Somehow, this one slipped through the cracks or, cells, of my spreadsheet, but at least I caught it while still reviewing 1995.
Under the mentorship of the underappreciated West Coast pioneer, King Tee, Tha Alkaholiks were able to secure a deal with Loud/RCA and released their debut album, 21 & Over, in August of 1993. The album wasn’t a huge commercial success, but the trio’s frat boy energy paired with witty punchlines and lighthearted content, helped the three-man crew build a solid core fan base and earn respect from real heads as well. Tha Liks would return in ’95 to build on the first album’s momentum with the release of their sophomore effort, Coast II Coast.
Just as they did on 21 & Over, Tha Liks would put the production keys for Coast II Coast in the hands of resident group DJ, E-Swift, as he is credited with producing all but three of the album’s eleven tracks. Coast II Coast would produce two singles that made a little noise and helped the album peak at 50 on the Billboard Top 200 and 12 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop charts. But more importantly, it received positive reception from the critics and fans.
I enjoyed Tha Liks comical approach to 21 & Over, but overall, the production was a bit underwhelming. Let’s see if our drunken bredrin were able to correct their shortcomings on their second go round.
WLIX – The album starts with audio of Tha Liks performing at a live show, followed by a short snippet of liquor being poured into a cup. Then you hear a voice welcoming you to the faux radio station, WLIX, where J-Ro and Tash are joined by two-thirds of the Lootpack (Wildchild and Madlib) and Declaime (who you may also know as Dudley Perkins) for this cipher session. Madlib (with a co-credit going to Tha Liks, which more than likely is just for the three interludes leading up to the actual song) concocts a dark and mysterious backdrop for everyone to spit freestyle bars that sound like they were ran through some type of vocal distortion filter. This isn’t a great song, and it doesn’t have enough energy to open an album with, but it’s a vast improvement from the last time we heard Lootpack on the hot garbage cipher joint “Turn Tha Party Out” from 21 & Over.
Read My Lips – Now this would have been more fitting for an opening track. E-Swift hooks up a dope mid-tempo bop that Tash and J-Ro use to tag team the mic, as they get loose and spew their witty punchlines all over it.
Let It Out – Diamond D hooks up a mysterious banger, dripping with James Bond vibes (the loop actually comes from a joint off the Enter The Dragon Soundtrack), while Tash and J-Ro verbally assault the shit out of it (J-Ro’s bar: “I get ’em when I send ’em, the Alkaholik venom, I’ll fold your clothes with your body still in em'” makes me laugh every time I listen to this song). E-Swift was also inspired by Diamond’s fiery backdrop and gets off a solid verse to close this one out. This is easily the best song on Coast II Coast.
21 And Under – Not to be confused with the title of their debut album, 21 & Over: Tash and E-Swift spin two animated tales that both revolve around drinking, of course. Neither story was that interesting, but E-Swift’s instrumental (that sounds too serious for the song’s content) was dope and makes for great midnight marauding music. This song is followed by hard drums and a soulful loop provided for you to spit a few freestyle bars to if you’d like.
All The Way Live – King Tee and Q-Tip join Tha Liks on this one (Tribe Degrees of Separation: check), as the four emcees come off like lyrical gladiators vying for control of the imaginary throne (well, at least Tash, Tip and J-Ro do; but in King Tee’s defense, he only gets like 8 bars tacked on at the very end of the song) over a decent E-Swift instrumental. Tip and Tash spit solid verses, but in my opinion, J-Ro walks away with the crown. Do you agree or disagree? Hit me in the comments.
Hit And Run – Xzibit drops in to join J-Ro and E-Swift, as the threesome take turns sharing hoe tales about chicks they hit and dipped on over a sexy piano loop-driven instrumental. Tash either had to take a bathroom break, had a hangover or just didn’t want to incriminate himself with all this misogyny, as he’s absence from this affair. It’s not a great song, but it makes for decent filler material if you don’t take the fellas content too serious. The song is followed by a short dark instrumental interlude that sounds a lot like something Madlib would hook up, and even though he’s not credited for it, I’d be willing to bet that he did.
DAAAM! – Over a decent backdrop driven by a thick bass line, Tha Liks do what they do best: boast and clown and break things up with a call and response style hook. I was never crazy about this one back in the day, but it’s a cool little bop that makes sense as the lead single for Coast II Coast.
2014 – J-Ro gets the only solo joint on the album with this one. Over a super hard instrumental, J spits a two-verse story about being the sole survivor on earth after the apocalypse takes place. At least that’s what he initially thinks, until he runs into a little boy named Rakim, who leads him to an underground hip-hop community (that the two must, hi-lariousy, run “ten miles across the sand” to get to), where he’s reunited with Tash and E-Swift. Hey, wait a minute…J-Ro’s whole plot is starting to sound a lot like Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend (yes, the novel came decades before Will Smith and ’em made it into a movie). Regardless of J-Ro’s plagiarism, I enjoyed this one.
Bottom Up – King Tee joins Tash (the more I listen to Tash rap, the more he sounds like the lost third member of Das EFX post diggity era) and J-Ro on this one, as each of the emcees gets off a solid verse over E-Swift’s mediocre instrumental. Did J-Ro take a shot at Jeru The Damaja at the end of his verse? As much as I love J-Ro as an emcee, he wouldn’t stand a chance going up against Jeru.
Flashback – J-Ro, Xzibit, Lil Tone and Devastating E, collectively known as The Baby Bubbas, pay homage or poking fun (probably a little bit of both) at the old school, circa Sugar Hill Gang era. This is a fun playful track that’ll make you chuckle at least a few times. The song is followed by an interlude that features a demonic voice explaining the meaning of the group’s name (in a roundabout way) and introducing the next song…
The Next Level – This was the second single from Coast II Coast. Diamond D joins our hosts for the final song of the evening, as he not only produces the track, but also spits a verse along with J-Ro, Tash and E-Swift. Diamond D (who proved he’s one of the better rhyming producers on Stunts, Blunts & Hip-Hop) gets off a slick verse, but J-Ro spits one of the greatest punchlines in hip-hop history: “You’s a nigga everybody diss cause you can’t bust this, you got a bad name like Dick Butkus”. Diamond D’s zany bass line kind of contradicts the dark feel his somber loop provides, but this was still a solid joint to close out Coast II Coast with.
On Coast II Coast, Tha Liks pick up where they left off at on their debut, mixing witty punchlines with playful themes, throughout. Tha Liks won’t give you much if you’re looking for substance, but Tash and J-Ro can really rap (no disrespect to E-Swift, but he’s definitely more of a producer than an emcee) and are able to entertain and hold your attention, even though their content never reaches beyond fun freestyles. The production on Coast II Coast sounds a lot more pleasing to the ear than their first trip, as E-Swift provides a much more consistent batch of backdrops for he and his comrades to rhyme over (and it doesn’t hurt that Diamond D drops off a couple of goodies too). Coast II Coast is nowhere near classic status, but it’s a solid project from a blue collar group that found their lane and stayed in it until they arrive at their exit and slowly went down the off ramp.