After releasing their very disappointing album, The Untold Truth (you can read my review on that album right here), Illegal members, Jamal and Malik, amicably, decided to go their separate ways and pursue solo careers. Both parties would stay with Rowdy (the same label that brought us The Untold Truth) after the break up, with Malik releasing the single “Malik Goes On”: a song I’ve never heard and apparently didn’t make enough noise for Rowdy to feel the need to follow it up with a full-length album. Malik would eventually leave Rowdy and join his cousin Snoop (is it just me or does it seem like half the hip-hop world is related to Snoop in some form or fashion?) on Death Row, where he would join the long list of rappers to sign to the label, record an album that would eternally be shelved and forever dwell in hip-hop’s black whole. Jamal’s solo’s career would fair somewhat better, as he would become a member of Erick Sermon’s Def Squad and release his solo debut album, Last Chance, No Breaks on Rowdy in the fall of ’95.
Naturally, Jamal would call on his Def Squad bredrin (Erick Sermon, Redman and Def Squad affiliate, Rockwilder) to contribute instrumentals for LCNB, but he would also get some production help from Easy Mo Bee, Mike Dean and a few lesser known beatsmiths (curiously, his mentor, Dallas Austin gets an executive producer credit, but doesn’t directly produce any songs on the album). LCNB would produce a couple of charting singles, but the album didn’t sell well and it received average to dismal reviews from critics.
Although Jamal’s performance on The Untold Truth was very forgettable, he actually sounded decent during his cameo on Junior M.A.F.I.A’s “Realms Of Junior M.A.F.I.A.” from their debut album. So when I found LCNB for a few bucks at one of my spots a few years back, I figured I’d check it out and see if Mally G would continue his upward trend. That and the fact I liked one of the singles from the album. I’ve never listened to LCNB before today and I’m only familiar with two of the eleven tracks, but hopefully this fairs better than The Untold Truth did.
Live Illegal – Jamal kicks off the evening with a laid back Easy Mo Bee backdrop that he uses to boast and talk his tough guy shit, while low-key shouting out his old group on the hook (that uses a vocal snippet from Havoc of Mobb Deep), or at least the group’s name. Mally G’s rhyming has definitely improved since his Illegal days, but he’s still light years away from being anywhere near a top-tier emcee. The instrumental, while pleasant, is a little low on energy for an album opening track, but overall, this wasn’t bad.
Keep It Live – Jamal uses this one to share his bio, as he walks us through his days as a snot-nosed trouble magnet in Philly to meeting Left Eye of TLC and moving to Atlanta to pursue his dreams as an emcee. Someone going by PME, breaks Jamal off with a smooth soulful instrumental that sounds way more impressive than our host’s rhymes and terrible hook.
Situation – Mally G gets into his storytelling bag on this one, as he details a night out on the town with his crew that quickly ends with one person dead and another wounded. Surprisingly, Jamal’s story kept me intrigued throughout, as his rhymes paint a vivid visual of the violent events of that evening. Erick Sermon’s cloudy-soulful instrumental (complete with a sick rumbling bass line) sounds great coupled with Jamal’s thug tale.
Insane Creation – Our host invites his fellow Def Squad bredrin, Redman to join him on this duet, as the duo play hot potato with the mic. Both emcees turn in serviceable performances, but Easy Mo Bee’s instrumental makes watching paint dry sound exciting.
Fades Em All – Apparently, this was the first single from LCNB, but I’ve never heard it before now. Redman and Rockwilder construct a relaxing backdrop dripping with warm vibes that Jamal uses to talk big shit and tries his best to impress with boastful bars. His performance is middling at best, and even though I like the instrumental, it doesn’t match Jamal’s energy. FYI: The Pete Rock remix for this song is fire!
The Game – The song begins with a short skit that has two men making, what appears to be, an illegal transaction, then you hear gunshots ring out. Then Redman’s melodically creamy laid back instrumental comes in and Jamal spits a tale about a dude named Spin that’s full of murder, bitches, money and drugs. Much like “Fades Em All”, the instrumental is too relaxed for Jamal’s unoriginal and uninteresting hood narrative.
Da Come Up – Apparently this is the sequel to “The Game”, as the Spin character returns for another unimpressive thug tale from Jamal. Mike Dean’s backdrop was decent, though.
Don’t Trust No – Jamal doesn’t cover any new territory on this one, as he uses his verses to spew immature misogyny. But Mike Dean’s southern synthy groove is dope. I would love to hear Scarface spit something over it.
Keep It Real – This was LCNB‘s second single and one of the two songs I was familiar with going into this write-up. The Green-eyed Bandit loops a piano chord from Stevie Wonder’s “Ribbon In The Sky” and turns it into a beautiful backdrop for Jamal to…keep it real. Jamal spits possibly the most ridiculous bar of all time on his second verse: “I stick my dick in the ground, then I turn the whole world around…and blow the sun up!” Wtf? Corny lyrics and generic song title aside (there were no less than a million rap songs with the same title by 1995), I absolutely love Erick Sermon’s somber instrumental.
Genetic For Terror – Jamal invites Keith Murray and L.O.D. (made up of 50 Grand and Kel-Vicious) to join him on this cipher session, and all four emcees turn in at least, decent performances with Mr. Murray inflicting the most damage (I love his line about “lockin’ up with rappers, Roman-Greco wrestling style”). Redman sets the mood, building the backdrop around a spooky bass line from The Jackson 5’s “Boogie Man” that ends up being the perfect canvas for the foursome to rhyme over. I like this one.
Unfuckwittable – This was the other song I was familiar with before this write-up, only because it was on the B-side of the “Keep It Real” single that I boosted from Musicland (or Sam Goody) back in the day to rap over the instrumental. Someone going by the alias of Erotic D (which sounds like a great porn name) hooks up a chilled-out deep funk groove for Jamal to introduce the world to Passion. Passion takes the first two verses and she completely murders the track and Jamal on his own shit. Jamal adds the third verse, but he would have fared better sitting this one out and letting his guest shine solo. I wonder what happened to Passion. I know she made a few more impressive cameos on some Erick Sermon records, but then she seemingly, disappeared (Wikipedia list this Passion as the same Oakland-based Passion who signed to MCA and released an album back in ’96, but I can’t and won’t believe they are the same person. If you have any info on this, feel free to hit me in the comments). Funk legend, George Clinton stops by to sprinkle some adlibs over the groove, but Passion is the true star of this one. And what a great song title.
On Last Chance, No Breaks, Jamal proves that his rhyming skills have definitely improved since his Illegal days, but he’s still only an average emcee on his best day. Overall, the album’s production is decent, but the subdued vibe (which I kind of enjoyed) that most of the instrumentals conjure up, contradict Mally G’s hyper-thug energy. But ultimately, Jamal’s lackluster content and underwhelming song ideas (and godawful hooks) aren’t strong enough to carry the weight for an entire album.