Shawn Moltke, better known as M.C. Shan, is best remembered for his battle with KRS-One and Boogie Down Productions back in the late eighties. Most forget that a few years before that legendary feud begin, Shan was signed to MCA Records back in 1985, where he would release one single, ” Feed The World” (which I’m sure you never heard of), before he was dropped by the label (KRS-One also makes mention to this on BDP’s song “South Bronx”). But Shan had determination, and a cousin who happening to be an up and coming producer with a label, named Marley Marl. Marley signed Shan to his Cold Chillin’ imprint, linking Shan with Marley’s Juice Crew line-up, and similar to Shan rap career, the rest is history.
In 1987 , Shan released his first single on Cold Chillin’ “The Bridge”, which was Shan’s declaration that hip-hop originated in Queens (the single also had a b-side song title “Beat Biter”, but I’ll get to that later). KRS-One disagreed with Shan’s theory and believed that the Bronx was responsible for hip-hop’s birth, which led to Kris firing shots at Shan on “South Bronx”, and the dis record that many believe stifled Shan’s career, “The Bridge”. Before the beef was squashed, the two emcees would capitalize on the feud by inking an endorsement deal with Sprite, (I recall one commercial with the two emcees in a boxing ring with mics, metaphorically duking it out…if my memory serves me correct).
Though Shan clearly lost the battle with Kris, he still managed to release three solo albums, the last one, Play It Again, Shan, was a frisbee, but the first two, Down By Law and Born To Be Wild were pretty well received by the listening public. I don’t own nor have I ever heard Down By Law or Play It Again, in their entirety, which means Born To Be Wild is the only MC Shan album I own.
With Marley Marl on the beats and Shan on the mic, let’s see how Born To Be Wild 20 plus years later.
I Pioneered This – Shan starts things off by silencing his naysayers who thought or excused him of falling off. How could he fall off when he helped pioneer this? (that’s the rhetorical question Shan asks and doubles as part of the hook). During the second verse there is a large portion of the verse that is censored. It sounds like Shan may have referenced another emcee’s name or song (maybe Kris Parker?). Shan’s Transformers reference was pretty funny as he mispronounces Decepticons as Deceptigons (at least it was funny when I heard it). Other then that small mishap, Shan sound pretty good over this decent Marly Marl track.
Give Me My Freedom – This was also included on Marley Marl ‘s In Control Vol.1 (this version run’s a little longer than the mix on In Control, which means you get to hear Shan go on an explicit and very unnecessary rant at the end of the song), and the overall theme (and hook) of the song still makes no sense to me.
So Def – Over a funky Marley beat Shan takes the time, over the course of three verses, to share with us how def his rhymes are. Shan’s probably not in anybody’s top 10 but he’s a solid emcees. Yes, the term “def” dates this song quite a bit, but it still results in a decent listen.
Back To The Basics – Shan takes this one back to the old school (as in the old school, before this old school, did I loose you?) breaking out the simple deliver that was used by most emcees in the early 80’s (i.e. Sugerhill Gang or Kurtis Blow). Marley Marl’s track uses a bare drum pattern to match Shan basic rhyme scheme, resulting in a solid concept record, and a fairly decent listen.
Go For Yours (‘Cause I’m Gonna Get Mine) – Most of Shan’s lyrics are what I like to call community based: you can take the lyrics from any song and put them to any beat and hook, and you would probably end up with the same results (this isn’t necessarly a dis, nor is it a compliment). This might be one of the few songs (as well as the previous song) where this doesn’t apply. Shan’s content is little more meatier than what we’ve heard up to this point. He even throws in a little “5 percent theology” for good measure (the second verse sound like something Rakim or Nas would have written). Marley’s eerie sample works well under Shan’s tight rhymes. This was very nice.
Born To Wild – Remember when I said its a disappointment when the title song of an album sucks? Unfortunatley, this falls into that category. Marley Marl’s beat is all over the place, and Shan’s annoying hook (Wild! Wild!) only makes matter worse. Shan takes a shot at The Beastie Boys and a blatant shot at LL. I’m not sure what started the beef he had with the Beasties (or if he really had a beef) but here’s a little history on the beef with LL: The b-side song on the”The Bridge” single, “Beat-Biter”, was a dis record aimed at LL Cool J, which excused LL of stealing Marley Marl’s beat and using it on “Rock The Bells”. LL, who was already a bona fide star in 88′, never responded (on wax, at least), which is a good thing for Shan, because a response record might of ended Shan’s recording career after his debut. Oh yeah, the song, it sucks.
She’s Gone – Speaking of LL: Shan takes a stab at the genre LL created: the rap ballad, or in Shan’s case, spoken word ballad. Yes, it’s cheesy. I’m not sure if that’s Shan singing on the hook (it sounds like it could be him), but who ever it is sounds horrific (seriously, it’s that bad). Marley’s jazzy piano sounds a lot better than the L.A. Posse’s Casio keyboard sound on “I Need Love”, but not good enough to make this worth listening to. After hearing this I understand why she’s gone.
Juice Crew Law – Over a vintage Marley Marl beat Shan breaks down the Juice Crew Law, and what will happen if you choose to violate this unwritten law (the penalty usually results in broken jaws or some other form of violence). Marley’s beat swallows Shan up, and his delivery sounds rushed as he tries to keep pace with the beat, making his lyrics indistinguishable (for all I know, he could have been rapping in Chinese).
Words Of A Freestyle – Marley used his signature horn sample for this Shan “freestyle”. During the hook Shan suffers from a slight case of amnesia, proclaiming he’s “never cursing”, completely dismissing the “F” bombs he dropped at the end of “Give Me My Freedom”. Despite the generic song title, this was a decent listen.
They Used To Do It Out In The Park – Shan reminisces about where the hip-hop subculture was birthed, the park jams (he manages to sneak another “F” bomb in on this one, further adding to false doctrine). Ghostface Killah recently used this song’s hook as the hook on his song “Da’ Park” (which was taken from a portion of Shan’s line from “The Bridge”). Shan’s rhymes are okay, but they tend to jump around too much, leaving incomplete thoughts all over the place. I’m still trying to figure out why the last verse was tacked on, it has absolutely nothing to do with the topic at hand.
Never Rock A Party – Marley uses the same Otis Redding sample used on EPMD’s “Steve Martin”, for the backdrop (which sounds a whole lot better than EPMD’s take on it) on Shan’s closer cut. Shan sounds really good on this laid back joint, unintentionally (I assume) pulling a Vanessa Williams, and saving the best for last.
Born To Be Wild plays out similar to Shan’s career: it shows potential, but never walks in it consistently. Marley’s beats are more often than not enjoyable, and Shan, who is definitely not a top-tier emcee, is pretty decent on the mic. One would think this equation would add up to a hot album, but instead it’s only lukewarm. Other than 2, maybe 3, goods songs, the rest of Born To Be Wild is chalked full of a bunch of average songs (minus the train wreck that was “She’s Gone”). While many paint KRS-One as the source that caused Shan’s faltered rap career, it’s might be more approprieate to look at Shan’s mediocre output as the true culprit.