If you read this blog faithfully then you are already fully aware that I believe the UMC’s debut album Fruits of Nature is severely underrated (and if you didn’t you know now; but you can read my full thoughts about Fruits of Nature by clicking here). Even with two pretty well received singles, the album didn’t move a ton of units and most hip-hop heads didn’t know what to think of the Staten Island duo’s everyday Joe persona. If nobody else believed in the UMC’s, their label Wild Pitch did, as they would return two years later to release their follow-up album, Unleashed.
Haas G and RNS (a Staten Island producer who would go on to produce tracks for some of the Wu-Tang Clan affiliates) handled all the production work on Fruits of Nature, but this time around Haas and Kool Kim would keep the production work in-house and are both credited for the entirety of Unleashed‘s production. The album would go on to make even less noise than it’s predecessor, as it would produce no hot singles, nor would it sell enough copies to even earn a wood plaque, thus marking the end to the short-lived era of the UMC’s (Kool Kim would reinvent himself in the early 2000’s as the solo hardcore/conscious emcee, NYOIL, but that was short-lived as well).
I’m not sure if Unleashed‘s failure was do to poor marketing on Wild Pitch’s behalf or if it was just a trash body of work. The fact that I didn’t even know Unleashed existed until a few years ago makes me feel it may be the former, but since this is my first time listening to the album, I’ll…unleash my finding when I’m done.
Time To Set It Straight – The UMC’s start things off with a solid mid-tempo groove, as both Haas G and Kool Kim spit two verses, and it quickly becomes apparent that they’re moving with a different energy this time around. They actually sound a lot like the post-Diggidy era Das EFX (Kool Kim more so than Haas G), with Kool Kim sounding more polished than his partner, as he serves you “hot buttered soul” on his “hip-hop roll” (shoutout to Isaac Hayes). Even with the obvious swagger jacking, I like this one.
We Go – The UMC’s hook up a hard backdrop with a nasty bass line, as they go back and forth trying to demolish it. They don’t quite accomplish their goal, but they do a decent job with the dope instrumental. It would have been nice to hear Das EFX jump on this track with our hosts.
Evil Ways – The UMC’s take the energy level down a bit with this slick backdrop, complete with a catchy vocal sample taken from Santana’s song with the same title. Haas and Kim spit darker rhymes than UMC fans are accustomed to hearing, but they still sound decent.
Hit The Track – The duo continue to delve into their new-found high-energy rapid pace flow over a less than spectacular instrumental. Haas and Kim sound cool, but the instrumental is barely passable, and that vocal sample gets annoying as hell after the first listen.
What’s Up – Our hosts hook up a rough backdrop that they use it to talk shit and spit unbelievable battle rhymes over. This one could have been left on the cutting room floor.
Staten Island Comes First – Kim and Haas rep for their borough over a laid back jazzy instrumental. Kim cleverly sneaks in a shoutout to Martin Lawrence for putting up a poster of the Fruits of Nature album cover in his apartment for the first few seasons of the classic sitcom Martin, as he raps “I get up (ya gets down) that’s what I’m about, then hang around Martin Lawrence’s house, niggy check me out”. Side note: Martin also had a poster of Tupac’s 2Pacalypse Now album cover in his apartment for the first few seasons.
Ill Demonic Clique – Haas and Kim invite 3.,2.,1., Gold Rush and RUX, collectively known as the Ill Demonic Clique, to join them on this posse joint. The five emcees bypass an unnecessary hook and relentlessly spit high energy bars, keeping the microphone moving around the cipher over the stripped down, but very dope, instrumental. 3.,2.,1., outshines his hungry bredrin with lines like “I grab the mic emcees start surfin’, let your rhymes collect unemployment checks cause they ain’t workin'” and “I get the urge, I kill you with my verbs, so put on a condom and fuck what ya heard” or “And beware when I get the rough vibes, I killed a nigga twelve times, because he had nine lives”. This was sick. I would have loved to hear an album from the trio, that the UMC promised was coming in the liner notes but never materialized.
Some Speak Ill Thoughts – The UMC’s hook up an ill bleak backdrop reminiscent of some Premo-in-his-prime-type shit. They match the instrumental’s dark vibes and live up to the song’s title as Kim spits rhymes like “I be a real hypocrite, low-life, yet male chauvinistic, sexist sleazebag my best characteristic, I’m a pathological liar, my father don’t trust me, shit if I were you I’d bust me, cause even I disgust me” and Haas rhymes :”Elevatin’ from the pits of hell screamin’, I’m the demon, created by society’s evil semen”. This was sick (in a good way) and easily my favorite song on Unleashed.
Whoa Now – This song is so forgettable that even though I’ve listened to Unleashed from beginning to end, at least ten times in the past few weeks, I still can’t remember what the song sounds like when I see the song title.
Pleasure In The Dark – This song must have been recorded before Haas and Kim decided to morph into the dark and edgy emcees they’ve been for most of Unleashed. The instrumental is pleasant and the duo both rap in a style similar to how they sounded on Fruits of Nature, only more polished. I like this one.
Can You Feel It – This sounds like it could have found a home on Fruits of Nature. Well, at least the instrumental, which is a mid-tempo groove with an understated soul feel to it. Kim and Haas sound comfortable rhyming over it as they ride it, nearly to perfection.
How It Gotta Be – The instrumental has nice warm feel good vibes written all over it, but don’t let that fool you. Haas and Kim (more so Kim) are in asshole mode, as they take off the gentlemen like tendencies they displayed on Fruits of Nature‘s break-up song “Woman Be Out” and get super blunt on this one, telling the ladies “if you ain’t fuckin’ than get out”. If the verses from the once “nice guy” emcees weren’t harsh enough to make you clutch your gold chains, wait until you hear the perverse adlibs from the duo and their crew as the song fades out; 2 Live Crew would even feel uncomfortable listening to them.
Gotta Be Sure – Much like “Pleasure In The Dark”, the instrumental and the UMC’s flow has Fruits of Nature’s energy dripping all over it. I love the soulful backdrop on this one.
My Thing – The final song of the evening has the self-proclaimed “undisputed masters of charisma” rhyming over a trash instrumental and shouting an extremely corny hook. This was not a good way to end the album.
Gone are the wholesome emcees that UMC fans became accustomed to on Fruits of Nature. Unleashed finds Haas G and Kool Kim running wild, as they turn into hardcore foul-mouthed ruffnecks with no morals, which is why Kool Kim probably didn’t feel guilty for stealing Das EFX rhyming style. As much as I love Fruits of Nature, I like the duo’s edginess and their rhyming sounds more polished on Unleashed. Pound for pound, Fruits of Nature is the better body of work, mainly due to better overall production and two classic singles in “Blue Cheese” and “One To Grow On” (which Unleashed lacks), but like Fruits of Nature, Unleashed is a solid album that should have gotten more love than it received.