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Runnin’ by The Pharcyde

"Can't keep runnin' away."

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I’ve been following The Pharcyde ever since getting into underground hip-hop (around six years ago). Initially, I liked the group, but didn’t realize their true talent until hearing their third album “Plain Rap”, a while later. Since getting to know them, they’ve shown me a talent I rarely see in hip-hop. Even back in ’92, the group had heavy influences from jazz & R&B, showing the group had progressed far beyond what the mainstream was doing at the time. Where most hip-hop groups were rapping to a stale beat, The Pharcyde were weaving their humble, yet profound lyrics into a rich set of instrumentals. A good example of this (among many) is Runnin’.

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Knee Deep by TM Juke

"Lay down with me."

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TM Juke is a meticulous, soulful DJ & producer. His mellowed out, ambient music is good for a nice relax.

Knee Deep was the first song I listened to of his, and I became an instant fan. The piece starts out with some peaceful, ambient sounds followed by Alice Russell’s elegant voice. Jim Orbox then accompanies her with a nicely played duet. I am very impressed with Jim Orbox’s voice, which meshes well with TM Juke’s sound… I wish they would collaborate more often. I love the instrumentals on this, especially the sax (I’m a sucka for it). I’ve always thought this would be a good song for the intro to a tv series (maybe something like “Californication“).

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Therapy by Swollen Members

4 out of 5 dentists recommend that you support Swollen Members.

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In honor of Swollen Members’ new album, I decided to feature one of my favorite songs by them. The song, Therapy, initially caught my attention because of its Bay Area sounding beat. It sounds like something Mac Dre or E-40 would use. Along with that, Mad Child & Prevail weave a cunning lyrical composition. I especially love Mad Child’s execution of his lyrics (follow ‘em at Sing365). Mad Child & Prevail have always had a way with words, except, (possibly) in their upcoming album…

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No Surprise by Lifesavas

"My written word makes kittens purr."

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Another group from the well-respected Quannum label, Lifesavas may not be as well-known as some of the members on the label, but they sure are just as good. Lifesavas is a fine mix of hip-hop, funk and R&B. The two MCs mix exceptionally well together with Shines funkified, soulful sounds. Vursatyl has a smart & crafty delivery, supported by Jumbo’s groovy & soulful sound. Lifesavas is considered more fun & free will than my usual selection, and this is exemplified in No Surprise.

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Cruisin’ by Smokey Robinson

Know Good Classics - #2 R&B

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The second feature in the Know Good Classics series, Cruisin’, is a soft & soulful trip by Smokey Robinson. It features Robinson’s delicate sound, accompanied with some (uncredited) backup vocals which harmonize with Robinson wonderfully. The song rekindles my appreciation for The Miracles and R&B, in general. It’s a perfect song for a nice, comforting night with a loved one.

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Blessin’ it (Remix) by Nujabes

I'm a sucka for the sax.

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The fusion of hip-hop & jazz has caught my attention the last few years. Other than the U.S., Japan has pushed the boundaries of DJing farther than ever before, merging various genres with hip-hop, and have shown that hip-hop can expand beyond the borders of the U.S. Although, I must say, MCing is still (mostly) confined to the American dialect, but that’s beyond the scope of this article. A good example of Japan’s talent is producer & DJ Nujabes. Nujabes is a master at cutting classic jazz tracks, as well as including some of his own instrumentals, and mixing them with some profound American MCs. I think this is where Nujabes really pushes forward, he recognizes that MCs in Japan won’t be recognized wordwide, so he collaborates with talented American MCs. A good example of his work is Blessin’ it off of his first studio album, “Metaphorical Music”.

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Things Have Changed by Mattafix

"If I had to love you, I know what I'd do."

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I’ve been listening to Mattafix for a couple of years now, but Things Have Changed brings me back just a few months when I was studying abroad in London. Everyday after class I would wait at Bakers Street tube station (take a look), and listen to my playlist, which consisted of quite a few Mattafix songs, including Things Have Changed. Particularly, it brings memories of how “things have changed” over time – traveling from Minnesota to Arizona for college, and from Arizona to London (and all the little things in-between).

The song starts off with a rich set of instrumentals accompanied with what seems to be a vocal percussion. Preetesh Hirji begins with what may be some powerful and inspiring lyrics, but in all honesty, are hard to comprehend :). Marlon Roudette then takes over with his elegant & graceful vocals, but is often confused for a woman because of his high-pitched voice (I test people all the time). Mattafix has a couple hits, and I’ll definitely post more of ‘em in the future, so make sure to sign up for my RSS feed, so you won’t miss out!

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One by Zion I

"Are you listening? Are you prepared?"

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AmpLive is an incredible DJ & producer from the duo Zion I. His futuristic, ambient beats have been sought by such acclaimed rappers Chali 2na & Del tha Funkee Homosapien. He’s also produced a remix of Radiohead’s “In Rainbows”… without approval from Radiohead : (oh well, it’s damn good). The other half of Zion I, Zumbi, is a cunning, street smart MC with a slight resemblance to Lil’ Wayne in vocals (more so in his later works).

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A Happening by Hyperstory

Not far off from the Gorillaz.

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I first caught glimpse of Hyperstory on a Facebook ad about a month back. The headline read something to the effect of “Like the Gorillaz Check out Hyperstory!” My first thought was “Ha! They are comparing themselves to Gorillaz Fools!”. They only had one song up on their site at the time, A Happening, so I gave it a listen to prove (in my mind) that they were wrong. But, fortunately, I was wrong…

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The Psycho-Social CD by Jedi Mind Tricks

The prophets of hip-hop.

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When I was first introduced to Jedi Mind Tricks I thought it might be a part of nerdcore, however, it’s definitely not. Jedi Mind Tricks can best be described as having an east coast rap style with deep, prophetic lyrics. Vinnie Paz, lead MC & songwriter, pulls a lot of his inspiration from personal despairs, recent wars (Vietnam/Iraq), old theological books, and political/world issues. His delivery is gritty and raw, combine this with Stoupe’s hardcore trip hop instrumentals, and you get a group from phili that takes east coast rap to another level.

Just a little on the album…

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