During the late eighties through the late nineties, I was completely submerged in hip-hop music. From the east coast emcees to the west coast acts and all points in between, I was a full blown hip-hop junkie, up on all the happenings of the industry. But even with my full blown habit, some things managed to slip pass me. One of those things was the west coast hip-hop pioneer and Compton based emcee, King Tee (sometimes spelled King T) and his whole catalog. I’m familiar with some of King Tee’s singles and his cameos on other rappers’ songs, and have always thought he was a decent emcee (and mentally I’ve always given him props for, at least partially, putting The Alkaholiks and Xzibit on), but for one reason or another, I never bought any of his albums back in the day. A few years ago while browsing the used cd bins at one of my favorite record stores (a pastime I’ve sorely missed during this quarantine), I came across a copy of King Tee’s fourth album, and his first release on MCA (his first three were released on Capitol Records), IV Life.
King Tee would call on his buddy Broadway, who I became familiar with from his production work on the short-lived group Mad Kap’s debut album (Remember them? Check out my review of their album here), to produce about half of IV Life, leaving the rest of the production to a few other special guests. Like the rest of his catalog, IV Life wasn’t a commercial success, but it did receive positive reviews from the critics and more importantly, love and respect from the streets.
I’ve already waited 25 years to listen to this album, so no need to keep delaying this any longer. Let’s jump right into it.
You Can’t See Me – IV Life opens with the same 9th Creation loop that Black Moon used for their brilliant record “Slave” off the Enta Da Stage album, which immediately makes me curious to how King Tee is going to spit on it. But he doesn’t, and the loop fades out, quickly bleeding into a super laid back melodic instrumental (courtesy of Broadway and Mark Sparks) that our host uses to talk about guns, bitches, weed, drinking, cars and how nice he is on the mic. The song’s a bit too relaxed to open an album, but it’s still decent. More importantly, it uses a vocal snippet of Q-Tip’s verse from “Hot Sex”, so I can check off my Tribe Degrees of Separation for this post.
Super Nigga – Two thirds of the west coast production team, the Boogiemen (DJ Pooh, who will always be Red from Friday in my mind and Rashad) join King Tee on the mic, as they all take on the role of the hood superhero, Super Nigga. All three parties spit comically clever verses and Pooh and Rashad’s heroic instrumental is just as entertaining as their rhymes.
Duck – King Tee’s amped, fired up and in gangsta mode on this hard high-energy instrumental: “Yeah, bitch and that’s real, get the fuck up out the car and just peel, Yo punk I said break before I crash you in the grill, with the ass of my glock watch the blood spill, Gangstas got love for the nigga King Tee, just ask ’em who’s the great wait, watch ’em scream me, quick with the punch, rollin’ like Hutch, comin’ with the real shit, runnin’ with a bunch, of crazy niggas with wires, hammers and plyers, your money and blood plus the Daytons and tires”. The third member of the Alkaholiks, E-Swift drops in to add a few mediocre bars at the end of the song, but his mediocrity can’t derail the banger that this song is.
Dippin’ – This was the lead single from IV Life. Broadway hooks up a dope mid-tempo bop that Tela uses to paint the picture of a beautiful Sunday afternoon that he spends dippin’ through the streets of Southern California in his “trey” (which is short for six-trey, which is short for a 1964 Chevy Impala). I like the remix better, but this o.g. mix is dope in its own right.
3 Strikes Ya’ Out – Ultramagnetic MCs members, Moe Love and TR Love (the liner notes credit them as Big Moe X and T.R. Funk Ignitor) receive credit for this hard menacing instrumental. King Tee uses the dope backdrop to get conscious (“Three strikes you’re out, they’re makin’ niggas behave, no more slaps on the wrist gettin’ 90 days, welcome to the next level, it’s the new world order, snatch ya like a tractor, might kill ya for a quarter”) and mixes in a few boastful bars as well (“I got pages and pages, of metaphoric phrases, too complex, for the human eye to catch”). This one is a banger!
Down Ass Loc – Broadway hooks up a dope Grover Washington Jr loop (that reminds me of the loop Diamond D used for “A Day In The Life” off his Stunts, Blunts & Hip-Hop album) and turns it into a slick groove for our host to talk his “gangsta shit” on. King Tee’s gangsta talk sounds less menacing than say a NWA or The Game, but the song is still dope.
Free Style Ghetto – Someone named Thayad is credited for the mellow mid-tempo backdrop that King Tee and his Likwit crew (Xzibit, MC Breeze and J-Ro and Tash of the Alkaholiks) jump on for this cipher joint. The instrumental seems a bit too subdued for a posse record, but it’s still enjoyable, and all parties involved turn in solid performances with J-Ro and Tash shining the brightest.
Way Out There – I love the laidback jazzy vibes mixed with west coast smoothness on this track (brought to you courtesy of Da Mic Profesah with a co-production credit going to Broadway). King Tee handles it well, making this a pretty entertaining experience.
Let’s Get It On – Nikke Nicole gets the production credit for this one and spits the song’s final verse, while King Tee finds his pocket and flows nicely over the laidback bop that cleverly uses a line from the eighties/nineties era Soul Train theme song. Nikke Nicole shows double threat potential, holding her own on the boards and the mic (well, King Tee is credited for penning her bars, so take that for what it’s worth). This one makes for great midnight marauding music.
Check The Flow – This is easily my least favorite song on IV Life. The instrumental is lackluster, and neither King Tee or his guest, Sledge sound that impressive on the mic.
Advertisement – Broadway creates a tough bop with an infectious bass line that our host uses to boast about his material possessions, his dope music and give a quick middle finger to 2 Live Crew’s front man, Uncle Luke, as a rebuttal to Luke saying “Fuck Compton” on his 1993 dis record “Cowards In Compton”. King Tee sounds solid on this one, but Broadway’s instrumental work is brilliant.
Dippin’ (Remix) – King Tee saves the best for last, as Vic C puts a clean coat of breezy west coast swag on the track, turning it into the perfect music to listen to while dippin’ through the streets on a beautiful summer day, even if you don’t have a “trey”. The video for the single, which uses this remix, was pretty dope too.
On IV Life, King Tee blends gangsta raps, witty boasts, random west coast shit and a sprinkle of consciousness over enjoyable authentic west coast production with east coast sensibilities. IV Life is a damn near flawless album that’s definitely got me wanting to hunt down the rest King Tee’s catalog.