Monday, January 5, 2009

The Tape Deck '08 Discussion: Volumes #35, #36 & #37

Enter the 35th, 36th & 37th Chambers!

Like I said in a previous post, I’m really busy at the moment so HHIR is takin’ a bit of a breather ‘til I’m officially done with all my classes. But I’ve got some time to crank out this Tape Deck post which has been, admittedly, a long time comin’ (Volume #35 was actually complete on December 20th). Follow me as I go over some of the highlights from each volume:

I begin this collection of tracks with an intro from Al Franken, Minnesota’s next (please, please, please!) senator. Franken is a funny, funny man, but this intro seems so out of place to be included in a hip hop compilation. So out of place, in fact, that it fits in just perfectly. This track I’ve included is from his audiobook for Oh, The Things I Know: A Guide to Success or, Failing That, Happiness. But let’s get into some of the music!

The track that follows the Franken bit features 6 Tre G and the gruff-voiced Trae. This is frightful, Southern rap at its finest. Check out this slick rhyme from Tha Truth: “I am the streets, bitch/ When I leave, I take the block with me/”. Soon afterwards, KRS-One makes an appearance on “16 17 18” featuring MC Lyte and Al Be Back. It’s always nice to hear the legends stay relevant. Next up, we’ve got Billy Danze and Busta Rhymes – an amazing duo if I may say so – gettin’ it in on a soulful string-packed beat. Busta also appears for a pair of “Arab Money” remixes. Quick sidenote: I think the main reason why Busta’s new album title was changed from B.O.M.B. to Blessed was because of “Arab Money”. Think about it; “Arab Money”? B.O.M.B.? Nah!

I don’t often include many chopped and screwed cuts (actually, I think this is a first), but this “Hip Hop” cut by dead prez just had to be included. Phat shouts to B3K on ItsBX! More BX love proceeds with the addition of an Eminem/Lil Wayne blend by 90 Cent. Homie flipped “When I’m Gone” to the beat of Weezy’s “Shoot Me Down”. A perfect combo if ya ask me! Stay up BX!

I left off where I started with Freeway’s Month of Madness series. By now, you’ve probably heard all of these tracks already, but I wanted to continue to complete the series in its entirety. Tracks/days #10 through #20 are included; ya gotta love the Erick Sermon production on “Tell U Something”! More Roc appreciation entails with the addition of “Jockin' Jay-Z (Dope Boy Fresh) (Travis Barker Remix)”. Travy does his damn thing on this one as usual. Is he putting together a mixtape or something? Someone should compile all these remixes… Hmm… This volume concludes with three tracks from Joell Ortiz, my favorite being “Move On” featuring Joe Budden. The lyrics are deep and the beat is just beautiful. Let’s continue with…

You guys know me well enough by now to know that I’m not a Weezy stan. But the intro to this set, “Ghetto Youths Rock” (featuring Junior Reid), is bangin’. I love reggae/rap collabos. The more the better! (Check out the Kardinal Offishall/Busta Rhymes/Barrington Levy track that soon follows!)

Track three is an interesting and surprisingly good track by Kali (I dunno him, but I’m interested in hearing more of him). Produced by Statik Selektah, “Cali Kali”’s beat is one of the nicest I’ve heard in a while. It’s smooth as butter until those sharp, metallic sound-effects start kickin’. And finally, it’s worth noting that I’m biased to the West, so that might further explain my infatuation with this track. Speaking of the coast with the most, Dr. Dre, a.k.a. hip hop’s favorite hermit, makes a surprising visit on Kardinal Offishall’s “Set It Off (Remix)” featuring Pusha T of The Clipse. His verse is forceful and solid as always, but I’m not so sure that this was the track to get back into the game with. Maybe I’m wrong.

How’s this for exciting: “Keep the Crowd Listening (DJ Premier Remix)” by Lord Finesse(!!!!!!). It appears on his upcoming(!!!!!!!!!) album (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)… being released in… 2010. WTF!?!? They say that patience is a virtue… let’s see if we can wait that long. Speaking of re-release-type joints, you’ve gotta love Mark Morrison’s “Innocent Man” featuring DMX. Personally, I had first heard of Morrison on Cassidy’s B.A.R.S. album with the very same vocals. As soon as I heard this version, I was like “yo, I’ve heard this before”. Turn out that this track actually came out in ’06, but it’s being re-released. Good. This joint is steady knockin’.

The bulk of this volume is pretty solid, with great new tracks by RZA, Papoose, Styles P, Skyzoo, Mick Boogie, P.O.S. and much more. But it gets interesting and very Ivan-esque (huh?) at the end. Let’s begin with Termanology’s “Circulate (100 Bars)”. It’s nice to hear this track after listing this sample as one of the year’s greatest. It’s soon followed by The Asteroids Galaxy Tour’s “Around the Bend”. You know, the song that was on all those damned Apple commercials! I couldn’t get that ish outta my head and I figured some of y’all might want it too.

I cap things off with Z: Zooey Deschanel of all people. At the time that I put this volume of The Tape Deck together, she was single. Now she’s engaged. Fuck! I mean… mazel tov! The track I’ve included is the silly “Sweet Ballad”, a duo with Von Iva. I’m not used to hearing Zooey on these synthy-type tracks, but I ain’t complaining. Fuck what you heard: Zooey’s voice is brilliant and catchy too, as evidenced by the sheer number of scratches on my copy of She & Him’s Volume One. Have you heard that album? Indie record of the year in my opinion. Paste Magazine seems to agree. Definitely in the slept-on list of ’08. I digress. Let’s begin to discuss The Tape Deck Volume…

This is the official wrap-up edition of The Tape Deck – the final release of 2008. It’s got plenty of bangers from artists like Snoop Dogg, Ron Browz, Weezy, Jay-Z, Kanye, Akon, T.I., and so on. And that’s just the first fifteen-to-twenty minutes! This collection completes Freeway’s stellar Month of Madness, concluding with “Don’t Tell Me It’s Over”. But the greatest track from the whole month is “When I Die”, featuring James Blunt, an introspective track with some brilliant original production. After this great performance over the past month, I’ve got my money on Freeweezy making some serious noise in ’09.

Next up, we’ve got my favorite independent emcees from Cali: Inverse! Simple and plain, smooth hip hop is this duo’s trademark. “So True” is the aural equivalent of a drop-top cruise down PCH. Cali love is a bit of a theme here as Strong Arm Steady, Mistah FAB, Planet Asia and Bishop Lamont praise “Sunny CA”. We’ve also got an interesting mash-up from The Hood Internet combining the vocals of indie Cali legends Del and Hieroglyphics over Genesis. Weird, but it works.

Things get frenetic as soon as Termanology’s “Say It” begins. Recycling an old Dilla beat, Term’ invites Sheek Louch, Joell Ortiz, Bun B, Saigon and Freeway (holy fffffff!!!!) to wreck havoc. This shit is on heavy, heavy, heavy rotation! It’ll stay there for a while! The track that really stands out on this set, however, is Jadakiss’ “Letter to B.I.G.”. You can tell that ‘Kiss was comin’ from the heart with this one. The beat is lovely, with some uptempo ‘90’s chemistry courtesy of Faith Evans. I can’t wait to hear this album this year!

And with that, I clink my glass with yours as I wish you a belated happy new year! This year has got a whole lot of potential. Will 2009 belong to ‘Em, Fiddy, Dre and Jay? Only time will tell! To 2009!