The original member of EPMD’s Hit Squad, K-Solo, dropped his debut album Tell The World My Name in the spring of 1990. The album was moderately successful, as a few of the singles made some noise on the Billboard urban charts (The Hot Rap Singles), making way for Solo’s follow-up effort, Times Up.
While K-Solo would not completely abandon the production talents of his mentors, Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith (they do get a few production credits on Times Up. Parrish actually gets an executive producer credit as well), he would recruit an unknown producer from Pennsylvania named Sam Snead (who would later join forces with Death Row, remember his single “U Better Recognize”?), to maestro the bulk of Times Up.
Coincidently, the album title would also describe K-Solo’s rap career, as Times Up would be his last album, after falling out with EPMD and the Hit Squad and (like Sam Snead) later signing to Death Row records, only to get lost in the shuffle during the Dr. Dre/Suge Knight fall out. There has been talk about Solo releasing his third album There Will Be Hell To Pay, for over ten years, so its safe to say that shit aint coming out. And honestly, at this point would anyone even check for it?
I Can’t Hold It Back – This was the lead single from Times Up. Sam Snead gets the production credit for this one, as he borrows a dope bass line and horn loop from Parliament’s “The Big Bang Theory”, a piece of “Atomic Dog”, the Honey Drippers “Impeach The President”, and turns these elements into a dope instrumental. Solo sounds decent, as he addresses “rumors” that he fell off, why he doesn’t feature other artists on his songs, and of course he had to bring up the whole DMX thing again. This was a solid start to the evening. I love this instrumental.
Letterman – This was the second single from the album. Pete Rock turns a sick organ loop and a Kool & The Gang horn sample into a certified banger, that K-Solo uses to spell the hell out of his rhymes over. I remember the video for this had a cool comic book thing going on. This is a forgotten classic that is still guaranteed to make your head bob and put that stank face on.
Long Live The Fugitive – I absolutely love this sample of Funkadelic’s “I’ll Stay” (De La Soul also used the sample on their classic “Millie Pulled A Pistol On Santa” from De La Soul Is Dead). Solo gets the production credit, and he spits one quick verse that revisits “Fugitive” as some cops who are friends of Corky’s (the guy Solo beat down on “Fugitive”) family pull Solo over and give him the Rodney King treatment before locking him up. The story line was a bit strange but I love this instrumental, so I’m willing to overlook any of the songs shortcomings. This song sort of sets up the next song…
Premonition Of A Black Prisoner – Sam Snead (with a co-production credit going to K-Solo)hooks up a solid instrumental that has a serious tone to it, and out host mirrors that tone with his content. Solo relives his experience of being incarcerated and sheds light on some of the corruption he witnessed in the prison system. Technically, this was cool, but the song feels like its missing something, like it’s heart.
Sneak Tip – Solo’s on some Wizard Of Oz type shit on this one. It all starts when Solo goes to Foot Locker to buy some Pumas, and while trying them on he falls into the shoe box and ends up in a village called Shoe Horn, where all the shoes come alive. While in Shoe Horn, Solo makes new friends (the Pumas he was trying on and Tim [as in Timberland]), meets a few honeys (Avia and a red bone named Fila), makes some enemies (Reebok [Fila’s man] and Adidas), before he seeks the Wizard of a Sneaker to help him get back home. This kind of reminds me of Spice 1’s “187 Proof”. Prop’s to Solo for the original concept and clever lines, but the Sam Snead instrumental (with a co-credit going to Parrish Smith) was a bit underwhelming.
The Baby Doesn’t Look Like Me – Erick Sermon gets his first production credit (with a co-credit going to K-Solo) of the evening. The Green-eyed bandit borrows the bass line from Collage’s “Get In Touch With Me” and a vocal sample from Carrie Lucas’ “Show Me Where You’re Coming From” for the backdrop, as solo raps about nearly being duped into believing he’s the baby daddy of his ex-girl’s newborn. No matter how many times I listen to this song, Solo’s line about getting a job at Burger King, so he can buy nice thing for he, she, and the baby, is hilarious. All in all, this was a decent listen.
The Formula (House Party) – I guess this is supposed to feel like a house party performance, hence the reason K-Solo’s mic has a muffled live sound, as he kicks battle rhymes over a decent PMD instrumental. I don’t know how I feel about this one. I would like to hear what it sounds like without the distortion and theatrics.
Who’s Killin’ Who? – Sam Snead hooks up a smooth, semi-melancholy instrumental that Solo uses to ask the song title’s rhetorical question and confront the issue of black genocide. This was nice.
Household Maid – Sam Snead gives Solo a wacky instrumental to match his content, as he talks about bangin’ out his household maid as a shorty. Solo paints some pretty graphic verbal pics on this one, that I’m sure 2 Live Crew and Too Short would both be proud of.
Rock Bottom – Erik Sermon gets his second production credit of the evening (with a co-credit going to Sam Snead) as Solo talks about coming from the bottom, I think. Everything about this song was boring as watching paint dry.
King Of The Mountain – Now this is more like it. Sam Snead hooks up a banger to close out Times Up, and Solo manages not to embarrass himself behind the mic.
Times Up is a decent sophomore effort from K-Solo. The majority of the production work is enjoyable, and Solo sounds decent on most of the tracks as well. But overall, Times Uplacks personality. So even though it’s a decent listen it doesn’t have that unspoken quality to make it memorable, which is probably more the host’s fault than the producers. Give Redman or Keith Murray the same batch of beats and I think you’d have a more entertaining album. Word.