In 1988 hip-hop super producer Marley Marl’s released In Control Vol.I, which was a compilation album that showcased members of the legendary Juice Crew, who were all up and coming artists when it was released. Pretty much all of them would go on to become respected emcees and have fruitful careers in hip-hop. In Control Vol.I would go on to earn Marley a gold plaque, tons of critical acclaim and help elevate Marley Marl to super producer status. It also includes arguably the sickest posse joint in hip-hop history (“The Symphony”).
Fast forward 3 years to 1991. Marley would return to release the follow-up, In Control Vol. II. This time around he would showcase a new crop of artists and incorporate some of his more established friends and crew members.
I bought this cd used a few years ago and this is my first time listening to it in its entirety. The reviews from the critics upon its release was mixed. Lets see how this one goes.
Intro – An audio stewardess thanks the listener for choosing to audibly fly with Marley, before instructing them to fasten their audible seatbelts and let Marley take control of their ears for the next hour or so. Audibly. Since the cover art for In Control Vol.I donned Marley in the cockpit of an airplane this intro might have made more sense on Vol. I than 2. But, whatever.
No Bullshit – Over the years Marley can be heard on several records he’s produced doing adlibs in his “old grandpa” voice, but I don’t recall ever hearing him spit. Until I heard this. This solo Marley joint showcases not only Marley’s production but his microphone techniques as well. He definitely shouldn’t quit his day job, but at least his boasts are true. It was kind of frustrating to hear all the censored curses, especially considering the song title, which is repeated at least 6 billion times during the hook. Not my favorite Marley Marl instrumental but it was decent.
The Symphony Pt II – The sequel to arguable the greatest posse song ever created, brings back all the original participants: Master Ace, Craig G, Big Daddy Kane, and Kool G. Rap. Some how Kane managed to sneak his little brother, Little Daddy Shane (which may be the worst moniker in hip-hop history) in at the end of his verse, which I found both blasphemous and useless. All parties turn in decent efforts but no one is outstanding, so while G. Rap clearly walked away with part 1, round 2 is a toss-up. Oh yeah, Marley’s instrumental is garbage. The instrumental used in the video adds a little twist to the original, but it’s still not even in the same stratosphere as part 1. And since we’re talking about the video, why the hell is Little Daddy Shane in the video and Kane is MIA? Wtf?
Level Check – Interlude.
Buffalo Soldier – MC Amazing is the first of Marley’s new crop of emcees to get a chance to showcase their talent on In Control Vol. II. He’s not terrible, but he’s far from amazing as his delivery sounds rushed and he doesn’t say anything that will leave a lasting impression. Marley’s instrumental sample’s King Floyd’s “Groove Me” and he hooks up a decent instrumental.
Mobil Phone – Short interlude.
At The Drop Of A Dime – Next up to bat is new comer MC Cash, whom I think is one person. The liner notes post a pic of two dudes and the caption says “MC Cash”, so I’m not sure who is who. It really doesn’t matter as whoever is rhyming drops forgettable line after forgettable line over Marley’s empty instrumental. This was not good.
Scanning The Dial – Interlude
Something Funky To Listen To – The duo Nexx Phase is next (no pun intended) up to bat. I believe only one of the two members rhymes on all three verses, so maybe the other guy is the group’s deejay? Marley cooks up a decent instrumental and the emcee in turn spits some decent lyrics over it. Not bad.
America Eats The Young – Finally, some emcees we’ve heard of. Tragedy, aka Intelligent Hoodlum, but nowadays known as thug-rapper-trying-to-stay-relevant-to-the-kids-even- though-the-kids-aren’t-checkin’-for-him Tragedy Khadafi and Chuck D show up for this one. It’s more of a Tragedy solo joint as Chuck only adlibs during Tragedy’s verses and holds down the hook. Marley provides an up-tempo instrumental that isn’t great but it’s energy compliments Tragedy’s flow. Tragedy’s cadence and content sound a lot like “Arrest The President”. Solid record.
Check The Mirror – Unlike the first edition of In Control, which was strictly hip-hop, Marley decided to mix in a little R&B on part II. Marley’s instrumental work on this one reminded me of Tragedy’s “Keep Striving”, which is a R&Bish instrumental that I dug. The problem with this song is the horrid performance by the vocalist Portia. Believe me when I say there is a reason you haven’t heard from her since this record.
I Be Gettin’ Busy – Ladies Love Cool James stops by for a few and shows the newbies how it’s really done, easily dropping the best verses on the entire album. LL raps circles around Marley’s instrumental. He’s so good he almost makes you believe Marley’s bland instrumental is really a banger. This one left me wondering how Cool James would have fared on “The Symphony”. Hmm…
Girl, I Was Wrong – What were you thinking Marley? His instrumental incorporates the beginning portion of the Jackson 5 record “One More Chance” which he blends terrible with the rest of the bad synth laden R&B track. The featured singing group The Flex, don’t fare any better as their harmonies are about as tight as the skin around Betty White’s arms. And if the bad singing wasn’t enough to make you vomit their cliché filled content is sure to make you upchuck. This was terrible on all levels.
Fools In Love – Heavy D & newbie reggae artist Eclipse come together to create a dancehall remix of The Frankie Lymon classic “Why Do Fools Fall In Love”. Decent enough, I guess.
Another Hooker – Marley uses the same horn sample that he used on the opening track “No Bullshit”, so he was either feeling lazy or didn’t think Big Money Wiz was worth his creative juices. I’ll give him a pass if it was for the latter because this dude is hot garbage.
Cheatin’ Days Are Over – This instrumental is a banger, fully equipped with a killer bass line and rough guitar loop. Mike Nice does an adequate job of riding the beat as he paints a tale about a girl who turns out to be the complete opposite of who she originally presented herself as. Solid.
Reach Out – Female singing group Perfection are the showcased artist on this one. Marley Marl concocts a bouncy feel good R&B instrumental for the ladies to sing a song to encouraging the listen to reach out to “him”, which I interpreted the “him” to be God. Considering the rest of the songs on In Control Vol. II “Reach Out” sticks out like a sore thumb; but it was a pleasant change of pace.
Keep Control – Now this is an interested collaboration: Tragedy, King Tee, Grand Puba (the liner notes hi-lariously have it spelled “Grand Poobah””), Def Jef, and Chubb Rock, who collectively go by RISE, an acronym for Rap Industry For Social Evolution (now that’s catchy…and shouldn’t it technically be RIFSE?). Marley’s instrumental is decent and each rapper holds their own, but I was expecting more considering the talented roster.
Sweet Tooth – I’ll keep this short. The featured artist is Pure Cane Sugar. This was any thing but sweet.
Out For The Count – For the final song of the evening Marley hooks up a decent enough instrumental for Kevy Kev and AK B (two cornball monikers, by the way) to spit over. Unfortunately, the duo’s delivery sounds like 3rd graders reading a prepared speech by their teacher. Awful way to close In Control Vol. II.
In Control Vol. II is terrible. The fact that none of the newcomers that Marley showcases on the album spawned solo careers is a testament to that. Not only were the newbies a disappointment but with the exception of LL (and maybe Tragedy) the veterans didn’t really impress on In Control Vol. II either. Probably the biggest disappointment, the man who is supposed to be “in control” nearly totals this whip as the majority of his production is sub par.