Show & AG -Goodfellas (May 30, 1995)

We last heard from Showbiz & AG in 1992 with their debut album Runaway Slave. The album helped lay the foundation for the well-respected Diggin’ In The Crates crew and many hailed it as a classic. But even if you don’t agree with the classic labeling (like myself), there’s no denying that it was a solid debut from the Bronx-based duo. The twosome would return in late spring of ’95 with their sophomore effort, Goodfellas.

Showbiz (who dropped the “biz” and was simply going as “Show” by this point) would produce the bulk of Goodfellas with an occasional assist from a few of his friends. To no one’s surprise, Goodfellas wasn’t a commercial success (I’m pretty sure no album released on Payday has been a commercial success), but it did receive positive reviews from the critics.

I bought Goodfellas when it came out, but haven’t listened to it in years, and other than the lead single I don’t remember much about it. Let’s see how this goes.

Never Less Than Ill – Our hosts kick things off with a rugged piano loop spread over hard stripped-down drums that AG uses to talk his shit over one long verse. This was a nice warm up track. And I love the song title.

You Know Now – Show sticks with the dark vibes from the opening track and provides another dim, but solid backdrop. AG continues to spew his braggadocio rhymes, and it sounds like he may have been taking a shot at someone with his line: “so burn baby burn, it’s the year of the only little big man, so wait your turn”. Subliminal or not, this was a cool record.

Check It Out – Show lays a sick xylophone loop over tough boom bap drums, and if that wasn’t enjoyable enough, he then brings in a beautiful string break during the hook. AG turns in a solid performance, but Show’s masterful production work does the heavy lifting on this one.

Add On – The first cipher joint of the evening features Lord Finesse (who is also responsible for the instrumental), AG and D-Flow sharing the microphone. I didn’t hate this one, but everything about it is just middle of the road.

Next Level (Nyte Time Mix) – This is the remix to the album’s first single. Premo lays down a thumpin’ bass line and adds a splash of this and a sprinkle of that, resulting in a certified banger that’s very suitable for midnight marauding. It’s always weird to me when an artist puts the remix of a song before the original mix in the album’s sequencing, but Premo’s groove is so infectious, I’ll let it ride.

Time For – DJ Roc Raida is credited for this boring backdrop. AG does the best he can with it, but he can’t even rescue this underwhelming record. The wordy hook and the abrupt way the song ends are just salt in the open wound.

Got The Flava – The second cipher cut of the evening features: AG, Party Arty, Wali World (sometimes spelled “Wally World”, depending on where you read it in the liner notes. I’ve never understood why whoever is responsible for writing the liner notes doesn’t double check with the artists to make sure they’re spelling their aliases correctly), D-Flow and a super unexpected verse from Method Man. Meth may have turned in the most unimpressive eight bars of his career on this one (which also awkwardly ends the song), but I like the rawness and ruggedness of the instrumental (which is credited to Show, AG and Black Sheep’s lead man, Dres).

Neighbahood Sickness – The first minute of this one is a super slick instrumental groove. Then our hosts switch it up to a slightly less pleasing backdrop that AG and Party Arty use to tag team the mic. It makes for a solid filler joint.

All Out -Very blah song with a terrible hook.

Medicine – This instrumental is the audio equivalent of what I would imagine heroin feels like when shooting it into your arm. Show makes his only verbal appearance on Goodfellas, as he helps with the hook at the end of the song. The song sounds like a demo, but I kind of dig the drowsy backdrop.

I’m Not The One – AG uses this very average instrumental to kick one quick verse about an old homie and a chick named Bonita, and explains how an attempted robbery turns into a double homicide. This was a strange storyline and an unnecessary filler track that sounds like an incomplete idea.

Got Ya Back – Show lays down a mellow melodic almost melancholic instrumental for AG and Wally World to tag team the mic and pledge their allegiance to their brotherhood. This is definitely one of my favorites on Goodfellas.

Next Level – As I mentioned earlier, this was the album’s lead single (come to think of it, it might have been the only single from Goodfellas). Show builds a brilliant soundscape around a thick sexy bass line and cinematic-like chords that AG uses to represent lovely for the Bronx: “Fake Lords, get strangled with mic chords, takin’ beats from my LP, sure aint healthy, Patterson Projects is where I rest, but I claim the whole planet, cause its mine goddammit, I’m God!”. I love Premo’s subdued “Nyte Time” remix, but the warm energy and vibes from Show’s instrumental is undeniable.

You Want It – For the final song of the evening, our hosts invite fellow DITC crew member, Diamond D to the party, as he shares the mic with AG and Party Arty. I didn’t care much for this one…and why didn’t Big L make a cameo on Goodfellas?

Goodfellas has a darker feel than its predecessor. Showbiz Show still uses jazzy loops, but the instrumentals have dimmer vibes and sound simpler than his production work on Runaway Slave, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. AG’s wordplay and word connection have definitely improved since Runaway Slave, and with Show parking his mic and focusing solely on production, AG does a solid job holding down the majority of the microphone duties by himself. Goodfellas biggest issue is the handful of songs that sound like incomplete ideas or rough drafts, but overall, it still makes for a decent listen. And I still want to know why Big L didn’t get a verse off on the album.

-Deedub

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1 Way – Destination Unknown (May 30, 1995)

I have a feeling this release date is wrong (I think it may have originally came out in ’94), but whatever. I’m rolling with it. 

Proverb, 2-Edge, Sweet-P and D-Love make up the four man crew known as 1 Way. The Tampa, Florida based foursome’s name is a direct reference to their overall message and purpose: Jesus is the only way (or the one way) to eternal life. I became hip to One Way back in ’99/’00 during my well-documented soul searching period (which also happens to be the name of a great Average White Band record and album), when I discovered their sophomore effort, SoulJourn. I thought it was a solid album, so several years later when I found their debut album Destination Unknown in the used cd dollar bins at Pawn America, I scooped it like Ice cream (peace to Big Daddy Kane).

Destination Unknown was released on a small independent label called Intersounds and distributed by Benson Music Group to Christian Book Stores around the globe. AJ Weir, DJ Mike Fury and the lead emcee of 1 Way, Proverb (which is a dope emcee alias) would handle all the production on the album. I bought Destination Unknown at least 10 years ago, but haven’t listened to it until now.

I pray (no pun intended) that Destination Unknown’s corny cover artwork isn’t an early indication to how bad the album is.

Intro – The album opens with a voice that is supposed to be that of Jesus, saying what he said to his disciples in John 14:6 (“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me”). I know 1 Way was just trying to explain the concept of the group’s name and the album title, but the distortion in the voice playing Jesus, almost sounds demonic.

Colorblind – The first song of the evening finds Proverb denouncing white supremist groups (i.e. the Arian Nation and the KKK) and stressing the importance of racial harmony amongst all men. For some reason Proverb decided to scream his way through his rhymes, which grows annoying by the end of his first verse. I struggle with the term “colorblind” when used in the context of racism, as there is nothing wrong with recognizing someone’s skin color and background. Along with gender and age, it’s one of the first things you subconsciously notice about a person when you meet them. The problem is not noticing or recognizing color or race, but mistreating people because of it. And on that note, let me get off my soapbox. Oh yeah…the song. I appreciate the sentiment, but I wasn’t feeling this one.

Work It (The Right Way) – I’m pretty sure this song was recorded around ’94. But Mike Fury’s instrumental and 2-Edge’s rhymes sound like it was made in the mid-eighties. And that’s not a compliment.

No Sellout (Jazz Mix) – AJ Weir hooks up a funky little bop for Proverb to flex over, as he proclaims his allegiance to Jesus Christ, whom he’ll never sellout. Prov has a few shaky moments on the mic (like when he says “If I was a tap dancer I’d be the Sandman”), but all in all, he turns in a serviceable performance, and the song ends up being decent.

Tales From Da Darkside – The darkside (or “darksyde”, depending on where you read the song title on the liner notes) that Proverb and D-Love are talking about is the hood. The two share hood stories that all end negatively, except for Proverb’s testimony: he shares that his focus on academics helped him escape the traps laid before him in the Tampa streets. Proverb’s haunting backdrop matches he and D-Love’s content, well.

Destination Unknown – On this title track Proverb and 2-Edge are asking the listener to consider where they’ll go after death: Either eternal life in heaven with Jesus and ’em or eternal damnation burning in a lake of fire with Lucifer and his imps. It must have been to expensive for the label to clear the sample of Barry White’s classic “I’m Gonna Love You Just A Little More Baby” record, as Mike Fury taps John Semsic to replay portions of it for the instrumental. It still sounds decent, just as Alfreda Gerald’s vocals on the hook and adlibs do. But Prov and 2-Edge spit unimpressive rhymes and fail to drive their message home.

Posers – Proverb calls out studio Christians (aka posers) over a low quality Mike Fury produced backdrop. This was really bad.

It’s Alright Ta Get Hype – Mike Fury’s instrumental sounds like a poor man’s version of the backdrop for Big Daddy Kane’s “Nuff Respect Due”. Proverb uses the up-tempo beat to spit his strongest bars of the evening up to this point.

Turn It Up – Proverb and Sweet P spit g-rated rhymes as they encourage the listen to “turn up the funky, funky sound”. Speaking of funky, Proverb combines a funky guitar loop (that reminds me a lot of Brand New Heavies’ “Dream Come True”) with a dope horn sample placed over busy drums, which makes for a pretty enjoyable instrumental.

Step 2 Tha Positive – 1 Way uses this one to motivate the listener to choose positive over negative, if the choice is presented. The rhymes are decent, but the ill Middle Eastern flavored flute loop the instrumental is built around is the real star of this song. This is easily the strongest song on Destination Unknown.

Viktim Of Tha Sindrome – Get it: sin-drome? This is pretty much 2-Edge’s version of “Tales From Da Darkside”. Proverb’s instrumental is decent, but 2-Edge sounds horrible on the mic.

Mic Check -This may be the most pointless interlude in the history of hip-hop albums.

No Sellout (Ruffnek Mix) – Ironically, 1 Way calls this remix the “Ruffnek Mix”, even though it sounds just as jazzy as the “Jazz Mix”. The instrumental is cool, but whoever they have re-rapping Proverb’s rhymes from the first mix, sounds annoying as hell with his whiny vocal tone.

Smile 4 Awhile – Once again, Mike Fury’s instrumental and 1 Way’s bars sound like they jumped in the DeLorean and went back to 1982. And with that, Final Destination, I mean, Destination Unknown is complete.

On Destination Unknown, 1 Way sounds like four individuals whose love for Jesus and hip-hop brought them together to form a group and make an album. The only problem is they were so rough around the edges at this point that they make sandpaper look smooth. Destination Unknown has a few bright spots on the production side, but even those limited moments aren’t great. Most of the rhymes and instrumentals sound antiquated by mid-nineties standards, making this fourteen track length album tough to listen to from beginning to end. I have a soft spot in my heart for gospel rap, but this is an early candidate for worst album of the year. Thank God for second chances.

-Deedub

 

 

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Beastie Boys – Root Down EP (May 23, 1995)

In May of 1994, the Beastie Boys dropped their 4th album, Ill Communication (you can read my thoughts on that album right here). The album was a commercial success (to date it has sold over 3 million copies) that produced four singles: “Sabotage”, “Get It Together”, “Sure Shot” and “Root Down”. For one reason or another, the Beastie Boys and/or the label (Capitol) thought it would be a good idea to make a whole EP around the “Root Down” single, and here we are. The EP would include three different versions of “Root Down” and a handful of live performances that the liner notes say were recorded in Europe, in the winter of ’95.

Those who read this blog on a regular basis already know how I feel about the Beastie Boys. So needless to say, I’m not super excited going into this one, but when it comes to the music, I’m a completionist, so I’m determined to see my way through the Beasties’ catalog.

Even when the catalog includes obvious money grabs like this EP.

Root Down (Free Zone Mix) – I briefly mentioned this remix in my Ill Communication post. The Prunes hook up a tough backdrop that even makes the BB’s rhymes sound stronger. This mix is way better than the o.g. mix, and might even be one of my favorite Beastie records.

Root Down (LP) – Speaking of the o.g mix, the Beasties decide to place the LP version right after the “Free Zone Mix”. Its pretty dope, just not as dope as the previous version.

Root Down (PP Balloon Mix) – Our hosts give Prince Paul a chance to remix “Root Down” with this one. Unfortunately, his instrumental is super dull and winds up being the weakest of the three mixes on the EP.

Time To Get Ill – The Beasties go back and revisit the title track from their debut album. They replace the basic drum beat in the original with a dark moody groove for this live rendition, and the musical facelift actually makes it sound better.

Heart Attack Man – Here’s another one from the Ill Communication album that the Beasties perform live. I wasn’t a fan of the album version and I’m not feeling this one either.

The Maestro – This one was on the Check Your Head album. I prefer the album version to this live mash up, but the go-go break in the middle of the song was kind of dope. Are they saying sardines and pork and beans?

Sabrosa – The BBs recreate this instrumental jam session from Ill Communication and it sounds just as good live as it did on the album.

Flute Loop – This live version plays just like the Ill Communication mix. Which I liked, but it doesn’t bring anything new to the table.

Time For Livin’ – Live version that sounds just like the album version on Check Your Head. 

Something’s Got To Give – See comments from “Time For Livin'”.

Like I mentioned in the opening, this project was an obvious money grab, and to make an entire EP around a single from another album is overkill. The crown jewel of the EP is the opening “Root Down (Free Zone Mix)”, but after that you can basically listen to Ill Communication and Check Your Head to get the same results as the live versions on this EP. The Root Down EP is actually a decent listen, but with the exception of three songs (“Root Down (Free Zone Mix)”, “Time To Get Ill” and “The Maestro”), it doesn’t bring anything new or worthwhile to the table. But if this is your first introduction to the Beastie Boys music, you’ll appreciate it more.

-Deedub

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Various Artists – The D&D Project ( May 23, 1995)

It could be said that D&D Studios was to east coast hip-hop in the nineties what Hitsville USA was to Motown in the sixties and seventies. Founded by Douglas Grama and David Lotwin (hence the studio’s name), the New York City based studio would become the recording home for some of hip-hop’s greatest producers and produce several classic records by Black Moon, Gang Starr, Nas, Jay-Z and Biggie, just to name a few. To celebrate the studio’s legendariness, the powers that be thought it would be a good idea to release a compilation album matching some of hip-hop’s “phattest producers” with some of the “hottest new MCs” (that’s what the sticker on the album cover reads). The album would be released on Arista, and simply be titled: The D&D Project.

The lead single from The D&D Project made some underground noise, but to no one’s surprise, the album wasn’t a commercial success, though it did receive positive reviews from the critics. I don’t think I bought The D&D Project back in the day, but I’m sure a buddy of mine bought it and I listened to it through him. A few years ago, I found a used cd copy for a dollar at one of the music stores I frequent, but haven’t listened to until now. The only thing I remember about The D&D Project from back in the day is the lead single.

Hopefully that doesn’t mean the album was so garbage that I subconsciously blocked it out of my memory.

1,2 Pass It –  The first song of the evening was also the lead single and features the D&D All-Stars (Mad Lion, Doug E Fresh, KRS-One, Fat Joe, Smif N Wessun and Jeru The Damaja) rhyming over some dope Premo produced boom bap. KRS-One easily shines the brightest on this one, displaying the skills that make him one of the greatest to ever do it.

Look Alive – Representin’ Jersey, Big C gets a chance to shine, as she spits over a solid Diamond D backdrop. She doesn’t sound bad, but I’d have to hear more material to get a better feel of how good she really is. Side note: She gives a shout out to “Ali and A Tribe Called Quest” in the liner notes (Tribe Degrees of Separation: check).

Act Up – Da Beatminerz produce this dusty moody groove for new comer, Ill Breed to flex his grimy style over. Ill Breed does a decent job on the mic, but Da Beatminerz dope backdrop is the true star of this one.

Da Good Die Young – N-Tense raps about dying young and invites his friend, Big Rallo, to chime in on the subject as well. Apparently, the instrumental (which is credited to a Tom Kuhns and a co-production credit going to Kurtis Small) was mixed by Dres (from Black Sheep), which is why his name appears across the front of the album artwork. All in all, this was decent.

Stone To The Bone – Big Jaz, who some of you may know as Jaz-O and Jay-Z’s former mentor (the guy responsible for Hov’s “Hawaiian Sophie” fame that Nas mentioned in “Ether”) gets a solo joint. Groovy Lou builds the slick backdrop around an ill jazzy piano loop (although, Showbiz is credited for remixing it, so I don’t know who actually made this version) that Jaz uses to spill his slick street rhymes over. Jaz reminds me a lot of how Jay-Z sounded during his Reasonable Doubt days. This is a hidden gem that just might be the strongest song on The D&D Project.

From Within Out – Guru (RIP) hooks up a decent instrumental and introduces the world to Fabidden Fruit. Similar to Guru, Fabidden Fruit has a monotone flow, but with a raspy twist, as if he smoked two packs of Newports before the session. The song could use a better mix, as the music almost drowns out Fabidden Fruit’s vocal, but the dude can actually spit.

Get Up – DJ Mark the 45 King cooks up a solid jazz-tinged bop for the Maniac Mob to wild out over. This one sounds better every time I listen to it.

Just A Little Flava – Nikki Nikole loops up Isaac Hayes’ classic record “The Look Of Love” for the two man crew, II Unorthodox (Sid and Chase) to spit on and live up to their name. Over the course of three verses the duo manages to rap like babies, share their best Sammy Davis Jr. impersonation, rap underwater, imitate Snagglepuss, rhyme in Japanese, rap through a sneeze attack and mimic Freddy Krueger. What just happened here? I don’t mind a little animation in my rap, but these dudes would make Humpty Hump blush. More importantly, how do you sample this Isaac Hayes record and not include the stabbing horn break (dun! dun!) in the song, Nikki? Everything about this song left me scratching my head.

Blowin’ Up The Spot – After rockin’ the shit out of the opening track “1,2 Pass It”, KRS-One returns to get his only production credit on The D&D Project. Unfortunately, his instrumental isn’t nearly as dope as his verse was on the opening song. And to add insult to injury, the rapper, Ill Will is godawful. He kind of sounds like Rev Run mixed with Sonny Seeza (from Onyx). Wait…did he really just force “yo” to rhyme with “gold”?

Rude Boy – I like O.E.’s instrumental (which according to the liner notes was mixed by Funk Master Flex), but I’m not a fan of the Night Dwellers’ (Rock and Gusto) manufactured Onyx energy mixed with drab dancehall vibes.

Nine Inches Hard – Rookie female emcee, Juice, gets a joint on The D&D Project. T.R. Love aka Da Funk Ignitor (and one-fourth of Ultramagnetic MCs) gets credit for the smooth backdrop that Juice uses to compare her 9mm to a cock. And I’ll tell ya: guns have never sounded so sexy.

Mental Illness – The final song of the evening goes to a duo called 2 Mental (Bad News and Fatal), which I have to give props to for the clever play on words in the song title. The two man crew turn in slightly entertaining psychopathic plagued verses over a solid jazzy Latin-tinged instrumental, courtesy of Louie “Phat Kat” Vega. And with that, we’re done.

The D&D All-Stars (specifically, KRS-One and Jeru) set the bar pretty high on The D&D Project’s opening track. And while that greatness is never match again on the album (with the exception of “Stone To The Bone”), it still ends up being a fairly entertaining listen. Most of the producers turn in quality instrumentals and the young apprentice emcees match them with their bars. Like most albums, there are a few bumps in the road on The D&D Project (i.e. “Just A Little Flava”, “Blowin’ Up The Spot” and “Rude Boy”), but the good far outweighs the bad. This album definitely exceeded my expectation.

-Deedub

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Masta Ace Incorporated – Sittin’ On Chrome (May 2, 1995)

 

After releasing his solid debut album, Take A Look Around in 1990 on Cold Chillin’, Master Ace would regroup. Literally. He would leave Cold Chillin’ to sign with Delicious Vinyl, drop the “er” at the end of Master, replacing it with an “a” and bring together a few of his friends (Lord Digga, Paula Perry and Leschea), reemerging in ’93 as Masta Ace Incorporated and releasing their first project together, Slaughtahouse (you can read my thoughts on that album here). On Slaughtahouse, Ace would come with a harder sound than the soft puppet holding persona he was given, thanks to the video for “Me And The Biz”. Ace decided to remix the lead single from SlaughtaHouse, “Jeep Ass Niguh”, replacing the dusty boom-bap on the original mix with a shiny west coast influenced instrumental and renaming it “Born To Roll”. The remix would catch on and spread like wild fire, becoming Ace’s biggest hit and the inspiration for the next Masta Incorporated album, Sittin’ On Chrome.

Ace would produce most of Sittin’ On Chrome (under his producer pseudonym, Ase One) with some assistance from Uneek, the Bluez Bruthas and Louie Vega. The album would become Masta Ace’s most commercially successful album, but critics and fans were torn, as some hardcore east coast heads felt Ace was dumbing down his style and using a west coast production sound just to gain commercial success.

Through the years, Ace himself as often called Sittin’ On Chrome his “compromise” album, as he was trying to give the label what they wanted and still stay somewhat true to himself. Twenty-five years later, let’s see how he did balancing the two.

IntroSittin’ On Chrome opens with Masta Ace setting up the storyline that will playout through the album: His cousin Jerome (aka J-Dog) flies to New York from South Central L.A. to spend the summer with him. Ace acknowledges the differences in their styles and mentalities, but also recognizes how they can learn from one another, bettering each other in the process.  The storyline is a larger metaphor for Masta Ace Incorporated’s East coast swag over heavily West Coast flavored production that you’ll hear throughout this album. The Bluez Bruthas vibrating bass line placed underneath the perfect sprinklage of milky keys makes for a dope instrumental for the opening scene of Ace’s latest movie.

The I.N.C. Ride – This was the first single from Sittin’ On Chrome (I know “Born To Roll” came out first, but I’m not counting that as a Sittin’ On Chrome single). Louie Vega (whose name has come across TimeIsIllmatic several times on past posts) concocts a smooth crispy clean instrumental built around an interpolation of the Isley Brothers’ classic “Living For The Love Of You”. Ace uses the smoothness to show he can still rhyme (“Chumps be all up on it, like a Charlotte Hornet, but they full of Chicago Bull shit, cause they don’t want…ooh, don’t let me sing, I’m peaking, freaking, get in that ass like a G-string”) and gets the listener ready to go on this musical ride with The I.N.C. This is a dope record that sounds even better when played while cruising on a beautiful summer day.

Eastbound – Ace lays down an ill instrumental built around a muddy and moody bass line and adds perfectly placed splashes of melodic chords (sounds like bells or a xylophone?) to it. Lord Digga spits his first verse of the evening in between Ace’s, while Leschea drops in to add a few adlibs. Solid rhymes and a bangin’ instrumental: that’s how I like my hip-hop.

What’s Going On! – This song starts with the first interlude of the night that has Ace trying to set up a double date for him and Jerome. Then the Bluez Bruthas drops a clean breezy west coastish instrumental (with a co-production credit going to Ace) that Ace blesses with his unique rhyming style.

The B-Side – Ironically, this was on the b-side of the “Born To Roll” single. Ace (who proudly proclaims “nobody’s got a flow that’s dumber than mine”) invites the whole INC to jump on this one, as they represent for Brooklyn over his ruggedly smooth backdrop.

Sittin’ On Chrome – Ace was definitely trying to recapture the magic from “Born To Roll” with this one, which becomes blatantly obvious as soon as you hear the buzzing bass line that sounds very similar to the one he used for his biggest hit. Ace definitely doesn’t spit his most profound lyrics on this one, but he rides the beat well and the instrumental is kind of a banger.

People In My Hood – Masta Ace takes us on a trip through his hood, introducing us to some of the colorful personalities and the drama that lives there. Ace’s longtime homie, Uneek hooks up a solid mid-tempo bop for him to drop his meatiest rhymes of the evening. This one sounds better today than it did back in ’95. The song ends with another Ace/Jerome skit that finds them on their double date with two ladies who are complaining about the music Ace is playing in his system. This sets up the next song…

Turn It Up – Leschea gets a solo joint to display her very average singing ability over Ace’s enjoyable instrumental (the Bluez Bruthas get a co-credit for the track). They kind of use a cheat code by sampling Roy Ayers’ “Everybody Loves The Sunshine”, but its still dope. The song ends with a hi-larious cousin Jerome interlude that sets up the next song…

U Can’t Find Me – Ace builds this instrumental around an ill Kool & The Gang loop and turns it into a banger for himself and Lord Digga to exchange verses over. Ace’s instrumental is scrumptiously addictive. I’m serious, it’s that good.

Ain’t No Game – The whole crew is back for this one, with Ace, Digga and Paula spittn’ verses and Leschea singing on the hook. The rhymes were cool, but Ace’s boring instrumental almost made me hit the skip button.

Freestyle – This one starts out with a pretty funny Ace/Jerome interlude, then the Bluez Bruthas drop a thick bass line and a jazzy horn loop (complemented by a well-planted Queen Latifah vocal sample) for Ace to kick “freestyle” rhymes over. Our host doesn’t disappoint, as he displays clever wordplay and drops witty punchlines, rapping laps around the Bluez Bruthas decent backdrop.

Terror – This is probably my favorite song on Sittin’ On Chrome. Ace samples Hall & Oates “Sara Smile” for the backdrop and turns it into a soothing groove that he uses to talk his shit and flex his dope unorthodox style on: “It’s something of a phenomenon, like white lines, me and mines run thick like Heinz, ketchup, you can’t catch up, so play the rear, over there, it’s B-bass in your ear, and your eyes, so realize and recognize, a nigga dies, when we terrorize”. Terrorism never sounded so good.

Da Answer -Pleasantly melodic filler material.

4 Da Mind – Ace and Digga are joined by the Cella Dwellas (UG and Phantasm) on this cipher joint. Ace lays downs down a quality instrumental and actually gets out rapped by the Dwellas and Digga. Murdered on your own shit. It happens to the best of them from time to time.

Born To Roll – The song that fueled the existence of Sittin’ On Chrome. Like I mentioned in the opening of this post, this is a remix of “Jeep Ass Niguh” from SlaughtaHouse that Ace released as a standalone single in 1994. Ace uses the same rhymes, but changes the hook and replaces the dusty boom bap from the O.G mix with Miami inspired drums, a jazzy east coast horn sample, bells from Heaven and a killer buzzing west coast bass line. This is easily Ace’s biggest hit and it still sounds great after all these years.

The Phat Kat Ride – This is the remix to “The I.N.C. Ride”. Masta Ace cooks up a creamy smooth laid back instrumental, giving the lead single a completely different feel. I like the O.G. mix, but this remix feels way better.

Content wise, Sittin’ On Chrome lives up to the album cover: Ace and the INC celebrating fly rides and the boomin’ systems inside them. Musically, Ace and company put together a batch of west coast inspired instrumentals rooted in east coast boom bap (that Ace often referred to as Brooklyn bass music), which I feel makes up Ace’s best produced album to date (and that says a lot, considering his quality catalog). There are a few mediocre moments and the Jerome storyline ends kind of abruptly, but Sittin’ On Chrome is a great listen that has actually aged well. And it made me realize how much I miss Ace’s mid-nineties “dumb” flow.

-Deedub

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Dream Warriors – Subliminal Simulation (April 25, 1995)

The last time we checked in with the Toronto-based group, Dream Warriors was in ’91 and they were a duo releasing their debut album And Now The Legacy Begins (read my thoughts on that album here). Somewhere in between ’91 and ’95, King Lou and Capital Q decided to double the size of the crew, adding Spek and DJ Luv as official members of Dream Warriors. Not only did the DWs go from a duo to a quartet, but they also left 4th & Broadway and signed with Pendulum/EMI, where they would release their sophomore effort, Subliminal Simulation.

The Dream Warriors would produce most of the album with help from a few special guests (more on that in a bit). Subliminal Simulation would produce a couple of singles that pretty much remained silent. The album didn’t sell well, either and received mixed reviews upon its release. I’ve never heard any of the songs on Subliminal Simulation before this post, but since And Now The Legacy Begins was mildly entertaining and I found a used copy for a few bucks, I figured I’d give it a chance.

Intro – The album opens with warm laidback chords and a voice saying: “It is eternal power coupled with youth”. More on that later.

Are We There Yet – The Dream Warriors kick things off with a thick nasty bass line and two ill horn loops, while picking up where they left off at on Legacy Begins, spewing more super abstract rhymes. We also get to hear from the newest addition to the DWs, Spek, whose coded style falls right in line with Lou and Q’s. The DWs sound decent enough, but they could have rapped this song in Chinese and I would bob my head to the bangin’ instrumental.

Day In Day Out – This was the lead single from Subliminal Simulation. The DWs build the dope backdrop around a funky Millie Jackson loop as they discuss how the monotony of the daily grind can begin to take its toll on you. This was dope, and they even give a shout out to ATCQ at the end of the song. (Tribe Degrees of Separation: Check)

Adventures Of Plastic Man – The DWs give the floor to female spoken word artist, 99 to share a poem about how much she despises the feel of condoms inside her during sex and expresses how much she misses “a clean fuck”. I can’t knock a sista for liking the raw dog, but neither the poem or the aimless instrumental worked for me.

It’s A Project Thing – Now here’s a Premo gem I’m sure most of you didn’t know existed (including me before this post). My favorite producer of all time slides our Canadian friends a slick jazzy backdrop that they use to paint with more abstractions. Well done, Premo.

Paranoia – The ‘P’ Noise – I didn’t like anything about this one.

I’ve Lost My Ignorance – Guru joins the Dream Warriors on this one, as they celebrate (or mourn) losing their ignorance and replacing it with knowledge. I have a sneaking suspicion Guru didn’t write the few bars he spits on this song, since he sounds just as coded and riddled as his hosts. The rhymes are cool, but the jazzy groove (credited to the DWs and Gang Starr) is easy on the ears.

Break The Stereo – Not literally. The stereo the DWs speak of are stereotypes. I think? I wasn’t crazy about this one, but the instrumental is decent.

When I Was At The Jam – The DWs give spoken word artist, Black Katt some shine, as they play a portion of him performing one of his poems live. As far as spoken word pieces go, this was cool.

Burns 1 – 99 gets a second chance to share her poetry. This time around she’s talking about STDs over a trash instrumental that sounds like it might have been added on after she recorded her vocals. This was terrible.

Tricycles And Kittens – Speaking of STDs, I believe this song title is referring to STDs and women who have them. Butterfly (from the Digable Planets) stops by to add a few abstract bars to the DW’s heavily encrypted lyrics. Trying to decode their rhymes almost gave me a headache, but the instrumental feels good and I like the randomness an unconventional pairing of tricycles and kittens.

California Dreamin’ – This was the second and final single from Subliminal Simulation. The DWs loop up Les McCann’s “Go On And Cry”, as King Lou goes dolo, rhyming about what appears to be a woman, but the third verse makes it sound like the woman he’s been speaking about is a metaphor for his music. Lou’s bars may have left me confused, but the instrumental is clearly pleasing to the ears.

No Dingbats Allowed – If you don’t come with depth, the DWs aint fuckin’ with you. The Canadian based production team, Da Grassroots are responsible for the creamy yumminess in this instrumental.

You Think I Don’t Know -Black Katt shares another live poem reading. This time around he discusses the negative connotation put on the word “black”, before flippin’ it at the end. Or as he calls it: “Subconscious phycology reversed”. This was pretty dope.

Sink Into The Frame Of The Portrait – The instrumental sounds like the DWs made this for The Lion King Soundtrack. I’m not a fan.

I Wouldn’t Wanna Be Ya – And I wouldn’t wanna listen to this song again.

The CD version of Subliminal Simulation has a hidden unnamed track, which sounds like it may have been recorded a few years before the rest of the album (which would explain why King Lou and Capital Q keeping saying “It’s 1992” during the song). Over a Latin flavored instrumental, dripping with Samba vibes, Lou and Q sounds refreshed and nimble on the mic. This was dope.

Outro – The DWs bring back the warm vibes from the “Intro” and pose the question to the answer given at the beginning of the album. And with that, Subliminal Simulation is a wrap.

Let me start by saying that the Dream Warriors are competent lyricists, but trying to understand their rhymes is mentally exhausting. I’ve listened to Subliminal Simulation at least 10 times in the past few weeks, trying to grasp the meaning of the four man crews heavily encrypted bars, but I’m left scratching my head and in need of a nap. On the flip side, the DWs production easily translates to audio bliss. There are a few musical blunders and a couple of unwarranted interludes (in the form of spoken word pieces) on Subliminal Simulation, but overall the DWs create an enjoyable jazzy hip-hop atmosphere.

Maybe the Dream Warriors were trying to trick our subconscious into believing that their extremely abstract riddled rhymes have a deeper meaning, but in reality they just through together a bunch of words and made them sound profound. We may never know for sure, but it would explain the album title.

-Deedub

 

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Mobb Deep – The Infamous (April 25, 1995)

Most casual fans don’t know that before Mobb Deep released The Infamous album in ’95 they released their debut album Juvenile Hell on 4th & Broadway Records back in 1993.  The lead single “Peer Pressure” produced by Premo, was dope, but the rest of the album left a lot to be desired ( I bought it on cd back in the day, but I have no idea what happened to it). After Juvenile Hell flopped, Havoc and Prodigy (RIP) would sever their ties with 4th & Broadway and sign with Loud Records, where they would release their next four albums, including the subject of today’s post, The Infamous. Thank God for second chances.

The liner notes for The Infamous credit Mobb Deep for most of the production work (but everybody knows Havoc is the real mastermind behind the Mobb’s music), with Q-Tip receiving production credit for three of the album’s tracks (Tribe Degrees of Separation: check). The Infamous was a commercial success (earning Mobb Deep their first gold plaque, two months after its release) and is universally heralded as Mobb Deep’s best album and one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all-time.

This April marked The Infamous‘ 25th birthday. Let’s celebrate by revisiting this landmark album and see how it’s held up over the years.

The Start Of Your Ending (41st Side) – Havoc starts the album off with poppin’ drums placed underneath an evil piano loop that he and Prodigy use to set the mood for the evening, spittin’ their crime and violent hood rhymes.

The Infamous Prelude – Prodigy uses this 2 minute interlude to talk shit and take subliminals at random niggas and rappers (*cough* Keith Murray). After all these years I still lol when I hear P dis rappers that talk “that crazy space shit that don’t even make no sense” ” and then threatens to “start punchin’ niggas in they face just for livin'”. Classic interlude.

Survival Of The Fittest – This was the second single from The Infamous. P and Havoc pick up where they left off at on “The Start Of Your Ending”, smacking you in the face with more tough talk and hood politicin’. Havoc’s mean instrumental sounds just as convincing and entertaining as the duo’s rhymes.

Eye For An Eye (Your Beef Is Mines) – Mobb Deep invites Raekwon and, arguably one of the top ten to ever spit on a mic, Nas to join them on this cipher joint as they pledge allegiance to their crews, or as the hooks says: “As time goes by, an eye for eye, we in this together son, your beef is mines, so long as the sun shines to light up the sky, we in this together son your beef is mines”. Of course this was made a few years before Nas and Prodigy would begin their beef (good thing they didn’t say word is bond during the hook). I remember being super disappointed by Nas’ verse and Havoc’s sleepy instrumental back in the day. Nas’ verse is still underwhelming, but Havoc’s instrumental sounds better than I remembered it (it reminds me of Gza’s “I Gotcha Back”, which ironically, I like). Regardless, it’s still one of my least favorite songs on the album.

Just Step Prelude – Mobb Deep affiliate, Big Noyd makes his first appearance of the evening, as he joins Prodigy to spit acapella rhymes on this prelude to the next song…

Give Up The Goods (Just Step) – Q-Tip (credited in the liner notes by his other alias “The Abstract”) gets his first production credit of the evening, as he builds this one around poppin’ drums and an ill Esther Phillips’ loop. Big Noyd joins Mobb Deep on the mic and actually out rhymes both of his hosts, who also turn in dope verses. This is easily one of my favorite songs on The Infamous.

Temperature’s Rising – Speaking of my favorites, this one goes in the same category as “Give Up The Goods”. Q-Tip comes right back with another brilliant instrumental (Mobb Deep gets a co-production credit) for Havoc and P to share stories about a couple of their comrades who had to take flight after the kitchen got to hot, hence the song title: “What up, Black? Hold your head wherever you’re at, on the flow from the cops with wings on your back, that snitch nigga – gave police your location, we’ll chop his body up in six degrees of separation, Killer listen, shit aint the same without you at home, phony niggas walk around tryna be your clone”. Phenomenal instrumental, great rhymes, and Crystal Johnson’s vocals on the hook and adlibs is the cherry on top of this hip-hop treat.

Up North Trip – The song starts out with Prodigy spitting a verse about life locked up behind bars, which is also what the title and hook suggest. But on the second verse, Havoc quickly deviates from that theme and gets right back to shootin’ random dudes, gettin’ high and bangin’ chicks. P adds a third verse where he lets his gangsta persona down for a few bars and you get a rare glimpse of the vulnerable side of Albert Johnson: “Then I pause…and ask God why, did he put me on this earth just so I could die? I sit back and build on all the things I did wrong, why I’m still breathin’ and all my friends gone, I try not to dwell on the subject for a while, cause I might get stuck in this corrupt lifestyle, but my heart pumps foul blood through my arteries, and I can’t turn it back it’s a part of me”. Havoc’s melodic hardcore backdrop sounds just as entertaining as the duo’s rhymes.

Trife Life – The song opens with the audio equivalent of manna falling from heaven and Mobb Deep sharing a few words over it. Then Havoc drops his hollow drums accompanied by airy vibes and a thick bass line that he and Prodigy use to share tales from the hood. These dudes are in a zone.

Q.U. – Hectic – Havoc and P use this one to spew more thugged out bars. Hav goes a bit too far when he gets his Nino Brown on and brags about using little babies as shields on the second verse, but his dark unsettling chords coupled with the anxious jazzy horn loop makes for a brilliant instrumental.

Right Back At You – Havoc (with a co-production credit going to Schott Free) creates his rawest and darkest instrumental of the evening, as he and P spit their most menacing bars of the night: “Now run for your life, or you wanna get your heat, whatever, we can die together, as long as I send your maggot ass to the essence, I don’t give a fuck about my presence, I’m lost in the blocks of hate and can’t wait, for the next crab nigga to step and meet fate”. They also invite Raekwon, Ghostface Killah and Big Noyd to spit verses, and Noyd nearly steals the show from Prodigy with his strong song closing verse. This sinisterly dark masterpiece is another one of my favorites.

The Grave Prelude – Short interlude prelude that sets up the next song…

Cradle To The Grave – Havoc lays a jazzy/bluesy backdrop that he and Prodigy use to discuss life, death and all the drama that comes in between the two when you’re caught up in the street life. I like the somberness of the instrumental and Prodigy’s reflection on the song’s final verse.

Drink Away The Pain – Q-Tip get his third and final production credit of the evening, sliding the duo some ole slick jazzy shit that they use to compare their alcoholic behavior to romantic relationships. Tip also adds a verse, sandwiched in between Hav’s and P’s, which kind of works as a PSA about the consequences of crime (he cleverly uses popular designer clothing brands to drive his point home). This one sounds way better than I remember it back in ’95.

Shook Ones Pt. II – This was the lead single from The Infamous and I can confidently say, the biggest and most influential record in Mobb Deep’s catalog. I still remember the first time I heard this record on the local late night hip-hop radio show back in the day (KMOJ, stand up!!). Havoc’s lurking bass line mixed with the angelic chords in the loop, matched with Havoc and Prodigy’s vividly frigid bars, left me mesmerized. 25 years later and it still has the same effect on me. This is easily one of the ten greatest hip-hop songs of all-time. Side note: Pt 1, which is easily accessible on the web or your favorite streaming platform, ain’t got nothin’ on Pt II.

Party Over – I completely forgot this song existed. Big Noyd (who Mobb Deep should have just made the official third member) joins Havoc and P again, as they all spit more of their hood rhetoric. For the first time on The Infamous, Mobb Deep’s crimology rings hollow and uninteresting. So does the instrumental.

Through the years, hip-hop has given us a fair share of thug rappers spewing hood soliloquies. Most of them have a few decent songs, but all the repetitive criminal content for the length of an album becomes a challenge to sit and listen to. Prodigy and Havoc don’t stray away from criminal content on The Infamous, but unlike their contemporaries, they defy the odds and miraculously are able to keep the thug themes interesting for 16 tracks (well, 15, but that’s still impressive!). When you couple the duo’s entertainingly brash lyricism with the brilliant batch of instrumentals on The Infamous, you get a hip-hop masterpiece. I’ve always held The Infamous in high regards, but after listening to it again these past few weeks, it may have moved into my top 10 albums of all time. Your thoughts?

-Deedub

 

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T-Bone – Tha Life Of A Hoodlum (April 4, 1995)

The last (and first) time we heard from T-Bone was back in ’93 with his debut album Redeemed Hoodlum (read my post on that album here). The San Francisco based, demon killin’, gospel spittin’ emcee was able to deliver a solid debut album, thanks to quality production from the L.A. Posse and a rhyming ability that rivals a large portion of his secular counterparts. He would return in ’95 with his sophomore effort, keeping with the “Hoodlum” theme, Tha Life Of A Hoodlum.

T-Bone would lean heavily on the L.A. Posse again, as Muffla would produce most of the album with Bobcat and Chase handling a few songs as well. Like Redeemed Hoodlum, I first became familiar with Tha Life Of A Hoodlum during my late nighties soul searching period. It’s been a minute since I listened to it, but if my memory serves me correct, I thought it was pretty solid back in the day.

Let’s see how time has treated Tha Life Of A Hoodlum.

Tha Life Of A Hoodlum  – The album opens with, what sounds like, a group of black kids walking through a Hispanic hood where they’re confronted by a cholo. Then you hear guns shots, screaming and other commotion before the narrator sums up what you just listened to. End scene.

Throwin’ Out Tha Wicked – The first song of the evening features a dope mid-tempo bop courtesy of Muffla, that T-Bone uses to proclaim his loyalty to God and display his hatred for Satan and all things wicked. Matter of fact, T-Bone hates Satan and his imps so much that he’s got demons choking on his double barrel and he’s spraying them with his “gat up against the wall like graffiti”. It might sound cheesy, but our host sounds pretty entertaining buckin’ demons and denouncing witches and ouija boards. He does make a small mishap when he blatantly mimics Rza’s energetic horrorcorish flow during the third verse, but the dope Q-Tip vocal sample on the hook (Tribe Degrees of Separation: check) washes away that iniquity.

Thief In Tha Night – T-Bone comes from the perspective of a lukewarm Christian who gets left behind after the rapture takes place and he’s left to try and survive on earth without taking the mark of the beast (if you’re confused about the rapture and the mark of the beast, check out the Book of Revelations on your own. I aint got time to get into all that right here). Bone’s storyline is compelling and Muffla’s melancholy instrumental suits our host’s rhymes well.

Psycho Ward – Short interlude that sets up the next song…

Straight Up Psycho – Bone picks up where he left off at on “Throwin’ Out Tha Wicked” and gets right back to peelin’ demons caps for the next 5 minutes. I’m not really a fan of this one, mainly because of the plain Jane instrumental.

Amen Somebody, Part 1 – Bone takes a portion of a sermon (credited to a Pastor Carlos) that compares the story from the book of Exodus where Pharaoh is trying to keep the children of Israel in bondage to Satan currently trying to keep Christians in bondage. As far as interludes go, this was pretty interesting, and Muffla’s somber instrumental sounds great behind the preaching.

Drunk In Tha Spirit – Our host builds this song’s concept around the scripture from Ephesians 5:18. Bone finds his pocket and smoothly rocks the hell (no pun intended) out of Muffla’s slick jazzy instrumental. And remember, if you ever hang out with T-Bone at the bar: “pass the holy wine cause” he “don’t drink no Tanqueray”.

Pushin’ Up Daises – Our host invites his homie, E-Dog to join him on this duet, as the duo swap hood stories about dudes who chose the gangsta lifestyle and died in the line of duty. And of course they use the final verse as an opportunity to witness. The content is cool, but I’m neutral on how I feel about the instrumental.

Still Jabbin’ – As T-Bone tells you at the end of the song’s first verse: “this be the sequel to Jabbin’ the Jaw”, which was on Redeemed Hoodlum. The song starts off playing the O.G. version, but is quickly interrupted by a “rip”, and then Chase’s mellow vibes and heavy drums come in for T-Bone to get loose and “flip the script” on. The Rza soundbite on the hook was a nice added touch.

187em’ Demons – I’m sure by the song title you can figure out what this song’s about. T-Bone’s already killed 500 demons, and we’re only at the halfway point of the album. Muffla’s west coast drenched backdrop is dope.

Amen Somebody, Part 2 – This interlude picks up where Part 1 left off, as Pastor Carlos passionately wraps up his sermon on spiritual bondage.

On & On &… – T-Bone invites Homeboy Sermon (hey, I didn’t make up his alias) to speak on some of the ills that trouble the hood over a super somber Muffla instrumental. This sets up the next song.

Too Many Pleitos – Bobcat gets his first production credit of the evening, and he slides T-Bone a soulfully gloomy instrumental that our host uses to expound upon the violence in the hood that Homeboy Sermon touched on during the previous track: “Sometimes I wish God never made the colors red or blue, cause now I always got a funeral that I gotsta go to, and half the time it’s a little kid that’s dead, and it breaks my heart to see the mommy crying by the death bed, how many more of my people got to go extinct, before we see that Latins dying faster than an eye can blink?”. This one sounds just as relevant today as it did 25 years ago.

Life After Death – Our host invites Mr. Grimm (from “Indo Smoke” fame) to join him on this duet, as the two attempt to persuade the listener to choose Christ and eternal life or die and burn in hell for eternity. Both emcees turn in solid performances, but Muffla’s instrumental shines the brightest.

Crazy Hispanic – Bobcat gets his second and final production credit of the evening, and it’s a beauty. T-Bone uses the west coast freshness to showcase his undeniable talent while lifting up the Savior’s name. And he manages to buck a few more demons.

Madd Skillz – The beat is too basic and T-Bone’s overly animated lyrics sound corny.

Off Tha Hook – T-Bone chops it up with Mr. Grimm over the phone about all kinds of randomness, hence the title of the interlude. Other than to listen to the eerie but interesting music that you can barely hear in the background, there’s no reason to listen to this more than once.

Lyrical Assassin (Remix) – The original version was on the Redeemed Hoodlum album. Chase laces T-Bone with some slick west coast heat that he uses to re-rap his lyrics from the O.G. version, minus the B-Real style-jacking he did the first time around. This remix is way stronger than the original.

Daves Not Here – This interlude must have been an inside joke between T-Bone and his manager, Dave Kirby. No replay value here, but my 5 year old son and his friend found it amusing.

To Tha Homies – Over a funky bop (courtesy of Dr. K and Muffla), T-Bone gives his shout outs while a chipmunk voiced Muffla provides the adlibs.

Another Hoodlums Prayer – Muffla lays an emotional instrumental for T-Bone to close out the album with a prayer. I would have loved to hear Bone spit bars on this heat, but it still makes for a fitting outro.

On Tha Life Of A Hoodlum’s first song (“Throwin’ Out Tha Wicked”), T-Bone confesses “I’m obsessed with slaughtering these demons everyday”, and that obsession quickly becomes apparent as you listen to the album. I didn’t keep a tally, but I’m pretty sure T-Bone beat up or killed at least six millions demons during Tha Life Of A Hoodlum’s 21 tracks. But if you can get past Bone’s demon obsession and his occasional borrowing of other emcees styles (i.e. Rza and E-40), you’ll hear the talented rhymer that he is and appreciate most of the L.A. Posse’s quality production.

-Deedub

 

 

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Mike E – Pass It On (April 4, 1995)

My album collection has some pretty obscure pieces, but today’s post might take the crown. I’d be surprised if any of you have ever heard of Mike “E” Wright, who simply goes by Mike E. The Detroit born and bred musician grew up just blocks away from the legendary Motown label. The son of a Pentecostal Bishop, Mike got his break into the industry playing guitar for Gospel legends such as The Winans, BeBe & CeCe Winans and The Clark Sisters. He would go on to help found my favorite gospel group of all time, Commissioned, where both Marvin Sapp and Fred Hammond (yep, the guy you saw going up against Kirk Franklin on Verzuz this past Sunday) got their start. Eventually, Mike E would also pick up a mic and start rapping for Jesus as well. He signed to the Christian label, Reunion Records, where he would release his first two albums: Mike E & The G-Rap Crew and Good New For The Bad Timez, which would earn the holy hip-hopper back to back Dove Awards (which is the Christian music version of the Grammys). After Good News, Mike would leave Reunion and unite with Reggie White (rip), becoming the CEO/Co-Owner and first artist signed to the Hall of Fame defensive end’s independent label, Big Doggie Records, where he released his third album, Pass It On in, produced entirely by himself and Jet Penix.

I was introduced to Mike E by the lead single from Pass It On (“Back In The Day”) a few years after the album was released. This was during my soul searching period, when I was exclusively listening to Christian hip-hop. I thought the song was pretty fresh, so 10 years ago when I found a used copy of Pass It On for 99 cents at Pawn America, I spent my hard earned dollar and copped it.

So even if the rest of album is trash, I’ll still have gotten my money’s worth.

Take A Ride – After a short interlude that has Mike-E acting as a DJ for the faux radio station WGRAP (Get it? God Rap?), an empty cheesy sounding instrumental drops and Mike E goes into “old negro spiritual mode” with his hook. From his opening bars, you quickly hear that Mike E’s antiquated flow (even by ’95 standards) is limited. The choir singing on the hook was cool, though.

Pass It On – Over a somber backdrop, Mike-E vaguely shares he and his homie’s (Little Tommy) mistakes as kids, in hope that he can keep another kid from making the same mistakes (even though Mike never actually tells us what his mistakes were). Mike’s intentions are good, but his rhymes ring hollow. The instrumental is cool, though.

Ain’t Nothin But The Word – This was godawful. No pun intended.

Gotta Go – “You think ya heard it all yo, I got somethin’ for ya, if you don’t like what you’re hearing, here’s a dime, go call a lawyer”. This is an example of the superb level of lyricism you can expect to hear from Mike E on this song. The instrumental is decent, but with lines like “1 into the 2, into the 3, into the fo’, like Snoop the Doggy Dogg and Dr. Dre I’m at the do'”, little Mikey’s performance is almost laughable.

Spread The Word – From the cheesy Casio keyboard sounding instrumental to Mike’s elementary sounding rhymes and hook, this song made me feel like I was eight years old again sitting in Sunday school.

Better Now Than Later – Mike E invites Iali to add adlibs and spit a view bars, as the duo express the importance of giving your life to Christ today instead of waiting for the unpromised tomorrow. Now that I think about it, Mike-E sounds like Arrested Development’s front man, Speech. Only less skilled. I like the jazzy laidback feel good  instrumental, and the softness of Iali’s voice sounds nice flowing over it.

Back In The Day – This was the sole reason I spent my 99 cents on Pass It On. Mike and Jet laydown a breezy instrumental with some slick guitar chords, as our host reminisces about his childhood and gives props to the people in his life that helped him make it through. I still love this song’s sentiment and the instrumental.

Think About It – Mike takes an old soulful Pentecostal praise and worship song and turns it into a smooth hip-hop/r&b groove. I mentioned earlier that Mike E sounds a lot like Speech, but this song actually sounds like something Arrested Development would have done back in the day, and I enjoyed it.

Rap Jam – Mike E invites his Nashville (aka Da’ville) crew to take part in this holy cipher. Iali, Laish, Sigmund, DJ Majik, Bishop and Mike E each spit a verse showcasing their skills or lack thereof, over a jazzy jam session. No one spits anything worth quoting, but the instrumentation is solid.

Make A Move – Little Mikey loops up (or replays) James Brown’s “Popcorn With A Feeling” to share a spoken word poem as a plea to get the listeners to roll “with that kid from the manger”. Mike E sounds better as a spoken word artist than a rapper, and using this JB loop is kind of a cheat code, but you can’t deny its funkiness.

Credit Mix – Mike E loved the “Better Now Than Later” instrumental so much that he brought it back to give his shout outs over it.

Guitar ReMix – Our host also recycles the “Make A Move” instrumental, but substitutes the spoken word poem with some sick licks from his “1968 screamin’ guitar”. This was actually super dope.

On Pass It On, Mike E comes off as a good hearted well-intentioned guitarist impersonating a rapper. Kudos to our host for his clean language and positive messages, but his 1982 flow combined with his elementary rhymes, just aint it. Most of the instrumentation on Pass It On is decent with a few blatant missteps, but none of it is spectacular. Pass It On is mediocre at best and only worth a purchase if you can find it for a dollar at your local record store. And the church said: Amen.

-Deedub

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Justice 4 George Floyd

By now I’m sure you all recognize the face and know what happened to this man by the hand of the police. This is personal to me for two reasons: For one, I’m a black man that has experienced foul treatment from the police, simply because the color of my skin. Secondly, Minneapolis is my city. I was born and raised in South Minneapolis, just minutes away from the Cup Foods store that George Floyd was murdered in front of. My first apartment as an adult was literally around the corner from the spot where this black man’s life was taken.

This unjustly act resulted in the frustrated people of Minneapolis rioting, looting and burning shit down. I won’t try to justify the rioting, but I understand the pain and frustration that sparked it. And if you’re more upset about the rioting than the murder of George Floyd, you’re part of the problem. They can rebuild those buildings, but his life is gone forever.

As of today, only 1 of the 4 officers has been arrested and charged. All four cowards need to be charged and convicted of murder, so the rest of law enforcement across the country knows that we will no longer tolerate unjust and racist treatment by power drunken punks hiding behind their badges.

And if they don’t. We’ll burn this whole fuckin’ country down. #Justice4George.

I’ll get back to my regularly scheduled program next week. In the meantime, here’s a list of songs from my past posts that I call Soundtrack to Revolutions and Riots.

“A riot is the language of the unheard” – MLK

“Fuck The Police” – NWA

“Don’t Believe The Hype” – Public Enemy

“Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos” – Public Enemy

“Downtown” – Def Jef

“Fed Up Wit The Bullshit” – Big L

“Down Goes The Devil” – Channel Live

“Fo’ Eva Blunted” – Nine

“Hold Ya Head” – Showbiz & AG

“So Tough” – Freddie Foxxx aka Bumpy Knuckles

“Claimin’ I’m A Criminal” – Brand Nubian

“Down For The Real” – Brand Nubian

“Tears Of A Black Man” – Gospel Gangstas

“Constables” – O.C.

“Hand Of The Dead Body” – Scarface featuring Ice-Cube

“Dog It” – Digable Planets

“Dyin Out Here” – College Boyz

“Reality” – Da Youngstas

“Protect And Serve” – UGK

“Maintain” – Organized Konfusion

“Mister Landlord”  – Arrested Development

“Ain’t The Devil Happy” – Jeru Da Damaja

“Enemy” – Ice Cube

“Souljah Story” – 2pac

“I Don’t Give A Fuck” – 2pac

“Violent” – 2pac

“Words Of Wisdom” – 2pac

“I Wanna Kill Sam” – Ice Cube

“Just A Friendly Game Of Baseball” – Main Source

Speak Upon It” – Ed O.G. & Da Bulldogs

“Take A Look Around” – Masta Ace

“The Racist” – BDP

“30 Cops Or More” – BDP

“Arrest The President” – Intelligent Hoodlum

“One Time Gaffled Em Up” – Compton’s Most Wanted

“Illegal Search” – LL Cool J

“God Complex” – Def Jef

“Can’t Truss It” – Public Enemy

“I Want To Be Free” – Too Short

“Freedom Got An AK” – Da Lench Mob

“Rodney K.” – Willie D

“You Still aggiN” – Willie D

“Stereotype” – Kam

“Black And Blue” – Brand Nubian

“The Godz…” – Brand Nubian

“Pass The Gat” – Brand Nubian

“The Day The Niggaz Took Over” – Dr. Dre

“When Will They Shoot?” – Ice Cube

“We Had To Tear This ___ Up” – Ice Cube

“Who Got The Camera?” – Ice Cube

“Not Yet Free” – Coup

I Know You” – Coup

-Deedub

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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