The Bedford Files, Big Noyd, Black Panther, E.V.P., Feenom Circle, Ghetto Pros, J. Rocc, Wildchild :: The Singles File Volume 023
as reviewed by Matt Jost, Steve 'Flash' Juon

EDITOR'S NOTE: All of the reviews found in 'The Singles File' 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 have any questions about this format, please e-mail the editor for more information.

Artist: v/a
Title:  The Bedford Files, Archives A/B 12"
Label:  Embedded Records/Fat Beats
Writer: Matt Jost

"Communification" - what better way to name a cypher session-come-posse cut? All the more since this unifying communication extends from coast to coast. Find L.I.F.E. Long, Zion I and Breez Evahflowin "go bananas on mics like apes wired" over an anthemic beat. Ain't no secret what keeps this one going, you can hear the engine rattling hard under the hood, fueled by blood, sweat and spit contributed by everyone present, including producers Ese and Hipsta. They also seem to be in charge over at Embedded Studios, whose "The Bedford Files" compilation plays host to a variety of songs, among them this single's A side, "Innercity Hustle" featuring Aesop Rock and again L.I.F.E. Long. Hipsta's beat on this one is more experimental, resembling a collection of random noises and melodic bits you might hear when walking down the Bedford block that is home to Embedded. No remixes and acappellas here, instead there's a "Bonus Beat", something I haven't seen on a 1 2" since way back. However, "Communification" should be reason enough to check this one out. If only for the opening "rewind it down to the last pitch" part that will surely inspire DJ's to work their turntables.

Artist: Big Noyd
Title:  Shoot Em Up (Bang Bang) b/w N.O.Y.D. 12"
Label:  Alc Records
Writer: Matt Jost

Remember Noyd? This Mobb Deep affiliate had an overlooked album back when the Infamous crew just couldn't do wrong. Now he's back to wreck shop like the Tuff Crew. Aiming at fake thugs over a click-clacking Alchemist beat, the QB soldier wraps his observations cleverly around someone singing "shoot em up" and "bang bang." The mystery behind this one has to be the vocal sample flipped by The Alchemist. Whatever it is, it continues the trend of vocal soul samples nicely, without forsaking the typical dark, well-orchestrated Alchemist aura. Flip the record over and you're treated to another Alchemist production, only this time guessing the sample shouldn't be that hard because of the flick it's associated with. Unfortunately, somebody forgot to tell him that Donald Duck-style distorted voices and rap music don't really get along. Thankfully, Noyd comes through on his part, his somber voice resonating with experience. As the presence of Prodigy on "N.O.Y.D." brings the classic "Recognize & Realize" to mind, who knows, maybe this marks the beginning of the return of the dunn empire?

Artist: Black Panther f/ Stronghold/Mr. Khaliyl
Title:  52 Pick Up b/w Yes 12"
Label:  Third Earth Music
Writer: Matt Jost

For years now the 12" format has been neglected if not ignored by most major rap labels. How often do you get a picture cover nowadays? How many times have you seen the video before you saw the single sitting on the shelf? But let there be no doubt, the 12" remains the backbone of hip-hop. It's still the main medium for fresh talent to introduce itself, where you will find exclusives, where you get instrumentals, remixes, and acapellas, where bold explorers set off to conquer new musical and lyrical grounds... in other words, where hip-hop is happening. Thankfully, some labels treat the format accordingly. Case in point: this fine specimen that hides under a masterfully illustrated cover (by babyscratch). "Black Panther presents..." this split single, side A featuring the Stronghold posse on "52 Pick Up", while side B sees ex-Bush Babees member Mr. Khaliyl by his lonesome on "Yes". Both cuts are produced by Black Panther. The former relies heavily on a dry but playful melody - style medieval keyboard instrument - which varies enough to make you forget the basic beat. The focus here lies on the rappers anyway, who flip through dozens of similes and references, bringing the card game metaphor alive. The latter provides a non-confrontational scenery apt for Khaliyl's conversational tone. Alongside "52 Pick Up", "Yes" is yet another evidence of the rock-solid hip-hop that can be exclusively found on black vinyl. But as Khaliyl refers to his "Wages of Sin" single, you wish this will be one 12"-proven MC who will outgrow the format, as much as we all appreciate it. Because some rappers have more to say than the couple of singles the underground averages per MC.

Artist: E.V.P.
Title:  If U Wanna 12"
Label:  Infinite-E Records
Writer: Matt Jost

Last time around, E.V.P. caught the misguided wrath of this reviewer when their unflinching hardcore attitude clashed with his desire for musical harmony. This time, they soothe him with the smoothly sailing "If U Wanna", a vintage club track that won't have to stand in line. This cut should get instant VIP access and make it directly to the dancefloor with no problem. With an easily recognizable intro signaling party time and some soulful vocals welcoming everybody, the stage is set for the two rappers to make the party people feel right at home: "Relax your mind, let your conscience be free/ let loose when you cruise to a Project party/Did I mention it's free? What you want? It's on the house/We're not shutting down 'til every female's aroused." Who wouldn't wanna be there? If the smooth talk doesn't get your juices flowing, check out the nice conga slaps that give it that extra swing. Bet ladies gonna have swinging and shaking theirs in no time. With this "new edition" of their Enhanced Vision Project, this Cali crew makes it clear that you don't have to compromise your integrity to make people feel good. As they say, there's no need for Courvoisier, cause "this joint's blazing real good." Take two and pass.

Artist: Feenom Circle
Title:  Days Go By b/w Tunnelvision 12"
Label:  Melatone Music
Writer: Steve 'Flash' Juon

If you yearn for the kind of mellow, intelligent rap that's two parts Digable Planets and one part Pharcyde, Feenom Circle has what you want. Beat maestro Boog brings bass, guitar and piano to "Days Go By" while a triumverate of rappers each drop heartfelt verses. As Side B raps, "My mind frames a photograph of time frames of the past/every moment I'm living is half as long as it lasts." The flipside "Tunnelvision" is a short and profound track of heavy bass and Raw J rhymes such as "Some of our folks won't be here to see the world collapse/Out here the animals set the traps." Complete with radio edits and instrumentals ready for mixing, this single is tailor made to bring Feenom full Circle to an audience waiting for rap with a little more soul.

Artist: Ghetto Pros f/ Tony Touch
Title:  We See Y'all 12"
Label:  Up Above Records
Writer: Matt Jost

Taking a break from being one of the world's most visible disc jocks, Tony Toca steps to another banging Ghetto Pros beat. V.I.C. and Mike Heron get deep down and dirty with it, a hard but catchy riff firmly anchoring "We See Yall" in the New York underground. This is one to get your ice grill on as Touch spits the type of violent verbals made popular by The Beatnuts. Just don't overlook the underlying humorous note that comes with it. Or the two remixes. Both are conceived by Keykool of The Visionaries. The electrifying "20/15 Remix" splices what seems to be a funky guitar into even funkier bits and pieces and finishes it off with some cheesy-but-in-a-dope-way organ something, while the "Vision Remix" cues up a gentle guitar to calm things down. One song, three very different takes on it. Ain't that just how we like it. Also includes instrumentals and acapella.

Artist: J. Rocc
Title:  Play This (One) b/w Junkies Pick 12"
Label:  Stones Throw Records
Writer: Steve 'Flash' Juon

If you already recognize his name from the Beat Junkies, you're off on the right foot. Now get on the left foot and dance, because "Play This (One)" is for the poppers, the breakers, and the funky move makers. The word that describes the blend here best is "crisp" - it's not about excessively fancy tricks, just an incredibly skillful mix of different jazzy beats you can't help but love. "Junkies Pick" is a little more James Brown, high energy with lots of soul claps. Concentrating on the musical instead of the lyrical, this release might seem to be more for b-boys than backpackers; those same heads though should harken to any Cut Chemist intrumental on a Jurassic 5 CD when considering this single. Either way, you can't go wrong when you're rolling with J. Rocc.

Artist: Wildchild
Title:  Knicknack 2002 b/w Kiana 12"
Label:  Stones Throw Records/Fat Beats
Writer: Steve 'Flash' Juon

Any time you see "featuring Medaphoar and Percee P" as guest stars on a single, it's pretty much expected to be some hot shit. Not surprisingly "Knicknack 2002" lives up to the billing, although if you were expecting a sequel to EPMD's "Knick Knack Patty Wack" it can only be found scratched into the chorus. Over a Madlib produced verse, all three shine although the underground legend P "kills like a mercenary" in the grand finale - truly the best saved for last. On the flipside "Kiana" produced by Oh No, a bluesy guitar sound is linked up with Wildchild's quickly spit flow and a chorus that's part singing and part rap. Anybody familiar with this LootPack affiliated rapper already knows, but this 12" just serves to prove he's the group's star like Busta Rhymes was in L.O.N.S.

Originally posted: April 15, 2003