I first heard of the Young Black Teenagers when they appeared on an episode of The Phil Donahue Show back in the day. I’m not sure what the specific topic of the show was, but I remember seeing five white guys dressed in baggy jeans, hoodies and Timberland boots, take to the mic and share their theory that being black in a state of mind, and because they were of the “black mind state”, they considered themselves black. Even as a snot nose kid I knew their theory was bullshit.
I never checked for them, mainly because of their ridiculous theory, and the fact that I thought they were corny in general. Then a few years ago I read an article and found out that the YBT’s (which consisted of New York natives Kamron, Firstborn and Tommy Never on the mic, and DJ Skribble and ATA on the turntables) were the first act signed to Bomb Squad member, Hank Shocklee’s label, SOUL, which ironically is an acronym for Sound Of Urban Listeners.
Not only were they signed to Shocklee’s label, but the Bomb Squad would also handle the production duties for pretty much the entire album. Unlike most of the other melanin challenged emcees before them, the Young Black Teenagers would not reap the same level of commercial success, as the album failed to chart and wouldn’t even go wood. They would take one more shot at it in 1993, with their sophomore effort Dead Enz Kidz Doin’ Lifetime Bidz, which would do a little better than the debut album, thanks to the mild hit “Tap The Bottle”; but that would be the last release from the YBT’s as a group. Kamron would go on to deejay and produce tracks for the likes of Public Enemy, Ice Cube, Jill Scott and 50 Cent, to name a few, while DJ Skribble would go on to become a prominent deejay, working for MTV, winning deejay battles and releasing several solo albums and mixed tapes.
But the question remains: is Young Black Teenagers worth the wax it was recorded on?
Punks, Lies & Video Tape – Kamron, Firstborn and Tommy Never each take a verse to complain about the lack of radio and video play the YBT’s get (yes kids, there was a time long before YouTube that artist looked for exposure on BET and MTV), crediting the reason for the blackball to their explicit content and for thinking they actually had black balls. Just like the YBT’s verses, the Bomb Squad’s instrumental is also just mediocre.
Korner Groove – The Bomb Squad slides the YBT’s a sick instrumental to spit on, as they pass the mic around the crew like a blunt. And even though none of them say anything worth quoting, their energy is nice. But the real star of this one is the delicious Bomb Squad backdrop.
Traci – Our hosts dedicate this one to a garden tool around the way named Traci. Well, at least the first two verses are dedicated to her. On the final verse, Kamron goes on a side trip and starts spitting battle rhymes. Curiously, the YBT’s chose to censor the curses in this song, or maybe that was a clause that came with permission for using one of the samples in the song. The Bomb Squad’s zany instrumental is decent and sounds nothing like their traditionally sample busy backdrops. Not a terrible song but you probably won’t need to listen to this one more than once.
First Stage Of A Rampage Called The Rap Rage – This is the first song of the evening that the YBT’s actually claim to be black (“I got a question that’s kind of outrageous, about stages of blackness…are you kicking black from the heart or because you want to be a part of a fad, or a trend?”, “So take that you dirty rat, in fact, I said it and I meant it, I’m proud to be black”). They also do this annoying thing were they rap over each other, and it makes it nearly impossible to understand what anyone is saying. The instrumental is kind of dope, and probably would have really shined had more talented emcees finessed it. By the way, the song title is way too wordy and would have been in the running for worst song title had I done a best and worst for 1991.
Nobody Knows Kelli – On this one, the fellas spit nonsensical tales about Bart Simpson and banging Kelly Bundy (who was quite the hottie in the early nineties). Yeah, it sounds as cheesy at it reads. At least the Bomb Squad provide a decent backdrop.
Daddy Kalled Me Niga Cause I Likeded To Rhyme – I have all types of issues with this song. Let me start with the song title: the fact that five white boys thought it was cool to use the n-word in the their song is a problem; and what’s up with “likeded”? Is that how they think black people talk? Secondly, during their verses they have the nerve to consider things like walking with a limp, drinking 40’s, rocking dreads and wearing their hats backwards as attributes that define black. Nigga, please. Their Pops were right for calling them wannabees, and Hank should be ashamed of himself for letting this shit pass.
Chillin’ Wit My Posse – Over a reggae flavored instrumental, Firstborn takes on his self-proclaimed “pale face roster” flow. I’ve heard worst, but I’m still offended by the shit they said in the previous song.
Mack Daddy Don Of The Underworld – Tommy Never gets a solo shot on this one and plays a Mafioso emcee, as he brags about his rhyme prowess and takes out rival crews and competitors with his lyrical tommy gun. Tommy’s rhymes are mediocre at best, but the instrumental is lovely.
Loud And Hard To Hit – This one is very forgettable.
My TV Went Black And White On Me – Firstborn (I think?) goes dolo and spits one verse to discuss a few of the injustices blacks experience in the American justice systems, and of course he puts himself in the black category. The instrumental is decent but I struggle with Firstborn’s content. There is truth in his verse, but for the millions of African-American brothers (including myself) who have been prejudged, profiled, stereotyped, overlooked and mistreated simply because the color of their skin, it’s hard to hear a white guy group himself with “us” and limit the black struggle to a mind state. I’m just sayin’.
Proud To Be Black – The Bomb Squad loop up a piece of James Brown’s “The Boss” for the YBT’s to profess their “black pride”. Awkward.
To My Donna – Kamron and Firstborn dedicate this one to a chick name Donna, as they attempt to finesse her out of her panties. I normally think it’s pretty corny when an artist has a moaning woman on the track, but the moaning kind of works with this sensual instrumental. This was sexy.
My Color TV – This is the just the instrumental version of “My TV Went Black And White On Me”. And we’re done.
For the most part, the Bomb Squad provides decent to solid production for most of Young Black Teenagers, which is a good thing, considering that is really the only reason I bought the album in the first place. As expected, the YBT’s are the demise of Young Black Teenagers. It’s not that their terrible emcees, but their underwhelming song concepts combined with their warped theory on blackness leaves too much to swallow. Hank Shocklee still deserves a mouth shot for letting them say “nigga” on a record, though.