Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Suspect Packages Radio Show featuring Disorda and Jehst (Itch FM, 25/03/2001)

A Slice of Suspect Packages Gold from 2001

I guess you could say I've been on a bit of a tape binge recently. A discovery of unlimited uploads on Mixcloud has got me flipping the bird to divshare, digging deep in the tape rack and scouring e-bay for the UK mixtapes I missed back in the day.  But with that comes a nagging feeling I have been neglecting the vinyl racks and with so many sick-meaning-ill-meaning-good records to get through I thought I would set about trying to get the best from both worlds with this post so its time to press play on the widget above and get your read on!

Firstly, a little bit about the the tape itself which came into my possession courtesy of a loan from Rarekind.. It comes from way back in a golden time when Itch FM was an infant pirate radio station illegally hijacking the Capital's FM airwaves from various dodgy London flats. Alongside the likes of MK, DJ IQ, Mr Dex, Biggerman, Mr Penfold, TufKut and A-Gee, Disorda had a slot for his own Suspect Packages Radio Show.

The Full Cover
But it was different times back then and the problem was that with no internet-based social network-type platform to work off people simply couldn't tune in unless they happened to live in the parts of London the broadcast signal could reach. To try to reach a wider audience Itch would put out various bits of their content on tapes, VHS's, CDs and DVDs and advertise them in HHC and at the nights they sponsored. Then, just like now, Disorda was running the number one UK Hip Hop mail-order company in the UK so it was only really here and places like Deal Real records that you could pick up tapes of his and other's contributions to the station. (In other words there aren't many of them and they are pretty hard to track down in physical form these days). (If you are interested there are a couple more of his early shows as well as all the latest episodes on his own mixcloud page).

So the tape's a pretty nice item to own in itself, but it was the wax played by Disorda on this late March 2001 evening that will fill the ballbags of a "UK head" with a rapspunk backlog. The tracks he dropped that night represent a flight case of very collectable UK wax any self-respecting collector should be aspiring to slot into their racks. What follows is a vinyl-by-vinyl breakdown of the track list for what turned out to be a classic-filled episode of his long-running Suspect Packages Radio Show even if he didn't know it at the time.

Aspects: Psychoboogie 7"
After Disorda has welcomed all with his dubious singing skills, the first bit of wax to hit the plater is Psychoboogie - a 7" slice of super limited weirdness from West Country nerds Aspects. Released in 2001 in the cheapest way possible - a blank white label 7" in a plain white sleeve, smudged with a stamp of the group's logo - it is a pretty limited run (200  if you believe Disorda or 50 if you want to trust the discogs entry). The track also appeared on wax on their strong Correct English LP and in remixed form on the B-side of the My Genre 12" but the 7" is the only place to get hold of the ill instrumental.

Junior Disprol - Fight Club 7"
Next on 1210s was the super hard to find and usually pretty expensive Fight Club 7" by Junior Disprol. Limited to 300 copies with an Ill Premonitions era Jehst feature on the flip it has already has a SPOTS article written for it. Check it here. Limited discogs-based research on this suggests that this may be the only vinyl release to bear the MCs name as the lead solo artist, with all other output being attributed to various collectives he was part of such as Fat Club, Fleapit and Dead Residents. I will of course accept being corrected on that by more learned West Country heads!

Natty and Dwella - Industry Nerds
Industry Nerds goes third, a 12" track put out on the Kent-based label, Def Con Records by the less well-known duo Natty and Dwella featuring Manage and Dark Circle member, Anik. It's a pretty decent tune bemoaning that favourite of late '90s indie rap subjects - the lack of opportunities for those not willing to sell-out! It had just dropped at the time and is generally a super cheap pick-up these days that can probably be found floating in the bargain bin of your local UK Hip Hop friendly record store if you don't fancy paying the P and P for one of the many 99p discogs copies.

PGM - Y2Kaos
The fourth track is Y2Kaos by PGM, a group that I have to admit had passed me by until I listened to the tape for the first time a week or so ago. Also known as A Phu Good Men they apparently released two 12"s in 1999 on their own short lived label, Undisclosed Records. A bit of further research then revealed that one of the group members was Rising Son - that dude who won a competition to feature on the UK Version of Nas's Thiefs Theme on his Streets Disciple LP in 2004. So it turns out I actually caught him live when I hit up Brixton Academy for the '04 Nas gig that ended abruptly after 30 minutes when some twat fired a gun in the venue a few metres behind where I was standing and caused a mass stampede.

Villains - Welcome to Wolftown LP
The Villains didn't pass me by, I just didn't like them for some reason. I remember buying their Welcome to Wolftown LP when it dropped amid a fair bit of magazine hype and hating it. I don't really know why as listening back to it now it sounds pretty decent! I think it was a bit of a different vibe to the backpacker rap I was into back then and the Wolftown dudes came across a bit gangster with their gold chains and Master P-style LP covers. As a result my mind was closed and my eardrums weren't ready for it so it got kept but disregarded until many years later when I pulled it out on the recommendation of a mate and began to appreciate. It is a decent LP with some great beats and a couple of very listenable MCs. For the Man's Dem (the track dropped on this this show) backs that statement up nicely.

Skeme feat Rodney P - UK Bubblers
UK Bubblerz is a Titan Sound 12" by Skeme who only ever seems to do tracks with MCs of the Rowdy variety. By Hooking up with Skitz and Rodney P the trend continues on this slice of cheap and easy to pick up goodness that would have been a Carnival staple that year for sure. Rodney P does what Rodney P does and so does Skeme which means there is no real surprises with this one, just those ragga influenced flows over another sunny Jamaican hip hop vibe.

P Brothers - Heavy Bronx Experience vol.1
After the rowdiness the UK legend that is Cappo drops science over the clunking metallic production of the incredible P Brothers. The Illest is a banging track taken from the P Brothers debut wax outing The Heavy Bronx Experience Vol.1 - Bronx In A Box (Heavy Bronx Records, 2001). Its a proper tough one to track down at a reasonable price but copies can be found floating around in the usual on-line places for around £40. Shamefully I currently have to make do with an MP3 rip as I have yet to find a copy of it for a price I would be happy to pay. If I was to offer a lazy description I would say it is the UKs take on Company Flow's Funcrusher Plus in that both records sound like they were recorded in an iron works factory during the industrial revolution (in a good way!).

Krispy - Millennium Funk EP
Keeping it ill with the Ill Format, Krispy's Millenium Funk EP gets a spin next. These Manchester based MCs were always so consistent with their releases and this 2001 release on Bomb Hip Hop keeps up the quality control even if it won't go down as one of their classics like say... On Tempo. Having spent time on some of the more successful labels such as Bomb and Kold Sweat, most of their records are available in decent quantities so aren't too hard to track down on the cheap. This one is no exception and can be easily copped for under a fiver.

Karl Hinds - The Next 12"
Karl Hinds is The Next track to hit the decks. It is a 12" only release on Hind's own label - Ill Flava Records that was later updated on his 2002 Debut LP - Hindsight, with The Next 2002 - Progress Report. Hinds has definitely done better tracks in his time - The Straight up classic UK take on Big L's Ebonics, Don Gramma (featuring Blak Twang and Seani T on the remix) being the obvious example - but this is pretty decent too even if the Paganini/Andrew Lloyd Webber/South Bank Show theme violin sample is a little sweet for my tastes.

I suppose its fair to say that the above records were a fitting warm-up to the main event as it is at this point on the recording that we enter the YNR/Low Life Records/Jehst phase of the show. When the records start dropping one after another you can really begin to appreciate how healthy and creative a place the UK Hip Hop scene was at this time. It is incredible how many classic records Jehst was dropping/working on at a point when YNR and Low Life were right at the beginning of perhaps their most prolific and successful periods as labels.

Tommy Evans - 4Elements EP
With Jehst lurking in the background we're eased into proceedings with the Tommy Evans track Ophelia taken from his 2001 YNR EP - 4 Elements. Ophelia is a UK Hip Hop love song produced by Evil Ed and Jehst. In my eyes is not the best tune off the 12". That accolade goes to the EPs title track featuring Task Force - 4 Elements. It is the 5th release on YNR, following in the massive footprints left by Premonitions, Nmonic's slept on Voicemail EP, Tommy's own 4 Horsemen EP and Evil Ed's Tournament Round 1 which also gets a play later on in the show.

Task Force-Voice of the Great Outdoors EP
"I'm a spaceman type chewing meteoric porridge!" Next comes one of the all time UK Hip Hop tracks from this era - Taskforce's Cosmic Gypsies. Taken off the stonewall classic Voice of the Great Outdoors EP (Lowlife Records, 2000) featuring Braintax and Jehst. I reckon it's pretty likely that Chester and Farms were doing a little dabbling in certain forms of mind expanding substances at this time. Cosmic Gypsies is no doubt the result of one of these interplanetary journeys and what was created was a metaphor-filled galaxy cluster of a battle rap.

C.O.N Artists - Salsa Smurf 12"
The Salsa Smurf 12" also got a write-up on SPOTS recently in an article on Champions of Nature (aka C.O.N. Artists). C.O.N. were something of a "super group" made up of Lewis Parker, Jehst, Supa T, L.Dolo, Apollo, AM and Profound. In the end friction between them lead to an early break up so they only managed to put out three 12"s, one of which was Salsa Smurf. The one in the picture here is the Wordplay 12" pressing that came out in 2001 which was the lead single for the top notch Wordlab 2 compilation. The original, self released white label version actually came out a year earlier and includes the Jazzy Styles instrumental and an additional Scratch section on the flip that is absent on the full Wordplay release. It is a little harder to find but worth the search if you fancy scratching an acapella C-C-C-CON Ar-Ar-Ar-Artists into your next UK mix!

Evil Ed -  The Tournament Round One 
For me, Evil Ed was for Jehst, what Premo is for Nas - in that Ed is someone who seemed  to consistently get the best out of him. Alien is another classic Evil Ed and Jehst hook up taken from Ed's The Tournament Round 1 EP (YNR Records, 2000). The opening lines sums up its place in the YNR back catalogue nicely... "I exist in a state of consistent transition / plans shifting with insufficient ambition..." It was the last time Ed and Jehst would work together as a twosome for some time as Jehst moved towards producing more and more of his own stuff and teaming up with the likes of Harry Love and Cee Why when he didn't. This is perhaps the last track Jehst made that sounded like it would sit comfortably on Premonitions before his hook up with Low Life marked one of the transitions he references. I don't know what it is about the combination of Ed and Jehst in this era I love so much - perhaps its the slightly higher pitch of Jehst's voice and an accent that hadn't fully taken on the weeded-out London twang of recent years over those understated 90s style indie beats. Maybe its just that I was 19 at the time and these records were a massive part of my early record collecting years. I don't really know, but there is a certain something about Jehst at this time that I feel all but disappeared on later post-Falling Down records.

Jehst High Plains Drifter EP (£20-£35)
That said, in the interim between the Tournament and Falling Down - Jehst popped over to Low Life and made something seriously special. From the opening bars to the closing sample, in my opinion High Plains Anthem is his crowning achievement of an impressive back catalogue. The poetic imagery of the lyrics are incredible - perhaps even unsurpassed in the UK Hip Hop world (for me anyway). It is dark and light and uplifting and depressing all at the same time. As a country boy living in a city, for me it was one of those rare occasions that I was listening to music that resonated almost entirely with my teenage world-view - perfectly pitting youthful dreams and ambitions against the inner demons and personal inadequacies that hold us all back. On the tape it sounds like it is the first time Disorda has heard it himself - and it is no coincidence he gets a text asking for a rewind!  "The dirty rascal, or the king of the castle? I'm partial to both titles, the soldier's quoting the Bible / Holding my rifle to false idols / I love the crackle on the old vinyl / I rock break loops / And make moves from my HQ / I stay true to the ancient ways / The herbalist curb-surfer riding pavement waves..." That's the 19 year-old me right there!

Then we are treated to that age old hit or miss process that is the in-studio freestyle. I guess it's a part of some sort of ancient hip hop law that every MC that appears on the radio has to do a freestyle and this show is no different. I can't say that I have ever heard Jehst really smash a freestyle - I am not sure it has ever been one of his strong points but initially he does a decent enough job here - even if he is just spitting a mish-mash of lyrics from pre-written tracks with the odd "yo yo I go with the flow off the top of the dome"-type ad-lib thrown in here and there. Unfortunately with this one, just when Jehst seems to be riding the beat nicely and settling into a steady rhyme pattern, Disorda switches up the beat and the whole thing goes a bit tits up... so we move on...

The back of the Fight Club 7"
Fortunately Junq Waffle comes along and saves the day soon enough. As the flip to Fight Club, Junq Waffle also got some love in a previous SPOTS article. It is an ill posse cut featuring Junior Disprol, Alkaline (of Gunshott fame), Jehst, Skeleton (aka my favourite MC who did bugger all records), and again has production from Evil Ed. It is the second of two 33rpm tracks squeezed onto the B-side of this 7" so the playback isn't the best quality - but it is the only non-download place you can get this track in its entirety so its well worth the £20-£30 it will set you back.

Katch 22 - Diary of a Blackman LP
Once the Jehst showcase is over, the show closes out with a couple of tracks that take it back to the old school. First up is the epic - Diary of a Black Man Living In the Land of the Lost by Huntkillbury Finn and his Katch 22 outfit. Released on the legendary Kold Sweat label, the LP is considered to be a proper classic of the genre although I can't honestly say I have managed to get into it enough to hold it in that high esteem. A lazy description would suggest they are kind of the UK's answer to Public Enemy in the sense they embraced an aggressively political black power message throughout the early 90s at a time when it was just about still fashionable to do so. The trouble is, I came to it well after this time and it just didn't hit me in the same way old school records by the likes Demon Boys and Hijack did. I suppose it is one of those LPs that is of its time. There is a 12" of this record but the image I have added here is the cover of the LP of the same name.

Blade - Planned and Executed LP
Next up are a couple of tracks by the veteran MC, Blade - the guy who just kept doing for it as long as he possibly could! The first one is an earlyish number from 1995 called Planned and Executed. Again it is the title track from an album and is pretty typical Blade fare for this time. Hard edged, high bpm, aggressive Britcore rap in that instantly recognisable voice that has graced so many fine UK tracks.

Mark B and Blade - The Unknown LP
The second track is from his extremely successful collaboration with Mark B - The Unknown LP (Wordplay 2001) that saw him make an appearance on Top of the Pops to perform the shitty Grant Nicholas remix of Ya Don't See The Signs. Right Here, Right Now is an album cut that is probably one of the least well known tracks from the LP. As with the whole of this Album, Mark B's beats perfectly compliment Blade's rhyme-style so its a shame we only get a verse of it before the tape runs out!

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