Rumpletilskinz – What Is A Rumpletilskin? (July 13, 1993)

Well, let’s go ahead and add another one to the list of one and doners. One hitters and quitters. One pump chumps. That last one probably isn’t the best analogy, but you get the drift. Anybody remember the Rumpletilskinz?

No, I’m not talking about the children’s fairytale. I’m talking about the four man crew (consisting of The Capitol L.S., Sha-Now aka Remedy Man, Jeranimo and the group’s deejay/producer, R.P.M.) from the Long Island suburb of Uniondale, New York. The first time I heard Rumpletilskinz was their cameo on The Leaders of The New School cipher joint “Sound of The Zeekers”, and if you read my blog on a regular basis you already know how unimpressed I was with that song (if you don’t read my blog on a regular basis and want to read how unimpressed I was by that song, click here). Fast forward to 1993 (or rewind?). One day while I was watching one of the hip-hop music video shows, a video of four grimy looking cats rapping over rough drums and one of the illest horn loops my ears have ever heard comes on, which happened to be the lead single for Rumpletilskinz debut album. Earlier I mentioned the first time I heard Rumpletilskinz was on the LONS joint, but I didn’t know who they were by name (I actually didn’t realize that Rumpletilskinz was on the song until I was thumbing through the liner notes while revisiting A Future Without A Past for this blog). The instrumental on their lead single (which we’ll discuss in more detail in a bit) was dope enough to make me cop their debut album What Is A Rumpletilskin?

R.P.M would handle the bulk of the production duties on What Is A Rumpletilskin? with an occasional assist from his crew members and two outside sources. What Is A Rumpletilskin? was not critically acclaimed upon its release, and it’s probably still about 150 sales short of earning a wood plaque. Ultimately, the boys would close the Rumpletilskin shop after one album, giving up their dreams of becoming hip-hop legends, and get jobs at the local Home Depot.

My memories of What Is A Rumpletilskin? aren’t great ones, but lets see how it sounds nearly 25 years after its release.

What Is A Rumpletilskin? – Over a simple drum beat, our hosts attempt to answer the question posed in the title of this interlude. And while they do manage to spit some forgettable bars, they never give a proper answer to the question. Props for actually punctuating the song title, though.

Attitudes – This was the lead single from What Is A Rumpletilskin?, and the song that was so pleasing to my ears that I couldn’t resist buying the album back in the day. R.P.M. hooks up, in my opinion, one of the best instrumentals of 1993, and one of the illest horn loops in hip-hop history (yeah, I said it). Capitol L.S., Sha-Now and Jeranimo aren’t great lyricists, but the catchy hook combined with the rough drums and beautifully warm horn loop laced throughout the song make up for what the foursome lack lyrically.

Hudz – R.P.M. hooks a dope mellow backdrop for this one, as his crew uses it to spit more forgettable lines over.

Mad M.F.’s – I’m not a fan of Chyskills dusty backdrop or Rumpletilskinz below average rhymes on this one. By the way, Capital L.S. sounds like a poor man’s mixture of Busta Rhymes and Sticky Fingaz.

I-N-I – By this point it should be pretty clear to the listener that they will not be memorized by lyrical wizardry from the Rumpletilskinz. But you should be able to enjoy the smoothness of the R.P.M. and Jeranimo concocted backdrop.

Sweet Therapy – The self-proclaimed “mad muthafuckas” get in touch with their softer side on this one, as they sing praises to and serenade the ladies in their lives. Someone going by the letter “E” gets credit for the instrumental, which is built around a loop from The Stylistics’ classic “You Are Everything”. This was a decent listen.

Snikslitelpmur – Simple drumbeat interlude that the boys decided to title the group’s name spelled backwards.

Earthquake – Capitol L.S. takes a stab at the production thing, and manages to hook up a pleasantly laid back jazz flavored backdrop that he and the crew spew more mediocrity over.

Mushroom Talk – This is a song that I completely forgot about. R.P.M. flips a dark piano loop and turns it into a gem of an instrumental for the crew to sang praises to weed and shrooms. But back to the instrumental: it’s really, really good.

Is It Alright? – This was the second single released from What Is A Rumpletilskin? I didn’t know that until recently when I discovered the video for this song (or video for the remix of this song). The melodic backdrop on this mix is a lot more entertaining than the hot mess of an instrumental used on the remix.

Theramixx – This is a remix to “Sweet Therapy”. E’s backdrop for the original wasn’t spectacular, but it was a lot more entertaining than the bland mess R.P.M. provides for the remix.

Dacumin – Dope mysterious-sounding instrumental interlude, courtesy of R.P.M.

Hi Volume – Rumpletilskinz closes out What Is A Rumpletilskin? with an eerie-slightly dark R.P.M. produced backdrop that the boys use to spew out more underwhelming bars.

I have to admit that revisiting What Is A Rumpletilskin? these past few weeks has been a pleasant surprise. Maybe the massive amounts of other quality hip-hop albums I was vibing to back in the day when it came out caused me to give it limited attention, as I remember only really getting into the first two songs and writing the rest off as trash. But after living with What Is A Rumpletilskin? for the past few weeks, it’s actually a pretty decent listen. Don’t get it twisted, their rhymes are still trash, but the bulk of the production on What Is A Rumpletilskin? is vintage east coast hip-hop, and pretty enjoyable to listen to.

-Deedub

 

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Prime Minister Pete Nice & Daddy Rich – Dust To Dust (July 13, 1993)

The break-up of 3rd Bass in 1991 started the beginning (and the end) of both MC Serch and Pete Nice’s short-lived solo careers. Both would release solo albums under the Def Jam imprint, which was also the label home for all three of 3rd Bass’ group efforts. MC Serch would strike first in the summer of ’92 with his solo debut Return Of The Product (click here to read my thoughts on Serch’s solo album, and to find out more about 3rd Bass’ break-up). Pete and 3rd Bass’ deejay, Daddy Rich, would go second, releasing their debut Dust To Dust, nearly a year after Serch’s project.

Pete Nice and Daddy Rich would handle the bulk of the production on Dust To Dust, with the steadily emerging production team, The Beatnuts, handling a handful of beats as well. Needless to say, Dust To Dust wasn’t a commercial success, and it received mixed reviews upon its release.

I found Dust To Dust a few years ago at one of the used music spots I frequent. I’ve never listened to Dust To Dust before today, and even though I was aware that Pete and Rich released an album, I don’t remember hearing any of their songs on the radio or seeing any of their videos on TV back in the day. Like Serch’s Return Of The Product, Dust To Dustwould be the only album released by Pete Nice & Daddy Rich. 3rd Bass would go on to briefly reunite at the tail end of the nineties, but the trio wouldn’t give the hip-hop world any new music. It would have been nice to hear at least one more 3rd Bass album from my favorite white boy rap group.

Side note: Click this link to hear MC Serch talk about the hit Hammer had put out for 3rd Bass for dissing him back in the day. I hadn’t heard this story before, until a few days ago. Pretty interesting listen.

Rat Bastard – This was the lead single for Dust To Dust. Pete and Rich kick things off with a sleepy instrumental produced by The Beatnuts, and Psycho Les (of The Beatnuts) joins Pete on the mic. This was a very underwhelming way to start things off. Hopefully this isn’t a sign of things to come on Dust To Dust.

The Sleeper – Boy, is this one properly named. Pete Nice and Daddy Rich get together to concoct what may be the most boring instrumental in the history of hip-hop. He’ll, even the vocal sample on the hook (which is a clip of a woman performing a hypnotism telling her prey “you are getting sleepy”) encourages you to catch some Z’s. And as Pete pussyfoots through the track, you’ll become more and more woozy.

Kick The Bobo – This was the second single released from Dust To Dust. The energy level improves, slightly, on this one, as Pete and Rich hook up a decent backdrop, but Pete’s flow continues to sound choppy compared to the smoothness the listener became accustom to hearing when he was with 3rd Bass. I guess it’s all about evolution though, right?

Verbal Massage – This is the second Beatnuts’ produced track of the evening, and surprisingly, they get off to and 0-2 start. Pete Nice’s flow sounds disastrous over an instrumental that is the audio equivalent to watching paint dry.

The Lumberjack – Pete uses this one to give props to his deejay, Daddy Rich, and his turntable skills. Pete and Rich’s backdrop isn’t great, but it’s definitely an improvement from the production mediocrity that’s plagued Dust To Dust thus far.

Pass The Pickle – Fittingly, the duo follow-up the ode to Daddy Rich’s cutting skills with a comical interlude that has two old white guys (who I’m pretty sure are both played by Pete Nice) trying to recruit Daddy Rich to work in their deli slicing up meat (for $3.25 an hour), since he’s so nice at cutting things. They do make some comments that could be viewed as racist (like assuming Rich would take his paycheck and go buy a “big Jeep with big wheels” so he can “ride around with his hoodlum friends”), but it’s all in fun. It made me chuckle.

The Rapsody (In J Minor) – Pete Nice reunites with his production buddy from his 3rd Bass days, Sam Sever, who hooks a dope instrumental for his pal. Pete sounds more comfortable spitting over Sever’s backdrop than he did on any of the previous songs. Sever’s bouncy bass line and feel good vibes will make you want to listen to this a few more times. Plus, the song title itself is a clever play on words. The song closes with a voicemail from Pete’s mom, blasting him for getting involved in the rap game, which a nice little comic relief to cap off easily the strongest song on Dust To Dust.

Ho – The Beatnuts give Pete Nice yet another throw away instrumental to rap over, and he does nothing to make it even slightly interesting to listen to. This should have been called “The Sleeper Part II”.

Outta My Way Baby – Finally, The Beatnuts hook up a decent backdrop for Pete to flow over. You may recognize the piano loop that the instrumental is built around from Funkdoobiest’s “I’m Shittin’ On ‘Em” (or from the remix for Kool G. Rap & Polo’s “Ill Street Blues”…Jill Scott also used it on her song “Brotha”). I found it kind of interesting (or strange) that a white rapper would use a vocal sample of Slick Rick saying “rap money makin’ nigga” on the hook of his song. But all in all, it still makes for a decent listen.

3 Blind Mice – Pete makes a rare attempt at getting socially conscious on this one, as he invites Benz (a black man) and Kurios (a Hispanic man) to join him as they discuss racism, prejudice and stereotypes (all we’re missing is the Asian man and we could make this into a joke). Pete uses the song’s subject matter to slip in a “nigga” during his verse, which I’m not really a fan of, but I guess it fits in the context of his content. Unfortunately, the three emcees’ message gets lost in poor execution and Pete and Rich’s trash instrumental.

The World According To Hubert Dover – KMD gets credit for the bluesy backdrop, as a soundbite of Hubert Dover (I’m not sure who that is, but if you happen to know, feel free to fill me in in the comments) mumbling about being shot, plays over it. This didn’t do much for me, but whatever.

Rich Bring ‘Em Back – Pete invites Benz back to spit a verse, as well as his fellow Caucasian emcee, Cage. Pete and Rich’s instrumental sounds like a throw away MF Doom beat, but it’s not terrible. Unfortunately, Pete nor his buddies say anything impressive on the mic to make this song worth playing twice.

Blowin’ Smoke – Finally, Ebony & Ivory manage to hook up a dope backdrop. Peter doesn’t bring much to the table with his rhymes, but the rough guitar licks during the verses combined with the dope horn loop brought it on the hook make for a winning combination.

Double Duty Got Dicked – This interlude take segments from an interview with legendary Negro League baseball player Ted “Double Duty” Radcliffe, who earned his moniker for being both a quality hitter and pitcher. He died in 2005 at the ripe young age of 103. The duo take segments of Radcliffe talking about the misconceptions of the Negro League, being underappreciated and Babe Ruth. Not sure how this fits in to the overall scheme of Dust To Dust, but it’s a pretty dope historical piece that might make you think and/or tug on your emotions, like it did mine.

Dust To Dust – For the title track, Pete and Rich hook up a scant instrumental that still manages to sound pretty dope, even in its emptiness. Pete sounds as good as he did on “Rapsody” rapping over this minimal masterpiece.

Verbal Massage (Part II) – Pete and Rich invite The Beatnuts to remix the track they originally produced earlier this evening. They make just enough changes to make it a little more entertaining than the original mix, and suitable for midnight marauding.

In my opinion, MC Serch was the heart and soul of 3rd Bass, with Pete Nice being the Robin to his Batman. And after listening to Dust To Dust repeatedly for the last few weeks, that Batman analogy becomes more evident. First things first, Pete Nice does not have the personality, charisma or lyrical prowess to carry an entire solo album, which becomes painfully obvious about three songs into Dust To Dust. And unlike some other mediocre emcees who had quality production to make up for what they lacked on the mic, Pete doesn’t have that luxury on Dust To Dust, as he, Rich and (surprisingly) The Beatnuts, put together a string of boring loops and mediocre instrumentals, which gets interrupted from time to time with a dope track (see “Rapsody”,  “Blowin’ Smoke” and “Dust To Dust”) or a an entertaining interlude. I’m a collector of music, so I won’t, but I completely understand if you burn your copy of Dust To Dust and leave it as a pile of ashes.

-Deedub

 

 

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Da King & I – Contemporary Jeep Music (July 13, 1993)

Boss. Total Devastation. Mad Kap. Capital Tax. These are just a few of the hip-hop groups that dropped debut albums in 1993, only to disappear, never to be heard from again and become trivia questions in the annals of hip-hop. Today we’ll add another group to the ever-growing list of “one and doners”. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: Da King & I.

Da King & I was a Brooklyn-based duo consisting of Izzy (the emcee and the  “I” of the group) and Majesty (the  deejay/producer and the “Da King” of the duo). I don’t know a whole lot about their back story and how they came together, but somehow they did, and released their debut album, Contemporary Jeep Music, on Rowdy Records (now there’s a blast from the past) in the summer of 1993. With Majesty handling the production for the entirety of the album, and Izzy holding down microphone duties completely by himself, Contemporary Jeep Music received pretty positive reviews, even though it didn’t move a lot of units.

Contemporary Jeep Music would be the only album from the duo, who disbanded shortly after the album’s release. Majesty would go onto to have a short-lived career producing songs for a few different r&b acts (most notably, a song for SWV, which came well after their “Weak” days (no pun intended)), while Izzy would go on to have his picture posted on the back of milk cartons throughout the country.

Contemporary Jeep Music – The album opens with a jazzy instrumental playing and Izzy giving an explanation for the album title.

Let’s Take A Trip – This one starts out with heavy drums, and a few seconds in, a nasty piano loop bleeds into the track. Then the bouncy bass line is added as Izzy makes his introduction to the world through rhyme. And with that, Contemporary Jeep Music gets off to pretty nice start.

Flip Da Scrip – This was the lead single from Contemporary Jeep Music. Izzy delivers semi-battle rhymes over Majesty’s mega-mellow jazz flavored backdrop. Izzy has a tendency to get too nasally with his tone and sounds like the Hanna-Barbera character, Snagglepuss, at times, And some of his bars are questionable (i.e. “talkin’ loud and aint saying nothing, your styles are more shitty than butt fucking” and “if your girl tried to diss me I wouldn’t care, because her nigga’s on my dick like pubic hairs”). All in all, this was a solid lead single for the duo.

Interlude 1 / Mc Asshole – Useless interlude.

Krak Da Weazel – This was the second single from the album. Over a hard and slightly dark instrumental, Izzy attempts to get gangsta as he shares a tale about his deejay/producer getting kidnapped and the lengths he goes through to get him back, which include him having to “krak da weasel”, which is slang for “having to use his gun” (a slang term that didn’t catch on, obviously). Izzy’s attempts at sounding like a hard rock aren’t even slightly believable, but Majesty’s instrumental is a thing of beauty (especially the sick break loop that comes in on the hook).

Interlude 2/ Amusement Park – Apparently Izzy never heard Ice Cube’s “Gangsta’s Fairytale”, or maybe he did and still decided to rip Cube’s whole idea for this song. The instrumental and Izzy’s animated flow sound like something that could have been on Pharcyde’s Bizarre Ride album. It’s not that it’s a terrible song, it’s just not original.

Brain 2 U – Majesty’s instrumental work on this one is really nice. Izzy, who is far from being an upper echelon emcee, actually rides Majesty’s backdrop beautifully on this one. But don’t expect this caliber of performance from Izzy for the duration of Contemporary Jeep Music.

Tears – This was the third single released from Contemporary Jeep Music. Majesty hooks up a bluesy backdrop built around a loop from The Ohio Players’ “Our Love Has Died”, as Izzy sheds a few tears after finding out he’s getting played by his main squeeze. This is a slept on classic, folks.

Soul Shack Interlude – Jazz meets hip-hop on this pleasant instrumental interlude.

Ghetto Instinct – This is a song I completely forgot was on Contemporary Jeep Music. Majesty lays a lovely mid-tempo backdrop built around a flute loop that Izzy uses to discuss things he deems as “ghetto”. Hearing this song today was like finding a $100 bill that you forgot you stuck in a drawer for a raining day.

Mr. All That – Izzy gets cocky on this one, and his Snagglepuss tendencies rise to new heights. But Majesty’s lovely instrumental blots out all of Izzy’s transgressions.

Interlude 3 /Jazz Skit – Dope jazzy instrumental interlude. My buddy actually used this loop for the instrumental on a demo he recorded back in the day. But I digress.

This Is How We Do – Never could really get into this one. It’s not a terrible song, but it’s definitely one of the weaker songs on the album.

Interlude 4/Izzy Sings Da Blues – Today it’s common place, but there was a time when emcees lost credibility for mixing hip-hop with r&b. Da King & I take a jab at the trend, as Izzy sings over a r&b track, before suddenly being interrupted by Majesty who smacks him up for “selling out”. This all sets up the next song…

Lost My Mind – And I actually enjoyed the smooth r&b groove on the previous song more than this trash.

Represent – I’m pretty sure between ’92 and ’95 it was a prerequisite for all hip-hop artist and groups to have a song called “Represent” or “Representin'” on their album. Over a bouncy up-tempo backdrop, Izzy does his best to represent and winds up doing a decent job.

Crack Da Weasel (Dat Other S***) – This sort of works as the remix to “Krak Da Weazel” (and I’m not sure if they intentionally changed the spelling in the song title or if they completely forgot how they spelled “Crack” and “Weasel” the first time around). This time around Izzy leaves the kidnapping tale behind and instead gives us three verses to brag about how dope he is. Majesty’s instrumental is dope, but not quite as dope as the instrumental on the original.

What’s Up Doc – This may be my favorite song on Contemporary Jeep Music. Majesty builds a beautiful backdrop around a Young-Holt Unlimited piano loop, as Izzy gets introspective, gives thanks and his shout outs. The only problem I have with this song is the corny hook, Izzy’s whiney vocal tone when he says the song title on the hook and the missing question mark in the song title.

After you listen to Majesty’s production work on Contemporary Jeep Music it’ll become crystal clear why he’s referred to as “Da King” of the duo. It’s not to say that Izzy is a terrible emcee, but at best he’s average. And without Majesty’s quality jazz drenched backings to support Izzy, I’m not sure if he would even reach the average territory. Majesty has a few mediocre moments (see “Lost My Mind” and “Represent”), but the majority of his instrumentals are fire. So, from a production standpoint Contemporary Jeep Music is a great listen, just don’t expect mind-blowing rhyming. I’m still curious to why Majesty didn’t get tapped to produce for more emcees after his masterful production work on Contemporary Jeep Music.

-Deedub

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Akinyele – Vagina Diner (July 6, 1993)

Will stick with the Queens theme for this one.

If you ask most folks about Akinyele, they’ll probably respond with “who?” And those that do recognize the Queens, New York native’s name, immediately remember him for his soft porn hit “Put It In Your Mouth”. Few remember his debut cameo appearance on the legendary Main Source posse joint “Live At The Barbeque”. Like all the other parties involved on that song, Akinyele was overshadowed by a young Nasty Nas’ legendary lead off verse, but his verse on that song was strong enough to get him a deal with Interscope Records, where he would release his debut album Vagina Diner in the summer of 1993.

The album title (and the artwork) for Vagina Diner would lead one to believe that Akinyele would be on some Luke/2 Live Crew shit, but he’s not (at least he wasn’t at this point). While woman degradation is the topic for a few of his songs (will get to those in a few) the majority of the album is Ak on some straight emcee shit. So, maybe Vagina Diner is a metaphor for the way he eats up these pussy emcees. But I digress. Akinyele would tap his fellow Queens brethren Large Professor, to handle the production from beginning to the end of Vagina Diner.

So if all else fails at least the beats will bang, right?

WorldwideVagina Diner kicks off with a flavorful jazzy backdrop and Akinyele dropping clever punch lines and rhyming with the hunger of a Christian coming off of a 40 day fast. My favorite line on the song (that still makes me chuckle every time I hear it) is “I graduated from lobbies, bangin’ on walls for a hobby, I’ll battle anybody, even a dead body”. Reading that doesn’t do much justice for the line, but listen to it in the song and you’ll appreciate it. The only bad thing about this song is the end when they fade Ak out as he continues to rip the instrumental to pieces.

Outta State – On this one Ak deals with the reality of becoming a man and surviving on his own. And like many poor ghetto dwellers, Ak turns to illegal activity to secure the bags. For those unfamiliar with Akinyele, he randomly does this gimmicky thing where he’ll end the final word of each bar with a frog “ribbit” type voice, and it can become pretty annoying at times. There’s no question Ak can spit, but he struggles to find himself on this underwhelming Extra P instrumental.

Ak Ha Ha! Ak Hoo Hoo? – I believe this was the first single released from Vagina Diner. Over a smooth jazz flavored backdrop our host spits more freestyle braggadocio rhymes. I was never a big fan of this song back in the day, but after listening to it again through some pretty quality headphones, I noticed a lot of interesting things going on in the track that I didn’t notice before (like the sick violin loop laced throughout the song). A better mix would do this song more justice, but I still appreciate it as is.

Dear Diary – Over a forgettable instrumental Akinyele spits more battle rhymes filled with cute punch lines. The song title and hook make absolutely no sense, as Ak encourages wack emcees to write  “this” in their diaries, and never really clarifies what exactly he wants them to write. Someone didn’t think this one through all the way.

Bags Packed – Akinyele offers up a little comic relief on this one, as he tells his freeloading girlfriend to get her shit and kick rocks. Some of Ak’s punch lines are witty and hi-larious (like “no living for free on my couch, eh yo I ain’t operating no type of covenant house” and “before you burst give me my keys, stop pleading for please, this ain’t church get off your fuckin’ knees…I’m not looking for a blow job, you better get a real job, so we can have some dough hobbs”), but his flow sounds awful on this one (he falls off beat a handful of times and stretches the annunciation of certain words, forcing them to fit). And as much as I love most of Extra P’s production, this beat is hot trash.

The Bomb – This was the second single released from Vagina Diner, and probably the biggest hit (I use the term “hit” loosely) on the album. Ak sounds revived and a lot more comfortable than he did on the last few songs, spittin’ over Extra P’s high energy backdrop. Well done.

Beat – Sometimes a song title sums the song up perfectly. Which is the case for this short instrumental interlude.

Checkmate – After the brief intermission that was the last track, Akinyele picks up where he left off at on “The Bomb” and completely destroys this understated Extra P instrumental. He also drops what is probably his best rhyme on the album with “I make punk rappers stutter, ya-ya-ya-ya-yo, I bring out the Das EFX in a muthafucka”. This song is tough.

I Luh Hur – There is no way in the world this song would have made it off the cutting room floor today. And especially not on a major label like Interscope. Ak tongue and cheekly, talks about his girl getting pregnant and how much he doesn’t want her to keep the baby. He then outlines several diabolical schemes to get her to lose the baby, which include: giving her a hanger to perform her own abortion, having his boy kick her in the stomach, punching her in the stomach and pushing her down a flight of steps. He does come back at the end of the song to say even though he’s talking all this shit that he still loves her. But that’s a hell of a way to joke with your lady. On a lighter note, Extra P’s instrumental on this one is a thing of beauty.

You Know My Style – Short, but dope instrumental plays while our host repeats the song title several times over for about 30 seconds.

Exercise – Our host gets back to the comic relief on this one, as he explains how much he despises exercise. Extra P’s jazzy backdrop compliments Ak’s amusing punch lines well.

No Exit – Here is another song that would have never seen the light of day if it were made in the new millennium. Extra P slides Ak a bluesy backdrop that he uses to play an abusive boyfriend who threatens to kill his woman if she leaves him. Yes, the subject matter is very dark, but Ak tries to approach it in playful manner. If you’re like me, you’ll feel a little guilty when you chuckle at line likes “after one hit, you’re ready the split, what are you test crashing cars? That’s that old dumb-dumb shit”. It’s a guilty pleasure, but I actually like this song

30 Days – Akinyele ends Vagina Diner with this ode to doing time in prison. I would have been perfectly fine with Vagina Diner ending after “No Exit”.

I’m sure I’ve said it before at some point on this blog, but I’ll say it again: Extra P is one of my favorite hip-hop producers of all time. So, back in day when I initially saw that Large Professor produced Vagina Diner in its entirety, I was super excited to hear the album. And I have to admit, I was a bit disappointed after listening. Don’t get me wrong, Vagina Diner is not a bad album, it’s actually a decent listen, but I was expecting so much more. Only about half of LP’s beat are dope and the other half dangle somewhere in between mediocre and wack. As far as Akinyele himself, he displays enough to prove that he is a formidable emcee with the ability to deliver witty punch lines, reminiscent of Lord Finesse, but at times on Vagina Diner a tight flow and delivery take a back seat to his cleverness. And some of his song ideas are god awful and/or arguably inappropriate. If you happen to come across Vagina Diner for a few bucks it might be a worthwhile purchase, but your collection won’t be incomplete without it.

-Deedub

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Intelligent Hoodlum – Saga of A Hoodlum (June 22, 1993)

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We last heard from the Intelligent Hoodlum in 1990 with his self-titled debut album. While the album didn’t move a ton of units some of it singles (“Back To Reality” and “Arrest The President”) made enough noise for A&M/Polygram Records to green light a follow-up project. The intellectual thug would return in 1993 with his sophomore effort, Saga of A Hoodlum.

With Saga of A Hoodlum the Intelligent Hoodlum would begin to shed his old alias and replace it with his new one, Tragedy (years later that would morph into Tragedy Khadafi). Tragedy’s debut album was surrounded with a little controversy, as Marley Marl was given the production credit for several songs that Large Professor actually produced (even Tragedy will vouch for that). This time around Marley Marl, along with his apprentice K-Def, would handle the bulk of the production load. Much like Intelligent Hoodlum, Saga of A Hoodlum didn’t move a ton of units, and came and went like the summer months it was released in. It wouldn’t be until the new millennium that Trag would release another album, as he would re-emerge, as his much more thugged out persona, Tragedy Khadafi. But that’s a story for another day.

Shalom A Leck – Tragedy opens Saga of A Hoodlum with a raw and stripped down K-Def instrumental (with a funky little piano loop sprinkled throughout), and spits a quick freestyle verse that feels like he’s warming up for the rest of the album.

Hoodlum Intro – A short instrumental plays and it’s punctuated with our host saying “hoodlum is the past, intelligent is the future”. This would lead one to believe that our host is maturing…until they hear him get ratchet in the very next song.

Underground – The song opens with a beautiful trumpet loop, before the hard beat drops and Tragedy and his buddy, Trag-Lo, exchange verses. Tragedy says what may be the funniest rhyme off all time in his second verse when he spits “I do a backflip into a split, grab my dick, pick-up the glock and load the clip”. No matter how many times I hear that line I still literally lol when I visualize somebody actually doing all that shit (and his next line about being “so funky that my pen smells like shit” keeps the lol going). Based on the trumpet loop laced throughout the song, I would have guessed that Marley Marl produced this one, but the credit goes to K-Def, which shouldn’t be too surprising considering he was Marley’s production protégé.

Funk Mode – More funky horns courtesy of K-Def, who also uses the same Lou Donaldson loop that’s been flipped a million times before. Our host spits more freestyle bars and serves the quality backdrop justice.

Grand Groove – Tragedy dedicates this one to all his “peoples that passed away”, even though his rhymes have nearly nothing to do with his deceased crew. K-Def hooks up a beautifully somber backdrop that’s built around the same Isaac Hayes loop that Marley used for LL’s “6 Minutes Of Pleasure”. Even with Tragedy’s lack of focus, this was dope.

At Large – Trag gets political on this one, as he calls out the Catholic Church, Clarence Thomas, JFK and honest Abe (I still chuckle every time I hear him refer to Abe Lincoln in plural form (“Lincolns”)). K-Def and Marley Marl get credit for the quality backdrop.

Death Row – Over a cinematic K-Def/Marley Marl produced backdrop, our ex-convict host spits one verse from the prospective of a current death row inmate, chronicling his regrets, frustrations, anger and feeling of betrayal. Tragedy does a great job of making you feel and believe the character he portrays on this one.

Speech (Check The Time) – Short interlude that must have been taken from one of Tragedy’s live shows. The short clip has Trag and one of his partners talking to a crowd about checking the time, thus the song title.

Mad Brothers Know His Name – Tragedy uses this one to kick battle rhymes as he threatens to burn biter’s “mouth like hot sauce” and brags about having more loot then Ebenezer Scrooge. Trag’s rhymes are kind of stale on this one (especially when he makes a Little Rascals reference and says as a kid he was “nappy headed like Stimey”. I’m pretty sure he meant Buckwheat, but whatever), but even worst is the empty Marley Marl/K-Def concocted instrumental.

Pass The Tec – Over a mediocre K-Def backdrop, Havoc (one-half of Mobb Deep) stops by to drop a verse in between Tragedy’s. This song may have the corniest hook (see “pass the tech, we get hot like sex”) that I’ve ever heard on a rap song.

Street Life – Over a mellow mid-temp groove (perfect for midnight marauding), Trag shares the perils of a pregnant teen, a young drug dealer and stick up kid. This was released as a single (well, at least the remix was), and is a very underrated song.

Pump The Funk – Marley makes a little something suitable for pumpage in the jeep and are host gets his floss on over it. Decent enough, I guess.

Role Model – Tragedy puts back on his socially conscious hat for this one, as he addresses the importance of the youth having positive role models (or the lack of them). Kool Tee gets credit for the decent instrumental, and the song ends up sounding pretty decent.

The Posse (Shoot Em Up) – This song was originally released on the soundtrack for Mario Van Peebles movie Posse, which was released about a month prior to Saga of A Hoodlum. I always thought it was a bit odd that they tapped Tragedy for the song, but when you consider the soundtrack was released on A&M Records and that Tragedy was part of the A&M family, it makes perfect sense. Mr. Freaknasti hooks up an instrumental that does a good job of creating a western movie vibe and still manages to stay true to hip-hop’s code. Tragedy uses it to shares some interesting information about the history of the black cowboy and salutes the melanin-havin’-gun-totin’ gunslingers.

Grand Groove (Bonus Mix) – This is easily my favorite song on Saga of A Hoodlum, and ironically it’s not even a part of the proper album. For this remix, K-Def loops up a portion of Patrice Rushen’s “Remind Me” and builds a beautifully emotional canvas for Tragedy to reminisce and show love for his love ones that have passed away. And unlike the original mix, he manages to keep his rhymes focused this time around. Slept on classic.

Funky Roll Outro – Funny piano loop plays shortly bringing Saga of A Hoodlum to an end.

In 2007, Nature Sounds released a double disc featuring Tragedy’s first two albums (Intelligent Hoodlum and Saga of A Hoodlum), which includes the following bonus songs:

Funk Mode (Large Pro Remix) – Extra P, who is one of my favorite hip-hop producers and extremely unrated, gives the remix a rougher feel than the original with his hard-hitting drums. Both mixes work well in their own right.

Live & Direct From The House Of Hits – Tragedy pulls up and old demo from the Marley Marl vaults, and he and fellow Juice Crew alumni, Craig G tag team the mic and sound nice as hell in the process. Marley’s laid back instrumental samples the same James & Bobby Purify “I’m Not Your Puppet” record that Biz Markie used for Grand Daddy I.U’s “Something New”. I think Marley’s aiming his shot at Biz and I.U. at the end of the song when he says “now you know this is the first record you heard this beat with”, but I could be wrong. And after revisiting “Something New” today, bar for bar, I believe I.U. would give both Trag and Craig G a run for their money.

At Large (Marley Mix) – Marley’s instrumental pales in comparison to the original mix he and K-Def hooked up on the proper album. This one could have been burned, buried and forgotten, and not even Tragedy would have thought twice about it.

Saga of A Hoodlum came out in the mist of hip-hop’s golden era, where you had a lot of solid to classic albums being released on a regular basis. Saga of A Hoodlum is not a classic album, but it is definitely a solid effort from the Queenbridge native. For the most part, Marley and K-Def (as well as the lesser known producers on the album) provide quality beats, and Tragedy proves he’s still got it, as he matches the beats with quality rhymes. At least most of the time. Pound for pound Saga of A Hoodlum is better than Trag’s debut, and not a bad add to your collection if you happen to run across it.

-Deedub

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Professor X – Puss ‘N Boots (The Struggle Continues…) – June 22, 1993

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“This is protected, by the red, the black, and the green, with a key…sisseeeeeeeeee!”. Anybody who has listening to hip-hop since the nineties should be familiar with that signature song closing statement. In fact, in an era when a lot of rappers and producers stamp their songs with signature statements and adlibs (i.e. Kanye West, Rick Ross, French Montana, Mike Will Made-It, Metro Boomin) the subject of today’s post may be one of the first hip-hoppers to ever do it.

Most of you know Professor X as the crippled bald-headed leader of the Marvel Comic superhero clan the X-Men, but some of you may also remember him as the sunglass-African-garb-wearing overseer and hype man (and arguably the face) of the black militant hip-hop group, X-Clan (and a very small portion of the world may know that he was also the son of the political activist, Sonny Carson). After X-Clan released their highly respected 1990 debut album To The East Blackwards (read my thoughts on it here), Professor X would release his solo debut album, Years Of The 9, On The Blackhand Side, the following year. I have never heard a single song from that album (that I’m aware of, at least), but I did find his second solo release, Puss ‘N Boots (The Struggle Continues…), at one the spots I frequent.

Other than the lead single (that we’ll get to in just a second) I’ve never heard anything else from Puss ‘N Boots before today. The entire album was produced by Scratch Me Productions (which I’m assuming is a collective) and came and went without anyone really noticing. I’m not a huge fan of Professor X, but I was a bit curious on how the man who only spoke on the intro, bridges, and outros of songs with X-Clan, would carry a solo album. And for a dollar I was willing to follow my curiosity.

Sadly, Professor X passed away in 2006 from Spinal Meningitis. He was only 49 years old.

Close The Crackhouse – This was the lead single from Puss ‘N Boots, and the only song from the album that I’ve heard prior to today. Professor X kicks thing off with a nine minute Public Service Announcement, and he brought a bunch of his friends along to help. Brother J (from X-Clan), Wise Intelligent (from Poor Righteous Teachers), Big Daddy Kane, Shock G, Humpty Hump and Money B (from Digital Underground), Ex-Girlfriend (who I thought was En Vogue), Chuck D, Sister Souljah, Mickey Jarrett, Freedom Williams (whom I was mistaking for Ice-T until I read the liner notes and discovered it was C&C Music Factory’s lead man), YZ, The College Boyz (did you know that once upon a time the actor Romany Malco was the lead emcee for The College Boyz?), and Two Kings and A Cypher join our host in demanding that all crack houses be closed down. The intent was good, but this was painful to listen to. It’s hard to make a collage of beats (a la Ice Cube’s “Jackin’ For Beats”) work, especially when the majority of the switch ups are garbage. To add insult to injury, none of the emcees involved sound that impressive. But if I had to pick a winner I’d go with BDK.

Shalom – Is the Hebrew word for peace. I didn’t have the patience to decode all of Professor X’s riddled spoken word/raps (and I’ve listened to it well over 10 times by this point), so I’m not sure what the hell he’s talking about on this song.

They Don’t Know Jack – Brother J makes his 3rd consecutive appearance on Puss ‘N Boots (he added adlibs to “Shalom”), as he and Professor X are back on their soap boxes exchanging verses. It was nice to hear Brother J spit on this one. Not only because he’s pretty nice with the mic, but also because I’m getting tired of hearing Professor X’s nasally spoken word pieces.

Cum – The song title may grab your attention, but that’s about the only thing about this song that is interesting.

Year Of The Wreck – The Scratch Me Production team slides Professor X a dope aggressive backdrop that he continues to spew his extremely abstract black militant messaging over.

Confidentiality – More coded militant messages from the Professor. I like the melodic instrumental, and love the horn loop brought in on the hook.

Wine E Wine – Over a brilliantly seductive instrumental Professor X continues his spoken word approach, as he (and the moaning woman vocal sample laced throughout the song) gives his politically charged message some sex appeal. Or is he really talking about sex?

U Can Do Better – Scratch Me Production hooks up a pretty solid backdrop for the Professor to verbally dance all over. Decent enough song, I guess.

Oshio – In numerology Oshio is a name for one of the life paths. The life path number for Oshio is 3. Now, I have no idea how Professor X’s rhymes (or spoken words) relate to Oshio, but I did find his comment about King David being “the original gin and jew” pretty amusing. The instrumental was pleasant and a nice way to end Puss ‘N Boots.

Puss ‘N Boots is a hot mess. Some of the production work is pretty nice, but Professor X’s whiney (or wine e) delivery becomes a bit annoying after only a few songs in. And trying to decode and make sense of his intensely abstract couplets is enough to give a brother a headache. Don’t get me wrong, I love music with substance, and I’m okay with some abstractions, but this shit is too much. Thank God it’s only 9 tracks long.

-Deedub

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LL Coo J – 14 Shots To The Dome (March 30, 1993)

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1990’s Mama Said Knock You Out was both a commercial and critical success for LL Cool J, as he was able to appeal to the heads and the ladies to the tune of over 2 million records sold. He was already a bona fide rap star before its release, but Mama would take his star status to a different stratosphere, and open up the door for a pretty successful acting career as well. With such a monster album under his belt it would be hard for Cool James to top that, but he would try with his 5th release, 14 Shots To The Dome.

For 14 Shots To The Dome, LL would bring back the architect for Mama Said Knock You Out, Marley Marl, to produce half the album, and recruit west coast producers Bobcat and QD III to handle the other half. 14 Shots To The Dome did manage to earn LL a gold plaque (which for most rappers would be considered a success, but not for LL, whose previous 4 albums all sold platinum or better), but was met with underwhelming reception.

Let’s give 14 Shots To The Dome a listen and see if that underwhelming reception was warranted.

How I’m Comin ‘– This was the lead single from 14 Shots. Over an underwhelming Marley Marl backdrop (that sounds like he may have been trying to ape his own work on “Mama Said Knock You Out”) LL tries to convince the listener that he’s a thug force to be reckoned with, and drops some pretty terrible rhymes in the process (“you can call me r&b, only if it stands for rough brother…word to my grandmother”, “stick the steal in your mouth…buck, buck, buck, buck, buck, lights out!”, and there’s “here’s a hit you wish you had, a hit that makes you mad, a hit that makes you slap your dad” are just a few examples). I never liked this song, and twenty plus years later it sounds even worst.

Buckin’ Em Down – Our host continues his quest to prove to the listener that he’s a hardcore gun-toting emcee (*yawn*). I would have never guessed that QDIII produce this instrumental. I’m used to his backdrops being clean smooth grooves, but this one has a rugged feel to it. This song isn’t as bad as “How I’m Comin'”, but it’s still pretty weak.

Stand By Your Man – This was the fourth single, and it’s basically 14 Shots‘ version of  “Around The Way Girl”, only not any good. Marley hooks up a super generic low energy instrumental for LL who goes from being a thug on the first two songs to a sensitive understanding gentleman that uses this song to list the qualities he requires in his woman. Nothing could make me like this instrumental, but LL’s rhymes might have gone over better had he calmed down and spit it with more of an “Around The Way Girl” approach, instead of screaming them like this was “Mama Said Knock You Out”. The remix (which has the same lyrics as this mix and is also produced by Marley Marl) has a slightly more interesting r&b flavored instrumental, but is still not great. Random factoid: “Stand By Your Man” was nominated for the 1994 Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance, but lost to Dr. Dre’s “Let Me Ride”. Rightfully so.

A Little Somethin’ – Marley Marl loops up a portion of King Floyd’s “Groove Me” for the backdrop, and Uncle L uses it to scream spew random rhymes, or as he calls it, do a little somethin’. Not a great song, but decent.

Pink Cookies In A Plastic Bag Getting Crushed By Buildings – This was the third single (and ironically, also the B-side to the “Back Seat” single) released from 14 Shots. Besides the song title, I’ve always found this song kind of weird. LL starts the song off by letting you know that the title is a metaphor for “making love” (or just having sex), which is kind of corny in and of itself. But things get even cornier when L begins to slip different rappers names into his rhymes as he tells the story about a chick he wants to smash, I mean, make love to. And Marley’s bland instrumental (yeah, I know he uses the same Emotions’ sample that Big Daddy Kane used for “Ain’t No Half Steppin”, but for some odd reason it doesn’t have the same energy as Kane’s record.) doesn’t add anything to what is already a weak concept and poorly executed song. Side note: The instrumental on the Easy Mo Bee remix (which was also used for the single) is actually really dope.

Straight From Queens – Marley hooks up a decent instrumental with a bouncy bass line and a slick horn loop. And LL’s in battle mode, as he tries out his new stutter style, that doesn’t quite work for me.

Funkadelic Relic – Our host recounts his introduction to hip-hop and takes us on a journey from the beginning of his career to where he was in 1993. Am I the only one that found it amusing that LL claims he was unhappy that “I’m That Type Of Guy” went pop? Dude, who you foolin’? . Even back in ’89 LL wasn’t a “pledge allegiance to the underground” type of rapper. Marley’s instrumental is pleasant, and the song winds up being pretty solid as well. It’s pretty interesting that LL could be considered a “hip-hop relic” at the tender age of 25.

All We Got Left Is The Beat – LL was never really known for being a socially conscious emcee, but he dabbles with it on this self-proclaimed “political groove”. Some of his content is decent, but some of his views are a little off interesting (like when he refers to working class black women as…token blacks?). Bobcat gets credit for the decent instrumental, but this song is still easily forgettable.

(NFA) No Frontin’ Allowed – Mr. Funke and DoItAll, better known as Lords Of The Underground, make the only guest appearance on 14 Shots, as they each get a verse sandwiched in between Uncle L’s two verses. Each of the parties involved does a solid job on the mic, matching the energy of Marley’s dope instrumental.

Back Seat – This was the second single released from 14 Shots. QD III gets his second production credit of the evening for this laid back poppish instrumental (that some of you might remember as the instrumental used on Monica’s breakthrough debut hit “Don’t Take It Personal (Just One Of Dem Days)”, a few years later) that Ladies Love uses to seduce his prey and get dirty in the backseat of his jeep. Easily the biggest hit from 14 Shots, but I’ve never cared much for this one.

Soul Survivor – Yet another instrumental I had no idea that QD III was responsible for. Like “Buckin’ Em Down” this one has a much more rough feel then I’m use to hearing from young Quincy. I’m not really a fan of this one, either.

Ain’t No Stoppin’ This – Bobcat gets his second production credit of the evening, and this one is a lot better than what he gave us on “All We Got Left Is The Beat”. He creates a high energy backdrop that LL continues to scream all over and spit below average rhymes on.

Diggy Down – I actually like Bobcat’s instrumental (that uses elements from the same Quincy Jones record The Pharcyde sampled for “Passin’ Me By”) on this one. The problem with this one is the extremely old school flow and elementary rhyming scheme that LL adopts. It sounds like something DMC would have rhymed back in ’84. I’m dead serious.

Crossroads – LL’s voice begins to succumb to the screaming that he’s done throughout 14 Shots (and his four prior albums) by the end of this apocalyptic themed closer. Bobcat’s production work on this one is actually really nice, and I enjoyed the choir singing on the hook, even if it was slightly amusing to hear them sing about “gettin’ jacked”.

There is no doubt in my mind that Mama Said Knock You Out is LL’s magnum opus and the apex of his rap career (without hearing Exit 13 or Authentic, I’m still very confident in that statement). He may have shown flashes of greatness from time to time on later projects, and definitely continued to find crossover success on the charts with intentional pop r&b love records, but it was pretty much down hill from there. 14 Shots To The Domemarks the beginning of the end for LL’s hip-hop credibility, and finds the once groundbreaking emcee trying to find his place in the hardcore gangsta rap era that was the early nineties. Cool James shouts his way through fourteen tracks, spewing unbelievable thug rhetoric, sub par bars and manages to sneak in a few corny love/lust songs for good measure. Some of Marley Marl and Bobcat’s production is enjoyable, but unfortunately most of the 14 shots fired from LL’s gun are blanks.

-Deedub

 

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