Must Read: Check the Technique Volume 2: More Liner Notes for Hip-Hop Junkies

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Words by Daniel Isenberg (@StanIpcus)

I’m a hip-hop junkie, straight up. I’ve been one since I was in elementary school, when I first heard Run-D.M.C. and became obsessed with their King of Rock cassette. Fast-forward three decades, and I’m still on the same shit. Sure, I’m an adult now, with a wife and three kids that I dedicate my whole life to. But that doesn’t mean I’m not all over every little morsel of rap goodness the moment I get the chance. If I’m not listening to hip-hop, it’s a safe bet that in my spare time I’m reading or writing about it.

Luckily, I’ve been able to build a nice little side career as a rap scribe, which has afforded me some pretty unique opportunities, especially for a kid whose coming of age coincided with the ’90s rap boom. I’ve been in Pete Rock and Erick Sermon’s basements, talking with them about how they make their music. I’ve hung out with Raekwon and Ghostface and the RZA and listened to them tell me old Wu stories. I’ve chopped it up with Common and Fat Joe and Diamond D and Dres and Del on the phone about their classic material. I once kicked it with Large Professor for three hours in the studio breaking down all the historic moments from his career! But like all true hip-hop junkies, I need more.

Thankfully, there are some amazing outlets for hip-hop junkies out here nowadays. Podcasts like Juan Epstein and The Combat Jack Show have made it their duty to pick apart hip-hop history with artists and industry insiders one jewel at a time. Sites like Unkut, UpNorthTrips, Complex, egotripland, and of course NahRight make it a point to cover the old school in-depth. But there’s something particularly special about what author Brian Coleman is doing to highlight hip-hop’s Golden Era. He’s giving hip-hop junkies like me what we fiend for inside the pages of beautiful books.

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I own Brian Coleman’s first two books, Rakim Told Me and Check the Technique. Both are dope as fuck. If you’re a hip-hop junkie and you don’t already own them, step your life up. They’re filled with the stories of classic albums presented in chapter form, shaped and dissected by Coleman in conjunction with the artists themselves, who break down their history in detail and the individual songs on the LPs track-by-track. Needless to say, his work has inspired my own rap journalism efforts tremendously.

But before you dig back through Coleman’s earlier releases, I highly recommend you go pick up his brand new book Check the Technique Volume 2. I got my copy in the mail yesterday, and just holding it in my hands felt special, like that feeling I used to get when I bought a new classic rap album and couldn’t wait to rip open the packaging.

Check the Technique Volume 2 is the third installment of his incredible series, presented in a similar format to the previous two, with a detailed history of each LP coupled with track-by-track breakdowns of the album’s songs by the artists themselves. I spent last night flipping through the pages, peeping out the content inside and planning my attack on what albums I wanted to read about first. I found myself randomly ensconced in the chapter about Company Flow’s Funcrusher Plus album. This is one of my favorite underground LPs from the ‘90s, and I was so psyched to see Coleman had included it. Did you know that the first song on the album “Bad Touch Example” was initially a promo for Stretch & Bobbito’s radio show, and that Co-Flow found the sample for it in a J&R Music World dollar bin? These are just two examples of the endless gold nuggets littered all over the 540-plus pages of Check The Technique Volume 2.

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It’s doubtful that you will sit down and finish reading this book in a few days and then let it collect dust in the corner of your crib. No, this shit is gonna take you a while to get through, and that’s a good thing. With detailed chapters on 25 different ’80s and ’90s hip-hop classics ranging from DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince’s He’s The DJ, I’m The Rapper to Ice Cube’s AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted to Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… (props to Coleman on a crazy ill selection of albums to cover), there is enough density in this book to occupy you for a long ass time. It’s nothing but fascinating, first-hand rap history, with plenty of rare visuals to match.

This is the type of book you’ll keep on your coffee table. You’ll want your friends to see it when they come over. You’ll want to flip through it while you’re watching TV. You’ll want to bring it in the bathroom when you’re taking a shit, on the train or the bus when you’re commuting to and from work, and to bed so you can read it before you knock out at night. This is an essential book to own for hip-hop junkies like me, and anyone else who wants a ridiculously awesome and detailed dive into the depths of 25 of rap’s most unique and important classic recordings. Don’t sleep, just cop.

Check the Technique Volume 2 is available on Brian Coleman’s website, GetOnDown, iTunes*, Rap and Soul Mail Order (UK/Europe), HHV (Germany/ Continental Europe), and for preorder on Amazon.

Full Chapter List

3rd Bass The Cactus Album
The Beatnuts Intoxicated Demons: The EP
Black Sheep A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing
Company Flow Funcrusher Plus
The Coup Steal This Album
Diamond and the Psychotic Neurotics Stunts, Blunts & Hip Hop
DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince He’s The DJ, I’m The Rapper
Dr. Octagon Dr. Octagonecologyst
ED O.G & Da Bulldogs Life Of A Kid In The Ghetto
Gravediggaz Niggamortis [aka 6 Feet Deep]
Ice Cube AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted & Kill At Will
Jeru The Damaja The Sun Rises In The East
KMD Black Bastards
Kool G Rap & DJ Polo Wanted: Dead Or Alive
Kwamé The Boy Genius Featuring A New Beginning
Lord Finesse & DJ Mike Smooth Funky Technician
Mantronix The Album
Masta Ace Incorporated SlaughtaHouse
Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star
Naughty By Nature Naughty By Nature
Nice & Smooth Ain’t A Damn Thing Changed
[Chef] Raekwon Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…
Smif-N-Wessun Dah Shinin’
Stetsasonic In Full Gear
Various Wild Style Breakbeats

*Digital versions of Check the Technique Volume 2 include five additional chapters which have never been released in digital format.


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