But Boom Bap has too many examples for this writer. I ain’t gotta wait for another month for Bronze’s School to open and S.P.T.A’s like J-Live to release. Boom Bap is now being made relevant. The relevant where you’ll say that beat is Art now and twenty years later, that lyric is the raw portrait, that flow is the Black talent, the Black that knows it’s Brown too and Yellow too and for the downtrodden. But it’s never disingenuous, always passionately building but never haphazardly hit making cuz “rap is not pop if you call it that and stop.”
NEEK THE EXOTIC & LARGE PROFESSOR – STILL ON THE HUSTLE
An incredible album that is an addictive study of Boom Bap. Large Professor is a legend like the old school makes them. It isn’t because of the classic works or the consistency of his work when it appears. His catalog is not at the length of other legendary producers (i.e. RZA, DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Muggs, etc.) but it’s the essence of what real relevance means. It means that Large Professor career is as a Hip Hop musician that furthered, and continues to further, the culture. His decisions to work with, promote and educate the great MCs and producers around him are just as crucial. Large Professor is relevant, relevant like Yip Man to all Kung Fu.
Neek the Exotic is one of the many that had real life slow his real wax. Yet, throughout the too short Still on the Hustle, his intensity and precise pacing merge with just superior beat quality. Large Professor leads with his sound of incredible bass drums that boom boom bap pound into grooving basslines. This is the shit that gives speakers work exemplified by the title track, one of the best songs of the year and may be the greatest example of Boom Bap just yet.
PETE ROCK & SMIF N WESSUN – MONUMENTAL
The Boom Bap album of the year as legendary Pete Rock gives Smif N Wessun their second classic album for this brother here. The nostalgic appeal of Pete Rock is noted as his horns while the strength relayed of him are his layered drums yet the binding power he conveys is in the depth of his bassline grooves. The horns are all over the place but they are ruggedly designed for Tek and Steele by merging them into the bassline grooves just as the horn blasts into a bass’d sigh on “(I’m A) Stand Up Guy” or the parade procession on the title track. Yet it’s Pete using evil violins (“That’s Hard”) or melodic chimes (“Fire”) or guitar stabs (“Go Off”) to provoke the bassline grooves that lead us into a diversity that can only be appreciated by indulging the Boom Bap addiction. These are tracks to be explored in endless repeat. These tracks are thick without the open spaces pop tracks treble up and leave barren. The breaks are all unique and differentiated while the pacing is perfected to the MCs they are directed to.
If Boom Bap could go righteously pop it was with Dilla with crisp snares and a spacing that allowed singers to sing and melodies to take center stage. The righteous pop baton is still in Detroit with Black Milk as he is a master of the digital drum. Often hollow and over punctuated, his snares deliberately make the joint bounce (“Understand This”) with utter simplicity or become part of a layered soup Sean Price and Guilty Simpson verse through (“ Monster Babies”). Black Milk is a digital orchestra with a core foundation of Boom Bap propelling all his tracks. Random Axe is the ideal example.
PHAROAHE MONCH – W.A.R. (WE ARE RENEGADES)
The lyrical effort of the year from the one of the greatest MCs of all time. Like Ghostface Killah, every MC category from pacing, flow, content, lyrical dexterity, wordplay, etc. are all excelled in at the most supreme heights. The perfected MC excels best on Boom Bap and here it is an abundance that is far from typical. Monch possesses so many dynamic cadences and melodic shifts that the beds to perform best will not be as stripped minimalist as say a Guru or GZA would have them. Yet the core of Boom Bap is that the drum breaks guide even when the music is epic Rock styled (“Grand Illusion”), straight wild funk (“Haile Selassie Karate”) or just an off beat break that pops as Monch’s revelations unfold (“Shine”). The best lyrical effort of the first half of the year is directed, guided and supported by quality Boom Bap.
RAEKWON – SHAOLIN VS. WU-TANG
Nothing is the same without RZA. RZA produces work for the particular MC. Every other Wu work without RZA sporadically achieves that even when beatmakers give their best. It really is up to the MC to select right but he may not know exactly how his voice ought to be compressed, drums equalized around him or the pacing that suits his flow and themes best. Ghost , GZA and Masta Killa have fared best in this while Raekwon has stumbled often. After the incredible reprise of Cuban Linx and its pyrex hells illuminated further, Raekwon continues throughout Shaolin Vs. Wu-Tang to choose quality tracks that allow him to continue to be one of the livest Boom Bap MCs in history. The soul samples and drum snares are abundant and they are of a driving style (i.e. “Butter Knives,” “Snake Pond,” “Rich and Black,” “The Scroll”) that allows him to perfect the wonderfully sinister vocal pace he’s developed.
BUGSY DA GOD – PR TERRORIST PRESENTS THE TERRORIST ADVOCATE
A fruit of Killarmy’s Dom Pachino the Puerto Rican Terrorist, Bugsy is hardly content oriented to show and prove he’s God of the Nation of God and Earth at all (i.e. the cross on the cover can't help) but there is a strong street consciousness there ("Cell Diaries). While Bugsy's voice is extremely similar to Holocaust/Warcloud he has real stories, quality battle raps and a consistent flow that syllables on beat. Produced by unknowns earning a rep (Labmatik) and Wu-Elements (4th Disciple and Bronze Nazareth), the thump is pure Killarmy adrenaline as when 4th thick clap snare comes in off the organ melody on “Dogs in Heat” or the rugged blues Bronze throws on “The Sound of Gunz.” This is hardcore Boom Bap from the Wu inspired root where there is a wonderfully embraced ignorance of anything pop. What the fuck is Pop? is the sound of the snare and who the fuck is billboard? the sound of the bass drum.
ELZHI – ELMATIC
An unfair record to introduce oneself to Elzhi as a homage to Illmatic entails verses that cleverly paraphrase NaS’ perfection. This reveals talent but may also be dismissed. However, if you we do more than act like we fucking know then his 2008 album The Preface is the superior near-classic album that this mixes into. Elzhi has all the skills from dexterity, word construction, pacing, flow, vocal clarity and a context from the street as the average real brother. Detroit is the new home of superior Boom Bap and Elzhi’s mic technique is as tough as Black Milk’s snares or as brutal as Bronze Nazareth’s blues’d bass drums. Elmatic can have the same problem with the beats but the live work of the Will Sessions makes the Illmatic instrumentals redone into some of the greatest remakes/renditions of classic material one can hear. If this quality and powerful resonance they achieve here is used to propel original material and new vocals from Elzhi then Preface is certainly elmatically driven to a classic.
WU-TANG – LEGENDARY WEAPONS
Musically, this original collection is only derivative of the Wu-sound so the experimental freshness of the RZA isn’t here. The live band excels strong because of the thick basslines that are so strong they overpower melodic accompaniments that do little. The production works to create the Wu sound but is obsessed with doing it minimalist as the RZA is historicized as doing. On tracks as “Diesel Fluid,” “Laced Cheeba” and “Black Diamonds” it certainly works because the Wu MCs, especially Ghost here, are incredible and effortlessly able to work the tracks. However, the RZA verses are so strong in content (“Start the Show,” “225 Rounds”) and intensity (“Only the Rugged Survive”) they deserve more than just amped bass. Still, this also reveals that the core of Wu is Boom Bap and with nothing else they excel powerfully as expected.
ILL BILL & VINNIE PAZ – HEAVY METAL KINGS
First get past Ill Bill’s (and disappointingly my man Vinnie Paz too) completely not right and exact obsession with idolizing Malachi Z. York, a bloodsucker of the poor who packaged the truth of street spirituality and historical scholarship of the Nation of God and Earth, Nation of Islam, the great Black Books scholars (i.e. Ivan Van Sertima, Cheikh Anta Diop, etc.) around fabrications of his awkwardly ever-morphing, unproven special divinity over others and his fantastical tales that are mixed in to make his package uniquely special. Now or End?!! If that can be done, there really is no Paz work that isn’t guided by authentic Boom Bap. HMK is filled with thudding drums (“The Final Call”) or epic breaks with mean basslines (“Keeper of the Seven Keys”) and becomes a place to find the next beatmakers. For now, C-Lance has the Jedi Mind Tricks sound mastered with gothic lore and crunchy breaks.
Reviewed months earlier, Hasan Salaam and Rugged N Raw only know Boom Bap. They live and breathe Boom Bap and their work sounds like nothing coming off the stale chair Jigga and Ye are sitting on. If you’ve ever seen Salaam draw out the illest Boom Bap out of a Jazz band or Rugged walk into a venue raw, climb the stage and drop perfectly paced bars immediately, then you know that their catalogs are about Boom Bap. The Mo Danger album is filled with raw and up and coming beatmakers that reveal the great decision making of the MCs and excellent engineering work to blend such unique vocal talents.
KEVLAAR 7 – WHO GOT THE CAMERA?
Also reviewed months earlier, Kevlaar joins Bronze as leading the movement of rugged Hip Hop blues on wax. The insightful rich and poetically pensive EP is filled with the Boom Bap blues that are synonymous with all the Wisemen works. While Kevlaar doesn’t need outside producers, he fills the EP with great choices that in line with his ethic. Too many sellout rappers, who are far more educated than they promote, are given credit for just noting the slightest social catastrophe around them. When one hears Kevlaar do it without sacrificing the beat thump or rhyme flow to go that much further with detail and proposing solutions, we can see the disingenuousness that is floating in our main streams.
JOELL ORTIZ – FREE AGENT
This quality joint by Ortiz is not near a superior Boom Bap event even though there are great highlights as”Oh” produced by Large Professor, “Sing Like Bilal” by DJ Premier. Nevertheless, Ortiz is a Boom Bap MC. His flow bounces on the snare and provokes the neck jerk immediately. No, he is no PUN and the homage can cross the line by over-jigganiggin the quotes and the references. Yet Free Agent has none of that problem and when the Boom Bap orchestra is there, Ortiz will be even more mighty.
KOOL G RAP – RICHES, ROYALTY AND RESPECT, KRS-ONE & SHOWBIZ – GODSVILLE & PLANET ASIA - CRACK BELT THEATRE
These two albums are from two of the top 5 greatest MCs of all time. The reality of rhyming on Boom Bap is virtually created by them alone and absolutely revolutionized and furthered by them. However, G Rap’s Riches is plagued by beat sampling that is too derivative while Showbiz, the great Diggin in the Crates crew producer, really seems to be offering an experimental minimalist technique that lacks the horn driven Bronx ruggedness of his best works. Still, these albums are still Boom Bap driven and are above any mainstream record you stake your namedrake on.
Now the God Planet Asia is here because he is a Boom Bap MC that achieved greatness in 2008 with DJ Muggs on their Pain Language album, a clinic of Boom Bap. He continued that with last years group offering, Gold Chain Military but Crack Belt is missing breaks and that pulse RZA so often builds on. There are rare glimspes like the snare sustaining "Boilermakers" by Madlib and the horn thumping "Mixtape Madness." Still, Asia is one of the great Boom Bap MCs coming from the OO's.
With all this Boom Bap we can dump all the Coon Pip immediately. Yet remember that Coon Pip exists. It can be the shit that fertilizes the realest fruit but only if we know it as shit. Until then, those on the throne will have their A&Rs, those mountain climbers playing electric guitars, who will write the history wrong again. Always without knowing the meaning of dope...