October 7, 1997
Roc-a-Fella Records/ Def Jam Recordings/ BMG/ SME
Chapter 1: the Streets
1. The Getto (What Ya Gotta Do) // 2. Full of Smoke // 3. Pull It // 4. Where I’m From [Interlude] // 5. Where I’m from
Chapter 2: the Relationship
6. Midnight X-Ta-C // 7. Anything Goes // 8. I Wanna Get Next to you // 9. Face Like Yours
Chapter 3: the Love
10. Bring Back Your Love // 11. Come To Me // 12. Soon
Chapter 4: the Aftermath
13. Tonight // 14. aftermath
The most pretentious thing that the people responsible for this album did is include Cyrano in its name, which is supposed to refer to either 17th century French science fiction writer Cyrano de Bergerac or the play based on the man that portrays him as some sort of poetic dirty uncle. There was also apparently a 1913 opera called Cyrano, but Anthony Allen and Kenni Ski don’t strike me as opera lovers (Though admittedly I have been wrong before in similar assessment). Ghetto Cyrano may even be named after the 1991 atrocity of a musical one of my countrymen excreted after consuming an entire script of said play, with an entrée of Hans Zimmerman and an side dish of Tim Rice.
Considering that this is supposedly divided into four ‘chapters’ I’m going to go with the play, since plays are oft divided into acts (acts goddamn it, not chapters!), which the person who namedropped Cyrano into their conscience either failed to mention, or the boys in this R&B duo – who probably didn’t go to see the play for themselves – inconveniently failed to recall when they explained their vision of a concept of an album that was like a 19th century play from France, with Chapters and shit!, to Damon Dash and were too lazy too look up afterwards since him and the Jiggaman had inked them a deal already anyway and looking it up on the internet would’ve cost them more time and money since it was 1997 and all there was available was shitty Dial-Up internet access and well… ain’t nobody got time for that.
Either that or they read L’Autre monde ou les états et empires de la Lune and stuffed Ghetto Cyrano full of hidden 1657 satire references, which off course I wouldn’t notice because I haven’t read it personally (I’m not that much of a culture-buff), in which case the joke would be on me. If this is the case please leave a comment so I can see my error of judgment.
In the unlikely event this is fact the division in ‘chapters’ still doesn’t remotely make sense since only the five opening tracks show any sort of entity seperate from the rest: The first five are about ‘street life’ while the remaining three ‘chapters’ comprising nine tracks are all about love and sex, and definitely not the edgy crush-on-your neice kind that ol’ Cyrano was so lyric about in the fictitious play written about him more than a century after he died.
What’s almost equally mystifying is how these two guys from the bay area of California got signed to the very New York-centric Roc-a-Fella Records, and were not only the first R&B act on the label, but the first act bar label boss Jay-Z to get to release their album on it altogether. It actually takes some pretty close inspection of the packaging to find that out though since you can find nary a Jay-Z fingerprint on it. Sure, his name is stamped on the back with Dame Dash and Kareem Biggs who all ‘executive produce’, but he doesn’t drop as much as a single line on it. Nor are there any of the producers that were associated with the Roc at the time present. Christión gets to produce all of this stuff for themselves with some mystery guy called Poetry Man who appears to never have worked on anything other than Ghetto Cyrano. Well, that’s not to say that this record is entirely free of Jay: The opening track The Ghetto (What Ya Gotta Do) has a small shard of Jigga’s vocals that seem to have been lifted from Reasonable Doubt‘s closing song Regrets that’s dropped into the chorus for no real reason other than to stress to the listener that they in fact were on his label. The same happens on Pull It, as though the Roc didn’t yet have the cash to fly Christión to Brooklyn or fly Jay to Frisco (which may have been the truth since Reasonable Doubt didn’t sell very well and the first real success in the form of In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 had yet to drop), so in stead of having them record together they e-mailed Jigga’s voice across the country, but were, once again, severely restricted to an absolute minimum by what the technology of the time had to offer, which raises another question: Why did Christión sign to a not (yet) very succesful label on the other side of the country that wouldn’t offer them any musical back up? Couldn’t they have made things a lot simpler and just have brought their business to a respectable label much closer to home
like Death Row?
All of these questions are probably never going to get answers since Christión’s faces can currently be on San Francisco milk cartons and Jay-Z by this point can hardly remember having at one point owned a record label called Roc-a-Fella, let alone having these two signed to it and not working with them on recording their album.
This review is the most press these guys have recieved in seventeen years and it ends on a mixed note.
There is one song on this that is an undeniable classic. That is the Marvin Gaye-sampling contemplative smokers anthem Full of Smoke, that sounds a like a Curtis Mayfield update for the mid-’90s, which was a hit-single and the music video of which at the very least places the guys in one room with Dame Dash. Which is a reminder that Jay wasn’t the only guy behind the wheel of the Roc but that Dame Dash had some influence on the proceedings at the very least early on (and if Cam’ron is to be believed later on too, but only when Jay went on vacation for a while. *tosses the Roc-offices keys to Dame and tells him to water the plants and not throw any wild parties*).
Pull It and Where I’m From are fairly decent blacksploitation grooves, and Midnight X-Ta-C is an okay song to get nasty to I suppose and Face Like Yours isn’t a bad love song. Problem is none of these songs except the hit-single pack much of a punch, and neither does anything else. These guys sound like 2pac’s second-rate hook-singer Danny Boy, which means that besides theone good song they had in them as a lead-act they probably were only truly good as a studio-tool for the occasional R&B hook of a hip-hop song, which was a career that was probably denied them by Jay himself since their only appearances from here on on the Roc-a-Fella label were the off second-rate compilation like the Streets Is Watching OST and Hard Knock Life OST, but other than that they were denied even the slightest bit of Memphis Bleek album action, no matter how much Dame begged him to give his boys some play.
Jay-Z may be a good rapper, but he really does appear to be complete dick of a boss. Word to Beanie Sigel and Dame Dash. This however doesn’t he wasn’t right about really ever fucking with Christión musically or something, and it’s hard to see anything significant being lost here like what was the case with Sauce Money’s Middle Finger U and his subsequent career and laxk thereof. With the exception of their lone hit Christión made well meaning, well informed but ultimately completely generic urban soul. Ghetto Cyrano is a historically remarkable album because of the label it was released on that nevertheless only delivers anything of enduring interest to listeners in the form of its first and only charting single, while the rest of the music featured on it refuses to be of any detectable quality whatsoever. Both the songwriting and the singing are really bland. Arguably even Bleek, whose music definitely sounds a lot worse than Christión’s, has more right to a Roc-deal because at the very least delivers that sound that Jay’s fans appear to enjoy (albeait in a store brand imitation form.) Hell, this album doesn’t even have the Pain in da Ass intro!
Full of Smoke
Download Full of smoke, it’s a great song, but don’t listen to the rest of this album. It’s boring as watching paint dry.