For those keeping record at home: file this one after Amerikkka’s Most Wanted.
Kevin Madison, better known to the world as K-Solo, is a New York native that came of age during the golden era of hip-hop. He was known for his
gimmick knack of spelling words in his rhymes. He is also known for his ongoing feud with DMX, who he met in prison while doing a bid back in the eighties. The beef was sparked over an argument of who originated the spelling rhyme style, as both K-Solo and DMX claim to have invented it. The feud has been documented on the Beef series and K-Solo has even taken a lie detector test to prove that he is truly the inventor of the style (the result of that test were inconclusive) and he has also challenged DMX to a boxing match to resolve the matter. I personally can’t believe this nonsense had carried on for nearly 30 years over a gimmick style that no one gives two shits about, including the two parties involved at this point. And to make matters worse, the style isn’t even that nice.
I first became familiar with K-Solo when he annihilated EPMD’s “Knick Knack Patty Wack” joint in ’89. PMD and Erick were both formidable emcees but K-Solo stole the show and completely shut it down with his hungry and aggressive verse. He would become the first member of EPMD’s Hit Squad and his verse (and his affiliation with the legendary duo) would lead to him signing a deal with Atlantic records. He released his debut album Tell The World My Name in 1990 and with the exception of one track (which was produced by Erick Sermon) PMD would produce the entire album. Tell The World My Name was well received and would go on to move a decent number of units.
K-Solo would go onto release one more album on Atlantic (Time’s Up, which I’ll get to at some point down the road) before falling out with EPMD and the Hit Squad and moving to L.A. and signing with Death Row, where he got lost in the shuffle with the Suge Knight/Dr. Dre fall out during the early nineties. More recently he started his own label Waste Management (which is a terrible name for a hip-hop label) and formed a new crew of spitters called the Sharp Shooters, in which Canibus was once affiliated, I couldn’t tell you a damn thing about the rest of them. Solo’s been talking about the release of his third album, tentatively titled There Will Be Hell To Pay, for almost a decade now, but to date nothing has surfaced. But we’re not concerned with that now.
We’re going back 25 years when a young Kevin Madison just wanted the world to know his name. Or his alias.
Spellbound – This was the first single from Tell The World My Name. Over a decent Erik Sermon produced instrumental, K-Solo kicks off his debut by showing the world how well he can s-p-e-l-l four and five letter words. I’ve never been mesmerized by the whole spelling words in your rhymes thing. He then feels the need to say the word after he spells it as if his verse is a hip-hop Spelling B or he thinks the listener’s illiterate. I don’t know who created the style but DMX does a better job with the style on his version of “Spellbound”, as he incorporates it throughout his rhymes, while Solo only dabbles with it from time to time. The hook is a vocal sample of his verse from EPMD’s “Knick Knack Patty Wack”, and he actually revisits a portion of that verse on the second verse of this song. Unfortunately it’s not delivered with the same tenacity as his “Knick Knack Patty Wack” verse. Overall, this was a decent track.
Rockin’ For My Hometown – Solo dedicates this one to his hometown Central Islip, NY aka CI, and for the second consecutive song he recycles a portion of his verse from “Knick Knack Patty Wack”. Solo also shows his deejay Biggie Smalls (no, not that Biggie Smalls) some love on this one. I like PMD’s simple but hard instrumental, as Solo’s rhymes match it perfectly.
Everybody Knows Me – PMD hooks up a monster instrumental that sounds like the perfect backdrop for Rakim do devour (I absolutely love the sample of what sounds like someone touching numbers on the key pad of one of those old school touch tone phones, that PMD strategically sprinkles throughout the song). Instead, K-Solo gets his paws on it and does a serviceable job as he tells his version of the “no one believed in me but I made” story, which has become a staple song idea throughout the history hip-hop.
Speed Blocks – Over some sick drums and guitar licks Solo is finally able to recapture some of the aggression and hungry he gave us on “Knick Knack Patty Wack”. This was fire.
Fugitive – This was the third single released from Tell The World My Name. PMD loops up Grover Washington Jr’s “Knucklehead” for the backdrop as Solo revisits the true story that landed him behind bars after being convicted on assault charges. I love the bass line and the epic feel of PMD’s instrumental. Solo’s storyline fits perfect within its scope.
Tales From The Crack Side – Solo spins a bizarre tale about one morning when PMD (at least I think its PMD. Solo refers to him as “R” at the beginning of the song but at the tail end of the song he blames P for giving him the crack, so either PMD has a few different aliases, R and P are two different people and Solo purposely confused the two in the song to show the effects of the crack, or Solo just made a blooper.) comes by the crib and offers his pal crack, because that’s what good friends do, I guess. Solo must have believed the rock would enhance his rhymes so he smokes it, grabs the pad and pen and before you know it his rhyme comes to life, jumps off the page nearly kills his sister, rapes his girl, and leaves PMD’s head bleeding after pounding him with a hammer. But was it the rhyme that did all these dastardly deeds or our crackhead host? PMD’s instrumental and the song itself are lackluster. Kudos to Solo for the unique song concept, though.
Your Mom’s In My Business – This was the second single released from Tell The World My Name and is probably the closet thing to a pop record in Solo catalog, as it stands out like a sour thumb compared to the rest of the songs on the album. Over a bangin’ bass line brought to you courtesy of a sample of Frankie Beverly & Maze’s “Before I Let Go”, Solo explains to his girl, that her moms is trying to ruin their relationship and if she doesn’t check her, he’s going to call it quits. Solo’s verse about the three of them going to the drive-in together and how ma dukes keeps sending him on concession stand runs for more snacks still makes me chuckle. Slept on classic.
Real Solo Please Stand Up – I know Solo had beef with DMX over the whole spelling gimmick but I’ve always wondered who the culprit is that he’s accusing of stealing his “Solo” moniker (if you’re reading this Tony A Wilson and have the scoop, hit me in the comments, bro). PMD lays down a serious funk sample for Solo to talk tough and make threats of bodily harm over, and once again he revisits his verse from “Knick Knack Patty Wack”. But even with the regurgitated rhymes, this was nice.
Renee-Renee – K-Solo spits rhymes on this one that would even make Too-Short blush. Through the course of three verses he talks about the promiscuity of a girl around his way named Renee. Apparently her sexual appetite was awaken at the age of eight when Renee hid in the closest to watch her mom get banged out by her boyfriend. After they were done, Renee’s mom goes to make her man a snack and Renee comes out of the closest and gives her mom’s boyfriend head. I’m sure this is Jared Fogle’s favorite hip-hop song. Oh how the times have changed as there is absolutely no way this song would be released on a major label in today’s politically correct climate. As a juvenile the lyrics on this one were pretty entertaining and arousing. Now that I’m all grown up with daughters of my own, it’s a little uncomfortable to listen to. The PMD/Al B instrumental still sounds dope, though.
Solo Rocks The House – Decent.
The Messenger – Over hard drums and a bouncy bass line, Solo shows he’s not only a storyteller and battle rapper, but he’s also got a conscious side. On this one Solo speaks about his Islamic faith and the struggle of being a black man in America. This was pretty solid..
Drums Of Death – For the finale PMD creates a raw backdrop, complete with hard drums and chaotic samples that blend together to form the perfect battle instrumental as Biggie Smalls adds some well placed scratches to it. K-Solo is in battle mode and does a serviceable job. I’d be very interested to hear how Kane or Rakim sound attacking this rough instrumental.
After listening to Tell The World My Name upon its release back in the day, I wasn’t crazy about it. I liked the singles “Fugitive” and “Your Mom’s In My Business” but I thought the rest of the album was so-so and that Solo was only an average emcee, never matching the ferociousness he showed on “Knick Knack Patty Wack”. 25 years later, Solo still sounds average but PMD’s hard production sounds so much more entertaining than it did back then. There are a few slow moments on Tell The World My Name but most of the production will keep your head bobbing, and while Solo is not stellar on the mic, he delivers enough not to disappoint, making Tell The World My Name a solid debut.