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Well, the past couple of months have been very good to hip-hop. Since this is the first edition of Glaciers of Ice, we're gonna play some catch up, because it would be a crying shame to ignore some stellar records that came out as far back as this past May. I'm going to try and get in as many as possibly for this edition, so most descriptions will be brief, but the next edition will cover things more in depth. And so it begins...
First of all, who remembers Duck Down? It's been more than a minute since we've heard from this label, but they're back in full force. In the early '90s, a slew of crucial hip-hop records came out from the Boot Camp Clik - Black Moon's Enta da Stage, Heltah Skeltah's Nocturnal, and O.G.C.'s Da Storm, to name a few. But the Clik was relatively quiet in the late '90s and early 2000's, although an occasional album surfaced here and there. Silence is no longer an option, as one of my contenders for top 10 albums of the year in any genre was released in May - Sean Price's Monkey Barz. Also known as Ruck from Heltah Skeltah, and criminally overlooked at the time due to his partner Rock's booming bass voice and commanding presence, Price's record is amazingly gritty, showcases him as an essential lyricist, and features a slew of amazing beats from great but obscure producers… not counting 9th Wonder, of course, from Little Brother, who provides a few beats on Monkey Barz. He also provides the majority of beats on Buckshot's Chemistry, which came out in July, part of the trio of Duck Down releases to hit this summer. A thoroughly solid effort, Buckshot has always been a shining star of lyricists and he's joined by Phonte, Big Pooh, Sean Price and others on this record. The final part of the triumvirate is Smif 'n' Wesson's Reloaded, which dropped in September. The duo has taken their original name back, after a brief existence as Cocoa Brovaz, and again, this is a quality record from the group who made Da Shinin', one of the '90s' best hip-hop records.
September saw some interesting efforts. The seminal jazz label, Blue Note, put out three records of classic jazz and funk, much of which you will recognize because it's been sampled on some classic tracks. Jazzanova released Blue Note Trip, a double-disc mixed CD of great '50s and '60s back catalogue tracks. The Edge: David Axelrod at Capitol Records 1966-1970 was compiled and produced by Stones Throw's Egon, and it features deeply textural music from one of Capitol's most interesting producers. And finally, The Mizell Brothers' Mizell is a compilation of their work at Blue Note, featuring a bunch of Donald Byrd and Bobbi Humphrey songs. Def Jux's newest star, Cage, an MC with a disturbed and troubled past in both his personal and label life, is back on the scene in a huge way with Hell's Winter, the best release from Def Jux since El-P's Fantastic Damage and Mr. Lif's I Phantom. Featuring production from El-P, Camu Tao, and Blockhead, this record finds Cage's psycho-style toned down (slightly) to focus on a deeply personal banger of a record that should be added to your collection.
October was chock-full of quality. First of all, Danger Doom's The Mouse and the Mask, the long-awaited collaboration between MF Doom and Danger Mouse focused on The Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, hit the streets and blew away the competition. Sadat X, formerly of Brand Nubian, returned with Experience and Education on Female Fun Records, and if you remember his Wild Cowboys solo album and would rather forget it, this is your cure. DJ Muggs and GZA collaborated on Grandmasters, which recalls the eerie, dark, and cinematic beats of RZA. Muggs and GZA have made a notable album, bringing back the spirit of the Wu that many miss these days. Also out: Dagha - Object in Motion (Last Arc), Self Scientific - Change (Angeles), Digable Planets - Beyond the Spectrum (Blue Note), Fatlip - The Loneliest Punk (Delicious Vinyl), and Dreddy Krueger Presents Think Differently (Babygrande).
Hollah, November. Madlib needs no introduction, but his release as Sound Directions might. Out on Stones Throw, this is some Yesterday's New Quintet-type shit, and if you like your hip-hop and you like your jazz, give this a try - Madlib is joined by other musicians to play jazz classics and originals that sound like they were made in the '70s, no cheesy neo-jazz here. Outkast's Big Boi has his own imprint now, Purple, and he put out a compilation of artists who will be featured on the label, including Goodie Mob, Killer Mike, and Bubba Sparx, on Got Purp? Vol. 2. Big Juss, formerly of Company Flow, is back with Poor People's Day on Mush, and this is a surprisingly good record - political and fun, dark and bumping. The Roots are also back, sort of, with a two-disc career retrospective, Home Grown: The Beginners Guide to Understanding The Roots. This collection compiles the best of their many releases, and once again features entertaining and detailed liner notes from ?uestlove. Also out: Supernatural - S.P.I.T. (Up Above), Rasco - The Dick Swanson Theory Part 1 (Pockets Linted), The Primeridian - Da Allnighta (All Natural), and Canibus - Hip-Hop For Sale (Babygrande).
OK, that's all for now, but stay tuned for volume 2 of Glaciers of Ice in January. Until then, e-mail me with thoughts and insults, and send me yer shit! I'll listen to it.
Jonah Flicker writes, lives, drinks, eats, and consumes music in New York, via Los Angeles. He once received a fortune in a fortune cookie that stated the following: "Soon, a visitor shall delight you." He's still waiting.
See other articles by Jonah Flicker.
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