Champion Sound – Jaylib: Album Review

July 29, 2009

Champion Sound 2

Back in 2003, rising hip hop sound-smiths Madlib and J Dilla hooked up with a simple concept in mind: each producer would contribute 8 instrumental tracks for the other to rap over. The result was Champion Sound, a gritty, roughed up exploration of some of hip hop’s grimier sonic possibilities. It’s an album that disappeared under the radar rather too quickly as both Madlib and J Dilla subsequently went on to higher profile projects, but Champion Sound has built up a cult appreciation of its own over the years. It’s also a record that pointed the way forward for a whole new generation of raw, blunted and experimentally minded hip hop production coming deep from the underground.

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Steal This Album – The Coup: A Lost Hip Hop Classic

July 20, 2009

The Coup Steal This Album

Immensely talented but perennially slept on, The Coup were one of the best hip hop groups to emerge during the nineties. But if there’s ever a band that could never catch a break, it was The Coup. Whenever they managed to get some momentum going, outside circumstances always seemed to get in the way. Most of The Coup’s albums quickly went out of print during unfortunate record label closures, and their 2001 long player, Party Music, was pulled from release at that last minute when the cover art – depicting the band members gleefully detonating an explosion in the Twin Towers – eerily coincided with the September 11 terrorist attacks. Meanwhile, scores of inferior groups – not possessing an ounce of The Coup’s musicality or verbal wit – have ridden the hip hop bandwagon to massive multi platinum success. But Steal This Album is a genuine overlooked gem. It’s The Coup’s most cohesive and consistently inventive musical statement, and deserves recognition as one of the very best hip hop records of the nineties. 

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The Payback – James Brown: Album Review

July 14, 2009

james brown payback

Unquestionably, James Brown was one of the most important and influential figures in the history of popular music. A musical innovator of staggering magnitude and a dynamic performer with a phenomenal stage presence, James Brown became a cultural figurehead for Black America and altered the landscape of rhythm & blues music forever. It’s regrettable then, that his back catalogue is in such a mess. Brown churned out some 80 odd studio albums of widely divergent quality over the course of his career. Many releases consisted of two or three hot lead singles mixed in with studio filler. There’s another 30 odd live albums and well over 100 compilations floating around out there. Attempting to navigate your way through Brown’s discography can be a daunting prospect. But The Payback is the real deal, one of the strongest albums of James Brown’s career, and his last truly great musical statement before he went into terminal decline.

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