When you think of pioneering hip-hop artists from the south, what artist or group comes to mind? Many will say the Geto Boys, while younger fans will probably go with Outkast (while the even less informed will say Lil’ Wayne…you foolish mortals). But the Texas based Fila Fresh Crew is rarely ever mentioned.
And while the trio of Fresh K, Doctor Rock, and Doc-T were born in raised in Dallas, it’s fair to say that their rap career didn’t take off (if that’s what you want to call it) until they went west to California. Dr. Rock was once a deejay for Dr. Dre’s sequence wearing, make-up sporting World Clash Wreckin’ Cru. Eventually, Dre traded in his glitter for guns, and along with Eazy-E, Ice Cube, Ren, and Yella, formed the infamous N.W.A. Dr. Rocks’s relationship with Dre helped the Fila Fresh Crew land a spot on N.W.A.’s, unofficial album debut, N.W.A. & The Posse. The Fila Fresh Crew would go on to release their own album, which eventually went aluminum, causing the trio to squabble over pennies and usage of their community 72′ Ford Pinto, leading to their break up by 1988. Even though the Fila Fresh Crew (which is a very corny name, by the way) was done, Doc-T was just getting started.
Doc-T (whose government name is Tracey Lynn Curry) would change his alias to the D.O.C., and go one to pen lines for Dre and Eazy-E and contribute his own verse on N.W.A.’s landmark album Straight Outta Compton, and would again play Casper with a pen, writing the bulk of Eazy-E’s solo debut Eazy-Duz-It. After paying his dues, Tracy was reward with a solo deal by Eazy-E and the good people at Ruthless Records.
Tracy released his debut album No One Can Do It Better in 1989. His Dr. Dre produced album would go on to earn tons of critical claim, including a 5 mic rating from The Source, while earning a gold plaque three months after it’s release and eventually turning to platinum. Shortly after No One Can Do It Better‘s release the D.O.C. suffered a car accident that left his vocal cords severely damaged, leaving his once booming voice as just a scratchy whisper. He would go on to release two more solo albums (with rumors of a third in the ear as of this write-up), but without his once authoritative voice, both albums were ignored by the public, leaving No One Can Do It Better as Tracy’s defining moment (that is until a he later had the pleasure to father Erykah “Window Seat” Badu’s daughter… lucky bastard).
With Dr. Dre (who was already a commercial success) co-signing it should come as no surprise that No One Can Do It Better received all the praise and accolades that it garnered. But the true question is was it worthy of all the hype? You probably already know the answer, but if not, come follow me.
It’s Funky Enough – Without wasting time on a useless intro, the good doctor provides a banger of an instrumental for Tracy to completely annihilate. The rough guitar sample over Dre’s beat complements the D.O.C.’s rough vocal, perfectly. There’s no better way to start an album than with a certified hip-hop classic. This sounds just as good today as it did twenty plus years ago.
Mind Blowin’ – I believe this was used a few years back for either Madden or NBA 2K, one of those EA Sports games (which was a pleasant surprise compared to all the crap they usually put on the soundtrack for those games). The D.O.C. delivers another solid performance, over another solid Dr. Dre instrumental. Nice.
Lend Me An Ear – Dre provides his best east coast impersonation of his entire career, throwing in a few extra elements along the way to give it that signature Dre touch. Again, the rawness of the track matches D.O.C. vocal beautifully (before the accident he had one of the best rapping voices, ever). While this isn’t as strong as the first two songs on No One Can Do It Better, it still makes for an enjoyable listen.
Comm. Blues – Dr. Dre’s baby mama, Michel’le (now that’s a name I haven’t heard in a while) takes on the role of a juke joint singer, providing a bluesy vocal, warning all those in earshot that the D.O.C. is in the building. Michel’le’s harassed by a few drunken fans (which sounds like the D.O.C. and Ice Cube, but I couldn’t make out the third voice) who deliver a few comical lines, making this not a complete waste of time.
Let The Bass Go – This is a song I completely forgot about. Dre borrows a sick guitar sample from Issac Hayes’ “No Name Bar”, which makes up the heart of this laid back instrumental. The D.O.C. relaxes his tone just enough to ride this smooth instrumental, turning in yet another nice performance. But Dr. Dre’s instrumental is clearly the meat and potatoes of this song, as that guitar sample is mesmerizing. Tupac would later use the same sample on “Soulja’s Story” (a song which I love) but Dre’s interpretation sounds so much better, proving that sampling is indeed an art form.
Beautiful But Deadly – This modern-day Jezebel tale is the only conceptual song on No One Can Do It Better. The D.O.C., who had one of the strongest voices in the game, sounds like he’s fighting against Stan “the Guitarman” Jones’ live rock guitar, which renders neither party victorious. The third first got kind of weird when the D.O.C. stops in the middle of his verse to point out (in his talking voice) to the listener which groupie at the concert he’s referring to, before he abruptly goes back to rapping the rest of his verse. Even though this was just okay, it would have been interesting to hear Tracey do more conceptual songs.
The D.O.C. & The Doctor – This certified hip-hop banger was the first single released from the album. The D.O.C. turns in another superb performance over the D-R-E’s rock enthused instrumental. You can’t help but screw your face (screwface: the look one’s face takes on when they’ve held back a crap too long, which is normally followed by a penguin trot to the nearest toilet) when the guitar lick from Funkadelic’s “Good Ole Music” comes in on the chorus. Listening to No One Can Do It Better is actually getting me excited for Detox, even though I’m sure it will be a disappointment…but one can dream, can’t he?
No One Can Do It Better – The D.O.C. provides an exhibition on verbal gymnastics, making a strong argument to back up the album and song title (it was kind of funny to hear the D.O.C. “humbly”rate himself a 9 on the emcee scale; you’re so humble Tracy). Dre provides yet another stellar instrumental. It would have been nice to hear a Rakim-D.O.C. duet over a Dre instrumental (pre D.O.C. accident, of course).
Whirlwind Pyramid – First things first: this is one of the sickest song title’s of all time (sounds like something Wu-Tang would use). And fittingly, D.O.C. turns in one of his sickest lyrical performance of the evening. Dre’s provides another raw instrumental, that pulls back just enough during the verses, for Tracy to shine, and rip this Dre production to shreds. This was sick.
Comm. 2 – Over a funky bass heavy Sly Stone sample, D.O.C. uses this one to give his shoutouts, which sounds kind of awkward since there are still three songs to go on the album.
The Formula – This was also released as a single and like the other singles this is a certified hip-hop classic. Courtesy of Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues” Dre hooks up a smooth midtempo groove for The D.O.C. to get flip on. Boy, hip-hop could use a little more of this formula today. This was nice, and might be my favorite song on No One Can Do It Better.
Portrait Of A Masterpiece – The D.O.C. spits one long verse that displays his dope voice, lyrics, and deliver (providing a little comic relief when he stops mid verse near the end to catch his breath). Dre’s beat was okay at best. I guess you can’t expect them all to be monsters.
The Grand Finale – Picking up where they left off at on N.W.A.’s “Parental Discretion Iz Advised”, the same cast is invited back to each spit a verse (with the exception of Dre) over this live (in the figurative and literal sense of the word) instrumentation. Cube sets thing off with a strong verse, setting the bar extremely high for the other parties involved. Ren, and surprisingly, Eazy (whose verse I’m sure Cube penned for him, so it shouldn’t be a surprise) turn in solid verses, but Cube’s bar isn’t cleared again until our host finishes things off on the final verse. This is how a grand finale should sound, making this a perfect ending to a nearly flawless experience.
No One Can Do It Better is often forgotten, but is hands down one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all-time. Dr. Dre’s production takes us back to a time where he actually hand crafted his instrumentals and wasn’t just a brand name for a production team. Dre’s production knocks from the beginning until the grand finale. And even in the rare occasion when Dre’s beats aren’t stellar, the D.O.C.’s booming vocal provide the spark. Unfortunately, the D.O.C.’s accident left his vocal cords damaged which made it impossible for him to live up to this masterpiece on his later work, sadly making this D.O.C./Dr. Dre classic collaboration a once in a lifetime experience.
Did The Source Get It Right? Hello, did you read the above paragraph? Better yet, did you read the rest of the review? Yeah they got it right! While every song isn’t stellar there isn’t a skippable moment on No One Can Do It Better. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for Detox, but if the first single is any indication of what we can expect as a whole, we’re in trouble.