EDITOR'S NOTE: All of the reviews found in 'The Singles File' are being presented WITHOUT scores. If you have questions about this format, please e-mail Matt Jost for more information.
Artist: Big Daddy Kane and Percee P vs. Connie Price & The Keystones
Title: Give a Demonstration - Part 2 b/w International Hustler
Label: Scion Audio/Visual
Continuing Scion A/V's 12" series that gives established vocalists an opportunity to re-record a song from their catalog with an up-and-coming live band, this neatly packaged double decker pairs Stones Throw funkateers Connie Price & The Keystones with those two guys from J5's "A Day at the Races." Under the guidance of drummer Connie Price, The Keystones lay down a finger-lickin' good groove for an unlikely update of a "Prince of Darkness"-era King Asiatic tune that wasn't released until 2001 (on "The Very Best of Big Daddy Kane"). The two parties recently played a few dates together, and "Give a Demonstration - Part 2" shows why the idea wasn't a bad one at all. The powerful track in full forward motion fits Kane like a glove as he delivers a three-verse lesson on effective emceeing: "We used to give a demonstration / but here's a new millennium, illustration / for all of those that need game, elevation / instead of actin' like a cheap imitation / pull up a chair, son, take some dictation." The Rhyme Inspector hasn't lost his touch either, letting his trademark barrage loose over a mean combo of melodical eruptions and a thick rhythm section on "International Hustler." It certainly doesn't hurt that Keystones members have worked with the likes of Madlib, Macy Gray, or Breakestra. Because even without the rap vets blessing them, this single would be recommendable for the tight instrumentals alone.
Title: She's Like the Wind
Label: Mach 1 Records/TVT Records
It's been a while since Lumidee's "Never Leave You (Uh Oooh, Uh Oooh)" lit up dancefloors. Since her 2003 debut, she recorded a Fatman Scoop-assisted single for the 2006 soccer world cup, revealed her rap aspirations guesting on European releases and was featured on N.O.R.E.'s reggaeton-meets-rap romp "Mas Maiz." The lead single for her second album is a cover of a Patrick Swayze song from the _Dirty Dancing_ soundtrack. If that sounds like a pop song to you, that's exactly what "She's Like the Wind" is. Terror Squad tenor Tony Sunshine clearly outshines Lumi here, who really isn't that much of a rapper (or a singer, for that matter). Lacking the distinct flavor of her debut single, "She's Like the Wind" works as a Sunshine showcase over a swerving, synthetic Beatdoctorz concoction, while the supposed leading lady gets left in the dust, especially when guest Yo Gotti takes up additional space in the Street Version. If anything, this release, equipped with remixes ranging from reggaeton to retro house, serves to prepare for the promised cornucopia of styles of the forthcoming "Unexpected" album.
Artist: The A'z
Title: No Doubt About It
Label: TVT Records
The A'z have apparently been putting it down for a minute as representatives of the hyphy movement. The trio of rappers sound like they're from the Bay alright, their tempo being above that of contemporary club raps, but to these ears it sounds like producer M. Geezy is going for some of that hyphy-meets-crunk on the bottom-heavy "No Doubt About It." The follow-up to the hit single "Yadadamean" matches quirky keys going dumb with a punchy bass drum and droning keyboard layers. Announcing their "City of Gods" album, "No Doubt About It" might not be able to generate enough momentum to bring The A'z to national attention, but in all truth whether this is hyphy, crunk, or a little bit of both, this is pretty crazy and cutting edge music once you wrap your mind around (or try to wind your waist to) it. Lyrically, the hook is all that really matters: "All the bad bitches, all the super models / take a sip with us, drink it out the bottle / bring your friends, I got the condoms / it's goin' down, no doubt about it..." Who wouldn't wanna be there when that invitation is accepted?
Artist: Twisted Black
Title: Throw it Up
Label: TVT Records
Fellow RapReviewer Matt Tomer recently called it 'the type of Top 40 hustler anthem I'd usually despise,' but couldn't front too hard because of its 'grumbling bass line and Black's confidence.' The fact that they made it a single explains its prominent place at the top of "Street Fame." Unless you're on Jay-Z's level it's probably not the best idea to have two guest rappers on any of your singles, but if Slim Thug could go there with "3 Kings," he or someone before him might've actually changed the game in that respect. While Twisted Black, Yo Gotti and Chyna White battle it out over who hustles the hardest, producer Tim Hunt gets creative on the keyboard front. The single comes with two edited versions, Radio and Super Clean. If you're like me annoyed by most rappers' inability to record clean alternate vocals, skip to the instrumental, it still packs enough grit to be the soundtrack to whatever your grind. If what a rapper says kind of matters to you, don't hold this tiresome threesome against him, Twisted Black has much more to offer.
Title: Tell Me
Label: TVT Records
"Tell Me" takes the Twista blueprint (getting at ladies with fast raps over slow tracks) and puts it into a cotton candy machine. Since only few rappers can pull off love songs on their own - how's that for a mark of greatness? - Pitbull gets assistance from singers Ken-y and Frankie J while producer Lil Jon shows his sensitive side on this archetypical slow jam. As a debut single, it would spell doom for any rapper, but coming from an established artist, this helping of heartbreak hip-hop is actually a nice gesture towards the fairer sex. How many rappers have you heard trying to rekindle a relationship and in the process use the word love like they really mean it?
Label: Mouthwatering Records
Filewile had the internet going nuts long before the MySpace mania, generating over 300,000 free downloads from filewile.com with no industry backing whatsoever. While the web became their meeting place and office space, the duo of Dejot and Dustbowl also took their act to the streets as computerjockeys, stunning passersby as the world's first 'mobile laptop duo.' Reflecting their physical and digital travels will be the upcoming "Nassau Massage" album. The lead single "Damn" is a sparse, funked out rumpshaker that sounds like the legitimate offspring of a secret Wajeed/Timbaland session. Brooklyn-born, Berlin-based rapper RQM recounts an encounter with a "dream shortie" so breathtaking he risks his life in traffic "just to catch another glimpse of that ass." But she's already gone, leaving him to lament the common future that was not to be. Far from abstract music that only exists on your iPod, "Damn" begs to be taken out into clubs or at least driven a couple of times around the block.
Originally posted: April 17, 2007