Amnesty, Charizma, Diplomatics, The Hogan Fam, J-Zone, Lexicon, Spaztik Emcee, Styles of Beyond :: The Singles File Volume 024
as reviewed by 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: Diplomatics, Amnesty
Title:  Hum Bug b/w Everybody Who Wants to be Free 12"
Label:  Now-Again Records
Writer: Steve 'Flash' Juon

New imprint Now-Again seeks to impress with this debut 12" featuring two of their groups, but this writer is left a little mystified from a hip-hop standpoint. The Diplomatics have a good "swinger" sound that would be appropriate for an Austin Powers soundtrack, but there's no lyricism to be found on the song at all. One might have expected more from the flipside's righteous title, but one finds no rapping here either. Amnesty deftly kicks that James Brown "Say it Loud (I'm Black and I'm Proud)" sound, but in the end all this reviewer can think of is running this single through a sampler to lift loops for an MC to rip up.

Artist: Charizma and Peanut Butter Wolf
Title:  Jack the Mack b/w Red Light, Green Light 12"
Label:  Hollywood BASIC
Writer: Steve 'Flash' Juon

If Styles and Jadakiss think dead rappers get better promotion, they obviously never met Charizma. Then again few people have, since this up and coming rapper was snuffed 10 years ago just as he and Peanut Butter Wolf were about to stun the rap world alongside label cohorts Organized Konfusion and Raw Fusion. After a brief hiatus to mourn and reconsider his career, Wolf returned to the rap scene with the posthumous release of Charizma's "My World Premiere" on Stones Throw in 1996. This single brings things full circle by being a re-issue of their original debut in 1992, and not surprisingly sounds a little bit old school as a result. With Dooley-O's "Watch My Moves 1990" being successfully released this year well OVER a decade after it was first recorded though, there's no reason not to dig into Peanut Butter's funky jams and Charizma's eager lyrics. This simple twelve inch with instrumentals on the flip is refreshing like cherry Kool-Aid on a hot summer's day.

Artist: The Hogan Fam
Title:  KRU Records Presents The Hogan Fam EP
Label:  KRU Records
Writer: Steve 'Flash' Juon

Is it time for The Hogan Fam to shine? This collective of Karma Response Unit Records artists was previously best known for 40th Dimension's album "The Crop Report," but now represent fully on this EP. With a strong guest appearance by Louis Logic on "Who the Fuck Are You?" on the A-Side and the production of Happ G on tracks like "Sound the Horns Pt. 2" by Reef and "Philly Bloodline" by Briz and guests on the B-Side, this compilation is largely a winner despite occasionally weak lyrics or beats. The only downside is that by cramming so many songs onto one 12" there's no room for acapellas or instrumentals, but college radio DJ's will be pleased that the songs are edited and ready for airplay.

Artist: J-Zone
Title:  5 Star Hooptie b/w Eatadiccup 12"
Label:  Old Maid Entertainment
Writer: Steve 'Flash' Juon

When stepping into the J-Zone, two things are always expected: fat beats and comedic rhymes. "5 Star Hooptie" comes pretty close to having both on the A-Side, with Zone rapping about a ride known "for more vehicular homicides than Frogger." Unfortunately the beat is heavy on bass (a plus) but light on a coherent melody to hold it together (a minus). The flipside is more promising, with a beat mixing the silly with pimptastic funk while guest Celph Titled promises to "get Lollapalooza with a bazooka" and "fuck your wife missionary style on a Twister mat." It's enough to get Zone's fans satiated, but they will (and should) expect more from his next single or album.

Artist: Lexicon
Title:  These Days b/w Voodoo 12"
Label:  SpyTech Records
Writer: Steve 'Flash' Juon

It's with no small measure of irony this writer states that Lexicon may have one of the least recognized names in rap. That's a shame too, because this group consistantly puts out quality singles, and "These Days" is no exception. The real life brothers Oak and NickFury show a natural chemistry trading lines and verses, and on the A-Side of this release also show a healthy dose of cynicism: "I'm an underground veteran, 23 and better than/99.9%, it's unsettling/We're underrated while the undeserved/will get undone it's done that shit is absurd" although they correctly note that "actions speak louder than complaints and claims" to differentiate themselves from the legions of haterade drinking backpackers. With strong production from SpyTech stalwart DJ Cheapshot on both sides, Lexicon is back again and deserves to be better known than what Scrabble players reach for to prove their triple word scores are real.

Artist: Spaztik Emcee
Title:  52 run of the Mill b/w As Far as Rap Goes 12"
Label:  Cosmic Flux Musiq
Writer: Steve 'Flash' Juon

Having firstappeared on the INDIEgo sampler appearing with Tha Alkaholiks and Rasco, Spaztik Emcee is back to make a name for himself with his debut on Cosmic Flux. Making a name for yourself in underground rap isn't hard when you've got verbal artillery for days and Chops from the Mountain Brothers handling your remix. The A-Side puts smooth in butter with a bouncy jazz groove and quips like "I'm seven times The Source minus the advertisements and remorse." On the flipside Grand Agent, Chops and Spaztik transform like Megatron into a rap supergat on "As Far as Rap Goes" guaranteed to blow your mind. Whether an ECW or a "Con Air" reference, this snap works either way: "Yo I'm a warrior, so gangsters wanna blast my ass like Cyrus; pussy MC's want the dick, but they don't wanna catch the Virus." This vinyl is a DJ's delight, complete with full instrumentals and lyric acapellas. With Run-D.M.C. samples sprinkled throughout these songs, you'll want to bob your head and pour out one for JMJ at the same time. Make sure to put this Spaztik Emcee in your mix.

Artist: Styles of Beyond
Title:  Mr. Brown 12"
Label:  SpyTech Records
Writer: Steve 'Flash' Juon

The words "Styles of Beyond has a new single out" are enough to bring a smile to the face of any hardcore hip-hop fan. It's been a minute since "Subculture" hit stores and even longer since "2000 Fold" debuted nationally. Thankfully Ryu and Takbir (now known simply as Tak) are still sharp as ginsu, and production by the Flavour Crystals (DJ Cheapshot & Vin Skully) gives them the freedom to rock your socks off. "Mr. Brown" uses Mobb Deep samples in a comically silly fashion Prodigy never intended, with lyrics full of cartoon violence: "I'ma stay laced up, keep a shank tucked, take a paycut/ even let you keep the damn pay stub (really?)/Say somethin punk, what? Put away the blank gun/Fakes wanna talk about bank but they make none." Combined with the hard rocking "Live Enough (Remix)" on the flipside and a full slate of instrumentals and beatless vocals, there's no doubt they'll make MAD bank here.

Originally posted: June 24, 2003