I promised in the previous post that we would be talking more about the California-based rap duo LPG, comprised of cousins, Dax and Jurny Big, who were also a part of the larger underground west coast collective, Tunnel Rats (a crew that may not be well-known to the masses, but those who know, know how dope they were during their peak years in the mid-nineties thru the early 2000’s). The name LPG was originally an acronym for “Lord’s Personal Gangsters”, but later they wisely changed the meaning to “Living Proof of Grace”. LPG made their official debut on Freedom Of Soul’s “SonShyne”, which was easily the best track on the album, and while they turned in a solid performance, it was the bangin’ instrumental that shined (no pun intended) the brightest. But fret not, the duo would get a chance to prove how dope they really were with the release of their debut album, The Earth Worm, released sometime during 1995 (sorry, I couldn’t find an official release date).
The album title and concept are loosely built around Psalm 22:6 that reads: “I am a worm, not a man, despised by men hated by all” and LPG comparing themselves, specifically, to the earthworm, as servants of Christ (more on that in a bit). Jurny and Dax would call on their homie, Peace 586 (one-half of Freedom of Soul) to produce most of the album, having a hand in all but one of the album’s eleven tracks.
I’d be willing to bet that no more than five of you have ever heard of LPG before this post, and out of those five, no more than three have ever heard an LPG song. And I’d cut off my ear like Peter did Malchus’ if any of you bought and own The Earth Worm. And if you don’t know who Peter and Malchus are, you need to get into your bible…after you read this post.
A Place Called Hip-Hop – The album opens with an unidentified gravelly male voice (who makes several cameos throughout The Earth Worm…I’ll refer to him as Rev. Worm from here on out) paraphrasing Psalm 22:6. Then an ill rock guitar loop (that L.E.S. would also later use for Nas’ “Suspect” record) placed over a rough head nod-inducing drum beat drops, and our hosts use it to cleverly and vividly describe the imaginary land called Hip-Hop: “The place to be, an area where freestyle dominates, then creates a massive style change that will rearrange your mind state; where break downs don’t ever need to be fixed, and stolen pieces thrown together does not mean you’re in the mix, you wonder how it is to be, simultaneously, interacting with the boom bap and rap constantly, Well, I personally had no choice but to come out fat, cause every time I turn around I collect a pound, cause in this place they have a true understanding of hip-hop, so everyone is able to pick up on what I drop”. This was a brilliant way to start off the evening.
Hour Glass – This one starts with Rev. Worm sharing a short sermon/spoken word piece about the value of time and the dangers of wasting it. Then Peace unleashes a laidback instrumental, oozing with soothing vibes placed over clumsy drums (Boogie is credited for the live bass play on the track), as our hosts continue to delve into the subject matter that the good Reverend opened with. A portion of the hook is way too wordy, and there is a lot of content to unpack on this one (maybe too much), but their bars kept me engaged and I enjoyed the lovely instrumentation.
Worst Enemy Greatest Allie – LPG asks and answers the question posed in the song’s title and hook and use their verses to do a little boasting, but ultimately remind the listener that you are the driving force that will determine your destiny, in this life and the one to come. Peace’s instrumental compliments LPG’s well thought out and executed plan, as he perfectly meshes boom-bap drums with a few beautifully serene loops that result in an addicting backdrop and a masterpiece of a song.
Earthworm – Rev. Worm’s back for the intro to this title track; this time sharing the similarities between the characteristics of the earthworm and LPG. Then the tantalizing jazzy vibes of Sup’s instrumental drop and our hosts begin talkin’ their sanctified shit, calling out lesser emcees and the church for all their shortcomings. They also sprinkle a few gems and shoutout their Lord and Savior, intermittently: “Cause all I know is boom bap, Christ loved hip-hop and real rap, but that don’t sell, so emcees like me are not accepted, I’m forced to dwell in the underground where the rest of this industry’s neglected”. Before listening to this song, I had no idea that earthworms don’t have eyes. Who said that hip-hop couldn’t be educational?
Too Late – Over laidback jazzy vibes, Dax and Jurny get vulnerable, as they discuss their struggles to find true happiness and live lives pleasing to God before they run out of time. The petty in me happened to notice that “Too” in the song title is spelled correctly on the liner notes, but then spelled as “To” on the back of the jewel case, which was clearly unintentional. Regardless of this minor syntax error, I enjoyed the song.
Judge Not – Rev Worm makes another appearance at the beginning of this song that is built around the Bible verse, Matthew 7:1 and a dope KRS-One vocal snippet snatched from Edutainment’s “Blackman In Effect”. Pigeon John (whose name some of you may remember from his cameo on FOS’ “Not This Record” from the previous post) stops by to join LPG in calling out their haters and warning them of the dangers that come with passing judgement on others, even though they kind of do just that while making their point. I like the content, the hook is fresh and Peace’s slick and at times, quirky instrumental was enjoyable.
Deafening Silence – LPG invites a few of their Tunnel Rats bredrin: Souljourn, Ajax, Raphi and Redbones to join them one this cipher session dedicated to the sweet sound of deafening silence that we could all use from time to time to clear our minds and hear from God. Speaking of sweet sounds, Peace’s warm melodious soundscape was a welcoming one and breathes life into this song. Side note: Like “Too Late”, “Deafening” is spelled incorrectly on the back of the jewel case (Deafining) and correctly on the insert, but after listening to the previous song I’ve learned not to judge others for their mistakes. Yep, I’m still petty.
Slaughter – For the second time on The Earth Worm, Ralphi joins LPG, as the three emcees wage war against wack emcees over a ruggedly melodic backdrop. The rhymes were decent, but I’m absolutely in love with Peace’s instrumental. This song is followed by a quick Rev. Worm interlude to set up the next song.
Great To Be Dead -At first take, the song title and the hook (that has a little kid repeating the song title) sounds a bit morbid but fear not. The death that LPG is referring to is a figurative one that finds them attempting to die to their flesh so Christ can reign inside them: “The things that I was choosing, was the reason I was losing, so when the voice said suicide, my only choice was to abide, I know that it seems sick to self-inflict death, but dying to myself was the only way that I could live”. I didn’t like the instrumental years ago when I listened to this song, but over time the naked snare and stripped-down sound has grown on me and it actually works well behind LPG’s intricate poetical explanation of suicide.
Then Came Dawn – LPG (and their TR bredrin, Raphi, who makes his third and final cameo of the evening) uses this one to encourage the listener to keep pushing through when life gets tough and things look dark, because as Psalms 30:5 reminds us: Joy comes in the morning…and the church said, amen. Fittingly, Peace’s moody backdrop sounds like a cloudy overcast with the sun peeking through, reinforcing our hosts’ message.
I Wonder – I wonder why LPG didn’t just keep The Earth Worm at a nice even ten tracks and leave this drab mess of a song on the cutting room floor.
There are Christian rappers and rappers who happen to be Christian, and LPG is definitely the latter. Jurny Big and Dax make it clear on The Earth Worm that for them, hip-hop is a “tool they use to share relationship with Christ”, but don’t get it twisted, these dudes can really spit. Throughout their debut album the duo share their beliefs (without sounding preachy; a feat a lot of their past and future Christian contemporaries would fail at) and stay true to the secular hip-hop streets that raised them, without disgracing their savior’s name. But more importantly, their lyrical abilities are on point and on full display. Complimenting LPG’s strong performance is Peace 586’s production, as he returns to the boards after abandoning them for Freedom Of Soul’s last album, and strings together a cohesive blend of jazzy, soulful boom bap soundscapes that are sure to bless your ears. There are a few songs on The Earth Worm that wouldn’t have been missed had LPG decided to leave them off the album, and at times Dax and Jurny’s rhymes can get a little too complicated and wordy to follow, but overall, The Earth Worm is a stellar debut that I’m sure you’ll enjoy if you give it a chance, and I’m certain that Jesus is proud and smiling down on his faithful servants for this one.