11/19 WKNC 88.1 Pick of the Week, written by Kunal Vasudev, DJ Wise, Underground 88.1
Though the MC-producer collaboration is a concept that seems to have been left in the past, every so often an MC and producer team up for an album that recalls the days when acts such as Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth and Gang Starr ruled the Hip-Hop scene. Brooklyn MC Skyzoo and New Jersey Hip-Hop producer !llmind team up to craft a sharp, 12-track record that seamlessly combines the sounds of Golden Age Hip-Hop with the sounds of today’s Hip-Hop.
From the opening track, Live from the Tape Deck presents itself as an album built heavily upon hard-hitting beats and filling rhymes. The album is Skyzoo’s sophomore effort, fresh off of his 2009 debut The Salvation, and definitely showcases the MC’s evolving lyrical abilities. Where The Salvation left off, Live picks up, featuring a more focused Skyzoo who exhibits the ability to use fundamentally sound rhymes to construct fleshed out verses. His grasp of the English language is displayed as well, as Sky is able to twist words to his desires and utilize them in simple yet effective ways. This is very clear from the get-go in the second track of the album, “Frisbee,” where Skyzoo starts each line with the last word of the previous line so seamlessly that you don’t even notice that it is being done. Even further, “The Winner’s Circle,” finds Skyzoo roleplaying as Lebron James, taking a little under three minutes to explain what took Mr. James an hour and a some years to get out to the world. But Skyzoo’s abilities are truly exhibited on “Krylon,” a track, which, on the surface, seems to be a simple ode to graffiti, but digging beneath the rhymes reveals a deep track filled with metaphors about violence in it’s many forms, whether it’s physical, emotional, or sexual.
Of course, the album is not all about the impressive lyrical talents that Skyzoo showcases. !llmind, the Filipino-American producer hailing from New Jersey, displays why he is one of the most sought after producers in the Hip-Hop underground, producing for acts such as Little Brother, Boot Camp Clik, Supastition, and most recently Skyzoo. With Live, !ll attempts to capture the analog sound of the cassette and give it a more updated feel. What you have is typical East Coast boom bap percussion beneath layers of strings, synths and keys, which !llmind uses to create a haunting soundscape for Sky to mold his rhymes. It also does a brilliant job of recalling the hard-hitting sounds of the past while looking into the future of Hip-Hop production. The production calls for the best speakers one can find just to appreciate the richness, the honesty, and the fullness that !llmind weaves into his beats.
Live From the Tape Deck also has the bonus of making every part of the album feel apart of the album rather than just a collection of singles compiled together. The features, though appearing on four of the twelve tracks, match perfectly with Skyzoo and fit well with the records they are featured on, from Rhymefest on a political track to Torae backing up Skyzoo as “The Barrel Brothers.” And the intros & outros seamlessly transition into one another, never seeming out of place as the album progresses.
Ultimately, while Live From the Tape Deck evokes memories of the past, both through it’s title and the sound of the album, it is hard to attain that same feeling from the days of the tape deck. But Live brings Hip-Hop to its basic essentials: the beats, the rhymes and life. Nothing more, nothing less, and Skyzoo & !llmind combine to make it one of the best releases of 2010.
by J. Wall on Feb.01, 2009, under Underground
If you are familiar with Dj Benzi then you know that most of his mixtapes are best described as re-mixtapes. Fear and Loathing in Huntsvegas, The New Deal and Sky High are some of Benzi’s latest projects. I’ll talk about Sky High in part 2 of “Gettin Busy With Benzi” since it can also be categorized under Afterhours.
Fear and Loathing In HuntsVegas – We Got The Remix: Special Edition
DJ Benzi and producer, Diplo, hook up with Paper Route Records (see the Fader Magazine article from October 2008) to create what has to be one of the best mixtapes of 2008: Fear and Loathing In HuntsVegas. This special version contains remixes by Diplo, Emynd, and The Knocks.
My favorite remixed tracks include Rollin (Diplo Remix) by Jackie Chain ft. Jhi Ali which features a haunting sample taken from KRS-One’s Step Into A World (Rapture’s Delight). Bama Gettin Money (Diplo Remix) by PRGz and Soul Glo (The Knocks Remix) by PRGz are equally addictive. (hear the original mixes of Rollin and Bama Gettin Money featured in Fader Magazine.)
The original instrumentals hold their own against the remixes and, in some cases, surpass them. Travelin by Dawgy Baggz ft. Money Addict & B. Dewitt, Shots by Untamed ft. Dawgy Baggz and Grind Baby by X.O all boast innovative instrumentals. Mali Boy ,the producer of the original tracks, deserves just as many props as Benzi. For a relatively amateur producer, his instrumentals are damn good.
While not the most socially-conscious compilation of music, Dj Benzi’s blends along with mind-blowing instrumentals guarantee an hour of non-stop head nodding.
Dj Benzi x 10 Deep: The New Deal
The New Deal is Dj Benzi’s latest collabo with 10 Deep. Does anyone know what exactly 10 Deep is? I thought it was a clothing brand but apparently they produce mixtapes too. Go figure. Anyway Dj Benzi does it again along with ridiculously bangin instrumentals! The mixtape is studded with star power, featuring Wale, Kidz In The Hall, Kanye West, Charles Hamiliton, Blu, Skyzoo and so many more.
My favorite tracks are Party Works by Donnis, 2nd Time Around by Wale ft. Brother Ali, Cool, Relax by Kidz In The Hall ft. Jay Electronica and (yet another) Rollin (Remix) by Jackie Chain ft. Kid Cudi.
This joint has a little something for everyone, from the hardcore Underground heads to the Baltimore Club fiends.
by J. Wall on Jan.19, 2009, under Underground
Colin Munroe’s new mixtape is a little different…well, maybe it’s a lot different. It’s easy to see that crossing over between genres is the ish nowadays. Specimens like Yeezy’s 808′s and Heartbreak and Kid Cudi’s A Kid Named Cudi prove that hip hop artists are not afraid to flow over less traditional instrumentals. mixtape
Colin Munroe brings an alternative/electronic sound to his tracks while his guests, well known underground artists like Skyzoo, Saukrates, Wale and Black Milk, lend their lyrical skill. Munroe’s effort combines the best of both worlds, resulting in a different vibe. I guess it would be more suited for those in-betweeners and people who are into different genres of music. Probably not for the hard-core hip hop fans, but don’t be afraid to diversify your bonds!!