After their underwhelming and very forgettable self-titled debut EP (read my thoughts on it right here), Wreckx-N-Effect went through significant changes. They cut ties with Atlantic after the EP was poorly received, and they would also lose the lead emcee and voice of the group, Keith K.C., who left shortly after the EP was released. But the three remaining Harlem homeboys wouldn’t be down for long, as they would quickly land a new deal with Motown, releasing their self-titled debut full-length album in the fall of 1989.
With Keith K.C. gone, Aqil would be promoted to chief emcee and the new voice of WNE, handling most of the rhyming on the album. They would keep the production in house, with Markell at the helm, receiving additional help from David Guppy (and even though he is not credited, I’m sure Teddy Riley had a hand in producing the album as well). The album didn’t earn WNE any RIAA certifications, but the lead single did make some noise, setting them up for their platinum selling follow-up, Hard Or Smooth, which undoubtedly earned its platinum certification due to the inclusion of their smash hit single, “Rump Shaker” (a song that Teddy Riley rightfully received a producer’s credit on).
Would Aqil come of age and be able to hold his own on this album? And if he did, would Markell and company be able to provide quality production to back him? Stay tuned…
New Jack Swing – The album starts with easily the second biggest hit in WNE’s shallow catalog. I don’t care what the liner notes say, Teddy Riley definitely produced this one. I mean, how could he not? He fathered the style the song celebrates. TR makes sure to “humbly” let the listener know the impressive list of artists that he’s blessed with his New Jack production sound at the beginning of his verse, which is sandwiched in between two Aqil verses. Speaking of Aqil, his voice matured since their debut EP. He’s not a great lyricist, but he does get off a few clever lines on this one (my favorite is “Watchin’ all the girls just pumpin’ like hotties/they had parts that looked better than Ferraris”). This is a dope little bop that has aged well.
Leave The Mike Smokin’ – Over a decent upbeat backdrop, Aqil goes dolo, trying his damnedest to set the mic on fire with hot bars. Unfortunately, he doesn’t cause even the tiniest flickering of a spark to come out of the microphone, but the instrumental was partially entertaining.
Juicy – Five years before Puffy and ’em would loop up Mtume’s classic record of the same name for Biggie’s joint that is damn near now hip-hop’s National Anthem, Markell would use the sample for the backbone to this love song. Aqil puts on his romantic voice as he thirsts after a cutie named Juicy with “nice legs and a big booty” that’s got him wide open (This line made me chuckle: “She dope, doper on a rope, yo, lookin at her body’s like going down a slope”). Aqil’s shallow content serves as proof that this is more of a lust song than a love song, but it still makes for a decent listen.
Club Head – David Guppy and WNE hook up a banger that Aqil dedicates to all those people who live for the club scene (his line about making the club head chick a club sandwich to get the panties was corny and clever at the same time). Aqil sounds solid on this one, but the true star of this record is the instrumental. The drums on this one are sick! Go ahead, give it a listen.
Soul Man – After the high energy from the previous song, WNE slows things down a bit with a somberly soulful backdrop that an almost sedated Aqil uses to casually talk his shit over, warning would be competitors that he’s “A new jack of rap, but yo, I’m not havin’ it, so don’t step to Aqil with that battle shit”. This is easily one of my favorites on the album.
Deep – Aqil kicks one quick verse, calling for peace and an end to the senseless violence in the black community. The instrumental sounds like a slightly slower jazzier version of “New Jack Swing”, but I still enjoyed it.
Wipe Your Sweat – Besides the dope horn break in between the verses, everything about this was mediocre.
V-Man – The opening and closing chords on this one sound a lot like portions of Guy’s classic quiet storm joint “Tease Me Tonite” (you remember, the joint on The Future album that Aaron Hall pre-ejaculate’s on at the beginning of the song, only to regain his stamina and bust another nut for the final thirty seconds of the record), which serves as more proof to my theory that TR had more to do with the production on this album than WNE credits him for, but I digress. After the somber chords evaporate into thin air, a funky Hamilton Bohannon loop comes in (you’ll probably recognize it as the musical backbone for Jay-Z’s “Cashmere Thoughts”) and Aqil raps about his homie, V-Man, who, unfortunately, was murdered. The content was heavy, but heartfelt, and I enjoyed the instrumental.
Peanut Butter – I wasn’t impressed with Aqil’s bars, but this instrumental is hard.
Friends To The End – WNE invites Redhead Kingpin and Scoop Rock to join Aqil on this one, as the three take turns spewing forgettable raps over a backdrop built around an interpolation of the bass line from the Gap Band’s “Outstanding”. This wasn’t terrible, but not worth listening to more than once, either.
Rock Steady – The final song of the evening finds a focused Aqil talkin’ more shit over a dope upbeat jazz-tinged backdrop. The horns on the break sound sexy as hell, and this makes for a solid ending to the album.
Oh, what a difference a year makes. The once “barely out of puberty” voiced Aqil that we were first introduced to on the EP, quickly blossomed into a solid baritone that leads the team on Wreckx-N-Effect’s first full-length album. Aqil’s not a superb lyricist, but he’s decent on the mic and a vast improvement from the overly excited Keith K.C. who dominated their six song EP. Markell and Mr. Guppy back Aqil’s rhymes with a few stellar soundscapes, but the bulk of their production falls somewhere in between solid to decent, with none of them falling into the “trash” category. The album doesn’t have any real cohesion and sounds like they just put eleven individual songs together to fill out an album, but I still found most of it is moderately enjoyable, to the point that I’d drop a few bucks to check out their last two project as well.