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Here on Planet STRONGBONES, we love classic hip hop. Sometimes the best albums are overlooked or forgotten, so we’ve taken it upon ourselves to jog your memory…
Listen To It!
In 1997, the Minnesota underground group released their debut “Overcast!” on Rhymesayers Entertainment. The emotion-packed flow of both Slug and Spawn coupled with the dark and distinctive production of DJ Ant create a specific and deliberate mood; Atmosphere injects their thought processes into your head and forces you to wear their mindset for 72 minutes.
The first track on Overcast! Is quite smartly chosen. Ant uses a dark classical sample to create a distinct channel for Slug’s ominous lyrics to flow through.
The mic, let me clutch it/ Thoughts take flight/ So fit Slug in your pipe, and take a puff kid
Slug is not afraid to boast, as most MCs do, but he does so with a methodic flow that is solely his own:
‘Cause I can read an MC from front to back/ From the cover to the classified/ I pacified my mind with my rhyme skills/ I climb hills/ and leap, foolish twitch with a single bound/ Sending tingles down your spine, designed to swing and pound…
Slug continues to demonstrate his syballic abilities with his companion Spawn on the back-and-forth track “Multiples”
Ironic/ Most kids pale in comparison/ To my phonics, so come inhale some embarrassment
Even in the midst of Slug’s obvious MC talent, Spawn holds his own naturally on this album. It is of no question that he belongs on this record
Standout Song- “Scapegoat”
It’s in the water/ It’s in the air/ It’s in the meat/It’s indirect, indiscrete, it’s inconsistent, incomplete
The true gem of Overcast! is the track Scapegoat. Here, Atmosphere shows their ability to perform one the most important skills in true hip-hop: create a song with a theme. Ant creates the medieval mood with another wise sample choice, and Slug lyrically lays out all the common “Scapegoats” people use to excuse themselves, and provides the notion that it’s all bullshit.
It’s Bloods, Crips, fives, six, it’s stick up kids/ It’s christian conservative terrorists, it’s porno flicks
It’s the East coast, no it’s the West coast/ It’s public schools, it’s asbestos/ It’s mentholated, It’s techno
He concludes by seemingly indicating that the listener should stop using these “Scapegoats” as excuses.
It’s ain’t me, motherfucker, it ain’t me
I’m not sure if I would call Overcast! a defintite concept album, but it most certainly creates a particular mood that draws the listener in allows them to feel many of the same emotions the group members do. Listening, it is more than possible to close your eyes and visualize a harsh Minnesota winter with Overcast! as the musical backdrop.
Were this album to come out today, it would surely be regarded as a great triumph in the underground hip hop community. Given that it came out in 1995 however, this album shines as one of the most memorable hip hop debuts of all time.
Interested? –> http://rhymesayers.com/atmosphere/
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The most anticipated day of the year has arrived; Kanye West & Jay-Z’s latest effort dropped exclusively on iTunes early this morning. Since the release of HAM in January, it has certainly been the most talked about project in Hip Hop land.
The album takes off running No Church in the Wild, a rugged anthem to ferocious lifestyles filled with religious metaphors and verbiage. More striking than the lyrics, however, is the hypnotic rolling guitar riff that drives the 88 Keys/Kanye joint production. Frank Ocean also shines in the first of his two album appearances.
Watch the Throne continues the musical stampede with proceeding tracks featuring production by the likes of Q-Tip, Swiss Beats, the RZA, and the Neptunes. Lyrically, Jay and Kanye explore both the heights of braggadocio as well as the depths of their own emotion. On New Day, Kanye writes of his future son:
Don’t want him to be hated, all the time judged
Don’t be like your daddy that would never budge
And I’ll never let him ever hit a strip club
I learned the hard way, that ain’t the place to get love
Each gets his own share of boasting time, however. On the overwhelmingly soulful Otis, Jay showcases his classic Roman self-esteem: Photo shoot fresh, looking like wealth/ I’m ’bout to call the paparazzi on myself. The deluxe version closes with The Joy, a Pete Rock produced classic released last year in Kanye’s “G.O.O.D. Friday” collection. It’s a relief to see this song receive mainstream promotion; it is undeniably Jay and Kanye’s best track.
If the album has any low points, they would be Made in America and HAM. Made in America is well-worn lyrical territory over subpar production; HAM seems to be a track intended to get purchases from the learner’s permit segment of the population. Much of the album’s subject matter is tedious to long-time Hip Hop fans, many of which are bored with “Money” rhymes.
Despite the tiresome lyrical content, both Jay and Kanye’s delivery is on point and clever. They rhyme about the high life in a way that is unique from other rappers. Several of the the album’s tracks do have more meaningful lyrics though, such as “Murder to Excellence” and “The Joy”. Overall, this album absolutely qualifies as a classic. When the game’s two heaviest hitters collaborate on such a massive project, the result cannot be taken lightly.
Gotta Have It
LOLOLOL to White America, assassinate my character
Money matrimony, yeah, they tryna break the marriage up
Who gon’ act phonier? Who gon’ try to embarrass ya?
I’ma need a day off, I think I’ll call Ferris up
And if the day comes I only see him on the weekend
I just pray we was in love on the night that we conceived him
Promise to never leave him even if his mama tweakin’
Cause my dad left me and I promise never repeat him
Murder to Excellence
And said the church ain’t got enough room for all the tombs
It’s a war going on outside we ain’t safe from
I feel the pain in my city wherever I go
314 soldiers died in Iraq
509 died in Chicago
Following 2009’s Chamber Music, Legendary Weapons is a compilation of Wu-Tang and affiliates, minus GZA.
This album is just what Hip Hop needed in the summer of 2011. Legendary Weapons is a really not a Wu-Tang Clan record, but more like complication album with the Clan members solo songs. The entire album has a classic Wu Tang Clan vibe without their lead producer RZA, but that doesn’t mean the producing is GZA it is just that the second string producers producing do their best to imitate the GZA style. In the absence of the Genius, the other Clan members step up their game with the intricate lyricism that made them famous. Method Man, Ghostface, Raekwon, U-God and Inspecta Deck bring all their game with lyrical skill and catchy sounds: Laidback beats are combined with tricky rhymes
The album’s downfall comes not only from the lack of the GZA, but also the RZA’s sagging performance. It’s common knowledge that the RZA works on many projects at once (Movies, soundtracks, etc.), but he has seemed to have lost the voracious hip hop hunger we’ve seen many times before. His performance was just sub-par throughout; His usual overflow of energy and tenacity is just not present..
Legendary Weapons only runs 37 minutes with 15 tracks; including 4 skits. The Wu Tang Clan is about the only group that can get away with this, seeing as they seem to put out a much greater number of projects than their peers. Sometimes it seems like a song might be watered down by lesser Wu affiliates (or non members), you’ll find that the MCs actually add a great deal to the record. For example, on 225 Rounds, Bronze Nazareth ups intensity of the vibe by more than a few notches.
Die hard Wu-Tang Clan fans may not consider this a real Wu-Tang Clan album because it does not have GZA, but after listening through you will find it does contain the essence the Wu.
The Black Diamonds
My finest hour, you sacrifice to a higher
Power. Fly from the tower, I fly sour
And raw powder, .40 cal give your pal a shower
Broken ankle, fuckin with the Wallabee Clarks
Got them bitches still screamin my name! (Whattup Starks?)
I’m a bone crusher, ox’ll split your face like a Dutch Master
No more mixes polar bears from Alaska
Revolutionary gangster, the will to kill
Everything up, my roots is steel
Do a big time march through the desert and shine
Let the seeds live free while we open the minds
Score: 3.5 out of 5
Thoughtcrime. by Dr. Strangelove is out now!!
Download the entire album for FREE here