It’s that Hidden Gems time again, you dig? Time to dig deeper in the enormous tunnels of quality hiphop! In this episode we travel from carefree jazzy vibes to contemplating life and death, with music from MF GRIMM, Mr. J Medeiros, Skyzoo, Freestyle Fellowship, I Self Devine, Awon, Saukrates, Novel, Dragon Fli Empire and Moka Only.
Mr. J Medeiros – Pale Blue Dot (20 Syl Remix ft. Shad)
When i first heard the beginning of this song my anti-pop nerves put my mind on alert. ‘Female singing! Pop sensibilities!‘ Before I could click away something kept me hooked though. The production of the beat was the first thing that stood out, being very thick and synthetic. Another label that comes to mind when describing the beat is ‘warm’, with children singing and a euphoric synth solo to top it all off. Sometimes it pays off to be patient, because after listening to the first rapper the chorus suddenly felt golden to me. As if it propelled me to a third minds’ eye view of the planet, spinning in this cosmic struggle, a struggle we can ease in the name of love. Both rappers do a fine job dropping emphatic verses reflecting the troubled state of earthly affairs before the chorus shifts the perspective again to an outside view of this Pale Blue Dot, floating in the cosmos.
MF GRIMM – Bloody Love Letter
The heartbreaking story of MF Grimm might be known to you. If not, please do some research and immerse yourself in one of the most pained and creative minds that hiphop has revealed. In short, as a young and talented rapper in the early nineties he and his younger brother got shot. Grimm survived the shooting but his brother didn’t. Grimm’s haunting ‘Scars and Memories’ album reflects on this horrific event with the titletrack becoming one of my all-time favourite hiphop tracks. I decided not to include it in this post since the song has + 150K listens on Youtube, which makes it not obscure enough for me! Luckily we still have the less known ‘Bloody Love Letter’ from the same album, more subdued than ‘Scars and Memories’ yet still incredibly powerful . Grimm vividly paints the visions going on in his mind after just being shot, all on a calm and contemplative musical backdrop. A monumental piece of work that i almost almost hold in the same regard as ‘Scars and Memories’.
Freestyle Fellowship – Sunshine Men
Freestyle Fellowship is one of my favourite hiphopgroups of all time. Sometimes hailed as ‘the Westcoast Wu-Tang’ this label hints at the size of the group and the prolificness of it’s members, from whom many have experienced succesful solo careers since the birth of the group in the early nineties. For me personally ‘Wu-Tang’ is not the association that comes to mind when listening to Freestyle Fellowships’s albums. Far more than early Wu Tang the members of Freestyle Fellowship have their mental tentacles connected to spoken word and free jazz improvisation. This leads to an incredibly diverse palet of creativity on their first album, ‘To Whom It May Concern’, released in 1991. I don’t have the time to go in-depth on all the tracks but the variation between them still amazes today and makes me desire to travel to that time and place in which they made the album. ‘Sunshine Men’ is one of the more calm tracks of the album, most famously sampling sixties popsong ‘You Showed Me’ from The Turtles.
Saukrates ft. Marvel – Hate Runs Deep
Some more goodness from Canada. This beat got me bumping the geese every time. Saukrates is not the best rapper on this planet but his voice and bitter message go along very well with the beat. Somehow this track makes me aware of how old it is, almost more than 20 years, a document of past mindstate. Saukrates has recently resurfaced after a decade long abscence and collaborated with the aforementioned Shad in his single ‘Stylin’. Not as a rapper this time, but as a singer, delivering a smooth chorus.
Mental Abstrato – A Primeira Audição É A Que Fica (feat. Awon)
Okay, finally dipping below 20.000 views again with this one, staying true to the original intent of this article: bringing truly obscure gems to the forefront. Considering the quality of this tune it’s a miracle that this hasn’t been picked up on a wider scale by jazz-hop afficionados. Rapper Awon shows his love for jazz and hiphop classics on a breezy jazzy backdrop perfectly suited for the summertime.
Moka Only – The Cat
Let’s keep it jazzy for a while, my fellow jazzcats. Now you could ask me: ‘Another Moka track in the Hidden Gems series Jelger’? Yes another one! I really should be honoured as ‘MOA‘, the official ‘Moka Only Ambassador‘. This tune comes from Moka’s excellent ‘Airport Volume 3’, released in 2003. The jazzy pianoloop is strengthened by occasional keyboard chords but it’s a simple track overall. Moka raps carefree about making music, taking flights and the power that his track emmanates. He makes it seem effortless. Moka doesn’t take himself too serious and his playful but focussed outlook on making music is admirable. ‘I’m noble, Chernobyl’. But hey who am I, the MOA is biased. The question is: do you got admiration for The Cat?
Dragon Fli Empire – Civic Pride
Another Canadian hiphopact in this list, along with Moka Only and Saukrates. Dragon Fli Empire is not a well known group but produces quality funky hiphop nonetheless. ‘Civic Pride’ is a laidback and festive song to cruise the roads with. DFE’s beats are always solid and rapper Teekay has a distinct deep and pleasant voice that elevate DFE to the higher echelons of feelgood hiphop. This track is so well known that i had to upload it myself to Youtube, hope you appreciate the effort and more importantly, the music!
Skyzoo & Illmind – The Winner’s Circle
Let’s talk sports for a bit. This is one of the most impressive songs about sports i’ve ever heard. In this song Skyzoo imagines the frame of mind of top NBA player Lebron James back in 2010 when he made his notorious Decision to leave his Cavaliers from his hometown Cleveland. I credit Skyzoo for his original choice to paint the perspective of the massively critized celebrity, vilified by media and fans alike. It’s like rowing against the stream to show the rationality of a sportsman who sees winning as most important. If you are not into basketball you can still enjoy the focussed feverish Illmind beat coupled with Skyzoo’s trademark flows and storytelling. It’s a very potent combination.
I Self Devine – Hold On
I have been quite a big fan of Self Devine since he was a part of Micranots, who left a strong impression on me with their unique mix of minimal but banging beats, a radical political message and the haunting voice of I Self Devine. Micranots’ days are long gone but I Self Devine has continued to make music and eventually got signed by Rhymesayers. From his second album ‘The Sound of Low Class America’ comes this nuclear bomb of a track. Such force, brace for impact!
DJ Deckstream – Around We Go ft.Novel
Good god I love this song. Deckstream remixed the original and made it WAY better than the original. Novel’s fine voice and flirty charm are sure to keep you entertained before the positively delirious chorus hits, guided by lovely piano soloïng. A song that makes me want to have fun!
And with that, I’m out! Please share if you enjoyed this selection and peep you at the next one!