The last and first time we heard from The Conscious Daughters was in 1993 with their debut album, Ear To The Street. The album produced a couple of mild hood hits, and there were a few songs that I enjoyed, but overall, the Oakland-based duo’s gangsta persona felt ingenuine and Paris’ beats didn’t cut it. Nevertheless, CMG and Special One would return in 1996 with their second release, Gamers.
For Gamers, Paris would only produce half of the album for his protégés, letting a few outside parties handle the other portion. Gamers received decent reviews upon its release and would climb to twenty-nine on the Billboards Top R&B/Hip-Hop Charts, before disappearing as quickly as the midnight train to Georgia. I have no idea what that means or why I said it, but shoutout to Gladys Knight and her Pips.
I wasn’t checking for TCD when they came out back in the nineties, and honestly, I’m not sure what moved me to buy Ear To The Street and later, Gamers, well over a decade after both albums were released. Blame it on the collector that dwells inside of me and torments my soul. This is my first time listening to Gamers since I bought it, so hopefully it fairs better than its predecessor.
Strikin’ – TCD starts off the night with a lively synth-heavy west coast bop that CMG and Special One use to celebrate the art of strikin’, which I learned from listening to this song is slang for driving your whip obnoxiously reckless. Nate Fox’s funky backdrop fits the bill and will definitely make you want to go wreck your shit while swervin’ to this heat.
Gamers – This title track was also the lead single from the album. Mike Mosley (with a co-credit going to Sam Bostic) slides our hostesses a mildly funky mid-tempo groove that they use to boast about their quest to get money by any means necessary. I wasn’t crazy about this one after the first few listens, but it grows on you over time. The song ends with fellow Oakland native and comedian, Luenell, doing a bit about men from the “NFL”, and her voice sounds ten thousand cigarettes less raspy than it sounds today.
You Want Me – Paris gets his first production credit of the night, as he hooks up a low-key seductive track and TCD try their hand in what we’ll refer to as exotic dance rap. I’m so used to hearing them spit thug raps that it caught me off guard to hear them give up raunchy bars like this, but I was sold the second I heard Special One say she’s “rollin’ down the strip, rubbin’ on that nigga dick”. Immediately, CMG’s thick frame on the album cover started to look a whole lot more appealing. I do have a question, though: how do talk this freaky on a song and then claim you don’t give head on the hook? Sixty-eight and you be owin’, my ass!
All Caught Up – TCD follows up their x-rated exploits on the previous track with this gangsta PSA on AIDS (which includes, what sounds like, Special One taking a shot at Eazy-E with her line “Nah, it couldn’t happen to me, you think I’m easy, hell, I know my shit is ruthless, but damn, I only fuck with men”; which might have been a little too soon, considering he died just over a year prior). Paris provides a hard funk instrumental, laced with a trunk rattling bass line to complement the ladies’ potent message.
She’s So Tight – Our hostesses use this one to talk their shit and challenge any female emcee in the game that isn’t from Oakland. CMG keeps her targets general, while Special One takes a coded shot at Boss (“You broke hungry hoe must you bite on me? Put your own shit together for your own recipe”, which is clearly referencing Boss’ song “Recipe Of A Hoe”) and Prince’s former protege, Vanity (rip), who gave up music to become an evangelist in the nineties, even catches a semi-stray (for some reason SO’s line “Maybe I should get saved like that bitch Vanity”, makes me chuckle every time I hear it). I wasn’t crazy about the generic talk box chorus or the cheesy Casio keyboardish instrumental, but TCD manages to keep the song interesting with their rhymes.
It Don’t Stop – TCD invites Bay Area rappers, Shuga Babydoll, Mystic and Suga-T to join them on the mic for this all-female posse record. Tone Capone lays down a slick instrumental for the ladies, who all give, at minimum, serviceable performances, while Lil Kristen tries her best to bring the whole song to a complete stop (pun intended) with her horrendous singing on the hook, but to no avail.
Female Vocalism – Someone simply credited as Rose hooks up some funky smooth shit for CMG and Special One to continue to talk their shit and spew their thug raps over, or as the song title and hook state: spit that “Playa female vocalism straight from the Bay.” This was dope.
Da Mack Shit – Paris serves up a hard-fried west coast banger, as the self-proclaimed “sucka-free Thelma and Louise” floss, smoke, thug and shoot-up the entire track; and of course, Special One makes sure to sneak in another subliminal, this time taking aim at Da Brat (“I crack, any rat-ta-tat-tat trick coming wack”). TCD sounds great matched with this intense backdrop, and they demolish this shit like a wrecking ball.
Who Got Da Mic – The ladies bring the energy way down with this one. After a wack emcee named B-Fad G embarrasses himself with a few horrible bars, CMG and Special One jump on the mic and rock the chilled-out instrumental the right way. It’s not as epic as the previous song, but it’s still decent.
TCD Fo’ Life (West Coast Bomb) – Speaking of epic: Paris concocts a pounding west coast monster (if the Dr. Dre produced instrumentals for “Serial Killa” and “Natural Born Killaz” had a baby, this is what it would sound like) that TCD lasso with ease and completely rip to shreds, and according to Special One, new assholes for weak muthafuckas as well. The menacing music paired with TCD’s fervent bars forced me to throw up the dubs, c-walk and hit switches in my six-fo’, even though I don’t have one. This is “Da Mack Shit” on steroids. Easily the best record on Gamers.
Come Smooth, Come Rude – This is clearly filler material. But I did enjoy the catchy hook, credited to a Sandy Griffith, no relation to Andy.
Widow – This kind of works as the sequel to Ear To The Street’s “Wife Of A Gangsta”. CMG and Special One play the roles of wives who’ve lost their streetwise drug-dealing husbands to the game and are now out to avenge their deaths and make some paper while they’re at it. Paris’ instrumental was cool, but the storyline isn’t nearly as interesting as it reads.
So Good – More brags, boasts and thuggery from our hostesses, served over a pretty synth-funk groove. This is followed by a Luenell skit that sets up the final song of the night.
All Star Freestyle – TCD closes out the night with a Bay Area cipher session, as CMG and Special One invite a slew of their friends (including Mystic, Money B, Clee, Saafir and Mac Mall, just to name a few) to jump on the mic and get off a few freestyle bars. Unfortunately, the instrumental is garbage, none of the participants spit fire, and I’m still trying to figure out who the all-stars are that TCD references in the song title.
Oh, what a difference three years makes. On Ear To The Street, TCD sounded like Boss wannabee studio gangsters trying to find their footing. On Gamers the ladies stick with their gangsta mannerisms, and while I’m still not convinced that they walk what they talk, they deliver their content with a confidence and swag that makes them hard not to like. The production on Gamers is also much improved, as Paris maestros a few absolute bangers, and he and the other handful of producers give the album an overall consistent and quality G-Funk sound. Gamers is not without flaws (“All-Star Freestyle” is a glaring one) and far from a classic, but there are enough solid to great moments to make the album an entertaining listen. I’m still confused on how they arrived at the group name, though.