January 29, 2003

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HAVE YOU EVER known a record was going to be good before you even played it? That's how felt when I got a copy of Dabrye's new single, "Making It Pay" backed with two remixes of the producer's early material by Outputmessage and Prefuse 73 (Ghostly International, www.ghostly.com). For the uninitiated, Dabrye makes funky, atmospheric hip-hop beats that are reminiscent of Detroit techno with a blend of cold, fuzzed-out electronics and bright, soulful melodies.

Then there's Edan's Sprain Your Tape Deck EP (Lewis, www.lewisrecordings.com), which features a handful of the wackiest tracks from the Boston-based auteur's Primitive Plus ("MC's Smoke Crack," "Run That Shit!"), along with new songs like "Beautiful Food" and "Clinical Rhymes," the latter a duet with Skillz Ferguson. "Beautiful Food" is a particularly nifty joint that finds Edan shouting out the names of dozens of delectable dishes ("Meatball hoagy / Guacamole / Chicken patty / Apple fritter / Peanut butter sandwich with the crust cut off for the kids" as a cheesy '60s ballad is looped in the background.

While both Dabrye and Edan have earned considerable acclaim for their recordings this year, equally talented producers, specifically Japanese beatmaker Nujabes (Apani B Fly Emcee, Five Deez), have gone unheralded. His latest effort with U.K. MC Funky DL, "Slow Down" backed with "Not Yet Known" (Hyde Out, www.hydeout.net), is a winner that finds him looping up a pair of classic Blue Note tracks over hip-hop beats. Funky DL, for his part, adds two uplifting vocals about maintaining integrity and fortitude in one's life. "It's not yet known my full potential / So Imma keep rockin on these instrumentals," he rhymes on "Not Yet Known," making this a good single for DJs who only play conscious raps in their sets.

Last column I briefly discussed Botanica del Jibaro (www.botanicadeljibaro.com), a new record label out of Miami that's associated with the Beta Bodega Coalition. Well, as it turns out, the two singles I reviewed came out last year! Cyne's "Movements" is more recent, a collection of four amazing songs addressing modern and postcolonial slavery, as well as urban malaise and decay. Rapper Cise Star kills it on "400 Years," dropping abstract thoughts like "My pulse quickening / As my heart became a simile / I drift into the / reaches of self / I felt panicky / Hoping for anarchy / Liberation from this insanity." Enoch and Speck's beats are equally impressive. Another Miami imprint making noise, Metatronix (www.metatronix.com), recently released a new single by producer Supersoul, "The Sickness" backed with "The Remedy." The former has an ill stutter-step beat and lyrics by Judah Manson, while "The Remedy" carries an identical beat and a dancehall chorus from Sess. Enhancing the record's freshness is a elusive, moody remix by Push Button Objects.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to write letters of encouragement and criticism, send copies of their singles, EPs, and mix tapes, and simply lend support to my column. Special shout-out to Aye Jay and his Gangsta Rap Coloring Book, a picture book featuring Just-Ice, Ice-T, and other legends available for purchase at Amoeba Music and other fine record stores, and to Stones Throw Records, who have shown me love since day one. This is my last column for the year, so I won't be able to give you my top 10 list. Instead, I would like to direct your attention to a janky-ass Web page I posted at home.earthlink.net/~invisible27, where you'll find a summary of the year's best. See you in the 2-3.

Send all products and gewgaws in care of the author to 484 Lake Park Ave., PMB 349, Oakland, CA 94610. Comments, tips, and disses should be directed to invisible27@earthlink.net.