Above The Law – Livin’ Like Hustlers (February 22, 1990)

Above The Law is one of those groups that I’ve always respected but never invested time to really listening to their entire catalog. The only album that I actually listened to back in the day was their second full-length release Black Mafia Life (if you’re curious about my thoughts on that album, click here). In the last year or so, I’ve added a couple more of their albums to my collection, including their debut full-length release, Livin’ Like Hustlers.

Above The Law released Livin’ Like Hustlers on Ruthless Records with distribution through Epic in 1990. All the production would be handled by Above The Law, Laylaw and the legendary Dr. Dre, who was red-hot after producing N.W.A.’s Straight Out Of Compton and The D.O.C.’s No One Can Do It Better. Although Livin’ Like Hustlers didn’t earn ATL a plaque, it did earn the fellas pounds of respect from hip-hop fans and received positive reviews from the critics. In 1998 The Source would even include Livin’ Like Hustlers on their list of 100 Greatest Hip-hop Albums of All-Time.

This is my first time listening to Livin’ Like Hustlers. Let’s see if it lives (no pun intended)up to all the praise its received over the years.

Murder RapLivin’ Like Hustlers opens with a dark stripped down track over heavy drums and 187um gets loose over it for the course of three verses. This one goes hard, and is a great way to start the show.

Untouchables – Laylaw and Dre take a dope sample from Young-Holt Unlimited’s version of “Light My Fire”, a nasty horn loop from Quincy Jones’ “Ironside” and turn it into a thing of beauty. 187 and KMG display some of their underappreciated chemistry that compliments the track, perfectly. And Remember: “it’s not what you know, it’s what you can prove”.

Livin’ Like Hustlers – After a brief interlude that has, what sounds like Dr. Dre, playing a radio deejay for the faux radio station KMG, that can be found at 187 on your dial (yes, that was pretty cheesy but, whatever), and a comical commercial for locs (which happens to have a beautiful instrumental playing underneath it), the title track comes on, and it’s a monster. Dre and company lay down a smooth, yet so funky, instrumental built around a nasty guitar loop and an epic horn break leading into the hook. KMG and Cold 187um sound right at home spilling their gangster lingo all over this smoothness. If you can’t feel this one it’s quite possible that you don’t have a pulse.

Another Execution – Cold 187um is back to rollin’ solo for this one. He shares two different stories about bustas who get to trippin’, which leads to them both getting their caps peeled. 187 is entertaining as usual, and so is the hard instrumental. Sidenote: CMW would use the same Lyn Collins loop a couple of years later for Eiht’s duet with Mr. Scarface, “N 2 Deep” from their Music To Driveby album.

Menace To Society – ATL keeps the good times rollin’, with another dope backdrop (that borrows one funky and one hard loop from B.T. Express) and solid bars from KMG and 187.

Just Kickin’ Lyrics – Cold 187um is back on a dolo mission for this one, and does exactly what the song title suggest. And he sounds damn good doing it. Dre and company use the same Issac Hayes loop that DJ Quik would use a year later for his debut hit single, “Born And Raised In Compton”. I do think Quik flipped it better, but Dre’s interpolation of it is still solid.

Ballin’ – ATL slows things down a bit for this one. KMG and 187um are in floss mode as they jive talk and pimp their way through this smooth melodic groove. And it’s dedicated to: “the whole wide world”.

Freedom of Speech – Most will recognize the Myra Barnes’ loop on this song from Lil’ Kim’s first single “No Time”, which I never liked (side note: before Lil’ Kim used it, Easy Moe Bee sampled it for Big Daddy Kane’s “Calling Mr. Welfare”, and Premo for Gang Starr’s title track on the No More Mr. Nice Guy album. Lil’ Kim’s song was easily the most commercially successful…but I digress). Cold 187um uses it to express his feelings on the whole censorship of hip-hop, which was a huge controversy back in 1990. Not my favorite song on the album, but it serves it’s purpose.

Flow On (Move Me No Mountain) – This smooth instrumental has Dre’s fingerprints all over it. 187um and KMG tag team the mic with an irresistible swag that no one in their right mind can front on. As enjoyable as ATL’s swag is (this song might be where the slang term for weed,”chronic”, originated from), Dre’s instrumental is the true star of this song.

The Last Song – For the last song of the evening ATL invites their Compton friends, Dr. Dre, MC Ren and Eazy-E, to join them on this cipher jawn. The instrumental kind of reminds me of “The Grand Finale” from The D.O.C.’s No One Can Do It Better, but with enough changes to make it feel fresh and new. Speaking of The D.O.C., it would have been nice to hear him rip this one, but of course the car accident that pretty much ended his rap career had already happened by the time this song was recorded (Laylaw instructs him to light the blunt at the beginning of this song, so he was definitely in the building). All parties involved hold their own, and surprisingly, Eazy-E steals the show with a little comic relief. Great way to end a really impressive debut album.

It’s rare to listen to an album for the first time and be completely blown away by what you hear. It’s even more rare for that to happen when the album was released nearly 30 years ago; but that is exactly what I experienced with Livin’ Like Hustlers. From beginning to end, every song on this album will leave you with a screwed face or your head nodding, thanks to slick samples and crispy clean production from Laylaw, ATL and Dr. Dre. Cold 187um and KMG may not be the greatest lyricists, but they always entertain, and their confidence, swag and chemistry might be the most underrated of any duo in hip-hop history. Livin’ Like Hustlers is an unheralded classic and one the best album released in the first year of the ninety dec.



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Jesse West – No Prisoners (September, 20, 1989)

Jesse West might not be a household name, but he’s been grinding since the eighties and has a pretty impressive resume under his belt. I first heard Jesse West on his cameo appearance on Heavy D’s Blue Funk cipher joint “A Bunch of Niggas”, where he goes by his alias, 3rd Eye. Many don’t know that the South Bronx native was one of Bad Boys original “Hitmen” who helped Biggie Smalls with his first demo and produced remixes for Mary J Blige’s classic What’s The 411? album. But before all that, Jesse West was one of the first rappers to sign a deal and release a hip-hop album on the mecca of soul music, Motown.

Jesse released his debut album No Prisoners in the fall of 1989. The album was almost completely produced by Gordon Williams with co-production help from Jesse. I came across a vinyl copy about a year ago at one of the used music stores I check out (shoutout to Treetop Records!) and haven’t listen to it until now. The album didn’t produce any hit singles and even without checking RIAA’s website, I’m absolutely certain that it didn’t earn any certifications or plaques. Matter of fact, I’m sure that the only other person that has a copy of this album is Tony A. Wilson.  Confirm and hit me in the comments, T.

No Prisoners – The album opens with a decent drum beat and some cheesy instrumentation that sounds like it was created on a Casio keyboard. But in a weird way, it’s still decent. Mr. West comes out sounding like a poor man’s Rakim, and he actually sounds pretty nimble with his word play.

Renegade – Jesse changes his vocal tone to a slightly rougher feel that matches Gordon Williams’ (who I’ll refer to as Gordo from here one on) rugged backdrop. I like the horns on the hook, and once again, Jesse sounds pretty decent on the mic.

I’m A Warrior – JW was a renegade on the previous song and now he’s a warrior. He also displays a third different voice in as many songs. Meanwhile, Gordo sounds like he’s still constructing his beats on the Casio. This one kind of reminds me of the instrumental for LL’s “Eat ‘Em Up L Chill”, only not as good, but still solid.

State Of Your Mind – Our host resorts back to his poor man’s Rakim delivery and uses this song to remind the listener that your success is all determined by how you think. He also manages to slip in a little 5 Percent teaching in the process. While Gordo’s production work on the previous songs had a cheesy synth feel that kind of worked, this one is complete garbage. I like the message but not the music.

Prelude To Madness – Short interlude/skit/spoken word piece that sets up the next song…

This Is Madness – Jesse stays in his conscious mode as he addresses crack babies, drug addicts, black on black crime and the importance of knowledge in this corrupt country (it was kind of funny to hear Jesse refer to himself as “a worldwide celebrity”). Gordo redeems himself from the painfully bad backdrop for “State Of Your Mind” and hooks up a decent instrumental for this one. That concludes side one of  No Prisoners, if you’re listening on cassette or vinyl.

Do You Wanna Party – Side two of No Prisoners begins with an up-tempo instrumental that was clearly created to get asses on the dance floor. I completely understand if you think Gordo’s instrumental is cheese, but I kind of like it. Now, there’s no justifying Jesse’s lyrics on this song. They are undeniably corny.

I Saw You – Jesse has caught his girl red-handed snuggled up with some other chump, and he spends the length of this song calling her out and ultimately breaking up with her. Our host sounds more like he’s talking than rapping, and I’m not a fan of his sing-along-hook, either. I’m also not a fan of Jesse’s instrumental (with a co-production credit going to Gordo), which was clearly created for pop consumption.

The Master – Gordo lays down an up-tempo backdrop with a techno feel over tribal like drums, and Jesse gets back to his emcee shit. On the last verse Jesse calls out Kool Chip, who he accuses of biting his style. Before listening to this song, I had no idea who Kool Chip was. After a little research, I found out that he and legendary radio DJ, Chuck Chillout, put out an album just a few month or so after No Prisoners was released. Kool Chip, who is also from the Bronx, had a song named “Rhythm Is The Master”, which uses pretty much the same instrumental and the same “Slaaaaaave” vocal sample as this song.  Hmmm…maybe there’s truth to Jesse’s accusations.

For James – JW dedicates this interlude to the Godfather of soul, James Brown. In 1988 JB begin serving a six-year bid for aggravated assault and a few other felonies. He only ended up serving two and a half of the years, so maybe Jesse’s plea to “free James Brown” on this interlude helped get the legendary soul singer’s time reduced. I’m sure it didn’t, but whatever.

Concrete Jungle – Gordo slides our host a flat imitation reggae track that he uses to talk bout the happening and the struggle in the concrete jungle, aka the hood. Jesse’s flow is all over the place as he goes in and out of rhyming and chanting without warning. Not a fan of this one.

Black Bomb – JW invites his buddy Rich Nice (who you can often hear contributing on Sway In The Morning’s A&R Room segment on XM Radio’s Shade 45) to join him on this one, as they tag team the mic and page homage to some of the historical black figures who helped bring change to America. This is the only song on No Prisoners that Jess West is credited as the sole producer. Unfortunately, it’s not a good one. To add insult to injury, Jesse and Rich Nice’s rhymes sound dated too. Random factoid: Rich Nice was the first musical guest to appear on the classic nineties sketch comedy show, In Living Color. I don’t have any documentation to back that fact, only Sway Calloway’s word, which is better than having written documentation.

Well, Jesse West definitely sounds a lot different from his alter ego, 3rd Eye, which I first heard back in ’93. And without the pseudo Onyx vibe, he’s actually a decent emcee. Ultimately what does No Prisoners in is its cheesy production. There are a few passable songs, but the majority of Gordon Williams and Jesse West’s beats are generic poop. Even though No Prisoners is trash, if I came across his later works I’d pick them up (if the price is right), just to hear if his rhymes got tighter and his production improved.


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Steady B – Certified Dope (September 13, 1988)

While there is no question that New York is hip-hop’s birth place and Mecca, Philadelphia was one of the first cities outside of New York to make a name for themselves in hip-hop, which kind of makes sense, considering it’s only about ninety miles southwest of the Big Apple. The first rapper out of Philly to gain national attention was Schoolly D, to which many credit as being the father of gangsta rap. Schoolly’s pioneering works helped open the door for other Philly groups like DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Cool C (remember “Glamorous Life”?) and the subject of today’s post, Steady B.

From 1986 to 1991 Steady B released 5 albums on Jive RCA. He also helped put together the Hilltop Hustlers (the name was taken from a West Philly gang from the seventies), which was Philly’s version of the Native Tongue and included himself, Cool C, Three Times Dope and other hungry Philly artists. I first heard of Steady B in 1989 when he dropped his Going Steady album, and the only song I remember was the lead single, that was actually a cool love rap with a smooth groove. While digging in the crates at a used record store a few months ago, I came across a copy of Steady’s third release, Let The Hustlers Play. Let The Hustlers Play would include production work from Steady B, two-thirds of Da Youngsta’s daddy and Philly hip-hop pioneering producer, LG The Teacher and The Blastmaster KRS-One. Like the rest of his catalog, Let The Hustlers Play didn’t move a ton of units and only experienced mild success.

On January 2, 1996, Steady B and fellow Philly rappers Cool C and Mark Canty (all part of a short-lived group called C.E.B., which was an acronym for Countin’ Endless Bank)attempted a bank robbery in which Steady played the getaway driver. The robbery was botched and things got even more sticky when Cool C shot and killed a female officer who responded to the bank’s silent alarm. All three were apprehended shortly after the robbery, and all three would get some serious sentencing, including the death sentence for Cool C and a life sentence without parole for Steady B.

And on that dim note, lets get into Let The Hustlers Play.

Let The Hustlers Play – LG the Teacher and Chuck Nice hook up a dope backdrop for Steady B to flex on, as he stunts on cops, celebrates his Hilltop Hustlers crew, and simply talks his shit; all in the spirit of letting the hustlers do their thing. I love it when the title track of an album is a banger. Great way to start the show.

Certified Dope – The energy from the previous song falls a bit with this one. Steady sounds sloppy (and he makes sure to mention his HTH crew at least once in every verse) and he, as well as LG’s instrumental, sounds empty.

The Undertaker – KRS-One gets his first production credit of the evening, as he constructs a slightly dark mid-tempo instrumental for our host (I like the piano loop that he sprinkles throughout the song). Years before Puff Daddy would become the producer (I use that term loosely) that was all over his artists’ records, KRS-One was adlibbing his way through the records he produced for Steady B. For some reason, Steady struggles to keep pace with the mid-tempo backdrop and his sloppiness rises to astronomical proportions on this one (i.e. his Mt. Everest line on the final verse).

I Got Cha – It just dawned on me that The Roots affiliate and fellow Philadelphian, Dice Raw sounds a lot like Steady B…but I digress. Steady and the instrumental are both decent on this one.

Turn It Loose – Steady B spits more braggadocious rhymes over a laid back KRS-One produced track. I love the horn break on this one…but why didn’t Mr. Parker bless us with a verse on this jawn?

Ya Know My Rucka – I still don’t know what “Rucka” means, but who cares? This song is butt.

Serious – KRS-One gets his final production credit of the evening, and I can’t say that I’m all that impressed by it. It’s not terrible, its just a super basic drum beat with no added instrumentation to feel in the empty spaces, but maybe I’m expecting too much from a hip-hop album created in 1988. Steady B does what he can to bring it to life, but his limited talent can only do so much. But in his defense, I don’t even think the Blastmaster himself could of brought life to this flat line.

Do What You Wanna Do – Trash.

Who’s Makin’ Ya Dance – Can I get a question mark from the congregation, please? LG and Chuck Nice spice things up a bit with a deep bass line and a mid-tempo backdrop, as our host tries to convince the listeners that his music is the inspiration for their dancing. I don’t know about all that, but the instrumental is kind of cool and Steady’s word play at certain points of the song is pretty nice.

On The Real Tip – Steady B’s in battle mode on this one. Over a funky LG produced instrumental (with a co-credit going to Steady) Steady sounds like an angry dad screaming on his kids for getting in trouble at school. I like it. Next to the title track, this is my second favorite song on the album.

Through Thick-N-Thin – LG (with a co-production credit going to Steady) loops up a portion of  “” and Steady uses it to, correct me if I’m wrong, offer up a couple of hookers for the low-low price of a dollar? Yeah, this song is pretty strange. And I’m still scratching my head trying to figure out what the hell the song title has to do with the song’s content.

Lyrically, Steady B was no Rakim, but he wasn’t terrible. Yes, his cadence and delivery get sloppy at certain points on Let The Hustlers Play, but his confidence makes up for what he lacks in talent. Unfortunately, Steady B’s confidence could not make up for the lackluster production on Let The Hustlers Play. Steady B, KRS-One, LG the Teacher and Chuck Nice all manage to deliver nice production work at different points throughout the album, but most of the album is empty and plain as Jane, sonically.


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The Best and Worst of 1993

Wow! It feels like I haven’t posted in forever. Well, here is the best and worst of 1993. Let me know your thoughts.

I’ll be doing some house cleaning before we dive into 1994, so the next few post will be new additions to the collection that were released prior to ’94. Stay tuned!

Worst Moniker: 2 Clean the 5-year-old bubblegum-kid (he or she appeared on “Comin’ Up” from 2 Low’s Funky Lil Brotha) – This one pretty much speaks for itself. Honorable Mentions: DJ Ralph The Mexican (Funkdoobiest).

Worst Song Title: “Another Wild Nigger From The Bronx” (Fat Joe, Represent) – The song title is super generic and uncreative, and adding the “er” at the end of “Nigger” just makes it that much worse. Honorable mentions: Pink Cookies In A Plastic Bag Getting Crushed By Buildings (LL Cool J, 14 Shots To The Dome) – This title is the most ridiculous metaphor for sex that I’ve ever heard, and it comes in a close runner-up to the winner of this award. “Fuck That Motherfucking Bullshit” (MC Lyte, Ain’t No Other) – Lyte commits profanity overkill. “Boom Shake The Room” (DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Code Red) – I don’t know what’s cornier: the song itself or the song title.

Worst Album Title: Look Ma Duke, No Hands (Mad Kap) – 1993 didn’t really give us terrible album titles so, Mad Kap takes this one home by default.

Worst Album Artwork: In A Word Or Two (Monie Love) – Monie’s orange rain suit mixed with purple balls and the yellow lettering of her name bring back embarrassing memories of Cross Colours (if you don’t know what Cross Colours are, Google it). Crazy corny. Honorable Mentions: Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z (2pac) – I love Pac too, but you’re in denial if you think the hologramish-multi-colored Pac on the album cover looks cool.

Worst Song – Three way tie between “J.Beez Comin’ Thru” , “Wicked Randomness”, and “Man Made Material” (all from the Jungle Brothers’ J.Beez Wit The Remedy – These three songs are the perfect example of when experimentation goes wrong. These songs are truly the Incredible Hulk of 1993, folks. Honorable Mentions: “Bop Gun”(Ice Cube), “Close The Crackhouse”(Professor X).

Worst Album: J. Beez Wit The Remedy – Any album that has three songs in the running for worst song of the year has to take this award home. I’m sure Kristian Keddie won’t agree, but whatever. Honorable Mentions: No Pressure (Erick Sermon), Which Doobie U B?(Funkdoobiest), Dust To Dust(Pete Nice & Daddy Rich) – All three are clinics in monotony.

Best Moniker: I got nothing, bro.

Best Song Title: “Electric Relaxation” (A Tribe Called Quest, Midnight Marauders) – The adjective and the verb sound ill together. Plus, the title describes the vibe of the song, perfectly. Honorable Mentions: “Blue Funk” (Heavy D, Blue Funk), “My Jimmy Weighs A Ton”(Jungle Brothers, J.Beez Wit The Remedy), “Black Hand Side”(Queen Latifah, Black Reign), “Da Mystery Of Chessboxin'”(Wu-Tang Clan, Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)), “Mortal Thought”(KRS-One, Return of the Boom Bap), “The Rebirth of Slick”(Digable Planets, Reachin’).

Sleeper Album: In God We Trust (Brand Nubian) – The once three-man crew, loses their chief emcee, but fret not. Puba’s absence only provokes Lord Jamar and Sadat X to dig deeper, as they show and prove that they’re both formidable emcees. Pound for pound, In God We Trust is better than their heavily praised debut, One For All, and one of the best hip-hop albums of 1993. Honorable Mentions: Black Reign (Queen Latifah), Contemporary Jeep Music (Da King & I).

Best Album Artwork : A Tribe Called Quest, Midnight Marauders – The concept isn’t complex. Matter of fact, it’s quite simple, but how cool it was (and still is) to look behind the sexy virtual tour guide and name the list of Hip-hop Hall of Famers on ATCQ’s third album cover. Honorable Mentions: Leaders Of The New School, T.I.M.E., Freestyle Fellowship, Inner City Griots Because I’m a sucker for cartoon album cover.

Best Album Title: Bacdafucup (Onyx) – It’s equally comical (when you read the four words squashed together as one and then realize what it’s really saying), brash and in your face, and clever. Honorable Mentions: Blue Funk (Heavy D), Midnight Marauders (A Tribe Called Quest), Kill My Landlord (Coup).

Best Song: “Electric Relaxation” (A Tribe Called Quest, Midnight Marauders) – From beginning to end, Tip and Phife sound superb, as they spit pick-up lines over an infectious bass line and sick Ronnie Foster sample. Honorable Mentions: “Down With The King”(Run DMC), “Chief Rocka”(Lords of the Underground, Here Come The Lords), “93 ‘Til Infinity”(Souls of Mischief, 93 ‘Til Infinity), “Shiznit”(Snoop Dogg, Doggstyle), “I Feel Ya”(Scarface, The World Is Yours), “God Lives Through”(A Tribe Called Quest, Midnight Marauders). 

Best Album: (Midnight Marauders (A Tribe Called Quest) – I may be a little bias because it’s A Tribe Called Quest, but you’re dead wrong if you don’t put this in your list of ten greatest hip-hop albums of all time. Honorable Mentions: Doggystyle (Snoop Dogg), Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (Wu-Tang Clan), Enta Da Stage (Black Moon), Reachin’ (A New Refutation Of Time And Space)(Digable Planets)All great albums. They just happen to come out the same year that ATCQ decided to peak and flirt with perfection









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Yo-Yo – You Better Ask Somebody (June 22, 1993)

We last checked in with Yo-Yo in 1992 with her sophomore effort Black Pearl. Her debut album Make Way For The Motherlode was a critical success, and even if it didn’t sell a ton of units, it did make some waves on the Billboards. A lot of its success can be credited to her mentor Ice-Cube, who served as the executive producer, producer, majority writer and overall visionary of the project. Cube would also get EP credit for Black Pearl, but he wasn’t as involved in the production and writing, and the album received mixed reviews. I’ve never listened to Make Way For The Motherlode from beginning to end (I recently came across a copy of the album, so I will be reviewing it some time after I finish 1993), so I can’t compare it to Black Pearl, but overall I thought Black Pearl was a decent listen. Regardless, Yo-Yo would return with her third release, You Better Ask Somebody in 1993,

Like both of her prior projects, Ice Cube would serve as the executive producer for You Better Ask Somebody. He would also get his hands dirty on the production side of things, and even though he’s not credited, he would also yield his pen to Yo-Yo’s rhymes. Cube’s influence would help  You Better Ask Somebody receive much better reviews than it’s predecessor. I’ve never listened to You Better Ask Somebody before now, but I’m curious if it’s that much more of an upgrade than Black Pearl.

IBWin’ Wit My Crewin’ – Yo-Yo gets You Better Ask Somebody off to a great start, largely due to a banger of an instrumental, courtesy of QDIII. That’s not a shot at Yo-Yo’s rhymes, because she actually sounds dope spittin’ on the banger, it’s just that QD’s backdrop is that fire. By the way, this is your third album, and your homies with Ice Cube, Yo-Yo. What you mean you don’t have money for munchies?

Can You Handle It? – Yo-Yo uses this one to tell all the critics, haters and jackers that she’s the wrong sister to fuck wit. The Baker Boys (whom I’ve never heard of before today) and Ice Cube get the production credit for an instrumental that has a dusty east coast feel to it. I’m usually a fan of the dusty production sound, but this one doesn’t do it for me.

Westside Story – Yo-Yo uses this mid-tempo groove (Laylaw, Derrick McDowell and Ice Cube get credit for the instrumental) to represent her coast, and she sounds pretty appealing in the process. Batting them eyes and showing a little thigh, with her sexy ass.

Mackstress – She may not be as militant as her first go round, but Yo-Yo still has some consciousness in her bones. She uses this sick backdrop (credited to Ice Cube, DJ Crazy Toones (RIP) and QDIII) to encourage women to stand up for themselves, and with the current climate in America, this song couldn’t be more relevant. It always feels good to bob your head to a song with an uplifting message.

20 Sack – QDIII put in some work for Yo on this album. This time he hooks up a smooth groove for our host to get her sexy gangster on, as she spits “my windows are tinted, I got my seat laid back, my Jeep’s a 4×4 but it rolls like a Cadillac…through the dips and the swerves, my music is heard, you could swear this bitch is Iceberg”. The song title and hook are arbitrary, but the rest of the song is so dope I’m willing to overlook that.

You Better Ask Somebody – QD and Cube (who also contributes his voice to the hook, and his pen and delivery to Yo-Yo’s rhymes) concoct another very eat coast sounding instrumental(that kind of reminds me of the instrumental from Ice Cube’s “Wicked”) for the title track. Yo-Yo compliments it well, as she rides it commendably, and fires a shot back at Roxanne Shante, who took a shot at her first: “I never had a hoe flex, but Shante trick get the Cotex, nappy headed hooker don’t got no ends, been wack ever since “Roxanne’s Revenge”…little dumb black girl, how the hell you gonna come and dis a black pearl?”. Not bad.

They Shit Don’t Stink – Yo-Yo uses this one to call out the women and men that don’t realize their roses really smell like boo-boo. But Yo-Yo doesn’t just point out the speck of dust in her sister’s eye, she also cleans the sleep out of her own, as she proclaims “I fell off now I’m back, cause that Black Pearl shit was wack”. It’s rare that a rapper admits weakness or failure (especially back in the nineties, years before emo rap existed), and even though I don’t feel Black Pearl was wack, it’s refreshing to hear a rapper show vulnerability on the mic. All that said, this song is average at best.

Letter To The Pen – Over a traditional early nineties west coast backdrop, Yo-Yo recites letters she’s written to her incarcerated man (I wonder if this song inspired Nas to write his soon to be classic “One Love”). Martin Lawrence stops by to add a little comic relief during the hook. I like Yo-Yo’s concept, but the execution wasn’t that great.

Givin’ It Up – Yo-Yo invites Idle Joe (which is a hi-larious rap alias, if you ask me) and Lil E to join her over this zany Mr. Woody produced instrumental. Well, they can’t all be winners.

Pass It On – Our host invites her all female crew (Nick Nack, Sukii, Chann, Lady T, Shorty and Dawn) to join her, as each spit a verse about puffin’ trees. None of them sound spectacular, but the Pockets and Ice Cube concocted instrumental is so blissful, Riff Raff would sound decent rapping over it.

Girls Got A Gun – With some help from Cube (according to the liner notes), QDIII lays down another dope instrumental for Yo-Yo, who goes back into militant mode for this one. This was really dope.

The Bonnie and Clyde Theme – The final song of the evening finds Yo-Yo and Ice Cube reuniting on the mic, but unlike “It’s A Man’s World” where they were arguing over who was the more dominant sex, this time their rolling back to back, ride or die. Pockets mid-tempo groove is a guaranteed head nodder, and Yo-Yo and Cube’s chemistry is undeniable.

Yo-Yo has a noticeable chip on her shoulder throughout You Better Ask Somebody, and when you couple that with Cube’s vision, the end results are positive. Yo-Yo sounds sharp on the mic (large part due to Cube’s pen) and most of the production, which ironically has a heavy east coast feel, matches her energy. The few times she’s not at the top of her game, the instrumentals still manage to entertain (bars!). You Better Ask Somebody is not a classic album, but it’s a slightly better listen than Black Pearl, and fares much better than her female contemporary, MC Lyte’s Ain’t No Other, which was released on the same day.




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MC Lyte – Ain’t No Other (June 22, 1993)

The next two are new additions to my collection, which also happen to be released on the same day. It would have been perfect if I could have got these done last week for International Women’s Day, but a brother was busy. Place this one right before Professor X’s Puss ‘N Boots.

I’ve always appreciated and respected MC Lyte as an emcee. Yes, she had some help writing her material (especially early on in her career), but through the years she’s given us quality rhymes and one of the dopest female rapping voices in hip-hop history. On the flipside, none of her first three albums were consistent. They may have had a handful of decent songs, but none of the albums were good enough to be considered classics, in my humble opinion. Regardless of a classic album or even a commercially successful one, she would return in 1993 to release her fourth, and final album on First Priority/Atlantic, Ain’t No Other.

On her last effort Act Like You Know, Lyte slightly curved the hard edge she established on her first two releases, for a more feminine feel, and incorporated a little r&b vibe, thanks to the production duo of Wolf & Epic, who produced a third of that album. Wolf & Epic’s footprint is nowhere to be found on Ain’t No Other, as Lyte would recruit producers she’s worked with in the past (Audio Two) and some new heads (Backspin, K-Cut & Sir Scratch (from Main Source) and Markell Riley & team), hoping to bring back the raw sound that Lyte fans were accustom to.

Ain’t No Other didn’t do huge numbers, but it did give Lyte her first gold selling single. You’ll have to read the full post to find out which song it was. Or you can just Google it. The choice is yours.

Intro – The first voice you hear on Ain’t No Other is no other, than the Blastmaster KRS-One introducing the listener to the album.

Brooklyn  – Lyte uses the first song of the evening to represent her borough. The Markell Riley/Tyron Fyffe/Franklin Grant (who from here on out I will only refer to as Funk Mama Production) concocted instrumental is solid, but Lyte’s overly aggressive rhyme style sounds forced.

Ruffneck – This was the first single from Ain’t No Other, and the first gold selling single of Lyte’s career. I didn’t like this song back in the day for a few different reasons. First off, the Funk Mama produced instrumental sounds corny, and I’m not buying Lyte’s new-found gangster bitch image. This is pretty much the female answer to Apache’s (RIP) “Gangsta Bitch”, only with a trash instrumental.

What’s My Name Yo – K-Cut & Sir Scratch get credit for the jazzy backdrop (the sample at the end of the song could have been used as its own instrumental for a different song…it’s pretty dope), as Lyte demands that anybody within earshot put respec’ on her name.

Lil Paul – Apparently Lyte was a victim of a “hit it and quit it”, and now that the culprit won’t call her back, her salt and hurt feelings have her dissin’ his skills in the bed and bangin’ out his boy, Lil Paul (who according to Lyte has the wrong adjective before his name). Someone going by Funk provides a very nice instrumental that compliments Lyte’s rhymes, well. This was pretty dope.

Ain’t No Other – For the title track, Backspin samples the hardest organ loop I’ve heard in a while and turns it into a sick instrumental for Lyte to talk her shit over. This one goes extra hard, folks.

Hard Copy – Lyte invites Lin Que (who gets credit for writing the lyrics on this one) and Kink Ez to join her on this one, as each of the ladies does their best Onyx impersonation while reciting the same rhymes on three different verses, hence the song title. Backspin’s instrumental (with a co-production credit going to Master Tee) is kind of dope, but conceptually this was pretty weak.

Fuck That Motherfucking Bullshit – Yes, that is really the song title. Lyte revisits her “I’m Not Having It” with Positive K days, as her guest Big Vaughn (who get the writing credit for this one) gets brutally honest and explicit with his intentions, and Lyte shoots him down with each attempt (wait..did she just tell him to get his friends to suck is own dick? Unless the “friends” she referring to are his lips, that line doesn’t make sense) The back and forth is mildly entertainment, but the hook is embarrassingly bad and Milk’s backdrop is trash.

Intro – KRS-One returns to introduce the listener to side two of the album, which really only applies if you’re listening to Ain’t No Other on vinyl or a cassette player that doesn’t have auto-reverse.

I Go On – This was the second single from Ain’t No Other and probably my favorite song on the album. The Funky Mama Production team hooks up a super mellow instrumental that Lyte blesses beautifully with her dope vocal and solid rhymes.

One Nine Nine Three – Backspin hooks up another dope backdrop that our host rocks over, very well.

Never Heard Nothin’ Like This – Audio Two lays down a decent instrumental and Lyte brags and boasts her way through it. She even manages to mix a little Spanish, pig-Latin and French into her rhymes. I’m not mad at this one.

Can I Get Some Dap – This one reeks of filler material.

Let Me Adem – The first few times I listened to this one it was a yawner, but after a few more listens Backspin’s instrumental starts to grow on you. Lyte’s rhymes aren’t great on this one, but still serviceable.

Steady Fucking – After KRS-One warns all within earshot not to test MC Lyte on the mic(the exact same way he did about himself before Sex And Violence‘s “Like A Throttle”), Audio Two drops the worst instrumental imaginable for a dis record, and guess what our host does with it? She goes at her arch nemesis, Roxanne Shante. Lyte does land some decent blows, but never delivers that knock out punch. Maybe the dryness of the instrumental zapped her motivation.

The following songs are listed as bonus tracks on the CD version of Ain’t No Other:

Who’s House – While feuding with the Fugees, Jeru Da Damaja once said “I heard some emcees wanna bring it but a female is one of their strongest men”. That line can be applied to this song. Lyte bows out of this one and lets her all male crew jump on the mic (including Big Vaughn, for the second time tonight) and they all fail, miserably. I’m still trying to figure out which was worse: the malnourished rhyming or Audio Two’s feeble instrumental.

I Cram To Understand U – Lyte gives one of the singles from her debut album Lyte As A Rock, a remake, as D.J. Doc breathes new life into Audio Two’s empty drumbeat, with a new drum pattern and a well-welcomed Barry White loop. Lyte even re-raps the lyrics and you can hear the maturation of her voice from 1990 to ’93.

Lyte sounds strong on the mic (although at times, a little too strong (i.e. “Brooklyn” and “Ruffneck” )) throughout Ain’t No Other, but like her past projects, the inconsistency on the production side brings down the overall quality of the album. There are some good moments on Ain’t No Other (all of the Backspin produced joints shine), it’s just the mediocre ones outweigh the good ones. Maybe she got it right her fifth go round. Stay tuned.








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2 Low – Funky Lil Brotha (1993)

The success of Kris Kross’ 1992 debut album Totally Krossed Out, had everybody and their mama looking to sign the next kid rap sensation. Michael Bivens had ABC. The Native Tongues gave us Chi-Ali. And then their was Da’ Youngsta’s and Illegal out of Philly. Rap-A-Lot soon decided it was their turn to take part in the kid thing, and would introduce 2 Low to the world.

The Houston native, Cedric “2 Low” White was thirteen when he signed with Rap-A-Lot Records. He made his debut on Scarface’s The World Is Yours album, where Face pretty much blessed him with his own solo joint “Funky Lil Aggin”. That would lead to 2 Low releasing his debut album Funky Lil Brotha later that same year. Funky Lil Brotha would feature production from the names that shaped the Rap-A-Lot sound: Scarface, N.O. Joe and the production team of John Bido, Tony “Big Chief” Randle & James Smith. I don’t know anyone who actually bought this album when it was released, so I can’t imagine it sold that many copies. I found it in the dollar bins a few years ago and bought it out of curiosity.

A few years later, 2 Low would file a Federal lawsuit against Rap-A-Lot Records for fraud, negligence and breach of fiduciary duty, which basically means they didn’t pay him for show performances and record sales. Needless to say, that would be the end of his relationship with Rap-A-Lot, and pretty much the end of his rap career. Rap-A-Lot did settle out of court with 2 Low, so hopefully he go a nice portion of the 28 million he originally sued for. But I digress.

Low In – Short intro to Funky Lil Brotha. Come on Face, was anybody really waiting for a 2 Low album?

Class Clown – The first song of the evening features some southern fried instrumentation courtesy of N.O. Joe, that 2 Low uses to talk about some of the shenanigans he takes part in, which include: grabbing the teachers ass, stabbing a snitchin’ kid in his booty hole with a pencil and smoking weed in the school gym. Uh, these are not acts of a class clown, more like a thug/future inmate. I’m not buying what 2 Low’s selling on this one, but I did enjoy N.O.’s instrumental, and Devin the Dude’s hook was mildly entertaining.

Growing Up Ain’t Easy – 2 Low uses this one to talk about the trials of being a kid and covers everything from getting in trouble with his moms to his homeboy having to deal with a drug addicted mother. John Bido and company hook up a mean southern style groove, and Devin the Dude stops by for the second song in a row, and sings the catchy hook. I like this one.

Funky Lil Brother – This song originally appeared on Scarface’s The World Is Yours, and was titled Funky Lil Aggin”” (which is “nigga” spelled backwards). N.O. Joe, who was responsible for the production on the original mix, also gets credit for this remix, and I definitely prefer the original over the heavily synth commercial feel of this version. Face and Low pretty much use the same lyrics as the original, with an edit here and there in an attempt to give 2 Low a cleaner image (which is pretty ridiculous considering just two songs ago he was smoking weed in the school gym and now he claims he doesn’t smoke when Face offers him a joint during the final verse of this song). This was corny on The World Is Yours and even cornier on this album. By the way, if the album is titled Funky Lil Brotha, why the hell did you put “Brother” in the song title?

Pain – John Bido and company slide Low a funky smooth backdrop that he uses to talk about what a pain in the ass girls and teachers can be. This was cool.

Here We Go – 2 Low’s rhymes are rushed and slurred and N.O. Joe’s instrumental is pretty plain. I may like my burgers that way but not my instrumentals.

Boo Ya – Bido & Company hook up a decent west coastish instrumental for 2 Low to spit more laughable thug rhymes over. Wait…did he take a shot at Da Youngsta’s on the first verse (“Boo ya, take it like that when I punch ya, more like a grown up and far from a youngsta”)? Hmm…

Throw Ya Hands In The Air -2 Low turns up his energy and volume, which only makes it more difficult to understand what he’s saying on this track. He’s not credited anywhere in the liner notes, but it sounds like B-Real stops by and make a quick cameo during the second verse. But not even B-Real (or his clone?) can make this generic N.O. Joe instrumental sound pleasant.

The Groove With Mr. Scarface (Strictly For The Funk Lovers Pt. 2) – Trash.

Send Ya Fa Mama – More trash.

Everyday Thang – Bido & Company lay down a nice mellow instrumental for Low to discuss the everyday happenings around his way (which hi-larious includes him trying to sneak a peek at a breastfeeding mother’s titty while she feeds in public). This was decent.

Da Hood – The hook might make you think this is part two to the previous song but it’s not. As my dad might say, 2 Low sounds too manish on this one, as he tries to come across like a gangster and ends up sounding completely unbelievable. Someone going by Mr. 3-2, jumps on the final verse and his gangster sounds much more convincing than our host’s. I’m not a big fan of N.O. Joe’s instrumental, but I’ve heard worst.

Comin’ Up – For the final song of the evening, 2 Low decides to invite a few of his young Rap-A-Lot affiliates to join him on this the cipher joint: (appearing in this order) Deshira, 2 Clean, the 5th Ward Juvenilez (Nickelboy, Mr. Slimm, Daddy Lo and a mysterious fourth voice), Red Dog, Endo, Gage, Kilo and 2 Low wraps things up. The song starts off pretty corny with verses from a 13-year-old Deshira (whose rhymes are barely understandable) and the 5-year-old Bubble-gum kid, 2 Clean. The 5th Ward Juvenilez then steer the ship back in the right direction during the second verse, but Endo delivers the strongest verse of the song. Bido & Company hook up a funky backdrop for the crew to get down on, and all in all, this is not that bad of a record.

Low Out – 2 Low uses this outro to give his shoutouts. And with that, Funky Lil Brotha is done.

There are four of five quality instrumentals and one dope verse, courtesy of one of his guest (Endo on “Comin Up”), but the rest of Funky Lil Brotha is pretty useless. 2 Low spends the entire album going back and forth between sweet innocent kid and ruthless gangster, which leaves you questioning who he really is and what the hell his writing team was thinking. Ultimately, the quality of our host’s output on Funky Lil Brotha is too low. Pun intended.


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