Sunday, November 16, 2008

Bent nickels down your way, don't trip

Back when I was in high school, I took the bus every morning and the bus driver would always have the radio tuned to Power 99. Sometime in my junior year, I heard Freeway's "What We Do" and was really grabbed by him. I knew him from that one verse on "1-900-Hustler" but this was his first single and considering he has guest spots from Jay and Beanie Sigel, he ripped it. Lines like, "when the sneaks start leanin' and the heat stop workin', then my heat start workin'" or "if my kids hungry, snatch the dishes out your kitchen" made what he was going through sound much more urgent than the usual sell crack/grind/paper chase talk. It sounded like that album was Free's only shot at a way to make a decent living, and if it didn't work out, he would go to any length to provide for his family. I think his dynamic tempo and barrage of words and details can be too much for some people, but luckily for me Free was in town to do a show. Since he's not homegrown or huge, the turnout wasn't great and that was disappointing. I know if this show had been scheduled at, say, the Trocadero in Philly it would have been pretty nuts. But Boston isn't the most rap-friendly city; I've never seen people more enthralled by UFC fighting than by an act on stage. Regardless of the patrons there, I was kind of surprised at how business-like the show was. When I hear Free's songs, I imagine concerts that are really emotional for him and he does all (and only) the gripping stuff. For example, I could have done without "Take You To the Top" and for most of his set, he only did his opening verse, then a quick snippet a cappella. I would have loved to hear "Baby Don't Do It" or all of "Free." So in honor of Freeway's perpetual grind in his songs, and my lack of hot water, here's what I'm rocking to this week:

Freeway feat. Faith Evans- Don't Cross the Line

The thing that has always stood out to me about Philadelphia Freeway is how Free is completely unapologetic about showing his love for Biggie and Snoop. The album is littered with Big quotes ("red boxers so my dick can breathe") or comparisons to DPG as well as doing songs with Snoop or Nate Dogg, whether or not they fit the album's tone. This song is no exception, but it finds Free at his best rapping like he needs to get something off his chest over a nice Just Blaze beats. As a quick sidenote, why would JB not work with free to devote his time to Saigon? Freeway's a great rapper with a unique style, while I can't recall a line by Saigon. Not to mention Free has actually been able to get his music out to his fans and develop a following, while Saigon complains on myspace. But what do I know?

Bohagon- Sing the Blues

If you never check out BLVD ST, you need to do so right now. Apparently, Bo's appeared on a gang of Lil Jon and Trillville songs, but I neglected to check those out, and I am quite fine with that. The only songs I know that feature Bohagon are "If It's Bumpin'" from Bubba Sparxxx's first album and an unreleased Jim Crow song. Noz, ever the champion of mistreated rap acts, caught up with Bohagon for the Fader a couple months ago, and hopefully we'll get to here more joints like this. This was produced by OutKast affiliate Mr. DJ, and BLVD ST has a great running series of unreleased songs produced by him. It's not some crazy, outer-space beat that might work for 'Kast, it feels like something in the vein of "Big Dreams".

UGK- Belts to Match

If you've ever heard "Tough Guy," you know that a UGK/Organized Noize collaboration makes for a great song. You also know that it means the song end up on the soundtrack of a terrible movie, in this case The Wood. While some wonder why Jive can't get their act together, I wonder why Bun and Pimp never added these songs to Dirty Money since they were both recorded before the album came out. In some ways, I see how Organized Noize and OutKast sound out of place compared to the beats of UGK, but it's a risk that should have been taken. Bonus track status at the very least would have been OK with me. This beat sort of reminds me of an upbeat version of "Spaghetti Junction" while Bun, Pimp and Smitty sound like they're doing a sequel of sorts to "Pinky Ring."

Cam'Ron- Killa Cam

Come on, he's the realest since "Kum Ba Ya."

Monday, November 10, 2008

Fun at the thrift store

Since I am finally getting adjusted to my new home in Boston, I figured this weekend I'd try and find a used record store that I could frequent whenever I felt the need. Last summer, when I was in Seattle, this worked out pretty well. I lived right around the corner from one and got Deliverance, Still Standing, Ain't A Damn Thing Changed and at least one non-rap album, I just forget off the top of my head right now. I've heard so much about how Boston is a great music town, so it seemed obvious to me that there would be plenty of used record stores all over the place, especially since I live pretty close to BC.

Not so. On my first outing to find records, I came up with basically nothing. Imagine that, there are no used record stores in the hipster section (however small) of this city. All I was able to find were two cassette singles: 3rd Bass' "Pop Goes the Weasel" and Kriss Kross' "Jump." They really helped with my Halloween costume at the very least, but I rarely want to hear much from either of those groups. Anyway, I was at a party on Friday night with a friend of mine, and instead of mingling (like any good young, single person) with the other guests, I read the recent city guide put out by the Weekly Dig and saw an entry about the thrift store Diskovery. What a great find that was. I got some great stuff for only $4. Here's the stuff I could upload really easily:

Jim Crow- Holla At a Playa (Single)

What. A. Find. And it was free. There's really nothing more to say that I haven't mentioned before. I will say I'm disappointed that the Trackmasters remix only comes edited. Luckily, the Polow remix has the same verses but keeps most of the elements of the original beat. The switch when Too $hort comes in is pretty slick, too. It's no "Throw Some D's," but it's a cool early look at Polow's skills.

Holla At a Playa (Polow Remix feat. Too $hort)

Rahzel- Make the Music 2000

I cannot tell you how many afternoons I wasted as a kid with my brother playing NBA Live 2000 and hearing "All I Know" and Naughty By Nature's two biggest songs (if you have the game, you know). I also remember seeing him on MTV's "Direct Effect" with Sway and thinking he was the coolest guy around. Probably because he was a former member of the Roots. And he could do a beat like "If Your Girl Only Knew" while doing the vocals at the same time. Gimmicky? Yes. But a great gimmick nonetheless. In hindsight, was he even a part of the Roots after their first album? All the skits on the later albums I have say "vs. Scratch," even though Rahzel has tons more personality and talent. Why he left is something I'd be curious to know, as well as how he got beats from Pete Rock, Scott Storch and Marley Marl. I'll give it a better listen and then offer my thoughts soon. The nostalgia value alone of remembering my great seasons playing as the '98-'99 Kings made this find way worth it. Free .99 as well.

All I Know