Let’s Be Frank-N-Dank


So any given hip hop DJ will laud the utility of some good ol’ instrumentals on vinyl. It allows them to showcase their skills on the wheels of steel without being drowned out by an overzealous emcee. When it comes to instrumentals, J Dilla be the holy grail. So it comes as no surprise that the previously unreleased instrumentals off Frank-N-Dank’s “48 Hours” LP was met with much consumer joy. You can pick up the product in the Stones Throw online store. My concern is the verbiage accompanying the product in the store, here’s some of what I’m talking about:

J Dilla spearheaded a project for two of the most unlikely major label emcees: Frank N Dank. In retrospect it’s not hard to understand why the label shelved and eventually dropped the project.

I get it, I get it. Frank N Dank weren’t The Roots, and they weren’t Mobb Deep. But I was bumping their bootlegs and so were countless others (and this was in Toronto, Canada). Frank N Dank composed of Frank Nitty & Dankery Harv were grimey spitters married to their style and their way of doing things. This ostracized some but made a plethora of hip hop fans ecstatic anytime a random FND track got some airplay. Their involvement in the Detroit hip hop movement inspired a slew of rappers to follow, and gave a vital co-sign to some Canadian artists who now drive luxury cars (ahem, Kardinall & Saukrates).

So please do celebrate this release, Dilla was a genius, and this was one of his finest works. But let’s not use this as an opportunity to subtly blame a couple of uncelebrated dope emcees for causing the delay.

Time To Put On Your House Shoes [Video]

It is somewhat hard to define who House Shoes really is. If there were such a thing as cult characters in hip hop, he’d definitely be on the list. Yes, you could call him a DJ, and yes he certainly has ample production credits under his belt, however his passion for his hometown Detroit coupled with his dedication to hip hop, make him more an ambassador than anything else. A righteous and informed ambassador he is, having worked with the likes of  J Dilla and Big Proof, to Black Milk, Danny Brown, Invincible, Finale, Big Tone,Bugz, Marv Won, The Fat Killahz, and Now On. He has also DJ’d for such names as Guilty Simpson, Illa J, ExileAloe BlaccPercee PPhat KatSlum Village and Elzhi. His pedigree is as concrete as the pavements he once meandered around on in his hometown of Detroit, having lived in Los Angeles for some time now, it’s been a pleasure to make his acquaintance. He dropped his new album Let It Go and this is the first video off of it, a humble start, expect future videos to include tracks from youthful avengers Danny Brown and Quelle Chris.

J-Dilla, A Birth To Remember

The great J Dilla would have turned a meager 37 years old today.

Too many hip hop, music fans in general are unaware of Dilla. Way too many! Rather than rush through a written tribute, I will briefly share my first experience with Dilla music.

It all started with my fascination with the Velvet Rope album, yes, that’s Janet Jackson circa 1997. There was a Grammy winning track with Q-Tip on there called ‘Got Till It’s Gone’, and I played that at least 1200 times on my Japanese roommates Mini Disc boom-box, which at the time, was the bomb diggity of music formats. That track was produced by J Dilla, but credit was given to a couple of other cats (including Q-Tip I believe). That was a fact that a close friend and part-time rapper informed me about one time when I was playing the track in my room (dude was like a walking Google search). It was the first time I had heard of Dilla, but it set into place an expectation of greatness, one which was met when he dropped SV’s Fantastic Vol. 2 in 2000. I was on the Dilla train…

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The Donut Shop > The Candy Shop [UPDATED]

I told you a few weeks ago about AG pillaging the Dilla shop and coming up with some juicy donuts that he dunked into some hot bars, compiled the Dunkin Donuts mixtape. I’m hopeful that the post-humus career of J Dilla is managed significantly better tha 2 Pac’s. The problem with Pac is that he definitely would have nixed half the shit that has been “released” since his untimely passing. Fortunately the past few Dilla efforts have showcased some of his sweetest beats, worthy of any pastry analogy. Gobble it up here.

Safety Dance


Bars & Twists

* note that these tracks were removed by someone in the sky, they also shut ZIF down for an hour. If you want this album, you can download it for free at Stones Throw Records, or you can get it from me. Either way, way too much hoopla….

ZIF Exclusive: Chali 2na Talks His New Album, Dilla, & the J5 Breakup


“Let’s take it back to the concrete streets,/ Original beats with real, live MCs./ Playground tactics, no rabbit-in-a-hat tricks/ Just that classic rap shit from Jurassic.”

The first time I heard “Concrete Schoolyard,” it was on a tape that my brother made for me something like a decade ago.  Even now, that song fills me with memories of toasty New York sidewalks and suffocating subway platforms.  See, Jurassic 5 was always about taking it back to carefree times when Hip-Hop culture was infatuated with artistry rather than gangster swagger.  When J5 was coming up in the context of LA’s The Good Life cafe alongside acts like the Pharcyde and Freestyle Fellowship, they were reacting to the surge in violent subject matter catalyzed by N.W.A.  Then, their eponymous EP first dropped in 1997, and it became a white flag of peace in the wake of the murders of 2Pac and Notorious B.I.G.  Therefore, when their undeniable talents as a group left them on the brink of mainstream success, their efforts to update their sound produced questionable results.

Before Jurassic 5 split up two years ago, Chali 2na always stood out from the other three emcees, both live and on record, due to his stature, natural charisma, baritone vocals, and staccato flow.  Having kept a low profile in the last couple years, 2na proved that his apparent skills weren’t simply a matter of juxtaposition when he took the stage at Harvelle’s in Santa Monica two nights ago.  It was really dope to witness an emcee of his pedigree just having fun jamming with a live band (one that featured key members from LA’s own House of Vibe All-Stars), and it carried over to the fifty or so people packed into the back of the venue.  2na previewed the solo set that he will be performing this summer on the Rock the Bells tour, which is dominated by songs from his forthcoming album, Fish Outta Water.  Both the set and the album ostensibly showcase sides of the “Verbal Herman Munster,” creatively, musically and lyrically, that were suppressed during his stint with J5 and Ozomatli.

Following his performance, 2na was cool enough to talk with us about his new album, his experiences with J Dilla, and the Jurassic 5 break-up.  Peep the interview below.  Chali 2na will be performing on the Rock the Bells tour throughout the summer, and Fish Outta Water drops on July 7th.  Go out and support artists holding it down in the underground.

MPFREE: Chali 2na feat. Talib Kweli – Lock Shit Down (Prod. by Jake One)

BONUS:  Hit the jump to peep the “Climax” video that 2na was talking about in part 1

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Charles Hamilton Must Not Like Having A Rap Career

I always thought Charles Hamilton could rhyme, even if his fascination with Sonic the Hedgehog was kind of corny and childish.  I just figured that sometimes (in fact, probably more often than not), very clownish people are blessed with above-average skills.  If he were an artist during the ’90s, we probably would never know how wack of a person he is.  But in the present, we know all about him jacking beats from Myspace pages, getting smacked in the mouth by a girl, and now, trying to fuck with J Dilla’s legacy.


Last Friday, he posted the cover to his upcoming album on his blog, and listed the Executive Producers as Charles Hamilton and James Yancey aka J Dilla.  Strange on it’s own, but he included the following explanation in his shoutouts:

I also wanna thank James Yancey for his guidance in putting this album together. Sound wise, I couldn’t be happier. Again, the album was mastered reel-to-reel/digital-to-digital, and I couldn’t have done the entire process without him being a total jerk about me getting that EXTRA vinyl-ish sound. Thanks Dilla.

Nah seriously. He helped master the album.

You’d think somebody would have made a much bigger deal about this if it were true.  Feeling the heat/hate from bloggers, he contacted some of them personally.  In a phone interview with Sweeney from Rappers I Know, he claims to know Ma Dukes, Dilla’s mom, his daughter, and Phat Kat. He was also allegedly present at the Jay $tay Paid mastering sessions.  To top it off, he claimed  that the “proceeds from my album are going towards the J Dilla Music Foundation.”

It turns out that the J Dilla Music Foundation doesn’t exist.  If he were donating the proceeds from his album to Ma Dukes, it would be easier to let this slide, but his album is FREE.  And straight from Twitter, Ma Dukes confirms that Phat Kat and Illa J don’t know who he is:

Detroit “Hip-Hop Ambassador” House Shoes also chimes in and airs this fool out in the following video:

Ether.  Seriously, I learned when I was 5 years old that lying to get out of a lie comes back to bite you in the ass.  Charles Hamilton isn’t a fan or a stan.  He’s just the most delusional and morally corrupt individual in Hip-Hop.  I’m taking a page out of the Rap Radar book and banning this idiot from Zebra is Food.  Peace, sucka.

Mos Def: Fallin’ Off Like Limbs Affected With Leprosy?

Mos Def playing Bill's Watson on Cosby Mysteries

Cosby Mysteries: before the Cos' decided he hates Hip-Hop

If you peruse the pages of Zebra is Food, you’ll come across some remarks disparaging the Mighty Mos Def for one reason or another.  To many, he’s come to represent some kind of eccentric, tofu-eating, yoga class-taking nut job— more middle-aged soccer mom than a serious rapper.  But I think we can all agree that Black on Both Sides was on some hotness.  What?  It came out a decade ago?  Shut up.  If that shit came out today, it would be no less of a masterpiece.

I bought The New Danger with my hard-earned cash.  I was disappointed as much as anybody else.  But in my opinion, Hip-Hop heads have been mistaking the experimentation of “Ghetto Rock” and “Boogie Man Music” from his last couple albums as a sign of Black Dante falling off.  Now, to oversimplify things, when a rapper is considered to have “fallen off,” this means 1) his/her rhymes are wack, 2) their subject matter sucks, and 3) perhaps, most importantly, they can’t choose dope beats anymore.  If even one of these conditions is not met, it’s actually arguable whether or not said rapper’s abilities have taken a dip.  Take Prodigy of Mobb Deep, for example.  He’s lost some gas behind his flow, rhymes are anemic, and all he seems to rap about (at least, before he went to jail) is cooking crack: Conditions 1 and 2.  But, by enlisting Alchemist to produce Return of the Mac Vol. 1 and 2, P smashed Condition 3 over the right field wall and raised doubts whether he’d really fallen off.


My point is this: If you were looking closely enough, Mos has shown intermittent flashes of ill lyricism that would suggest he hasn’t lost his touch in the last 10 years.  In fact, I recently got my grubby hands on a copy of The Ecstatic, which is due to be released on June 9th, and, while the jury is still out, after a quick listen, it seems the lyrics are there.  And with some nice contributions from Madlib, Mr. Flash, Oh No, and J Dilla, Mos could definitely be back.  NY stand up.

MPFREE: Mos Def feat. Slick Rick – Auditorium

Mos Def is “of, pertaining to, or characterized by ecstasy?”


Voted Most likely Caddy to make the Tour

Voted Most likely Caddy to make the Tour

Not sure what he’s got to be so ecstatic about considering last time I saw him was live at the Ecko festival in Toronto in 07 getting straight harrassed by T-Dot thuggies, but Mos Def announced that his album “Ecstatic” will be dropping this summer, looks like June 30. After what apparently was a three year absence from the scene, Mos Def’s new album will feature production by Dilla (somehow), Yeezy, Madlib and his younger bro Oh No. Slick Rick will be guest starring, and of course Talib makes the mandatory contribution for his Blackstar patna. Peep the live performance at Seattle’s Moore Theater of one of the featured songs on the upcoming album , “Super Magic.”

MPFREEEE (a hard one to find): Mos Def- Auditorium

BTW, only cocky ignoramuses and Dancehall artists RELOAD like that…