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Mental Combat 908

Author: Blaze
Monday, 12 May 2008
One of the first labels that helped spark a resurgence in independent underground hip hop in the mid-90s was Bobbito Garcia’s low-rent Fondle ‘Em. Bobbito sourced his artists through the demos and the many guests from the very late radio show he hosted with DJ Stretch Armstrong. The label was renowned for being straight-up bare bones with no fuss and no airs. Usually a handshake and an even profit split was all that was arranged with the rappers. Just getting the music out there was the only intention behind the arrangement. There was no money in the bank for marketing, four colour record covers or major distribution, yet it still managed to make an impact worldwide. The first release in 1995 was The Cenubites, which sold out quickly and became an immediate sought after item, not only due to it being a supergroup with Kool Keith and Godfather Don, but because the vinyl was a limited press. Didn’t take long for bootlegs to surface. Next releases were by The Juggaknots, The Arsonists and Mr Live. Then came an EP by a duo called Siah & Yeshu DapoED. It was one of those moments when I as a listener went… wtf- It was a six-track EP with some great tracks like The Visualz and Glass Bottom Boat, but it was the last song called A Day Like Any Other that really made everyone in the room bug out. I’m talking new shipment arrival day at The Lounge Room on Pitt St back in 1996.

Now you have to understand that prior to the immediacy of the internet age, going to your specialist record store was a big deal. It was the only place that you could hear new music before anyone else. Long before message boards and net forums took over. So anyway, I remember the time when this EP came out the box, was placed on the turntable and we all had a listen to it. All 10 copies sold by the time the 11 minute-long song was up. It was just one of those tracks that made you fascinated. So what was the deal- Well it was a story about Siah, Yeshua and Ken Boogaloo taking a journey through some fantastical world, but not only were the lyrics descriptive and engaging, the beat kept changing to suit the new environment they were venturing through. Naturally the original vinyl is now worth a bit, with registering the highest sale as $163USD. Well now kids there’s method to the madness and I’m pleased to announce that the EP plus about 14 other tracks culled from other 12 Inch singles, demos and radio appearances have now all been collected for The Visualz Anthology (Traffik/Shogun). And what a solid effort they’ve gone to with this release. There’s a 24-page booklet of the duo’s history to scan through while you enjoy the music. One of the best re-issues of the year. I can’t believe it’s been 12 years since I snapped up the original vinyl.

If you grew up in the 80s listening to this music you would instantly nod with approval if the name Rakim was mentioned. Without doubt he was one of the most formidable MCs to have touch a mic. He wrote memorable line after line and some of his early songs like Eric B S President, Paid In Full and Follow The Leader were entirely quotable and became classic tracks no matter where you went in the world. After he left Eric B’s partnership he dropped a solo album many years later in 1997 The 18th Letter then The Master in 1999 but then he kind of disappeared. Dr Dre signed him to Aftermath then dropped him and even DJ Premier said he wanted to do an album for him, but that never happened. Then in 2006 he did a pro-graffiti track with Talib Kweli for Marc Ecko’s video game Getting Up and a year later a track for Nike’s Air Force One sneaker. His third solo album The Seventh Seal is due later this year after a nine-year gap and fingers crossed it’ll be worth it. In the meantime there’s a new double disc release The Archive: Live, Lost & Found (Streetcore/Shogun) that includes four new tracks, plus 18 tracks taken from a live show at B.B. King’s Blues Club in New York, on 25 November, 2006. The second disc is a DVD that is basically a well edited and professionally shot visual version of the concert tracks. Just wish that his DJ would’ve shut his gob during the show. Annoying and incessant.