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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Deedub

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Deedub

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dance 4 Me – Complete trash.

Why U Wanna Hurt Me – And more trash.

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

-Deedub

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Deedub

 

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Above The Law – Livin’ Like Hustlers (February 22, 1990)

Above The Law is one of those groups that I’ve always respected but never invested time to really listening to their entire catalog. The only album that I actually listened to back in the day was their second full-length release Black Mafia Life (if you’re curious about my thoughts on that album, click here). In the last year or so, I’ve added a couple more of their albums to my collection, including their debut full-length release, Livin’ Like Hustlers.

Above The Law released Livin’ Like Hustlers on Ruthless Records with distribution through Epic in 1990. All the production would be handled by Above The Law, Laylaw and the legendary Dr. Dre, who was red-hot after producing N.W.A.’s Straight Out Of Compton and The D.O.C.’s No One Can Do It Better. Although Livin’ Like Hustlers didn’t earn ATL a plaque, it did earn the fellas pounds of respect from hip-hop fans and received positive reviews from the critics. In 1998 The Source would even include Livin’ Like Hustlers on their list of 100 Greatest Hip-hop Albums of All-Time.

This is my first time listening to Livin’ Like Hustlers. Let’s see if it lives (no pun intended)up to all the praise its received over the years.

Murder RapLivin’ Like Hustlers opens with a dark stripped down track over heavy drums and 187um gets loose over it for the course of three verses. This one goes hard, and is a great way to start the show.

Untouchables – Laylaw and Dre take a dope sample from Young-Holt Unlimited’s version of “Light My Fire”, a nasty horn loop from Quincy Jones’ “Ironside” and turn it into a thing of beauty. 187 and KMG display some of their underappreciated chemistry that compliments the track, perfectly. And Remember: “it’s not what you know, it’s what you can prove”.

Livin’ Like Hustlers – After a brief interlude that has, what sounds like Dr. Dre, playing a radio deejay for the faux radio station KMG, that can be found at 187 on your dial (yes, that was pretty cheesy but, whatever), and a comical commercial for locs (which happens to have a beautiful instrumental playing underneath it), the title track comes on, and it’s a monster. Dre and company lay down a smooth, yet so funky, instrumental built around a nasty guitar loop and an epic horn break leading into the hook. KMG and Cold 187um sound right at home spilling their gangster lingo all over this smoothness. If you can’t feel this one it’s quite possible that you don’t have a pulse.

Another Execution – Cold 187um is back to rollin’ solo for this one. He shares two different stories about bustas who get to trippin’, which leads to them both getting their caps peeled. 187 is entertaining as usual, and so is the hard instrumental. Sidenote: CMW would use the same Lyn Collins loop a couple of years later for Eiht’s duet with Mr. Scarface, “N 2 Deep” from their Music To Driveby album.

Menace To Society – ATL keeps the good times rollin’, with another dope backdrop (that borrows one funky and one hard loop from B.T. Express) and solid bars from KMG and 187.

Just Kickin’ Lyrics – Cold 187um is back on a dolo mission for this one, and does exactly what the song title suggest. And he sounds damn good doing it. Dre and company use the same Issac Hayes loop that DJ Quik would use a year later for his debut hit single, “Born And Raised In Compton”. I do think Quik flipped it better, but Dre’s interpolation of it is still solid.

Ballin’ – ATL slows things down a bit for this one. KMG and 187um are in floss mode as they jive talk and pimp their way through this smooth melodic groove. And it’s dedicated to: “the whole wide world”.

Freedom of Speech – Most will recognize the Myra Barnes’ loop on this song from Lil’ Kim’s first single “No Time”, which I never liked (side note: before Lil’ Kim used it, Easy Moe Bee sampled it for Big Daddy Kane’s “Calling Mr. Welfare”, and Premo for Gang Starr’s title track on the No More Mr. Nice Guy album. Lil’ Kim’s song was easily the most commercially successful…but I digress). Cold 187um uses it to express his feelings on the whole censorship of hip-hop, which was a huge controversy back in 1990. Not my favorite song on the album, but it serves it’s purpose.

Flow On (Move Me No Mountain) – This smooth instrumental has Dre’s fingerprints all over it. 187um and KMG tag team the mic with an irresistible swag that no one in their right mind can front on. As enjoyable as ATL’s swag is (this song might be where the slang term for weed,”chronic”, originated from), Dre’s instrumental is the true star of this song.

The Last Song – For the last song of the evening ATL invites their Compton friends, Dr. Dre, MC Ren and Eazy-E, to join them on this cipher jawn. The instrumental kind of reminds me of “The Grand Finale” from The D.O.C.’s No One Can Do It Better, but with enough changes to make it feel fresh and new. Speaking of The D.O.C., it would have been nice to hear him rip this one, but of course the car accident that pretty much ended his rap career had already happened by the time this song was recorded (Laylaw instructs him to light the blunt at the beginning of this song, so he was definitely in the building). All parties involved hold their own, and surprisingly, Eazy-E steals the show with a little comic relief. Great way to end a really impressive debut album.

It’s rare to listen to an album for the first time and be completely blown away by what you hear. It’s even more rare for that to happen when the album was released nearly 30 years ago; but that is exactly what I experienced with Livin’ Like Hustlers. From beginning to end, every song on this album will leave you with a screwed face or your head nodding, thanks to slick samples and crispy clean production from Laylaw, ATL and Dr. Dre. Cold 187um and KMG may not be the greatest lyricists, but they always entertain, and their confidence, swag and chemistry might be the most underrated of any duo in hip-hop history. Livin’ Like Hustlers is an unheralded classic and one the best album released in the first year of the ninety dec.

-Deedub

 

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Jesse West – No Prisoners (September, 20, 1989)

Jesse West might not be a household name, but he’s been grinding since the eighties and has a pretty impressive resume under his belt. I first heard Jesse West on his cameo appearance on Heavy D’s Blue Funk cipher joint “A Bunch of Niggas”, where he goes by his alias, 3rd Eye. Many don’t know that the South Bronx native was one of Bad Boys original “Hitmen” who helped Biggie Smalls with his first demo and produced remixes for Mary J Blige’s classic What’s The 411? album. But before all that, Jesse West was one of the first rappers to sign a deal and release a hip-hop album on the mecca of soul music, Motown.

Jesse released his debut album No Prisoners in the fall of 1989. The album was almost completely produced by Gordon Williams with co-production help from Jesse. I came across a vinyl copy about a year ago at one of the used music stores I check out (shoutout to Treetop Records!) and haven’t listen to it until now. The album didn’t produce any hit singles and even without checking RIAA’s website, I’m absolutely certain that it didn’t earn any certifications or plaques. Matter of fact, I’m sure that the only other person that has a copy of this album is Tony A. Wilson.  Confirm and hit me in the comments, T.

No Prisoners – The album opens with a decent drum beat and some cheesy instrumentation that sounds like it was created on a Casio keyboard. But in a weird way, it’s still decent. Mr. West comes out sounding like a poor man’s Rakim, and he actually sounds pretty nimble with his word play.

Renegade – Jesse changes his vocal tone to a slightly rougher feel that matches Gordon Williams’ (who I’ll refer to as Gordo from here one on) rugged backdrop. I like the horns on the hook, and once again, Jesse sounds pretty decent on the mic.

I’m A Warrior – JW was a renegade on the previous song and now he’s a warrior. He also displays a third different voice in as many songs. Meanwhile, Gordo sounds like he’s still constructing his beats on the Casio. This one kind of reminds me of the instrumental for LL’s “Eat ‘Em Up L Chill”, only not as good, but still solid.

State Of Your Mind – Our host resorts back to his poor man’s Rakim delivery and uses this song to remind the listener that your success is all determined by how you think. He also manages to slip in a little 5 Percent teaching in the process. While Gordo’s production work on the previous songs had a cheesy synth feel that kind of worked, this one is complete garbage. I like the message but not the music.

Prelude To Madness – Short interlude/skit/spoken word piece that sets up the next song…

This Is Madness – Jesse stays in his conscious mode as he addresses crack babies, drug addicts, black on black crime and the importance of knowledge in this corrupt country (it was kind of funny to hear Jesse refer to himself as “a worldwide celebrity”). Gordo redeems himself from the painfully bad backdrop for “State Of Your Mind” and hooks up a decent instrumental for this one. That concludes side one of  No Prisoners, if you’re listening on cassette or vinyl.

Do You Wanna Party – Side two of No Prisoners begins with an up-tempo instrumental that was clearly created to get asses on the dance floor. I completely understand if you think Gordo’s instrumental is cheese, but I kind of like it. Now, there’s no justifying Jesse’s lyrics on this song. They are undeniably corny.

I Saw You – Jesse has caught his girl red-handed snuggled up with some other chump, and he spends the length of this song calling her out and ultimately breaking up with her. Our host sounds more like he’s talking than rapping, and I’m not a fan of his sing-along-hook, either. I’m also not a fan of Jesse’s instrumental (with a co-production credit going to Gordo), which was clearly created for pop consumption.

The Master – Gordo lays down an up-tempo backdrop with a techno feel over tribal like drums, and Jesse gets back to his emcee shit. On the last verse Jesse calls out Kool Chip, who he accuses of biting his style. Before listening to this song, I had no idea who Kool Chip was. After a little research, I found out that he and legendary radio DJ, Chuck Chillout, put out an album just a few month or so after No Prisoners was released. Kool Chip, who is also from the Bronx, had a song named “Rhythm Is The Master”, which uses pretty much the same instrumental and the same “Slaaaaaave” vocal sample as this song.  Hmmm…maybe there’s truth to Jesse’s accusations.

For James – JW dedicates this interlude to the Godfather of soul, James Brown. In 1988 JB begin serving a six-year bid for aggravated assault and a few other felonies. He only ended up serving two and a half of the years, so maybe Jesse’s plea to “free James Brown” on this interlude helped get the legendary soul singer’s time reduced. I’m sure it didn’t, but whatever.

Concrete Jungle – Gordo slides our host a flat imitation reggae track that he uses to talk bout the happening and the struggle in the concrete jungle, aka the hood. Jesse’s flow is all over the place as he goes in and out of rhyming and chanting without warning. Not a fan of this one.

Black Bomb – JW invites his buddy Rich Nice (who you can often hear contributing on Sway In The Morning’s A&R Room segment on XM Radio’s Shade 45) to join him on this one, as they tag team the mic and page homage to some of the historical black figures who helped bring change to America. This is the only song on No Prisoners that Jess West is credited as the sole producer. Unfortunately, it’s not a good one. To add insult to injury, Jesse and Rich Nice’s rhymes sound dated too. Random factoid: Rich Nice was the first musical guest to appear on the classic nineties sketch comedy show, In Living Color. I don’t have any documentation to back that fact, only Sway Calloway’s word, which is better than having written documentation.

Well, Jesse West definitely sounds a lot different from his alter ego, 3rd Eye, which I first heard back in ’93. And without the pseudo Onyx vibe, he’s actually a decent emcee. Ultimately what does No Prisoners in is its cheesy production. There are a few passable songs, but the majority of Gordon Williams and Jesse West’s beats are generic poop. Even though No Prisoners is trash, if I came across his later works I’d pick them up (if the price is right), just to hear if his rhymes got tighter and his production improved.

-Deedub

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Steady B – Certified Dope (September 13, 1988)

While there is no question that New York is hip-hop’s birth place and Mecca, Philadelphia was one of the first cities outside of New York to make a name for themselves in hip-hop, which kind of makes sense, considering it’s only about ninety miles southwest of the Big Apple. The first rapper out of Philly to gain national attention was Schoolly D, to which many credit as being the father of gangsta rap. Schoolly’s pioneering works helped open the door for other Philly groups like DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Cool C (remember “Glamorous Life”?) and the subject of today’s post, Steady B.

From 1986 to 1991 Steady B released 5 albums on Jive RCA. He also helped put together the Hilltop Hustlers (the name was taken from a West Philly gang from the seventies), which was Philly’s version of the Native Tongue and included himself, Cool C, Three Times Dope and other hungry Philly artists. I first heard of Steady B in 1989 when he dropped his Going Steady album, and the only song I remember was the lead single, that was actually a cool love rap with a smooth groove. While digging in the crates at a used record store a few months ago, I came across a copy of Steady’s third release, Let The Hustlers Play. Let The Hustlers Play would include production work from Steady B, two-thirds of Da Youngsta’s daddy and Philly hip-hop pioneering producer, LG The Teacher and The Blastmaster KRS-One. Like the rest of his catalog, Let The Hustlers Play didn’t move a ton of units and only experienced mild success.

On January 2, 1996, Steady B and fellow Philly rappers Cool C and Mark Canty (all part of a short-lived group called C.E.B., which was an acronym for Countin’ Endless Bank)attempted a bank robbery in which Steady played the getaway driver. The robbery was botched and things got even more sticky when Cool C shot and killed a female officer who responded to the bank’s silent alarm. All three were apprehended shortly after the robbery, and all three would get some serious sentencing, including the death sentence for Cool C and a life sentence without parole for Steady B.

And on that dim note, lets get into Let The Hustlers Play.

Let The Hustlers Play – LG the Teacher and Chuck Nice hook up a dope backdrop for Steady B to flex on, as he stunts on cops, celebrates his Hilltop Hustlers crew, and simply talks his shit; all in the spirit of letting the hustlers do their thing. I love it when the title track of an album is a banger. Great way to start the show.

Certified Dope – The energy from the previous song falls a bit with this one. Steady sounds sloppy (and he makes sure to mention his HTH crew at least once in every verse) and he, as well as LG’s instrumental, sounds empty.

The Undertaker – KRS-One gets his first production credit of the evening, as he constructs a slightly dark mid-tempo instrumental for our host (I like the piano loop that he sprinkles throughout the song). Years before Puff Daddy would become the producer (I use that term loosely) that was all over his artists’ records, KRS-One was adlibbing his way through the records he produced for Steady B. For some reason, Steady struggles to keep pace with the mid-tempo backdrop and his sloppiness rises to astronomical proportions on this one (i.e. his Mt. Everest line on the final verse).

I Got Cha – It just dawned on me that The Roots affiliate and fellow Philadelphian, Dice Raw sounds a lot like Steady B…but I digress. Steady and the instrumental are both decent on this one.

Turn It Loose – Steady B spits more braggadocious rhymes over a laid back KRS-One produced track. I love the horn break on this one…but why didn’t Mr. Parker bless us with a verse on this jawn?

Ya Know My Rucka – I still don’t know what “Rucka” means, but who cares? This song is butt.

Serious – KRS-One gets his final production credit of the evening, and I can’t say that I’m all that impressed by it. It’s not terrible, its just a super basic drum beat with no added instrumentation to feel in the empty spaces, but maybe I’m expecting too much from a hip-hop album created in 1988. Steady B does what he can to bring it to life, but his limited talent can only do so much. But in his defense, I don’t even think the Blastmaster himself could of brought life to this flat line.

Do What You Wanna Do – Trash.

Who’s Makin’ Ya Dance – Can I get a question mark from the congregation, please? LG and Chuck Nice spice things up a bit with a deep bass line and a mid-tempo backdrop, as our host tries to convince the listeners that his music is the inspiration for their dancing. I don’t know about all that, but the instrumental is kind of cool and Steady’s word play at certain points of the song is pretty nice.

On The Real Tip – Steady B’s in battle mode on this one. Over a funky LG produced instrumental (with a co-credit going to Steady) Steady sounds like an angry dad screaming on his kids for getting in trouble at school. I like it. Next to the title track, this is my second favorite song on the album.

Through Thick-N-Thin – LG (with a co-production credit going to Steady) loops up a portion of  “” and Steady uses it to, correct me if I’m wrong, offer up a couple of hookers for the low-low price of a dollar? Yeah, this song is pretty strange. And I’m still scratching my head trying to figure out what the hell the song title has to do with the song’s content.

Lyrically, Steady B was no Rakim, but he wasn’t terrible. Yes, his cadence and delivery get sloppy at certain points on Let The Hustlers Play, but his confidence makes up for what he lacks in talent. Unfortunately, Steady B’s confidence could not make up for the lackluster production on Let The Hustlers Play. Steady B, KRS-One, LG the Teacher and Chuck Nice all manage to deliver nice production work at different points throughout the album, but most of the album is empty and plain as Jane, sonically.

-Deedub

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