It’s fair to say that Das EFX’s debut album Dead Serious had a huge effect on hip-hop. Their platinum selling debut showed off the duo’s unusual and animated style that every emcee and their mama would try to mimic in an attempt to cash in on the success that it brought Das. They say imitation is the highest form of flattery, so in theory you’d think Das felt good about the copycats. But they didn’t. Not only were they not flattered by the biters, they were also getting criticism from some hip-hop heads that felt their stuttering style was a gimmick. So, when they returned in 1993 with their sophomore effort Straight Up Sewaside, they decided to switch things up.
Like Dead Serious, Straight Up Sewaside would have Solid Scheme behind the boards (for all but one of its fourteen tracks), but Dray and Skoob would abandon their stutter style and use a more straight forward rhyming approach this time around. Unlike Dead Serious, Straight Up Sewaside wasn’t a commercial success, but it did receive pretty positive reviews upon its release. I bought the album when it came out back in the day, but honestly don’t remember much about it.
I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad sign of what’s to come.
Intro – Yep.
Undaground Rappa – Straight Up Sewaside starts with a slightly dark Solid Scheme instrumental that Dray and Skoob use to showcase their new straight forward approach to rhyming. Gone are the “iggites” that littered their bars on Dead Serious. But don’t get it twisted, these boys can still rhyme.
Gimme Dat Microphone – This is the lone track on Straight Up Sewaside that Solid Scheme did not produce. Instead, Charlie Marotta cooks up a fire instrumental that reeks of vintage EPMD, and Skoob and Dray serve it up, properly.
Check It Out – The dreaded duo take things right back to the sewer and go hard over this grimy backdrop.
Interlude – It plays exactly how it reads.
Freakit -This was the lead single from Straight Up Sewaside. Solid Scheme lays down a decent backdrop and the duo do to it exactly what the title suggest.
Rappaz – Solid Scheme’s instrumental ironically sounds like something Muggs would have hooked up for some of Das’ number one fans, Funkdoobiest, and that’s actually a compliment. Skoob and Dray briefly resort back to their old ways, reviving the “iggidty” at certain points during the song, and on the second verse, Skoob talks about how public opinion helped influence their decision to change their style up. Interesting.
Interview – After a few sound bites play, Das comes in and talks about how everybody and their mama bit the style that they came in the game with it and made popular. If they’d had only got the style trademarked they could have made a fortune.
Baknaffek – Solid Scheme’s instrumental on this one sounds a lot like their work on “Underground Rappa”. And it was kind of corny to hear them shoutout KRS-One so soon after squashing their short-lived beef with him (“So if you’re drunk, I’ll freak the funk until you’re sober, but still be gettin’ chills when niggas play the bridge is over”).
Kaught In Da Ak – Das briefly steps away from their random rhyming format and uses this dark backdrop (that sounds a lot like the previous track and “Underground Rappa”) to display their storytelling skills. It was a nice change of pace, but Das isn’t even remotely great at the art of storytelling.
Wontu – This one almost put me to sleep.
Krazy With Da Books – Soul meets the sewer on this Solid Scheme backdrop, and Dray and Skoob sound right at home over it, as they take the listener to church.
It’z Like Dat – Solid Scheme’s instrumental kind of reminds me of the siren-like sample that Premo used on Gang Starr’s “Who’s Gonna Take The Weight?”, only not nearly as dope. Actually, this song is pretty boring.
Host Wit Da Most (Rappaz Remix) – In case you missed it in the title, this is a remix to “Rappaz”. It uses the same lyrics as the original, just a different hook and an instrumental built around a lazy loop of Johnny Guitar Walker’s “Superman Lover”. I’ll take the original, thanks.
Technically and sonically, Straight Up Sewaside isn’t a bad album. Gone are the “iggites”, but strangely, Dray and Scoop still manage to sound the same as they did on their debut album (which isn’t a bad thing), and Solid Scheme cooks up a decent to solid batch of backdrops for the dreaded duo to spit on. But over the course of 14 tracks, Das’ random rhyme style with no real themes, begins to sound repetitive, and Solid Scheme’s instrumentals start to run together by the midway point of the album. And while Dead Serious gave us undeniable bangers like “Mic Checka” and “They Want EFX”, Straight Up Sewaside doesn’t have one definitive song it can stand on and be remembered by. Straight Up Sewaside may not be a bad album, but it’s far from great.