October 6th 1992 was quite the day for hip-hop, as it would mark the beginning of two very different but equally impactful hip-hop careers. Not only would Common drop his debut album Can I Borrow A Dollar? on this date, but Redman would also release his debut album Whut? Thee Album.
We first heard from the Newark, New Jersey native Reginald “Redman” Noble on EPMD’s Business As Usual album, as he would make a solid first impression on “Hardcore” and “Brothers On My Jock”. But both of those cameos would pale in comparison to the show stealing verse he would drop on EPMD’s Hit Squad posse joint “Head Banger” from Business Never Personal. Not long after, Red would release Whut? Thee Album on RAL (Rush Associated Label)/Columbia in the fall of 1992.
Erick Sermon (with a co-production credit going to Redman) would produce the album from beginning to end. And like just about everything else Erick Sermon had a hand it at the time, Whut? Thee Album would go gold, earning Reggie a plaque and heaps of critical acclaim.
But acclaim and gold don’t always translate to quality music. So lets revisit Whut? Thee Album.
Psycho Ward – Whut? Thee Album opens with Redman in a psych ward as a distorted voiced Dr. Trevis (played by Reggie Noble himself) runs through Redman’s list of criminal acts, before the skit ends with Trevis encouraging Red to “focus his mind” and show him how he would construct an album if the opportunity presented itself. Well, guess what?
Time 4 Sum Akson – The first song of the evening has Redman displaying some of his slightly off kilter flow that would turn him into a rap star (I still chuckle every time I hear his “brother, where your eyes at?” line). I love Erick Sermon’s rough up-tempo backdrop and the dope Cypress Hill sound bite brought in on the hook. Great way to start the show.
Da Funk – I love this backdrop’s laid back adaptation of Parliament’s “P Funk (Wants To Get Funked Up)”. Reggie lays in the cut and hits it perfectly, like a jumper settling into their groove in between the double dutch ropes. And just when Red really starts to find his stride, the song ends abruptly in the middle of his second verse (which interestingly ends with his final line being “I’m well-known like Donald Trump”; who would have thought DT would still be such a relevant figure nearly 25 years later?).
News Break – Short interlude that sets up the next song…
So Ruff – This is probably the closest thing to a conscious song that you’ll ever hear on a Redman album. He uses the first verse to recall a stick up gone bad, the second verse is about a chick he (and E Double) hit raw dog, only to find out later she is HIV positive; and on the 3rd verse Redman reminds men and women about the importance of using protection. And of course Redman puts a lighthearted twist on these serious topics. Too bad the instrumental is garbage, otherwise this may have been a solid song.
Rated “R” – I love this one. Mr. Sermon slides Redman a rough backdrop with a sick saxophone sample and well placed vocal samples from Rakim and Ice Cube on the hook. Reggie picks a part this instrumental as he drops psychopathic rhymes and destroys all of your favorite horror movie villains in his final verse. If you take it for what it is, which is a playful record, you’ll also still find it very entertaining.
Watch Yo Nuggets – Erick Sermon makes the only guest appearance on Whut? Thee Album, swapping verses with Redman on this duet, and they both sound decent. I can’t quite put a finger on it, but something about E Double’s lazy funk groove is dope as hell to me.
Psycho Dub – Short but pleasantly relaxing interlude.
Jam 4 U – This may be my favorite song on Whut? Thee Album. Redman bugs out (his line “doom doom, dom, dadoom, dong, ding, extremely wild like the hair on Don King” will never grow old) over this ill backdrop built around an infectious bass line and a dope vocal sample from Guy’s “Teddy’s Jam 2”. Nearly 25 years later, this still sounds nasty.
Blow Your Mind – This was the lead single for Whut? Thee Album and I have always hated this song. The instrumental sounds like a bunch of noise, and Redman must have been having a bad day when he recorded it, as his energy doesn’t sound remotely close to the rest of his output on this album. Or maybe he also hated the instrumental but was coerced by E-Double into using it and this was all the energy he could muster up for it. Regardless of how many times I follow Reggie’s instruction to “press rewind if I haven’t blown your mind”, my brain continues to remain in tact.
Hardcore – Redman takes his verse from the EPMD song (which I mentioned in the intro) that introduced him to the world a few years prior.
Funky Uncles – Interlude to set up the next song…
Redman Meets Reggie Noble – For the first time this evening, Redman gets a solo production credit, and it’s actually pretty decent (coincidentally, he uses a loop from the same Emotions’ record his Hit Squad brethren Das EFX would use on “Klap Ya Handz” [but was first effectively used on BDK’s classic “Ain’t No Half-Steppin'”]). Reggie Nobles exchanges lines with his rap alter ego Redman, and it’s pretty entertaining.
Tonight’s Da Night – Okay. So if “Jam 4 U” isn’t my favorite song on Whut? Thee Album, this one is. The smooth backdrop is built around a loop of The Mary Jane Girls’ “All Night Long”. Redman’s rugged rhymes clash with it, yet manage to mesh with it flawlessly at the same time. This one is still dope.
Blow Your Mind (Remix) – Although I love the loop from Zapp’s “Dance Floor” that comes in on the hook, the remix is still not good.
I’m A Bad – I never really cared for this one and still don’t.
Sessed One Night – Interlude to set up the next song…
How To Roll A Blunt – Pete Rock stops by to drop off a quality instrumental that Red uses to breakdown the art of rolling a blunt. An animated Redman leaves the listener with a pretty entertaining presentation.
Sooper Luver Interview – Interlude to set up the next song…
A Day Of Sooperman Lover – This is the first installment of what would be a part of each of Redman’s solo albums until 2010’s Reggie. Over a dope Johnny “Guitar” Watson loop (and later in the song, a loop of James Brown’s “The Payback”), Red displays his heroism by saving a cat from a tree and returning it to its beautiful female owner, who in turn wants to repay
Redman Sooperman Lover with a little something for his good deed. Maybe “little” isn’t the right adjective to describe the “something” she wants to give our host. I won’t spoil the end of the song for those who haven’t heard this, but this was a fairly entertaining listen.
Encore – Just in case you weren’t already bored to death with the shitty “Blow Your Mind” suite, Reggie brings the instrumental back one more time to finish the job.
There are a few bumps along the road (i.e. “Blow Your Mind”), but overall Whut? Thee Album is a solid debut from Redman. Erick Sermon provides a cohesive batch of hard and funky backdrops for Reggie to get loose over, and he handles them well. Redman isn’t the greatest lyricist but his rugged flow, mixed with his knack for clever punch lines and his colorful personality (they don’t call him Redman for nothing) make for a pretty entertaining listen.