Tag Archives: DJ Boogie Blind

Live Review – Pharoahe Monch

pharoage monch flyers

Venue: Jazz Cafe, London  Date: 16 March 2015

There are some things in the world of Hip-Hop that are as good as guaranteed. Wu-Tang will always be for the children, DJ Premier will always be the king of the scratched hook, and Pharoahe Monch will always deliver a memorable show.

Regardless of how many times you may have witnessed the gifted Queens, NY emcee rock a stage, you never leave feeling like you’ve simply watched an artist going through the motions, or that Monch hasn’t given a performance his all.

Pharoahe’s latest sold-out gig at London’s Jazz Cafe was no different.

Backed by turntable titan DJ Boogie Blind and talented UK band Ezra Collective, with Kamron of Young Black Teenagers fame acting as an engaging hype-man, Monch expertly navigated the mixed crowd of older heads and younger fans through sixty-plus minutes of intricate verbal gymnastics, pounding beats and brilliant showmanship.

Arriving onstage with minimal fanfare, the Organized Konfusion lyricist spent a few moments silently pacing back-and-forth like a boxer on fight night, focussing on the task at hand before launching into an urgent blast of the Black Thought-assisted “Rapid Eye Movement” from his recent “PTSD” album.

Closely followed by spirited performances of the synth-heavy”Agent Orange” and police protest song “Clap (One Day)”, Monch took the opportunity to comment on the recent Stateside events in Ferguson, encouraging everyone in the packed venue to clap their hands as he passionately rhymed acapella, resulting in a poignant moment of interaction between artist and audience.

Whilst the sweating emcee exited the stage for a short break, it was left to Boogie Blind to entertain the crowd, with the X-ecutioners representative dropping a quick-fire routine which found LL Cool J’s timeless “Rock The Bells” being skillfully deconstructed and reconstructed at breath-taking speed, once again proving that turntablism is something that really needs to be seen as well as heard in order to be fully appreciated.

As the lights were turned down low and a single chair placed centre-stage, Pharoahe made his return to dramatically deliver two of the darkest tracks from “PTSD”, the moody “Time2” and sombre “Broken Again”.

Sitting down, head in his hands, Monch communicated the raw emotion of each track’s subject matter via his body language and facial expressions as much as he did through the actual lyrics, at one point using a toy gun to simulate his own death.

After a brief display of skin-tight musicianship from the members of Ezra Collective, Monch lifted the mood, encouraging the crowd to sing the hook of his Rawkus-era single “My Life”, which then led into the intense gospel-feel of the Alchemist-produced “Desire” and the radio-favourite “Oh No”, with Pharoahe pausing to pay a sincere tribute to the late Nate Dogg.

Taking a moment to give Kendrick Lamar props for his latest album, the boundary-pushing wordsmith encouraged the crowd to respect the craft of lyricism and help “preserve the culture”, as right-hand man Kamron stood to the side nodding intently.

With the horn section who had arrived onstage moments before then replaying the opening Godzilla sample of Monch’s signature late-90s banger “Simon Says”, the audience was immediately turned into a rowdy mass of jumping bodies, as the grinning emcee gleefully delivered the track’s infamous instructional hook.

Returning for a brief encore which included the Organized Konfusion classic “Bring It On”, the veteran microphone fiend graciously thanked the crowd for their continued support, leaving the stage to the sound of Keni Burke’s 80s quiet storm anthem “Risin’ To The Top”.

In a rap world which finds here-today-gone-tomorrow acts consistently receiving undeserved accolades and attention, Pharoahe Monch continues to stand as a shining example of genuine talent, creativity and artistic authenticity.

Organized Konfusion’s 1994 single “Stress” found Monch posing the question, “Why must you believe that something is fat just because it’s played on the radio twenty times per day?”

Over two decades later, Pharoahe is still providing a worthwhile alternative to the redundant and shallow product which is repeatedly being pushed and promoted by the mainstream music industry.

Thankfully, if the capacity crowd at this particular show was anything to go by, there are still plenty of people out there who’re willing to listen.

Ryan Proctor

Footage of Pharoahe Monch performing “Broken Again” and “The Jungle” at London’s Jazz Cafe.

 

New Joint – Large Pro / Fortune / DJ Boogie Blind

Large Pro ft. Fortune & DJ Boogie Blind – “Own World” (@PLargePro / 2015)

Extra P delivers a soulful slice of hypnotic beats and rhymes off his forthcoming album “Re:Living”.

Live From The Boogie Blind Residence Mix Download – DJ Boogie Blind / Lord Finesse

boogie blind pic

Harlem turntable titan Boogie Blind digs through the crates with the legendary Lord Finesse on this dope mix of breaks, beats and funky treats – gets your ears dusty and download here.

Drop It Heavy – OC / AG / DJ Boogie Blind

Extended footage of D.I.T.C.’s OC and AG with X-ecutioners member Boogie Blind performing in Amsterdam on the “Rap Mayhem Tour” back in December.

Blazing 45s Rehearsal Mix – DJ Boogie Blind

boogie blind pic 2

Funky rehearsal set from NYC’s Boogie Blind recorded recently while he was in Los Angeles to drop some vinyl gems at a Blazing 45s event – listen to the X-Ecutioners member put the needle to the groove here.

Old To The New Q&A – Lord Finesse

lord finess jacket pic

Lord Finesse is an artist who really needs no introduction. A founding member of the legendary NY-based Diggin’ In The Crates crew, a former affiliate of Ice-T’s Rhyme Syndicate collective and a successful solo act in his own right, the Bronx-bred producer-on-the-mic is considered one of Hip-Hop’s most revered talents, with albums such as his 1990 Wild Pitch debut “Funky Technician” ranked as undisputed classics within rap circles.

Having not released an official full-length collection of new material since 1995’s “The Awakening”, Finesse’s name has remained in the spotlight via a number of one-off single releases, live deejay sets and production work for the likes of Brand Nubian, Freestyle Professors and Vinnie Paz.

More recently, the Funkyman teamed-up with the reputable Slice Of Spice label to polish off some unreleased gems from his vaults, which have then been made available as collectable, limited-edition vinyl-only pieces.

This relationship with Slice Of Spice has also helped Finesse to once again focus on his own solo work, with the L-O-R-D now pushing ahead with his heavily-anticipated album “The Underboss”, a project which has been hinted at numerous times over the years but persistently delayed.

As part of this official return, Lord Finesse recently embarked on a tour of Europe, accompanied by turntable talent DJ Boogie Blind and a renewed sense of purpose. Touching down in a number of cities including London, Glasgow and Copenhagen, the “Here I Come” tour was successful in its mission to allow Finesse to reconnect with fans and announce his plans for 2013, including, of course, that new album.

On a mid-November Sunday night, following the last of his thirteen shows in thirteen days, Lord Finesse and I huddled backstage at Leicester’s Music Cafe for an impromptu interview, with the Hip-Hop icon keen to discuss his future endeavours as well as reminisce on some memorable career moments.

Right about now…the Funk Soul Brother…

Have you been surprised by just how well this “Here I Come” tour has been received because the response to shows on Facebook / Twitter etc has been close to fever pitch?

“I know I worked hard putting this show together with my man Boogie Blind, so I can honestly say that we definitely put the work in to give people something to remember. But to actually see the response and feel the results of that hardwork isn’t something I’ve ever felt before on this scale. I mean, I’ve done plenty of shows before, but I don’t think I’ve ever been as focussed as I have been during this run of shows. We really thought this one out like with the background music, me telling the stories, how the whole show builds up as it goes along. This is probably the first time I’ve ever done a show where I know there are specific points that people will consider to be highlights, like when me and Boogie jump on the turntables together and things like that. I just know I put in a lot of hard-work and it feels good to see it pay-off and have people leaving each show like they just left church or something (laughs).”

Did you feel that you had to put more effort into these shows because you’ve been away for a minute?

“It was definitely due to the fact that I’ve been away for awhile, but secondly it was because I’d also had a chance to reflect on my earlier work. When you’re away for awhile you really get the chance to hear what other people have to say, like ‘Why don’t you ever perform this track?’ or ‘Why don’t you do this during your show?’ So as you’re hearing these different opinions it gives you a chance to think about how you can add certain elements to what you were already doing in order to really give the people what they want. I mean, I’ve been away from the performance side of things for a minute, but I’ve still been hosting events which has allowed me to add a whole other comedic element to the show which also helps people to really get caught up in what you’re doing. So it gets to the point where it doesn’t even feel like two hours have gone by when the show ends, instead people are still wanting to see what I’m going to do next.”

Something I’ve noticed at recent shows here in the UK from artists like Large Professor and Sadat X is that there definitely seems to be a younger fan element in the crowd – would you agree with that?

“I’ve noticed that as well. Obviously, each show has had a lot of original fans there, but I’ve definitely noticed those younger fans this time around. When it comes to them, I just want to make sure I leave a very clear impact so they know exactly what they can expect from me in the future. It’s good for the younger generation to be able to see a real Hip-Hop show from someone who’s really doing the songs, who isn’t rhyming over their own vocals, somebody who’s freestyling, somebody who’s doing the whole package.”

For many of those younger fans, artists such as yourself were probably their introduction to Hip-Hop in the 90s so this would perhaps have been their first opportunity to see you live…   

“My goal with this tour was to set the bar real high so that those younger fans left knowing what a real Hip-Hop show is. A lot of people today are paying for these over-priced tickets to see artists who ain’t even putting in a third of the effort I’m putting in onstage. I wanted people who might not have experienced this type of show before to leave every night knowing that there is a significant difference between what someone like a Lord Finesse does and what a lot of these other artists are out there doing, even if they own their records as well. It’s not even about having a hit record when you’re onstage, it’s about who can really execute and translate what they do on that stage. Now, I don’t have what people would consider hit records, but I can still make sure the songs I do have translate well onstage.”

Your music has always contained a lot of personality though which helps in a live setting…

“I mean, I learnt a lot about live shows from watching KRS-One. KRS-One’s live shows are always phenomenal and I always sit there and study how he does it, his order of songs, the crowd participation. KRS has always been a big influence on me when it comes to rocking a crowd.”

lord finess diggin 2 pic

During the “Here I Come” stageshow you talk about different moments in your career – which memories still really stand-out to you?

“I’m still here, that’s what stands-out the most to me (laughs). From 1989 to 2012, I’m still here and people still show me love and respect and are still waiting for some new Lord Finesse s**t. I consider myself blessed and humbled at the same time to still have people out there who care about what I’m doing now and who also care about the foundation and legacy of my name. That’s something you really can’t purchase, man.”

Although there always seemed to be a lot of unity amongst New York artists of the early-90s, how high was the spirit of competition within D.I.T.C. at the time considering there were so many classic albums coming out from the likes of Brand Nubian, Main Source, De La Soul etc?

“It was always competitive because we were battling and wanting to make sure our music was incredible and able to stand-out and compete with any other music out there. So we always thought that the music we made had to be incredible, because we’d listen to an album like A Tribe Called Quest’s “The Low End Theory” or Main Source’s “Breaking Atoms” and others that really made us say ‘Damn!’ So you always wanted to make music that was better than anything else you’d heard and even if you said at the time that you weren’t consciously thinking like that, you had to be listening to something that had you wishing that when you did your next project it came out as dope as that.”

Was there ever anything that came out of the D.I.T.C. camp itself that made you think ‘I wish I’d made that record..’?

“Oh, no doubt (laughs). Diamond’s first album “Stunts, Blunts & Hip-Hop” made me feel like that and also Showbiz & AG’s “Runaway Slave”. See, what you have to understand is that back then everyone’s projects were elevating what everyone else in the crew was doing and pushing people to really deliver their best work. I mean, Diamond had dropped “I’m Not Playin'” with Ultimate Force in 1989 and then my album “Funky Technician” came out a year after that. So my first album had everyone in the crew like Diamond, Showbiz, AG and Fat Joe saying ‘Damn! This ni**a ‘Ness made it, I want to do this s**t.’ So there was always an inspirational aspect to what we were doing back then in terms of the impact the music we were each making had on the other members of the crew.”

And in that sort of group situation nobody wants to be viewed as being the weak link in the chain…

“Yeah, like I remember the first time I heard Showbiz & AG’s “Soul Clap” EP and how Show was chopping the samples on there. When I first heard “Catchin’ Wreck” I’d just come home off the Ice-T / Rhyme Syndicate tour and hearing how Show had chopped some of the same stuff that I’d already used but had done it so differently, I was just like, ‘Yoooo!’ I mean, I wasn’t even really doing production back then. But then when I heard Diamond’s first album as well, that was when I really thought that I needed to step it up. To me, “The Awakening” was a reflection of that, in terms of me really putting my own project together and chopping up all the samples, doing the skits, and really wanting to make something that could stand next to what the crew had already put out. I also remember listening to Big L rhyme as well, hearing him freestyle, and really feeling like I had to write some s**t to match what he was doing. There was never any jealousy or anything like that, it was just always competition. I remember hearing the demo of “Devil’s Son”, I was going somewhere and Show pulled up in the car and he was playing it and I just thought ‘Wow! What the f**k made this ni**a think of this s**t?!’ It was just crazy back then (laughs).”

Personally, Fat Joe’s first album “Represent” was always one of my favourite Diggin’ In The Crates projects…

“Man, Diamond did a number on that album with the production….”

True, but that beat you gave Joe for the opening track “Livin’ Fat” was incredible…

“Yo, I appreciate that. But that s**t Diamond did on there with Apache and Kool G. Rap was crazy! Man, those were definitely the days. I mean, if I could go back and change anything in my career, I wouldn’t (laughs). People ask you that question sometimes and you leave them hanging because really there isn’t anything I would change as far as my own career goes because going through the adversity I faced at times only brings experience. Anytime you’re facing an unknown factor or obstacle, whichever way it goes, you’re still going to come out of the situation with experience you can put to use.”

lord finesse grafitti pic

This year there’s been new projects from O.C., Showbiz & AG, you’ve been out touring, Diamond has announced he’s working on something new – do you think we’ll ever see the crew unite for another D.I.T.C. album?

“I would say yeah, but it has to be bigger than just throwing a record out there, man. To me it’s more personal than that. If we’re just going to do music and throw it out and that’s all it’s going to be, then I don’t wanna do that. It has to be about more than that. I’d want to tour with it and really show people what a D.I.T.C. show would be about in high-definition, with everyone doing their classics and the new material like the way you see Wu-Tang doing it. If it’s just about going in the studio to do an album and we’re not bringing a whole story or really outlining what we’re going to do beyond that, then I’d rather just do what I’m doing. I’ve got a story, there’s things I wanna follow, there’s things I wanna do. I came out of retirement for a reason. What I’ve been doing with this tour is only just scratching the surface of what I have planned. I’ve got some s**t I wanna do and I see the plan, so for me to be diverted from what I’m doing it would have to be for something big.”

If a new group project happened do you think Fat Joe would be a part of it or do you think he’s in a different place now musically considering the commercial success he’s had in recent years?

“Man, I don’t know what that dude’s doing. I just don’t know. I speak to Show all the time, I speak to AG, I speak to O.C., I even spoke to Buckwild recently, Diamond’s out there in Atlanta. I don’t speak to Joe as much. I don’t know what he’s thinking and that’s not meant in a disrespectful manner, I can only speak on the people that I’ve talked to. But if we were to do something I’d just want it to be something so tremendous, and if it ain’t gonna be tremendous then I don’t want to waste the time of the fans. Plus, getting seven chefs in the kitchen to cook one meal ain’t an easy thing to do because everyone’s used to running their own ship now. But me personally, I haven’t done anything since 95 / 96 so now I’ve seen something I really wanna do and I’m going for it. I’ve been dropping the rock on a lot of my situations and now is the time for me to really lock myself away. So after this tour cats might not see me for two or three months because I’ve got a lot of work to do.”

There’s been a lot of talk and rumours in recent years about new Lord Finesse music without any finished product seeing the light of day in terms of a full-album – why the delay?

“I only can do music that I really love. I’m not going to sit there and throw some s**t out just to throw some s**t out, that’s never been how I’ve operated. I’ve always had to be fully one thousand percent into what I’m into to really put that effort forward. I just wasn’t in that mode where I felt I could do that, so why cheat the fans by just throwing something together to make a couple of quick dollars.”

Was it partly down to the way you saw the rap game changing both in a business and creative sense compared to how things were during the golden-age you contributed so heavily to?

“It was partly down to the way the game was going, it was partly down to Big L getting killed, it was partly down to me losing my grandmother. I just didn’t love it the way I used to love it. So I had to really take a step back and reflect on what made me happy about making music and really just dig deep within myself and understand where I was going to go with it if I was going to step back in. Now, my hunger is there again, so the time is now. That’s why I said I don’t want to get diverted because you can have ideas and then be distracted and if those dreams you had never come to fruition a part of you will always feel empty and that will always f**k with you and have you thinking about what could have been. Right now, that’s where I’m at. I have something I want to do musically and I’m thinking about what’s gonna be. So right now I can’t worry about what anyone else thinks, I’ve got to do what’s gonna make me happy.”

lord finesse flexi pic

Back in the day there were a lot of technical limitations in terms of sampling etc that Hip-Hop artists had to overcome and yet you were able to create timeless music, whereas today, even with advances in technology, many people still struggle to make quality product – what are your thoughts on that?

“That’s why I look at the game now, with all the technology people have, and I’m thinking, is this really the best s**t y’all can come up with? Let me give you my analogy I use to compare our generation with the new generation. If you were taking a maths test back in the 80s and the 70s, the teacher would give you the test, some scrap paper and a pencil. You had to show the working out you did for each equation on the scrap paper to prove that you knew how to get the answer. If you just gave the answer but couldn’t show how you got there people might think you cheated on the test. The teacher wanted to see that you really understood and knew what you were doing when it came to answering the questions in the test. So with that being said, that’s what it was like for us coming up in the production game. People wanted to know that you’d really put the work in when it came to diggin’ for samples and that you really knew how to work the equipment and make it do what you wanted it to do to make those beats. Today, kids are allowed to take maths tests with calculators and they still can’t get every question right, so what is that telling you? It’s the same with music today, people have all this limitless technology but still can’t come up with something great that will stand the test of time. So, it lets you know that technology is great, but you still need the person using it to have imagination and creativity to get the best out of it.”

What would you say to people who might try to slap you with the ‘Mad Rapper’ tag given your opinions on the quality of some present-day Hip-Hop?

“See, what they try to do is curb your answers by calling you a mad rapper, so that when you don’t like something you can be called a hater and things like that. That’s bulls**t! It’s just my opinion. But that’s what they do hoping it’ll stop people from giving their honest opinion because if you say you don’t like something they’re gonna call you a hater, so then some people might not actually want to say they don’t like something. No! If you don’t like something then say it, because if enough people tell some of these artists that their s**t is trash then it’ll actually resonate that it is trash. You can’t tell me that today every record is a hit record, every artist out is hot, that nothing is wack. Back in the day if your s**t was trash then people told you it was trash and you had to come back and do better. But nowadays, when I listen to stuff, I don’t call it trash anymore because maybe that’s too harsh for some people to deal with, so I just say it’s not for me (laughs). I mean, I’m a grown man and I come from that funk and soul era and a lot of the music today just doesn’t touch me, man. I’m trying to touch people with my music, and not like one of those foul priests either, I’m trying to touch people the right way (laughs).”

Another highlight you mention during your show is touring Europe with Ice-T’s Rhyme Syndicate in 1990 / 1991 – how much of an impact did that experience have on you in terms of you seeing how far your music had reached at that early stage in your career?

“Travelling on a tour across Europe for a month-and-a-half with Ice-T at the age of twenty-one, that is definitely going to have an affect on you. It let me know that I had a fanbase that were supportive across the world and that I could continue to make the music that I loved knowing that I didn’t have to make radio records or club hits to still be able to travel and do things that other artists with commercial hits weren’t able to do. So that experience really opened my eyes to making sure, as an artist, you always utilise the tools and the blessings that you have, which is something I still try to make sure I do today.”

What did you think the first time you saw the UK’s Hijack on that Rhyme Syndicate tour?

“Damn (laughs). They had a performance, man. At that time, I wasn’t really used to the whole performance aspect. I was just a straight emcee who would come onstage, the beat would come on and I’d just kill it. Hijack were bringing fake dead bodies out, they had all types of other s**t going on, and I remember watching them thinking ‘What the f**k is that?’ But they had a show. What I’ve been doing on this tour is give people a show. You really have to make sure you give people their moneys worth and something to remember everytime you hit the stage.”

lord finess diggin pic

Putting you on the spot here, what would you say are your three favourite beats that you’ve produced either for yourself or other artists?

“I would say Dr. Dre’s “The Message” is one, Biggie’s “Suicidal Thoughts” is two, but the third one is hard, it could be “Check The Method” because of the musical aspect, it could be “Brainstorm”, or it could even go to Xperado “All Night”, which is the joint Joey Bada$$ just redid, because what I did with what I had on that track was just some other s**t.”

I think one of your best beats has to be Big L’s “Street Struck” – I remember being almost hypnotised the first time I heard that when “Lifestylez Ov Da Poor & Dangerous” dropped…

“That could be one of my favourite beats as well because we took notes from the sample, echoed those notes and then replayed them and added other elements to the track. So if people can dissect what I used on that I’ll give them a hundred dollars, for real. You’re only going to know what I used on there if somebody that was close to me tells you what I did with that record. Nobody else will be able to tell you that, nobody.”

With the constant threat today of lawsuits etc do you ever think about not using samples so much anymore or does it just make you use them in a more creative way? 

“Nah, I’m always going to do what I do. It’s just another challenge. People feel like they’re not going to sample anymore and talk about how they’re going to play everything on a track?! Man, unless you’re Teddy Riley, Ray Charles or Stevie Wonder then cut it out, man. You’ve gotta be someone like a Roy Ayers to really understand the technical skill involved in playing some s**t. Some of these ni**as sound like they’re retarded on those keyboards and what they’re doing really doesn’t have any soul or feeling to it. I’m always going to sample. I’m like Leonardo DiCaprio in that movie “Catch Me If You Can”, man. I really see it as a challenge. If y’all ni**as really think you can catch what I’m doing, okay, I’ma see y’all. Let’s see if you can really tell people what I used and what I did without researching the people around me.”

So what can people expect from Lord Finesse in 2013?

“Inspiration. Fans and artists who’re frustrated with the state of real Hip-Hop will be able to look at what I’m about to do as a new blueprint. That’s all I can say. I’m just about to have fun all over again. I’m still rhyming, it’s still straight beats, there’s still that funk and soul in the music, it’s the same thing people know me for, but this new album “The Underboss” will be like “The Awakening” times ten. No electronic commercial s**t, I’m not doing that. Just believe and have faith that when I come back on the scene you’re going to be able to get with it.”

Ryan Proctor

Footage of Lord Finesse and DJ Boogie Blind rocking the turntables in Manchester, England.

Live Review – Lord Finesse / DJ Boogie Blind

Venue: The Music Cafe, Leicester  Date: 18 November 2012

Only a handful of Hip-Hop artists are able to live up to the promise of their name like Bronx-bred legend Lord Finesse, otherwise known as the Funkyman. True Hip-Hop royalty who can rock the mic, sampler and turntables with natural ease, the founding D.I.T.C. member’s dusty-fingered, boom-bap musical aesthetic and witty, punchline-heavy flow helped define 90s East Coast Hip-Hop, with Finesse also having worked with superstar acts such as The Notorious B.I.G. and Dr. Dre as well as underground artists like Shorty Long and AK Skills.

With a career now spanning over twenty years, Finesse has been keeping fans happy in recent times with a slew of previously-unreleased golden-era gems via the Slice Of Spice label, whilst continuing to work on his heavily-anticipated new album.

Having not performed in the UK since 2005, news of a Lord Finesse / DJ Boogie Blind European tour sent waves of anticipation throughout the British underground Hip-Hop community. But no matter how high hopes may have been for gigs in locations including London, Leeds and Brighton, based on the hugely positive feedback appearing on social networking sites after each show, it’s probably safe to say there aren’t many fans who left their chosen venue having not had their expectations well and truly exceeded by a brilliant performance from Finesse and Boogie Blind.

After being thoroughly impressed by the pair’s quality London gig earlier this month, I definitely couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see the Rotten Apple representatives do it all over again on the “Here I Come” tour’s final date in Leicester.

Following a lively opening from Boogie Blind, the Funkyman strode onstage full of BX swagger, launching into a brief introductory verse that perfectly captured the essence of Finesse’s lyrical persona – slick, humorous, and, ultimately, always ready to put a sucker emcee in check.

Graciously acknowledging the fact that the venue was approximately only half-full, Finesse assured those who had made the effort to attend that, whether there was “two or two thousand people” in front of him, he would always aim to put the same amount of energy into any show.

Working his way through classics from his album releases “Funky Technician” (1990), “Return Of The Funky Man” (1992) and “The Awakening” (1995), Finesse proved just how timeless his back catalogue is, with none of the material sounding dated in the least as the L-O-R-D enthusiastically performed tracks such as “Bad Mutha” and “Party Over Here” as if he’d just released them yesterday, with his attention to detail during soundcheck paying dividends as his voice sounded identical to the original recordings.

The heavy bassline of the brilliant “You Know What I’m About” drew cheers from the crowd, as to did the rumbling drums of “Brainstorm” and the infectious opening sample of “Flip Da Style”.

Pausing to allow Boogie Blind to showcase his deejay skills, the X-ecutioner sliced Run DMC’s “Beats To The Rhyme” back-to-back with cuts as clean as Sunday church clothes. As the audience’s excitement levels grew with each flick of Blind’s wrist, the pair then took things to another level, as Finesse sauntered behind the turntables to watch Boogie do his thing, only for the Harlem deejay to suddenly step away from the decks, allowing the Funkyman to take his place and carry on cutting back-and-forth without missing a beat.

Continuing to each take their turn behind the ones and twos, resulting in a fluid, uninterrupted scratch attack, the skillful demonstration culminated with both Blind and Finesse attempting to out-do one another as they each pulled out their best tricks, scratching behind backs and working the crossfader with various body parts.

Establishing and maintaining a strong rapport with the crowd, Finesse interspersed his performance with opinions on the current state of the rap game (“I’m not with none of that electronic s**t”), stories of working with the likes of KRS-One, and, of course, recollections of the late, great Big L, with the animated artist telling the tale of how the pair first met before Boogie Blind dropped a handful of the NY emcee’s signature tracks such as “Put It On”.

The iconic producer-on-the-mic also took the opportunity to pay tribute to his Diggin’ In The Crates comrades, stating that only Wu-Tang could compare to the multi-faceted clique when it came to pure talent, before running through a selection of crew cuts including perhaps the definitive D.I.T.C. posse track, the Diamond D-produced “Day One”.

Bringing the night to a close accompanied by the sound of relentless applause, Finesse and Boogie Blind left the stage having given a near-perfect lesson in live Hip-Hop, completing a tour that will no doubt be remembered for years to come by those who were fortunate enough to witness the true-school duo in action.

Praise the Lord!

Ryan Proctor

Footage of Lord Finesse performing “Funky Technician” at Leicester’s Music Cafe.

Keep It Funky – Lord Finesse / DJ Boogie Blind

Footage of the Funkyman himself Lord Finesse and DJ Boogie Blind opening their show at London’s Cargo this week.

Da Diggin’ Ek-Suh-Bish-Uhn Mixtape Snippet – Breakbeat Lou

Veteran deejay and co-founder of the legendary “Ultimate Breaks & Beats” compilation albums Breakbeat Lou drops his new mix-CD “Da Diggin’ Ek-Suh-Bish-Uhn” this week – peep a snippet here.

Live Review – Pharoahe Monch

Venue: The Jazz Cafe, London  Date: 30 October 2011

Stood at the front of London’s Jazz Cafe stage, one arm raised, a defiant look on his face, legendary NY emcee Pharoahe Monch made it very clear what the venue’s packed crowd could expect minutes into his one-off show.”I came here tonight to represent for lyricism in Hip-Hop,” the former Organized Konfusion member stated. “This is for the heads. If you’re a new Pharoahe Monch fan tonight might not be for you.”

It’s almost unbelievable to think that it’s been 20 years since a youthful Monch debuted alongside friend and rhyme partner Prince Po, launching their brand of cerebral wordplay out of the New York borough of Queens and into the rap history books.On this particular night, it was clear Monch wanted to ensure the audience knew that the passion and love for Hip-Hop that fuelled his art two decades ago was still the inspiration behind his music today.

Accompanied by X-ecutioner DJ Boogie Blind, Pharoahe immediately launched into tracks from his current album “W.A.R”, including the expert verbal explosion that is “Evolve”. Reaching back to his 2007 album “Desire”, Monch announced he was going to perform the three-part tale of betrayal “Trilogy” in its entirety for the first time, bringing the track’s dark lyrics to life via one-man theatre (complete with a plastic gun, flowers and police tape as stage props).

Vocalists Mela Machinko and Showtyme were missing-in-action this time around, but rather than take anything away from the overall performance it allowed Pharoahe to totally dominate the stage, perhaps even giving the veteran wordsmith the opportunity to perform tracks better suited to the one emcee / one deejay show format.

The playfully arrogant “F**k You” had the crowd shouting the hook alongside a gleeful Monch, whilst the anti-police brutality anthem “Clap (One Day)” was brought to a rousing finale as the asthmatic lyricist recited the track’s final verse accompanied only by the sound of the audience clapping rapidly in unison.A short but effective display of turntable brilliance from Boogie Blind was met with loud appreciation, as the gifted deejay proved that practice really does make perfect by destroying LL Cool J’s “Rock The Bells” with a respectful nod to the late Grandmaster Roc Raida.

With Pharoahe promising to take the crowd back in time, it was slightly surprising, and mildly disappointing, that he only went as far back as material from his 1999 debut solo set “Internal Affairs”, choosing not to dig into the classics contained on Organized Konfusion’s three albums.

Yet by the time the “Godzilla” sample from the night’s obvious closer “Simon Says” sent the Hip-Hop faithful into an instant frenzy, it was obvious that nobody was going to be asking for their money back.

Ryan Proctor

Live Review – Pharoahe Monch / Jean Grae

Venue: The Jazz Café  Date: 27 September 2010

When it comes to underground Hip-Hop, New York’s Jean Grae and Pharoahe Monch are pretty much considered to be rap royalty. Both are incredibly gifted emcees. Both have remained true to their individual artistic visions, despite having come-up during the 90s when Hip-Hop really began chasing commercial success and champagne dreams. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, both still remain relevant artists in 2010, serving as inspiration for other acts as proof that there is still a demand for lyrical substance in today’s rap game. So all that considered, it really wasn’t a surprise to see London’s Jazz Café packed to bursting point on a rainy Monday night with die-hard fans waiting to see two of their microphone superheroes take to the stage.

Accompanied on the turntables by Mr. Len of Company Flow fame, Jean Grae’s performance was part one-woman theatre, part Rotten Apple street-corner rhyme cipher. Like a cross between 70s soul icon Millie Jackson and 80s rap legend Roxanne Shante, Grae commanded the stage with ease, veering from moments of comedy and vulnerability (pretending to be a wind-up doll complete with squeaky voice, philosophising on life and love) to pure sass and bravado (cursing out a heckler with a foul-mouthed yet humorous outburst).

With Grae’s well-received set finished, the crowd roared with approval as X-ecutioners member DJ Boogie Blind manned the turntables, referencing Pharoahe Monch’s forthcoming album by asking “Are you ready for war?!”

Joined by vocalists Mela Machinko and Showtyme (who remained in a saluting stance during Monch’s opening track), Pharoahe eased his way down the Jazz Café staircase, basking momentarily in the cheers from his fans before launching into an hour-plus ride through his book of rhymes, both old and new.

Interspersing more recent material with back-catalogue classics from his Organized Konfusion days, it was interesting to hear Pharoahe’s growth as an artist throughout his career being played out live onstage. From the playful b-boy antics of 1991’s jazzy “Fudge Pudge”, to the boy-becoming-a-man angst of 94’s “Stress”, onto more politicised material such as “Free” and the forthcoming police brutality protest “Clap”, the audience was shown the many facets of Monch from over the years.

Whilst Pharoahe obviously still has a great fondness for his older material, it was clear from the intensity of his performance during newer tracks that his real passion now lies with the music he is making today, which truly showcases where his mind is at as a grown man who still has a love for the art of rhyming (at one point during his performance of an Organized Konfusion cut he even lost his flow and laughed openly, as if acknowledging the fact he was reciting lyrics written by a much younger version of himself with different priorities and concerns).

After a brief display of turntable trickery from Boogie Blind and an outfit change, Pharoahe launched into the drum-heavy banger “Shine” which was followed by a high-octane rendition of “Desire”, with Showtyme and Mela taking the crowd to church with their powerful, gospel-tinged vocals.

Hinting the show was coming to an end, Monch nodded to Boogie Blind, who, knowing what was about to happen, gleefully told the audience “We’re about to get out of here, sooooooo…..”, and seconds later the opening Godzilla-sample from Pharoahe’s signature classic “Simon Says” sent the crowd into a frenzy, with virtually everybody in the building rapping the track word-for-word as the king from Queens shouted for everyone to “Get the f**k up!”

Mission accomplished.

Ryan Proctor

James DL / No Sleep Recordings Interview (Originally Printed In Shook 03 / Red Cover / Summer 2008)

Hip-hop fans love to reminisce about the good old days. Ask any longstanding rap fanatic his or her thoughts on the music’s much-celebrated late-80s-to-mid-90s golden-era and you’ll probably have to threaten to snap their rare test-pressing of Big Daddy Kane’s ‘Raw’ in-half in order to shut them up. They’ll tell you what a profound impact Public Enemy’s classic 1988 album It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back had on their socio-political worldview. They’ll be able to recall exactly where they were the first time they heard Biggie’s seminal 1994 debut Ready To Die. They might even laugh about the day they almost ended-up in a record store fistfight over the last copy of Street Smartz’ 1996 subterranean smash ‘Problems’. Yep, hip-hop fans love to reminisce about the good old days.

James DL is one of those hip-hop fans. Spend anytime talking with the 33-year-old from Long Island, New York and it soon becomes clear that rap music has been much more than just the soundtrack to his life; it’s been both a passion and an obsession. Introduced to hip-hop culture at a young age, James became a key-player in the NYC underground scene of the 90s via his successful college radio show, helping introduce the likes of J-Live and Talib Kweli to listeners via numerous late-night studio freestyle sessions. He also worked for the now defunct independent label Hydra (temporary home to Godfather Don, Screwball etc).

Last year, DL threw himself back into the indie game by establishing his No Sleep imprint. Disillusioned with the greed-obsessed industry circus that hip-hop has become in recent times, James sought to help similarly unimpressed fans rediscover the creativity of rap’s glory days by releasing vintage (and often previously unheard) material from back-in-the-day favourites such as Lord Finesse, Kwest Tha Madd Lad and the aforementioned Godfather Don, plus new mix-CD projects like DJ Boogie Blind’s Definitive D.I.T.C..

With many more releases in the pipeline, James DL sat down with Shook to explain exactly why he wants to take us all back to the future.

What initially made you decide to set-up No Sleep?

It’s funny because there wasn’t really any impetus to make me start the label, it was more something that I gradually just got into. For the last few years I’ve been working with Lord Finesse and one of the things him and me got into was doing simple CDs to sell as merchandise at his shows, one of which was the Rare & Unreleased project. I thought that was too much of a good CD just to sell at shows as there was a lot of material on there that his fans would want who perhaps couldn’t make it to a Lord Finesse performance. So we added a few things to it, put it out with proper distribution and it did pretty well, particularly overseas in places like Japan. At that point, Buckwild had reached out to me and we did a similar project containing a lot of his remix and production work from the 90s for artists like Organized Konfusion, Artifacts and Brand Nubian. I was also involved in putting out the unreleased Ill Biskits album Chronicles Of Two Losers. I’d say that was probably when I decided to start No Sleep because I was putting out these CDs on separate labels, but at the same time, all of the CDs were really coming from the same source, which was me. I was using the same guy for all of the cover art, the same mastering guy, the same distribution, so I decided to set-up my own label to enable me to keep putting out similar projects but also be able to cross-promote them better. I wanted to establish a brand name so that when fans and collectors see something from No Sleep they know it represents a certain sound and level of quality from hip-hop’s golden era.

How much of a market is there for the type of releases you’re putting out?

It’s a small, small niche market. Obviously there’s been a small market for vinyl for awhile now, but it’s not really that much better for CDs. For example, I know there were thousands of people who got into Godfather Don’s Nineties Sessions CD, but that didn’t translate into sales. Of course, downloading is hurting everyone nowadays, and if you’re only putting out music to appeal to a relatively small audience anyway then it becomes even harder to get everyone in that audience to support what you’re doing. I think there are still a lot of people who would go out and buy CDs, but I think they’re disenfranchised with the music. Hip-hop has become so bad that older fans have stopped going to the record store to look for it. I think that if they knew there was a new album out from an artist they liked back in the day they might be inclined to purchase it. It’s just about getting the word out there. Those fans are out of the loop but they’re still listening to their old Brand Nubian or A Tribe Called Quest albums. That’s one of the reasons why I felt it was so important to establish a brand name with No Sleep, because the chances are if you like one of our releases you’ll like the others, so it gives people something to look for.

What is it about hip-hop’s golden-era that makes it such a special period to you?

People might accuse me of being stuck in the past, and I guess I am to a certain degree, but when albums like Showbiz & AG’s Runaway Slave and Diamond’s Stunts, Blunts & Hip-Hop were coming out, you just couldn’t get enough of the music. There was a feeling you used to get when you heard a record like Tribe’s Midnight Marauders for the first time. I think we need to preserve that feeling as much as possible because that’s not coming back. I don’t think young kids today fully understand just how exciting hip-hop used to be. It’s kinda easy to be a hip-hop head now because it’s all about just going on the internet message boards every couple of days to check in on things. But back in the day you had to really dig and you wanted to know and have everything. That’s what No Sleep is about, finding the stuff that maybe you heard on the radio but never picked up, or those tracks that weren’t on a particular album, and putting them out there in a physical form for the people who actually still want to own a copy of everything they like.

Would you ever consider releasing a new artist through No Sleep or do you want to keep your releases strictly old-school?

I probably want to keep the label as just being more of a vintage sound. But I actually am working on a project right now with Buckwild that will be all vintage beats but with vocals from a newer artist who people know. I can’t really say too much about it at the moment, but when it comes out I think it’ll have a pretty big impact.

What’s next for the label?

Well, the next thing is me and Godfather Don are putting out the Kool Keith / Cenobites album again with some additional songs that were recorded during the same mid-90s period but never released. Also, I’m putting out a double-CD with Nick Wiz, who I feel is one of the more slept-on producers from the 90s. It’s all stuff that he did between 1992 and 1997 with artists like Channel Live, Cella Dwellas and Rakim. I’m also doing an unreleased album with Shorty Long who people will remember from his work with Lord Finesse.

You’ve already worked with some of hip-hop’s greats like Lord Finesse, Buckwild etc, but is there a dream project you’d like to put together?

I would love to do a CD with DJ Mark The 45 King and be able to go through his archives because he must have so much stuff that I’d want. I’ve actually spoken to him before and he told me ‘Yeah, I did about thirty songs with Marky Fresh’ which, just as a fan of hip-hop, I’d love to hear. I’m not sure how much of that stuff he’d still have though, but that would be a project I’d love to be able to put together.

Bonus Q&A With No Sleep Affiliates Lord Finesse, Nick Wiz, DJ Boogie Blind & Kwest Tha Madd Lad.

What do you think the biggest difference is between today’s rap game and the golden era?

Lord Finesse: The difference I see between today’s rap game and the golden era is that there were so many classic artists and albums created back then compared to now. There was an extreme focus on the quality of the production and the lyrical content. Today’s rap game is more image driven.

Kwest: I think it’s become more focused on financial gain than really trying to up the ante skills-wise. Dudes step in the booth and say anything just to get a cheque. It’s all about who has the best car and the most money etc. Most MCs today don’t really show skill, if they even have any to begin with.

DJ Boogie Blind: In the golden era, everybody was being creative. Nowadays people concentrate on your hustle more than your actual talent.

How important do you think it is for a label like No Sleep to be out there giving exposure to music from the past?

Lord Finesse: A label like No Sleep educates new fans and it gives archive collectors a chance to purchase history.

Nick Wiz: It’s definitely a great look because there’s people out there that still want to hear that classic sound and No Sleep provides that.

Kwest: The younger generation forgets where hip-hop came from and only know the current artists. No Sleep resurrects the past music and lets them see how we did it. It also lets the mature hip-hop fan reminisce on what it was like when they were still growing and loving the music.

So far No Sleep has concentrated on the 90s hip-hop era – can you name a favourite album from that period?

Lord Finesse: I can’t really cut the list down to just one favourite album and would be lucky if I could even cut the list to a top twenty.

Nick Wiz: The Cella Dwellas’ Realms ’N Reality. When we were recording that album, we weren’t thinking about anything other than making great music.

DJ Boogie Blind: Ice Cube’s Amerikkka’s Most Wanted just because I wanted to see Cube do it up without N.W.A. and he definitely made a classic.

Do you have a particular favourite recording and / or performance memory from that same period?

Lord Finesse: My greatest memories are associated with the recording sessions I did with Big L and The Notorious B.I.G. I will forever remember working with two of the immortals of hip-hop.

Kwest: I remember being in Firehouse Studios in NYC recording and the engineer came in and said someone wanted to see me outside. When I went out, The RZA was there with a few other Wu-Tang members. He said he liked my song ‘Lubrication’ and gave me props. They had just dropped Enter The Wu-Tang and for him to say that about me was an honour.

DJ Boogie Blind: Seeing the X-ecutioners battle the Skratch Piklz in 1996. Classic turntablism.

Ryan Proctor