Dred Scott – Breakin’ Combs (March 22, 1994)

Jonathan “Dred” Scott is an emcee/producer who was born in New York but grew up in Los Angles. Jonathan’s alias, Dred Scott, was taken from the name of a slave who went to court an attempt to buy his freedom, and won the case at the state level, only later to have the decision overturned by the Supreme Court (bastards). Nonetheless, the case would become a pivotal milestone in the movement towards abolishing slavery in the United States…and that concludes your history lesson for today, folks. Both of Dred’s parents were artists (his father was a singer and his mother a dancer) who actually met on Broadway, so it was only a matter of time before Dred would spread his creative wings, choosing hip-hop as his art form of choice. After grinding on the chitlin’ circuit aka the underground scene, Dred Scott would sign a deal with A&M Records, where he would release his debut album Breakin’ Combs.

Dred Scott once told the O.G. hip-hop journalist Dr. Bombay in an interview that the “Comb” in the album’s title symbolizes rules and styles that hip-hop tries to put you in based on where you’re from. “So for me, I’m breakin’ out of all that”, said Scott. “I’m breakin’ boundaries. The comb symbolized boundaries.” The album’s liner notes have random quotes and one is from Dred Scott that supports this sentiment:”Labeling my style would be like trying to comb my hair” (which would be difficult, considering he rocked locks). Like his alias, I believe the album title also represents Dred’s Afrocentric pride, as in he’s so black that his nappy hair would break any comb it comes in contact with (plus the album’s artwork dons an afro pick). Dred Scott would produce the entirety of Breakin’ Combs (the liner humorously read “Produced & Arranged by Dred Scott (Yes, I do my own beats)”), which did produce a few singles that made some noise on the underground level, but both the singles and the album failed to chart, and Dred Scott would fade away in to hip-hop obscurity.

I found Breakin’ Combs a few years ago at a Pawn America that was getting rid of all their cds and selling them all for two or three dollars a piece (which is an amazing deal considering the cheapest you can find a used copy of the album on Amazon is for $43). Since I remembered a few of Dred’s singles being pretty dope, I figured I had…wait for it… “nutin’ ta lose”, so I bought it. Die hard Dred Scott fans will get that corny pun now and the rest of you after you read this post.

Back In The Day – Not to be confused with Ahmad’s song with the same name that was also released as a single in 1994 (stay tuned for more on Ahmad’s debut album in a few more moons). Over a fresh jazz drenched backdrop, Dred tells his story of humble beginnings, hustle and hunger that ultimately helped him secure his record deal. Ahmad’s single would go on to be the bigger hit of the two (I mean, its hard to out do the smooth hypotonicness of that ill Bobby Womack guitar loop that Ahmad used on the remix), but Dred Scott’s joint is still really dope.

Duck Ya Head – Over a decent mid-tempo backdrop Dred Scott shares a long drawn out tale of how karma can catch up with you when you’re involved in ill deeds, even though it sounds like the whole story is supposed to be a dream…I think. Dred raps the whole song with a slightly animated wacky delivery, which makes some of his rhymes hard to understand. I’m not a fan of this one.

Can’t Hold It Back – Dred combines a big horn loop with hard drums and a slick moody bass line, and turns it into a nasty backdrop for he and his guest, Da Grinch, to flex on. Dred gets busy, but Da Grinch (who reminds me of Freddy Foxxx aka Bumpy Knuckles on this one) takes the final verse and steals Christmas (which he does cleverly make reference to on his verse) and the whole show. This was dope.

Check The Vibe – I believe this was the third single released from Breakin’ Combs, and one of the reasons I bought the album. Dred lays down an instrumental that is equally melodic, somber and beautiful, as he waxes poetic with lines like: “I see the visions of my brothers no longer here, I hold back a tear, when he whispers in my ear” and “A young girl starin’ in the car to the right, I smile back taken by my own sense of sight”. His wife, Adriana Evans compliments the beauty of the track, blessing it with her sweet vocal during the hook. This one sounds better today than it did nearly 25 years ago.

Dirty Old Man Skit – I’m really not sure why this skit even exists. First of all, it interrupts all the beauty and depth that “Check The Vibe” brought. Furthermore, it’s pointless and adds nothing to the album. Next…

The Story – Dred Scott’s instrumental on this one reminds me of the dopeness that Premo created for Mos Def’s masterpiece “Mathematics”. Our host uses the solid backdrop to spin a tale about how a slow Friday night turns into a dramatic eventful evening that leaves Dred wishing he would have stayed his ass at home. This was decent and a lot better executed than the hot mess that was “Duck Ya Head”.

To Da Old School – This interlude opens with Dred and his label mate Tragedy aka the Intelligent Hoodlum, in the studio getting ready to record, before Dred drops the bombshell on his guest that his drum machine is broken. But have no fear, because Dred Scott can make beats with his hands as well as with his mouth. He drops a decent beatbox for Trag to spit an average freestyle over, and all this is to set up the next song.

Funky Rhythms – Our host lays down a dope mid-tempo groove (I’m a sucka for a dope organ loop) as he and Tragedy takes turns spittin’ rhymes on the mic, and both do a serviceable job.

Swingin’ From The Tree – Dred pulls out his wacky animated flow once again for this one (he actually sounds a little like Sadat-X at the start of his first verse), as he’s calling out the Uncle Toms and lighter shaded blacks who try to dissociate themselves from the rest of us black folks. But as Dred puts it, no matter how hard these sellouts try “there’s no escaping the noose around your neck in your light skin ecstasy, swingin’ from the tree right next to me”. Adriana Evans reappears and does her best Hillary Banks impersonation, as she plays a redbone female trying to explain away her blackness in between Dred’s verses. This song had good intentions, but Dred’s conscious content gets lost in his cartoonish delivery.

Intro – I’m left to assume that if you bought Breakin’ Combs on cassette, this “Intro” marks the beginning of side two. The short interlude has Dred Scott chomping on chips while doing a radio interview (so professional) and answering the interviewer’s request to describe his style. His response then bleeds into the next song…

Nutin’ Ta Lose – If my memory serves me correct, this was the first Dred Scott record that I ever heard. Over a hard bass-heavy backdrop (the bass line on this one reminds me of Nas’ “Halftime”) Dred grabs the mic and goes for broke because “like a runaway slave headed north with no shoes” he’s “got nothin’ to lose”. This was solid.

Liar – Dred lays down a smooth mellow groove (I love the guitar lick sprinkled in for good measure) and proceeds to drop gem after gem for the duration of this song: “If the beat is fat should I put it on a diet? If a crack fiend is selling me a pullout should I buy it? On the spot…on the spot…on the spot…on the spot…the soul leaves the body as the flesh starts to rot…the leaders with the little dicks have all the power, so the milk from the breast of the earth turns sour…sad is the man with the barefoot blues, ’til he sees the naked brother only having a pair of shoes…tell a girl you love her, but is that really true? Your genitals make you belief that you do, so she lets you ride her like the Lone Ranger, ejaculation makes the girl look like a stranger”. This joint definitely puts Dred Scott’s lyrical ability on display and is easily one of the strongest songs on Breakin’ Combs.

Rough E Nuff – Wait. Did he really just make light of getting molested by his female babysitter when he was eight? Regardless, this song is useless fodder.

My Mind Is Driftin’ – This may be Dred Scott’s magnum opus. Over a beautiful jazzy instrumental (Dred had beats, yo!) our host lets his stream of consciousness flow, spilling his best bars on Breakin’ Combs: “Mother says time flies when you’re having fun, Pop said it flies even if you’re having none”, “Visions of a Motherland that I never knew, see the gangsta take the forty top off the brew, pour it out for the G six feet below, like an African king many moons ago…it’s all connected, so don’t ask why, that’s cause I know how to kiss the sky.” Dred drops so many jewels and ill visual rhymes that this whole song is worthy of quoting. This is my favorite song on the album.

They Don’t Know – Coming on the heels of the greatness that was the previous song, this shit is almost blasphemous. Our host spits probably his most underwhelming rhymes of the evening, and both his instrumental and his guest Big Domino (not to be confused with the “Getto Jam” Domino) are trash.

Frankie’s Groove – The final song on Breakin’ Combs begins with Dred Scott sharing his theory on why there aren’t that many young black musicians (which is a pretty solid one). The song then morphs into a jam session with his friends: JMD on drums, Rastine Calhoun on sax, Danny Grissett on keys and Osama Afifi on bass. Collectively, they make pleasant jazzy album outro music.

I was familiar with a few of Dred Scott’s songs before this post and respected his rhyming ability, but after living with Breakin’ Combs for the past few weeks, I was pleasantly surprised with just how lyrical and conscious Mr. Scott could be. His less impressive moments on Breakin’ Combs come when he tries to be playful and light-hearted, rapping with his animated cadence and delivery (see “Duck Ya Head”, “Swingin’ From The Tree” and “Ruff E Nuff”), which almost feels like he’s (maybe at the label’s request) dumbing himself down so not to come off too conscious; but don’t sleep (no pun intended), Dred is very smart and as the kids say, woke. And he may be as dope a producer as he is an emcee, as he strings together some flavorful soundscapes with a handful of great instrumentals mix in the pot as well. Breakin’ Combs does have a few issues, but the good far out weighs the bad, making this a solid debut from Dred Scott, and leaving me wondering why the hell he didn’t continue making hop-hop music.

Dred Scott once said in an interview many moons ago: “I’m just an emcee who’s trying to do dope hip-hop, and every once in a while there will be a deep message in there”. That statement pretty much sums up Breakin’ Combs in a nutshell.

-Deedub

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Gang Starr – Hard To Earn (March 8, 1994)

As a group, we last heard from Gang Starr in 1992 with their stellar third album, Daily Operation. From that point on, individually, the duo stayed busy, with Premo producing tracks for several artist (including Heavy D, Da Youngstas, several tracks on KRS-One’s solid solo debut, Return of the Boom Bap, and a third of the tracks on Nas’ soon to be released classic debut, Illmatic), while Guru would embark on his solo-career, releasing the first installment of his Jazzmatazz series in 1993. The duo would reconnect and in 1994 released their fourth album, Hard To Earn.

Hard To Earn‘s liner notes says “All songs produced by DJ Premier and GURU for GANG STARR PRODUCTIONS INC”, but like all the previous Gang Starr albums, we all know that Premier is the maestro who sculpted the soundscape for this project. Hard To Earn would go on to receive heaps of praise and critical acclaim, as well as a 4 mic rating from The Source upon its release. Random Factoid: Hard To Earn is the first Gang Starr album released with a “Parental Advisory” sticker.

Strangely, even with the flattering review and solid rating, The Source didn’t include Hard To Earn on its 100 Greatest Hip-Hop Albums of All-Time list in 1998. Even more surprising, Gang Starr’s second and third albums, Step in the Arena and Daily Operation, both made the list, even though they both received a lower rating than Hard To Earn (both received 3.5 mics). My memories of Hard To Earn tell me this was an egregious error on The Source‘s behalf, but let me revisit the album to see if The Source‘s decision was just.

Intro (The First Step)Hard To Earn begins with a blunted loop and Guru discussing the do’s and don’ts for inspiring emcees, specifically when they come in contact with established emcees. I still chuckle every time I hear Guru describe these eager fellas, with their “breath stinkin’ like a muthafucka…spittin’ and shit.” Great intro.

ALONGWAYTOGO – The song opens with a dope mid-tempo drum pattern accompanied by a clever vocal loop from Phife Dawg (rip). Then Premo brings in a dark Quincy Jones loop for Guru to boast, talk his shit, advise emcees to do some self-evaluating and hits them with a few rhetorical questions: “Here’s the deal, like Shaquille O’Neal, if you don’t know what you’re doing how the hell can you be real?” and on his final verse: “All about the real necessities of life, all about the game, and all about the name, G to the A to the N to the G, STARR, we know who we are, but do you know who you are?” Premo also brings in a slickly chopped up vocal loop of Phife’s rhyming partner Q-Tip, which ends up being a nice added touch to the song and a little unintentional homage to my favorite rap group of all-time. This joint sounds as amazing today as it did 25 years ago.

Code Of The Streets – This was the second single released on Hard To Earn. Premier lays out probably the most sophisticated instrumental in his lengthy catalog, building a masterful instrumental around a loop taken from Monk Higgins version of “Little Green Apples”. Guru then discusses the ill shit that dudes do to survive and get respect on the streets, before pledging his allegiance and vowing to stay true to the street codes through his music on his final verse. Because of his monotone voice and deadpan delivery, many tend to sleep on Guru’s lyricism, but he proves to be a strong wordsmith as he cleverly spits: “Nine times out of ten I win with the skills I be yielding, with the tenth one kneeling, let me express my feelings, Guru has never been one to play a big shot, it’s just the styles I got that keep the mic hot”. This is arguably a top 10 Gang Starr songs of all time, which is scary considering it’s probably not the best song on Hard To Earn.

Brainstorm – Just as the title suggest, Guru lets his stream of consciousness flow, as he unleashes a slew of battle raps for any would be competitors over a stripped-down, but still potent Premo instrumental.

Tonz ‘O’ Gunz – Guru discusses the gun epidemic that was prevalent then and is still now a problem in the hood. He also briefly talks about white supremacist groups who train their own to kill blacks, which is why he packs and “stands in the face of hatred, lettin’ off mad shots watching devils run naked.”  This is a solid song, but if someone put a gun to my head (pun intended) and forced me to take one song off of Hard To Earn, this would be the one.

The Planet – This may be the most disgusting instrumental that Premo ever created (hit me in the comments…I’m ready for the debate). Guru uses Preem’s ruggedly blunted masterpiece to share his real life story about leaving Boston for Brooklyn aka The Planet, in his quest to make it in this here rap game. Guru does a solid job articulating his journey, but words can’t describe how ridiculous Premo’s banger is on this one.

Aiiight Chill… – Everyone from Nas to MC Eiht show love to DJ Premier on this short interlude. Aiiight Chill…

Speak Ya Clout – Guru, Jeru Da Damaja, and Lil Dap (half of the Group Home, and possibly the first rapper to use “Lil” as a prefix in his rap moniker) pick up where they left of at on Daily Operation‘s “I’m The Man”, with Premo sliding each emcee a different beat to rock over. They change the order a bit this time, with Jeru going first, Lil Dap second, and Guru wrapping things up. Premo’s beats aren’t bad, but they don’t compare to the crop he used on “I’m The Man”. Jeru clearly won the first go round, but this one easily goes to Guru.

DWYCK – This was originally released as the B-side to Daily Operation‘s title track, but would arguably become the biggest hit in Gang Starr’s catalog (the chick in the yellow bikini in the video was gorgeous!). Nice and Smooth join Guru on the mic as they all take turns riding Premo’s addictive high energy instrumental (this song may have the greatest bass line of any hip-hop song ever recorded (shoutout to Clarence Wheeler & The Enforcers)…yeah, I said it!) and match it step for step. It would be an understatement to call this classic record a banger. This might be in my top ten hip-hop songs off all time.

Words From The Nutcracker – The other half of the Group Home, Melachi the Nutcracker gets his chance to spit a quick verse over an ill Premo production. Melachi, who has a simple flows and slight vocabulary, does a good job of using his limited skill to make this short interlude interesting: “So what the fuck, ya’ll I’m movin’ on up,  gonna swim in big bucks, like Scrooge McDuck, and if ya don’t like it and you wanna step up, then open your mouth and suck my nuts”.

Mass Appeal – This was the lead single and in my opinion, the best song on Hard To Earn. Premo hooks up the illest and most blunted backdrop in his catalog, and Guru spits his strongest bars on the album and arguably in his career: “A lot of rappers be like one-time wonders, couldn’t say a fly rhyme if there was one right under, their noses, I hate those muthafuckin’ posers”….”I represent, set up shit, like a tent boy, you’re paranoid, cause you’re a son like Elroy”…”Your head’ll bop, when I drop my crop of pure bomb, just like the seashore I’m calm, but wild, with my monotone style, because I don’t need gimmicks, give me a fly beat and I’m all in it.” Classic Gang Starr, and easily one of the top 5 songs in their hefty catalog.

Blowin’ Up The Spot – Guru continues to talk his shit and rep for Gang Starr over an understated funky backdrop.

Suckas Need Bodyguards – This was the third and final single released from Hard To Earn. Guru uses the epic backdrop to talk his shit and call out all the sucka emcees who like to front like their hard. This was dope, and I absolutely love the energy on the hook(specifically Malachi the Nutcracker’s).

Now You’re Mine – Premo chops up a nasty horn loop and when combined with an ill bass line and drums, it turns into a menacing instrumental, which works as the perfect canvas for Guru to paint his analogy between rhyming and basketball. It’s kind of amusing to hear the 5’8 Guru talk about doing 360 degree dunks, catching and slamming down alley oops and swatin’ his opponents shots; but the rhymes are clever and very well executed.

Mostly Tha Voice – Preem slows the tempo down and lays a sick thick bass line for Guru to talk about the importance of an emcee’s voice. “A lot of rappers use hooks to their shit, but if you took that shit out, and you took all the music out, what would remain? The voice, no doubt.” The song ends with Big Shug begging Guru for a chance to rhyme, to which Guru reluctantly agrees as the song fades out.

F.A.L.A. – In case you’re curious and didn’t quite catch it during the hook, “FALA” is an acronym for “Fuck Around Lay Around”. As promised at the end of the previous song, Guru gives his fellow Boston bredrin Big Shug a shot on the mic. Shug, who I like but is far from a great emcee (and may be a better singer than rapper…listen to “No Time To Play” from Guru’s Jazzmatazz Vol. 1), does a decent job on his first verse, but then Guru has to jump on the track and show him up for the remainder of the song. Premo puts more of his genius on display as he takes a simple piano loop and turns it into a ridiculously ill instrumental. And I love the Das EFX vocal sample he brings in on the hook, proof that Premo is the king of turning a hot line into a hot song.

Comin’ For Datazz – The last song of the evening finds Guru aggressive and sending threats to all would be competitors over a rough up-tempo backdrop. Short, nothing sweet and a great way to end this superb album.

The Japanese release of Hard To Earn had an additional track that the rest of the world didn’t get, titled “Doe In Advance”, which is easily accessible on the web. It’s a cool song, but I didn’t feel robbed for not getting it on the North American version, and “Comin’ For Datazz” makes for a much better close out song.

Hard To Earn finds Premo peaking, dishes up his best batch of Gang Starr beats yet, and throughout the album Guru backs up his opening line on “Now You’re Mine”: “I write the ill type rhymes, now I’m reaching my prime”. With only a few guest appearances, the duo seamlessly hem together a hefty seventeen track album, sprinkling in four or five of the greatest hip-songs of all time. Sorry, Source, but ya’ll got this one completely wrong. I love Step in the Arena as well as Daily Operation (I even thought No More Mr. Nice Guy was a decent album), but Hard To Earn is far more superior than any of Gang Starr’s previous albums to this point. Hard To Earn is an underrated hip-hop classic and an unsung cornerstone of arguably the greatest year in recorded hip-hop.

-Deedub

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SFC – Illumination (February 28, 1994)


We last heard from the pioneering Christian hip-hop group SFC (which is an acronym for Soldiers For Christ) in 1992 with their third release Phase III, which many Christian hip-hop heads consider to be a classic. Over the years the line-up in SFC has seen a few changes: the group started out as a 4 man crew for their debut, went down to two for their second effort, then for Phase III, back to three. By 1994 there was only one. Sup The Chemist would carry on the SFC name single-handedly for the fourth and final SFC album, Illumination.

Like the previous three SFC albums, Sup would handle most of the production load on Illumination, receiving a helping hand for a few of the album’s tracks from a couple of his Christian bredrin along the way. Illumination is a Christian hip-hop album, so of course it didn’t sell a ton of units, as it was released in 1994 at a time when Christian hip-hop wasn’t as well received as it is now, with artist like Andy Mineo and Lecrae charting and making platinum selling albums.

But here at TimeIsIllmatic we don’t care about charts and record sales. We only care about good old entertaining hip-hop music. So, without further adieu lets see if  Illumination  fits the mold. And the church said: amen.

IntroIllumination  opens with what I’m left to assume is Sup playing deejay, as he places a collage of cuts and scratches over a drum beat and a very soothing loop for this short intro.

One Time – The first actual song of the evening finds Sup playing with the pace of his flow while displaying his wordplay and making innocent emcee boasts (“now I be tearin’ up this mic like a rent-a-car, straight beltin’ negatively like snow upon the mountain, wisdom be shootin’ out like water from a fountain, my formula is very complex, when understood its more satisfying than sex”). In his first verse Sup makes reference to it be 1995 (even though Illumination clearly came out in 1994), so maybe this is Sup’s way of saying he’s a head of his time, or he didn’t think Illumination would come out until ’95, or it was an honest mistake. Regardless, he sounds dope on this one, and I love the heavy drums, the melodic sample placed over them and the pretty horn loop brought in during the hook.

Illumination – Sup gets a little more serious than the previous song, as he speaks in parable and chops up some of his theology, but manages to keep it light-hearted in only a manner a wily veteran like Sup could do. Once again he makes reference to it being 1995 as he signs off with “It’s not just a rap song, but something encouraging you to do right not wrong, Sup, peace, ’95, I’m gone”. Lyrically, the title track is solid, but Sup’s instrumental is lacking and Jurny Big’s hook is way too wordy for it to be effective.

C-Mode Fizzunk – In case you’re curious, our host explains in the song’s first verse that the “C” in the song title is for Christ. Sup and Peace 586 concoct this mellow yet simultaneously hard backdrop that has Sup “expressin’ his beliefs over beats” and reppin’ for Jesus without sounding preachy, or as he puts it in the song’s final verse: “They look closely, then they see, that I’m not that ordinary everyday rhymin’ hallelujah in the pew, but I bring reality to you”. This was a solid joint that sounds better the more you listen to it.

Interlude – We Can – Someone named Red Bonez performs a spoken word piece and is nearly drowned out by the laid back jazzy after hours club music playing behind him. Next…

Respect – LPG (which is Jurny Big, who did the hook on “Illumination”, and Dax) joins  Sup on this cipher joint, as they discuss the long lost virtue know as respect. Sup easily sons his guests on this one, and I’m still trying to figure out what the hell Jurny Big was talking about with his line  “Through eyes of Andre Dawson playing basketball in Atlanta”, since he’s got the wrong sport and city for the MLB Hall of Famer. I’ve definitely heard better verses from all three emcees involved, and I’m not crazy about Peace 586’s instrumental.

The Vibe – Meh…I could take it or leave it.

How I Cope – Sup’s instrumental reminds me of the remix version of Outkast’s “Player’s Ball”, and I dig it. He uses the slightly R&B tinged instrumental to discuss how God’s word (aka The Bible) helps him maintain in his struggle against the craziness and temptations that this world brings. One of the reasons Sup is one of my favorite “Christian” emcees is because he’s never been afraid to be honest and vulnerable; I’m not sure how many other “holy hip-hop artist” would be willing to admit “I hate being broke, sometimes I wanna go sell dope” on a record. This is arguably the best song on Illumination.

Interlude – Mighty Gun – The band from the “We Can” Interlude is back for this spoken word piece, as DJ Cut No Slack Cartoon (definitely an early candidate for 1994’s Worst Moniker Award) recites a piece written by Michael Washington about…yep, you guessed it. Next…

Don’t Nap – Sup hooks up a soulful backdrop as he gives all the fake emcees some lessons and advises them to simply grow up. Nicely done.

Make Money – The production credit is given to Tunnel Rat Productions (which is the crew both LPG and Peace 586 were a part of), so props to who ever created this soothing instrumental built around a beautiful guitar loop. Sup uses it to discuss his quest to make a million dollars while staying true to his Lord and Savior in the process, which isn’t difficult when you “don’t love it (money) but just respect it”. Our host’s flow kind of collapses at the end of the song, but I still enjoyed this one.

Phat – The loop on this one sounds like waking up at 5am to get ready for work on a Monday morning, but in a good way, if that’s possible. The warm loop comes alive when Sup drops some drums underneath it and has fun spitting random rhymes and even kicks an authentic freestyle at the end of the song, where he once again talks about it being 1995.

Interlude – If I – One last spoken word piece (which the liner notes credit to a J.T.) with the same band from the previous interludes playing behind him. And like the two previous spoken word pieces, this one did nothing for me.

Existing In Time – Sup hooks up a bootleg Premo-esque instrumental and does a weak  Jeru Da Damaja impersonation on the mic, stringing big words together like “Algebraic comprehension, the homosapiens alliteration” and “Perpetuity ceaseless, imprisonment in the hourglass, the chronometry theorized” that would even put Albert Einstein to sleep. Side note: J.T. and Red Bonez, who both appeared on one of the album’s spoken word interludes, are given co-writing credit for this bore-fest. This was trash.

Ladies and Gents – For the final song on Illumination Sup lays down a mid-tempo jazzy groove with a lovely horn loop and invites his friends The Caucasian (another candidate  for worst moniker), Small-Boy Slack and Cartoon to join him on this short and sweet farewell.

On Illumination Sup does a pretty solid job bearing the brunt of the load on both the boards and the mic, providing a jazz-infused soundscape that will please the ear, as he proves to be a skilled charismatic emcee that can entertain. Like most hip-hop albums, there are a few ideas that should have been left on the cutting room floor (i.e. all three of the spoken word interludes and “Existing In Time”), but Illumination definitely has more bright spots (no pun intended) than dull moments.

-Deedub

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Casual – Fear Itself (February 1, 1994)

By 1994 the Hieroglyphics crew was fast on their way to becoming a force to be reckoned with. In 1993 the West Coast collective released Del The Funky (or sometimes Funkee) Homosapien’s No Need For Alarm, followed by Souls of Mischief’s debut album 93′ Til Infinity, both which were well received and respected by most hip-hop heads alike. Oakland native, Jon “Casual” Owens, who made cameos on both albums as well as Kurious’ A Constipated Monkey, would be next up to bat for the Hiero crew in 1994, releasing his debut album, Fear Itself on Jive Records.

Fear Itself‘s (which is taken from the famous Franklin Roosevelt quote) soundscape would be shaped by most of the same parties that helped shape Del’s No Need For Alarm and Soul’s 93′ Til Infinity: Domino, Del, Jay-Biz and Casual. Fear Itself didn’t move a ton of units, nor did it make a ton of noise when it was released. I was aware the album existed back in the day. but never checked for it, and honestly don’t remember hearing any of its singles or seeing any videos, which is kind of surprising considering it was released on Jive, who did market and promote for a lot of their artist back in the day.

If you read this blog on a regular basis you already know how I feel about Casual. Hopefully Fear Itself will turn me into a believer.

Intro – Casual kicks Fear Itself off with a simple yet enjoyable Domino produced instrumental and a true freestyle straight off the top of the dome that sounds pretty impressive and gets the album off to a good start.

You Flunked – Casual spits battle rhymes and sounds very similar to his Hieroglyphics leader, Del. Our host also gets his first production credit of the evening, laying down a decent instrumental with a warm horn loop brought in during the hook, that I absolutely love. This was a decent listen.

Me-O-Mi-O – Domino’s instrumental sounds like something you would hear on Sesame Street and Casual continues to spew relentless battle raps. Next…

Get Off It – I like Casual’s instrumental, but I’m quickly becoming bored with his repetitive content.

That’s How It Is – This was the first song on Fear Itself to catch my attention the first listen through. Del concocts a serious instrumental laced with a nasty horn loop that means business. Casual is still in battle mode, but spits his strongest lines on this one: “I write raps and when niggas bite I clap, cause they shit sound better now”…”to alligators lurking in the moat, peep what I wrote, ya bit so hard I thought the shit was a quote”…”Enough with the wackness, enough is my check, enough with these muthafuckas bitin’ Das EFX”. This is definitely one of the strongest songs on Fear Itself.

That Bullshit – Prior to his legendary battle with Casual and the Hiero crew, Saafir was in good standing with his Oakland bredrin. So much so that our host even gave Saafir his own spot on Fear Itself to spit a quick verse over a an instrumental he produced himself. I wasn’t a fan of Saafir before this one and I’m definitely not one after hearing this, um, bullshit.

Follow The Funk – More of the same: Casual boasting over a decent Domino instrumental. Next…

Who’s It On – Domino hooks up a pleasant jazzy backdrop for Causal and his Hiero bredrin, Pep Love and Del to each spit a verse on. The instrumental definitely outshines the emcees on this one. And another thing: what’s up with all Casual’s hooks being one line phrases repeated a thousand times over? Lame.

I Didn’t Mean To – For the first time on Fear Itself, our host steps away from the boasting and battle rhymes. Casual’s all tongue-in-cheek as he issues a half-ass apology to his homeboy for smashin’ his girl. This was a cute concept and Casual’s instrumental was pretty nice.

We Got It Like That – The more I listen to Fear Itself the more I appreciate Domino’s production, like this one for instance. But on the flip side, the more I listen to Casual’s “one trick pony rhyming style” the less entertaining Fear Itself sounds.

A Little Something – Our host gets a duet with his mentor, Del. Casual lays the decent track for the duo to each spit a verse over and lets his guest bat first, then follows right behind him, sounding like his shadow. Short and sweet.

This Is How We Rip Shit – Don’t let the plurality in the song title fool you. Even though, Snupe (one half of Extra Prolific) and A-Plus (a fourth of Souls of Mischief) stop by and contribute the hook, this it just more of Casual lyrically sparring with imaginary opponents. I wasn’t crazy about this one.

Lose In The End – Casual takes a brief break from his battle raps and uses the three verses on this song to articulately share about a run in he had with the police. I like Domino’s up-tempo instrumental, but Casual’s story did nothing for me.

Thoughts Of The Thoughtful – Domino flips a slick Roy Ayers loop and turns it into some ole smooth shit for our host to spit upon. Casual doesn’t go outside of his normal subject matter of boasts, brags and battle raps, but the sophistication of this instrumental suits the continuous inflections in his voice and his laid back delivery, so when he spits lines like “go check ya glossary, cause I gots to be, the bombed ass supreme vocalist, I cream folks with this versification, signed Cas” (it sounds better over the beat than written) it sounds more entertaining than most of his other output on Fear Itself .

Chained Minds – Casual gets his final production credit of the evening for this one, and he definitely gets his Vanessa Williams on (aka saves his best for last). Casual uses the dope instrumental, which has a very serious feel to it, to let fools know he’s not only nice on the mic but if required he can get busy with his hands or the hammers as well. And of course he articulates his “gangsta” in the signature eloquent Hiero manner.

Be Thousand – The final song on Fear Itself finds our host sharing a tale about how a visit to smash a chick turns into drama with a random dude. Domino lays down some tribal like drums with a muffled bassy loop (that almost sounds like a voice) placed over them, and the two combined together have an understated smoothness that makes Casual’s mildly entertaining story easier to digest.

On Fear Itself (which is an extremely dope album title) Casual, who’s cadence and delivery heavily resemble his mentor Del’s, proves to be a competent and lyrical emcee with a vast vocabulary. Unfortunately, Casual’s content quickly becomes repetitive and for as many battle raps as he spews on Fear Itself, their not that impressive. He, Del and Domino (I didn’t like the instrumental for the one track that Jay-Biz produced, see “This Is How We Rip Shit”) do a pretty solid job on the production side, even if it may take several listens to appreciate it, but the instrumentals aren’t good enough to make Casual sound interesting.

-Deedub

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Fugees – Blunted On Reality (February, 1 1994)

Years before Wyclef Jean would become a pop-star, Lauryn Hill would create arguably the most influential album of the nineties (which allegedly was inspired by her love affair with Wyclef) launching her into superstardom, Pras would give us, uh…”Ghetto Supastar”, and collectively the trio would create one of the greatest hip-hop album of all time in The Score, the threesome, collectively known as the Fugees, had a beginning.

The first inception of the Fugees didn’t include Wyclef, but instead was Pras, Lauryn and a second female emcee, who all lived in the Newark, New Jersey area and went to high school together. Wyclef, who was born in Haiti and moved to Newark as a kid, was a few years older than Pras and Lauryn and was already doing his thing (in a different group, then later as a solo artist), but eventually would join Pras and Lauryn (the other female emcee would end up leaving the group) forming the revamped version of Fugees. The trio signed a deal with Ruffhouse/Columbia where they would release their debut album Blunted On Reality 

Wyclef, Pras and Khalis Bayyan (who is one of the co-founding members of the legendary band Kool & The Gang) would handle most of the production work on Blunted On Reality. The album did produce a couple of mild hits but didn’t sell well, nor did it receive great reviews. In Brian Coleman’s book Check The Technique Wyclef and Pras even admit that they felt Blunted On Reality, in so many words, was trash. That doesn’t leave me optimistic going into this one.

Introduction  – Blunted On Reality opens with a distorted voice (is it supposed to be God? Maybe Satan?) asking Wyclef questions, to which he replies to screaming like he’s burning in the pits of hell. Lauryn then spits a short spoken word piece about race relations in America, which sets up the next song…

Nappy Heads – Wyclef, Pras, Brand X and Rashad Muhammad get the production credit for this rugged backdrop and the Fugees, loosely, dedicate this one to our African-American heroes. Clef, Pras and L-Boogie sound like their moving way too fast and that they were more focused on creating energy than tight flows, delivery and clarity. The instrumental was cool, though.

Blunted Interlude – The song begins with the trio puffin’ on the magic dragon and getting philosophical about weed and all of its “magical powers”. Then a decent instrumental drops (with production credit going to Clef, Pras and Khalis Bayyan) and the trio talk their shit spitting random sup par bars. Not a terrible song, but not mind-blowing, either.

Recharge – Our hosts don’t really say anything worth quoting on this one (matter of fact, I could barely make out what any of them are saying, including Wyclef’s jumbled hook), but this instrumental is fire!

Freestyle Interlude – Wyclef and Pras spit terrible freestyles and are completely outshined by their homie T-Black, on this interlude. Thankfully, Pras’ verse is cut short when 5-0 roll on the scene and shuts shit down. Shit, Clef and Pras’ rhymes are so weak on this one they should have both been booked on charges for impersonating emcees.

Vocab – This was the third and final single released from Blunted On Reality. Wyclef and Pras lay down a  simple acoustic guitar riff (which I would be willing to bet is more Wyclef than Pras’ doing) as they and Lauryn take turns spitting their vocab over it. The video version of this song uses a more upbeat instrumental (or maybe it’s just the addition of drums that make it sound more upbeat), which is the version I first heard. I think the remix is a better song, since all three emcees sound sharper on the mic, but the original is still cool.

Special News Bulletin Interlude – Just your normal, useless, run-of-the-mill hip-hop interlude.

Boof Baf – This was actually the first single released from Blunted On Reality, and this is my first time hearing it. It clearly didn’t make any noise on the charts, rightfully so, because everything about this song is terrible.

Temple – Clef, Pras and Khalis Bayyan concoct a Caribbean-flavored instrumental, as all three Fugees use their verses to discuss religion, although Clef and Pras get sidetracked on occasion. As is, this song is rough around the edges and needs an I dotted here and a T crossed there, but it definitely gives a glimpse of the potential the trio would soon walk in.

How Hard Is It? – Thank you Fugees for using proper punctuation in the song title, but this song is still trash.

Harlem Chit Chat Interlude – It plays just as it reads.

Some Seek Stardom – Lauryn gets the first solo joint of the evening. Rashad Muhammad and Stephen Walker lay down subdue drums under a slick loop from Aretha Franklin’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” (rest in peace to the Queen of Soul) and L-Boogie waxes poetic as she discusses life, death and the importance of revering God in this life. She even displays some of that fabulous singing voice at the end of the song that the world would soon fall in love with. L’s clarity and delivery were pretty bad on this one, but she definitely had a lot to say, and I like the instrumental.

Giggles – This is Pras’ solo joint, and everything about this song is so terrible it will make you giggle while you contemplate whether or not this nigga is serious about this rap thing.

Da Kid From Haiti Interlude – Interlude to set up the next song…

Refugees On The Mic – Wyclef, Pras and Mr. Bayyan construct a bluesy backdrop and dedicate this one to all the Haitian refugees, or at least Clef and Pras. I wasn’t crazy about this song, but it makes for decent filler material.

Living Like There Ain’t No Tomorrow – Lauryn and Pras had their shot, so it’s only right that Wyclef gets a solo joint too. Clef and Pras lay down a decent backdrop (that Clef hi-lariously shares that he “looped this on the S-nine-hundred” because he “couldn’t afford an eleven hundred”) for Clef, and he gets pretty animated as he shares a few tales about living reckless. Not a great song, but Wyclef’s stories make it mildly entertaining.

Shouts Out From The Block – The Fugees bring back the instrumental from the previous song and Wyclef, Lauryn and Pras give their shoutouts and invite, what sounds like everybody from their hood, to give shoutouts as well. This goes on for over ten minutes, which is extremely excessive and unnecessary.

Nappy Heads (Remix) – This remix was my first introduction to the Fugees. A young Salaam Remi hooks up an emotional and melodic backdrop for Wyclef, L-Boogie and Pras to celebrate the Nappy Heads, again. With the exception of Wyclef’s second verse, the trio lay down new lyrics, lay off the over the top energy, slow down a bit and start to settle into the synergy that made The Score so great. This song still sounds amazing 20 plus years later.

Blunted On Reality could have baked in the oven for another 30 minutes (or 3 hours), because when the Fugees served it to the world it definitely wasn’t ready. There are a few bright moments on the production side, but most of its mediocre at best. And Wyclef, Pras and Lauryn (who’s a strong argument for top ten emcees of all time in my book) were still trying to find their footing on the mic, rendering a large chunk of the album skippable. But thank God for seconds chances. Without them we’d have no Malcolm X. No Muhammad Ali. No Saint Peter. And no Fugees’ classic album in the form of  The Score.

-Deedub

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The UMC’s – Unleashed (January 25, 1994)

If you read this blog faithfully then you are already fully aware that I believe the UMC’s debut album Fruits of Nature is severely underrated (and if you didn’t you know now; but you can read my full thoughts about Fruits of Nature by clicking here). Even with two pretty well received singles, the album didn’t move a ton of units and most hip-hop heads didn’t know what to think of the Staten Island duo’s everyday Joe persona. If nobody else believed in the UMC’s, their label Wild Pitch did, as they would return two years later to release their follow-up album, Unleashed.

Haas G and RNS (a Staten Island producer who would go on to produce tracks for some of the Wu-Tang Clan affiliates) handled all the production work on Fruits of Nature, but this time around Haas and Kool Kim would keep the production work in-house and are both credited for the entirety of Unleashed‘s production. The album would go on to make even less noise than it’s predecessor, as it would produce no hot singles, nor would it sell enough copies to even earn a wood plaque, thus marking the end to the short-lived era of the UMC’s (Kool Kim would reinvent himself in the early 2000’s as the solo hardcore/conscious emcee, NYOIL, but that was short-lived as well).

I’m not sure if Unleashed‘s failure was do to poor marketing on Wild Pitch’s behalf or if it was just a trash body of work. The fact that I didn’t even know Unleashed existed until a few  years ago makes me feel it may be the former, but since this is my first time listening to the album, I’ll…unleash my finding when I’m done.

Time To Set It Straight – The UMC’s start things off with a solid mid-tempo groove, as both Haas G and Kool Kim spit two verses, and it quickly becomes apparent that they’re moving with a different energy this time around. They actually sound a lot like the post-Diggidy era Das EFX (Kool Kim more so than Haas G), with Kool Kim sounding more polished than his partner, as he serves you “hot buttered soul” on his “hip-hop roll” (shoutout to Isaac Hayes). Even with the obvious swagger jacking, I like this one.

We Go – The UMC’s hook up a hard backdrop with a nasty bass line, as they go back and forth trying to demolish it. They don’t quite accomplish their goal, but they do a decent job with the dope instrumental. It would have been nice to hear Das EFX jump on this track with our hosts.

Evil Ways – The UMC’s take the energy level down a bit with this slick backdrop, complete with a catchy vocal sample taken from Santana’s song with the same title. Haas and Kim spit darker rhymes than UMC fans are accustomed to hearing, but they still sound decent.

Hit The Track – The duo continue to delve into their new-found high-energy rapid pace flow over a less than spectacular instrumental. Haas and Kim sound cool, but the instrumental is barely passable, and that vocal sample gets annoying as hell after the first listen.

What’s Up – Our hosts hook up a rough backdrop that they use it to talk shit and spit unbelievable battle rhymes over. This one could have been left on the cutting room floor.

Staten Island Comes First – Kim and Haas rep for their borough over a laid back jazzy instrumental. Kim cleverly sneaks in a shoutout to Martin Lawrence for putting up a poster of the Fruits of Nature album cover in his apartment for the first few seasons of the classic sitcom Martin, as he raps “I get up (ya gets down) that’s what I’m about, then hang around Martin Lawrence’s house, niggy check me out”. Side note: Martin also had a poster of Tupac’s 2Pacalypse Now album cover in his apartment for the first few seasons.

Ill Demonic Clique – Haas and Kim invite 3.,2.,1., Gold Rush and RUX, collectively known as the Ill Demonic Clique, to join them on this posse joint. The five emcees bypass an unnecessary hook and relentlessly spit high energy bars, keeping the microphone moving around the cipher over the stripped down, but very dope, instrumental. 3.,2.,1., outshines his hungry bredrin with lines like “I grab the mic emcees start surfin’, let your rhymes collect unemployment checks cause they ain’t workin'” and “I get the urge, I kill you with my verbs, so put on a condom and fuck what ya heard” or “And beware when I get the rough vibes, I killed a nigga twelve times, because he had nine lives”. This was sick. I would have loved to hear an album from the trio, that the UMC promised was coming in the liner notes but never materialized.

Some Speak Ill Thoughts – The UMC’s hook up an ill bleak backdrop reminiscent of some Premo-in-his-prime-type shit. They match the instrumental’s dark vibes and live up to the song’s title as Kim spits rhymes like “I be a real hypocrite, low-life, yet male chauvinistic, sexist sleazebag my best characteristic, I’m a pathological liar, my father don’t trust me, shit if I were you I’d bust me, cause even I disgust me” and Haas rhymes :”Elevatin’ from the pits of hell screamin’, I’m the demon, created by society’s evil semen”. This was sick (in a good way) and easily my favorite song on Unleashed.

Whoa Now – This song is so forgettable that even though I’ve listened to Unleashed from beginning to end, at least ten times in the past few weeks, I still can’t remember what the song sounds like when I see the song title.

Pleasure In The Dark – This song must have been recorded before Haas and Kim decided to morph into the dark and edgy emcees they’ve been for most of Unleashed. The instrumental is pleasant and the duo both rap in a style similar to how they sounded on Fruits of Nature, only more polished. I like this one.

Can You Feel It – This sounds like it could have found a home on Fruits of Nature. Well, at least the instrumental, which is a mid-tempo groove with an understated soul feel to it.  Kim and Haas sound comfortable rhyming over it as they ride it, nearly to perfection.

How It Gotta Be – The instrumental has nice warm feel good vibes written all over it, but don’t let that fool you. Haas and Kim (more so Kim) are in asshole mode, as they take off the gentlemen like tendencies they displayed on Fruits of Nature‘s break-up song “Woman Be Out” and get super blunt on this one, telling the ladies “if you ain’t fuckin’ than get out”. If the verses from the once “nice guy” emcees weren’t harsh enough to make you clutch your gold chains, wait until you hear the perverse adlibs from the duo and their crew as the song fades out; 2 Live Crew would even feel uncomfortable listening to them.

Gotta Be Sure – Much like “Pleasure In The Dark”, the instrumental and the UMC’s flow has Fruits of Nature’s energy dripping all over it. I love the soulful backdrop on this one.

My Thing – The final song of the evening has the self-proclaimed “undisputed masters of charisma” rhyming over a trash instrumental and shouting an extremely corny hook. This was not a good way to end the album.

Gone are the wholesome emcees that UMC fans became accustomed to on Fruits of Nature. Unleashed finds Haas G and Kool Kim running wild, as they turn into hardcore foul-mouthed ruffnecks with no morals, which is why Kool Kim probably didn’t feel guilty for stealing Das EFX rhyming style. As much as I love Fruits of Nature, I like the duo’s edginess and their rhyming sounds more polished on Unleashed. Pound for pound, Fruits of Nature is the better body of work, mainly due to better overall production and two classic singles in “Blue Cheese” and “One To Grow On” (which Unleashed lacks), but like Fruits of Nature, Unleashed is a solid album that should have gotten more love than it received.

-Deedub

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Kurious – A Constipated Monkey (January 18, 1994)

Jorge Alvarez, better known to the world as Kurious (taken from the children’s book character Curious George), is a Puerto Rican-Cuban rapper from Manhattan. I first heard Kurious in 1993 when he made a quick cameo on Del The Funky Homosapien’s No Need For Alarm (see “Boo Boo Heads”), and that same year he also spit a verse on Prime Minister Pete Nice & Daddy Rich’s album Dust To Dust (see “3 Blind Mice”). Kurious’ relationship with Pete Nice would play a part in him signing a deal with Columbia, where he would release his debut album A Constipated Monkey

Kurious would bring along his deejay, Lord Sear (who you can catch on Shade 45 on SiriusXM) and his sidekick Kadi aka the man with the yellow hat (those familiar with the Curious George Book series will get it, but it’s still super corny), who plays a similar but less significant role on A Constipated Monkey that Consequence played on Beats, Rhymes and Life. Kurious would call on the Beatnuts, The SD50’s (aka The Stimulated Dummies) Bosco Money and his buddies Pete Nice and Daddy Rich to sonically shape A Constipated Monkey. The album didn’t move a ton of units but it did receive solid reviews, and is still held in high regards amongst hip-hop heads alike.

I haven’t listen to A Constipated Monkey in years, so let’s see if it still sounds as good as I remember it.

Spell It Wit A J (Yes, Yes Jorge)A Constipated Monkey starts with some weirdo rambling on in an annoying voice about being “full of shit.” Then what I like to call a “base model” Beatnuts instrumental (which means it’s solid, but doesn’t have all the additional bells and whistles that they have the ability to add to make an average instrumental a superb one) comes in and Kurious uses it to introduce himself to the world. And in case you were curious (no pun intend), he spells his first name with a “J”, not with a “G”.

Top Notch – Kurious must have coughed up a little more bread for this Beatnuts track, cause it has all the bells and whistles that were missing on the previous song. Jorge invites his sidekick Kadi, Psycho Les (from the Beatnuts) and the Frenchmen that A Tribe Called Quest made a song about, Lucien (see “Luck of Lucien” from Peoples Instinctive Travels) the self-proclaimed “French nigga” to join him on the mic. While his guests fail to impress (Lucien actually sounds terrible), Kurious sounds decent; but it’s the Beatnuts crispy clean perfect dosage of slickness that carries this song.

I’m Kurious – Pete Nice & Daddy Rich get their only production credit on A Constipated Monkey, and they make sure it counts, constructing this very serious sounding, but extremely dope instrumental around a slick Blackbyrd’s loop and a Midnight Star vocal sample. Kurious tries to match the track’s seriousness and does a decent job, as he does some reflecting and gets introspective. This is definitely one of my favorite songs on A Constipated Monkey.

Uptown Shit – This was one of the singles released from A Constipated Monkey, and man, does this record bring back good memories. Kurious, The Omen (which is a terrible alias; his verse was mysteriously left off of the video edit and replaced by another Kurious verse) and Kadi represent for Uptown on this one. Again, none of them give us mesmerizing bars, but the Beatnuts’ instrumental is dope enough to carry the song by itself.

Leave Ya’ With This – The SD50’s keep what has sonically been an enjoyable listen so far, enjoyable with this mellow instrumental that Kurious uses to pay respect to KMD’s late deejay (and Zev Love X aka MF Doom’s brother) Subroc. Most of Kurious’ bars have nothing to do with Subroc, as he goes from talking random shit to quickly tying the last few bars of each verse together as a dedication to the fallen deejay, but it’s still cool. I absolutely love the horn loop brought in during the hook (MC Lyte used the same loop on Ain’t No Other’s “Lil Paul”). RIP Subroc.

Fresh Out The Box – The Beatnuts keep A Constipated Monkey chugging right along with more solid production, and average rhymes from Kurious.

Walk Like A Duck – This was the lead single from A Constipated Monkey. The Beatnuts hook up a drowsy instrumental that our host uses to take subliminals at somebody he feels had “vicious” words to say behind his back (as he states in the opening seconds of the song). I hated this song back in the day and I still don’t care for it.

Tear Shit Up – Kurious continues to spew random rhymes over some beautiful Beatnuts production work. That’s all I got.

Baby Bust It – The SD50’s hook up a cool mid-tempo groove, which includes a very catchy vocal sample from the lead emcee of my favorite hip-hop group of all time (I’ll let you guess who). Kurious invites Kadi and Grim Reaper (who would later change his alias to MF Grimm) to join him on the mic. For some reason Kurious decides to take a shot at Marky Mark during his verse (“I think I keep it sharp like a sword, unlike a two-bit punk in his drawers on a Billboard…Calvin Klein’s, no friend of mine”), which doesn’t earn you any street cred (but I definitely think Mark Wahlberg would whoop Kurious’ ass in a fist fight, back then and even more so today). If you know what his beef was about, leave the details in the comments, please. Kadi shows why he’s only a hype man, while MF Grimm delivers the most intriguing verse of the three (I still chuckle at his threat to choke dudes out “like Radio Raheem”…those unfamiliar with Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing won’t get it). All in all a solid song.

Nikole – Bosco Money constructs a beautiful backdrop for Kurious to speak about a girl named Nikole that’s left him heartbroken. This is a very well-crafted song, and probably my favorite song on A Constipated Monkey.

What’s The Real – Hieroglyphics crew member, Casual stops by to tag-team the mic with Kurious. I’ve never been a huge Casual fan, although up to this point I’ve probably only heard him spit on three songs. In the last few years I’ve picked up a couple of his albums, including his debut Fear Itself, that I’ll being listening to for the first time in the next few weeks. He sounds like a less talented version of Del The Funky Homosapien. He and Kurious exchange respectable verses on this one, but I really like the SD50’s jazzy backdrop. This song (mainly the instrumental) sounds so much better today than it did back in the nineties. Time is truly, illmatic.

Jorge Of The Projects – The final song of the evening finds Kurious reminiscing about the Projects that he grew up in, which I found interesting considering he’s from the upscale area of Upper Manhattan…but what do I know? The SD50’s finish A Constipated Monkey strong with a dope rumbling bass line and a beautiful horn loop to warm your heart.

Even though most of his content is juvenile, repetitive and lacks depth, Kurious proves to be a decent emcee on his debut album, but the production work is the shoulders that truly carry A Constipated Monkey. With the exception of “Walk Like A Duck”, the Beatnuts, The SD50’s, Bosco Money and Pete Nice & Daddy Rich string together a batch of great instrumentals for Kurious and his guests to spill their verses over. A Constipated Monkey may not be a classic album, but it’s definitely a complimentary patch in the quilt that made 1994 arguably, the best year in hip-hop.

-Deedub

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