Incredibly hip-hop heavy playlist this week. After hearing the sad news that A Tribe Called Quest’s Phife Dawg had passed away, I immediately went to listen to a collection of their tunes. This led me to listening to a lot of music from around the same era, as well as music from artists that Phife Dawg no doubt inspired.
1. ‘PHONY RAPPERS’ – A Tribe Called Quest
From their 1996 album Beats, Rhymes and Life, ‘Phony Rappers’ is a brilliant example of the MC skills possessed by the group’s members, with playful rhymes describing the weak level of amateur rappers challenging them on the streets. Not hard to see why they’re the professionals in this case.
2. ‘PASSIN’ ME BY’ – The Pharcyde
Perhaps one of the group’s most well-known songs, ‘Passin’ Me By’ has a beautiful jazzy backing beat and makes great use of the prominent organ sample, taken from Quincy Jones’ ‘Summer in the City.’ The group’s members all recount childhood crushes in the track, making it relatable as well as a brilliant piece of music.
3. ‘TEARZ’ – Wu Tang Clan
One of my all time favourite artists, Wu Tang Clan have continued to make waves in the music industry in one way or another ever since they first rose to prominence. Their first album, released back in 1993, changed my whole opinion on music, (particularly hip-hop) when I first heard it. ‘Tearz’ is one of my favourite tracks from the album simply because it’s raw, honest, and shows another side to RZA and Ghostface Killah.
4. ‘INNA’ – Roots Manuva
One of the UK’s finest wordsmiths, Roots Manuva has been releasing music for around two decades, and opened the door to English hip-hop for me. Not really being into grime, I tend to listen to a lot of American hip-hop whose lyrics I can keep up with. Roots Manuva has changed that though, and ‘Inna’ is a good example of how enticing his relaxed delivery can be.
5. ‘UNCLE SAM GODDAMN’ – Brother Ali
For some reason, this song really reminds me of Hyde Park during the 2012 Olympics, probably because I was working there and was listening to this song a lot at the time. There’s the reason. Answered my own question. This track seems relevant again now though with the upcoming US election, which is worryingly being dominated by goofsters and gaffsters. Brother Ali comes out with some killer lines in ‘Uncle Sam Goddamn,’ and his flow is just a pleasure to listen to.
6. ‘YEEZUS WAS A MORTAL MAN’ – Oddisee
I included Oddisee on my first playlist, and he’s making another appearance because he’s fantastic, and so is this track. Much like the rest of this album, the theme of Oddisee’s frustrations with other rappers is incredibly prevalent; Oddisee discusses the fact that many other rappers in “the game” only want fame with no work, and do not care for hip-hop as art. He delivers his thoughts on this excellently, over a highly polished backing track.
7. ‘BECAME’ – Atmosphere
I’ve been trying to determine the meaning behind the lyrics to this song for years now, and still can’t commit to a decision. Slug takes the listener on a journey, telling the story of how a friend left a campsite and is stalked, then presumably consumed by wolves. Are the wolves a metaphor for drug addiction? Are they drug dealers who took Slug’s friend under their wing and introduced him to a criminal world? Is the song a larger metaphor about a friend venturing down a dark path? Maybe. I think it might be. It’s a really great song regardless of my lack of interpretation skills.
8. ‘FAMOUS’ – Kanye West
All praise the King of Music. No, not really. I like Kanye West’s music, but I don’t consider him to be Christ the Redeemer or anything. ‘Famous’ seems to draw on elements of West’s older music, but also has new ideas; the change after about two minutes was certainly unexpected but it made for an interesting listen. I hope West releases a bit more of this album outside of Tidal, now that THAT Taylor Swift line is finally out. Please.
9. ‘THIS ISN’T LOVE’ – VITAMIN
I never win anything. Ever. Well that’s a lie, I won two tickets to a gig last week so that was pretty fun. I got to see VITAMIN supporting Clean Cut Kid in London, and, having not heard VITAMIN before, was unsure of what to expect. Have I found a new band that I absolutely love now? Yes, yes I have. VITAMIN had great energy and a sound that was clearly birthed out of a love for all things indie. Nothing revolutionary per se, but another brilliant band making brilliant music.
10. ‘JEAN’ – Clean Cut Kid
I was incredibly happy when I found out I’d won tickets to Clean Cut Kid’s show. I’ve become an even bigger fanboy now, and will definitely be following these guys with probably a little too much intensity. Before they absolutely smashed out ‘Vitamin C’ (from week one’s playlist), the guys played ‘Jean,’ which leading man Mike Hall wrote about his late grandmother from the viewpoint of his granddad. It’s touching, was brilliant live, and it’s brilliant here again.