Category Archives: 1991

2pac – 2pacalypse Now

2pac
2pacalypse Now
November 12, 1991
Interscope Records/ UMG
075/100
2pac - 2pacalypse Now
1. Young Black Male // 2. Trapped (feat. Shock G) // 3. Soulja’s Story // 4. I Don’t Give a Fuck (feat. Pogo) // 5. Violent // 6. Words of Wisdom // 7. Something Wicked (feat. Pee Wee) // 8. Crooked Ass Nigga (feat. Stretch) // 9. If My Homie Calls // 10. Brenda’s Got a Baby (feat. Dave Hollister) // 11. Tha’ Lunatic (feat. Stretch) // 12. Rebel of the Underground (feat. Ray Luv & Shock G) // 13. Part Time Mutha (feat. Angelique & Poppi)

Being relatively new to their work, listening to Digital Underground’s Sex Packets and This is An E.P. Release I couldn’t really see just how 2Pac fitted in with the merry bunch that apparently birthed his career. Even if he did appear on Same Song the man is hardly known for being a P funk enthousiast or a laid-back funny guy, rather he was known for being quite the angry dude who liked to start shit, which makes him and Humpty Hump like day and night.

But Sons of the P however showed a more politicised D.U. that namechecked Nation of Islam and dissed black celebrities trying to look more caucasian and did quite well at that, and Pac followed suit by rhyming about his crack slanging career on his guest verse on The DLFO Shuttle, stressing that he didn’t much enjoy that particular lifestyle but had very little of a choice but to do so. After hearing that song the pairing made much more sense.

Now I don’t want to be a dope man, listen
I didn’t have a dime, a nickel, penny, a pot to piss in
See all my clothes had holes and they fit tight
Pray to God cause it’s hard trying to live right
Waiting on the train can’t hang with the street gangs
Making me insane, putting rain on my whole brain
But the train means change to better thangs
Can’t live with the negative and ghetto pains
Can’t be late, can’t wait to get to where we’re going
Almost ten to four and I’m sure that the train is showing
But I ain’t sure where it goes, I don’t really know it
But I got faith, that’s all it takes to get to where we’re going

It is this mindset, as well as the D.U.’s updated ’91 dusty, swingless funk beats that are found on Pac’s ’91 Interscope Records debut album 2Pacalypse Now.

His debut is different from his subsequent work in several ways.

Strictly For My N.I.G.G.A.Z,  his sophomore album, included at least one celebratory radio single in the form of I Get Around. And on every single subsequent album release they became more prominent, aiding 2Pac in gaining radio actual radio hits, culminating in his Death Row debut album All Eyez on Me an album so bloated, single-minded, repetitive and overrated that it took some seriously brilliant marketing to sell it to the masses. For better or worse no such radio-friendly track can be found here. In fact hooks, the sword by which a radio song lives or dies, are barely present on this album at all. Even when R&B singers are brought in, such as on Brenda’s Got a Baby or Part Time Mutha everything remains raw, or at the very least meaningful and true to its creator’s beliefs.

Many of Pac’s subsequent social commentaries like the ode to single mothers Keep Ya Head Up, the ode to his single mother Dear Mama and the euology of his dead homies Life Goes On are much more positive than anything off 2Pacalypse: the 2pac found here is a rather passive and observative narrator of street life. Although he does parttake in the events he describes (by which I mean that several tracks he rhymes in first person, whether he actually did any of the shit he raps about himself I wouldn’t know) he doesn’t appear to have the idea that he’s ever significantly going to change anything and just rolls with the punches, doing what he has to in order to survive another day.  His tales are strikingly personal but not quite activist, mostly descriptive of events leaving the listener to draw his/ her own conclusions. On the album’s closest thing to a hit single Brenda’s Got a Baby he describes the trials and tribulations of an abused and impregnated ghetto girl, but never explicitly urges the listener to do something about it and “change the way we eat (…) live (…) treat each other” the way he famously did on his posthumous monster hit single Changes. It is this weary attitude that most separates 2Pacalypse from all of his other work. Some will say that he only mentions problems, and never comes up with any solutions but one must keep in mind that this is a rap album, essentially a piece of art. And the fact that Pac was just as clueless as to the solutions to these things which did really bother him, not unlike the people whose everyday struggle he rapped about, placed him among them, giving him credibility and sympathy other rappers lacked. After all 2pac was a musician, not a politician, and besides who wants to get preached to while listening to music? There’s an in-you-face subtle quality to this that most other albums couldn’t even dream about.

Most of these songs are pretty good, even if there are a few embarassments to be found on here. Young Black Male has Pac amateuristically speed-rapping his way through a not very engaging instrumental. Part Time Mutha, a prequel of sorts to Brenda’s Got a Baby, straight jacks Stevie Wonder’s Part-Time Lover in a rather lazy manner, with a rather generic female rapper dropping in for a verse, even if our host’s performance is just fine.

The rest is pretty damn good, with Trapped, Soulja’s StoryI Don’t Give a Fuck, Violent and If My Homie Calls being highlights because they flow tighter, have more interesting instrumentals, drop more profound knowledge or are simply better thought-through than the rest of what inhabits 2Pacalypse, and Brenda’s Got a Baby is hands-down the best song on here (It is considered canonical rap music for a good reason.) What remains is not quite filler but does run together. Given that this album stems from a time when albums were projects that were listened to in one piece, rather than bought off iTunes track-by-track, and also given that even the brainfarts are more intriguing than the highlights of most of today’s top rap artists “albums” this should be seen as a endorsement.

Here’s the thing. I’ve never considered myself much of a 2Pac fan, what with most of his die-hard fans being really fucking annoying pricks with a tendency of yelling things such as THUG LIFE and WEST SIDE without so much as a hint of irony, and All Eyes on Me (2Pac’s most famous album and one of hip-hop’s best selling albums in general), the only album of his I have heard in its entirety before I subjected myself to 2Pacalypse to write this review, sucking, save for five-to-ten songs (out of twenty seven).

But his debut is surprisingly entertaining and substantial, talking about real problems without our host catching a messiah complex, not mentioning THUG LIFE or WEST SIDE once, and it has effectively won me over and has me looking forward to going through his catalogue. Now, excuse my while I head for the yard to pour out a little liquor for the man (don’t want to do it here since I don’t want to make a mess in my room.)

Best tracks
Trapped
Soulja’s Story
I Don’t Give a Fuck
Violent
If My Homie Calls
Brenda’s Got a Baby

Recommendations
Pick this one up.


Digital Underground – Sons of the P

Digital Underground
Sons of the P
October 15, 1991
Tommy Boy RecordsWarner Bros. RecordsWMG
080/100
Digital Underground - Sons of the P
1. The DFLO Shuttle (feat. 2pac) // 2. Hearbeat Props // 3. No Nose Job // 4. Sons of the P (feat. George Clinton) // 5. Flowin’ on the D-Line // 6. Kiss You Back // 7. Tales of the Funky // 8. The Higher Heights of Spirituality // 9. Family of the Underground (feat. Stretch & 2pac) // 10. The D-Flow Instrumental // 11. Good Thing We Rappin’

Following the appetizer/leftover that was an EP release alternative hip-hop group Digital Underground’s sophomore LP Sons of the P, their second release of 1991 expands on the sound of their classic debut Sex Packets.

Although its very title is a rather literal admission that their sound stems from the movement started by George Clinton, who makes an appearance on this album’s title track, Shock G, money B and their extensive posse move away from the P-funk slightly towards something approximating more traditional hip-hop. Not to say that they abondon it entirely, in fact this may very well be the true G-funk as opposed to Dr. Dre’s early ’90s sound which in fact owed more to the blaxploitation era Curtis Mayfield and Isaac Hayes than to Parliament or Funkadelic. It’s not that the D.U. has turnt its back on the P, it’s just that the flows are tighter than last time around, Shock and Money seriously upped their skills and the beats hit harder than on their giddily, whimsically brilliant debut, which makes them somewhat less funky by default.

The subjects are more serious too, albeit in a tongue-in-cheek manner. No Nose Job may not be quite ment for literal interpretation (especially the part where some surgeon hilariously forces a nose job on a protesting Humpty Hump so that he may become a huge star), but it’s most definitely a much more profound statement than anything off Sex Packets, urging other black celebrities not to get cosmetic surgery or try to look less black via coloured contact lenses, because it might lead to black children growing up to dislike their appearances and think there’s something wrong with being black. On Hearbeat Props nation of islam, Malcolm X and Louis Farrakan are namechecked, and on The DFLO Shuttle 2pac talkes about having no choice but to sell drugs, and sounding like the thug life martyr everyone would get to know soon enough, for the very first time.

If the industry stories about how Digital Underground came into existence are true Sons of the P may be the album Shock G initially wanted to record, before he decided he didn’t want the Underground to sound like a Public Enemy redux. If Sons is an indication he might as well have done so, since despite some overlap in subject matter with Chuck D and cohorts they don’t really sound alike that much. Also the conscious, afro-centric lyricism fits Shock just as well as the sex-crazed humpty-dancing of D.U.’s debut album, making this experimentation with some new sounds quite succesful indeed.

Not that the guys have forgotten about the folks who bought Sex Packets. On the title track George Clinton himself gives his followers a thumbs-up, referring to himself and the D.U. as the sons of P, which is odd, because I recall him and Bootsy being fathers of the P, but whatever. Tales of the Funky is the moment that most recalls their debut, being that it’s a rather careless affair performed completely in P Funk slang (Bop Guns, Mothership connection and what not are namechecked) and Kiss You Back and It’s a Good Thing We’re Rappin’  are some vintage Humpty Hump sex rap, albeit the latter a bit more mysogynic and violent than I’m used to.

All in all, Sons of the P is a really good follow-up to Sex Packets, lacking highlight of the caliber of the Humpty Dance and Packet Man, but flowing better as an album, updating their sound and fucking around with some new lyrical themes quite succesfully, without selling their souls.

Well played.

Best tracks
No Nose Job
Tales of the Funky
Kiss You Back
Good Thing We’re Rappin’

Recommendations
Buy this album.


Prince Rakeem – Oooh I Love You Rakeem

Prince Rakeem
Oooh I Love You Rakeem
July 1, 1991
Tommy Boy RecordsWarner Bros. RecordsWMG
050/100
Prince Rakeem - Oooh We Love You Rakeem
1. Ooh We Love You Rakeem [Baggin’ Ladies Mix] // 2. Ooh We Love You Rakeem [Baggin’ Ladies Instrumental] // 3. Deadly Venoms [Vocals Up] // 4. Sexcapades [DMD Mix] // 5. Sexcapades [Wutang Mix] // 6. Sexcapades [DMD Radio Mix] // 7. Sexcapades [DMD Instrumental] // 8. Sexcapades [Wutang Instrumental]

Like his boy GZA, RZA had something of a career before Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) came out, gained a cult following and started a hip-hop dynasty. Not that it was going anywhere in the direction of what one could consider succesful, but Ooh I Love You Rakeem, which isn’t named after the single Ooh We Love You Rakeem, exists, so therefor it is an inevitable speed-bump in the Wu-Tang discography, much like GZA’s Words From a Genius.

Ooh We Love You Rakeem, officially called an EP, but in reality it is a glorified maxi-single, what with its instrumentals and remixes sequenced right after their original incarnations. It would seem that the intended audience for this is DJs and, once RZA became the legend he is today with the Clan, Wu-completists. (Just kidding, I don’t actually think Tommy Boy had the foresight to predict Rakeem becoming what he is today. Everything on this EP more or less points to them pushing RZA in the opposite direction.)

Eight tracks long this “album” has only three actual songs; the sorta, kinds title track, Deadly Venoms and Sexcapades: all of them about how much play he gets from the ladies. On most of these songs his rapping sounds like a mix of LL Cool J’s and label mate Shock G’s, and not as this album cover implies: the Fresh Prince. Allegedly (according to himself) he already was in fact already the grimy rapper the world would get to know on later releases, but Tommy Boy records forced this radio friendly style upon him.

The surpise is that it doesn´t suit him that poorly. Except for the Ooh We Love You Rakeem on which he goes balls-out Digital Underground on us, which should be left to Humpty, nothing here sucks balls. Deadly Venoms, which would an have all-female Wu-Tang offshoot group named after it, definitely wouldn’t sound out of place on 36 Chambers if it had Meth, ODB, Deck, Rae or Ghost on it. Both the Wu-Tang Mix and the DMD Mix of Sexcapades knock, although they don’t sound different enough to warrant inclusion of both.

Also, the instrumental versions of Ooh I Love You Rakeem and the two Sexcapades may be interesting to own for aspiring rappers, but offer little to the average listener.

So, there you have it. Two, or three out of these eight are commendable whereas the rest isn’t. Devout Wu-followers should have a peep at this, although even they have little reason to pay for something that includes three instrumentals, two remixes and only three actual songs.

Best tracks
Deadly Venoms
Sexcapades [Wu-Tang Mix]

Recommendations
Get the above two tracks off iTunes.


the Genius – Words From the Genius, volume 1

the Genius
Words from the Genius, volume 1
Februari 19, 1991
Cold Chillin’ Records/ Reprise Records/ Warner Bros. Records/ WMG
060/100
the Genius - Words From the Genius

1. Come Do Me // 2. Phony As Ya Wanna Be // 3. True Fresh M.C. // 4. The Genius Is Slammin’ // 5. Words From a Genius // 6. Who’s Your Rhymin’ Hero // 7. Feel the Pain // 8. Those Were the Days // 9. Life of a Drug Dealer // 10. Stop the Nonsense // 11.  Living Foul // 12. Drama // 13. Stay Out of Bars // 14. What Silly Girls Are Made Of // 15.  Superfreak

The story of the Wu-Tang clan is a long one. One that, god willingly, will take this blog and any uneventful reader through a stack of 214 albums – and counting – released the group as a whole, its members, its affiliates and even through soundtracks of films the group’s leader, the RZA, scored.

The obvious starting point would be Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) since it is the album that actually started the movement. Fate however would have it that one of the ten core members of the clan; Gary “GZA/Genius” Grice actually had released an abum before the Clan existed. Words from the Genius is that album.

Released on the Juice Crew’s record label Cold Chillin’ Records in februari of 1991 and produced by Big Daddy Kane’s beatmaker Easy Mo Bee doesn’t show a trace of RZA, Meth, Rae, Ghost, Deck, U-God or ODB, which isn’t strange considering where and when this was released. What is strage is that there are no assists from Big Daddy Kane, Biz Markie, MC Shan or Marley Marl. Considering that he was signed to their label and was a complete unknown at the moment one would think that a guest verse by at least one of these legends would both be a major selling point and something that shouldn’t be too difficult to arrange.

But no, this is just Easy and GZA and the occasional no-name producer for the entirety of Words from the Genius with zero guest appearances, which in today’s rap music landscape is almost unthinkable.

Words From the Genius‘ instrumentals shouldn’t be compared to the dark cinematic instrumentals the RZA would serve up on Enter the Wu-Tang. Easy Mo Bee’s classic old school beats have little to do with Prince Rakeem, in stead one should put it toe-to-toe with albums by the aforementioned Kane and Biz Markie, classic, swinging and a bit simplistic but still comfortably above the old school average. Still this album released at the end of the period in which this style of rap was popular doesn’t add much to Cold Chillin’ Records’ list of achievements as Kane and Biz had done just about everything there was to do with this particular style of rap. Also since nobody purchased it it didn’t earn anybody a gold plaque.

As for GZA himself, sounds exactly how he would on subsequent releases, which is to say he’s in fine form, all that’s different this time around is the beats. Lyrical themes include GZA’s mic superiority over other rappers (Genius is Slammin’), nostalgia (Those Were the Days) and the dangers of pubs (Don’t Go Into bars).

As a whole Words is pleasant, jazzy oldschool affair that’s fine when it is on but evaporates immediately from the listener’s conscience when it stops spinning. It’s a pretty consistent release, the only song that outright sucks is the Wu-jack swing opener Come Do Me. The rest is just fine, but nothing special.

Best tracks
Those Were the Days
Drama
Genius Is Slammin’
Stay Out of Bars

Recommendations
If you’re a fan of the Cold Chillin’ records brand of rap music and you haven’t yet heard this you should definitely give this a spin. Fans of the Wu needn’t really bother.


Digital Underground – This Is an EP Release

Digital Underground
This Is an EP Release
July 1, 1991
Tommy Boy Records/ Warner Bros. Records/ WMG
065/100
Digital Underground - This Is an EP Release
1. Same Song (feat. 2pac) // 2. Tie the Knot // 3. The Way We Swing [Remix] // 4. Nuttin’ this Funky // 5. Packet Man [Worth a Packet Remix] // 6. Arguin’ On da Funk

Sex Packets was some terrific stuff and left me wanting a chaser badly. This isn’t it. Although This Is an EP release isn’t without merit it seems mostly something cooked up by Tommy Boy records to make some quick cash by throwing together remixes, songs that may or may not be Sex Packets outtakes and a single taken from a soundtrack. While they were at it couldn’t they have thrown in the songs that were exclusively available on the casette version of Digital Underground’s debut album as well?

That said: This Is an EP Release is still hella fun to listen to when it’s on. The remix of Packet Man and Tie the Not take Digital Underground and blends it with Soul II Soul’s creating something more slick than you’re used to from these guys, to great effect.

Same Song taken from the Dan Aykroyd film Nothing But Trouble is also some good stuff with it’s electronic funk instrumental and 2pac’s atypically unthuggish blink-and-you’ll-miss it debut on record appearance. Ain’t Nothin’ this Funky hardly lives up to it’s title but is passable nonetheless.

Argiun’ On the Funk is Shock G and his alter ego arguing over a beat without so much as dropping a rhyme and doesn’t add anything to the Digital Underground catalogue, nor does the remix to The Way We Swing.

And then This is an EP Release is Over. With six tracks there isn’t much room for filler, but still there’s two tracks that are wholly inessential and one that walks the line. That leaves three dope cuts that might as well have been bonus tracks on Sex Packets or maybe Digital Underground’s Sons of the P. Considering that they weren’t this EP is still something every DU fan should check out.

Best tracks
Same Song, Packet Man [Worth a Packet Remix]

Recommendations
Beyond these two songs only real Digital Underground fans should spend money on this.