What is a Yaggfu Front? Well, it was a short-lived North Carolina based rap trio consisting of D’Ranged & Damaged, Spin 4th and Jingle Bel. “Yaggfu” is actually an acronym for “You are gonna get fucked up” (if you) front. I’m not super familiar with their back story but the trio managed to snag a record deal with Mercury and released their debut album Action Packed Adventure in 1994, which I’m pretty sure would make them the first hip-hop group out of North Carolina to release an album on a major label (feel free to hit me in the comments if I’m incorrect).
With the exception of three tracks, all of the production work on Action Packed Adventure was handled by Yaggfu Front. The album did receive favorable reviews upon its release (including a respectable 3.5 mics from The Source), but didn’t do so well on SoundScan. The poor sells would lead to the trio eventually fading away forever like George Jefferson’s hair-line (RIP Sherman Hemsley).
A few months ago I found a used copy of Action Packed Adventure for a couple of dollars and figured I check it out since I vaguely remember seeing one of their videos on BET’s Rap City (remember that show?) back in the day. This post marks my first time listening to the album, so let’s see if Action Packed Adventure lives up to it’s name.
Fanfare & Previews – Since Action Packed Adventure is supposed to play as a movie, it’s only right that it starts off with some fanfare and previews, right? After a ghetto chick gives instructions to the audience how to conduct themselves during the movie (before anyone gets their panties all in a bunch over the term “ghetto chick”, listen to the song and then you’ll understand what I mean) a preview for a movie, that I don’t know the name of due to poor clarity on Yaggfu Front’s behalf, about a 2 legged police dog (one in the front and one in the back) plays, followed by a song from that fictional movie’s fictional soundtrack by the fictional rap group The Really Hard Muthafuckas. After that bit of comic relief, a slightly somber but very epic instrumental plays, while a distorted voice introduces the members of Yaggfu Front to the listener, or the audience. This reasonably entertaining intro ends with some girls dissin’ Yaggfu’s kicks, setting up the next song…
Where’d You Get Your Bo Bo’s? – For you younger readers (if I actually have any younger readers), “Bo-Bo’s” is a slang term for cheap sneakers (i.e. Kangaroos or any sneakers you can buy at Payless or Wal-Mart). Yaggfu’s rhymes have absolutely nothing to do with the song title and hook, as they pretty use this one to introduce themselves to the world, shoutout their peeps and their home state, North Carolina. The jazzy backdrop is cool, but it would have been nice for the first real song of the evening to have a little more energy.
Trooper 101 – New Vibe Messengers (I’ve never heard of them either) hook up a funk backdrop with jazzy horns sprinkled in for additional flavor. It sounds like something EPMD and A Tribe Called would concoct if they did a production collaboration. Our hosts use it to light-heartily discuss their run ins with the po-po. Not a terrible song, but it also doesn’t have much replay value.
Mr. Hook – On this one the NC trio are apparently captured by pirates (“Mr. Hook” as in Captain Hook) and forced to walk the plank to their deaths. I’m not sure if their story is supposed to be taken at face value or if there is a deeper hidden meaning. I really could care less, but the instrumental for this track is a thing of beauty.
Busted Loop – By this point of Action Packed Adventure it’s very clear that 4th Spin, Damaged and Jingle Bel are not great emcees, but they definitely know how to craft quality instrumentals. The trio hooks up yet another enjoyable jazz flavored backdrop with a dope swing vibe to it.
Fruitless-Moot – Dope drums, bass line and flute loop (courtesy of New Vibe Messengers). Everything else about this song is fruitless and moot.
Black Liquid – Jingle Bel and Spin 4th share a weird tale about a college science course experiment that takes an unusual twist after Spin 4th drinks the black liquid concoction from one of the beakers and (wait for it) it turns him into a lyrical monster. Well, we know this story is fiction. The storyline is very cheesy, but I love Yaggfu’s drowsy jazz instrumental work on this one.
Slappin’ Suckas Silly (LP Remix) – I’ve never heard the original, and after listening to this remix I’m in no rush to hear the original.
Action Packed Adventure – I have no idea what our hosts are rhyming about on this title track, but I’m a sucker for xylophone loops in hip-hop songs.
Left Field – On this one Jingle Bel, Damage and 4th Spin take turns to talk about a time when they were pussies, I mean, scared to step to woman that they were attracted to. I love the organ loop laced throughout this song.
Hold ‘Em Back (What’s The Meaning?) – This song has one of the funkiest bass lines I’ve heard so far for my ’94 posts. And when you combine the bass line with the angelic-like vocal loop and the high energy hook (damn I miss all those super-hyped group chant choruses from the nineties), this song is pretty entertaining.
Uptown Downtown – Yaggfu Front continues to impress with their production. They take a break from the heavy dosage of jazz loops and lay down a funky little diddly to spit their below average rhymes over.
Frontline – On this one the trio talk about how men front about who they are and what they have in order to impress the ladies and get what they want. None of their verses are memorable, but the instrumental, which is built around a wavy Roy Ayers loop, is beautiful and as smooth as a baby’s ass.
Sweet Caroline – Yaggfu Front builds the instrumental around a dope loop from the Gap Band’s rendition of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline”. And even though Charlie Wilson sings “Caroline” instead of “Carolina”, it still works as a slick shoutout to the trio’s home state. Speaking of shoutouts, that’s exactly what Yaggfu Front uses this instrumental to do. Well done, fellas.
My Dick Is So Large (Bonus Track) – The final song of the evening is hi-larious. Damage, Spin and Jingle are in full clown mode as they take turns boasting about the size of their jimmies. Minnesota (who would go on to produce songs for Grand Puba, Lil’ Kim, Big Pun and Mos Def, just to name a few) gets the production credit and hooks up a decent backdrop for the trio, but this may be the only song on Action Packed Adventure that Yaggfu Front actually sounds more entertaining than the production.
Action Packed Adventure proves Jingle Bel, D’Ranged N Damage and Spin 4th all to be sub-par emcees. None of the three establish their own identity on the mic, as they all rap in the same monotone voice, and more often than not, their vocals are overtaken by their production and get lost in the instrumentals. You won’t get any lyrical mastery from these guys, but if you’re looking for quality nineties production, you’ve come to the right album. From beginning to end the production work on Action Packed Adventure is solid with a large chuck of it being really damn good. There really is no reason why Yaggfu Front should have made a second album, but I’m shocked they didn’t go on to produce for other artists.
Groups like this were destined to only have one album. The west coast was ruling the hip hop landscape with more product and the hip hop buying fanbase only had so many dollars to spend,myself included. Add the insane sample ciearance laws with low record sales and before you know it artists are getting dropped after one album. As for this album the production is nice but the mcing is very hard to listen to, like a bad joke that only Yaggu Front knows the punchline to it. A great concept, bad execution.
Sorry you didn’t like it, but we didn’t get dropped. We left with our masters, and have been making music the whole time. It was a successful school project that proved we could get a record deal, and it worked. We didn’t make any other albums but we haven’t stopped getting offers for thirty years. Sometimes it’s really about the art.
I’m not sure the author knows what “monotone” means. YAGGFU had distinct voices and it had multiple tones/pitch. I just re-listened to the album again and I can hear them yelling, annunciating, projecting, etc. These guys weren’t Red and Meth or anything with the lyrics, but they made a fun solid album for the 90’s. Don’t front.
The beats were dope, but their rhymes didn’t do it for me. Thanks for reading, though.
This review is so inaccurate, I can only wish you the best in your blogging career. Really hope you step it up.
I mean 3 1/2 mics in The Source Magazine was good but left room for improvement. It’s ok to be curious about how we sound now. Maybe we made up the deficit..