Top Quality – Magnum Opus (May 24, 1994)

New York is the mecca of hip-hop music and culture. Originating in the Bronx (1520 Sedgwick Ave to be exact…shoutout to Kool Herc!) in the seventies, it would soon blossom and blow up in the other four New York City boroughs (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island) and Long Island, birthing several hip-hop legends and classic records. Before going west to California and becoming a universal phenomenon, hip-hop would also spread to other east coast cities and states (i.e. Philly and New Jersey), but it’s safe to say only one emcee has ever repped for White Plains, NY on a national level. Ladies and gentlemen, Top Quality.

Top Quality was a featured artist in The Source‘s once coveted Unsigned Hype column back in April of 1991. The column praised the White Plains emcee for being “faster than The Jaz (as in Jay-Z’s mentor, Jaz-O) when it comes to speed rhymes.” Thanks to the exposure from The Source and a copy of his demo getting into the hands of Parrish Smith (one half of the legendary duo EPMD), Top Quality would sign to Parrish’s PMD imprint  under RCA Records where he would release his debut album, presumptuously titled Magnum Opus.

Parrish Smith served as the executive producer for Magnum Opus, but surprisingly he doesn’t produce any of the album’s tracks. Instead, Top Quality would rely on a handful of producers to craft the soundscape for the album. Magnum Opus would produce one minor hit, but I doubt you can find three people who actually own a copy of the album.

Well, you found one in me.

Messages From UptownMagnum Opus begins with a hard backdrop that some how makes the pretty sample from The Emotions’ “Blind Alley” (which has been used in quite a few different hip-hop songs over the years: see Big Daddy Kane’s “Ain’t No Half-Steppin'” and Wreckx-N-Effect’s “Rump Shaker”) sound dark. Top Quality puts his underwhelming choppy flow and random lyrics on display and manages not to distract from the illness of Hell Raisin’s instrumental.

Someone So Fly – Top Quality uses no less than four different rapping voices on this song, spittin’ a portion of his rhymes in Pig-Latin, and still manages to say absolutely nothing. Khaalia Allah’s instrumental isn’t spectacular, but it will grow on you after a few listens.

Caught Up In The Flizny – Everything about this song is rashtay.

Magnum Opus – This title track was the only song that I was familiar with before this post. Keivan Mack builds a beautiful instrumental around a smooth loop from a Roy Ayers/Wayne Henderson record, and TQ plays it pretty straight with the rhymes, for most of the song. This song never really took off back in the day, but the instrumental sounds even better today than it did twenty-five years ago.

Check The Credentials – Black Zone (which is an ill ass hip-hop moniker) hooks up an instrumental that sounds like an incomplete EPMD idea, while are host talks trash, nonsense and goes on a short Pig-Latin rant during the middle of the song. Next…

What – Jesse West, who was going by his alter-ego, 3rd Eye at this point, gets the production credit and contributes a verse to the song. 3rd Eye (who manages to uses “nigga” nine times in a sixteen bar verse, which is a bit excessive) sounds a lot more grimy and animated than the smooth and conscious Jesse West from No Prisoners (read my thought on that album here), and even though his rhymes are sub par, his grimy persona fits his dark and gutter production work well. TQ bats second and for the first time of the evening he refers to his weirdo abstract rhyming style as that “Helen Keller shit”, which I find hi-larious, but I’m sure if this album came out in today’s super-sensitive society he’d get murdered by the court of public opinion, forcing RCA to shelve the project or at least pull this song from the album (Google Helen Keller if you’re not familiar with who she is). But I digress. All in all, this was pretty enjoyable.

You Gotta Check It – As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m not crazy about Top Quality’s flow or rhyming style, but he actually rides this sick Charlie Marotta produced instrumental, beautifully, leaving his swag dripping all over it. This is dope.

Something New – I didn’t care much for this one.

I Can’t Hear You – Long time Das EFX production duo, Solid Scheme get their only production credit on Magnum Opus, and they make sure it counts. They hook up this slightly dark mid-tempo groove for our host, who continues to spew his Helen Keller shit. TQ doesn’t say anything memorable, but the hook is catchy and the instrumental is dope.

Graveyard Shift – Over a boring Charlie Marotta instrumental our host discusses being mistaken for a drug dealer by both crackheads and cops when he hangs out on the block in the wee hours of the night drinking and smoking weed. Hey, I have an easy solution for that problem: keep your ass off the block at night and get drunk and high at the crib!

U Know My Name – The final song of the evening finds TQ reppin’ for his hometown, talkin’ his shit, and random other shit. Like the rest of the album, Top Quality’s rhymes and flow are all over the place, but Jesse West’s dark and smooth instrumental comes with a bass line similar to how I like my women: nice and thick.

I’m curious what the demo sounded like that made Parrish Smith want to sign Top Quality to a deal, because I’ve been living with Magnum Opus for the past few weeks and I don’t get him. His self-proclaimed “Helen Keller shit” has the White Plains bred emcee rhyming in Pig-Latin and going on random Tourette like fits throughout the album, and his antics feel forced and gimmicky. On the flip side, the handful of producers recruited to shape the sound of Magnum Opus do a solid job handcrafting a batch of quality hip-hop instrumentals, for the most part. It’s too bad TQ didn’t make the most of them. Needless to say, Top Quality doesn’t live up to his moniker, and neither does the album to its haughty title.

-Deedub

 

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Ahmad – Ahmad (May 24, 1994)

Happy New Year folks! I hope you all had a wonderful Holiday season and enjoy the first post of 2019!

Through the years hip-hop has had its share of one hit wonders. Matter of fact we’ve discussed a few of them on this blog. There was Positive K. Mellow Man Ace. D-Nice. House of  Pain, and N2Deep, just to name a few. Ladies and  gentlemen, today we add Ahmad to this esteemed list.

Ahmad Lewis is a Los Angeles born and bred emcee who made his National recording debut in 1993 with the song “Who Can” that was released on the soundtrack to the Robert Townsend produced flop, Meteor Man. Like the film, other than the sound of an exploding bomb, the soundtrack didn’t make much noise either, but Ahmad still managed to score a deal with Giant Records where he would release his one-derous hit “Back In The Day” in March of ’94 (more on that single in a bit). The single would earn Ahmad a gold plaque and set up his self-titled debut album that was released in May of 1994.

Ahmad would recruit his childhood friend and relative unknown, Kendal to produce most of the album, and he would handle all microphone duties by himself. Despite receiving favorable reviews, Ahmad didn’t move a ton of units and would soon be forgotten, and Ahmad would disappear from the scene, falling deep into the black hole of hip-hop irrelevancy. Ahmad would reinvent himself, resurfacing in the early 2000’s as the front man for the hip-hop band 4th Ave Jones, as they would make some noise on the underground scene, establishing a cult following and in my opinion, making some solid albums as well. But Ahmad would never experience the same level of exposure as he did during his “Back In The Day” era.

I’ve listened to Ahmad a few times over the years, but I’ve never fully digested it…until now.

Freak – Ahmad kicks the album off with a danceable Brian C Walls produced track (Ahmad gets a co-production credit and the underappreciated hip-hip guitarist Stan “The Guitar Man” Jones lays down some live chords) that sounds like it uses some interpolation of the Funkadelic classic “(Not Just) Knee Deep”. Ahmad sounds decent on the mic, but the song’s concept and the instrumental come off a bit cheesy.

Back In The Day – The remix of this song was easily the biggest hit on Ahmad. So much so, many forget (or never knew) that this version exists. Kendal builds the instrumental around a loop from The Staple Singers classic soul record “Lets Do It Again”, while Ahmad reminisces about the good old days of his childhood. A decent record, it just doesn’t hold a candle to the classic remix.

Touch The Ceiling –  I’m not a fan of the generic funk instrumental, Ahmad’s uninspired rhymes or the incredibly annoying vocal sample of Funkdoobiest’s lead man Son Doobie. Next…

The Jones’ – Our host uses this one to talk his shit and rep for his crew, The Jones’. Ahmad does a decent job spittin’ on this one, but I’m curious why he didn’t invite any of the Jones crew members to rhyme on this one (the late great father of Auto-Tune Roger Troutman stops by to help out with the hook, though). Maybe he did and they declined because they found Kendal’s instrumental as bland as I did.

Can I Party? – Someone named Maurice Thompson takes a lazy uncreative loop from the funk classic “Flashlight” and turns it into a boring instrumental. Ahmad only makes matter worse with his generic party-themed rhymes.

You Gotta Be… – Kendal hooks up a drowsy synth driven mid-tempo instrumental that Ahmad uses to address the peer pressure put on young dudes in the hood to be tough guys. On the first verse Ahmad talks about being pressed by a crew of thugs to join their team, to which he comically replies “Far as I can see, I was gonna be, the next new member of the crew cause there’s 8 of them and 1 of me.” It was kind of cool to hear a rapper come from this perspective, but the song is still only decent at best.

We Want The Funk – Roger Troutman makes his second appearance of the evening, sticking to hook duties, while Ahmad spits more uninspired party rhymes over a generic mid-nineties style west coast funk instrumental that the Guitar Man’s funky licks can’t even rescue.

The Palladium – This song finds Ahmad rapping praises to his favorite night-time spot, The Palladium; where you can hang out, listen to good music and take part in every rapper’s favorite pastime, chasin’ hoes. Ahmad spits decent rhymes, and even though Kendal’s instrumental sounds a bit empty, it still kind of works. Technically, this isn’t a bad song, it just doesn’t have a heart or soul.

Homeboys First – Ahmad dedicates this one to the homies, staying true to the old adage “bro’s before hoes”. I love the sentiment and Ahmad sounds solid on the mic, but Kendal’s instrumental rings as hollow as a coconut.

Ordinary People – Kendal lays out a soulful backdrop built around a Crusaders loop (again, The Guitar Man contributes some chords to the backdrop) that Ahmad uses to celebrate the everyday (extra)ordinary people in our lives that often don’t get the credit they deserve. Speaking of not getting the credit they deserve, Brenda Lee Eager (Google her) matches the soul in Kendal’s instrumental with her powerful vocals on the hook and adlibs. Ahmad heartfeltly raps praises to his mom (“My mother alone helped me to be me, so that’s my role model not an idiot on tv”) and reminds the listener that “All the average Joe’s are no greater or no lesser than stars, cause all we all are is equal, so shutoff your TV set and show respect to some of the ordinary people.” Brilliant instrumental, great concept, and excellent execution. And since this is dedicated to

Back In The Day (Remix) – As I mentioned above, this is the remix that would become Ahmad’s biggest (and only) hit. The instrumental is built around a smooth loop from Teddy Pendergrass’ “Another Love TKO” (the liners notes credit Maurice Thompson, Jay Supreme and Ahmad with production credits, and Stan “The Guitar Man” Jones adds some beautiful guitar licks to the track as well) and recycles the same lyrics as the O.G. version. This is the best song on the album, with “Ordinary People” coming in a close second.

Back In The Day (Jeep Mix) – Same song as the previous remix with a few more added drum breaks.

Let me start by saying that I think Ahmad is a talented emcee. But sometimes only practice and time can help cultivate raw talent into its manifested full potential. Unfortunately, when it came time for Ahmad to create his self-titled debut, he still needed 6 more years. Ahmad actually rhymes pretty well on the album, it just feels like he didn’t have much to say (and that whiney nasally thing he does gets annoying at times), so too often he resorts to cookie cutter generic party themes. The biggest issue I have with Ahmad is the production. With the exception of the remix to “Back In The Day” and “Ordinary People”, the instrumentals on Ahmad are underwhelming, mediocre, heartless and soulless, and sometimes all of the above at the same time. I encourage y ‘all to check out some of Ahmad’s later work with 4th Ave Jones, but I can’t co-sign for this one.

-Deedub

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Outkast – Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik (April 26, 1994)

Greeting folks! This will be my final post for 2018. I want to thank you all for supporting this blog and following me on my trot down memory lane. I wish you all a Happy Holiday season and a great 2019! Enjoy the read. 

Believe it or not, young bucks, but there was a time when New York and Cali dominated and owned hip-hop, way back in the old days, known as the nineties. I don’t think anyone would argue that Atlanta is currently hip-hop’s hot spot. And let me make myself clear, that when I say “hot” I’m referring to charts, radio play and sales, not quality. Atlanta’s reign has lasted quite a while now, going back to the early 2000’s with acts like Lil Jon, Ludacris, Young Jeezy and T.I. and more currently,  Gucci Mane and Migos. But none of the names listed above would be relevant if it wasn’t for the subject of today’s post. The Atlanta hip-hop pioneers who put the city on the map and would soon take over the world, Outkast.

Andre “3000” Benjamin and Antwan “Big Boi” Patton met as teenagers and went to the same high school in the East Point section of Atlanta. The two were both aspiring rappers who begin to spit together, things clicked and they decided to form a group. Legend has it the duo wanted to call the group The Misfits, but since that name was already being used they went with a synonym for “misfit”, “outcast” and of course misspelled it, cause that’s what rappers do. Outkast would soon connect with Goodie Mob and the production team Organized Noize (which is the trio of Rico Wade, Patrick “Sleepy” Brown and Ray Murray) and started making music. Eventually, the duo would catch the ear of the R&B legends Babyface and L.A. Reid, and would become the first hip-hop group signed to their LaFace Records, where they would release their debut album, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik(which I’ll be abbreviating as SPCM for the remainder of this post, because that’s too many damn characters to keep typing out).

Organized Noize (with help from a handful of other musicians) would handle all the production work on SPCM, and thanks largely to the sizzling hot lead single (more on that in a minute), the album would earn the duo a platinum plaque. More importantly, the album was a critical darling that many consider a classic record that gave Atlanta hip-hop credibility.

Even though I thoroughly enjoyed all of the singles from the album, I never checked for SPCM back in ’94. I didn’t really get into Outkast until their monster follow-up, ATLiens in ’96. I bought SPCM about ten years ago and have listened to it a few times over the years, but not enough to form a legitimate opinion about it. Hopefully, living with it for the next few weeks will help me gain some clarity.

Peaches (Intro)SPCM opens with some out of tune horns and a slight cymbal rattle that stands in for the instrumental, while a sexy-voiced southern belle named Peaches (get it? Georgia? Peaches?) welcomes the listener to Atlanta and the album. I wonder if Peaches is supposed to be the shapely and curvaceous caricatured vixen on the face of the cd, which I’m sure was inspired by the sultry Tour Guide that graced a few of A Tribe Called Quest’s album covers (you like how I snuck that Tribe Degrees of Separation in there, don’t ya?).

Myintrotoletuknow – Organized Noize lays down a dusty gravel road backdrop accompanied by some raw live guitar licks, as Big Boi and Andre introduce the listener to Outkast, as well as Atlanta. Big Boi sets the tone with a solid verse (where he shares an interesting theory that “back in the day when we was slaves, I bet we was some cool as niggas”) before 3 Stacks finishes up, displaying early signs of some of the wit that would eventually make him one of the greatest to ever bless a mic (“I gots a lot of shit up on my mind, I wipe the boo boo from my brain then I finish up my rhyme”). Great way to kick  things off.

Ain’t No Thang – Organized Noize comes right back with a smooth mid-tempo groove (with more funky live guitar licks) that Big Boi and 3000 use to get the most gangster that I recall the duo, collectively, being. Big Boi threatens to “wet them up like cereal” while Andre boasts “one is in the air and one is in the chamber, y ‘all ask me what the fuck I’m doing, I’m releasing anger.” And I loved every second of it.

Welcome to Atlanta (Interlude) – Interlude to set up the next song…

Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik – This title track was the album’s second single, and the country fried instrumentation fits the song’s title to a tee. Dre and Big Boi compliment it well, as they serve it up with (as Big Boi so elegantly puts it) “some southern hospitality”. This is a certified hip-hop classic that sounds as yummy as fried chicken, collard greens and sweet potato pie.

Call of Da Wild – Outkast invites a few of their Dungeon Family bredrin from Goodie Mob (that the liner notes spells “Goody Mob”) to join them on this track. T-Mo and Khujo spit verses along side Dre and Boi, while Cee-Lo (who legend has it almost became the third member of Outkast when they started the group…how ill would that have been? But on the flip side, how terrible would Goodie Mob have been without him?) is delegated to sing the hook. I wasn’t crazy about any of the verses, the hook (and I normally love Cee-Lo’s singing) or the instrumental.

Player’s Ball – Most of you probably forgot (or never knew) that this song was originally released on the A LaFace Family Christmas album at the tail end of 1993, but would also double as SPCMs lead single, hence Boi and Dre’s odd Christmas references mixed in amongst their southern playalistic slang. Organized Noize even adds sleigh bells at the beginning of the song to give it more Christmas cheer. This was a monster radio hit and easily the biggest hit from the album. Another certified hip-hip classic.

Claimin’ True – Organized Noize and company keep the heat coming as they serve up this nasty bluesy instrumental for Boi and Dre to talk their shit over. Boi claims to have been “a player since the age of two”, while Dre says he started packing a “shank up in his socks when he started kindergarten”. I doubt that either of these claims are true, but this song is still bananas.

Club Donkey Ass (Interlude) – Interlude to set up the next song…

Funky Ride – Dre and Boi take a breather, while Organized Noize and friends turn some live instrumentation into a smooth groove that Society of Soul (whom Sleepy Brown was also a part of) laces with passable vocals. This works out to be an enjoyable intermission.

Flim Flam (Interlude) – Another interlude to set up the next song. The song playing in the background is kind of muffled, but the bass line on the instrumental is hard. If anybody has info on that song, hit me in the comments.

Git Up, Git Out – This was the third and final single from SPCM. Cee-Lo and Big Gipp join Boi and Dre as they each spit a verse encouraging brothers to put down the weed, get off they asses and do something with their lives. Cee-Lo easily spits the strongest verse of the four, and his catchy and very potent hook, along with the dope twangy instrumental, carry the weight on this song.

True Dat (Interlude) – Big Rube (who would become a regular on Outkast albums) uses this interlude to give a brief explanation on the meaning of the group’s name.

Crumblin’ Erb – Organized Noize and the band cook up this smooth mid-tempo groove that Boi and Dre use to rationalize their weed usage. The duo spits decent rhymes, but the instrumental (largely thanks to the live guitar, bass and organ) and the Sleepy Brown led slick hook are what truly carry this song.

Hootie Hoo – Warning: The hook on this joint is very addictive and becomes an even harder habit to break when combined with the hard stripped down backdrop that our hosts use to spew random ratchet rhymes over.

D.E.E.P. – This must have been one of the last songs recorded for SPCM, as it’s the most militant song on the album (Dre confesses “You won’t catch me spreading no white thighs, I only see afro bitches up in my eyes” and Boi spews “You d-e-v-i-l, the cave is where you dwell, so stay up out the way it’s beginning to smell like dog, yeah”) and sounds the closest to what the duo would sound like on their sophomore effort, ATLiens. Dre steals the show with his second verse, which is also the strongest bars on the album: “Ya’ll think I’m stupid, cause I shoots ’em up like Cupid, and if you gave me a basketball I’ll show you how to shoot it, my head’s polluted, cause I’m zooted, vibin’ to the problem, if a pair of Jordans came out y’all figure that I got ’em, but no I don’t because I don’t be havin’ funds, the gold that I’m wearin’ is really made out of bronze, it weighs a ton and be makin’ my neck turn green, and I gots a criminal record that will never come clean”. The instrumental work didn’t do it for me, but Boi and, especially Dre, kept me entertained.

Player’s Ball (Reprise) – Outkast closes out SPCM with this reprise of the album’s biggest hit. In place of Boi and Dre’s verses, Society of Soul sings new lines over a remixed instrumental that incorporates techno-ish drums and some pretty piano chords (there is a remix of this song with this instrumental and Outkast’s original verses on it). I actually like this instrumental better than the original.

Andre 3000 is absolutely in my top ten emcees of all time list (and he should at least be in your top 20). SPCM finds him still blossoming into the stellar emcee that the world would soon come to love, but he still does a respectable job on the mic, and this album is the closest he and Big Boi would ever be to equals with the rhymes. The true star of SPCM is the production, courtesy of Organized Noize, and just as importantly, the live instrumentation brought you by a crew of musicians (Guitar: Craig Love and Edward Stroud, Bass: Preston Crump, Marq Jefferson and Colin Wolfe, Organ and Piano: Kenneth Wright, Saxophone: Jeff Sparks), who collectively cook up a brilliant batch of southern fried soundscapes that will surely nourish your soul. SPCM is far from the duo’s best work, but it’s a solid debut that started to make the rest of the world take Atlanta hip-hop serious.

-Deedub

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Raw Fusion – Hoochiefied Funk (April 26, 1994)

Raw Fusion is the Oakland based two-man team of Money B and DJ Fuze, which was a direct offshoot of the larger collective, Digital Underground. The duo’s connection with DU is without question what helped them parlay a side deal with Hollywood Basic, where they would release two albums: their 1991 debut, Live From The Styleetron and the subject of today’s post, Hoochiefied Funk.

According to the liner notes, Money B and DJ Fuze would handle the bulk of the production load, with a few assists from their DU affiliates. I’ve never heard Live From The Styleetron before, and this post marks my first time listening to Hoochiefied Funk (an obvious candidate for worst album title), an album I didn’t even know existed until I stumbled upon a copy of the cd a few years ago in the dollar bin at one of my favorite spots (shoutout to Cheapos!). Other than the incredibly reasonable price, I bought Hoochiefied Funk because of Raw Fusion’s connection to Digital Underground, a group that I’ve respected through the years, and I was also curious to see if Money B could carry an entire album as the lead emcee.

So, lets see how this one pans out.

The New Jazz (Intro)Hoochiefied Funk begins with a minute and a half of what’s supposed to be a “new jazz”. I’m not a fan, but it’s short, so whatever.

Hoochiefied Funk – Raw Fusion gets the title track out the way right away. The duo lay down a very average instrumental, while Money B spits even less impressive rhymes about the importance of having that “hoochiefied funk” playing in your ride if you’re looking to attract, um, hoochies. Yes, the song sounds just as bad as it reads.

Freaky Note – Raw Fusion slows things way down, with some live instrumentation brought to you courtesy of John Wilson on bass guitar and The Piano Man on keys. Money B uses the smooth instrumentation to talk extremely dirty to the object of his erection, while Shock G stops by to sing the hook, which compliments the instrumental well. I actually enjoyed this one.

A Penny For Your Thoughts – Over an awful instrumental, Money B disses all the gold diggin’ chicks (that he refers to as “tricksters”) who are down to spread ’em for the right price. This was almost unbearable.

I Got Flavor – No, you don’t, an neither does the instrumental. Wait…did Money B just say “When I’m rhyming like Common”? When did he ever spit that nice?

Red Riding Good – Money B turns the kid story of Little Red Riding Hood into a raunchy misogynistic debacle. The instrumental is decent, but Money sounds mad pervy with rhymes like “I don’t know the age, I never checked the ID, but she’s just another woman for me” and “Red, what nice breast you have”. Next…

Bumpin’ ‘Em – I love the Cold 187um (from Above The Law) vocal sample. Everything else about this song is trash.

Action Packed – Money B takes a break from talking about hoochies and goes into “battle mode”. He even throws a flailing swing at Das EFX with “I mean I’m sick of suckas flexin’ they need to get that ass tapped, diggidy this diggidy that trying to lose me with the fast rap”, which is kind of corny considering Das was done with the “diggidy thing” by 1994, and the fact that both Dray and Skoob would wash Money on the mic if they decided to pull the style they originated back out. Undaprivileged Courtney Skankkin (that’s a mouthful) joins Money on the hook with a short chant that gives the song a pinch of a reggae vibe (and is probably my favorite part of the song). This isn’t a terrible song, but I’m not crazy about it, either.

Do Doo Mc’s – Pot, meet kettle.

Word For The Day – Raw Fusion, with an assist from Big D The Impossible, creates a dope mid-tempo groove, and DU affiliate, Clee stops by and lends a misogynistic verse to match Money B’s. Clee’s verse fairs a little better than is his buddy’s, but neither of them really impress. The true star of this one is the instrumental.

Do Your Homework – On this one Money B’s warning all the fellas to be careful in how you treat your lady, before a player, like himself, creeps in and bangs her out. Shock G lends another helping hand, as he sings the hook and he and the rest of The D-Flow team get a co-production credit for the funkdafied instrumental. I wasn’t really feeling this one, but it did spark me to come up with a new segment that I’ll call “Tribe Degrees of Separation”, that will somehow tie a song, album or other randomness to a Tribe Called Quest: This song incorporates a sample of the hook from ATCQ’s “Buggin’ Out”.

Dirty Drawls – Apparently this was a bonus track only available on the cd version of Hoochiefied Funk. D-Flow gets another co-production credit for this one and Shock G makes yet another appearance contributing a partial verse and helps with the hook, as he, Money B and Clee playfully tell their side chicks that in order to gain main chick status, you have to love them down to their dirty drawls. The song, including the instrumental (shoutout to The Piano Man, credited for arranging the keyboards and samples), has DU’s signature fun, light-hearted good vibes dripping all over it, and is easily the strongest song on the album. Well, at least the cd version.

Yo Daddy Yo – Raw Fusion samples The World’s Famous Supreme Team’s “Hey Mr .DJ” for the backdrop, as Money B celebrates his dad, which unfortunately, is rarely heard in hip-hop songs. Money is not a great lyricist, but his rhymes on this one come off honest and heartwarming without sounding corny.

To Hell With It – Speaking of hell, this song (even though it gives us yet another Tribe Degrees of Separation moment when Money says “Now let me kick the last scenario like Tribe and the Leaders”) is hot garbage.

As I suspected going into this post, Money B doesn’t have enough lyrical ammo to carry an entire project on his own, and his impotency will begin to lull you to sleep three songs into the album. I was hoping that he and DJ Fuze would call on their DU brethren (D-Flow Production Squad) to at least help them give Hoochiefied Funk some flavor on the production end. D-Flow does get two co-production credits (and Shock G adds some swag to a couple of tracks), but only one of them ends up working, sonically, rendering the majority of the album as bland as bread and crackers. There is really no reason why Hoochiefied Funk should exist. But if it must, it should have been a maxi-single with “Freaky Note”, “Dirty Drawls”, “Yo Daddy Yo” and the instrumental from “Word For The Day” on it.

-Deedub

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Nas – Illmatic (April 19, 1994)

Tuesday April 19, 1994. I was a junior in high school, barely two weeks into the seventeenth year of my life, but I remember it like it was yesterday. I left school at lunch to catch the city bus (the 18S, to be exact) to Southdale Mall. My mission was the “New Release” section at Sam Goody (remember when physical music stores existed, and you had to leave your house to purchase music?). Tuesdays had become my favorite day of the week, because that’s when all the new albums were released, and it seemed like every week there were at least two or three new albums coming out that I deemed worthy of a portion of my hard earned Taco Bell paycheck. But this Tuesday there was only one album on my mind: Nas’ debut album, Illmatic.

By 1994, Nas had already created quite a buzz for himself. First with his 1991 jaw dropping verse on Main Source’s “Live At The Barbeque” (where with blasphemous swag he boasted “when I was twelve, I went to hell for snuffin’ Jesus”) and later building on that momentum in ’92 with a solid performance on MC Serch’s (who played a key role in getting Nas signed to Columbia) “Back To The Grill”. The tail end of 1992 would see Nasir releasing “Halftime”, the lead single from the Zebrahead Soundtrack (shoutout to Michael Rapaport!). “Halftime” would make some noise and helped build the anticipation for Illmatic‘s arrival to earth.

When I picked up my Illmatic cassette at Sam Goody (Years later I would buy it on cd and vinyl) that historic day, I heard the angels sings. I remember going back to school with the cassette and when one of my guys saw that I had it he ask to see the insert and almost immediately a cipher of brothers formed, all in awe and memorized by the ill artwork which donned a pic of a young peasy headed snot nosed Nas hovering over a picture of his Queensbridge projects in the background. Even before listening to the album, the artwork had us blown away (yes, I’m sure the cover was inspired by the artwork from the Howard Hanger Trio’s 1974 album “A Child Is Born”, but it was still ill).

Illmatic would consist of a lean ten tracks, mostly produced by an elite crop of hip-hop producers: DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Large Professor and Q-Tip. The album would slowly earn Nas a gold plaque (and several years later a platinum), but more importantly it would go on to be a critical darling (yep, The Source gave it 5 mics) and is considered by most to be one of (if not the) greatest hip-hop albums every recorded. Hell, it’s even been the subject of classes at Harvard.

Illmatic is one of a handful of albums that I revisit at least a few times every year, and based on this introduction, you probably already know how I feel about it. I mean, my entire blog’ theme is based around it.

Sidenote: If you’re looking for an in-depth breakdown and analysis on Illmatic check-out Michael Eric Dyson and Sohail Daulatzai’s book “Born To Use Mics: Reading Nas’s Illmatic”. Great read.

The Genesis – Instead of just titling this “Intro” or “Beginning”, Nasir cleverly titles it “Genesis”, cause that’s what brothers with depth do. It opens with a clip from the hip-hop cult classic movie Wild Style, and then the instrumental from Grandmaster Caz’ theme song from the movie’s soundtrack plays, while Nas, Jungle (Nas’ brother) and AZ discuss their goals and aspirations over it. Nas then seems to get frustrated by all of AZ and Jungle’s antics and shuts the opening track down saying “Niggas, don’t listen, man…representin’, its illmatic.”

N.Y. State Of Mind – Premo drops one of his vintage raw and dusty instrumentals for our host, who uses this song to warm shit up and let you know where his mind is at. I love how Nas begins this one, seemingly searching for the right rhymes, as he says “I don’t know how to start this shit” before going in with “rappers, I monkey flip ’em, with the funky rhythm I be kickin’, musician, inflicting composition”, and he never lets up from there: “It drops deep as it does in my breath, I never sleep cause sleep is the cousin of death, beyond the walls of intelligence life is defined, I think of crime, when I’m in a New York state of mind”…”the smooth criminal on beat breaks, never put me in your box if your shit eats tapes”. Need I say more?

Life’s A Bitch – L.E.S. hooks up a loop from the Gap Band’s classic record “Yearning For Your Love”, which is hard to go wrong with. Nas and the only other emcee to bless Illmatic with a verse, AZ, go toe to toe, spitting equally superb verses and ironically, bring life to the song’s bleak outlook on life. Nas’ dad, Olu Dara closes things out with some live trumpet chords as the song fades out. This one is short, sweet and perfect.

The World Is Yours – This was the second single released from Illmatic. Pete Rock lays down a beautifully dark instrumental built around a sick Ahmad Jamal piano loop and his signature heavy drums laid underneath it. With ease, Nasir comes in and completely obliterates Pete’s phenomenal production (seriously, this one is “T.R.O.Y.” level sick!) from his opening lines: “I sip the Don P, watchin’ Gandhi ’til I’m charged, writing in my book of rhymes, all the words past the margin, to hold the mic I’m throbbin’, mechanical movement, understandable smooth shit, that murders move with…the thief’s theme, play me at night, they won’t act right, the fein of hip-hop has got me stuck like a crack pipe”. When it comes to street-poetry, from beginning to end, this song IS the standard. Come on, man: “Born alone, die alone, no crew to keep my crown or throne, I’m deep I sound alone, caved inside, 1,000 miles from home, I meet a new nigga for this black cloud to follow, cause while it’s over me it’s too dark to see tomorrow”.  Pound for pound, beat for beat, lyric for lyric, this is one of the three greatest hip-hop records of all time. Side note: The remix for this song (produced by Q-Tip) had a different second verse from Nas (and he changes his cipher completing footwear from Timbs to Nikes on the first verse) and that verse is equally as potent as the original verse.

Halftime – Like I mentioned in the opening, this song was originally released as the lead single off the Zebrahead Soundtrack, which came out in October of 1992, and was later tacked on to Illmatic. Extra P gets his first production credit of the evening, as he puts together a hard bass heavy instrumental that Nas bodies with what feels like minimal effort: “I use to hustle, now all I do is relax and strive, when I was young I was a fan of the Jackson Five, I drop jewels, wear jewels hope to never run it, with more kicks than a baby in a mother’s stomach, Nasty Nas has to rise, cause I’m wise, this is exercise, ’til the microphone dies.” When I heard him say “puttin’ hits on 5-0, cause when its my time to go, I’ll wait for God with the 4-4” on the song’s final verse, I knew this dude was going to be great. Fittingly, this song marks the halftime for Illmatic if you’re listen to it on cassette.

Memory Lane (Sittin’ In Da Park) – Premo slides Nas a dope mid-tempo backdrop that has a bit of soulful feel, thanks to a haunting vocal loop that serves as the ghost of times past, which is fitting since Nas spends most of the song walking down memory lane. Nas drops a lot of ill lines, but the most ill and visual one for me is:”I reminisce on park jams, my man was shot for a sheep coat, Choco blessings make me see him drop in my weed smoke.” In my opinion, this is the most underappreciated song on Illmatic, which is a travesty because it’s ridiculously ill.

One Love – This was the third and final single released from Illmatic. Q-Tip (I’m so proud that somehow my favorite hip-hop group of all-time is connected to my favorite album of all time) builds this bluesy and bleak backdrop around a dope Heath Brothers’ loop that serves as the perfect canvas for Nas to read (or rap) letters he’s sent to a couple of his incarcerated homies: “What up kid? I know shit is rough doing your bid, when the cops came you should have slid to my crib, fuck it black, no time for lookin’ back, its done, plus congratulations you know you got a son, I heard he looks like ya, why don’t your lady write ya? Told her she should visit that’s when she got hyper, flippin’ talkin’ bout he acts to rough, he didn’t listen he be riffin’ while I’m tellin’ him stuff, I was like yeah, shorty don’t care, she a snake too, fuckin’ with them niggas from that fake crew that hate you”. The final verse finds Nas grappling with his own sanity, thanks to the drama of the streets (“you see the streets had me stressed something terrible, fuckin’ with them corners have a nigga up in Bellevue”), before he paints an ill visual with words about an encounter and conversation he had with a twelve-year-old Queensbridge thug that he calls Shorty Doo-wop (the detail he displays in their exchange is amazing…but I’ve already quoted more of this song than I planned on quoting, and I wouldn’t be doing the exchange any justice by only quoting a piece of it, so go listen to it again for your damn self!). This is a masterpiece and comes in a close second to “The World Is Yours” for the best song on Illmatic.

One Time 4 Your Mind – Large Professor lays down a drowsy funk backdrop that Nas rides through the hood like Deebo on Red’s beach cruiser. I’ve often heard people say this is Illmatic‘s filler song, but I disagree. It might be the weakest link in the chain, but if we’re talking about a Cuban link chain, are there really any weak links?

Represent – Premo gets his third and final production credit on Illmatic, and in my opinion, this is the strongest of his three. He takes an obscure xylophone loop and it becomes the backbone to this cold and sinister backdrop that our host uses to “represent” (a term that was used way too often by rappers in the nineties) his hood and discuss the every day happenings there: “any day could be your last in the jungle, get murdered on the humble, guns’ll blast niggas tumble, the corners is the hot spot full of mad criminals, who don’t care, guzzlin’ beer, we all stare.” Yet another great record.

It Ain’t Hard To Tell – The final song of the evening was also, ironically, the lead single from Illmatic. Extra P grabs a couple of loops from MJ’s classic “Human Nature” record and builds a slick instrumental around it. Speaking of around it, Nas (“the Afrocentric Asian, half-man, half-amazin'”) raps circles around this beat, or as he boasts on the song’s final verse: “I dominate break loops giving mics menstrual cycles”. To have a classic song like this so deep in the album’s sequencing speaks volumes to how great a record Illmatic is.

Nas sets the new standard for lyrical dexterity on Illmatic. Every song on the album is brimming with content, as Nas doesn’t waste one song, verse, bar or word on nonsense or fluff. And when you add the magnificent production from the top of the crop producers that sonically back his hood poetry, what you get ladies in gentleman, is perfection. From the album title, to the artwork, to the rhymes and music, Illmatic is a flawless masterpiece, and the greatest hip-hop album ever recorded.

-Deedub

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Main Source – Fuck What You Think (March 22, 1994)

In 1991 Main Source hit the earth like a comet with their debut album Breaking Atoms. Led by Large Professor (who already had a pretty impressive production resume by this point), the trio by way of Queens made their mark with potent production and witty well-timed rhyming from their cool handed leader. The threesome’s formula would wind up giving hip-hop an undisputed classic album, but soon after, everything fell apart. The backbone of the group, Large Professor would eventually say “fuck those two deejays” and left the group to go on a “self mission” (see his verse on Midnight Marauders‘ “Keep It Rollin'”), which left the Canadian born brothers, K-Cut and Sir Scratch missing a large (no pun intended) part of their production team and without an emcee. Since Main Source still had a deal with Wild Pitch, Cut and Scratch would eventually recruit another Queens emcee, Mikey D, whose name might not ring a bell with most of you, but in the eighties the dude was revered for his tenacious battle raps (legend has it that the O.G. Melle Mel was one of his victims) and depending on who you ask, LL Cool J (who was once in a group with Mikey back in the earlier eighties) bit some of his rhyme style and swag. This reconstructed version of Main Source, looking to prove the naysayers wrong, would release Fuck What You Think.

K-Cut and Sir Scratch would produce all but one track on Fuck What You Think, with Mikey D holding down microphone duties. The album was released in March of 1994 and produced at least one single, but any potential momentum that Fuck What You Think might have built up would come to a screeching halt later that year, when Main Source 2.0 broke up and the label decided to shelf the album. Fuck What You Think would be re-released in 1998, but by then the rigor mortis had fully set in on Main Source and not even their families were checking for them anymore.

In 2017 the original trio would put their beefs behind them and reunited to perform live on stage for the first time in over 25 years. Proving that time heals all wounds, and is truly, illmatic.

Diary of a Hit ManFuck What You Think opens with Mikey D sharing a tale about the hard life of a hit man over a dark K-Cut instrumental. Mikey delivers his entertaining rhymes with a coldness that matches the frigidness of the instrumental, step for step and his story will keep you on the edge of your seat, up until the chilling climax. This one plays like a well-executed short hip-hop novel. Well done, fellas.

Only the Real Survive – This is the only song on Fuck What You Think that Sir Scratch or K-Cut didn’t produce. The production credit goes to L.T. who builds a beautiful backdrop around a loop from Pleasure’s “Thoughts of Old Flames” (that would also later be flipped on Rakim and Big Daddy Kane records, just to name a few). Mikey does a good job of riding the track, as he smoothly spills lines like “Yo, I’m a scholar, not a follower but a leader out to make a dollar, without fasten the white collar.” I don’t know if I like this mellow track sequenced right after the dark bleakness that was the opening song, but it’s still a dope joint in its own right.

What You Need – Its way too early in the album for filler material and that’s exactly what this song feels like. Mikey D sounds sharp on the mic (especially in comparison to his deejays, Sir Scratch and K-Cut, who step from behind the boards and briefly jump on the mic during the song’s final verse), but the stock hook (which kind of sounds like something Extra P would have written) and K-Cut’s instrumental just don’t…cut it.

Merrick Boulevard -This song finds Mikey D paying respect to the Queens’ street that he represents. I wasn’t crazy about Sir Scratch’s mediocre instrumental or Mikey’s rhymes on this one, even though it was kind of amusing to hear him say the exact number (123) of battles he’s been in and won, which if true is pretty impressive.

Down Low – This is a phrase that has taken on different meanings in hip-hop through the years. Mikey D’s not “coming out the closet” but is more so referring to himself as the best kept secret in hip-hop for the previous 15 years. Based on the way he murders this smooth K-Cut instrumental, there may be some truth to that statement. This was sick.

Intermission – We’ve reached the midway point of Fuck What You Think, and K-Cut was kind enough to provide some laid back soothing music while you take your bathroom break or grab something to eat.

Where We’re Coming From – Main Source kicks off the second half of Fuck What You Think with more filler material. Next…

Hellavision – Sir Scratch recycles an instrumental that was originally used for a song recorded for Main Source’s first album, titled “Time” (which didn’t make the final cut for the first issue of Breaking Atoms, but was later released as a bonus cut on the 2006 reissue). Mikey D gets a little conscious as he talks about the ill effects TV has on our society. Mike does a good job getting his point across, and Scratch’s instrumental is solid.

Fuck What You Think – For the title track Mikey D shares the mic with his special guest Shaqueen, while K-Cut and Sir Scratch take another stab at rhyming and it sounds like they may be taking subliminal shots at their former front man, Large Professor…or I could be completely off and just looking to reignite a beef that has been dead for years now. Regardless, K-Cut puts his foot in this nasty instrumental.

Set It Off – Lotto, Shaqueen and a young Jadakiss and Sheek Louch of the Lox (who were going by the Warlocks at the time) join Mikey D on this cipher joint. Everybody involved does a decent job pulling their own weight, but the true star of this song is Sir Scratch’s soulful mid-tempo backdrop.

Scratch & Kut 94Fuck What You Think closes with Sir Scratch and K-Cut laying down some dope beats and cutting them up, properly. Nice way to give the deejays/producers some shine and close out the album.

Mikey D’s a solid emcee. He has a dope voice, delivery and can actually spit. He’s just not Large Professor. Speaking of Large Professor, his influence is definitely missed on the production side of Fuck What You Think. K-Cut and Sir Scratch do a pretty decent job holding down Fuck What You Think, but with the heart and soul of the group gone (no disrespect to Mikey D) Fuck What You Think  doesn’t hold a candle to the masterpiece that was Breaking Atoms.

-Deedub

 

 

 

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Dred Scott – Breakin’ Combs (March 22, 1994)

Jonathan “Dred” Scott is an emcee/producer who was born in New York but grew up in Los Angles. Jonathan’s alias, Dred Scott, was taken from the name of a slave who went to court an attempt to buy his freedom, and won the case at the state level, only later to have the decision overturned by the Supreme Court (bastards). Nonetheless, the case would become a pivotal milestone in the movement towards abolishing slavery in the United States…and that concludes your history lesson for today, folks. Both of Dred’s parents were artists (his father was a singer and his mother a dancer) who actually met on Broadway, so it was only a matter of time before Dred would spread his creative wings, choosing hip-hop as his art form of choice. After grinding on the chitlin’ circuit aka the underground scene, Dred Scott would sign a deal with A&M Records, where he would release his debut album Breakin’ Combs.

Dred Scott once told the O.G. hip-hop journalist Dr. Bombay in an interview that the “Comb” in the album’s title symbolizes rules and styles that hip-hop tries to put you in based on where you’re from. “So for me, I’m breakin’ out of all that”, said Scott. “I’m breakin’ boundaries. The comb symbolized boundaries.” The album’s liner notes have random quotes and one is from Dred Scott that supports this sentiment:”Labeling my style would be like trying to comb my hair” (which would be difficult, considering he rocked locks). Like his alias, I believe the album title also represents Dred’s Afrocentric pride, as in he’s so black that his nappy hair would break any comb it comes in contact with (plus the album’s artwork dons an afro pick). Dred Scott would produce the entirety of Breakin’ Combs (the liner humorously read “Produced & Arranged by Dred Scott (Yes, I do my own beats)”), which did produce a few singles that made some noise on the underground level, but both the singles and the album failed to chart, and Dred Scott would fade away in to hip-hop obscurity.

I found Breakin’ Combs a few years ago at a Pawn America that was getting rid of all their cds and selling them all for two or three dollars a piece (which is an amazing deal considering the cheapest you can find a used copy of the album on Amazon is for $43). Since I remembered a few of Dred’s singles being pretty dope, I figured I had…wait for it… “nutin’ ta lose”, so I bought it. Die hard Dred Scott fans will get that corny pun now and the rest of you after you read this post.

Back In The Day – Not to be confused with Ahmad’s song with the same name that was also released as a single in 1994 (stay tuned for more on Ahmad’s debut album in a few more moons). Over a fresh jazz drenched backdrop, Dred tells his story of humble beginnings, hustle and hunger that ultimately helped him secure his record deal. Ahmad’s single would go on to be the bigger hit of the two (I mean, its hard to out do the smooth hypotonicness of that ill Bobby Womack guitar loop that Ahmad used on the remix), but Dred Scott’s joint is still really dope.

Duck Ya Head – Over a decent mid-tempo backdrop Dred Scott shares a long drawn out tale of how karma can catch up with you when you’re involved in ill deeds, even though it sounds like the whole story is supposed to be a dream…I think. Dred raps the whole song with a slightly animated wacky delivery, which makes some of his rhymes hard to understand. I’m not a fan of this one.

Can’t Hold It Back – Dred combines a big horn loop with hard drums and a slick moody bass line, and turns it into a nasty backdrop for he and his guest, Da Grinch, to flex on. Dred gets busy, but Da Grinch (who reminds me of Freddy Foxxx aka Bumpy Knuckles on this one) takes the final verse and steals Christmas (which he does cleverly make reference to on his verse) and the whole show. This was dope.

Check The Vibe – I believe this was the third single released from Breakin’ Combs, and one of the reasons I bought the album. Dred lays down an instrumental that is equally melodic, somber and beautiful, as he waxes poetic with lines like: “I see the visions of my brothers no longer here, I hold back a tear, when he whispers in my ear” and “A young girl starin’ in the car to the right, I smile back taken by my own sense of sight”. His wife, Adriana Evans compliments the beauty of the track, blessing it with her sweet vocal during the hook. This one sounds better today than it did nearly 25 years ago.

Dirty Old Man Skit – I’m really not sure why this skit even exists. First of all, it interrupts all the beauty and depth that “Check The Vibe” brought. Furthermore, it’s pointless and adds nothing to the album. Next…

The Story – Dred Scott’s instrumental on this one reminds me of the dopeness that Premo created for Mos Def’s masterpiece “Mathematics”. Our host uses the solid backdrop to spin a tale about how a slow Friday night turns into a dramatic eventful evening that leaves Dred wishing he would have stayed his ass at home. This was decent and a lot better executed than the hot mess that was “Duck Ya Head”.

To Da Old School – This interlude opens with Dred and his label mate Tragedy aka the Intelligent Hoodlum, in the studio getting ready to record, before Dred drops the bombshell on his guest that his drum machine is broken. But have no fear, because Dred Scott can make beats with his hands as well as with his mouth. He drops a decent beatbox for Trag to spit an average freestyle over, and all this is to set up the next song.

Funky Rhythms – Our host lays down a dope mid-tempo groove (I’m a sucka for a dope organ loop) as he and Tragedy takes turns spittin’ rhymes on the mic, and both do a serviceable job.

Swingin’ From The Tree – Dred pulls out his wacky animated flow once again for this one (he actually sounds a little like Sadat-X at the start of his first verse), as he’s calling out the Uncle Toms and lighter shaded blacks who try to dissociate themselves from the rest of us black folks. But as Dred puts it, no matter how hard these sellouts try “there’s no escaping the noose around your neck in your light skin ecstasy, swingin’ from the tree right next to me”. Adriana Evans reappears and does her best Hillary Banks impersonation, as she plays a redbone female trying to explain away her blackness in between Dred’s verses. This song had good intentions, but Dred’s conscious content gets lost in his cartoonish delivery.

Intro – I’m left to assume that if you bought Breakin’ Combs on cassette, this “Intro” marks the beginning of side two. The short interlude has Dred Scott chomping on chips while doing a radio interview (so professional) and answering the interviewer’s request to describe his style. His response then bleeds into the next song…

Nutin’ Ta Lose – If my memory serves me correct, this was the first Dred Scott record that I ever heard. Over a hard bass-heavy backdrop (the bass line on this one reminds me of Nas’ “Halftime”) Dred grabs the mic and goes for broke because “like a runaway slave headed north with no shoes” he’s “got nothin’ to lose”. This was solid.

Liar – Dred lays down a smooth mellow groove (I love the guitar lick sprinkled in for good measure) and proceeds to drop gem after gem for the duration of this song: “If the beat is fat should I put it on a diet? If a crack fiend is selling me a pullout should I buy it? On the spot…on the spot…on the spot…on the spot…the soul leaves the body as the flesh starts to rot…the leaders with the little dicks have all the power, so the milk from the breast of the earth turns sour…sad is the man with the barefoot blues, ’til he sees the naked brother only having a pair of shoes…tell a girl you love her, but is that really true? Your genitals make you belief that you do, so she lets you ride her like the Lone Ranger, ejaculation makes the girl look like a stranger”. This joint definitely puts Dred Scott’s lyrical ability on display and is easily one of the strongest songs on Breakin’ Combs.

Rough E Nuff – Wait. Did he really just make light of getting molested by his female babysitter when he was eight? Regardless, this song is useless fodder.

My Mind Is Driftin’ – This may be Dred Scott’s magnum opus. Over a beautiful jazzy instrumental (Dred had beats, yo!) our host lets his stream of consciousness flow, spilling his best bars on Breakin’ Combs: “Mother says time flies when you’re having fun, Pop said it flies even if you’re having none”, “Visions of a Motherland that I never knew, see the gangsta take the forty top off the brew, pour it out for the G six feet below, like an African king many moons ago…it’s all connected, so don’t ask why, that’s cause I know how to kiss the sky.” Dred drops so many jewels and ill visual rhymes that this whole song is worthy of quoting. This is my favorite song on the album.

They Don’t Know – Coming on the heels of the greatness that was the previous song, this shit is almost blasphemous. Our host spits probably his most underwhelming rhymes of the evening, and both his instrumental and his guest Big Domino (not to be confused with the “Getto Jam” Domino) are trash.

Frankie’s Groove – The final song on Breakin’ Combs begins with Dred Scott sharing his theory on why there aren’t that many young black musicians (which is a pretty solid one). The song then morphs into a jam session with his friends: JMD on drums, Rastine Calhoun on sax, Danny Grissett on keys and Osama Afifi on bass. Collectively, they make pleasant jazzy album outro music.

I was familiar with a few of Dred Scott’s songs before this post and respected his rhyming ability, but after living with Breakin’ Combs for the past few weeks, I was pleasantly surprised with just how lyrical and conscious Mr. Scott could be. His less impressive moments on Breakin’ Combs come when he tries to be playful and light-hearted, rapping with his animated cadence and delivery (see “Duck Ya Head”, “Swingin’ From The Tree” and “Ruff E Nuff”), which almost feels like he’s (maybe at the label’s request) dumbing himself down so not to come off too conscious; but don’t sleep (no pun intended), Dred is very smart and as the kids say, woke. And he may be as dope a producer as he is an emcee, as he strings together some flavorful soundscapes with a handful of great instrumentals mix in the pot as well. Breakin’ Combs does have a few issues, but the good far out weighs the bad, making this a solid debut from Dred Scott, and leaving me wondering why the hell he didn’t continue making hop-hop music.

Dred Scott once said in an interview many moons ago: “I’m just an emcee who’s trying to do dope hip-hop, and every once in a while there will be a deep message in there”. That statement pretty much sums up Breakin’ Combs in a nutshell.

-Deedub

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