Wreckx-N-Effect – Raps New Generation (September 24, 1996)

In the annuls of hip-hop, Wreckx-N-Effect will forever be remembered for their Teddy Riley assisted smash hit, “Rump Shaker,” that even to this day if it comes on at a club, bar, or party, is guaranteed to make the ass of some forty-year-old woman twerk. That crossover sensation would become a double platinum single for Akil and Mark, and single handedly (no pun intended) propelled the duo’s 1992 sophomore album, Hard Or Smooth, to platinum status. But prior to Hard Or Smooth, WNE released projects that had some modest success: a self-titled EP in ‘88, followed by their self-titled debut album in ‘89 that featured the mild hit record, “New Jack Swing.” But all WNE’s pre-Rump Shaker output would be overshadowed by that massive single. Four years later, Akil (aka A-Plus, not to be confused with the kid from Hempstead or one-fourth of the Oakland based group, Souls of Mischief) and Markell (aka Miggidy Mark) would return to build on the momentum of HOS, with their third full-length album, Raps New Generation.

On Raps New Generation (the omission of the apostrophe before the “s” in “Raps” is WNE’s error, not mine), WNE would pay homage to eighties hip-hop by naming each song on the album after a classic eighties hip-hop song, showing respect to the pioneers as they look forward to the future (or past?). Like all their previous projects, WNE would handle most of the production duties with some help from their mentor and creator of the New Jack Swing sound, the legendary, Teddy Riley. New Generation was a commercial failure and would be the only WNE album to not make it on the Billboard Top 200, and the critics weren’t warm to the album, either, as it received unfavorable reviews.

I mentioned during the write-up of WNE’s debut album that I enjoyed it enough that I’d be willing to shell out a few dollars to check out the next two. HOS was mediocre at best, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed while I root for New Generation.

Intro: New Generation – The album opens with a female voice chanting the names of WNE and the members of their Posse Deep crew in a Ms. Mary Mat like cadence (after my first few listens, I swear she was saying “forty-one, all beef, plus Mickey D’s, Tasha’s knowledge eats all Nutter Butter”). Then a baritone male voice that sounds like an announcer at the circus, prepares the listener for what they’re about to experience, makes a bunch of random statements (I’m not sure what the hell the Oklahoma City bombing or the OJ Trial had to do with anything) and a few outlandish claims, like referring to Akil as “the hottest lyricist to ever walk the muthafuckin’ planet” and that the album contains “the dopest beats to ever come across man’s mind.” Anyhoo…

Tha Show – The track begins with dark synthesized chords and Natasha Laing singing a hook that borrows and remixes a portion of Mary J. Blige’s “Real Love.” Then Akil is joined by Rugged Baztud (yes, I know…super corny alias) and Heat, as all three of the trio spit overly aggressive hardcore soliloquies (and what the hell was Akil talking about with his “I got the body of a scarecrow, heart of a lion” line? It’s obviously a Wizard Of Oz reference, as he mentions having the mind of the Wiz and calls wack rappers “Dorothy emcees” later in the rhyme, but the lion didn’t have heart, he was a coward; and I have absolutely no idea why he would brag about having the body of a scarecrow). Despite some of Akil’s head scratching bars and the nonsensical hook, this was a decent record.

Top Billin – Akil (with a co-production credit going to Chris Smith) hooks up a cheesy poor man’s mid-nineties Dr. Dre instrumental that he raps dolo over, spittin’ random shit, while his blasphemous ass continues to try and convince the listener that he’s “lyrically, Jesus.” Mark and the rest of the crew are left to handle the hook for this easily forgettable record.

Criminal Minded – Akil combines funky drums with more synth chords and rock tinged-guitars to create this electrically charged backdrop, as the self-proclaimed Lyrical Jesus (who hi-lariously claims he is “no longer rump shakin’ with goddesses” during his verse), Rugged Baztud, an uncredited rapper (who rhymes right after Rugged Baztud and tries so hard to sound tough, you can hardly understand his rhymes) and Knowledge match the instrumental’s energy with enthusiasm and vigor making for a fire record (Knowledge’s raw vocal tone paired with his ill reggae-flavored flow makes him the standout on this one, even though a rapper who claims to smoke, drink and fuck 365 days a year, has no goals or morals, and murders his own people, should not have the alias of Knowledge). Peace to BDP, KRS-One and Wendy’s, even though those crispy chicken sandwiches y’all gave me a couple of weeks ago were trash.

Harlem (Interlude) – Akil has a phone conversation with one of his Harlem homeboys for this short skit.

Planet Rock – Another Akil produced dolo joint that he uses to spew more bars of blasphemy. This time it’s done over a hard backdrop, driven by funky drums, and accompanied by a catchy hook.

Move Da Crowd – Teddy Riley (who the liner notes oddly credit as Teddy “Street” Riley) gets his first production credit of the night with this one, while Akil continues with his God obsession, and seven tracks into the album, Miggidy Mark finally gets off his first verse (where he hilariously claims to be “your favorite rapper”). It’s too bad he had to wait all that time to rhyme over such a wiggidy wack track. TR’s zany synthesized bullshit of an instrumental sounds horrible. I’m sure Rakim shook his head in disappointment after hearing this one.

Funky (Interlude) – A short skit that sets up the next song…

Funk Box – Now this sounds more like something Teddy Riley would produce. TR sprinkles a little New Jack Swing seasoning over the plush and pristine instrumental, and invites Darryl Adams to sing the hook, giving the track a deeper R&B flavoring. I thought for sure Akil and Mark would use the breezy track to rap about the ladies, but instead they stay true to the braggadocious thread that’s dominated New Generation up to this point. Along with more Jesus comparisons, Akil gets off a few bars that pay homage to Mobb Deep’s The Infamous album, which we find out during his verse, he’s such a big fan of it that he’s committed the album’s release date to memory, and I’m sure his admiration for the Queensbridge duo had some influence on the naming of his crew: Posse Deep. Mobb Deep. He could have at least changed the “Deep” to “Dense” or something. Regardless, I enjoyed this one.

Somethin For Da Radio – Akil’s backdrop sounds like something Daz would have cheffed up, and I mean that in the most complimentary way. “Lyrical Jesus” sits this one out for the most part (he does make a brief appearance at the midway point and chimes in on the hook) and lets his Posse Deep crew take center stage. A-Q, Knowledge, Bad Newz and Rugged Baztud collectively do a decent job carrying the lyrics load, while Natasha Laing jacks and reinterprets a portion of Lionel Richie’s classic record, “All Night Long” on the hook. Continue to rest easy, Biz Markie.

Da Vapors – Rugged Baztud and Akil pair up to lyrically spar over this hard, dark and polished instrumental that’s sure to make you stiffen your neck as you bop your head to the rhythm. This is also one of the few records on New Generation that Akil doesn’t compare himself to God or Jesus.

Rap Acting School (Interlude) – What’s supposed to be a funny skit ends up just being annoying.

Boomin System – Mark, Nutta Butta, D-Moody and Akil form a cipher and take on the subdued drums and ominous keys, while Knowledge sprinkles a little dancehall flavor on the hook that’s bound to make some young tender whined her body. D-Moody makes his first appearance of the night and boldly calls out Akil (who once again raps praises to KRS-One) in a friendly competitive kind of way: “I’m wreckin’ shop like Miggidy Mark and the Armenian devil, A-Plus, meet your match, the attack of a rap rebel.” Moody’s challenge must have inspired Akil, as he sounds determined to out rhyme his protégé, and it’s safe to say he does.

Grandma (Interlude) – Akil crank calls his grandma on this skit that sounds a little cruel but made me chuckle a few times.

Sucka MC’s – TR lays down a smooth synth heavy backdrop for Akil to get off one last “Lyrical Jesus” reference (and he threatens to “stick his dick in the career” of rival emcees), Knowledge (the son of Roberta) makes another entertaining appearance, and Nutta Butta…does Nutta Butta. More entertaining than the instrumental and the bars is Mark’s humorous and catchy hook. This is easily my favorite record on New Generation.

It’s Yours (Play On Playa) – Akil sits the final song of the album out and lets Nutta Butta, Mark and Six-Two take turns bragging about their player mannerisms, with mediocre results.

Outro – Another dumb skit to end the album.

Raps New Generation has a few different meanings and agendas at play. It obviously honors the pioneers and the era that came before it with its song titles, but it also finds WNE introducing their crew, Posse Deep, as the next young crop of talented emcees, while Akil and Mark (more so Akil) act as their mentoring veterans trying to distance themselves from the soft R&B image they built their brand around and out to prove to the “new school” emcees (who are not a part of Posse Deep) that just because WNE is seasoned, doesn’t mean they’re done.

The production on New Generation sounds like it was influenced by the synth-heavy West Coast sound that was so dominant in the mid-nineties, and the “all mics on deck” approach with the rhymes is reminiscent of The Chronic, but don’t get it twisted. New Generation is far from The Chronic. That’s not to say that the production on New Generation is bad, as I found the majority of it ranged from decent to solid, but it would be blasphemous to put it next to the good doctor’s masterful production work or compare Posse Deep’s serviceable output to the entertainment and lyrical fire power that Snoop Dogg and his Dogg Pound Click provided on Dr. Dre’s certified classic. Speaking of blasphemy, Akil’s God complex gets annoying by the midway point of New Generation, which wouldn’t be so bothersome if he actually deserved a spot in the conversation of God emcee. Akil’s a decent lyricist, but his overly aggressive delivery coupled with his lisp, works as a stumbling block, and with the repeated mentioning of KRS-One’s name on the album, I was sure he would pop-up and make a cameo at some point. He never does.

There’s an age-old adage that your reputation precedes you, which is what I believe, at least partially, hobbled the reception of Raps New Generation back in the day. WNE abandons their core fanbase by substituting their pop/R&B sound with a hardcore image, while the hardcore heads they were trying to appeal to weren’t willing to forget their softer past and take their newfound “tough guy emcee“ persona serious. It’s an unfortunate conundrum because New Generation is actually a decent album. If only WNE would have heeded TLC’s advice about the dangers of chasing waterfalls. Please stick to the rivers and lakes that you’re used to, folks.

-Deedub

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