By 1993, the paradigm in hip-hop had shifted. New York, the mecca of hip-hop, had dominated the streets and charts since its commercial beginnings with the Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” back in 1980, but thanks in large part to Dr. Dre and Snoop who helped usher in the G-Funk era, the West Coast was dominating radio and the charts for the first time. You still had some artist making noise on the East coast (i.e. the Native Tongue collective, LL Cool J, Gang Starr), but nothing matched the hardness and gangster swag of the West. Until Black Moon entered da stage.
Black Moon was the Brooklyn based three-man collective consisting of Buckshot Shorty, 5Ft. Excellerator, and one half of the production team known as Da Beatminerz, DJ Evil Dee. Buckshot, who would pretty much become the voice of Black Moon, wasn’t a part of the original conception of the crew (they actually went by the name Unique Image before wisely switching their name to Black Moon), but after the lead emcee of the original group left because, as Buckshot says in Brian Coleman’s book Check The Technique, “he thought that a record deal was taking to long”, Buckshot, who was a dancer first, decided to put away his dancing shoes and pick up the mic, and the roster that the world would know as Black Moon was formed. The trio began their quest for a deal in early 1991, signed with Nervous in February of 1993, and would release their debut album Enta Da Stage in the fall of that same year.
Evil Dee and his older brother (and production mentor) Mr. Walt (collectively known as the Da Beatminerz) would handle all of the production work on Enta Da Stage. The album sold a decent amount of units and was heralded as a classic by most critics and fans.
Let’s revisit Enta Da Stage and see if it lives up to those accolades.
Powaful Impak! – Enta Da Stage opens with a dirty boom-bap backdrop courtesy of Evil Dee, and a young and eager Buckshot Shorty warming up for the rest of the album. This was a nice way to start things and get the listener ready for what’s to come.
Niguz Talk Shit – Now this is hip-hop. From the muffled drums, to the grimy bass line, to the warm horn loops, to Buckshot’s gritty and aggressive shit talkin’; this is what hip-hop is supposed to sound like. This is a guaranteed head noddin’-screw-face classic.
Who Got Da Props? – This was the first single released from Enta Da Stage. Evil Dee slows things down with his smooth and melodic instrumental, as Buckshot displays a third different style in as many songs. This is a classic.
Ack Like U Want It – I remember buying this on cassette back in the day and this song wasn’t on it, but it was on the cd version that I bought a little later after my cassette was eaten by my boombox. 5Ft. Excellerator makes his first appearance of the evening, as he and Buckshot share microphone duties. Da Beatminerz instrumental is a bit cleaner and bouncier than the other songs on the album, but it’s still an enjoyable listen.
Buck ‘Em Down – And we’re right back to the grime. I love Evil Dee’s instrumental, but Buckshot’s ability to adapt his style to go with any instrumental at any BPM, is severely underrated. Side Note: the smoothed out remix to this is even sicker than the original mix. You don’t believe me? Go ahead, listen to it on YouTube and then find your way back and finish reading this post.
Black Smif-N-Wessun – Tek and Steele, better know as Smif-N-Wessun, join Buckshot, as the three bless Evil-Dee’s dark banger (and even though I have no idea what the guy is saying in the vocal sound bite, it’s arguably the sickest sound bite that I’ve ever heard). Tek and Steele are decent, but Buckshot easily has the best verse on this one.
Son Get Wrec – After a Buckshot dominated first half of the album, 5Ft Excellerator shows up for only the second time so far on Enta Da Stage, and this time he gets a solo joint. Evil-Dee’s instrumental is dope and 5Ft sounds decent over it, but this song makes it very clear why Buckshot was the dominate emcee throughout Enta Da Stage.
Make Munne – Just in case you were wondering, “Munne” is the ebonic spelling for “money”. Over a hard and grimy Mr. Walt produced backdrop, Buckshot worships the all mighty dollar bill. This is one of my least favorite songs on the album, but it’s still solid.
Slave – 3rd Bass and Main Source both sampled the same 9th Creation record that Evil Dee uses to build his backdrop around , and while Large Professor’s interpretation of the loop might be the strongest of the three, there is no doubt that Buckshot has the tightest bars out of those same three songs. Another strong record for an already banger filled album.
I Got Cha Opin – Speaking of bangers, Mr. Walt hooks up a nasty headnodder for Buckshot to, um, get open over. It’s amazing how Buckshot can match the grit of Mr. Walt’s instrumental, then come back and do a complete 180 and melodically float over Evil Dee’s breezy Isaac Hayes sampling remix. And both versions are equally dope.
Shit Iz Real – This is arguably my favorite song on Enta Da Stage. Evil Dee does a flawless job on the production side (I love the warm horn loop placed at the beginning of the song and brought in during the hook…and the keyboard sample from Faze-O’s “Riding High” is placed perfectly), and as usual, Buckshot obliterates the track and makes it sound easy in the process.
Enta Da Stage – Take out the first two sentences of my thoughts about “Make Munne” and insert the rest here.
How Many MC’s… – This was released as the B-side to the “Who Got Da Props?” single , but kind of ended up being its own single (the video for it was pretty ill), and is one of only two songs on Enta Da Stage that both parts of Da Beatminerz get credit for producing. Buckshot takes the mid-tempo banger and turns it into a classic record with his incredible lyrical display.
U Da Man – If there is one song that I had to leave off of Enta Da Stage, this is that song. Buckshot and 5Ft Excellerator invite one of the EP’s of Enta Da Stage and future co-founder of Duck Down Music, Dru-Ha, aka the ill Caucasian (who according to his verse on this song “always gets the pussy cause I tell ’em that I’m Spanish”…which reminds me of another pet peeve of mine: When people refer to “Spanish” as an ethnic background…it’s a language, people!!), Tek and Steele (Smif-N-Wessun) and Havoc from Mobb Deep to join them on this album ending cipher joint. Sadly, Prodigy didn’t make the song because he was in the hospital due to complications with sickle cell anemia when it was recorded. Nearly 25 years later, complications with that sickness would end up claiming Prodigy’s life. Time is truly illmatic. Rest in peace, P.
Enta Da Stage is a muffled, gritty and grimy exhibition of excellent hip-hop recorded in arguably the greatest time period in hip-hop’s history, the golden era. From beginning to end Da Beatminerz masterfully mash-up dusty drums and filthy bass lines with rough guitar licks and beautiful horn loops, while Buckshot (sorry 5Ft) plays the conductor, switching his flow up like he suffers from bipolar disorder. And not only does he hold the listener’s attention, but he mesmerizes with his colorful voice and entertains with his quality lyricism. Even with the barely decent posse cut “U Da Man”, Enta Da Stage is nearly flawless and a sure shot classic.
In Brian Coleman’s book Don’t Sweat The Technique, Mr. Walt’s quoted as saying “People say different things about how it went down, but technically we were the ones who brought hip-hop back to the East Coast at the time. Us and Wu-Tang- not Nas and Biggie.” He’s got a point.