Producers

“Natty Don’t Go” Cornel/l Campbell, prod. Coxsone Dodd (Studio One 7”, 1975) & more

Without wanting to fall into a journalistic tic of once again selling this track as so distinctive, so different etc (a tic I can’t kick even if I felt so inclined) this song stands out among other reggae songs, as it does within Campbell’s oeuvre for the expressive quality of his voice.

Campbell is well-known for the sweetness of his singing, with some suggesting he is the greatest among his contemporaries, many of whom similarly sang in a soft style. On this track there is something so exposed, so plaintive it’s closer to the delivery of a Soul singer it seems to me. This impression comes from the song’s dramatic opening and then reinforced by the way he sings certain words, adding a syllable almost (“dread” and “yeah”), thereby making the words sound fragile. It’s almost as if you can hear his breath within them. Note too the way his voice is at the very start, of everything. The song begins with his voice, as I wrote about the other C.S. “Coxsone” Dodd production for Carlton and the Shoes, starting a song with the singer enmeshed in the music is atypical in terms of most songs that came out of Jamaica at that time. Most often the band would begin for the singer to come in later.

The music by the Brentford Rockers provides the perfect foundations: the highly sibilant drums, the bass line deep in the mix, before the guitars come in changing the mood, allowing for an upbeat feel. Even Campbell’s vocals become jaunty one minute in, moving away from the previously introspective nature of it.

Natty Dread, don’t go into Babylon, oh no, no, no
It will be dread, dread, dread, dread
Remember our days, of slavery,
Our people sold out, to Babylon
How they tried to trick us out of our land,
But Natty Dreads, don’t go, back to Babylon
Natty don’t go
Remember the pain and the suffering,
Jah Jah children bear in Babylon
How they try, to take Jah power plans
So Natty Dreads don’t go, back to Babylon
Natty don’t go
It will be dread
It shall be dread..
Natty Dread, Natty Dread, Natty Dread, Natty don’t go
I beg you Natty Dread, Natty Dread, Natty Dread, Natty don’t go
And dreads so was sold out for thirteen pieces of silver
Martin Luther King also, he was a blessed man, yeh
Remember poor Marcus, poor Marcus Garvey, when was a home predictor
Brother Paul Bogle, he fight so hard to save his life, yeh-yeh
So I beg you Dread, Natty Dreads, Natty Dreads, Natty don’t go
So I beg you Dread, Natty Dreads, Natty Dreads, Natty don’t go
Remember our days, of slavery,
Our people sold out, to Babylon
How they tried to trick us out of our land,
But Natty Dreads, don’t go, back to Babylon
Natty don’t go
It will be dread
It shall be dread..
Natty Dread, Natty Dread, Natty Dread, Natty don’t go
I beg you Dread, Natty Dread, Natty Dread, Natty Dread, Natty don’t go
And dreads so was sold out for thirteen pieces of silver, yeh-yeh
So I beg you Dread, Natty Dreads, Natty Dreads, Natty don’t go
Natty Dread, Natty Dread, Natty Dread, Natty don’t go

Here’s the extremely simple, even basic dub version that came out under the name “Natty Rub A Dub” on the b-side (as Campbell and the Brentford Rockers, elsewhere they recorded under the name Brentford All Stars) - and another version, which is just-about music only. Check out this other version, which sounds like an entirely different recording, much sharper and with a bouncy, almost Flamenco-style guitar.

Compare the song with this similarly stunning Campbell-penned song featuring Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare from 1985. No better pick-you-up, burst of optimism and faith than this music and then the final section is one more example of how superb the musicianship of artists from that era was, generally.

Here on this song the mood is completely different from the poetic excursions in the track from one decade earlier. From Jo-Ann Greene’s (typically) good AllMusic review:

“Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare provide the steaming rhythm, Roy Cousins the excellent production, and Cornell Campbell the superb vocals for this rousing and inspirational number from 1985.

Ragga was about to engulf the reggae world, but "Jah Jah Give Us Love" was one final, brilliant reminder of the cultural age it was about to bury. Like a shooting star, the riddim rockets across the grooves, its core Dunbar's solid beats and Shakespeare's fast padding bass line. Trailing in their incendiary wake is the sharp rhythm guitar, glorious keyboards, ebullient organ, and the haunting lead guitar flourishes so beloved in the roots age.

Campbell is almost physically propelled along this magnificent riddim, giving way to its propulsive power, and giving himself over to Jah. Part prayer, part affirmation, the singer reaches an epiphany, delivering up one of his best performances to date along the way. "Love" couldn't hold back the tidal way of DJs and synthesized sounds breaking over the island, but with this song pure roots rockers blinked out in a blaze of glory.”

Coda:

Mr Walt/da Beatminerz: “Hurricane Starang”/“No Fear” instrumentals, O.G.C/Originoo Gunn Clappaz, (Da Storm, Duck Down/Priority/EMI, 1996) w/archival footage

(In one of those instances of synchronicity that repeat the more I get into this world and process, I heard this instrumental, had ideas about atmosphere then later discovered it was by Mr. Walt from da Beatminerz, the duo that produced another track that prompted the same reaction/thought; see this article on “Rino” published on this site in January, 2018)

Radio producers, documentary makers speak of “atmos” - atmosphere – which refers to the background noise captured in the recording of a room, the hum of white goods, machinery and the like. Once again this da Beatminerz/Mr. Walt instrumental makes me think of this concept, it’s the sound of the bass-line behind the other elements that makes it. The hum and the rumbling and heat of it, it’s amazing to me.

The two Mr. Walt-produced tracks on O.G.C’s 1996 album, Da Storm offer a real contrast to each other. “Hurricane Starang” is all restrained atmosphere, with what might be a “wind effect” introduced to make it seem “spooky” as the production team has said is their preference, as they explained in an interview when speaking about their style.

On a most basic level, I like the drums, the production sound and depth of the secondary-level sound in the background, the way it stays with the moment and is still; nothing too complex. It retains the analogue smokiness, yet sounds “clean.” Not much happens in terms of development, or variation but that’s okay because the power of the music lies in the way it rests in the moment, no-movement becomes its signature.

Forget seeking out music to help you “chill”, and relax, or even worse to do your “homework” to (how to destroy a producer’s original vision, extend the 2-minute running time of a beat to one hour, madness-inducing. Why not go seek out Reich, Palestrina, Monteverdi, Bach if you’re looking for extended pieces of music that won’t be too distracting as you work?)

Listening to music of this (da Beatminerz) kind helps develop discipline and focus, it cleans the mind of excess. This is my (rap) soul music, music from the temple. Here it is with the vocals on top, the video with a track “Danjer” at the end:

Interestingly the samples in “Hurricane Starang” keep it local: "Leflah Leflaur Eshkoshka" by Heltah Skeltah "Sound Bwoy Bureill" by Smif-n-Wessun, mirroring the lyrics which are all about the MCs reinforcing bonds and the community of MCs at Duck Down. With one exception, the sample from "Sounds From the Sea's Edge" by The John Payne Band:

In contrast, the “No Fear” beat is - almost - verging on the groovy, but only a bit with the bass line. Da Beatminerz, or Mr. Walt in this instance, gesture towards funky danciness but keep it low-key as is their wont. (Samples are "E.V.A." by Jean-Jacques Perrey and "I Want to Thank You" by Dr. Lonnie Smith) And the “No Fear” video/version with lyrics includes a diss of Biggie.

Check out this video with interviews and history about da Beatminerz that is really well done :

Here are some archival videos of O.G.C., also of interest I think, as a historical snapshot, where everything seems to be loose and natural, not too rehearsed (or vapid-shiny-corporate, pre-digested for consumption).

Info from below the video:

“Before O.G.C's début album, 'Da Storm,' they had an incredible tape, that in addition to what would come to be known as Fab 5's "Blah," included this unreleased gem, "Hard to the Core." As Top Dog is Steele's brother, the group members were frequent attendees at Smif n Wessun recording sessions. This home video shot by @druha in 1995 offered a small glimpse of the fun and wittiness the group would soon offer.”

Description of the group from YouTube video:

“O.G.C. (Originoo Gunn Clappaz) is a Hip Hop group consisting of members Jack McNair (aka Starang Wondah) (Gunn Clappa Numba One, also known as Big Will, Hurricane Starang and Strang Da Beast From Da East), Barret Powell (aka Louieville Sluggah) (Gunn Clappa Numba Two, also known as Hennyville Guzzler or Henny), and Dashawn Jamal Yates (aka Top Dog) (Gunn Clappa Numba Three, also known as Big Kahuna and D-O). The group is mostly known through their membership in the Boot Camp Clik, along with Buckshot, Smif-N-Wessun and Heltah Skeltah.

Heltah Skeltah is a hip hop duo consisting of members Rock (Jahmal Bush) and Ruck (Sean Price). The two are members of New York supergroup Boot Camp Clik, along with Buckshot, Smif-N-Wessun and O.G.C.. The name "Heltah Skeltah" is a reference and homage to The Beatles, specifically their song "Helter Skelter" from the famous album The Beatles.

Smif-N-Wessun (aka Cocoa Brovaz) is a hip hop duo consisting of members Tek (Tekomin Williams) and Steele (Darrell Yates). Smif-N-Wessun comprise two-eighths of the Brownsville, Brooklyn supergroup Boot Camp Clik, with Buckshot, Heltah Skeltah and O.G.C. Both members are known for their Jamaican Patois during their raps, which was more evident during the earlier stages of their career.”

Live performance from 1996 (notice the Sean Price dancing cameo).

Coda:

Easy Mo Bee (w/2Pac : “If I Die 2Nite”/”Temptations” Me Against the World, Interscope, 1995 & ”Runnin' (from Tha Police)” & more

What’s striking about many Easy Mo Bee instrumentals two-decades-plus on is how contemporary they sound. This is not to say that they would necessarily be the first choice for mainstream MCs around today; more that they don’t sound overly grounded in their era and location (no criticism of instrumentals that do, it’s just a point of difference).

That diffuse, murky production sound and shadowy, sepulchral hiss and grind that defines so much of the music of the 90s New York underground scene - reaching its zenith in Havoc’s production and the artists linked to Wu-Tang and the Gravediggaz is rarely found here. No, in general Easy Mo Bee beats are extremely clean, sharp in the definition of the sounds and almost formalist in the construction, in this way making me think of Large Professor. Both are best-known for their work with the era’s superstars, even while creating a lot of music that is not so well known but remains timeless, largely because of the maker’s creativity.

To get a sense of how Easy Mo Bee’s beats sound “modern” for want of a better word, check out 2Pac’s “If I Die 2Nite” from his 1995 album Me Against the World. All it needs is added swirl and a woozy effect, fading in and out, a slight loosening up of the edges and this music could offer the foundations for any of the instrumentals/remixes you hear from producers in their 20s working today.

The beat samples Betty Wright’ s “Tonight is the night” which is close to unrecognisable in the song.

Here you also find something that impresses me about many of Easy Mo Bee’s instrumentals: the layering/effects of the drums. There’s zero issue for me with a hip-hop beat that has prominent boom bap drums as its principal focus, whether back in the ‘90s/2000s or today. Keeping the drums dominant links hip-hop with other forms of music that come out of electronic/dance-based genres, Drum & Bass, dubstep etc. and has a broader significance. Bringing the drums forward for the entire song is a radical shift. Most of the time popular music keeps the musical frame and structure hidden (the bass/drums nexus); think about the way drums operate in pop songs, or even most rock music in the 60s/70s, only occasionally becoming the main element during solos maybe.

Dub, reggae have a deep skanking rhythm, of course, but more often than not it’s carried by the guitars, or keys; funk too is defined by its bounce, but again, it’s not the drums only keeping time, above all other instruments, it’s a mix. The way early hip-hop made the drums everything, the very essence of it, thus exposing the foundations is full of meaning and resonance that goes past pure music-making into the realm of culture. (I could go on and on about the significance of this: but I hope the point is clear enough and will leave it there).

This layering of the drums on this Easy Mo Bee beat is heard right from the start. Another impressive aspect of his beats is the immediate complexity, there’s no slow build-up of the sonic elements, a careful introduction of each sample: it’s all there, but in small doses so it remains subtle in the first five seconds. Note too the three-note sample that carries the melody, echoing one of the most famous aspects of his beat for Craig Mack, “Flava in ya ear” - the very simple guitar part where two notes are repeated.

There’s something soothing, meditative about the simplicity of these sounds on repeat. Here’s Easy Mo Bee speaking about how he put the Craig Mack beat together, first thing getting up, in about 2o minutes, without even getting fully dressed.

Something else that appeals is the way Easy Mo Bee uses discordant sounds, with a scratchy static to build atmosphere most notably on the hook that really comes through in the version with 2Pac rapping over it, 50 seconds in, where it’s let run before he almost speaks the rhymes. The quality of 2Pac’s delivery is markedly different from many of rappers who chant such key lines for emphasis; it’s as if he’s thinking aloud, it sounds spontaneous.

The second Easy Mo Bee beat on Me Against the World “Temptations” is a 90s-era-masterclass, certainly more typical with those drums, but transformed into work of real brilliance because of the interplay between the harsh sounds and the swooning, sentimental aspects. Beautiful in terms of its definition that keeps shifting, weaving the various sounds/samples with perfect control.

And the Tupac version.

“Runnin’ (from tha Police)”

“Runnin’ (From tha Police)” 2Pac and The Notorious B.I.G, feat. Outlawz and Buju Banton, is probably my favourite Easy Mo Bee beat, it’s a shame I can’t find it online to include here. There is this one on YouTube which appears to be the same track included on the Nas Kingston tape see below - coming in just after 18 minutes, but there’s countless comments below saying it’s not the real one. Get in touch, if you know where the real instrumental is and you can vouch for its authenticity, thanks.

I’ve included the unreleased version of the track here, because of it’s slightly rawer/rougher sound. The instrumental is a perfect example of balance: none of the elements are over-extended, or over-used, they appear for a second or two at most and create a soundscape that is at once elegant and disturbing, for those harsh, screeching sounds that are almost painful to hear. Yet, there is a definite groove sustaining it, building on the on the original classic sample - Bootsy Collins’s “Munchies for your love”. In the same session, Easy Mo Bee created another key song for 2Pac, “Str8 Ballin’” that used another iconic Bootsy Collins’s sample.

Coda:

Credit is due to Nas Kingston’s selection of beattapes that have been an essential stop for me when thinking about who to write on in this (approximate) series. The two Easy Mo Bee selections, vol. 1 and 2 were key to me deciding to write this piece. When listening to the Easy Mo Bee vol. 2, in particular, the title of just about every track got written down, this one and this and the next. I couldn’t believe the quality, how good it all was.

'The Murda Show' Spice 1, feat. MC Eiht (187 He Wrote, Jive Records, 1993) plus instrumental

Without wanting to sound too reachy or even appropriating, this is so perfect in its realisation it could be pop music, with all the 'picidy-pop' and 't-t-tech' and the final part that becomes a kind of extravagant dancehall styling. Of course, the subject matter, but the presentation makes that fade somehow. Anyway to return to where I started, let's leave certain spaces in this appreciation, for good or ill. Here's the instrumental, more bass-driven but still carried by the romance of the strings

Below the YouTube video there's a nice comment from the poster, responding to the question as to why he put it up, 'It's incredibly nostalgic, even though I was born a decade after this song was released. I find it unique compared to other hip-hop beats at the time, and it gives a feeling of success and greatness, like something you'd play after reaching success in music.'  

‘Compton Bomb’ MC Eiht (We Come Strapped, Epic Street Records, 1994)/‘Def Wish 2’ by Compton’s Most Wanted (Epic, 1992)* plus instrumentals, Gravediggaz and more

Now to turn some attention to MC Eiht’s ‘Compton Bomb,’ a track from his 1994 album We Come Strapped that according to online info was a massive success, reaching number 1 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart (number 5 on the Billboard 500) that year and was produced by MC Eiht, DJ Slip and Rick Rock.

What is immediately striking about this song, and MC Eiht's music in general is its lyricism: the emphasis on the strings and keys. This isn’t a pulsating funk arrangement, not in the classic  sense where the bass/drums are everything and extravagant guitar flourishes add garnish, but instead something that reminds me of Philadelphia soul and then later disco. Arguably the distinguishing feature of these beats is their 'song-nature' the way the instruments are used to highlight and emphasise, following quite traditional formulas.

Unlike other producers working at the time - see my later comment on Prince Paul/Gravediggaz - but any other could be used here as a point of contrast, the interest is not so much on the quality of sounds, as samples, in a way that marks a continuum with jazz, but the songs themselves as a whole. This intrigues me, especially since the popular image of this kind of hip-hop is all macho testosterone gyrating. When I first noticed the repeated use of strings and harmony in this music it came as a surprise.        

There is a line connecting this work by MC Eiht with ‘California Soul’ by Marlena Shaw from 1969, with the abundance of the strings and striving for a quality of deep-Romance and grandeur, the bass line beneath it all. This music is filled with space, sunlight (no surprises) and the sense of no-limits creativity.

To understand how 'Compton Bomb’ is so different, or so redolent of the West Coast scene then, let's compare it to another track recorded that year: the Gravediggaz ‘Pass the Shovel’. The Gravediggaz track, which was only included on the European releases of 6 Feet Deep, makes its musical roots clear, marking out a point of continuum between the New York DJ culture, emanating from the pure minimal and supremely elegant musical control of Fred Wesley and the J.Bs, from all the late 70s/early 80s rappers and then made manifest in Public Enemy. 

According to WhoSampled the Prince Paul-produced track leans heavily on 60s/70s artists - Bob James, Rufus Thomas - but also samples a track from the early rap group The Boogie Boys from 1981 and the comedian Richard Pryor. The tone of this music is hard-edged, contained and highly disciplined (this is why I link it with Fred Wesley/Public Enemy, as this is something I associate with their music), but it is also light-hearted.

The surprising and strange combination of lyrical and conceptual darkness and the excessive 'motion picture soundtrack' whirling, soaring strings and sweetly melodic keys you find on 'Compton Bomb' might come from another planet. MC Eiht's earlier release with Compton's Most Wanted, 'Def Wish 2' offers an interesting contrast with the Gravediggaz release:

The tracks map a similar locale, even if ‘Def Wish 2’ lacks the jokiness of the New Yorkers, with RZA riffing lines like: ‘When I come through with the shovel don’t puzzle/Then I’m out the trouble, motherfuckin’ trouble/So like Barney Rubble, back to the gravel pit ...’ and later aligning a play on ‘phantom of the opera’ with binoculars and ‘Figaro/Figaro’ with a ‘pocket full of dough.’ The CMW release, meanwhile, begins with a sample from Goodfellas stating how 'murder was the only way that everybody stayed in line.' 

‘Def Wish 2’ is hard to watch, unsettling all these years on. There’s not much humour to be found here. It’s going for the jugular, as much as the gut, but there’s a kind of complexity linked to the way the music deepens at points, or the elements merge unexpectedly (see the way the scratching gives way to the bass just before one minute in) and the groove is maintained throughout. Here's the instrumental: 

Some final words on MC Eiht's lyrical style. One thing that interests me is the way his rapping manifests an obvious effort, it often sounds like he's struggling a bit (it's not smooth despite the music, despite the stance). Moreover, his style is marked by an epic theatricality, as an MC he is extremely affected with all the stop-start for emphasis, scatting more than rapping at points, all in his trademark syncopated delivery.

Notice, for example, the super-stagey emphasis at the end of the final two lines in this part of the verse, just before the strings come in:

Makin' ni**s lock up they low-rider switches uh
Step aside as I bail on my ride
Too close on my jock get bucked with the Glock
The whole world turns as I bail in/ the/ room
Ni**s prepare to get slapped with/ the/ boom

At some points MC Eiht uses this technique to real effect, echoing core sounds, while bringing in some humour because of his delivery style (see the rhyme on ‘waitress/hate this’ or the later exaggerated, stretched ‘stop’ and ‘pop’). These effects create distance between the MC and what he's speaking about, thereby emphasising his style rather than his investment. This dilutes criticism about the rap glorifying violence, as throughout he is drawing attention to the fact that his telling of the tale is not natural, it is manufactured, performed - a kind of theatre. 

'Compton Bomb' ends on a note of real grace, exposed bass, keys, drums and strings, just like a Donna Summer hit circa 1977, though with less brass.

Coda:

*Re the release date info for MC Eiht's 'Def Wish 2,' I've come across three different dates/record companies online and don't know which is correct, please let me know if this isn't. This is an example of how basic information on rap/hip-hop artists (and often Black musicians, in general) is not available online. There's a lot of criticism about the poor standard of hip-hop criticism, much of it justified, I wonder if not being able to access reliable information might be part of the reason for it.   

‘Streiht Up Menace’ MC Eiht (Menace II Society, soundtrack, Jive Records, 1993) plus instrumental/remix

Been hesitating about writing on this for a while, fully aware of the culture-clash between me and it and wondering how to frame it as a writer: not wanting to paraphrase something that has no connection with my life and pretending I get it  (I hate that), especially as what makes it special is the delivery, how it’s said. No that doesn’t make any sense, nor does completely side-stepping the lyrical content, which is so apt/smart. Neither does trying to give a history lesson on the who and the what etc. So here’s a lyric video in black and white.

Speaking honestly though what really appeals to me most about this track is the music. When offering an artist a compliment people always go on about hip-hop as if we as listeners don’t have bodies, only heads on necks, but this is so impressive because of the way it moves: its essential swing and construction, it’s a perfect beat. I only know the very bare bones about how it was made that it was produced by DJ Slip, QDIII and MC Eiht himself. Apparently it samples Compton’s Most Wanted’s ‘Growin’ Up In the Hood’ from 1991. 

Why not then listen to the instrumental to appreciate this music, there’s nothing online to learn more about it so I’ll leave this undeveloped.

For me what’s interesting about this music is the way it’s so distinctive: sure, there is that bass line and the interaction with all the elements, making it a simplified/poppy version of funk, but the clippy guitar-line, for example, could come from the Caribbean when it briefly appears.

Here’s a remix and an interview with MC Eiht from 1997.

Madchillainy, Sadhugold (original format: digital download via Bandcamp, 2017)

Revisiting, revising returning to the source, this riff on the Madlib/MF DOOM collaboration, Madvillainy that received much acclaim on its 2004 release (even from magazines that don’t normally report on hip-hop, as the wik-précis explains, rather breathlessly). 

My favourite detail in terms of the background: the fact that the 'record contract' with Stones Throw was apparently signed on a paper plate.

Here is the artist's self-description, provided by Sadhugold:


'Sadhugold, 25, from Philadelphia, been producing for about 10 years now, started with looping "Certainly" by Erykah Badu on Audacity lol. My major influences consist of Madlib, Danger Mouse, Alchemist, Lord Finesse, RZA. I originally started with visual art and cartooning, so I plan to one day animate visuals for my music.'

Sadhugold is part of another circle of artists (Mach-Hommy most notably, but also Fly Anakin, CRIMEAPPLE, Estee Nack, Tha God Fahim, Al.Divino) that resembles the Massachusetts line-up referred to previously, producing and creating music together and thereby forming a new centre (no need to speak of margins).

This release immediately appealed to me when I heard it soon after it came out in September. Only one track is now publicly available, 'Beginning of the Rainbow' via Bandcamp where it's available for purchase for ‘$7.77 or more.’ Here's my response to the song while listening to it in real time, and no I'm not making any claims for poetry: 'thump, swirl, internal dynamics, sloshing beat, meditative complexity … warmth/intensity.’

The YT video  of Madchillainy was quickly taken down. Sadhugold explained that he hadn't put it up. His sales took a ‘serious turn’ after some unknown poster did so he got his 'team' to remove it. But when after a period of time I returned to his email to listen to the links he'd sent through, they were no longer viable. From memory then, the rest of the release is of similar worth. Its defining quality is its ‘warmth/intensity.’  It has real verve, calming, but intense at the same time; a less-jaded, more melodic, much sweeter, more youthful, less pinned-out Metal Machine Music (maybe) :

The act of returning to a previous work and re-interpreting it as a way of showing respect and suggesting kinship has broader significance, of course and is a central part of Black musical traditions: hip-hop, jazz, dub. By chance around the same time, I read this old interview from 2012 with Yasiin Bey in HYPEBEAST, link no longer operational, that referred to this and put it in context.      

What can we expect from your new series Top 40 Underdogs and what inspired it?


I am doing this for the culture. The tradition, taking someone’s song and making your version out of it, is not new to hip-hop. It is similar to dancehall music, where there is one rhythm and many artists offer their interpretation of it. Covering songs is certainly in the DNA of the culture. 50 Cent, as a matter of fact, built his name in New York for awhile doing just that. I also like the community mind aspect of it that it belongs to all of us. It basically gives and extends the life of our culture, our rhythm. Thus, this series is something that comes quite natural for me to do. I’ve done it before. Just look at “Children’s Story,” or even my version of JAY-Z’s “Takeover” in 2004. It is something that is really fun to do, you know, giving different perspectives on a familiar piece. 

To learn more about Sadhugold, here's a great interview he did with Tyron de Harlem (Casa de Lowery). In it he speaks about his reworking of some freestyles by Meek Mill - a coincidence that LA producer  Knxledge put out a similar tape around the same time for possibly similar reasons; I thought this section of his reply on the Meek Mill project was interesting:    

'The first few jawns, honestly ... I just really liked those raw loops. All of the loops that you heard on those tapes were loops that I used to listen to continuously, over and over and over again. And it never occurred to me to put acapellas on it because they’re just loops and not full beats but when I put the acapellas on them sh*ts, the sound that came out of that was different than any flip I’d ever done. It was kinda flat but not in a bad way. It was flat like time space continuum and it pulled out different nuances in his flows that I was already so familiar with that I never really like peeped. And it was just crazy to hear that kind of delivery on my medium and sh*t, something that I listen to all the time.' 

'It was kinda flat but not in a bad way ...' 

'Basquiat x Warhol,' Paranom, Haze, prod. Grubby Pawz, single (2017) plus mini-interview with Haze

Something heartening in hip-hop now, speaking of the US which is where my eyes are most of the time, is the way circles of artists are working together and then putting out often copious amounts of releases, often so many that it’s hard to keep track, and repeatedly guesting on each other’s work. This single is an example of this kind of hyper-activity and movement made manifest.

‘Basquiat x Warhol,’ the exact release date and circumstances thereof are vague and hard to work out it, but it seems it was only put up on Soundcloud, has two MCs, Paranom and Haze and is produced by Grubby Pawz (hard to top that moniker). All three are linked to the current hip-hop ferment in Massachusetts getting some traction and attention.

Automatically this song interested me in the way it reflects the current production trend for minimal/no drums and the lack of development in the music. This state of becoming and stasis in hip-hop or other forms of electronic and contemporary music always appeals to me. But it’s also interesting the way the voices of the MCs are perfectly matched. They could be the same voice, just slightly altered.

Often multiple-MC offerings are defined by a kind of internal disjunction, with the next MC wanting to be different, sharper, ‘better’ and more recognised than the earlier one/s to get that attention turned on them, while also making connections with what came before. Contrast is everything. Here the focus is different, it seems to me, and then it is echoed with the two samples from the key US artists that are included for no immediately apparent reason in terms of the song’s lyrical content. But the fact that they are together encourages us to re-assess all of this and make connections.   

‘Interview (Basquiat) Verse 1: Paranom Verse 2: Haze Interview (Warhol),’ shared by Haze when we were in contact via email. ‘The sample is surprisingly not a jazz sample, it's from a pop record backed by jazz musicians,' he added. 'The track was recorded the day we began recording our debut album together. We knew it wouldn't be part of the album though but a Soundcloud track for promo. Paranom and I wrote our verses and laid our verses in the span of an hour.’

Asked about the origin of the samples, Haze replied: ‘That night we watched some interviews from both while working on music and found snippets we liked. No major science there.’ And then he shared that his favourite lines were from the opening: ‘Cats are rocking designer shades that are made of wool/My team don't pull/no punches like De Niro in Raging Bull' and ‘Prepare for war/once the troop is formed and we swarm/you've been warned/you feeling wrath just like a woman scorned.’

He told me that for the second part he had been listening to ‘Hell Hath No Fury by The Clipse and had the line semi-worked out in (his) head around the time of recording.’ While Paranom’s lines about Stevie Wonder I thought were also pretty nice: ‘Hold the keys like Stevie Wonder in the dark/Hold the gun right to your heart...’