After releasing his first two albums, Youngest In Charge and Legal at 16 and 18, respectively, Special Ed made his mark on the game, then suddenly disappeared from the scene for nearly four years. Rumor has it that the Brooklyn emcee ran into some problems with his label (Profile), which caused them to put his next release, and consequently his career, on hold. Ed would remerge in ’94 as one-third of the first edition of the super group, Crooklyn Dodgers. Along with Buckshot and Masta Ace, the threesome would release the lead single and title song from the soundtrack for the Spike Lee joint Crooklyn. The song was dope, and Ed would unleash a different flow than what his fans were accustomed to hearing from him as a teen. Ed and Profile would work out their differences (well, kind of) and the following year he released his third album Revelations (Random thought: Why doesn’t anyone ever call an artists’ third album their junior effort?).
Along with himself, Ed would call on Mark Sparks (who also laced Puba with some heat on 2000 that we covered just a few posts ago), his longtime producer, Howie Tee, his deejay since the beginning of rhyme, Akshun, as well as a few others to produce Revelations. He would also lean heavily on his new style that worked so well on “Crooklyn”. Revelations received respectable reviews (tongue twister, muchers!) from the critics, but it failed to produce any successful singles and was a commercial failure. Revelations would be Ed’s last album on Profile and his last release on a major label (In 2004 he released Still Got It Made independently, but we’ll discuss that album at a later date).
I bought Revelations back in ’95 when it came out and probably haven’t listened to it since. I wasn’t crazy about it then, but let’s see (or hear) if time has been kind to the special one and his… junior release.
Lyrics – Our host kicks off Revelations with a raw Mark Sparks produced instrumental built around some dope drums and a nasty guitar loop. Ed picks up where he left off at on “Crooklyn”, showcasing his new found off beat pausing flow, and it works on this backdrop. He also shouts out ATCQ during the first verse, so that makes things even better (Tribe Degrees of Separation: Check).
Neva Go Back – This was Revelations’ lead single. Howie Tee gets his only production credit of the evening and the results are not good. The instrumental sounds lost with no direction, and Ed doesn’t fare much better, as his new flow doesn’t resonate over this soundscape.
Rough 2 The Endin’ – Akshun gets his first production credit of the night, hooking up a decent semi-drowsy instrumental and a smooth hook built around a slick Big Daddy Kane vocal snippet. Ed sounds ok on this one, but it’s definitely not one of the strongest songs on the album.
Walk The Walk – Now this is more like it. Mark Sparks cooks up a dope up-tempo backdrop full of energy and spunk, while Ed drops, arguably, his strongest rhymes of the evening: “Shit is so fly that I gotta get clearance, in case I enter air space interference…and at twenty-two I’m takin’ any crew at any time, cause many rhyme, but a lemon ain’t a lime, And I don’t falsify to get by, you must be more than herbally high, to verbally reply”. Akshun, who sounds a little like DMX, livens up the hook with his amped up vocal. This was dope.
It’s Only Gettin’ Worse – Ed’s dimly lit and scarce backdrop is decent, but his flow doesn’t work on this one.
Just A Killa – On each of his two previous albums, Ed (who is half Jamaican) paid homage to his Jamaican roots with at least one reggae/dancehall inspired song. He continues that tradition with this one, as he invites Bounty Killer to join him as they take turns chanting over Ed’s tolerable instrumental. With the exception of Bob Marley, I’ve never been a big fan of reggae or dancehall; this song didn’t change my stance.
Rukus – Ed concocts a dark and raw backdrop with a dope Method Man vocal loop for the hook (I didn’t realize how many Meth loops or cameos went down in ’95) and continues to rap with his new flow. This was decent.
Freaky Flow – Akshun hooks up a breezy backdrop for Ed and he delivers adequate bars over it: “My flow is vivid, I give it two-hundred percent, that’s a hundred for me and a hundred for the rent, I know watcha meant Joe, I gotta flow too, cause they wack every show I go to, I be leavin’, I don’t be believin’ they be even, believin’ they own shit, actin’ like they own shit, butcha never will, so you better chill, or getcha grill piece, torn by the beast”. This is definitely one of the strongest songs on Revelations.
Won’t Be Long – Wake me up when this one is over, please.
Crazy – Ed uses this one to exercise his storytelling ability, but I must warn you, it’s not “The Mission”. There are a few amusing lines in his story (like when the thick chick tells him “I’ve seen your videos, all four of them”), but there’s really no plot, climax or point in his three verses. To add insult to injury, the instrumental is boring as shit.
Here I Go Again – Next…
Just Like Dat – Father Shaheed (from Poor Righteous Teacher) throws Ed some hard shit that he handles nicely with sharp lyricism. He invites his label mate, Nine to add some energy to the hook with his grimy vocal tone. It would have been nice to hear Nine spit a verse next to Ed’s, but regardless, this was still dope.
Everyday Iz A Gunshot – Our host invites a few friends: 40, Big I, AK and Big Moe to join him on this one, as he combines hip-hop with dancehall vibes. This was trash.
We Rule – You know how some songs start to sound better the more you listen to them? Well, that’s not the case with this one. Akshun slides Ed arguably the worst
noise instrumental ever made and his flow sounds atrocious over it.
On Revelations’ opening track, “Lyrics”, Ed says “With the right flow, this shit might blow”. Well, his flow isn’t right, which is part of the reason Revelations blows, but not the way he intended it to. Don’t get it twisted, Ed has always been a sharp lyricist with great wordplay, and he’s still razor-like on most of Revelations, but his new found constipated flow doesn’t work well over most of the album’s instrumentals. Speaking of instrumentals, that’s probably the larger reason Revelations blows. Most of the album’s production ranges from trash to mediocre, so even Ed’s old more conventional flow wouldn’t have got the job done over this batch of beats. There are a few really good tracks on Revelations, but they are far and in between. The only thing that Revelations revealed to me is: just because something works once, doesn’t mean it will work all the time. Or in this case, work throughout a whole damn album.