared. Not like anybody involved wanted to see them anywhere other than under my arm heading out their door. Fucking pisses me off... anybody knows what that might have been, holla atcha boy. Pretty sure it had white labels with a title handwritten in ink.
So since Essential didn’t make it to SF, we put the “East” in Easter Sunday and went record shopping in Oakland and Berkeley on the way to dinner with the fam (we’re not religious. I have a sneaking suspicion moms pulled “Easter dinner” out of her ass when nobody was paying attention a few years ago, but now that I’m old enough to value family time more I have no complaints. Pretty sneaky.) I was initially surprised to even be interested in a Sach “greatest hits” record, as I thought I had been keeping up on him pretty well and there ain’t no room for redundancy in these here crates. But he’d dropped a couple records on file-only and another on import wax I didn’t pull the trigger on. And sure enough, it turned out to be quite a satisfying record. Not sure if Carlos Nino curated it or just did the liner notes, but they did an excellent job with the tracklist.
Sach has definitely started playing with some new toys since his Nonce days. His first solo record wasn’t much of a departure from their sound, but he’s gotten way cleaner since. A little lighter too. And then when you take inFIDELITY into account it all makes a ton of sense. He’s moving away from making grimy records out of jazz records to damn near making clean-ass jazz records. Thankfully the guy who has rapped about string theory is taking his shit further out there spiritually instead of in a more cerebral direction. I didn’t see him going this way, but I am in full support. Sounds like he’s about to start cranking out more...
Kool G Rap & DJ Polo- Wanted: Dead Or Alive (1990)
We’ll go out on a classic today.
Kool G Rap has to be the most esteemed rapper that I have the least connection or familiarity with. I have made the point that we got everything out West... “we” did, I know plenty of people who love Kool G Rap. I, however, really never got turned onto him enough to even form much of an opinion until 4,5,6, and the mid-90's sound wasn’t as kind to him as the grimier, faster earlier East Coast steez.
In all honesty, I only bought this record for “Talk Like Sex.” And that’s just because that’s how much I fucking love CB4's “Sweat Of My Balls.” I didn’t even have any idea they were marking Kool G Rap for that song, that’s how up on him I haven’t been. I can see the appeal off this album though. He kills fast rap. I’ve been on a mission to clear room in the crates lately, one thing that got pulled was the second Slick Rick album. Dude is incredible, of course, but he did not shine over that super fast, hip-house production. Kool G Rap, on the other hand... anybody who can growl their way through headbangers at that kind of bpm gets all the respect I have to offer.
And we’re back up to speed here! Kinda. New Sessions At The PM is in the house- that gets its own post. Another one is in the mail. My Apathy pre-order got here yesterday, after being shipped from FL last Friday, with the federal holiday to boot? How the fuck does that even happen? I’ll try to get to that before street date next Friday just so I can say I did. And the Jigmastas came out with a new record completely out of the blue! Might have to sue Amoeba for not telling me in advance, sounds like that’s becoming the thing to do these days...