Shortly after the release of N.W.A.’s second full-length album, Niggaz4Life, Dr. Dre started to have the same revelation that his former group member Ice Cube had a few years prior. Dre made it clear that he was unhappy with his contract at Ruthless and fed-up with Eazy-E and Jerry Heller’s shysty ways. He would soon leave the label and start Death Row Records with Suge Knight (another business deal that he would later regret), which they would jump start in 1992 with Dr. Dre’s undisputed classic album, The Chronic. The Chronic would be musically backed by Dre’s pristine production and would introduce the world to the soon to be superstar, Snoop Dogg. The album would also include a few shots aimed at Dre’s former partner in crime, Eazy-E. Eazy didn’t take to kindly to Dre’s shots, so like any real gangsta rapper, he would response by bangin’ on wax, dedicating a whole eight song EP to his nemesis, in the form of It’s On (Dr. Dre) 187um Killa, that I’ll only refer to as It’s On from here on out.
On the back of It’s On‘s liner notes insert is a picture of Dr. Dre, pre-N.W.A. days, when he was part of the r&b/electro hip-hop group, World Class Wrekin’ Cru. The picture is framed as Dre’s “Obitchuary”, as Eazy makes a mockery of him for wearing lipstick, eye liner, sequin and etc. before adapting his gangsta persona with N.W.A. Rhythm D and the former DJ for N.W.A., DJ Yella would produce the bulk of the EP with a few others lending helping hands as well. Thanks largely to the lead single (“Real Muthaphuckkin G’s”) and its hysterical video, It’s On would sell over two million copies, becoming Eazy’s third consecutive solo project to sell gold or better. It’s On was a commercial success, but it didn’t receive the same type of critical acclaim.
Limited dosages of Eazy on N.W.A. albums were…easy to digest, but full projects from Mr. Wright have always been hard to swallow. I’ve reviewed Eazy’s 1988 solo debut, Eazy-Duz-It and his 1992 EP, 5150: Home 4 Tha Sick, and both were underwhelming listens, and that’s being generous. During a recent perusing at one of my favorite music stores, I stumbled on a copy of It’s On, and the completionist in me had to buy it…so here we are.
Let’s get into the music and may you continue to rest easy, Eazy.
Exxtra Special Thankz – Eazy starts the EP off with a slow-rolling dark synthy Rhythm D produced instrumental that he uses to let the listener know the year this was recorded, and he takes his first shots of many more to come at Dre and Snoop.
Real Muthaphuckkin G’s – This was the lead single from the EP. Eazy invites his fellow-gangstas, Gangsta Dresta and BG Knock Out to join him as they take turns dissin’ his old friend Dre and his “anorexic” buddy, Snoop Dogg. I forgot how dope Rhythm D’s instrumental was on this one, and kudos to whoever wrote Eazy’s bars, as he lands some pretty hi-larious and solid blows to Dre and Snoop’s egos. If you’re willing to have an honest conversation, lyrically, this is a stronger dis record than “Dre Day”. Yeah, I said it.
Any Last Werdz – Cold 187um from Above The Law gets his only production credit of the night, and he serves up a sexy gangsta groove that finds our host spewing more murderous gangsta shit, while Kokane and Cold 187 lend their voices for the catchy hook. This is probably my favorite song on the EP, thanks mostly to Cold 187’s infectious instrumental.
Still A Nigga – Eazy continues to spit gangsta shit and manages to navigate fairly well threw DJ Yella’s dark and subdued instrumental. He also slips in a few more shots at Dre and Snoop, and things kind of get awkward when he refers to himself as “the devil’s son-in-law” on a few different occasions. But E’s demonic outburst can’t derail the smoothness of Yella’s production work.
Gimmie That Nutt – Eazy’s a gangsta in heat on this one, as he uses Yella’s up-tempo bop to get into some vulgar misogynistic shit. E’s rhymes were forgettable, but once again, Yella comes through with a solid instrumental to back him up.
It’s On – No matter how many times I listen to this one, it will never grow on me.
Boyz N Tha Hood (G-Mix) – Our host revisits his song that was originally released on the N.W.A. and The Posse album (that he also remixed for his solo debut album, Eazy-Duz-It), keeping the same lyrics from the o.g. mix and placing a different instrumental underneath it. I enjoyed Dr. Jam’s funky synth backdrop, and Eazy’s six-year-old rhymes, surprisingly sound fresh over it.
Down 2 Tha Last Roach – Eazy starts this one off with a short Dr. Dre vocal snippet taken from N.W.A.’s “Express Yourself” that finds the maestro of the The Chronic denouncing weed (“I don’t smoke weed or cess”), which Eazy uses to paint Mr. Young as a hypocrite, but also to introduce It’s On’s final song: an ode to Mary Jane. Eazy invites Mr. Roach Clip (who I’m pretty sure is Eazy’s high chipmunked-voice alter ego), BG Knocc Out, Ash Trey and Shaki to puff-puff and pass with him and rap praises to marijuana. Eazy and his guests’ rhymes have no nutritional value, but Madness 4 Real’s funky instrumental makes this nearly eight-minute experience worth listening to…at least once.
Since It’s On is an EP, I’ll keep this wrap-up short as well. It’s On is easily (no pun intended) Eazy-E’s best project of the three I’ve reviewed on TimeIsIllmatic so far. While Eazy will never be mistaken for a great rapper with superb lyricism, the quality batch of synth-heavy West Coast instrumentals on this EP helps disguise a lot of his shortcomings on the mic and kept me interested for most of the eight songs. It’s On is far from a classic, but it’s much better than it’s been given credit for through the years.