Even though the term “real Hip Hop” remains largely subjective, in recent years, boom-bap has almost become a slur used to encapsulate older artists and heads who refuse to amalgamate with the contemporary tapestry. However, the clear generational divide has yet to stop golden era greats and a younger legion of artists willing to carry the torch forward from building upon its foundation.
The new LP by Brooklyn-based producer Amadeus360 is clear evidence of this. Sitting at 18 tracks, the new LP The MPC Jedi enlists a mix of 80s/90s true-school royalty, underground staples (like Termanology) and criminally underrated upstarts — all of whom deliver over Amadeus’ array of chops and sample flips that are sure to get boom-bap fans foaming at the mouth.
One of the project’s most visible guests is M.O.P. They make five appearances on the album—if you count the songs that include Fame and Billy Danze separately, “Time is Money” and “Again Re Panic.” The duo sound as menacing as ever as they kick off the project with the neck-snapping “How The Block Sound,” which also features Ras Kass. Here, Fame drops the standout quotable, “How you talking shit with no health insurance, you can’t afford to die.”
Elsewhere M.O.P. connects with unofficial but still kind of official group member Teflon on “A Serious Problem.”
Juice Crew alum Craig G is the project’s second most frequent collaborator, appearing on three tracks. “Stakes Is High,” alongside Artifacts MC El Da Sensei, being the most notable. One of the project’s highlights, it interpolates the J. Dilla-produced title track off De La Soul’s acclaimed fourth album. On the track, Craig and El lament on their longstanding independent grind (something they were doing before it became such commonplace), rocking overseas shows to keep the bills paid and still getting it in all these years later without plugging into the hip-hop matrix (“My mortgage doesn’t care about promotional push,” Craig raps).
The greatest charm of this LP, though, is that Amadeus shows that he has an ear to the street, bridging the gap, so to speak.
An example is Busta Rhymes’ artist Prayah, who raps about the lock-up on the apt title “Jail Bars,” alongside Wu-Tang-affiliated Shyheim over a new flip of T. L. Barrett’s “Father I Stretch My Hands” — most famously used for Kanye West’s “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1” off of the 2016 LP Life Of Pablo.
He also taps viral rapper and Coney Island’s unofficial mayor Nems and his protege Lil Dee on the disrespectful “Set It Off,” which flips Marvin Gaye’s “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology). Lil Dee then goes solo on the “Mama Said Knock You Out” sampled salute to LL Cool J, “Gangsta Boogie.” Dee’s gruff voice and flow are captivating, making this song one of the brightest gems on the project–also sonically standing out, keeping the sensibility of Amadeus’ vibe but capturing a more youthful aesthetic.
While the project does traverse a lot of vibes, it does often get a little too dark; songs like “Da Creeper” featuring Rockness Monsta, Termanology, Markos Clark and DJ C.S.P or “Soon Start To Suffer” featuring Tek–a storytelling joint–are less likely to get respins than brighter joints like the piano-driven “Prosperity Gospel” featuring the always-consistent Ras Kass. As well, though enlisting a large cast allows Amadeus to stretch the tracklisting without breaking a sweat, it is on the long side, lending to some skip-worthy moments becoming much more skippable on subsequent spins. Still, he manages to bring the best out of guys like Sticky Fingaz and Black Moon Buckshot — almost sounding like he used a time machine to get the verses.
A bar that possibly best captures the spirit of this project comes from Craig G, who exclaimed, “Do it for the culture, not to be famous.” For Amadeus, who recalled meeting the Fat Boys at a community center in ’84 at 11 years old and was taught to program drums by the legendary Kid Capri, this LP plays like a bucket list check-off for a real student of the culture.
The MPC Jedi isn’t poised to start a revolution or jumpstart a massive run for any of its features, but that doesn’t seem like the point. Instead, it’s a love letter to Hip Hop and — for anyone who’s a fan of its epic guest list — it’s a well-curated reminder that some of the heroes of yesteryear are still here and still just as nice on the microphone device.