RBX – The RBX Files (September 26, 1995)

The world was first introduced to RBX on Dr. Dre’s The Chronic, where he dropped “bombs like Hiroshima” and made several other impressive cameos. After The Chronic and stealing the show from his cousin, Snoop Dogg on Doggystyle’s “Serial Killer” the following year, it seemed that RBX would be the next Death Row artist to blow. But before RBX could release an album on Death Row, he would fall out with Suge Knight and Dr. Dre, which led to his departure from the notorious label. In 1995, RBX would finally release his debut album The RBX Files on the independent label, Premeditated Records with distribution through Warner Brothers.

RBX would call on another former Death Row associate, Gregski, to produce The RBX Files from beginning to end. The album reached number 12 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop charts and 62 on the Billboard Top 200. I personally didn’t even know this album existed until I found it starring back at me in the used CD dollar bin at Cheapos a few years ago. I’m never listened to The RBX Files before today, nor am I familiar with any of the songs on the album. Let’s see how this goes.

Introduction – Over spooky sinister chords, RBX introduces the listener to the album and promises death to anyone who is brave enough to battle him: “Any attempts of battle will be futile…and imbeciles, they’ll all die, yes, die…they shall die”.  RBX has a dope voice that would sound great narrating movies and doing voice over work.

Brother Minister A Samad Muhammad – RBX uses a portion of the minister’s sermon to serve as a double meaning for a spiritual and physical escape from the enemy, which in his case is Death Row Records. This sets up the next song…

A.W.O.L. – The first official song of the evening is a dis record aimed at his former Death Row partner, Dr. Dre, who RBX fell out with sometime after The Chronic album and Doggystyle were recorded: “Dr. Dre, do you remember you was broke, and the whole rap industry thought you was a joke? Me, D.O.C. and D-O-G sat and made, lyrics to replenish your name like Gatorade, but you got thirsty for the money, punk, and disrespected the three that put you back up on it”. RBX lands some decent blows over Gregski’s slow moving funk groove, but never delivers a convincing knockout punch. I love the hook (built around RBX’s most popular Chronic bar: “I drop bombs like Hiroshima”) and the song is decent, but it’s safe to say that you won’t find this on anyone’s Top Ten Dis Record list.

Slip Into Long Beach – RBX and Gregski step the pace up a bit with this one, as RBX invites the listen to “slip into some fucked up shit” as he gets violent on some “catch a body” type shit and represents for his city, Long Beach. And just in case you were confused, RBX reminds you on the first verse “No, this aint Compton and Long Beach together, strictly Long Beach”. RBX’s unorthodox flow almost sounds like a spoken word poem, but it works over the decent instrumental.

The Edge – On this one RBX is just waiting for someone to push him over the edge so he can lace them with bullet holes, or as he says on the hook: “I’m close to the edge, bullets will be zippin’, zappin, bodies collapsin'”. RBX’s bloody bars sound great over Gregski’s hard backdrop.

Rough Is The Texture – RBX continues with his violent verses. This time he’s got his aim on every rapper in South Gate, Watts, Inglewood, South Central and Compton, only showing mercy to MC Eiht. Gregski’s instrumental sounds like a poor man’s Dr. Dre production, but it works behind RBX’s rough and theatrical vocal tone.

Burn – This sounds like some shit Satan would have on his playlist. Our host rides the dark and evil mid-tempo instrumental to perfection.

Our Time Is Now – Gregski loops up a portion of Roy Ayers “We Live In Brooklyn, Baby” for the backdrop, while X continues on with his mass murder spree. RBX has an uncanny ability to rap over any beat and sound super comfortable while doing it.

Feathers In The Wind – More violent themes over a beautiful backdrop. Murder never sounded so poetic.

Rec Dialec Introduction (Interlude) – RBX sounds like he’s narrating for some Medieval Game of Thrones type shit on this one. His grandiose introduction is used to set up the next song…

Tundra – RBX sits this one out and lets his homies hold it down: E’D Ameng, Meticulous Mad 1 and D’Cipher all take part in this chilly rumble in the tundra. None of them spit top-notch bars, but Gregski’s subdued mid-tempo instrumental is tough and the reggae touched hook was dope.

Drama (Interlude) – Our host borrows a clip from the movie Strapped (remember that one?) to set up the next song…

Mom’s Are Cryin’ – Over a slow rumbling bluesy backdrop, RBX spins a few tales that end with a young brother dead and a mom crying over her deceased son. Not one of my favorite songs, but it’s cool.

BMS On The Attack – Over unnerving drums, our host uses one short verse to kill a devil white man, as he continues to eloquently do in a poetic fashion: “Relax, I’m about to take my respect, I lower and aim straight for his fuckin’ neck, Boo-ya! Boo-ya! Then I fade into the wind, hidden by night, reflected by moon, soon comes the wrath of blacks, actually facts…” This wasn’t great, but it was short, so that’s a good thing.

Sounds Of Reality – After spending pretty much all of the first part of RBX Files killing brothers, RBX decides to get conscious with this one. Gregski loops up a familiar Blackbyrds’ loop (see Gang Starr’s “Say Your Prayers” and CMW’s “Def Wish”) that creates a mysterious soundscape for our host. The song opens with voices chanting an old Negro spiritual (taken from the Roots soundtrack), then RBX comes in to shares some Nation of Islam theology and celebrates the black culture. This was cool.

Armageddon (Interlude) – Our host uses another portion of a Brother Minister A. Samad Muhammad sermon for this interlude, as he shares more Nation of Islam teachings and takes a shot at Snoop Dogg’s rap alias. RBX ends the interlude by sharing a conversation he had with a devil Caucasian man about the gang problem. Our host finds a silver lining to the problem, claiming one day the gangbangers will be the frontline soldiers when Armageddon takes place, which according to the Bible is the last battle between good and evil, to which RBX equates as black and white. I aint buying RBX’s philosophy, but it’s a great way to justify all the violence he’s spewed up to this point RBX Files.

Akebulan – The song title, even though it’s spelled incorrectly (see”Alkebulan”), is the oldest name for Africa, which in Arabic means “The land of the blacks”. RBX is joined by Ganjah K, as the two take turns detailing the battle of Armageddon from the front lines and talk about returning to the Motherland, even if it’s only spiritual. Gregski’s backdrop is concurrently somber and hard, which works well behind the song’s content.

Fightin’ The Devil – RBX sounds a lot like Chuck D on this one, as he aggressively attacks the accapella track, buckin’ down devils and droppin’ mathematics.  All that hard and it added absolutely nothing to the album.

No Time – Over a decent instrumental, RBX calls for black unity and for the black community to be prepared for the impending Armageddon war.

Our Time Is Now (Outro) – RBX briefly brings back the “Are Time Is Now” chant from early for this outro.

A.W.O.L. (Gregski Remix) – I didn’t care much for this remix. It sounds way too empty for my liking.

RBX might have the greatest underrated voice in hip-hop. It’s a perfect mixture of Professor X’s dramatics and Chuck D’s raw authoritative tone. He’s kind of the James Earl Jones of hip-hop, which is probably why his other alias is The Narrator. On The RBX Files, The Narrator does a quality job of mastering the ceremony throughout, as his voice and his ability to adapt to any beat and sounds confident while doing so, shines through. RBX’s content gets a bit redundant and early on he comes off bitter over the Death Row fallout, but for the most part he does his thing over a solid batch of Gregski instrumentals. The RBX Files’ is a solid album, but I can’t help but wonder what it would have sounded like under the direction of Dr. Dre.

-Deedub

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