No whimsical looks back at formative hip-hop groups in this week’s edition of The Home Row Keyed. Just a few shots of musical espresso that kept my ears at attention for the past few days. Get keyed on the stuff I did, below.
The Goon Time Mixtape – First Serve
New York’s hottest new club jam is “Pushin’ Aside, Pushin’ Along” by Queens rappers First Serve. This crew has everything: rap beefs; Joan Jett and House of Pain mash-ups; French producers named Chokolate and Khalid; and two MCs from one of rap music’s most legendary groups in history…
Even Stefon would be hard-pressed to top this, and that’s because it’s all true. First Serve is the brainchild of Pos and Dave (that’s Plugs 1 and 2 of De La Soul for the Rip Van Winkles), a side project that has so far begat the aforementioned “Pushin’ Aside, Pushin’ Along” and The Goon Time Mixtape, both sonic rap throwbacks to the days when Kid ‘n Play hosted the best house parties. TGTM is a 24-track mash-up disguised as a single 35-minute track, which makes skipping directly past songs impossible (ah, the innocent and tedious era of cassette tapes).
Not that you’d want to fast-forward anyway. There are plenty of head-scratching/nodding moments of bliss, like Biggie’s particularly nefarious “ice pick on the dick” verse from “Whatchu Want” blended over the top of The Whatnaut’s “Help is on the Way” (the original sample source of De La’s “Ring Ring Ring”). The project nods affirmatively to both hip-hop’s past and present, with Pos and Dave (re-imagined here as the young and starry-eyed Jacob “Pop Life” Barrow and Deen Whitter, respectively) floating in from time to time to drop new bars amidst the (re)mixing and mashing. Look forward to April when the inaugural “official” First Serve release drops.
Beg Borrow Steal – RA Scion
New year, new hair. But same old stuff as the Pacific Northwest’s RA Scion tells it on his new three-song EP, Beg Borrow Steal, and its accompanying short film/music video (below). The most professorial rapper in the 2-0-6 has been relatively quiet amidst the perpetual turn-down of the economy and the subsequent Occupy movement. On BBS, however, dude is once again turned up, calling out everyone from Barack to Eminem and anyone else with the financial means of assisting those forced to, well, beg, borrow and steal just to get by.
Over aggressive production by Puget Sound beatmakers MTK, DJ Phinisey and Dawhud, RA aligns himself with folks struggling to put food on the table, the fraternity (and sorority) of Americans harassed without just cause by the police, and, finally, the intransigent parties who take arms against powers ambivalent to causes other than those perpetuating their own institutionalized hubris. I don’t think RA Scion has ever been this fired up or as raw in his presentation. He assumes the persona of an individual stripped-down, financially and spiritually, at the hands of a government meant to protect his best interests, not operate to the contrary. Art imitates life here to bombastic results.
“Thuggin” – Freddie Gibbs (produced by Madlib)
In which Freddie Gibbs lives his life to an extreme we’ve all imagined he does. It begins with Scarface kitsch and ends with blunts in a booth. The only thing colder than the MC’s steel is the beat by unexpected collaborator Madlib.