This past weekend I was reading an article from Rapzilla.com, which for those who may not know is a website dedicated to Christian hip-hop music and artists. The article was titled Top 20 Christian Rappers of All Time. I haven’t followed the Christian circuit closely in the last 10 years, so some of the names were unfamiliar to me, and others were names I’ve heard of but never heard their work. There were a few questionable entries on the list and a few names that were missing from the list that definitely should have been included, in my opinion. But I had no qualms with the name at the top of the list. The name at the top of the list is a Christian hip-hop pioneer, arguably the most influential emcee of the sub-genre, and the leader of the group of today’s post, Super C aka Sup The Chemist.
We last heard from Sup and SFC at the tale in of 1990 with their second full length release A Saved Man (In The Jungle). Our believing brethren started out as a 4 man crew, but after the first album (Listen Up!), Brother G and Q.P. left the fold (not necessarily Jesus’ fold, but the SFC fold), leaving only Super C and DJ Dove to uphold the SFC name. A Save Man wasn’t a classic by any stretch, but it was a vast improvement from where they started. In ’92 SFC would release their third album, appropriately titled, Phase III.
Phase III would mark the return of Q.P. to SFC, as he would get a significantly larger amount of time on the mic than he did during his first stint with the group (which makes me wonder if that may be why he left the first time around). Like SFC’s past projects, Sup would handle the majority of the production on Phase III, with help from Dove and a few others on a few tracks.
Of course Phase III didn’t sell a ton of units, as it was released on Brainstorm, which was an independent label focused on spreading the word (of God that is) through alternative types of Christian music, specifically, hip-hop and rock. It did receive critical acclaim and is considered by those in the know, SFC’s best work.
Intro – Another useless album intro.
Hoods Of Good – Over semi-cheesy sounding rock guitar licks (which completely clash with the Jeff Lorber Fusion”Rain Dance” sample [that Lil’ Kim would later make popular a few years later on her “Crush On You” single] brought in during the hook) Sup and Q.P. use this one to declare themselves “hoods of good”, proclaiming the name of Jesus and shining the light in a hood near you. This whole song was a bit cheesy.
Glory Halagroovin’ – You can put this title in the running for cheesiest ever. Oh yeah, the song wasn’t good, either.
Terror On Tape – It took us three songs, but finally Super C provides the first solid instrumental on Phase III. It’s almost like this higher quality instrumental inspired his flow as he sounds more alert and on point than the first few songs, spewing out battle rhymes aimed at demons. The lyrics are a bit cheesy but Sup proves he can actually spit.
Freedom In Captivity – Sup and Robski (one half of the Dynamic Twins) hook up a decent reggae tinged instrumental that Sup uses to discuss the idea of spiritually appearing free yet still living in bondage to the thing you’ve been freed from. Interesting theory that can be applied to both the spiritual and the natural realms. Props for the unique concept, but Sup sounds uncomfortable and as if he’s trying to force his size 11 rhymes to fit in (or on) a size 10 instrumental. The Bob Marley vocal sample was a nice added touch.
One – Interlude
What We Need – Q.P. stumbles back into the studio after a forty day fast and joins his partner in rhyme Sup as they uplift the name of Jesus, of course. Q.P. is not a terrible emcee, he’s just not memorable or as skilled as the undisputed leader of SFC, Super C (even if his line “Shadrach, Meshach, and a bad negro” was super corny). Speaking of Sup, his mellow mid-tempo groove makes for a pleasant backdrop.
Music Is My Life – DJ Dove gets the production credit for this solid instrumental that samples Kool & The Gang’s “Dujii” and adds a vocal snippet from C+C Music Factory’s “Everybody Dance Now”. Sup (Wait. Did he just refer to money as a nigga? I’m sure he caught some slack from the conservative Christians for that line) and Q.P. use this one to express how important music is to their lives and why they do it. Nice.
Phase III – Sup, Dove, and Cut No Slack all get production credits for this one. It starts out with the loop made popular by PE’s “Rebel Without A Pause”, which returns periodically throughout the song. Then a funky, yet so smooth, bass guitar loop (at least I think it’s a loop) is brought in to carrier the song, with a soothing flute break during the hook. Sup is back to dolo on the mic, as he proclaims his freedom in Christ and takes shots at his adversaries, aka Satan and his henchmen. This was pretty nice.
Unity – Someone (that doesn’t sound like Sup, Q.P. or Dove) shares a short spoken word poem about the importance of knowing your purpose and unity amongst all races, that leads into this…
The Setting – This interlude borrows an exert from the beginning of an uncredited preacher setting up his sermon entitled “The Spirit of the Nigga”. Ha! I have to track down a copy of this sermon.
Kill The Spirit – I’m not sure how I feel about this one. Sup and Q.P. invite special guests Alliance Of Light (which would later change their name to the Gospel Gangstas, and even later to, Gospel Gangstaz. I’ll discuss them a little later down the road) to discuss what they collectively refer to as “the spirit of the nigga”. According to their rhymes, this “nigga spirit” is a spiritual force that causes laziness, poverty, ignorance, violence, broken homes and any other negative attribute you can think of, in the black community. So, if someone from another race is suffering from one of these same character flaws, does he also have this so-called “nigga spirit”? Or are SFC and company naïve enough to think that only black folk deal with these issues? Remember, America was founded on violence, and it’s founders weren’t black. This song may have gone over a little better had they not presented the content in such a serious tone, though it would still be inaccurate. The Super C and Cut No Slack instrumental was cool, especially the portion that samples The Brothers Johnson “Tomorrow” on the second half of the song.
In The House – Sup and DJ Dove hook up a monster instrumental that Sup and Q.P. use to discuss their personal experience of receiving the Holy Ghost. Non-believers may not feel (or be able to relate) to SFC’s content on this one, but they’ll definitely be able to feel the music.
Swingin’ – This is probably the closest thing to a battle rap that you’ll here on Phase III. Sup, Q.P. and DJ Dove all come out swingin’ (at sin and the devil), and all three sound pretty nice, including Dove, who spits his verse in Spanglish. The up-tempo Sup produced instrumental is highlighted by a sick bass line sample that sounds reminiscent to the bass line from Curtis Mayfield “We’re A Winner”. This was hot.
Another One – Interlude.
Skanewpid – Super C hooks up a beautiful instrumental, with an absolutely gorgeous sax sample on the hook (I’m a sucker for a nice sax loop). I believe “skanewpid” is Sup’s slang word for “stupid”. Sup spits random foolishness for 3 verses, but still manages to make this enjoyable, which can more so be credited to his production than his verses. This was a nice touch and a break away from the spiritual monotony presented so far on Phase III.
D.J. Dove – As the title suggest, this is a DJ Dove solo. Dove builds his instrumental around One Way’s funky “Cutie Pie” record, adding in some cuts from previous SFC joints, vocal samples from Troop and Run DMC, and a snippet from the Fat Albert And The Cosby Kids theme song (yet another Cosby reference…I should seriously start keeping a tally). Not only does Dove hook up a solid instrumental but he also spits some decent rhymes in Spanglish, or as he refers to it, his Latino style.
113.3 – Sup loops up a piece of Idris Muhammad’s “Crab Apple” for the back drop as he and Q.P. drop lines about their hip-hop ministry. You can’t go wrong with Jesus and the infectious bass line from “Crap Apple”.
Victory – Sup and Dove hook up a decent instrumental that Sup uses to proclaim his victory over the world through his faith in Christ Jesus. I love the smooth Latin flavored break they bring in during the hook.
More Skanewpid – Over an acoustic guitar, Sup comically sings his thank you’s to all those who bought Phase III. This was an original and cool way to end the evening.
From ’89 to ’92, Super C showed signs of being a competent emcee and occasionally displayed his ability to make a dope beat for SFC or his fellow believing comrades (see the Dynamic Twins’ Word 2 The Wize). On Phase III, Sup finally harnessing his potential and it takes shape on a consistent basis. Phase III gets off to a mediocre start, but begins to find its way about a fourth of the way in. By the midway point it’s in full swing, and the second half of the album is packed with solid joints. Sup’s emcee skills were still a work in progress at this stage (and Q.P. is really not even worth mentioning), but he does enough to prove he definitely had talent. Like a lot of Christian hip-hop projects, Phase III‘s content gets stuck in one lane and doesn’t go beyond
singing rapping praises to Jesus name, quoting scriptures or battling demons, but unlike their Christian contemporaries, SFC had a way of presenting their message in a lighthearted tone and not taking themselves too serious, which can be heard on their silly interludes and the “Skanewpid” suite.
Phase III is not without flaws, but it’s pretty solid, and it’s the first Christian hip-hop album that I think not only believers, but secular heads as well, would take serious, had they known about it.
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Reblogged this on Y A N N and commented:
Juste un album de rap, hors norme. Un must.