While there is no question that New York is hip-hop’s birth place and Mecca, Philadelphia was one of the first cities outside of New York to make a name for themselves in hip-hop, which kind of makes sense, considering it’s only about ninety miles southwest of the Big Apple. The first rapper out of Philly to gain national attention was Schoolly D, to which many credit as being the father of gangsta rap. Schoolly’s pioneering works helped open the door for other Philly groups like DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Cool C (remember “Glamorous Life”?) and the subject of today’s post, Steady B.
From 1986 to 1991 Steady B released 5 albums on Jive RCA. He also helped put together the Hilltop Hustlers (the name was taken from a West Philly gang from the seventies), which was Philly’s version of the Native Tongue and included himself, Cool C, Three Times Dope and other hungry Philly artists. I first heard of Steady B in 1989 when he dropped his Going Steady album, and the only song I remember was the lead single, that was actually a cool love rap with a smooth groove. While digging in the crates at a used record store a few months ago, I came across a copy of Steady’s third release, Let The Hustlers Play. Let The Hustlers Play would include production work from Steady B, two-thirds of Da Youngsta’s daddy and Philly hip-hop pioneering producer, LG The Teacher and The Blastmaster KRS-One. Like the rest of his catalog, Let The Hustlers Play didn’t move a ton of units and only experienced mild success.
On January 2, 1996, Steady B and fellow Philly rappers Cool C and Mark Canty (all part of a short-lived group called C.E.B., which was an acronym for Countin’ Endless Bank)attempted a bank robbery in which Steady played the getaway driver. The robbery was botched and things got even more sticky when Cool C shot and killed a female officer who responded to the bank’s silent alarm. All three were apprehended shortly after the robbery, and all three would get some serious sentencing, including the death sentence for Cool C and a life sentence without parole for Steady B.
And on that dim note, lets get into Let The Hustlers Play.
Let The Hustlers Play – LG the Teacher and Chuck Nice hook up a dope backdrop for Steady B to flex on, as he stunts on cops, celebrates his Hilltop Hustlers crew, and simply talks his shit; all in the spirit of letting the hustlers do their thing. I love it when the title track of an album is a banger. Great way to start the show.
Certified Dope – The energy from the previous song falls a bit with this one. Steady sounds sloppy (and he makes sure to mention his HTH crew at least once in every verse) and he, as well as LG’s instrumental, sounds empty.
The Undertaker – KRS-One gets his first production credit of the evening, as he constructs a slightly dark mid-tempo instrumental for our host (I like the piano loop that he sprinkles throughout the song). Years before Puff Daddy would become the producer (I use that term loosely) that was all over his artists’ records, KRS-One was adlibbing his way through the records he produced for Steady B. For some reason, Steady struggles to keep pace with the mid-tempo backdrop and his sloppiness rises to astronomical proportions on this one (i.e. his Mt. Everest line on the final verse).
I Got Cha – It just dawned on me that The Roots affiliate and fellow Philadelphian, Dice Raw sounds a lot like Steady B…but I digress. Steady and the instrumental are both decent on this one.
Turn It Loose – Steady B spits more braggadocious rhymes over a laid back KRS-One produced track. I love the horn break on this one…but why didn’t Mr. Parker bless us with a verse on this jawn?
Ya Know My Rucka – I still don’t know what “Rucka” means, but who cares? This song is butt.
Serious – KRS-One gets his final production credit of the evening, and I can’t say that I’m all that impressed by it. It’s not terrible, its just a super basic drum beat with no added instrumentation to feel in the empty spaces, but maybe I’m expecting too much from a hip-hop album created in 1988. Steady B does what he can to bring it to life, but his limited talent can only do so much. But in his defense, I don’t even think the Blastmaster himself could of brought life to this flat line.
Do What You Wanna Do – Trash.
Who’s Makin’ Ya Dance – Can I get a question mark from the congregation, please? LG and Chuck Nice spice things up a bit with a deep bass line and a mid-tempo backdrop, as our host tries to convince the listeners that his music is the inspiration for their dancing. I don’t know about all that, but the instrumental is kind of cool and Steady’s word play at certain points of the song is pretty nice.
On The Real Tip – Steady B’s in battle mode on this one. Over a funky LG produced instrumental (with a co-credit going to Steady) Steady sounds like an angry dad screaming on his kids for getting in trouble at school. I like it. Next to the title track, this is my second favorite song on the album.
Through Thick-N-Thin – LG (with a co-production credit going to Steady) loops up a portion of “” and Steady uses it to, correct me if I’m wrong, offer up a couple of hookers for the low-low price of a dollar? Yeah, this song is pretty strange. And I’m still scratching my head trying to figure out what the hell the song title has to do with the song’s content.
Lyrically, Steady B was no Rakim, but he wasn’t terrible. Yes, his cadence and delivery get sloppy at certain points on Let The Hustlers Play, but his confidence makes up for what he lacks in talent. Unfortunately, Steady B’s confidence could not make up for the lackluster production on Let The Hustlers Play. Steady B, KRS-One, LG the Teacher and Chuck Nice all manage to deliver nice production work at different points throughout the album, but most of the album is empty and plain as Jane, sonically.