Underground Classics : Perseverance

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It might have taken the highly underrated South Bronx MC two decades to release his solo debut; but when Percee P connected with Madlib to drop Perseverance on Stones Throw in 2007, anyone with an ear for lyricism immediately forgave the long wait. Since getting into Hip Hop at age ten, the legendary rhymer tirelessly dedicated his time to the craft; gaining recognition for battling Lord Finesse in ’89, featuring on his sophomore LP Return Of The Funky Man, freestyling his ass off on the Stretch and Bobbito show, and hustlin’ his mixtapes outside renowned NY diggin’ spot Fat Beats. It was here that P met Stones Throw’s Egon and Peanut Butter Wolf, leading to an album deal, and this classic collab with the Beat Konducta.

P’s reputation preceded him; his previous features with Kool Keith, Jedi Mind Tricks, Jaylib, J5 & Big Daddy Kane were all quick-witted no-holds-barred displays of skilful lyricism that left mics smoking and hardcore fans clambering over themselves to hear more; on Perseverance he didn’t disappoint. From the moment Madlib cut ‘Percee P, your whole crew verses me’ on the intro, the album soars; a peak representation of the quintessential Hip Hop sound that boasts nineteen inventive instrumentals adorned by flows so heavy every word puts your mind in a vice grip. If you can get past the 2 and a half minute mark on this video without shaking your head side to side and making the stink face you’re missing out.

There’s a coherence you get from one MC and one producer. After Gang Starr, G Rap & Polo, Eric B & Rakim and BDP perfected the format early on, there was a distinct lack of small crews as everyone and their grandmother was biting the Wu. Perseverance took the format back to the initial dynamic duo; paving the way for releases like Pinata and taking you on a breakneck dash through every facet of the culture while they were at it. The sample selections range from obscure to popular, as Madlib switches between old school funk breaks and modern, bass-heavy electronics, and his ability to remain creative while reigning-in his often eccentric flair for composition found him almost forming beats with standard song structure; allowing P to unleash lyrical tornadoes with a devastating force, sounding meaner than ever as he finally realized his full potential on wax.

Peace.

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33 1/3 : Donuts

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Whether you view J Dilla’s last work as a cryptic final message designed to examine the human condition, or just as a collection of ill sample flips that take the originals to a whole new level; this new book from 33 1/3 offers plenty to strengthen your sense of admiration for one of the most universally-loved producers to ever touch the pads. If you haven’t heard Donuts in full, open a new tab and buy it immediately. Like DJ Shadow’s Mo Wax début Entroducing, the album benefits from repeated listens to fully catch it’s countless subtleties, and while it might be challenging for the uninitiated, it instantly awes anyone with even a cursory knowledge of sample-based production.

 Acting as both biographer and musical theorist, Jordan Ferguson deconstructs the absurdism of Albert Camus and applies the Kubler-Ross Model for confronting mortality to Donuts as adeptly as he scales the mountains of insider information the book assembles. Charting the cyclical journey Dilla’s music made from underground, to mainstream, and back again, the author contextualizes the Detroit producer’s legacy; citing the influence Amp Fiddler, Marley Marl, Pete Rock and Q Tip had on his production, along with the eclectic radio show that sparked his expansive interest in all musical genres. Admittedly you can find much of the book’s information in the Stussy doc, Wajeed’s Bling47 Breaks series and the recent Still Shining video; but the rare jewels of new knowledge gleaned from interviews with Egon, Madlib and Frank Nitt make this essential reading for Dilla heads, doubly so for anyone who makes beats. Discussions on him breaking every one of the 5 unwritten rules for sampling, starting his loops from within phrases rather than on the one, and how Sucker MC’s caught his inquisitive ear for drum breaks are all highlights.

 Ferguson’s loving deconstruction of each whirling, wildly creative track on the album places personal insight alongside fact; ruminating on why Jay briefly halved the bpm on Time : The Donut Of The Heart, why Glazed was so intensely confrontational, and why he selected those specific vocal phrases for Walkinonit and Stop! Although the book is as succinct as the album was; it fully realizes a comprehensive view of this amazing musician’s life for the first time, celebrating what can be achieved with just a sampler, some dusty vinyl and a limitless imagination.

Buy it from your usual online retailers.

4/5

Peace.

Our Vinyl Weighs A Ton : This Is Stones Throw Records

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 After years of patchy information on Stones Throw’s often publicity-shy artists,  the new documentary from Jeff Broadway does an impressive job of de-mystifying the L.A-based label’s most enigmatic personalities. Using archival footage that spans from the early eighties up until now; Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton charts the hard work Peanut Butter Wolf has put in to share the music he enjoys with the world. Interviews interpolated throughout keep things objective, and the juxtaposition of grainy home video footage with glossy new film situates the style somewhere between The Art Of Rap and American: The Bill Hicks Story. As Wolf’s habit of saving lunch money to buy records blooms into label aspirations, the film splits it’s time evenly between the lesser-known bands and the more established musicians, illuminating every aspect of the label not included on their earlier video releases 101 and In Living The True Gods.

With a diverse roster that boasts some of the most respected names in the underground, the film packs plenty of highlights; Jonwayne records skateboard trucks into FL Studio for shakers, Baron Zen’s noisy garage-electro blurs genre borders, Talib Kweli relives hearing Lootpack for the first time, and Common fondly reminisces on J Dilla’s early morning beatmaking sessions. As the narrative unfurls chronologically, Madlib’s musical journey from building beats in a bomb shelter to the month-long shroom-mangled mindstate that birthed Lord Quas comes to life through rare home video footage; and J Dilla’s highly influential sound gets much deserved props through heartfelt interviews with friends.

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Perhaps fittingly there’s no new interview from DOOM; and although most of the insight into the ever-elusive super villain comes through audio clips from his Red Bull lecture, the section dedicated to Metal Finger’s uniquely intricate lyricism still provides enough unseen footage to keep fans happy. The soundtrack sees new beats from Madlib mingling amongst selections from each of the featured musicians, while the extra features include the half hour mini-doc Extra Special Loving For The People.

 Despite the inevitable struggles experienced when running a label that places the importance of good music over monetary gain; Stones Throw has enjoyed a recent resurgence in popularity thanks to the steadfast dedication of acts like Homeboy Sandman and J Rocc, and the creative passion of more recent signees such as Dam Funk. Wolf’s willingness to gamble on the creative vision he sees in up-and-coming musicians is commendable, and Our Vinyl Weighs A Ton does an amazing job at capturing this creative hub’s love for music, and the constant behind-the-scenes work it takes to sustain a D.I.Y label amidst an ever-changing economic climate.

Buy the CD & DVD bundle from the usual online spots, or rent it from itunes here.

4/5

Peace.

Damu The Fudgemunk : Public Assembly

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Redefinition Records co-owner and prolific Washington-based producer Damu The Fudgemunk never fails to bring the heat, and with a sound that passionately embraces Hip Hop’s roots yet always brings something new to the table, his latest LP is no exception. Re-mastered by veteran producer K-Def, Public Assembly merges previously unreleased songs with hard to find versions of his more popular tracks, and although the vinyl release was originally intended to coincide with the WFMU record fair in New York, with a street date of July 8th; the label are shipping orders online right now.

Hole Up comes draped in the 90’s sound, with vibraphone lines flowing over lazy horns and a song structure that holds more in common with free jazz than it does your average boom-bap-beatsmith; furthering Damu’s recent move beyond linear song progression to form meandering, musically progressive sections over rugged breaks.Truly Get Yours treads the line between subtlety and heavy-handedness with agility; while his Wings Remix of the Union & Elzhi track stands out for it’s dusted drum hits, and Madvillain Revision takes Madlib’s original to smooth new plains; replacing the goofy charm of the DOOM version with echoing horns, melodic vocals and a bubbling crescendo that had me reciting Guru lyrics.

Streamline is one of his freshest instrumentals so far; with so many serene sample choices you’d think every chop came off the same record; while Overthrone showcases his skill for layering complimentary sounds, as he cuts classic rhymes into this hazy blend that smoothly transitions into the lounging ballroom jazz of Same Beat. His 2010 Supply For Demand LP provides the OG mix of Bright Side, continuing the chilled vibes with complimentary chord changes and constantly inventive snare hits; leaving Yes We Can to close this dope compilation with a shuffling hi-hat pattern amid infectious vocal cuts and winding sax lines. Unsurprisingly, Public Assembly is rock solid from start to finish, serving as a perfect introduction for the newcomer, and a handy re-issue for the vinyl-eager Redef completist.

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Get the brown or black vinyl editions here, or the digital download here.

5/5

Peace.