By 1991 the Native Tongue collective had firmly planted their feet in hip-hop’s cement. The Jungle Brothers, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Leaders of the New School, Queen Latifah, and Monie Love had all established themselves as relevant figures in hip-hop. While none of them ever wore the proverbial crown they were definitely respected by their peers and hip-hop heads abroad. In the fall of 91′ the newest members of the collective would emerge. Enter the Black Sheep.
Black Sheep consisted of Andres “Dres” Titus and the deejay, William “Mista Lawnge” (pronounced “Long”) McLean. As the story goes, both were born in New York. Lawnge would move to North Carolina as a baby and Dres would later move their as a teen after his mother remarried. Dres and Lawnge met while still in high school in North Carolina where they would get together after school with a few others to hone their mic skills and deejay techniques. After graduating from high school Dres moved back to New York where he would begin hustling, which would lead to him serving a short stent on Riker’s Island. Once release he bumped into his North Carolina friend Lawnge in New York, who by that time was already running with legendary DJ Red Alert and the Jungle Brothers. That relationship would eventually lead to the two becoming a group and the newest members of the Native Tongue collective. According to Dres, they settled on the name Black Sheep because they saw themselves a little different from the rest of their Native Tongue brethren. The other groups in the collective had more of a conscious/Afrocentric sound. Black Sheep was down with that but they would also tend to get more raunchy than the others.
Black Sheep signed a deal with Mercury and released their debut album A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing in the fall of 1991. AWISC would eventually earn the duo a gold plaque, go on to be hailed as a hip-hop classic, and rendered one of the biggest hit’s in hip-hop history (which I also just heard in the movie Dope this past weekend). If you don’t know what song I’m talking about, you’re not a true hip-hop head, but I will learn you a lesson on it shortly.
Intro – Prince Paul provides a brief poem introducing the “low lives” of the Native Tongue posse to the world.
U Mean I’m Not – This may be the funniest intentionally funny hip-hop song of all time. After a short intro from Mista Lawnge, Dres goes on killing spree as he makes a mockery of all the hardcore gangsta raps,that as The Fresh Prince said had “started to get a little bit out of control”. At the end of the song Dres wakes up to realize the whole thing was just a dream. Hi-larious and brilliant.
Butt In The Meantime – Over a nice mid-tempo groove Dres presents his rep in his distinctly smooth delivery. Nice.
Have U.N.E. Pull – The pre ex-con and pre-puberty version of Chi-Ali opens up this one sharing his dreams to be like some of his childhood idols (ironically, Mike Tyson is one of the heroes he list, so at least he can now say they have time served in prison in common) before Dres comes in and continues to talk about this and that. Dres sounds pretty nice over the understated but quality instrumental.
Strobelite Honey – This was the third single released from AWISC, and as Dres has said in an interview, it was originally intended to be an interlude, but the fine folks at Mercury liked it so much they pushed the duo to turn it into a full song, and eventually a single. Dres spends two verses trying to get away from a sista he meets at the club who appears to be a dime at first glance, but once she comes from underneath the strobe light it’s a completely different story. Dres shoots excuse after excuse (including giving her a fake number with an area code of 1-900) trying to get a way from this extremely unattractive miss. Lawnge samples The S.O.S. Band’s classic record “Take Your Time (Do It Right)”, with pleasant results. This song is still hi-larious and stands up well 20 plus years later, proving sometimes the label knows best.
Are You Mad? – This interlude opens with a mob of brothers questioning Dres and Mista Lawnge on why they don’t do more conscious hip-hop, setting up the next song which kind of serves as their rebuttal to this interlude.
The Choice Is Yours – This is the original mix of the biggest hit in Black Sheep’s catalog. Until today I forgot that Dres’ third first is slightly different from what he spits on the remix This mix is decent, but it doesn’t even come close to touching the monster that the remix was.
To Whom It May Concern – I forgot how cohesive the production work was on AWISC. That cohesiveness continues on this one as Mista Lawnge and Dres each take a verse to send some verbal darts at all those sucka emcees. This was solid.
Similak Child – This was the fourth and final single released from AWISC. Over a brilliant instrumental (that samples Jefferson Airplane’s “Today” record) Dres attempts to woo the object of his
lust affection who apparently has two midgets stuffed in her blouse and coconuts in her pants back pockets. The single/video version (also known as the Homogenized mix) of this song uses a different instrumental, which sucked. So, if you’re only familiar with the video version I advise you to check out the album mix.
Try Counting Sheep – Now that I think of it, the element linking the production scheme together so wonderfully is the strong bass lines that resonate from song to song; and the trend continues with this one. Even though it’s not a great song, it fits in with the overall feel of the album.
Flavor Of The Month – This was the first single released from AWISC. The instrumental has a dark feel with a bouncy bass line and a semi-triumphant trumpet sample that comes in during the hook. Dres uses this one to acknowledge his arrival but is also fully aware that his stay in the house of hip-hop is limited to 15 minutes. This is an underrated classic. Side note: At the beginning of the song Mista Lawnge starts things off by asking himself what kind of flavor he wants: “Do I want vanilla? Or do I want a taste of chocolate?” Then goes on to say “Nah, I want something different, I want something slammin”. Legend has it that the legendary rapper Big Daddy Kane, who just so happen to have released an album titled Taste Of Chocolate heard the song and thought this was a shot aimed at him. Black Sheep swore it was simply a coincidence and in no way aimed at Kane, so the impending beef was quickly squashed. Hmm… Dres vs Kane? Dres was nice on the mic but he couldn’t hold the used condom Kane wore to bang out Madonna. Good thing they straighten that misunderstanding out before things got out of hand and Kane ended their career before it even got started.
La Menage – Dres and Lawnge invite their Native Tongue brethren Q-Tip to take part in a ménage with some random jump off that they pass around like a blunt. The mellow instrumental matches the devious intent of the three emcees, perfectly. The content is juvenile but the song is entertaining and will make you grin at least once (more than likely during Dres’ verse).
L.A.S.M – This interlude has the duo doing an interview with a woman from the faux organization L.A.S.M. (Ladies Against Sexes Mothafuckas). Not life changing but you may find it a bit amusing.
Gimme The Finga – Over a decent instrumental Dres brags, boast and begs haters to give him the middle finger. Decent.
Hoes We Knows – More misogyny from Dres. The instrumental was dope but there is only so much juvenile misogyny one can take.
Go To Hail – Interlude that has Dres trying to get a cab ride to the Bronx, to which the cabby gives him lame excuses to why he can’t take him. This is supposed to set up the next song…
Black With N.V. (No Vision) – This is easily the meatiest song on AWISC, and probably the meatiest song in Black Sheep’s brief catalog. Over an instrumental carried by a throbbing bass line Dres discusses the plight of the black man in America, addressing injustices and encouraging brothers to go get theirs. Well done.
Pass The 40 – Dres and Lawnge invite Chi-Ali, something going by Diggety Dog, hip-hop executive Chris Lighty (RIP), and A&R man Dave Gossett to the studio for this cipher joint that Dres easily bodies the rest of the participants on. The instrumental was cool and overall the song was decent enough.
Blunted 10 – Over a sick beat box Dres kicks one quick verse, mixing in gems amongst his random rhymes. This was sick.
For Doz That Slept – Mista Lawnge hooks up a clever mix, giving the middle finger to all the haters. This one still makes me chuckle after all these years. Great way to end the proper album.
The following songs are listed as bonus tracks on the cd version of AWISC:
The Choice Is Your (Revisted) – Good thing Dres and Mista Lawnge decided to revisit this one as it would go on to become the biggest hit in their short catalog. A few years ago the song was used in a commercial campaign for the Kia Soul, introducing Black Sheep to a whole new generation of listeners. Like I stated earlier, this mix blows the original completely out of the water with its bouncy bass line and mega energy. Classic record.
Yes – Our hosts revisit the instrumental used for “Have U.N.E. Pull”, make a few tweaks and have this backdrop sounding 110 percent times better than the original. Lawnge and Dres each spit a verse and turn in solid efforts, making this a great way to close out AWISC.
A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing is a solid debut effort from Black Sheep. Dres proves to be a more than formidable emcee as he sounds right at home, elegantly rhyming over he and Mista Lawnge’s cohesive and quality production. Each track blends with the next like patches sown together on a quilt. Now that I’m a grown ass man, some of the content on AWISC tends to sound a bit immature (with all the talk of hoes and Mista Lawnge’s obsession with his dick size) but not enough to ruin the entire listen. To those new to AWISC it may take a few listens for you get into it, but give it a while and your head will slowly begin to bob. With De La Soul Is Dead and The Low End Theory under their belt, 1991 was already a great year for the Native Tongue crew. A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothingcompleted the trifecta to certify that the year truly belonged to the Native Tongues.