Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Notorious B.I.G.

In just a few short years, the Notorious B.I.G. went from a Brooklyn street hustler to the savior of East Coast hip-hop to a tragic victim of the culture of violence he depicted so realistically on his records. His all-too-brief odyssey almost immediately took on mythic proportions, especially since his murder followed the shooting of rival Tupac Shakur by only six months. In death, the man also known as Biggie Smalls became a symbol of the senseless violence that plagued inner-city America in the waning years of the 20th century. Whether or not his death was really the result of a much-publicized feud between the East and West Coast hip-hop scenes, it did mark the point where both sides stepped back from a rivalry that had gone too far.
Hip-hop's self-image would never be quite the same, and neither would public perception. The aura of martyrdom that surrounds the Notorious B.I.G. sometimes threatens to overshadow his musical legacy, which was actually quite significant. Helped by Sean "Puffy" Combs' radio-friendly sensibility, Biggie re-established East Coast rap's viability by leading it into the post-Dr. Dre gangsta age. Where fellow East Coasters the Wu-Tang Clan slowly built an underground following, Biggie crashed onto the charts and became a star right out of the box. In the process, he helped Combs' Bad Boy label supplant Death Row as the biggest hip-hop imprint in America, and also paved the way to popular success for other East Coast talents like Jay-Z and Nas. Biggie was a gifted storyteller with a sense of humor and an eye for detail, and his narratives about the often violent life of the streets were rarely romanticized; instead, they were told with a gritty, objective realism that won him enormous respect and credibility. The general consensus in the rap community was that when his life was cut short, sadly, Biggie was just getting started.Read More

The Notorious B.I.G. - Ready to Die (Sep 13, 1994: Bad Boy)
The album that reinvented East Coast rap for the gangsta age, Ready to Die made the Notorious B.I.G. a star, and vaulted Sean "Puffy" Combs' Bad Boy label into the spotlight as well. Today it's recognized as one of the greatest hardcore rap albums ever recorded, and that's mostly due to Biggie's skill as a storyteller. His raps are easy to understand, but his skills are hardly lacking — he has a loose, easy flow and a talent for piling multiple rhymes on top of one another in quick succession. He's blessed with a flair for the dramatic, and slips in and out of different contradictory characters with ease. Yet, no matter how much he heightens things for effect, it's always easy to see elements of Biggie in his narrators and of his own experience in the details; everything is firmly rooted in reality, but plays like scenes from a movie. A sense of doom pervades his most involved stories: fierce bandits ("Gimme the Loot"), a hustler's beloved girlfriend ("Me & My Bitch"), and robbers out for Biggie's newfound riches ("Warning") all die in hails of gunfire. The album is also sprinkled with reflections on the soul-draining bleakness of the streets — "Things Done Changed," "Ready to Die," and "Everyday Struggle" are powerfully affecting in their confusion and despair. Not everything is so dark, though; Combs' production collaborations result in some upbeat, commercial moments, and typically cop from recognizable hits: the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back" on the graphic sex rap "One More Chance," Mtume's "Juicy Fruit" on the rags-to-riches chronicle "Juicy," and the Isley Brothers' "Between the Sheets" on the overweight-lover anthem "Big Poppa." Producer Easy Mo Bee's deliberate beats do get a little samey, but it hardly matters: this is Biggie's show, and by the time "Suicidal Thoughts" closes the album on a heartbreaking note, it's clear why he was so revered even prior to his death.

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The Notorious B.I.G. - Life After Death (Mar 25, 1997: Bad Boy)
It may have taken the Notorious B.I.G. a few years to follow up his milestone debut, Ready to Die (1994), with another album, but when he did return with Life After Death in 1997, he did so in a huge way. The ambitious album, intended as somewhat of a sequel to Ready to Die, picking up where its predecessor left off, sprawled across the span of two discs, each filled with music, 24 songs in all. You'd expect any album this sprawling to include some lackluster filler. That's not really the case with Life After Death, however. Like 2Pac's All Eyez on Me from a year before, an obvious influence, Biggie's album made extensive use of various producers — DJ Premier, Easy Mo Bee, Clark Kent, RZA, and more of New York's finest — resulting in a diverse, eclectic array of songs. Plus, Biggie similarly brought in various guest rappers — Jay-Z, Lil' Kim, Bone Thugs, 132295Too $horf>, L.O.X., Mase — a few vocalists — R. Kelly, Angela Winbush, 112 — and, of course, Puff Daddy, who is much more omnipresent here than on Ready to Die, where he mostly remained on the sidelines. It's perhaps Puffy himself to thank for this album's biggest hits: "Mo Money Mo Problems," "Hypnotize," "Sky's the Limit," three songs that definitely owe much to his pop touch. There's still plenty of the gangsta tales on Life After Death that won Biggie so much admiration on the streets, but it's the pop-laced songs that stand out as highlights. In hindsight, Biggie couldn't have ended his career with a more fitting album than Life After Death. Over the course of only two albums, he achieved every success imaginable, perhaps none greater than this unabashedly over-reaching success. Ready to Die is a milestone album, for sure, but it's nowhere near as extravagant or epic as Life After Death.

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The Notorious B.I.G. - Born Again (Dec 7, 1999: Bad Boy)
Considering it was released almost three years after his death, it'd be easy to dismiss the Notorious B.I.G.'s third album as a cash-in or merely a tribute album, similar to Puff Daddy's No Way Out. Fact is, Born Again includes a lot of previously unheard material from Biggie, and guest spots from Busta Rhymes, Redman and Method Man, Missy Elliott, Ice Cube, and Snoop Dogg work better than could be expected. It's difficult to say where all this material came from, but it's probable that the productions were simply arranged around old rhymes from Biggie himself. On most tracks, he takes a spotlight and then the guest rapper comes in. Thanks to executive producer Puff Daddy, it'd be easy to fool those not into hip-hop that Notorious B.I.G. was still alive. The outro, a spoken-word reminiscence by Voletta Wallace (his mother) is a bit touching but also a bit ghoulish. For B.I.G. fans, this is another must-have, but for anyone who thinks the rap industry routinely goes too far in pursuit of the almighty dollar, Born Again is yet further proof.

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The Notorious B.I.G. - Duets: The Final Chapter
The weight of Notorious B.I.G.'s legacy is so profound that most major rap MCs and R&B singers alive — and some who are dead — are willing to be attached to it in whatever form possible. It could also be argued that anyone with the means is more than willing to profit from it in a monetary way. Here's Duets: The Final Chapter, released just before Christmas Day 2005, following 1999's Born Again, which was released just before Christmas Day 1999. Like Born Again, Duets takes bits of unused material from the late legend, and that can entail full-blown verses, looped declarations, or punctuative interjections. On some tracks, Biggie's presence is no more prominent than a handclap or a snare hit. Check the lead track "It Has Been Said," where he's limited to "what," "ungh," "yeah," "ha-ha," "uh-huh." If you can get past the fact that a lot of tracks barely feature the headliner, or listen without imagining the original contexts of the patched-together scraps, Duets can be sporadically riveting. The list of guests is overwhelming, with Jay-Z, Nas, Mary J. Blige, Faith Evans, R. Kelly, T.I., Slim Thug, Eminem, Lil Wayne, Missy Elliott, the Clipse, Snoop Dogg, and Freeway representing roughly half of the involved. Only a few tracks contain significant Biggie contributions, and it's not as if they provide any further insight or add to his long-established legend. Many of his vocals are not pulled from professional studio-quality recordings, which only makes them sound more displaced. Perhaps Korn's Jonathan Davis put it best when he told Billboard about the project: "It's f*ckin' weird to be doing a song with someone who is deceased!" His description applies to what it's like to listen to the disc.

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The Notorious B.I.G. vs. Frank Sinatra - Blue Eyes Meets Bed Stuy

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

DJ Premier

Christopher E. Martin (born March 21, 1966), better known as DJ Premier (and Premo or Primo as his fans, fellow musicians and critics call him sometimes), is a prominent American hip hop producer and DJ, and the instrumental half of the duo Gang Starr, together with MC Guru on the lyrical side. Contrary to popular belief, DJ Premier is not a founding member of Gang Starr. Following an invitation by Guru, he joined the 1987 founded group in 1989.No more than three producers (Dr. Dre, RZA, and Prince Paul) can test DJ Premier's status as the most important trackmaster of the '90s, and no style is more distinctive. Aggressive and raw, a Premier track was an instantly recognizable soundclash of battling loops and heavy scratching — all of them perfectly timed — that evoked the sound of Brooklyn better than anyone. Besides helming tracks for his main concern, Gang Starr, since their 1989 debut, Premier's productions appeared on many of the East Coast's most important records: Nas' Illmatic, the Notorious B.I.G.'s Ready to Die, Jay-Z's Reasonable Doubt, Jeru the Damaja's The Sun Rises in the East, and Mos Def's Black on Both Sides.Premier, born Chris Martin, spent time in Brooklyn and Houston while growing up, and studied computer science at Prairie View A&M outside Houston. Known as Waxmaster C, he'd already learned to play a variety of instruments and also managed a record store. After moving back to Brooklyn, around 1987-1988 he came into contact with Guru, a Boston native. Guru had already formed a group named Gang Starr two years earlier (and recorded with the 45 King), but his former partner, Mike Dee, had returned to Boston. DJ Premier and Guru signed to Wild Pitch and released a debut single ("Manifest") and album (No More Mr. Nice Guy). Gang Starr's interest in melding hip-hop with jazz informed the record, and they were invited to add to the soundtrack for Spike Lee's 1990 film Mo' Better Blues. Their subsequent work was much more mature and unified, with a pair of instant East Coast classics (1991's Step in the Arena and 1992's Daily Operation) arriving in short order.DJ Premier had been working with other vocalists for years, and his productions for the 1990 landmark Funky Technician by Lord Finesse and DJ Mike Smooth cemented his status as one of the best producers around. He soon began recording exclusively at D&D Studios, a spot soon to become a shrine for hip-hop fans (thanks in large part to his own work). The year 1994 was a huge one for Premier, probably the best year for any rap producer ever; in addition to dropping another Gang Starr classic, Hard to Earn, his productions appeared on five-star, all-time classics by Nas (Illmatic), the Notorious B.I.G. (Ready to Die), and Jeru the Damaja (The Sun Rises in the East), as well as Big Daddy Kane and Branford Marsalis' Buckshot LeFonque project. Though his workload dropped off considerably during the late '90s, he still managed to place tracks on three of the first four Jay-Z albums, and returned in force with the new millennium, including shots with Common, D.I.T.C., D'Angelo, Jadakiss, and Snoop Dogg.

DJ Premier - New York Reality Check 101 (Jan 5, 1998: Payday)
New York Reality Check 101 mixed by DJ Premier is a solid example of '90s underground hip-hop of New York; if DJ Premier is behind something it must be good. The album is a compilation of 14 singles that DJ Premier adeptly cuts back and fourth accompanied with an ongoing narration by Primo himself. Songs to check for include but are not limited to ED O.G.'s "Off Balance," Company Flow's "8 Steps to Perfection," and the resonating piano-laced Shades of Brooklyn's "Change." The only two cuts to really avoid are Brainsick Mob's "Mixmaster" and Finsta Bundy's "Feel the High Pt. 2," not because they are terrible, but rather because they just lack the soul and creativity the other 12 songs are steeped with. In other words, the aforementioned cuts seem weak because the rest of the album is so solid. DJ Premier is associated with another project that proliferates quality hip-hop; just consider it a bonus that he helps expose good music otherwise not readily available in mainstream markets.

DJ Premier & Jay-Z - Collabo EP (2002)
01 So Ghetto
02 Friend or Foe

03 Bring It On (ft. Big Jaz)

DJ Premier Presents - Step Ya Game Up (2004)
01 DJ Premier - Steal Ya Game Up Intro
02 NYG'z - Get 2 Tha Point
03 Showbiz - On My Way ft. Fat Joe, Party Arty
04 Tef - Tefs Def Jam
05 Alchemist - Hold U Down ft. Prodigy, Nina Sky, Ill Gee
06 Arcee - Super EducatedRedman - Welcome To Gillahouse
07 Pitch Black - Rep Tha Hardest
08 M.O.P. - Get Down
09 Shyne - The Gang ft. Foxy Brown
10 Skillz - Take It Back
11 Young Gunz - Never Take Me Alive ft. Jay Z
12 Blaq Poet - Whats The Deal
13 Bumpy Knuckles - "Why" Freestyle
14 Diamond D - So Lovely
15 Ghostface Killah - Its Over
16 Erick Sermon - Chillin ft. Whip, Talib Kweli
17 Murs - And This Is For

DJ Premier Presents - Checc Ya Mail (2005)
01 DJ Premier - Intro
02 Papoose - Mother Nature
03 Evidence, Alchemist, Big Twin - To The Top
04 Blaq Poet - Bang Dis!
05 Rev. Run - Mind On The Road
06 Redman - Gillahouse Check
07 AZ - The Come Up
08 Smooth B - Game Over
09 354 & Styles P - Coast To Coast
10 Big Shug - The 3 Shugs
11 Teflon - Freestyle (Rugged Terrain)
12 Freddie Foxxx - The Life
13 G-Unit - 300 Shots
14 The Game - Ghost Unit
15 Likwit Junkies - Ghetto
16 NYG'z, Rave, Rotay Flush, T-Sluggs, Juice - Bullseye
17 Red Rock - Gee's Like Us
18 Nas - Death Anniversary
19 Doo Wop - R.I.P. Justo

DJ Premier - No Talent Required (2006)
01 DJ Premier - Intro
02 Teflon - Pay Homage
03 MOP - Stop Pushin'
04 Royce 5'9" - Ding!
05 Blaq Poet - Voices
06 Planet Asia - On Your Way
07 Jay Z - Lost One
08 NYG'z - Gz & Hustlaz
09 Termanology - Watch How It Go Down (Remix ft. Lil Fame & Papoose)
10 Uncle Murda - Hood Rules Apply
11 Jay Dee - Love Jones
12 Defari - Peace & Gangsta
13 50 Cent - I Got Hoes ft. Hot Rod
14 KRS One - My Life
15 Hi-Tek - 1-800-Homocide ft. The Game & Dion
16 Ice Cube - Growin Up
17 Brotha Lynch Hung & MC Eiht - Agent Double O Deuce 4 Blocc & CPT
18 Talib Kweli - Cuntry Cuzins ft. UGK
19 Jay Z - Hov Is Back (Mick Boogie Remix)
20 The Game - Why You Hate The Game ft. Nas

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Saturday, December 02, 2006

Mos Def

Mos Def (born Dante Terrell Smith on December 11, 1973) is a critically acclaimed rapper and actor. He was born in Brooklyn, New York and is an American Muslim convert. He goes by the stage names Mighty Mos Def, The Freaky Night Watchman, Boogie Man, Black Dante, Dante Beze, Pretty Flaco, and Flaco Bey.
Mos Def began his music career with the short-lived group Urban Thermo Dynamics with his younger brother DCQ, and his younger sister Ces. Despite their contract with Payday Records, the group only released two singles and the group's debut album, Manifest Destiny, did not see the light of day until 2004 (see 2004 in music) when it was released through Illson Media. In 1996, he emerged as a solo artist and worked with De La Soul and da Bush Babees, before he released his own first single, "Universal Magnetic", which was a huge underground hit.
After signing with Rawkus Records, Mos Def and Talib Kweli formed the group, Black Star, and released a full length album under the name, Mos Def and Talib Kweli are Black Star. The album was released in 1998 and featured Hi-Tek producing most of the tracks.
Mos Def released his solo debut, Black on Both Sides, in 1999 (see 1999 in music). Def was also featured on Rawkus influential Lyricist Lounge and Soundbombing series compilations. After the collapse of Rawkus, he and Kweli signed on to Interscope/Geffen Records, which released his second solo album, The New Danger, in 2004. Mos Def has drawn some criticism from his fan base about "keeping it real" since he appeared in a commercial that endorsed the GMC Denali sport utility vehicle. [1] Mos Def was set to release his last solo album on Geffen Records, True Magic, on September 19, 2006,[2] but that release date has been delayed to December 12.

Mos Def & Talib Kweli - Black Star (28 August 1998: Rawkus/UMVD)
While Puff Daddy and his followers continued to dictate the direction hip-hop would take into the millennium, Mos Def and Talib Kweli surfaced from the underground to pull the sounds in the opposite direction. Their 13 rhyme fests on this superior, self-titled debut as Black Star show that old-school rap still sounds surprisingly fresh in the sea of overblown vanity productions. There's no slack evident in the tight wordplays of Def and Kweli as they twist and turn through sparse, jazz-rooted rhythms calling out for awareness and freedom of the mind. Their viewpoints stem directly from the teachings of Marcus Garvey, the legendary activist who fought for the rights of blacks all around the world in the first half of the 20th century. Def and Kweli's ideals are sure lofty; not only are they out to preach Garvey's words, but they also hope to purge rap music of its negativity and violence. For the most part, it works. Their wisdom-first philosophy hits hard when played off their lyrical intensity, a bass-first production, and stellar scratching. While these MCs don't have all of the vocal pizzazz of A Tribe Called Quest's Phife and Q-Tip at their best, flawless tracks like the cool bop of "K.O.S. (Determination)" and "Definition" hint that Black Star is only the first of many brilliantly executed positive statements for these two street poets.

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Mos Def - Black on Both Sides (Oct 12, 1999: Rawkus/UMVD)
Mos Def's partnership with Talib Kweli produced one of the most important hip-hop albums of the late '90s, 1997's brilliant Black Star. Consciously designed as a return to rap's musical foundations and a manifesto for reclaiming the art form from gangsta/playa domination, it succeeded mightily on both counts, raising expectations sky-high for Mos Def's solo debut. He met them all with Black on Both Sides, a record every bit as dazzling and visionary as Black Star. Black on Both Sides strives to not only refine but expand the scope of Mos Def's talents, turning the solo spotlight on his intricate wordplay and nimble rhythmic skills — but also his increasing eclecticism. The main reference points are pretty much the same — old-school rap, which allows for a sense of playfulness as well as history, and the Native Tongues posse's fascination with jazz, both for its sophistication and cultural heritage. But they're supported by a rich depth that comes from forays into reggae (as well as its aura of spiritual conscience), pop, soul, funk, and even hardcore punk (that on the album's centerpiece, "Rock n Roll," a dissection of white America's history of appropriating black musical innovations). In keeping with his goal of restoring hip-hop's sociopolitical consciousness, Def's lyrics are as intelligent and thoughtfully crafted as one would expect, but he doesn't stop there — he sings quite passably on several tracks, plays live instruments on others (including bass, drums, congas, vibraphone, and keyboards), and even collaborates on a string arrangement. In short, Black on Both Sides is a tour de force by an artist out to prove he can do it all. Its ambition and execution rank it as one of the best albums of 1999, and it consolidates Mos Def's position as one of hip-hop's brightest hopes entering the 21st century.

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Mos Def - The New Danger (Oct 19, 2004: Rawkus/Geffen)
When it takes you five years to follow up a debut of near-landmark stature, you're setting yourself up for failure. Mos Def's second solo album is not disastrous, but it's a sprawling, overambitious mess. A handful of songs from this 75-minute affair feature Black Jack Johnson, the rock band Mos set up with some very respected musicians: bassist Doug Wimbish (Sugar Hill house band, Living Colour), drummer Will Calhoun (Living Colour), guitarist Dr. Know (Bad Brains), and keyboardist Bernie Worrell (Parliament/Funkadelic). While that's a deadly cast of support, those guests seem to have gone into this inspired more by the negligible rap-meets-rock Judgment Night soundtrack than their own past work. The grooves and riffs are basic (of the dull variety), and the vocals rarely surpass echo-heavy shouts of "Let's go!" "Come with it!" and "F*ck you, pay me!" As poor as those songs are, the lowest point of the album is "The Rape Over," a rewrite of Jay-Z's "The Takeover" that jacks Kanye West's beat from same that, for all its sharp rage, is ruined by the line "Quasi-homosexuals is running this rap sh*t" (it's not a boast). Unsurprisingly, the hottest moments tend to come when Mos sticks to what he does best. One slight exception to this is "Modern Marvel," a nine-minute suite smeared with a series of Marvin Gaye samples. Mos sings in whispers (he makes Pharrell sound like Luther, but he has the required spirit), momentum floats in as easy as a light breeze, and then the MC shifts into goosepimple-raising mode. Throughout the whole thing, Mos Def's conviction is apparent. Even with that in his favor, in addition to considering the extra-genre dabblings on Black on Both Sides, The New Danger sounds confused. It should've taken Mos at least three more records for him to reach this state of restless aimlessness. What grates most is that Q-Tip's Kamaal the Abstract, the best out of the rash of horizon-broadening records from rap artists the past few years, remains unreleased.

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Mos Def - Tru3 Magic (December 19, 2006: Geffen Records)

Tru3 Magic is the third solo album from New York rapper Mos Def. It will be his last album on Geffen Records and was set to be released on September 19, 2006. It has since been pushed back to January 7, 2007. Tru3 Magic features production from The Neptunes, Kanye West, Rich Harrison, 9th Wonder, Minnesota and RJD2, among others. 88 Keys, Q-Tip and Tricky have also been rumored to be contributing.

01. Tru3 Magic 2:51
02. Undeniable 4:16
03. U R the One 3:58
04. Thug Is A Drug 2:52
05. Crime & Medicine 3:08
06. A Ha 2:35
07. Dollar Day (Surprise, Surprise) 5:14
08. Napoleon Dynamite 2:01
09. There Is A Way 3:27
10. Sun, Moon, Stars 4:39
11. Murder of A Teenage Life 3:25
12. Fake Bonanza 4:11
13. Perfect Timing 4:13
14. Lifetime 5:47

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Saturday, November 11, 2006


Das EFX's wildly playful, rapid-fire stuttering — dense with rhymes and nonsense words — was one of the most distinctive and influential lyrical styles in early-'90s hip-hop. While the duo completely rewrote the MC rule book, they themselves were increasingly pegged as a one-dimensional novelty the longer their career progressed, despite watching elements of their style creep into countless rappers' bags of tricks. Krazy Drazyz (born Andre Weston; Teaneck, NJ) and Skoob (born Willie Hines) were both raised in Brooklyn, but didn't begin performing together until they met at Virginia State University in 1988. Removed from an active music scene, the two were free to develop their most idiosyncratic tendencies; they started making up gibberish words (anything ending in "-iggity" was a favorite) that added loads of extra syllables to their lines, and wove plenty of pop-cultural references into the tongue-twisting lyrical gymnastics that resulted. Das EFX caught their big break when they performed at a talent show judged by EPMD; though they didn't win, EPMD was impressed enough to offer them a deal, and the duo became part of the Def Squad crew of protégés.Signing to the East West label, Das EFX began work on their debut album, commuting between Virginia and New York and mailing tapes to EPMD (then touring the country) for guidance. Upon its release in 1992, Dead Serious caused an immediate sensation, and is still considered something of a landmark in hip-hop circles. The first single, the instantly memorable signature song "They Want EFX," was a Top 40 pop hit and a Top Ten R&B hit, and helped push sales of Dead Serious past the platinum mark. Wary of being pigeonholed by repeating themselves, the duo slowed down their lyrical flow and downplayed the surrealistic side of their interplay on the follow-up album, 1993's Straight Up Sewaside, which went gold. Around the time of 1995's disappointing Hold It Down, Das EFX found themselves caught in the middle of EPMD's ugly breakup; it led to a three-year absence from recording. By the time they returned in 1998 with Generation EFX, the group was playing more to a devoted but narrower cult audience; they have remained largely silent since.

Das EFX - Dead Serious (Apr 7, 1992: East West)
Das EFX — part of EPMD's Def Squad crew, which also included K-Solo and Redman, among others — made such a wide breakthrough in 1992 with their debut album that their hit "They Want EFX" was even referenced in the lily-white teen serial Beverly Hills 90210. That Dead Serious could have that sort of broad impact and still retain its credibility within the underground hip-hop community says something about its appeal, which was considerable. But the album wasn't just appealing; it was also enormously influential, ushering in an entirely unique rhyming flow that influenced any number of rappers, established and novice alike. What exactly the duo is rapping about is anyone's guess. One thing is for sure: their lyrics are about as far removed from hardcore realism as they could possibly be, and although there are certain elements of boasting, it is so cut up and contorted that it never sounds like there's even a hint of the humdrum here. None of the lyrical clichés that can occasionally bog down even the finest hip-hop artist are present. Members Dre and Skoob (tellingly, "books" spelled backward) instead engage in lightning-fast, tongue-twisted word association and stream-of-consciousness rants rich in pop cultural references and allusions. It was a completely original rhyming style in 1992 — one of the reasons it had such an impact both in the insular world of hip-hop and on the wider public — but it also had an invigorating looseness that lent itself to commercial radio. "They Want EFX" is clearly the creative highlight of the album; the other songs work the same basic template, and each one is nearly equal in execution and charm, particularly the jaunty "Mic Checka" and "Jussummen."

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Das EFX - Straight Up Sewaside (Nov 16, 1993: East West)
By the time Sewaside saw the light of day, the public hadn't fully absorbed Das EFX's innovative debut, Dead Serious. The hardcore rap game had barely caught up with the brilliance of their rapid-fire vocal delivery and sample-laden beats. But then again, another crew from Staten Island emerged in 1993 and took the rap game by total storm, leaving the genius of Sewaside somewhat overshadowed by their dominance. However, this change in climate shouldn't overshadow Sewaside as a crucial record in the Das EFX canon. While the duo's methods of madness were slowly emulated by a large plethora of MCs, Das EFX stayed with the same effective blueprint laid down in Dead Serious. By maintaining this consistency, Sewaside lacks the punch in the gut that Dead Serious delivered, but it's still a solid record that completists and newfound fans will equally enjoy.

Das EFX - Hold It Down (Oct 1995: East West)
Although the duo tries very hard, there isn't much on Hold It Down, Das EFX's third album, that makes it very different from their previous records. The production is a bit leaner and their delivery is a bit harder, yet that doesn't disguise the fact that the beats aren't as strong as their earlier albums, nor are their raps as exciting and inventive. Nevertheless, there are some strong moments on Hold It Down, and it should please fans of the duo, even if it doesn't appeal to the same large audience that embraced their debut.

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Das EFX - Generation EFX (Mar 24, 1998: Elektra)
Das EFX never quite recovered from the perception that their hyperspeed rhyming style was little more than a novelty. Not only were they written off in some quarters, but their hard-edged, rhyme-centric style was overshadowed by the moked-out gangsta funk coming from the West Coast. Hold It Down, their third album, suffered not only from these problems, but the fact that it wasn't very good. On the other hand, its follow-up, Generation EFX, is a hard-hitting return to form. Enlisting a number of guest artists and producers — including EPMD, Tumblin' Dice Productions, Angel "8-Off" Aguilar, Nocturnal, Miss Jones and Redman — the group revamps their trademark sound; it's still recognizably EFX, but it's harder and hipper than before. Like all their albums, Generation EFX relies more on style than substance — not all of the hooks hold, some of the grooves just lie there — but on the whole, it's their best album since Straight Up Sewaside.

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Das EFX - How We Do (Sep 23, 2003: RT/Utr Music)
The rap game has changed significantly since the arrival of Das EFX on the scene over a decade ago with 1992's seminal Dead Serious. And if that seems like a long time, consider that the last time Das EFX released a new record was nearly five years ago, and things seem that much more distant. With How We Do, Dray and Skoob try and reestablish themselves as prominent fixtures in the hip-hop game. And while their trademark rap delivery was originally their ticket to notoriety, it is sadly absent throughout the majority of this record. Succumbing to the predictability of subjects such as hustling, women, sex, and murder, How We Do is simply a tedious exercise trying to pander to the lowest common denominator of hip-hop listener. Rather than attempt to raise the bar, or even meet the outstanding levels of early releases, it all seems like an attempt to regain acceptance by a community they believed forgot about them. And while there are moments of brilliance that still show they have the skills to justify their place in hip-hop history, they're simply too few and far between to make for a worthwhile listen. This one is for diehard Das EFX loyalists only, which is a shame, as it's a reminder of just how diluted rap and hip-hop can become at times.

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Monday, October 30, 2006

Boogie Down Productions

Boogie Down Productions was one of the most important and influential hip-hop groups of the latter half of the '80s. Led by the often brilliant and incendiary MC KRS-One, BDP were pioneers of both hardcore and political (or "conscious") rap — and if that seems contradictory, it also illustrates the scope of KRS-One's talent for chronicling and even shaping his culture. Musically, BDP usually employed spare, minimal backdrops that accentuated KRS-One's booming delivery, and they were also among the very first hip-hop artists to incorporate elements of Jamaican ragga and dancehall into their style. Early on, BDP devoted itself to brash but realistic narratives of ghetto life, which made them a street-level sensation; however, after the murder of original DJ Scott La Rock, KRS-One — who now essentially was BDP — devoted himself to socially and politically conscious material that earned him the nickname "the Teacher." In the process, he helped pave the way for both gangsta rap and the positive, Afrocentric Native Tongues movement — a legacy no other rapper can claim. KRS-One retired the Boogie Down Productions moniker in the early '90s to release records under his own name; to this day, he remains one of hip-hop's most outspoken and respected intellectuals.KRS-One's real name is Laurence Krisna Parker, or simply Kris Parker; some accounts hold that he was born with the "Krisna" moniker, while others suggest it was a nickname given to him during his youth for his interest in spirituality. Born in Brooklyn's Park Slope area in 1965, his Trinidad-born father was deported not long after his birth, and he later adopted his stepfather's last name of Parker. Early in his teens, he dropped out of high school and left home, migrating to the South Bronx; although he survived mostly on the streets and in homeless shelters, he continued his education by studying extensively in public libraries. During this period, he became interested in hip-hop culture, writing his own raps and tagging graffiti under the name KRS-One (originally an abbreviation for "Kris Number One" but later turned into the acronym "Knowledge Reigns
Supreme Over Nearly Everyone"). Read More

Boogie Down Productions - Criminal Minded (1987: Sugar Hill)
Criminal Minded is widely considered the foundation of hardcore rap, announcing its intentions with a cover photo of KRS-One and Scott La Rock (on his only album with Boogie Down Productions) posing with weapons — an unheard-of gesture in 1987. BDP weren't the first to rap about inner-city violence and drugs, and there's no explicit mention of gangs on Criminal Minded, but it greatly expanded the range of subject matter that could be put on a rap record, and its grittiest moments are still unsettling today. Actually, that part of its reputation rests on just a handful of songs. Overall, the record made its impact through sheer force — not only KRS-One's unvarnished depictions of his harsh urban environment, but also his booming delivery and La Rock's lean, hard backing tracks (which sound a little skeletal today, but were excellent for the time). It's important to note that KRS-One hadn't yet adopted his role as the Teacher, and while there are a few hints of an emerging social consciousness, Criminal Minded doesn't try to deliver messages, make judgments, or offer solutions. That's clear on "South Bronx" and "The Bridge Is Over," two of the most cutting — even threatening — dis records of the '80s, which were products of a beef with Queens-based MC Shan. They set the tone for the album, which reaches its apex on the influential, oft-sampled "9mm Goes Bang." It's startlingly violent, even if KRS-One's gunplay is all in self-defense, and it's made all the more unsettling by his singsong ragga delivery. Another seminal hardcore moment is "P Is Free," which details an encounter with a crack whore for perhaps the first time on record. Elsewhere, there are a few showcases for KRS-One's pure rhyming skill, most notably "Poetry" and the title track. Overall it's very consistent, so even if the meat of Criminal Minded is the material that lives up to the title, the raw talent on display is what cements the album's status as an all-time classic.

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Boogie Down Productions - By All Means Necessary (1988: Jive/Novus)
The murder of DJ Scott La Rock had a profound effect on KRS-One, resulting in a drastic rethinking of his on-record persona. He re-emerged the following year with By All Means Necessary, calling himself the Teacher and rapping mostly about issues facing the black community. His reality rhymes were no longer morally ambiguous, and this time when he posed on the cover with a gun, he was mimicking a photo of Malcolm X. As a social commentator, this is arguably KRS-One's finest moment. His observations are sharp, lucid, and confident, yet he doesn't fall prey to the preachiness that would mar some of his later work, and he isn't afraid to be playful or personal. The latter is especially true on the subject of La Rock, whose memory hangs over By All Means Necessary — not just in the frequent name-checks, but in the minimalist production and hard-hitting 808 drum beats that were his stock-in-trade on Criminal Minded. La Rock figures heavily in the album opener, "My Philosophy," which explains BDP's transition and serves as a manifesto for socially conscious hip-hop. The high point is the impassioned "Stop the Violence," a plea for peace on the hip-hop scene that still hasn't been heeded. Even as KRS-One denounces black-on-black crime, he refuses to allow the community to be stereotyped, criticizing the system that scoffs at that violence on the spoken recitation "Necessary." "Illegal Business" is a startlingly perceptive look at how the drug trade corrupts the police and government, appearing not long before the CIA's drug-running activities in the Iran-Contra Affair came to light. There are also some lighter moments in the battle-rhyme tracks, and a witty safe-sex rap in "Jimmy," a close cousin to The Jungle Brothers' "Jimbrowski." Lyrics from this album have been sampled by everyone from Prince Paul to N.W.A., and it ranks not only as KRS-One's most cohesive, fully realized statement, but a landmark of political rap that's unfairly lost in the shadow of Public Enemy's It Takes a Nation oа Millions.

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Boogie Down Productions - The Blueprint of Hip Hop (Jun 1989: Jive)
The second Boogie Down Productions album devoted mostly to consciousness raising, Ghetto Music: The Blueprint of Hip Hop finds KRS-One evolving into a fierce advocate for both his community and his chosen art form. He's particularly concerned about the direction of the latter: he's wary of hip-hop being co-opted by the pop mainstream, and the album's title comes from his conviction that real hip-hop is built on the vitality and rebelliousness of the streets. Accordingly, Ghetto Music contains a few more battle rhymes than usual, plus some showcases for pure MC technique, in keeping with the most basic elements of the music. The production, too, is still resolutely minimalist, and even if it's a little more fleshed-out than in the past, it consciously makes no concessions to pop or R&B accessibility. There are more reggae inflections in KRS-One's delivery than ever before, audible in about half the tracks here, and the production starts to echo dancehall more explicitly on a few. Meanwhile, as the Teacher, he's actually put together lesson plans for a couple tracks: "Why Is That?" and "You Must Learn" are basically lectures about biblical and African-American history, respectively. This is where KRS-One starts to fall prey to didacticism, but he has relevant points to make, and the rapping is surprisingly nimble given all the information he's trying to pack in. Elsewhere, "Who Protects Us from You?" is a bouncy anti-police-brutality rap, and KRS closes the album with the point that "World Peace" can only be achieved through a pragmatic, aggressive struggle for equality. Although Ghetto Music has a few signs that KRS is starting to take himself a little too seriously (he dubs himself a metaphysician in the liner notes), overall it's another excellent effort and the last truly great BDP album.

Boogie Down Productions - Edutainment (Jul 1990: Jive)
KRS-One's artistic winning streak continued with Edutainment, Boogie Down Productions' fourth album. True to form, he focuses on black history and speaks out on homelessness, racism, police excesses, and materialism with clarity and insight. KRS was often compared to Public Enemy leader Chuck D because of his consistently sociopolitical focus, but there's no mistaking the fact that his unique mixture of black nationalism, Eastern religion (both Hinduism and Buddhism), and Rastafarian philosophy is very much his own. From a commercial standpoint, he had become a little too intellectual and wasn't selling as many albums as many in rap's gangsta school. But from an artistic perspective, Edutainment is as commendable as it is riveting.

Boogie Down Production - Live Hardcore Worldwide (Mar 12, 1991: Jive)
Live albums are a rarity in rap — and understandably so. In contrast to funk and soul bands of the 1960s and '70s — many of whom couldn't wait to "take it to the stage" and were thrilling live — hip-hoppers have been so reliant on technology that their live performances usually leave much to be desired. Many rappers have excelled in the studio only to be frightfully awkward and forgettable live. It came as a major surprise when Boogie Down Productions released this live album. While KRS-One's performances of such gems as "Jimmy," "The Bridge Is Over," "My Philosphy," and "South Bronx" are enjoyable, a lot is clearly lost in the transition from the studio to the stage. Like so many rappers — or for that matter, '90s urban contemporary artists — KRS is simply too studio-oriented to generate the kind of excitement that bands like Parliament and The Ohio Players did on-stage.

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Boogie Down Production - Sex and Violence (Feb 25, 1992: Jive/Novus)
The final album released under the Boogie Down Productions name, Sex and Violence is a partial return to form after the overly preachy ego trip of Edutainment. Specifically, it's a return to the aggressive beats of KRS-One's earlier work, except with a more contemporary sound — this is the first BDP album to rely on multiple outside producers, which supplies a much-needed sonic update. As a result, some BDP fans feel that Sex and Violence is an underrated effort — it packs more of a punch, and KRS-One is refocusing on the art of MCing, not to mention his dancehall reggae influence. That said, it isn't a complete success, since his usual consistency of vision isn't quite there. There are a number of good moments: the single "Duck Down," "Like a Throttle" (which fears that Islamic spirituality has become nothing but a hip-hop fad), and "Poisonous Products." But elsewhere, some of his observations are more provocative than immediately insightful. He urges the "Drug Dealer" to invest his profits in the black community, and on "Build and Destroy" he brands high-ranking black officials like Clarence Thomas and Colin Powell nothing short of devils for their assimilation. Plus, "13 and Good" and "Say Gal" both have a discomforting undercurrent of misogyny unbecoming a teacher. There's enough vitality on Sex and Violence to make it worthwhile for fans, but overall it doesn't rank with the best of KRS-One's work.

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Sunday, October 22, 2006


Let me introduce :) We opened on IRC our chanell for chatting on DALnet server #Rapaholic here you can contributs and requests...Waiting for ya'l and we can chattin online...Peace

Fugess - Blunted on Reality (Feb 1, 1994: Ruffhouse)
Shyheim - Bottom Up Compilation Vol. 1 added here...
Raekwon - The Da Vinci Code Vatican Mixtape, Vol. 2 last added here...
Raekwon album added here...
Rza's album on here...Now it avaliable to download...

Till next update...As Salam Aleikum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuhu

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Showbiz & A.G.

The rebirth of hip-hop's originating borough the Bronx can be credited in part to this two-man crew. While late-'80s/early-'90s hip-hop had gotten to be mostly party-oriented and at times downright corny, this duo brought back some swagger and soul. Show and A.G. were the first out the box from the superb Diggin' in the Crates Crew, an elite team of MCs and producers who can claim much clout and influence on genuine East Coast hip-hop. The spirit of rap's forefathers can be felt in the gritty weight of this duo's pioneering sound. Learning from their cohort Lord Finesse, the two started an underground buzz by street promoting their demos then selling the tapes out of the trunks of their cars. The street sales helped them polish their debut single "Soul Clap" b/w "Party Groove," a cut that banged dance clubs and got love on Yo! MTV Raps for many a week, a self-titled EP was released in March of 1992. Their debut album, Runaway Slave, followed in the fall and is seen as an early-'90s hip-hop essential. The album brought a bouncing hardcore sound of crisp, jazzy horns, stiff drum kicks, and snapping snares that could get a party hopping but could also satisfy the non-dancing purist nodding his head in the back of the club. The album truly is a D.I.T.C. family affair and introduced such legendary names as the late Big L, Fat Joe, and Diamond D, whose classic debut solo album Stunts, Blunts and Hip Hop dropped the same week in 1992. The albatross of making unadulterated rap music is that it sometimes costs a crew acclaim, for Show and A.G. are some of rap's disturbingly underrated. The sequel to their raw, stripped sound came in 1995 with the under-appreciated Goodfelas and the two were major contributors to D.I.T.C.'s eponymous debut album in 2000.

Reupped: Showbiz & A.G. - Runaway Slave (1992: PolyGram)
A product of the tightknit Bronx underground posse D.I.T.C., Runaway Slave is a cornerstone album of hip-hop's middle school phase. Building on and borrowing from the layered, jazz-influenced sound of such contemporaries as Gang Starr and Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth, Showbiz & A.G. affixed a gangster mentality to grainy, fortified beats, etching their own unique style. While the crossover "Soul Clap" and "Party Groove" are club cuts, the rest of the album is more densely expressive. Showbiz and his talented peer Diamond shape their beats around simple, deep drum tracks — but add subtle loops of chaotic horns, loose strings, or abrupt piano notes to create concise and hard-hitting overtures. Tasteful flute swatches light up "Silence of the Lambs," an ear-ringing saxophone buzzes on "Still Diggin'," and the motor mouthed late legend Big L introduced himself on the classic down-the-line jam "Represent," pulling such punchlines as "MCs be braggin' about cash they collect/But them chumps is like Ray Charles 'cause they ain't seen no money yet." The young A.G. (aka Andre the Giant) flows effortlessly throughout this album, an MC whose skill and unique voice would only mature in the future. While some of the import of this album is muted by modern-day technological sound booth advancements, Showbiz & A.G. did it raw and undiluted and the resulting sound was fresh, innovative, and most of all satisfying for hip-hop heads.

Showbiz & A.G. - Good Fellas (May 30, 1995: Ffrr)
The second shot fired from D.I.T.C.'s charter members Show & A.G. is a shade darker than their debut. While 1992's Runaway Slave was definitely no new jack swing affair, Good Fellas is decidedly more grimy and a lot less playful, both on the production and the lyrical ends. The lead single, "Next Level," also remixed exceptionally on the album by DJ Premier, was the only track that made any above-ground noise. Arguably the best cut on the album, the track is a manifesto of real hip-hop over a melodic guitar sample. Much of the album rumbles along to the tune of low bass grooves and noisy ambient loops of a jazzy variety. From bouncy xylophones to the standard Showbiz horns and kick drums, the production here is tightly constructed. At the time of its release (mid-1995), East Coast hip-hop was cruising along in a rugged gangster mode. All the while an ugly coastal battle was brewing that would conspire to darken hip-hop forevermore. This album steers clear of the coast bashing despite its unmistakable East Coast stamp and appeal. A few tracks do lack a distinct flavor, but overall the methodical, unassuming D.I.T.C. sound here has since been grafted but never duplicated. Show & A.G. affirm that the road to respect-worthy hip-hop status is not through releasing an album every six months, but by letting things marinate for a few years and then proving you're still on top of your game.
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Monday, October 16, 2006


Onyx's shouting, in-your-face brand of high-volume rapping proved to be more at home in the slam pit than on the dancefloor and brought the rap quartet instant chart success. Originally formed in Queens, NY, during 1990, the members of Onyx (Fredro Starr, Sticky Fingaz, Big DS, and DJ Suave Sonny Ceaser) met while working as barbers. The band honed their rhyming skills and act by performing at local clubs, which eventually gained the attention of Run-D.M.C.'s Jam Master Jay, who signed the group to his label, JMJ Records, and even helped produce Onyx's debut full-length, Bacdafucup, in 1993. The album turned out to be a platinum-certified smash, spurred on by the runaway success of the hit single "Slam," which went on to become one of the year's biggest rap hits. The group confirmed that they were just as content attracting a heavy metal audience by a pair of collaborations with the N.Y.C. hardcore metal outfit Biohazard (a remix of "Slam" credited to Bionyx, and the title track to the motion picture Judgment Night). The album even beat out such stiff competition as Dr.Dre's rap classic The Chronic at the Soul Train Awards for Best Rap Album that year. But Onyx was unable to continue their commercial success as such subsequent albums as 1995's All We Got Iz Us and 1998's Shut 'Em Down came and went without much fanfare. The late '90s saw members Sticky and Fredro try their hand at acting, landing spots on HBO's Strapped, Spike Lee's Clockers, the Rhea Pearlman/Danny De Vito-directed Sunset Park, and Brandy's hit TV show Moesha. The various members tried to launch solo careers, but the records never connected with audiences. With the rap genre's continuous changes and shifts, they decided to try a comeback and reappeared with 2002's Bacdafucup, Pt. II.

Onyx - Bacdafucup (1993: Def Jam)
At the time that Bacdafucup hit the record racks and airwaves, Onyx seemed to be inventing a genre all their own: heavy metal rap. Of course, on closer inspection, it is not at all surprising stylistically, given their link to Def Jam and Run DMC, the record company and crew that introduced heavy guitar riffs into hip-hop. Onyx, though, seemed far more threateningly hardcore than Run DMC ever were, and each song on their debut album seems like a quick-triggered, menacing chip set squarely on the shoulders of MCs Big DS, Suave, Fredro, and Sticky Fingaz. That the entire album from beginning to end circumvents almost any backlash by being so brilliantly catchy as well, is a sterling tribute to how strong a quartet Onyx truly is on this first effort. The group gives the impression that they wanted to spotlight the sort of cartoonish, directionless anger that existed in a lot of hardcore rap, and then funnel that sort of energy into songs full of singalong choruses and joyous, chanted hooks that lend a certain feeling of camaraderie to the whole album. The release is mostly co-produced by Run DMC's Jam Master Jay and newcomer Chyskillz, and its music has a tense, wired edge that amplifies the vividness of the threatening lyrics. Sonically, it has a hardcore East Coast/New York City cast, full of throbbing bass and screeching siren-like effects. The grimy urban vibe is matched by Onyx's narrative thuggery, discharged straight from the streets like pumped-up news dispatches and predating the roughneck rap trend by several years. It's hard to imagine, given the gritty content of the album, that Onyx was aiming for airplay with Bacdafucup; nevertheless, almost in spite of itself, it was so good that it earned just that.

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Onyx - All We Got Iz Us (Nov 1995: Def Jam)
The second offering from Queens' Onyx is another fix of dark and psychotic microphone marauding. Unlike their debut album Bacdafucup, the trio's 1995 sophomore project contains no MTV-friendly cuts like "Slam." Rather, All We Got Iz Us is strictly the dark side, espousing basically one emotion: rage. This is a primal album of raucous wailing over sparse, rumbling beats. It is the sound of what slithers under the streets of New York. Sticky Fingaz asserts himself as the lyricist of the crew, sounding off like a powder keg ready to blow while Fredro Starr provides the solid but simplistic beats. Onyx cares little about solutions to the problems that have riled them up, they're simply reacting to them by letting out a guttural roar of anger and violence. Perhaps the forerunners of hardcore artists such as DMX, they in many ways authored the grimy, lowdown flow. In spite of their talents, without the benefit of airplay All We Got Iz Us fizzled. Regardless, Onyx maintained their "right to remain violent" and for what they do, they do it very well on this album. The standout cuts include: "Last Dayz," "Live Niguz," "Walk In New York," "Shout," and "Geto Mentalitee," featuring All City.

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Onyx - Shut 'Em Down (Jun 2, 1998: Def Jam)
Shut 'Em Down is officially the follow-up to All We Got Iz Us, but since that second album was largely forgotten, the record might as well have been a followup to Bacdafucup, the debut that briefly made Onyx a hip-hop sensation. Onyx haven't changed that much since then; their hardcore rhythms still hit hard, their lyrics are still profane and they still shout their lyrics as often as they rap. In short, they still make the oversized, near-parodic hardcore rap that made "Slam" a smash hit. Unfortunately, there isn't anything on Shut 'Em Down nearly as good as "Slam." There's nothing that's flat-out bad, on the other hand, but there's no denying that the horrorcore schtick wears a bit thin. At first, it sounds good to have Onyx back, but it soon becomes clear that they need to develop a new sonic direction, otherwise they will have shut themselves down.

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Onyx - Bacdafucup, Pt. II (Jun 11, 2002: Koch International)
Onyx burst onto the scene with Bacdafucup, a volatile rap album that embraced everything about thug life and told the world to slam. Unfortunately, later releases failed to live up to the lofty heights of Bacdafucup, and Onyx faded back as members evacuated and/or opted to experiment with acting and solo careers. After four years, a re-formed Onyx returned with Bacdafucup, Pt. II, an album that looks to once again grasp the hardcore rap title they helped invent. Fredro and Sticky Fingaz sound as dirty as ever as they boast grandiose flows concerning the game, the relevance of the bald legacy, and life over the group's tumultuous career. The question is, does Bacdafucup, Pt. II live up to its title? While this is not as revolutionary or edgy as its predecessor, this is surely Onyx's triumphant return. They have conformed to many of the expected trends of hip-hop, including Dr.Dre-like beats and DMX-esque rants, yet there is no mistaking the openly hostile intentions of one of rap's most cutting-edge trios. There is much here to recall Onyx's early days, including two of the album's best tracks, "Bring 'Em out Dead" and "Slam Harder," which may appear to be last-ditch retreads of past hits but are their own entities entirely. The group even treads into waters one wouldn't expect, referring to the 9/11 tragedy with more daring terms then some may like, yet the powerful thoughts delivered on "Feel Me" prove that Onyx is very serious about their terrorist opinions. Onyx may not be as offensive or aggressive as they once were, but Bacdafucup, Pt. II is easily the group's best outing since their hip-hop debut.

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Onyx - Triggernometry (Jul 22, 2003: D3/Riviera)
1 Triggernometry (Intro) 0:58
2 Gun Clap Music 4:08
3 Stick Up 0:27
4 JMJ 4:10
5 Def Scams 0:39
6 Street Is Us 2:52
7 The Source Awards 1:04
8 Wild N Here 3:58
9 '93 Flex 0:39
10 Onyx 3:54
11 Wu da Competition 1:06
12 Over 4:13
13 B.I.G. 1:17
14 Look Dog 3:16
15 Irv da A&R 0:53
16 Da Next Niggas, Pt. 2 3:42
17 Rappers in Flicks 0:31
18 Champions 3:23
19 Holla Back 50 2:30
20 Mama Cryin 4:01
21 Triggernometry (Outra) 0:37
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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Sticky Fingaz

Rapper Sticky Fingaz was the frontman of hardcore rap goup ONYX and is best known for his husky voice and brash rapping style that dragged the hip-hop sound into the mosh pit. The Brooklyn-born Kirk Jones spent much of his early life as a member of a notorious New York street gang. Jones began performing with his cousin Fredro Starr, and the pair was soon discovered by hip-hop legend Jam Master Jay. Soon after, they formed ONYX. In 1993, ONYX released their first album, Bacdafucup, which became a crossover hit thanks in large part to Sticky Fingaz' gritty style and raspy voice. The group produced two more records before Fingaz left the group to pursue solo projects. Jones also pursued a side career as a film actor. His first solo album, Black Trash: The Autobiography of Kirk Jones, which was released in 2000, is a conceptual album that is cinematic in scope that tells the story of Kirk Jones, a down-on-his-luck ex-con who finds himself wrapped up in the street life. The record stands as an impressive debut that blends Sticky Fingaz' two loves: film and hip-hop. Decade, released on D3 Entertainment, followed in 2003. It didn't fare nearly as well as the debut, but it did crack the Billboard 200.

Sticky Fingaz - Black Trash: The Autobiography of Kirk Jones (Nov 21, 2000)
Sticky Fingaz' oft-delayed solo debut, Black Trash: The Autobiography of Kirk Jones, is a bold conceptual endeavor that loosely follows the same format Prince Paul implemented on his hip-hopera Prince Among Thieves. Scripted to fit the silver screen, Black Trash chronicles the trials and tribulations of Kirk Jones, a down-on-his-luck knucklehead who always manages to find trouble. Playing out like a lyrical collage, Black Trash is an emotional roller coaster that tackles the quintessential tale of good vs. evil. Though highly imaginative, like most Hollywood blockbusters, Black Trash fights bouts of long-windedness (this is particularly evident toward the LP's conclusion), yet there is still plenty to chew on in between. Displaying a lyrical diversity that his stint with ONYX rarely suggested, Sticky serves up a slew of profound moral messages on the thought-provoking "Why" and "Oh My God," where in a maniacal state Sticky questions God's existence. Yet, his lyrical transformation is best exemplified on "Money Talks" (featuring Raekwon), where Sticky speaks in third-person, as a dollar bill, and vividly depicts how the material possessions people strive to own eventually end up owning them. While the dramatic ebb and flow of Black Trash is the LP's saving grace, as the running dialogue (contributed by Omar Epps) and frequent skits ingeniously captures the many complex intricacies that make up Sticky/Jones' conflicting personas. However, it is hard to feel sympathetic for the character, as he is a man who, through the course of this LP, shows little regard for human life, kills his best friend, beats his wife, and deserts his child. Yet, similar to James Gandolfini's portrayal of Tony Soprano, Sticky convincingly brings Jones to life, and he is such an enigmatic character that you can't help but root for him, even though he doesn't deserve it.

Sticky Fingaz - Decade "...But Wait It Gets Worse" (Apr 29, 2003)
Not nearly as ambitious as Black Trash: The Autobiography of Kirk Jones , Sticky Fingaz' second album also isn't quite as compelling. Off Universal and now on D3 Entertainment — a graveyard of sorts for former major-label artists — the MC produces the bulk of the tracks along with DSP, though wiz Scott Storch takes over for a pair of tracks, both of which are unsurprising standouts. Despite a shortage of strong material and some uninspired production work, Sticky Fingaz remains a remarkable MC, and some might be pleased that he's relying less on gruff, in-your-face shouting and more on a menacing delivery that's kept to a relatively low-key and stern dynamic. Hopefully this will lead to better things.
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Sunday, October 08, 2006

Last Updates

1 I Ain't Trickin' 4:18
2 Under 21 Not Permitted 4:14
3 No More Mister Nice Guy 4:26
4 Check the Bitch 2:57
5 F*and@ U Man 4:20
6 Talk Like Sex 5:09
7 Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous 4:58
8 Enter the Dragon 5:51
9 I'm Fly [Original Version] 5:42
10 Rhyme Tyme 6:34
11 Rikers Island 5:33
12 Keep It Swingin' 4:40

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


On the surface, the sample-reliant productions and monotone rapping styles of Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith had little to recommend them, but the duo's recordings as EPMD were among the best in hip-hop's underground during the late '80s and early '90s. Over the course of four albums (from the 1988 classic Strictly Business to 1992's Business Never Pesonal), they rarely varied from two themes: dissing sucker MCs and recounting sexual exploits. But a closer look reveals that the duo's rhymes were nothing less than incredible, simply undervalued because of their lack of intonation during delivery. EPMD also had a feel for a good groove, and created numerous hip-hop classics, including "It's My Thing," "You Gots to Chill," "Get the Bozack," "Strictly Business," and "Rampage."Though EPMD's hardcore style influenced the urban-oriented gangsta '90s, Erick Sermon (aka E Double E; b. Nov. 25, 1968) and Parrish Smith (aka Pee MD; b. May 13, 1968) were both raised in the Long Island suburb of Brentwood. They moved into rap separately, with Smith DJing for Rock Squad on a single for Tommy Boy. After coming together in 1987 — naming themselves EPMD, short for "Erick and Parrish Making Dollars" — the duo recorded their debut "It's My Thing" in three hours. The single was later licensed to Chrysalis, and EPMD signed to Sleeping Bag/Fresh Records for debut album Strictly Business. Propelled by several strong singles ("You Gots to Chill," the title track), the album eventually went gold, as did 1989's follow-up, Unfinished Business. Signed to Def Jam by the beginning of the '90s, EPMD returned in 1990 with Business An Usual and Business Never Personal two years later. By 1992, they presided over an extended family dubbed the Hit Squad, including Redman, K-Solo, and Das EFX. The duo split later that year, however, prompting solo careers for each; Sermon debuted in 1993 with No Pressure, and Smith made his statement on 1994's Shede Business. The duo re-formed EPMD in 1997, recording a strong comeback LP, Back In Business. Out Of Business followed in 1999.Formed in 1987.
EPMD - Strictly Business (1988; Priority)
EPMD's blueprint for East Coast rap wasn't startlingly different from many others in rap's golden age, but the results were simply amazing, a killer blend of good groove and laid-back flow, plus a populist sense of sampling that had heads nodding from the first listen (and revealed tastes that, like Prince Paul's, tended toward AOR as much as classic soul and funk). A pair from Long Island, EPMD weren't real-life hardcore rappers — it's hard to believe the same voice who talks of spraying a crowd on one track could be name-checking the Hardy Boys later on — but their no-nonsense, monotoned delivery brooked no arguments. With their album debut, Strictly Business, Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith really turned rapping on its head; instead of simple lyrics delivered with a hyped, theatrical tone, they dropped the dopest rhymes as though they spoke them all the time. Their debut single, "You Gots to Chill," was a perfect example of the EPMD revolution; two obvious samples, Zapp's "More Bounce to the Ounce" and Kool & The Gang's "Jungle Boogie," doing battle over a high-rolling beat, with the fluid, collaborative raps of Sermon and Smith tying everything together with a mastery that made it all seem deceptively simple. There was really only one theme at work here — the brilliancy of EPMD, or the worthlessness of sucker MCs — but every note of Strictly Business proved their claims.
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EPMD - Unfinished Business (1989; Priority)
EPMD avoided the dreaded sophomore curse and kept its artistic momentum going on its second album, Unfinished Business. Once again, the duo triumphed by going against the flow — when MCs ranging from Public Enemy to Sir Mix-A-Lot to N.W.A. weren't hesitating to be abrasive and hyper, EPMD still had a sound that was decidedly relaxed by rap standards. For the most part, EPMD's lyrics aren't exactly profound — boasting and attacking sucker MCs is still their favorite activity. However, Erick and Parrish do challenge themselves a bit lyrically on "You Had Too Much to Drink" (a warning against drunk driving) and "Please Listen to My Demo," which recalls the days when they were struggling. But regardless of subject matter, they keep things exciting by having such an appealing, captivating sound.

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EPMD - Business as Usual (1990; Def Jam)
Business as Usual is an ironic title for EPMD's third album — for in terms of production, it was anything but business as usual for the Strong Island rappers. While Strictly Business and Unfinished Business favored a very simple and basic approach to production consisting primarily of samples (many of them clever) and drum machines, the production is busier and more involved this time — and even suggests Marley Marl. Unfortunately, the sampling isn't as clever as before. What didn't change was EPMD's relatively laid-back approach to rapping and a preoccupation with sucker MCs. Though not as inspired as its two predecessors, the album does have its moments — including "Rampage" (which unites EPMD with LL Cool J), "Give the People," and "Gold Digger," a candid denunciation of "material girls" who exploit and victimize men financially after a divorce.

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EPMD - Business Never Personal (Jul 28, 1992; Def Jam)
Having recorded two undeniable hip-hop classics right out the box, EPMD met with a modicum of disapproval for the first time ever upon the release of its third album, which was graded down by some fans and critics because it seemed to be, yes, more business as usual rather than any sort of musical maturation or progression. Unbowed, Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith returned with what, at the time, was rumored even before it hit shelves to be their final album together. Indeed, the duo broke up not long after Business Never Personal came out. It was a perfect way to go out together. The album proved to be both a commercial and artistic triumph at the time, and with each passing year, it sounds more and more like their finest — if not their most historically important — recording. Unapologetically underground throughout its career up to this point, the duo was savvy enough to throw a bone to an ever-growing rap-listening public in a supposed bid for "Crossover" appeal even as it was taking its concluding bow, thereby negating any cries of "sellout" that otherwise might have been tossed at the group's reputation for independence from any commercial concerns. Frankly, though, it would have been a difficult claim to make stick against EPMD anyway. Despite its appealing Zapp sample and hook, "Crossover" is every bit as coated in street soot as the rest of its music. Nevertheless, it is undoubtedly the catchiest thing the pair had ever created. The rest of the album is harder hitting but in every respect as captivating, running from the abrasively metallic "Boon Dox" to the crowd-moving Hit Squad posse cut "Head Banger," and returning the group more often than not to the scowling (though often tongue-in-cheek) intensity and minimalistic aesthetic of its first two records. And if Erick and Parrish hadn't yet made the impending end of their partnership explicit enough, they do so on the final track, where they finally, figuratively kill off Jane, the transvestite prostitute who had hawked them through each of their albums.

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EPMD - Back in Business (Sep 16, 1997; Def Jam)
EPMD's reunion album Back in Business may not be entirely successful, but it's far from being an embarrassment. Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith remain strong, if unexceptional rappers, but the true news is in the music.
Much of Back in Business captures the wild spirit of EPMD's classic late-'80s albums, complete with dense layers of sounds, samples and funky beats. There's enough skill and invention in the production — and just enough energy in the rapping — to make Back in Business a welcome comeback.

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EPMD - Out of Business (Jun 29, 1999; Def Jam)
After the popular, praised 1997 comeback album Back In Business, Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith returned with another solid effort that proved they remained one of the best combos in hip-hop, as relevant and tight in 1999 as they were ten years earlier. Most of the tracks are in-house productions (either Sermon or Smith), a true rarity in the '90s hip-hop world, and they lend the album a continuity sorely lacking considering the legion of rap albums that feature a different producer for each track. And as the duo has done for ages, EPMD does more than just trade in familiar riffs to drive the tracks on Out of Business. The only familiar sample is on the "Intro," and even there, Sermon and Smith turn "Fanfare for Rocky" into something over and above the original. The pair's raps have definitely progressed in the past ten years, as "Pioneers," "U Got Shot," "Right Now," and "Hold Me Down" more than prove. One of the album highlights is the anti-crossover diatribe "Rap Is Still Outta Control," featuring Busta Rhymes (another rapper who's been around long enough to know) and including great lines like, "They took our music and our beat and tried to make it street/And then got in the magazine to try to sound all sweet." Still, EPMD occasionally falls prey to current trends, with obligatory string-sample productions on "Symphony" and "Symphony 2000" (the latter with Redman, Method Man, and Lady Luck) that serve only to obscure the great guest raps. Despite the title, in the liner notes EPMD dispels any rumors that this could be the duo's last album.

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