Collectors Corner: UGK – Too Hard To Swallow (2017 Vinyl Reissue)

by Rajin

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Last year marked the 25th anniversary of UGK’s debut album Too Hard To Swallow. To celebrate, Get On Down Records released a special reissue for Record Store Day, limited to 1,000 copies. Previously only released on CD and cassette, this was the first time the seminal Dirty South album was pressed on vinyl (aside from a 1992 promotional only pressing which wasn’t for public sale).

This was one of the first records I bought after getting into vinyl at the top of this year. On my first trip to the record store I saw it while flipping through hip hop records, but for some reason I didn’t think to pick it up. No more than a few days later I was idly reflecting on that visit, and decided to look this album up on Discogs. Upon doing so, I read details about it that made me realize the mistake I had made in passing it up. About a week later I went back trusting that if it had stayed on the shelf for 8 months, it would still be there. Sure enough, it was, and I went home with what remains to be the coolest vinyl I own as of now.

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The first thing that you’ll notice about the record is the way the cover art has been altered. Pimp C, Bun B, and the lettering are all gold, and essentially everything else is dark blue. I’m not entirely sure why the cover has been altered the way it has, and I don’t really know how I feel about it. While I don’t remember if it was the only reason I didn’t pick it up at first, the changes were definitely part of why I was apprehensive. I imagine I thought I would find an earlier pressing with the original cover, only to find out that this is the first vinyl pressing. I will say, it gives the cover a sleeker look than the original. It looks more like an actual album cover, and less like a picture with word art on it; however, it does eliminate the charming simplicity and overall “Dirty South” vibe that the original album art had.

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The record sleeve is a little thinner than I personally prefer for a 2xLP. There are no inserts or anything to speak of; the credits are all listed on the back cover, which follows the same color scheme as the front cover. There really isn’t anything else to the packaging. The actual vinyl is where the release gets more impressive to me. It was pressed on clear vinyl, which makes it one of the more aesthetically pleasing records that I own. I really like how you have a view of the grooves that you don’t get on other colors. Not only does it look extremely cool, it makes it much easier to see whether the record is dirty or not. The colors used on the sleeve are also used on the vinyl labels, which actually serves as a gorgeous contrast to the clear vinyl.

The pressing itself is a pretty good one. I’m no audiophile, so perhaps others who have listened to it would dispute me on this, but I love how full the funky, syrupy bass on this record sounds. Tracks with slower and more detailed production like “Feel Like I’m The One Doing Dope” become infinitely more immersive than the digital version is. The vocals also sound great, and honestly better mixed than they were on the original release. Bun B’s booming voice in particular sounds great on this pressing.

Ultimately, the best thing about this is that a classic album has finally gotten the vinyl pressing it always deserved. Too Hard To Swallow was already an album that anyone who considers themselves a fan of hip hop should own, but this pressing is special. If anyone sees it hanging out at your record store, pick it up. Don’t even think about it.

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Collectors Corner: Sean Price, Raekwon, and Joey Bada$$.

by Rajin

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Not long ago, I was marveling at my hilariously shrimpy CD collection and decided to take it upon myself to revive this very dead section of the site. I’ve got a few items that I thought would be cool to share, both today and in the future. I figured this was also as good a way as any to give my thoughts on newer albums that I liked but didn’t review for one reason or another. Hopefully we can start this section back up with more regular drops, but without further ado, here are the items I felt like sharing.

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First up is the Gorilla Box Set, by the late, great Sean Price. After the unfortunate and untimely passing of Sean Price, Duck Down reissued all three of his studio albums (Monkey Barz, Jesus Price Supastar, and Mic Tyson), packaging them together to make this box set. It was released in for both CD and vinyl. As you can see, this is the CD version. It’s got a lenticular cover depicting what seems to be the scene immediately preceding the image you see on the Mic Tyson cover.

Artwork from each album is shown on each of the three side panels of the box, and the back cover shows an illustration of Sean sitting at a campfire. The CDs come in jewel cases, which is something I’m actually sort of relieved about, because from what I’ve seen before CD box sets often use cheap slimline digipacks/cardboard sleeves.

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Next up is the CD for Raekwon’s latest album, The Wild. Both Dustin and I were in agreement when we listened to this album on Spotify about how silly the album cover looked. It was like a less kickass rendition of the Mic Tyson cover. However, seeing it in the physical changes things entirely. The illustration seems far clearer and less cluttered in print than it is on a computer screen. Overall the packaging is kept simple. There isn’t even a booklet. It’s just a front flap that opens to the CD. That’s fine for me though, for the most part. I’m a sucker for digipak.

This is probably the best non-Cuban Linx album that Rae has released. Rae managed to create an album where he made boom bap sound radio-ready in the current state of hip hop, which is quite impressive. While most of the songs are nothing out of the ordinary for Raekwon at this point in his career, it’s a very enjoyable album that I think will serve as an easily accessible entry point for newer hip hop fans to use in order to get into his style and catalog.

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And lastly, we have the CD for Joey Bada$$’s new album, All-AmeriKKKan Bada$$. On his last album and mixtapes prior to that, Joey established himself as a new school artist who was making gritty boom bap music reminiscent of early Nas, Black Moon, and Smif-N-Wessun. Here, however, he steps out of his comfort zone, using production that is generally jazzier and lighter. He uses this album to express his confusion and, at times, anger, about having to grow up as a young black man in the current climate of America. He seems to come into his own on this album – it is his best release to date, to me.

The CD comes in a sleeve that depicts the American flag made of bandanas. This was the image that he had originally led people to believe was the cover art. It was a cute fakeout, I like the design so I wouldn’t have been mad if it happened. The actual cover is (to my knowledge) an impromptu pose that Joey made on the set of his “Devastated” video. It gives off a sense of carefree recklessness that I think actually betrays the most of the music on the album. I don’t think it fits the overall mood of the album, but the scenery of dirt roads in the middle of nowhere does a good job at portraying Joey as an outlaw, which I assume was the point.