Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Encore : Defined By The Dollar (The Essence 12")

Encore : Defined By The Dollar (Stones Throw, 1997)
Encore : Think Twice (Southpaw, 1995)

It may be hard to believe it, but a few years ago Stones Throw was a good label, before they decide to rely 100% on a weed addicted producer. A long time ago, mind you.

For the first two years their catalog was flawless, it was at the end of the glorious indie takeover and they were releasing the cream of the north californian scene. The first wave of twelve inches was mindblowing but after STH 2013 they started focusing on Madlib and his kin, and they never looked back. I mean, I won't front, I kept buying all their records religiously until that terrible Jaylib album, but it was only out of respect for Jeff Jank, but now even that powerful esthetic is lost. Not only they stopped doing the 45, but their 12" are in semi-generic sleeves.

For some reason (contractual, I guess ?) they don't repress the best part of the back catalog. Rasco reissued his first records on his Pocket Linted label, and Rob Swift's Soulful Fruit has just been repressed by Fat Beats, but this gem by Encore is desesperately out of print.

Shaya Bekele was friend with Charizma and Peanut Butter Wolf, his first appearance was on Wolf's Step On Our Egos EP with the incredibly beautiful "Think Twice". This song is one of my all time favourites, that's one of the 5 or ten records I will keep when I sell my whole record collection. Besides I had a radio show named after this track (even though I think that Bachir found the name). With "Think Twice" Encore was showing his story telling skills, describing a tragic high school graduation party that end up with the death of Demond Striplan (a friend of him and Charizma).

That's around the same time that Encore and Grand (Homeliss Derilex) went and recorded demos at the Glue Factory in San Francisco. The owner and engineer, Dan, liked his style so much that he asked him to rhyme on his beats. Encore thought the beats were weak and declined. Instead, it's Kool Keith who went on to record with that Automator guy the "Dr Octagon" album.

But that's another story. So later Encore with his partner G-Luv (also from Homeliss Derilex) released this incredible 12" on Stones Throw. The main song, "The Essence" is a strong but unexceptionnal battle oriented track, but as often B side wins again ! The track which stands out is the concept song about the root of all evils, "Defined By The Dollar". The beat is a pretty straight forward piano and upright bass loop, without too much variation, except for the weird panning during the last bars, but Encore vocal presence is what makes it compelling.

After these great songs, to which I could add "The Undercover", the expectation was high for the album. I mean at least for me. But when his album dropped in 2000, I was not impressed. It was OK to be, but quite disappointing compared to the excellence of his previous output. I know that some people consider themselves fans of Encore, but don't know these songs. I guess it means that I'm a bit too harsh with rappers I like.


Théo said...

Salut Slurg.

Il est vraiment bien ton blog. Je ne connaissais pas ces titres-là de Encore. Moi je l'avais découvert avec ses premiers maxis sur Certified Records : "Filthy/Spectacular" qui vaut lui aussi le détour, et aussi "Ice Age/Dirty" avec notamment une boucle découpée du "New York, New York" de Dogg Pound sur la face B...

Mo said...

Je viens de remarquer que tu avais mis mon blog en lien. C'est sympa, merci.
Maintenant je me sens obligé de créer une rubrique "liens" dans le mien...
Bonne continuation.

Anonymous said...

Always on top!

Garrincha said...

Wow ! Le "Think Twice", c'est du solide de chez solide ...

Liz Ka said...

Re-up pls