20/10/2019: “Heaven & Hell” by Raekwon featuring Ghostface Killah

This is one of the finest hip hop songs ever penned. The lyrics and flow are on point, and the production is awe inspiringly brilliant.

Raekwon is one of the key components of the winning Wu Tang Clan formula. The dynamic flow is delivered slower here, bouncing off Ghostface Killah fluidly.

The production is a web of gossamer thin organ and rhodes, an intricate dance of keys balancing on a slow but extremely groovy drum loop.

Backing vocals are provided by Blue Raspberry, adding another layer of complexity and soul to the track.

Lyrically, the song moves from the typical gangsta hood story to a more philosophical take, saying that the idea of hell is meaningless to anyone living a miserable life full of pain and fear already.

The song was released in 1994 as the lead single from 1995’s seminal golden age hip hop album, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx –Raekwon’s debut.

13/10/2019: “Cold World” by GZA

GZA, known for being one of the most intelligent members of the Wu-Tang Clan, created one of hip hop’s greatest albums with Liquid Swords, released in 1995 to critical acclaim.

When he was making the album, GZA says he knew something special was being created.

Listening to songs like this from the album, it’s easy to see why. Over an ice cold and unsettling instrumental by RZA, GZA lays out a graphic and far ranging description of the social problems in African American neighbourhoods.

The song takes inspiration from Stevie Wonder’s “Rocket Love”, with a more gangster version of the chorus (sung by Life). The main riff is sampled from “Plastic People” by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention.

Lyrically, the song is as cold as the name and production. The wordplay and flow are impeccable, and although the song is mainly about shooting, the wider issues of crime and punishment are dealt with well.

30/09/2019: “6 Million Ways To Die” by Dopeskillz

Dopeskillz is an alias of DJ Zinc. So it is no surprise that this track is a banger, combining a heavy duty bassline with a rapid fire drum break.

The song, like many jungle songs, takes inspiration from hip hop. The vocals here are from a song by Method Man and Redman, called “How High”. The 6 million ways to die” line is originally from Cutty Ranks, on “A Who Seh Me Dun”, released in 1992.

The bassline is a heavy warp affair, and provides a lot of the melodic push. There’s also a more hip hop type bass, which plays in the slower breakdown parts of the song.

The effects are numerous. The high pitched squeal is very light in comparison to the rest of the song, but there’s also a classic paranoid jungle pad too.

The drums are brilliantly frenzied, switching up periodically and incorporating a range of time stretched rolls and offbeat hits.

The track was released in 1995, at the time where jungle was unmistakably turning into DnB. Make no mistake though, this is jungle!

27/09/2019: “Le Voie Le Soleil” by Subliminal Cuts

A track like this is truly timeless. It’s rave gold, with all the right elements to put you in a trance. The rhythm section is faultless, using drum breaks over the top of a 4 to the 4 beat to create a perfect swing.

The bass is lowkey but funky, accentuating the natural rhythm of the drums brilliantly.

The melody is provided by a stellar, euphoric piano riff. A good piano riff like this is what make old school piano house songs so special; they’re so infectious, and so joyous.

Subliminal Cuts is an alias of Dutch producer Patrick Prins, well known for an eclectic range of ravey tracks. Holland has always had a great dance music scene, and it’s producers like him we have to thank for it.

“Le Voie Le Soleil” came out in 1994, which really does seem to have been such a great year for music…

26/09/2019: “Heads High” by Mr Vegas

Mr Vegas was a huge figure in the Jamaican Dancehall scene of the 90s. This was one of his massive hits, which remains one of the gold standards of this era.

The lyrics are, naturally, very explicit. But unless you are Jamaican, you’re unlikely to find the song too offensive unless you listen very carefully.

The riddim is called “Filthier”, produced by Danny Browne, which has been vocaled by a range of other artists. Suffice to say, nobody ever came close to the success which Mr Vegas had with this one.

Mr Vegas has a distinctive style of singing, which goes a long way to explain the standout quality of this track. The riddim bangs too, using a offbeat drum, a simple guitar riff, and thumping bass to great effect.

The song was released in 1998 as a single.

Those clothes…

21/09/2019: “Direct Drive” by Aux 88

Detroit may have had a hard time in the last few decades, but it has always produced some of the hardest music in America.

A lot of it is electro or techno based, cold and edgy. This would be a good way to describe this one, steeped in Detroit’s freezing Michigan bleakness.

The drums are sharp as icicles on this tune, using classic drum machine sounds. The snares are fast and snappy, the hi-hats even faster…

The rough bassline is a thing of great beauty and magnitude. It forms the centrepiece of most of the song, bar the intro and outro – which are fixated around some eerie synth strings.

The song is sparse and minimal, in classic Detroit style. But compared to their other songs, this has a certain quality to it that makes the track stand out. Probably that bassline…

“Direct Drive” was released in 1995.

20/09/2019: “If You Love Me” by Brownstone

I had wondered whether to write about this – the original, the most famous, and probably the best – or the Big Ang Bassline House remix, which I think is an absolute banger.

Then again, so is this. I can’t really think of many R’n’B songs which are quite as impactful. The song is beautiful in a way, of course. Their singing, the piano and strings… it’s a dreamy odyssey through love and live.

But there’s a groove running throughout the song which can’t be denied. The bass is classy and restrained. The drums are too.

Lyrically, there’s not a lot to say. The lyrics are very nice, but are of the classic 90s R’n’B “demonstrate your love” type. Great, if that’s your thing!

The song is the second single from the group’s debut album, From The Bottom Up, released in 1994.

18/09/2019: “The Source Experience” by The Source Experience

A lot of trance is actually quite chilled out. Certainly, it’s not all high bpm. This song has the magical quality of being relaxing and uplifting at the same time.

The synth strings set the mood, euphoric but restrained. Then an absolutely monstrous arpeggiated bassline drops, creating a wonderfully warm groove.

Like all trance classics, this is a slow burner – it’s actually slower in pace than the other songs on the E.P. The hypnotic bass warps and curves like an ocean wave, the percussion builds in complexity and cuts back down, the strings fade in and out. Make no mistake, this is a banger.

The Source Experience is the usual moniker of Robert Leiner, originally just Source until a copyright dispute caused the change.

This gem came out on the legendary R&S records in 1993, on an E.P. of the same name.

16/09/2019: “Amores Como El Nuestro” by Jerry Rivera

Without denigrating Shakira’s fanbase too much, it doesn’t seem like a big stretch to assume that most Shakira fans will never have heard of this song, or Jerry Rivera…

Fans of Jerry Rivera might not be totally au fait with Shakira either. That said, that trumpet riff is almost certainly one of the most internationally famous opening lines of any song, because of Shakira’s joint popularity in the English and Latin worlds.

I am, of course, talking about “Hips Don’t Lie”, which is an amazing song. I think the trumpet riff fits perfectly there.

But I love this warm sounding Salsa tune. The spicy percussion is delightfully busy, rolling out a tribal rhythm with congas and shakers – and a whole load of instruments I can’t even begin to name!

The piano begs for some intense dancing, and when the horns aren’t occupied with that star riff, they play an admirable part in the rest of the song.

The song was released in 1992 on Cuenta Conmigo. 

13/09/2019: “Lord Of Null Lines (Foul Play Remix)” by Hyper On Experience

Foul Play were renowned for their tight drum programming, especially since it was common at the time just to layer breaks and maybe chop/stretch them at points.

It really shows on this one. The drums are so intricate and interesting, like a sonic kaleidoscope spiralling through the night.

As with all classic 1994 jungle, the bassline is a doozy. The 808s beat out a steadfast groove right from the start. Then, about a third of the way through, the bass morphs into a hollow, rounded sound, and is joined by skittish, paranoid synth string hits.

A particular favourite of mine is the echoing bell sound, which underpins the percussion-less section so brilliantly. It’s how a certain kind of jungle ought to be – dark and dangerous.

The original hardcore song was released in 1993, but this remix came out in 1994 backed with a Ray Keith remix.