Since its inception into the music industry, hip-hop has seen many emcees, rappers and acts come and go, or as Nas once so elegantly put it “pop for a minute, spit a sentence then the game will get rid of ya’ll”. 1994 saw a lot of new artist fall under this category, including the subject of today’s post, Simple E.
Erica “Simple E” Williams came on the scene reppin’ New Jersey under the tutelage of the Oakland based musician D’wayne Wiggins (whose name you may recognize as one of the three T’s from Tony! Toni! Tone!). Simple E got her first National exposure in 1993 for the song “Play My Funk” from the Sugar Hill Soundtrack, which D’wayne Wiggins would also produce. The single made some noise and soon after Simple E would release her debut album Colouz Uv Sound on Fox Records in the fall of 1994 (I had no idea Fox even had a music division before this post). D’Wayne Wiggins and Terry T would produce the bulk of Colouz, which didn’t receive a lot of attention from the streets or the critics upon its release.
I came across a used copy of Colouz several moons ago and figured I’d get to it one day. And that someday is now.
Kum Follow Me – Simple E kicks off Colouz with a laid back cool groove (produced by Terry T) that she tip toes on, methodically weaving through the track like Double Dutch ropes as she abstractly talks her shit. Her rhyming style sounds like a mix of the Da Brat and Bahamadia, and that’s not an insult. This was a dope way to start the evening.
Day Ain’t Reade – D’wayne Wiggins gets his first production credit of the evening, as he lays down a dope mid-tempo jazzy groove that our host devours like a bear does its prey. Well done, D&E.
De Abyss – Over a melancholy instrumental, Simple E shares a dream (or a nightmare?) she had which includes a bunch of rappers: “I had a dream, one drug, one fiend, just two left on the hip-hop scene, Treach was my slave in my deep dark cave, Lyte went blind just a sign of her grave…Lord Jamar turned bald, and called pale man true God” (Jamar hasn’t called the white man god yet (the fact that he won’t even give Eminem his props as a superior emcee, I’m pretty sure that will never happen), but I’m pretty sure his heads balding under all those baseball caps he rocks). She goes on to mention Kane, Busta Rhymes, Onyx, Boss, Rage, Snoop, Wu-Tang, BDP, Ice Cube and Too-Short, just to name a few. I don’t think this was meant to dis any of the parties named, but it did leave me questioning the song’s purpose and Simple E’s intentions with it. I did dig Terry-T’s moody production work, though.
East Coast/West Coast – Now, here’s a unique collab. The East Bay gangsta, Spice 1 joins Simple E as he reps for the West and she the East on this playful coastal battle. This may be the least violent song I’ve ever heard Spice 1 rap on (he literally doesn’t catch one body!). Regardless, both parties give lackluster efforts, and D Wig’s faux West Coast backdrop is too cheesy for my taste buds.
Rant & Rave – Mister Lawnge (one half of Black Sheep) drops in with his only production credit of the evening, and he makes the most of it. He laces Simple E with a stuttering jazzy joint built around an ill piano loop and a whirly horn sample, as our hostess swags her way through it. This was dope.
Soul Searchin’ – Tya Washington greets us at the midway point of Colouz and shares this short spoken word poem. It didn’t move me, but it works well as a quick intermission.
Kinke Reggae – Decent jazz-flavored filler material.
Neck Work – Simple E continues to spew impressive abstract rhymes as she boasts of her greatness and lyrical prowess. Ali Shaheed Muhammad (Tribe Degrees of Separation: check) provides the melodic, yet hard instrumental that is guaranteed to get your head bobbin’…or your neck workin’. The only thing missing from this song are cameo verses from Tip and Phife. How ill would that have been?
Paradigmz – The first few times I listened to this one I thought E was calling out cornball suitors, but after several more listens it sounds like she’s calling out anybody who wants to try her on the microphone. D Wigs hooks up a smooth mid-tempo groove for Simple E, who stays in the pocket and rocks it to perfection, and even displays her solid singing voice at certain points.
Blue Jeans – Apparently this was released as a single from Colouz, as I found a video for it while digging up info on Simple E. Run DMC loved their Adidas, Tim Dog loved his Timbs, and Simple E loves her blue jeans. And as the hook says she “wears them in the night time”, because “anytime is the right time”. To dedicate a whole song to your blue jeans is a unique idea, but the song’s kind of corny and the D Wig/Terry-T concocted instrumental doesn’t make matters any better.
An Innocent Rage – Simple E does a solid job of keeping up with Terry-T’s dope up-tempo backdrop on this one. That’s all I got.
Realite – Over laid back acoustic laden instrumentation, courtesy of D Wig (which kind of reminds me of the opening chords on Tony! Toni! Tone’ s “Whatever You Want”), Simple E shares the trials and tribulations of several different people over the course of two verses. I’m not a fan of rappers fading out before they end their verses (like Simple E does on the song’s final verse), but this was pretty solid.
Play My Funk – The final song of the evening is the song I mentioned in the intro and the only song I was familiar with going into listening to Colouz. D Wig builds the beautiful backdrop around an ill Herbie Hancock loop, and Simple E dances all over it with her melodic tone and nimble tongue. This is an underrated (or possibly forgotten) classic nineties hip-hop record, and it still sounds amazing today.
On Colouz Uv Sound, Simple E proves that she’s capable of holding the listener’s attention. Her vocal tone and delivery may be more intriguing than her actual content, but regardless, she entertains. D’Wayne Wiggins and company provide a solid collection of jazz infused instrumentals that serve as suitable sounds for our hostess to color on with her verbal crayons. A few of the songs miss, and sometimes Simple E’s abstract rhymes can be a bit too abstract, but overall Colouz is a diamond in the rough from an artist that I would have loved to hear more from.