31 October 2011

Pioneer Series: Jam Master Jay

"The turntables might wobble, but they don't fall down!"

They don't fall down because the man with the plan behind the stands is none other than Jam Master Jay, the highly favored and successful DJ for the groundbreaking hip-hop group Run-DMC.

Run-DMC are a Pioneer Series for another day, but today we're highlighting JMJ, nine years after his unfortunate and untimely execution in a Jamaica, Queens, New York studio. A handful of suspects have been gathered, but nothing concrete in the way of finally solving his murder.

Jason Mizell, as he was born, was an instrumentalist from a very young age, playing the trumpet, guitar and drums, amongst other instruments. He became interested in deejaying after his family moved to Queens from Brooklyn at the age of 13, perfecting his art into the late hours of the night.

JMJ, initially performing under the name Jazzy Jase, played a part in a few garage bands and even DJ'd at some neighborhood parties before hooking up with Joseph "Run" Simmons and Darryl "D.M.C." McDaniels  to form the historic group. Managed by Run's older brother, Russell, Run-DMC went on to break numerous records and even start a few, all assisted with a heavy hand by Jam Master Jay.

Known to be nearly free of ego, selfishness and guile, Jay was instrumental in providing the hardcore sound that helped to propel Run-DMC to the top of the charts around the world. Jay was an original DJ, using his skills on the "ones and twos" to produce an edge that helped push hip-hop into the mainstream, influencing many DJs after him and showing people all over that hip-hop was not only a genre to move and groove to, but also one to be taken very seriously.

In addition to being instrumental in the development of his group, Jam Master Jay was also heavily responsible for the creation of Onyx (Slam!) and Public Enemy (Terminator X) as well as kickstarting 50 Cent's (Wanksta, which JMJ produced) career.

Speaking of 50, there are many unconfirmed rumors surrounding JMJ's murder. Some say he was killed as a result of unpaid debts, some say as a direct result of his affiliation with 50 Cent, who was rising quickly in the ranks of the rap world as a trouble maker and beef instigator. Regardless of the reason, the facts point to Mr. Jason Mizell being executed, a .40 caliber weapon fired into his head at close blank range on October 30, 2002.

His death left a gaping hole in the hip-hop world and in his family, shocking so many people who knew Jay as both a severely talented and compassionate person, caring not only about his loved ones, but about the world of music as well. Jay had founded the Scratch DJ Academy earlier in 2002 to provide a place of learning and education for those who truly wanted to learn the art of deejaying and production. That's the type of man that he was, and that's the man that we've lost.

It's been nine years and his loss is still felt, both in the arena of hip-hop and abroad. His influences still ring through new and old artists alike, all wanting to bring the same talent and skill to their careers, and hoping to be a part of the next Run-DMC. However, there will only be one Run-DMC...and one Jam Master Jay.

JMJ, Best In The Mix salutes you, and honors your memory.

"Goddamn, that DJ made my day!"

30 October 2011

We've got a (slightly) new URL!

As of right now, we are officially http://www.bestinthemix.com/!

No more ".blogspot.com!" Yes, we're still hosted by Blogger, but we like to live our lives simply over here at BITM, and that will help with getting traffic. Although we love to tell people about our site, we hated having to add the extra ".blogspot" because it made the name increasingly long and harder for people to remember, hence the change.

So, if anyone asks you for an awesome site for hip-hop album and mixtape reviews (and soon to be more op/ed pieces and rap news), then lead them over to http://www.bestinthemix.com/, where music is our life!

28 October 2011

Back And Better Than Ever

It's been a long time, I shouldn't have left you...

...yea, you know the rest.

Although this blog is a hobby for me, it is one that I take quite seriously. Obviously others see that determination, as I've gotten co-signs from friends in the form of JustMic and TwonJohnson, industry peeps like Ms. Proper and Kleos Jansport, and even big ups from the likes of heavyweights like Tech N9ne.

So what happened?

Life, to put it simply. I started the new YouTube page (www.YouTube.com/bestinthemix) and it was greeted instantly with much love. Unfortunately, everything else was going on at the same time and I had to pump brakes.

Well, the brakes have been cut and we're back.

"We" meaning more than me. I have new friends, new writers, new albums to review. It's going to be fun.

Best In The Mix is back, baby...care to join us?

(c)2011 A Nifty World production

Review: Phonte, "Charity Starts At Home"

After running the 2000s with classics between two different groups, splitting and beefing with his partners, and squashing the beef to give us more, the rising king of the underground finally blesses us with his debut solo effort, and it does not disappoint. From Little Brother to The Foreign Exchange, Tigalo has shown his versatility with the pen being able to flawlessly hop between raw lyricism and neo-soul almost like the forever-M.I.A. legend L-Boog. He displays his range all over "Charity Starts At Home" by finding a way to blend all of his styles onto twelve masterful tracks. After a few listens, it feels like this album is somewhat of a compilation of the many faces of Phonte, and as a hardcore fan of the underground circuit, I can say that this album could not have come at a better time.

The standout tracks shine like the best of the best from his catalog. "Everything Is Falling Down" and "Not Here Anymore" bring the classic 9th/'Te sound that we've fallen in love with over the years. It's hard to find fault in lines like "He told me to peel, broke free of my deal and left shackles / racing like petty in the stock now we heavy on the block like guards and left tackles / see where I come frometh, you and yours and up in arms like gun runners / and you are confronted with 99 problems and can't keep it 100 / then at the days end you ain't really done nothin / I made a new lane for myself and said "Fuck It." Why Rage Against The Machine when you can just unplug it?"

REAL. RAP. RAW. (Say it wit ya CHEST! lol)

If "Everything Is Falling Down" is not the strongest track on this album, then it's easily "Not Here Anymore" featuring the half-sized lyrical giant known as Elzhi.
"My DC niggaz say 'You Bammas Lack Experience'." Possibly my favorite line on the entire album, lol (DMV STAND UP!). Elzhi aka the "Syllable Sensei" holds his own and sounds like he feels right at home over 9th's "Love Don't Live Here Anymore" sample. I hope we hear more collabs from these two in the future.

Phonte also manages to sprinkle in a bit of his Foreign Exchange influence on a couple of tracks on the second half of the album, finding the inspiration for the perfect transition
from his relationship with his wife, which works out well without watering the album down with an excessive amount of sappy R&B. "Ball And Chain" focuses on staying strong regardless of the temptation to creep which exists within all dudes, especially those who are locked down. "It's cool to be grounded, you know what I'm sayin? Just don't get used to being on the ground. Let's GO!" That pretty much sums up the vibe from the next couple tracks including "To Be Yours," which is probably the strongest song on the album vocally.

'Te quickly reverts back to hip-hop for the final three ride-out tracks. Pharoahe Monch makes a cameo on "We Go Off" and he comes through with the typical rewind-calibur shit we've come accustomed to from this cat. The only problem with this track, and a few others is the repetition of some of the sampled beats. I almost feel like 9th and a few other producers were playing it safe on the production side, but that might be nit-picking because the lyricism is so strong throughout. If I was to find a flaw in this album it would be that, though, but it hardly detracts from the fact this album is a bona-fide classic.

Phonte and 9th Wonder reconciling their differences might just be the most important thing to happen in hip-hop in the past fifteen years. Who knew that we would get TWO classic albums this year, one from Phonte and another from 9th Wonder? Hip-hop is alive and well, people. From 2004-2008 it was on life support from T.I., Lil Wayne, and Kanye West, but it has been fully revived the past couple of years. We can thank artists like Phonte aka Phontigalo for continuing to satisfy the hunger from true hip-hop fans worldwide. It's becoming more and more difficult to choose "Album of the Year" for 2011 after this stellar effort.