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Animal Forest by DJ Okawari

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DJ Okawari is one hard fella to find. Well, most Japanese artists I’ve researched are… probably ’cause I don’t know Japanese. Anyway, here’s another Japanese DJ that blends up a mix of electronica, jazz and hip-hop… nothing special, I know, but give it a listen. It has a solid beat accompanied with a soulful sax (you know I love me some sax).

Another thing I’d like to point out is the amazing artwork for this album. But, to truely appreciate its intricacies you need to look at the full-sized version, provided here. All cover art for Okawari’s albums are done by Marumiyan.

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Stonyridge Terrace by Ian Pooley

Some mighty fine guitar pickin'.

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At first, I was skeptical of the Music Genome Project; it seemed like just a fancy way of matching similar artists. But as the project has grown, it’s starting to display more & more interesting matches. In fact, I found Stonyridge Terrace on Pandora (DJ Frane‘s radio station), which uses the technology behind the Music Genome Project.

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You Never Know by Hieroglyphics

From '93 to infinity.

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Hieroglyphics are among the best hip-hop groups of all time. The group has quite a few solo talents including Del, Opio, Pep Love & some of the other members. I had a lot of finely crafted songs to chose from Hiero, but I decided You Never Know should be the first.

I love me some chilled out music, and You Never Known is as laid-back as it gets. As always, I’m a man of few words (or should be)… let the music speak for itself.

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Solstice: Reintroduction by Blue Scholars

"One DJ & One MC"

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I’ll admit it, I was wrong when I said, “[n]ever has a hip-hop album got it so right on the first track”, referring to an article on Mission Statement by Mayday. But, to my defense I did say “I over embellish at times”… which I do.

That aside, never has a hip-hop album got it so right on the first track. ;) But, seriously… The introduction (or reintroduction) on Blue Scholar’s self-titled album is a slick start to a legit album. Sabzi, DJ & producer, creates one chill beat, which Geologic (MC) lays some mighty fine lines to.

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If I May by Blackalicious

"Here we go again."

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Blackalicious consists of an MC, Gift of Gab, who’s best known for abstract & intellectual lyrics. Accompanied by Chief Xcel, DJ for the group who does a great job blending Gift of Gab’s groove stricken voice into his own funkified & hypnotic beats.

If I May is off Blackalicious’s first album, Nia. The song has, like usual, outstanding & rich instrumentals by Chief Xcel. Gift of Gab unfolds his unique talents, as well, but where this song differs is from the two featured acts: Lateef the Truth Speaker & Erinn Anova.

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Flex by Doomtree

"Had enough? Well, yea... that's enough."

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I’ve always wondered what style of hip-hop people outside the U.S. like. I decided to show a friend of mine from Wales Doomtree’s Flex, but had a feeling it wouldn’t be his “cup of tea”. I asked him if he liked it, and he told me “it sounded like a bunch of angry white kids”. At first, I got defensive, but eventually saw his point. The song sounds like a bunch of coked-up, hyperactive guys who may not know half the shit they say, but say it well.

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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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