If you love telling people how great "real Hip-Hop" was "back in the day," then the past couple of years have probably been heaven for you. With "reissue" and "lost album" rap's new words du jour, anyone indifferent to the current scene can now find escape in "new" music originally intended for yesteryear. Considering some of the titles that have been dusted off (The Best Part, Center of Attention, and Black Bastards, among others), an argument could be made that the best albums to come out since Y2K were recorded before that term even existed. Whether that's a good or bad thing can be debated another day; for now, it's doubtful anyone will dissent to finally having Clear Blue Skies back in stores.
Sharing the basic plot line of most shelved projects, this tale also involves a disagreement between artist and label (The Juggaknots and East West Records), the vaulting of an album (Clear Blue Skies), and years of hype (1996-present). That hype was exacerbated by Fondle 'Em's limited release of the Clear Blue Skies EP in 1996, a highly sought after piece of vinyl that has in recent years been known to go for a pretty penny or two. Fortunately, those missing out the first time around have Third Earth Music to thank, not only for bringing the EP back, but remastering it and adding tracks recorded during the original studio sessions (an incentive for anyone lucky enough to have already copped the vinyl).
So how well does Clear Blue Skies stack up as an LP? While the added material basically amounts to four tracks (one of which is a remix) and a handful of snippets apparently cut from unfinished work, the additions still complement the EP nicely and achieve their goal of rounding it into a cohesive full-length experience. "Sex Type Thang" and "Who Makes It Hot" (featuring Adagio) are the standouts as far as new stuff, although Clear Blue Skies' main appeal obviously lies in the classics from the EP, including but not limited to "JiveTalk," "Romper Room," and the incredible title cut (both the original and remix are included). There really isn't a weak spot to speak of, as Buddy Slim and Breezly Brewin (later member Heroine appears briefly) don't sound the least bit dated in representing the grime and grit of NYC's mid-nineties underground scene. Of course, the futuristic flow of the Brewin is a major reason why Clear Blue Skies still sounds as fresh as it did when it first dropped, his unorthodox, yet impeccable use of timing unmatched after almost a full decade. Sounding arrhythmic at first, it may take several listens to adjust to the nuances of Breezly's delivery, but after you've been wowed by it, go back one more time and check his lyrics for a double-whammy: "I take flights / I drop bombs / brothers ain't ready / and the only way you'll rain on this parade be as confetti / Strictly tickertape / when I kick and rape your dome."
Much appreciation goes out to Third Earth for unearthing this gem. For anyone who A) enjoyed the lead performance from Prince Paul's A Prince Among Thieves; B) is tired of being outbid on eBay while listening to Indelible MP3's; or C) just wants some dope Hip-Hop to get down with - for these reasons and more - give Clear Blue Skies a spin. You definitely won't want to have missed out twice.