There are certain things that do not need to be reviewed, and this is not a review, rather an explanation. No amount of critical praise nor scorn will validate it’s worth. In the base state this music - this thing - remains: special, rare, singular. Original.

Consider that The Tribal Productions - Freestyle Demo Tape is something that quite frankly should not be. Within recorded hip-hop exists (existed?) the fantastic juxtaposition between the MC’s / DJ's constantly reiterated desire for realness, authenticity and superiority, and the unseen countless hours of repetition and exercise that allows these declarations to be made. The curtain is rarely pulled back, and the casual listener is often suggested to believe that less practice and less repetition somehow equals more, as if skills displayed that are seemingly innate are more valuable that those that are honed like steel at a forge.

What you hear in the first 31 minutes of this tape however is nothing but completely uncensored, unfiltered real freestyle rhyming. No breaks. No pauses. Crack yourself up with a punch line? Run out of rhymes? Move to the side and let the next man get busy on the mic. These are not the jokes that a stand up comedian might obsessively craft, these are the kind of in-jokes that (usually) solely resonate with people inside a tight circle.

What makes this tape so significant is the emotion of the environment that is encoded within it. Buried in the jokes that flow from one “song” to the next is a feeling of brotherhood, camaraderie, love, and basic honesty that is absolutely palpable. Young men reveling in a time and space when it is perfectly acceptable to be silly and ridiculous around your brothers, an emotional freedom – and surely vulnerability – that is waiting to be crushed by the stark realties of adulthood. The memories of my own time in that space are distant, but listen – just listen – to this tape and you can hear the audio evidence of that time for these young men.

What makes the title of the “Tribal Productions Freestyle Demo Tape” a touch deceiving are it’s last two songs which appear after the abrupt end to the last freestyle track “Metro Flows”: a solo effort by DJ Topspin – aka Blendianna Jones – called “The TOP”, and a previously unearthed song from Topspin and H-Bomb’s group Sensimilla which is simply called “Untranslated”.

Regarding “Untranslated” I will just say that it’s omission from the actual “Untranslated Prescriptions” tape is positively criminal. I can only assume that it’s not being on that album was either a financial or tape length dictated issue, but my god man – that massive bass line, that piano loop, those Topspin cuts, the relentless H-Bomb verses. Sensimilla never missed, never put out a single substandard song (at least that I’ve ever heard), and “Untranslated” continues that tradition.

And as far as the solo Topspin song “The TOP” is concerned, listen to it just once - just once - and tell me how you are not drawn to run it back again, and again, and again. This is one of the most sublime scratched choruses I have ever heard in my life, and that it would come from Topspin of all people is no surprise. There is a harmony in that chorus that speaks to me, to that part of my mind that is somehow hard to define, somewhere underneath it all. That Topspin was able to harness that harmony at the young age he must have been when this was recorded is no surprise. Listen to any of his recent mixtapes, remixes, or just hear him spinning live and you can witness those same qualities. For me though, I like to imagine this song as the genesis of that harmonic understanding.


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The story of how this tape originally came into my life is probably not interesting for anyone other than me. Suffice to say that I was separated from it for a period of nearly 15 years, and revisiting it now it brings me the same joy while listening as when I first encountered it. 

Quite frankly, I’m hesitant to put this out in the public domain. Obviously that isn’t really a disposition I should own, as this isn’t my music and I am solely acting in the capacity here of a caretaker or a tour guide.  The idea of my being protective of this music – as silly and as irreverent as it is – is ridiculous. However, by virtue of the fact that I have over the last 15ish years had this tape, lost it, and now have it again, I very seriously don’t want you to have it for fear that you will not appreciate it correctly, which is to say in the same manner that I do.

All I can ask is that you remember when music meant something to you. When it wasn’t disposable, but rather was part of the kaleidoscope of objects and ideas that defined you as a human being. Remember what fun sounds like, because that is exactly what you are hearing.

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