NTRT Mixtape #03 is dedicated to skateboarders and lyricists everywhere. When I compiled this mixtape for Night Time Right Time I focused on some classic rap verses that demonstrate lyrical flow and dexterity; and I dug out songs that served as the soundtracks for some of my favourite skate videos from back in the day. I think you can apply Jason Dill’s infamous definition of skateboarding to Hip Hop when he says “It’s art, it’s technique, it’s form, and it’s what looks good“. This tape is a pretty good reflection of the countless nights I spent as a teenager watching dubbed VHS tapes of skate videos and episodes of Yo! MTV raps. My eyes and ears took in the dope styles while my mind memorised the lyrics, tricks and skits. Here’s a detailed rundown of the tracklist and some of the reasons behind my choices.
Soundcloud deleted my account so if you want a copy – or any of the other mixtapes I posted – drop me a message.
Intro – Stakes is high by De La Soul
Stakes is High is one of my favourite De La Soul albums because of it’s maturity. I liked the intro where friends were asked where they were when they heard Boogie Down Production’s Criminal Minded for the first time. It serves as a homage to a group that inspired De La in their recording. As a skater I probably should have replaced the album title by Plan B’s Questionable, but seeing as this was a mixtape for Night Time Right Time, I let the listener know what’s up.
1, 2 Pass it by D & D All Stars
I cut the intro when the guy says he was at a “hype party” and used this reference to jump into DJ Premier’s 1, 2 Pass it remix featuring Mad Lion, Doug E. Fresh,KRS One, Fat Joe, Smif n Wessun and Jeru The Damaja united under the banner of the D&D Allstars. This anthem embodies the party vibe of an emcee cypha with a bunch of great emcees battling with the microphone in a jovial and boisterous manner.
Freestyle at a talent show by Prince Rakeem and Ason Unique / Criminology by Ghostface Killah and Raekwon
Now, for reference, Zoo York released one of the best skate videos ever in 1996 entitled Mixtape that combined East Coast skaters performing their stunts and rap stars dropping hot freestyles. Danny Supa’s section was dubbed by Wu Tang heavy hitters, Method Man and Ghostface Killah. Just prior to Mixtape’s release, Raekwon (and Ghostface) had released one of the most influential crime-infused rap albums of all time, Only Built For Cuban Linx [Niggaz]. When Ghostface is filmed at the infamous Stretch and Bobbito radio show in Mixtape, he drops a verse “from out the stash” as he says. that is his yet to be released / hot off the press lyrics from the Criminology track. I wanted to blend the Mixtape version with the album version and dug out a rare clip of Prince Rakeem and Ason Unique a.k.a. RZA and Ol’ Dirty Bastard of the Wu Tang Clan performing live in front of the crowd. Check out the Wu Tang Demo Cuts to hear RZA drop an early version of Dirty’s second Don’t u know verse from Return to the 36 Chambers. Its all back references upon back references. Do your homework.
Life’s a bitch by Nas and AZ, Accapella, Illmatic album version and DJ Cannon remix
Much like Raekwon and Ghostface, another great hip hop partnership is Nas and AZ. When the two combined on Nas’ debut album Illmatic for the track Life’s a bitch, my personal opinion is that the featuring artist outshone the album artist lyrically. AZ’s wordplay in describing the shortcoming and hopelessness of life in the ghetto are both poignant and eloquent. I made sure to keep his vocals accapella so that the listener can hear every word he says and enjoy the beauty and skill of his rhyme structures. Here’s an example: “Cause yeah, we were beginners in the hood as 5 Percenters / But something must’ve got in us cause all of us turned to sinners / Now some rest in peace and some are sittin’ in San Quentin / Others such as myself are trying to carry on tradition“. Then, instead of dropping back into the original track for Nas’s verse, I chose a remix version by DJ Cannon that to date is the only remix that sounds as strong if not better than the original.
Words from the Nutcracker by Malachi of Grouphome
Here is another example of a powerful verse where the rapper, Malachi of Grouphome, doesn’t hold back defending his microphone skills. Malachi’s fearless attitude and the relentless piano key loop are a match made in heaven that illustrates why the best rappers only need one verse to get the point across. This track was also used to accentuate Mike Carroll’s skateboarding in Girl’s first video Goldfish. Likewise, Words from the Nutcracker match Mike’s undeniable ability on a board that commands respect from his peers.
Winter Warz by Cappadonna
Winter Warz is featured on Ghostface Killah’s debut album Ironman, but it was also featured on the soundtrack of B-movie Don’t be a menace while drinking your juice in the hood. Even if the latter was a comedic spin off of all the gangster movies that appeared during the Nineties, Cappadonna’s final verse on the song is anything but a joke. Cappa’s status as a fully-fledged member of the Wu Tang Clan was certified after the Staten Island native went way beyond the regular 16 bar verse and released a relentless slew of metaphors, exclamations and jest for almost a minute. There are so many memorable lines from this verse, but my favourites have to be the number drop (“smoke a blunt and dial 9-1-7-1-6-0-4-9-3-11 / And you could get long dick Hip Hop affection“) and the direct reference at fellow Clan member Method Man’s PLO Style (“P.L.O. style got thrown out the car / And ran over by the Method Man Jeep“). I slipped a sample from The Beatnuts Stone Crazy album to reference Cappa’s phone request and Meth’s original PLO chant for the hit and run.
93 til infinity by Souls of Mischief
Even if 93 til infinity is a Hip Hop anthem in it’s own right, I always run the lyrics through my head with images of skate contests from 1993 thanks to a Best of 411 Video Magazine montage. The introductory sample I use at the beginning is taken from the San Francisco Back to the City contest where the Souls had travelled over from across the bay to promote their new single. Later, 411VM used the track to dub all of the contest footage from their recent releases. So, when I here Opio, A Plus, Tajai and Phesto rap, I see Danny Way nosesliding the rail at the Brooklyn Banks, Kris Markovich almost kickflipping Wallenberg, Tom Penny kickflipping the pyramid at Radlands, Jahmal Williams backflipping off the Love Park sign and Kareem Campbell backside 180-ing the rail at the top of the big bank in Houston. Great skating paired with a great song.
Harold Hunter intro / Got ya opin by Black Moon
I rate Black Moon’s Got ya opin as a classic rap hit that needs to be featured on everyone’s mixtapes, but this entry is also a nod to one of skateboarding’s greatest losses, New York legend Harold Hunter. RB Umali used this song for Harold’s section in Zoo York Mixtape and it works really well with his laid back style and happy-go-lucky attitude. The intro is the one used in Mixtape where Harold’s jamming to a tune on his ghetto blaster, but the machine keeps skipping and losing speed despite his attempts to keep the beat going. It’s just a small example of Harold’s great sense of humour and relaxed nature in front of the camera. Legends never die.
LA LA Kuweit Mix by Marley Marl
As a kid watching skate videos, I wouldn’t stop after my favourite dude’s part was finished. Instead I would watch all the way to the end of the credits, absorbing every grainy trick, skit or scene I could. Sort of like how a music fan would read the liner notes that came with the records they loved. To introduce the LA LA remix, the infamous rebuttal by the Queensbridge rappers Capone, Noreaga and Tragedy Khadafi aimed towards the Dogg Pound’s New York New York diss track during the East vs West beef of the mid-Nineties, I dug out my old copy of World Industries’ 20 Shot Sequence and more specifically Joey Suriel’s drunken words that close off the video. Joey was one of the more animated riders of the original Menace team and you could see his lively character as he played up to the camera throwing gang signs, flashing guns and in this case translating for an irate immigrant ranting in Spanish on the street. Even though I think the whole East vs West beef that plagued Hip Hop during the mid-Nineties was a very sad state of affairs, this intro works rather well to introduce such a war-fuelled track. I also snuck a quick skate reference into Noreaga’s first verse (“yo the God study swiftly / Indian style, knees bent, hands together”) with Ben Sanchez’s famous “Pacooooo!” cry from Chocolate’s Las Nueves Vidas de Paco video. Keep your ears open for Tragedy’s verse on this song because I consider it a very powerful example of lyricism used to express faith despite the odds.
Rockafella RIP by Rockafella
Featured on Redman’s Dare iz a darkside LP, these brief bars were rapped by Redman’s deceased friend Rockafella hence the name of the track Rockafella RIP. The slightly upbeat bassline takes the listener back to the early Nineties and makes for some quick verbal delivery. I took a sample from Girl’s Yeah Right video to introduce Rockafella where Rick Howard is egging on Owen Wilson to prove himself on a skateboard. Telling someone to do something first try is always an indicator of that person’s skill whether it’s on a board or on the mic.
TORE DOWN: A Tribute To St. Ides & Many Other Fine Beverages featuring Wu Tang Clan by DJ Concept
As a rap fan, I was always eager to know where I could find the Wu Tang track playing in the background of Raekwon’s Spot Rusherz intro skit on Only Built For Cuban Linx [Niggaz]. Alas, it was nowhere to be found… Until one day I finally stumbled across it on a promotional mixtape by DJ Concept for St. Ides malt liquor. The mixtape is full of rappers singing about the pros but mainly the cons of excessive drinking and drink driving. I’m not quite sure how effective the campaign was, but the mixtape is definitely worth tracking down for this rare gem. I close the mix off with the original skit.
Consequences by Haj featuring Karimah
This segway is 100% skate related. The instrumental is a remix of Consequences by Haj featuring Karimah for Aaron Snyder’s Fulfill the Dream part. The original track does not exist anywhere. Fulfill the Dream is Shortys first full length skate video featuring their skate team (different from their bolt team) and featured such incredible skate icons such as Peter Smolik, Steve Olson and Chad Muska. Aaron Snyder always stood out to me for his clean and effortless style. Plus the music was dope. The speaking over this skit is taken from a scene directed by Spike Jonze for The Chocolate Tour video featuring the Mike Carroll, Rick Howard, Eric Koston, Tim Gavin, Rudy Johnson and Guy Mariano acting as retired pensioners reminiscing, or mainly arguing, about their heyday as professional skateboarders. It always brings a smile to my face as I can only imagine that this scene will one day take place in a Los Angeles retirement home some thirty or forty years from now.
No shame in my game – Gangstarr
Sticking with the Girl / Chocolate skate crew, No shame in my game was the soundtrack used for Eric Koston’s profile in Best of 411VM Volume 1. In typical Girl and Choco fashion, the part open with Rick Howard and Tony Ferguson donning fake wigs and acting as talent scouts for a recruitment agency. Eric Koston being as talented as he is on a skateboard (which means very!), is their target as Tony and Rick rush around a shopping mall in search of him. Gangstarr’s No shame in my game is a great example of Guru’s (RIP) smooth skills on the mic and timeless monotone voice. The combination of the two makes for a lesson in style.
Ahonetwo Ahonetwo by Del The Funky Homosapien
Del the Funky Homosapien of the legendary Hieroglyphics crew has strong ties to skateboarding thanks to his collaboration with the Plan B camp. Ahonetwo Ahonetwo was used in Plan B’s opus the Questionable video for Sal Barbier’s section. You have to understand that when Plan B released this video, they single-handedly changed the face of skateboarding for several years to come (c.f. paragraph 2). In fact some of the tricks filmed over 20 years ago still haven’t been surpassed today. Sal Barbier wasn’t the gnarliest skater but he sure had style – especially during an era when the trends in effect made for some pretty awkward and ugly contortions. To quote Del, the “groovy sample from the archives” is super funky and highlights Del’s unique approach and attitude towards rap music. His independent mindset is akin to that of skaters who do anything but comply with social norms.
Freestyle by Scratch of the Roots / Hip Hop by Dead Prez
Love Park in Philadelphia is hallowed ground for skateboarders across the globe let alone the East Coast of the United States. Unfortunately skateboarding is outlawed in this “public” space, but until the early 2000’s dozens of skateboarders could be found cruising around the open expanse or chilling with the other social misfits who had nowhere better to go. Hailing from Philly, Scratch of The Roots blessed Transworld filmer Ty Evans with some dope human beat boxing to introduce the spot in the ninth TWS video The Reason. I like how Scratch’s vocals blend into the radio skipping opening of Dead Prez’s anthem Hip Hop. With so much political pushing and pulling that went on during this era between the Mayor and the Love Park locals, I find Dead Prez’s awareness fueled lyrics a good social commentary on standing up for what you love. On a sidenote, Hip Hop was used for Caswell Berry’s part in the Enjoi video Bag of Suck. Caswell’s burly skating and the classic rap track work well together even if in the tongue-in-cheek spirit of Enjoi, their pairing is a satiral combination of African American activism and the talents of a white kid from the San Jose suburbs.
Run by Jadakiss
I can’t mention Philadelphia without referencing the OG Dirty Ghetto Kid Stevie Williams. A successful skateboard entrepreneur who came up from nothing, Stevie breaks down the daily routine for him and his friends trying to get busy at Love Park whilst the cops keep trying to chase them out. I combined Stevie’s “Run, skate, chill” modus operandi with Jadakiss’ wicked verse from Run, a song he featured on alongside Ghostface Killah on Bulletproof Wallets. Ghost’s verse is good, but as I’m focussing on lyrical clout, Jadakiss’ description of getting run down in a pair of boots and sagging jeans is simply too good: “Scared to death, runnin’ like I got bears on me / (Run!) My Timb’s start feelin’ like they Nike Air’s on me / (Run!) It’s hard for me to slow down, it’s like I’m on the Throughway / My belt’s in the crib on the floor by my two-way / Now I’m tryna hold my hammer up, and my pants too / If they don’t kill me, they gon’ give me a number I can’t do“. The mix ends with another sample from 20 Shot Sequence where the filmer asks Lavar McBride where he’s going as the young teenager films an incredible line (or run if you prefer) that only ends when a fence prevents him from going any further. Ecstatic but also tired from the feeling of performing so many tricks back to back, Lavar just says “That was tight!” – a nice way to conclude this mixtape in my humble opinion.
A major shout out to DJ Twit for inspiring me to make this mixtape!