The Cold Chillin’ imprint was a prominent label during the golden era of hip-hop. Home to many of the emcees who made up the legendary Juice Crew (which should come as no surprise since Marly Marl was the founder of the crew as well as the label), and responsible for several classic releases during that time frame. Amongst the more notable releases, there were also a few obscure ones. Enter Grand Daddy I.U.
Hailing from Long Island, NY Grand Daddy I.U. got his break after Juice Crew member, Biz Markie was impressed after hearing his demo. This impression would lead to I.U. doing some ghostwriting for Biz and Roxanne Shante, but more importantly, to I.U. getting his own recording deal with Cold Chillin’. I.U. released his debut album Smooth Assassin in 1990 under Biz Markie’s tutelage, who would also produce the entire album. While Smooth Assassin didn’t move a ton of units, it was pretty well received by the heads.
After all, obscurity doesn’t alway mean inferiority.
The U Is Smooth – Daddy U starting thing off with a mellow Biz Markie instrumental that samples from the same Grover Washington Jr. song “Hydra” that Black Moon would later utilize on “How Many Emcees”. While the Beatminerz interpretation was a lot darker and harder, Biz’ take matches the laid back mood our host is trying to create (I love the saxophone sample added during the hook). Kudos to I.U. for being brave enough and confident enough in his own ability to start things off so subdue, and effectively living up to the song’s title.
Pick Up The Pace – As if he heard my comment on the tempo of the previous song, Biz ups the bpm’s a bit on this solid instrumental that I.U. sound right at home on. Two for two, not a bad start to tonight’s proceedings.
Something New – I don’t know if I like the instrumental (that samples James & Bobby Purify’s “I’m Your Puppet”) or if I’ve just learned to tolerate it. I do know for a fact that I absolutely hate the vocalists (Desiree Price, Toni Rolle, and Raezia Rolle) on the hook. Regardless of how I feel about the rest of the song, there is no denying I.U’s lyrical ability, which is on full display on this one.
I Kick Ass – This might be my favorite I.U. song of all time (not that there is much of a catalog to choose from, so take it for what it’s worth).From the slick instrumental, the Richard Pryor soundbites, and the lyrical dexterity shown by I.U; this one is firing on all cylinders.
Mass Destruction – Mass destruction has never sounded so beautiful as I.U. delivers another mellow blow over a smooth Biz Markie instrumental. This was sick.
Gals Dem So Hot – Uh, I think you’re smart enough to figure out what this one is about. I.U. does pull out his raggamuffin style on this one, but that still doesn’t make it worth listen to more than once. Next…
Girl In The Mall – Over a simple Biz Markie drum beat, Daddy U spits one long verse about a beautiful girl named Kenya, that he met while shopping at the mall. I.U. paints a vivid and pretty entertaining picture, even if at certain points the content reaches porn levels. Seriously, some of I.U.’s lyrics on this one would even make 2 Live Crew blush.
Kay Cee Is Nasty – I went into this thinking this was an ode to I.U.’s deejay’s skills, but based on the soundbites laced throughout this is one it’s more of a dedication to his deejay’s sexual prowess. Weird, much.
Nobody Move – I.U. puts together a detailed story about a bank robber who’s string of crimes temporarily allow him to live like a baller, but things quickly come crashing down as he lands himself behind bars. Biz Markie’s instrumental is a decent backdrop for this well executed cautionary tale.
Dominos – More quality battle rhymes provided by I.U, but at this stage into Smooth Assassin they don’t hit as hard. You can probably trace the cause of that back to the bland Biz Markie instrumental, though.
Behind Bars – Biz’s instrumental sounds like something he would rap over himself. Or better yet, something I.U. would write for Biz to rap over himself. This kind of works as a companion piece to “Nobody Move” and would have made more sense to place it right after it in the album sequence (not that the song is good or anything, it just would have made more sense). We do get to hear Biz kick a little beatbox right before it fades out, if that’s any consolation.
Soul Touch – This was decent enough. Wait, did he really just rhyme wrist with penis? WTF?
This Is A Recording – I.U. invites guest Ivan Rodriguez into the studio to play keys on this one, as he slows the pace down a bit and kills his adversaries so softly on the mic even Lauryn Hill would be impressed. I.U’s comment about sampling James Brown was mildly comical and true. This was an enjoyable listen.
Sugar Free – I believe this was the only single released from Smooth Assassin, which uses Juicy’s “Sugar Free” sample (that was also used on AZ’s
only most succesful song “Sugar Hill”). Daddy U lets invited vocalist Mary Brown carry this song, as he only contributes one verse (which includes his comical line “give me head and a whole lot of freedom”) and gives her the spotlight, which she in turn does a commendable job with (miles ahead of the atrocity the vocalist on “Something New” rendered). “Sugar Free” was definitely created to give Smooth Assassin a commercial appeal, but it still manages to maintain some sense of street cred.
Phuck ‘Em Up U – Biz uses the same sample that was later made popular by Lil’ Kim’s “No Time”, for the instrumental, which Daddy U uses to spit one verse before he starts giving shout outs…
Shout Outs – That merges into this. I personally found it interesting he waited until he was half way through his list of shout out recipients before he gives one to his baby girl and wife (whose name is curiously enough, Kenya? Could it be the same Kenya that worked at the mall?). There is really no justifiable reason for a song consisting of just shout outs to even exist, yet alone gon on for nearly three minutes.
For the most part,Smooth Assassin lives up to its title. Most of Biz Markie’s production consist of smooth laid back instrumentals that I.U. uses to verbally dismantle any would be competitor. At moments some of I.U.’s boast ring hollow (especially during the songs on the latter end of the album), and a few of Biz’s beats fail him as well, but overall this was an enjoyable listen that lives up to its title. I’m sure Lee Harvey Oswald and John Wilkes Booth would applaud I.U. for his execution on this one.