2pac – All Eyez On Me (February 13, 1996)

1995 was an interesting year for 2pac. He released his third album, Me Against The World, in March of ‘95, and not only would it go on to reach double platinum status, but it would also become a critical darling with many critics and fans proclaiming it Pac’s finest hour and one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all-time. Simultaneously, Pac was serving a 9-month prison sentence, and even with the success of his album, he was broke; and to add insult to injury, his dear momma was in jeopardy of losing her home as well. Legend has it that Pac had his wife (Keisha Morris) reach out to the notorious Death Row Records founder and CEO, Suge Knight for help. Knight would oblige by gifting 2pac’s mother 15k and posting Pac’s 1.4-million-dollar bond that would get Pac out from behind bars, but lock the Oakland bred rapper into a three-album deal with Death Row Records. Pac would knock out two of the three albums with his 1996 double album release, All Eyez On Me.

All Eyez On Me would be the first double album released by a rapper and would start a trend that many of your favorite emcees would soon follow. Pac would call on a plethora of producers to sculpt the sonics for All Eyez On Me, including Dr. Dre, Daz, DJ Quik, Bobcat, DJ Pooh, Devante Swing and QDIII, but it would be the relatively unknown, Johnny J (rip) who would manage most of the production load, producing eleven of the albums twenty-seven tracks. Like anything else released on Death Row Records during the mid-nineties, All Eyez On Me would be a commercial success, selling more than 500,000 units during its first week released, and by 2014 it would reach diamond status (diamond is ten million copies sold, which technically means five million copies were sold, as each disc in a double album counts as a separate unit for certification). All Eyez On Me was also a critical darling with many proclaiming it one the greatest hip-hop albums of all-time.

Making a 27-track double album is an ambitious feat, even for a rapper of 2pac’s caliber. Let’s revisit All Eyez On Me and see how it’s held up over the years.

Book 1:

Ambitionz Az A RidahAll Eyez On Me begins with hard stripped-down drums and a few devious sounding keyboard chords (courtesty of Daz), and Pac quickly finds the beat’s pocket and ambitiously (see what I did there?) rides the muthafucka in true Pac thug fashion. Side note: There’s an unreleased version of this song called “Ambitionz Az A Fighta (Mike Tyson Mix)” that Pac rhymes about Iron Mike’s quest to regain his title after losing it to Buster Douglas and serving a three-year prison sentence for a rape conviction. It’s readily available on the internet, and it’s actually pretty dope.

All Bout U – Johnny J builds this backdrop around a loop from Cameo’s “Candy” and puts some G-funk swag on it. Pac makes this a family affair, as he’s joined by Dru Down on the intro, while his Outlawz bredrin, Hussein Fatal and Yaki Kadafi (rest in peace to both) spit forgettable misogynistic verses next to Pac’s mediocre output. Thankfully, Nate Dogg (yet another rip) blesses the track with his smooth vocal stylings on the hook, and Snoop’s closing commentary was pretty amusing.

Skandalouz – Pac addresses some of the scandalous, excuse me, skandalouz women that he’s encountered over Daz’ laidback synth groove. For the second consecutive track, Nate Dogg lends his smooth vocals to the hook, completing this dope West Coast bop.

Got My Mind Made Up – Pac is joined by Daz (who also gets the production credit for this song), Kurupt, Method Man (continuing the impressive cameo run he was on in the mid-nineties) and Redman for this cipher session. Daz kicks things off and sounds half-asleep during his verse (I can’t make out half of what he’s saying), while Pac, Kurupt and Red all spit solid verses. But it’s Method Man who cuts the head off Daz’ banger and walks away victorious. This was and will always be a hard record. Side note: Rumor has it that this song was originally a Dogg Pound record featuring Lady of Rage, RBX and Inspectah Deck (which would explain why you hear “INS The Rebel” scratched in at the end of the song), but all three guests’ verses were removed, and Meth and Red’s added after Daz gave the track to Pac. I would love to hear what the O.G. version sounded like.

How Do U Want It – This was the third single released from All Eyez On Me. Johnny J builds this sexy groove around a funky guitar loop, while half of Jodeci (K-Ci and JoJo) sprinkle the hook with their distinct vocals and crooning. Pac matches the sexy backdrop with lusty bars aimed at the ladies (well, at least for the first verse and a half; the second half of the song is all over the place): “Tell me is it cool to fuck? Did you think I come to talk? Am I a fool or what? Positions on the floor, it’s like erotic, ironic, ’cause I’m somewhat psychotic, I’m hittin’ switches on bitches like I been fixed with hydraulics”. Truth be told, I used to hate this song back in ‘96, but over the years I’ve learned to appreciate it, as it’s aged well. Side note: The B-side of this single was the infamous dis record, “Hit ‘Em Up” that would put the east coast/west coast feud into full motion.

2 Of Amerikaz Most Wanted – I believe this was the second single released from the album. Daz creates the perfect atmosphere for a gangsta party, as Pac and Snoop, who had both experienced legal woes, boast, brag and swag about their notoriousness.

No More Pain – Devante Swing hooks up an average at best backdrop (leaving Mr. Dalvin as the sole member of Jodeci that did not contribute to All Eyez On Me) that Pac tries to rap life into, but unfortunately, he can’t revive it. I completely forgot this song existed, and now I remember why.

Heartz Of Men – DJ Quik gets his sole production credit of the night with this one (although he is credited with mixing a large chunk of the album), as he slides a rejuvenated 2pac a slick banger that he uses to spew his thugged-out raps over. The trumpet loop Quik uses in this song is absolutely bananas. This record might sound better today than it did 25 years ago, and I happen to love the song title.

Life Goes On – Our host uses this somber backdrop to pay respect to his dead homies, and during the song’s final verse, he morbidly shares his personal wishes when he passes: “Bury me smiling, with g’s in my pocket, have a party at my funeral, let every rapper rock it, let the hoes that I used to know, from befo, kiss me from my head to my toe, give me a pad and pen, so I can write about my life a sin, a couple bottles of gin, in case I don’t get in.” I’ve always loved this song, but hindsight of Pac’s early demise makes it hit home even harder.

Only God Can Judge Me – In my opinion, Pac was at his best when he was in introspective-slightly-paranoid-death-obsessed-self-loathing mode, and he gives us all that energy on this one: “I hear the doctor standin’ over me screamin’ I can make it, got a body full of bullet holes, layin’ here naked, still I can’t breathe, something’s evil in my IV, cause every time I breathe, I think they killin’ me, I’m having nightmares, homicidal fantasies, I wake up stranglin’, tangled in my bed sheets, I call the nurse, ’cause it hurts to reminisce, how did it come to this? I wish they didn’t miss.” Speaking of self-loathing, Pac takes it to the next level when he ends the song saying, “My only fear of death is comin’ back to this bitch reincarnated” (sentiments he also rhymes on “No More Pain”). Doug Rasheed recycles the drums from “Top Billin’” and places whiny-synthesized chords over it, along with a talk box vocal that recites the song title on the hook, and it all sounds great underneath our host’s callous bars. The Bay Area rapper, Rappin’ 4-Tay drops in at the end of the song and gets off a quick verse, and though I’ve never been a huge fan of his music (although I can’t say I’ve heard enough of his music to have much of an opinion), he sounds nice tiptoeing over the dope backdrop. This is easily one of my favorite songs on All Eyez On Me.

Tradin War Stories – Pac invites his Outlawz/Dramacydal cronies (Kastro, E.D.I. Mean, C-Bo, Napoleon and Storm) to join him on this one, as they take turns sharing thugged-out street tales over an emotional soundscape, credited to Mike Mosely and Rick Rock (not to be confused with Rick Ross). I like the instrumental, but this would have worked out better as a duet between Pac and Storm.

California Love (Rmx) – This was the lead single from All Eyez On Me that would soon become a timeless West Coast anthem. Dr. Dre (who also gets the production credit) and Roger Troutman (rip) drop by to help their “fresh out on bail” associate “serenade the street of L.A.” and celebrate the rest of the golden state. The original version of this song was built around an ill Joe Cocker piano loop (that Dre also produced), but this remix has a more traditional g-funk feel that I personal enjoy more than the original.

I Ain’t Mad At Cha – Daz gets his finally production credit of the night, as he builds this melancholic instrumental around an interpolation of a portion of Debarge’s “A Dream”. The music moves Pac to reminisce about a reformed homie who found God and love, an old girlfriend who held him down while he was behind bars, and on the final first he addresses all his traders and haters (He also becomes the only rapper to ever use “convalescent” in a rhyme. Well done, Pac). Danny Boy makes his first appearance of the evening, dropping by to add adlibs and sing the hook. This was and still is a dope record.

What’z Ya Phone # – Pac’s in full-blown heat looking to give some willing young lady a dosage of his thug passion on this one. Johnny J loops up The Time’s “777-9311” to create the funky and sexy backdrop that suits Pac’s raunchy rhymes, perfectly, while Danny Boy makes his second consecutive cameo singing the hook. The song ends with a nearly three-minute phone exchange between Pac and a random PYT that gets pretty dirty. Did I enjoy the exchange? Does a bear shit in the woods and wipe his ass with a rabbit?

Book 2:

Can’t C Me – Pac kicks off “Book 2” of All Eyez On Me with a bang and a banger. Dr. Dr gets his second and final production credit of the evening, as he, for at least the fourth time in his career, loops up Funkadelic’s “(Not Just) Knee Deep” (see “Fuck Wit Dre Day”, and the “G-Funk Intro” and “Who Am I (What’s My Name)?” on Doggystyle), and somehow some way, he makes it sound amazing (I absolutely love the well-placed tuba chords laced throughout the song). Speaking of Funkadelic, George Clinton makes a cameo, adding some colorful adlibs and spoken word to the track, while a lively 2pac talks his shit and thugs his way through the record, and sounds convincing in the process. This was a brilliant way to start the second half of All Eyez On Me.

Shorty Wanna Be A Thug – Pac spins a street tale about a young shorty’s maturation from snot nose kid to full blown thug (although he should hardly be called a shorty, since Pac claims the kid stands at 6’10 inches). Pac doesn’t cover any new territory with this one, and his rhymes weren’t mapped out well (he starts the first verse off saying the kid’s a “middle class nigga” and by the second verse the same kid grew up with no mom or dad. Details matter, man), but it still makes for a decent listen, I guess.

Holla At Me – This song finds Pac heated and seeking vengeance on those he felt betrayed him. The final verse is clearly referencing Ayanna Jackson (the woman who accused Pac of rape that he would eventually be convicted of and serve time for), but the first two verses could be aimed at a plethora of people (Biggie, Haitian Jack, Stretch…). The unsung legend, Bobcat, gets his sole production credit of the evening with this one, and he crafts a decent fast-paced dimly lit canvas for Pac to paint on, while Nanci Fletcher swings by to sing threats to Pac’s adversaries on the hook.

Wonda Why They Call U Bytch – Pac gives a few lame examples to explain and attempt to justify why he calls certain women bitches. The content is juvenile and Johnny J’s backdrop is boring. That’s all I got.

When We Ride – This instrumental sounds too serious to be a DJ Pooh production, but it is. Pac is joined by his Outlaw Immortalz crew: Hussein Fatal, Kastro, Napoleon, Mussolini, E.D.I., Kadafi and Khomeini, as all nine of them get off a verse, making this one lengthy cipher session. Unfortunately, other than Pac, none of them sound impressive on the mic, but the true star of this one is Pooh’s instrumental.

Thug Passion – Pac is joined by Kastro, Napoleon, E.D.I. Mean, Kadafi and Storm on this ode to a mixed drink (part Alize, part Cristal) that Pac guarantees will “get the pussy wet and the dick hard”. Johnny J interpolates portions of Zapp’s “Computer Love” for the instrumental, as DJ Quik, appropriately, adds Roger Troutman like talk box vocals to the track, and the unheralded, Jewell stops by to sing the hook. This makes for tolerable filler material that wouldn’t be missed if it didn’t exist.

Picture Me Rollin’ – This instrumental reminds me a lot of the instrumental for Me Against The World’s “Death Around The Corner”, which Johnny J also produced. I wasn’t crazy about Pac’s, Syke’s or CPO’s rhymes, and Danny Boy’s singing wasn’t pleasing to the ear, either. At least the music was enjoyable.

Check Out Time – Pac, Kurupt and Syke use this one to recall the previous night’s antics in their hotel rooms, which involved a whole lot of drinking and next level sexcapades (things got so wild that Pac claims a few of the chicks tried to rape him and his boys). Johnny J borrows a dope Minnie Riperton loop for the instrumental (the same loop A Tribe Called Quest used in ’91 for their classic record, “Check The Rhime” (Tribe Degrees of Separation: check)) that creates soothing backing music for the threesome’s raunchy rhymes. Very decent album cut that sounds better with each listen.

Ratha Be Ya Nigga – Richie Rich drops by and makes his first of two cameos of the night, as he and Pac take turns trying to convince the objects of their erections to give them a shot. The first line of the song is Pac saying, “Your fuckin’ with niggas that’s insecure”, which for some reason sounds super ill to me and amazingly vulnerable, especially coming from the lips of a rapper. Doug Rasheed creates a chill mood with his slick instrumental, built around elements of Bootsy Collins’ “I’d Rather Be With You”, while a couple of young ladies (the liner notes credit Puff Johnson (rip) and Ebony) sprinkle their smooth vocals over the hook. I’m not sure if Pac and Richie’s targets took the bait, but it sure made for an entertaining listen. 

All Eyez On Me – The album’s title track features a smooth loop backed by a bouncy bass line (courtesy of Johnny J) that finds Pac mixing paranoid bars with floss and shit talk like a bartender does drinks. For some reason, Pac lets Big Syke get off a verse, which was completely unwarranted and underwhelming. Placing the album’s title song this deep into the track sequencing was kind of strange, but the song still sounds solid.

Run Tha Streetz – Pac tries to convince his lady that allowing him to run the streets with his homies will only enhance their love life, or as he so eloquently puts it: “A nigga who hang out more will come home and love you better”. Storm and Mutah also chime in on the topic with verses sandwiched in between Pac’s. Johnny J interpolates a portion of Guy’s classic “Piece Of My Love” for the instrumental, putting a little g-funk twist on it, while Michel’le reinterprets and sings the hook from the same song. Random thought: I wonder if Jay Leno knows Pac gave him a shoutout on this record.

Ain’t Hard 2 Find – The Bay area is in full effect on this posse joint: E-40, B-Legit, C-Bo and Richie Rich all stop by to help Pac talk big shit to their foes and haters over a serious sounding Mike Mosley/Rick Rock concoction that’s dripping with west coast vibes. This was pretty dope.

Heaven Ain’t Hard 2 Find – No, this is not a remix of the previous song. Pac closes out All Eyez On Me with a breezy west coast bop (courtesy of QDIII, who on the low, had quite an impressive production run in the nineties) that he uses to spit one long pick-up line, over the course of three verses (Am I the only one that finds it amusing the way Pac uses the word “activate” in songs?), while Danny Boy’s voice borders on annoying, as he moans and whines on the hook. This is a decent record, but an underwhelming way to close out the album.

All Eyez On Me starts off strong with some pretty amazing production work, and Pac sounds enthusiastic and convincing spewing his thugged-out bars over the potent instrumentals. But by the time “Book Two” rolls around, the production starts to wane, the tracks become weighed down by an overabundance of mediocre cameos, and Pac’s thuggery and shenanigans start to sound redundant, leaving me yearning for more of the “death-paranoid-introspective-conscious” side of Pac, who is almost completely absent from All Eyez On Me. But even with “Book Two” being inferior to “Book One”, it’s still decent, and All Eyez On Me as a whole is a solid album that would have worked better as a fourteen or fifteen track single album.

-Deedub

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Eazy-E – Str8 Off Tha Streetz Of Muthaphukkin Compton (January 30, 1996)

I’ve never been a huge fan of posthumously released albums. I can count on one hand, actually, I can trim that down to two fingers, on how many posthumous albums I’ve ever liked: Biggie’s Life After Death and Pac’s, excuse me, Makaveli’s The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory. I personally don’t count either as a posthumous album, since Life After Death was completely done at the time of Biggie’s death and released just two weeks after he passed, and I’m pretty sure The 7 Day Theory was close to completion at the time of Pac’s untimely demise. But technically speaking, since they were both released after their deaths, they are considered posthumous albums. But most rappers’ posthumous (I’m getting tired of typing that word!) albums don’t walk the same path and are normally stuffed with a bunch of old freestyles, random unreleased shit, cameo appearances from other artists to fill in the gaps, all placed over a bunch of beats with no cohesion in an attempt for the label to make a quick buck off of the deceased rapper’s name with no regards to the quality of the music or how it may affect the rapper’s legacy. So, when I found Eazy’s first posthumously released album, Str8 Off Tha Streetz Of Muthaphukkin Compton a few months ago, I was hesitant to buy it. But since I’ve already written about the rest of his catalog, the completionist in me forced me to, and here we are.

Str8 Off Tha Streetz was released ten months after Easy passed away from AIDS-induced pneumonia on March 26, 1995. Rumor has it that most of the songs on Str8 Off Tha Streetz were incomplete leftover Eazy-E scraps that his long-time friend and former NWA bredrin, DJ Yella, recovered from a double album project Eazy was working on back in 1993 that never saw the light of day. Str8 Off Tha Streetz would receive mixed reviews, but regardless of the critics’ opinions, the album was a commercial success that would go on to earn the late rapper another gold plaque.

This marks the first time I’ve ever listened to Str8 Off Tha Streetz. Hopefully, it defies the odds of most rap posthumous (there goes that word again!) albums, but that won’t be an…easy task. Pun intended.

First Power – The album begins with a gunshot, followed by semi-spooky sounding piano chords, as Eazy jumps back into his “devil’s son-in-law” persona and shares a few demonic opening words.

Ole School Shit – Eazy is joined by his “Real Muthaphuckkin G’s” alumni, Gangsta Dresta and B.G. Knocc Out, as well as female emcee, Sylk, as they continue to feud with Death Row Records, waging their war of words over a dark and hard Yella produced instrumental. It was pretty amusing to hear B.G. Knocc Out stumble during the middle of his verse, and instead of punching him in or having him do another take, they kept the mistake, and you can hear Eazy instructing him to “pick it back up”; and he manages to recover, nicely. Despite B.G. Knocc Out’s microphone mishap, every party involved does a serviceable job, making the first song of the evening pretty damn entertaining.

Sorry Louie – Eazy uses this one to rap praises to a unique weapon of choice: his Louisville Slugger. Over the course of three verses, E shares a few sticky encounters that he’s forced to pull out his Louie and bash a few heads in with. The contents kind of gory, but it’s all in jest (I think), and Eazy’s high-pitch vocal and choppy flow sounds nice over Bobcat’s raw and rugged boom-bap. The vocal snippets (taken from the movie Apology) laced throughout the song add to its already menacing nature.

Just Tah Let U Know – Apparently, this was the lead and only single released from Str8 Off Tha Streetz. This is also the first tangible evidence of the evening that the content on this album was taken from older Eazy material, as he says “Comin’ through with a big lick for ‘94” during the song’s opening verse. Eazy spits three verses chock-full of generic gangsta rhymes, and of course he had to take another shot at Dre (“that nigga makin’ more money off your hits than you do”) and Snoop (“So bow down, bow wow, the big dog’s in town, and them guts is the only thing a nigga pounds”). The instrumental isn’t horrible, but something about it sounds cheesy, and the hook is corny as hell. The song ends awkwardly with Eazy rambling on about absolutely nothing.

Sippin On A 40 – Yella builds this funky backdrop around a dope loop from WAR’s classic record, “Slippin’ Into Darkness” (that in my opinion, was flawlessly flipped and will forever belong to Poor Righteous Teacher’s classic, “Rock Dis Funky Joint”), as Eazy is joined by BG Knocc Out and Gangsta Dresta to detail their ghetto quest to cop some liquor. The rhymes and hook (which also borrow from “Slippin’ Into Darkness”) are mildly entertaining, but the beat undeniably knocks.

Nutz On Ya Chin – After one listen and before reading the credits, I could immediately tell that Treach penned Eazy’s rhymes and Kay Gee produced the instrumental for this one. Treach is one of the most ferocious emcees in hip-hop history, but his rhymes don’t hit the same when delivered by Eazy, who’s limited rhyming ability becomes blatantly obvious as he tries to spit with Treach’s swift cadence. Kay Gee’s instrumental sounds like something he threw away and decided to take it out the trash and clean it up as best he could when Eazy (or Yella) called him for a beat.

Tha Muthaphukkin Real – Eazy reunites with his former NWA partner, MC Ren, as the duo take turns sharing more generic gangsta rhymes over a quiet slow-rolling Yella produced backdrop. It’s not a great record, but it makes for decent filler material.

Lickin, Suckin, Phukkin – Eazy gets off some verbal porn on this short interlude that sets up the next song…

Hit The Hooker – Given the song title and what I mentioned about the previous interlude, I think you’re smart enough to figure out what this song is about. Once again, Treach and Kay Gee are credited with producing the track, and it’s clear Treach penned the rhymes and Kay Gee hooked up the instrumental. Eazy continues to struggle to rhyme with Treach’s aggressive rapid-fire delivery, but at least Kay Gee’s instrumental was solid this time around.

My Baby’z Mama – Our host dedicates this one to his baby mama, whom he clearly despises. Apparently, he despised her so much he (or Yella) didn’t care how godawful his rhymes and flow sounded when recording this dis record. And the instrumental sounds even worst.

Creep N Crawl – More filler material that I could have done without.

Wut Would You Do – Eazy invites Dirty Red (an early candidate for alias of the year) to join him on the mic, as the two take one last shot at Death Row for the evening. I wasn’t blown away by Eazy or Dirty Red’s bars (though I literally chuckle every time I hear Eazy dis Snoop while references a line from “Murder Was The Case”: “Murder was the case that they gave me, I’ll smoke all you fools, even your boo-boo and your baby”), but the dark grimy instrumental (credited to a Tony G) was dope. By the way, can I get a question mark at the end of the song title, please?

Gangsta Beat 4Tha Street – Yella builds the smooth backdrop around a Delphonics’ loop (the same one Gang Starr used for “Lovesick” and Ed O.G & Da Bulldogs used for “Gotta Have Money”) and turns this into a gangsta cipher, as Eazy is joined by Gangsta Dresta, B.G. Knocc Out and Menajahtwa on the mic, as they all take turns celebrating boomin’ systems, dope beats and the gangsta lifestyle (or as Eazy so cornily puts it at the end of his verse: “Being a gangsta is so neat”). This was decent.

Eternal E – The last track of the night features a horrible synth-funk instrumental (credited to Roger Troutman (rip) and Tony G, with a co-credit going to Yella) that has snippets of Eazy talking about police brutality, NWA’s placement in hip-hop history, and his thoughts on why black kids join gangs, which all results in one random rant. Roger saturates the track with his signature talk box adlibs that make the terrible backdrop sound even worst. At the beginning of the song, Yella claims that Eazy wanted this track on the album, but I’m sure he wouldn’t approve of this hot mess.

Str8 Off Tha Streetz is the perfect example of why I don’t like most posthumously released albums. It sounds like Yella took old unreleased Eazy material, placed it over he and a few guest producers’ beats and filled in the holes with a bunch of cameos (I’m curious to why Bone Thugs didn’t make the album, though); and I found it completely ridiculous and unnecessary for Yella to continue Eazy’s beef with Death Row even in death. There are a few bangers on Str8 Off Tha Streetz, but most of the album is a mixture of mediocre, forgettable, and corny material, but this time I can’t hold Eazy responsible.

-Deedub

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Speech – Speech (January 23, 1996)

Greetings, my peoples! I hope you all enjoyed the holidays, and that the New Year is treating you well! I definitely enjoyed my hiatus, as I was able to devote my time to some of the other things that are important to me in this life. But it’s time to dust off the pen and get back into the swing of things. So, let’s kick off 2022 with the year in hip-hop that was 1996.

By 1996, Arrested Development already had two albums under their collective belts (three, if you count their MTV Unplugged album), a multi-platinum selling album, four gold plaques, five Grammy nominations and a couple of Grammy wins. They had also experienced the highs and lows that come with the music industry. Their debut album, 3 Years, was a huge commercial success (thanks to songs like “Tennessee” and “Mr. Wendal”), but their follow-up, Zingalamaduni didn’t receive nearly as many accolades or make as much noise as its predecessor (I personally, thought it was a better album than the first, but that’s neither here nor there). Even with the disappointing numbers on their sophomore effort, AD’s label (Chrysalis/EMI) didn’t give up on the group, as they would get one more group project off in 2000 (Da Feelin’ EP). But before AD would release their third project, the voice and backbone of the group, Speech, would strike a solo deal with Chrysalis, releasing his self-titled debut album at the beginning of 1996.

Speech would handle most of the album’s production duties with an occasional assist here and there from a helping hand. Like Zingalamaduni, Speech was a commercial failure that came and went without a peep. But based on Speech’s music and aura, he doesn’t seem to be one motivated by money and/or accolades.

I found Speech in the dollar bins at one of my spots a few years ago. Since I liked some of the stuff on Arrested Development’s first two albums, I copped it and here we are. So, let’s jump into and hopefully get 1996 off with a great start.

Can U Hear Me? – Speech starts the night off with a little mic check and gets some help from Pappa Jon (not to be confused with that racist muthafucka who used to be the face and CEO of the pizza company with the same name). Speech spits passable bars, but Pappa Jon sounds like he borrowed Marty McFly’s DeLorean and traveled from 1983 to 1996, and that’s not a compliment. Speech’s instrumental is technically solid, but something about it feels dull and boring.

Ask Somebody Who Ain’t (If U Think The System’s Workin’…) – Over a mid-tempo folkish backdrop, Speech shares the story of a struggling single mother of three doing everything she can to make ends meet. The anonymous female’s story is used to highlight the bigger issues of wealth, poverty, employment and etc. in America. This was a cute little bop that’ll leave you with a few things to think about.

Filled With Real – Some young lady’s got Speech wide open on this one. So much so that he decided to write and sing a love song about her. Wait…did he just tell her “I’d like to fill you up with me” and then ask her “Have you ever climbed this tree, uh, uh not that tree, but this tree?” Them hippy niggas be the freakiest. I wasn’t crazy about this one, but it’s not terrible, either.

Why U Gotta Be Feelin’ Like Dat – Pappa Jon returns to join Speech on the mic for this duet that finds the duo taking turns calling out a couple of toxic ladies in their lives. Poppa Jon delivers (no pun intended) his verses and the hook in this super annoying singing rap cadence that sounds even worse when paired with the cheesy instrumentation backing him.

If U Was Me – On the surface this appears to be a traditional love song, but it’s actually a somber acoustic ballad dedicated to white America from a black man’s perspective. This was dope, and it seems to sound better after every listen.

Impregnated Tid Bits Of Dope Hits – Our host hooks up a dark minimalistic instrumental and gets off some “stream of consciousness” bars over it. Speech’s rhymes are solid on this one, but his instrumental sounds empty and soulless. He does shout out A Tribe Called Quest on the hook (Tribe Degrees of Separation: Check), so that should atone for at least a portion of the backdrop’s transgressions.

Let’s Be Hippies – Speech gets into his Prince bag on this one, putting his own unique folkish acoustic twist on it. Speech plays in the falsetto range for a large chunk of this song, and some notes were cringe worthy, but for the most part, he pulls it off. This is the farthest thing from a hip-hop song, but it’s easily one of my favorite records on the album.

Freestyle #8 From Speech’s Vault – Thanks to vocal distortion and the vocals being recorded way too low, Speech’s rhymes are almost impossible to understand on this minute-and-a-half freestyle. The only thing I understood was the end when he gives a promo for his vinyl only underground album called Beats From Speeches Vault that this short freestyle was taken from. I hope the rest of that album doesn’t sound like this shit.

Like Marvin Gaye Said (What’s Going On) – Our host pays homage to Marvin Gaye’s iconic record, but unfortunately, the results are subpar.

Hopelessly – Speech is in love again. But this time instead of singing to the object of his affection (well, he and Laurnea Wilkerson do sing on the hook), he raps poetically about his love (or infatuation) for this beautiful black Queen over a slick bop built around light mid-tempo drums and a few ruggedly smooth flute chords. In the immortal words of Q-Tip, this is a fly love song.

Insomnia Song – Over a creamy upbeat backdrop, Speech sings about some of the things that keep him up at night, like his newborn child, bills, and his parent’s well-being, as he laments throughout the song: “I got a million stories in my head, Insomnia song got me rollin’ in my bed.” I love the melodic instrumental, and Speech’s content is timelessly refreshing and easily relatable to all.

Poor Little Music Boy – This was too folksy and abstract for my taste buds.

Ghetto Sex – Speech comes from the perspective of an innocent young brother in the hood who meets and gets turned out by a voluptuous young sista, whom the streets say has poom-poom so good it will make you cream your draws, or if you’re Speech, your “bloomers”. In true Speech fashion, there is a deeper underlying meaning to the song than just a brother getting whipped by a bangin’ ghetto chick. The instrumental, which sounds like it’s in a tug of war between melodic and funky, is dope and works well with Speech’s sexy and deep content.

Tell Me Something (Let Me Know) – This is Speech’s ode to the motherland, that he explains at the beginning of the song he wrote while on his way to South Africa :”Yo, I’m going back to Africa, all the people around the world they laugh at ya, called you savage as they smile at Rwanda, call you a bitch after they bust a nut in ya, I’m upset cause their hands are covered with blood, puppet leaders shook hands with colonialism, despite some bad I’m glad you’re livin’, and I’m comin’ to return the love you’ve given”. Speech’s rhymes come off more like a spoken word poem than a rap, but they work well with the somberly soulful vibes of the instrumentation.

Runnin’ Wild – Speech invites Laurnea back to join him on this duet that finds the two sounding like newlyweds as they sing (Speech also sneaks in a quick rap) about their love for one another. This soulful groove is only for the grown and seasoned, and I loved it.

Speech isn’t your traditional hip-hop album. Matter of fact, you could argue that it’s not really a hip-hop album, as it plays like a gumbo mix of pop, r&b, folk and hip-hop all stirred together and served hot to feed both your soul and thought. Speech is a freeform artist who happens to rhyme when inspired, as he spends just as much time singing as he does rapping on the album; and occasionally, he blurs the line between the two art forms. Every song on Speech comes with a message over our host’s unique brand of quirky production, and while I appreciate Speech’s artistic spirit and bravery to explore outside the restrictive box most hip-hop artist tend to rest in, only about half of the songs connect, rendering the other half forgettable, too abstract or just down right corny. Speech’s music isn’t for everybody, but if you’ve acquired a taste for his music, I’m sure you’ll find at least a couple of songs on this project that’ll tantalize your musical taste buds.

-Deedub

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Anniversary Post!

I know, I’m supposed to be on a break from the blog, but I had to drop in real quick to honor the birthday of this monumental album. Twenty-six years ago today, The Genius aka Gza released his quietly classic solo album, Liquid Swords. Celebrate it by giving it a listen, and if you’re listening to on a physical copy, take some time to appreciate the dope artwork on the cover. Enjoy!

-Deedub

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A Brief Intermission

There’s an old quote that goes something like “When your work is your passion, it’s no longer a job.” That’s bullshit. As much as I love writing about hip-hop, preparing a post for this blog on a weekly basis can be a fight, a struggle, and a chore at times. With that said, I’ve decided to take a short break away from this labor of love that I call TimeIsIllmatic to focus on my wifey, kids and the job that actually pays my mortgage.

I’m done with all my housekeeping posts, so I’ll jump into 1996 when I return in a few weeks. In the meantime, grab a snack and take a virtual trip through hip-hop’s past by reading some of my older reviews. And stay tuned…

-Deedub

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Happy Anniversary Post!

Guess who turned 30 years old today? Yep, you guessed it! Ice Cube’s classic second full-length solo album, Death Certificate. Celebrate by clicking here and reading my thoughts on the album while you give it a listen.

Does Death Certificate belong in the discussion of top twenty hip-hop albums of all-time? Share your thoughts in the comments.

-Deedub

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Father MC -Sexual Playground/This Is For The Players (1995)

After Father MC and Uptown Records Vice President of Promotions, Jimmy “Love” Jenkins’ plan for Father to take over the world with his third album, Sex Is Law, failed miserably, Father MC found himself without a label to call home. Between 1990 and 1993, Father MC released three albums on the Uptown label and was able to develop a solid female fanbase, thanks to his fluffy lust/love raps over heavily r&b flavored production and hooks. While Father was able to score one gold selling record with his 1991 hit single, “I’ll Do For You” (which would introduce Mary J. Blige to the world), at best his three albums only produced modest numbers, and left Uptown Records with a decision to make. Like basic addition and subtraction, Father would regroup, and in 1995 he released two independent albums: Sexual Playground (on Top Dogg Records) and This Is For The Players (on Moja Entertainment).

I didn’t know either album existed, until a few months ago when I found them spooning in the used cd bins at one of my favorite frequents (shout out to Cheapos!). I immediately noticed that the album covers looked similar and that they had some of the same song titles listed on the back of their jewel cases. I searched the internet, high and low, looking for an explanation for this, to no avail. So, I came up with my own theory. You wanna hear it? Here it goes: Father released the first album (I’ll guess it was Sexual Playground), and after it didn’t get the backing and exposure he hoped for, he then left Top Dogg Records, made a few alterations to the original album, and re-released it as This Is For Players through Moja Entertainment Group. After both albums failed to make noise or sell any records, I’m sure Father had to take a long look in the mirror, but that’s a discussion for another day. Maybe next Father’s Day? (*rimshot*)

Since a lot of the songs on the albums overlap, I figured I’d combine them on the same post and kill two birds with one stone. I’m sure most of you could give two shits about Father’s music, but hopefully one of my faithful readers and Father MC fan, Vinny enjoys this post.

Random factoid : I just found out that Father MC is married to the actress, Theresa Randle (Malcom X, Bad Boys, Girl 6). Sounds like his love raps paid off.

Lets Get Into FMCSexual Playground opens with what sounds like a transistor radio, repeatedly cycling through the same three stations: One station is playing the hook to the album’s title track. The second, an eerie but beautiful jazzy organ, and the third features a male voice warning that “the world is under attack at this very moment.” This intro left me both, perplexed and intrigued. Is Father going to get into some deep shit? Make joints for the ladies? Or mix things up? We’ll find out soon enough.

You Can Do Me Right Tonight – A few years before the Trackmasters would loop up Rene & Angela’s classic record, “I’ll Be Good”, and turn it into a hit song for Foxy Brown, Father MC sampled it to create the backdrop for this high energy joint that finds our host trying to verbally seduce the ladies, as usual. Apparently, his seduction works, or at least that’s what the singing female on the hook (simply credited to Chan) leads the listener to believe, as she basically begs him to come take the booty. Not a bad way to kick off the evening.

Sexual Playground – Father lays down an instrumental dripping with summertime vibes and commences to invite the ladies to play on or in his jungle gym, as he punctuates each verse with: “If you want some TLC, creep with me, into ecstasy”. The hook is borderline corny but catchy, and the song makes for decent background music while driving in the whip on a nice summer day.

Do Me – Father stays in sex mode, spewing feeble pick-up lines to get his prey out of their panties, and he proclaims himself as the black Gotti, which I’m assuming is his weird way of calling himself the gangsta of love. Female vocalist, Sarisa, sings her heart out and her ass off on the hook, as her contribution paired with the infectious bass line and smooth instrumentation makes this an enjoyable rap r&b-fused bop.

This Is 4 The Players – Father places his Prince Charming persona on ice and puts on his sinister pimp voice, as he warns other players to keep a watchful eye on their ladies before he snatches them up and adds them to his harem: “You better check your chick, cause your chick’s checkin’ me, what’s the law? Pimp or die”. I never knew there was such honor amongst pimps. I enjoyed hearing this callous and cold-hearted version of Father, and the dark instrumental backing him was dope.

Am I What You Want? – Father samples Teddy Pendergrass’ classic “Close The Door” to create this soulful groove that finds our host listing the qualities that he looks for when selecting a woman, which includes being black and simply, having a job. I chuckled during Father’s opening bars when he gives his lady “permission” to say hello to his homies, but nothing more. Apparently, his insecure ass doesn’t think she can stay faithful if she holds a conversation with another man: “I want a girl on the mellow, represent, never disrespect, to my homies you can say hello…not too much convo, cause when I go away you might play on the down low”. Father’s rhymes have all types of sexist male chauvinistic innuendos that he dresses up and presents as charming and vulnerable to win over the female audience. I can see right through his bullshit, but I love this beautiful instrumental and what Sarisa does on the adlibs and hook.

Treat Me Right – Father builds this backdrop around a loop from Luther Vandross’ “Never Too Much” (another loop that never seems to get old) and kicks more of his cliché love raps. This song is dripping with feel good vibes, and once again, Sarisa does her thing on the hook.

Playground – This is pretty much a house/techno remix of “Sexual Playground”, and I like this version way more than the original. It had me pumpin’ my fist like them dudes on Jersey Shore.

4 The Players – Father brings back the instrumental from “This Is 4 The Players”, so you can practice your freestyles over it.

That’s All – The album ends with a female voice asking, “That’s all?” and fittingly, a loop of a moaning woman, who apparently enjoyed the hell out of our host’s playground.

Now let’s jump into This Is For The Players:

Treat Me Right -This one starts with Father being interviewed by a female reporter, and their flirting quickly escalates to a full-blown sexcapade. You would think that Father would follow-up their sexy exchange with a super sexy song (like Sexual Playground’s “You Can Do Me Right Tonight” or as it’s titled on this album, “I Want Your Lovin”), but no cigar. See “Treat Me Right” on Sexual Playground.

This Is For The Players – See “This Is 4 The Players” on Sexual Playground. But you won’t get the super rare Father MC “muthafucka” on this version, as it’s censored for some reason.

Sexual Playground – See title track on Sexual Playground.

You Can Do Me Right – This song is simply titled “Do Me” on Sexual Playground (which the horny interviewer from the album’s intro says is her favorite song on the album). Don’t be fooled (or confused) by the unnecessary extra words in the song title, it’s the same version that’s on Sexual Playground.

High Rollers – Father takes a break away from his love/sex raps and dedicates this one to all the players, G’s, and high rollers. His rhymes aren’t spectacular (I’m still trying to figure out why he thought the line “Father means player, MC means G” was dope enough to say twice), but he sounds decent rhyming over this chill backdrop.

Sexual Healing – Short interlude that finds Culture sprinkling some reggae vibes on Father’s playground.

Am I What You Want – See Am I What You Want?” on Sexual Playground. The song title is written as “Am I What You Want” in the liner notes of This Is For The Players, but as “I Am What You Want” on the back of the cd jewel case. This might be a minor editing issue to most, but it’s a major pet peeve of mine that screams lazy and unprofessional. But I digress.

Funking With Father – Father’s looking to get the party started with this one, and he manages to talk a little shit as well. It sounds like he takes a shot at Uptown Records during the second verse: “I took a minute, studied, listened, came back on a mission, to rule the industry division, with no bs, no budget, no political, no fake A&R’s that’s when it’s critical”. I’m not sure if Father was intentional trying to sound old school with his rhyming scheme as an homage to the pioneers, but it works well and matches the dope instrumental that implements elements of Whodini’s classic record “Five Minutes of Funk”.

Hey…How Ya Doin – I found a video on YouTube for this one (where I discovered that Father rocked a baldy at some point), so it must have been one of the album’s singles. I could have done without this one, but I did enjoy Jodie’s adlibs at the end of the song. Speaking of Jodie, I wonder why Father only credits his female guests by their first names in the liner notes but lists his male guests first and last names. Probably because he’s a male chauvinist. And what’s up with these ridiculous crew names he comes up with? In ’93 he was rollin’ with Butt Naked and in ’95 it’s Sex? Wait…I just put the two crew names together. I’m so juvenile.

I Want Your Lovin – See “You Can Do Me Right Tonight” on Sexual Playground, not be confused with “You Can Do Me Right”, which is “Do Me” on Sexual Playground. Are you confused yet? Father adds opening adlibs on this mix, and he stacks his vocals, which makes him sound like he’s screaming at the listener, and it gets annoying to listen to by the middle of the song.

Life – The previous song ends with a short interlude that has Father saying goodbye to his daughter to run the streets with his crew. Then the dark instrumental (built around an ill Isaac Hayes loop) drops and Father details the struggle and frustration that leads him to attempt a robbery with his crew. Needless to say, things don’t end well. This is definitely the darkest Father MC song that I’ve ever heard; and even though it doesn’t remotely fit in with the rest of the album, I enjoyed it.

For Sexual Playground and This Is For The Players, Father sticks with the formula that brought him moderate success during his stent at Uptown Records, as he continues his tradition of catering to his female fanbase with his charming ladies’ man persona. This Is For The Players has a slightly darker feel than Sexual Playground (I can’t count how many times during this post I accidently typed “Sexual Chocolate” instead of “Sexual Playground”), but at their core, they’re the same album with a few alterations, with love and sex as the main themes. Father is far from a great lyricist, but he does have a solid flow and a credible rapping voice that sounds nice when paired with his clean r&b instrumentals and hooks, which have aged well on these two albums.

If you didn’t enjoy Father MC’s music during his Uptown years, then you probably won’t enjoy Sexual Playground, or This Is For The Players. But if you’re like me and occasionally like your hip-hop drenched in predictable r&b, you’ll find a lot to enjoy on both albums.

-Deedub

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Mad Lion – Real Ting (1995)

Through the years, I’ve mentioned several times on this blog that I’m not a huge fan of reggae or dancehall music. I absolutely love Bob Marley’s music, but after him, I’d be hard pressed to name another reggae or dancehall artist that I’d consider myself a fan of. Maxi Priest had a couple of smooth joints in the nineties, as well as Shabba Ranks, and Shaggy also gave us a few hot ones. Then there was the sexy Jamaican Queen, Patra. I can’t remember any of her songs, but it sure as hell was enjoyable to watch her in videos, boggling and winding that sexy chocolate body all over my TV screen. But I digress. If my memory serves me correct, the only reggae artist’s album I’ve reviewed on TimeisIllmatic was Jamal-Ski’s Roughneck Reality, and that was only because of his affiliation with Boogie Down Productions. Well, today we tackle our second reggae artist on this blog, who ironically, was also down with the BDP crew, Mad Lion.

Mad Lion (whose alias is a nonsensical acronym for Musical Assassin Delivering Lyrical Intelligence Over Nations) was born in London and raised in Jamaica. As an adult he would move to Brooklyn, NY on his journey to make his mark as a “hip-hop reggae” artist in the states. After arriving in Brooklyn, Mad Lion met Super Cat and begin working with him; legend has it that Super Cat’s responsible for suggesting the ridiculous acronym that makes up Mad Lion’s alias. Eventually, Lion would link with the legendary Blastmaster KRS-One (By the way, I’m pissed that I didn’t get a chance to watch he and Kane’s Verzuz match-up the other night. I’ll have to find it on YouTube), and his co-sign would help Mad Lion secure a deal with Nervous Records, where he would release his debut album, Real Ting in 1995.

I’ve never listened to Real Ting before now, but I do remember the lead single, “Take It Easy”. Back in the day, I stole a copy of the cassette single from Sam Goody so me and my guys could freestyle over the instrumental on side two. So, even if the rest of the album sucks, I know there is at least one banger.

Hopefully, my purchase of the Real Ting, decades later, will atone for me taking food out of the Lion’s mouth, twenty-five plus years ago.

Real Ting IntroReal Ting begins with a jazzy backdrop, a little singing, a few words from a bootleg Sir Nose, and an uncredited male and female (who I thought was going to spit bars at one point) assuming you (the listener) didn’t expect the album to start like this. Well, you’re right. I sure as hell didn’t, but I did enjoy the instrumental. It made me want to throw up my jazz hands.

Double Trouble – Mad Lion comes out the gate sounding aggressively hungry, spewing fiery reggae-tinged bars that left me wondering if he wants to verbally off his competition or literally, kill niggas. Either way, he sounds great over this rough and moody backdrop (credited to Mad Lion and Kenny Parker), and the chant on the hook makes things sound even grander.

See A Man Face – Mad Lion keeps the same energy from the previous track and comes off like a reggae version of M.O.P. Speaking of M.O.P., it would have been dope to hear Billy Danze and Lil Fame beat up KRS-One’s hard backdrop with enthusiastic verses. But even without M.O.P.’s presence, this is still a tough record.

Nine On My Mind – Our host uses this bouncy feel-good backdrop to rap and chant a love song to his one true love, his gun, as he recalls a couple different occasions when his nine saved his life. I love this instrumental, and Mad Lion’s hook is catchy as hell.

Shoot To Kill – KRS-One recycles his “Black Cop” instrumental and lets Mad Lion go on a violent chanting rampage over it. I was waiting for Kris to get off a verse, but no cigar. Instead, he stays behind the boards and lets the Lion tear this shit to shreds by himself.

That’s All We Need – According to Mr. Lion, all a “real nigga” needs is mad hip-hop, reggae and weed. Well, I could think of a few more things that might be beneficial in life (money, companionship, food, clothes, shelter), but I get his point.

Own Destiny – The Blastmaster loops up a commonly used Barry White sample for the instrumental, but I bet you’ve never heard anyone spit reggae bars over it. This was decent.

Crazy – This was too bland for my taste buds.

Big Box Of Blunts – What would a hip-hop/reggae artist’s album be without a weed dedication song? I hope Mad Lion’s weed is as fire as this instrumental.

Bad Luck – This one starts with a short interlude that finds a groupie chick coming to meet Mad Lion and she ends up getting mauled by his lion after she completely ignores his warning (you can hear him in the background telling her “Yo, don’t fuck with that cat…that cat will rip your head off”) and tries to pet it. Then KRS-One makes his only audible appearance of the evening, as he shares a few words and drops his dope dark instrumental that Mad Lion uses to get into some true emcee shit. Most of Lion’s rhymes are on point (how many rappers have left their competition “Dizzy like Gillespie” through the years?) and his guest, Squidley, sounds pretty decent on the hook.

Real Ting – The title track finds Mad Lion celebrating marijuana, again. This time he invites Marlon Steward to join in on the celebration, as he sings praises to the cannabis, while Lion chants about its greatness over a decent mid-tempo bop.

Real Lover – After an uncredited guest rapper spits a few bars that pay homage to Audio 2’s “Top Billin”, Mad Lion recycles Mary J Blige’s “Real Love” instrumental and tries to convince a certain young lady that he’s the only man that can love her right. Mad Lion’s voice on this one doesn’t sound as rough and raspy as the rest of the album, which leads me to believe that this song was recorded earlier than the rest of the album (the quality of the mix also sounds like it may have been an old demo). Regardless, this was still very entertaining (except for the opening and closing raps) and super catchy.

Body And Shape – The song opens with KRS-One’s wifey, G. Simone, singing some embarrassingly bad notes. Then Kris attempts to re-create the bass line from The Whole Darn Family’s “7 Minutes of Funk”, placing it over flat drums, as Lion chants about a chick with a bangin’ body. This one shouldn’t have made the final cut.

Take It Easy – This was the lead single from Real Ting, and the song that I would be introduced to Mad Lion through. KRS-One pulls one of the sickest instrumentals he’s ever produced out of his ass and blesses his mentee with it, as he continues to spew violent chants and threats over it. This record still sounds as dope as it did twenty-five plus years ago.

Play De Selection – I’m not sure what Mad Lion is talking about on this one, but the chill instrumental is soothing to my ears.

Teaser – Lion is trying to bag a chick who apparently can’t make up her mind if she wants to give him the ass or not. At least that’s what I think the premise of this song is. I couldn’t make out most of Lion’s lyrics, but the singing ladies on the hook brought me to that conclusion. If the powers that be with The Me Too Movement got a hold of this song, they’d have a field day. But since they only seem to pull the skeletons out of the closets of relevant celebrities, Mad Lion has nothing to worry about.

Baby Father – This one begins with what is supposed to be Mad Lion’s mom, snapping on him for being careless with protecting his jimmy. Then Lion uses Norty Cotto’s smoothly somber backdrop to share his reggae version of the “Billie Jean” story (I love the part when Lion asks his alleged baby mama, Caroline, “If the both of us are black, why is the baby Chinese?”). This was pretty entertaining and a nice change of pace from the rest of the content Lion had fed us for most of the evening. 

Stop Dat ShitReal Ting closes with Mad Lion and his homie smokin’ in the studio, then his homie throws on a beat to see what Mad Lion has for it. Unbenounced to Lion and his friend, the whole freestyle ends up getting recorded. This was dumb, pointless and useless.

In the liner notes of Real Ting, it reads: “Mad Lion represents hip-hop reggae, not reggae hip-hop”, which makes sense after living with Real Ting for the past few weeks. Throughout the album, Mad Lion displays reggae sensibilities with an emcee’s mentality and strong hip-hop tendencies. Unlike most reggae/dancehall artists I’ve heard, I can actually understand most of Lion’s lyrics, and even when I can’t, the texture of his ruggedly raspy voice, combined with he and KRS-One’s well-crafted boom-bap production kept me vibin’ and entertained. There are a few mediocrely bland moments, and the album runs a bit too long, but overall, Real Ting is a quality listen and a solid debut from the Boogie Down Productions associate.

-Deedub

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The Coup – Genocide & Juice (October 18, 1994)

This one should have been posted before Back Up Off Me!, but sometimes keeping this chronological shit in order is a task in itself. Anywhoo…hope you enjoy the read.

The first and last time we spoke about The Coup on this blog was five years ago when we discussed their 1993 debut album, Kill My Landlord (by the way, I absolutely love that album title). Led by Boots Riley (and his afro) with E-Roc and DJ Pam The Funkstress (rip) at his sides, the Oakland based trio took a militant stance and offered up a heapin’ helpin’ of black consciousness served over funky instrumentals. Kill My Landlord didn’t sell a ton of copies, nor was it deemed a critical darling, but it was a decent listen, and it was encouraging to hear a group stand strong on something they believed in, going again the thug/gangsta/materialistic grain. The Coup would return in ’94 with their cleverly titled sophomore effort, Genocide & Juice.

Like Kill My Landlord, the bulk of Genocide & Juice would be produced by Boots with help from a bunch of his musician friends providing live instrumentation. Like their debut, Genocide & Juice wouldn’t be a commercial success either and it received mix reviews from the critics. It’s been years since I’ve listened to the album, so let’s see if time has been kind to Genocide & Juice.

Intro – The album opens with someone named G-Nut sharing a few words to introduce the listeners to Genocide & Juice over a funky instrumental built around a dope Patrice Rushen loop.

Fat Cats, Bigga Fish – This was the lead single from Genocide & Juice. Boots goes dolo and comes from the perspective of a petty street hustler who ends up being humbled when he discovers that he’s a small fish amongst larger fish in the scandalous pond of hustlers. Boots does a brilliant job of dotting every “I” and crossing every “T” during his damn near flawlessly executed storyline, and the infectious funk groove that backs him sounds just as good. This is a super slept on/underappreciated record, and easily my favorite Coup joint.

Pimps – This one picks up at the snobby party that Boots was working/scheming at on the previous song. It begins with a pompous white woman talking with David Rockefeller and JP Getty, and she eventually goads them into spittin’ freestyles (the dialogue between them is hi-larious). Boots raps as Rockefeller and E-Roc as Getty, as the two billionaires take turns boasting about the power and clout that inheritance and capitalisms has brought them. Donald Trump jumps into this Fortune 500 cipher, tacking on the final verse that he spits in reggae form, and it sounds just as bad as his comb over looks. I have to give this one to Rockefeller.

Takin’ These – The previous song ends with the bougie party getting raided and robbed, which sets up Boots and E-Roc for this one; and they’re not asking for reparations, but taking it by force: “I’m gettin’ ammunition out the Pinto hatchback, refer to this as “Operation Snatchback”, because I got the fat sacks, hollow tips to distribute equally, So who’s the niggas, thugs and pimps you mention frequently? Gank me with frequency, now I know you got mail, and if my glock fails, take a sip of this Molotov cocktail”. Boots and E-Roc’s militant bars sound great over this milky smooth backdrop.

Hip 2 Tha Skeme – Boots and E-Roc use this one to address the systematic economic gap that still exist in America between the have (aka white folks) and the have-nots (aka black folks). This is definitely not one of the strongest songs on the album, but it’s still decent.

Gunsmoke – The rock guitar-driven backdrop has Boots and E-Roc on some vengeful shit, looking to get even with their oppressors who’ve tormented their ancestors for centuries. I appreciate the sentiment, but I could have done without this one.

This One’s A Girl – Pam The Funkstress gets a chance to chop shit up on the one’s and two for this short interlude. Well done, ma’am.

The Name Game – Our hosts use this one to make it clear that their goal in this hip-hop game is not to gain fortunate and fame, but to make revolutionary music that sparks change and uplifts the people: “Fuck the fame, fuck the game, fuck the riches foo, I ain’t got shit unless all my folks gon’ have theirs too”. I respect The Coup’s stance and I love the laidback funk instrumentation on this one (especially the melodic jam session at the end of the song).

360 Degrees – The Coup brings back the funky instrumental from the intro and invites Jazz Lee Alston to share a spoken word poem about a young man she simple refers to as Baby Boy (not to be confused with Tyrese’s character, Jody). I’m curious to why Jazz’ name is crossed out of the credits in the liner notes. Maybe her appearance conflicted with her contract with Rhyme Cartel Records (which the liner notes say she appears “courtesy of”)? Regardless, I enjoyed Jazz’ clever wordplay and her poem was pretty solid.

Hard Concrete – E-Roc uses his solo joint to share a cautionary tale about a young brother coming up in the hood who gets caught in the traps and snares that society has laid before him. E doesn’t cover any new territory here, but the laidback instrumental was dope and makes for great midnight marauding music.

Santa Rita Weekend – Boots and E-Roc are joined by their Oakland bredrin, Spice 1 and E-40, as they all get a chance to paint the picture of life behind bars and address the ridiculous amount of black men caught up in the criminal system, as Boots raps: “I can’t go forward, and motherfuckas can’t ignore it, cause all my people on parole, in the pen or gotta warrant”. Boots and his band of musicians provide a dope bluesy mash up (with a disgusting bass line) that sets the mood for the somber content. This is definitely one of my favorite songs on the album.

Repo Man – The Coup dedicates this one to anyone that has ever had a home, car or furniture repossessed (I’m super curious on how furniture gets repoed. I wish someone would try to come in my house and take my shit), and it serves as a reminder of the dangers of borrowing and the power in ownership. Unfortunately, the message gets tainted by the mediocre music and the annoying hook. 

Interrogation – The Coup invites a few of their friends (Osagyefo and the group, Point Blank Range) to join them on this one, as they all vow to uphold one of the oldest tenets of street code: never talk to or cooperate with the police (Boots hilariously, goes as far as to say he won’t even “ask them for directions”). Things get kind of weird during the middle section of the song, when one (or two) of their guests (I’m not sure who is who) decides to get into some Broadway type theatrics (someone raps from the perspective of a cop and adapts a British accent, delivered in a Yoda voice, and interrogates a possible witness, who sounds like he’s performing in Othello). I wasn’t crazy about this one, but it’s passable.

Outro – For your listening pleasure, The Coup brings back the instrumental from the “Intro” and “360 Degrees”, but this time they put some extra stank on it in the form of live instrumentation. And that concludes Genocide & Juice.

The Coup picks up where they left off at on their first album, brewing up another healthy portion of militant black conscious content, wasting not a moment on selfish boasts or random nonsense (you catch that bar? I still got it!). There are a few moments when the message gets lost in the music and vice versa, but most of Genocide & Juice finds Boots and E-Roc spewing quality substance-filled bars over dope beats and funky instrumentation. Genocide & Juice will never be mentioned in the same conversation as politically conscious masterpieces like It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back and Amerikkka’s Most Wanted, but it serves as the perfect appetizer to prepare your “thought chops” for the main courses.

-Deedub

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Happy Anniversary Post!

Thirty-two years ago today, Ice-T released his third album, The Iceberg/Freedom of Speech…Just Watch What You Say! Celebrate it by listening to the album and click here to check out my review.

-Deedub

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