Released in 1970, Bitches Brew represented a turning point in modern jazz, with Miles Davies moving away from the modal and cool jazz movements he had already pioneered in favour of a more improvisational, free-flowing style that would be coined jazz-fusion. Coming as a double LP, each piece is an extended meandering journey that continues to impress, challenge and mesmerise as the song develops. The magnificent ‘Pharaoh’s Dance’ is a 20 minute epic, showcasing rambling drums, wild keys and Davis’ aggressive trumpeting that will leave you breathless and dizzy.
Ice Cube opened the ‘90s following his acrimonious split from NWA with ‘AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted’, which became a considerable critical and commercial success, despite its challenging sound and lyrical content, a feat which makes Universal Music Series repress of the record a worthy listen. The release makes for a confrontational listen, with violent imagery scathingly delivered on topics relevant to Ice Cube’s political climate at the time, and which remain nonetheless pertinent issues today.
On ‘Endangered Species (Tales From the Darkside)’, the rapper focuses on racial tensions in his local area which were bubbling into violence, and reached a head a few years after the record’s release. With production from Public Enemy’s Bomb Squad crew, these incendiary lyrics are leant an extra sense of surreal terror, with radio headlines describing racial attacks rearing their sinister head and mangled strings laying the foundations for genres like Grime. On ‘The Nigga Ya Love To Hate’, the groove is part hip-hop, part techno, with an obsessive pound which drills home Ice Cube’s vocal delivery, even as the rapper’s haters scream chorus abuse at him. With the twisted funk of the album’s title track, scratched into an alien hip-hop cut, the record remains an example of the genre at its most confrontational and socially aware.
- 1 Better Off Dead 0:30
- 2 The Nigga Ya Love To Hate 0:30
- 3 AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted 0:30
- 4 What They Hittin' Foe? 0:30
- 5 You Can't Fade Me / JD's Gafflin' 0:30
- 6 Once Upon A Time In The Projects 0:30
- 7 Turn Off The Radio 0:30
- 8 Endangered Species (Tales From The Darkside) 0:30
- 9 A Gangsta's Fairytale 0:30
- 10 I'm Only Out For One Thang 0:30
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Available: October 15, 2015
American hip-hop group Public Enemy’s second album, released in 1988 turns 25 and Universal Music Series’ repress confirms this holy grail of political hip-hop’s place within the history of popular and avant-garde culture. Pushing the robust funk of their first album to its limits, ‘It Takes a Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back’ is a chaotic seething mass of mangled samples and revolutionary lyrics which hit hard.
‘Bring the Noise’ brings crazy squeaking brass, scratched up psychotic strings and boisterous group vocals together in a collaged soup which is nonetheless rhythmically driving. ‘Show Em What You Got’ places hip-hop within the lineage of jazz in its mournful saxophone sample, from which barely-contained rage spits up in multiple vocal bursts, while ‘Cold Lampin With Flavor’ deranges funk with a disorientating tempo and reversed samples which render wind sounds more like sirens than acoustic instruments. Perhaps the most pleasurable cut though is ‘Countdown to Armageddon’, where the group’s wild live presence is captured and crowds scream madly amongst wailing air raid sirens and an apocalyptic call to arms.
- 1 Countdown To Armageddon 0:30
- 2 Bring The Noise 0:30
- 3 Don't Believe The Hype 0:30
- 4 Cold Lampin' With Flavor 0:30
- 5 Terminator X To The Edge Of Panic 0:30
- 6 Mind Terrorist 0:30
- 7 Louder Than A Bomb 0:30
- 8 Caught, Can We Get A Witness? 0:30
- 9 Show 'Em Watcha Got 0:30
- 10 She Watch Channel Zero?! 0:30
Back in the mid-1980s when rap was synonymous with synthesizers and 808s, Mantronix was at the helm, an incomparable visionary group rocking the electro-funk party. Traffic Entertainment graciously compile an anthology of some of the most arresting beats from a three years slice in the career of DJ Kurtis Mantronik aka Kurtis el Khaleel and MC Tee aka Toure Embden. Tracks such as ‘Bassline’ and ‘Electro Mega-Mix’ defined an era with their machine-made dance floor jackathons, a wild combination of drum machines, synthesizers and vocoders.