Similar Haircuts #2

May 31, 2009


Number Two! I’ve got a couple lined up in my head, but I thought I’d drop this one tonight:

The Sample in Question – Funky President by James Brown

The Contenders: To the Right by Brand Nubian and Duck Alert by Craig G

Background Info

Brand Nubian are pretty much one of the best things to ever happen to hip hop. Well, lets bring some more focus and narrow that statement. “One For All” is my favourite hip hop LP. What I think is so neat about this record is its one of those gems that bridges the end of the golden age and helps introduce alternative rap (this record, the first De La LP, the first Tribe record etc etc). Definitely an aware and self conscious group, the first album has a lot of 5 percenter material, but some straight up fun jams. Fuck, I spent over 20 bucks on their first 12″ single for the b-side track (Feels So Good) because its not on the vinyl copy of One For All, one of my most prized LP’s. I remember finding this record. I was in Toronto on a hot day record shopping with Rick Ta Smith, and he asked if I wanted to go to Cosmos because they had some cool hip hop vinyl. I had never been there, and when I walked in, I pretty much lost my shit. I found the first Big Daddy Kane LP, a Heavy D LP. the Hip Hop Hooray 12″ (album cover and all), and a couple other cool things, but there I saw sitting on the shelf, the first Brand Nubian LP. I didn’t even hesitate. I snatched that up and knew the day was more than a success. The secret to this record is simple : Grand Puba. The more I think about it, the more I think he could be my favourite lyricist. His references and pattern can be not only overly intelligent, but straight up hiliarious. This record has everything I could ask for. Tight production and catchy samples, conscious and well thought lyrics, and enjoyable MC’s. I told Kait we couldn’t date if she didn’t like Concerto in X Minor. She likes the whole album overall if my mind serves me right. Some of the samples are very jazzy but they don’t ignore the golden age funk using James Brown more than once or twice on this record. Stop.

What can I say about Craig G? Not a whole lot. My first and some of my only exposure to this MC is due to Marley Marl’s “In Control Vol. 1”. Craig G left his mark as an exceptional battle rapper and the opening track of In Control, “Dropping Science” is definitely one of the highlights of the album and it can be seen why this guy deserves credit. You don’t hear much talk of him. You don’t hear much talk of his records. Mainly because, they’re not that great. Even though you have this well regarded battle rapper and one of the best producers from their time, it just doesn’t work for a full album. Fun Fact: He wrote most of Marshall Mather’s battle rhymes for the movie “8 Mile”.

Okay, lets drop math on this:

Overall Use of the sample: Marley Marl doesn’t do anything real fun to spice up this quick cut from the original track. Along with a bit of scratching, thats all there is to it. It kind of gets annoying. The percussion behind the brand nubian is much nicer on the ears, and the extra “go!”‘s and those repeated “ah” vocals and the “Hey!” and the “Funky” definitely breathe more than enough life into this sample to beat out Marley Marl/Craig G. Winner : Brand Nubian

Intro/Outro- Not Applicable, so this will be scratched from the overall decision.

Lyrical Content: Duck Alert serves as a total beef-track for Craig G. He seems to be dissing someone named Duck Alert. I can’t find much on it, and with sort of good reasoning. The lyrics are definitely half rate at best. If this was an on the spot diss caught on tape, I’d admire this much more. The words don’t have much movement and nothing worth quoting. The lyrics in To the Right are all about skinz aka fly girls and other somewhat related things. There seems to be this theme of hip hop as their job and life, which I dig. Some of the highlights of Puba’s lyrics go like this:
“And if I’m Uptown I’m back downtown
All the skins I’ve been in I gets no frowns
You see doo-doo MC’s, really think they can outlast..
I smell gas
As a yung’un I was thefty, born as a lefty
The rhymes I drop, somethin more than hefty
Roll like a Ranger, Puba’s no stranger
For those who try to diss me – uh-oh, danger
Used to drink the Olde E, coolers, just be goldie
When I played soccer with the dreads that play goalie”

Winner: Brand Nubian

Sadly. this is where I wrap this up. The winner without question is Brand Nubian. Maybe I’m doing this with a slight bias, since I don’t think you can’t do much wrong with One for All, with some little exception. I could probably make multiple posts about Brand Nubian.



Expanding on my epic post about an epic album (Rollercoaster), Side 4 is overall a pretty epic selection of audio from this bands overall catalogue. If Mark Kozelek was David Lean, this side of the record would probably be his Lawrence of Arabia. While Mother isn’t a favourite of mine, its sprawling 14 minute length and the second half 7 minute build up definitely makes it deserving of a couple listens at the least. This record to me is probably some of the most darkest things they’ve churned out. Granted, The first 4 songs on Down Colorful Hill are among the most depressing and brooding of their material, but Mother is up there for some of the most eerie and borderline disturbing of material they’ve put out. The lyrics for the most part are just straight up uncomfortable.

“i want to be mothered
i want you to give
attention to my belly button
i want to have
boddy pins stuck in my ears”

I will give them that, when they played it live, it was easily one of the loudest moments of their live performance over the whole span of their playing shows. It was the one instance where they ended a song with a bang, rather than a whisper. Maybe one exception would be River or Make Like Paper. I love how the first half of the song doesn’t really build up much. It stays stagnant through and through, then fades out, then the second half really steps it up. I’m not really bringing anything new to the table with what I’m saying. But I’m just using this as a platform to talk about Strawberry Hill.

If you think Strawberry Hill is a good song, you’re on the right path. What you need to do is listen to the demo version and you’ll love it a whole lot more. I have serious issues with the version from the demo. Its too fast. The thing about the LP version is how it drones with the military style drumming Anthony provides on more than one song but gets it definitely right on this one. The pacing of marks vocals on the demo version are sucky, for lack of a better word. And he sings the whole song with a strain and is too expressive. He does it perfectly on the LP. Starts off small and gets big. The demo version has bad piano lines and these awkward parts with talking and strange instrumentation and noises that make it sound like some quasi-pixies experiment gone horribly wrong. While a lot of Kozelek’s lyrics are statements of the pain he is feeling, this one is one of the more autobiographically driven. It sounds like something he might have written early in his rather permanent stay on the west coast. I always liked this song, sort of related to it. I know what its like to want to stay in your room, and yes I am in fact afraid to drive. It doesn’t stray too far from the other songs about pain, there is definitely a woman figure in this song. There is someone who wants to help or maybe more than one.

On to more pressing matters, I won a copy of Down Colorful Hill. Do you know what this means? I’m one 12″ EP away from having all of the 4AD releases. Shock Me is gonna be a tough on to find, it hardly surfaces and does when I’m more broke than the dvd player in my Mom’s basement. I made Kait listen to the last 2 songs on DCH before bed, and she liked them. I’m not sure if it was willingly or begrudgingly but I’ll take it either way. They’re slowly growing on her, she stops making gross faces at the sound of their name. She’s at work right now, and I’m here alone with two dogs, and there’s some cut tofu in the kitchen but I’m not hungry enough to eat it and there’s laundry that needs to go into the dryer, and another load to go in the washer, and this bed needs to be made and the floor needs to be mopped and I have to break 100,000 points on Donkey Kong (Arcade). I’m close too, I can get 90,000 on a good run. That third elevator will be the death of me. I’m not good enough yet to do serious point pressing. I just enjoy that Mame offers a good replica of the Cabinet version. The NES version can go to hell. Kait has made claims of making apple crisp with me if I find a vegan friendly recipe. She watches Japanese movies with me, but good ones, not J-Horror. Thats for Joe and Payson (J-Whores). She treats me well.

Similar Haircuts #1

May 7, 2009


This is the first installment of a new series of blogs i’m gonna try and get off the ground. We’re gonna call it “Similar Haircuts”, which will consist of a comparison of hip hop songs built around the same sample or loop. Though there could be more than two songs built around the same sample, we’ll keep it at picking two for more of a one on one strip down. We won’t confuse this with beat jacking, but we will talk about beat jacking sometime on this blog.

The Sample in Question: “Risin’ to the Top” by Keni Burke

The Songs: “Take You There” by Pete Rock and C.L Smooth and “Born 2 Live” by O.C



Pete Rock and C.L Smooth- Probably the greatest DJ/Rapper combo of the 90s, spanning from 91-95, they released 2 LP’s and an EP. Their first 2xLP, “Mecca and the Soul Brother” is considered a staple of 90’s Hip Hop and highly regarded as one of the best. Both of their LP’s were overlooked by the mainstream, and its not a suprise. The Chronic dropped around Mecca and that had more mass appeal, especially with Dre already being an established name. The Main Ingredient dropped a few months after Ready to Die and that album flared up a storm of popularity around it. Again, that stream of hip hop had more appeal to the masses. Stories of straight gangstaisms and other isms such as women and drugs and sex and all that street deal (I never want to hear juicy again). C.L Smooth was definitely up there among alternative rap acts in regards to lyrical ability. On point delivery, and intelligent rhymes covering a good range of topics (from bootlegging to the nation of islam to straight up ego jams). They’re repsonsibly for the quintessential hip hop song of the 90s, “T.R.O.Y (They Reminisce Over You”, a song dedicated to Trouble T-Roy of Heavy D and the Boyz. Pete Rock has some of the tightest production and uses a lot of intro and outros on songs, which adds an extra flare to already perfect tracks. While some of C.L’s lyrics usually have no real format, and act as an almost autobiography of his self perception, theres such an intelligence and complexity to them that makes it stand out, and which puts him up there among some of the best writers. This duo contends with Eric B and Rakim and Gang Starr as the best hip hop duo.


O.C- Probably my favourite member of the D.I.T.C Crew (Diggin in the Crates). Word…Life is one of the best moments of Wild Pitch Records. Buckwilds overall tight production, and O.C’s presence make a great combo. My knowledge on O.C is very limited. His second album “Jewelz”, which dropped in 97 is another banger. Woah, I thought I had more to say about O.C, and here I am, struggling to think of something else. I’m not as cultured with him as i am with Pete Rock and CL Smooth, but his influence and legacy should definitely be noted.

It will be hard to pick a winner. I’ll try to break it down

Overall use of the sample: Pete Rock adds a lot on the bass end for this song, and throws little bits of extra cheese (not in a cheesy way) overtop of it which is nice, but i find the sample gets lost over the percussion track. Buckwild hit it right on the nose with his choice of percussion. The snare is tight but not in your face, and it mixes so well in the background and the bass is just right. The actual sample sounds crystal clear and stands out well, even when O.C is dropping knowledge, you can still get lost in the beat/sample. Winner – O.C

Intro/Outro- This is one of the few songs on the main ingredient that Pete Rock drops some Biz Markie samples on you, and as much as I enjoy it, I find it doesn’t go well after the end of this song, but flows in nice to the next song which kinda makes up for it. In the spirit of DITC, Buckwild drops one hell of an Isaac Hayes sample, cracks and all. Its a perfect intro to this sample/song. Winner – O.C

Lyrical Content- O.C uses this song to tell a story of growing up and people dying and the innocence of children and their naievety towards death. He talks about the realization or epiphany witnessed when the kids in the story have a friend that gets killed by a car. The content is definitely more serious than C.L Smooths, but C.L smooth has some definite intelligent lyrics in this song. One chunk that comes to mind is, “I stroke the hell out of mademoiselle who insisted every night, she get her back twisted in the unlisted. I’m livin through my son so daddy see it this way. I want him in the NFL, his brother in the NBA”. The overall theme seems to be “shits huge, so what you want or where you want to go, I’ll make it happen”. Both deliveries are perfect and I enjoy both, so i’m gonna have to call this a Tie.

Other: Both contain a catchy chorus, but the addition of female vocals on “I’ll Take You There” makes this a toughy. I do enjoy the realness of O.C’s chorus, which simply goes “Born to live a life to die. Life’s so damn short. Man, I wonder why.

So after a review of the nonsense I just spurted out, I’m gonna have to go with O.C as the winner. Both songs are definitely incredible and should be checked out and bumped once a day for 2 weeks to get the full effect.