All posts by Karl Smith

Founder of The Hip Hop Foundation and long time disciple of the true school of hip hop.

RBX – The RBX Files (1995) REVIEW

December 1992 and N.W.A’s Dr Dre emerges from a spell of obscurity to bring the world one of the greatest gangster rap albums of all time…. The Chronic. He also introduces us to a whole new crew of exciting West Coast talent, Daz, Kurupt, Lady Of Rage and the young and rapidly rising star Snoop Doggy Dogg, who had previously featured with Dre on 187 Undercover Cop for the Deep Cover soundtrack. When Snoop came on to the scene he brought a whole new flavour and style in to the rap game. At that point the west coast was dominating hip hop and it would stay that way for the majority of the 90’s. The Chronic also featured one other rapper whose uniqueness set him apart from the others……..

“In this dimension / I’m the presenter / and the inventor/ and the tormentor / Deranged, like the hillside strangler / MC mangler / tough like Wrangler / I write a rhyme, hard as concrete / Step to the heat and get burned like mesquite. / So what you wanna do / The narrator RBX, cell block two”

rbx-poster

The Narrator aka RBX added an extra element to The Chronic, with his menacing presence and sinister vocal tone he really sold the serial killer emcee image. For me it was X’s contribution that perfected Dre’s album. His delivery of unforgettable verses and phrases helped raise The Chronic to the highest heights of the gangster rap genre. A year later he would recapture the fans again when he featured on Snoop’s Doggystyle, dropping the same signature style that he had become known for. It’s safe to say that during 92 and 93 RBX was hot property and so a solo album within a few months would seem the obvious outcome.

“Remember me?…. I drop bombs like Hiroshima!”

Fast forward 2 years. Liverpool UK, November 1995, I remember the time well for 2 reasons. The coldest winter I can ever remember and I had just picked up a copy of RBX’s debut album The RBX Files after a very long wait! By this time the mighty Death Row records was already starting to fragment with internal conflicts that probably impacted on getting RBX’s debut finished and ultimately released. After some deliberating between labels, the album was finally released on September 26th 1995 on Premeditated records, a subsidiary of Warner Bros.

 This is not a laid back summertime in the LBC joint…”

On first listen of The RBX Files I was a little bit shocked. This was probably due to the stark differences in production compared to the previous albums X featured on. The heavily G-funked beats where nowhere to be found! In fact in many ways this album didn’t feel like a west coast album at all. But was this really such a bad thing after all?

I remember by about 95 a lot of hardcore hip hop fans were starting complain about G-Funk’s mainstream appeal in the same way people complain about Lil’Wayne’s music today. You can rest assured that RBX’s album, which is almost exclusively produced by Greg “Gregski” Royal, is anything but mainstream.

It will probably take even the most seasoned rap fans a few full listens before they can fully appreciate the depth of this album. This is a classic case of an album that grows on you and then becomes ingrained in your subconscious the more you hear it. These are the kind of albums I like the most because they always provide the greatest replay value. Be under no illusions people, this is not a laid back summertime in the LBC joint.

 “From track 7 onward the album takes a very interesting turn….”

For the most part, the album’s tone and concept is serious and lyrics are straight hard-core! Even the sound echoing distortions over X’s voice makes some tracks feel literally demon possessed! Strangely enough the production on the Dr Dre diss track “A.W.O.L” is probably the softest on the album. “Rough is the texture is like a declaration of war on neighbouring west coast emcees outside of Long beach which ties in nicely with “Slip in to Long beach”,” The Edge” and “Burn. It is at this point from track 7 onward that the album takes a very interesting turn. It appears that at some point from the time of  The Chronic and Doggystyle, RBX had embraced Islam. It is unclear whether this happened during the recording of the album, but the content on the remaining tracks appears to be inspired in the same way Mc Ren was in his 1993 classic “Shock of the Hour”. Track 8 “Our time is now” has one of the most unusual and catchy rifts I have ever heard.

The remainder of the album abounds with conscious joints that merge with prophetical inserts and snippets of empowering sermons. “Akebulan (as the title hints) is an anthem of repatriation to Africa and is definitely one of my favourites. Perhaps the track that left the biggest impact on me was the amazingly haunting “No Time“, which makes excellent use of Dexter Wansel’s Life On Mars sampleIt will quite literally leave you in a trance.

To this day I haven’t heard an album that sounds quite like The RBX Files and sadly I doubt I will again.

RATING:

Beneficence – Concrete Soul (REVIEW)

2012 has been another good year for hip hop. We saw some heavy albums drop from the likes of OC & Apollo Brown, Oddisee, Methuzulah, Blu & Exile, Venomous2000,  Sean Price, Roc Marciano, 9th Wonder & Murs, even Masta Ace & MF DOOM to name just a few! We also saw the release of a new album from Beneficience that has been making big waves in underground hip hop circles.Benificence is no stranger to the mic. He has been in and around hip hop since the early 90’s and has been a long time associate of the Artifacts.

Since copping the CD a few weeks ago, I am happy to say that “Concrete Soul” certainly lives up to the standards 2011’s “Sidewalk Science”.  Purchasing a Beneficence album is always going to be a safe investment because you know your going to get nothing but straight up, good old boom bap! You don’t have to worry about mainstream crossovers and gimmicks with this type of seasoned emcee because the history speaks for itself.

“Perhaps the hardest hitter of all is the phenomenal AG collaboration “All Real” which see’s the D.I.T.C legend deliver a monster of a verse”

Having said that the album is not completely flawless as there were one or two tracks like “Getting Stronger” and “Y.W.E” that didn’t quite hit the mark. I was also hoping for a little bit more from the Masta Ace collaboration, “Reality Vs Fiction”. Not that these tracks are bad (Benef is on point and Ace is flawless as always), but I just felt the production didn’t deliver as well as it could have. Aside from these very minor gripes, I can safely say that overall this is a very solid offering that flies in the face of the majority of hip hop churned out these days. When you are dealing with a hip hop album of this caliber it’s difficult to find anything to be critical about. This becomes even more apparent when you sample the albums big bangers!

all-real-beneficence

Perfect Navigation”, produced by Ill Adrenaline label mate “Confidence” can only be described as a perfect hip hop track and really highlights the impact great production can have in bringing justice to great lyrics! Confidence shows up again on 4 more of the albums heavy hitters, “Straight Out The Gates”, “Hood Early Years”, “Way We Rockin” and the awesome “Rebel Muzik”. Other highlights for me where “Rulez To The Game” Ft B 1 and Herb Magruf and “Hood Cartel” Ft Roc Marciano.

Perhaps the hardest hitter of all is the phenomenal AG collaboration “All Real” which see’s the D.I.T.C legend deliver a monster of a verse that reminds us all that the veterans still can’t be touched when it comes to this hip hop shit!

 

Percee P and Lord Finesse Talk About The History Of Hip Hop

Percee P has been in the game for a while, as far back as 1979 and for me is mad underrated among the wider audience. In a relaxed informal discussion held at 90.7 Breakbeats & Rhymes, Percee P and legendary producer Lord Finesse give some interesting insights on the development of hip hop music over the years. Finesse also goes on to re-sight some of Perce’s rhymes, paying homage to one of hip hops most prolific lyricists.

“Perce’ was so nice I had to put him on two songs on the second album”……Lord Finesse

Finesse takes the view that most of today’s emcees who enter the cipher lack technical lyrical ability and is amazed that the majority of fans don’t notice. Percee P makes the observation that fans aren’t as critical as they used to be back in the day.  This is a very valid point and one that I  share with him. I think fans should expect more and hold some of these cookie cutter emcees accountable.

Hip hop was such an underground sub culture back in the day,  you had to be crazy nice on the mic or you would get exposed. This acted as a form of regulation that sifted out the wack from the real talent. The hip hop landscape today is vastly different because it has become such a wide spread corporate commodity. The whole game has changed at every level.

Mobb Deep’s Havoc said in a recent interview that when he first started out in the industry it was all about the album, but today it’s all about making a hit single. Working on an album was like leaving a legacy, your own personal stamp in hip hop history. Times have really changed. How many people even bother to buy an album these days other than the hardcore collectors? Most people just troll through youtube or soundcloud and maybe download the occasional track. It’s sad to say but with the rapid rise of technology and the way we now access music, the days of the eagerly anticipated album could be confined to history.

 

Breakbeats & Rhymes Radio is hosted by Los Angeles Hiphop duo, Rebels To The Grain. The show is broadcast live each Sunday morning from 2-4 A.M. on 90.7 F.M. (KPFK).