Through the years hip-hop has spawned a million and one different acts. Out of those million acts only a small percentage have been able to create an impressive catalog and everlasting legacy that stands the test of time. Some have had one of two hot records, and fizzled out just as fast as they blew up. And an even larger percentage drop one album and are never heard from again. Capital Tax would fall into the last category.
Capital Tax was the four man crew consisting of the group’s only emcee, TMD (which is an acronym for Total Mind Devastator), DJ Cool Al, Bozie and Scruff (I’m not sure what
purpose role the last two served in the group…maybe they were back-up dancers?). Back in the day, I assumed they were from D.C. based on the name, but they were actually out of East Oakland. Capital Tax signed a deal with MCA and released their only album to date The Swoll Package in the spring of 1993. I’m not sure what the critics thought of this album, but I’d be willing to place a hefty bet that it didn’t move a ton of units, as I’m the only person I know who owns this album (I’d be willing to bet that Tony A Wilson has a copy as well).
I found The Swoll Package a few years ago in the used bins at one of the spots I frequent, and picked it up because I remembered a few of the singles from back in the day that I used to vibe to. This week is my first time listening to The Swoll Package in its entirety. Let’s see if these Oakland boys’ package is as swoll as they claim.
The Lab – This may be the shortest intro in the history of hip-hop, and it adds absolutely no value to The Swoll Package.
Mista Wonka – Now hears an unusual way to start a hip-hop album. TMD uses the opening track to have a conversation with his temporarily impotent jimmy, that he affectionately refers to as Mista Wonka. Over a funky groove (and a sick saxophone sample) TMD attempts to talk his smaller head into standing up to please a PYT. I thought this was pretty solid, but I’m bias, as I’m a sucker for rappers who show vulnerability.
Make A Move Y’all – TMD’s rap voice reminds me of Stretch from Live Squad, which isn’t a diss or a compliment, just an observation. As far as the song goes, I’m not feeling TMD’s rhymes or DJ Smooth’s dry instrumental.
Freestyle – This one plays just as it reads: TMD spits a quick freestyle over a simple instrumental.
I Can’t Believe It – This was the first single released from The Swoll Package, and the song that hipped me to CT. Over a mid-tempo jazzy groove (back in the day I had the single to this, which included the instrumental that the homies and I use to freestyle over), TMD shares a tale from the perspective of a young kid living with his cousin, his crackhead auntie and his prostitute uncle who turns tricks to feed the family and his wife’s crack habit. No, it’s never made clear if the uncle’s clientele are male or female, but I find it hard to believe (no pun intended) that women would pay him (or any man for that matter) for the dick, so draw your own conclusion. The storyline is kind of weird but I love the instrumental.
We Pals – TMD celebrates friendship on this one. Unfortunately, the celebration didn’t translate into a good hip-hop song.
Can You Dig It – TMD boasts, brags and drops some battle rhymes over a dope mid-tempo instrumental. This was a pretty entertaining listen.
Nottie Natural – Filler material.
The Masha – This was the second, and I believe final single, released from The Swoll Package. I first became familiar with this song by hearing the remix (who’s instrumental is built around the same Faze-O sample EPMD used on “Please Listen To My Demo”). I prefer the remix, but that doesn’t mean that the slick piano loop the album’s instrumental is built around isn’t enjoyable as well.
In Memory Of – Capital Tax pays respect to the dead over this beautifully dark and soulful instrumental. While I’m curious to how TMD would sound spitting bars over this, it’s probably best that he didn’t.
Givin’ It Back – Over a smooth slightly jazzy instrumental, TMD stresses the importance of not forgetting where you came from when you make it. I love the sentiment, the message, and the song.
Styles I Manifest – TMD doesn’t say anything worth quoting, but I like the jazzy instrumental.
Make Some Cash – Throughout the history of hip-hop, many emcees have documented the struggle to survive in the hood and through rhyme, discussed the many different hustles they’ve used to make money. Some have robbed people to survive. Some sold drugs, and yet others actually went and got a job (imagine that). But I have to admit, I’ve never heard a rapper talk about the unique hustle TMD had back in the day. Pumping gas for people at the local BP? Wtf? Where they do that at? This must have been a common hustle in Oakland, because at one point during the song TMD sounds like a drug dealer reprimanding a rival dealer for selling in his territory, as he tells a rival, um, gas pumper, that he “owns pumps one through twelve”. TMD’s content is kind of corny, but the laid back instrumental is dope.
Poet Treeman – The song title is clever play on words, but the song is nothing more than filler material.
Treetop Connection – TMD invites some of his peeps (JH The Master, Alafi, Prophecy and Father DOM) to join him on this posse cut. And it just might be the most boring cipher joint in hip-hop history. The instrumental has no energy, and all emcees involved reciprocate the instrumental’s vibe.
TMD is not a terrible emcee. His rhymes and flow are decent, but his bars don’t have personality and he lacks charisma and that “it” factor to make people remember him. On the production side, DJ Smooth brings a few gems and a few decent joints, that off set the handful of hot garbage he slides TMD to rhyme over throughout The Swoll Package. When you pair TMD’s forgettable rhymes with DJ Smooth’s hit and miss production, the package ends up more scrawny than swoll.