Sunday, October 4, 2009

KMD-Black Bastards (1993/2001)

"My friend Josh and I can’t agree on anything. Oh, we can agree on generalities. We both like The Beatles. We both like to read. We both like girls. But it’s the specifics that get in the way, he with his Abbey Road, stacks of books and classy dames and me with my Rubber Soul, three paragraph short stories and women of questionable character. Because of this historical precedent, it absolutely confounds me that we are able to reach a consensus on K.M.D.’s much-slept on Black Bastards. He and I not only think that it’s a great album, we each consider it one of our favorite albums of any genre. The shock probably won’t resonate unless you’ve been on the receiving end of an hours-long Mac-beats-PC lecture.

Like the maniacal villain that I am.” Though Black Bastards never saw the light of day in the 1990s, it is a quintessential 90s release, building on the jazz and soul-laced production styles mastered by Pete Rock and Q-Tip. The late DJ Subroc is in top form here, layering dusty kicks with the inimitable flow of Zev Love X. Who is Zev? You may not recognize his voice here, but it is the “maniacal villain” Daniel Dumile before the years of alcohol and drug abuse that would ravage his voice. It’s Zev, in particular, Josh and I are able to find common ground on. His tangled rhymes can be playful (“Like Ebeneezer Scrooge I'm rude / My batting average is huge”) and his often dizzying pace invites repeated listens. Unlike the straight-forward deliveries of many of his then contemporaries, Zev Love X speaks more cryptically. Buried under deep bass tones, half the fun of Black Bastards is deciphering lines from the seemingly endless supply of now-famous Dumile wit. There’s something about hearing “Plumskinzz (Loose Hoe, God & Cupid)” months after your first listen and finally hearing “Don't drool with all the juice you dribble / Scribble the beeper code, so the X can gets a nibble” without question.

I never overdose on my diet of codeine and OE.” Though the subject matter does veer into black nationalism, a river of booze and drugs runs through this land. Counting the number of times O.E. and St. Ides are name checked would require more than fingers and toes. Songs drift by in a buzzed stupor, like the warbling hook of title track and the free jazz drum segues in “Suspended Animation” and into Subroc’s foray into emceeing on “It Sounded Like A Rock!” With “Sweet Premium Wine”, Subroc slips in a Bomb Squad-like siren of a squeal over the floor-rumbling bass groove. There’s enough dust on these cuts to dirty a dining table.

The roughness of the production only adds to the mystique on the Black Bastards saga. The album was shelved indefinitely and its mishandling, coupled with the untimely demise of his brother, sends Zev Love X into the underground, only to emerge years later as a masked supervillain. This is a story you tell grandkids. If current rumors are any indication, Black Bastards may not, in fact, be the last we see of K.M.D, with Dumile rejoining early K.M.D. member Onyx and Black Bastards guest-rapper MF Grimm. But for all intents and purposes, this feels like a swan song. The sped-up sample of Gil Scott-Heron’s “Pieces of a Man” on “What A Nigga Know? (Remix)” sounds like a begrudging epilogue to a career sacrificed at the altar of practical business decisions. If released by Elektra without pause, there is little doubt in my mind (and Josh’s) that Black Bastards holds its own against undisputed classics of its time. Obscurity is the only thing now keeping it from joining the upper echelon of hip-hop."

Dude, I mean come on. MF Doom, pre-mask? How could you not want this lost Hip-Hop classic? Amazing 2nd generation beats, production values and rhyme style. People who like A Tribe Called Quest will especially dig this. But if you're sick of hearing that utter shit rap at almost any party you go, see if you can sneak this on the sound system and watch it wreak havoc. Kause Much Damage indeed.

Smokin' that shit

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