Cassidy, Charizma, DJ Babu, DJ Zeph, Jae Millz, K-Otix, Koushik, Madlib, Madvillian, Medaphoar, Spitball ::
The Singles File Volume 026

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: Cassidy
Title:  Hotel 12"
Label:  J Records/Full Service Records
Writer: cornerstone

This is a fairly standard slice of R'N'B laced pop-rap in the vein of "Did You Ever Think" and other past R Kelly hits. The thickly-voiced Cassidy entices any good looking woman who happens to be present to come back to his hotel suite with the help of Kelly's sung hooks and promises of an after-party that isn't going to end 'til six in the morning. Swizz Beatz brings a track built around unoriginal but nonetheless sweet acoustic guitar usage; this isn't groundbreaking by any stretch of the imagination, but of its kind it's a nice example. Cassidy flow and choice of lyrics make him successful in his choice to make commercial rap.

Artist: Charizma
Title:  Here's a Smirk 12"
Label:  Stones Throw Records
Writer: Steve 'Flash' Juon

You certainly can't fault Peanut Butter Wolf's loyalty. Despite being long deceased, his former partner in rhyme Charizma is still getting play with his album "Big Shots" as well as a continuing series of 12" releases from Stones Throw. "Here's a Smirk" was a good choice, since it's one of the freshest songs off his full-length album, with a sassy old school flow reminiscent of early Special Ed or Andre the Giant raps. It's unfortunate the follow-up track "Tell You Something" kills the buzz with an unpleasantly repetitive beat and lyrics too simplistic even for when it was originally recorded. "That's Word" feels like a "Here's a Smirk" remake, but still showcases Charizma's personality on the mic nice - which is why the rapper would have lived up to his name had he lived to make noise in hip-hop. The flipside features instrumentals and a live "Wake Up Show" appearance, so this single may be popular with college and indie DJ's. In the end though, Charizma's appeal is in how these beats and rhymes harken back to a period where rap was still transitioning it's way into the mainstream, which for better or worse makes it a bit dated and better mixed on a Friday night old school show than into today's modern mix.

Artist: DJ Babu
Title:  Ends to Means b/w Do for Self 12"
Label:  Sequence Records
Writer: Steve 'Flash' Juon

Presenting two cuts from DJ Babu's "Duck Season 2," Sequence Records features Rakaa's "Ends to Means" on the A-Side and Chace Infinite's "Do for Self" on the flip. This one is a sure shot, featuring two of the album's best shots with clean mixes for the radio jocks and instrumentals to make smooth blends. Beat Junkies fans will have nothing to complain about, and neither will those who respect quality hip-hop that represents the best of independent rap's DIY aesthetic. To those who haven't already peeped Babu's "Duck Season" compilations, this 12" serves as a strong introduction.

Artist: DJ Zeph
Title:  Floor Wax b/w Underscore 12"
Label:  Wide Hive Records
Writer: Steve 'Flash' Juon

DJ Zeph's bio describes him as a "child of the 70's" and you'd certainly agree after listening to "Floor Wax." The beat simultaneously evokes of disco fever and b-boys pop-locking to the break of dawn. Raashan Ahmad provides lyrics to match, creating a groove that could rival Will Smith's finest tracks - and I do mean that as a compliment. On "Underscore" DJ iLL Media plays the guest role, but his turntablism gets a bit lost in the fat groove that DJ Zeph has provided. Zeph's aim is clearly to capture the crowd nostalgic for the old school and disaffected by too much negativity in hip-hop. With singles like these, he has a very strong chance of succeeding.

Artist: Jae Millz
Title:  No, No, No 12"
Label:  Wannablow Entertainment
Writer: cornerstone

Using a chopped sample of Dawn Penn's "You Don't Love Me (No, No, No)" and a start-stop beat, Jae Millz delivers a boisterous, thugged-out track. By his own admission he's a "rude boy" and the content of his lyrics support that claim as he threatens others who might want to step to him, concluding that his reaction will cause them to beg "no, no, no." This isn't great, but it's not a bad effort from the man who first grabbed national attention by appearing on P. Diddy's "Making Tha Band: Hip Hop."

Artist: K-Otix
Title:  Hammerproof 12"
Label:  Ethos Music Group/Groove Attack
Writer: Steve 'Flash' Juon

Combining the talents of K-Otix, Grand Agent, and Donte of the group Mood, "Hammerproof" represents the best of independent underground rap coming together under one banner - that of the Ethos Music Group. Produced by Damien of K-Otix on the A-Side and Kay of the Foundation on the flipsde track "Something," both songs hold weight musically and lyrically thanks to the depths of talent by all participants. K-Otix have announced that they envision the Ethos Music Project as a collaborative effort on their website with the words "If you can produce hot tracks or know anybody who does, feel free to submit a remix. Time will tell if this works out, but in the meantime K-Otix will do fine with their core audience with fresh singles like "Hammerproof."

Artist: Koushik
Title:  One in a Day EP
Label:  Stones Throw Records
Writer: Steve 'Flash' Juon

Koushik Ghosh is a bit of a trip - an acid trip, that is. His beat construction clearly fits into a hip-hop frame, but like DJ Shadow before him aims to expand the depth of that picture. The result is layer upon layer of melody in songs like "Winter Sun" that mixes ambient sounds with keys, vocals, tambourines, and beats into an audio collage that soothes the ear and refreshes the soul. "Back to the End" is a little more moody and noir, albiet strangely short, but it proves there's no definition to Koushik's style one way or the other. Be sure to check for the funky "Too Many Ways" as well as the subtle "Ride it Out" on the B-Side, which features more submerged vocalization and strange sampling. Koushik's "One in a Day" is for the hip-hop fan looking to push the boundaries of hip-hop taste and style, a highbrow experience that will leave thugged out rap fans confused, but oddly intrigued.

Artist: Madlib
Title:  Theme for Fergus b/w Galt Suite #7 7"
Label:  Kilmarnock Records
Writer: Steve 'Flash' Juon

Rarely seen in hip-hop these days, the 45 speed 7" is a rare and pleasant treat, especially in the hands of a top producer like Madlib. Working for Galt Macdermot's label Kilmarnock Records on this release, the title "Theme for Fergus" is appropriately apt, although you certainly won't hear any bagpipes here. What you will hear is a bouncy beat with swift scratching, resulting in a smooth instrumental one would love to hear Defari or Evidence rapping over. "Galt Suite #7" on the flip reconstructs pianoes a la DJ Premier into a hip-hop track that suddenly switches gears into a bluesy guitar flow, ending suddenly in electronic robotic echoes, all while losing none of it's charm in the process. Few producers in rap can pull off these tricks musically, but Madlib ranks near the top of the short list.

Artist: Madvillain
Title:  Money Folder b/w America's Most Blunted 12"
Label:  Stones Throw Records
Writer: Steve 'Flash' Juon

What do you get when you combine producer genius Madlib with demented lyrical scientist MF Doom? You get a Madvillain with plans to take over underground hip-hop, of course. "Money Folder" doesn't showcase the promise such a power duo should have though. Ever since his conversion from Zev Love X, Doom has by turns showed spurts of brilliance and a failure to reign in his more banal concepts, not unlike fellow bugged out New York resident Rhythm X/Kool Keith. The original version of "Money Folder" showcases that Doom can sabotage even Madlib, by infecting him with MF's occasional tendency to drag a sample loop beyond dopeness. The remix of the track largely solves these problems though, and "America's Most Blunted" redeems the single with fresh samples, a "Gas Drawls" flow from Doom, a pitch shifting verse vocally from Madlib and a hilariously bugged out ending. You'll be chillin' like a Madvillain in 2004 if the two minds behind this song use their eccentricities for good or for awesome, otherwise the experience might end up being strongly bad.

Artist: Medaphoar
Title:  What U in it For b/w Now U Know 12"
Label:  Stones Throw Records
Writer: Steve 'Flash' Juon

Despite a disturbing tendency to spell his song titles like a 12-year-old on AOL Instant Messenger, Medaphoar exhibits a much more sophisticated verbal format worthy of his lyrical name. With breath control skills like Pharoahe Monch and wordplay like Canibus, Medaphoar's "What U in it For" is one step away from an underground hit, and that step turns out to be Oh No's dirty electronic funk. The B-Side wins again though with the Madlib produced "Now U Know," which is all that in it's simplicity. Quoth the Medaphoar, "your style's aight, but it ain't near this" - leaving rappers to choke on his dust forever more.

Artist: Spitball
Title:  Rockin' It 12"
Label:  Silent Records
Writer: Steve 'Flash' Juon

Consisting of Bru Lei and Eclypse on rhymes, DJ's Bombay and Pos2 on the tables, and production duties by DJ Przm (best known for Camo Tao's "Hold the Floor"), Silent Records are rock "Rockin' It" with this debut 12". Punchline rappers they are, with lines like "beat the shit out your fake-ass like piñatas" showing they're tough as nails to boot. The group shows better than average potential, but it's really the production of Przm on tracks like "Spit it Out" featuring Rack Lo and Thirstin Howl III that seperates them from the rest of the pack. Chunky beats and light instruments are mixed into a thick stew even Donovan McNabb couldn't hate on, and by the time you've finished "Ya Time's Up" featuring Copywrite you'll be left hungry for more of their hip-hop.

Originally posted: January 13, 2004