We last heard from the Intelligent Hoodlum in 1990 with his self-titled debut album. While the album didn’t move a ton of units some of it singles (“Back To Reality” and “Arrest The President”) made enough noise for A&M/Polygram Records to green light a follow-up project. The intellectual thug would return in 1993 with his sophomore effort, Saga of A Hoodlum.
With Saga of A Hoodlum the Intelligent Hoodlum would begin to shed his old alias and replace it with his new one, Tragedy (years later that would morph into Tragedy Khadafi). Tragedy’s debut album was surrounded with a little controversy, as Marley Marl was given the production credit for several songs that Large Professor actually produced (even Tragedy will vouch for that). This time around Marley Marl, along with his apprentice K-Def, would handle the bulk of the production load. Much like Intelligent Hoodlum, Saga of A Hoodlum didn’t move a ton of units, and came and went like the summer months it was released in. It wouldn’t be until the new millennium that Trag would release another album, as he would re-emerge, as his much more thugged out persona, Tragedy Khadafi. But that’s a story for another day.
Shalom A Leck – Tragedy opens Saga of A Hoodlum with a raw and stripped down K-Def instrumental (with a funky little piano loop sprinkled throughout), and spits a quick freestyle verse that feels like he’s warming up for the rest of the album.
Hoodlum Intro – A short instrumental plays and it’s punctuated with our host saying “hoodlum is the past, intelligent is the future”. This would lead one to believe that our host is maturing…until they hear him get ratchet in the very next song.
Underground – The song opens with a beautiful trumpet loop, before the hard beat drops and Tragedy and his buddy, Trag-Lo, exchange verses. Tragedy says what may be the funniest rhyme off all time in his second verse when he spits “I do a backflip into a split, grab my dick, pick-up the glock and load the clip”. No matter how many times I hear that line I still literally lol when I visualize somebody actually doing all that shit (and his next line about being “so funky that my pen smells like shit” keeps the lol going). Based on the trumpet loop laced throughout the song, I would have guessed that Marley Marl produced this one, but the credit goes to K-Def, which shouldn’t be too surprising considering he was Marley’s production protégé.
Funk Mode – More funky horns courtesy of K-Def, who also uses the same Lou Donaldson loop that’s been flipped a million times before. Our host spits more freestyle bars and serves the quality backdrop justice.
Grand Groove – Tragedy dedicates this one to all his “peoples that passed away”, even though his rhymes have nearly nothing to do with his deceased crew. K-Def hooks up a beautifully somber backdrop that’s built around the same Isaac Hayes loop that Marley used for LL’s “6 Minutes Of Pleasure”. Even with Tragedy’s lack of focus, this was dope.
At Large – Trag gets political on this one, as he calls out the Catholic Church, Clarence Thomas, JFK and honest Abe (I still chuckle every time I hear him refer to Abe Lincoln in plural form (“Lincolns”)). K-Def and Marley Marl get credit for the quality backdrop.
Death Row – Over a cinematic K-Def/Marley Marl produced backdrop, our ex-convict host spits one verse from the prospective of a current death row inmate, chronicling his regrets, frustrations, anger and feeling of betrayal. Tragedy does a great job of making you feel and believe the character he portrays on this one.
Speech (Check The Time) – Short interlude that must have been taken from one of Tragedy’s live shows. The short clip has Trag and one of his partners talking to a crowd about checking the time, thus the song title.
Mad Brothers Know His Name – Tragedy uses this one to kick battle rhymes as he threatens to burn biter’s “mouth like hot sauce” and brags about having more loot then Ebenezer Scrooge. Trag’s rhymes are kind of stale on this one (especially when he makes a Little Rascals reference and says as a kid he was “nappy headed like Stimey”. I’m pretty sure he meant Buckwheat, but whatever), but even worst is the empty Marley Marl/K-Def concocted instrumental.
Pass The Tec – Over a mediocre K-Def backdrop, Havoc (one-half of Mobb Deep) stops by to drop a verse in between Tragedy’s. This song may have the corniest hook (see “pass the tech, we get hot like sex”) that I’ve ever heard on a rap song.
Street Life – Over a mellow mid-temp groove (perfect for midnight marauding), Trag shares the perils of a pregnant teen, a young drug dealer and stick up kid. This was released as a single (well, at least the remix was), and is a very underrated song.
Pump The Funk – Marley makes a little something suitable for pumpage in the jeep and are host gets his floss on over it. Decent enough, I guess.
Role Model – Tragedy puts back on his socially conscious hat for this one, as he addresses the importance of the youth having positive role models (or the lack of them). Kool Tee gets credit for the decent instrumental, and the song ends up sounding pretty decent.
The Posse (Shoot Em Up) – This song was originally released on the soundtrack for Mario Van Peebles movie Posse, which was released about a month prior to Saga of A Hoodlum. I always thought it was a bit odd that they tapped Tragedy for the song, but when you consider the soundtrack was released on A&M Records and that Tragedy was part of the A&M family, it makes perfect sense. Mr. Freaknasti hooks up an instrumental that does a good job of creating a western movie vibe and still manages to stay true to hip-hop’s code. Tragedy uses it to shares some interesting information about the history of the black cowboy and salutes the melanin-havin’-gun-totin’ gunslingers.
Grand Groove (Bonus Mix) – This is easily my favorite song on Saga of A Hoodlum, and ironically it’s not even a part of the proper album. For this remix, K-Def loops up a portion of Patrice Rushen’s “Remind Me” and builds a beautifully emotional canvas for Tragedy to reminisce and show love for his love ones that have passed away. And unlike the original mix, he manages to keep his rhymes focused this time around. Slept on classic.
Funky Roll Outro – Funny piano loop plays shortly bringing Saga of A Hoodlum to an end.
In 2007, Nature Sounds released a double disc featuring Tragedy’s first two albums (Intelligent Hoodlum and Saga of A Hoodlum), which includes the following bonus songs:
Funk Mode (Large Pro Remix) – Extra P, who is one of my favorite hip-hop producers and extremely unrated, gives the remix a rougher feel than the original with his hard-hitting drums. Both mixes work well in their own right.
Live & Direct From The House Of Hits – Tragedy pulls up and old demo from the Marley Marl vaults, and he and fellow Juice Crew alumni, Craig G tag team the mic and sound nice as hell in the process. Marley’s laid back instrumental samples the same James & Bobby Purify “I’m Not Your Puppet” record that Biz Markie used for Grand Daddy I.U’s “Something New”. I think Marley’s aiming his shot at Biz and I.U. at the end of the song when he says “now you know this is the first record you heard this beat with”, but I could be wrong. And after revisiting “Something New” today, bar for bar, I believe I.U. would give both Trag and Craig G a run for their money.
At Large (Marley Mix) – Marley’s instrumental pales in comparison to the original mix he and K-Def hooked up on the proper album. This one could have been burned, buried and forgotten, and not even Tragedy would have thought twice about it.
Saga of A Hoodlum came out in the mist of hip-hop’s golden era, where you had a lot of solid to classic albums being released on a regular basis. Saga of A Hoodlum is not a classic album, but it is definitely a solid effort from the Queenbridge native. For the most part, Marley and K-Def (as well as the lesser known producers on the album) provide quality beats, and Tragedy proves he’s still got it, as he matches the beats with quality rhymes. At least most of the time. Pound for pound Saga of A Hoodlum is better than Trag’s debut, and not a bad add to your collection if you happen to run across it.