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.

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.

Dudley Perkins : Dr. Stokely.

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After distancing himself from the Panthers; Stokely Carmichael reclaimed his sovereignty by changing his name to a more original and liberating form, becoming Kwame Toure. For his latest release, Declaime would do the opposite, and revert back to his government name to release music as Dudley Perkins; a move he has executed smoothly and without losing any of his creative freedom. As an artist, he has a lot of dope musical connections within his proximity; he’s a close cohort of fellow Oxnard resident Madlib, and is married to Georgia Anne Muldrow, one of the most sought after producers in the underground right now, and a highly gifted singer. His role if pigeon-holed would be that of consistent musical liberator; emancipator from the boxing-in process all musicians invariably go through upon gaining recognition. He uses his position as a Stones Throw artist to his full advantage; aligning himself with their eclectic musical output and open-minded fans by indulging in his eccentricities on wax without fear of alienating an unaccepting audience. For Dr. Stokely, Dudley has stepped away from the Stones Throw stable for a minute, and released the LP with help from one of Brooklyn’s classic diggin’ spots: FatBeats, and Arizona’s Mello Music Group, an independent label putting out the pinnacle of America’s new D.I.Y Hip Hop generation.

In the Four year gap since his last solo release he’s released music with his wife, formed an indie label called Someothaship Connect, toured the country and spent time soaking in the musical and psychological landscape to hone his sound even further. The funk influence is making a strong return on the Westcoast this year, which can only mean good things for Dudley, as he’s been flying the funk flag for a while now. Dr.Stokely revamps his already innovative style once again, applying an electronic overhaul to the 60’s-influenced sound without sounding stuck in the past. As with Dam Funk, Dudley’s take on the genre is more a forward-thinking continuation of the work of the legends than a step back towards it. 

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The whole album heaps on an old school bounce that compliments the futuristic funk Madlib, KanKick and Georgia Anne Muldrow provide with their production, and furthers Perkin’s work on A ‘Lil Light Ten years ago; bringing it to it’s logical musical conclusion. His previous more straight-laced raps are still present, but take a backseat to more progressive vocal lines as he contorts words over heavily effected ad-libs, then spins on his heel and starts drawling out lines with a smooth, non-linear delivery. Like G Funk, this danceable new version of Hip Hop is highly musical, and blends the street sound and attitude into it’s core to create new genre-bending songs; Lootpack fans will be pleased that Dr.Stokely‘s resident scratch technician is DJ Romes, and the sound he helped pioneer with the Beat Konducta and Wildchild is still audible throughout.

The second single Stokely’s Cafe is a well-placed introduction; there’s an atmospheric layer that sets it apart from current rap trends and even his contemporaries in the underground. His fly lyrics are humble in their confidence, and his flow is as musical as the bassline. Tracks like Prescription, Episodes and Rhythmic Procedures possess the thick, electric funk that make this album so exciting; the heavy undulating bass swims around in the genre soup created when a group of musicians this forward-thinking get together. Songs like Geriatrics sublimely illustrate Dudley Perkin’s skill for simple, effective song structure, and the pop composition and catchy verses belie it’s lyrical depth. Perkin’s content is as dope as the instrumentation; he’s got a real laid back style that still packs a punch like the best orators, conceptually he comes from a place of deep spirituality that emanates from his righteous rhymes. The ever-present upbeat groove that drives the album veers into straight Hip Hop at points; Hearing Test especially reminiscent of 90’s G Rap brought up to date; packing scratched choruses, neck snapping drums and tight wordplay from legend Percee P. 

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The words of KRS echo throughout the conceptually cop-baiting words on Headaches. “Even unarmed, you could get harmed,crooked cop, black cop around, black shot in the back, never got a chance to bust back”. With the even more prevalent incidences of police brutality and the increasingly callous and remorseless murder of innocent people now seeping into the consciousness of communities directly unaffected by the strong arm of the law; the message is poignant. The beauty of Dudley’s music is in it’s variation; from the aforementioned social commentary, to Lung Specialist’s herbal hobbies, he adapts his style to compliment any track he’s on; the loose bump on Electric Shock could leave a less malleable MC dumbfounded, while Perkins rides the rhythm with ease and creates another banger.

The simplicity of Kankick’s beat on Foot Surgery accommodates a more involved, convoluted rhyme scheme; which is executed to perfection.  Funk monk at your local record store, so Old School, but still so cool like I been preserved in time, resurrector of a lost art, eye doctor for the blind , holistic healer for the dark heart, stimulator of the mind, innoculate ya with the sharp darts.” As far as the lyrical depth and heavily stratified production goes, I could go on for days; but all you really need to know is this is where it’s at right now if you’re looking for new underground sounds from the U.S.

Dudley Perkins doesn’t compromise on representing himself to the fullest, using his Hip Hop to fulfil the role Mos Def described as a ‘real life documentarian’. He’s a father, a prolific artist, a luminary in the scene, and a man walking the path of God, using his words to create the reality he envisions mentally. Whatever religious dogma you ascribe your worldview to, we’re all blessed to share this spiritual journey with Dudley Perkins through his songs.

Grab a digital download of the album here, or get a physical copy from the usual retailers when it drops this Friday.

4/5.

Peace.