Beastie Boys – Ill Communication (May 31, 1994)

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

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

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

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 I could careless for the Beasties outdated rhyme schemes, but this instrumental is dope.

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

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Freak – The BB’s cook up a pretty dope boom bap backdrop but waste all of its dopeness with more of their distorted outdated rhyme styling.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Deedub

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Jeru The Damaja – The Sun Rises In The East (May 24, 1994)

Since hip-hop’s conception, Brooklyn has produced a slew of dope emcees: Masta Ace, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Joell Ortiz, MC Lyte, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, to arguably three of the greatest emcees of all time, in Big Daddy Kane, Notorious B.I.G. and Jay-Z. Another dope Brooklyn bred emcee who I feel has never got his proper do is the subject of today’s post: Jeru The Damaja.

The first time I heard Jeru The Damaja was in 1992 on the Gang Starr cipher joint “I’m The Man” where he stole the show from his fellow crew members Lil Dap and Guru. After that verse it was only a matter of time before the self-proclaimed Perverted Monk would get a solo deal. He would sign to Payday Records and in 1994 released his debut album The Sun Rises In The East.

The Sun Rises In The East would be completely produced by DJ Premier and only feature one cameo, leaving the rest of the microphone duties to Jeru. The album wasn’t a huge commercial success, but it did garner heaps of praise from the critics and real heads alike, and it’s an album that I’ve held in high regards through the years.

Let’s listen and see if it lives up to all of its nostalgia.

Intro (Life)TSRITE opens with a mystical feeling instrumental playing in the background while Jeru briefly shares his theory on life. That’s all I got.

D. Original – This was the follow-up single to “Come Clean”. Premo lays a drunken piano loop over a rough drum pattern, as our host uses it to represent all of his dirty rotten scoundrelness. It’s a decent song, but one of my least favorites on the album.

Brooklyn Took It – Jeru uses this one to represent for his Brooklyn borough. I have no idea who or what the hell Premo sampled for this instrumental, but the way he loops it and sprinkles the shit over these dope drums and ill bass line is ridiculous.

Perverted Monks In The House (Skit) – Jeru’s talkin’ his shit on this one. Over a smooth mid-tempo groove he lets the world know that he’s willing, ready and able to destroy any would be challengers who want to bring it. “Any man…any man…no matter who he be…who he be”. This skit sets up the next song.

Mental Stamina – Jeru’s Perverted Monk bredrin, Afu-Ra makes the only cameo appearance on TSRITE, as he teams up with our host and they commence to beat the shit out of the comp with their “scientifical power” and big words: “Feudalistic linguistic, check out the mystic, we’re fantistic, (ya mean fantastic) fuck it, you get your ass kicked, challenge my verbal gymnastic”. Jeru and Afu aren’t Nas and AZ on “Life’s A Bitch”, but they sound solid. Premo’s bananas instrumental is the true star of this one, though. I can’t even describe its dopeness in words. If you’ve never heard it before, go listen to this shit, immediately.

Da BichezTSRITE takes the intensity down a few notches from the previous track, as Premo lays out a smooth groove for Jeru to address the gold digging chicks only looking to use and abuse a man for their own personal gain: “Now a queen’s a queen, and a stunt is a stunt, you can tell who’s who by the things they want, most chicks want minks, diamonds a Benz, spend up all your ins, probably fuck your friends, high post attitudes real rude with fat asses, think that the pussy is made out of gold, try to control you by sliding up and down on the wood, they be givin’ up sex for goods”. This is a great well-executed record.

You Can’t Stop The Prophet – This is easily my least favorite song on TSRITE. Jeru shares his tale of being a conscious black super hero named “The Black Prophet” who’s waging war against his arch nemesis Mr. Ignorance and his band of vigilantes: Hatred, Jealously, Envy, Anger, Despair, Animosity and Mr. Ignorance’s wife, Deceit. Jeru’s story line is pretty clever and well laid out, but Premo’s instrumental is boring and makes it hard to follow (or care about). Side note: The Pete Rock remix for this song is fire!

Perverted Monks In Tha House (Theme) – Premo lets the same instrumental from the previous skit, rock (hence the same title), which works out to be a nice little album intermission.

Ain’t The Devil Happy – Premo creates a dark backdrop that’s drenched in seriousness and urgency and serves as the perfect canvas for Jeru to deliver his sermon over (and the Rza vocal loop on the hook is super ill). Jeru calls out the black man for falling into the traps the white man, aka the devil, has laid out for him in America: “Devil got brother killin’ brother, its insane, going out like Abel and Cane, wising up and use your brain, they’ll be no limit to the things that you can gain”. Our host delivers his message as more of a spoken word piece than an actual rap, but it’s still potent. This song has aged very well.

My Mind Spray – Next to James Brown’s catalog, Bob James’ “Nautilus” may be the most sampled song in hip-hop history. I’ve heard some amazing flips of the record (I mean, it’s probably hard to mess up such a dope break, but still), but Premo’s flippage of the loop on this song is completely bananas. Jeru takes his unorthodox flow and tiptoes over the brilliant backdrop, flawlessly. This is definitely one of the strongest songs on TSRITE.

Come Clean – Jeru concludes the third piece of arguably the dopest three-piece combo in the history of hip-hop albums with his classic debut single. Premo lays down some heavy drums placed over a loop of what sounds likes tribal African drums, and our host completely destroys it with his “freaky freaky flow”: “Real, rough and rugged, shine like a gold nugget, every time I pick up the microphone I drug it, unplug it on chumps with the gangster babble, leave your nines at home and bring your skills to the battle”. This is an undeniable hip-hop classic, and Premo’s instrumental is arguably a top ten in hip-hop history.

Jungle Music – Our host uses this one to address how the white man has stolen and abused every form of black created music throughout history: “We went from pyramids to the ghetto, still my sounds make devils tumble like the wall of Jericho, chant my power to devour all the snakes and rats, extra sensory possession to avoid all traps, make a joyful noise unto the Lord, in the sanctuary of your caves white kids press record, as my mystic music spreads from sea to galaxy, its inevitable you can’t stop me, try to carbon copy, but it always comes out sloppy, you can’t out rap me you can’t out rock me”. This is a solid song with a lot of lyrical meat to chew on. I probably enjoyed Jeru’s rhymes more than Premo’s instrumental.

Statik – The final song of the evening finds Jeru talking shit over a Premo instrumental built around a drum beat, a bouncy bass line and a loop of what sound like the static from a record player. Not the strongest song on TSRITE, but its a solid way to wrap things up.

On The Sun Rises In The East Jeru proves to be a formidable emcee with a proper balance of consciousness, righteousness, intellect and enough lyrical Kung-Fu to kick most competition’s ass. As usual, Premo provides a quality batch of instrumentals for our host, sprinkling in a few brilliant moments along the way. My only gripe with TSRITE is the low quality mixing. A tighter mix could have made some elements stand out more, turning good records into great records and great records into phenomenal ones. In a nutshell, The Sun Rises In The East is a borderline classic album in need of a mean remastering.

-Deedub

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Heavy D & The Boyz – Nuttin’ But Love (May 24, 1994)

We last heard from Heavy D & The Boyz in 1993 with their gold selling fourth release Blue Funk, which also happens to be my favorite Heavy D album. As the title suggest, Blue Funk found Heavy D and dem trying to move forward but still in a mourning state over their fallen dancing comrade Trouble T-Roy. Hev and the crew would return in ’94 in better spirits, releasing their 5th album, Nuttin’ But Love.

Nuttin’ But Love would be the final project for Heavy D & The Boyz as a group (Hev would continue releasing music as a solo artist, which is pretty much what he was doing with “The Boyz” anyways), and as the title suggests, most of the themes would be centered around love, which if you’re remotely familiar with Heavy D’s catalog, you know that falls right into his wheelhouse. Hev would call on familiar faces to produce the album: his cousin Pete Rock, Eddie F, Marley Marl, Teddy Riley and a few other special guests. Nuttin’ But Love would go one to become Heavy D & The Boyz most successful commercial album, earning the trio another platinum plaque, selling two million plus units.

I’ve never listened to Nuttin’ But Love in its entirety before today. Let’s walk through it and see if my feelings towards the album match up to the album’s title.

Friends & RespectNuttin’ But Love opens with a nice warm and mellow instrumental playing, while several of Heavy’s friends, from Queen Latifah to Q-Tip (I got my Tribe Degrees of Separation in!), LL, Treach, Kool G Rap, KRS-One, MC Lyte, Spike Lee and several more, stop by to drop a line showing love and respect for the Overweight Lover. This is a very heartfelt and touching piece, that’s even more intensified now that he’s gone.

Sex Wit You – The first actual song of the evening (which was also the fourth single released from the album) finds Heavy’s cousin Pete Rock jacking the same Whatnauts loop that De La Soul used for their classic “Ring Ring Ring” record, but of course the Chocolate Boy Wonder adds his signature horns to it. Heavy Dwight stays true to his lover boy persona, as he spits game to a potential love prospect. I love PR’s production work on this one, and Hev accommodates the track, perfectly.

Got Me Waiting – This was the third single from Nuttin’ But Love. This time around Heavy’s trying to figure out if a certain lady is really trying to be with him or just leading him on. Before reading the liner notes I had no idea that Pete Rock produced this one, as it doesn’t sound like his normal steez. It’s got a strong R&B presence (which is probably more so do to Crystal Johnson’s singing during the hook), but it’s still a dope hip-hop instrumental and Heavy sounds smooth spittin’ over it.

Nuttin’ Nut Love – This title track was also the second single released from the album, and I’ll admit I never liked it back in the day. The Heavy D/Kid Capri concocted instrumental is way too synthy for my taste buds and it just plain sounds corny. To add insult to injury, Heavy’s rhymes are all over the place, bordering on senseless. Well, at least the hook is catchy.

Something Goin’ On – Marley Marl gets his first of two production credits on Nuttin’ But Love, building this instrumental around a loop from Tonya Gardner’s “Heartbeat”, that most will recognize as the musical foundation for Ini Kamoze’s Hotstepper”. Hev uses it to reflect on the good woman in his life that left him because he wasn’t treating her right. Kudos to our host for being vulnerable and still managing to keep the song light-hearted. This was pretty dope.

This Is Your Night – The legendary creator of New Jack Swing, Teddy Riley gets his only production credit on Nuttin’ But Love, building this breezy backdrop around elements of George Benson’s “Give Me The Night”. Unfortunately, Heavy struggles to keep up with the track’s pace and never finds his footing, but I still enjoyed Teddy Riley’s instrumental, and completely understand if it’s too commercial sounding to my hardcore hip-hop folks.

Got Me Waiting (Remix) – Heavy taps Alton “Wookie” Stewart to produce this remix, and he drenches the track heavily in R&B seasoning. The 90’s R&B group Silk stops by to sing the hook while Heavy regurgitates his rhymes from the O.G. version. I’m not crazy about this song, but it definitely fits Hev’s R&B lover boy emcee persona.

Take Your Time – Erick Sermon steps out of his traditional funk realm and lays down a smooth instrumental built around a loop from Patrice Rushen’s “Take Your Time” (which happens to be one of my favorite hip-hop loops), and the lovely Vinia Mojica (whose voice you might recognize from De La Soul’s “A Roller Skating Jam Named “Saturdays”” or ATCQ’s “Verses From The Abstract” (Bam! There’s another Tribes Degrees of Separation for dat ass!), or Black Star’s “K.O.S. (Determination)”, just to name a few) stops by to sing the hook. Hev leaves the ladies alone on this one and spits light-hearted freestyle rhymes. This is easily one of my favorite songs on the album.

Spend A Little Time On Top – Heavy brags about his freakiness while some brave young ladies ask the Overweight Lover to spend some time on top of them during the hook. Marley Marl completely butchers the classic Sylvers “Misdemeanor” loop (see The D.O.C.’s “Funky Enough” and Gang Starr’s “Soliloquy of Chaos”) that he builds this terrible instrumental around. This was horrendous.

Keep It Goin’– Heavy D and Troy “Druppy Dog” Williams get co-production credit for this smooth jazz-tinged groove that our host uses to get loose over and demonstrate how nimble his tongue is. This was pretty dope.

Black Coffee – This was the lead single from Nuttin’ But Love. I’ve probably said it once or twice before on this blog, but Easy Moe Bee is an extremely underrated producer. He lays down this silky smooth instrumental that Heavy uses to rap praises and express is commitment to the black woman. This record actually sounds better today than it did twenty-five years ago.

Move On – On this one Hev stresses that no matter what life throws at you, you gotta keep your head up and keep it movin’. Tone (half of the often overlooked and under-credited production duo, Trackmaster or sometimes spelled Trak Masterz) gets credit for the soulful mid-tempo groove built around a loop from Diana Ross’ “Love Hangover”. Side note: Hev previously rapped over this loop on the Marley Marl produced track “The Lover’s Got What You Need” off the Peaceful Journey album. I like what Marley did with it, but Tone’s flippage of the loop mixed with Heavy’s content makes for a stronger song. Another side note: Vinia Mojica gets her fourth and final vocal credit of Nuttin’ But Love, as she and Maurice Lauchner handle the hook and adlibs. All in all, this was a pretty dope song.

Lord’s PrayerNuttin’ But Love ends with Heavy’s nephews saying the Lord’s Prayer while Soul For Real (remember those guys?) sings behind them. And this concludes the catalog of Heavy D & The Boyz.

I mentioned earlier that Blue Funk is my favorite Heavy D album, mainly do to the fact that it’s the purist hip-hop album in their catalog, but after living with Nuttin’ But Love for the past few weeks, pound for pound, it may be a better album than its predecessor. There are a few missteps (mainly “Spend A Little Time On Top”), but overall, the team of decorated producers recruited to create the soundscape for Nuttin’ But Love do a great job, and Heavy spits over the batch of bomb backdrops with charisma and confidence. There are several emcees who have a better flow and stronger bars than Heavy D, but only a few have been better at consistently crafting commercially successful albums that are equally quality and entertaining than the Overweight Lover.

-Deedub

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Top Quality – Magnum Opus (May 24, 1994)

New York is the mecca of hip-hop music and culture. Originating in the Bronx (1520 Sedgwick Ave to be exact…shoutout to Kool Herc!) in the seventies, it would soon blossom and blow up in the other four New York City boroughs (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island) and Long Island, birthing several hip-hop legends and classic records. Before going west to California and becoming a universal phenomenon, hip-hop would also spread to other east coast cities and states (i.e. Philly and New Jersey), but it’s safe to say only one emcee has ever repped for White Plains, NY on a national level. Ladies and gentlemen, Top Quality.

Top Quality was a featured artist in The Source‘s once coveted Unsigned Hype column back in April of 1991. The column praised the White Plains emcee for being “faster than The Jaz (as in Jay-Z’s mentor, Jaz-O) when it comes to speed rhymes.” Thanks to the exposure from The Source and a copy of his demo getting into the hands of Parrish Smith (one half of the legendary duo EPMD), Top Quality would sign to Parrish’s PMD imprint  under RCA Records where he would release his debut album, presumptuously titled Magnum Opus.

Parrish Smith served as the executive producer for Magnum Opus, but surprisingly he doesn’t produce any of the album’s tracks. Instead, Top Quality would rely on a handful of producers to craft the soundscape for the album. Magnum Opus would produce one minor hit, but I doubt you can find three people who actually own a copy of the album.

Well, you found one in me.

Messages From UptownMagnum Opus begins with a hard backdrop that some how makes the pretty sample from The Emotions’ “Blind Alley” (which has been used in quite a few different hip-hop songs over the years: see Big Daddy Kane’s “Ain’t No Half-Steppin'” and Wreckx-N-Effect’s “Rump Shaker”) sound dark. Top Quality puts his underwhelming choppy flow and random lyrics on display and manages not to distract from the illness of Hell Raisin’s instrumental.

Someone So Fly – Top Quality uses no less than four different rapping voices on this song, spittin’ a portion of his rhymes in Pig-Latin, and still manages to say absolutely nothing. Khaalia Allah’s instrumental isn’t spectacular, but it will grow on you after a few listens.

Caught Up In The Flizny – Everything about this song is rashtay.

Magnum Opus – This title track was the only song that I was familiar with before this post. Keivan Mack builds a beautiful instrumental around a smooth loop from a Roy Ayers/Wayne Henderson record, and TQ plays it pretty straight with the rhymes, for most of the song. This song never really took off back in the day, but the instrumental sounds even better today than it did twenty-five years ago.

Check The Credentials – Black Zone (which is an ill ass hip-hop moniker) hooks up an instrumental that sounds like an incomplete EPMD idea, while are host talks trash, nonsense and goes on a short Pig-Latin rant during the middle of the song. Next…

What – Jesse West, who was going by his alter-ego, 3rd Eye at this point, gets the production credit and contributes a verse to the song. 3rd Eye (who manages to uses “nigga” nine times in a sixteen bar verse, which is a bit excessive) sounds a lot more grimy and animated than the smooth and conscious Jesse West from No Prisoners (read my thought on that album here), and even though his rhymes are sub par, his grimy persona fits his dark and gutter production work well. TQ bats second and for the first time of the evening he refers to his weirdo abstract rhyming style as that “Helen Keller shit”, which I find hi-larious, but I’m sure if this album came out in today’s super-sensitive society he’d get murdered by the court of public opinion, forcing RCA to shelve the project or at least pull this song from the album (Google Helen Keller if you’re not familiar with who she is). But I digress. All in all, this was pretty enjoyable.

You Gotta Check It – As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m not crazy about Top Quality’s flow or rhyming style, but he actually rides this sick Charlie Marotta produced instrumental, beautifully, leaving his swag dripping all over it. This is dope.

Something New – I didn’t care much for this one.

I Can’t Hear You – Long time Das EFX production duo, Solid Scheme get their only production credit on Magnum Opus, and they make sure it counts. They hook up this slightly dark mid-tempo groove for our host, who continues to spew his Helen Keller shit. TQ doesn’t say anything memorable, but the hook is catchy and the instrumental is dope.

Graveyard Shift – Over a boring Charlie Marotta instrumental our host discusses being mistaken for a drug dealer by both crackheads and cops when he hangs out on the block in the wee hours of the night drinking and smoking weed. Hey, I have an easy solution for that problem: keep your ass off the block at night and get drunk and high at the crib!

U Know My Name – The final song of the evening finds TQ reppin’ for his hometown, talkin’ his shit, and random other shit. Like the rest of the album, Top Quality’s rhymes and flow are all over the place, but Jesse West’s dark and smooth instrumental comes with a bass line similar to how I like my women: nice and thick.

I’m curious what the demo sounded like that made Parrish Smith want to sign Top Quality to a deal, because I’ve been living with Magnum Opus for the past few weeks and I don’t get him. His self-proclaimed “Helen Keller shit” has the White Plains bred emcee rhyming in Pig-Latin and going on random Tourette like fits throughout the album, and his antics feel forced and gimmicky. On the flip side, the handful of producers recruited to shape the sound of Magnum Opus do a solid job handcrafting a batch of quality hip-hop instrumentals, for the most part. It’s too bad TQ didn’t make the most of them. Needless to say, Top Quality doesn’t live up to his moniker, and neither does the album to its haughty title.

-Deedub

 

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Ahmad – Ahmad (May 24, 1994)

Happy New Year folks! I hope you all had a wonderful Holiday season and enjoy the first post of 2019!

Through the years hip-hop has had its share of one hit wonders. Matter of fact we’ve discussed a few of them on this blog. There was Positive K. Mellow Man Ace. D-Nice. House of  Pain, and N2Deep, just to name a few. Ladies and  gentlemen, today we add Ahmad to this esteemed list.

Ahmad Lewis is a Los Angeles born and bred emcee who made his National recording debut in 1993 with the song “Who Can” that was released on the soundtrack to the Robert Townsend produced flop, Meteor Man. Like the film, other than the sound of an exploding bomb, the soundtrack didn’t make much noise either, but Ahmad still managed to score a deal with Giant Records where he would release his one-derous hit “Back In The Day” in March of ’94 (more on that single in a bit). The single would earn Ahmad a gold plaque and set up his self-titled debut album that was released in May of 1994.

Ahmad would recruit his childhood friend and relative unknown, Kendal to produce most of the album, and he would handle all microphone duties by himself. Despite receiving favorable reviews, Ahmad didn’t move a ton of units and would soon be forgotten, and Ahmad would disappear from the scene, falling deep into the black hole of hip-hop irrelevancy. Ahmad would reinvent himself, resurfacing in the early 2000’s as the front man for the hip-hop band 4th Ave Jones, as they would make some noise on the underground scene, establishing a cult following and in my opinion, making some solid albums as well. But Ahmad would never experience the same level of exposure as he did during his “Back In The Day” era.

I’ve listened to Ahmad a few times over the years, but I’ve never fully digested it…until now.

Freak – Ahmad kicks the album off with a danceable Brian C Walls produced track (Ahmad gets a co-production credit and the underappreciated hip-hip guitarist Stan “The Guitar Man” Jones lays down some live chords) that sounds like it uses some interpolation of the Funkadelic classic “(Not Just) Knee Deep”. Ahmad sounds decent on the mic, but the song’s concept and the instrumental come off a bit cheesy.

Back In The Day – The remix of this song was easily the biggest hit on Ahmad. So much so, many forget (or never knew) that this version exists. Kendal builds the instrumental around a loop from The Staple Singers classic soul record “Lets Do It Again”, while Ahmad reminisces about the good old days of his childhood. A decent record, it just doesn’t hold a candle to the classic remix.

Touch The Ceiling –  I’m not a fan of the generic funk instrumental, Ahmad’s uninspired rhymes or the incredibly annoying vocal sample of Funkdoobiest’s lead man Son Doobie. Next…

The Jones’ – Our host uses this one to talk his shit and rep for his crew, The Jones’. Ahmad does a decent job spittin’ on this one, but I’m curious why he didn’t invite any of the Jones crew members to rhyme on this one (the late great father of Auto-Tune Roger Troutman stops by to help out with the hook, though). Maybe he did and they declined because they found Kendal’s instrumental as bland as I did.

Can I Party? – Someone named Maurice Thompson takes a lazy uncreative loop from the funk classic “Flashlight” and turns it into a boring instrumental. Ahmad only makes matter worse with his generic party-themed rhymes.

You Gotta Be… – Kendal hooks up a drowsy synth driven mid-tempo instrumental that Ahmad uses to address the peer pressure put on young dudes in the hood to be tough guys. On the first verse Ahmad talks about being pressed by a crew of thugs to join their team, to which he comically replies “Far as I can see, I was gonna be, the next new member of the crew cause there’s 8 of them and 1 of me.” It was kind of cool to hear a rapper come from this perspective, but the song is still only decent at best.

We Want The Funk – Roger Troutman makes his second appearance of the evening, sticking to hook duties, while Ahmad spits more uninspired party rhymes over a generic mid-nineties style west coast funk instrumental that the Guitar Man’s funky licks can’t even rescue.

The Palladium – This song finds Ahmad rapping praises to his favorite night-time spot, The Palladium; where you can hang out, listen to good music and take part in every rapper’s favorite pastime, chasin’ hoes. Ahmad spits decent rhymes, and even though Kendal’s instrumental sounds a bit empty, it still kind of works. Technically, this isn’t a bad song, it just doesn’t have a heart or soul.

Homeboys First – Ahmad dedicates this one to the homies, staying true to the old adage “bro’s before hoes”. I love the sentiment and Ahmad sounds solid on the mic, but Kendal’s instrumental rings as hollow as a coconut.

Ordinary People – Kendal lays out a soulful backdrop built around a Crusaders loop (again, The Guitar Man contributes some chords to the backdrop) that Ahmad uses to celebrate the everyday (extra)ordinary people in our lives that often don’t get the credit they deserve. Speaking of not getting the credit they deserve, Brenda Lee Eager (Google her) matches the soul in Kendal’s instrumental with her powerful vocals on the hook and adlibs. Ahmad heartfeltly raps praises to his mom (“My mother alone helped me to be me, so that’s my role model not an idiot on tv”) and reminds the listener that “All the average Joe’s are no greater or no lesser than stars, cause all we all are is equal, so shutoff your TV set and show respect to some of the ordinary people.” Brilliant instrumental, great concept, and excellent execution. And since this is dedicated to

Back In The Day (Remix) – As I mentioned above, this is the remix that would become Ahmad’s biggest (and only) hit. The instrumental is built around a smooth loop from Teddy Pendergrass’ “Another Love TKO” (the liners notes credit Maurice Thompson, Jay Supreme and Ahmad with production credits, and Stan “The Guitar Man” Jones adds some beautiful guitar licks to the track as well) and recycles the same lyrics as the O.G. version. This is the best song on the album, with “Ordinary People” coming in a close second.

Back In The Day (Jeep Mix) – Same song as the previous remix with a few more added drum breaks.

Let me start by saying that I think Ahmad is a talented emcee. But sometimes only practice and time can help cultivate raw talent into its manifested full potential. Unfortunately, when it came time for Ahmad to create his self-titled debut, he still needed 6 more years. Ahmad actually rhymes pretty well on the album, it just feels like he didn’t have much to say (and that whiney nasally thing he does gets annoying at times), so too often he resorts to cookie cutter generic party themes. The biggest issue I have with Ahmad is the production. With the exception of the remix to “Back In The Day” and “Ordinary People”, the instrumentals on Ahmad are underwhelming, mediocre, heartless and soulless, and sometimes all of the above at the same time. I encourage y ‘all to check out some of Ahmad’s later work with 4th Ave Jones, but I can’t co-sign for this one.

-Deedub

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Outkast – Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik (April 26, 1994)

Greeting folks! This will be my final post for 2018. I want to thank you all for supporting this blog and following me on my trot down memory lane. I wish you all a Happy Holiday season and a great 2019! Enjoy the read. 

Believe it or not, young bucks, but there was a time when New York and Cali dominated and owned hip-hop, way back in the old days, known as the nineties. I don’t think anyone would argue that Atlanta is currently hip-hop’s hot spot. And let me make myself clear, that when I say “hot” I’m referring to charts, radio play and sales, not quality. Atlanta’s reign has lasted quite a while now, going back to the early 2000’s with acts like Lil Jon, Ludacris, Young Jeezy and T.I. and more currently,  Gucci Mane and Migos. But none of the names listed above would be relevant if it wasn’t for the subject of today’s post. The Atlanta hip-hop pioneers who put the city on the map and would soon take over the world, Outkast.

Andre “3000” Benjamin and Antwan “Big Boi” Patton met as teenagers and went to the same high school in the East Point section of Atlanta. The two were both aspiring rappers who begin to spit together, things clicked and they decided to form a group. Legend has it the duo wanted to call the group The Misfits, but since that name was already being used they went with a synonym for “misfit”, “outcast” and of course misspelled it, cause that’s what rappers do. Outkast would soon connect with Goodie Mob and the production team Organized Noize (which is the trio of Rico Wade, Patrick “Sleepy” Brown and Ray Murray) and started making music. Eventually, the duo would catch the ear of the R&B legends Babyface and L.A. Reid, and would become the first hip-hop group signed to their LaFace Records, where they would release their debut album, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik(which I’ll be abbreviating as SPCM for the remainder of this post, because that’s too many damn characters to keep typing out).

Organized Noize (with help from a handful of other musicians) would handle all the production work on SPCM, and thanks largely to the sizzling hot lead single (more on that in a minute), the album would earn the duo a platinum plaque. More importantly, the album was a critical darling that many consider a classic record that gave Atlanta hip-hop credibility.

Even though I thoroughly enjoyed all of the singles from the album, I never checked for SPCM back in ’94. I didn’t really get into Outkast until their monster follow-up, ATLiens in ’96. I bought SPCM about ten years ago and have listened to it a few times over the years, but not enough to form a legitimate opinion about it. Hopefully, living with it for the next few weeks will help me gain some clarity.

Peaches (Intro)SPCM opens with some out of tune horns and a slight cymbal rattle that stands in for the instrumental, while a sexy-voiced southern belle named Peaches (get it? Georgia? Peaches?) welcomes the listener to Atlanta and the album. I wonder if Peaches is supposed to be the shapely and curvaceous caricatured vixen on the face of the cd, which I’m sure was inspired by the sultry Tour Guide that graced a few of A Tribe Called Quest’s album covers (you like how I snuck that Tribe Degrees of Separation in there, don’t ya?).

Myintrotoletuknow – Organized Noize lays down a dusty gravel road backdrop accompanied by some raw live guitar licks, as Big Boi and Andre introduce the listener to Outkast, as well as Atlanta. Big Boi sets the tone with a solid verse (where he shares an interesting theory that “back in the day when we was slaves, I bet we was some cool as niggas”) before 3 Stacks finishes up, displaying early signs of some of the wit that would eventually make him one of the greatest to ever bless a mic (“I gots a lot of shit up on my mind, I wipe the boo boo from my brain then I finish up my rhyme”). Great way to kick  things off.

Ain’t No Thang – Organized Noize comes right back with a smooth mid-tempo groove (with more funky live guitar licks) that Big Boi and 3000 use to get the most gangster that I recall the duo, collectively, being. Big Boi threatens to “wet them up like cereal” while Andre boasts “one is in the air and one is in the chamber, y ‘all ask me what the fuck I’m doing, I’m releasing anger.” And I loved every second of it.

Welcome to Atlanta (Interlude) – Interlude to set up the next song…

Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik – This title track was the album’s second single, and the country fried instrumentation fits the song’s title to a tee. Dre and Big Boi compliment it well, as they serve it up with (as Big Boi so elegantly puts it) “some southern hospitality”. This is a certified hip-hop classic that sounds as yummy as fried chicken, collard greens and sweet potato pie.

Call of Da Wild – Outkast invites a few of their Dungeon Family bredrin from Goodie Mob (that the liner notes spells “Goody Mob”) to join them on this track. T-Mo and Khujo spit verses along side Dre and Boi, while Cee-Lo (who legend has it almost became the third member of Outkast when they started the group…how ill would that have been? But on the flip side, how terrible would Goodie Mob have been without him?) is delegated to sing the hook. I wasn’t crazy about any of the verses, the hook (and I normally love Cee-Lo’s singing) or the instrumental.

Player’s Ball – Most of you probably forgot (or never knew) that this song was originally released on the A LaFace Family Christmas album at the tail end of 1993, but would also double as SPCMs lead single, hence Boi and Dre’s odd Christmas references mixed in amongst their southern playalistic slang. Organized Noize even adds sleigh bells at the beginning of the song to give it more Christmas cheer. This was a monster radio hit and easily the biggest hit from the album. Another certified hip-hip classic.

Claimin’ True – Organized Noize and company keep the heat coming as they serve up this nasty bluesy instrumental for Boi and Dre to talk their shit over. Boi claims to have been “a player since the age of two”, while Dre says he started packing a “shank up in his socks when he started kindergarten”. I doubt that either of these claims are true, but this song is still bananas.

Club Donkey Ass (Interlude) – Interlude to set up the next song…

Funky Ride – Dre and Boi take a breather, while Organized Noize and friends turn some live instrumentation into a smooth groove that Society of Soul (whom Sleepy Brown was also a part of) laces with passable vocals. This works out to be an enjoyable intermission.

Flim Flam (Interlude) – Another interlude to set up the next song. The song playing in the background is kind of muffled, but the bass line on the instrumental is hard. If anybody has info on that song, hit me in the comments.

Git Up, Git Out – This was the third and final single from SPCM. Cee-Lo and Big Gipp join Boi and Dre as they each spit a verse encouraging brothers to put down the weed, get off they asses and do something with their lives. Cee-Lo easily spits the strongest verse of the four, and his catchy and very potent hook, along with the dope twangy instrumental, carry the weight on this song.

True Dat (Interlude) – Big Rube (who would become a regular on Outkast albums) uses this interlude to give a brief explanation on the meaning of the group’s name.

Crumblin’ Erb – Organized Noize and the band cook up this smooth mid-tempo groove that Boi and Dre use to rationalize their weed usage. The duo spits decent rhymes, but the instrumental (largely thanks to the live guitar, bass and organ) and the Sleepy Brown led slick hook are what truly carry this song.

Hootie Hoo – Warning: The hook on this joint is very addictive and becomes an even harder habit to break when combined with the hard stripped down backdrop that our hosts use to spew random ratchet rhymes over.

D.E.E.P. – This must have been one of the last songs recorded for SPCM, as it’s the most militant song on the album (Dre confesses “You won’t catch me spreading no white thighs, I only see afro bitches up in my eyes” and Boi spews “You d-e-v-i-l, the cave is where you dwell, so stay up out the way it’s beginning to smell like dog, yeah”) and sounds the closest to what the duo would sound like on their sophomore effort, ATLiens. Dre steals the show with his second verse, which is also the strongest bars on the album: “Ya’ll think I’m stupid, cause I shoots ’em up like Cupid, and if you gave me a basketball I’ll show you how to shoot it, my head’s polluted, cause I’m zooted, vibin’ to the problem, if a pair of Jordans came out y’all figure that I got ’em, but no I don’t because I don’t be havin’ funds, the gold that I’m wearin’ is really made out of bronze, it weighs a ton and be makin’ my neck turn green, and I gots a criminal record that will never come clean”. The instrumental work didn’t do it for me, but Boi and, especially Dre, kept me entertained.

Player’s Ball (Reprise) – Outkast closes out SPCM with this reprise of the album’s biggest hit. In place of Boi and Dre’s verses, Society of Soul sings new lines over a remixed instrumental that incorporates techno-ish drums and some pretty piano chords (there is a remix of this song with this instrumental and Outkast’s original verses on it). I actually like this instrumental better than the original.

Andre 3000 is absolutely in my top ten emcees of all time list (and he should at least be in your top 20). SPCM finds him still blossoming into the stellar emcee that the world would soon come to love, but he still does a respectable job on the mic, and this album is the closest he and Big Boi would ever be to equals with the rhymes. The true star of SPCM is the production, courtesy of Organized Noize, and just as importantly, the live instrumentation brought you by a crew of musicians (Guitar: Craig Love and Edward Stroud, Bass: Preston Crump, Marq Jefferson and Colin Wolfe, Organ and Piano: Kenneth Wright, Saxophone: Jeff Sparks), who collectively cook up a brilliant batch of southern fried soundscapes that will surely nourish your soul. SPCM is far from the duo’s best work, but it’s a solid debut that started to make the rest of the world take Atlanta hip-hop serious.

-Deedub

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Raw Fusion – Hoochiefied Funk (April 26, 1994)

Raw Fusion is the Oakland based two-man team of Money B and DJ Fuze, which was a direct offshoot of the larger collective, Digital Underground. The duo’s connection with DU is without question what helped them parlay a side deal with Hollywood Basic, where they would release two albums: their 1991 debut, Live From The Styleetron and the subject of today’s post, Hoochiefied Funk.

According to the liner notes, Money B and DJ Fuze would handle the bulk of the production load, with a few assists from their DU affiliates. I’ve never heard Live From The Styleetron before, and this post marks my first time listening to Hoochiefied Funk (an obvious candidate for worst album title), an album I didn’t even know existed until I stumbled upon a copy of the cd a few years ago in the dollar bin at one of my favorite spots (shoutout to Cheapos!). Other than the incredibly reasonable price, I bought Hoochiefied Funk because of Raw Fusion’s connection to Digital Underground, a group that I’ve respected through the years, and I was also curious to see if Money B could carry an entire album as the lead emcee.

So, lets see how this one pans out.

The New Jazz (Intro)Hoochiefied Funk begins with a minute and a half of what’s supposed to be a “new jazz”. I’m not a fan, but it’s short, so whatever.

Hoochiefied Funk – Raw Fusion gets the title track out the way right away. The duo lay down a very average instrumental, while Money B spits even less impressive rhymes about the importance of having that “hoochiefied funk” playing in your ride if you’re looking to attract, um, hoochies. Yes, the song sounds just as bad as it reads.

Freaky Note – Raw Fusion slows things way down, with some live instrumentation brought to you courtesy of John Wilson on bass guitar and The Piano Man on keys. Money B uses the smooth instrumentation to talk extremely dirty to the object of his erection, while Shock G stops by to sing the hook, which compliments the instrumental well. I actually enjoyed this one.

A Penny For Your Thoughts – Over an awful instrumental, Money B disses all the gold diggin’ chicks (that he refers to as “tricksters”) who are down to spread ’em for the right price. This was almost unbearable.

I Got Flavor – No, you don’t, an neither does the instrumental. Wait…did Money B just say “When I’m rhyming like Common”? When did he ever spit that nice?

Red Riding Good – Money B turns the kid story of Little Red Riding Hood into a raunchy misogynistic debacle. The instrumental is decent, but Money sounds mad pervy with rhymes like “I don’t know the age, I never checked the ID, but she’s just another woman for me” and “Red, what nice breast you have”. Next…

Bumpin’ ‘Em – I love the Cold 187um (from Above The Law) vocal sample. Everything else about this song is trash.

Action Packed – Money B takes a break from talking about hoochies and goes into “battle mode”. He even throws a flailing swing at Das EFX with “I mean I’m sick of suckas flexin’ they need to get that ass tapped, diggidy this diggidy that trying to lose me with the fast rap”, which is kind of corny considering Das was done with the “diggidy thing” by 1994, and the fact that both Dray and Skoob would wash Money on the mic if they decided to pull the style they originated back out. Undaprivileged Courtney Skankkin (that’s a mouthful) joins Money on the hook with a short chant that gives the song a pinch of a reggae vibe (and is probably my favorite part of the song). This isn’t a terrible song, but I’m not crazy about it, either.

Do Doo Mc’s – Pot, meet kettle.

Word For The Day – Raw Fusion, with an assist from Big D The Impossible, creates a dope mid-tempo groove, and DU affiliate, Clee stops by and lends a misogynistic verse to match Money B’s. Clee’s verse fairs a little better than is his buddy’s, but neither of them really impress. The true star of this one is the instrumental.

Do Your Homework – On this one Money B’s warning all the fellas to be careful in how you treat your lady, before a player, like himself, creeps in and bangs her out. Shock G lends another helping hand, as he sings the hook and he and the rest of The D-Flow team get a co-production credit for the funkdafied instrumental. I wasn’t really feeling this one, but it did spark me to come up with a new segment that I’ll call “Tribe Degrees of Separation”, that will somehow tie a song, album or other randomness to a Tribe Called Quest: This song incorporates a sample of the hook from ATCQ’s “Buggin’ Out”.

Dirty Drawls – Apparently this was a bonus track only available on the cd version of Hoochiefied Funk. D-Flow gets another co-production credit for this one and Shock G makes yet another appearance contributing a partial verse and helps with the hook, as he, Money B and Clee playfully tell their side chicks that in order to gain main chick status, you have to love them down to their dirty drawls. The song, including the instrumental (shoutout to The Piano Man, credited for arranging the keyboards and samples), has DU’s signature fun, light-hearted good vibes dripping all over it, and is easily the strongest song on the album. Well, at least the cd version.

Yo Daddy Yo – Raw Fusion samples The World’s Famous Supreme Team’s “Hey Mr .DJ” for the backdrop, as Money B celebrates his dad, which unfortunately, is rarely heard in hip-hop songs. Money is not a great lyricist, but his rhymes on this one come off honest and heartwarming without sounding corny.

To Hell With It – Speaking of hell, this song (even though it gives us yet another Tribe Degrees of Separation moment when Money says “Now let me kick the last scenario like Tribe and the Leaders”) is hot garbage.

As I suspected going into this post, Money B doesn’t have enough lyrical ammo to carry an entire project on his own, and his impotency will begin to lull you to sleep three songs into the album. I was hoping that he and DJ Fuze would call on their DU brethren (D-Flow Production Squad) to at least help them give Hoochiefied Funk some flavor on the production end. D-Flow does get two co-production credits (and Shock G adds some swag to a couple of tracks), but only one of them ends up working, sonically, rendering the majority of the album as bland as bread and crackers. There is really no reason why Hoochiefied Funk should exist. But if it must, it should have been a maxi-single with “Freaky Note”, “Dirty Drawls”, “Yo Daddy Yo” and the instrumental from “Word For The Day” on it.

-Deedub

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