Sho – Trouble Man (1993)

Over the years I’ve bought albums for several different reasons. Most of them I purchased because I was a fan of the artist, or not necessarily a fan but I liked one or two of their songs and was curious on what the rest of their music sounded like. Some of my collection are from artist that I’ve heard of but have never listened to their music and something piqued my interest to cop (the reason usually being it was screaming “get me out of this dollar bin, please!”). Then there are a few that I’ve never heard of the artist before, but their affiliation with an artist that I like, drew me in. Like the subject of today’s post: the Houston based rapper Sho and his Trouble Man album.

The album cover for Trouble Man caught my eye when I read the title “Sho Featuring Willie D” and noticed the pic of Willie D (of The Geto Boys) standing next to Sho. I’m a fan of the Geto Boys and I’ve always been entertained by Willie D’s southern twang, random outbursts and colorful lyricism. So even if Sho stinks, Willie D (who is also credited with producing the album along with The 2 Horsemen, whoever they are) will make the purchase worthwhile…right??

This is my first time listening to Trouble Man (well, at least Sho’s version of it…shout out to the late great Marvin Gaye…and T.I.), and I’d be willing to bet you’ve never listened to it before, either. If you have, feel free to hit me in the comments and share your thoughts.

Pray I’ll Be A Failure Trouble Man begins with a soulful backdrop that lands right where somber and optimistic cross paths, and Sho uses it to call out the haters that he claims are praying for his downfall and vows to become successful despite their opposition (How narcissistic must you be to think that someone would take the time out of their day to literally get on their knees and pray to God that you would fail in life?). He also introduces the world to his slow monotone southern drawl. Willie D drops in, adding the final verse and sounds a million times better than his host. Sho and Willie’s message was semi-motivational, but the true star of this one is the soulful southern instrumental.

Fiend In The Family – This one starts with Willie D remixing the Cheers theme song into a drug dealer’s anthem. Then a simple funky guitar chord comes in accompanied by a soft melodic loop, and Sho discusses the hardship of having a dope head as a relative. Sho sounds like he’s about to fall asleep or he just woke up and listening to his slow muddled flow started to make me drowsy. Thankfully, the soothing instrumental makes this worth listening to.

Pookie – This short interlude features a verbal exchange between two crack heads (Cliff and Sonny) trying to cop from a drug dealer, ironically, named Pookie. This was worthy of a partial chuckle, but if you let out a deep belly laugh, you deserve a smack, and your sense of humor should be called in for questioning.

Another Day On The Cut – Willie and the boys chop up the same Leon Haywood loop that Dr. Dre used for “Nuthin’ But A “G” Thang”, but they put a different twist on it, turning it into a dark soulful groove for Sho to share a day in the life of a street hustler (for some reason his line: “Went to my gal’s house, woke her up, I got a meal and the guts” makes me laugh every time I hear it). Sho’s rhymes were mediocre, the hook was ass, but this instrumental is tough.

Trouble Man – Apparently, Sho’s drug dealing gig wasn’t going so well, which would explain why he spends the length of this one complaining, I mean, sharing the struggle for a young black man to make ends meet. Willie D drops in and spits a few bars that come off like he’s trying to gather sympathy from the listener for Sho’s situation. I wasn’t crazy about the rhymes or content on this one, but the soulfully weary instrumental was dope.

Fireweed – As I’ve mentioned several times through the years on this blog, marijuana dedication songs were almost a prerequisite for hip-hop albums in the nineties, and Sho keeps my theory alive with this one. Our host takes a short break to chant praises to Mary Jane (and hi-lariously shouts out some of the celebrities that are/were known for partaking in the herbal medicine) over a synthetic reggae-tinged instrumental that no matter how hard you try to resist, you’ll be vibin’ to the music while rapping along with the catchy chant.

Mississippi – Sho starts this one off by dedicating it to all the hustlers, then he shares a tale about his adventures of “moving three ki’s and a car full of firearms” to Mississippi, and things don’t end well for our host. Sho does a solid job of keeping the storyline interesting, but even more impressive is the brilliant bluesy backdrop. This is easily one of my favorite songs on the album.

Miss Thang – This one opens with Sho needing a little encouragement from Willie D to work up the courage to step to a PYT that he wants to stroke, and he gets uncomfortably straightforward in his approach (see the hook: “Miss Thang I ain’t got much to offer you, but I still wanna knock your boots”). Sho’s humble pleas for the skins are backed by a mellow and melodic instrumental built around an interpolation of the same Delegation loop that Three Times Dope used for “Funky Dividends” (come to think of it, Scarface also rapped over the loop on We Can’t Be Stopped’s “Quickie”). The instrumental was cool, but Sho sounds sloppy, bored and corny for most of this one. Although, I did chuckle at his line “I got the three B’s and I don’t regret it: a bucket, a bus card and bad credit”.

Here Today Gone Tomorrow – Over a mellow groove, Sho shares a few stories about how quickly playing in these streets can end up fatal. Hats off to Willie D and ’em, as the musicality in this instrumental is phenomenal.

Legal Murder – Our host gets into his conspiracy theory bag, giving examples of some of the ways murder happens in American and the Government (who is usually the culprit) lets it happen with no penalty. I like Sho’s concept, but he completely apes 2pac’s “Soulja’s Story” format on this one: He mimic’s the deep baritone distorted voice Pac used when rapping from the older brother’s perspective, and the instrumental even sounds undeniably similar to the classic Bill Wither’s loop Pac’s song was built around (By the way, “Soulja’s Story” is a severely underrated conceptual masterpiece, easily one of Pac’s best works). All of Sho’s thievery makes this one a little hard to enjoy, as the biting is as blatant as racism in America. Props to the uncredited male vocalist for the super catchy hook, though.

I’ma Get Mine – Sho uses this boring instrumental to piss on his haters and speak his own success in the rap game into existence (Hey, at least he tried). He invites an uncredited buddy to spit a verse and Willie D adds a super corny hook to complete what is easily the weakest song on Trouble Man.

Stick-N-Move – Sho closes out the album with a layered up-tempo dance groove that he, Willie D and the homies use to chant and sing all types of random shit over. This track would sound great in a workout mix.

On the album’s title track, Sho rhymes “So I’m on to a new thang, rap music, the brand-new dope game.” In a nutshell that line sums up Sho’s approach to Trouble Man. He comes across like an ex-drug dealer trying to find a legitimate hustle, and to him, rap was the obvious choice. But rhyming well takes skill, and having the bravery to slang dope doesn’t necessarily mean you can pen dope rhymes. Throughout most of Trouble Man, Sho sounds like an amatuer on the mic, rarely impressing with his simple rhymes and yawn-inducing monotone voice. The “Featuring Willie D” thing was a great marketing idea, but a bit misleading, as he does spit a couple of verses but most of his help comes in the form of a hook here and an adlib there, so don’t expect a Ghostface Killah on Only Built 4 Cuban Linx type of contribution from Willie. Speaking of Willie D, he and The 2 Horsemen’s contribution on the production side is worthy of praise, as they craft a cohesive batch of southern-fried soulful goodies to feed your soul while you bop your head and scrunch your face, ultimately making Trouble Man worthy of a listen.

-Deedub

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Eazy-E – It’s On (Dr. Dre) 187um Killa (October 19, 1993)

Shortly after the release of N.W.A.’s second full-length album, Niggaz4Life, Dr. Dre started to have the same revelation that his former group member Ice Cube had a few years prior. Dre made it clear that he was unhappy with his contract at Ruthless and fed-up with Eazy-E and Jerry Heller’s shysty ways. He would soon leave the label and start Death Row Records with Suge Knight (another business deal that he would later regret), which they would jump start in 1992 with Dr. Dre’s undisputed classic album, The Chronic. The Chronic would be musically backed by Dre’s pristine production and would introduce the world to the soon to be superstar, Snoop Dogg. The album would also include a few shots aimed at Dre’s former partner in crime, Eazy-E. Eazy didn’t take to kindly to Dre’s shots, so like any real gangsta rapper, he would response by bangin’ on wax, dedicating a whole eight song EP to his nemesis, in the form of It’s On (Dr. Dre) 187um Killa, that I’ll only refer to as It’s On from here on out.

On the back of It’s On‘s liner notes insert is a picture of Dr. Dre, pre-N.W.A. days, when he was part of the r&b/electro hip-hop group, World Class Wrekin’ Cru. The picture is framed as Dre’s “Obitchuary”, as Eazy makes a mockery of him for wearing lipstick, eye liner, sequin and etc. before adapting his gangsta persona with N.W.A. Rhythm D and the former DJ for N.W.A., DJ Yella would produce the bulk of the EP with a few others lending helping hands as well. Thanks largely to the lead single (“Real Muthaphuckkin G’s”) and its hysterical video, It’s On would sell over two million copies, becoming Eazy’s third consecutive solo project to sell gold or better. It’s On was a commercial success, but it didn’t receive the same type of critical acclaim.

Limited dosages of Eazy on N.W.A. albums were…easy to digest, but full projects from Mr. Wright have always been hard to swallow. I’ve reviewed Eazy’s 1988 solo debut, Eazy-Duz-It and his 1992 EP, 5150: Home 4 Tha Sick, and both were underwhelming listens, and that’s being generous. During a recent perusing at one of my favorite music stores, I stumbled on a copy of It’s On, and the completionist in me had to buy it…so here we are.

Let’s get into the music and may you continue to rest easy, Eazy.

Exxtra Special Thankz – Eazy starts the EP off with a slow-rolling dark synthy Rhythm D produced instrumental that he uses to let the listener know the year this was recorded, and he takes his first shots of many more to come at Dre and Snoop.

Real Muthaphuckkin G’s – This was the lead single from the EP. Eazy invites his fellow-gangstas, Gangsta Dresta and BG Knock Out to join him as they take turns dissin’ his old friend Dre and his “anorexic” buddy, Snoop Dogg. I forgot how dope Rhythm D’s instrumental was on this one, and kudos to whoever wrote Eazy’s bars, as he lands some pretty hi-larious and solid blows to Dre and Snoop’s egos. If you’re willing to have an honest conversation, lyrically, this is a stronger dis record than “Dre Day”. Yeah, I said it.

Any Last Werdz – Cold 187um from Above The Law gets his only production credit of the night, and he serves up a sexy gangsta groove that finds our host spewing more murderous gangsta shit, while Kokane and Cold 187 lend their voices for the catchy hook. This is probably my favorite song on the EP, thanks mostly to Cold 187’s infectious instrumental.

Still A Nigga – Eazy continues to spit gangsta shit and manages to navigate fairly well threw DJ Yella’s dark and subdued instrumental. He also slips in a few more shots at Dre and Snoop, and things kind of get awkward when he refers to himself as “the devil’s son-in-law” on a few different occasions. But E’s demonic outburst can’t derail the smoothness of Yella’s production work.

Gimmie That Nutt – Eazy’s a gangsta in heat on this one, as he uses Yella’s up-tempo bop to get into some vulgar misogynistic shit. E’s rhymes were forgettable, but once again, Yella comes through with a solid instrumental to back him up.

It’s On – No matter how many times I listen to this one, it will never grow on me.

Boyz N Tha Hood (G-Mix) – Our host revisits his song that was originally released on the N.W.A. and The Posse album (that he also remixed for his solo debut album, Eazy-Duz-It), keeping the same lyrics from the o.g. mix and placing a different instrumental underneath it. I enjoyed Dr. Jam’s funky synth backdrop, and Eazy’s six-year-old rhymes, surprisingly sound fresh over it.

Down 2 Tha Last Roach – Eazy starts this one off with a short Dr. Dre vocal snippet taken from N.W.A.’s “Express Yourself” that finds the maestro of the The Chronic denouncing weed (“I don’t smoke weed or cess”), which Eazy uses to paint Mr. Young as a hypocrite, but also to introduce It’s On’s final song: an ode to Mary Jane. Eazy invites Mr. Roach Clip (who I’m pretty sure is Eazy’s high chipmunked-voice alter ego), BG Knocc Out, Ash Trey and Shaki to puff-puff and pass with him and rap praises to marijuana. Eazy and his guests’ rhymes have no nutritional value, but Madness 4 Real’s funky instrumental makes this nearly eight-minute experience worth listening to…at least once.

Since It’s On is an EP, I’ll keep this wrap-up short as well. It’s On is easily (no pun intended) Eazy-E’s best project of the three I’ve reviewed on TimeIsIllmatic so far. While Eazy will never be mistaken for a great rapper with superb lyricism, the quality batch of synth-heavy West Coast instrumentals on this EP help disguise a lot of his shortcomings on the mic and kept me interested for most of the eight songs. It’s On is far from a classic, but it’s much better than it’s been given credit for through the years.

-Deedub

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Biz Markie – All Samples Cleared! (June 22, 1993)

On July 16, 2021, Marcel Theo Hall, better known to the world as The Diabolical Biz Markie, passed away at the age of 57 due to complications with diabetes, adding to the already lengthy list of rappers we lost in the past few years. A lot of the mainstream media outlets tried to sum Biz’ career up as the “Just A Friend” rapper, which was easily his biggest pop record, but the hip-hop community knew that his catalog and contribution to the culture went much deeper than just that one song. Through the years, Biz blessed hip-hop with several dope records that amused and entertained. I’ve walked through Biz’ first three albums (Goin’ Off, The Biz Never Sleeps and I Need A Haircut) already, so today we’ll discuss his fourth release and his final album on Cold Chillin’ Records, All Samples Cleared!

The album title is a tongue-in-cheek response to the lawsuit that found Biz Markie guilty of copyright infringement for sampling Gilbert O’Sullivan’s record “Alone Again (Naturally)”, without permission for his song with the same title on the I Need A Haircut album. Biz’ thievery, excuse me, unauthorized borrowing, would cost him a hefty penny to the tune of $250,000 (which equates to 25 million pennies), and would force Cold Chillin’ to pull I Need A Haircut off the shelves and stop selling copies of the album with “Alone Again” on it. That case would pretty much change the sampling game as we know it, and Biz would make sure to get clearance on every sample used this time around. All Samples Cleared! wasn’t a commercial success nor did it garner the critical acclaim of his previous releases, and it would be another ten years before Biz would release another album (Weekend Warrior in 2003).

I don’t remember much about the songs on All Samples Cleared!, so this review will be a refreshener for me.

I’m The Biz Markie – Biz kicks off the evening with a mid-tempo bop built around a loop from the Mad Lads version of “Get Out Of My Life Woman” that finds our host showcasing his charismatic personality and comedic rhyme style: “It’s me the Diabolical, Biz Mark symbolical, I get chicks from scripts of hits I made a while ago, now I’m on the run again, startin’ other capers, and people couldn’t catch me even if I was the vapors, I’ll leave you in trauma, with my funky persona, cause I’m jammin’ just like Teddy, but I’m nasty as Madonna”. Biz’ rhymes sound like they were penned by his Juice Crew bredrin, Big Daddy Kane (who was a known ghost writer for Biz), but only the Biz could deliver them in this comical, slightly tongue-tied fashion, making this opening track entertaining as hell.

I’m A Ugly Nigga (So What) – In a foolish Fat Albert-esque voice, Biz starts this one off by paraphrasing a quote from the Harlem Renaissance writer, Dorothy West: “Beauty’s only skin deep, but ugly’s to the bone”. Biz always had a knack for making funny self-deprecating songs, and this is another one: “Junior High to High School they thought I was retarded, just because the way I looked they said I farted, I was very very sad and you wonder why, because my looks and my gear wasn’t ultra-fly…my parents told me beauty’s only skin deep, if that’s true why do girls think that I’m a creep?”. I felt a little guilty laughing at Biz’ childhood torment, but I’m sure it’s what he wanted. The instrumental (which according to the liner notes also includes a sample from Lee Dorsey’s version of “Get Out Of My Life Woman”) felt a little empty, but Biz Markie’s hilarious rhymes and hook kept me amused.

Young Girl Bluez – Salaam Remi gets his first production credit of the evening as he provides a beautifully somber backdrop for Biz to spit a story about meeting a voluptuous young lady that he dates for six months, only later to find out she’s a teenager. It’s not like the girl lied to Biz about her age, but he was so enthralled by her bangin’ body that he failed to ask (even though she drops some clues that should have made him question her age, like when she asks him to “Come and get me from Mickey D’s at 8, that’s where I work after school, pick me up for a date”). Everything comes to a head on the final verse when Biz goes to her birthday party and finds out it’s her sweet sixteen. Even though the content isn’t really a laughing matter, this is classic comedic Biz. By the way, the video for this one is hi-larious.

Family Tree – Biz recycles the first verse from I Need A Haircut‘s “On And On” and puts a different beat behind it. The verse was mildly funny, but there was absolutely no reason to bring it back for a whole new song.

Let Me Turn You On – Biz and Cool V loop up the classic McFadden & Whitehead record “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now”, as Biz gets his clown on, attempting to arouse the ladies with his out of tune singing. This one is impossible not to like.

The Gator (Dance) – Biz sounds like somebody’s drunk uncle giving shoutouts to his peeps for the first half of this one. He then spends the second half stumbling and mumbling about his newest dance that he calls the gator over Salaam Remi’s flippage of a James Brown loop. The “gator” has nothing on the “Mudd Feet”, and that’s all I’ll say about the matter.

Groovin’ – Biz continues to sip on whatever he had in his cup on the previous track, as he gives more shoutouts and lets his drunken stream of consciousness flow over a cool laidback groove.

I’m Singin’ – Our host returns to the “semi-serious emcee” energy he gave us on the opening track, which immediately made me think that Kane penned his rhymes for this one as well (even though the liner notes only credit Biz as a writer). T-Ray gets the production credit, as he builds the backdrop around a sample of yet another version of “Get Out Of My Life Woman” (the liner notes credit Allen Toussaint’s version, but after listening to all three versions that have been sampled on the album so far, it sounds like this song uses the Lee Dorsey loop credited on “I’m A Ugly Nigga” and “I’m A Ugly Nigga” uses the Allen Toussaint version credited here.; sorry, I’m music nerding-out on y’all), and Biz sings a little Gene Kelly on the hook, adding the clown factor to a pretty solid song.

Hooker Got A Boyfriend – Biz digs back in his comical storyline bag for this one. He and Cool V loop up a few Rufus Thomas samples and create a soulful bop (I love the vocal loop and the blaring horns brought in during the hook) that finds our host trying to hook up with a chick whose boyfriend catches them in the act…twice! Now, if you get into a shootout with a chick’s man at a bar (hearing Biz say he “jetted, off to the trunk for the pump, time to set it” was awkward), why the hell would you go to her house the next day? That’s what Biz decides to do, and he ends up fighting the hooker’s, I mean, the chick’s boyfriend, while butt ass naked, then he gets into an altercation with the chick’s dad. After getting shot at, getting into fisticuffs (according to Biz’ story, his knuckle game is nice), and again threaten with a gun, Biz finally comes to the conclusion that “Ain’t a coochie in the whole world worth all that.” This is vintage Biz Markie.

Bad By Myself – Our host provides more comic relief with this one. This time he kicks three verses about a gold-diggin’ chick trying to juice him for his money. The soulful instrumental was dope, and Biz’ off-key singin’ on the hook was entertaining as well.

Funk Is Back – Biz decides to sample a fourth version of “Get Out Of My Life Woman” (Good Lord!), this time looping up Joe Williams jazzy rendition, which cultivates into a smooth laidback bop (Large Professor gets a credit for programming the drums) that he uses to give us a nice mixture of boasts and bizarre.

ThanksAll Samples Cleared! ends with a sick slow rolling instrumental built around an aggressively nasty bass guitar loop that Biz uses to give shoutouts over. In true Biz Markie form, he abandons the mic while in the middle of a shoutout, leaving Cool V to step in and finish handing out props to all their peoples. And All Samples Cleared! is a wrap.

Biz Markie sticks to the old adage of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” on All Samples Cleared!, as he stays with the formula that made him a hip-hop legend: light-hearted lyrical high jinks to provide comic relief over dope soul sample-driven beats to keep your head noddin’. All Samples Cleared! (Aka The Get Out Of My Life Woman Album) is probably not Biz’ best album, but it’s still a solid project that showcases vintage Biz Markie, both as a comedic emcee and a dope producer (the latter a skill set often underappreciated by the common listener).

The artwork on the back cover of All Samples Cleared! has a picture of a blinged-out gold chain with a diamond-incrusted clown dangling from it. Biz knew his placement in hip-hop and will forever be the chief court jester of this great genre. Rest easy, Biz.

-Deedub

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Father – Sex Is Law (June 15, 1993)

By 1993, Father MC already had two albums under his belt (you can read my reviews on both of them by clicking here and here), and pretty much established himself as the lover boy r&b rapper. Even though it felt like he was never completely comfortable playing that role, he stuck with the formula, as it helped him obtain his only gold record to date (“I’ll Do 4 You”) and made him a modestly successful act on Uptown Records, which in the nineties was to r&b music what Motown was in the sixties and seventies. Father MC would return in ’93, dropping the “MC” from his alias (a suggestion I made during my Close To You write-up after seeing the list of writers he had on the album in the liner notes) and releasing his third effort, Sex Is Law.

Father would recruit a host of highly touted producers for Sex Is Law, including Teddy Riley, DJ Clark Kent, Pete Rock and Mark Spark, just to name a few. It would also be his first album to include an “Explicit Lyrics” sticker. Father would not only drop the “MC” from his name, but according to the liner notes, he would also lose the team of writers credited on most of the songs on his previous album. Sex Is Law would produce a few singles that created a little buzz, but the album failed commercially, and that’s probably why it would be his final album on the Uptown imprint.

I’ve never listened to Sex Is Law before this write-up and based on the title I’m expecting more of the same that he gave us on his two previous releases. But I must admit, the producers list has me intrigued.

69 – Father jumps out the blocks in freak mode, as he spends four verses trying to convince the ladies to give him a taste, while they simultaneously, taste him. Teddy Riley builds the mid-tempo backdrop around an infectious Bill Withers’ bass line and a few loops taken from Kool & The Gang’s “Jungle Boogie”, resulting in a funky groove that’s hard not to vibe to.

R&B Swinger – Now here’s a collab I would have never imagined would happen. Pete Rock loops up En Vogue’s “Hold On” to create a banger for Father, who attempts to, temporarily, shed his “r&b lover boy” persona (even though the song title contradicts that) and gets into some real emcee shit; and while he’ll never be mistaken for Kane or Rakim, he does a decent job with PR’s dope instrumental (I found it hi-larious to hear Father refer to his jimmy as his “love muscle”, a term he uses several times throughout the album). I was hoping to get a CL Smooth cameo verse, since PR produced it and Father shouted him out in the second verse, but no cigar. Regardless, this one still goes hard.

Sex Is Law – For the title track, DJ Clark Kent samples the same Dennis Edwards’ song that Eric B. & Rakim used for their classic record “Paid In Full”, as Father quickly switches gears back to love mode, spitting more lustful bars. Father’s rhymes are fluff, but his flow sounds decent over this irresistible groove (the bass line from “Don’t Look Any Further” may be the greatest bass line in the history of American music), and Horace Brown’s solid vocals on the hook complete this enjoyable rap and r&b fusion.

Once She Gets Pumpin’ – Our host spews more raps aimed at getting the ladies out of their panties, and he becomes the second rapper in the past few posts (see my Hard Or Smooth write-up) to try and convince me that putting honey on a woman’s body is sexy (it still sounds like a hot sticky mess, and I’m stickin’ (no pun intended) to my story). Father’s rhymes were forgettable, but the mellow Teddy Riley and Tyrone Fyffe produced instrumental was decent.

On And On – Our host uses this one to boast and toast, and I’m still trying to figure out what his line: “I’m known for makin’ niggas out of singers” is supposed to mean. Father sounds a bit more calm than usual, but his relaxed tone matches Mark Spark’s melodically subdued and cloudy backdrop, which I found enjoyable.

I Beeped You – I believe this was the lead single from Sex Is Law, and it’s the only song I remember off the album from back in the day. Eddie F builds the instrumental around a super obvious Jackson 5 loop that Father uses to rap about ignoring chicks who blow up his pager (Remember those? Damn does that subject date this song), giving several excuses to why he doesn’t respond. The instrumental is uncreative, Father’s rhymes are cheesy, and the hook gets annoying very quickly.

Ain’t Nuttin’ But A Party – Ski (also known as Ski Beatz) gets his only production credit of the night, as he taps a very familiar source for hip-hop producers: Bobby Caldwell’s “What You Won’t Do For Love”. Thankfully, Ski’s flippage of the sample is more original than most of his contemporaries. Father reverts back to the mellow style he gave us on “On And On” , which was kind of weird to hear, being he’s attempting to get the listener into party mode (By the way, “Buttnaked” is a horrible name for a crew). Once again, our host’s rhymes don’t leave much of an impression, but I did mildly enjoy Ski’s instrumental.

Now Is The Time – No thanks. Next…

For The Brothers Who Ain’t Here – Father is joined by Little Shawn (that some of you may remember from his minor hit “Hickeys On Your Chest”), as the two dedicate this one to the brothers who are no longer with us. Someone named Boogie borrows a loop from Hall & Oates’ “Sara Smile” to create a twangy melancholic backdrop to set the mood for the duo’s somber rhymes. This was definitely a much more serious song than we’re accustomed to hearing from Father, but I found it decent.

The Wiggle – Now, I’m pretty sure the wiggle that Father attempts to get the listener to do on this song is not the same dance featured in Fortnite, even though I’m not sure what either version of the dance looks like. Needless to say, Father’s attempt at making a new dance craze didn’t take off, which is a shame, because Clark Kent’s instrumental is fire.

Something From The Radio – Slick Rick’s long time production partner, Vance Wright gets credit for the final song of the evening, as he provides a smooth groove that several radio personalities jump on to show Father and the Sex Is Law album love. Father comes in to shoutout all the HBCU’s for supporting him through the years, before introducing then, Vice President of Promotions at Uptown Records, Jimmy “Love” Jenkins, who shares his vision of a global takeover with this album. Needless to say, the takeover never came to fruition. And that concludes Sex Is Law.

Somehow, some way, Father manages to MacGyver his way through Sex Is Law and creates an overall decent listening experience. I’ve always felt that Father had a solid flow, but his rhymes have always been filled with fluffy romantic cliché and repetitive Prince Charming-esque bars, and while the rhymes still aren’t top-notch on Sex Is Law, it was kind of nice to hear him mix up the content a bit. I was more impressed by his production team, as their quality batch of instrumentals does a solid job of masking and making up for everything Father lacks as an emcee. Sex Is Law doesn’t have a definitive hit record like a “I’ll Do 4 U” or a “Treat Them Like They Want To Be Treated”, but pound for pound it’s a stronger album than his two previous releases. Take that for what it’s worth.

-Deedub

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King Tee – Tha Triflin’ Album (January 26, 1993)

I’ve known who King Tee was since the nineties, but over the past few years I’ve been tracking down his catalog and becoming more acquainted with his music, and he’s quickly becoming one of my favorite old-new finds. I first discovered his fourth release, IV Life, and enjoyed it so much I vowed to track down copies of the rest of his albums. About six months ago I found his debut, Act A Fool (you can read my full thoughts on that album right here), which was also a satisfactory listen, and Tha Triflin’ Album, which is the subject of today’s post.

Like the rest of his catalog, King Tee would call on his friend and longtime music collaborator, DJ Pooh to produce the majority of Tha Triflin’ Album, with production contributions from a few other parties, including himself. The album would also feature a host of guest rappers that we’ll discuss a little later in this write-up. Tha Triflin’ Album wasn’t a huge commercial success, as it would peak at 95 on the Billboard Top 200 and 17 on the Billboard US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Charts, but it would give us another classic car album cover, this time in the form of a beautiful 1961 bubbletop orange Chevy.

If you read this blog on a regular basis, you already know how I feel about charts and commercial success, and the only reason I mention them so often in my write-ups is to fill space because I often run out of shit to say during the introductions and stats and accolades are a great default. But here at TimeisIllmatic we know that there are several great albums that never sold millions of copies or received heaps of critical acclaim. Let’s see if we can add Tha Triflin’ Album to that list.

Drunk Tekneek – The album opens with a smooth horn loop and what appears to be, King Tee slurping to finish up the last of his drink through a straw. Then thudding drums come in with a sneaky bass line that King Tee uses to display his drunken technique, excuse me, “tekneek”, and he comes off well in the process. Pooh’s instrumental sounds a little tipsy as well, in the most complimentary way possible. This was a solid light-hearted way to kick off the evening.

I Gotta Call Earl – A short interlude that concludes the previous song.

Got It Bad Y’all – I completely forgot about this one, and thought it was the Alkaholiks’ song. Come to find out it’s the lead single from Tha Triflin’ Album, and the song that would introduce Tha Liks to the world (I think). J-Ro and Tash join King Tee on the mic, as all three emcees get off solid verses, with J-Ro making the biggest impression of the three, in my opinion. I would have loved to hear a full-length album from the Likwit Crew. I’m sure have made for a good time and some dope music.

On Tha Rox – King Tee borrows Spice 1’s idea from “187 Proof” and turns different liquor brands into people. While Spice 1 built his tale around Jack Daniels, King Tee’s storyline revolves around Johnnie Walker, a “big shit talker” who ironically, likes to drink a lot of vodka. Spice 1’s record will always be superior, but I still enjoyed King Tee’s one verse wonder.

Just Flauntin’ – DJ Aladdin and SLJ hook up a simple mellow bop with a hard-edge that our host uses to flex on, and he manages to send a shot at the one hit wonder, Candyman (remember him?): “People keep askin: does King Tee still have his couth, or will he flip and make a song like “Knockin’ Boots?”. This instrumental is tough, and King Tee sounds nice rhyming over it.

At Your Own Risk (Budha Mix) – Apparently, this is the Marley Marl produced remix for the title song from King Tee’s second album that I still have never heard. Marley hooks up a funky up- tempo backdrop (I love the LL vocal snippet brought in during the second hook to cleverly let you know who’s responsible for this remix) that an energetic King Tee uses to talk his shit over. You can quickly tell by King Tee’s voice and delivery that the lyrics were recorded before the rest of Tha Triflin’ Album, but it still works well with the rest of the album.

King Tee’s Beer Stand – I completely missed or forgot that King Tee was a part of the St. Ides commercials ads in the early nineties, which several of your favorite emcee were a part of (including Snoop, 2pac, Biggie and Rakim just to name a few). DJ Pooh taps the same loop that Cypress Hill (who were also a part of the St. Ides campaign) used for “How I Could Just Kill A Man” for the backdrop, as King Tee gets off a verse co-signing for the crooked “I” malt liquor, followed by a verse from Cube who claims that St. Ides has the power to “get your girl in the mood quicker” and “get your jimmy thicker”. Who needs Viagra when you can just drink a six pack of St. Ides to get a stiffy? As if King Tee and Ice “slangin’ bean pies and St. Ides in the same sentence” Cube’s rhyme weren’t corny enough, they bring in an uncredited male group to croon over the hood’s favorite malt liquor as well. Oh boy, this was embarrassing.

We Got Tha Fat Joint – King Tee invites Nefretitti and Mad Kap to join him on this one, as they pass the mic around like a joint and do a whole lot of weed talk in the process. No one spits anything quote worthy (Motif (*yawn*) almost put me to sleep during his verse), but I enjoyed Broadway’s low-key jazzy instrumental.

Where’sa Hoe Sat – Remember the rapping jimmy hats (aka condoms) from the interlude on Ice Cube’s Death Certificate album? King Tee brings them back to spit a quick zany rap on this short interlude.

A Hoe B-4 Tha Homie – This one begins with a short skit that has a dude (sounds like Pooh’s voice) getting clowned by his boys after he tells them he can’t go “scoop up some hoes” with them because he’s engaged and wants to stay faithful to his fiancé. King Tee, Threat and Ice Cube take turns reprimanding and calling out their home boy for putting his lady before the homies. King Tee sound more like a jealous lover than a hurt homie during his verse, but Threat and Cube take things to toxic levels, as Threat lives up to his alias and threatens to beat the shit out of his buddy’s fiancé, while Cube sends his boys to kidnap her (but they hi-lariously come back with the engaged homie instead, since Cube’s instructions were to “kidnap the hoe”). Even though the rhymes are a bit extreme, they’re entertaining, and so is the slow rolling DJ Pooh/Mr. Woody backdrop.

Blow My Sox Off – King Tee dedicates this one to the ladies who give fabulous falacio: “Not lookin for a lover, just a good dick sucker, Jimmy’ll rise when I hear the lips pucker, suckin’ and smackin’, gagin’ and slurpin’, grab you by the head, cause your tongue be workin'”. You might call it misogyny; I call it appreciate for the art of giving head. Either way, it sounds entertaining as hell over the funky King Tee/ Bobcat concocted backdrop.

Where’sa Hoe Sat (Cont.) – The rapping jimmy hats return to get off one last nut, I mean, verse, and reference one of my favorite A Tribe Called Quest song (“Bonita Applebum”) in the process. Tribe Degrees of Separation: check.

Triflin’ Nigga – After a short skit that finds a man (once again played by DJ Pooh) getting carjacked and apparently murdered for not willing to give up his ride, a semi-dark head nod inducing DJ Aladdin & SLJ produced groove comes in that King Tee uses to share the perspective of a young brother caught up in the street life, who’s also wrestling with the idea of leaving the game: “I gotta leave this crazy place, but my feet won’t budge, the niggas always ask am I a crip or a blood, I am what I am, and that all I can stand, I can’t stands no more so I’m a scram, sell me a couple of ki’s and by a crib far away, a place that the map don’t say, cause I’m getting kind of timid, at first I was with it, talk about jack moves, I did it”. This is easily the most grimiest King Tee song I’ve ever heard, but it’s great record and a nice change of pace from our host’s usual juvenile antics.

Black Togetha Again – King Tee grapples with the never-ending issue of police brutality in the black community, taking on a militant stance, as he suggests we match the police’s unwarranted violence with violence. He also uses the second verse to call out the government officials and politicians who help reinforce some of the injustices that the black man is forced to face in North America. King Tee’s melodic and mellow backdrop sounds great, but it does sound a bit too chill behind some of our host’s aggressive content. And this concludes the serious portion of Tha Triflin’ Album.

Bus Dat Ass – Once again, J-Ro and Tash join King Tee for this light-hearted high-energy cipher session. I wasn’t crazy about this one, but it makes for decent filler material that probably sounds better at a live show than on wax.

Tha Great – DJ Pooh serves up a super bouncy and drowsy bass line to drive the final song of the evening, while King Tee gets off one last boast and shit talk session, and he sounds smooth and right at home doing it over this slick backdrop.

You will probably never find King Tee on anybody’s top ten list, and none of his albums were commercial successes or deemed classics by the critics, but the West Coast pioneer is a witty emcee who had a knack for making good music and quality albums, and Tha Triflin’ Album is another testament to that. Over the course of sixteen tracks, King Tee takes the listener on a mostly light-hearted, humorous and partial immature ride, sprinkling in a touch of consciousness and gangsta along the way, but always delivering well-calculated bars in his signature voice that falls somewhere in between husky and hoarse. DJ Pooh and company provide a dope batch of instrumentals to complement King Tee’s wit and foolishness, along with well-placed cameos to keep things from getting monotonous. Tha Triflin’ Album may not be a classic, but it’s another entertaining listen from a modest emcee whose catalog is severely underappreciated.

-Deedub

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Wreckx-N-Effect – Hard Or Smooth (November 24, 1992)

After the release of their self-titled debut full length album, Wreckx N Effect went through a lot of changes. Even with the lead single “New Jack Swing”, becoming a number one hit on the Billboard Rap Charts, Motown decided to sever ties with the trio. Then In 1990, tragedy would strike when the group’s deejay, Brandon Mitchell was murdered in an apparent shootout. Mitchell’s death almost caused Aqil and Markell to pack it up and call it quits for WNE, but the duo would press on. In honor of their fallen comrade and childhood friend, they would change the spelling of the group name from “Wrecks-N-Effect” to “Wreckx-N-Effect”, and join Markell’s big brother and the group’s mentor, Teddy Riley, at MCA (where Guy was signed to at the time), where they would release their sophomore effort, Hard Or Smooth.

Even though he received minimal credit on WNE’s debut EP and no credit on their debut album (and I’m positive he played a major part in shaping the sound of both projects), Teddy Riley (who I’ll only refer to as TR from here on) would receive co-production credit for every song on the album, along with Aqil and Markell getting a co-credit for most of the album as well. Hard Or Smooth would go on to become a platinum selling commercial success, thanks largely to the album’s double platinum selling smash hit lead single, “Rump Shaker”, that you can still hear on an old school mix at least ten times a day around the globe.

I remember my brother had a cassette copy of Hard Or Smooth back in the day, but I had no interest in WNE, as I summed them up to soft new jack swing r&b rappers, and at the time I was heavy into hardcore hip-hop. But it seems lately I’ve been stumbling upon all their albums during my crate digging excursions, including Hard Or Smooth. This is my first time listening to the album, so hopefully Aqil and Markell build on the potential they showed on their last outing.

Rump Shaker – WNE starts the night off with fireworks, serving up the biggest hit in their limited catalog. Aqil and Markell each spit a verse encouraging the ladies to shake their sexy asses, and TR even steps from behind the boards to add a verse to the song. The instrumental sounds empty without The Emotions loop that was added to the single/video version of the record, but it is what it is. I never cared much for this song, but I completely understand why they made it their lead single. It reeks of pop crossover vibes, and dammit, it worked.

New Jack Swing II – TR and the fellas revisit the second biggest hit in the WNE catalog, as all three parties rhyme with chips on their shoulders, defending the musical style that TR fathered and attempt to silence the naysayers who said they couldn’t rap. Markell bats first and surprisingly, sounds pretty decent as he stands up for his big bro (“Everybody bumpin’ their gums about the swing, frontin’ on my brother like he didn’t believe a thing”). TR follows up Markell’s verse, and it sounds like he may have sent a shot at A Tribe Called Quest, though I can’t quite make out his bars (legend has it that Wreckx-N-Effect’s crew jumped Q-Tip outside of a night club, leaving his eye pretty badly bruised (which is why he wore that mask in the “Hot Sex” video) over Phife’s line from “Jazz We’ve Got” when he said: “Me sweat another? I do my own thing, strictly hardcore tracks, not a new jack swing”…Tribe Degrees of Separation: Check). Aqil closes things out, rapping with a hunger and aggression that we didn’t get from him on their previous projects, and son’s his partner in rhyme in the process: “There’s two of Wreckx and I’m younger than the other, but dig it, when it comes to the lyrics I’m the big brother, and Mark ain’t scared to come and get me, so if he decides to dis, you let it be, cause ain’t a soul that can get with me”. The backdrop is built around the same Joe Cocker loop that Dr. Dre would later tap for 2pac’s “California Love”, giving this version a much harder sound than part one. The last two minutes of the record morph into something you would hear an HBCU Marching Band play, and it sounds amazing. This shit was pretty impressive.

Wreckx Shop – Our hosts keep things on some real hip-hop shit, as Aqil and Markell continue to try and convince the listener and other emcees to take them seriously. It sounds like Markell takes a subliminal shot at Phife during his first verse, as he ends it with “I act like Jodeci and maybe stay a little while, but my sixteen bars is up and doggy shit is not my style”. “Doggy”, as in: Phife Dog). But Markie’s lyrical blemishes quickly begin to show, and at certain points of this song he sounds like he’s auditioning to be the third member of Kriss Kross. Aqil, on the other hand, continues to sound hungry and motivated, as he gets off a few clever bars on this one as well. The energy level drops a bit compared to the previous song, but I still enjoyed the laidback funk groove and the bass line that reminds me of Ashley Graham: thick and sexy.

Knock-N-Boots – Aqil’s in full-blown horny mode on this one, seeking a sexy young tender that he can leave with her Timberlands tipped over “like an oak tree”, while Markell plays John Stockton on the hook. This is decent filler material, but it’s not a good sign to have to resort to a song this average this early in the track sequencing.

Here We Come – More New Jack Swing filler that left me feeling empty.

Tell Me How You Feel – Aqil taps into his softer side and uses this one to ask his lady to express and communicate her feelings to him. The instrumental sounds like it was inspired by Heavy D’s “Is It Good To You”, which was also produced by TR, and Tammy Lucas (who sung on Hev’s version and made her own version of “Is It Good To You”, which was featured on the Juice Soundtrack) drops in to sing adlibs that sound similar to the riffs she sung on Hev’s joint (Question of the day: Which version of “Is it Good To You” do you prefer: Heavy D’s or Tammy Lucas’? Let me know in the comments). I wasn’t crazy about this one, but it’s tolerable.

My Cutie – After pretty much sitting out the last three songs, Markell returns with his first solo joint of the evening. Over a smooth mid-tempo groove, extra heavy on the r&b, Markie describes the girl of his lustful dreams over the course of three verses. By the way, am I the only one not turned on by the idea of having sex with a woman dripping in honey? Sounds like one hot sticky mess to me…but I digress. Though his lyrical prowess is nowhere near the level of the DITC emcee, Markell’s vocal tone and delivery kind of remind me of Lord Finesse, and his conversational approach to this track disguises his limited rhyming ability. This makes for a decent record to chill out and sip a little somethin’ with your wife, lady, jump off or escort, on a nice summer day.

Wreckx-N-Effect – TR and ’em concoct a mid-tempo New Jack Jazzy Swing backdrop (I love the zany horn loop on this one) that Aqil, excuse me, A-Plus and Markell tag team the mic over, as they take turns talking their shit and making super awkward references to their genitalia (i.e. “The only thing soft about the Wreckx, is our jimmy’s in the pool and hours after sex” and “Man, get off the dick nigga, and stay off the dick nigga, cause these dicks only get bigger”). Despite all the dick talk, this is easily one of my favorite songs on the album.

Ez Come Ez Go (What Goes Up Must Come Down) – Over crisp drums and a bouncy bass line, Aqil discusses the highs and lows that come with being an artist in the music industry. This is another decent record that sounds better the more you listen to it.

Hard (Short) – TR and the crew hook up the same piano loop that, in my opinion, will always belong to Marley Marl and his Juice Crew’s classic posse joint “The Symphony”. Aqil spits one very aggressive verse over it, and his bars are decent, but after the damage Kane and G. Rap previously inflicted on it, you have to come harder (no pun intended).

Smooth (Short) – The final song of the night finds Markell going dolo, as he gets off a quick verse over a very lazy and uncreative flip of Barry White’s “Playing A Game, Baby”, which is another sample that should be hung up in hip-hop’s rafters. Markell sounds horrible, repeating words uncontrollably and “miggiddying” the listen to death, as he limps to the finish line. Speaking of death, Markell closes the song by shouting out his deceased homies, whom I’m sure were shaking their heads in the grave after this embarrassingly bad rendition.

Hard Or Smooth will forever be remembered as the “Rump Shaker” album, and after living with the album these past few weeks, that label is justifiable. It’s not to say that Hard Or Smooth is a terrible album, as it actually lives up to the low expectations that I had of it and Wrecks-N-Effect. Aqil’s rhyming skills continue to show improvement (I’d be interested to hear how he sounds over a batch of Premo’s boom-bap, as his beats have a way of bringing the best out of a rapper), and there are about three songs on the album that I really enjoyed, but the bulk of Hard Or Smooth is filled with mediocre rhymes (some of Markell’s are actually horrible) and average New Jack Swing instrumentals, leaving the album as a whole a forgettable middle of the road listen, and I mean that in the nicest way possible.

-Deedub

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Schoolly D – How A Black Man Feels (October 15, 1991)

Through the years, when it comes to gangsta rap, hip-hop often pays homage to the Ice-T’s, Ice-Cube’s and N.W.A.’s for pioneering the gangsta sound. Rightfully so, as they all played a major part in helping the sub-genre advance and making it commercially viable, opening the flood gates for a sea of other gangsta rappers and emcees to make their mark and money. But if you ask Ice-T who the o.g. (no pun intended) of the style is, he’ll give you one name: Schoolly D.

Schoolly D was born and raised in the streets of Philly and became a part of the Parkside Killers gang as a shorty. Around the same time, Schoolly started rapping, and in 1985 he recorded his self-titled debut project and released it independently, which at that time was a rarity. After releasing his debut album and its follow-up, Saturday Night! – The Album, on his own label, Schoolly started to make some regional noise, which would lead to him signing a deal with Jive. Jive would eventually re-release his first two projects and Schoolly would also record two new albums for the label (Smoke Some Kill in ’88 and Am I Black Enough For You? in ’89). Neither of the two new albums lived up to the buzz his first two albums created, and he and Jive would soon part ways. Schoolly’s next stop would be Capitol, where he would release his fifth album and the subject of today’s post, How A Black Man Feels.

Like all his prior albums, Schoolly D would hold down the production duties on How A Black Man Feels. The album would render three singles, with none of them making a peep on the charts. How A Black Man Feels received poor reviews and I’d be willing to bet my right arm that it didn’t even go wood.

Though I’m aware of his name, I’m not really familiar with Schoolly D’s music. Come to think of it, the only song I’ve ever heard of his is the biggest hit in his catalog, “P.S.K. What Does It Mean?” off his self-titled debut project, which Ice-T has openly credited as the template for his gangsta classic “6 ‘N The Mornin'” (side note: Biggie actually paid homage to “P.S.K. What Does It All Mean?” by remaking it on “B.I.G. Interlude” off the Life After Death album). I’ve had How A Black Man Feels in the tuck for a while, and the time has finally come to dissect it. So, let’s get into it, shall we?

Run – The album starts with a snippet taken from the cult classic movie, The Warriors, then an instrumental built around a guitar riff drops and Schoolly spits two verses. He spends most of the song threatening to shoot a “shoeshine nigga” with his “git-gat”, and ironically (or hypocritically), voices his frustration with brothers choosing the street life over education (“I’m gettin’ tired of every other brother in the ghetto, gotta sell a little yayo, because a brother didn’t have enough knowledge, didn’t know because he didn’t go to college”). Schoolly let’s an uncredited guest jump on the song’s final verse, but he doesn’t add anything memorable of quote worthy to this mediocre opening track.

Your Worst Nightmare – After a short skit that features a dude getting shot and murdered for his 8-Ball jacket (remember those?), Schoolly drops a mid-tempo backdrop that he uses to recall his former days as a young gangbanger (he also manages to sneak in another “shoeshine nigga” and “git-gat” reference, which makes him sound super old and corny). He kind of steers off course during his second verse, bringing up all kinds of randomness, including a slight diss to his fellow Philadelphian, Will Smith’s tv show, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Schoolly renders the final verse to another uncredited guest rapper, who uses his opportunity to discourage brothers from taking the gang bangin’ path. I respect his guest’s message, but this shit almost put me to sleep.

King Of New York – Schoolly uses this one to spin a tale from the perspective of a drug dealer looking to become a drug kingpin. He starts this one off with arguably, the most hi-lariousy bad opening bars in the history of hip-hop: “Muthafucka it! I get straight to the point, you don’t dig what I’m saying, then fuck you!” (You have to hear it for yourself to get the full impact of its corniness). Even after the opening bars, Schoolly keeps the chuckles coming, as he refers to his dick as his “wee-wee” and once again makes reference to his “git-gat”. The instrumental wasn’t terrible (towards the end of the song he briefly brings in some of the elements from the “PSK” instrumental), but not strong enough to give this song any replay value, unless you’re looking to get a good laugh from Schoolly’s bars.

Original Gangster – Over a reggae-tinged backdrop, our host adapts a really bad Jamaican accent to spit his verses and declares himself the O.G. of gangsta rap. KRS-One stops by to lend a helping hand with the backdrop (which might explain why the instrumental sounds so similar to “100 Guns” off the Edutainment album) and holds down hook duties. I was hoping for a KRS-One verse, but not all dreams come true. The instrumental was pretty decent, though.

Die Nigga Die – You have to love (or laugh at) some of Schoolly’s simple song titles and hooks. There’s a dope bass guitar break that comes in between verses, but other than that, not much to see here, folks.

Where’d You Get That Funk From – Another question posed in a song title with no question mark to punctuate it…moving on. Schoolly builds the backdrop around the same Parliament loop Ice Cube used for the “Dumb Shit” instrumental off the Death Certificate album, as he and his anonymous guest take a break from all the gang bangin’/drug dealing talk that has flooded the album to this point, to boast, and encourage the listeners to vibe to the funk groove. The unnamed male vocalist provides a catchy hook, and you can’t really go wrong with this Parliament loop.

How A Black Man Feels – The title track finds our host on some black militant shit. Schoolly apes Chuck D’s delivery and is focused on killing the white man for his transgressions against the black man in America over a poor man’s Bomb Squad instrumental. He even includes snippets from a sermon talking about the black scientist, Yakub (who the Nation of Islam believes created the white man that they also believe to be the devil), to help drive his point home. I couldn’t really get into this one.

Just Another Killer – This one begins with a snippet from the 1977 film, Short Eyes (a movie I’ve never seen, but I have listened to the Curtis Mayfield produced and performed soundtrack, and it’s got some fire sauce on it), then Schoolly drops a dim soulful groove, as he reminisces on his days as a Parkside Killer in the mean streets of Philly (I found it hi-larious to hear him respond to being asked his name with” Suck my dick, tell your mother do the same”). The pimpish pace of the instrumental works well with Schoolly’s simple slow rolling flow. This is easily the best song on the album.

Peace To The Nation – I appreciate the message (kind of), but this song is trash…sorry, Sway.

Sometimes It’s Got To Be That Way – Schoolly D’s rhymes are all over the place on the last song of the evening, as he talks about going to make a dope deal and getting robbed, living in the ghetto, smokin’ and drinkin’, and…brothers buying cats? And if our host himself didn’t provide enough randomness, the song ends with another uncredited guest tacking on an additional aimless 8 bars. Schoolly’s chill mid-tempo instrumental was decent, but he and his guest’s rhymes do nothing to make it shine brighter.

The Schoolly D that shows up on How A Black Man Feels sounds nothing like the Schoolly D I remember hearing rap on “PSK”. Yes, I know “PSK” was recorded and released six years prior, and artist are allowed to evolve, but this new overly aggressive Schoolly D, who sounds like he can’t make up his mind on whether he wants to stay in the streets and shoot “shoeshine niggas” with his “git-gat” or be Malcom Farrakhan, has nothing on the old smooth laidback one-track criminal minded version we were first introduced to in ’85. Unfortunately, Schoolly’s flow and delivery didn’t evolve and both sound stuck in 1985, making his repetitive gangsta rhymes hard to digest for the length of an entire album. And if Schoolly’s contradicting mundane content wasn’t enough to sabotage the album, when you combine it with his lackluster production, this project comes crashing down, quickly. And that’s how this black man feels.

-Deedub

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Nikki D – Daddy’s Little Girl (September 3, 1991)

The subject of today’s post is yet another one hit wonder that also makes for a great hip-hop trivia question. Nikki D was born in Newark, NJ, but later migrated to Los Angeles where she would continue to hone her raps skills, eventually catching the attention of Russell Simmons, who would sign her to Def Jam in 1989, making her the first female artist signed to the legendary label (there’s your great trivia question). Two years later in 1991, Nikki D would release her debut album Daddy’s Little Girl.

Nikki would bring in a handful of producers to help sculpt the sound of Daddy’s Little Girl, including such names as: S.I.D.(Flavor Unit affiliate), Eric Sadler (Bomb Squad), Large Professor, The Leaders of the New School, Sam Sever and Prince Paul. Even with all those respected names behind it, the album would only produce one hit single (the title track), which would climb all the way to number 1 on the Billboard Hot Rap Singles. But the album rendered dismal numbers, especially when you consider it was a Def Jam release.

According to a Nikki D interview I recently listened to, even after the commercial failure of Daddy’s Little Girl, Def Jam still wanted her to release a follow-up album. She said the album was fully produced by the Bomb Squad and completed, but would be shelved, never to see the light of day. She would eventually ask Russell to let her out of her contract, to which he obliged, and she would sign with Queen Latifah’s Flavor Unit, where things wouldn’t get much better for her rap career. Nikki grew tired and frustrated by the politics and business of the industry and walked away from the mic to take on roles behind the scenes with both Def Jam and Flavor Unit through the years, but she would never release another album.

I came across a used CD copy of Daddy’s Little Girl at one of my frequents a few months ago for a couple bucks. Since I loved the lead single, I bought it and hoped to find some other hidden jewels. This marks my first time listening to the album, so let’s start diggin’.

Daddy’s Little Girl – Nikki kicks the album off with the title track, whose instrumental jacks, I mean, liberally borrows, from the classic DNA/Suzanne Vega record, “Tom’s Diner”. Nikki uses the dark backdrop to talk about being a young and very promiscuous girl, which ends with her getting into some trouble that she keeps a secret from her dad (even though the song is thirty years old, I won’t spoil the plot for you young bucks that may have never heard it before). I loved this song back in the day, mainly for S.I.D.’s dope instrumental, which still sounds amazing today, but now that I’m a dad with four daughters, Nikki’s rhymes sound like a nightmare.

Monday We’ll Be Together – Nikki’s content is a little too abstract to follow on this one, but I think she’s talking about finding the right man; at least she is for a portion of the song. The Leaders of the New School are credited for the mellow instrumental, and they lend a helping hand with the hook. I wasn’t crazy about Nikki’s rhymes, but the mellow jazzy instrumental was pleasant.

Hang On Kid – S.I.D. gets his second production credit of the night (he also produced “Daddy’s Little Girl”), as he builds this dope instrumental around an ill piano loop. Nikki uses it to talk about the trials, tribs and lessons she learned in her childhood, and S.I.D. joins in, spittin’ a rare verse as well (his vocal tone reminds me of Parrish Smith’s). This was dope.

The Beauty Shop – After a short interlude exchange between Busta Rhymes and Nikki, LONS gets their second production credit of the evening, as they slide Nikki a super dry backdrop that finds our hostess dissin’ chicks who get plastic surgery, use to much make-up or are just plain ugly. This was super corny.

All About You – Over a hard backdrop, Nikki shouts out a dude she’s feelin’, and he’s got her wide open. This is a great example of what a hardcore hip-hop love song can sound like without the r&b crooner and formulaic r&b chords. Well done, Nikki.

Sunny Daze – Nikki uses this one to celebrate relaxation, being outside and expresses her appreciation for the sunshine. It’s not a great track, but it makes for decent filler material.

Wasted P!*#Y – This one starts out sounding like it’s going to be an emotional soul stirring record, then the rough and raw beat drops (credited to Eric Sadler of the Bomb Squad, with a co-credit going to Epitome Of Scratch), and Nikki commences to call out all the loose Lakesha’s and Heidi hoes. It’s kind of like a hood PSA on the dangers of hoeing. I appreciate Nikki’s concern and effort, but there’s really no need to listen to this one more than once.

Your Man Is My Man – After scolding ladies for hoeing on the previous track, Nikki boasts about being a side chick on this one, which left me wanting to introduce the pot to the kettle. It was also strange to hear the uncredited male voice saying “You need to learn how to share, cause your man is her man” on the hook. The instrumental (which is credited to Smooth Ice and a “post-production and remix” credit going to Large Professor) is a banger that goes hard.

18 And Loves To Go – Nikki’s back to pointing fingers again. This time she takes aim at an eighteen-year-old girl who loves to get her freak on. You’d think that “Daddy’s Little Girl” would have a little more understanding and compassion, but instead, she comes off judgmental. Maybe Nikki’s message helped deter another young woman from going through her hoe phase, but whatever the case, S.I.D.’s instrumental is dope.

Another Man Is Beatin’ My Time – Now this is an interesting song idea. Nikki shares two stories about two different dudes that she dated, only to later find out they were on the down low. It was kind of funny to hear her say “I never had a clue of the fact, that another man was ridin’ his back” then in the very next line she says, “I guess I should have known when he acted like a bitch, wearing my clothes and walkin’ with a switch”. You “guess you should have known”? Sounds like crystal clear warning signs that hindsight wouldn’t even forgive you for missing. In this current state of ultra-sensitive political correctness, I’m sure people would have a problem with some of Nikki’s content, but the DL lifestyle is a real thing. S.I.D. serves up a decent dance track, but it sounds odd paired with Nikki’s X-rated content.

Gotta Up The Ante For The Panties – The song title pretty much sums this one up. Nikki lets the fellas know that if you want to taste her punani you must do more than wine and dine her and buy her gifts, but she never lets you know what that “more” is. This song did nothing for me. Next…

Freak Accident – Prince Paul gets his only production credit of the evening, as he slides Nikki a zany backdrop that she uses to spin a tale about infidelity and domestic violence. Nikki’s man is apparently on vacation without her for weeks (how he managed to go on vacation for that long without his lady is an impressive feat), so she decides to seek out some side dick. But her man returns unexpectedly, catching her in the act and commences to roughing her side dude up and beating her ass as well. Nikki’s storyline was semi-interesting, and it also felt a little uncomfortable to hear her make light of domestic abuse, but you can’t really spit serious bars over a bizarre instrumental like this.

Lettin’ Off Steam (Club Mix) – The final song of the evening finds Nikki in battle mode, “shootin’ the gift”, as she lets off a little steam, and Flavor Flav drops by to add some energetic adlibs for his labelmate. Sam Sever gets his only production credit of the night, hooking up a dope instrumental built around an ill bass line and a rough guitar loop. This is easily one of the strongest songs on the album.

On Daddy’s Little Girl, Nikki proves to be a decent lyricist with a strong voice, and she actually covers a variety of topics on her debut album, but most of her content tends to float aimlessly, never arriving anywhere, making most of her rhymes sound empty and incomplete. On the production side, there isn’t one terrible instrumental on the album, but when you consider the esteemed names that helped sculpt the album’s sound, I was left a bit disappointed by the overall output. Daddy’s Little Girl is a semi-decent album that shows some of Nikki’s potential; it’s unfortunate she never got a chance to build on it.

-Deedub

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Ruler’s Back (July Slick Rick – The2, 1991)

After making a tremendous first impression with Doug E. Fresh & The Get Fresh Crew on their classic record “The Show”, and arguably even more classic B-side, “La Di Da Di”, Slick Rick decided it was time to leave the group and go solo. Being the hot commodity that he was at the time, it didn’t take long before the labels came knocking at his door. Russell Simmons’ knock would be the most appealing to the England born emcee, and he would sign to the fledgling Def Jam label, where he would release his debut solo album, The Great Adventures of Slick Rick in 1988, and the album would go on to be a platinum selling success that most consider a classic (you can read my thoughts on that album right…here). It appeared that Slick Rick was on the verge of becoming the next bona-fide hip-hop superstar, then everything changed on July 3, 1990.

As the story goes, Rick was beefing with his cousin/bodyguard, which ended with Rick firing two shots: one hitting his cousin in the foot, and the other hitting and injuring an innocent bystander. Rick was charged with a plethora of charges (including two counts of attempted murder) and would end up be sentenced to three to ten years in prison of which he would end up serving a total of five years. Rick was still under contract with Def Jam at the time, so Russell Simmons temporarily bailed him out of jail, and in that limit time frame, Rick would record what would be his second album, The Ruler’s Back.

The Ruler’s Back would be mostly produced by Vance Wright with some co-production help from Slick Rick himself. The album produced a couple of hit singles and would climb to 29 on the Billboards Top 200 but would fail to match the commercial success of its predecessor. The streets and the critics felt the album was rushed and didn’t feel it was a proper follow-up to The Great Adventures of Slick Rick (his 1994 album, fittingly titled, Behind Bars, would face the same criticism).

I remember a couple of the singles off The Ruler’s Back from back in the day, but I’ve never listened to the album in its entirety before today. Hopefully, time has been kinder to the album than the critics and fans were when it was first released.

King – Rick wastes no time getting to work, as he and Vance Wright slap us in the head with a frantic-paced banger that Rick uses to regally and eloquently proclaim the thrown of this here rap shit. Rick has always been revered for his uncanny ability to paint vivid pictures with rhymes, but he proves on this one that he’s no slouch when it comes to boasting and bragging either, as he sounds fresh and focused with a nimble tongue. The mix could have been tighter, as some of Rick’s rhymes are a strain to hear over the bangin’ backdrop, but other than that this was a great way to start the show.

I Shouldn’t Have Done It – This was the lead single from The Ruler’s Back. V. Wright hooks up a danceable track for Rick to get into his first story of the night. This one finds Rick coming from the perspective of a cheating man whose infidelity leads to his woman committing suicide. The upbeat-feel good-head-nod inducing instrumental seems to contradict Rick’s rather dark content, but the poorly mixed vocals make it easy to focus more on the music than Rick’s rhymes.

Bond – Rick gets into 007 mode on this one, and after at least fifteen listens to this song over the past few weeks, I still have no idea what Rick’s mission is or what the hell is going on during this sketchy storyline. He lost me during his first few bars when he stepped off the plane in Columbia. Oh well, at least you can vibe out to V. Wright’s bangin’ backdrop.

Moses – Rick takes us to church on this one, as he goes into the bible and spits a quick three verses summarizing the Moses/Pharaoh conflict chronicled in the book of Exodus, which is one of my favorite bible stories, by the way. As I’ve already mentioned a few times, the mix makes it hard to hear some of Rick’s rhymes, and some of his bars sound rushed, but I still enjoyed the content and the reggae-tinged backdrop.

Tonto – Like “Bond”, the details of Rick’s story are hard to follow. Unlike “Bond”, the instrumental is super lackluster.

Mistakes Of A Woman In Love With Other Men – Now that’s a mouthful for a song title. V. Wright and Rick cook up a slightly dark instrumental for our host to share the details that led up to him finding out that his lady has been sleeping with other men, and now he’s feeling suicidal. The bluesy groove matches Rick’s melancholic content, and this is easily one of the best mixed songs on the album.

Venus – After nearly offing himself on the previous song, Rick bounces back, nicely when he meets the girl of his dreams, “’round Wall Street” of all places. Rick spits one quick verse about the encounter, before singing a little Frankie Avalon to close things out (and he actually has a decent singing voice). V. Wright’s instrumental reminds me of an up-tempo version of “Hey Young World”, and I enjoyed it, but Rick’s rhymes and song concept sound incomplete.

Ship – Over a stripped-down basic drumbeat, Rick goes for broke and picks up where he left off at on “King”, spewing fresh lines like: “How slick ya? You best get the picture, the one-eyed kid, remain victor”. The rhymes sound a bit rushed, but there’s no denying that Rick could rhyme his ass off.

It’s A Boy – This was the third single released from The Ruler’s Back. An enthusiastic Rick talks about the joys of welcoming his newborn son into the world over a decent V. Wright produced instrumental. I wasn’t crazy about this one back in the day and it still doesn’t grab me, but the video was pretty cool and original.

Top Cat – I wasn’t feeling this one.

Runaway – Rick and V. Wright hook up an up-tempo backdrop, dripping with Island vibes that our host uses to discuss his lady love who’s leaving him for another man. Rick sure loves to write about heartbreak. Rick sounds cool on this one, but the feel-good instrumental carries the song.

Slick Rick – The Ruler – The final song of the evening features a Mr. Lee produced techno dance track that has Rick rhyming with a vocal distortion filter. When you combine that filter with the super low vocal levels, there’s not a man or woman alive who could quote the song’s lyrics verbatim. I can’t believe the powers that be at Def Jam let this embarrassingly amateur mix sneak out on the album’s final cut.

The Ruler’s Back isn’t, as Rick’s British ancestors might say, complete rubbish. Most of the instrumentals are actually dope and entertaining; it’s all the other elements that burden the album. The bulk of Rick’s stories sound incomplete, not well-thought out or just plain uninteresting, which in his defense, I don’t know how focused one would be on songwriting when getting ready to serve a significant amount of time behind bars like he was at the time. When you couple that with the extremely poor mixing and mastering of the vocals with the music, the end results are a frustrating listen from an extremely talented emcee, and thirty years hasn’t helped heal the wounds.

-Deedub

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Whodini – Bag-A-Trix (March 19, 1991)

Before we get into this post, I want to say rest in peace to John “Ecstasy” Fletcher, who passed away on December 23, 2020.

After starting their career on Jive and giving the label four albums in five years (between 1983 and 1987), with three of the four albums selling gold or better, Whodini were wily vets, who suddenly found themselves without a label home. With the emergence of artist and groups like LL Cool J, Eric B & Rakim, Public Enemy, Boogie Down Productions and Big Daddy Kane in the late eighties, the sound of hip-hop begin to transform from a fun party feel to a more hardcore, lyric-driven genre. Whodini, who were all still in their twenties as the eighties ended, begin to be perceived as “old rappers” that helped pioneer the genre, but whose better days were behind them, and the industry no longer had a need for them. But the three-man team kept their heads up, regrouped and signed a deal with MCA, where they would release their fifth album in 1991, Bag-A-Trix.

Whodini would call on longtime collaborative partner, Larry Smith (rip) to help produce Bag-A-Trix, along with Fresh Gordon Pickett and Major Jam Productions. Bag-A-Trix would produce two singles that made minimal noise, and it would be the first Whodini album since their self-titled debut to not earn at least a gold RIAA certification. Bag-A-Trix was not only a commercial failure for the trio, but the critic’s reviews and the street’s reception of the album were not positive either, and soon, Whodini would sever ties with MCA, and once again be looking for a new label to call home.

I came across a used cd copy of Bag-A-Trix a few months ago and have never listened to the album before now. Hopefully, Whodini was able to pull a magic potion out of their old dusty Bag-A-Trix and make the album age well, but I doubt it.

The Intro – After a few opening words from Ecstasy, he and Jalil each spit a verse to flirt with the ladies over a stripped-down Larry Smith produced backdrop (Rev Run gets a co-production credit and a writing credit on this one) that minimalistically flips a couple of loops from a classic Barry White record (ironically titled: “It’s Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next To Me”. By the way, Barry White might have the longest song titles in the history of music!) to damn near perfection. Jalil sounds like he had a mouth full of marbles when he recorded his verse, but everything else about this song was solid.

Judy – This was the second single released from Bag-A-Trix. Ecstasy, Jalil and Grandmaster Dee are all vying for the lust and affection of a brown-eyed, brown-skinned cutie named Judy. Ecstasy falls for her on the first verse, Jalil on the second, and we find out on the final verse that Grandmaster Dee has been hooking up with Judy long before Ecstasy and Jalil came into the picture. I’m curious as to why Dee didn’t tell Jalil he was hookin’ up with Judy, since he was riding shotgun in Jalil’s whip the night Jalil and Judy met. I’m probably putting too much thought into this, so, I’ll just chalk it up to the fellas did a poor job following through with the details in their storyline. Besides that minor mishap, and the fact that Ecstasy and Jalil both ape Kool Moe Dee’s flow and vocal tone (come to think of it, even the instrumental sounds like Moe Dee’s “They Want Money”), this makes for a mildly entertaining bop.

Freaks – Not to be confused with one of Whodini’s biggest hits, “Freaks Come Out At Night”. This was the lead single from Bag-A-Trix that Whodini uses to call out all those closeted freaks. If the Me Too Movement was around in the early nineties, they would have destroyed Ecstasy for his first verse, as he can’t wrap his head around why a chick named Pam, who’s already getting freaky with three other guys at a party, wouldn’t be okay with him joining in on the fun. Then he decides to creep up and start gyrating on her without first asking for permission, and when she rejects him, he response with: “Now hold up baby, tell me how you’re livin’, there’s three guys on you, so four should be thrillin'”. He ends his verse by asking: “Is Pam a freak or am I delirious?”. Well, both can be true: Pam is definitely a freak, and Ecstasy is delirious (and a creep) for thinking he could just push up on her without getting prior approval. Jalil’s verse is horrible, followed by a questionable second verse from Ecstasy (how can one be a feminist and a male chauvinist at the same time?), but worse than Ecstasy’s misogynistic antics and the horrible writing is the corny hook and the cheesy synth-heavy instrumental.

Smilin’ Faces Sometimes – Our hosts use this one to address all those people out there who smile in your face, but their hearts are filled with all kinds of deception. The credits list a bunch of different writers on this one, which might be why Jalil sounds so off during his opening bars (I couldn’t tell if he was rapping or spittin’ a spoken word). Larry Smith’s instrumental sounds like a natural progression of what I’d expect a Larry Smith instrumental to sound like in the early nineties, and that’s a good thing.

Bag-A-Trix – The title track finds Ecstasy and Jalil getting duped by chicks named Bubbles and Rainbow, respectively. Why any man would trust a woman with one of those two names is beyond me. From the zany backdrop to the silly rhymes and the throw away hook, this song is all kinds of horrendous.

Taste Of Love – The fellas get into their suave-romantic bag on this one, as Ex and Jalil take turns swapping cliché love bars to woo the objects of their erections out of their panties. The lyrics were cheese, but the old man in me semi-enjoyed the sophisticated sounds of Fresh Gordon’s instrumental and the sultry voices of Khadejia Bass and Julia Brereton (whom we last heard on MC Shan’s “I Want To Thank You”) singing on the hook.

Inside The Joint – Whodini tries to get fly and talk their boastful shit on this one, but that’s never really been their strong suit, and this song is not the exception.

Lover Or Friends – Ex and Jalil discuss the struggles that come with trying to maintain a romantic relationship while touring the globe for six months at a time. It appears that Jalil finds his Mrs. Right, but Ecstasy doesn’t, which might have more to do with his own indecisiveness: during his first verse he smashes his lady friend, then tells her they should just be friends before he skips town for six months to tour. Then six months later he comes home, and he’s hurt when he finds out she’s been dating other men. Negro, please. All in all, this is a cool little r&b flavored hip-hop joint that has aged fairly well.

The Party Don’t Start – Ecstasy and Jalil are joined by a Dynasty and Mimi on this posse affair aimed at getting the party started, or as the kids say, lit (Do the kids still say “lit”? Damn, I’m getting old). This might have gone over better in 1986, but by 1991 standards, Whodini and their guests sound like seventy-year old’s trying to sound hip. To add insult to injury, Fresh Gordon’s instrumental is horrid.

Day To Day – Whodini goes into their conscious bag on this one, as Ex and Ja tackle some of the issues that plaque the black community, like violence, unemployment and poverty. I’m always rooting for a positive hip-hop record, but you still must make the message entertaining or intriguing for the people to receive it; Whodini does neither with this one.

Milk My Cow – This may be the worst hip-hop song every created, and I’m not exaggerating.

Nite For Jammin’ – It’s Friday and Whodini is ready to step out for a night on the town. They wrote a song about it, you wanna hear it? Here it goes. I couldn’t really get into this one, but there is a smooth break at the beginning, in between verses, and at the end of the song that I thoroughly enjoyed.

That’s Life – Major Jam Productions hooks up a feeble New Jack Swingish instrumental that our hosts use to give shallow examples of the ups and downs that come with living this life. Next…

Bad Case Of Love – Whodini wraps up Bag-A-Trix with a spoken word storyline that finds Ecstasy and Jalil playing private investigators for their own agency, Whodini Private Eye. The duo is hired by a beautiful woman to track the activities of her husband that she suspects is cheating on her and their six kids (Jalil hi-larious response to finding out his client has six with: “I couldn’t believe that body had bore six kids, as boomin’ as it was”). The ending was a bit anti-climactic, but Whodini does a solid job of keeping the story interesting.

Bag-A-Trix begins with Ecstasy sharing a question that he says he’s often asked: “Who is Whodini?”, to which he replies: “Well, ya know…that’s one of those questions…that sorta make ya say…hmmm”. Ecstasy’s opening statement pretty much sums up Bag-A-Trix, as Whodini sounds like a group that once strived in an analog world and are now struggling to find their footing, placement and identity in a more advanced digital one. There are a few decent songs on the album, but most of Bag-A-Trix is plagued with cheesy instrumentation and dated instrumentals, while Ecstasy and Jalil spend most of the album sounding like old men trying to run in a five-on-five pick-up game in dress socks and loathers with a bunch of hungry young boys. Unfortunately, Whodini’s Bag-A-Trix didn’t come with that magic potion I hoped for.

-Deedub

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