Cage 1: Straight Out the Cage EP - If you haven't seen Gentle Jones' in-prison interview with Pooch from Cage 1, go watch it now. Seriously, just do it. Now you should glean this from the vid, but real quick, Cage 1 is a Delaware group who released one killer, "random rap" 12" all the way back in 1989, and a small run of a CD album called Park Legend. It was hardcore, put also political and on some rough street shit. Sorta like 2 Black 2 Strong, but tighter. Also being from Delaware, Jones felt compelled not only to interview Pooch, but to lace Dope Folks with some of Cage 1's unreleased tracks. So they released this four tracker - both tracks from the original, grail 12" and two unheard tracks that are just as strong. Don't sleep on Wilmington, this is great!
Earplay Entertainment: '96 Brooklyn EP - Producer Tommy Gibbz released a pretty rare, 5 track EP on his own label, Earplay Entertainment, with his brother in.... guess what year. It featured five different NY artists: Oliver Twist, Khénya, HitMan, Dezert Storm and Strictly Homicidal. Some really nice, raw street level shit with strong influences from Biggie and Mobb Deep. that wound up on a lot of want lists. Plus, there's a female MC who steals the show on a single track like Essence did on Natural Elements' "Shine", or What? What? did on Natural Resource's "Negro League Baseball." Well, Dope Folks repressed almost the whole EP - they left off one track, as is their wont, to keep the original collectible - and added four additional, unreleased cuts from that camp to make it into a pretty hot LP. Two more HitMan tracks, one more from Oliva Twist and an exclusive remix of "Cognac," a track Gibbz put out through Echo Entertainment in 1999 (no relation to Freddie Gibbs' "Cognac" song).
Plush Bros: The Plush Bros. Jr. Album - I guess it's a "Jr. Album" because it's only four songs? Anyway, the Plush Bros are a killer, indie Philly duo who put out some really killer 12"s in the late 80s and early 90s. One of their highly sought after 12"s was this 4-track EP, which Dope Folks repressed in 2012. I have to admit, I was a little disappointed and initially passed on this one, because it's just a simple repress. I mean, I know you can't just pull amazing unreleased bonus tracks out of a hat, but I when I first heard Plush Bros was coming from DF, I was at least hoping they'd include their other, rare and brilliant songs from Pay Hill. But, what can you do? It's a must have EP, and unless you've got $600 lying around for an OG, you've gotta give it up to Dope Folks, this is a very welcome and repress filling a big void. And maybe they'll round up all their other music for a follow-up.
Killed By Def Vol. 1 - I'm not sure what the Killed By Def title is all about. I think it's just Dope Folks way of grouping together some random, unconnected tracks on the same record. They dropped this in 2011 and they've only just recently come up with a Vol. 2. This is simply two, very rare, high dollar "random rap" one-off 12"s repressed and combined onto one nice, little EP. The A-side is "We Got Pull" and its instrumental by Paint It Black, a Connecticut duo (Russ Bee and GMan) from 1992, made famous by a DJ Azeez mixtape. It features almost the same instrumental (certainly the same root sample) as Larry Larr's "Da Wizzard Of Odds," but they rip it harder. The B-side, then, is a North Carolina record by a crew known as The Servants from 1994, entitled "Ripper (Hardcore Mix)." Plus its instrumental, too. I don't know if the song lives up to its title, but it's a phat, dark beat that's possibly more desirable than the vocal version. The A-side is the real treasure here, but the B-side's a nice companion.
Bolaji: Outer Limits - We're ending with one of their more recent releases, Bolaji was an overlooked Long Island MC on Zakia Records - the same label as Eric B & Rakim dropped their first classics on before they signed to a major. They also had King Sun and a bunch of "Roxanne, Roxanne" answer records. Anyway, Bolaji fit right into that roster, his records were dope and hardcore; but for some reason he never broke out like the rest. He's since resurfaced a number of times... In the 90s, he was collaborated on some solid indie vinyl on High Council Records, and he's actually been making good use of the internet through the 2000s - look him up on CDBaby; he's got a bunch of albums. I don't think he's ever reached the heights of his original Zakia singles, but Dope Folks have managed to compile an EP's worth of rare and unreleased of material by Bolaji from the late 90s. A couple of the songs appeared on a very rare CD called Project S.C.A.R., but they're making their vinyl debut here; and a couple songs feature some of his High Council compatriots. Again, I still prefer the earlier music, but it's hard not to enjoy this EP, thanks in no small part to Bolaji's original, head nodding production and very 90s lyrical aesthetic.