Carlos “Hass G” Evans and “Kool Kim” Sharpton met while working at the Statue of Liberty in New York city, along with future Wu-Tang Clan members U-God, Method Man, and Inspectah Deck. All 5 parties would hone their skills spitting together and before long, Hass G and Kool Kim would break off from the rest as the two would form the Universal MC’s, better known to the world as The U.M.C.’s. Even though the U.M.C.’s came up with a lot of the Wu members, their sound was completely different then what their Staten Island brethren would come with a few years down the line. While Wu had a grimy sound the U.M.C.’s were more polished and wholesome. Some have even compared them to Kid N Play and DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince because of their PG content.
The U.M.C.’s would eventually ink a deal with Wild Pitch and released their debut album Fruits Of Nature in 1991. Hass G and RNS (who is often credited as the man who taught the Rza how to make beats) handle all of the album’s production duties. Fruits Of Nature would go on to receive fairly solid reviews and their album cover will forever be immortalized as a poster on Martin Payne’s living room wall on the popular sitcom Martin. It must be stated that Hass and Kim were the first hip-hoppers from Staten Island to refer to their home as Shaolin and rep the Wu-Tang style on wax, a few years prior to the Wu-Tang Clan takeover (more on that later).
The U.M.C.’s would release one more album on Wild Pitch (which will get to in a bit (or a few years)) before disbanding. Hass would go on to produce hit records for the likes of Ghostface Killah, Busta Rhymes, 50 Cent, and Lil’ Kim, under the aliases of Hassan and later Carlos “Phantom on the Beat” Evans. Kool Kim would reinvent himself as semi-thug-semi-conscious rapper NY Oil, sounding or resembling nothing like his former self. There was talk of a U.M.C’s reunion a few years ago as a song was even floating around the cyber world. Nothing has come of said reunion yet, but it’s not like any one is really checking for a new U.M.C.’s album in 2015 any way.
One To Grow On – This was the second single from Fruits Of Nature, and its an undeniable banger. Hass G and RNS sample Blue Mitchell’s “Good Humor Man” record for the backdrop, throw in a zany break from Bill Cosby’s “Ursalena” and a well placed horn sample as the cherry on top. Lyrically Hass and Kim stay in the pocket and don’t do anything to mess things up as they spit insightful rhymes of encouragement. These are the moments that I cherish most about the nineties. This is a severely underrated and forgotten gem.
Kraftworks – Over a dark jazzy instrumental Kim & Haas talk their brand of intricate shit. I love this beat. RNS and Hass were nice on the boards even way back then.
Morals – Just what hip-hop could use nowadays, and ironically one of the main reasons heads weren’t really checking for the U.M.C.’s back in the day. Kim and Hass use this somber instrumental to discuss the importance of having and living up to your morals as well as what happens to those without them. The Bill Wither’s vocal sample at the end of the song was a nice added touch.
Blue Cheese – This was the lead off single from Fruits Of Nature. Until recently I never really understood what they meant by the title, which is kind of another way to call someone a wack emcee. Hass and Kim’s rhymes come off so polite you’d think they’re complimenting the rapper the dis is aimed at. Hass & RNS hook up a mid-tempo groove that’s so sweet you could put a wrapper on it and call it skittles. This sounds better today than it did 2o plus years ago. Fine wine, baby.
Swing It To The Area – Fruits Of Nature takes a slight step back with this one. Kim and Hass sound okay as they spit decent battle rhymes, with a twist thrown in on the instrumental at the end. But this one is forgettable.
Never Never Land – Our host along with an assist from the Berkeley Carroll Summer Choir spend approximately 4 minutes talking about Peter Pan’s stomping ground. I know, the title makes it sound cheesy, but it’s not that bad. And the instrumental is sick.
You Got My Back – Over a decent instrumental Kim and Hass take the time to shout out each other on this ode to faithful friends. Nice and positive.
Jive Talk – The U.M.C.’s discuss the reasons brothers lie and what the end results of those lies can bring. I love the instrumental work on this one. I’m starting to sound like a broken record.
Feelings – This one can be categorized as emo, as Hass and Kim are, as the kids say, all up in their feelings, as they tenderly express how they feel about a couple of prospective mates. The instrumental works well with the duo’s content and guests vocalists Tonya Wilcox and Alton Sharpton provide a warm vocal assist on the hook. Some heads may find this one too soft, but I find it mature and honest.
Any Way The Wind Blows – This is probably the hardest records on Fruits Of Nature as the duo come off like they both have chips on their shoulders. In the first verse Hass makes reference to being a master Wu-tang blower. Note: Fruits Of Nature was released two years prior to Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). Hmm. The instrumental combines an Al Green vocal sample and a Syl Johnson loop with nice results.
Pass It On – Hass and Kim invite a few of their buddies to the studio, Kwazi and Prophet, for this cipher joint. The instrumental was way too bland, lacking energy and all 4 emcees reciprocate the feeling. It was mildly interesting to hear Haas and Kim both make references to their Wu-Tang flow, but this song is garbage.
Woman Be Out – Hass and Kim temporarily take off their Mr. nice guy hats so they can tell a couple of conniving chicks to kick rocks. The instrumental is decent with a perfectly placed Wilson Pickett vocal sample on hook.
Hey Here We Go – I completely forgot about this song, and it’s a banger. The chips that were on Hass and Kim’s shoulders on “Any Way The Wind Blows” have returned as the duo throw verbal darts at all haters and doubters over a fire instrumental. During his first verse Kim says ” I hear my old adversaries, their singing my song” then begins to sing what resembled the hook of King Just’s (remember him?) mega catchy record “Warrior’s Drum” (“hey ya, hey ya, hey ya, ho!”), then goes on to talk about leaving said adversaries dead on the shores of Staten and what not . Since this song was released a few years before “Warrior’s Drum” started to buzz, maybe Just’s joint was popular locally before it was ever recorded and released to the masses. Or maybe Kim is not only a emcees but a physic and new that Just would create a buzz around the stolen song idea 4 years later. Or it could be possible I’m way off on my assessment and reading way to into Kim’s verse. It had to be aimed at somebody, though.
It’s Gonna Last – Hass and RNS slow the pace down a few bpm’s for this smooth laid back instrumental. Hass and Kim may spit their best verses of the evening as they declare their relevance and proclaim they will be remembered when they hang up their microphones and walk away from the game. I said it sounded good, I never said it was true.
Fruits Of Nature is the most underappreciated album of 1991 and possibly the most underappreciated album in hip-hop history. Neither Hass or Kim are excellent emcees but they are both proficient behind the mic, and sound right at home over Hass and RNS’ consistently quality production. In a year stacked with classic releases, Fruits Of Nature is a forgotten gem.