In 1992, Compton’s Most Wanted released their third album, Music To Driveby, which in my opinion is the group’s magnum opus (read my thoughts on the album here), at least from their nineties catalog, as I stopped following them as the last millennium came to a close. Music To Driveby would also be the last album until 2000 that the CMW collective would release an album under the CMW name. In 1993, MC Eiht was tapped to contribute a song for the Menace II Society Soundtrack as a solo artist. His song, “Streiht Up Menace” (which was produced by one of his CMW partner DJ Slip), would go on to be the second single and easily the biggest hit from the album. Riding high off the success of “Streiht Up Menace”, MC Eiht would sign a solo deal with Epic (CMW’s first three albums were released on the independent label Orpheus with distribution for the last two through Epic) and release his debut solo album (even though the title reads “MC Eiht featuring CMW”) We Come Strapped in the summer of 1994.
Gone are the usual CMW album production suspects, DJ Unknown and DJ Mike T. For We Come Strapped Eiht would rely on himself, DJ Slip, along with Ric Roc for the production, with a co-arrangement credit going to Willie Z, whose responsible for all the keyboard work on the album. Even though the previous three CMW albums were critical darlings, We Come Strapped would be the first album to earn Eiht and crew a gold plaque.
I haven’t listened to We Come Strapped in years, but if my memory serves me correct, I enjoyed the album back in the day. Let’s see how it’s held up over the years.
Niggaz That Kill (Endolude) – We Come Strapped opens with a slow building dark synth instrumental and Eiht setting the tone for the album, as he spits one quick verse, warning anyone within earshot that you can get shot for fuckin’ with CMW. Eiht has one of the smoothest vocal tones in hip-hop history, but he does make one minor misstep when he says “Like a dope fiend I steal to your fuckin’ jaw, left connects than I switch to the southpaw” (for those who didn’t catch it, “southpaw” is slang for being “left-handed”). Despite that minor infraction, this is an entertaining intro that Eiht and crew cleverly subtitle “Endolude” (the first of several), paying homage to their favorite weed strand.
Def Wish III (Intro) – I’m pretty sure the soundbites in this intro are from the movie Deep Cover. Correct me in the comments if I’m wrong.
Def Wish III – MC Eiht gives us part three of his “Def Wish” series, as he continues his feud with fellow Comptonite rival, DJ Quik. Eiht lands some decent blows (I love the line about “DJ Quik in a khaki bikini”, which is a hi-larious visual), and it was pretty gangsta to hear Eiht instruct the “bitches” to sing the hook at the end of his final verse, to which they (well, “she”…the liner notes only credits a Carla Evans, so they must have just stacked her vocals to make it sound like a group of girls) quickly oblige. The instrumentation on this was pretty dope as well.
Take 2 With Me – Eiht and crew slow things way down, as our host paints a cinematic tale of a shootout with the cops that gets rather bloody. The slick instrumental sounds like the perfect theme music for a 2am drive-by.
All For The Money – This was the lead single from We Come Strapped. CMW loops up a slick sample from Tyrone Davis’ “In The Mood” (that the Beatnuts also used on Street Level‘s “Lick The Pussy”), as Eiht continues to spew out gangsta tales of crime and violence, luring the listener in with his smooth, always composed vocal that sounds like a percussion soloing over the smooth groove he, DJ Slip and Willie Z created. This one still sounds amazing 25 years later.
Compton Cyco – Eiht goes on a murder spree over this hard DJ Slip instrumental. This is what gangsta rap is supposed to sound like. Geah!
Niggaz Make The Hood Go Round – Eiht discusses the happenings in the hood as evidence to his theory that “niggas” are responsible for keeping the hood alive. Even though they don’t credit it, the instrumental definitely uses a dark interpolation of The Stylistics’ “People Make The World Go Around”, and I love the funky breakdown at the end of the song. This was dope.
Nuthin’ But High (Endolude) – Eiht takes a mid-album break to get high all over Willie Z’s smooth keys on this short but tasty
We Come Strapped – CMW has always respected DJ Premier’s production work, giving him shoutouts in their album liner notes and on wax, and also using some of the same loops that he’s flipped (which is why it wasn’t a big surprise to hear Eiht and Premo team up for Eiht’s 2017 release, Which Way Iz West, with Premo serving as the executive producer and producing a portion of the album’s songs). For this title track, CMW incorporates the intro from Johnny Hammond’s “Big Sur Suite” that Premo earlier used on Daily Operation‘s “24-7/365” interlude. Eiht continues to spit his “gangsta shit” as Willie Z and DJ Slip mix the “Big Sur Suite” loop with the signature West Coast synth siren sound. Not a terrible song, but definitely one of the less potent joints on the album.
Can I Still Kill It – This is part two to CMW’s “Can I Kill It” from their second album Straight Checkn ‘Em. Over low-key laid back synth keys, Eiht is once again on a hoe stroll, looking for a chick that’s down to let him go up in her “like a Mack truck” and squeeze on yo’ ass and grab yo’ tits”. Eiht definitely sounded more entertaining the first time around (although it was pretty funny to hear him boast “pussy so big that I can’t even feel it, but fuck it, Imma still kill it”) and this instrumental doesn’t hold a flame to the slick Teddy Pendergrass loop used on part one.
Goin’ Out Like Geez – Eiht picks up where he left off at on “All For The Money”, spinning another gangsta tale over an epic synth instrumental. It would have been dope to hear a MC Eiht/Spice 1 collaborative album with the two of them spittin’ gangsta tales over epic instrumentals like this one (I know they released The Pioneers album in 2004 (which I will check out someday), but that was way after their prime years). But even without Spice 1, Eiht entertains with this one.
Nuthin’ But The Gangsta – Speaking of Spice 1, he and an unlikely guest, Redman, stop by to join MC Eiht on this one, as they celebrate the gangsta within. Compared to Eiht and Spice 1’s verses, Redman’s sticks out like a sore thumb, but that contrast along with his word play, help him steal the show, similar to what he did on EPMD’s classic cipher joint “Head Banger”. Willie Z plays the perfect keys to create the beautifully melodic backdrop for the threesome to get busy over. Well done.
Hard Times – This is a throw away joint that could of have been left off the album.
Compton Bomb – On this one, Eiht uses CMW’s music as a metaphor for weed, and everybody wants a hit: “even Caucasians, dip in they savings, to come and get the funky shit on special occasions”. Willie Z does it again, tapping out some beautiful keys, and Josh Achzinger adds some slick guitar licks to perfect the instrumentation and back up the boastful song title.
2 Tha Westside (Endolude) – Over a breezy backdrop, Eiht shouts out his people, bringing We Come Strapped to an end.
For We Come Strapped, MC Eiht and CMW dump the traditional sample-based production style that dominated their first three releases, for a more synthesized live instrumentation sound. I don’t know if they were just looking to experiment or were tired of paying out the ass for sample clearances, but whatever the reason, most of this shit sounds dope. MC Eiht doesn’t cover any new territory, delivering more gangsta tales in his signature smooth laid back vocal tone, which works perfect within the scheme of the album’s instrumentals. In my opinion, Music To Driveby is still CMW’s best work, but We Come Strapped is another solid project in CMW’s underappreciated catalog.