This is a recent addition to the collection. File it right after Das EFX’s Dead Serious.
A few months ago I was scanning through some old issues of The Source circa 1992, because from time to time that’s what self-proclaimed hip-hop historians/music geeks do. While checking out the “Record Report” column from the February of ’92 issue, my eyes came across the name of a group and album that I had never heard of before: the subject of today’s post, The Future Sound’s The Whole Shabang Volume 1. After reading the favorable review (that compared their musical soundscape to my favorite hip-hop group of all time, A Tribe Called Quest), which gave the album 3.5 mics, my curiosity was peaked. And luckily for me there were a bunch of reasonably priced copies floating around on Amazon.
Hailing from New Rochelle, NY aka Now Rule, which Brand Nubian put on the map, Flashback the Funky Tactitioner and the Rhythm King Pin, Relay, made up the duo of The Future Sound or TFS for short. Along with Original Flavor (whose debut album I posted about a few months ago and you can read here) TFS was one of the first hip-hop acts that a young and future Roca-A-Fella Records co-founder, Damon Dash and his brother Darien Dash, would manage under their Dash Entertainment imprint. The Dashes had a relationship with DJ Clark Kent, who had connects with different labels, which eventually landed TFS a deal with East/West Records.
The Whole Shabang Volume 1 would be the first and last album from TFS, as they would fade away like LeBron’s hairline, becoming simply a footnote in Damon Dash’s interesting career.
Intro – The album opens with a Muzack type instrumental as a man with a soothing voice prepares you for the “adventure” you’re about to embark on. A little over the top, but still semi-clever.
This Is A Game – Flashback and Relay (who coincidentally sounds a lot like Ski from Original Flavor) each spit abstract rhymes over a jazzy groove that has a slightly Latin feel. Their rhyme style is very coded, so I’m not sure what the “game” is that they’re referring to (life? hip-hop?), but the instrumental needs no decoding. It’s dope, plain and simple.
The Function – Flashback and Relay hook up a sick instrumental built around a wicked bass guitar loop, sprinkled with an occasional organ and saxophone sample, to ensure that the listener will screw his or her face in audible enjoyment. The duo both spend their verses singing praises to the music. Rightfully so, since the instrumental is the true star of this one.
Flashback Relay & The Whole Shabang – Speaking of wicked guitar bass lines, TFS comes right back with another one that is rougher and has more of a soulful feel than the previous song. I can’t recall one line from Flashback or Relay, but the instrumental is a thing of beauty.
Star Struck (Caterpillar Style) – TFS dedicates this one is to all the sellouts, in their own unique abstract way. By this point it’s clear that these dudes aren’t going to blow your mind lyrically, but like the previous songs the production remains solid.
Thread – This interlude has Flashback, Relay, Darien Dash, Damon Dash and Clark Kent shootin’ the shits at a restaurant. Not sure what the purpose of this interlude was, but it’s clear that Damon Dash was an arrogant asshole even back then.
The Bop Step – The instrumental is decent but the hook starts to grate on the ears.
Lady/What’s A Bro To Do? – I actually came across a video on YouTube for this one, so it must have been released as a single, and of course it stars Damon Dash. The song opens with an ill saxophone sample from Pharoah Sanders “The Creator Has A Master Plan” (which coincidentally sounds a lot like Coltrane’s “Part 4: Psalms” from Love Supreme… or maybe not so coincidentally, considering Sanders came up under Coltrane’s tutelage…but I digress). Then TFS drops a buttery instrumental built around a nasty guitar loop, as they discuss the trials of being a brother in North America. Dope production from our hosts.
Pixie Groove – The song title describes this instrumental perfectly. Listen to it and tell me you can’t envision Tinker Bell waiving her magic wand to the beat, sprinkling pixie dust all over this beautiful track. During the hook they bring in what sounds like a violin loop, giving the already lovely instrumental a warm and soulful feel. Bravo, TFS.
Scriptic Cryptic – This song title can be used to describe TFS’ rhyme style. Clark Kent and Larry Larr get the production credit on this one, disrupting the enjoyable laid back jazzy vibe TFS created on the album to this point. I’m not feeling this one.
Primates In Stitches – They can’t all be great, but still decent.
Flashback Relay & The Whole Shabang (Wig Out Mix) – Remix of the original that appeared earlier in the sequencing. This mix has more of a reflective feel than the original, but it’s equally dope.
Sucka Set – Over a funky up-tempo guitar loop and drum beat, TFS spit their version of battle rhymes. Another quality instrumental laced with forgettable rhymes.
Jungle-O – TFS definitely had an affinity for dope guitar loops. This time they hook up an explosive rock tinged guitar sample but the drums placed underneath it are almost non-existent. Flashback and Relay sound overwhelmed by the intensity of the instrumental that ultimately drowns out their voices.
When The Ends Meet (Life Of The Futuristic B-Boy) – Our hosts revisit Pharoah Sanders’ “The Creator Has A Master Plan” and turn a sick bass line and a melodic flute sample into my favorite instrumental on The Whole Shabang. Sticking with the script, Flashback and Relay continue to speak in code, so the meaning of the interesting song title remains a mystery (at least to me). The instrumental is calming, somber, introspective, and sounds like the perfect traveling music from your next stop after death (that last part might sound a bit twisted but it was meant to be a compliment). I had to listen to this one about 6 times to quench my audible thirst. Awesome way to end the album.
Let me start by stating that on a good day Flashback and Relay are tier c emcees, so don’t go into listening to The Whole Shabang expecting to be mesmerized by their lyrical ability (if you’re lucky, or patient enough, you’ll be able to decode a portion of their overly abstract rhyme schemes). The true star of The Whole Shabang is TFS’s soulful and jazzy production. Not all of the instrumentals are stellar but a large chunk of them are wonderfully crafted hidden gems that will have you hitting the rewind button in search of repeat eargasms. I wonder what became of these guys? As producers they could have created some classic records for many dope emcees of that era.