Incognitos Redux

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I originally created Incognitos in the mid-1990s on cassette. It was meant to focus on "gems that slipped through the cracks" - songs that, for whatever reason (poor airplay, limited distribution, sample clearance, etc., never really saw much light. These were, for me at least, relatively obscure, or at least, underappreciated tracks. They were all, however, "official" (most of them, at least) That meant they were actually recorded, in almost all cases, released at some point, albeit perhaps only on test pressings or promos.

Of course, in the time since first came out, and then after I remade it, with some new songs, and put it on CD (which came around 2002), a few things broke out and changed the conception of what "obscure" could mean. Back when I was putting the original mixtape together, a "rare" single would be something that could net $100-200. These days, people trying to chase down random rap 12"s off the Hear No Evil mixes are willing to drop over $1000. Things done changed.

For me, the point of Incognitos now is less about rarity for the sake of rarity; there will always be something more rare out there. However, I'd like to think of these as tracks that never got the shine they deserved and likely will have passed under the radar for many people, even the most ardent rap fan. Hope you enjoy the songs for that reason.

--O-Dub (7/07)

The "Baby Huey Skit" was introduced to me by Jeff "DJ Zen" Chang way back in the day. He knew I was a De La Soul fan and wanted to hep me to something that I didn't know about yet - a song that was only available on test-pressings of "Say No Go" (as well as promo-CD copies of the same song as I was to discover later). As you can hear, the skit uses the theme from the "Muppets Show" which explains why it never made the official 12": sample clearance deaded it. It's a fun song, not the least of which is that it has Double D (of Steinski and Double D fame) and Mase rhyming on it. A must for any De La completionist.

The Aceyalone "Mic Check" remixes were the product of a contest (I'm assuming, sponsored by the label) where people were invited to send it their own remixes to the song. The winner, plus three additional remixes, all appeared on a promo-only 12". What's strange is that most copies of the single had the B-sides razor-cut - totally unplayable (I managed to score an unmarred copy but later found a version with the razor-sliced B-side). I never did get the full story on what happened though I'm assuming it was a legal issue. In any case, the Labrats remix uses a surprisingly effective loop from "Swan Lake" and of the three remixes, it was, in my opinion, the best in show.

Bored Stiff's Peaceful Rotation is one of the new songs to make the updated CD version of this mix. By far, one of my favorite Bay Area indie singles of the '90s. Good vibes, all the way through.

Speaking of Bay Area - Mysterme might have hailed from NY but "Unsolved Mysterme" was a largely Bay Area affair considering it appeared on King Tech and Sway's All City Productions label and was produced by DJ Joe Quixx who turns in one of his greatest beats ever. The re-released version of this single just doesn't hold up compared to the original - believe that.

Pete Rock and CL Smooth's "Specialize" managed only to appear on Japanese issue versions of their "Searching" single. Pity it never got U.S. release (though it was bootlegged) and interestingly, it features a cameo by an up-and-coming rapper named Scatter Blaster who never appeared on anything else I can think of.

Grand Puba's "Mind Your Business" is one of my favorite cuts by Puba - a B-side only track from the "Ya Know How It Goes" single. Nice loop from the Sweet Apples helps power this groove and I'm always into autobiographical songs as this song runs down Puba's career from the days of Masters of Ceremony, through Brand Nubian, into his solo push.

On the East-meets-West tip, it's the DJ Premier remix of Too Short's "In the Trunk" - an unexpected collaboration between these two heavyweights and I thought Primo does a fine job here of crafting a beat that's reflective of his own boom bap aesthetic but works with the Oakland funk that Short's known for.

"Mr. Incognito" is a now infamous unreleased A Tribe Called Quest cut that would have been on The Low End Theory and instead, ended up bootlegged for years before Jive put it on some Tribe compilations in more recent years. I'm assuming the original reason it was left off was sample clearance given the prominent use of Buster Williams' "The Hump."

Show and AG's "Under Pressure" originally appeared on UK versions of Payday's "Payday Phat" EP. It was a solid, pre-Goodfellas era track from the two; classic Showbiz production (he was, in my opinion, the most talented of the various DITC beatmakers).

"DIYM" by Red Hot Lover Tone isn't rare by any means...but it's a cut that few people seem to have paid much notice of and to me, it was one of the better outings Tone ever made back when he was rapping (and before he turned to producing full-time). Plus, you got that thick, Beatnuts-esque beat to back it.

Masta Ace's "Go Where I Send Thee" was a posse cut with several members of the future INC crew, coming together on a B-side only song from the "Take a Look Around" 12". (I originally used "Top 10 List" but liked how "Go Where I Send Thee" had slipped beneath the radar so put it on the CD update).

Ah..."Sippin Brandy". Arguably, next to the "Baby Huey Skit," this is the rarest track on here: a very limited distributed cut that appeared on two different 12"s (this is from the Big Boss single). One of the better uses of the much-sampled "Blind Alley" break and a slick outing by King Sun.

Motion Man's "93 Swing" Remix is another Joe Quixx production and the remix appears on the flipside of the "Mo Likes Flow On" single (or was that the other way around)? Regardless, a fiery B3 loop really sets this cut off.

Sticking to remixes, Positive K's "Nightshift" Remix was one of those that got lost in a spread of singles he dropped around the time of his first (and only) solo album. I'm, of course, partial to the original (I did, after all, use Lee Moses' "Time and Place" on Soul Sides Vol. 1 but I dig how this remix moves with that ill lil' bassline and drums.

The Dereliks' "I Am a Record", along with the aforementioned Bored Stiff song, is another one of my favorite tracks from the mid-90s, Bay Area indie days. Great production here by the South Bay's Hen Boogie and a fanciful set of metaphoric rhymes by Iz.

Mic Geronimo never quite lived up to the potential he displayed on his first album but this single, "Unstoppable" produced by Pete Rock and promo-only, was the last real gem he put out. Love how Pete flips this loop off the Trouble Man soundtrack.

Let's face it - no one really tried to track down "Think Big," a promo-only 12", for Pudgee. Or Lord Tariq. It's all about Biggie's cameo and he doesn't disappoint.

This "Distortion to Static" Remix by the Roots was, for many months, one of my most highly sought-after "wants"; promo-only and a tough single to come by for a while (since bootlegged out the wazoo). Regardless, a great single, a fantastic remix, back when the Roots still had Malik B and Dice Raw in the fold.

I'll be honest...if I did a redux of Redux, I'd probably leave off this Q-Ball and Curt Cazal track, "Breakitdown". It's a tough find; their first single I believe and I do like that "Free Soul" loop but it just isn't as tight as I'd want it, listening to it now. Hey, it happens. I still bet most haven't heard it though.

Common's "Invocation" isn't hard to find at all - it begins his third album, Some Day It Will All Make Sense but it's one of those songs that a lot of folks straight up forgot even existed. To me, it was the perfect bridge from the sound of Resurrection into his new album at the time.

Plus, Common's guitar loop goes really nicely with the "Dimension Ball" remix of "One Love" by Nas. I'm not saying it's better than the original. But it's pretty damn good (and surely better than the official remix which was on the Columbia single.

Lastly, I end with "Count and Estimate", a song-within-a-song. The vocal version is on the very first Solesides release, DJ Shadow's "Entropy" (itself, the B-side of Asia Born's "Send Them"). That's Gift of Gab on the verse, rapping over a rollicking DJ Shadow breakbeat (plus a small snippet taken from Uptown's "Dope on Plastic").

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