Tag Archives: Sputnik Brown

EP Review – Soundsci



“The Ultimate EP”


With their “Formula 99” project having been one of last year’s dopest albums, you’d be forgiven for expecting the Soundsci collective to have taken a little time off to recharge their creative batteries. After all, it’s difficult enough sometimes for a group living in the same city to co-ordinate their schedules to record new music, so it definitely can’t be easy to put together fresh material when your crew is divided by an ocean and various US state lines.

Yet rather than rest on their true-school laurels, UK-based producers Jonny Cuba and Ollie Teeba have got straight back into their virtual lab with Atlanta-based emcees Audessey and U-George, plus NY’s Oxygen, to deliver a tight eight-track package of new joints and remixes.

Kicking off with the body-rockin’ soul clap vibes of the EP’s title track, the group’s three wordsmiths conjour up the atmosphere of an old-school block party as they swiftly pass the mic between each other, dropping some good ol-fashioned lyrical bravado along the way with references to Shabba Doo, Kase 2, boomboxes, Spike Lee and Professor Griff.

DJ Spinna and the UK’s DJ Format are both on-hand to remix a track each from the previously-mentioned “Formula 99”. The Jigmasta’s take on “Ill Dialect” replaces the choppy, piano-laced boom-bap feel of the original with a soulful, intergalactic soundscape, whilst Brighton’s Format delivers some trademark drum-heavy breakbeat madness on his interpretation of the uptempo “Rhyme 4 Rhyme”.

“The Vow” is a heartfelt pledge from the crew to always remain true to their underground roots, claiming that they’re “never ’bout the pop or the fizz” over crisp kicks and a haunting vocal sample, whilst the previously released “Lyrical Beatdown” is a granite-tough slice of hardcore b-boy music that will have you pulling your hoodie up and lacing your Timberlands as the nasty guitar sample twists your grill into a satisfied grimace.

Another accomplished project from the Soundsci camp, “The Ultimate EP” is more of that timeless Hip-Hop that will still sound as good in decades to come as it does in the present day.

Ryan Proctor

Soundsci – “The Ultimate” (WorldExpoRecords.Com / 2013)

New Joint – Oxygen

Oxygen – “Gone Diggin'” (@OxTheArchitect / 2013)

The Strong Island emcee delivers some dope new visuals for his Gensu Dean-produced vinyl anthem – the video was filmed at NY’s Big City Records on the day of the store’s closure last year and features cameos from various dusty-fingered crate invaders such as DJ Spinna and BreakBeat Lou.

Needle To The Groove – Oxygen

Footage of Strong Island’s Oxygen (Sputnik Brown / Soundsci) performing a dope needle-drop routine at NYC’s Academy to promote his Slice Of Spice vinyl release “Gone Diggin’ (Diggin’ By Law)”.

New Joint – Oxygen / Gensu Dean

Oxygen ft. Gensu Dean – “Gone Diggin’ – Diggin’ By Law Remix” (Slice-Of-Spice.Com / 2012)

Snippet of the dope Gensu Dean remix of Strong Island emcee Oxygen’s underground 2010 classic taken from the Slice-Of-Spice label’s forthcoming “Diggin’ By Law” vinyl project.

Album Review – Soundsci


“Formula 99”


Having received critical acclaim for their 2009 EP “Dig For Victory”, the undeniably gifted Soundsci crew return to burn once again with both a new album and some official changes to the group line-up. Joining the original team roster of producers Jonny Cuba (Dynamic Syncopation), Ollie Teeba (The Herbaliser) and Atlanta emcee Audessey (Mass Influence), Georgia-based wordsmith U-George (Hemisphere) and NY’s Oxygen (Sputnik Brown) also bring their lyrical skills to the table this time around, natural additions to what was already a talented underground collective.

Picking up where the previous EP left-off, “Formula 99” is full of quality production and impressive wordplay. With the group building on the true-school foundations of their golden-era influences, yet seeking to innovate and not just emulate what has come before them, simply labelling “Formula 99” as being a throwback release would not be doing justice to the creativity that has gone into this project.

Keeping the thirteen-tracks included here relatively short and to-the-point, the potency of “Formula 99” isn’t diluted by throwaway interludes or meandering self-indulgence. Soundsci cover a lot of ground, both musically and in terms of subject matter, resulting in an album that manages to achieve the difficult balance of being succinct without appearing to be rushed or incomplete.

“Hey Hey” offers political insight over bursts of funky sax and classic James Brown wails as guest John Robinson joins the proceedings to highlight the “stealth movements” of those in the corridors of power, whilst “CandyLand” wraps up the potentially gritty topics of drug addiction and street crime into a deceptively playful and light-hearted sonic package, with Audessey utilising popular nursery rhymes and fairytale characters to tell stories of urban woe.

Having proven their abilities to dabble in social commentary, Soundsci soon launch themselves back into the business of showing and proving their superiority over the competition with braggadocious rhymes over boom-bap beats. “Ill Dialect” finds “the Strong Island deriver” Oxygen dropping a particularly impressive verse, bobbing and weaving with b-boy bravado over the track’s purposeful production, punctuated by sharp piano stabs and a superbly scratched Fat Joe vocal hook. The self-explanatory “Rhyme 4 Rhyme” featuring Canada’s Ghettosocks and former Raw Produce member Cadence also stands as one of the album’s highlights, sounding like an undiscovered gem found in a dusty pile of random late-80s rap singles with its timeless Rakim sample, rattling drums and larger-than-life boasts.

The soulful Jaisu-produced “Change” offers listeners a moment of reflection as the crew address the “cycle of life” over lush strings and a warm bassline, injecting the soothing track with life-affirming rhymes and inspiring sentiments (“I got a purpose now, This I vow, I spit to move the crowds, Like I’m pulling a plough…”).

The bongo-driven “End Game” is a relentless slice of fist-pumping Hip-Hop, with the track’s frantic breakbeats, deft cuts and dramatic breakdowns likely to leave listeners caught between wanting to pay close attention to the group’s fast-paced verses and the urge to pull out a sheet of lino to attempt a windmill.

A brilliantly executed display of Hip-Hop mastery from a passionate group of individuals who clearly love both the music and its culture, “Formula 99” is another certified Soundsci sureshot that is guaranteed to satisfy the sonic appetites of true heads everywhere.

Fresh for 2012, you suckers!

Ryan Proctor

Ollie Teeba’s “Formula 99” Album Megamix

Formula 99 Album Sampler – Soundsci

Preview of the dope new Soundsci project featuring production from Ollie Teeba and Jonny Cuba with lyrical gymnastics from Audessey and Sputnik Brown’s Oxygen plus appearances from John Robinson, Ghettosocks and Cadence – peep the flavour here.

New Joint – Paul Nice / Oxygen

Paul Nice & Oxygen – “Feel Good Music (This Is It)” (@OxTheArchitect / 2012)

An early preview of the upcoming collabo project from producer Paul Nice and Strong Island emcee Oxygen of Sputnik Brown.

That Brown Underground EP Sampler – Sputnik Brown

The Diggers With Gratitude crew continue their series of action-packed 2012 projects with this limited-edition collection of unreleased tracks from NYC’s Sputnik Brown crew featuring input from John Robinson, DJ Jazzy Jeff and Wyld Bunch – peep the sampler here.

Album Review – Gensu Dean

Gensu Dean

“Lo-Fi Fingahz”

(Mello Music Group)

To many boom-bap die-hards the SP 1200 is the definitive weapon of choice for any musical maestro worth their weight in dusty vinyl. The 1987 E-mu manufactured sampler is to Hip-Hop what the lightsaber is to the Jedi Order. In much the same way that Yoda wouldn’t consider someone a Jedi Knight until they’d completely mastered the space-age sword, there are many out there who won’t consider bestowing the title of Hip-Hop producer upon anyone who hasn’t paid their dues on the same piece of equipment that birthed so many classics in the hands of legends like Paul C., Pete Rock and Lord Finesse.

Noted for its notoriously limited sampling time, the SP pushed golden-age producers to the limits of their creativity, leading to some inspired breakthroughs in studios everywhere as the likes of Marley Marl and Showbiz squeezed everything they could from the machine in order to bring to life the soundscapes that blasted loudly in their mind’s eye. Fast-forward to the present day and with all of the new technology available to make the creative process easier and faster, it would take a dedicated boom-bap disciple to disregard such convenience and still insist on crafting their beats via the SP 1200.

Enter Texas-based producer Gensu Dean. Refusing to abandon the trademark gritty, warm sound of the SP for the slicker feel of more recent advancements, Dean’s Mello Music Group debut manages to carry on golden-era tradition without sounding dated or redundant. “Lo-Fi Finghaz” isn’t the work of a producer simply refusing to let go of the past regardless of the quality of the finished product, rather it’s the sound of a musician choosing to work with the equipment he knows will enable him to create the best music he possibly can.

Having remained under the radar for much of his career (Dean’s first production credit was on Southern duo Crooked Lettaz’ 1999 album “Dark Skies”), this debut album has been a long time coming and it’s obvious from listening to the project that the talented beat-digger wanted to ensure he dropped a release that would stand the test of time. The level of production heard on “Lo-Fi Fingahz” remains high throughout, with every cut here deserving of its place on the final tracklisting.

Featuring a varied selection of emcees, all of the collaborations included on “Lo-Fi Fingahz” sound completely natural, with Gensu’s masterful boardwork ensuring the album remains cohesive rather than simply sounding like a compilation.

The full-bodied “In My Head” finds Brand Nubian’s Sadat X and Lord Jamar blessing knocking drums laced with quirky keyboard flourishes, as the Wild Cowboy drops god-body science and J-A-mother-effin’-M-A-R highlights the benefits of releasing music in today’s digital-age (“Nothing to press up, Nothing to ship out”). NY-born, Atlanta-based emcee HeadKrack makes a notable appearance with his solo track “It’s Just Him”, attacking Dean’s dramatic blend of thumping beats and blaxploitation-style guitar licks with aggressive intelligence (“My music ain’t for the dancers, It’s for the people who question the answers”).

Strong Island’s Sputnik Brown are on-hand to rock the same 1973 Betty Lavette break used on Stezo’s 1989 classic “To The Max”, whilst the chopped guitar, haunting female vocal sample and thick drums of “Forever” provide the perfect neck-snapping backdrop for a typically timeless Large Professor performance.

The upbeat “Extra Extra” is a joyous slice of feel-good boom-bap featuring the positive lyrical vibes of UK duo The Planets, whilst one-half of the British pair, Nomadic, also appears on the stripped-down transatlantic collabo “12 Jewelz” with Roc Marciano, proving that from the pavements of London to the sidewalks of New York it’s still politics as usual.

A great body of work, “Lo-Fi Fingahz” proves undoubtedly that Gensu Dean’s faith in his trusty SP 1200 definitely wasn’t misplaced. One man, one machine, one quality album.

Ryan Proctor

Gensu Dean ft. Large Professor – “Forever” (Mello Music Group / 2012)

Ten L.I. Hip-Hop Joints That Rocked My Knot!!! – SPOX PhD’s Oxygen Breaks Down A Selection Of Long Island Rap Classics

Oxygen (a.k.a Ox The Architect) is a very busy man nowadays. Having just released the dope and extremely collectable seven-inch single “Brilliance” on Correct Technique Records as one-half of SPOX PhD alongside DJ Spinna, the Long Island Hip-Hop vet is also currently in the lab working with the likes of Phill Most Chill, Large Professor, Wyld Bunch, Daily Diggers and the UK’s own Danny Spice.

Yet for those who may be unfamiliar with the East Coast native’s material as a member of both Sputnik Brown and Soundsci (get your Google on!), Oxygen’s current underground notoriety is definitely no overnight phenomenon. With a Hip-Hop heritage that goes back to the 80s rocking L.I. parties with his crew Hype Sound Productions and penning rhymes for local group The In’fo M.C.’s, Oxygen may have worked and recorded under a variety of names over the years, but his love and passion for music has remained consistent.

Taking time out from working on the forthcoming SPOX PhD album “Sound Pieces Of Xperience”, Oxygen dug in the crates for Old To The New to reminisce on a selection of Strong Island classics that fill this talented emcee and dedicated beat-digger with hometown pride.

Cold wild Long Island is where he rests.

MC EZ & Troup – “Get Retarded” (Fresh Records / 1988)

“I never even knew this was a Long Island product until about five years after it dropped. Mr Magic and Marley Marl were the first I remember to break this record on the air in ’88. The moment you heard the hi-hats in the intro and then the ‘zoom-zoom-zoom-zoom-za-z00m-za-zoom’s’ came in you automatically went into maniac mode!!! Some years later after this 12” dropped I discovered while talking about music with a co-worker of mine at a job I had with Time Warner distribution centre that he was actually Troup (a.k.a. Teddy Lee). I wound up becoming great friends with him and still am. “Get Retarded” is definitely a classic tune that will forever be a staple in L.I. Hip-Hop history.”

Biz Markie – “Make The Music With Your Mouth, Biz” (Prism / 1986)

“My earliest memory of Biz was back in ’85 when he rocked a jam at Wyandanch High School alongside Groove B. Chill and the “Kid Wizard” Rakim Allah. It was at that show he introduced a live version of this song before the single even dropped. Instead of TJ Swan on the chorus and the beat that made it to the final version, this performance featured a much more raw beat that sounded to me like Synsonic drums. The chorus was actually this vocoder voice finessed similar to the way the Fearless Four used it on “F-4000″. Classic! It’s hard to believe that was over twenty-five years ago now that I reflect back on it.”

Supreme Force – “Handling Things” (NIA Records / 1986)

“Flashback to the North Babylon High School talent show in 1985. There was always a crazy buzz on the Island about these area kids who were setting mics on fire with the ferociousness of Cold Crush, Treacherous Three or Fantastic 5. To make it even sweeter, they were right from my hometown and I had the pleasure of attending High School with these cats. When they ripped the stage at that talent show, it was like watching a classic soul group from the ’60s. They came on decked out in these fresh suits and they even handed out flowers to the ladies in the front row. Very classy. One love to these brothers, especially my dude Supreme E-Z-E for purchasing some of my graf pieces so I could have lunch money back then. Thanks E!”

The UN – “Mind Blowin'” (456 Entertainment / 2004)

“It was my man Musa who first put me up on The UN. At the time, we were in the lab working on some early Sputnik Brown material. When the session was over, he burned me a copy of “UN Or U Out” onto a CD and was like, ‘Yo! Peep this on your way home!’ I did… and I lost my freakin’ mind! The entire album, in my opinion, is flawless. But what I will always remember is how brolic this track came in with them drums and the feeling that came over me. The whole crew blessed that track lovely. It wasn’t until several days later that I even got to listen to the rest of the album because I got stuck with that particular track on repeat most of the way home that night.”

Kings Of Pressure – “You Know How To Reach Us” (Let’s Go Records / 1987)

“This is one of those prominent Long Island college radio classics from the 80s which I believe is on every cassette I recorded back then. On 88.7 WRHU (Hofstra University) Jeff “Air” Foss had a show that featured a dynamic deejay named Johnny Juice holding down the tables for him. Juice, in addition to being part of Public Enemy’s Bomb Squad among other things, was a member of this group Kings Of Pressure. Late nights he would completely destroy the wheels at WRHU and this was one of the many tunes he broke on air for us. I always thought this was so cleverly produced with the beeper noise beeping under the track along with the beat. Illmatic!”

EPMD – “You’re A Customer” (Fresh Records / 1987)

“Enter another reference to DJ Johnny Juice here and I will keep this short and sweet; Juice used to murder this record on the air! To the point where I would actually feel bad for the records. My soul would be in mourning days after the radio show was over. Word up! It was that severe. The snares chopped through the speakers like machetes on this record. If you weren’t around at the time when EPMD first dropped this song on us then you completely missed out.”

De La Soul – “Stakes Is High” (Tommy Boy / 1996)

“These kids from Amityville were already a household name by the time this track was released. This was the one, to me, that represented the greatest show of maturity in De La’s sound and lyrical content. I was living down in Charlotte, NC when this one came out and my man Cut Wizard Albee would bless me with a regular batch of taped radio shows on cassettes to keep me up to speed. When my ears connected with this tune it was clear to me that these L.I. prodigies had officially arrived. De La have mastered the art of re-invention. Dilla cold crushed the production on this one too! One of my favourites from him.”

Crimedanch Cartel ft. LL Cool J – “Money Is The Key” (White Label / 1996)

“Boy, oh, boy! This joint right here is serious business. Although I just recently learnt that this was pressed on wax at some point, I actually heard this during one of my visits to NY from NC up in the now defunct Paradise Records that was on the side of Jimmy’s Supermarket in the ‘hood. I want to say it was Isreal from the group who popped in with the demo cassette. Deep down, it always bothered me that Crimedanch Cartel never got a chance to release a proper album and tour the planet for everyone to absorb their sound during that time period. With a feature and backing from Rakim already under their belt, capped off with this track featuring one of the most consistent emcees of our time LL Cool J, they were certified ‘next’ in my opinion. “Money Is The Key” would have been their ticket to ride.”

Eric B. & Rakim – “No Competition” (UNI Records / 1988)

“If I had to pick my favourite Rakim joint, I would have to say this is definitely it. First of all, do you hear the bombs he’s dropping on this record?! From start to finish, this is just lyrically flawless. Secondly, the Manzel “Space Funk” record they flipped, particularly this version on Downstairs Records with the intro in reverse, is one of my all-time favourite breaks. I remember the hot summer nights of the late-80s when Rakim used to whip through the neighbourhood in his burgundy Jeep Cherokee with the tyre-cover on the back that simply suggested you “Follow The Leader”. Damn, that was a special moment in time that gave us a glimmer of hope in the midst of the crack era and the series of unnecessary homicides that plagued our segregated community on the Island. Time marches on.”

Public Enemy – “Timebomb” (Def Jam / 1987)

“To cap off my list, I had to pay respect to the most powerful Hip-Hop group of our time! The classic P.E. album “Yo! Bum Rush The Show” was the one that sent shock waves through the entire body. I think it was Dr. Dre’s Operating Room on 90.3 WBAU where I first heard “Timebomb”. In fact, they played the entire album from start to finish over the air before it was released to the public. I was still in high school and had a Cutlass with a Blaupunkt radio, Concord amp, some Pyle Driver 6 x 9s in the window, the 15″ speaker box in the trunk, and this song used to knock dumb heavy. At least it did until someone bagged up my system. Easy come, easy go. My nephews had me sorted out with a replacement by the time the sun rose in the east. Then it was back to business as usual. No place on Earth could ever come close to New York in the 80s and the unique energy that Public Enemy brought to the table will never be emulated. Period!”

Ryan Proctor

Still Diggin’ – Oxygen (Sputnik Brown)

Oxygen of Long Island’s Sputnik Brown interviewed in London by Nomadic Poet of The Planets.

Blast Off – Sputnik Brown

Upcoming crew Sputnik Brown perform their cut “The Brownout” at NYC’s Knitting Factory at the tail-end of 2007.