This is a new addition to the collection. I had this one on cassette back in the day, until it was eaten by my hungry tape deck. So it was a pleasant surprise to run across this one at one of the used music spots that I frequent. Place this one after The Whole Shabang Volume 1.
Robert Green Jr. better known to the world as the gun-toting drug dealing rapper Spice 1, which may be the worst moniker acronym in hip-hop history (Sex, Pistols, Indo, Cash and Entertainment and a random “1” thrown on the end). Born in Corsicana, TX Spice 1 relocated to the bay area where he honed his rapping skills and would be discovered by the Oakland legend Too Short. His relationship with Short would lead to Spice 1 inking a deal with Jive and releasing his self titled debut in 1992.
Spice 1 would be chalked full of west coast funk tracks (with the majority of the production be handled by Too Short’s partner, funk and big bass lover, Ant Banks) and violent lyrics from our host. Spice 1 would be the first of three consecutive gold selling albums for Spice, and The Source would even include it on their 1998 list of 100 Top Rap Albums of All Time. Even to date, while in his mid forties, Spice continues to spew out material independently, including 2 projects in 2o15.
On a side note, Spice 1 may have one of the worst album covers in the history of hip-hop. What’s with the double exposure eighties style pic? It reminds me of my 2nd grade school pictures, rocking my tight (in the true sense of the word…my underarms were gasping for air in that thing) powder blue Dukes Of Hazzard t-shirt and tight peas covering my dome. I guess the old adage never judge a book by its cover should be applied to albums as well.
My Neighborhood – Spice 1 kicks off the album with a funky Ant Banks produced track built around a loop of George Duke’s “Reach For It”. Our host gives the listener a slightly lighthearted account of hood happenings, which includes Spice fighting his home boy’s dope fiend dad and shooting his wife in the titty after she bust shots at Spice in defense of her husband. This was an entertaining start to the evening.
187 Proof – This was the lead single and the song that helped put Spice 1 on the map. Spice cleverly weaves together a murderous tale, incorporating different brands of liquor as characters. The instrumental (which is credited to Spice 1) has a thumping bass line and keys that give it a devious feel, setting the perfect mood for Spice’s storyline. This has to be one of the greatest storytelling raps in hip-hop history. Yeah, I said it.
East Bay Gangster (Reggae) – SKI (not to be confused with the east coast Ski-Beatz) & CMT get the credit for this layered and funky instrumental that Spice uses to declare himself the alias that the title suggest. Spice 1 gives us the first hint of the evening that he reps the Bloods with his line “I like to eat crab (derogatory term for a Crip) but I prefer steak”, and proceeds to shoot up everything in sight. Spice one does recite the hook in a reggae chant style, which I’m sure is why he awkwardly added “Reggae” in parentheses to the song title. All in all, this was solid.
Money Gone – Black Jack gets the production credit on this one and he creates a monster. Spice adopts a stutter flow that sound perfect over this sick instrumental, and proceeds to rip the shit out of it. Twenty plus years later and then song still gets me amped up every time I hear it.
1-800-Spice – This one opens with Ant Banks dialing the fake number that is supposed to be a way to get a hold of Spice, if you’re looking to buy some crack. Ant Banks stays true to his bass heavy production scheme but adds a little reggae twist to this one, which causes Spice to take on a reggae style delivery, and he pulls it off. This was decent.
Peace To My Nine – Ant Banks loops up a portion of Funkadelic’s “One Nation Under A Groove” for Spice 1’s ode to his choice of weapon. Interestingly, the liner notes for this song have the following disclaimer from the Funkadelic leader himself: Because of our beliefs, expressed in “One Nation Under A Groove”, it would be hypocritical to deny use of the sample, but we are not in agreement with the thoughts and ideology expressed in “Peace To My Nine” – George Clinton. That’s the kind of info I love about liner notes, that you won’t get with your iTunes purchase, folks…but I digress. Thank you George for granting Banks permission to use it because the instrumental is dope and Spice keeps it interesting as well.
Young Nigga – Speaking of George Clinton, SKI & CMT keep things in the Clinton vain, sampling Parliament’s “Mothership Connection (Star Child)” for this mellow jazzy groove. Spice 1 uses it to reflect on the thuggery of his younger days (which must mean his teen years, considering he was only 22 when Spice 1 was released). I love his first line of the song which makes reference to a Nino Brown line I’ve always loved: “when I was young I had the lust to pull the trigger, and make change out of $5 ass niggas”. Another quality record from Spice.
Welcome To The Ghetto – This was the second single released from Spice 1, and a song I completely forgot about before listening to it again today. Spice gets the production credit as he creates a somber instrumental and reflects on the drugs and violence that influenced and effected his life, and the lives of brothers in hoods all across America. Not one of the strongest songs on Spice 1, but still decent.
Fucked In The Game – From his first line, Spice 1 lets you know exactly what this song is going to be about: “murder, murder, murder, murder muthafuckas”. Spice 1 and Black Jack loop up an old Curtis Mayfield record and turn it into the perfect backdrop for Spice’s angry murderous threats.
Money Or Murder – Everything about this song reminds me of Scarface (of the Geto Boys). From Banks’ smooth instrumental (built around a loop of Isaac Hayes’ “Joy”, further confirming my claim that Hayes is the second most sampled artist in hip-hop history) to Spice’s detailed murderous action packed rhymes (and even his delivery on this one), screams Face. I’m not excusing Spice 1 of biting Face, but there is no denying he was influenced by the legend.
City Streets – Ant Banks build this instrumental around a loop from The Dramatics’ “Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get”, as Spice 1 spits more of his violent hood tales. Spice drops his second hint of the evening that he rolls with the Bloods with his line “I had my Nike sweatsuit on and it was red like a sparrow”. Banks’ instrumental is slick and Spice rides the groove perfectly.
1-900-Spice – Like “1-800-Spice”, this one starts with Ant Banks dialing the phony number (no pun intended) that the title suggest. This time around, Spice 1 answers and spits one quick verse over an Ant Banks slowed down funk groove (which sounds like it uses a loop from Diana Ross’ “Love Hangover”), and then gets the hell out of Dodge.
Break Yourself – Ant Banks not only produces this one but also contributes a verse for it as well. Spice 1 spits more of his gangsta rhetoric (and sounds extremely awkward when he refers to the lisped boxing great as “Michael Tyson”) and Ant Banks uses a completely different delivery than what we would hear from him a few months down the road on Too Short’s “Something To Ride To”. Gone is his Oakland drawl and his rapid paced flow make him sound like a completely different rapper. Banks bassy beat is mediocre at best and neither he or Spice say anything worthwhile.
187 Pure – “187 Proof” ends with Indo Weed killing, or as Spice cleverly puts it, smoking, all of the remaining alcohol characters in the song. SKI & CMT slightly adjust the instrumental used on “187 Proof” (adding a nice vocal sample from KRS-One [“this is your brain on drugs”] on the hook) and Spice 1 picks up Indo’s story where “187 Proof” left off, substituting alcohol characters with narcotics. This was dope, literally. Lyrically, it may even be stronger than “187 Proof”.
Spice 1 is a solid debut from Spice. He and his team of producers provide an enjoyable and cohesive funk laden sound scape, and Spice 1 proves that he is not just a gangsta with a microphone, but a more than capable emcee with a sick flow and an underrated ability to adapt his flow to fit any beat. No, Spice 1 never strays away from its gangsta tales of violence and drug dealing, but few have made the overly used topics sound as entertaining as Spice 1 does on his debut.