Yeah this album is dedicated to all teachers that told me I’d never amount to nothing. To all people that lived above the buildings I was hustling in front of that called the police on me when I was just trying to make some money to feed my daughter. And all the n*&$@s in the struggle, you know what I’m saying? It’s all good baby baby…”
The New York Hip-Hop scene is in a state of emergency. The threat has been looming for years, and now the problem is now more apparent than ever; New York hip-hop has failed to evolve. This failure has opened the door for crooning Canadians, trendy Pennsylvanians, and syrup sippin’ Southerners to take over the scene and potentially eliminate the New York scene altogether. As a New York hip-hop purist, this is a very frustrating situation. As everyone knows, New York City birthed hip-hop and reigned supreme for decades as MCs and groups like Nas, Jay-Z, KRS-ONE, Wu-Tang Clan, Bad Boy, and Mobb Deep dominated local and national airwaves. Throughout the nineties and the early part of the 2000’s these artists, with their gritty lyrics, unparalleled style and charisma, and classic albums made it safe for a fan to declare New York City the “mecca” of hip-hop. But, damn things done changed. On a national level, New York MCs are nearly irrelevant. Granted, artists like Fabolous, and to a much lesser extent Vado have enjoyed some national mainstream success, they can’t even sniff the level of popularity artists who were dominating the media held two decades ago. In fact, most New York artists don’t even get played on Hot 97, arguably the biggest hip-hop station in the world and based out of New York City! Many will argue that Jay-Z is the undisputed king of New York, but how much longer can the city as a whole hang its hat on a 40 year old MC who is six years past his prime? Despite the fact that Hov can still rap circles around any MC he continues to feature with (see Drake’s “Light Up”), New York hip-hop fans cannot seriously expect him to usher in the new era of New York hip-hop.
Motherfucker this ain’t back in the days, but you don’t hear me though….”
New York hip-hop is stuck in the past – that’s not to say that there aren’t talented artists floating throughout the boroughs – but the lack of innovation on the behalf of these artists is disheartening. The “punchline” rapper still reigns supreme in New York, and yes, these artists have some strong catalogs but will never make noise with an LP on a national level. Why? Because “punchline” rappers were hot nine years ago, people need change; it’s human nature. What the scene needs, more than anything, right now is some competition and rivalry to breathe some life into a nearly deceased brand of hip-hop. However, with no clear cut MCs, and certainly no rival crews at the top of New York, that wish for competition may never be a reality.
There’s no disputing that old school rappers continue to put out quality albums. Raekwon’s “Only Built For Cuban Linx II” was one of the better efforts put forth in recent years; but the album sounded like it was recorded in 1995, not 2009. For someone like me, that is perfect, but for national recognition, hip-hop fans across the nation need something new, especially with the internet providing all forms of hip-hop at a persons finger tips. What hurts the most is the failure of these older heads to stockpile talent over the years and keep the New York hip-hop scene buzzing on a national level. Rarely do you hear of an affiliate making noise on any level, let alone capture the attention of a national audience.
Artists like ASAP Rocky and Action Bronson, whose basically the by product of Big Pun eating Ghostface for dinner, are definitely steps in the right direction for New York. Unfortunately, I, as a fan, don’t feel comfortable with either of them potentially sitting at the throne as the King of New York. Somewhere out there in the Five Boroughs is an MC (who is hopefully reading this post) is crafting his skill and style and prepping himself to explode on the scene both locally and nationally. But until then, I’m gonna keep listening to The Infamous and reminiscing on the good old days.
Biggie. Few conversations lately amongst friends honestly made me think and really consider how much talk about Biggie is people paying respect and how many people are reallllly taking in what dude was saying; to us. Even though unanimously considered a legend, in the majority of fans top 5 dead or alive… are we still sleeping on Biggie. I’m thinking so. In my opinion no hip-hop artist was ever so far ahead of the rest in style and persona. A friend of mine actually got genuinely mad at me last night for the accolades I was giving Jay-Z over B.I.G. Another friend of mine who lives in China told me that an experience at a club recently rocking to “Get Money” – while in a Biggie T-Shirt – was one of his all time highs. Ha. His influence won’t die so these reminders led me to decide this had to be a B-I song.
I’ll keep it a-hundred with you guys I never heard this original sample until today. Pretty obvious that the pitch was thrown up way high, and the 8 bars were turned into a hook. I have to say the original is a cool record (“Dying to Live”), I actually was enjoying the beginning even more than when the sample came in at 0:38. The whole concept of the hook with the rhetorical questions honestly confused me a little when I really tried to make sense of the lyrics. But then it all added up when Edgard Winter ends it all by saying “You know I’m dying to live until I’m READY TO DIE”. Brooklyn.
As Sample Saturday proceeds to give you what you need…Â By 1995, Hip-hop music had infiltrated American mainstream media and was dominating airwaves and selling out arenas acround the globe. Albums likeÂ The Chronic, Doggystyle, Illmatic andÂ Enter The Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers were tearing up the charts and selling out record stores.Â Despite overwhleming success and wealth, battle lines were drawn, and with the help of media hype, the “East Coast vs. West Coast”Â beefÂ was in full effect. The top MCsÂ from both coasts were creating songs aimed at dissing their counterparts, with each trackÂ packing extremely violent and threatening undertones. Â During the feud Bad Boy released the now classic record “Who Shot Ya”, with Biggie seemingly mocking 2Pac’s shooting and only adding fuel to the fire of the coastal battle. Despite Puff consistently denying that the song was aimed at ‘Pac, the damage was already done, and “Who Shot Ya” is now heralded as one of the greatest diss records of all time.
Production wise, no one was touching Bad Boy Records during the early to mid nineties. Puff Daddy assembled an all-star cast of beatmakers who created an endless list of hits during the golden years of Hip-Hop, and in the process defining the Bad BoyÂ sound. “Who Shot Ya” was produced by Nasheim Myrick, who is one half of the superproducing team “The Hitmen”. Â To catch the break used from David Porter’s “The Masquerade Is Over” you have to fast forward all the way to the 4:45 mark, where you will hear the instantly recognizable drums and piano. Â A lot of the best chops are found deep into records, which shows you that the producer was really digging. Â “Who Shot Ya” is a piece of Hip Hop history… and like alot of the other pieces, it started with a great sample.Â (P. Walsh/K. Casey)
“Victory” is as epic as it gets when it comes to rap records, and this larger than life feel all started with the sample, and the genius mind of composer Bill Conti. Â Studying at the Juilliard School of Music, Conti mastered his craft, and was more than prepared when hired in 1976 to compose the music for a relatively small budget film calledÂ Rocky. Â As we all know,Â Rockybecame a mega-hit, grossing more money than any other film that year, winning 3 Oscars (including Best Picture), and eventually becoming one of the most iconic motion pictures in American history. Â The producers made back the budget a few hundred times over and the theme song “Gonna Fly Now” hit number one on the Billboard charts…Conti had done his job. Â As you might expect he went on to compose the music forÂ Rocky II (’79),Â Rocky III (’82),Â Rocky V (’90), and evenÂ Rocky Balboa (’06). Â Conti achieved great success in creating music for several other films and television shows, but his fame will always be attached to what he accomplished with the unforgettable soundtrack and score to the originalÂ Rocky.
“Victory” starts out the same way as “Going The Distance” until we hear Puffy’s adlibs. Â Before the drums drop, musically both records are very similar, with the exception of the “Victory” beat looping a few bar and 2 bar sequences to draw out the progression. Â Biggie’s verse comes in with the kick and snare, and is comprised mostly of the 2 bar loop taken from the 0:32 mark of the sample. Â No discredit to the producers, but minus a flurry of hi-hats and some other drums, the power of the “Victory” beat comes almost entirely from the work done by Bill Conti (I recommend listening to the whole piece). The work of Christopher Wallace is what makes the record itself a classic.
Released three months after Biggieâ€™s death, Puff Daddyâ€™s â€œNo Way Outâ€ debuted at number one on the charts. Â It contained the number one singles â€œIâ€™ll Be Missing Youâ€ and â€œCanâ€™t Hold Me Downâ€ which owned the airwaves in the summer of 1997. Â The third single, â€œAll About The Benjaminsâ€ never made it to number one, but has somehow managed to remain in rotation as one of the few timeless hip hop club records.
The main section of the song was produced using a slowed down sample of the instrumental version of â€œI Did it For Loveâ€ by Love Unlimited. Â Puffy opens up the record with some well known lyrics, followed by the LOX, and then Lilâ€™ Kim â€“ â€œWanna rumble with the bee huh? Bzzzzz.â€ Â The beat flips completely for Biggieâ€™s verse, which is always a unique move production wise. Â In effect it made his place in the song elevated from every one else, which seemed very appropriate. Â This section of the beat was built off of the opening bars of â€œItâ€™s Great to Be Hereâ€ by The Jackson 5. Â Not much is done with the four bar loop besides being layered with some extra hi hats and record scratches. Â Biggie comes through with a verse that is pretty much a quotable from start to finish. Â For me, this part is what makes the record special.
After Biggie’s funeral, a motorcade of cars including the hearse carrying his casket proceeded through his old neighborhood in Brooklyn. Â When someone started blasting “Hypnotize” the mood on the crowded streets changed from mourning, to a celebration of his life… and his music. Â Herb Alpert could never have imagined that his music would have contributed to this historic scene in hip hop history.
When sampling records, it always pays off to listen to the whole track, because you never know when that break is going to kick in. Â In this case, it doesn’t kick in until 3:23 … take a listen.
Man look at these suckers. I ain’t no rapper, I’m a hustler. It just so happens I know how to rap.”
In the beginning Hip Hop was about b-boying, djing, graffiti and emceeing. The drug game of the late 1980’s changed the ghetto so, it was only natural that it would change the music as well. Additionally, Hip Hop itself became quite profitable and in turn created an opportunity for a lot of trapped young artists to leave a life of crime, danger and limits. I’ve come to realize that people perform at the highest level when their backs are against the wall. The extreme conditions and adversity that came from living in the hood was transferred into a musical energy and ‘realness’ that was able to touch and reach an entire world. It was survival of the fittest and to be an emcee in the 90’s you had to hold your own, no exceptions.
You see me all my life I had to sell drugs, while you grew up with straight nerds, I grew up with thugs.”
Why the brief history? Well, if you want to appreciate New York City’s mid to late 90’s Hip Hop you’ll have to realize that these guys aren’t just talking loud and being aggressive for no reason, they’re representing an attitude one needed to have in order to survive and stay sane in the concrete jungle that was NYC in the 90’s. Look at it this way, you don’t go into a battlefield to put your gun down, read a book, have some tea and talk about where you want to summer next year. You’re going to be screaming and hollering, cold, alert and focused at all costs; you’re going to be aggressive and you’re going to be challenging that next man if he’s trying to take you out. Like I said, it was a concrete jungle and survival of the fittest was the type of mentality that applied, “only the strong survive”
That was the mindset in NYC because prior and even during Guiliani that was the reality. I’m not praising it or saying it was correct but if you want to appreciate the music for what it is without having actually experienced that lifestyle, then you have to listen with some perspective. So when you hear lyrics that sound somewhat extreme, violent, and brutal, understand that that is just the top layer and the language only serves to represent issues that went much deeper than the words being used to represent them. Lastly, the only way to escape an extreme circumstance sometimes is to develop an extreme type of mentality. Most people don’t have to deal with such challenges in life so it may be hard to relate. For the sake of this mixtape I suggest you try, it will be worth it.
With that said, we exclusively present a mixtape that captures that time in New York City better then anything I’ve yet to hear – Kevin Casey Music Presents: Live From New York. Officially this is a mixtape but the editing and thought process displayed on this tape will make you think you are listening to an extremely well produced album. The transitions and details from song to song are flawless and carefully crafted. It’s not often a mixtape displays this level of depth with no compromise of quality. Kevin Casey has done his research to provide listeners with an expansive yet refined taste for the best NYC had to offer. Pretty much all classic mainstream and underground NYC hits are represented. However, only the best verses from the wide spectrum made the cut, making the listening experience easy and extremely entertaining. Having grown up listening to this music, I can tell you this was no easy task. Rappers were hungry back in the day and there were a lot of good verses but Casey did in fact manage to narrow it down to the best. All the rappers you hear on this tape are at their absolute prime and deliver their lyrics with the energy and hostility of the street. Like the time it represents, this tape is hardcore, gritty, challenging and extremely entertaining. This mixtape is available as a free download at KevinCaseyMusic.com and was made for the sole purpose of spreading good music. It’s been a while since New York City’s golden era was revisited with such thoughtfulness and sincerity; this is truly worth the listen. All that said, let me end this post like the tape begins:
New York will… not… lose… ever!
Live From New York (Intro)
Can anyone read, can anyone feel? That I’m losing my patience, I just came here to bounce.” – Justice (DVNO)
Someone asked me what I thought about the whole Kanye event at the VMA’s and I instantly got a scorching headache, felt sick, tired, hungry and drowsy. It was sort of like my minds auto-defense mechanism against using it’s extremely complicated make-up and resources to compute absolutely idiotic nonsense.Â When it comes to the mainstream these days I find that people talk about everything in existence but the music.Â Unlike the stereotypical music critics who hate the mainstream, usually for their own selfish reasons, I actually enjoy certain mainstream music. In fact, I think it’s great when a song can connect with millions of people and bring them together in that way.
Someone’s response to my unfavorable review of Blueprint 3 was that Jay-Z is an incredible marketer. I literally had to go home and think for a few hours to try to understand what marketing has to do with the quality of Jay-Z’s music. I didn’t find the answer.
“I see… the gimmicks, the wack lyrics The shit is depressing, pathetic please forget it. – Biggie (Flava in Your Ear, 1994)
This is exactly why I find myself listening to more and more instrumental music these days. I chose Daft Punk’s Robot Rock as the feature song for two reasons. One, I wanted to listen to artists that actually cared about their music and two, I wanted an instrumental song that would allow you to zone out and just listen to music for a change.