Most folks will remember Craig G as the lead off emcee from the classic Juice Crew joint “The Symphony”, a song that if you’re not familiar with and consider yourself a true hip-hop fan, you should immediately youtube, watch, and study. What you might not know is that Craig was also respected as one of the sickest freestyle emcees of his time (check youtube to see his epic battle with the freestyle legend, Supernatural). He later would go on to help Eminem write and coordinate the battle scenes in the movie 8 Mile and also wrote the rhymes for the character Dangerous in 50 Cent’s movie Get Rich Or Die Tryin’.
With the help of his mentor Marley Marl, Craig-G eventually signed a deal with Atlantic Records and released his debut album The Kingpin in 1989, which I’ve never heard but I’m sure most hip-hop fans haven’t either, since it only sold 17 copies worldwide. I am however, familiar with his second album and today’s subject, Now, That’s More Like It. Like it’s predecessor, Now, That’s More Like It failed to reach even wood status in sales, which would lead to Craig being dropped from Atlantic after its release and sentenced to dropping forgettable independent releases and never to be relevent in the hip-hop world again.
Which obviously isn’t a lot he’s content with, which might be one of the reasons he released an album in 2012 entitled Ramblings of an Angry Old Man.
Intro – Craig G introduces the listener to the album before going into the first song…
What You’re Used To – A Young Salaam Remi gets a co-production credit on this one. Not a great way to open the album. On second thought, a pretty boring way to open things up.
Girl Fever – Marley Marl’s instrumental sounds like something LL rejected for the Mama Said Knock You Out album, and that is not a compliment. Based on the title you can figure out what this one is about. Nothing ground breaking here, folks.
Take The Bait – Marley recycles the drums he used on LL’s “Chill” and adds a guitar lick and sick horn sample on the hook, as Craig G sound more comfortable on this track then the previous two. Craig’s also in battle mode, which may explain his comfort. Ah, now that’s more like it.
Somem To Swing To – Marley’s instrumental sounds empty, which isn’t a good thing, since Craig G is the type of emcee who needs energy behind him to help him standout in a crowd. And what’s up with the spelling of the song title? Is it poorly executed ebonics or an honest spelling error?
I Want To Be In Luv – Now there’s a phrase you don’t often hear coming from a rapper. This is clearly Craig’s attempt to gain some kind of female fan base. Craig buys the lady of his affection an engagement ring and asks her to marry him, on the first verse, then spends the next two verses talking about how hard it is to find a woman when you’ve got notoriety. This might have worked better if he started the song off with the last two verses, then wrapped things up with the first verse, but it is what it is. Marley’s instrumental has that new jack swing feel that he begin to flirt with in the early nineties, which is tolerable this time around.
Give It To Me – Craig G invites Masta Ace to the stu for this duet. Each emcee gets two verses to spit over a decent Marley Marl track. End result: our host gets murdered on his own shit.
Intro II – Remember, this was recorded in 1991, when cassette tapes were still standard. This is a short interlude to kick off the second side of the cassette. Think of it as the halftime show for the cassette version.
Ripped To Streads – By 1991 Marley Marl had severed his ties with Cold Chillin’ over financial disputes. This separation pretty much meant the end of the legendary Juice crew, but Marley continued to support and work with the youngest two crew members, Tragedy (aka The Intelligent Hoodlum) and Craig G. This apparently didn’t rub Juice Crew alum, MC Shan (who was Marley’s original protegé) the right way, as he would later diss Marley and Craig G in the old rap mag Word-Up! (now theirs a blast from the past). “Ripped To Streads” is one of two response songs to Shan’s disses on Now, That’s More Like It. Craig’s in battle mode and quickly destroys Shan and Marley’s miniscule but effected guitar driven instrumental, in one verse. (No, the song title isn’t misspelled. “Streads” is short for street beads, which are the unwanted string of beads left laying in the streets during Mardi Gras).
Ummm!!! – The title should be spelled “Mmmm”, since that is the way Craig G pronounces it, as does the Big Daddy Kane vocal sample (from “Dance With The Devil”) that he used during the hook. Craig G’s verses are all over the place and the hook is complete nonsense (“I kick the rhythms to make you go…mmm”? What does that even mean? I’ve never listened to a sick song and suddenly had the urge to say “mmmm, that was hot”). Marley’s instrumental is kind of nice, though, and bound to grow on you the more you listen to it.
Smoothing Out The Rough Spots – Easily one of my favorite Craig G songs of all time (not that there is much to choose from). Craig describes Marley’s instrumental perfectly in his first verse as “a refresher course in hip-hop easily listening”. He then spends the remainder of the song describing Marley’s laid back instrumental to the listener, which sounds boring, but I actually enjoyed it.
Feel Ya Way – Craig G’s calling out wack emcees who suck but still try to feel their way through the rap game. I actually enjoyed Craig’s verses on this one, and Salaam Remi gets his second production credit of the evening, turning in a pretty nice instrumental.
No Favors – Craig G’s in salt mode over a girl who left him for another man, only to regret it and later attempt to reconcile. Craig plays the salty/angry role well, and turns in four hilarious verses. Salaam Remi’s instrumental (which is listed as a remix, I’m not sure where the original mix is or what it sounds like) is kind of scarce. But Craig’s verses carry this song and will keep you interested.
Word Association – Craig G rides this laid back Marley instrumental like a bike, no training wheels required.
U-R Not The 1 – This was one of the singles released from Now, That’s More Like It. Craig shares three separate attempts at picking up ladies, all with unsuccessful results. Craig doesn’t come with the smoothest lines, so it should be no surprise he gets shot down, especially considering the insults he hurls at them. Marley’s instrumental straddles the r&b line but manages to veer its way back, maintaining it’s hip-hop integrity. The bass line is downright infectious, though.
The next three songs are bonus tracks on the cd version of Now, That’s More Like It
Swiftness – Craig spits battle rhymes, just to prove to naysayers that he indeed is nice with it. Decent is the adjective that best describe Craig’s verses as well as Marley’s instrumental.
Live Off The Top – Since Craig G is considered one of the best freestylers of his time, it’s only right he dedicates a whole song to the art. Not the greatest freestyle I’ve heard but its decent. This should be required listening for you rookies out there, as this has become a lost art form in our chosen genre.
Going For The Throat – Another diss record aimed at MC Shan. Craig G comes equipped with appropriate ammo, but unfortunately Marley brought a water gun to back Craig up. This would have went over a lot better had Marley not given him a garbage beat to spit over.
Craig G doesn’t have Big Daddy Kane’s charisma, Kool G Rap’s tenacity, or Masta Ace’s wit, all signature qualities that when coupled with their emcee skills helped his former crew members create solid bodies of work and become hip-hop legends. Craig’s signature attribute was his ability to freestyle, which, unfortunately is a quality that doesn’t always translate well when writing songs with themes and concepts, for a full length album. Now, That’s More Like It isn’t a terrible album. There are actually quite a few songs that Craig and Marley’s chemistry shines on. But for ever solid song on Now, That’s More Like It, there’s a forgettable one to match it. Craig G possed all the technical skills required to be a solid emcee but lacked that special quality that allowed the audience to connect and embrace an artist like Big Daddy Kane, Kool G, or Masta Ace.