Nice & Smooth – Jewel of the Nile (June 28, 1994)

The last time we touched base with Nice & Smooth was in 1991 with their second album Ain’t A Damn Thing Changed, which if you read my review on that album, you already know I thought it was pretty mediocre (but, if you would like to read my thoughts on its mediocrity, click here). The album did produce a couple of pretty decent sized hits, and things would only get better for the duo when they teamed up with the legendary Gang Starr to create the B side record turned classic, “DWYCK”. That would only help build the anticipation for their third full length release Jewel of The Nile in the summer of 1994.

Like their first two projects, Nice & Smooth (more so Greg Nice) would handle most of the production work with a few helping hands lent here and there. Ultimately, Jewel would do modest numbers and was met with mixed reviews. I actually loved the lead single from the album (more on that in a bit) but didn’t buy it until I found it used a few years ago at one of the Records stores I frequent, so this is my first time listening and living with the project until now.

So without further adieu, let’s do what we do…

Return Of The Hip Hop Freaks – The first song of the evening finds Greg Nice ripping the drums from Schoolly D’s “P.S.K. What Does It Mean?” and laying the slick xylophone loop from KMD’s “Peach Fuzz” (that KMD actually borrowed from an O.C. Smith song) over it. The concoction turns out to be melodic banger, as he and Smooth B drop respectable verses over it.

The Sky’s The Limit – Greg Nice builds this backdrop around a loop from Prince’s “I Wanna Be Your Lover” (rip). Greg Nice delivers a solid verse, keeping pace with his partner in rhyme Smooth B, who is clearly the better emcee of the two. This song might not grab you at the first listen, but the more you listen to it the better it sounds.

Let’s All Get Down – Slick Rick stops by and joins Nice & Smooth on this one, as each of the three spit a quick sixteen. Unfortunately, none of three sound that impressive on the mic, and Greg N-I’s instrumental is boring as shit.

Doin’ Our Own Thang – Nice & Smooth spew more playful random rhymes over this animated Mark Spark production (Smooth B even mentions in his verse that “this beat reminds me of Hansel and Gretel”, which made me chuckle). I wasn’t crazy about this one.

Do Whatcha Gotta – Showbiz (as in Showbiz & AG) gets his first of two co-production credits on Jewel along side Greg Nice, as they give this instrumental a Latin touch that they hope will provoke you to get up and do the Lambada (as stated in the song’s hook). It definitely didn’t make me want to do the Lambada, but it was cool.

Old To The New – This was the lead single from Jewel, and it’s easily in my top five Nice & Smooth songs of all time. Luis “Phat Kat” Vega provides the smooth and brilliant backdrop that Greg Nice freaks first before his partner Smooth B completely bodies it. Classic.

Blunts – Showbiz and Greg N-I loop up a portion of Jack Bruce’s “Born To Be Blue” (that you probably remember being used on Smif-N-Wessun’s “Bucktown”) and place some rough drums underneath it, while Nice & Smooth each spit verses about…I’m sure you can figure that out based on the song title. This wasn’t terrible, but definitely not one of Jewel‘s strongest songs.

Get Fucked Up – Well, if you’re going to have a song about getting high it’s only right that you have one dedicated to getting drunk too. Too bad the song is trash, though.

Save The Children – Everlast (from House of Pain) jumps in the cipher with our hosts. All three of the emcees deliver solid verses, but Everlast completely murders Greg Nice’s fire backdrop built around frantic drums and some sick rock guitar licks. This is easily the best verse I’ve ever heard (no pun intended) Everlast spit. I’m not sure what this song has to do with saving children, but its dope, and tied for my favorite song on Jewel (next to “Old To The New”).

Cheri – Smooth B tests out his singing chops as he attempts to belt out a song dedicated to a woman named Cheri that he apparently hasn’t seen in some time. Mark Rooney and Mark Morales (aka Prince Markie D) get the production credit for this heavily R&B seasoned backdrop, while Rooney and JoJo (from Jodeci) add background vocals. Smooth B definitely shouldn’t quit his day job. This song is complete and utter trash.

No Bones Remix (Bonus Track) – This song may have the worst hook in hip-hop history. I’ve never heard the original version of this song, and after listening to this remix, I don’t ever want to hear it. Side note: Greg Nice starts his verse off on this song shouting out the legendary late comedian/actor/dancer Nipsey Russell and rhymes his name with “do the hustle”, which made me think about the recently murdered rapper/entrepreneur/activist Nipsey Hussle, who I’d be remiss not to acknowledge. Even if you weren’t a fan of his music, you have to respect the work he was doing in his community. May he rest in peace.

Let me start with the good (whenever you hear someone preface a statement with that line, brace yourself for the upper cut that is soon to follow): I love that throughout their catalog, Nice & Smooth has never extended songs with useless verses or bridges, but consistently sticks to the format of one verse each, the hook in between the verses and then they get the hell outta Dodge (unless of course, they have a guest come through). When all the songs are short, even listening to the bad ones is easier to digest. Speaking of bad songs, Jewel of The Nile has way too many of them. Maybe “bad” isn’t the right adjective, but when six or seven songs on an eleven track album sound like filler material, the results can’t be good, and definitely doesn’t earn you the right to label it Jewel of The Nile.

-Deedub

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Da Brat – Funkdafied (June 28, 1994)

In 1992 the Atlanta-based teenage duo Kris Kross took the world by storm with their own unique swag and their monster hit single “Jump”, which helped catapult their debut album Totally Krossed Out to multi-platinum status. The mastermind behind the duo’s success was a young up and coming producer named Jermaine Dupri, who wrote and produced the entire album. The success of Totally Krossed Out opened the lane for Jermaine (who I’ll refer to as JD from this point on) to produce Kris Kross’ follow-up album and become a highly sought after writer/producer for other hip-hop and R&B acts. He would also seek out and sign more acts to his So So Def imprint, including the R&B group Xscape and a young female emcee from Chicago, and the subject of today’s post, Da Brat.

While Kris Kross came off as a cute innocent kid act, Da Brat (who looked like a kid but was twenty years old when her album dropped) came with a harder edgier gangsta persona that JD would help manufacture. With JD as her Geppetto, Pinocchio, I mean, Da Brat would release her debut album Funkdafied in the summer of ’94.

JD would handle all the production and write most of Da Brat’s rhymes on Funkdafied.
Despite the album’s mixed reviews, Funkdafied would earn Da Brat a platinum plaque, making her the first solo female rapper to accomplish this feat.

A few years ago I found a cd copy of Funkdafied at Cheapos for a buck and bought it on the strength of the title track which I liked back in the day. This is my first time listening to the album in it’s entirety…I think.

Random factoid: Da Brat is the lovely actress, Lisa Raye’s little sister.

Da Shit Ya Can’t Fuc Wit – After Da Brat pledges her allegiance to the funk, JD drops a hard backdrop that has a little “Deep Cover” feel to it, and he even sprinkles Dr. Dre’s signature synth sirens over the track. Da Brat introduces herself to the world, spitting two verses displaying her hard no-nonsense persona.

Fa All Y’all – This was Funkdafied‘s second single. JD digs back into his west coast bag of tricks and pulls out this funky instrumental for Da Brat to continue her heavily Snoop Dogg influenced flow. JD’s funk groove carries this to being a decent song.

Fire It Up – This song finds Da Brat rapping praises to marijuana (at the end of the song some random dude even pledges his allegiance to it) and talking random shit, and she sounds pretty convincing in the process. But the true star of this song is JD’s instrumental. I absolutely love his smooth backdrop, and the Boss vocal sample on the hook is a nice added touch. The content isn’t groundbreaking, but this song is pretty damn entertaining.

Celebration Time – Super short quiet storm jazz interlude that Da Brat and JD get lifted on. This bleeds into the next song…

Funkdafied – This title track was also the lead single. JD’s instrumental, as the liner notes read, “embodies a portion of “Between The Sheets””, which has to be one of the ten most sampled songs in hip-hop history. Da Brat and JD use it to pass the mic back and forth and “freak this duet just like Ashford and Simpson”. In my opinion, this song is a classic, and it has surprisingly aged well.

May Da Funk Be Wit ‘Cha – JD continues the laid back mood he set on the previous track with this smooth funked out mid-tempo groove, as Da Brat rides it almost flawlessly. Lyrically, she doesn’t cover any new ground, but she still entertains, regardless. LaTocha Scott from Xscape stops by to contribute the hook and adds a few adlibs. This isn’t my favorite song on Funkdafied, but it’s still solid.

Ain’t No Thang – Y-Tee, one half of Da Bush Babees (remember them?), joins Da Brat on this one, as he adds a little reggae flavor with his chant at the beginning of the song, setting the stage for our host to continue her relentless tough guy (or girl) shit talking. Y-Tee and Da Brat sound cool, but its clear that JD was intentionally going for a Dr. Dre feel with this instrumental, and it comes off extra cheesy.

Come And Get Some – Mac Daddy of Kris Kross (the dark skin one aka Chris Kelly…rest in peace) joins Da Brat as they swag out over JD’s funky instrumental built around a loop from Lenny Kravitz’ “Fear”. That’s all I got.

Mind Blowin’ – JD continues to bring the head noddin’ funk while our host attempts to blow your mind with her lyrics. Her rhymes aren’t mind blowin’, but they are mildly enjoyable.

Give It 2 You – JD hooks up a smooth backdrop with a dope Al Green like vocal loop sprinkled in to give the track a little touch of soul. Da Brat continues to display her polished flow, even though she trips up a bit with her lyrics (on the final verse she refers to herself as “the baddest new bitch in this hip-hop biz” and then in the very next bar calls herself an “O.G.”).  This was a great way to end Funkdafied, and is easily my favorite song on the album.

Ignorance is bliss. At face value, Funkdafied displays a confident emcee with a polished flow and a great voice bodying a batch of clean and quality JD produced instrumentals. But if you have eaten from the tree of knowledge and go beneath the surface, you’ll see JD trying to duplicate Dr. Dre’s G-funk brand of production and stealing Snoop’s flow, slang and mannerisms, only to force feed them to Da Brat to regurgitate. I think Da Brat is talented and I will eventually track down the rest of her catalog to see if she ever found her footing as a true emcee. With all that said, Funkdafied is entertaining even if it’s not authentic.

-Deedub

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Terminator X And The GodFathers Of Threatt – Super Bad (June 21, 1994)

 

In 1991 Terminator X released his solo debut album Terminator X & The Valley Of The Jeep Beets, which was a compilation album that featured Terminator X as the producer with his guests rapping over his beats (or beets). The album produced a couple of singles that made a little noise, but ultimately the album bombed, both critically and commercially (click on this link to read my thoughts on that album). But no worries, his label would still greenlight a follow-up, so in the summer of ’94 Terminator X returned releasing Super Bad.

Super Bad follows a similar format to The Valley Of The Jeep Beets, with TX providing the instrumentals (for the most part…he has a few special guests produce a few of the album’s songs) for his guests to rap over. Unlike TVOTJB which featured mostly new artists, Super Bad features new artists, current (at the time) artists, and old school artists (thus the “GodFathers Of Threatt” credit). Like its predecessor, Super Bad failed commercial and critically, and would be the last time a label trusted Terminator X with his own solo project.

I came across a CD copy of Super Bad a few months ago, and since it was only a couple of dollars, I recognized a few songs that I liked back in the day, and because I’m obsessive with collecting hip-hop artists complete discographies, I made the purchase. Let’s see if Super Bad fairs any better than it’s predecessor.

Terminator’s Back – Just your basic hip-hop album intro.

Kidds From The Terror – The first song of the evening features a group called Punk Barbarians, who’s gimmicky grimy style sounds a lot like Onyx and comes off super cheesy. Groovy Productions’ instrumental is decent, but not decent enough to give this song any replay value.

Godfather Promo – Quick interlude.

Sticka – The all-star cast of Chuck D, Ice-T, MC Lyte and Ice Cube join forces and each of them spit solid verses, while the Punk Barbarians are assigned hook duties. If only Chuck D’s plain Jane instrumental had more flare to it this might have been a dope song. As is, it’s just passable.

Money Promo – Interlude that sets up the next song…

It All Comes Down To The Money – I believe this was the lead single for Super Bad. The legendary trio, Whodini joins TX as they discuss that green stuff that everyone respects. Jalil and Ecstasy’s rhymes sound a bit dated by mid-nineties standards, but they actually work over the dope Terminator X/Larry Smith concocted backdrop. The song’s thick bouncy bass line is super addictive and Khadejia Bass completely bodies the hook and her adlibs at the end of the song.

Thumpin’s Goin On – The first Kool Herc interlude of the evening finds him discussing the old school, now school and the importance of unity.

Krunchtime – Our host introduces the world to a young Long Island emcee named Melquan with this one. TX hooks up some vintage dirty and dusty east coast boom-bap for Melquan to spit two quick verses on, and the dude can actually rap. This was a pretty dope record. I’d love to hear more from Melquan.

G’Damn Datt DJ Made My Day – This interlude has TX mixing it up with Grandmaster Flash, as they scratch up the record and Flash adds some additional commentary.

Stylewild ’94 – Our host brings the pioneering hip-hop groups, Cold Crush Brothers and The Fantastic Five together for this one, as they exchange verses over TX’s stripped down backdrop. By the way, am I the only one who didn’t know Grandmaster Caz (who in my opinion is arguably the greatest emcee of hip-hop’s first decade) became a part of the Cold Crush Brothers in their latter years? Must respect to The Cold Crush Brothers and The Fantastic Five for what they’ve contributed to hip-hop and their legacies, but by 1994 both groups were well past their prime, and you can hear it. It’s like watching Shaq play his last season as a Celtic with a garbage instrumental playing in the background.

Funky Piano – Another interlude that pretty much plays as it reads.

A Side Final Promo – For good measure, Terminator X throws in one more interlude to close out side A of Super Bad, if you’re listen to it on vinyl or cassette.

Make Room For Thunder – Side B of Super Bad starts with yet another Kool Herc interlude.

Scary-Us – Similar to the Gravediggaz, the Flatlinerz were a “horrorcore” hip-hop group in the nineties that actually released an album on Def Jam, titled U.S.A. (which is an acronym for Under Satan’s Authority…spooky) a few months after Super Bad. This is my first time hearing a Flatlinerz song. I wasn’t crazy about their rhymes, but the instrumental was decent.

Learn That Poem – Not sure what the purpose of this interlude was but, whatever.

Under The Sun – Remember Joe Sinistr? This was the song that seemed would launch his rap career. The song is decent and made mild noise, but the blatant borrowing of Redman’s style (even the Jam Master Jay co-produced backdrop screams Whut? Thee Album) was probably too much for the hip-hop community to swallow, hence the reason they spit him out and he vamoosed from the scene, forever.

1994 Street Muthafukkas Gong Show – The song starts off well with TX’s hard backdrop, but things quickly fall apart with sub par performances from a few uncredited guests. Then the song abruptly goes into an unwarranted skit, and things only get worst after that.

Don’t Even Go There – Remember the female duo Bonnie & Clyde from Valley Of The Jeep Beets “Homey Don’t Play Dat”? Well, our host decided to bring them back and feature them on this track. TX provides a decent instrumental and the ladies give passable performances, but the hook is embarrassingly bad.

Herc Yardman Word – More thoughts from hip-hop’s daddy.

Mashitup – I’ve never been a huge fan of reggae, and Prince Collin chanting over this dreadful (no pun intended) TX instrumental doesn’t change my stance. Someone should mash this shit up and throw it away, forever.

Say My Brother – This was a cute play off of the Hey Love classic soul compilation collection commercial that used to play late nights on BET in the eighties. “No my brother…you gots to get your own.”

Put Cha Thang Down – I hope this was a joke. TX creates a Miami bass instrumental for the Punk Barbarians to do their best 69 Boyz/95 South/Tag Team impersonation over, which is a drastic change from the Onyx energy they provided on “Kidds From The Terror”.  Whether serious or a joke, this shit was terrible.

Herc’s MessageSuper Bad ends with Kool Herc sharing some parting thoughts on hip-hop and life. And we’re done.

On Super Bad Terminator X is able to cook up a couple of dope songs, but they quickly get buried in mediocrity, trash and way too many useless interludes (message: if your album has more interludes than actually songs, more than likely it’s not going to be a winner). While it was a cool gesture for TX to pay homage to some of hip-hop’s pioneers, I wish he could have found a way to use them in a more meaningful and entertaining way. Super Bad isn’t, super bad…it’s just mildly terrible.

-Deedub

 

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The Beatnuts – Street Level (June 21, 1994)

By 1994 The Beatnuts had strongly established themselves as one of the best east coast production teams in hip-hop by producing tracks for several different artist (Common, Da Youngstas, Chi-Ali and Kurious just to name a few, and the list would only continue to grow). The trio of JuJu, Fashion and Psycho Les were so respected as producers that they were able to parlay their clout into a record deal with Violator Records, releasing their debut project Intoxicated Demons: The EP in the spring of 1993 (read my thoughts on that project here). The EP didn’t do major numbers, but it was well-received by the hip-hop community and set the stage for The Beatnuts first full-length album, Street Level, released the following year.

Other than two tracks, The Beatnuts would handle all the production duties for Street Level. What may come as a surprise to some is that the trio would handle all of the microphone duties, with only two guests stopping by to contribute cameos. Like their debut EP, Street Level received favorable review with only modest album sells.

But forget sells, it’s all about the Street Level reaction. Right?

Intro – The Nuts kick Street Level off with a decent hard backdrop that ends just in time not to get annoying.

Ya Don’t Stop – Lucien (yes, the same Lucien that ATCQ’s “Luck Of Lucien” was written about…Tribe Degrees of Separation: check) hooks up a dope xylophone loop and builds this ill dark instrumental around it. Each of the trio spit a verse and manage not to embarrass themselves, but you’ll definitely enjoy the backdrop.

Props Over Here – This was the lead single from Street Level. The trio lay down a smooth groove with a dope bass line underneath it, as each of them spit a verse. JuJu, who is easily the best rapper out of the three, outshines his buddies and sounds comfortable spitting over the mid-tempo backdrop. Despite the lazy hook, this song still sounds great 25 years later.

Hellraiser – The Nuts hook up a (no pun intended) fire instrumental for this one. Again, you don’t listen to a Beatnuts’ album for their stellar lyricism, you listen to it for stellar instrumentals, like this one. As the song fades out the instrumental for the original version of this song plays (you can easily find that version on the web or streaming sites). I actually like the subdued vibe of the O.G. version, but they made the right decision putting this version on the proper album.

Are You Ready – Can I get a question mark for the song title, please? Anyways…Grand Puba stops by and joins JuJu and Les on the mic as they each spit a verse, and Puba easily out performs his gracious hosts. Unfortunately, the V.I.C. produced instrumental is too boring to waste a Grand Puba verse on.

Superbad – Well, I wouldn’t say it’s super bad, but it was mildly unenjoyable.

Straight Jacket – The Nuts beautiful instrumental sounds like a little taste of heaven, and the Ol’ Dirty Bastard vocal sample on the hook was a nice added touch.

Let Off A Couple – The fellas lay down an extremely pretty instrumental and do exactly what the song title suggests on the mic. As usual, JuJu outshines his intoxicated companions, but the instrumental is the true star of this one.

Rik’s Joint – This is my favorite song on Street Level. Fashion and Juju each spit verses and don’t say anything worth quoting, but every time I hear this smooth instrumental it stirs my emotions and feels so damn good.

Fried Chicken – I love fried chicken (living up to stereotype), but this batch could stand to cook in the oven a little longer.

Yeah You Get Props – Not to be confused with “Props Over Here”, even though it does recycle a part of that song’s hook for the hook on this song. This is clearly filler material (which really isn’t necessary for a 17 track album), but it’s still decent.

Get Funky – The Nuts steer the ship back in the right direction with this one. They build the smooth instrumental around a laid back funky guitar loop, and like most of Street Level, they spew nonsense over it.

Hit Me With That – This shit is hard. The Nuts hook-up rough drums, lay a thick bass line and sprinkle the illest xylophone loop I’ve ever heard (at least this week) over it. This one is super sick.

2-3 Break – A la Gang Starr’s “I’m The Man” and “Speak Ya Clout”, The Beatnuts hook-up three different instrumentals and each take one of them to spit a verse over (with JuJu being the generous guy and sharing his verse with Gab from Triflicts). But unlike Guru, Jeru and Lil’ Dap, The Beatnuts (and Gab) fail to delivery lyrical or musically.

Lick The Pussy – Fashion goes dolo and speaks about one of his favorite pastimes. Props to Fashion, as most rappers in the pseudo masculine hardcore hip-hop world that was the mid-nineties would never admit to taking part in this sexual delicacy. But even more tasty is the Nuts instrumental, which is built around a sexy loop from Tyron Davis’ “In The Mood” (which was also the source material for MC Eiht’s “All For The Money”, released later the same year…but I digress). Listening to this was almost as enjoyable as…eating pussy.

Sandwiches – This is Psycho Les’ solo joint. Over an instrumental that sounds a lot like something Muggs would have created, Les spits one lone verse filled with complete and utter nonsense (at one point he brags about having an “ostrich size dick”). This was super juvenile and pointless.

Psycho Dwarf – This was also included on the Intoxicated Demons EP, and it sounds just as trash as it did the first time around.

On Street Level The Beatnuts give you exactly what you expect from them: Passable rhymes over a quality batch of beats. Like most albums, there are a handful of tracks that should have been left on the cutting room, but the majority of Street Level will keep your face screwed and your head bobbin’.

-Deedub

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Arrested Develompent – Zingalamaduni (June 14, 1994)

Arrested Development came on the scene in 1992 and made a huge impact with their debut album 3 Years, 5 Months and 2 Days in the Life Of… which sold over 4 million copies, produced a few major pop hits and earned the group a pair of Grammy (you can read my thoughts on that album here). With all of the accolades and commercial success that 3 Years garnered, the hard to impress and always suspicious hip-hop community didn’t fully embrace AD, as they were perceived as soft rap hippy weirdos, similar to how A Tribe Called Quest was received when they first hit the scene (Tribe Degrees of Separation: Check!). Regardless of what the heads felt, 4 million units sold pretty much guaranteed Chrysalis Records would give them a follow-up. Arrested Development would return in 1994 with their sophomore effort, Zingalamaduni.

Zingalamaduni, which means “a beehive of culture” in Swahili, would follow the same format as 3 Years, with Speech producing, rapping and singing for the entire album while the rest of the team stood by and watched (j/k). Unlike it predecessor, Zingalamaduniwasn’t a commercial success, as it didn’t even reach gold status, and of course the heads weren’t checking for it.

I’ve never listened to Zingalamaduni in its entirety. Lets give her a few spins and see if the album is as bad as its sells reflected.

WMFW (We Must Fight & Win) FMZingalamaduni opens with Baba Oje (the old grey haired/bearded grandfather like gentleman in the group) playing the DJ for the fictitious FM radio station WMFW (see the acronym in the song title), which apparently only plays conscious music. This also doubles as a short intro to the album.

United Minds – Over African tribal drums and chant and emotional keyboard chords, Speech calls for all races to become like-minded so we can collectively make change in the world. He also sprinkles some jewels into his verses along the way (“I try to eat healthy to avoid the cancer, one ounce of prevention beats 100 pounds of cure, pure ways of living is not hippish, it’s not white, not black its just conscious, conscious of your health, conscious of your self, instead of being so damn conscious of your wealth”). Nice way to kick things off.

Ache’n For Acres – Speech speaks (no pun intended) on the importance of owing land which can be passed down from generation to generation, thus creating generational wealth. He raps: “ache’n for acres, plenty of acres, money spent on rent ain’t earning me a cent, Ain’t gettin’ no caddy, no Benz, no Jeep, until I got some money for some land to keep”. Speech and company’s uptempo backdrop has a twangy slightly drunken feel to it that actually works. This is a song I wouldn’t have appreciated in my teens, but definitely respect the message as a full-grown man.

United Front – This one pretty much follows the same theme as “United Front”, only with a more Afrocentric focus, as Speech ends each of his verses shouting out “the red, and the black, and the green”. I didn’t care for Speech’s singy delivery or the music backing him on this one.

Africa’s Inside Me – According to Wikipedia, this was the second single released from Zingalamaduni, although I don’t remember it from back in the day. Speech and company hook up a melodic mid-tempo backdrop that samples the same Joe Sample record (sample of Sample…funny) that would later be used as the musical foundation for 2pac’s classic record “Dear Mama”. Speech and Fulani from a group called Gumbo (and even though I’ve never heard of him or the group, Gumbo is an ill ass group name) take turns spittin’ verses about the African spirit that still lives inside of all of its descendants, no matter how much we African-Americans try to deny or suppress it. Good message, and a great song.

Pride – The African tribal singing and drums set the mood for this one, which continues the African pride theme from the previous song. The message was redundant and I didn’t care for Speech’s delivery of the message, either.

Shell – This song has a great message (“Just a shell, until you decide to rebel”), but Speech’s rhyming, the annoyingly repetitive hook and the underwhelming musical backing quickly bury it.

Mister Landlord –  Speech sounds as militant as I’ve ever heard him on this one, as he warns the white man that he won’t standby and passively watch him mistreat black people: “Just to bring peace, do I have to get a piece? And in the break of dawn I guess I’ll pray to the east, Cause I’m not the one to get slapped on the cheek, without my fist curling up to hit you back in your teeth”. I like Speech’s unexpected strong stance, and he and his team’s folk meets hip-hop instrumental was dope.

Warm Sentiments – This song would have had all of feminist Twitter’s panties in a bunch and hanging Speech in a cyber lynching had it been released today. The story line is Speech’s lady decides to get an abortion without his blessing and he spends the entire song politely, reprimanding her for her actions. I personally like Speech’s male perspective on the sensitive topic, and the soulful instrumental is enjoyable as well. Let me know how ya’ll feel about the song in the comments.

The Drum – Short instrumental interlude that pays homage to the foundation of every song…well, at least 99 percent of them.

In The Sunshine – Over quality live instrumentation, Speech sings about a life free of corruption and strife. This kind of sounds like something Bob Marley would have written if he were still alive and recording music today, or in 1994 (Speech’s adlibs on this song actually sound a lot like Bob Marley’s). Not my favorite song on the album, but it’s decent.

Kneelin’ At My Altar – Over a sick uptempo instrumental (I absolutely love the horn loop laced throughout the song) Speech stresses the importance of prayer in order to keep his peace and get him through the challenges of every day life. This was a pretty dope record.

Fountain Of Youth – Speech’s rhymes are too abstract for my taste buds, but I like the big zany horn loop laced throughout the solid instrumental.

Ease My Mind – This was the lead single and the only song I was familiar with before going into this post. Over a beautifully melodic instrumental, Speech addresses the importance of taking time to maintain your inner peace while living in this crazy world. This was dope, and it sounds way better than in did back in ’94. Give it a few spins and let me know if you agree.

Praisin’ U – Speech and company close out Zingalamaduni with this gospel-like joint that has Speech singing praises to God over some pleasant instrumentation. Nice way to end the evening.

Zingalamaduni has a lot more African pride and black upliftment themes than its predecessor (even the Swahili album title is testament to that), which may have scared some of Arrested Development’s white supporters away. That and the fact it doesn’t have any undeniable bangers or big crossover pop hits are probably what caused the dismal album sells. But in my opinion, Zingalamaduni is a stronger project than 3 Years. Speech and company string together a batch of their own unique brand of instrumentals that Speech uses to enlighten the listener through meaty messages. A few of his messages get lost in poor delivery, overly abstract rhymes or mediocre production, but more often than not, he does a solid job behind the mic and the boards. Zingalamaduni is far from a classic, but it’s a solid album that’s aged well.

-Deedub

 

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Warren G – Regulate…G Funk Era (June 7, 1994)

The world first heard of Warren G from his guest appearance on Mista Grimm’s “Indo Smoke” from the Poetic Justice Soundtrack. But before he got his break with Grimm, Warren was grindin’ in Long Beach and the surrounding area trying to get into the game with his group 213, which consisted of himself, Nate Dogg (rip) and Snoop Dogg. In fact, Warren G (who is Dr. Dre’s half-brother) is responsible for introducing Snoop to Dre, and we all know how monumental that introduction was to hip-hop. Snoop would soon ascend to hip-hop’s pinnacle in the early nineties as a solo artist, leaving Nate and Warren left to fin for themselves (even though Snoop did throw them a bone (no pun intended), with Nate getting a chance to croon on The Chronic’s “Deeez Nuuuts” and he and Warren would both get an invite to get on the misogynistic classic “It Ain’t No Fun”). No worries, as they would both land on their feet, with Nate signing with Elektra and Warren inking a deal with Violator Records, where he would release his debut album, Regulate…G Funk Era.

With the help of a handful of musicians, Warren G would follow in his big brother’s foot steps and produce the entirety of Regulate, inviting some new artist to help carry the weight on the microphone. Thanks in large part to the monster lead single, Regulate would go on to earn Warren G a platinum plaque, selling over 3 million copies, and receive critical acclaim from the critics.

Lets revisit Regulate and see how it’s held up over the past twenty-five years.

Regulate – This title track and lead single was also the lead single for the Above The Rim Soundtrack. Warren G and company (which is Greg Geitzenauer on keyboards and Andreas Straub on guitar) hook up an interpolation of Michael McDonald’s “I Keep Forgettin (Every Time You’re Near)”, as Warren G and his 213 bredrin Nate Dogg rap and sing a tale, respectively, about a night (with “a clear black night” and “a clear white moon”) where a mission to “consume skirts” takes a turn for the worst. It’s clear from the jump that Warren G is not a great lyricist, but Nate Dogg does prove to be a dope vocalist, as he completely bodies the dope instrumental work. If you don’t agree that this is a classic record, than you’re a buster and worthy of some regulating.

Do You See – This was the third and final single released from Regulate. Warren and company lay out a clean laid back instrumental that our host uses to discuss his childhood and coming into the game with his 213 click (back when Snoop Dogg was going by Snoop Rock, according to Warren). Warren’s corny rhymes quickly become a reoccurring theme, but the smooth sounds of the Warren G/Geitzenauer/Straub concocted backdrop, along with the catchy hook (which is just as corny as it is catchy) will make you overlook just how bad our host’s rhymes are.

Gangsta  Sermon – A juvenile interlude with B-Tip (not to be confused with A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip…you like how I snuck that Tribe Degrees of Separation in there?) and the late comedian Ricky Harris. This definitely hasn’t aged well.

Recognize – Over some smooth G-Funked instrumentation, Warren introduces the world to The Twinz, Tripp Loc and Wayniac, who are actually twin brothers. Our host and The Twinz each spit a verse, and while Warren struggles (the man rhymes “era” with “era”) The Twinz actually sound decent. But the true star of this one is the smooth groove laid behind them.

Super Soul Sis – Our host introduces yet another new artist. This time female emcee Jah-Skilz goes dolo over a very average instrumental. Jah-Skilz is not as lyrical or charismatic as say, a Lady of Rage, but she does a serviceable job on this one. Her line about “Rapper’s skills are thinner than niggas on AIDS” was kind of comical…only because I’ve never heard anyone reference AIDS as something you’re “on”.

’94 Ho Draft – See comments from “Gangsta Sermon”.

So Many Ways – Warren G and Wayniac from The Twinz, spill rhymes over this crispy clean smooth groove, while Lady Levi (whom you may remember for her opening reggae chant on The Chronic’s “Let Me Ride”) adds some adlibs and takes care of the hook. I absolutely love the fuzzy bass line on this instrumental. Every time I hear this song it makes me want to roller skate or front like I’m rollin’ through the streets of LA in a drop top ’64.

This D.J. – This was the second single released from Regulate. Before Lil’ Duval was  “Living My Best Life”, there was Warren G’s “This DJ”, which uses an interpolation of the same Midnight Star sample used on the former (which was actually first used a few years prior on the severely underrated Eric B & Rakim record “What’s On Your Mind” off the Don’t Sweat The Technique album and included on the House Party 2 Soundtrack…but I digress). Our host uses the slick and polished production to reminisce about his childhood growing up in Long Beach, California. Despite Warren’s underwhelming rhymes, the instrumental and catchy hook propelled this to become a classic record.

This Is The Shack – Warren G continues his Regulate crew roll out plan. This time he lets the three-man team (Bo Rock, 2Scoops and C-Knight) collectively known as The Dove Shack, shine, or at least attempt to. Each of them spit underwhelming verses, but fear not: Warren G and his cast of live musicians (Sean Thomas on keyboards, Andreas Straub on guitar, Daniel Shulman on bass and Carl Small on percussion) put their collective foot in this instrumental and cook up some shit that will satisfy your soul, making you forget all about the forgettable emceeing from The Dove Shack.

What’s Next – Mr. Malik, formerly of the Philly based kid duo Illegal, jumps on this track and raps next to his gracious host. I wasn’t a fan of Mr. Malik’s rhymes when he was with Illegal or what he did with Snoop on Doggystyle’s “Pump Pump”, but he actually rides this slick Warren G and company produced backdrop pretty effectively. Or maybe when you’re rapping next to a man who rhymes “function” with “function”, makes corny train sound effectives in the middle of his rhymes and spells “next” wrong at the beginning of his final verse, you sound better than you truly are.

And Ya Don’t Stop – Warren builds this instrumental around a dope guitar loop taken from Don Julian’s “Janitzio” and turns it into a slick instrumental. Unfortunately, his elementary rhymes detract from the song’s dopeness. It would have been nice to see his former 213 bredrin Snoop Dogg spit on this one, but whatever.

Runnin’ Wit No BreaksRegulate ends with Greg G playing some infectious piano keys over a mid-tempo drum beat that Jah-Skilz, Warren G, Tripp Loc and Wayniac use to each spit a verse over. None of the parties involved embarrass themselves on the mic (with Warren being the exception), but no one sounds spectacular, either. But like most of the album, the instrumental work covers up the emcees’ transgressions.

Let me start by saying Warren G is a terrible rapper. But the dude has a great ear for music. Over the course of fourteen tracks (with two being interludes), Warren spits severely famished rhymes, while his crew of D-list emcees come through as serviceable at best. But Warren and his cast of musicians serve up a batch of polished G-Funk instrumentation that will keep your head bobbin, your ear satisfied and a willingness to overlook all that he and his team lack on the mic. If The Chronic was the main course of your G-Funk meal, Doggystyle would be the dessert and Regulate…G Funk Era would serve as the perfect appetizer.

-Deedub

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Beastie Boys – Ill Communication (May 31, 1994)

After a three-year hiatus, The Beastie Boys returned in 1992 with their third release, Check Your Head. The album was a commercial success (selling over 3 million copies) and received favorable reviews from the critics. The Beasties were praised for the album’s experimental vibes, as they distanced themselves from the traditional sample based production used on their previous album, Paul’s Boutique. I personally thought Check Your Head was average at best, but I may be a bit bias, since I believe the trio are severely overrated. Regardless, they would return in 1994 with their 4th album, Ill Communication.

Ill Communication (which is a pretty dope album title) would pick up where Check Your Head left off at, with less samples and more live instrumentation from the Beasties and company. Like their previous three albums, Ill Communication would earn the trio a platinum plaque (times three) and the world (critics and fans) would greet it with heaps of praise.

Lets see if the Beasties will make me a believer this time around.

Sure ShotIll Communication opens with rough drums placed underneath a soulful flute loop and the Beasties spilling random rhymes in the same distorted microphone fashion they used on Check Your Head. I could careless for the Beasties outdated rhyme schemes, but this instrumental is dope.

Tough Guy – The boys go into a short rock mash-up for this short song that kind of works as a playful interlude. I didn’t care for it, but at least it’s short.

B-Boys Makin’ With The Freak Freak – The BB’s cook up a pretty dope boom bap backdrop but waste all of its dopeness with more of their distorted outdated rhyme styling.

Bobo On The Corner – Short instrumental interlude dedicated to…that Bobo on the corner.

Root Down – This was the final single released from Ill Communication. The boys hook up a dope up-tempo groove complete with a scorchin’ hot organ break during the hook, and they actually sound pretty dope spittin’ over it. Side Note: The “Root Down” maxi-single (or EP) has a “Free Zone Remix” for this song that goes down smoother than a glass of Grey Goose. No chaser required.

Sabotage – This was the lead single from Ill Communication, and only one of two songs that I was familiar with going into this post. Ad-Rock goes dolo on this one, screaming the verses and hook over blaring rock guitar chords. I hated this song back in the day, and today I’m sticking with my story.

Get It Together – Q-Tip joins the trio on this one (that was an easy Tribe Degrees of Separation), as they pass the mic like a hot potato and playfully spit nonsensical freestyle rhymes over a dope jazzy backdrop. This was pretty dope.

Sabrosa – The Beasties take another jam session break and come up with this funky little diddly, and it lives up to its title (“Sabrosa” is Spanish for “tasty”). Well done, fellas.

The Update – MCA goes dolo on this one, spitting two highly distorted verses over live instrumentation that’s so loud it drowns out his vocals, making his rhymes almost inaudible. I read the song’s lyrics in the liner notes and it actually sounds like MCA had something to say. Too bad his message gets lost in the music and a cheap microphone.

Futterman’s Rule – The liner notes have a quote from a Gene Futterman (who, based on a little research, I found was a New York City native Architect and teacher who died from liver cancer back in 1987), that reads “When two are served, you may begin to eat”. Apparently, Mr. Futterman and that quote inspired this soft rock instrumental that I’m not crazy about, but it’s passable.

Alright Hear This –  I didn’t care much for this one.

Eugene’s Lament – I’m assuming this is dedicated to Mr. Futterman from the interlude two tracks ago, who’s proper first name was Eugene. The trio must have been pretty close to the man, as they dedicate this very somber and slightly dark instrumental to him.

Flute Loop – The song title sounds like a working demo title that the Beasties forgot to change for the album’s final cut…but anyway. As you may have already figured out based on the title, the backdrop is built around a pretty flute loop that the trio continue to spew barely audible rhymes over.

Do It – Biz Markie drops in to contribute some adlibs and the hook, while the Beasties kick their zany brand of braggadocious rhyming over a surprisingly hard backdrop. This was pretty cool.

Ricky’s Theme – I’m not sure who Ricky is, but the fellas dedicate this beautiful instrumental piece to him. This is easily the best instrumental on Ill Communication, and my favorite track on the album.

Heart Attack Man – Sounds like the fellas recycled the instrumental from “Tough Guy” and changed the lyrics to talk (or scream) about a two-hundred and seventy-five pound dude aka Heart Attack Man. It must be an inside joke. And since I’m not inside, I don’t get it.

The Scoop – The Beasties and company hook up the illest instrumental of the evening on this one. The instrumental is so smooth that not even the mic distortion can distract from its brilliance. And the fellas actually sound swaggy spittin’ over it.

Shambala – Shambala (sometimes spelled “Shambhala”) means peace, tranquility and happiness in Buddhism. I’m not sure how this dark instrumental evokes any of those three virtues, but whatever.

Bodhisattva Vow – In Buddhism “Bodhisattva” is when a person is able to reach nirvana but delays doing so out of compassion in order to save suffering beings.  MCA (who was a practicing Buddhist) gets a solo joint and vows to adhere to this way a life. It was nice to learn something new about Buddhism, but this song did nothing for me.

TransitionsIll Communication closes with this instrumental that feels like it may be the theme music for dying and transitioning to the next life. This was a solid way to end the album.

Ill Communication is easily the most mature album of the Beastie Boys first four (thanks largely to MCA’s new-found consciousness, which can directly be credited to his Buddhist disciplines), and in my opinion, the strongest. No, the Beasties aren’t super lyrical, and honestly, the vocal distortion combined with their prehistoric flow gets hard to listen to over the course of twenty tracks. But more often than not, the production works, and on occasion, the Beasties even sound good spittin’ over the instrumentals. I still believe The Beasties Boys are overrated, but Ill Communication is a decent album.

-Deedub

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