Saturday, February 25, 2017

'97 Retrospective, Celebrating 20 Years --> DJ Juice's "Volume 34"

This should be a fun revisit right here. Now, I know I've talked about this on the blog previously, but before I get to this retrospective, I got a story to tell. Around the time this mixtape dropped (I know it was in '97, but the actual release date remains unknown, to me that is, lol, probably came out in either March or April), I was already familiar with a respectable number of DJs on the mixtape scene thanks to the likes of Doo Wop, DJ Clue, Craig G, Ron G, S&S, Kid Capri, etc. In the summer of '97 (STILL my BEST summer EVER, lol), I was with my uncle Joe, also a hip hop fan, and through a connection he had at the time, he had a great number of mixtapes, joints from Clue, DJ Envy, Dirty Harry and of course, DJ Juice. I bumped a few of these, specifically Clue's "Show Me The Money" and Dirty Harry's "Off The Hook Pt. 2: For A Few Dollars More" (the latter I still own), but the joint that REALLY caught my ears was Juice's "Volume 34." Man, I thought it was such a dope, creative mixtape when I first heard it, so of course it didn't take me long to ask Joe to borrow it, lol. I was amazed at the aforementioned creativity and skills displayed throughout the mixtape and trust me I'll have more to say about it as we proceed with this retrospective. Needless to say, I've been a fan of Juice ever since and this year (2017) will mark 20 years of support for him. So, without any further delay, let's get right to this retrospective highlighting DJ Juice's "Volume 34."

(Oh and before I get started, I'm not going to post links to every song outside of one notable freestyle and a few "exclusives." I also won't cover the songs in depth, respectively, only highlighting certain aspects here and there.)

1. "Volume 34 Intro"
Man, these intros were considered to be the highlight of his (earlier) mixtapes. What Juice would do is flex his creativity, using a dope instrumental (in this case, Redman's "Whateva Man"), interspersing clips from various hip hop and R&B songs to describe himself and his style. Sure, it may sound like a lot of work, but once you hear one of these intros, you'll be captivated like I was. Then and now, I would frequently ask, "how does he do this?" I think at one time he mentioned something about "using an 8 track system", but I don't even think I want to know how he did it, lol. The intro begins with a "we can rebuild him..... better, stronger, faster" clip and ending with KRS' "still #1" audiobyte. Amazing.

2. Yvette Michelle - I'm Not Feeling You (Juice Remix)

Dating back to his earlier mixtapes again, right after the intro, he would present his own remix of a particular song and part of me wants to say the instrumentals he used were his own modified versions, if you will (I think Juice had some experience behind the boards in some form). Good remix here.
*4 out of 5*

3. Allure featuring Nas - Head Over Heels (Juice Blend)

"Yo this remix goes out to everybody out there, that call they self keepin' it real. From yours truly, Escobar!" -Nas

Just like his intros were a complete highlight on his mixtapes, he was also best known for his blend skills, no question, and that's on full display here. Juice mixes and blends this "Head Over Heels" acappella with instrumentals courtesy of Lost Boyz's "Get Up (Remix)", Eric B. & Rakim's "Eric B. Is President", A Tribe Called Quest's "Check The Rhime" and Gina Thompson's "The Things You Do." TIGHT.
*5 out of 5*

4. Mona Lisa - Just Wanna Please U (Juice Blend)

The mixing and blending continues here, as Juice uses Brownstone's "If You Love Me" and Allure's "Head Over Heels" instrumentals for Ms. Lisa's acappella.
*5 out of 5*

*Busta Rhymes (Drop)*
For newer fans, in the case of a mixtape, a "drop" is when an artist, group, celebrity, etc, stops by to show love to the DJ in the form of a shoutout. Busta is rather hilarious here, "threatening" to "buss Juice's ass" if he doesn't stop his competition in their tracks, lol..

5. Buckshot - I Ain't No Joke
Juice allows his exceptional turntable skills to do the talking for Buck's remake of the Eric B. & Rakim classic.

6. Mobb Deep featuring Ty Nitty - In The Long Run (Exclusive)

"Here comes the brand new flava!" -Craig Mack

Even though this joint did grace a few mixtapes in '96 and '97, it still was an exclusive in the sense that it was included as a bonus track to those who owned the "enhanced version" of the Mobb's "Hell On Earth" album (I do). I talked about this on the blog before, but enhanced CDs were fairly innovative at the time, as all you had to do was insert the CD into the CD-ROM drive on your computer to access exclusive content ("Hell On Earth" was one of the first to have this feature). This dope song was notable for Prodigy calling out Keith Murray stemming from a previous dispute.

7. KRS-One - Step Into A World (Rapture's Delight)
After a brief, yet "slowed down", old school moment in the form of All The People's "Cramp Your Style" (which was sampled for BDP's classic "I'm Still #1"), Juice puts his turntable skills on display again during the playing of this one from KRS, who also came through with a drop.

8. Puff Daddy featuring Mase - Can't Nobody Hold Me Down (Remix)
I remember my homie Shaun couldn't stand this remix for some reason, lol, but I thought it was ok. It was nowhere near as popular like its original predecessor, plus I don't think it ever graced the radio. When Juice ends the song, we get a drop from Puff.

9. Cormega Freestyle

If you checked out my retrospective on Funkmaster Flex's "Volume II" mixtape, you'll remember I said I was going to cover another Cormega freestyle and here we are, which was courtesy of Flex's radio show back in '97. Mega starts things in a clever way, "layin' back in the cut like an infection/pure raw like angel dust" and proceeds to cut a rather dope freestyle across several instrumentals (the hip hop and R&B remix of Notorious BIG's "One More Chance, Raekwon's "Ice Cream", Craig Mack's "Flava In Ya Ear" and Mobb Deep's "Shook Ones Pt. II"). Mega ends it with some of my favorite lines here: "I'm a architect and I'll spark ya set/Like the Jamaican niggas flippin' in Marked For Death." Such a dope freestyle that totally outclassed the one from "Volume II."
*5 out of 5*

10. Raekwon featuring Method Man, The RZA, Masta Killa and Ghostface Killah - Wu-Gambinos (Hidden Chamber)

This remix was part of a "Hidden Chambers Volume One" EP that had to have been an exclusive  vinyl release in the New York because I never seen in in VA plus I don't think I knew anyone who owned it. The same lyrics are present along with the same RZA produced track, but the background sounds are noticeably different. A drop from Ghostface takes us to the next song.
*4.5 out of 5*

11. Redman - Whatever Man (Juice Blend)

Juice blends Red's acappella with Lil Kim's "Crush On You" instrumental.
*3.5 out of 5*

12. Mobb Deep - It Could Happen To You
This appeared on "DJ Muggs Presents The Soul Assassins, Chapter 1", which was also released in '97.

13. Turiya Mason Intro
I've been meaning to ask Juice for the longest time what happened to Ms. Mason, lol. She was a frequent part of his mixtapes back in the day, beginning the second half of "Volume 34" with a "Steelo" like dedication to Juice.

14. SWV - Can We (Juice Blend)

Juice provides the listener with a smooth blend, as SWV's vocals are backed by Slick Rick's "Hey Young World" instrumental.
*5 out of 5*

15. New Edition featuring Missy Elliott - You Don't Have To Worry (Remix) Juice Blend

The instrumental used here is familiar to me, I just can't think of the artist it belongs to (I'm sure it'll come to me at some point, lol). Another good blend here, ending with a Tracey Lee drop.
*4 out of 5*

16. Cream Team - Hustle So Much

I have an interesting story about this one here. It didn't dawn on me until a few years ago that the lead rapper here is..... Black Child, formerly of Murder Inc. Simply put, this is the best thing he's ever been a part of, especially on a lyrical level. Check this out and you'll swear it's is not the same guy who was part of Ja Rule's crew.

17. Saukretes - Ps & Qs
Saukretes had a few dope solo songs around this time, most of which ended up on underground compilations (and mixtapes).

18. Ghostface Killah featuring Mary J. Blige - All That I Got Is You (Remix)

I was certain then and now that this was not a Juice remix and in fact, I think I heard this on the radio at one point in time. It's ok, but I was never too crazy about A Tribe Called Quest's "Bonita Applebum" instrumental being used for this one. Overall, this is a song that didn't need any type of remix in my opinion.

19. Jay-Z - You're Only A Customer

"Here comes the brand new flava!" -Craig Mack

This excellent song would later emerge on the "Streets Is Watching" soundtrack. A drop from Cappadonna takes us right into.....

20. Cappadonna featuring Ghostface Killah - 97 Mentality
I talked about this joint on the blog a few times. After his show stealing verse on "Winter Warz", this is the second best thing that Cappa has ever been apart of.

21. Gyrl - Get Your Groove On

"Here comes the brand new flava!" -Craig Mack

After a drop from Nice & Smooth's Smooth B, Juice only plays this one for a minute and some change. I always thought it was a good song. R&B groups with multiple female singers were the order of the day at this point and most of them were quite talented, even if they were one-hit wonders.

22. Mary J. Blige featuring Nas - Love Is All We Need (Juice Blend)

A word on the CD that my uncle Joe let me borrow if I may. Sadly, I think it was a bootleg version of it (sorry about that Juice, lol), because that CD ended in the middle of this blend (thankfully I was able to get a uncut version of this online due to it being so hard to find). Speaking of this song, I also remember my cousin Shaney really couldn't stand this song, lol, I mean she hated it. I've always been a Mary J fan so I was cool with this and the appearance from Nas. Juice brings some true hip hop flavor to this blend with BDP's "Super Hoe" leading the acappella vocals. (A Jay-Z drop comes at the beginning as well.)
*5 out of 5*

23. Keith Sweat featuring Mase and Cardan - Just A Touch (Remix) Juice Blend

In a RARE occurrence on a Juice mixtape, this blend was slightly off-beat, plus it's another one where the instrumental was familiar, just couldn't think of the artist it belonged to. A Shock G/Humpty Hump drop then takes us into.....
*2.5 out of 5*

24. Mobb Deep - Young Luv
This was another Mobb exclusive (they had quite a few of them during the strongest period of the mixtape scene), mostly for the ladies if you can believe that, a few years before "Anything (Hey Luv)" would alienate a good portion of their fanbase.

25. Mobb Deep - G.O.D. Pt. III (Remix)
ANOTHER Mobb exclusive here. I don't think many heads heard this particular remix, so I'll post it below. It's dope, but not better than the original.

26. Words from DJ Juice
One thing that set Juice apart from his colleagues was the fact that he didn't talk on his mixtapes and I believe this was the last time he did his usual shoutouts at the end and "anti-shoutouts" to haters and biters alike (lol). In addition to the shoutouts, he gives a moment of silence to the late Notorious BIG.

27. The Notorious BIG featuring Lil Kim - Another
Somewhat of an anti-climatic closer to this mixtape and I'm sure most of you reading this has heard this song before.

Nostalgic wise, this mixtape is another "5 star winner" and like I mentioned before, once I heard this, I instantly became a fan/supporter of DJ Juice and that support remains 20 years later. Simply put, I don't think I've ever heard such creativity on mixtapes and the skills this man possess is nothing short of remarkable, definitely deserving every mixtape award he has received, with the majority of them being for "Best Skills", "Best Intros" and "Best Blends." I played this mixtape SO much back in the day that it simply cracked, smh+lol, not a big crack, but such a crack that made it virtually unable to be  played (definitely in constant heavy rotation for me in the summer of '97). Juice, if you're reading this, thanks for the memories and ALL of your contributions to the mixtape scene. SALUTE!!!!!! 

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