Aesop Rock, Al-Shid, Fondle 'Em Fossils, J-Live, Juggaknots, Lifesavas, Meanest Man Contest, Non Phixion, Prime :: The Singles File Volume 020
as reviewed by John Book, Noixe

EDITOR'S NOTE: for this edition of 'The Singles File' is trying something a little different. First, your editor-in-chief contributed NONE of the reviews in this edition. Second, the reviews are being presented WITHOUT scores. You are left to interpret the dopeness/wackness of the single on the words of the writer alone. If you like this new format, please write me and we'll continue to use it in the future!

Artist: Aesop Rock
Title:  Daylight 12"
Label:  Def Jux
Writer: Noixe

Even if you don't like AesopRock, you have to respect his idea here. "Daylight" is on some happy shit, one of the standout tracks on "Labor Days." So, on "Nightlight," Blockhead drops an entirely different, much darker beat. And Aesop spits the entire jam with the lyrics changed. For example, on Daylight: "Life's not a bitch, life is a beautiful women/you only call her a bitch cuz she won't let you get that pussy." On Nightlight: "Life's not a bitch, life is BIYOTCH/who keeps the villagers circling the marketplace looking for the G-spot." Aesop and Blockhead take the idea of a remix to the next level here. And it doesn't hurt that the original track was so dope. Finish that off with "Nickel Plated Nines," which has Aes Rock vaguely tackling financial issues over a banger by El-P, and a cameo by Vast Aire as a drunken bum. Fans of Aesop Rock should not pass this one up.

Artist: Al-Shid
Title:  Ignant b/w Fight Club 12"
Label:  Old Maid Entertainment
Writer: Noixe

Everything I've ever heard by the Old Maid Billionaires has sounded pretty much the same, and Al-Shid's first joint is no exception. Not that there's anything wrong with this at all. Both sides of this blazin hot piece of wax have the typical J-Zone banger, vocal samples and the cut-up, ignorant lyrics we all come to except from the crew. Shid holds his own with no problem on the first track and Huggy Bear shows up for more fun on the flip. Nothing deep, no messages, no concepts, just ill battle rhymes over sick beats -- exactly what hip-hop needs.

Artist: Fondle 'Em Fossils
Title:  Fondle 'Em Fossils 12"
Label:  Fondle 'Em Records
Writer: Noixe

This record has everything. "Fondle Em Fossils" is a posse cut full of early NYC underground pioneers: Breezely Brewin, Q-Unique of the Arsonists, Godfather Don, J-Treds and MF Doom. (J-Treds disses himself for his failed name change to Pound.) Depending on your tastes, you got DJ Eli's funky original is funky or El-P's strangely beautiful remix. "Dysfunctional" is nothing special, I don't even know who rhymes on it, but it's worth some spins. Fondle 'Em definately went out on a high note with this single.

Artist: J-Live
Title:  Satisfied 12"
Label:  Coup d'Etat Records
Writer: Noixe

For those of you who, like myself, were dissapointed with J-Live's follow up to "The Best Part" should be glad that this gem was the first single. Easily my favorite song on the album, J rides DJ Spinna's upbeat track with the best commentary I've heard on the Sept. 11th situation from anyone in the hip-hop community. On the b-side, we hear Live's abbreviate life story with jazz drums below it. It's a good idea, but it doesn't really work for radio or the club. Honestly, overall I wasn't really feeling the track anyways, but "Satisfied" shouldn't be slept on.

Artist: Juggaknots
Title:  WKRP in NYC 12"
Label:  Matic Records
Writer: Noixe

Compare this also to Prime. Lyrically, the Juggaknots are one of the most balanced crew I can think of...they got stories, disses, battle raps and nerdy abstract concepts...whatever. This record alone lays out their versatility. "J-Solo" is all sex-based bragging, but "Generally" has Breeze spitting a long-ass story which starts in Toys'R'Us and ends up pondering the murder of James Byrd. The lyrics are definately the strong point in the crew...the production is pretty good for the first two, but "J-Solo" sounds like what happens the day after you get your MPC and start flipping the Lawrence Welk you got on your first record shopping trip. It's been a long road for these cats and it's good to see they still got it.

Artist: Lifesavas
Title:  Headexercise 12"
Label:  Quannum Records
Writer: Noixe

Straight up and down, "Headexercise" and the remix are bangers. The beats slam, both sounding like they could have made it as a Blacklicious track. It's probably no coincidence then that Cheif Xcel, that group's beatsmith, was their executive producer. Samples from an exercise record get flipped all over, as well as an obvious Kool Keith sample ("I keep in shape..."). The laid back battle rhymes come off like a chill saturday afternoon cipher, but are still pretty ill, with punchlines like "you couldn't hold your weight on a Jenny Craig mix tape." But the third track here, "clutch moments" got me wondering; it's one of those jams where the beat just ruins the whole track. technically speaking, it's not that bad, but it doesn't live up to the other two...actually, it doesn't even sound like it. it sounds more like an experimental Alchemist beat. It makes me wonder if the nod factor for Lifesavas' future work is gonna depend entirely on Jumbo the Garbageman's abilities behind the beat from here on out.

Artist: Meanest Man Contest
Title:  Contaminated Dance Step 7"
Label:  Weapon Shaped Records
Writer: John Book

I am someone who has always enjoyed the 7" 45 rpm format, and there are a small core of artists who are releasing their music on it to grab some attention. Meanest Man Contest is a record that should demand a lot of attention, for not only the lyrics are daring and edgy, but the beats are as well. Eriksolo may be enjoyed by fans of Company Flow, as he not only goes off the beat, but manages to hold on to the rough textures and tempos of the beats. And there are beats on this. Put on your seatbelts for this single, as Quarterbar is into testing the limits of what a hip-hop song should sound like. It will be impossible to keep a simple headnod to this, and that makes this very special. Keep an eye out for these guys.

Artist: Non Phixion
Title:  Rock Stars 12"
Label:  Landspeed Records
Writer: Noixe

Need I say more than that the one and only DJ Premier laced "Rock Stars?" I'll add that Primo tends to stockpile the choice cuts for hungry cats underground. Just look to Royce's "Boom," J-Live's "The Best Part" or Group Home's "Super Star" - and this ain't no exception. The shit hits hard and should get love from backpackers and dunns alike. Necro does his thing behind the B-Side "The CIA is Trying to Kill Me" but honestly, Non Phixion dropping a joint with that title is like Too $hort doing a joint called "I Like to Pimp."

Artist: Prime
Title:  Madman 12"
Label:  Molemen Records
Writer: John Book

Prime is a rapper who is ready to literally slaughter anyone who dares put him to the test. New rappers are like that, come out with a big ego but when they finally drop their first piece of vinyl, listeners realize they should have enrolled in MC'ing 101. If Prime didn't enroll in class, he might end up teaching a few kids some things.

On the surface, Prime is definitely in the early stages of possible greatness, not even in his prime just yet. The music is heavily influenced by RZA's string style of production, but Prime goes beyond that by commanding the mic with a voice that comes off as a threat. "Madman" has him going insane by telling people what made him into the lyrical loon he is, everything from dad wacking him with the bible and reading him scriptures, to confronting the reality that what he may have to offer is on the edge and uncontrolled. He goes off the deep end in "Lambslaughter" by borrowing from popular culture ("remember that one time, in band camp when you stuck a mic in your ass, put on a dress and did handstands") to the male need to exploit the female anatomy ("if you catch him in it, let him know I'm still a cynic/still smiling like a distorted vagina when I'm thick in it"). When Slug joins him it all gets more complex but not to where you can't follow along.

Prime is heavily influenced by hip-hop from the mid-1990's, one can feel him nodding with confidence but smiling at his own brain power. As much as he complains about the state of mainstream and underground hip-hop in "Unbreakable", he has the potential of offering much music to both crowds.

Originally posted: April 25, 2002