After growing up together in Trenton, New Jersey, life took Surg and Hellfire on separate paths. The seeds they’d planted as teenagers rapping in the early 90’s wouldn’t begin to bloom again until ’08; but when they did, the duo’s original plan for a one or two song collab quickly grew into sixty bangers that would become their first two LP’s. Their 2012 sophomore release Live & Learn was a masterclass in heavy drum work and ill wordplay, Hellfire’s beats propel twenty tracks of that raw, uncut boom bap strengthened by Surg’s forceful flows; and like Moment Of Truth every tune is as dope as the last, imbued with an evident respect for tradition. I would list the highlights but I’d be here for days; Live & Learn is the sound of hours hard at work in the lab, the manifestation of a lifetime dedicated to Hip Hop culture that embodies the ‘by fans, for fans’ attitude, check it out asap.
Covertly treading the line between Lewis Parker’s golden sound and Piero Piccioni’s mafioso breaks, this new release from PhybaOptikz is a stealthy sojourn told through a slew of underworld crime sagas. Each tune boasts dramatic bars from the London emcee that vividly scripts entertaining scenes as he and his Crate Divizion cohorts evade the law in getaway cars, dump their enemies in rubbish bins and shift major weight from overseas. The production from Giallo Point and Vic Grimes filters the shadowy underworld of seventies exploitation cinema through their samplers to emerge with a chilled but often ominous tone; lending the project a distinct sense of urgency that simmers under a cool outward demeanour like the seasoned criminals they conjure.
From the smooth horns and harps that begin Assignment, to the athletic snares and mellow keys that close Diamonds, the LP is a massively immersive listen that comes as a welcome break from the norm. PhybaOptik’z rhymes twist and turn as his intricate tales unwind; on Snatch he hoards dope adjectives like there’s about to be a word drought, and the proficiency he displays for characterization on Hitman takes his wordplay to a whole new level with razor-sharp observations delivered with a light touch, all the while sounding as if he’s got one eye on the rhymepad and one on the exit; creating the Hip Hop equivalent of De Niro’s diner speech in Heat. This crew of crate diggers and espionage aficionados have crafted a hugely promising start on Tales Of Danger, marking themselves as ones to watch over the coming months.
Buy it here, and keep up with them on Twitter here.
One look at Collecting Dust‘s Hip Hop interpretation of the Places and Spaces cover art and it’s easy to see that the dusty fingers behind Soundweight Records and Dusty Platter have stayed diggin’since Kista’s Pushin’ Buttons 12″. This new LP continues their run of essential vinyl presses as Kista links with Arizona-based emcee Glad2Mecha, creating thirteen dope tracks that fuse ill lyricism with the crackle of old 45’s. Since winter 2013 the pair have been outlining the blueprint for Collecting Dust; discussions on their influences, favourite records, and the sound they wanted to achieve led to the pair trading beats and bars back and forth, culminating in this traditional take on the golden era sound with a modern twist.
The test press package and cassette/vinyl combo have sold out, but you can still get your hands on the 12″ vinyl here.
Cormega has always been regarded as one of Queen’s finest, since he first stepped in the game over two decades ago he’s blessed beats with some of the best and penned countless quotables. Large Professor is one of the main architects of modern beatmaking, who continued where Marley Marl left off to elevate the craft while carving his own niche, pioneering techniques, and inspiring generations of aspiring producers in the process. MegaPhilosophy sees the two legends align for the first time, dropping a thoughtful, measured record that demonstrates the power Hip hop still has when it’s in responsible hands. Front to back the duo stay true to their roots, packing choice chops and dexterous couplets in abundance as A New Day Begins blooms with delicate piano samples, and Redman, AZ, and Styles P fire precise lyrical projectiles over smooth guitar notes on MARS.
Mega puts prophets over profits with insightful lines on Industry, while Xtra P flips JB breaks and mellow harps on More, as the rhymes equate major label obligations to slavery, lament Mumia’s lengthy incarceration, and condemns the prison industrial complex. It’s Cormega’s commanding lyrical perspective that makes the album so timeless; rhyming ‘Maybe I’m stubborn, I refuse to be, a grown man rappin’ ’bout money, clothes and jewellery’ on Reflection, then flowing honestly alongside Nature on Divine Unity. Raekwon’s powerful presence sets Honorable off strong as Large Pro loops luminous vocals and Mega shines on a huge hook; and after Rap Basquiat bops through with an old school lean, Maya Azucena ‘s sultry melodies provide Rise with another memorable chorus.
Home findsMega’s cadence clinging to the break under Large Pro’s funky bassline; leading into even more immaculate samples and sincere words on closing cut Valuable Lessons; ‘Ignorance can’t match infinite wisdom, it’s supreme over weak schemes and hidden agendas.’ Mega Philosophy is a guide to remaining relevant in a cut-throat industry, a how-to for the new generation that think ‘Wu Tang Forever’ is another teary-eyed Drake tune. By staying true to the five elements, these legendary Hip Hop practitioners have created a modern classic, one that draws from their years of musical mastery but stays facing the future; if you know your KPM from your De Wolfe, this one’s for you.