December 7, 2012 3 comments
Sometimes you discover a song and you’re all “Damn, this shit slaps. Why have I never heard this before?” WELL IT’S BECAUSE YOU WEREN’T SUPPOSED TO! HOW DID YOU EVEN GET THAT MP3? YOU ARE IN VIOLATION OF THE LAW AND WILL BE ARRESTED AND KISSED FORCEFULLY BY A STRANGER IN JAIL. YOU DON’T WANT THAT. PUT THAT MP3 BACK WHERE YOU FOUND IT, ENCYCLOPEDIA BROWN!
The theme of this Seconds, Please is “Hidden Gems.” We’ll be giving you our favorite live-only versions, demos, unfinished songs, non-domestic releases or unreleased records that are so good you really should be aware they exist. Don your yellow hard hat with working miner light, we’re about to go spelunking.
I used to battle rap online. There, I admit it. There was a group of rappers at my liberal arts college who created a Facebook Group (which at this point in FB’s infancy was really cool and exciting)… and we would battle rap each other or set up freestyle cyphers around campus. I was also listening a lot of Dipset. Like, a lot. Like, an unhealthy amount. Seriously, the only thing I was listening to was Dipset, but not Cam’ron in particular. I really enjoyed the secondary members like 40 Cal, Hell Rell and J.R. Writer. I emulated J.R. Writer. I loved his punchlines and his flow. And, against my better judgment I am going to share a song I did, circa 2006, rapping over a J.R. Writer beat to show you just how obsessed I was:
I give you this backstory (and painfully embarrassing blackmail fodder) so you know why this song is one of my favorites. Dipset went to visit Funkmaster Flex on Hot 97 and proceeded to do four songs live on the radio. One take. No Punch-ins. Performed live for the first (and only time to my knowledge) on the radio. This is an amazing feat, and one that no other rappers have attempted to do hiterhto. This song is so perfect, and encapsulates everything about music in 2006. From the stereotypical Cam’ron chorus (rotten/riding homophone rhyme) to J.R. Writer making Hell Rell literally laugh out loud with one of the best quatrains in rap history:
Pitch-black car with them pitch-black wheels
Nicemore stash box, big black steel
Leave you at the red light. The kid’s that real.”
This song should be put onto a biometric-locked flash drive and put into a display case next to your Princess Di Beanie Baby.
In 2008, Kid Cudi released his mixtape A Kid Named Cudi and the entire Hip-Hop world rejoiced. His sound was a breath of fresh air as well as an early indicator that the genre was ushering in a new wave of artists. Besides “Day N Nite,” the song that would eventually make him a household name, the tape featured other standouts like “Cleveland is the Reason” and “Maui Wowie.” The latter, however, while a dope song, is hardly great because of Cudi.
The people responsible for the catchiness of “Mauie Wowie” is a little known South Florida group named Grind Mode.
In the Fall of 2007, during my sophomore year of college, my roommates and I stumbled across a video of a bunch of Miami kids doing a new dance called jookin’.
We watched that video a half a billion times, trying to learn the dance and became addicted to the song that was playing in the process. That song was Grind Mode’s “I’m so High.” When Spring semester rolled around, “I’m so High,” produced by Gorilla Tek of the Drum Majorz, was without a doubt the biggest song in Florida. The group even shot a video for it out in California, but the record never really caught on outside the Sunshine State.
By the time I caught wind of Kid Cudi and sat down and listened to AKNC all the way through, I was shocked that this rapper from Brooklyn/Cleveland had even heard of “I’m So High,” let alone liked it enough to record a song over it.
I heard the topic of this joint and I got elated because I got to talk about songs that I like that were never released. This is like the super blogger/hipster topic, and I hulked up like Voltron in the 5 minutes of the episode. Anyway, let’s get this started.
Most producers make beats for record companies since they are signed to publishing deals. So the label will take all of the beats and give them to the artists on their label to make songs with, since this is easier than securing outside production and having to go through the whole process of clearing them with the rival label. Well, someone at Atlantic gave this beat to both Wiz and T.I., and the actual version was given to Tip so he could make “Bottle Poppin” with Drake. This was when Drake was at his fever pitch as a hook man, so it really wasn’t a surprise. However, I think the Wiz version is crazy dope and it’s one of my favorite songs from Young Khalifa Man.
I’m still confused as to why this song never made an official project. This song made me hype for the MMG conglomerate back when I was still trying to figure out “How will Pill, Teedra Moses and Masspike Miles fit into this equation?” Thankfully I don’t have to ask questions like those anymore, and I can just enjoy this heatrock.
This song was intended for Slim Thug’s Star Trak debut “Already Platinum” but the album was leaked. Nowadays when an album is leaked early the record company just charges it to the game and keeps everything rolling, but even up to 5-6 years ago if a record leaked early they would rush the artist back into the studio to re-record the songs. We have the famed “Food & Liquor” fiasco, no pun intended, to thank for this. As a result of the leakage, this fantastic track was left off “Already Platinum” and the beat was used for a very generic intro track.
I actually have no clue who Nephu is. I just know that I saw this video as a reference track being sung by Johnta Austin, and he never used it. Whenever you have Johnta Austin and Bryan-Michael Cox together magic like this occurs pretty frequently.
Because of sample clearance issues this never made any official Roc-a-Fella release, but damn was this joint hot. Listening to songs like these make me miss the days when Jay-Z didn’t own a basketball team and Kanye wasn’t wearing skirts. When every Roc-a-Fella video had Damon Dash holding bottles of Armadale vodka and did his dice-roll-dance. The good ol’ days.
Affairs of the heart, a common source of inspiration for generations of musicians. From Elvis Costello’s soul rending ode to ex lovers in “Alison” to 2012 MVP Future’s search for that perfect lady in “Turn on the Lights,” the love song might be the most common theme across all genres of music.
In his cover of The Supreme’s classic, Phil Collins delivers a punchy rendition of the original’s bittersweet lesson, using the same succint instrumentation that was a defining characteristic of Motown (thanks in no small part to Legendary Detroit backing band, The Funk Brothers) and simply applying that clear and tight production work that made him a megastar.
Much in the vein of Wham’s “Wake Me Up” it’s that perfectly cheery combination of pocket groove, and simple but nonetheless worthwhile shared experience. Bound to get your foot stomping, and your hands clapping.
Last year, a small collection of previously-unreleased Eminem material, the Straight From the Vault EP, hit the streets for the Shady fiends like me to shoot directly into our eardrums. One of these songs was “Ballin Uncontrollably,” on which Eminem does his best Paul Wall impression. It’s a fun, harmless parody that Paul Wall shouldn’t take personally, and Shady absolutely NAILS it. The first two verses are vintage Paul Wall: candy paint, 32-inch spinning rims, wads of cash, etc., with Eminem’s tongue firmly planted in his cheek. He then goes into full Slim Shady-mode in the third verse: kicking a 6-year-old and kidnapping a Make-A-Wish Foundation patient to take him on a crime spree. Seriously. Just another day for Slim Shady.
This is probably my favorite cover of any song ever. That’s a bold statement, I know, but just listen. R&B and soul singer Allen Stone takes one of Bob Marley’s, and probably reggae’s, most well-known songs and flips the entire script. Stone found the front door, turned the key, walked in and made himself damn comfortable in this song. It’s difficult, of course, to compare it to the original, but personally, I prefer this version. Maybe its because I’m not a huge reggae fan to begin with, but more likely, its because Stone’s version is just that good. I’ve seen this man perform live more times than I’d like to admit and I can honestly say that 57% of the reason I go is just to hear him perform this song. Do I sound a little obsessed? I am.
While it’s not exactly “hidden”, this track was left off of the U.S. release of the Icelandic folk group’s debut LP. Which is a shame, because this song is great. The dichotomy between the verses and the hook in volume and sheer amount of instrumentation makes for really pleasant and fun listening. Of Monsters and Men has been stereotyped as a band that can only make one kind of song (ex. Mumford & Sons), but, like, fuck it. That one song sounds really cool, so I don’t care. Don’t act like you’re above liking something that’s fun because it’s too polished, and the world becomes infinitely more entertaining to inhabit.
Musically, I’ve always preferred the more serious Eminem as opposed to his Slim Shady. So I’m using one of my hidden gems on an unreleased track that does a great job showcasing this side of the outspoken rapper. “Cocaine,” which surfaced during the Recovery era, paints a sobering reality of the celebrity so many desire. The rapper acknowledges how much fame has helped him improve the lives of his friends and family, but likens the popularity to an addiction as he stops at nothing to maintain the lifestyle. The track is topped off with a guest appearance from Jazmine Sullivan, whose husky vocals perfectly complement the dark themes of the song. It’s such a shame this track never saw commercial release.
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, my other hidden gem comes from singer-songwriter Ne-Yo. Although his latest material is as exciting as getting your pubes stuck in the lining of your boxers, that doesn’t take away from his bedroom banger capabilities when he is on a roll. “Go To Bed” is an unreleased track recorded around the time of his debut. As the title implies, Ne-Yo is detailing his desire to put his lover to bed while reminiscing on their previous sexual encounter. Sexy doesn’t even begin to describe the vibe of this understated track, but it’s a definite must have on the cuddle buddy playlist.
One of my favorite musical discoveries to date would have to be “The Clarence Greenwood Recordings” album when I was a freshman in high school. That was around the time when I started to listen and appreciate music outside the rap genre. I can’t remember how I discovered Cope but “Son’s Gonna Rise” was the song that first got me hooked to his music. This iTunes exclusive version brings in Robert Randolph for a rockin’ solo with the help of his pedal steel guitar and it does not disappoint in the slightest bit. In fact, Robert has been hailed by many as one of the greatest guitar players of our lifetime and his shows are unbelievably mind blowing. This MP3 is a worthy add to the collection.
Like Citizen Cope, I discovered Ordinary Peoples around freshman year when they opened up for O.A.R. Though their career was extremely short lived, the fresh hip hop vibes they brought will not be forgotten, at least by me. Looking back, this song is the definition of cheesiness, but I still bob my head to it once every blue moon. You should too!
Yes, this song is terrible but with the recent rebranding of MySpace I felt it was appropriate. MY FRIEND REQUESTS IS OUTSTANDIN’!