hip-hop

Calling out Names: BierWax’s Beer Name Playlist Volume 1 (Monkish)

My first piece here remarked on the essential connection between hip hop and craft beer, and clearly, we are not the only ones who feel this way. One of the exciting developments that reinforces our belief that BierWax reflects the cultural zeitgeist is the emergence of so many beers with names inspired by hip hop. One of the breweries leading the way in this regard in Monkish, out in Torrance, California. 

With this trend in mind, here’s a quick feature and playlist covering beers brewed by Monkish (some in collaboration with Other Half) with names inspired by rap lyrics. 

 

2-1 & Lewis

Brewer: Monkish

Variety: Imperial IPA

Beer Advocate review

Inspiration: Nate Dogg & Warren G – Regulate

Lyric: “So I hooks a left, on 2-1 and Lewis. Some brothers shooting dice, so I said, let’s do this”

“Regulate” is a classic guilty pleasure that was either the most unlikely or likely hit off the Above the Rim soundtrack. 2-1 and Lewis is the intersection at which poor Warren G gets got after a whimsical decision to enter a dice game. Now, Warren should have known never to enter a hood dice game on a whim; it can only end poorly. Luckily, his ace, the G-Funkdafied Nate D-O-double-G was there to bail him out. What are the chances that you’re cruising down 2-1 & Lewis, strapped with “16 in the clip and one in the hole,” while your homie is getting robbed on the same block? …Probably about the same chances that some dude who goes solely by “Leon” can throw down reverse dunks like Dominique at the ’87 Dunk Contest and pull up from half court like Steph Curry at the Rucker – all in in god damn couduroys and a thermal! But, great art sometimes requires the suspension of disbelief. Still, “Regulate” goes down as the only hip hop hit, in which the protagonist gets jacked, but saved by a gun-toting crooner. In the words of a much better rapper, I’d say that’s Rather Unique.

 

Biggie, Biggie, Biggie

Brewer: Monkish

Variety: Imperial IPA

Beer Advocate review

Inspiration: Notorious B.I.G. – Hypnotize

Lyric: “Biggie, Biggie, Biggie, can’t you see? Sometimes your words just hypnotize me”

Perhaps no hip hop artist was ever more capable of making hits for both the club and the streets, the radio and the Walkman, the stick-up kid and the nine-to-fiver, than the livest one from Bedford Stuyvesant. While “Hypnotize” is plenty guilty of ushering in the “shiny suit era” that dealt a major blow to boom bap, and largely shut the door on the golden era, it certainly gets people off their asses and can still turn a club out to this day. While it’s nowhere on my essential Biggie playlist, it’s an undisputed hit – so much so that it actually inspired a second Monkish beer, a standard IPA, entitled Days of Underoos.

 

Blowin’ up the Spot

Brewer: Monkish x Other Half

Variety: Imperial IPA

Beer Advocate review

Inspiration: Gangstarr – Blowin’ up the Spot

Lyric: “And you don’t wanna hear the burners go pop. Gangstarr, motherfucker, what?! Blowing up the Spot”

This is Monkish’s second collaboration with Other Half. Both titled after Gangstarr tracks, JFK 2 LAX (covered later in this entry) was the first collab. Driven by the success of the first collab, this beer was highly anticipated and drew quite long lines on release day. “Blowin’ up the Spot” was one of the standouts on Hard to Earn, which is one of several golden era classics from Gangstarr’s catalog. On this track, DJ Premier flips some funky George Clinton samples as Guru’s unmistakable voice and smooth cadence drops the lyrics, which are slightly more on the aggressive side, relative to Guru’s overall demeanor.

 

Bomb Atomically

Brewer: Monkish

Variety: Imperial IPA

Beer Advocate review

Inspiration: Wu Tang Clan – Triumph

Lyric: “I bomb atomically, Socrates philosophies and hypotheses can’t define how I be dropping these” (Inspectah Deck)

I first heard Deck spit this verse about a year prior to the release (promo or full) of this song, as he delivered it on the epic Tony Touch tape #50, which featured “freestyles” from 50 emcees. It got rewound several times on that tape (as did the Nine verse, in which he names checked tons of rappers), but when “Triumph” hit, it ascended the verse to a whole other level. The Wu Tang Forever album was quite possibly the most anticipated hip hop album of all time. It’s hard to conceptualize and compare pre-internet, but no hip hop artist or group was ever as big and omnipresent as Wu Tang Clan at their pinnacle. This is especially awe-inspiring given that there were tons of other incredibly dope artists in their primes at the same time. “Triumph” delivered on the hype and only further built expectations for the album. The premier of the “Triumph” video was like a national event; the video was the first rap video with a million-dollar budget. And, Deck led it off (as he did on “Protect Ya Neck”), spitting this verse while scaling a building. The verse inspiring this beer is the most memorable verse on hip hop’s most anticipated album, and one of the all-time best leadoff verses on a full-on posse track. …”Shackling the masses with drastic rap tactics; graphic displays melt the steel like blacksmiths” still gives me chills!

 

Eric C is President

Brewer: Monkish

Variety: IPA

Beer Advocate review

Inspiration: Eric B & Rakim – Eric B is President

Lyric: Title of song

There is simultaneously so much, yet not much to say here. Off possibly the most influential album in hip hop history, we have possibly the most influential song from the most influential emcee. You can barely go four bars anywhere in the song without a line that was subsequently scratched into a chorus, or referenced in a subsequent lyric, or song or album title. Eric B is on the cut, and Ra is on mic – really doesn’t get better than this!

 

Ghetto Style Proverbs

Brewer: Monkish

Variety: IPA

Beer Advocate review

Inspiration: Gangstarr feat Inspectah Deck – Above the Clouds

Lyric: “Heed the words. It’s like ghetto style proverbs. The righteous men sacrifice to get what they deserve.” (Guru)

An unexpected, yet welcome pairing, Guru and the Rebel INS trade verses over another Preemo masterpiece. I always thought Guru’s verse was extremely poetic – it’s not overly complex in lyric or flow, just well-composed and delivered, with each word carefully chosen. Deck follows in typical form, riding the beat with above average lyrical acumen, characteristics that make Deck well-suited for any and all guest features.

 

Intelligent Embellishment

Brewer: Monkish

Variety: IPA

Beer Advocate review

Inspiration: Blackstar – Re-Definition

Lyric: “Intelligent embellishment, follow the fire element from Flatbush settlement” (Mos Def)

It was very tempting to type out this entire verse. Though Mos Def’s peak as an emcee was somewhat short-lived, at his best he’s simply one of the most talented lyricists and performers to ever touch a microphone. This verse is a clinic on how to completely own the English language, as Mos finesses an educated form of braggadocio while modulating his voice and flow. This is on my short list of favorite Mos Def verses. Major props to Monkish for this one as well, because it’s a pretty deep and obscure reference.

 

JFK to LAX

Brewer: Monkish x Other Half

Variety: Imperial IPA

Beer Advocate review

Inspiration: Gangstarr – JFK to LAX

Lyric: “Nothing happened. Mind your business – yo, step. You know we connect – JFK to LAX:

Gangstarr’s Moment of Truth is a great album that is somewhat slept on. The duo is largely defined by a string of three albums that preceded this release, but it deserves the same reverence as the other classics in the catalog. “JFK 2 LAX” is a fairly short, chorus-less jam that showcases an essential, introspective and refined Guru over impeccable Preemo production. Few combos throughout hip hop history have ever delivered so reliably and consistently.

 

La Schmoove

Brewer: Monkish

Variety: Imperial IPA

Beer Advocate review

Inspiration: Fu-Schnickens – La Schmoove

Lyric: “La Schmoove! We ain’t got nothin’ to prove!”

Fu-Schnickens may be best known as the established group that basically launched Shaquille O’Neal’s rap career. They were also notably used as a de facto insult when Nas accused Jay-Z of emulating his style, claiming that prior his influence, Jay-Z “rapped like the Fu-Schnickens.” But, Fu-Schnickens had a short, yet relatively meteoric run in the early 90s, defined by their rapid fire, energetic flows. Along with “La Schmoove,” ‘What’s up Doc” (featuring Shaq), “True Fushnick,” and “Ring the Alarm” all made waves at time of release.

 

Relax your Mind

Brewer: Monkish

Variety: Imperial IPA

Beer Advocate review

Inspiration: EPMD – You Gots to Chill

Lyric: “Relax your mind, let your conscience be free, and get down to the sounds of EPMD” (Erick Sermon)

EPMD is one of the greatest duos in hip hop history, and “You Gots to Chill” is one of their most classic jams, girded by one of the most recognizable and recycled samples/beats in the genre. I’ve always considered EPMD one of the best examples of a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. Neither Erick Sermon nor Parrish Smith are exceptionally talented emcees, and their efforts independent of the group are largely lackluster. However, the EPMD catalog contains multiple classic albums and many boom bap classics.

 

Sip the Juice

Brewer: Monkish

Variety: IPA

Beer Advocate review

Inspiration: Rakim – Juice (Know the Ledge)

Lyric: “Sip the juice, I got enough to go around. And, the thought takes place Uptown.”

The hood classic, Juice, was Tupac’s big screen breakout. The lead single off the Soundtrack was this banger from Rakim. Pretty impressive credentials, I’d say. “Deep Cover” is likely the most famous and celebrated hip hop track off a motion picture soundtrack, but this joint featuring the immortal Rakim, still in top form, has as good an argument as any for second place on that list.

 

Stampede the Globe

Brewer: Monkish

Variety: Imperial IPA

Beer Advocate review

Inspiration: Raekwon featuring Ghostface and Nas – Verbal Intercourse. 

Lyric: “Through the lights, cameras, action, glamour, glitter, and gold, I unfold a scroll. Plant seeds to stampede the globe.” (Nas)

Nas’s guest verse on Raekwon’s classic, Only Built for Cuban Linx, basically stole the show on the track, and is one of the standout verses on the entire album. Some might consider this Nas’s best guest appearance of his accomplished and prolific career. The period between Illmatic and It Was Written may be my personal favorite iteration of Nas. Die-hards will also recognize this verse from the once tough-to-find, unreleased track, “De Ja Vu” …I must have dubbed that track, along with some other Nas rarities, pre-internet, for more than two dozen people – because you know I was not actually lending out the original tape!

 

Have you had any of these gems from Monkish? If so, tell us which are your favorites. Next, we will feature some hip-hop inspired beer names from a selection of other breweries.

The BierWax List of Boom-Bap (2016 Edition)

2016, oh 2016!?! At least you brought us some great music. The following records were our favorites this year. In no particular order, here are our ten…

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Czarface – A Fistful of Peril

Inspectah Deck, 7L, and Esoteric continue to display amazing chemistry with their third album. Inspectah Deck has a post-Wu outlet for his talent and it’s a welcome breath of fresh air.

Highlights: Czar Wars; Dust

 

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Elzhi – Lead Poison

Elzhi took quite a while to finish this Kickstarter funded album, but it was worth the wait. Lead Poison is introspective and creative. Who else would pen a story about becoming a bloodthirsty vampire?

Highlights: Two 16’s; Introverted

 

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Skyzoo & Apollo Brown – The Easy Truth

Apollo Brown creates such a beautiful soundscape for Skyzoo. Simply a great listen from beginning to end.

Highlights: A Couple Dollars; Innocent Ambition

 

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Royce 5’9 – Layers

After the heralded PRhyme project with DJ Premier and his work with Slaughterhouse, Layers is a very well crafted solo project by Royce 5’9.

Highlights: Tabernacle; Shine

 

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Ugly Heroes – Everything in Between

Honest and thoughtful, it’s a delight to listen to Red Pill and Verbal Kent over another beautifully produced album by Apollo Brown.

Highlights: Today Right Now; Notions

 

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Smoke Dza & Pete Rock – Don’t Smoke Rock

Pete Rock is simply superb on “Don’t Smoke Rock.”

Highlights: Black Superhero Car; Milestone

 

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Masta Ace – The Falling Season

The 50 year old wordsmith continues to certify his legacy as one of the best. The beats on this album are a treat, as well.

Highlights: Mathematics: Story of Me

 

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Torae – Entitled

This album stayed on rotation for much of the year. Solid album. Definitely one of our favorites.

Highlights: Imperial Sound; Get Down

 

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A Tribe Called Quest – We Got if From Here…Thank you for Your Service.

A wonderful bookend to one of the greatest hip hop groups ever.

Highlights: We the People…; Whateva Will Be

 

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Common – Black America Again

Common’s Black America Again is timely, soulful, and poignant. A true return to form.

Highlights: Home; Pyramids

 

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Ras Kass – Intellectual Property: SOI2

A complete surprise. The beats on SOI2 serve as a proper platform to Ras Kass’ lyricism.

Highlights: Paypal the Feature; Constant Elevation

Okay, that was eleven.


These didn’t make the list, but are worth a listen:

Termanology – More Politics

There are a few great moments on More Politics (Just Politics, I Dream B.I.G., and We’re Both Wrong), but some of the beats and hooks are underwhelming.

Reks – The Greatest X

Too damn long, but there are an album worth of fantastic tracks on the 2016 release.

 

The Inspiration

It has certainly been quite a while. I apologize for the long hiatus. I’ve been busy business planning, working at two breweries, home brewing, and focusing on making this dream a reality in the very near future. (I failed to mention my duties as the director of a pregnancy prevention program, husband, and father of twin three year old girls.) I’m juggling it all and happy to be nearly finished with the Bierwax business plan.

Right from the business plan, here is our mission statement…

Bierwax is a craft beer tasting room and vinyl record listening room. We are as passionate about our beer as we are about vinyl records, with a finely curated tap-list mingling with over 3,000 vinyl records. Bierwax is malted grains, water, hops, and yeast mixed with a pinch of 45s, a cup of boom-bap, and a heaping tablespoon of funk. We respect beer and aim to preserve the legacy of analog music.  

That’s what I will be opening in a year or two. Here are two bars that have been tremendous influences on what Bierwax will be…

Inspiration Numero Uno:                         

A few years ago, a couple of friends and I rented bikes in Amsterdam and somehow managed to find our way to Cafe de Duivel. We were intrigued by the description of the bar online and decided to see firsthand what a hip hop bar in Amsterdam would be like. The bar was pretty traditional with the exception of the music. There was a live DJ at the back of the bar spinning early 1990s and underground hip hop vinyl records. He was seamlessly mixing and cutting in and out of each track. The crowd, who I assume were mostly local Dutch folks, was going crazy and even knew the lyrics to some of the pretty obscure hip hop songs. That’s Europe for you! I remember wondering why something like Cafe de Duivel doesn’t exist in New York. Since I don’t travel to Europe with much frequency, I’ve longed to revisit Duivel or another venue just like it.

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Inspiration Numero Dos:

Nearly ten years ago, I was invited to spend a few days in Hong Kong with a close friend of mine. We had a layover in Tokyo for a few hours and the airport alone was unlike anything I had ever experienced. One day we’ll stack enough cheddar to actually afford to spend some time in Tokyo. Until then, I’m living vicariously through culinary/travel shows like No Reservations, Parts Unknown, and Mind of a Chef. I stumbled upon photos of this place below, dubbed Jazz, Blues and Soul (JBS). While explaining an early iteration of Bierwax to a friend, he asked if I ever heard of JBS in Tokyo. I hadn’t and was completely blown away when he showed me a few photos on Instagram. This was basically what I had been dreaming up all along, except JBS mainly serves whisky and is on the other side of the world. The sole owner and manager of the bar, serves up both an excellent whiskey selection and an impeccable collection of vinyl records. You might find Kobayashi-san throwing on a Charles Mingus LP or Nas’ classic debut Illmatic. It all depends on his mood at the time.

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As I round third base with my business planning, expect to hear more from me. I appreciate all of the support and good vibes as I make something like Duivel or JBS a reality in New York.

Cheers,

Chris Maestro

The Indelible SP 1200 – An Annotated Bibliography

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I’ve been an MPC beat-maker for the past ten years, but always had fantasies of owning this bad-boy. This wonderful machine is responsible for much of the sound we associate with the “Golden Age” of hip hop.  Some of my favorite early 90s songs and albums were crafted using the SP 1200.  I’ve been digging around the Internet looking to see what else has been written about the iconic sampler and I found some great articles and blog posts.  Here are four worth checking out if you are a music fan or gear head.  (Just click on each title to make your way over to the article/blog.)

1. The Dirty Heartbeat of the Golden Age

First of all, I love the title.  This article, which appeared in the Village Voice seven years ago, features a notable cast of characters who speak about the importance of the SP 1200 in hip hop lore. Hank Shocklee and Pete Rock’s use of the SP 1200 is widely heralded, but it is Lord Finesse’s contributions to the article that tugged at my heartstrings:

Lord Finesse – They had me as a special guest on Stretch and Bobbito, one of the popular radio shows of the ’90s. I thought it would be slick if I brought my 1200 down. A lot of producers did total beats with their 1200, and I think I did two or three, and one specifically was when I chopped up Marvin Gaye‘s “Let’s Get It On.” I chopped all around his voice using the 1200 and put an instrumental in the back. I played it over the air, and me and KRS-One freestyled over it. It was real slick.

Luckily, I recently unearthed the exact Stretch and Bobbito moment Lord Finesse is referring to above.

2. The Sampleface Museum

The Sampleface Museum consists of a series of articles exploring the various iconic samplers, synthesizers and drum machines that served as the backbone of hip hop music.  Sampleface provides a concise history of the SP 1200 and has links to some great YouTube videos featuring Grap Luva working the SP.  The overall site is a really great concept –Sampleface is a blog showcasing the best sample-based music around, underground and mainstream, old and new, as well as classic albums of all genres, news, reviews and everything in between.  

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3. Should the E-MU SP-1200 Make a Comeback? 

Hey, it’s a fair question!  This article breaks down why the SP 1200 is such a popular sampler and explores what a modern day version of the SP could look like. The YouTube link perfectly captures the functionality and feel of the machine.

www.illmuzik.com is another great resource and community for novice and veteran beat makers.

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4.  Wax Poetics 

Here are the videos to accompany Wax Poetics’ “Analog Out” section of issue number 41.  From Pete Rock to Ski Beatz and a few other gems… Enjoy!

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From the Stretch Armstrong & Bobbito Vaults (Charlie Brown and Tragedy)

This 89tek9 freestyle was such an unlikely pairing, but it worked so well.  Let’s start with Charlie Brown…

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Charlie Brown and Busta Rhymes clearly were vying for leadership and charismatic sway during Leaders of the New School’s rather short lifespan. After they dropped their second album T.I.M.E., which was a notable disappointment, the group disbanded. Charlie Brown and Dinco D. basically fell out of the spotlight, while Busta Rhymes rose to legendary status, releasing several albums and making countless cameo appearances on albums left and right throughout the 1990s and beyond. If you ever wondered what happened to LONS from both C Brown and Busta’s perspectives, here are two great links from a few years ago:

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When I first heard this freestyle, I thought it was Charlie Brown rapping with Nas. I was surprised to learn it was another Queensbridge native, Tragedy Khadafi. Further shock set in once I did my pre-Internet hip hop research (we’re talking mid-1990s) and realized: Intelligent Hoodlum = Tragedy Khadafi. His style changed considerably once he was resurrected as Tragedy Khadafi and appeared on tracks alongside Mobb Deep and C.N.N.  Tragedy released several albums from 1993 through 2011. He dropped his last album Thug Matrix 3 after serving nearly three years in jail for drug charges.

Enjoy!