And today we wrap up our Hoop Legacy
Week Month with a look at DJ Raw B. Of course, he produced an entire album with Luke Sick in 2019 called Born Illness, which I covered in this video. And he’s also been providing sporadic cuts and beats on some of his more recent projects… you’ve seen his name pop up in my write-ups once or twice. But Raw B’s legacy actually goes back much further than I realized. He was the DJ for Double Life, L’Roneous Da’Versifier‘s old group. I’ve had his feature on the classic Cue’s Hip Hop Shop compilation for decades, but I never made the connection. And his recorded relationship to The Hoop goes back to the 2001 DJ album Turntables By the Bay and an Amoeba Records compilation which they gave a killer exclusive song called “Proto-ghost Groove.”
Now, in the three years since Born Illness, he’s been releasing solo albums. One a year, and I’ve got all three here. So let’s have a listen to what he’s been getting up to on his own.
Uncorrupted is a kind of a split album: half beat-tape, half full vocals. It’s more or less every alternating song. So even if you’re just in it for full vocal tracks, you can take it as a killer EP with a bunch of bonus instrumentals. We’ve got appearances from a couple of the usual suspects, specifically two (or three?) by Luke Sick, Z-Man (with a fun song about having “the sex drive of a 22 year-old college student”), and then a song apiece by Emcee Infinite and Dan Wolf, both of the group Felonious. That’s a crew that’s been around for a really long time, but I’ve only heard one or two of their songs. Anyway, their stuff’s a little corny, but Infinite has an impressive flow and Raw B gave him a really slick instrumental with some nice cuts as well. The last vocal track features Curtis Spicoli, which I assume is a pseudonym (it’s the name of Sean Penn‘s kid brother in Fast Times At Ridgemont High). He sounds like Luke Sick doing a Buck 65 impression, which is as entertaining as it sounds. And the instrumental is hype, with big horn stabs and a variety of samples. The real jewel is “Kill Zone,” though. Luke Sick gets wicked over a crazy beat with a choice EPMD vocal sample for a hook.
The next two albums are strictly beat-tape style. The Caution Tape was first in 2021. No scratching, no vocals (except for samples), just some dope beats and a recurring “Raw… B!!” tag. There’s a lot of creative choices being made, sample sounds you wouldn’t expect but that blend well together. And every track is proper song length, as opposed to those 45 King 7″s, where they’d just be like thirty seconds each, because once you heard the loop, you’d heard everything. These songs are richer than that, with change-ups and layers coming in and out. But not so much that they don’t cry out for more. All of these would be hot songs with a decent MC on them (with the possible exception of “Promise I’m Not Drunk,” which gets a little weird); but they’re a bit of a slog bare. Raw B certainly proves his talents as a producer, which was possibly the whole point in making this, but I want to hear this music with MC Madness going off on it! …Or somebody. It doesn’t have to be MC Madness.
2022’s The Low Key is next, and it’s more of the same. Maybe one or two of these songs are busy enough to stand without MCs, like “Mission To Mexicali.” And it includes a Christmas track, which is fun for anyone, but especially me since I specifically collect Holiday Hip-Hop. But otherwise… Well, I guess there’s a market for instrumental albums, so maybe it’s just me. I need more or I get bored. After the beat has looped three or four times, I just want to skip ahead to vocals or something more complex. In this case that means skipping all the way to very end, a short track opened with a famous Egyptian Lover quote, “what is a DJ if he can’t scratch?” And then Raw B gets busy on the turntables, begging the question: why wasn’t he doing this the whole time??
So at the end of the day, Born Illness and Uncorrupted are solid recommendations from me. The other two show a lot of promise, but you have to specifically be in the market for beat tapes to spring for a purchase. The Uncorrupted CD lists 15 tracks on the back cover, 14 on the back of the booklet, and 16 inside the booklet. I’m happy to report, we get the full sixteen on the booklet. That’s more than the 11 on the digital release, because the CD has exclusive instrumental versions of 5 of the vocal tracks, so that’s a nice reward for anyone copping a physical release.
And speaking of rewards for copping a physical release, The Caution Tape is available on CD and yellow (yellow) cassette, but the tape release features an exclusive bonus track, not on the CD or any digital release, called “Junkyard Dog” with cacophonous percussion that is genuinely reminiscent of a junkyard. The Low Key is limited to 100 CDs. Uncorrupted was available through Amazon, but now seems to be OOP. And Born Illness is still available on CD, all from his website: bornillness.com, or his bandcamp.
So yeah, in the next post we’ll be moving on to the work of completely different artists. Not that this has been everybody in the Hoop extended family. Even excluding the handful I’ve previously covered like QM and Z-Man (the latter in spades), I still have yet to really pierce the mystery of Thug E. Fresh. And did you know Eddie K was the original MC for the Bullet Proof Scratch Hamsters/ Space Travelers? There’s Doug Surreal from the S-Brothers, Koba Dera, Damien of Strike the Clutch… I could probably keep this running until the end of the year. But we’ve gotta give other folks a chance. So I’ll see you all next time with something different.