Friday, February 13, 2009

The Instrumentalists | 3 Reviews

6th Sense
It’s A 6th Sense Beat Yo!!
Release Date: February 3rd, 2009

Over thirty tracks deep, this free-to-download release is a thorough résumé for one of New York’s great, up-and-coming producers. Over the years, 6th Sense has built a strong repertoire with emcees such as Talib Kweli, U-N-I, Mekka Don, A.Pinks, Jelani and more, all of whom have done his beats justice. A frequent collaborator with mixtape kings such as Mick Boogie & Terry Urban, 6th Sense’s work can be heard on projects such as 1988, Viva La Hova, Before There Was Love, and various others. But perhaps his most memorable moment, as of yet, was his Common-sampling anthem “Ignite The People (Like Obama)”, a track which propelled him to the top of the Barack-pack before the bandwagon began to roll.

It’s A 6th Sense Beat Yo!! includes the instrumental to that track, along with many others which might in fact sound familiar to you. “D’Evils 2008”, for instance, is more than just a modernized revision of Jay-Z’s ‘96 classic; it’s a tailor-made beat for another BKMC, Mr. Talib Kweli, as 6th explains in the intro: “You have to understand that almost all of these instrumentals, all of these songs, were songs that I worked hand-in-hand with the artists, in the same room, creating a vibe.” It’s often been brought up in discussions, the fact that what hip hop is often lacking in this day and age is the producer-to-emcee connection. In short, we need more producers and less beat-makers. “It’s important”, 6th continues, “it shows through the music.”

I consider 6th to be an upper-tier producer from the blog-era generation of hip hop artists, the folks who recognize the importance of exposure and reaching a wide audience, by sharing their music freely for all to hear. It’s A 6th Sense Beat Yo!! is a free download not because it’s a cheap release that’ll go in one ear and out the other. It’s free ‘cause it must be heard. If I had to pick my top-five tracks from the tape, I’d probably go with “Both Nice”, “The Itis”, “Do What It Do”, “Fallen Shadows”, “Stakes Is High”, and “Chasing 1988”. Are you counting? That was six (no pun intended)! It’s that good… Yo!! Grade: A-

Download It’s A 6th Sense Beat Yo!! @ OKP

Serve or Suffer
Label: Fly Casual Creative
Release Date: February 6th, 2009

A follow-up to 2008’s masterfully-executed Pterodactyl Takes Tokyo, Serve or Suffer may just be Esoteric’s most eccentric and experimental release to date. Borrowing from obscure sample sources, touching on everything from outdated rock records to old school television snippets, Serve or Suffer is a clear divergence from Eso’s patented boom-bap, battle-beat sound structures.

The imagery of Jack Kirby’s artwork and Saturday morning cartoons make a deliberate contribution to this offering which, given its broad-ranged approach, reciprocates a fair share of misses for each of its hits. Great tracks like “1989”, which swipes a memorable vocal sample from a Spizzoil track of the same title, and other highlights like “Silence Is Golden” and “Goblin's Horse Tranquilizer” sound as if they could have been the products of RZA (Liquid Swords era) and Danger Mouse’s soundboard tendencies fused into one. Overly-simplistic and repetitive tracks like “Hot Punk” and “Swing It Baby”, however, seem rushed and inelaborate.

Given the album’s spontaneous sequencing and fluidity, beat-hungry emcees looking for new instrumentals to catch wreck should definitely look elsewhere. On the flip side, creative minds, say, graff-writers or sketch artists, might find inspiration from Serve or Suffer’s treasure trove of quirks and random oddities. The choice is yours: Serve or Suffer! Grade: B

Preview/Purchase Serve or Suffer @ UGHH

Beat Konducta Vol. 5-6: A Tribute to…
Label: Stones Throw Records
Release Date: February 6th, 2009

Though they came from different musical landscapes, Dilla and Madlib were always perceived as two birds of a feather: Dilla, bred within the capital of American soul music, and Madlib, the love-child of musical geniuses in their own right. Avid crate-diggers, they took hip hop and staccato breaks to uncharted territory. With releases such as Dilla’s Donuts, and Madlib’s Beat Konducta series, the importance of the beat, the heart-pumping, life blood of hip hop, set precedence over rapping. Though Donuts was a fully instrumental album, the energy and bursts of expression throughout the record made the experience feel in-your-face, bridging a connection between the listener and Dilla himself. In more ways than one, Dilla’s arrangements spoke louder than any verses could. Madlib’s Beat Konducta series, however, has never reached the same effect on the audience.

Perhaps this assessment helps best describe Dilla and Madlib’s nuanced differences. Madlib has often been characterized as a man behind the beats, a musical relic who spends his time blunted in a bomb shelter, cooking up beats with a sweat-shop-like output. As a general rule, Madlib’s style has often dictated by the rule of quantity over quality. This isn’t to say that Madlib isn’t one of the most proficient beatsmiths to ever touch the SP. But time and time again, as his Beat Konducta series has proven, quantity has ruled supreme.

Volumes 5-6 – along with the rest of the Beat Konducta series – are largely expressionless and deadpan: the beats don’t jump out at you like Dilla’s did. Undoubtedly, there are some wonderful highlights throughout the LP, such as “In Jah Hands (Dilla's Lament)” and the eerily Dilla-like “Sacrifice (Beat-A-Holic Thoughts)”. But it’s as if for every gem that Madlib hands to you, he throws you a fistful of dusty stones. Overall, the album makes for some smooth background music to play at the crib, but as a tribute to J Dilla, Volumes 5-6 are seriously lacking. Grade: C+

Preview/Purchase Beat Konducta Vol. 5-6: A Tribute to… @ UGHH

As an added bonus, I'm including a free download to one of J Armz' latest instrumental mixtapes titled How to Be An MC, '90's Edition: Volume 1, a throwback to some of the best beats from the '90's. To all the DJs, emcees and instrumental enthusiasts out there, enjoy:

1. Check The Rhime (prod. by A Tribe Called Quest) - A Tribe Called Quest
2. Banned From TV (prod. by Swizz Beats) - Noreaga ft. Nature, Big Pun, Camron, Jadakiss & Styles P.
3. Dwyck (prod. by DJ Premier) - Gang Starr ft. Nice & Smooth
4. Queen Bitch (prod. by Six July & Nashiem Myrick) - Lil' Kim
5. Straighten It Out (prod. by Pete Rock) - Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth
6. Deja Vu (Uptown Baby)(prod. by KNS) - Lord Tariq & Peter Gunz
7. Who Got The Props (prod. by Evil Dee & Kenyatta Blake) - Black Moon
8. C.R.E.A.M. (prod. by Rza) - Wu-Tang Clan
9. Watch Out Now (prod. by The Beatnuts) - The Beatnuts
10. Incarcerated Scarfaces (prod. by Rza) - Raekwon
11. Mass Appeal (prod. by DJ Premier) - Gang Starr
12. Money Power Respect (prod. by Deric "D-Dot" Angelettie) - The L.O.X. ft. Lil Kim & DMX
13. 93' Till Infinity (prod. by A Plus) - Souls of Mischief
14. Hard Knock Life (prod. By Mark 45 King) - Jay-Z
15. Murder Was The Case (prod. by Dr. Dre) - Snoop Doggy Dogg
16. Gin And Juice (prod. by Dr. Dre) - Snoop Doggy Dogg
17. Ruff Ryders Anthem (prod. by Swizz Beats) - DMX
18. It's All About The Benjamins (prod. by Deric 'D-Dot' Angelettie) - Puff Daddy ft. Lil Kim, The LOX & The Notorious B.I.G
19. Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See (prod. by Epitome, Buddah, Shamello) - Busta Rhymes
20. Who Shot Ya (prod. by Nashiem Myrick) - Notorious B.I.G
21. Ice Cream (prod. by Rza) - Raekwon Ft. Ghostface Killah
22. 4, 3, 2, 1 (prod. by Erick Sermon) - LL Cool J ft. Method Man, Redman, DMX, Canibus, & Master P
23. All For One (prod. by Brand Nubian) - Brand Nubian
24. Brooklyn Zoo (prod. by Ol' Dirty Bastard & True Master) - Ol' Dirty Bastard
25. Cell Therapy (prod. by Antonio Reed & Organized Noize Productions) - Goodie Mob
26. Deep Cover (prod. by Dr. Dre) - Dr. Dre
27. Glaciers Of Ice (prod. by Rza) - Raekwon
28. How Many Mc's (prod. by DJ Evil Dee & Mr. Watt) - Black Moon
29. I Gotcha Open (prod. by Mr. Watt) - Black Moon
30. Juice/Know The Ledge (prod. by Rakim) - Rakim
31. Just to Get a Rep (prod. by DJ Premier) - Gang Starr
32. Mad Izm (prod. by KRS-One) - Channel Live ft. Krs-One
33. Next Level (prod. by Show) - Show & AG
34. On the Run (prod. by Trackmasterz) - Kool G Rap & DJ Polo
35. Superthug (prod. by The Neptunes) - Noreaga
36. Juicy (prod. by Poke) - Notorious B.I.G
37. Electric Relaxation (prod. by A Tribe Called Quest) - A Tribe Called Quest
38. Living Proof (prod. by DJ Premier) - Group Home
39. Party & Bullshit (prod. by Easy Mo Bee) - Notorious B.I.G
40. Protect Ya Neck (prod. by Rza) - Wu-Tang Clan
41. Summertime (prod. by Hula & K Fingers) - DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince
42. Unbelievable (prod. by DJ Premier) - Notorious B.I.G
43. How High (prod. by Erick Sermon) - Redman & Method Man
44. Hand On The Pump (prod. by Dj Muggs) - Cypress Hill
45. Criminology (prod. by Rza)- Raekwon ft. Ghostface
46. Bonita Applebum (prod. by A Tribe Called Quest) - A Tribe Called Quest
47. Ready Or Not (prod. by Lauren Hill & Wycleff) - The Fugees
48. Still Not A Player (prod. by Knobody) - Big Pun
49. Uptown Anthem (prod. by Naughty By Nature) - Naughty By Nature
50. Shook ones Pt. II (prod. by Mobb Deep) - Mobb Deep
51. Quiet Storm (prod. by Havoc) - Mobb Deep
52. MC's Act Like They Don't Know (prod. by DJ Premier) - KRS-ONE


  1. I really went the other way on both 6th and Madlib. I think that the difference is that Madlib never felt the need to "jump out at you" and that is what sets him apart. It allows him to be musically solid and keeps him from becoming too "gimicky" which is where 6th lands in my opinion.

  2. Madlib is just way too bland for me. It's as if he finds some cool sounds and just plays them atop his drum patterns with little to no preparation. Almost everything he puts out seems incomplete.

    6th on the other hand makes some very commercial-sounding music that could also qualify as "underground", but it sounds solid.

    Just my thoughts...

    Just what I was feelin' at the time...

    ...right or wrong.

  3. there is no right or wrong in subjective feelings..

    -fortune cookie

  4. Jay-Z vs. Fortune Cookie

    Ah, the possibilities.