I’ve known who King Tee was since the nineties, but over the past few years I’ve been tracking down his catalog and becoming more acquainted with his music, and he’s quickly becoming one of my favorite old-new finds. I first discovered his fourth release, IV Life, and enjoyed it so much I vowed to track down copies of the rest of his albums. About six months ago I found his debut, Act A Fool (you can read my full thoughts on that album right here), which was also a satisfactory listen, and Tha Triflin’ Album, which is the subject of today’s post.
Like the rest of his catalog, King Tee would call on his friend and longtime music collaborator, DJ Pooh to produce the majority of Tha Triflin’ Album, with production contributions from a few other parties, including himself. The album would also feature a host of guest rappers that we’ll discuss a little later in this write-up. Tha Triflin’ Album wasn’t a huge commercial success, as it would peak at 95 on the Billboard Top 200 and 17 on the Billboard US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Charts, but it would give us another classic car album cover, this time in the form of a beautiful 1961 bubbletop orange Chevy.
If you read this blog on a regular basis, you already know how I feel about charts and commercial success, and the only reason I mention them so often in my write-ups is to fill space because I often run out of shit to say during the introductions and stats and accolades are a great default. But here at TimeisIllmatic we know that there are several great albums that never sold millions of copies or received heaps of critical acclaim. Let’s see if we can add Tha Triflin’ Album to that list.
Drunk Tekneek – The album opens with a smooth horn loop and what appears to be, King Tee slurping to finish up the last of his drink through a straw. Then thudding drums come in with a sneaky bass line that King Tee uses to display his drunken technique, excuse me, “tekneek”, and he comes off well in the process. Pooh’s instrumental sounds a little tipsy as well, in the most complimentary way possible. This was a solid light-hearted way to kick off the evening.
I Gotta Call Earl – A short interlude that concludes the previous song.
Got It Bad Y’all – I completely forgot about this one, and thought it was the Alkaholiks’ song. Come to find out it’s the lead single from Tha Triflin’ Album, and the song that would introduce Tha Liks to the world (I think). J-Ro and Tash join King Tee on the mic, as all three emcees get off solid verses, with J-Ro making the biggest impression of the three, in my opinion. I would have loved to hear a full-length album from the Likwit Crew. I’m sure have made for a good time and some dope music.
On Tha Rox – King Tee borrows Spice 1’s idea from “187 Proof” and turns different liquor brands into people. While Spice 1 built his tale around Jack Daniels, King Tee’s storyline revolves around Johnnie Walker, a “big shit talker” who ironically, likes to drink a lot of vodka. Spice 1’s record will always be superior, but I still enjoyed King Tee’s one verse wonder.
Just Flauntin’ – DJ Aladdin and SLJ hook up a simple mellow bop with a hard-edge that our host uses to flex on, and he manages to send a shot at the one hit wonder, Candyman (remember him?): “People keep askin: does King Tee still have his couth, or will he flip and make a song like “Knockin’ Boots?”. This instrumental is tough, and King Tee sounds nice rhyming over it.
At Your Own Risk (Budha Mix) – Apparently, this is the Marley Marl produced remix for the title song from King Tee’s second album that I still have never heard. Marley hooks up a funky up- tempo backdrop (I love the LL vocal snippet brought in during the second hook to cleverly let you know who’s responsible for this remix) that an energetic King Tee uses to talk his shit over. You can quickly tell by King Tee’s voice and delivery that the lyrics were recorded before the rest of Tha Triflin’ Album, but it still works well with the rest of the album.
King Tee’s Beer Stand – I completely missed or forgot that King Tee was a part of the St. Ides commercials ads in the early nineties, which several of your favorite emcee were a part of (including Snoop, 2pac, Biggie and Rakim just to name a few). DJ Pooh taps the same loop that Cypress Hill (who were also a part of the St. Ides campaign) used for “How I Could Just Kill A Man” for the backdrop, as King Tee gets off a verse co-signing for the crooked “I” malt liquor, followed by a verse from Cube who claims that St. Ides has the power to “get your girl in the mood quicker” and “get your jimmy thicker”. Who needs Viagra when you can just drink a six pack of St. Ides to get a stiffy? As if King Tee and Ice “slangin’ bean pies and St. Ides in the same sentence” Cube’s rhyme weren’t corny enough, they bring in an uncredited male group to croon over the hood’s favorite malt liquor as well. Oh boy, this was embarrassing.
We Got Tha Fat Joint – King Tee invites Nefretitti and Mad Kap to join him on this one, as they pass the mic around like a joint and do a whole lot of weed talk in the process. No one spits anything quote worthy (Motif (*yawn*) almost put me to sleep during his verse), but I enjoyed Broadway’s low-key jazzy instrumental.
Where’sa Hoe Sat – Remember the rapping jimmy hats (aka condoms) from the interlude on Ice Cube’s Death Certificate album? King Tee brings them back to spit a quick zany rap on this short interlude.
A Hoe B-4 Tha Homie – This one begins with a short skit that has a dude (sounds like Pooh’s voice) getting clowned by his boys after he tells them he can’t go “scoop up some hoes” with them because he’s engaged and wants to stay faithful to his fiancé. King Tee, Threat and Ice Cube take turns reprimanding and calling out their home boy for putting his lady before the homies. King Tee sound more like a jealous lover than a hurt homie during his verse, but Threat and Cube take things to toxic levels, as Threat lives up to his alias and threatens to beat the shit out of his buddy’s fiancé, while Cube sends his boys to kidnap her (but they hi-lariously come back with the engaged homie instead, since Cube’s instructions were to “kidnap the hoe”). Even though the rhymes are a bit extreme, they’re entertaining, and so is the slow rolling DJ Pooh/Mr. Woody backdrop.
Blow My Sox Off – King Tee dedicates this one to the ladies who give fabulous falacio: “Not lookin for a lover, just a good dick sucker, Jimmy’ll rise when I hear the lips pucker, suckin’ and smackin’, gagin’ and slurpin’, grab you by the head, cause your tongue be workin'”. You might call it misogyny; I call it appreciate for the art of giving head. Either way, it sounds entertaining as hell over the funky King Tee/ Bobcat concocted backdrop.
Where’sa Hoe Sat (Cont.) – The rapping jimmy hats return to get off one last nut, I mean, verse, and reference one of my favorite A Tribe Called Quest song (“Bonita Applebum”) in the process. Tribe Degrees of Separation: check.
Triflin’ Nigga – After a short skit that finds a man (once again played by DJ Pooh) getting carjacked and apparently murdered for not willing to give up his ride, a semi-dark head nod inducing DJ Aladdin & SLJ produced groove comes in that King Tee uses to share the perspective of a young brother caught up in the street life, who’s also wrestling with the idea of leaving the game: “I gotta leave this crazy place, but my feet won’t budge, the niggas always ask am I a crip or a blood, I am what I am, and that all I can stand, I can’t stands no more so I’m a scram, sell me a couple of ki’s and by a crib far away, a place that the map don’t say, cause I’m getting kind of timid, at first I was with it, talk about jack moves, I did it”. This is easily the most grimiest King Tee song I’ve ever heard, but it’s great record and a nice change of pace from our host’s usual juvenile antics.
Black Togetha Again – King Tee grapples with the never-ending issue of police brutality in the black community, taking on a militant stance, as he suggests we match the police’s unwarranted violence with violence. He also uses the second verse to call out the government officials and politicians who help reinforce some of the injustices that the black man is forced to face in North America. King Tee’s melodic and mellow backdrop sounds great, but it does sound a bit too chill behind some of our host’s aggressive content. And this concludes the serious portion of Tha Triflin’ Album.
Bus Dat Ass – Once again, J-Ro and Tash join King Tee for this light-hearted high-energy cipher session. I wasn’t crazy about this one, but it makes for decent filler material that probably sounds better at a live show than on wax.
Tha Great – DJ Pooh serves up a super bouncy and drowsy bass line to drive the final song of the evening, while King Tee gets off one last boast and shit talk session, and he sounds smooth and right at home doing it over this slick backdrop.
You will probably never find King Tee on anybody’s top ten list, and none of his albums were commercial successes or deemed classics by the critics, but the West Coast pioneer is a witty emcee who had a knack for making good music and quality albums, and Tha Triflin’ Album is another testament to that. Over the course of sixteen tracks, King Tee takes the listener on a mostly light-hearted, humorous and partial immature ride, sprinkling in a touch of consciousness and gangsta along the way, but always delivering well-calculated bars in his signature voice that falls somewhere in between husky and hoarse. DJ Pooh and company provide a dope batch of instrumentals to complement King Tee’s wit and foolishness, along with well-placed cameos to keep things from getting monotonous. Tha Triflin’ Album may not be a classic, but it’s another entertaining listen from a modest emcee whose catalog is severely underappreciated.