Album: Real DJs Do Real Things
Rating: 9 / 10
K-Salaam €™s “Hands Of Time” is undoubtedly one of the finest mixtapes of recent years, for its inspired tracklisting that put Prodigy €™s ‘Keep It Thoro’ and De La Soul €™s ‘Oooh’ alongside joints by Atmosphere and DJ Vadim, for its frequent mesmerising turntable interludes by K himself, and its flawless mixing. However even though producing a mixtape is inherently formulaic, for the follow-up “Real DJs Do Real Things”, K-Salaam seems to have tinkered with the formula that spawned Hands Of Time, and boiled us up an entirely different kettle of fish.
Tracklistings sell mixtapes more than any review or live show ever could, and this one will, for most people, look like more of an unknown taste than an acquired taste. Any listener not well versed in the comings and goings of underground hip hop will surely find their eyes skimming quickly over names like Abstract Rude, Wee Bee Foolish and Virtuoso like a stream over a pebble. There are no cuts here that you would possibly hear on mainstream hip hop/R&B radio, the only names well established in the mainstream music media being those of Rakim, Gangstarr and Dilated Peoples (and possibly Mr. Lif and Organized Konfusion). K-Salaam €™s interventions also seem to be more infrequent than previously…
But this is by no stretch of the imagination a disappointment, the whole joint being executed with masterful precision and artistry. Beginning with the now well-rooted mixtape clichÃ© of laying down a sequence of voice samples, K launches us into the first cut, where I-Self busts a rhyme suitably politically-fuelled for a mixtape whose liner notes are actually an interesting booklet on Middle Eastern conflict. Then, with astounding alacrity, it is established who exactly you are going to remember from this mixtape after it €™s run its course. We get almost 3 whole minutes of K-Salaam €™s phenonemal turntablism, beginning with the simple ‘Express Yourself’ break before whisking us off on a magical mystery tour where the variety and skill involved in K €™s repertoire are witnessed, before returning ghost train-like to the classic beat that began the journey.
This thunderous pace is maintained as K goes on to spin a classic verse, one of the best verses of all time, and a good verse – Rakim €™s first from ‘Untouchables’, Pharoahe Monch €™s second from ‘Prisoners Of War’, and Q-Unique of the Arsonists €™ second from the Arsonists €™ ‘Rhyme Time’ respectively. The Arsonists feature more than most here, with their apparent homie K-Salaam mixing in three of their older tracks as well as a new joint exclusive to this album and which features K €™s turntablism.
The interludes between the mixed cuts where K cuts, scratches, snaps, crackles, pops and anything else you can imagine are substantial but are sometimes too far apart – particularly towards the end, when the listener is fed a few too many uninteresting joints (Copywrite, Amad Jamal, Dilated) in a row.
K-Salaam €™s other choices for featured music are excellent, taking in different tempos and styles from British emcees like The Planets and Jehst, to Wee Bee Foolish €™s ‘Turn It Out’, Abstract Rude €™s ‘Codename Scorpion’ project, and Mr. Lif with his viciously murky ‘Cro-Magnon’ single. The inclusion of GangStarr €™s ‘The Squeeze’, with the beat switching up halfway into a K-Salaam remix, is also pretty nifty. As expected, the standard these tracks are mixed at is the pinnacle of mixtape producing, and very hard to find fault with or objection to.
Definitely one of the best mixtapes of 2002 – aside from three or four boring joints, its almost perfect.