Aston George Taylor Jr. better known to the world as Funkmaster Flex (and more recently to the trimmed down, Funk Flex, which does sound a little more current), has worn many hats through the years, but he’s best known for his legendary run as the groundbreaking deejay at one of New York City’s biggest radio stations, Hot 97. In 1992, Flex would become the first deejay on Hot 97 (which played strictly pop music before his arrival) to host his own hip-hop show, and nearly thirty years later (through all his controversies), he’s still there hosting his show, playing his mixes and giving us legendary spit fire freestyles from some of our favorite emcees. Flex would also break new ground when he signed a deal with Loud Records and released one of the first retail available hip-hop mixtapes, 60 Minutes Of Funk: The Mixtape Volume 1, in ’95 (the keyword in that last sentence is “retail”…I’m very aware that Flex didn’t invent the mixtape, so no need to learn me a lesson in the comments, folks).
60 Minutes Of Funk would include Flex mixing new material with freestyles from the hottest emcee of the time rapping over some of the hottest beats of the time, along with old school joints and random interludes, all blended together in true mixtape fashion. The album wasn’t a commercial success and it would only rise to 108 on the Billboard Top 200, but it did receive positive reviews from the critics, laying the foundation for Flex’s next four releases, that would all become certified gold, and helped usher in the new wave of DJ mixtapes being released on major labels with major distribution in the late nineties and early two-thousands.
I know the thirty-seven song tracklist looks a little intimidating, but I promise you, this post reads faster than it looks.
Everyday & Everynight – Funkmaster Flex kicks off the show with an r&b joint from the songstress, Yvette Michelle, as she sings about the obsession she has with a certain club deejay, whose mixes just keep her all wet and bothered. Michelle was also signed to Loud, so it makes sense that Flex (her labelmate) would put her first single on this mixtape as free promo. The song title was an interesting choice, but this is still a dope little bop.
Get Up – I had no idea that Louie Vega (whose name has appeared on this blog several times through the years) formed a production team with Kenny “Dope” Gonzalez back in the nineties and called themselves Masters At Work. Flex includes a snippet of one of their songs here and it makes for a decent intermission.
Keith Murray & Redman (Freestyle) – The first freestyle of the night features Keith Murray and Redman going toe to toe over the instrumental to Wu Tang’s “Protect Ya Neck”. Even though I’ve heard most of the rhymes that Keith spits on this one used on other songs, he and Red sound loose, hungry and entertaining as hell, as they rip this shit to shreds, setting the bar high for the rest of the freestyles that follow.
Zulu War Chant – Flex mixes in a snippet of an old Afrika Bambaataa record. It still trips me out how far the once highly respected and revered Zulu Nation leader has fallen. Moving on…
Loud Hangover – This was the lead single from 60 Minutes and one of the few new tracks on the album that Flex actually produced. Sadat X and Akinyele team up to flex (no pun intended) on our host’s bangin’ backdrop. Neither party disappoints, but Akinyele completely annihilates this shit.
20 Minute Workout – A snippet from a DJ “Let Me Clear My Throat” Kool record.
Award Tour – Flex plays the first minute and a half of A Tribe Called Quest’s classic record, so you can check off Tribe Degrees of Separation for this post.
Erick Sermon (Freestyle) – Flex matches Erick Sermon up with the instrumental for Warren G’s “Runnin’ Wit No Breaks” (or this instrumental is built around the same loop that Warren used) and a hangry E-Double eats this shit like Thanksgiving dinner. These are the type of Erick Sermon rendition that keep me believing in his ever wavering solo output.
Shook Ones Pt II (A Cappella)/Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing Ta Fuck Wit – This one pretty much plays as it reads: It starts off with an accapella version of Prodigy’s first verse from “Shook Ones PT II” and then Flex places the “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing Ta Fuck Wit” instrumental under P’s rhymes. I wasn’t crazy about this one, but it wasn’t terrible.
Incarcerated Scarfaces – Flex plays a portion of Raekwon’s joint.
Fugees (Freestyle) – L-Boogie and Wyclef freestyle over a drum loop so scarce it’s almost nonexistent. Lauryn kicks things off, giving us a taste of her soulful vocals, before spittin’ a freestyle that’s average at best. Then Wyclef spews his lackluster bars, cementing this as one of the weakest freestyles of the evening (Pras wisely decided to sit this one out). No worries, as the Fugees would bounce back the following year, delivering one of the most revered and commercially successful hip-hop albums of all-time.
20 Minute Workout – Flex brings back the DJ Kool snippet from earlier.
I-Iight – Remember when Doug E. Fresh recycled the “Eric B Is President” beat and made it into his own bop? Of course, the narcissist in Flex chooses to mix in the end of the song where Doug E. throws him a shoutout.
Fat Joe & Punisher (Freestyle) – Fat Joe and Big Pun take on the instrumental to Raekwon’s “Ice Cream” for this one. Joe puts his best foot forward and turns in solid effort (even though most of his rhymes are recycled material from Jealous Ones Envy), while Pun shows up and shows out and sounds a zillion times better than he did on “Watch Out”. This was dope.
Let’s Be Specific – Here’s another one that Flex is credited for producing. Our host invites Cool Whip (another candidate for worst alias), Tragedy (aka Intelligent Hoodlum aka MC Percy aka Tragedy Khadafi…I can keep going), Havoc of Mobb Deep, Raekwon and Freddie Foxxx to take part in this cipher session that turns out to be a celebration of thug life (not 2pac’s group, but the actual lifestyle of a thug). I wasn’t impressed by any of the verses (Havoc lazily recycles most of his verse from “Trife Life”) and Flex’s instrumental is as stale as that bag of Doritos your son left open overnight even after you told his bad ass to make sure to close the bag and put the chip clip on it when he was done.
Hey Girlfriend Promo – Plays as it reads.
900 Number – Flex gives some shoutouts over Mark The 45 King’s classic instrumental.
All For One – Flex plays a portion of Brand Nubian’s classic record.
Party Groove – Flex blends in a snippet of the instrumental for Show & AG’s joint.
Busta Rhymes (Freestyle) – Even though the title only credits Busta Rhymes, his Flipmode bredrin, Rampage The Last Boy Scout also raps on this one. Rampage actually starts things off and does a decent job warming things up for Busta, who was just beginning his legendary hot streak, and he beats the shit out Raekwon’s “Rainy Dayz” instrumental. This one’s definitely in the upper tier of freestyles on the album.
Give Up The Goods (Just Step) – As in Mobb Deep’s classic record. This could also be used for Tribe Degrees of Separation, since Q-Tip produced it. This concludes side one of 60 Minutes, if you’re listening to it on cassette.
Puff Daddy Promo – Yep, you guessed it. It plays exactly as it reads.
Rasta T (Freestyle) – I don’t remember this one. I have absolutely no idea who Rasta T is, nor do I recognize the instrumental he’s rhyming over, but both sound pretty good. If you have more info on Rasta T, hit me in the comments.
Q-Tip (Freestyle) – Instead of trying to impress the listener with potent bars, Tip chooses to use his minute and a half freestyle to shoutout and praise Funkmaster Flex over the instrumental to Tha Alkaholiks’ “Only When I’m Drunk”, rendering this one mediocre at best. But it does complete the first Tribe Degrees of Separation trifecta in the history of TimeIsIllmatic, so that’s a plus, right?
20 Minute Workout – One last DJ Kool snippet…
Puerto Rico – Followed by a short portion of Frankie Cutlass’ biggest record.
Redman & Method Man (Freestyle) – Red gets off his second freestyle of the evening, this time matched up with Meth, as the eternally high duo take on the “Shook Ones II” instrumental. Both emcees turn in solid performances, but it’s nowhere near as sick as the Red/Keith Murray collab from earlier in the evening.
Peter Piper – Flex dedicates this portion of 60 Minutes to the old school, kicking things off with a classic Run DMC record, followed by…
Eric B Is President – A classic Eric B & Rakim record…
Make The Music With Your Mouth – Then a Biz Markie joint, followed by…
Nobody Beats The Biz – Another Biz record…
I Got It Made – Then Special Ed’s classic debut record…
Rock The Bells – Followed by a classic from LL Cool J…
Droppin’ Science – Then Flex caps off this old school segment with this Marley Marl/Craig G collab record.
Kaotic Style (Freestyle) – Like Rasta T, Kaotic Style is another act from the nineties that I don’t remember. Flex loops the opening drum beat solo from Mobb Deep’s “Temperature’s Rising” (another track that Q-Tip produced, so that makes a fourth option for Tribe Degrees of Separation) for the three emcees (from the little information that I could gather on them, Kaotic Style was a duo, so they must of invited one of their homeboys to this party) to rhyme over. Their energy kind of reminds me of Onyx (ecspecially the first cat, who sounds a lot like Big DS (rip)) and they do a decent enough job with this one.
KRS-One Speech – The last freestyle of the night comes from the legendary Blastmaster KRS-One, who is so nice with words he chooses to spit an accapella spoken word piece and still shuts shits down, clobbering emcees and dropping off a few jewels in the process.
Flex Outro – Our host shares some parting words, shouts out the emcees that didn’t make the album due to sample clearance issues (i.e. Smif-N-Wessun, Black Moon, Craig G, Greg Nice, Cella Dwellas and Doug E. Fresh) and sends a thank you to all his haters, before closing the album with his part creepy, part doofy laugh.
It’s been twenty-five plus years since its release, but 60 Minutes Of Funk still sounds as fresh as it did when it originally dropped. Flex masterfully blends (with the exception of a few) dope freestyles from dope emcees matched with some of the greatest hip-hop beats from the golden era, with random, but welcomed interlude breaks, pays homage to the old old school with some classic joints from the eighties and throws in snippets from the current classics just for shits and giggles, all culminating into an enjoyable and entertaining sixty-eight minute listen. Come to think of it, 60 Minutes Of Funk sounds fresher today than it did back in ’95. Oh, how I miss the nineties. These are the moments I wish I could get my Marty McFly on, jump in the DeLorean and go back to that great era.