I mentioned during my write-up of King Tee’s fourth release, IV Life, that I was so impressed by the album that I would track down physical copies of the rest of his catalog. Well, during the quarantine I was able to track down two more of his albums: his third release, Tha Triflin’ Album (that we’ll be digging into in the very near future), and his debut album, the subject of today’s post, Act A Fool.
Born Roger McBride, King Tee got his start in the game as a deejay after crossing paths with DJ Pooh and DJ Bobcat, who at the time were part of the West Coast-based funk/electro/hip-hop collective, Uncle Jamm’s Army (Ice-T and Egyptian Lover were also a part of this crew). According to King Tee, there were too many deejays in the crew, so he started focusing more on the rhymes than the turntables. Over time he honed his emcees skills and would end up getting a deal with Capitol Records, where he would release his debut album, Act A Fool, at the tail end of 1988.
Act A Fool would begin King Tee’s tradition of including classic whips on his album covers, as this one features our host staggering past a clean white Caddy with shotgun in hand, while a group of sippin’ and chillin’ brothers, casually watch (If you own a digital copy of Act A Fool, you won’t be able to get the full scope of the artwork, as you actually have to open the liner notes booklet to get the full picture and see the classic Caddy in all of its splendor. Another reason I still buy vinyl and CD’s). King Tee would call on his old buddy, DJ Pooh to produce the entirety of the album (except for the two interludes, which are credited to King Tee), and while it wasn’t a commercial success, Act A Fool would produce a couple of singles that made a little noise on the Hip-hop Charts, but more importantly, the streets gave it two thumbs up.
This is my first time listening to Act A Fool, so hopefully it sounds as entertaining as the album’s title and cover artwork.
Act A Fool – Our host starts off the evening sharing a night in the life of King Tee running around in the streets of Compton, and in true King Tee fashion, he keeps it lighthearted and comical. Pooh builds the dope backdrop around a rock-tinged guitar loop that sounds great underneath Tee’s bars.
Ko Rock Stuff – Pooh spits a rare verse, as he opens this one up boasting about how dope his beats are. King Tee concurs and uses the rest of the song to shoutout his homie and brags of his own lyrical dopeness over a funky backdrop. Well done, guys.
The Coolest – King Tee’s in straight emcee mode, spitting well-crafted metaphors and confidently boasting of his lyrical prowess over a funky Pooh produced bop. It sounds like Tee takes a shot at LL during his opening bars (“Fresh like a virgin, calculates like a math whiz, you think you’re bad, Imma show you what bad is”), which makes sense, considering he was down with Ice-T, who openly had beef with Cool James. This record is fire!
Flirt – Our host uses this one to brag about his gift to gab and his ability to have his way with the ladies. Pooh interrupts his partner on the song’s last verse to argue that he’s a bigger ladies’ man than our host, but Tee quickly shuts him down, as he continues to “matter of factly” explain his player techniques. Tee’s rhymes were cool, but Pooh’s bare boned instrumental is too dry to keep me interested.
Baggin’ On Moms – King Tee and his boys use this two-minute interlude to carry on the hood tradition of crackin’ “yo momma” jokes. I chuckle every time I listen to this one. The jokes are funny, but the delivery of the punchlines makes them hi-larious, even when they mess up the punchline.
Bass (Remix) – King Tee uses this one to celebrate the bass line, tell us why he bought his gold chain and an assortment of other randomness. Pooh provides a slick instrumental, complete with smooth horn breaks, while King Tee’s deejay, Keith Cooley gets a chance to cut some shit up on the one’s and two’s. This remix only makes a few minor alterations to the original version. This record was a great choice for a single and it has aged well.
Let’s Dance – More quality bars from our host over a solid mid-tempo Pooh production that’s sole intention is to get the listener to dance. For some reason, King Tee’s flow on this one kind of reminds me of Special Ed (the rapper, not SPED). Wait…did he just threaten to shit on someone’s face?
Guitar Playin’ – The instrumental is simple, but decent, as are King Tee’s rhymes.
Payback’s A Mutha – This one finds King Tee playing fake mad and in faux revenge mode, only to match the James Brown loops the instrumental is built around. Even with our host’s contrived energy, I still enjoyed this one.
Just Clowning – Our host invites MC Breeze (not to be confused with the late MC Breed from Detroit) and Mixmaster Spade to join him, as they take turns spittin’ playful bars over Pooh’s Parliament funk-injected instrumental. I guess they all can’t be great.
I Got A Cold – King Tee ends Act A Fool doing just what the album title suggest: this interlude features our host (or is that Pooh?) beatboxing around his own coughing, sneezing and hacking. And that’s a wrap.
I’ve always scratched my head when people try to put King Tee in the gangsta rap category. Yes, he came up in Compton (which is the home to several gangsta rap artists) and ran with Ice-T (a pioneering gangsta rapper), but there is nothing remotely “gangsta” about King Tee’s music (or at least there’s nothing gangsta about the two King Tee albums I’ve listened to thus far). Clearly, the people who try to place him in that box, paraphrasing Jay-Z, don’t listen to music, they just skim through it (or badly misinterpret album covers). If you actually listen to Act A Fool, you’ll discover that King Tee is a competent emcee who clowns a little but is more focused on showcasing his lyrical prowess than slangin’ and bangin’ on wax. DJ Pooh compliments King Tee’s witty bars and lighthearted content on Act A Fool with dope soul and funk sample-laden production that entertains just as much as King Tee’s rhymes, for the most part. Act A Fool is a quality listen that has aged well and lives up to its title and album cover.