What better way to get a break away from all the coronavirus talk than with hip-hop and a good read? Lets get 1995 underway, and remember to cover your mouths when you cough and wash your damn hands!
For those who don’t know, Smif-N-Wessun are the Brooklyn-based duo of Tek and Steele, who are also a part of the larger Brooklyn collective, Boot Camp Click. The first time I heard Smif-N-Wessun rhyme was on Black Moon’s classic 1993 debut, Enta Da Stage, where the duo rhymed on two of the album’s songs (“Black Smif-N-Wessun” and “U Da Man”), making a pretty solid first impression. Smif-N-Wessun were able to parlay their relationship with Black Moon into a deal and would also become label mates with them on Nervous Records, releasing their debut album Dah Shinin’ at the beginning of 1995.
Smif-N-Wessun would hand over the production keys to Da Beatminerz for Da Shinin’s entire sixteen tracks. The album was deemed a critical darling and in 1998 The Source put it on their list of 100 Best Rap Albums of All-Time (even though they only gave it a mediocre three mics when it was initially released). I wore this album out when it came out back in ’95, but haven’t listened to it in years. Let’s see how it’s held up over the years.
Side note: Da Shinin‘s artwork pays homage to Roy Ayers’ 1971 album cover, He’s Coming.
Timz N Hood Chek – The first track of the evening features an ill blunted bassy Evil Dee produced track and finds Steele and Tek warming up for the evening, making sure all the listeners have their hoodies and Timberlands on.
Wrektime – Mr. Walt lays down a smooth mid-tempo groove that Tek and Steele use to “to puff mad la and catch wreck with their crew” over. This was dope.
Wontime – Tek and Steele sound great spittn’ their gutter rhymes over this hard Beatminerz produced instrumental. And Rock’s rich baritone vocal sounds both amazing and intimidating on the hook.
Wrekonize – Our hosts chill out and lamp on Babee Paul’s laidback melodic backdrop, as the Brooklyn duo remind all heads that Smif-N-Wessun’s on the rise, so, you better “wrekonize”. Well done, gents.
Sound Bwoy Bureill – Evil Dee constructs a hard and dark instrumental for Steele, Tek and two-thirds of the Originoo Gunn Clappaz aka O.G.C, Top Dog and Starang Wondah, to plaster with more gutter street rhymes, which coordinates with the backdrop, beautifully. Jahdan Blakkamore
babbles chants all over the hook, and even though I have no idea what he’s saying, it still sounds amazing.
K.I.M. – Tek and Steele keep it movin’ right along with more dopeness.
Bucktown – This was the lead single from Dah Shinin’. Da Beatminerz take a cold horn loop and surround it with ill elements to create a sinister soundscape. It makes for the perfect canvas for Tek and Steele to paint with their gutter bars, as they rep their hometown that they affectionately call Bucktown (“Standing there, with my nappy hair, and my dirty gear, au revoir, now I’m up outta here, pigs look me up and down with a frown, is it because I’m brown or it because I’m from Bucktown?”). Classic.
Stand Strong – Steele and Tek take vows to forever stand strong on their own two, while Evil Dee builds the smooth instrumental around a soulful Isaac Hayes loop, completing one of my favorite songs in Smif-N-Wessun’s catalog.
Shinin…. – This interlude marks the beginning of side two of Da Shinin’, or the Sonset side if you’re listening to it on cassette. Evil Dee hooks up a dope melodic instrumental with drums that give it African tribal vibes.
Next Shit – Mr. Walt lays out a beautiful backdrop for our hosts to spew more street themes and get high on. I absolutely love the serene vibes this one gives off, and Buckshot’s harmonized hook was a nice added touch.
Cession At Da Doghillee – The entire Boot Camp Click comes out to play on this one: Heltah Skeltah (Ruck aka Sean Price (rip) and Rock), O.G.C. (Louieville Sluggah, Starang Wondah and Top Dog) and Black Moon’s lead emcee, Buckshot join Tek and Steele on this family affair cipher. Evil Dee’s instrumental is the perfect balance of soft and dark as he brilliantly weaves a soothing flute and a dusty haunting loop in and out of his backdrop. Buckshot is the only one that doesn’t spit a verse, as he’s left once again to handle hook and adlib duties. It would have been nice to hear him spit a sixteen, but his melodic and catchy hook ends up being the cherry on top of this dope posse joint.
Hellucination – Evil Dee takes a creamy Minnie Riperton sample and turns it into a dark and haunting backdrop that Tek and Steele use to spin a hood tale about money, crime, murder, cops and weed. They do a pretty solid job of tag teaming the mic, but Evil Dee’s stellar production work on this one will leave you in a trance.
Home Sweet Home – Apparently Smif-N-Wessun were big fans of Roy Ayers, as they not only drew inspiration from him for Dah Shinin‘s album cover, but Da Beatminerz also sample Ayers’ “We Live In Brooklyn, Baby” for this song and turn it into a dope instrumental. Tek and Steele do a serviceable job paying respect and articulating a hood visual of the borough they call home, but the hypnotic bass line on this one is the true star.
Wipe Ya Mouf – I love this song title. Babee Paul hooks up a mellow groove (suitable for midnight marauding) that our hosts use to call out dudes that jock other dudes, or as Tek and Steele call them: dick riders. Buckshot makes his final appearance of the evening, adding more dope melodic adlibs at the end of the song.
Let’s Git It On – This was the second single released from Dah Shinin’. Da Beatminerz hook up a bangin’ bass line and hard drums for Tek and Steele to get on their “underappreciated emcee shit” and call out all would be competitors. This is a tough record and a forgotten classic.
P.N.C. Intro – If you’ve never listened to Dah Shinin’ before, “PNC” is an acronym for Partners In Crime. For some reason Tek and Steele felt it was necessary to make an intro with their homie explaining what “PNC” means.
P.N.C. – The song begins with Steele spittin’ an acapella verse dedicated to one of his deceased bredrin (which also winds up being the final verse on this song). Then Evil Dee brings in the cool and mellow One Way loop and lays up-tempo drums underneath it, as Tek and Steele use it to pledge their devotion to one another and their crew.
The skillful production that Mr. Walt, DJ Evil Dee, Rich Blak and Babee Paul displayed on Black Moon’s Enta Da Stage is even sharper on Dah Shinin’, as the foursome lace together a flawless and brilliant batch of instrumentals for Smif-N-Wessun to spew their gritty and grimy street rhymes on with great chemistry. And I sure hope Timberland cut them a check for the advertising they gave them on this album (they literally mention Timbs on at least half of the album’s tracks). Dah Shinin’ is an unheralded classic that has held up great over time.