1 January, 1999@12:00 am
There are many producers in this game that have stamped their names on a number of classic records (and otherwise) over the years, but there are few that have actually developed a signature style, and remained so consistent that they helped define the sound of hip-hop on its many levels, during their respective eras. Among these names are DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Dr. Dre, DJ Muggs, Alchemist , Marley Marl, Large Professor, and the list goes on. Most recently entered into hip-hop’s beat-production hall of fame is NYC’s own DJ Spinna, who despite putting in crazy amounts of work still remains an unknown to the masses.
How he still dwells in the land of the almost famous is a mystery, but it’s most likely because the brother never had a “hit single” with major radio or video rotation. Regardless of this fact, he must be doing something right, because virtually everyone (well almost) has tapped him for beats and remixes at some time or another during his career. His impressive resume shows work for everyone from Compton’s Most Wanted to Mos Def; from De La Soul to Les Nubians; from Eminem to J-Live. And those are the artists you’ve heard of – there’s a vast amount of hard-to-find indy hip-hop joints and vibey Euro-soul songs that make up his extensive discography, many which never land on U.S. soil (much less in the average vinyl fiend’s collection!)
Like the aforementioned producers, Spinna has in fact carved his niche in the bark of hip-hop’s family tree, not to mention the larger forest of music in general. Releasing some 3 to 5 full-length projects per year (some mix CD’s, some comps, some albums), he’s definitely one of the hardest working men in hip-hop at the moment. Yet regardless of what genre of music he is producing, Spinna employs his trademark sound in his entire catalog of heavy, big body beats – the low-end, rhythmic bouncy bass, the hollowed out samples, and spaced-out sound effects, for good measure. It’s the kind of consistency that DJ Premier has, the kind where the listener can immediately pick out a Spinna track upon first listen.
Beyond Real Experience Volume Two is Spinna’s second volume of his compilation series, which like its predecessor, spotlights a heavy list of unknown emcees that were lucky enough to make his acquaintance. Hearing some of the best emcees over his beats already may have spoiled us, as at times, Spinna’s starting line-up seems somewhat less impressive, but for the most part, they get over just fine on his wonderful production. (Truthfully, George Michael could Wham-Rap over these beats and it would sound fresh. And in all actuality, one time he did.)
But not at all to take anything way from Beyond Real’s future favorites, Volume Two does takes a minute to get off the ground, once it does, it’s an enjoyable listen from there on out. What sets it off is surprisingly not a Spinna track, but rather one produced by prot? Nick Fury, who mixes dancehall riddims with tragic B-movie horns for a nice blend on “Mekanism”. Beyond Real’s diamond-in-the-rough, Skam2?, picks up right where his classic rant with Eminem left off (“3hreeSix5ive”), rhyming with a ferocity that screams “sign me!”: “This mekanism ain’t nothin’ but a weapon with rhythm / that cover the parameter / who ever step in I give ‘em / a reason for livin’ / if they can’t see that I’m driven / by nuclear fission / trapped inside the shells that I’m lickin””. Aight!
From there, Spinna takes over, and it’s pretty much all-good. Jet Black Ha delivers a nice little call & response party starter on “O.K.”; Spinna’s born collaborator Kriminul (collectively known as the Jigmastas - like Primo to Guru), teams up with Guru for “So What “, a cold beat where the trio flawlessly captures the essence of the place where they dwell; Spinna breathes new life into Bob James “Nautilus” sample (believe it or not), by chopping and flipping it uniquely for Dynas and Skam to rip lovely on “Dime Out”; and reminisces of the seemingly brief era of late 90′s indy hip-hop on Shadowman’s “My Style”. Meanwhile, Spinna captures feeling through his beats on “My Momma”, a heartfelt duet by Mr. Complex and El Fudge dedicated to ma-dukes, as well as “Hey Love”, where Mr. Akil gets in the last word to his ex (VINTAGE Spinna here, folks).
The album strays a bit off course during it’s second half, but hardly disappoints. We can’t be too mad at all at Nick Fury produced (and Premier influenced) “Stones” by Jigmastas, but Spinna’s own “Plan X” (feat. Sadat X) seems a little random on the production tip. Among a few other so-so selections, it all comes to a head on the def posse cut “This Ain’t A Game”, and for dessert there are two dope bonus remixes of “Don’t Get It Twisted (PUTS Remix)” and “So What”, by fellow diggers People Under The Stairs and Ken Sport.
Like most compilations, it won’t please all of the people all of the time, as listeners will choose which songs they like, and which songs they don’t. But overall many will enjoy this album, whether it’s the casual bedroom hip-hop listener who was raised on the Native Tounges, or the longtime Spinna follower who wants to complete his collection (hey, don’t forget the exclusive HipHopSite Jigmastas 7-inch, fella!). While this album carries no Eminem or Mos Def levels of star-power, Spinna’s production is reason enough to experience Beyond Real in all its glory.
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