The first time I ever heard the Philadelphia bred emcee, Bahamadia spit was on Guru’s Jazzmatazz, Vol 2 project, and her work over the Ramsey Lewis assisted jazz mash up (see “Respect The Architect”) was impressive. But prior to her meeting Guru (rip) she was recording and releasing records independently, making a name for herself back in Philly. In fact, it was her independent work that put her on Guru’s radar in the first place. Her relationship with Guru would lead to her signing to Chrysalis/EMI (which at the time was also the label home to Gang Starr), where she would release her debut album, Kollage.
Bahamadia would call on her mentor, Guru, to produce a few tracks on Kollage, as well as DJ Premier, Da Beatminerz, The Roots, Ski Beats and N.O. Joe. Kollage would reach thirteen on the Billboard US R&B Charts, but despite the decent charting results and positive reviews, the album didn’t do well commercially and would be the only album Bahamadia would release on Chrysalis/EMI. It would be another four years before Bahamadia would resurface and release another album.
Moment of randomness: I recently came across an article about The Top Ten Riches Female Rappers in the World. To no surprise, Nicki Minaj, Queen Latifah and Missy Elliot were the top earners on the list, but I was completely caught off guard to see Bahamadia’s name at number four on the list, with a whopping net worth of thirty-two million dollars. Wtf? I don’t know if the list is cap, but if it’s not, I see you, B!
Intro – Kollage begins with a male voice repeatedly screaming our hostess’ name while a beautifully blunted Premo constructed groove plays underneath it, mentally transporting me to a tropical island for its full fifty second duration.
WordPlay – Guru lays down a deliciously bouncy bass line with splashes of sexy jazz horns and a slick Jeru Da Damaja vocal snippet on the hook that Bahamadia uses to showcase her skills and warm up for the evening. B’s unique vocal tone sounds great over Guru’s backdrop.
Spontaneity – Da Beatminerz are responsible for the ruggedly beautiful sound clash that makes up this instrumental, as Bahamadia uses it to get loose with her lyrics “like a double-jointed limb”. The hook is kind of awkward (what exactly is “mad explosive spontaneity” and why is she whispering it?), but regardless the song is still dope.
Rugged Ruff – Premo slides B a rugged jazzy mashup that lives up to the song title, while Bahamadia adapts a meticulous rapid fire off beat flow, leaving the instrumental riddled with holes. This was fire.
Interlude – Mystical music plays while Guru drops in to share a few words of wisdom and shoutout his protege and her album.
I Confess– This is a fly love song. Bahamadia basically talks her way through this one, as she poetically expresses to the man of her dreams that she’s the “chick” he “should be celebrating life with”, while her girl X-Cetra, assists by singing a little Marvin Gaye on the hook. B also mentions “Electric Relaxation” in a line, so I can check off Tribe Degrees of Separation for yet another post. N.O. Joe’s responsible for the smooth synth vibes, but Preston “P-Funk” Middleton’s infectious bass guitar licks are the heart and soul of this soothing funk groove.
UKNOWHOWWEDU – Ski gets his sole production credit of the night (with a co-credit going to Redhanded) and makes it count, as he slides Bahamadia a melodically airy bop (that kind of reminds me of The Roots “Swept Away” from their Do You Want More?!!!??! album, mainly because of the harmony imbedded in the music) that she uses to “represent her people on the Illadelph side”, shouting out everybody from Lady B, Da Youngsta’s, The Roots, Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, hell, Charlie Mack even gets a shout. This is one of my personal favorites on Kollage, and it sounds just as fresh today as it did twenty-five plus years ago.
Interlude – Da Beatminerz hook up a cool after-hours lounge spot instrumental to begin the second half of Kollage.
Total Wreck – Bahamadia once said in an interview that this was the first song that she recorded for Kollage. Over a muddy instrumental stained with jazzy horns, Bahamadia does just what the song title suggest, delivering her bars in a vocal tone that sounds more aggressive than what we’re accustomed to hearing from her, but I welcome it. The instrumental is drenched in Da Beatminerz swag, so I was super surprised to read the liner notes and find that Guru produced this one. Well done, Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal.
Innovation – Speaking of Da Beatminerz, they are responsible for this boring backdrop that sounds like the perfect backing music for watching paint dry. Bahamadia does the best she can with it (the “Freestyle Fellowship, Aceyalone” line was semi-corny), but this ends up being the first dud of the night.
Da Jawn – Our hostess is joined by The Roots emcees and fellow Illadelphians, Black Thought and Malik B (rip) on the one. All three emcees get off quick verses over a Roots produced instrumental that makes me envision floating through space. Aimlessly and endlessly. Black Thought (who was not quite yet the chiseled rhyme animal that he would soon become), Bahamadia and Malik all get off average at best verses, and the sleepy production work backing them (which sounds like a throw away track from The Roots’ Illadelph Halflife sessions) makes me lose complete interest in this record.
Interlude – Da Beatminerz concoct another jazzy instrumental for this interlude that sounds much more lively and happier than their traditional muddy production sound, but I liked it.
True Honey Buns (Dat Freak Shit) – This was the third single released from Kollage. Premo provides some laidback vibrant boom bap for Bahamadia to share a story about a night out on the town with her home girl, Kia, who starts acting a little too “hoeish” for her more conservative friend’s liking: “Cause Kia went berserk, diggy low at first, subtle body language acting like a flirt, tongue stickin’ out, with the baby doll pout, talkin’ all loud, I’m like what’s this all about? Slipped out her sarong, started dancin’ in her thong, like a bootie song was on, I said sis, you know you wrong, see you the reason nigs be screamin’ bitches, hoes and tricks, can’t believe you going out on that Adina Howard shit”. It was kind of funny to hear Bahamadia spend most of the final verse rebuking her friend’s behavior and then close it out with “I’m not the one to judge”. Great record that has held up well through the years.
3 Tha Hard Way – B invites two of her home girls (K-Swift and Mecca Starr) to join her on the mic, as the three represent for the ladies, spittin’ bars over a raw Premo beat. Dope.
Biggest Part Of Me – Bahamadia dedicates this one to her son, who is currently making a name for himself as a women’s fashion designer (Google Mah-Jing Wah). N.O. Joe gets his second production credit of the night, providing the tender backdrop that sounds tailor fit for B’s heartfelt rhymes.
The European CD version of Kollage comes with a bonus track called “Path To Rhythm” featuring Ursula Rucker. But fret not my dear Bahamadia Stan’s who don’t own that version of Kollage (then again, if you’re a real Bahamadia Stan, you probably spent the extra bread to cop the European version), it’s also available to stream on your favorite DSP, and it’s a pretty solid record.
Bahamadia is an artist that I would definitely prefer to listen to on record rather than see perform live. It’s not because I don’t think she could rock a live show, but I don’t feel the acoustics of a live show would properly capture the unique warmth and hypnotic texture of her vocal tone that almost sounds like an instrument on wax. Her instrument is on full display throughout Kollage, as she sprinkles her quality bars through various flows over well-crafted instrumentals from some of hip-hop’s elite producers. The first half of Kollage starts off strong, before slowing down a little at the beginning of the second half, but it quickly picks up steam and finishes strong. Even with a few blemishes, Kollage is still a great debut from an overlooked emcee who’s mothered a few daughters in this here rap game.