About a month ago, I was skirmishing through the used cd bins at one of my favorite spots (shoutout to Cheapos!). To avoid bumping into other music miners, if someone is digging on one end of the bins I’ll go to the opposite end to begin my search. On this particular adventure there was another music miner on the left end of the bins, so I started searching from the right side and worked my way left. Eventually we ended up meeting near the middle, so I decided to jump a few bins over to the left and would work my way back to the few I missed on the right after he moved out the way. All of a sudden, I here the dude whisper to himself “yes!”. I looked over and noticed he had discovered an album I’ve had on my “want list” for several years. The late Tim Dog’s Penicillin On Wax. This album has been out of print for years and you can really only find it used on Amazon, for more than I’m willing to pay for it. I congratulated the man on a good find, but in my head I was cursing the day he was born for stealing my precious prize. If only I would have got there a few minutes prior, or if I would have crowded his space and continued my natural course from right to left without skipping any rows. Instead, I left with a lump in my throat, sorely disappointed.
I’ve never heard Penicillin On Wax in its entirety, but I’m familiar with the singles and believe it is one of the often overlooked pieces that helped spark the west coast/east coast feud that would claim the lives of two of hip-hop’s most prolific stars in the nineties. While the album didn’t move a ton of units or garnish a ton of critical acclaim, its controversial singles “Fuck Compton” and “Step To Me” fired blatant (and unwarranted) shots at Tim Dog’s west coast counterparts that created a platform for his voice to be heard. For a few moments, at least. The dog would return in 1993 with his second album, Do Or Die.
Do Or Die would come without the same controversy that surrounded Penicillin On Wax, and it also didn’t move a ton of units or receive heaps of critical acclaim. I’ve had Do Or Die for a few years, but this is my first time listening to the album in its entirety.
To know I was that close to having Penicillin On Wax, only to let it slip through my fingers, still bothers me, almost a month later. Since Do Or Die was coming up soon on my review list, it just seemed like fate that Penicillin On Wax would fall into my possession so I could review them back to back. Man plans, God Laughs.
I Don’t Give A Fuck – Tim Dog opens Do Or Die with a simple, but dope, instrumental that he uses to brag about his dopeness. And he manages to throw a quick jab at his favorite target, DJ Quik. Solid start to the evening.
Grab Your Gat – Over a dark and hard instrumental, Tim Dog talks more shit and advises all competitors to grab a gat before stepping to the dog. Tim is far from a great emcee, but he does entertain with an occasional clever punchline, like “a lot of niggas talk shit, said that I jerked ’em, that’s funny, I didn’t know you was workin’ (its sounds a lot better on wax then written), and “you’re just a man that’s next ta, if this was a movie you’d be a muthafuckin’ extra”. Someone called Preacher Earl provides adlibs at the song’s intro, during the hook, and then spits a few unimpressive bars as the song closes. As I mentioned a few sentences ago, Tim Dog’s flow is not that nice, but his rugged voice sounds dope over the hard Maurice Mo’ Gallegos/Ray Roll/ DJ Tony Touch concocted backdrop.
I Get Wrecked – Fellow Bronx native, KRS-One joins the dog on this duet. KRS-One, who was definitely in his prime in ’93, raps circles around our host (yes Tim, you got MOYOS) displaying a bit of the skill that easily makes him one of the top ten emcees of all time (“now don’t say nothin’ while I’m deckin’ ya’, causin’ hysteria, been in more battles than America”). Tim drops slightly comical rhymes and takes shots that, on the surface, sounds like their aimed at The Sugarhill Gang. But if you peel back the layers, it sounds like they were more so may aimed at Das EFX, considering Das had just blown up the previous year with their stutter style (“skibby-bepop, bepop, Scooby Doo, that bullshits not me, that bullshit is you”). And remember, Tim’s guest KRS-One, was feuding with the dreaded duo around this time as well. Yeah, I know he gives the Hit Squad a shoutout at end of the album, but I’m sticking with my theory. The TR Love/Moe Love produced instrumental is barely decent (the remix has a slightly improved backdrop), but the king and court jester chemistry between Kris and Tim makes this one pretty entertaining.
Timberlands – Back in the day when my boys and I used to freestyle over instrumentals and make real mixtapes (they were literally recorded on cassette tapes), I actually freestyled (and sung) my own ode to my favorite brand of boot, Timberland. So, it was a pleasant surprise to hear Tim Dog share the same sentiment. Unfortunately, like my Timberland freestyle, Tim’s song is also garbage. Wait…did he just say he wears his Timbs when he’s hittin’ skinz?
If I Was A Cop – Tim uses this one discuss the things he would do if he was a cop, and also calls out crooked cops (yes, crooked cops do exist, even if you have family members that are cops). The song is not great, but the instrumental is kind of dope (especially the live saxophone, courtesy of Jay Davidson).
Hardcore – I love Tim’s eerie low-key instrumental. It sounds like something Extra P would have hooked up back in the day. Tim doesn’t bring much to it lyrically, but he doesn’t completely distract from the backdrop’s understated brilliance.
Game – Tim invites his buddy Truck to join him, as they each spit a verses about runnin’ game on the ladies. Tim’s delivery is pretty elementary, but his hilarious punch lines do entertain (“But I had crazy game, I souped the bitch up and told her I was Big Daddy Kane”, and “from me you gets none, all I got is a hard dick and some bumble gum…and I’m fresh out of gum” ). Unfortunately, Tim’s guest and the instrumental are very forgettable.
Skip To My Loot – Smooth B (one half of Nice & Smooth) drops by to share mic time with the dog. Smooth, who is normally laid back and, um, smooth with his delivery, comes off kind of aggressive on this one, and he sounds pretty nice (I’ve always thought Smooth B was underappreciated and underrated). Tim Dog doesn’t fare as well as he stumbles and bumbles his way through two sloppy verses. Along with Tim Dog’s messy verses, the instrumental and corny hook put this song into the wack category.
Silly Bitch – The song opens with a chick confronting Tim for dissing her on Penicillin On Wax. Tim spends the rest of the song dissing her again. Tim’s instrumental is simple but kind of dope. Speaking of simplistic, Tim’s hook is very simplistic, but still effectively hi-larious.
Maddog – Tim Dog borrows the same McCoy Tyner bass line loop that helped turn Black Sheep’s “The Choice Is Yours” into a mega hit. Of course Tim’s usage of the loop is not nearly as effective, and the hook is downright atrocious.
Make Room – This song would work in a horror movie. Tim Dog’s menacing baritone over the dark backdrop would sound perfect in the next Freddie vs. Jason joint (especially when he repeats the song title a hundred times over after his verses).
Breakin North – Tim Dog gives his shout outs over a slick backdrop (I love the piano loop) before he does what the title suggest (for you youngins, “break north” is slang for “exiting the building”, “peacing out”, “throwin’ up the deuces”, etc.).
Do Or Die is not a classic or great album, but it’s not terrible either. A portion of the album doesn’t work, but thanks to Tim’s charisma and comic relief, a few well placed guest appearances, overall sneaky quality production, and a fit and trim twelve track length, Do Or Die winds up being a decent listen and a justifiable purchase. As long as you buy it used for no more than five dollars.