The last (and first) time we heard from T-Bone was back in ’93 with his debut album Redeemed Hoodlum (read my post on that album here). The San Francisco based, demon killin’, gospel spittin’ emcee was able to deliver a solid debut album, thanks to quality production from the L.A. Posse and a rhyming ability that rivals a large portion of his secular counterparts. He would return in ’95 with his sophomore effort, keeping with the “Hoodlum” theme, Tha Life Of A Hoodlum.
T-Bone would lean heavily on the L.A. Posse again, as Muffla would produce most of the album with Bobcat and Chase handling a few songs as well. Like Redeemed Hoodlum, I first became familiar with Tha Life Of A Hoodlum during my late nighties soul searching period. It’s been a minute since I listened to it, but if my memory serves me correct, I thought it was pretty solid back in the day.
Let’s see how time has treated Tha Life Of A Hoodlum.
Tha Life Of A Hoodlum – The album opens with, what sounds like, a group of black kids walking through a Hispanic hood where they’re confronted by a cholo. Then you hear guns shots, screaming and other commotion before the narrator sums up what you just listened to. End scene.
Throwin’ Out Tha Wicked – The first song of the evening features a dope mid-tempo bop courtesy of Muffla, that T-Bone uses to proclaim his loyalty to God and display his hatred for Satan and all things wicked. Matter of fact, T-Bone hates Satan and his imps so much that he’s got demons choking on his double barrel and he’s spraying them with his “gat up against the wall like graffiti”. It might sound cheesy, but our host sounds pretty entertaining buckin’ demons and denouncing witches and ouija boards. He does make a small mishap when he blatantly mimics Rza’s energetic horrorcorish flow during the third verse, but the dope Q-Tip vocal sample on the hook (Tribe Degrees of Separation: check) washes away that iniquity.
Thief In Tha Night – T-Bone comes from the perspective of a lukewarm Christian who gets left behind after the rapture takes place and he’s left to try and survive on earth without taking the mark of the beast (if you’re confused about the rapture and the mark of the beast, check out the Book of Revelations on your own. I aint got time to get into all that right here). Bone’s storyline is compelling and Muffla’s melancholy instrumental suits our host’s rhymes well.
Psycho Ward – Short interlude that sets up the next song…
Straight Up Psycho – Bone picks up where he left off at on “Throwin’ Out Tha Wicked” and gets right back to peelin’ demons caps for the next 5 minutes. I’m not really a fan of this one, mainly because of the plain Jane instrumental.
Amen Somebody, Part 1 – Bone takes a portion of a sermon (credited to a Pastor Carlos) that compares the story from the book of Exodus where Pharaoh is trying to keep the children of Israel in bondage to Satan currently trying to keep Christians in bondage. As far as interludes go, this was pretty interesting, and Muffla’s somber instrumental sounds great behind the preaching.
Drunk In Tha Spirit – Our host builds this song’s concept around the scripture from Ephesians 5:18. Bone finds his pocket and smoothly rocks the hell (no pun intended) out of Muffla’s slick jazzy instrumental. And remember, if you ever hang out with T-Bone at the bar: “pass the holy wine cause” he “don’t drink no Tanqueray”.
Pushin’ Up Daises – Our host invites his homie, E-Dog to join him on this duet, as the duo swap hood stories about dudes who chose the gangsta lifestyle and died in the line of duty. And of course they use the final verse as an opportunity to witness. The content is cool, but I’m neutral on how I feel about the instrumental.
Still Jabbin’ – As T-Bone tells you at the end of the song’s first verse: “this be the sequel to Jabbin’ the Jaw”, which was on Redeemed Hoodlum. The song starts off playing the O.G. version, but is quickly interrupted by a “rip”, and then Chase’s mellow vibes and heavy drums come in for T-Bone to get loose and “flip the script” on. The Rza soundbite on the hook was a nice added touch.
187em’ Demons – I’m sure by the song title you can figure out what this song’s about. T-Bone’s already killed 500 demons, and we’re only at the halfway point of the album. Muffla’s west coast drenched backdrop is dope.
Amen Somebody, Part 2 – This interlude picks up where Part 1 left off, as Pastor Carlos passionately wraps up his sermon on spiritual bondage.
On & On &… – T-Bone invites Homeboy Sermon (hey, I didn’t make up his alias) to speak on some of the ills that trouble the hood over a super somber Muffla instrumental. This sets up the next song.
Too Many Pleitos – Bobcat gets his first production credit of the evening, and he slides T-Bone a soulfully gloomy instrumental that our host uses to expound upon the violence in the hood that Homeboy Sermon touched on during the previous track: “Sometimes I wish God never made the colors red or blue, cause now I always got a funeral that I gotsta go to, and half the time it’s a little kid that’s dead, and it breaks my heart to see the mommy crying by the death bed, how many more of my people got to go extinct, before we see that Latins dying faster than an eye can blink?”. This one sounds just as relevant today as it did 25 years ago.
Life After Death – Our host invites Mr. Grimm (from “Indo Smoke” fame) to join him on this duet, as the two attempt to persuade the listener to choose Christ and eternal life or die and burn in hell for eternity. Both emcees turn in solid performances, but Muffla’s instrumental shines the brightest.
Crazy Hispanic – Bobcat gets his second and final production credit of the evening, and it’s a beauty. T-Bone uses the west coast freshness to showcase his undeniable talent while lifting up the Savior’s name. And he manages to buck a few more demons.
Madd Skillz – The beat is too basic and T-Bone’s overly animated lyrics sound corny.
Off Tha Hook – T-Bone chops it up with Mr. Grimm over the phone about all kinds of randomness, hence the title of the interlude. Other than to listen to the eerie but interesting music that you can barely hear in the background, there’s no reason to listen to this more than once.
Lyrical Assassin (Remix) – The original version was on the Redeemed Hoodlum album. Chase laces T-Bone with some slick west coast heat that he uses to re-rap his lyrics from the O.G. version, minus the B-Real style-jacking he did the first time around. This remix is way stronger than the original.
Daves Not Here – This interlude must have been an inside joke between T-Bone and his manager, Dave Kirby. No replay value here, but my 5 year old son and his friend found it amusing.
To Tha Homies – Over a funky bop (courtesy of Dr. K and Muffla), T-Bone gives his shout outs while a chipmunk voiced Muffla provides the adlibs.
Another Hoodlums Prayer – Muffla lays an emotional instrumental for T-Bone to close out the album with a prayer. I would have loved to hear Bone spit bars on this heat, but it still makes for a fitting outro.
On Tha Life Of A Hoodlum’s first song (“Throwin’ Out Tha Wicked”), T-Bone confesses “I’m obsessed with slaughtering these demons everyday”, and that obsession quickly becomes apparent as you listen to the album. I didn’t keep a tally, but I’m pretty sure T-Bone beat up or killed at least six millions demons during Tha Life Of A Hoodlum’s 21 tracks. But if you can get past Bone’s demon obsession and his occasional borrowing of other emcees styles (i.e. Rza and E-40), you’ll hear the talented rhymer that he is and appreciate most of the L.A. Posse’s quality production.