Mütiilation - Vampires Of Black Imperial Blood (1995)


Mütiilation is one of the chief groups of Les Legions Noires along with Vlad Tepes, Torgeist, and Belketre. Les Legions Noires is essentially the lesser-skilled French equivalent to Scandinavian black metal's 'inner circle' and is one of the first stops somebody should make if they enjoy the rawer side of black metal. The collective's musicianship can't hold a candle to that of Norwegian groups like Darkthrone and Mayhem, but the jagged homemade recordings will be welcome to anybody who loves the Unholy Trilogy or the Mayhem demos/live recordings. Vampires Of Imperial Blood is the easiest to stomach of the albums I've heard from this French alliance. The soundstage is well filled-up and the mixing is such that the album is neither harsh and shrill nor overly bass-heavy and murky. I am comparing this to other (usually unlistenable) albums from Les Legions Noires, so still be prepared for some extreme-sounding stuff if you're unfamiliar with the scene. The compositions and technical skill are by far the most advanced you'll hear from Les Legions Noires, making this an optimal starting point for the kvlt catalog. If the ghastly cover art isn't enough of a warning, please be ready for some icy cuts of hatred that could have only been made in some blood-smeared cave deep in the Alps. Vampires Of Black Imperial Blood really hits home for me with its harsh and hypnotic darkness and it's one of my absolute favorite metal albums.

DJ Screw - Chapter 314: Man Pooh (2000)


Hearing the Man Pooh tape is the first new DJ Screw experience I've had in a while. I've been out of exploring new music for quite some time and I also wanted to go back and re-listen to my favorites before I went any further in my chopped-and-screwed journey, so it's very nice to re-wet my feet with this exceptional Man Pooh tape. Anyway, Chapter 314--damn--I didn't even know they were up to chapter numbers that high. Let me lay down a few things for those of you not hip to the nature of DJ Screw releases. One, a store called Screwed Up Records & Tapes (now a website too) reissues the underground DJ Screw tapes cut to classic grey Maxim tapes as double-disc albums with uniform artwork. Two, chapter numbers solely represent the order in which the tape was reissued, so the number bears no chronological significance. Three, an entire tape could be the product of a single recording date, a single session could possibly span over the duration of a few tapes, or a tape might include completely separate recordings from different dates compiled as A and B sides (I'm not sure how much of all this is the work of reissuers versus the original tapes). Four, as of today, Screwed Up Records & Tapes is still consistently reissuing these tapes. The reissues are usually put out in small batches every 2-5 months. Chapters 320-323 (the most recent) were released just this past March and Chapter 314 was just released last summer. It's dope that authentic chopped-and-screwed is being released consistently, but some of the tapes, like Man Pooh, missed the boat. Other than this small blog post, I doubt the tape will work up much hype because the shit like Complex's chopped-and-screwed list was already published long ago and the so-called essentials have already been more-or-less determined by the internet.

Chapter 314: Man Pooh comes as a recommendation to me from a friend and a fan of the blog. I probably would have never listened this tape if it weren't for that suggestion and I'm glad a little twist of fate brought me to this album because it's one of Screw's best. I am always suspicious of the later-on Screw tapes--from 1999-2000--because this was when his source material (outside of Houston and dirty south, of course) started to drop off. The West coast still had some bangers coming out, but a lot of those late 90s junts just couldn't compare to the golden-era of g-funk that Screw would chop up in 1996. The only part in Screw's discography I don't vibe with is when he included the Jay-Z and Eminem on Blue 22. Granted, he made the songs better than their pathetic original versions, but I really do hate Eminem and Jay-Z that much, and as a result that one tape is the reason why I hesitate before putting on a Screw set from year 2000.

Thankfully I came across Man Pooh to help get past that stupid mental block. Chapter 314 is a personal tape dedicated to Man Pooh as Blue 22 is to Z-Ro and Niggaz Can't See Me is to Fat Pat.  Man Pooh was a close friend of Screw and the S.U.C. and was often among those talking and freestyling on tapes. The mix has an overall sunken attitude and is opened with a spoken Man Pooh intro on top of a monstrous Nuthin But A G Thang instrumental. Screw hangs out playa cuts and cash cuts, but lays down much more tracks dealing with sadness, loss, and misdirection. Chops and spinbacks are kept at an absolute minimum to allow the source material and sequencing to speak for itself. The Cash Money remixes are standouts and my favorite moment might be the DMX track; slowed and maddening. If you enjoy the more introspective and direct Screw mixes with little cross-fader workings, then this will be especially be right up your alley.

Sample

Chapter 314: Man Pooh

Lil Gin - Shake Junt (1995)


Shake Junt is one of those albums adored by every fan of the Memphis underground. The album is produced by the essential DJ Paul and Juicy J partnership. The instrumentals come clean, cool, and with a primo gangsta/pimp rap personality. However, the music gives no obvious clue that it's an underground Paul and Juice production. Well, maybe it does, but only if you're listening regressively through the context of The End, Can It Be?, or King Of Tha Playaz Ball because this hardly sounds anything like the heavy, messy madness of tapes like Come W/ Me 2 Hell, Pt. 2, Junts We Choke, or The Excorcist. The instrumentals are laid back loops and sort of take a backseat in order to let Lil Gin and Skinny Pimp tear apart the microphone.

Lil Gin is one of the most skilled and entertaining rappers of the Triple 6 Mafia. Across the board--lyrics, voice, and flow--he can be considered a miniature Skinny Pimp, but this is only speaking for his days with Triple 6 as he became different when he stepped back into the game in the late 90s. This is unsurprising seeing that Skinny often appears alongside Gin on Triple 6 tapes as well as a four time feature on Shake Junt. It's obvious Skinny was grooming Gin to be one of the Gimisum torch-bearers (with Lil Yo), but after the release of Shake Junt, Gin mysteriously dropped off the map until his 2000 album. I say 'mysteriously' because he was the personal prodigy of Memphis legend Skinny Pimp and his album received a lot of promo from both DJ Paul and Juicy J on their shoutouts. I'm not sure if he had beef with Paul and Juicy or not, but I haven't heard any indications of that so I'll assume it didn't happen. Skinny made a mid-90s effort to be signed to Rap-A-Lot before scrapping his attempt and heading back to Prophet; the best guess I can make is that Gin was lost along the process and wasn't on the first finalized Prophet roster. I know that Glock, Noid, and Pat were locked up during this time and maybe the same happened to Gin, but I'm too lazy to look that up for sure.

Anyway, all that is just a long way of saying that Shake Junt is an essential Memphis rap tape filled with gutta character and smooth-bumpin junts. Fire lyrics and beats are flames, simply put. The rip quality available online is good too, so if you're one of those people who has a gripe with super lo-fi shit, then this should be on your eternal Memphis bump list. Also a PSA that there is another version of this album titled The Serpent's Step Son, they are the same thing. As far as difference in rips go, I have no idea.

Shake Junt

Jimmy Smith - Live At Club Baby Grand (1956)


Live At Club Baby Grand is one of my favorite Jimmy Smith sessions. The two volume set represents the warm and comfortable mid-50s sound to the fullest; actually it sounds like it was recorded a few years earlier than 1956 (but that's not true). Baby Grand is one of the most lo-fi dates Blue Note has to offer. Most 50s live recordings were muddy, but this is on another level. I doubt anybody will find the material unlistenable in the slightest since the murkiness does nothing but add to the character of the album. Content-wise, this is a standard organ, guitar, drums trio going off on some loose jams. The instruments sound tight and on top of each other in the mix, a combination of what I imagine as a tight bandstand and early mono mastering techniques. I love the aesthetic of all this, simply nothing beats a soft and comfy 50s bop recording. Jimmy Smith is one of the earliest jazz organists consistently recorded by a label and as such is one of the style's chief influences. Because of this I think it is easy to overlook how it took Blue Note and Smith a few years to unlock his full potential. His studio recordings up until the House Party/The Sermon session are quality, but more-or-less forgettable. Maybe this is because Blue Note didn't know how to bring the club performance atmosphere to the studio for Smith to thrive (off of the audience's energy), so thankfully this two disc set exists to showcase Smith's power from the earliest days in his early career.

Sample

At Clube Baby Grand [Volumes 1 & 2]

LFO - Frequencies (1991)


Electronic music is cool, but I don't have an affinity to the stuff as I do rap and jazz. There are probably a half-dozen albums from this genre with which I vibe out all the way through. The debut LFO album is one of those few. 808 State is my favorite electronic group ever, and LFO is the only band I've found to really do that drum machine dominated acid house sound at such a serious level. Frequencies is closer in comparison to the 808 State debut, Newbuild, as they're holding darker, moodier, and sometimes even harsher grooves closer to their guts for most of these tracks. When I review music from genres I know little about, I tend to base the whole write-up on comparisons. As such I don't want to lead on that LFO is just an 808 State knock-off because they are quite a bit different. Frequencies is overall more brainy music than what you'd hear from the other group with a more distinctive affiliation to ambient techno, or what some people might deem IDM. I'm not entirely sure which artists are considered the biggest influences in ambient-techno, but based on the small amount from the genre I've heard, I'd think LFO was right there with Richard D James in that regard. Frequencies is an awesome balance of a lovely synth-pad ambience and odd, funky drum programming on par with anyone else from the cerebral realm of electronic music.

Sample

Frequencies

Index - The Index (1967)


A cult legend of an album in American underground rock music; quintessential hipsterism. If you thought you were cool for liking The Sonics, just know that you'll have 10 times more sex appeal if you know about The Index. I don't even think James Murphy (of LCD Soundsystem) was 'there' for this band. The Sonics, but with a lot more psychedelia; the 13th Floor Elevators, but with a lot more surf and muddiness. If you enjoy the darker side of 1960s American psychedelia like White Rabbit or The End, then you'll love The Index's neurotic, lo-fi, reverbed-up droning. One of those garage records that only got famous in the 1980s for its influence on underground culture (can connect the dots between this and my personal favorites Crazy Rhythms and You're Living All Over Me). I might have been making jokes a few sentences ago, but I'm really glad this was unearthed because it's a seriously awesome and consistent album.

Sample

The Index

John Patton - Let 'Em Roll (1965)


The three coolest, smoothest traditional jazz instruments are vibraphone, organ, and guitar--not up for debate. I guess one could deem them 'secondary' instruments as they, while not obscure in jazz, are not heard nearly as much as the horn/piano build. This is even moreso the case for vibes and organ as they are expensive and pretty stationary pieces of equipment. Take that into consideration and it makes sense why there are hardly any organ, vibes, guitar, drum quartets. The only other date I know of with this setup is Street Of Dreams by Grant Green. My jazz scope is pretty limited to Blue Note and 50s/60s music, but even if more contemporary jazz is holding some albums with this instrumentation, I doubt they're going to be as dope as the classic Let 'Em Roll.

I've always enjoyed John Patton, but that's due mostly to the fact that I love jazz organ and he happens to be one of the very few organists on my favorite jazz label. Don't get me wrong, he has more skill than I could ever dream to hone on such a complex instrument, but he pales in comparison to Larry Young and Jimmy Smith. The grooves on many Patton albums feel pretty basic and lacking of serious depth or convincing rhythm. His albums leave me with a heart-warmed feeling, but I'll rarely listen to anything of his on the regular because of Jimmy Smith's existence. The exception, no doubt, is Let 'Em Roll. The dude is totally smoking on this record. Takes complete control of all the funkiness necessary to make any soul-jazz album successful. The greatness for a lot of these poppy sales-oriented Blue Note albums hinges on what Grant Green brought to the table on the recording day. As the most over-used jazz instrumentalist ever (Blue Note's sole guitarist during much of the 1960s) he inevitably had sessions where he blended in as just an average jazz musician, but he also had sessions where he would set the earth on fire with soul. Make no doubts that Green came out to play for Let 'Em Roll. As usual, he never sounds bad on his solos, but what's more are his powerful and punctual his rhythm chords. This puts some good pressure on the band to keep the funk precise and grooving. Green and Patton are able to handle chords themselves, so there is no need for Hutcherson to back the band throughout the solos. He sticks entirely to his own solos and central melodies, but he provides another musical angle and gives the album some extra personality--making it stand out among the plethora of soul-jazz based Blue Notes from the Duke Pearson era.

Sample

Let 'Em Roll

Juicy J - Volume 9MM "It's On" (1994)


1994 was a busy time for the Triple 6 Mafia. It's crazy to think how close the posse was to releasing a classic for every month of that whole year. In spite of heavy competition, Juicy J Volume 9 easily sits atop this quality '1994 club'. On social media I see that this tape is constantly eclipsed by the equally iconic DJ Paul Volume 16 and Juicy's own Volume 10 tape (both from the same year). Without a second thought I believe that Volume 9 is a stronger tape than Volume 10; it's about twice the length, comes with a more direct sound quality, and displays a harder track sequencing. Volume 10, like the Paul and Juicy Spring Mix, functions more as an underground advertisement piece for when the group was moving into the realm of major distribution deals. On the other hand, I think Paul Volume 16 is an equally great tape. If there was ever an ideal Paul and Juicy juxtaposition, then it would be these two albums. Volume 16 is on the slower, smoked out side of the Memphis rap spectrum with its dependence on horror-flick samples and odd, tight, and mutilated vocal and instrumental chops. Volume 9 is closely related to the most original style of Memphis hip hop; the high-paced, get-buck, tear-tha-club-up, explosions that dominated the roller rink parties and highschool talent shows.

As opposed to 1994-era DJ Paul, Juicy always stuck close to his club affinity; spinning back 8 bar instrumental samples and just letting the funk breath. The club-oriented Memphis music isn't even really my thing, but Volume 9 transcends my stupid categorizations. My favorite detail of this tape is how clean the drums sound. One could say that these crisp drums are simply a result of the better-than-usual tape rip quality Volume 9 inhabits, but I don't think so. No outside level of distortion or muddiness could truly bring the drum programming to this level of pop and tightness. While I'm on the topic of rip quality: I have a hunch that the files linked below are actually one of the few original Triple 6 tape rips out there (as in non-bootleg rips), probably not, but the files sound incredible regardless. It sounds like Juicy uses the same hi-hat, kick, snare, and bass samples for the vast majority of these tracks. I love this because it gives the illusion that Volume 9 was a straight-mix session chalked up in a single weekend. The bass and hi-hat stabs are close to Shawty Pimp's level of funk; I mean, just listen to those bass-halts and the pulling of the open hi-hats on 9 To Ya Dome and Dick Suckin' Hoes...eviscerating. Juicy also proves that a song doesn't need to be slow in order to ride smooth and smoked out--check out the original installment of Ridin' In The Chevy or the long-riding Easily Executed mix.

Similar to Paul with Volume 16, Juicy takes a big step away from the sex and pimping tracks and lets the gangsta attitude rip, and in my opinion, this sets the tape up for much more success. The rappers follow suit with hard G'd-up flows and lyrics. I don't know what else to talk about with this aspect since the features are so varied and Volume 9 is all-in-all a producer's album, but I can vouch that these verses are nothing but top quality. Actually, I think that any of these verses can be considered career-defining tracks to their respective rappers. Unlike DJ Paul's tapes there are no dodgy Crunchy Black verses or the inevitable Lord Infamous monotony. Project Pat, Lil Fly, Lil Noid, Skinny Pimp, Scarecrow, Lil Glock, S.O.G., Gangsta Boo, Juicy J himself, and even Al Kapone set their vocals on fire. I think my favorite rap track from this tape is the Lil Noid and Lil Fly collaboration on Ridin' In The Chevy--incredible chemistry that results in the two flowing like loosely-patterned waves over the beat. Also, just in case you didn't get enough quality rapping from the body-portion of the tape, Juicy helps promote MC Mack's Lets Make A Stang junt by including it in the three track epilogue. Lets Make A Stang is self-produced by Mack and I'll speak on it more in a MC Mack solo tape review, but I do need to say that those cowbells are fucking insane. Juicy J Volume 9 will forever be one of my favorites from the 90s Memphis underground. For anyone interested in exploring this realm of hip hop, make it a point that 9MM is one of your first listens because it's one mean as fuck tape with a real clean sound.


187 Fac - Fac Not Fiction (1997)


187 Fac was an underground rap duo from East bay California who got their chance to put down a professional studio debut when Spice 1 took them under his wing as executive producer. Fac Not Fiction has a gang of dope production features topped by the Frisco bay legends Mike Mosley and Ant Banks. The instrumentals are dominated by typical bay area bass synths and high-riding synths, but by the late 1990s, the distinct Bay sound was moving towards a more lavish and playa-type vibe with more Fender Rhodes chords and bells thrown in the mix. This gives the music a definte Houston influence, or maybe vice-versa because I always thought albums like Sailin Da South or Thought Of Many Ways had a distinct Cali feel. While early Botany and E.S.G. are very comparable to this album, Fac Not Fiction obviously sounds most like the other late-90s bay area kings, 3X Krazy and Luniz, though they are certainly much more under-appreciated for some reason. The rapping is definitely close in quality to the quick-tongued funk being put down by the aforementioned groups; at times sounding similar to underground Midwestern g-funk, which I guess their scene influenced to some extent as well. I get some Dayton Family vibes from the flows on some of these tracks and a lot of the vocal overdubbing techniques, if nothing else. A steady pulse of mobby g-funk to cruise with during the spring and summer months. Under-rated? No doubt, actually I think it's a pretty essential piece of California hip hop.

Sample

Fac Not Fiction

Big Boi - Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son Of Chico Dusty (2010)


When people were busy praising what might be the worst rap record of all time, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, they were sleeping on the album of the decade. Everything for which MBDTF is praised is completely outclassed by Sir Lucious Left Foot (what comes to mind is the use of features, inventive and reflective contemporary R&B/rap production). Be ready for a party. This is goofy, funny, and laid back, but make note that Big Boi isn't making any jokes; he just brings that stanky backyard block party feel to the forefront on this album. You have never heard a beat that sounds like any of these on here before. The hooks are all layered, rhythmic works of genius. Big Boi rotates on clever punchline after similie after punchline. The features are all sick. He uses features from the trailer trash Yelawolf or the dumb pop rock group Vonnegutt to his advantage, I have no idea how that's possible, but I'm not ashamed to admit I vibe with those moments one-hundred percent. SouthernPlayalistic brought pimp-tight shit, ATLiens was some dirty south outer-space vibes, Stankonia was an odd, edgy piece of pure funk, and Speakerboxxx moved to a lot of bass heavy club-oriented shit. Well, Sir Lucious Foot does all of that and doesn't sleep for a moment. All of these songs can stand independent from each other in terms of quality and style, but they still line up in the track squence brilliantly. The album loads the singles up towards the front of the album (and they're all flames), but after the interlude-like General Patton (probably the one song I'm not feeling all the way--the beat is like some 500% romanticized Young Buck shit) the second three quarters of the album just gets better and better with each song before going out with an absolute bang.

Sample

Sir Lucious Left Foot