This week’s trio of songs comes from two emcee veterans, a producer kicking in the door, and one of Diddy’s latest recruits. Samples and homages drive two of the songs in old-guard Hip Hop tradition, while another represents the sound coming out of the new class. Newark, Brooklyn, Baltimore and Detroit, represent!
Los – “Whippin Azz”
The roster on Bad Boy Records is like the lineup for Menudo (or Destiny’s Child for a more recent/relevant comparison). Members are always changing – with a few mainstays. However, for the most part, several switches occur before a power team is locked in place. Everyone knows the best time for Bad Boy Records happened during the late ’90s before Biggie passed away and the few years following. Artists like Ma$e, Total, 112, Faith Evans, etc. made for a really strong lineup on the then fledgling Rap label (though there was way more R&B on it at the time). Then we had those weird days – Cassie, Danity Kane, etc. etc. Now we’re seeing the label really get its Hip Hop card, as MGK and French Montana are on the label, as well as my Slept-On pick, Los.
This Baltimore rapper really grabbed my attention on his mixtape The Crown Ain’t Safe. Los’ ability to seamlessly weave strong lyrics into a mainstream Rap platform is both a talent and an asset that Bad Boy Records of all labels loves (and needs to thrive). “Whippin Azz” is no exception to Los’ strong stylistic track record. The stuttering synths, snares and blips on this track could be the set-up for a song most Rap purists would scoff at, just by the nature of the production. If other rappers jumped on this track, it could be perceived as wack. However, once Los laces into the beat, it doesn’t matter who might have rapped on it. All that matters is he’s on it and is doing damn good. The reputaton of Bad Boy Records is that once the very first guard changed, it was no longer a breeding ground for talent. With guys like Los on board, that’s all about to change. – Kathy Iandoli (@kath3000)
O.C. & Apollo Brown – “The Biggest Loser”
O.C. has always been one of the Rap kings of cool – at least to me. He has the slang, the style and the wisdom. “The Biggest Loser” did not make (the truly remarkable) Trophies for obvious sample vulnerability, but this track is one of my favorite outcomes of the Apollo Brown & O sessions. This track moves slow, and employs a great cut-in approach to sampling in a way that veils the potential criticism of using a big ’80s hit. This feels like how Underground Hip Hop should sound, and O drops another dose of wisdom in a career that’s taught many how to stand like men. (Those who agree with me, this is a bonus 7″ on the deluxe 2LP white vinyl edition of Trophies, which appear to be selling fast) – Jake Paine (@Citizen__Paine)
Redman – “Sawed Off Shotgun Hand On The Pump”
Since the passing of MCA I’ve revisited – with a mix of sadness, nostalgia and newfound appreciation – the first four Beastie Boys albums multiple times. What’s happened though is every play of Licensed To Ill, Paul’s Boutique and Ill Communication has been followed by one more round of Check Your Head. Thanks to this ritual I can now safely say which one of the four is my favorite. But I really didn’t think about why until I saw Redman’s live in-studio rendition of “Sawed Off Shotgun…”
Something magical happens when a Hip Hop artist says fuck the double tracking, punch-ins and fruity looped beats and instead rhymes in a single take over live instrumentation, especially a raw three piece featuring nothing more than a guitar, bass line and bare bones drum kit. What you get is a push and pull between the emcee and the drummer deep in the pocket, precision kicked aside for the sake of a collective groove, eye contact that tells the guy behind the mic to turn the charisma up to match a harder riff or roll back before the band slams a quarter not accent. Thanks to the Beastie Boys finally mastering their instruments just enough, these are the kinds of moments that are all over Check Your Head. That’s why the album is so thrilling. And It’s the same kind of thrill I got watching Redman during his L.A. jam session with Genasis, Deon and Craig. This is also Redman as the unpredictable loose cannon – the only emcee who can go from Fred Williamson suave to barking rabid dog within the same bar – that I wanted way more of on Reggie. So now it’s back to playing “Gratitude,” missing MCA, being thankful we still have Redman and counting down to Muddy Waters 2.