Mark Morales better know to the world as Prince Markie Dee, begin his rap career as a third of the Brooklyn based trio the Fat Boys (originally known as the Disco 3) in the mid eighties. From the jump, the Fat Boys took a comic approach to their music, often poking fun at their weight in their songs. From ’84 to ’91, Prince Markie Dee, Kool Rock-Ski and Buffy The Human Beat Box (rip) had quite a commercially successful run, releasing seven albums with three of them going gold and a 4th earning them a platinum plaque. While the earlier records were funny and lighthearted, they still held some credibility; but as time went on, their music became progressively more buffoonish (including a garbage remake of The Safaris’ hit “Wipe Out” featuring the Beach Boys and a remake of Chubby Checker’s “The Twist”, which Checker himself would make a cameo in). Their intentionally pop records helped moved units but they also led to the Fat Boys losing their true hip-hop fans, and soon the fickle pop fan base grew tired of the trio’s antics and their 15 minutes of fame was over.
Somewhere around the group’s 6th album On And On, Prince Markie Dee and the Fat Boys’ manager Charles Stettler begin to beef over creative control and how business was being handled, which resulted in Markie getting kicked out the group as he would not be a part of TFB’s final album Mack Daddy (which might have been a blessing in disguise considering the album flopped). Markie Dee would connect with then up and coming music mogul Puff Daddy, who was still at Uptown at the time. The relationship led to Markie Dee co-writing and producing Mary J Blige’s “Real Love”, songs for Father MC, and eventually, Mariah Carey (side note: a few years ago Markie Dee claimed that Puffy and Biggie stole the instrumentals for “Juicy” and “Big Poppa” from him). His production and writing work helped him establish himself as a solo artist and build relationships with industry insiders, which led to him signing a solo deal with Columbia, releasing his debut album Free, in the summer of ’92.
Technically, it’s not a solo album as its credited as Prince Markie Dee and the Soul Convention, which is basically a group of singers, rappers and musicians, that contribute their talents on Free. But for what its worth, it’s a Prince Markie Dee solo project as he is the voice of the show and handles most of the production along with his partner Mark Rooney.
Markie Dee would go one to release one more solo album before hanging up his mic and becoming a radio deejay in Florida, but will forever be remembered as the light skin dude from the Fat Boys.
So Very Happy – The album opens with an instrumental built around the same A Taste Of Honey’s “Rescue Me” sample that Positive K would use for his biggest (and only) hit, “I Got A Man”, later the same year. It never dawned on me back in the day, but Markie Dee sounds a lot like Heavy D on this one; not only with his overweight lover content but also his delivery. I’m not feeling this one.
Trippin’ Out – This was the lead single from Free. Over a heavily synthesized flavored r&b instrumental, Markie Dee recalls a girl from his junior and high school days named Shelly, who through different acts proves to be a ride or die chick and Markie eventually ends up making her his lady. Billy Lawrence, who was a part of his Soul Convention crew before going solo, sings the hook and adds a few adlibs along the way as well. Not a terrible song but a bit too r&b flavored for my liking.
Typical Reasons (Swing My Way) – This was the second single and the main reason I bought Free in the first place. Markie Dee and Company hook up a mid-temp groove (that takes on a slightly jazzy feel courtesy of Chris Botti on the trumpet) that Markie uses to hold a conversation with a woman in an abusive relationship and tries to convince her to leave her man and become one of his side pieces, or as he calls it “associates”. Markie’s line “…focus your mind on a real man, I won’t sweat you or keep stressing it, I’ll buy your clothes but pay your rent is kind of pressing it” was pretty comical. Mark Rooney adds singing adlibs throughout, including the final two minutes of the song as the soothing instrumental plays on. This one still sounds good.
Trilogy Of Love – This may be the dumbest song of all time. It opens with Markie D saying “I don’t know what to do…three women and one me”, while Trey Lorenz (remember that guy?), Anthony Rodriguez and Mark Rooney sing the song title as the hook. Each of guest vocalists sings one verse (the liner notes curiously labels the verses as “concern”, “understanding” and “passion), which one would think would be used to shed light on the dilemma of Markie’s love
triangle square. Instead they sing corny lines and clichés, never dealing with the issue at hand; and to make matters worst, the song is 7 minutes long. This was a train wreck.
Free – This title song has Markie Dee yearning for a life that is care and worry free. Good intent, but Markie and Rooney’s instrumental is kind of weak; and the singing during the hook (courtesy of Mark Rooney and Anthony Rodriguez) sounds horrendous.
Addict 4 Your Love – Markie Dee and Mark Rooney replay a portion of the instrumental from Toto’s “Georgy Porgy”, with Rooney singing the hook from the same record (for hip-hop head’s not familiar with “Georgy Porgy”, it’s the same sample MC Lyte used on her single “Poor Georgie”). I’m not a fan of this one. For the second time on Free, Markie’s content doesn’t match the song title and hook. Markie’s bad boy rhymes tell a certain female that she can either accept the fact that he’s a player or kick rocks and move on, while the hook sings about how much of an addict he is for her love. This was poorly thought out and executed.
Back To Brooklyn – In an attempt to rep his borough properly, Markie Dee tries to come off like a hardcore gun-toting thug but instead ends up sounding like a laughable studio gangster. Even if Markie Dee’s persona was believable, this instrumental sounds way too upbeat and happy for his “gangsta” rhymes.
Foreplay – Our host uses this mid tempo groove to discuss how much he loves taking part in the appetizers leading up to the main course; so much so, that he felt it necessary to cum at the end of the record. I never understood why rappers (and singers) do that. Guys are more prone to be turned on by women moaning on wax than women being turned on by a man moaning on his record. I don’t even think gay guys would be turned on by it, but I digress. The instrumental is kind of nice. It kind of reminds me of the remix to Digital Underground’s “Packet Man”, at slightly higher bpms.
I Don’t Wanna Lose Your Love – Over a new jack swing track (that features Billy Lawrence singing the hook) Markie Dee summons his compassionate puppy dog lover personality, as he begs his lady to stay with him. This was kind of cheesy.
Ghetto Bound – Markie comes from the perspective of a ghetto kid who becomes a victim of his circumstances and ends up in prison. Markie doesn’t tread any new water here, nor does he add anything to the story that has been told 1,000 times before on wax. Like “Back To Brooklyn”, the instrumental sounds way too happy-go-lucky for Markie’s content.
Something Special – Markie invites Hasan the Love Child to rap with him on this hot mess of a song. This was terrible.
I’m Gonna Be Alright – Markie Dee and company hook up a somber yet inspirational instrumental for Markie to reflect on his past, live in the present and contemplate his future. This is easily the most honest song on Free, as Markie shows vulnerability and even questions his stent with the Fat Boys, with line like “rap, comedian, stooges skits, wearing stupid pants and shirts that didn’t fit, made the big screen, the funny role hit still, but suddenly the comedy just didn’t appeal, could it be that I was playing myself?” and “becoming brand new just being myself, so put the funny fat shit on the shelf”. This was nice.
The Aftermath – The song opens with a black Pentecostal church style organ and a vocalist singing adlibs over it. Then after a quick verbal exchange between Markie and a female voice, a sick and sexy r&b groove comes in that will make the hardest gangster drop his gun and grab his girl. This kind of works as a remix to the opening track, bringing things full circle as Tanieka “Misa” Hooten, Joe Kelly and Mark Rooney sing “happy, So very happy”, while Markie D adds adlibs throughout, in his Heavy D tone.
Prince Markie Dee is a decent rapper that takes on a few different personas during the course of Free. In a blink of an eye he goes from passionate lover, to a heartless playboy, to a gun-toting gangsta and then an emo rapper. Speaking of emo rapper, the personal “I’m Gonna Be Alright” is the only song that our host truly sounds authentic on (you can sort of include “Typical Reasons” in that category as well). Even more troubling than our host’s multiple personalities is the overly r&b saturated production throughout Free. Like I’ve said before, I’m not completely opposed to mixing r&b and hip-hop but it must be done properly for it to work well. Everything on Free has an r&b feel, and only a few songs manage to avoid that “bad rap and r&b” category. So, feel um, free to hit the fast forward button when needed while listening to this album.