Freddie Foxxx aka Bumpy Knuckles may be the most talented emcee whose talent never translated to a successful rap career. The Long Island native started as part of the Supreme Force, who released a few 12″ singles in the mid-eighties, but disbanded before releasing a full project. Legend has it that Freddie was originally slated to be the emcee on “Eric B Is President”, but after he missed the session, a young Rakim filled in, and the rest is history. Freddie stayed persistent and was able to snag a solo deal with MCA, where he would release his debut album Freddie Foxxx Is Here (an album I’ve never heard, but would love to track down a copy). The album didn’t do well commercially or critically and would be the first and last album he would release on the label. In the mid-nineties, Freddie would make a bunch of cameo appearances on other artist’s albums and projects and eventually ended up as part of and signing with Queen Latifah’s Flavor Unit, where he would begin working on his second solo album, Crazy Like A Foxxx, around ’93-’94.
The original conception of Crazy Like A Foxxx was produced by members of the D.I.T.C. crew: Lord Finesse, Showbiz and Buckwild. The Flavor Unit rejected the D.I.T.C. demo and pretty much made Freddie start over. He then scrapped all but five of the original songs and recreated Crazy Like A Foxxx, released the first single, only to have the album shelved.
In 2008, 14 years after it was recorded, Fat Beat Records officially released Crazy Like A Foxxx as a two disc album. The first disc was the Jailhouse version that got shelved and the second disc was the D.I.T.C. demo version that the Flavor Unit rejected. Unfortunately, the cd version comes with no liner notes, so I’m not sure who did what on where, and y’all already know I hate that shit!
I’ve never listened to Crazy Like A Foxxx in its entirety until now. So, join me on this lengthy journey, would you?
D.I.T.C. Demo Version:
Intro – Freddie briefly explains what it is you’re about to listen to.
Call Of The Wild – The album starts with a dry mediocre instrumental (that sounds like something Showbiz would make, although Freddie shouts out the “Funkyman”, which is Lord Finesse’s other alias) that our host uses to talk his thug shit on. Freddie does a solid job on the mic, but the instrumental pulls the song’s momentum way down.
Can’t Break Away – Freddie talks about his rough upbringing, which includes him fighting his dad, becoming a teenage pimp and spending time behind bars. Freddie’s rhymes are compelling, but the empty instrumental does nothing to make his storyline pop.
Click Click – Freddie sounds a little calmer than usual on this one, but he still sounds like he’d tear your head off if you get on his bad side: “I’m not a flashy nigga, cause I like the low shit, for many years I was on some pimpin’ hoes shit, but now I’m on some phat hip-hop show shit, and smackin’ up dumb niggas that don’t know shit”. I guess he had to tone it down a bit to match the smoothly rugged instrumental underneath him. This was dope.
8 Bars To Catch A Body – Freddie uses the same instrumental that Showbiz would use for KRS-One’s “Sound Of Da Police” on this one. Our host uses it to growl more thuggery and threats in the listener’s ear. I’m not sure if Showbiz produced this one, as Fred shouts out Lord Finesse and Buckwild at the beginning of the song, or if this was done before “Sound Of Da Police”, but Foxxx’s rough vocal tone sounds great over the hard backdrop.
Project Mice -Our host shares the tale of three hood dudes (the three blind mice) that get duped by the white man (aka the white rat) into selling dope to their own people. Kudos to Freddie for the well-executed concept, and the mysterious piano loop sounds great behind his dark content.
Rev. Glock – Freddie plays the role of the crooked pastor, Reverend Glock, who mixes his street thuggery into his church ministry: “I keep a phat black glock in the pulpit, in case the congregation wanna start some bullshit, and man you better watch my choir, cause if you fuck with Rev. Glock, man, them fat bitches will fire, and don’t sleep on the deacon, cause he’ll take a knife and chop your ass up worse than a Puerto Rican…I make the cripple man walk and the blind man see, but what you don’t know is their down with me, some people call it survival, I call it revival, the reverend down the block, he’s my rival, I never really think about God, I think about Rob, robbin’ you for every dime you’re making on you job, yeah, I flirt with the girls singing hymns, after service I’ll be hittin’ them skins”. Of course Freddie’s joking, but as a lot of TV evangelists, megachurch pastors, and some pastors at the local church around your way have proven, a lot of truth is said in jest.
Crazy Like A Foxxx – The title track finds Freddie aggressively flowing over an underwhelming instrumental, but making the most of it. That’s all I got.
Man Destroys Man – If Freddie Foxxx released this song today the LGBTQ (and whatever other letters go with it) community would stone him to death then burn him at the stake. Our host shares a jail tale, during one of his many stays, of a dude named Joe who wants to turn Freddie into his boo thang after he kills his original boo, Michael aka Michelle, for standing up to take a piss instead of squatting like he trained him to do. It’s a wild but entertaining story line that nearly had me in tears laughing, even though our host delivers it with a poker face over a serious semi-dark backdrop.
Pressure On The Brain – Remember Michael Douglas in the movie Falling Down? This song is pretty much Freddie’s hood version of that story line. The instrumental is built around an ill James Brown bass line, which suits our host’s content, perfectly. Some of you might find our host’s content disturbing, but I found it very entertaining.
Who Is The Middle Man – Foxxx takes a break from the darkness that’s dominated most of the album and injects a little comic relief with this one. Over a zany mid-tempo backdrop, Freddie spins three detailed and hi-larious scenarios of cheating women, summing up the moral of the stories in the song’s final bar: “Men and women, please come to your senses, or pay the consequences”. This was good.
Cook A Niggaz Ass – Over a simple but very hard instrumental (I love the sporadic drum breakdowns), Freddie Foxxx and Kool G. Rap beat up, sodomize and murder more people in one rap song than I’ve ever heard. And the shit sounds great. If you take this song serious than you’re a moron, but if you take it for what it’s worth, it’s an entertaining and amusing duet between two powerful emcees.
Original 1994 Version:
Can’t Break Away – The first song of the evening is also the first of five songs from the D.I.T.C. demo version to make the Jailhouse cut. Freddie keeps the same lyrics from the original, adds an awkward skit between the second and third verse and puts a livelier instrumental behind his story, giving it more energy than the O.G. mix.
Crazy Like A Foxxx (Ultra Magnetic Dis) – Freddie completely scraps the original mix of this song and goes after the Ultramagnetic MC’s over a hard instrumental built around a sick bass line borrowed from The Doors (this was released on the B-side of the “So Tough” single). I’m not sure what started the beef between Freddie and Ultramagnetic, but whatever the reason, our host calls out the self-proclaimed “Four Horsemen” and murders them on the song’s final verse, accept for TR Love, who walks away unscathed. It’s not a great dis record, but it’s mildly entertaining.
Interlude – It might have made more sense to place this skit before the previous song, but whatever.
So Tough – This was the only single released from Crazy Like A Foxxx before it got shelved (I still remember the video, which had Freddie screaming the hook while locked down, wearing his prison jump suit). Over S.I.D.’s smooth jazzy piano loop driven backdrop, Freddie talks about the trials that life throws at black men in North America (“Is it coincidence the projects is full of blacks, and when you’re black and try to get ahead they pull you back? We went from African Kings, to Martin Luther King, now they want to make us all Rodney Kings”) and the importance of having the ability to dig deep within yourself to persevere and overcome. Or as he simply puts it at the end of the song: “When the going gets rough, you gotta get tough”. Easy Moe Bee did a remix for this one, which features Queen Latifah chanting on the hook, but it’s not nearly as good as this mix. This one still sounds great 25 years later.
Daddy Boot Knock – It was mildly entertaining to hear Freddie refer to Hammer as “Some fool in some baggy-ass pants tryin’ to dance”, call out either Vanilla Ice or MC Serch (“a crazy white boy tryin’ to act black, with a straight top fade and some black girls standin’ in the back”) and go at the female rap duo, Boss (remember them? Well, you can read my thoughts on their debut album right here) on the second verse (“A lot of bitches on the mic now I’m tryin’ to set it off, I never let some sucker-ass bitch be the boss, I’m sick and tired of dykes on bikes wearin’ boots and Nikes, wanna control the mic, hardcore but never had a fight”). But not entertaining enough to ever listen to it again.
Project Mice – This is another one that survived the D.I.T.C. demo. Freddie keeps the lyrics from the original but replaces the mysterious piano loop with an eerie Hank Crawford loop (that you’ll probably recognize from Kanye’s “Drive Slow”), and it sounds great underneath Freddie’s ghetto fairy tale.
Jail House Rock – Freddy dedicates this one to “All his niggas in the jail house”. I don’t check that box, so…next…
Killa – Freddie invites Benzino aka Ray Dog and Tupac to join him on this cipher joint. Yes. I know what you’re thinking: “How the hell did Benzino sneak his way onto a track with these monster emcees?” My guess is that Big Stretch (rip) was too busy to make the session, and since Zino was just hangin’ around, they let him get on. Needless to say, his verse was unimpressive, but so was Freddie’s and Pac’s. To add insult to injury, the instrumental was pretty trash as well.
Meet Some Skins – Freddie is so cool on this track that he’s got brothers in the project hallways freezing when he walks past them. His coolness matches the smoothness of the instrumental, as our host prepares to get some lovin’ from a project chick who’s “blessed in the chest and the buns in right”. The overly used Isley’s “For The Love Of You” loop on the hook was unnecessary, but this is still a decent listen that made me chuckle a few times.
Interlude – The nineties gave us some great hip-hop music, but also a lot of dumb and useless skits and interludes. Add this one to that list.
Shotty In The Back – Freddy spews more rhymes of pimping, hustling and murder over a beautiful jazzy backdrop, and somehow his violent street rhymes blend well with the peaceful instrumental. This is easily one of my favorite songs on Crazy Like A Foxxx.
Interlude – Another useless skit.
Funk In Yo Brain – The New Jack Swing vibes on the instrumental (that make me want to break into the Running Man) and the out of tune dude singing on the hook, initially made this one hard to swallow. But after a few spins it doesn’t sound that bad, and it helps that Freddie Foxxx stays true to his hardcore rhyming style.
Step – Freddie continues to spew bully raps over a simple and hard backdrop, which also includes a quick jab at former Ultramagnetic affiliate, Tim Dog (rip). Chuck D drops in to add the hook (which includes a Q-Tip vocal snippet from ATCQ’s “Everything Is Fair” (Tribe Degrees of Separation: Check)) and plays Freddie’s hype man. Decent filler material.
Do What You Gotta Do – This was horrid. Freddie’s story is uninteresting, the instrumental is trash and the male vocalists on the hook and adlibs sound like a bad karaoke version of Jodeci. Next…
Pressure On The Brain – This is another one that was on the original D.I.T.C. demo version. Freddie makes no alterations, using the same verses and the same instrumental as the O.G. mix.
Rev. Glock Skit – An unnecessary skit that sets up the next song…
Rev. Glock – This was recycled from the D.I.T.C. demo. Freddie uses the same lyrics from the O.G. version but puts a livelier instrumental behind it and adds a stronger hook to it.
Crazy Like A Foxxx (Alternate Mix) – This is the fifth and final song of the evening that was carried over from the D.I.T.C. sessions. The unsettling bass line and rough drums placed underneath Freddie’s ferocious flow sound much better than the instrumental used on the D.I.T.C. version.
Amen – After an album chalked full of sins, our host attempts to makes amends for all of his iniquities with this one. Freddie taps into his spiritual side, prescribing to the teachings of the Nation of Islam, denounces material possessions and calls for unity in the black community. Not a bad song, and a decent way to close the album.
Freddie Foxxx is not the greatest lyricist, nor does he have a superb flow. But he is a dope emcee with a ton of charisma, a sick vocal tone and an uncanny ability to hold your attention and entertain. And he probably could beat you and your favorite rapper’s ass at the same time. All of his attributes are on display on Crazy Like A Foxx as he blends gangsta bully raps with occasional jewels and tales of moral. The D.I.T.C. demo version is more cohesive than the Jailhouse mix, as it stays true to Freddie’s hard and dark themes, while the Jailhouse mix has some blatant attempts at crossing over and is cluttered with a bunch of throw away material. Neither version is great, but Freddie manages to make both versions worth listening to.