The year :1988 The scene: Brooklyn, NY. A 14-year-old inspiring emcee Edward Archer, stumbled in to the garage based studio of up and coming producer Howard “Howie-Tee” Thompson. The stumble was intentional, as Howie-Tee already had a pretty impressive resume, having already produced tracks for the likes of UTFO and Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam, being both Howard and Edward (or Hedward) lived in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, Edward had a plan and knew just where to go.
Eventually, Edward, who would take on the alias Special Ed (which became a lot more fitting based on the bizarre flow he would adapt on his third release Revelations), and Howie Tee begin working on demos to shop for a deal. Their demos caught the ear of Profile records, whom they would ink a deal with and in 1989, and the tender age of 16, Special Ed released his debut album Youngest In Charge.
Youngest In Charge would go on to earn a gold plaque (based largely on the massive hit and classic “I Got It Made”) and received heaps of critical acclaim as well. Did I mention, dude was only 16 then this was released?
Taxing – Edward doesn’t waste any time, and as if this were an EPMD album, he gets straight to business, as sounds Nimble and precise in the process. Howie Tee’s beat was constructed around a Beatles sample (“Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts”) that he wanted to use. But the Beatles catalog, which even then was untouchable (unless you like getting bitch slapped with lawsuits), influenced Howie’s decision to get someone to replay it on guitar, and switched up the melody just a bit. This is hot! It sounds a lot better than I remember it.
I Got It Made – Hip-hop classic: over a simple but infectious Howie Tee beat, Edward gets his braggadocio on, fantasizing about a life he obviously was living, being he was only 16 at the time (although, I’m sure his mom sent him to the store on occasion to pick up some Cascade so he could wash the dishes). This song represents a time when hip-hop was innocent, which is gravely missed in this day and age (a tear, drops my eye). This is timeless, has to be in your top 10 of all time (yeah, I said!).
I’m The Magnificent – I believe this was the second single off Youngest In Charge (or third?), but the remix version was used for the video. Howie provides a reggae tinged beat for Edward to boast about his dominance, while simultaneously displaying his verbal dexterity, which is pretty impression when you factor in he was only 15 or 16 when this was recorded (though the line about “getting Grammies even though he’s not an actor” doesn’t make any sense, but will chalk that up to his youth). So far we’re 3 for 3.
Club Scene – And then were hit with this mess? Wow. At least our host is gracious enough to warn us in his first line that this is an intentional attempt at a pop/club song. The beat changes more times than Liz Taylor does husbands, covering house, hip-hop, r&b, and I think I even heard a little calypso in there somewhere. Edward invites female emcee, Kazam (aka Howie Tee’s baby’s momma) to the party to spit a few lines too, and she actually sounds more comfortable over the
dung beat than our host (take that for what it’s worth). But neither parties sticks to the subject so it comes off like a 4 year with a loaded automatic weapon, recklessly spitting shots all over the place with no particular target:which at least puts the vocalists on one accord with the instrumental.
Hoedown – No, put back your cowboys boots and hats. This isn’t that type of hoedown, silly (although, Howie’s beat made we want to promenade). Over Howie’s Country and Western inspired beat Edward spits two verses about a couple of garden tools he’s used while gardening. Ed’s not covering new ground here, but he does a great job of making it interesting with his witty lines (although, his misuse of the word “exception”, for the sake of making his line rhyme, was pretty funny). I used to hate this song back in the day, but listening to it now it’s actually enjoyable. I guess age has helped me appreciate the concept more, proving time is indeed illmatic.
Think About It – This was the third single (or second) released off the album. Howie’s beat uses the same sample used on Eric B and Rakim’s “Microphone Fiend”, so it’s only appropriate that they used Rakim’s vocal sample from the same song. Ed spews battle rhymes over Howie’s simple but effective beat, and sounds really good. Another hot one!
Akshun – This is Edward’s ode to his deejay, Akshun. I’ve never been a huge fan of this type of song but I do appreciate the team spirit. Howie’s funky beat and Edward’s precise and smooth delivery, mad me believe it. This was nice.
Monster Jam – Howie hooks up this go-go styled track for our host to go bananas over, as he proceeds to spit sick line after line. Needless to say, the song lives up to its name. Next to “Got It Made” this is the 2nd best song on Youngest In Charge, in my opinion.
The Bush – Ed’s dedication to the place he represents, Brooklyn, or to be more specific: Flatbush (which is a community in the borough of Brooklyn). Howie Tee’s back drop, which samples Al Green’s “Love and Happiness”, is economically efficient. As usual, Ed sounds solid but looses focus and gets way off the subject, but manages to reel himself back in before the song ends. This was pretty good.
Fly M.C. – What starts out as another boast fest from our host, quickly shifts gears and turns into young Edward trying to escape the clutches of a sex crazed Queen of France, who can’t get enough of under-aged, Flatbush weiner. It sounds like something Slick Rick would have done, but only better (Ed claims this was written before Rick was out, which if you do the math means Ed penned this rhyme while still in diapers: which is really impressive, but I ain’t buying it). When you factor in Howie’s boring beat, this is very skippable.
Heds And Dreds – Ed pays respect to his Jamaican roots and attempts a little chanting on this one. While not great, it’s serviceable. And that ends the regularly scheduled program.
My copy is an extended version that includes the following bonus tracks:
I Got It Made (Businesslike version) – The beat does give it a “business like” feel, which is cool, but it doesn’t measure up to the original version.
I Got It Made (UP Version) – This sounds like a remastered version of the original (it also sounds like Ed re-recorded his vocals, also).
Think About It (Instrumental) – Plays exactly how it reads.
Think About It (Howie’s Slo-Mo Party Mix) – The Jeopardy theme music mixed in between verses has no business coming near a hip-hop song, yet alone a Special Ed song. The music during the verses switches up, a la Ice Cube’s “Jackin’ For Beats”, with mixed results. This was okay, I guess.
One In A Million (Loose Talk In The Studio) – At Howie Tee’s request, Ed spits two of the 5,632 rhymes that he came with to Howie (it’s actually funny when Howie says it). This is simply a one verse out take, but even in its rough draft stage, it showcases the lyrical ability young Edward possessed.
I’m The Magnificent (The Magnificent Remix) – This is the remix that was used in the video, and later released on his sophomore effort Legal. This gives the song a harder edge compared to the original, which had more of a “happy” feel to it.
Ready To Attack – This was also released on Legal. Ed completely obliterates Howie’s beat (which uses the same sample that Pete Rock would later use on Run DMC’s “Down With The King”), spitting potent battle rhymes (a portion of which I believe was aimed at one of the Juice crew members) without breaking a sweat. This is really hot!
Club Scene (Ed’s Special Mix) – Unlike the original version of this song, which mixes different music genres, this version maintains it house music theme, and its sucking status.
Youngest In Charge is one of those albums that often gets overlooked in the discussion of best hip-hop albums from the 80’s. Ed spits articulately crafted rhymes with the confidence of a seasoned veteran, and in case you missed it, dude was only 16. While most of the subject matter doesn’t move beyond boasting, his talent makes that heavily treaded ground an enjoyable listen. And Howie Tee’s conventional beats, which aren’t ground breaking by any stretch of the imagination, complement Ed’s flow very well. Youngest In Charge is not without a few missteps (i.e. “Club Scene” and “Fly MC”), it definitely deserves mention in the “best of” discussion.