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Union Analogtronics & Blu

Cheetah In The City

Hot off collaborations with Nottz ("Titans in the Flesh EP") and Madlib ("Bad Neighbor LP"), SoCal ambassador Blu has teamed up with the Paris-based production team Union Analogtronics (OJ & Gold) to unleash a new full length album: "Cheetah in the City". Featuring Dam-Funk, Phat Kat, Frank N Dank, and more, the album signifies a stylistic sea change for Blu, best known for his dusty, soul sampling collaborations with Exile (Below the Heavens) and his own introspective opuses ("Her Favorite Colour", "Good to be Home", "York!"). Rippling with 808s and cinematic strings, "Cheetah in the City" is an organic evolution from the synth-soaked, futuristic sound of "Analogtronics", Union’s 2012 Fat Beats Records debut album featuring Talib Kweli, MF DOOM, Elzhi, Guilty Simpson, and more. After mutual friends put them in touch at a Parisian post-show after-party, Blu and Union began a musical exchange that spanned continents. Blu returned to LA with Union’s best beats, and after months of exchanging lyrical ideas, the trio regrouped for marathon recording sessions in Union’s Paris-based studio. Cloistered for weeks with nothing but drum machines, instruments, keyboards, records, and France’s best bud, Blu became obsessed with infusing his kicked back Southern California sensibilities into Union’s penchant for pushing the possibilities of technicality into multilayered, densely packed productions. A cohesive story emerged in the songwriting: a young man, raised amongst deadbeats, killers, and hard drugs, metamorphoses into the Cheetah, a money-making predator whose quick talk and cold hustle make him the king of a city that will eventually consume him, heart and soul. We’ve never heard Blu like this.

Twenty-eight years ago, pissed-off twelve-year-olds around the universe discovered a new planet, a Black Planet. Public Enemy’s aggressive, Benihana beats and incendiary lyrics instilled fear among parents and teachers everywhere, even in the border town of Laredo, Texas, home of the future founders of the Latin-Funk-Soul-Breaks super group, Brownout. The band’s sixth full-length album "Fear of a Brown Planet" is a musical manifesto inspired by Public Enemy’s music and revolutionary spirit. Chuck D., the Bomb Squad, Flava Flav and the rest of the P.E. posse couldn’t possibly have expected that their golden-era hip hop albums would sow the seeds for countless Public Enemy sleeper cells, one that would emerge nearly three decades later in Austin, Texas.

Greg Gonzalez (bass) remembers a kid back in junior high hipped him to the fact that Public Enemy’s “Bring the Noise” is built on James Brown samples, while a teenaged Beto Martinez (guitar) alternated between metal and hip-hop in his walk-man, and Adrian Quesada (guitar/keys) remembers falling in love with Public Enemy’s sound at an early age. 'When I got into Hip hop, I was looking for this aggressive outlet . . . and I didn’t even understand what they were pissed off about, because I was twelve and lived in Laredo . . . but I loved it and I felt angry along with them.' Joseph Abajian (Fat Beats’ owner) must have sensed the deep hip-hop well lying beneath the versatile band’s Latin-Funk veneer. 'I thought their sound would work covering Public Enemy songs,' Abajian says, and, 'it was good to know they were P.E. fans . . . We came up with a track listing and they went to work.' Despite the band’s eagerness to work on new original material (an album of original songs is slated for next year), they couldn’t pass up the opportunity to pay homage to this iconic and influential posse.

Translating sample-based music to a live band turned out to be more of a challenge than they anticipated. Adrian tried to get inside the Bomb Squad’s [Public Enemy’s producers/beat-making team] head in order to find the inspiration to reinterpret P.E.’s songs: 'imagine the Bomb Squad going back in time and getting the J.B.s [James Brown’s funky backing band] in the studio and setting up a couple analog synths and then playing those songs.' While some songs closely follow the original musical blueprint, others use the source breakbeats as jumping-off points later sweetened by Trombonist Mark 'Speedy' Gonzales’ horn arrangements, synth wizardry courtesy of friend-of-the-band Peter Stopschinski, and DJ Trackstar’s turntable scratches.


After seemingly coming out of nowhere, Your Old set the internet aflame in 2014 with his self-titled debut EP, catching the attention of bloggers all over the web from New York Magazine’s Vulture to NahRight.com. Before long, conspiracy theories started and people began to posit that Droog was another older, legendary New York rapper in disguise. Profiled in The New Yorker, Droog (meaning “friend” in Russian) set the record straight about who he was: a twenty-something Ukrainian immigrant who fell in love with hip-hop when he arrived in South Brooklyn as a small child.

The timbre of his voice resembled that of a hip-hop legend but Droog’s content had more to it than street dreams or observations from a project window. His music reflected his own unique life experience as he referenced everything from sports, to crime, to Seinfeld and C-Span in his rhymes. He was an intelligent hoodlum with a stand-up comedian’s sense of humor—unafraid to be as self-deprecating as he was self-aggrandizing. On his critically-acclaimed debut, the Your Old Droog LP, he vowed to “bring back storytelling” and now on his sophomore album, PACKS, Droog delivers on that promise. In addition to the raw rhyme displays on songs like the Alchemist-produced, “Winston Red” Droog flexes his narrative muscles both comically (“My Girl Is A Boy”) and dramatically (“G.K.A.C”) on this new album.


STAFF COMMENTS

Matt says: One of rap music's most charismatic newcomers, Your Old Droog follows up his Nas-indebted rise to fame with fourteen punchy sagas from the streets. Cloaked in understated demeanour and garb, Droog delivers a flow so fierce, quick-fired and inventive it could have only come from life in New York. Alongside Ratking's Wiki, Droog is keeping the OG hip-hop spirit alive in NYC.

Respected hip hop DJ / producer DJ Premier brings us his FIRST EVER official mix CD. Even his most die hard fans couldn't possibly own all of the tracks produced under his Works Of Mart banner. With this in mind, Premier has selected 17 of his favourite, but more underground, lesser-known works and crafted the first volume of his new mix series: "Rare Play". The music on this mix will remind people how hip hop used to be before the current slump in the scene. The tracks on here are ruff, rugged and raw!


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