Through the years hip-hop has seen many acts come into the game blazing hot and shining bright, only to fade away like the traces of smoke left in the air after a firework’s explosion. Not many have shined as bright, blazed as hot, and faded away as quickly as the subject of today’s post. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, Boss.
Years before Eminem would become a hip-hop icon and represent for his hometown of Detroit, The female emcee Boss (along with her partner in rhyme/deejay, Dee) would put Detroit on the proverbial hip-hop map. Though Boss was originally from Detroit, her rap career wouldn’t get a spark until she moved from Detroit to Los Angeles, where she was discovered by DJ Quik, which would lead to her making a cameo on Quik’s homeboy, AMG’s song “Mai Sista Izza Bitch”. This cameo caught the attention of a few different labels, including Def Jam co-founder Russell Simmons, who quickly signed Boss to the Def Jam West imprint where she would release her debut album Born Gangstaz .
As the album title suggest, Born Gangstaz would be filled with gangster tales and backed with production from some respected names in the game (that we’ll get to shortly). The album received favorable reviews and moved a decent amount of units. The album’s sells seemed to stall after an interview Boss did with the Wall Street Journal came out, which had Boss speaking about her middle-class-two parent-home-private-school-going-tap-dance-lesson-taking-upbringing. Of course, many begin to believe she was a fraud since she came from a sheltered life and spewed gangster themes. Yes, Lichelle “Boss” Laws was from Detroit, but not the tough hood she talked about throughout Born Gangstaz . Boss claimed that after she and Dee moved to L.A. they lived in the hood where they sold drugs to survive for a while. But even if Boss’ gangster bars were lies and her drug dealing stories are a farce, how many of your favorite gangster rappers actually lived the life they talk about in their rhymes? Furthermore, Born Gangstaz is punctuated with a tongue in cheek intro and outro that feature Boss’ parents mentioning the proper upbringing they gave their daughter and their disappointment in the gangster lifestyle she claims to live on the album. So to the critics (and so-called fans), I pose the question Jay-Z once asked: “Do you fools listen to music or do you just skim through it?”
Born Gangstaz is Boss’ only album to date, as she was dropped from Def Jam and never resigned to another label. She would go on to have a son, move to Texas where she hosted a radio show for a few years, and later became sick with kidney issues, and even after a successful transplant she has continued to have health issues through the years.
Intro: A Call From Mom – Like I mentioned above, Born Gangstaz opens with Boss’ explicit voicemail greeting coming on, and her appalled mother clutching her pearls as she leaves a message expressing her disgust with Boss’, I mean, Lichelle’s, vulgar language, which she finds unacceptable since Boss, I mean, Lichelle, took tap dance lessons, went to a private school, and college. The intro kind of lightens the mood, and served as a reminder to the listener that Born Gangstaz is strictly for entertainment.
Deeper – This was the lead single from Born Gangstaz . Def Jef loops up a portion of Gwen McCrae’s “90% Of Me Is You” for the smooth backdrop, as our host gets introspective and confronts her inner demons. Right off the bat Boss proves that she can spit. And her skills and dope voice over this sick backdrop make for a classic record.
Comin’ To Getcha – Erick Sermon gets his first of two production credits on Born Gangstaz on this one. The backdrop has the green-eyed bandit’s signature muffled rumbling bass line and funk written all over, and Boss uses it to send out violent threats to anyone in earshot. I wasn’t the biggest fan of E-Double’s production post EPMD’s first break-up. Yeah, he managed to create some dope instrumentals, but a large portion of his production work during that timeframe ranged from mediocre to trash. This one falls in the former category.
Mai Sista Izza Bitch – This is the AMG record Boss made the cameo on that ultimately got her signed to Def Jam West (it was originally released on AMG’s 1991 album Bitch Betta Have My Money). Boss uses the first two verses of the song to try to take the sting out of the word “bitch”, before AMG comes in on the third verse and completely unravels everything she was trying to accomplish. The instrumental (which is also produced by AMG) is cool, but the song’s concept and content are weak.
Thelma And Louise – This interlude references the early nineties movie that starred Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis as two outlaws on the run. The interlude has Boss and her sidekick Dee, involved in a shootout with police, before going into the next song…
Drive By – Boss’ deejay, Dee, makes her first appearance on the mic on this one. Someone going by the moniker of Stone Tha Lunatic (the newest candidate for worst moniker of the year) gets credit for the mediocre backdrop for what starts off sounding like Dee will be doing this drive-by solo, then Boss interrupts Dee on the song’s final verse to lend a helping hand. Because any fool knows the key to a successful drive-by is having an accomplice. Somebody has to drive while the other party shoots, right?
Progress Of Elimination – This was the third single from Born Gangstaz , and a song that I completely forgot about. Def Jef hooks up a fast paced high energy instrumental that Boss uses to discuss her progression in the drug game by eliminating her competition, which she even considers to be her own team. Jef’s backdrop is a monster, and Boss rides it like a veteran jockey on a horse. This was dope.
Livin’ Loc’d – Sticky Fingaz (from Onyx) drops by to add some adlibs and energy to the chorus (and call our host a bitch, here and there), as Boss boasts about her gangster lifestyle. Chyskillz and Jam Master Jay get credit for the decent backdrop, but you’ll probably forget about this one as soon as it’s over.
Recipe Of A Hoe – This was the second single from Born Gangstaz . Boss attempts to flip the gender roles on this one, as she calls out the dudes that will stick their dick in any warm and wet vagina (hell, it can be cold and dry too) they can get their hand on. Nice try, but it still doesn’t have the same effect as a man calling a woman a hoe. The real star of this one is Mic Professah who hooks up a brilliantly bluesy backdrop (tongue twister mucher!).
A Blind Date With Boss – Corny interlude.
Catch A Bad One – More violence verses from Boss and Dee over an average Def Jef produced instrumental.
Born Gangsta – It’s always nice when the title track (well, sort of title track…it is missing a “z”) of an album bangs. Thanks to a dope bouncy instrumental courtesy of AMG, Courtney Branch and Tracy Kendrick, this song does just that. Boss sounds dope spittin’ over it, while her partner in rhyme shows why she shouldn’t quit her day job.
1-800-Body-Bags – Interlude.
Diary Of A Mad Bitch – She pump faked us on “Drive By”, but this one is really a Dee solo joint. I’m not sure how skilled of a deejay Dee is, but she’s not that nice on the mic. To make matters worse, she does this annoying stuttering/tongue rolling thing periodically throughout her rhymes (and not just on this song…she does it on each and every one of her verses on Born Gangstaz ). If it’s some sort of speech impediment, my bad. But if not, that shit ain’t cool. MC Serch and T-Ray (who also produced some tracks on Funkdoobiest’s Which Doobie U B?) get the credit for the instrumental, which isn’t stellar, but decent.
2 To Da Head – Boss and Dee do more hardcore shit talking on this one. On her second verse, Dee refers to Boss as a gang, which is confusing since I thought Boss was an individual and Dee was her deejay. I’m starting to wonder if they themselves didn’t think that one through all the way, and were kind of figuring it out along the way. Erick Sermon gets his second and final production credit of the evening, and everything I said about his work on “Comin’ To Getcha” applies to this song as well.
I Don’t Give A F*ck – So, just in case the rest of the album didn’t convince you of how gangster the duo are, Boss and Dee figured they’d end the album giving everyone and everything the middle finger. Serch and T-Ray come together again for their second production credit on Born Gangstaz , and like their work on “Diary Of A Mad Bitch”, it’s only middle of the road.
Outro: A Call From Dad – The album ends with a voicemail from Boss’ dad, who like her mom on the intro, shows disdain for Boss’ foul mouth voicemail greeting, before telling her to call him, and hilariously, thanking her for the Rolex that her filthy mouth lyrics helped pay for.
If Born Gangstaz was a five song ep it would be a nearly flawless project. But it’s not. It a 17 track (when you count the intro, outro and interludes) full length album that misses way more often than it hits. There is no question that Boss can spit. The problem is her (and her unimpressive partner in rhyme (and crime)) gangster rhetoric and posturing becomes redundant by the midway point of the album. When you add the mediocre production to the equation, the end result is a less than stellar debut album. But I am still curious to what a sophomore project from the Boss would have sounded like.