Every genre of music has had it’s share of one hit wonders. There was Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up”, Jane Child’s “I Don’t Wanna Fall In Love” (which I still play from time to time on the IPod), Bill Ray Cyrus’ “Achy Bracky Heart”, and we can’t forget about Ray Parker Jr.’s “Ghostbusters”, or Johnny Kemp’s (rip) “Just Got Paid”. Hip-hop has also had it’s share of one hit wonders: N2Deep’s “Back To The Hotel”, Ahmad’s “Back In The Day”, MC Breed’s (rip) “Ain’t No Future In Your Frontin'”, Skee-Lo’s “I Wish”. But who will ever forget Positive K’s massive hit, “I Got A Man”?
The Bronx born emcee Darryl “Positive K” Gibson first got his foot in the door in the mid eighties, writing and recording songs for an underground compilation project called Fast Money, released on the small short lived label, Star Maker. The project would feature Positive’s first record (“I’m Getting Paid”) as well as a collaborative joint with Rob Base and himself. Eventually, Lumumba Carson (better know to the hip-hop world as Professor X from the X-Clan, you sisssssssssys! [rip]), son of the activist Sonny Carson, would become Positive’s manager. The relationship with Professor X, would lead to Positive signing with First Priority, the same label that brought us MC Lyte. Speaking of Lyte, Positive would write more songs and make appearances on some First Priority projects, but the one song that made the biggest impression (and probably the only one anybody really remembers) was the duet with Lyte, “I’m Not Havin’ It” (will discuss that song more in a bit). Positive would continue to pay his dues, which would score him a deal with Island Records, where he would release his debut album The Skills Dat Pay Da Bills.
Thanks to the monster hit single “I Got A Man”, The Skills Dat Pay Da Bills became a gold selling album. But after the buzz from that song died down and a few more singles from the album were released and forgotten about, Positive would never be heard from again. And please don’t mention that album he release 20 years later, because no one was checking for him by then or has heard that album, with the exception of his cousins and grandma.
Back in the day, when “I Got A Man” blew up, I wasn’t really checking for Positive K. The song was okay, but with all the over exposure it got from radio and the video shows, I was tired of it. Plus, something about Positive K’s vibe just seemed cheesy to me; needless to say I never heard or bought TSDPDB when it came out. A few years ago, I ran across a copy of it in the dollar bin at one of my spots, and the historian in me had to cop it.
This is my first time listening to TSDPDB in its entirety. I’m still baffled to why an artist with a gold selling album and one of the biggest hits of the year, never got a chance at a proper follow up.
Intro (Pos K Theme) – Decent jazzy instrumental to open the show.
Pass The Mic – Silver D slides Positive a quality instrumental that he uses to drop mediocre rhymes over. The hook (which takes a vocal sample from Positive’s duet with Grand Puba from “Positive And L.G.” on Brand Nubian’s One For All) starts to grate on the ears by the beginning of the second verse.
One 2 The Head – Jazzy Jay, formerly of Masters Of Ceremony (gets a mention in consecutive posts), and LG get co-production credits for the backdrop, and it’s fairly decent. Positive spits more boasts and playboy rhymes, but his flow sounds sloppy and as if he’s struggling to keep pace with the beat at certain points; which is kind of strange considering the pace isn’t that fast.
Shakin’ – Positive’s flow sounds better on this one then it did on the previous song; but I was more impressed by LG’s smooth instrumental.
How The F*?#! Would You Know – Positive’s energy sounds completely different than what he gave us on the first three songs; he sound a little like Freddie Foxxx (you youngsters may know him by his new alias Bumpy Knuckles) on this one. LG gives him a decent beat and Positive spits arguably his best rhymes of TSDPDB, and gives Premo the perfect sound bite for a classic Jeru Da Damaja record he would produce a few years later (“I can rock a rhyme to just static”).
Carhoppers – This was the fourth and final single from TSDPDB. In a clear attempt to capitalize on the success of the first single “I Got A Man” (which we’ll get to in just a second), Positive completed scrapped the album version of the song for the radio/video mix. The radio version of the song samples The Emotions’ “Best of My Love”, and instead of Positive simply calling out women who get with brothers based on the cars that they drive, he uses the same “man/woman conversation” template from “I Got A Man”. Though it didn’t have the same success as “I Got A Man”, it is more entertaining than this blah LG produced album version. Side note: A fortyish Thelma from Good Times makes a cameo in the video, and the girl was still lookin’ dyno-mite!
Nightshift – Legendary Brooklyn emcee, Big Daddy Kane sits behind the boards and gets the production credit on this one, and it’s actually kind of decent. Positive K plays a pimp that has his hoes, I mean ladies, working the streets for him. While an actual verse from Kane would have been a nice addition to the song, he does drop some clever pimp poetry in between Positive’s verses, which was a nice touch.
Intro (Back The F*?#!? Up) – You might ask why this is labeled as an intro being we’re half way through the album. Well, once upon a time before the digital takeover, most albums were purchased on vinyl or cassette, which contained music on each of the two sides, so you physically had to turn them over to hear the other side of an album. So in essence this “intro” marks the beginning of the second side (or as the back of the album jacket calls it, the “Pay The Bills Side”) of TSDPDB. In reality, it’s just an interlude.
I Got A Man – This was the first single from TSDPDB and the song that will forever define Positive K’s career. LG creates a slightly popish backdrop built around a loop from A Taste Of Honey’s “Rescue Me” for this epic battle of the sexes. Over the course of three verses, Positive tries to spit game to the object of his erection, who has a response for each of Positive’s playboy line (which until recently, I thought was a female rapper, but it is actually Positive playing the role of the resistant female, which he pulls off flawlessly, thanks to a little studio technology). Many have forgot (or simply never knew) that Positive K attempted the same concept with MC Lyte on their 1989 duet “I’m Not Havin’ It”, which wasn’t nearly as successful or executed as well as this. I’ve never been a big fan of this one, but you have to give the brother props for the clever concept.
Ain’t No Crime – Apparently this was the third single from TSDPDB. I don’t recall hearing this song on the radio back in the day, and I actually saw the video for the first time a few days ago on YouTube. Not a great song, but it starts to grow on you after a few listens.
The Shout Out – Over a dope LG instrumental Positive K spits one verse of average battle rhymes before shutting things off and going into his shout outs. With 5 more songs to go, this was kind of a weird spot to stick a shout out record; but whatever.
Friends – Positive sends this one out to all those so called “friends” who use you for their benefit and are nowhere to be found when things get tough. Positive must have really been hurt to spit a line like “who ever made up the word friendship, needs to get beat with a slave whip”. I can feel his sentiment but I couldn’t really feel this song; and the Rich Lord of the Mix Board instrumental probably sounds cheesier than his moniker.
Minnie The Moocher – Laz-E-Laz slides Positive a smooth instrumental that he uses to discuss the exploits of a man eating chick named Minnie. Strangely, Grand Daddy I.U. stops by just to contribute a few ad libs to the song (that don’t really add anything to the song) but doesn’t bless us with a verse, which left me questioning why he even bothered to show up. Regardless, this is easily my favorite song on the album, mainly due to the dope backdrop.
Nightshift (Remix) – Silver D’s remix has nothing on the original. Not only is the instrumental inferior but Kane’s clever ad libs between Positive’s verses are very much missed.
A Flower Grows In Brooklyn – LG turns a Five Stairsteps’ loop into a dope instrumental that our host uses for the canvas for this ode to his Brooklyn Queen (or Queens). Decent.
It’s All Over – Positive closes out TSDPDB with three solids verses over a slick LG produced backdrop. And we’re done.
After several listens to The Skills Dat Pay Da Bills over the past week, I’ve concluded it’s a decent album. Positive isn’t a great emcee but I’ve heard a lot worst. At times during TSDPDB he shows glimmers of hope of lyrical mastery, but those moments are few and far in between; and he never quite recaptures the charisma displayed on “I Got A Man”, that helped turn it into a hit record. On the bright side, the production is pretty solid on TSDPDB, which makes listening to Positive’s average flow and plethora of mediocre rhymes a little easier.