I got to say, what’s the deal with 2009? It’s turning into one procession of tearful goodbyes. And without wanting A Story To Tell to be all about legacy and testimony, so many legends are passing that we simply have to pay dues and give respect. And so it is that major props are going out to the legendary Mr Magic, and condolences to all family and friends, with the sad news that he passed away late last week. Mr Magic was more than a radio DJ, he was instrumental in the growth of the music we adore.
Host of the first dedicated hip-hop show on mainstream radio with New York’s truly seminal “Rap Attack”, Magic was also a founding member of the Juice Crew, and his affiliations with Marley Marl in particular were the foundation of some of rap’s greatest successes. From Whodini to Tupac, Nas to Biggie, Premier to Eric B and Rakim, all have name-checked the influence of Mr Magic on their falling in love with rap, and their exposure to and education about this music. A true pioneer, in this particular case the legacy is impossible to truly measure, but the influence was sheer magic.
1997 had seen the brilliant debut from Missy “Misdemeanour” Elliot, a stunning take on the dominant R’n'B sound, powered of course by the now trademark beats from the legend that has become Timbaland.And featuring Missy’s sweet yet powerful vocal style, her never bettered combination of vocal strength as a singer and lyrical prowess as an emcee. The combination marked a watershed in hip-hop influenced R’n'B, and the careers of the pair never looked back, collecting enough platinum since to blind a herd of elephants.
Debut album “Supa Dupa Fly”is of course worthy of a lengthy discourse such is its brilliance and originality. But for a brief reminder of why the pair’s music is so worthwhile to revisit again and again, i’ve recently been solidly back into 1999′s follow-up, the darker-hued “Da Real World” LP. Missy asserts her inner bitch over the most deeply innovative of Timbo’s production thus far, with a bonafide stellar line up of contributors, from Lady Saw to Eminem, classics all.
But on standout track “All N My Grill” Missy can’t even settle for one guest rap slot, or even two rappers on one tune. No she has to include identical versions of this simply exceptional track, one of our all time favourites, featuring two of the most appealing cameo verses yet heard. Big Boi or MC Solaar, dirty south or Parisian smoothness, bump in your trunk or flavour in your ear?Impossible to choose really, but for now let’s fly the flag for the Euro, the best rap verse of all time that I have no idea of the content of. Le fantastique.
And so another true master of the game has met a sad and untimely passing, with the news that a tragic accident has taken from us the iconic deejay Grandmaster Roc Raida. Raida, producer and turntablist supreme, was of course DMC champion in 1995, a founding and sustained member of The X-Men/The X-Ecutioners, as well as Busta Rhymes personal deejay. He toured the world showcasing his extensive skills, and was a true pioneer, champion and advocate of his art, one of the very pillars of hip-hop.
But more than that, and by all accounts, the man known to friends and family as Anthony Williams was a true gentleman, a jovial, friendly and generous character, giving as much to the game as he got from it. Passing as a result of complications from surgery after an accident sustained through another passion for mixed-martial arts, the 37 year old will be sorely missed by all hip-hop fans for his commitment to innovation, his showmanship, and his sheer audacity on the wheels of steel. A legend who resurrected and brought new audiences to the key passion that defined his life. Rest in peace, and we hope that Jam Master jay isn’t hogging the decks too much up there.
None of you out there should need any reason to revisit the stunning debut from MF DOOM (all caps!), 1999′s “Operation Doomsday”. In fact you should never need an excuse to go back to DOOM’s work, period.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, the masked one is simply one of the greatest emcees around. If the gritty rhymes and delivery are not your bag then fair enough, but you surely have to give the utmost props to the sheer imagination that he brings to the game. Comedic and insightful, don’t let the comic persona ever get in the way of some serious appreciation. And, as for the return to the first solo foray of the iron clad superhero, well of course it must be “Rhymes Like Dimes”, a beef simmering appraisal of the end of 90s rap game. Huge. Ten cents well spent.