I’ll admit, I was late to the Ultramagnetic MC’s party. When they hit planet earth in ’88, I was still a young whippersnapper and missed out on Ced Gee’s dope beats and Kool Keith’s unique, but entertaining rhyme schemes. I didn’t listened to Critical Beatdown in its entirety until 2o years after its release, and I didn’t “thoroughly” listen to it until 2011 when I reviewed it for this blog. You can read my thoughts on it here, or I can just tell you that I thought it was a great, nearly flawless debut from the Bronx-based foursome that is definitely worthy to be deem a classic. The greatness that was Critical Beatdown sent me on a mission to find the rest of the Ultramagnetic catalog, and the first one I found was their third release, The Four Horsemen.
After releasing Critical Beatdown on Next Plateau, Ultramagnetic ended up leaving and signing to Mercury where they would release their sophomore effort Funk Your Head Up, which flopped both commercially and critically (I’ve never heard the album. I’m only familiar with the lead single “Poppa Large”, so I’m not sure how bad the album actually was). Most credit the album’s failure to the label who allegedly brought in outside producers to remix most of the songs, against Ultramagnetic’s wishes. They would then part ways with Mercury and sign to Wild Pitch where they would release their third full length, The Four Horsemen.
Ced Gee and the team would be back in full creative control on The Four Horsemen, as they would handle most of the production and bring in Godfather Don to produce a handful of tracks. Many felt that the album marked Ultramagnetic’s return to their Critical Beatdown form. Let’s take a listen and see. And if the album is trash, this time they can’t blame the label.
We Are The Horsemen – The album starts with a very average instrumental and Kool Keith and Ced Gee on some intergalactical-outerspace-scientifical shit. And it sounds like a bunch of bullshit.
Checkin My Style – Godfather Don slides Keith some dark slick shit to go dolo over, as he gets off one quick freestyle verse. Keith’s unorthodox flow sounds a lot better on this track compared to the opening song, even if his last line was kind of creepy and questionable (“Boy, as I kick up, you proud of me, you know it’s me, I got more muscle to flex and show than Jodeci, take off those panties, I turn boys to men”). Regardless, this one was pretty dope.
Two Brothers With Checks (San Francisco, Harvey) – Over a forgettable backdrop, Ced and Keith utter random rhymes and throw in a bunch of baseball references. I’m not sure what the title means, but this song is so trash I wouldn’t spend a second of my time or energy trying to find out.
Raise It Up – Godfather Don serves Ultramagnetic up with some more heat, or as Keith calls it at the beginning of the song: “smooth chicken” served with “hot jazz biscuits and blues butter”. Not only does Godpoppa Don provide a slick instrumental, but he also adds a verse next to Keith and Ced’s, and in my opinion, he sounds better than his gracious hosts. This was dope.
Saga Of Dandy, The Devil & Day – Ced and Keith use this one to give props to the underappreciated players from the old Negro Leagues. Godfather Don lays down a smooth mid-tempo canvas that evokes lazy and reminiscing vibes, as the duo take a trip down memory lane, recalling some of the unsung heroes of that era. I like the song and love the sentiment.
Delta Force II – The instrumental is mildly dope, but Ced Gee’s choppy flow is hard to listen to over the course of three consecutive verses.
Adventures Of Herman’s Lust (Moe Love III) – Ultramagnetic’s resident deejay, Moe Love gets a chance to display his skills on the ones and two’s. I’ve never been a big fan of DJ cut records, but this was cool, and it has a very interesting song title.
See The Man On The Street – This one starts with a drunken horn loop, then Godpoppa Don drops an epically nasty horn loop and an ill beat that Keith freaks with his odd ball flow as he’s on the hunt to beat up and murder emcees. I would have loved to hear Sadat X join him on this one. Matter of fact, I would like to hear a project with the two flexin’ their unique rhyme styles. Maybe not a full-length, but a 5 to 6 song EP would suffice.
Bring It Down To Earth – Decent filler material.
Don’t Be Scared – The cupbearer and fourth member of Ultramagnetic MC’s, TR Love makes his only appearance of the evening, as he and longtime Ultramagnetic affiliate, Tim Dog (rip) join Ced and Keith on this posse joint. This was pretty uneventful, but Moe Love does cut up a vocal sample from Q-Tip at the beginning of the song, fulfilling my Tribe Degrees of Separation for this post.
One, Two, One, Two – Yet another Kool Keith solo joint. Over a decent mid-tempo groove, Keith spits more freestyle rhymes ending most of his bars by saying the same word twice, hence the title of the song. It’s far from an amazing record, but not a terrible song.
Time To Catch A Body – Nothing to listen to more than once.
Yo Black – Keith is in battle mode for his final solo joint of the night. He and the boys build the backdrop around the classic guitar riff from JB’s “The Payback”, which never seems to get old. This is the record that sparked Freddie Foxxx to dis Ultramagnetic on the “Crazy Like A Foxxx” dis record that I covered a few post ago (read my thoughts on that record here), as it appears Keith was taking shots at the bully emcee with lines like “How can you put up a fox against an alligator?” and “Don’t try to come back and cut your hair bald, B”. Keith has said in interviews that the “fox” reference was coincidental and not a shot at the Long Island emcee, and the two have since made up, as Freddie would make a cameo on Keith’s Matthew project in 2000. I like the instrumental and Keith sounds sharper on this record than he has for the majority of The Four Horsemen.
Big Booty – Over a barely decent instrumental, Ced and Keith spit overly abstract rhymes about stickin’ big booty chicks. With the exception of the female voice moaning at the beginning of the song, sex never sounded so boring.
The Four Horsemen is a far cry from the Ultramagnetic MC’s that I was first introduced to on Critical Beatdown. Somewhere in between the two albums, Ced Gee adopted a choppy poor man’s Chuck D flow, Kool Keith’s once clever slightly off-kilter rhyme pattern and sharp lines transformed to odd ball randomness and the production is not nearly as potent or consistent as their debut album. The Four Horsemen comes with a few bright spots (namely the four songs that Godfather Don produced), but ultimately it sounds like a group whose glory days were far behind them.