The BOOM BAP! It is our ghetto onomatopoeia for the rhythm of this music. Even when the drums aren’t there, the jazz horn sections looped, the ol’ souls of Black crooning clipped and the sinister piano smashes from odd finds, they all have a funky groove that boom baps Black. Today, after the complete blindness to the denaturing of the music in the 2000’s, the irrelevance of the Boom Bap is the music’s most destructive truism. It is a believed booming lie of demise that baps the real innovation that producers are bringing to the music. We may properly rightfully herald the exile of all formats to classic effect by Ka or the elevation in unique drum work by Sun Tzu Cadre’s Lord Jessiah striking out this decade. We acknowledge, since 1999, the legendary crate digger that Madlib has been and the DJ Premier/Pete Rock lineage 9th Wonder has shined brilliantly from. However, there are many beatmakers that preserve the classical Boom Bap focus on the hardest fucking drums in the universe with some of the best MCs that ever rhymed passages songfully.
In 2013, out of the many producer/compilation albums there are revealed elements that when in place make them a complete listen. Producer Comp albums tell the taste and the message that the producers seek to forum. Their diversity in abilities is also exposed in working tracks for so many different MCs. Legendary producer albums from Pete Rock (Soul Survivor, 1998) and DJ Muggs (Soul Assassins, 1997) focused on spreading their classic sound to others while RZA kept his in house to deliver new MCs (Wu-tang Killa Bees: The Swarm Volume 1, 1998). With so many MCs in the world today, great, good and very bad, producer albums are intriguing in the diversity.
Statik Selektah, a prolific beatmaker who offers a soulful couplets, respectable, many times dynamically unique drumwork and strong DJ cuts on his Extended Play. Even at the most critical, Selektah’s beats have tough grooves and Extended Play improves from 2011’s Population Control because of better performances. As Statik begins to expose, the amount of MCs on a record increase the chances of a bad performance as Statik records always are spoiled with diluted rappers with weaker abilities (i.e. mac miller, action bronson, lecrae) and mixes great MCs (Sean Price) with others who are not there yet (i.e. Flatbush Zombies) or leveled out in content (i.e. Termanology).
On The Piece Maker 3: Return of the 50 MCs Tony Touch muscles his connects to an overfilled collection that must be hit or miss lyrically but unfortunately too many of The Beatnuts’ Psycho Les tracks (the predominant producer) are strong break shells that were not filled in with his impeccable musical crates. An engaging mix with highlight verses from many including Ghostface Killah, Willie the Kid, Spit Gemz, Starvin B, Sean P and Black Thought, it could have been refined to a more powerful album. Still, the tracks at such short length serve as a strong original mixtape with many disposables. Tony Touch has an incredible ear for this music and his venturing into other genres or serving to showcase his MC pull take away from his ability to make a powerfully cohesive album (as he did on 2000’s first Piecemaker LP).
With Marco Polo, who has released over two hours of music on Newport Authority 2 and PA2: The Director’s Cut, dilution of inclusion is excused badly by Michael Rappaport (who did the same himself with his Beat, Rhymes and Life documentary that stripped the chances of more vital commentary on A Tribe Called Quest’s Low End Theory and Midnight Marauders classics and working with the late J Dilla for the filler of the Q-Tip/Phife beef). Still, Marco Polo, a disciple in many ways of Large Professor, is wonderfully obsessed with big bass drums (i.e. “Earrings Off”), horn punctuations (“3-0-Clock”) and street smash tracks (“Astonishing”) and steady grooves led by raspy snares, meticulously picked high hats and stabbing strings (“Strange Brew”). Regardless to the “Intermission,” PA2 has filler with the weak chorus of “Wrong Girl” the verses can’t burst out of and the cliché grooves of “Emergency Man.” The producer album, with so many MCs is hard to balance lyrically and those tracks are vastly impaired with gemz as Organized Konfusion’s “3-0-Clock,” the needed, but generic “G.U.R.U.” tribute and the incredible finale, “Glory (Finish Hard)” with an incredible double entendre commentary from De La Soul’s Posdnuos. The Newport Authority 2 album shared freely with guests as Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, Artifacts and Large Professor featured Polo’s best signature big break bass drums, hoarse snares and subtle melodics. A concentrated album by Polo with the best of PA2 and Newport Authority 2 would shine as one of the year’s top 15 albums as opposed to one of its top 25.
Of the Boom Bap producers premiering, Kid Tsunami is the strongest with an album that is filled with legends from the 90’s and greats out of the 00’s. However, the real jewel of The Chase is that except for the headbanging bang drum, guitar bending, and long snare title track, the album stays in mid-tempo with each song having more specific themes than any producer album this year. Musically Kid Tsu bottoms out his bass brilliantly as on “Take It Back” where El Da Sensei is back between a rock and a hard place. The snares are something you have to happily find as the bass drums with El’s bars dominating through. This mastery is also on J-Live’s “What It Was” with ill cascading horns. “These Are the Facts”, featuring the GOAT candidate KRS-One, achieve it with a grooved bassline and horn statements arranged in and out of the punchlines and bar conclusions. The entire album obsesses over these techniques of thick richness, filling all the space of songs and still equalizing vocals excellently in the mix. The redundancy produced can be overwhelming leading to the bullshit dismissals of Boom Bap. However, to make Boom Bap tracks is not a simpleton task. To hear tracks as Tsu has made here is at worst as difficult as Kobe mastering Jordan’s moves. There are more distinctive aural aspects we expect but the degree of difficulty is so high we must respect and even admire it. In addition, with MCs as J-Live, one of the great conceptual MCs, bringing commentary on the vitality of Boom Bap itself (“What It Was”), Thirstin Howl and Sadat X saluting their Lo Life roots in the Polo pledging on “On Course,” while Masta Ace offers a daily travel log as an MC on “Twothousand40” all bring The Chase to another level as a producer album that collects songs as opposed to separate bar fights. Technically, Kid Tsunami, along with few others as Phoniks and Tha Professa, may be the most purest of the new, in achieving the Boom Bap sound with incredible precision.
In these years of the few rugged individualists receiving pop favor and near 100 plus MCs of note sharing good to great music under/un-recognized, Endemic achieves a welcome highlight. With Terminal Illness 2, Endemic’s radius of selection is far smaller, wider in geographic scope (from NYC to London) and including a concentrated fraction of the greatest lyricists on the planet. In this decade, the greatest lyricists must be virtually unknown as the mere logic of commercial expansion. Yet Endemic knows and gathers them from NYC’s Tragedy Khadafi, Fame Labs’ Darkim Be Allah to Wu & Fam’s Masta Killa, Killah Priest and Hell Razah, Skyzoo, Detroit’s Wisemen (Bronze Nazareth, Kevlaar 7) and London’s Triple Darkness Crew’s Cyrus Malachi and Melanin 9. Mixed in these lyricist greats are some of the most rugged war versers (i.e. Rustee Juxx, Bugsy Da God, Planet Asia, PR Terrorist) and the greatest stylist MC of this era in Roc Marciano. With multiple verses from many of the MCs, the album reveals Endemic’s time spent with them and the concentration of such strong MCs makes this the one producer album where every song has an incredible lyrical performance of note. To begin, “Purple Hearts,” is immediately memorable as the all Wisemen feature with an incredible opening verse from Salute, unfortunately now serving a jail sentence. Salute verses, “…style so physical/concentration residuals/thing could get critical/lodge ‘em in hospitals/with the flow that’s hospitable/hood nigga that’s liveable/turn psychopathic if you cross this individual..” Salute’s layered verses reveal an emerging super MC and yet he is again powerfully positioned between Tragedy and Skyzoo on “20 20 Vision” where Skyzoo trails with his captivating couplets of schemed plots and plans to FGR. London represents strongly with the unique voices of Ray Vendetta and Tesla’s Ghost (“Circle Makers”) while the lyrical depth of Cyrus Malachi is a great counter balance to Bugsy’s war on “Political Criminals 2013” and M9’s bars are strong enough to end the entire album. The combinations are dynamic throughout and listener can focus on MCs they normally wouldn’t as Kevlaar 7, one of the greatest pure writers of the last 10 years, matches Roc Marciano on “Capos” with a fluid, sinister flow of visuals (“Unpredictable angle like Bishop as an angel/Black Day scene pull a heist/the whole team’s unnamable…”). Also of note, “Babylon Reload” may be one of the last songs to ever emerge with Hell Razah & Shabazz the Disciple together as Razah and Priest verses dominate the Shabazz chorus.
Beatwise, Endemic is from the Primo school of loosies. Every track is a burner and there is no in between. MCs must come with their most charged verse, most intense delivery mode and work strong enough to get your vocals through the wailing mix of soul clips, treble extreme snares and swift and sharp bassdrums. Endemic tracks ride on strings of remorse (“Circle Makers”) or horns of cryptic cascade (“Cardinal”) or a soul crooner’s woos on violins (“Royal Flush”). Endemic beats are almost all in the upper mid tempo, that in this era is light speed, with piercing drums, captivating musical hooks of tragic symphony and/or the vocal chords of ol’ soulfulness. Yet they are of a quality of dangerous extremity as they may all be resemblant of each other but they are all addictive, superior in quality and continue to draw out classic verses from the very best lyricists of note. No other producer album assembles the MCs that we need to hear thousands of hours more of and give them a forum jumbled excitingly together. This album isn’t just a capsule of Endemic’s talents and props to pull MCs. Terminal Illness 2 serves as a curing 2013 portrait of the best of this modern era of Hip Hop, where the actual music is violently popped into the underground dirt for its sanitized weaker replica.