Kool Moe Dee – Funke Funke Wisdom (June 11, 1991)

We last heard from Kool Moe Dee in 1991 with his third full-length release Knowledge Is King. You can read my thoughts on that album by clicking this link, but in a few words: Knowledge Is King was chalked full of mediocre rhymes and less than stellar production. Regardless of my opinion, the album earned Moe Dee his second consecutive gold plaque. Moe Dee would return in 1991 with his fourth release and very cheesily titled album, Funke Funke Wisdom.

Like the rest of his catalog, Moe Dee would handle a large chunk of the production with a few others contributing, including his long-time production collaborator, Teddy “New Jack Swing” Riley. Funke Funke Wisdom received mixed reviews and was a commercial disappointment that would end up being Moe Dee’s final album on Jive. He would release one more album on an independent label before going on to teach and write books where he would ridiculously proclaimed himself the 5th greatest emcee of all-time (see his book There’s A God On The Mic), two slots before his rival LL Cool J, who clearly one their battle and had a more successful career in the industry…but I digress.

Random  factoid: Did you know that Kool Moe Dee was the first rapper ever to perform life at the Grammy’s? The year was 1989, which was also the first year the Grammy’s gave out a hip-hop related Grammy. The award was for Best Rap Performance. Kool Moe Dee received a nomination for his hit record “Wild Wild West”, but DJ Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Prince would take home the award for their comedic classic “Parents Just Don’t Understand”.

IntroFunke Funke Wisdom begins with a Teddy Riley produced instrumental and soundbites from Kool Moe Dee placed over it, which are apparently supposed to explain the album title.

Funke Wisdom – The first official song of the evening is the title track (well, kind of the title track, just minus one of the “Funke”s) that sonically has Teddy Riley’s new jack swing fingerprints all over it. Moe Dee uses it to do just what the title suggest, as he discusses the ills that come with the pursuit of money, the importance of women in society, and the mathematics behind science and nature. Even though his last album was titled Knowledge Is King, on this song’s final verse he proclaims that “knowledge aint enough, you need funke, funke wisdom”. Contradiction or new-found enlightenment? Whatever the case, this was a decent way to start the evening.

Here We Go Again – Moe Dee starts off the song by basically warning the listeners that he’s going to purposely dumb down his flow for this song, because as he puts it, his “esoteric knowledge is a little too deep for the fans”. Our host raps like an underappreciated emcee with a boulder on his shoulder as he rhymes “my vocabulary’s over their head they can’t understand a word I said, so I got to come with a watered down sound, remedial adjectives, verbs and nouns”. His delivery might be dumbed down, but Moe Dee is still spittin’ bars on this one. The “Atomic Dog” influenced instrumental was trash, though.

To The Beat Y’all – Over a slightly up tempo instrumental, Moe Dee proves that he still has some potent rounds in his rhyming arsenal, as he bends his lyrics with a nimble tongue and pays respect to the old school, and still manages to sneak in a few quick jabs to his long time nemesis, LL Cool J. This was pretty cool, or should I say Kool. I know…I’m corny.

How Kool Can One Blackman Be – This was the lead single from Funke Funke Wisdom. Teddy Riley uses the same James Brown “Papa Don’t Take No Mess” loop that Biz first used for his classic record “Vapors”, and turns it into a smooth groove. Moe Dee then channels his inner Rakim and spits some pretty solid bars over it. I remember this song from back in the day, but definitely didn’t appreciate it as much as I do today. This is dope.

Bad, Bad, Bad – Moe Dee sticks with a subdue monotone flow, and like the previous song, it works in his favor. Our host spits more solid bars as he talks his shit over a tough instrumental, that he also produced. On the third verse it sounds like Moe Dee takes a few shots at his Treacherous Three brethren and admits to dumbing down his lyrics in order to make hits on his previous solo albums; but he still demands respect for helping blueprint the lyrical emcee: “but weak rappers and a lack of promotion, made the job hard I had to throw some, weak lyrics together just to get paid, go “See The Doctor” and I got played, the train continued to the “Wild Wild West”, I heard some brother say he aint the best (huh), well take the records that aint well-known, and look around and see all my clones”. Hmmm…interesting perspective. I like this one.

Rise N’ Shine – This was the third single from Funke Funke Wisdom. At the beginning of the song Moe Dee informs the listener that KRS-One and Chuck D will be joining him on this one. You start to think he made a mistake with that comment, as he spits three verses (the first two sound like Chuck D may have written them) before KRS-One and Chuck D round off the final two verses. I’m not a huge fan of Moe Dee’s basic instrumental for this one or his rhymes for that matter, but Mr. Parker lives up to the song title and walks away the illuminated champion of this one.

Mo’ Better – Teddy Riley’s new jack swing meets jazz on this short instrumental interlude. The instrumental is cool, but it feels like a random idea put on the album to fill up space.

I Like It Nasty– KMD might be an intellectual, but he still likes a woman with a mind and who knows how to work her behind. Our host builds his instrumental around the same Mtume loop Kid Capri would use a year later for Grand Puba’s “Back It Up” record. The instrumentals sound almost identical, so it must be Puba’s flow and charisma that bring his song to life, because I didn’t care much for this song.

Death Blow – This was the second single released from Funke Funke Wisdom. LL and Moe Dee had been feuding on record since the late eighties. This is the last dis record of that feud. In my opinion, the instrumental on a dis record is almost as important as the lyrics, and while this instrumental isn’t terrible it’s definitely not strong enough to effectively fire verbal darts at your enemy over. Moe Dee manages to land a few decent blows (i.e. “my lyrical beat down will leave ya in coma, cause you can’t hang without a high school diploma” and “if mama said knock me out come do it, you can’t win and that *scratch* knew it” (the *scratch* covers up “bitch” or “hoe” which kind of takes away from the line’s potency, but it’s still hi-larious)), but overall this was not a strong enough response to overcome the damage LL inflicted on “To Da Break Of Dawn”.

Let’s Get Serious – Moe Dee brings back his monotone Rakim style flow for this one, and he completely demolishes the self-produced backdrop. Well done, Mr. Dewese.

Poetic Justice – The first few times I listened to this song I wasn’t feeling it, but now I appreciate it. The Moe Dee/Keith Spencer/Dale Hogan instrumental will win you over in time, and Moe Dee spits some pretty nice bars too: “awaken, achen, taken codeine, now you’re trying to OD, cause you don’t want none of Moe Dee, pain relievers, won’t relieve ya, suicide won’t do it either, even after I cremate you, I’m a reincarnate you, bring you back for another round, just to put you back in the ground”. Talk your shit Moe Dee!

Gangsta Boogie – Moe Dee uses this one to call out those obsessed with the gangsta lifestyle. The instrumental (which is credited to the trio of Moe Dee, Keith Spencer and Dale Hogan) sounds a lot like BBD’s “I Thought It Was Me”, only not as potent. Overall, this song was decent, I guess.

Times Up – The last song on Funke Funke Wisdom is an exercise in mediocrity. And with that, we’re done.

On Funke Funke Wisdom, an aging Moe Dee proves that he still has a few rounds left in his lyrical holster. But only a few. For every song that he spits bars, there’s a song that he spits trash. And on the production side, for every dope instrumental, there’s three garbage ones. Funke Funke Wisdom is not a terrible listen, but it is very uneven, especially coming from the self-proclaimed 5th greatest emcee of all-time.

-Deedub

 

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