Da Bush Babees were a three-man crew based in Brooklyn, New York by way of Jamaica and Trinidad. We last checked in with Da Babees from the Bush back in 2020 and walked through their 1994 debut album, Ambushed. I thought the album had pretty solid production but lacked substance and direction, and Mr. Man and Bae-B-Face Kaos’ Gilbert Gottfried (rip) impersonation on most of the album’s tracks was annoying as hell. I wasn’t alone with my sentiments on Ambushed, as it was not only a critical failure for the trio, but commercially disappointing as well. Da Bush Babees would get a chance at redemption with their 1996 sophomore effort, Gravity.
Along with changing labels from Reprise to Warner Bros. (which was all in the family, since Warner Bros. owns Reprise), Bae-B-Face Kaos would change his alias to Lee Majors (shoutout to The Six Million Dollar Man) and Y-Tee would change his to Light (maybe because he’s light skinned?), while the group would drop the “Da” and simply go by Bush Babees. Mr. Man would take care of a chunk of the album’s production and the fellas would bring in a few other hands to help with the music, behind the boards and on the mic (more on that in a bit). Like its predecessor, Gravity didn’t do big sells numbers, but it received better reception from the critics and streets than their debut effort.
Gravity would be the final album released by the Bush Babees, as the group would disband after its release. Mr. Man would change his alias to Mr. Khaliyl and started producing for other artists, and Lee and Light would disappear into obscurity, only appearing as mere footnotes in the annuls of our chosen genre. But today we’re focused on Gravity and how it’s held up, or down, through the years.
Intro – The album opens with Mos Def saying a quick Islamic prayer in Arabic (the same one that he begins all his solo albums with it; it translates to “In the name of God, The Most Merciful, The Most Compassionate.”), before the bangin’ mid-tempo drums drop along with warm vibrating synth chords that Mos uses the next two and a half minutes to rap and speak on the many different definitions of the word gravity. I mean, he even provides a whole New Negro Definition segment on its meaning (i.e., your mother’s hand and your father’s voice). And don’t forget: “Submit to the law (of gravity) cause it’s a must for you.”
Gravity – The Ummah gets their first production credit of the evening as they build this chill backdrop around a creamy piano loop, while Nicole Johnson provides a soothing airy melody in between the verses. The Bush Babees use the plush groove to discuss self-doubt, coveting thy neighbor, the deteriorating state of hip-hop and self-determination. Well, at least Mr. Man and Lee do. I have no idea what Light is talking about.
Wax – Mr. Man is credited for this wobbly vibrating high-energy instrumental that finds the BBs in battle mode talking their shit: (Mr. Man) “I see through plastic, so prepare to get melted, I spoke once and the whole world felt it, I come thorough, the non-ether vibration, I offset the whole world’s calibration, most be faking moves and acting fictionary, I make ‘em eat their words and shit the whole dictionary.” Lee Majors resurrects the Gilbert Gottfried energy from Ambushed when he screams “Wax!” throughout the song, which quickly grows annoying, but other than that small mishap, this was great.
The Beat Down – Representing The Roots Crew, Rahzel drops by to make the music with his mouth and turns this interlude into a funky little jazzy mashup.
Maybe – Mr. Man goes completely dolo on this one, as he not only holds down all three verses single handedly, but also hooks up the dope backdrop built around a relaxed xylophone melody. He also gets off what might be the strongest verse of the entire album when he addresses people not wanting to take responsibility for their actions: “They be complaining about this and that, talkin’ bout, they bring the drugs in and they bring the gats, but yo, who are they? And why do you always place the blame on somebody who don’t even have no name? It seems to me like all these cats claim to be the victim, acting like the whole entire world is out to get them, stand up on your own, and prove that you are grown, cause the life that you safe may be your own.” *Mic drop*
3 MCs – Q-Tip gets credit as part of The Ummah for this warm jazzy instrumental, but he also steps from behind the boards and is one of the three emcees referenced in the song title (Tribe Degrees of Separation: check). Tip joins Mr. Man and Lee Majors to lyrically spar with the duo on this fun feel good cipher session that also pays homage to the old school. Oddly, Light is brought in to chant on the hook, which was kind of awkward, considering they pretty much wrote him out of the record with the song title and all, but whatever.
S.O.S – Mos Def joins the BBs on this one to share a message on persevering through all the adversity life throws your way, and it’s all brought together by a solid backdrop and a humorously humbling hook. This was dope.
God Complex – With a nonconfrontational slightly animated approach, the BBs take jabs at Christianity, pagan holidays and covertly spill five percenter teachings over a chipper instrumental.
The Ruler – Lee Majors uses his solo joint to loosely remake Kurtis Blow’s “If I Ruled The World,” as he plots for a global takeover that includes taking out the U.S. government and rival emcees. Mr. Man provides a breezy backdrop laced with an addictively bouncy bass line that serves as King Major’s theme music.
The Ninth Presentation – Mr. Man gets off a short verse over mischievously dark piano chords. I’m not sure why this exists, but I’m also not mad that does.
The Love Song – Apparently, this was the lead and lone single released from Gravity and I don’t remember ever hearing it on radio or TV back in ‘96, which is even more perplexing considering it rose to number 15 on the Billboard Top Rap Singles Charts. Posdnuos (aka Plug Won from De La Soul) builds the instrumental around an ill bass line and a loop from Kool & The Gang’s “Summertime Madness” that the trio use to kick back and get loose over. Mos Def drops in again and gives an extra boost of soul to an already dope record with his cool vocals on the catchy hook and adlibs. This is a super dope record, and I’m shocked it wasn’t a bigger hit for the Bush Babees.
Rock Roots – A warm Caribbean groove (courtesy of Charles Harrison), reminiscent of Bob Marley’s “One Love” comes on, and I was sure this was going to be Light’s solo joint. But instead, we get to enjoy the lovely instrumental, bucky naked, for about forty-five seconds.
In Meh Dreams – Light uses Mr. Man’s gritty dancehall mash up to back his token reggae solo joint. Well, it’s not really a solo joint, as Light is joined by Muntcho Leo for what turns into a chanting duet, but it still feels token. I have no idea what these gentlemen are saying and I’m not crazy about the record either, but I’m sure if this came on at a Dancehall party, I’d be ready to grind on a big botty girl while she whines.
Melting Plastic – Shawn J. Period slides the BBs a beautiful dreamy groove that the trio use to address plastic men (and women) living fake lives: “So I sit around and watch these fools act less than equal to themselves, tryin’ to be like everybody else, duplicatin’ images on TV, tryin’ to be the very people that they see, living their whole entire lives in 3D, you are who you are, so be what you’ve got to be.” This joint fires on all cylinders, as even Light’s unintelligible chant on the hook sounds great. Easily one of the strongest records on the album.
Outro – The Bush Babees bring back the instrumental from the “Intro” and each of them share a few closing words to wrap things up for the evening.
Oh, what a difference a couple of years and a few name changes can make. On Gravity, the Bush Babees shed the gimmicky animated energy and dumbed down rhymes they gave us their first go round, as Mr. Man and Lee Majors find their voices and balance the boasting with substance, and it still feels like they were holding back a little in the depth department. On the other hand, Light’s placement in the group seems a little awkward, as the chemistry between his reggae vibes and Lee and Mr. Man’s lyricism feels off, forced and unnecessary for most of the album. The Native Tongue’s presence is felt throughout Gravity, with The Ummah and Posdnuos providing dope production work and Mos Def sprinkles his magic over a handful of the album’s tracks, which ends up being an overall entertaining listen.
Based on a few different rhymes and statements made throughout Gravity, it feels like the Bush Babees knew the writing was on the wall regarding being able to share their music with the world on the huge platform that a major label can provide. It would have been nice to get at least one more album from the Bush Babees and hear them continue to evolve and grow. But the laws of gravity also apply to music careers, and even emcees must submit to it.
Great review! I was never a fan of the first album. Due to all the screaming as you mentioned. The video for We Run Things didn’t help either. A customer review of Ambush on Amazon said it best. You didn’t know if they were trying to be a mix between Onyx with all the screaming and Black Moon. The only song I liked was Remember We. Glad they towned down the screaming on the second album. I don’t remember in my area The Love Song getting any play either or seeing the video. Until I found it on Youtube. Mr. Man ended up producing for artists and doing guest appearances on Rawkus in the late 90s. I always thought he’d put out a solo album with the label.
I remember listening to this album at the local record store’s listening station. I also do recall hearing/seeing the Love Song video on BET. I even had the cassette single that had God Complex as the B side. Such a dope line up of 90’s producers on this album. I envision the recording for this album overlapped with De La’s Stakes is High and ATCQ’s Beats, Rhymes and Life. Maybe they shared the same studios? The album has a definite Native Tongue vibe. On a side not, I loved Fortified Live, the single featuring Mos Def, Talib Kweli and Mr. Man. Dude was ill on the mic. That whole underground era in NY hip hop in the late 90’s was dope.