Thursday, 5 May 2011

DJ Yoda & DJ Greenpeace - The Late 90s / Early 00s Mixtape Collection

Yoda's stash - pic from @DJYodaUK
The relationship between these two understated stalwarts of the UK rap DJ scene goes back some time. Having flat-shared through the '90s they set about forging hip hop inspired DJ and journalistic careers together. By the late '90s - in the hours left available between writing for Hip Hop Connection Magazine, running Fatlace Magazine with fellow HHC scribe Andrew Emery and playing out around the country, DJs Yoda and Greenpeace were making a small mountain of cassette mixtapes that got distributed to a very small number of hip hop inclined record shops throughout London and Bristol. As a result they are almost impossible to find in physical form and many have yet to even find their way onto the net in MP3 form.

The ones I know I haven't got from this time are Yoda's Turntable Schmurntable, Seven Year Scratch and Funk Monkey - all of which are listed as being available on the inside cover of Jewbonics - and Fatlace Mixtape#1 and The Underground Classics (1979-1999) (which could possible never have been released) by Greenpeace. But whilst I still only aspire to own the TDK output from the king of cut'n'paste and his Fatlace co-founder, I do have a five-some of lovely little cassettes from this special time in history before DJs started putting their mixes out on CD.

Kanye ain't got shit on Yoda
Yoda's Piano Breaks does exactly what it says on the tin - a well mixed hip hop tracklisting with one common theme - the ever present tones of the ebony and ivory keys in the beats. The mix itself is actually pretty conservative for Yoda with nowhere near the amount of crazy cartoon skits listeners have come to expect. That said, the star wars themed sample madness is very definitely present its just that on this mixtape it is largely confined to breaks in between every two or three tracks. You get the impression that this was Yoda warming up and finding his style, experimenting with intros and segways to make the tape interesting and developing a love for it that would influence all his later work as a DJ. The tape came out around 1998 and was certainly not widely available. It was also the last tape he put out without any backing and the shoddy home-made paper cover and hand labelled TDK reflects this.

The Shoddy Hand-Made Cover to the Piano Breaks Mixtape

After Piano Breaks, his involvement in Fat Lace magazine provided him with the cash backing to up the quality control. The next couple of tapes came complete with professionally pressed and printed tapes and crisp, well designed cardboard inserts. In the same packaging but before Yoda's contribution hit the shelves, Fat Lace had released two more cassettes, both by DJ Greenpeace. The first was imaginatively entitled Fat Lace Mixtape#1 which is yet to grace my collection. The second was Jiggy Free (Fatlace Mixtape#2). 

Jiggy Free is a 90-minute cassette-only mix of late 90s shiny-suit-free hip hop of the variety he used to review in his "Independents Day" page in HHC. R&B choruses are nowhere to be heard and in their place freestyles, shout-outs and proper Indie rap music are the order of the day.  Roots Manuva, The Nextmen, Mark B and DJ Vadim are amongst the UK heads holding down a spot in the mix alongside lesser known tracks from the likes of Black Star, Common, Dilated Peoples, PUTS, Quasimoto, Dilated Peoples and the incredible Scaramanga.  Overall it is an awesome testament to that romantic time in rap history when "Keeping it Real" was more important than the "Dollar Dollar Bill"!

Jiggy Free full cover artwork - Fatlace Mixtape Volume#2

The third instalment in the FatLace mixtape series was Jewbonics and was the moment Yoda as we know him today arrived, fully formed and as mental as ever. It blew my mind the first time I stuffed it in my walkman and gave it a rotation on the train ride back from another late 90s Mr Bongo run. I just wasn't expecting to hear all my favourite 80s kids cartoons next to Parlour Talk, Jay Z and the Arsonists! I mean the Cities of Gold theme tune over drum breaks, Scooby Doo scratched whilst Lion O argues with Snarf ... really?  That shit was mind blowing for me - I'd never heard anything like it and it was crazily relevant to all my memories of excessive childhood television consumption. To this day I can watch some old movie for the first time and suddenly find myself quoting the lines of a scene I've never seen - instantly transporting me back into the world of DJ Yoda. I loved the X-Men but turntablism with humour made me think again about what you could do with a pair of Technics and a record button.

Jewbonics full cover Artwork - Fatlace Mixtape Volume #3

The next tape in the collection is Jews Paid. Another Fat Lace backed affair and a Collaboration between Yoda and DJ Greenpeace. Rather than cutting up on four decks in one mix Scratch perverts style, the fellow DJs instead take responsibility for a side of the tape each. "Side Fat" is Greenpeace's contribution and is very much a mix in the style of your everyday hip hop DJ of the late 90s. As you would expect from the man behind HHC's Independents Day at a time when any true hip hop head would spit at anything even vaguely commercial - there is a strong Indie Hip Hop vibe running through the mix. Cuts from Non Phixion, 7L and Esoteric, J Live, Mr Lif, High and Mighty and Smut Peddlers amongst others are well mixed and would have been exciting for an underground head at the time it dropped but other than that the mix is solid but pretty unremarkable.

The B-side by Yoda - named "Side Dues" - is on the other hand - remarkable. Whereas Greenpeace's track list reads as a standard list of names and song titles, Yoda's track list reads a little differently... "A moronic mix of childishness, irrelevance, general imbecility and foolishness. Featuring an Arsonist, a Hieroglyphic and He-Man." And when 5 minutes into the mix you hear Inspector Gadget perfectly blended over the top of "The Show" - you know that the description just needs one small tweak to be entirely accurate... that is the insertion of "Brilliant" between "A" and "moronic".  This has been recently re-released on CD by the fellas over at Fat Lace so go pick yourself a remastered CD version with much better sound quality than the one I have taken ripped off tape and posted here! 

Jews Paid - "Moronic" Yoda at his best

After Jews Paid, Yoda and Greenpeace didn't waste any time dropping the follow up with the release of Jews Paid Too. This time, instead of taking a side of the cassette each they combine throughout and create the perfect combination of Yoda's nutty cut-n-paste comedy routine and Greenpeace's fine taste in Late 90s Indie Rap - a decision that makes the tape a much better all round listen than it's predecessor. One again it comes with professionally printed cover and tape so don't go parting with your cash for any dodgy looking TDKs with photocopied covers!

Jews Paid Too - Another side each

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