Thursday, May 31, 2007

trooper torture...

you ever heard of this cat? "trooper torture from the crown heights area..." made his debut as "torture," guesting on the jungle brothers' crazy slept-on j-beez wit the remedy album. going solo, he changed his name to "sensational" and dropped a few albums on wordsound records, as well as a couple of other labels. check him out, some cool shit...

Bio (taken directly from his wordsound page.)

Once in an eternity an artist will come along who defies all explanations, breaks all boundaries, and destroys all preconceived notions as to what music is. In reggae, we were blessed with the maniacal genius of Lee Perry; in jazz, we had Sun Ra; and in hip-hop no one even comes close to the one they call Sensational.

Hip-hop abounds with eccentric personalities such as Kool Keith, Old Dirty Bastard (R.I.P.), and Busta Rhymes, but Sensational trumps even these colorful MCs with an abstract flavor and a charm all his own. Born into the world of beats as Torture, a name perfectly befitting his dusted productions and not-ready-for-prime-time style, Sens linked up with the world-famous Jungle Brothers when he was only 15. Starting off as a back-up dancer , he went on to prove his mettle on the mic, rhyming to records by the German avant-garde electronic composer, Stockhausen. In fact, Torture's legendary performances on the Jungle Brothers' album JBeez Wit Da Remedy (Warner Bros., 1994), on which he rhymes at 180 beats per minute, are still way ahead of their time. (They may be heard on the Black Hoodz release, Crazy Wisdom Masters (BH006)).

(my note: i have the CWM 10", when i find, i'll put it up here for sure...)

In 1995, Torture came to the attention of WordSound through producer Bill Laswell, who had worked on the Jungle Brothers sessions. It was a match made in heaven as Torture changed his name to Sensational and released his solo debut, Loaded With Power (WSCD022), an album like no other in the annals of hip-hop. CMJ called it, "The most bold and experimental hip-hop record of the last decade," but even this is an understatement. The tripped-out flows, broken beats, and lo-fi ambience all created an epic event in hip-hop that went largely unnoticed by the Puff Daddy-worshipping masses. And to think, it was all created by one man with a four-track, drum machine, and, of course, headphones used as a mic.

Unlike most rap producers, Sensational has never been one to sample, but plays all his sounds live. Upgrading to an 8-track for his sophomore effort, Corner The Market (WSCD032), gave the rapper/producer greater flexibility in recording. He also used a real microphone this time around instead of recording vocals through his headphones. Still wowing heads with his blunted, poetry-in-motion sickness, he released two singles for the popular indie rock label Matador ("Party Jumpin" and "Beats, Rhymes & Styles") before dropping his third full-length, Heavyweighter (WSCD037) which continues on a trajectory for outer space. As Timeout NY noted, Sensational is "underground hip-hop's number one upstart-in-waiting." Sensational's unique style and personality have been showcased in the semi-biographical film Crooked (WSCD041), released by WordSound in 2001. The film, which documents the underground hip-hop scene in Brooklyn in the '90s, became an instant cult classic and is available on DVD along with its companion soundtrack, produced largely by Sensational.

During the filming of Crooked, Sensational recorded Get on My Page for Mike Patton's Ipecac label, before returning to WordSound for his fifth release, Natural Shine (WSCD044), produced and recorded by DJ KLOS. KLOS also produced the follow-up, Speaks For Itself, available on Belgium's Quatermass label, as well as the new mixtape, The Best of Sensational (WSDD002) available as a download only on WordSound Digital. Sensational's latest CD, Sensational Meets Kouhei (WSCD53), is a collaboration with Japan's doyen of noisecore, Kouhei Matsunaga, recorded in one day in Osaka, Japan while on tour in 2005.

*i have to admit, about three years ago when i stopped writing my rap column at vice magazine, i really got burnt out on keeping up with all the new rap that was going on, so i really have no idea what's happening these days. this guy could be long gone, or he could have put out 8 new albums by now and be on tour in korea. either way, i really wouldn't know...

cold frontin' in canada...

this is a compilation of canadian rap artists from 1991, featuring main source (for those that don't know, sir scratch and k-kut are canadians), maestro, dream warriors, and others. the record sounded a little dated even then, but is worth checking out. "12 sided dice" is the standout track, in my opinion. i can't find the cover online anywhere, sorry.

various artists - cold front
attic records, 1991

1. ciut 89.5 master plan show spot
2. maestro fresh wes - black tie affair
3. base poet - when i went to buy milk
4. sweet ebony - with this
5. dream warriors - 12 sided dice
6. ckln power move show spot
7. main source - atom
8. sonyaline - in coming into consciousness
9. ciut 89.5 master plan show spot
10. kish - jim class
11. r&r - having a good day
12. nu black nation - soul vibration
13. chry 105.5 jam factor spot
14. kgb - letters of three
15. top secret - stupid
16. fresh b - this is for the record
17. ckln 88.1 oblivion express spot

from the liner notes (i got 'em from here):

"Although rap music has existed in Toronto since the late 70's under the influence of N.Y.C. and brought to the people via mobile sound crews like Sunshine, Maceo, City Crew and Ebony All-Star, the Toronto rap music community has had to share the beat with Funk, R&B, and Reggae almost pushing rap into an obscure underground until the mid-eighties. It wasn't until CKLN radio DJ Ron Nelson dedicated his three hour funk/hip hop show "The Fantastic Voyage" solely to rap music and began promoting concerts that new life was breathed into a community saturated by Roxanne Roxanne answer records and Egyptian lover beats.

"From the mid to late eighties, no Canadian artist had rapped on vinyl until Ivan Berry, Rupert Gayle and Richard Rodwell (AKA Maximum 60) formed Beat Factory Productions. In 1987 Beat Factory met Scott La Rock and KRS 1 during a BDP show. The result of that meeting was the Beat Factory EP featuring Michee Mee & L.A. Luv, and Rumble & Strong, which was co-produced by BDP and released on Beat Factory Records.

"Still, many Canadian labels weren't paying attention to the program. It wasn't until December of 1989 that Attic Records broke things wide open when they released Symphony In Effect, the debut album from Maestro Fresh Wes. Maestro and his manager Farley Flex had a chance meeting with Stevie B during a performance on the local television dance show The Electric Circus which led to an American deal with LMR Records. The album was released in Canada on Attic and quickly proved rap's commercial power to the industry by sailing past the platinum sales plateau and making Wes the first Canadian artist in any genre to score two Top 5 singles from a debut album -- thus forever changing the way the Canadian record industry viewed rap music.

"Meanwhile, Beat Factory had relative success with the signing of Michee Mee to First Priority and the release of HDV's debut LP, Sex, Drugs And Violence on ISBA (CBS) Canada. But, it wasn't until Island Records released the Dream Warriors LP, And Now The Legacy Begins, that Canadian hip-hop was finally recognized world-wide.

"Finally, A&M Records became the first major label to sign a Canadian rap artist when they picked up Kish from the Full Flex Management stable. Kish's debut Order To Chaos shows the new funky direction taken on by the Canadian hip hop nation.

"The Cold Front LP is not all that makes Toronto strong, but it's a taste of a rap community that has been stewing for over a decade."

--John Bronski

more trip photos...

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

spectral eyes...

artwork by luke brown, an old high-school friend...

spectral eyes.

unindie listening...

out for a coffee this morning and i picked up a copy of the toronto star. flipping through, came across john sakamoto's anti-hit list (a regular article, where, he basically just lists off ten tracks to check out, usually obscure online things, mash-ups, etc.). number 3 on his current list caught my eye:

atmosphere vs. of montreal "they call it a pun"

in john's words: "a striking example of a rarely heard hybrid - hip-hop and indie - this mash-up pairs the minneapolis rap duo's killer b-side, "they call it," with "cato as a pun," a track from the latter's acclaimed hissing fauna album. if that isn't enough to convince you of the viability of the combination, there's now an entire website devoted to unifying the two genres, of which this is just one of many convincing examples. (

i checked out the site. looks like some interesting things happening on there.

in the spirit of hip-hop meets indie-rock, i thought i'd share this little mixtape with you...

aye jay & matt loomis - unindie listening

remember dj z-trip's uneasy listening? of course you do. as far as i can tell, homeboy basically started this shit. well, think of this as the indie-rock version of that. dead prez rapping over sonic youth? yup. that's what i'm talking about...

oh yeah, one of the dudes behind this mixtape, aye jay, is also responsible for the super-dope gangsta rap coloring book, which came out a few years back. i got a mesh-cap with the notorious b.i.g. drawing on it. dope shit, thanks cat.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

syndicate sniper...


i first heard donald-d on a couple of guest appearances he made on ice-t albums. the "syndicate sniper" seemed like ice-t's right-hand-man, the rhyme syndicate's second-in-command, who went on to release two solo albums in the early 90s, then, like oh-so-many-others of his day, seemingly disappeared. well, not really, it turns out. the man is (i think) living in italy right now (at least he was the last time i spoke with him, which was a couple years back), working with some electronic artists, and in 2005 release a new solo project. check out his myspace page, he's got links to some other artists he's involved with, as well as a page for his classic rap group, "the b-boys." (remember "rock the house?" if not, let me know, i'll post it.) i remember seeing this cat rock it with ice-t and the syndicate on a tour stop in london, canada, back in, i think, 1991. (it was right around the time ice's "o.g." album was coming out.) if you haven't heard this cat, do yourself a favor and check him out...


donald-d - notorious (download)

donald-d - let the horns blow (download)

check out this interview at

"notorious" video.
"f.b.i." video.
"the rhythm" video (w/ everlast and ice-t).
"what ya wanna do?" video (w/ ice-t & the rhyme syndicate).

does anybody have this?