H.E.A.L. – Civilization Vs. Technology (September 24, 1991)

H.E.A.L., which is an acronym for Human Education Against Lies, is a movement that was formed and led by the Blastmaster KRS-One back in the early nineties. KRS-One’s beliefs and philosophies have changes plenty over the past 30 years, but in the early nineties he was pushing a humanist movement. He received a little heat from some of the black community and leaders who felt his agenda should have been more focused on the African-American struggle, and some of you may recall that X-Clan had a few words for Kris (to which Kris would of course, have a rebuttal), because they felt he should be teaching Afrocentricity and not an all-inclusive humanist message. Regardless of the criticism, KRS-One would gather together a bunch of his friends, who collectively would form H.E.A.L. and release the subject of today’s post Civilization Vs Technology.

The liner notes of Civilization Vs Technology spell out the album’s mission statement (the “all caps” format is not mine): HUMAN EDUCATION AGAINST LIES IS A FORWARD MOVEMENT FOR SELF CONSTRUCTION. WE BELIEVE THAT BEFORE YOU ARE A RACE, AN OCCUPATION OR A RELIGION YOU ARE HUMAN. The H.E.A.L. roster would range from hip-hop’s most respected emcees to newcomers, as KRS-One and his BDP crew members and affiliates would handle the bulk of the production duties.

I stumbled upon Civilization Vs Technology during one of my used cd bins scavenger hunts a few months ago. This is my first time listening to the album, so lets see how this one goes, shall we?

Heal Yourself – This was the lead single from CVT and the only song I’d ever heard going into this post. Harmony, Kid Capri, Big Daddy Kane, Freddy Foxxx (now known as Bumpy Knuckles), LL  Cool J, MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, KRS-One, Ms. Melodie and Run DMC come together and address issues that effect all humanity. Because, as KRS-One so eloquently puts it “before you’re a color, first you’re human, teaching humanity it what we’re doing”. I love the content on this one, plus the D-Nice/KRS-One concocted instrumental is dope.

I Am What I Am – I never heard of Sister Carol before listening to CVT, but apparently she’s a female reggae artist. This is her solo joint and she definitely makes the most of it. Long time BDP associates Anton and Sidney Mills lay down a hectic paced, but nasty instrumental that Sister Carol chants all over with rabbit like speed. This was dope.

Anti-Ho – KRS-One hooks up a simple instrumental driven by a deep bouncy bass line for his ex-wife Ms. Melodie (rip) to spit one quick verse about saving a woman from the clutches of whoredom. During her verse, Melodie bust through a window (which is hi-larious to me when I visualize it) to rescue said promiscuous woman, who has apparently just dropped to her knees to give dome to a bunch of fellas. Now that’s some serious cock blocking, Ms. Melodie. KRS-One then ends the song with thought-provoking rhetoric and poses an interesting question to the listener. This song was the perfect balance of conscious and entertaining.

Whole World African – As you probably already can tell by this point, I’m not that well versed when it comes to reggae artist. Ska Danks is another reggae artist that I’ve never heard of before today, and this is his solo joint on CVT. One of the reasons I’m not that well versed in reggae artist or a huge fan of their music is because the pace they deliver their rhymes combined with their accents, makes it hard for me to understand what the hell they’re saying most of the time. That is also the case with Ska Danks. But have no fear, KRS-One’s smooth backdrop and the catchy hook save this song.

Don’t Hold Us Back – I’m not sure if Heather B was ever an official member of BDP, but she was definitely an affiliate. The first time I heard her rhyme was on “7 Deejays” from BDP’s Edutainment album. For this one, Kenny Parker slides HB a funky little diddly that she uses to spit one long verse about relationships. She sounds a little stiff and gets sloppy at certain points of the song, but still manages to sew together a pretty nice story line and drops a few sage like jewels for the listener to marvel at (“it’s not that they don’t love you or want to see you fail, but what’s stronger than love is the ego of a male”). This was dope. Shoutout to the whole Sway In The Morning crew.

Know Your Culture – This is equivalent to the reggae version of “Heal Yourself”. Kevin B, Sleepy Wonder (which is a dope alias), Reverend Badoo, Mickey Jarrett, Bigga Don, Shabba Ranks, Shelly Thunder, Lady English and Miss Linda (I’ve actually heard of a few of these guys) all come together to promote the importance of knowing yourself which is knowing your culture…I think. Unlike “Heal Yourself” this one is boring as hell and hard to listen to.

O’ Freedom – The yawn fest continues. I’ve never heard of Kushite, Musik G or Sky High before this listen and I’ll be completely fine if I never hear from them again in life. I’m all for the upliftment of Africa and Afrocentricity, but you still have to make the message sound entertaining, guys. Plus, Sky High’s instrumental is trash.

One Bright Day – Now, if you’re going to put a reggae artist on an album, no better choice than to get one of the heir’s of reggae royalty to do it. Bob Marley’s eldest son, Ziggy Marley and his band The Melody Makers join the H.E.A.L. movement and provide a simply song calling for unity within humanity. The deep grove is infectious and the repetitive lyrics actually work well for this song.

Family Got To Get Busy – Salt N Pepa and Ms. Melodie spit short verses, and in between and after their verses are short interjections about family from Kool Moe Dee, Grand Daddy I.U., Ziggy Marley, Kid Capri, DMC, KRS-One, Chuck D, Doug E. Fresh and Red Alert. Even though the song’s format is unorthodox it works, plus KRS-One’s summer breezy instrumental just feels good.

Correct Education –  KRS-One introduces a rapper named Ready Z, not to be confused with Steady B, which was another emcee that Kris worked with in the past (if you read this blog on a regular basis you already knew that, though…if not, read about it here). Ready Z actually sounds a little like Steady, just a conscious version. Ready spits one quick verse over his decent self-produced instrumental before getting the hell out of Dodge.

Family – Simone (who would later become KRS-One’s second wife, after he divorced Ms. Melodie… it’s kind of  interesting that he had them both appear on this project) gets a solo joint and a chance to showcase her voice as she sings about the importance of family. The only problem is Simone is not a good singer and sounds like a tone deaf female version of Keith Sweat. It also doesn’t help that KRS-One’s sappy instrumental makes the whole idea of family feel sad instead of something that should be celebrated. This song should have never made the final cut for CVT.

Civilization Vs Technology – This one starts off well with Harmony singing and KRS-One spittin’ rhymes about saving the earth over some rough violin stabs. Then the beat drops, the weird guitar licks and the godawful vocal of R.E.M.’s lead man, Michael Stipe comes in and the song completely falls apart. I’m not exaggerating when I say Stipe’s singing made me want to break the cd in two and light it on fire, but that probably wouldn’t help the earth and I’m sure KRS-One would come up with some theory of how my broken cd would affect the ozone layer too. This song sounds terrible, which is sad since there was a good message in the song.

Tighten Up Your Wig – WTF is this? Reminds me of a dark version of the theme song for Gilligan’s Island. And that’s not a compliment.

It was a great marketing plan by Kris and his staff to put a hip-hop all-star team together for the lead single, which turns out to be a great record, and the strongest song on the album. Even though the next four songs don’t include any A-list emcees, they are all solid records as well. And then things get messy. With the exception of Ziggy Marley’s joint and when the all-stars take the court again on “Family Got To Get Busy”, the rest of Civilization Vs Technology ranges from mediocre to straight trash, thanks to sub-par talent, horrible singing and horrific production. Civilization Vs Technology makes a conscious effort to be a conscious effort. Unfortunately, most of the consciousness isn’t entertaining so the messages fall on deaf ears and make for a less than luxurious listen.

-Deedub

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sway & King Tech – Concrete Jungle (June 11, 1991)

Sway and Tech’s legacy will always be cemented in the annuals of hip-hop for what their legendary radio show, The Wake Up Show, did for hip-hop in the nineties. Through their radio show the bay area duo helped provide a platform for hip-hop artists from both coasts, but also gave credibility to some east coast artist who might not have received love from the west if not for Sway & Tech’s co-sign. The show would also lead to the duo releasing compilation mixtapes and freestyle mixes taken from their show. It’s safe to say that Sway & Tech were to the west coast what Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito were to the east coast. Sway will also be remembered for being the dread-headed hat wearing host of MTV News in the early 2000’s (back when MTV still played videos). He recently took on the role as the host for MTV’s revamped version of TRL, and you can hear him every weekday morning hosting his SiriusXM radio show Sway In The Morning on Shade 45, which I listen to religiously. Yet with all Sway and Tech have accomplished in hip-hop, its safe to say that none of that would have been possible if it wasn’t for the subject of today’s post, Concrete Jungle.

Sway who was an inspiring emcee, and King Tech who was a b-boy with a curiosity for deejaying, met as teenagers back in Oakland. They along with some other fellas linked up and formed a group called the Flynamic Force. Time would eventually weed out the others, leaving only Tech and Sway who would put in the work and record their own music. Tech would continue to hone his skills on the turntables and behind the boards, while Sway would work on his pen game, and the duo would eventually win a contest that allowed them to play their music on a local radio station, creating a local buzz that would lead to them getting Giant Records attention, where they would sign a deal and release their debut album, Concrete Jungle in the summer of 1991.

Sway would handle the rhyming with Tech holding down the production on Concrete Jungle. The album would ultimately flop, becoming a footnote on their resume, but it would also become the foundation Sway & Tech would build their hip-hop legacy upon.

IntroConcrete Jungle opens with a skit that has Sway getting on a bus where he runs into a homeboy he hasn’t seen in a while. The two chop it up (at one point Sway asks about his homie’s brother, and his homie lets Sway know he was shot. Sway then comes off like an insensitive bastard, as he breezes over it and goes into the next question without even asking if his brother’s okay or still alive for that matter) before a third homeboy gets on the bus, then melee breaks out, followed by gun shots, setting up the first song of the evening. This skit is way too long. They could have cut this in half and still accomplished what they were shooting for (no pun intended).

Concrete Jungle – Sway and Tech get the title track out the way right away. Tech provides a smooth mid-tempo groove that Sway uses to give a street report on the drama that goes on everyday in the hood, aka the concrete jungle. Sway sounds like a respectable emcee and Tech’s instrumental is pretty dope. Nice start to the evening.

Devastating – Tech brings hard drums, tribal drums, a whistle and chops up a dope female vocal soundbite, that all cumulate into a favorable instrumental. Sway spits forgettable rhymes over it, but he doesn’t take away from the dopeness of Tech’s backdrop.

Baddest Mutha On 2 Turntables (Remix) – This is basically Sway’s ode to his deejay. The song opens with Tech doing some corny deejay cuts at a live show, and then Sway spends the rest of the song paying homage to his deejay via rhyme. I don’t know why I find it funny hearing Sway say “muthafucka”, but for some reason it makes me chuckle. I appreciate the sentiment, but the song isn’t all that impressive.

Rock Steady – Sway’s rhymes and delivery sound every bit like 1991 on this one, and that’s not a compliment. Tech’s drum beat sounds like the basic drum pattern you would beat out on the table during your school lunch cipher back in the day. He adds some cheesy sounding keyboard elements to it, and amazingly, it sounds pretty dope.

Let Me See You Move – House music was king in the early nineties, and even hip-hop artists were jumping on the wave, mixing hip-hop with house. That is exactly what Sway and Tech do with this one. Unfortunately, like many of the songs that have tried to mix the two genres before it, this one also fails. Tech’s instrumental is corn, Sway sounds like a poor man’s Freedom Williams and the uncredited nasally male vocalist on the hook begins to grate on the ears after a while. This was trash.

New Dimension – More hip-hop/house fusion. This probably sounded amazing playing in the clubs back in the nineties, but as a record on its own merit, it sounds corny and very dated.

Future Sound – Tech provides a smooth groove with a deep bass line, while Sway’s in battle mode and gets pretty lyrical “xing off the fonies” and “fuckin’ up the rips offs”. Well done, gentlemen.

In Control – Tech’s drum pattern on this one is pretty basic, but the guitar loop that comes in on the break and the slick horn loop laced throughout the song brings this instrumental to life. Sway sounds cool on the mic, but the true star of this one is Tech’s instrumental.

Bum Rush The Sound – Again, Sway’s rhymes sound a little dated, but Tech’s production work on this one is phenomenal. From his cuts on the breaks, to the nasty sax loop laced throughout the song, I was very impressed.

Time 4 Peace – It’s been awhile since any song on the album has even remotely been related to the Concrete Jungle theme (like, since the first song), but Sway and Tech get things back on track with this one. Tech loops up some Isaac Hayes for the backbone of his funky smooth groove, while Sway discusses more neighborhood dramas and calls for peace in the hood. This was adequate.

Follow 4 Now (Remix) – I never heard the original, but I’m not sure how I feel about this remix. Sway sounds decent enough on the mic, but Tech’s instrumental seems like it’s all over the place and never finds an identity.

It’s Not Over – Another party track from the duo. Over an instrumental that has remnants of house spilled all over it, Sway drops cliché lines about making your body move to Tech’s beat. The song is pretty corny, but the female vocal sample on the hook gives it a nice soulful touch, that saves the song from being a complete lost.

Same Old Thang – For the last song of the evening, Tech sets the mood with a laid back piano loop and turns it into a dope instrumental with a very serious feel. Sway uses it to call out the biters and copycats in this here game (yep, they even existed back in 1991), but he sounds sleepy and stiff reciting his rhymes. No worries, Tech’s instrumental is nasty enough to keep you entertained by itself.

I have to admit that I wasn’t feeling optimistic going into listening to Concrete Jungle for the first time. I respect what both Sway and Tech have contributed to the culture, collectively and individually, but I just wasn’t sure what to expect from them musically. Even though it’s clumsily titled (being only two songs touch on the subject), Concrete Jungle is a pretty decent album. Some of Sway’s rhymes sound dated and stiff, but he still comes across as a serviceable emcee. Without question, it’s Tech’s production that truly carriers Concrete Jungle. There are a few missteps (i.e. his house/hip-hop fusion experiments) but sonically, Tech provides quality backdrops throughout Concrete Jungle, which makes me wonder why he wasn’t tapped to produce more artist’s songs after this project. It may be a footnote on their resume’s, but it not a bad debut. I would have been interested to hear what a follow-up project from the duo would have sounded like.

-Deedub

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Kool Moe Dee – Funke Funke Wisdom (June 11, 1991)

We last heard from Kool Moe Dee in 1991 with his third full-length release Knowledge Is King. You can read my thoughts on that album by clicking this link, but in a few words: Knowledge Is King was chalked full of mediocre rhymes and less than stellar production. Regardless of my opinion, the album earned Moe Dee his second consecutive gold plaque. Moe Dee would return in 1991 with his fourth release and very cheesily titled album, Funke Funke Wisdom.

Like the rest of his catalog, Moe Dee would handle a large chunk of the production with a few others contributing, including his long-time production collaborator, Teddy “New Jack Swing” Riley. Funke Funke Wisdom received mixed reviews and was a commercial disappointment that would end up being Moe Dee’s final album on Jive. He would release one more album on an independent label before going on to teach and write books where he would ridiculously proclaimed himself the 5th greatest emcee of all-time (see his book There’s A God On The Mic), two slots before his rival LL Cool J, who clearly one their battle and had a more successful career in the industry…but I digress.

Random  factoid: Did you know that Kool Moe Dee was the first rapper ever to perform life at the Grammy’s? The year was 1989, which was also the first year the Grammy’s gave out a hip-hop related Grammy. The award was for Best Rap Performance. Kool Moe Dee received a nomination for his hit record “Wild Wild West”, but DJ Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Prince would take home the award for their comedic classic “Parents Just Don’t Understand”.

IntroFunke Funke Wisdom begins with a Teddy Riley produced instrumental and soundbites from Kool Moe Dee placed over it, which are apparently supposed to explain the album title.

Funke Wisdom – The first official song of the evening is the title track (well, kind of the title track, just minus one of the “Funke”s) that sonically has Teddy Riley’s new jack swing fingerprints all over it. Moe Dee uses it to do just what the title suggest, as he discusses the ills that come with the pursuit of money, the importance of women in society, and the mathematics behind science and nature. Even though his last album was titled Knowledge Is King, on this song’s final verse he proclaims that “knowledge aint enough, you need funke, funke wisdom”. Contradiction or new-found enlightenment? Whatever the case, this was a decent way to start the evening.

Here We Go Again – Moe Dee starts off the song by basically warning the listeners that he’s going to purposely dumb down his flow for this song, because as he puts it, his “esoteric knowledge is a little too deep for the fans”. Our host raps like an underappreciated emcee with a boulder on his shoulder as he rhymes “my vocabulary’s over their head they can’t understand a word I said, so I got to come with a watered down sound, remedial adjectives, verbs and nouns”. His delivery might be dumbed down, but Moe Dee is still spittin’ bars on this one. The “Atomic Dog” influenced instrumental was trash, though.

To The Beat Y’all – Over a slightly up tempo instrumental, Moe Dee proves that he still has some potent rounds in his rhyming arsenal, as he bends his lyrics with a nimble tongue and pays respect to the old school, and still manages to sneak in a few quick jabs to his long time nemesis, LL Cool J. This was pretty cool, or should I say Kool. I know…I’m corny.

How Kool Can One Blackman Be – This was the lead single from Funke Funke Wisdom. Teddy Riley uses the same James Brown “Papa Don’t Take No Mess” loop that Biz first used for his classic record “Vapors”, and turns it into a smooth groove. Moe Dee then channels his inner Rakim and spits some pretty solid bars over it. I remember this song from back in the day, but definitely didn’t appreciate it as much as I do today. This is dope.

Bad, Bad, Bad – Moe Dee sticks with a subdue monotone flow, and like the previous song, it works in his favor. Our host spits more solid bars as he talks his shit over a tough instrumental, that he also produced. On the third verse it sounds like Moe Dee takes a few shots at his Treacherous Three brethren and admits to dumbing down his lyrics in order to make hits on his previous solo albums; but he still demands respect for helping blueprint the lyrical emcee: “but weak rappers and a lack of promotion, made the job hard I had to throw some, weak lyrics together just to get paid, go “See The Doctor” and I got played, the train continued to the “Wild Wild West”, I heard some brother say he aint the best (huh), well take the records that aint well-known, and look around and see all my clones”. Hmmm…interesting perspective. I like this one.

Rise N’ Shine – This was the third single from Funke Funke Wisdom. At the beginning of the song Moe Dee informs the listener that KRS-One and Chuck D will be joining him on this one. You start to think he made a mistake with that comment, as he spits three verses (the first two sound like Chuck D may have written them) before KRS-One and Chuck D round off the final two verses. I’m not a huge fan of Moe Dee’s basic instrumental for this one or his rhymes for that matter, but Mr. Parker lives up to the song title and walks away the illuminated champion of this one.

Mo’ Better – Teddy Riley’s new jack swing meets jazz on this short instrumental interlude. The instrumental is cool, but it feels like a random idea put on the album to fill up space.

I Like It Nasty– KMD might be an intellectual, but he still likes a woman with a mind and who knows how to work her behind. Our host builds his instrumental around the same Mtume loop Kid Capri would use a year later for Grand Puba’s “Back It Up” record. The instrumentals sound almost identical, so it must be Puba’s flow and charisma that bring his song to life, because I didn’t care much for this song.

Death Blow – This was the second single released from Funke Funke Wisdom. LL and Moe Dee had been feuding on record since the late eighties. This is the last dis record of that feud. In my opinion, the instrumental on a dis record is almost as important as the lyrics, and while this instrumental isn’t terrible it’s definitely not strong enough to effectively fire verbal darts at your enemy over. Moe Dee manages to land a few decent blows (i.e. “my lyrical beat down will leave ya in coma, cause you can’t hang without a high school diploma” and “if mama said knock me out come do it, you can’t win and that *scratch* knew it” (the *scratch* covers up “bitch” or “hoe” which kind of takes away from the line’s potency, but it’s still hi-larious)), but overall this was not a strong enough response to overcome the damage LL inflicted on “To Da Break Of Dawn”.

Let’s Get Serious – Moe Dee brings back his monotone Rakim style flow for this one, and he completely demolishes the self-produced backdrop. Well done, Mr. Dewese.

Poetic Justice – The first few times I listened to this song I wasn’t feeling it, but now I appreciate it. The Moe Dee/Keith Spencer/Dale Hogan instrumental will win you over in time, and Moe Dee spits some pretty nice bars too: “awaken, achen, taken codeine, now you’re trying to OD, cause you don’t want none of Moe Dee, pain relievers, won’t relieve ya, suicide won’t do it either, even after I cremate you, I’m a reincarnate you, bring you back for another round, just to put you back in the ground”. Talk your shit Moe Dee!

Gangsta Boogie – Moe Dee uses this one to call out those obsessed with the gangsta lifestyle. The instrumental (which is credited to the trio of Moe Dee, Keith Spencer and Dale Hogan) sounds a lot like BBD’s “I Thought It Was Me”, only not as potent. Overall, this song was decent, I guess.

Times Up – The last song on Funke Funke Wisdom is an exercise in mediocrity. And with that, we’re done.

On Funke Funke Wisdom, an aging Moe Dee proves that he still has a few rounds left in his lyrical holster. But only a few. For every song that he spits bars, there’s a song that he spits trash. And on the production side, for every dope instrumental, there’s three garbage ones. Funke Funke Wisdom is not a terrible listen, but it is very uneven, especially coming from the self-proclaimed 5th greatest emcee of all-time.

-Deedub

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Son Of Bazerk Featuring No Self Control And The Band – Bazerk, Bazerk, Bazerk (May 14, 1991)

Nineties hip-hop gave us several abstract artists and one-off projects, but no one project or group may have epitomized both those things more than the subject of today’s post, Son of Bazerk.

Son of Bazerk (government name: Tony Allen) and his 4 man crew (Almighty Jahwell, Daddy Rawe, Sandman and Half Pint) collectively known as No Self Control, were based out of Long Island, New York. SOB actually met Chuck D back in the early eighties when he was doing college radio (legend has it that SOB actually introduced Chuck D to his future partner in rhyme, Flava Flav). His relationship with Chuck would turn out to be an important key in getting his foot in the door, as it would help him build a connection with one of Public Enemy’s Bomb Squad production team members, Hank Shocklee. Shocklee (along with the other parts of the Bomb Squad) would help SOB with the demo tapes that would eventually lead to he and his crew signing a deal with MCA, where they would release their debut album Bazerk Bazerk Bazerk in the spring of 1991.

The album’s title pays homage to James Brown’s debut album Please, Please, Please and the artwork also pays respect to the Godfather of Soul (JB is also the first named SOB and the gang mention in the liner notes as a “musical and lyrical” influence for the album). The Bomb Squad (aka the band) would produce the entire album, and even though it didn’t sell a ton of units, it did receive positive reviews upon its release, and through the years, has developed a cult like following amongst fans.

I bought the album used a few months ago because a song that I absolutely loved back in the day was on it (more on that in a minute), and because I was curious how the Bomb Squad’s production would sound. This is my first time listening to Bazerk Bazerk Bazerk in its entirety, and I’m only familiar with a couple of the songs.

So, let’s see if it lives up to all it’s positive feedback.

The Band Gets Swivey On The Wheels – The first song of the evening finds Son of Bazerk mixing nursery rhymes, James Brown lingo and shit talk, all in around about way to introduce himself and his band to the world. I’m assuming “swivey” is another way of saying “busy” or “jiggy”, or insert what other slang term applies. Right from the jump you can tell that Son of Bazerk’s rhyme style was heavily influenced by his buddy, Chuck D, as he sound almost identical to him on this song. The Bomb Squad’s instrumental isn’t great, but the more times you listen to it, the better it sounds.

Part One – Over a less than spectacular instrumental, SOB continues to spit his bars and sound like a hybrid of James Brown and Chuck D.

Change The Style – This was the first single from Bazerk Bazerk Bazerk. The instrumental is centered around a James Brown soul vibe that randomly changes to reggae, doo-wop and rock at certain points, hence he name of the song. I didn’t care much for this song back in the day, but now I kind of get it. SOB continues to do his JB/Chuck D thing and actually succeeds in making the whole new-wave James Brown hip-hop fusion work. Questlove once put this song on his list of 50 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs. I wouldn’t go that far, but it is pretty dope.

One Time For The Rebel – The Bomb Squad lays down some tough guitar riffs over rough drums, as SOB, Daddy Rawe, and Almighty Jahwell take turns spitting over the fiery backdrop. None of them are great lyricists (although SOB did make me chuckle with his line “like Mack Daddy, drive a black Caddy, I’ll take slim you take fatty”), but they all manage to sound serviceable. The real star of this one is the monster instrumental, though.

What Could Be Better Bitch – I first heard this song on the Juice Soundtrack, that was actually released a few months after Bazerk Bazerk Bazerk. The Bomb Squad slides SOB hard stripped down drums, funky keys and a dark loop, that he puts to good use. No, he’s not a great lyricist, but his boomin’ vocal and swag, along with the catchy hook and nasty backdrop make this a certified banger…even if they left the question mark off the song title.

Bang (Get Down, Get Down)! – A brief break from our regularly scheduled program. Daddy Rawe showcases is struggling vocals, as he croons in an attempt to get a girl to go down on him, aka give him some head. Again, Daddy Rawe’s vocals are not good, and the lyrics, that sound like a bad freestyle, are even worse. On the bright side, the Bomb Squad’s melodic hyper-tempo instrumental turns out to be a pretty dope groove.

Trapped Inside The Rage Of Jahwell – As you might have guessed from the song title, this is an Almighty Jahwell solo joint. He uses the dark and raw backdrop to spit one verse before he gets the hell out of Dodge. He’s no Big Daddy Kane, but the instrumental was kind of enjoyable.

Sex, Sex & More Sex – SOB returns after taking a short break on the last two songs (technically, his break was only for one song, since he did spit a few muffled bars on “Bang (Get Down, Get Down)!”). He comes back in mack mode, throwing on his silk suit as he brags about having a pocket full of money and a 12″ cock, looking for a woman to spend it on and put it in, respectively. This was a fun song, and the instrumental was pretty slick,

N41 – SOB invites all of the crew to join him on this posse cut. Well, most of the crew. Jahwell, Daddy Rawe and Half-Pint all contribute verses, but Sandman never shows up to the party. I’m still trying to figure out how Sandman fits in this whole Son Of Bazerk/No Self Control equation…but I digress. It was mildly funny to hear the fellas block Half-Pint from getting her verse off , but she finally sneaks it in at the tail end of the song (and then you understand that her crew was probably trying to save her from embarrassing herself). Again, if you’re looking for memorizing lyricism from SOB and No Self Control, you’ve come to the wrong spot. The Bomb Squad makes this an entertaining listen with their super understated drums and a dark hypnotic bass line to fill in the tracks empty spots.

Are You Wit Me – SOB takes it back to the old school with this one as he pays homage to the early eighties emcee with his rhyme style. I like what he does with this one, but I like the Bomb Squad’s hard instrumental even more. I don’t like the fact they left out the question mark in the song title for the second time tonight.

J Dubs Theme –  The Bomb Squad slides our hosts a reggae-tinged backdrop, and SOB sounds identical to Chuck D on this one, as he rides the dope drums and thick bass line to perfection. Unfortunately, SOB lets Daddy Rawe sing, which derails the whole train.

Lifestyles Of The Blacks In The Brick – We’ve already gotten a chance to hear Daddy Rawe’s singing (I use the term loosely) on Bazerk Bazerk Bazerk, but this time around he gets a solo joint to display his bars, only. His rhymes and the instrumental are both trash; but on the bright side, his rhymes aren’t as bad as his singing.

Honesty – Speaking of Daddy Rawe and his bad singing, the Bomb Squad slides him a cheesy James Brown-esque funk track that he uses to beg his cheating woman to be honest about her infidelity. Again, he sounds like he’s making up his lyrics as he goes along, and his vocals reach new levels of horrible on this one. Terrible way to end Bazerk Bazerk Bazerk.

Bazerk Bazerk Bazerk starts off slow and ends on a downward spiral, but sandwiched in between the two is a uniquely enjoyable hip-hop experience. Son of Bazerk is far from a master wordsmith (and that’s even more true for his crew), and the whole Chuck D rhyme and vocal style is a bit much at times, but his strong raspy voice is entertaining when placed over the slew of quality Bomb Squad produced instrumentals (Bazerk Bazerk Bazerk would be the swan song for the Bomb Squad’s busy infinite samples per song style of production, which I’m sure was largely due to sample clearance issues and the excessive amounts of money artists and labels were beginning to request for sampling their shit). I get what Son of Bazerk and the Bomb Squad were aiming for on Bazerk Bazerk Bazerk: to pay homage to the Godfather of Soul while fusing his soulful sound with hard hitting hip-hop beats, without it sounding corny. And they succeed. Well done, gents…and lady. And can someone please tell me what the hell Sandman contributed to this album?

-Deedub

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Yo-Yo – Make Way For The Motherlode (March 19, 1991)

If you’re keeping track at home, place this one after Hypocrisy Is The Greatest Luxury.

Make Way For The Motherlode is the debut album from the South Central based female emcee, Yo-Yo. In my review of her second album Black Pearl, I explained how she got her start with a cameo on Ice Cube’s debut solo album. Feel free to read up on that in detail by clicking here. Moving on…

Ice Cube and his right hand production man Sir Jinx, would handle all the production for Make Way For The Motherlode. While Cube, his cousin, Del The Funky Homosapien and a few others would lend their pens to writing a large chunk of Yolanda’s rhymes. Make Way For The Motherlode didn’t earn Yo-Yo any plaques, but it was well received by the fans and critics, alike. I’ve never listened to Make Way For The Motherlode before this review and really have only heard the lead single that made some noise back in ’91 when it came out (more on that song in a bit).

Without further adieu, let’s get into Make Way For The Motherlode.

Stand Up For Your Rights – Before the late comedian Ricky Harris would play DJ EZ Dick from WBalls on Snoop Dogg’s classic debut album Doggystyle, he was first The Smooth One from 103.9787 on Yo-Yo’s Make Way For The Motherlode (there’s a great hip-hop trivia question). After he introduces himself, the interlude then bleeds into a mash-up of callers calling into the radio station asking Yo-Yo for advice, over a loop from Stevie Wonder’s “Too High”. This all sets up the next song…

Stompin’ To Tha 90’s – The first song of the evening begins with a Bomb Squad-esque busy up-tempo backdrop. Yo-Yo sounds fresh and hungry (Del receives the writing credit for this one), as she introduces herself to the world over the energetic groove. Nice way to kick things off.

You Can’t Play With My Yo-Yo – This was the lead single from Make Way For The Motherlode. Yo-Yo’s out to let anyone within earshot know that she’s not to be played with, and Ice Cube drops a co-sign as he handles hook duties. Cube and Jinx tap Earth, Wind & Fire’s classic “Devotion” record for the backdrop, and Hammi Wave adds some additional live instrumentation to make this sound even fresher, sonically. This song sounds as fresh today as it did nearly thirty years ago.

Cube Gets Played – Another short interlude with The Smooth One from 103.9787.

Put A Lid On It – Our host uses this one to warn her sisters to use protection when sexin’, before they wind up pregnant by a man who only wanted to smash and dash. Not a great song, but Yo-Yo’s rhymes and the Cube/Jinx instrumental sounds decent.

What Can I Do? – Before Def Jef would sample Gwen McCrae’s “90% Of Me” for fellow-female (is that an oxymoron?) rapper Boss’ dark classic record “Deeper”, Cube and Jinx would loop it up to help create this smooth backdrop for our host. Yo-Yo rides the instrumental nicely, and her mentor, Ice Cube, even stops by to lend his apprentice a vintage Cube verse, turning this into an entertaining affair. The live keys and bass over the McCrae loop give the song a nice jazz feel, which I found very enjoyable.

Dedication – This Short interlude has L.A. Jay calling in a song request to the Smooth One. Apparently, the Smooth One is a not only a radio host but also a mind reader, as he’s able to know what song L.A. Jay is requesting without Jay ever verbalizing what he wanted to hear. Ricky Harris, I mean, The Smooth One then proceeds to provide a little comic relief before introducing the next song…

Sisterland – Yo-Yo dedicates this one to her sister girls. She big ups herself and then calls for sisterhood, before warning her girls to watch out for the no good dogs out there. Cube and Jinx up-tempo backdrop is decent, but Yo-Yo struggles to find her footing on the track and ends up sounding rushed and out of breath by the end of the song.

The I.B.W.C. National Anthem – Cube and Jinx hook up a super smooth and melodic backdrop that sounds nothing like what I’m accustom to hearing from The Lench Mob. Yo-Yo lets her girls Diamond, Sparkles and Dawn (which all sound like strippers names except for Dawn) get a little mic time and speak on the IBWC’s purpose, or something like that. Yo-Yo then spits one short and sweet verse (I love her line “trying to ignore me is like you’re playing yourself, because if it wasn’t for woman you’d be laying yourself”) before getting the hell out of Dodge.

Make Way For The Motherlode – The title track finds Yo-Yo, once again, struggling to keep up with the frantic pace of the track, as her clarity, breath control and stamina are put to the test throughout this song. And she ultimately fails.

Tonight’s The Night – Yo-Yo invites her guest Dazzie Dee to join her on this duet. Her guest (who is also credit for writing the whole song) plays a horny young cat, who may be sincere about his feeling for Yo-Yo (or maybe his hormones are confusing his true feelings and intent), trying to convince her that the time is right for them to take their intimacy to the next level. Aka smash. Throughout the song, Dee gives reasons why they should have sex, and an unsure Yo-Yo questions and challenges him with her rebuttals. Brilliantly, the song ends without a resolution. I wasn’t a big fan of the uncredited vocalist on the hook, but the instrumental compliments Yo-Yo and Dazzie Dee’s conversation, pretty well.

I Got Played – Cube and Jinx jack the bass line from one of my favorite Bill Withers’ songs “Who Is He (And What Is He To You)?”, that Yo-Yo uses to recall with great detail, the time she fell for a dude who was just out to hit it and quit it. She gets a little tongue-tied during the middle of the song, but overall Yolanda does a pretty solid job with the storyline, and keeps it entertaining.

Girl, Don’t Be No Fool – Sticking with the getting played theme, our host warns the ladies to watch out for all those cheatin’ and beatin’ dogs out there, which seems to be a reoccurring theme on Make Way For The Motherlode. Not a bad song, just not as good as the last few songs.

Ain’t Nobody Better – The song begins with The Smooth One asking Yo-Yo how she feels about all her female competitors, and she spends the length of this song trying to stake her claim in this hip-hop game. Jinx and Cube mix a loop from Funkadelic’s “(Not Just) Knee Deep” (a loop that Dr. Dre would soon fall head over heals for) with a vocal sample from Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody” and turn it into a solid backdrop.

Outro – The Smooth One makes his final appearance of the evening on this outro, which then leads into the next outro…

More Of What Can I Do – Sister Yolanda brings back the instrumental from “What Can I Do?” and lets Sir Jinx give his list of shoutouts. And we out.

With the exception of a few songs (i.e. “Sisterland” and the title track), Make Way For The Motherlode is a decent to solid debut from sister Yo-Yo. She tends to spend a little too much time focused on foul men and relationships, but thanks to Cube and Jinx consistently solid production, Make Way For The Motherlode entertains, even when are host doesn’t.

-Deedub

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Father MC – Father’s Day (October 15, 1990)

New addition. It you’re keeping track at home, place this one after Paris’s The Devil Made Me Do it.

From the mid-eighties to early nineties, Uptown Records was a force to be reckoned with. The New York City based label, founded by Andre Harrell, would give the world some of the best R&B acts of the era, such as: Guy, Al B. Sure, Mary J Blige and Jodeci. Harrell would also help groom another soon to be music mogul, Sean “Puffy” Combs, who got his start as an intern at Uptown. Though r&b was clearly Uptown’s foundation, like every other label, they couldn’t ignore the growing success and popularity of hip-hop that was still relatively new in the late eighties. With the success of Heavy D & The Boyz and their rhymes over heavily r&b influenced tracks, it was only a matter of time before Uptown added more rappers to their roster. Puffy would actually discover Uptown’s next rap act, Father MC, who would release his debut album, Father’s Day in the fall of 1990.

Most of the production on Father’s Day would be handled by the production team of Mark Rooney and a third of the Fat Boys, Mark “Prince Markie D” Morales, who both helped write songs for some of the other Uptown acts. Father’s Day would produce a couple of mild hits for Father, but didn’t earn the parental emcee any plaques. Father MC would go on to release two more albums on the Uptown imprint (including his second release Close To You, which you can read my thoughts on by clicking here), before leaving (or being dropped) the label and releasing a bunch irrelevant independent releases that no one has ever heard.

By the way, Father’s Day might have the corniest (and/or softest) artwork of all time. But I digress.

I’ll Do 4 U – This was the second single from Father’s Day. Mark Rooney and Prince Markie Dee (who I’ll refer to as M&M from here on out) tap Cheryl Lynn’s classic “Got To Be Real” for the instrumental, and Father MC begins his career as a r&b rapper. Most importantly, this song would introduce the world to the woman who would soon become the Queen of hip-hop soul, Mary J Blige, as she takes care of hook duties (Blackstreet’s lead singer Dave Hollister is credited for background vocals on this song as well, but after listening to this song several times over, I still don’t hear his voice, or any other male voice singing on this one). Father’s rhymes are corny, but you can’t go wrong with a loop from one the greatest r&b songs of all time and Mary J on the hook.

Treat Them Like They Want To Be Treated – This was the lead single from Father’s Day. This time around Father relives the times when he mistreated the ladies in his life and vows going forward, to treat all his female counterparts with the respect that he would like to be treated with. M&M’s instrumental is standard nineties Uptown New Jack Swing, which didn’t age well. Our host doesn’t help matters with his mediocre rhyme scheme. On the bright side, Father does introduce the world to half of the nineties bad boy r&b sensation, Jodeci, as the Hailey boys, Jo-Jo and K-Ci, sing the hook on this one.

Lisa Baby – This might be the worst hip-hop song (I used the term loosely) ever constructed. Father MC spends the entirety of his verses talking about his ex-girl, Lisa, and how she played him. I mean, this girl was so ratchet she tried to get with his cousin. But the uncredited male voices on the hook are crooning “If she (aka Lisa) wants my love” that he’ll “be there for her”. Wtf? Beside the poorly thought out content, M&M’s cheesy new jack swing backdrop only makes matters worse.

Tell Me Something Good – Fresh Gordon loops up a portion of Rufus’ classic record with the same title, and Father tries to convince some lady that he is the shit and she should give him a shot. I’m not sure what the hook has to do with his lyrics (and Father hi-lariously mispronounces Teddy Pendergrass’ last name as “Pendergrath”), but whatever. Gordon’s instrumental is okay, but lyrically, Father brings nothing worthwhile to the table.

I Come Correct – Father MC takes a break from the love raps and attempts to show the world that he’s a viable emcee. M&M hook up an interpolation of Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You” to create the smooth backdrop, and Father follows its lead with his delivery, which helps mask his lyrical deficiencies. All in all, this was decent.

I’ve Been Watching You – Lady Kazan joins Father on this one, as our host feeds his guest pick-up lines that she shoots down for the entire song. Think Positive K’s “I Got A Man” or MC Lyte’s “Excuse Me Miss” (which also featured Positive K), only not as good.

Ain’t It Funky – M&M lay down a funky instrumental for our host, as he tries his damnedest to serve justice to it. He drops a couple of curses, makes another reference to Aaron Hall, and tries his best to spit battle bars, but he comes up way short. I’ll give him an “E” for effort, though.

Father’s Day – The song opens with a slick loop taken from the theme song of the seventies tv series “Police Woman”, and some dude saying “Everybody thinks Father MC is on the R&B tip”, which I’m confused why he’s surprised by that thought, since Father has clearly been spilling love raps over New Jack Swing beats for most of the previous eight songs, not to mention the album’s cover, that screams “soft r&b”. Father picks up where he left off at on “Ain’t It Funky”, minus the forced curses, but the same results. I’m still trying to figure out why he thought “I’ll burn a brother like a condominium” was a clever metaphor. The best part of this song is the “Police Woman” loop that thankfully, Howie Tee brings back during the hook. Stick to the love raps, Pops.

Dance 4 Me – Complete trash.

Why U Wanna Hurt Me – And more trash.

Father’s Day is both a presumptuous statement from Father MC (come to think of it, so is his moniker) and an insult to the actually holiday. You’re better off with just buying the singles of the first two songs, because everything after that is mediocre or straight trash, similar to Father’s bars. Unlike his Uptown contemporary, Heavy D, who was able to garner a bit of street cred from his peers and fans and gain respect as a legitimate emcee and entertainer, Father MC will forever be remembered as the r&b rapper once signed to Uptown Records that had Jodeci and Mary J Blige sing hooks on his biggest hits, and had Puffy Daddy as an executive producer on two of his albums.

-Deedub

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sir Mix-A-Lot – Swass (September 1, 1988)

Added this one to the collection a few months ago. Place this one after Marley Marl’s In Control Vol. 1. 

When discussing Seattle hip-hop, the only name you can truly give credit to for putting the city on the map is Sir-Mix-A-Lot. Dating back to the mid-eighties, Anthony Ray was putting in work and making a name for himself on the streets of Seattle. In 1988 he would release his self-produced debut album, Swass, on his Nastymix label (it, along with Seminar, would later be re-released on Rick Rubin’s Def American imprint, after Mix-A-Lot signed and release his Mack Daddy album on the label).

According to Mix-A-Lot, Swass was just an inside joke with no real meaning, but after the album was released it became an acronym for “some wild ass silly shit”. When Mix-A-Lot talks about Swass in the liner notes, it sounds like he may have been taking jabs at LL Cool J and his BAD album (which was an acronym for “Bigger and Deffer”) as it reads “SWASS is bigger than big, badder than bad, smoother than smooth, and definitely deffer than def.” The meaning of the title may be up for debate, but there is no question that Swass was a commercial success, as it would go on to earn Sir Mix-A-Lot a platinum plaque.

This is my first time listening to Swass. Hopefully it’s more big, bad and def, than it is some wild ass silly shit.

Buttermilk Biscuits (Keep On Square Dancin’)Swass opens with a stripped down drum beat and Sir Mix-A-Lot rapping as his chipmunk-voice-redneck alter ego, about…buttermilk biscuits? Straight corn.

Posse On Broadway – Before “Beepers”, and later his monster pop hit that will forever live on some radio station’s mid-day old school mix, “Baby Got Back”, there was “Posse On Broadway”. This is the song that introduced me to Sir Mix-A-Lot’s nasal delivery and comical storytelling. Over sparse instrumentation Mix-A-Lot shares how he and his posse roll in Seattle on any given night. Classic record, and the video for the song is even more classic.

Gold – Although I don’t think it was intentional, Mix-A-Lot makes a socially conscious statement with this song: On the first and second verses he talks about his lust for gold chains and the price he and his crew are willing to pay for the flossy ropes. Then on the final verse, he and his crew stick up another crew to quench their thirst for the precious metals. It’s a testament to how being too materialistic can drive you to do some crazy things. If Mix-A-Lot could have created a stronger instrumental to go along with his content this song could have been a lot more impactful.

Swass -The title song finds Mix-A-Lot boasting and bragging about all the things he has that make him so “swass”. Mix-A-Lot’s braggadocious rhymes lose their vigor thanks to the long pauses in between each line. Plus, the instrumental is super cheesy, rendering this song as trash. I did find it interesting that the hook from this song would later be borrowed by the Pussycat Dolls for the hook of their mega hit record “Don’t ‘Cha” (which I also recently learned was written and produced by CeeLo Green). I hope Mix-A-Lot got paid for letting them use that one.

Rippin’ – Mix-A-Lot invites his redneck alter ego and his buddy Kid Sensation (he was the one that “dropped the twenty and didn’t even miss it” on “Posse On Broadway”) to join him on this one. Our host and Kid Sensation actually sound pretty decent together. Speaking of “Rippin'”, Mix-A-Lot rips this instrumental from JJ Fads “Supersonic” and shows no shame. All in all, a decent song.

Attack On The Stars – I’m under the assumption that each of Mix-A-Lot’s verses on this song are aimed at other celebrated rappers of that era. I’m not sure which rappers he talking about, but I’m super curious as to who he’s referring to on the second verse when he says: “What about this other group, dressed like GQ? Yeah, I’m talkin’ to you, you call yourself rappers, crack another joke, you old smoker, take another tote, you bought ‘caine back in San Diego, I saw it when you put it on the table”. If you know, hit me in the comments. Overall, the song is okay and makes for decent filler material.

Mall Dropper – For this short interlude, an uncredited male voice drops a quick riddle about Mix-A-Lot droppin’ a “big hammer” on the “Northwest tip” and how he’s “reading the mail”. I got nothing out of it, but whatever.

Hip-Hop Soldier – Mix-A-Lot lays down a synth heavy backdrop with poppin’ drums and a deep bass line, and it actually sounds pretty damn good. Mix-A-Lot’s booming vocal also sounds good over the instrumental, as he delivers arguably, the strongest rhymes that I’ve ever heard him spit on record.

Iron Man – Our host puts a hip-hop twist on the classic Black Sabbath song with the same name. He invites Craig Wells from the Seattle metal band, Metal Church, to play the rough guitar riffs live on this one. I’m sure Mix-A-Lot was going for an Aerosmith/Run DMC “Walk This Way” crossover hit, but ultimately it fails.

Bremelo – Fat, ugly and dumb are the main characteristics of the type of woman Mix-A-Lot refers to as a bremelo, and he spends the length of this song dogging her out. As sensitive as America is now, there is no way on earth that a song like this would get released in this day and age. It probably shouldn’t have seen the light of day back in ’88, either. This song is garbage.

Square Dance Rap – Our host’s Redneck alter ego gets one more solo joint. This time he takes his redneckness to new heights and raps about exactly what the song title suggest. And it actually sounds worse than it reads.

Romantic Interlude – Well, I don’t know if this qualifies as an interlude, as it goes on for over four and a half minutes. I also don’t know if I’d call it romantic. More like creepy, since who ever the guy is doing the spoken word piece sounds like a stalker masturbating and talking to himself while looking at pics of the woman he’s obsessed with. Regardless, it’s a hot mess.

F The BSSwass ends with Sir-Mix-A-Lot in battle mode as he screams on a local Seattle artist that he must have been beefin’ with at the time. Thanks to whoever pissed him off, cause it helped Mix-A-Lot create a pretty decent song to close the album.

I’ll keep this brief. Swass has a few shining moments but the bulk of it is trash. The production is too stripped down, Mix-A-Lot’s not a consistent enough emcee to entertain for an entire album and there’s too much corn and silly shit going on.

-Deedub

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment