Underground West Coast Mix: "What A Pity"
Here's a mix of some classic underground west coast hip-hop along with some rarities and some self-indulgent, exclusive mixes by your bol (me). Let it be said that this is by no means an exhaustive mix that runs the gamut of "important" west coast underground shit. After all, the meat of this mix only spans a measly 5 years ('94-'98). But, these were-- in my humble opinion-- easily the most exciting years in the west coast underground. Accodringly, this mix is simlutaneously an ode of appreciation to these years as well as a bit of an introduction to those of you who know nothing about this shit (shame on you!). Unfortunately, there's far more shit to be found on unreleased 5th generation tape dubs then there is on those shiny discs of vinyl that we've grown to love. As for how that has affected the make-up of this mix? Well, rather obviously, that means there are some noticable gaps in the mix that are basically only gaps because of format limitations (i.e. only one Ellay Khule verse?! No Log Cabin?!). But, what can I say? A lot of these motherfuckers really didn't put out that much vinyl, and even if they did, it wasn't always their best effort that was committed to wax. But, I've made do with what I had available and I hope you can forgive me if I made any critical oversights or simply didn't represent/signify the west coast underground in an adequate manner.
Anyway, here's the mix and below is a more in-depth, track-by-track discussion. Enjoy.
01. (00:00 - 01:03) CVE -- "What A Pity"
02. (01:03 - 02:55) CVE -- "Art of War"
03. (02:55 - 06:06) Saafir -- "Can You Feel Me"
04. (06:06 - 10:52) Latyrx -- "Latyrx"
05. (10:52 - 12:40) Latyrx Samples Medley
06. (12-40 - 16:10) Ab Rude "Yesterday & Today"/E-40 "Hope I Don't Go Back"
07. (16:10 - 20:07) Ahmad, Ras Kass, and Saafir -- "Come Widdit"
08. (20:07 - 24:20) The Coup -- "Dig It" (Radio Remix)
09. (24:20 - 24:50) NGA Fish -- "Hi-style Takeover"
10. (24:50 - 27:41) Whoridas -- "Whoriden"
11. (27:41 - 30:26) Volume 10 -- "Pistolgrip Pump" (UK Jazz Mix)
12. (30:26 - 30:52) Ellay Khule -- "Feet Upon The Table"
13. (30:52 - 33:47) Homeliss Derilex -- "Cash Money"
14. (33:47 - 37:30) The BUMS featuring Mystic -- "Lyfe N Tyme"
15. (37:30 - 41:51) Medusa -- "You Better Be"
16. (41:51 - 42:35) Blackalicious -- "Cheezit Terrorist"
17. (42:35 - 45:06) Underbombers -- "Subcontents"
18. (45:06 -- End) Rashinel -- "Rashinel"
19. (00:00 - 02:07) Blackalicious -- "Rhymes for the Deaf, Dumb, and Blind"
20. (02:07 - 03:53) Saafir -- Verse from Wake Up Show Battle
21. (03:53 - 06:51) Saafir -- "Pull Ya Card"
22. (06:51 - 11:46) Freestyle Fellowship -- "Ummm"
23. (11:46 - 15:36) The Coup -- "The Funk"
24. (15:36 - 16:30) Ras Kass -- "Get Up Get Down"
25. (16:30 - 20:30) Aceyalone -- "Faces"
26. (20:30 - 24:32) Project Blowed -- "Heavyweights Round II"
27. (24:32 - 25:47) Bus Driver -- "Imaginary Places"
27. (25:47 - 29:05) Slim Kid 3 -- "Emerald Butterfly"
28. (29:05 - End) DK Toon -- "Solo is So Low"
In Depth: Part I
01. (00:00 - 01:03) CVE -- "What A Pity" -- Project Blowed Compilation (ca. 1994/5)
To be perfectly honest, I think this little a capella interlude from the seminal Project Blowed compilation is only a good intro for this mix because it is a capella and just seems to feel like an introductory track. After all, Ridldore is pretty whatever on it (1st verse), Tray Loc is even worse (2nd), and I flat out hate Chu-Chu’s verse (last). But, the boy Fish (third verse) certainly comes with it. Anyway, besides just “feeling like an intro,” this song does embody (at least in theory) what my boy Nathaniel Friedman called the “voice-as-horn ethos” that a lot of the underground west coast scene subscribed to-- that is, the “what was being said” took a backseat to the “how it was being said.” Certainly, it is immediately obvious that the rhythm, cadence, and tones that a lot of these guys perform resemble the wild dynamics of the great horn players much more than they conform to the strict meters and rhythms that most of hip-hop is/was used to. That to me will always be the most interesting thing about this music: its unabashed love for spontaneous and atypical rhythms and cadences.
02. (01:03 - 02:55) CVE -- "Art of War" -- Kaos Cou De Ta EP (1996)
This track is the clear highlight from CVE’s 1996 EP entitled “Kaos Cou De Ta.” The beat is on some simple-but-knocking CV synth shit and Fish (second verse) just styles his ass off the whole time.
03. (02:55 - 06:06) Saafir -- "Can You Feel Me" -- Boxcar Sessions LP (1994)
Saafir’s “Boxcar Sessions” LP from 1994 is definitely on my all time top ten list of hip-hop albums. I’ve really never heard anyone ride a beat quite like Saafir and can’t think of anybody that swings harder than dude (except for maybe Freeway). Unfortunately, Saafir repeatedly tried to make an impact on the commercial world, watering down his flow in an attempt to make a commercial hit, but it never happened-- and probably rightfully so because all the commercial shit he made was fucking garbage. But, anyway, I fucks with this song. The beat is on some grimey melancholy shit and Saafir rides it like no one else can.
04. (06:06 - 10:52) Latyrx -- "Latyrx" -- Latyrx LP (1997)
This is probably the first of the “you either love this shit or hate this shit” song on the mix. Taken from the self-titled LP from 1997, the first verse on this song is actually Lateef and Lyrics Born (pka Asia Born) spitting two different verses simultaneously-- Lateef’s voice on the left channel, Lyrics Born’s on the right. The two verses do come together nicely, weaving in and out, complimenting each other, but it’s impossible to distinguish clearly and exhaustively both sets of Lyrics without listening to them panned or simply reading the lyrics. Thus, nowhere on this mix is the “how” more apparent then the “what” than in this song. After all, when you can’t understand the lyrics clearly, all you’re left with is the sound of two voices bumping into each other and making something new. And frankly, I think it works quite well. But, if you don’t like the simultaneous-rapping thing, just check the remaining verses-- they both kill it. By the way, DJ Shadow’s on the beat.
05. (10:52 - 12:40) Latyrx Samples Medley
Here’s some Latyrx sample-snippets: Odetta “Hit Or Miss” used on “Latyrx”; Demis Roussos’ “Oh My Friends You’ve Been Untrue to Me”; and Neil Merryweather’s “Sunshine Superman.”
06. (12-40 - 16:10) Abstract Rude "Yesterday and Today" Instrumental/ E-40 "Hope I Don't Go Back" Remix
I’ve always loved Fat Jack’s Stanley Clarke "Vulcan Princess" jack, “Yesterday and Today,” but the mix of the actual song on ATU’s “Underground Fossils” vinyl is so bad I couldn’t fuck with it. So, instead, I just put this E-40 a capella on top of an edited sequencing of the instrumental.
07. (16:10 - 20:07) Ahmad, Ras Kass, and Saafir -- "Come Widdit" -- Street Fighter Soundtrack (1994)
The Street Fighter soundtrack was weirdly dope. It had a really dope new Pharcyde song, a pretty hot new Nas song, a cute BUMS song, and this song. I guess what is most notable about this song is that it’s the first time I heard Ras Kass. I’m pretty sure his “Won’t Catch Me Running” 12” was out at the time, but I wasn’t up on that shit until after I heard this shit and he pretty much kills. Also, even though his style comes a great deal more out of the east coast tradition of rap than the west coast tradition that I’m attempting to give some light to in this mix, he’s still a west coast underground notable on the strength of his always funny, always clever (and most of the time ignorant) lyrics. Ahmad’s verse is cool enough while Saafir comes with one of his least accessible verses. I can’t count how many times I’ve played this for someone and they have commented on how much they hate Saafir’s flow on it. Well, fuck y’all. I love it.
08. (20:07 - 24:20) The Coup -- "Dig It" (Radio Remix) -- Dig It 12" (1993)
The Coup is widely slept-on for no logical reason-- except perhaps geography. Boots is hands-down one of the best “conscious” lyricists ever (he’s actually quite intelligent about his “consciousness” as opposed to most other “conscious rappers” who just spout off over-simplified, flatulent, political hogwash) and they’ve always had tight, heavily p-funk inspired production. This is a radio remix from the 12” of one of The Coup’s more popular songs “Dig It.” Boots is on point: “We’re all cooped up so feel the pain from four hundred years of exploitation/ Anesthesia provided by your local TV station/ Patience is not a virtue (I ain't waitin)/ Turn this shit over like Bush did a boatload of Haitians.”
09. (24:20 - 24:50) NGA Fish -- "Hi-style Takeover" -- Jizzm - Trials and Tribulations 12” (1998)
This is Fish’s verse from The Almighty Jizzm’s “Hi-style Takeover” on his "Trials and Tribulations" 12.” “Hi-style Takeover” has a pretty dope OD beat but Jizzm and Wreccless try as hard as they can to make that shit unlistenable (and they succeed!). Too bad there’s a gem like this verse hidden between all the garbage surrounding it. I cropped the garbage and just included this verse for the heads.
10. (24:50 - 27:41) Whoridas -- "Whoriden" -- Hobo Junction EP (1995) / Volume 10 "Pistolgrip Pump" Instrumental
At the time, The Whoridas-- besides having some of the hottest promo T-shirts in hip-hop history-- were basically the gangsta-rap sect of the Hobo Junction. Dudes were steady talking about riding and hustling and were the first people I ever heard use the “shotcalling and big balling” terminology. But, whatever, that’s probably some E-40 shit. King Saan is Saafir’s little brother and Mr. Taylor is his cousin and these dudes couldn’t do much more than ride the shit out of a beat, but fuck it, that’s plenty. Saafir invades the middle of this track, smobbing hard as fuck on this shit. He has some line about Abstract Rude that I’ve never understood, though. Anybody know what the hell he’s talking about? Oh, and I put the instrumental from “Pistolgrip Pump” under this shit about halfway through it because I'm a self-indulgent DJ.
11. (27:41 - 30:26) Volume 10 -- "Pistolgrip Pump" (UK Jazz Mix) -- Pistolgrip Pump 12" (1993)
This is a b-side remix of Volume 10’s popular anthem “Pistolgrip Pump.” 10's "Hip Hopera" LP is what someone at soulstrut would jestfully call "criminally slept on," but it is. Shit is fucking wonderful.
12. (30:26 - 30:52) Ellay Khule -- "Feet Upon The Table" -- Aceyalone - Mic Check 12" (1995)
I really hate this song besides Ellay Khule’s verse. It’s a b-side joint on Acey’s “Mic Check” 12” and everybody sucks on this song except for Khule who’s 26 seconds of brilliance is hard as fuck... hence the crop-job of everyone's verse except Khule's.
13. (30:52 - 33:47) Homeliss Derilex -- "Cash Money" -- Cash Money 12" (1994?) / Abstract Rude "Take Them Styles Back Intro"
This is some old Stones Throw shit that probably goes for big money on ebay to dorky white kids who love everything Stones Throw. Frankly, I rather like 50 grand’s lyrics on this shit but I hate the beat so I blended it with another Ab Rude instrumental.
14. (33:47 - 37:30) The BUMS featuring Mystic -- "Lyfe N Tyme" -- Lyfe N Tyme LP (1995)
There’s not much to say about this song except that I really like the beat. I think it’s the first appearance of Mystic (from Goodvibe fame) on record but nobody cares nor should they. This is a hot beat from an album full of hot beats and pretty mediocre lyrics. I do like E-vo’s little “fuck this, fuck that... and fuck the mothefuckers that’s threatened by my existence” tirade, but otherwise this shit is just a hot beat.
15. (37:30 - 41:51) Medusa -- "You Better Be" -- Do It The Way You Feel It EP (1997)
Poor Medusa. I love this girl. She’s easily the best female rapper in the game with one of the most soulful voices (when rapping or singing) that I’ve ever heard. There were rumors abound that she was doing stuff with Organized Noize (which would’ve been fucking sick), but I guess those were either just rumors or for whatever reason that stuff never materialized. The drums on this song are fucking terrible but Medusa doesn’t let that stop her from absolutely crushing this shit. I wish “Pimp My Lyrics” would’ve found it’s way onto this EP.
16. (41:51 - 42:35) Blackalicious -- "Cheezit Terrorist" -- Melodica EP (1994)
Gift of Gab kills this shit on some silly shit. Old Blackalicious is so much better than new Blackalicious.
17. (42:35 - 45:06) Underbombers -- "Subcontents" -- Peanut Butter Wolf - Step On Our Egos? EP (1996)
San Jose hip-hop is some of the worst hip-hop I’ve heard ever, but Dave Dub has always impressed me. Persevere (first verse) is pretty whatever to me-- he sounds more like he’s from Queensbridge than from Zay-town-- but Dave Dub comes through with his thick south bay accent, riding hard as hell.
18. (45:06 -- End) Rashinel -- "Rashinel" -- Saafir - Boxcar Sessions LP (1994)
I’ve always had a soft spot for Rashinel’s lazy flow.
In Depth: Part II
19. (00:00 - 02:07) Blackalicious -- "Rhymes for the Deaf, Dumb, and Blind" -- Melodica EP (1994)
Shadow on the beat and Gab on the 'phone. It's just some straight up stylin' shit but I think this shit bangs. This whole EP is really fucking great and this is really one of the weaker moments... and it's still hot.
20. (02:07 - 03:53) Saafir -- Verse from Wake Up Show Battle -- Wake Up Show Freestyles Vol. 2 (1996?) / Blackalicious "RFTDDB" Instrumental / DJ Shadow "Meiso" Instrumental
The legendary Hiero/Hobo battle really doesn't live up to its lore. I taped the shit way back in the day when it was live in The Wake Up Show and recently discovered the tape and god damn fucking shit is it fucking bad. I don't know how anybody in Hiero was ever known as a good freestyler because some of the shit these dudes spit is just fucking AWFUL. Tajai should be embarassed. Most of Saafir's shit is subpar too but Saafir's verses here, however, are hysterical. Of course, they're pre-written verses which is pretty much a (mr.) no-no in anybody's book except for Saafir's (apparently), but they're still funny as fuck. Other notable fact: this battle is the first time I heard someone (Saafir) refer to a "microphone" as a "'phone" instead of a "mic." That is so fucking hot. Anyway, I blended some instrumentals behind the breakbeats for fun.
21. (03:53 - 06:51) Saafir -- "Pull Ya Card" -- Just Riden 12" (1994)
This is a rare b-side exclusive on Saafir's Just Riden 12". I like it. "Told the dealer she was a cheater, but he's a buster" sounds dope.
22. (06:51 - 11:46) Freestyle Fellowship -- "Ummm" -- Bullies Of The Block 12" (1992)
This song closes with the chant "We will never fall the fuck off, we promise." What a fucking lie. But, Micah murders it on his infamous "Crunch, crunch, crunch" verse. Shit is loooovely. Acey and Peace are pretty dope on this shit but Jupiter is just plain fucking wierd on this track. But, whatever because this song is really all about Micah's verse. By the way, it's a b-side joint on the hard to find "Bullies of the Block" 12". And for the uber-west-coast nerds, you'll notice that Log Cabin sampled that "Crunch, crunch, crunch" shit on that song about food.
23. (11:46 - 15:36) The Coup -- "The Funk" -- Kill My Landlord LP (1993)
This is just a plain ol' LP cut on Kill My Landlord but I just love this beat so much I had to put this shit on here. If you don't have this LP, shoot yourself.
24. (15:36 - 16:30) Ras Kass -- "Get Up Get Down" -- Coolio - Gangster's Paradise LP (1995)
Ras Kass verse on Coolio's "Gangster's Paradise" LP. No, I didn't buy this LP, I stole it from my radiostation (hence the radio edits), and it's a cute and fairly-unkown Ras moment. Enjoy.
25. (16:30 - 20:30) Aceyalone -- "Faces" -- Book Of Human Language LP (1998)
Mumbles kills the Ray Bryant loop and Acey makes one of his hottest songs ever. Unfortunately, Mumbles is a religion freak and doesn't make music anymore proving once again that religion does way more harm than good to human beings. This is really just a fucking classic track that west coast nerds and east coast heads alike should like.
26. (20:30 - 24:32) Project Blowed -- "Heavyweights Round II" -- Project Blowed Compilation (ca. 1994/5)
Crew track from the Project Blowed LP. I don't know who half these women are and there's definitely a couple cruddy verses, but on the whole, this shit is raw.
27. (24:32 - 25:47) Bus Driver -- "Imaginary Places" -- Imaginary Places 12" (2002)
Here's another one of those "You're gonna hate this or love this shit." Pedestrian once described Bus Driver as "equal parts Jimi Hendrix and Jon Hendricks" and that's a fucking perfect description. I've also noticed that Bus Driver sounds remarkably similar to Kurt Elling at times, but, uh, not on this shit. Dude is just rapping at light speed-- most probably saying some stupid nonsense but it sounds hot as fuck. Too bad there's a wack breakdown in the middle of the song... I cut it short though so you can just listen to Mr. Bus Driver rip. Little known fact about Bus Driver: he can be seen performing a verse in the open mic cafe on Brandy's old show "Moesha." I remember seeing that shit and bugging the fuck out like "Why in God's name are Tray Loc and Bus Driver on this fucking show?!". Don't ask me what the fuck I was doing watching "Moesha."
27. (25:47 - 29:05) Slim Kid 3 -- "Emerald Butterfly" -- Runnin' 7" (1995)
I remember muhfuckas always talking about how Fat Lip was the best dude in Pharcyde but that was always blasphemy to me. Slim Kid has always really been the dude. This is a b-side joint from the Runnin' 7". I think it's on the b-side of the Runnin' 12" too. Not sure though. Anyway, this is some feel good, sing-songy Slim Kid shit. Too bad Slim Kid turned into one of those "I think I want to work with a band" rappers and hasn't been dope for like 6 years. What a shame.
28. (29:05 - End) DK Toon -- "Solo is So Low" -- Project Blowed Compilation (ca. 1994/5)
For the record, this shit is pre-Coolio's "Gangster's Paradise." I remember fools trying to claim that Coolio bit this shit but that's fucking garbage. It's a fucking Stevie Wonder sample for God's sake. It's not like it's some rare fucking shit. Fuck. But anyway, this shit is just beautiful to me. Granted it's just a jack, but DK Toon is belting his fucking heart out on this shit and you really feel for dude. This is some seriously beautiful stuff. The bar-late "Nina Rawls is the balls" overdub is forever my shit even though I have no idea what the fuck he's talking about.
And once again, if you don't feel like scrolling up:
What A Pity Mix Part I
What A Pity Mix Part II