One of the Best Hip Hop Albums you Never Heard: Dispatches Part 1

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You meet the weirdest, most interesting types when attending a Ba’al Tshuva Yeshiva. Just to be clear with all you non-Yeshivish peeps out there, the term literally means in Hebrew the Master of Return or repentance. These Yishivas are strewn all across the world for Jews like myself who were re-sparked by our inner sun spots of spirituality. My Yeshiva, Aish HaTorah – which brings either waves of love and joy or hate and terror, had quite a mixture of far out wayward souls. These souls all congregated in one of the holiest places in the universe, the Old City of Jerusalem. I had many interesting late night discussions about our ideas, beliefs, and interests.

Being an uppity Brooklynite, with a hint of an Israeli ego, I immediately separated the men from the boys. I wanted to see what kind of music some of these Jewish souls listened to. Being a big hip-hop head made me far more convinced of the music’s power, and its dominance across the globe. Most of these wayward Bachurim (students in Yeshiva speak) were not as privy to the art form of hip-hop, and its many rap music progenitors. One day I sparked up a conversation with a guy who was my age who hailed from the West Coast. Once I started with the Stones Throw records list he hooked right onto the conversation. Apparently I not only met a knowledgable soul who was well versed in hip-hop, he was also an MC. Not only was he an MC, he was down with some of the most talented MC’s ever to bless the microphone. He was down with Ryu, Takbir, DJ Cheapshot, and Vin Skully. You might not be familiar with the names, especially if you’re younger or never had your ear to the underground, but this is Styles of Beyond. “You know them?” I blurted out in shock and amazement. “Yeah, I also recorded some stuff with them.” He had me at MC, but it amazed me how speaking with Benny Fine in Jerusalem was an indictor of the small world of the hip-hop community.

When hip-hop began to rise, like the vulture devouring all these young teeny souls in its conquest, in the markets a burgeoning underground began to bubble. Proceeding the deaths of the two legends, Tupac and Biggie, rap music began to reach new heights in many ways. Sales began to eclipse past numbers, as rap music began to infringe on the pop market. Rap music began to become synonymous with pop music. Due to this meteoric rise, many mainstream artists began to brandish a formulaic style of rap, which remains intact to this day. This was the dawn of the era of bitches and bikini clad women surrounding the rapper as he (it’s usually a man) smokes hella fine bud, counts his stacks of chedder (money), and raps about it on his yacht. This marked the death knell for me and my friends. No longer will rap music be relegated to a niche market. Now its a world market, and everyone’s in on the caper.

In 1997 I was knee deep into the underground with my buddies, as we trolled the new and unheard sounds in the indie hip hop world. Many monumental albums were released, and not all by prominent artists. Many of these artists we don’t hear from today, and this is my way of yelling it out, loud and proud. Listen up yo, cause this is some classic material that needs to be unearthed and re-heard. Enter the Styles……Of……Beyond!!!

Enter the mist, as a sample of a man’s voice comes in saying…”Thank you brothers and sisters……we have something hip that we want to present to you…..you’ve been listening to our music…..music……music” and then the cuts come in with precision. The DJ cuts deep as the waves of beautiful sounds come in and out of the headphones. The wave hits the rocks with a blissful violin sound, and then it tapers as the man says…..”chill,” and……STOP! And then…….BEYOND!!!

Styles of Beyond are an indie group hailing from the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, California. It should be noted that by the late 1990’s some of the best, and what most scholars should consider, and finest underground hip-hop music came from the West Coast. I don’t play, being a Brooklynite at heart. However, they have been shitted on for so long, due to the mythical supremacy of New York City hip-hop. Styles of Beyond, like the other crews at the time, were one of those groups who gave us an album with amazingly futuristic, yet also harking back to the old school, hip-hop music. The crew consists of two MC’s, Ryu (Ryan Patrick Maginn), and Takbir (Bashir), their stellar DJ Cheapshot (Colton Raisin Fisher), and Vin Skully (Jason Rabinowitz, hence the Jewish connection for today). Tak and Ryu are amazingly proficient with their elaborate rhyme schemes, which is evident throughout their work. They also enlisted some of the best West Coast DJ’s for their genius debut album, 2000 Fold. This album is one of those classics that you never heard, but should. However, look online as the record shops are closing their shutters for the online and very impersonal market.

The first time I heard 2000 Fold my mind was blown away, and then brought back into newer fragments. The beats were so sleek and new, yet the hard thuds of the drum beats kept it a bit dusty with flavor.It’s one of those future’s past hip-hop classics teeming with an old/new feel. There are many examples such as the precise cuts provided by DJ Cheapshop, and his many gifted guest stars. One of the best aspects that makes this a classic is the way the balance is struck in such a harmonious fashion. There are tracks that we consider bangers with a solid backbeat racing along with the lyrics of fury. Tracks like the opener “Styles of Beyond (Style Warz),” “Dangerous Minds,” “Back it Up,” and “Killer Instinct” are fine examples of fine tuned beats with a quick fiery delivery by these two fine tuned MC’s. Each track has this feel of urgency as it runs through the track as DJ Cheapshot adds the cuts that flow oh so well on the beat.

However, the balance is struck with songs that counter balance that sense of breath taking speed. They brandish their skills as well by showing us that they can also rock a tight rhyme over a slow beat. Songs like “Hollograms,” Winnetka Exit,” “Survival Tactics,” and “2000 Fold” are a bit slower paced, with the beat snapping a bit slower on time, but that doesn’t stop them from shining.

There is also a sense of the old to the new, and the new to the old on this album. DJ’s get a prominent role right next to the MC’s as the cuts are visibly present. Besides their talented crew DJ, the crew also invited some top notch guests to help solidify this harking back to the golden days of hip-hop. DJ Rhettmatic blesses the tables on two joints, Divine Styler the gifted Allah Supreme MC blesses the MIC, and other guests including Mike Shinoda who produced the track “Marco Polo” with guest MC 007. There’s even a small shout out to beat boxing in the guise of a short snippet provided by the virtuoso, Click Tha Supah Latin!

Listen up everybody, cause this is the bottom line. I’m writing on this because we all have those long lost hip-hop classic that other’s haven’t heard yet. We should push and pay it forward cause hip-hop’s running this game. Also, this album is an historical artifact that shouldn’t be lost in the sands of time. So go forth and spread the gospel, but make sure to listen to the album before you open your mouth.

Peace

#StylesOfBeyond #2000Fold #Ryu #Takbir #VinSkully #DJCheapshot #BennyFine

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