Category Archives: 1994

Saafir – Boxcar Sessions

Saafir
Boxcar Sessions
May 10, 1994
Qwest Records/ Reprise Records/ Warner Bros. RecordsWMG
053/100
Saafir - Boxcar Sessions - Front (1)
1. Grap the Train // 2. Swig of the stew // 3. Poke Martian (feat. Poke Martian) // 4. Playa Hata // 5. Pee Wee // 6. Battle Drill // 7. Westside (feat. King Saan) // 8. Worship the D // 9. Light Sleeper // 10. Rashinel (feat. Rashinel) // 11. Can-U-Feel-Me? // 12. No Return (Goin’ Crazy) // 13. Big Nose (feat. Big Nose) // 14. Just Riden // 15. Hype Shit // 16. Real Circus // 17. Bent // 18. The Instructor // 19. Joint Custody

Well that was unexpectedly boring. Saafir, a Digital Underground associate and an Oakland CA native, released his solo debut Boxcar Sessions in early 1994. It apparently has a cult status of sorts. This album is a combination of his own battle rhymes and awkward flow with mostly dusty, shuffling jazz drums, booming basslines, scratching and very little more in the way of melody. Every song on it sounds the same to such an extent that I literally can’t remember a single one of them for positive reasons, and I’ve just listened to this album three times. I’m a well-documented fan of all of Digital Underground’s projects so far but both the vocal side and the instrumental side of this album are underwhelming and pretentious, both of which could’ve been helped by adding some Shock G. Where the fuck is he at?

I would wonder why 2pac decided not to show up on this album but I can’t think of anything on here that he would sound appropriate over. There are many criticisms one can throw in 2pac’s direction but boring he was not.

This album was released on Qwest records which means Quincy Jones inked him a deal. Maybe Q doesn’t actually care about rap music and his only demands of the genre are for it to not interfere with his afternoon nap, in which case Boxcar Sessions achieves its goal nicely. Don’t pay too much attention to the lyrics either because when I finally forced myself to do so something apparently called Worship the Dick was on.

Boxcar Sessions is simply not very interesting and besides that, at nineteen tracks there’s much too much of it. Reviewing it however isn’t difficult, so at least it has that going for that, which is nice.

Best track
Worship the Dick

Recommendations
What do you think?


Fugees – Blunted on Reality

Fugees/ Tranzlatorz Crew
Blunted on Reality
Februari 1, 1994
Ruffhouse RecordsColumbia RecordsSME
060/100
cover
1. Introduction // 2. Nappy Heads // 3a. Blunted [Interlude] / 3b. Blunted on Reality // 4. Recharge // 5. Freestyle [Interlude] // 6. Vocab // 7. Special Bulletin News [Interlude] // 8. Boof Baf (feat. Mad Spyda) // 9. Temple // 10. How Hard Is It? // 11. Harlem Chit Chat [Interlude] // 12. Seek Some Stardom // 13. Giggles // 14. Da Kid from Haiti [Interlude] // 15. Refugees on the Mic // 16. Living Like There Ain’t No Tomorrow // 17. Shout outs From the Block // 18. Nappy heads [Remix]

The story of the Fugees is a classic one: Three New Jersey high school kids formed a hip-hop group in ’92, a member left, enter a new member and tadaa; we have the trio of Wyclef Jean, Lauryn Hill and Pras who used to perform under the name Translatorz Crew.
After a some gigs and demos they woke up finding themselves signed to Columbia subsidiary label Ruffhouse Records. They changed their group name to Fugees to draw attention to their Haitian heritage (Apparently Refugee is a derogatory term for Haitian American.) and recorded a debut album filled with somewhat politically charged dancehall rap called Blunted on Reality which they finished in ’92. Allegedly they then had a two year battle with their record label about the content, following which they released their album to the sounds of crickets.

Somehow they didn’t get dropped from their label and got to record a sophomore album that features covers of Roberta Flack’s Killing Me softly With His Song and Bob Marley & the Wailers’ No Woman No Cry, alongside original material and proceeded to sell twenty fucking million copies of said album called the Score. Lauryn Hill then went insane, released an even more succesful solo album which sparked a songwriting and production lawsuit, proceeded to go even insane-er while Wyclef became a stalwart producer and solo hitmaker and Pras… Well who gives two shits about Pras? (Sorry Pras.)

Before all that though there was Blunted on Reality, an album that has nothing to do with any of that, really, and is content with being a reggae tinged gangsta rap album. Neither Wyclef nor Lauryn sing much here and for those who are into Killing Me Softly and Ready Or Not should not pick automatically this up just because it’s the product of the same people, if not leave it alone all together. The Score was a breath of fresh air in a hip-hop landscape that was mostly filled with gangsta clones of quality of varying degree. Blunted on Reality is an album worth of gangsta clones of quality of varying degree. Seriously you guys, two million people before you made that exact mistake. Even die hard Pras-fans don’t really have any business here since although he wasn’t very good back then already, his voice was not at all as deep and resonant as it would become later, which was the only thing the guy has going for him, really.

Not that Blunted on Reality is a horrible album, au contraire, it’s alright enough if a bit bland.
All the songs, with a few exceptions, may sound the same but they don’t sound bad, and Wyclef, Lauryn and Pras are each at the very least competent on the mic. The lyrics aren’t very exceptional but for the most part they’re delivered at too fast a pace for you to hear them unless you play close attention.

There is however two songs that are slightly better than merely alright. There’s one song that may not directly hint at the greatness that was to come but does sound good in its own right: Nappy Heads, with its dirty drums and funky horn sample is the very best thing on here, hands down and should get some heads nodding and feet tapping.
Then there’s Vocab which mirrors Nappy Heads in that it in fact does hint at what can be heard on The Score as well as Wyclef’s solo work, what with its spare acoustic guitar backdrop but could use some work as it sounds unfinished. (Apparently the record label and/ or the Fugees agreed with that sentiment since the version that was released as a single was a remix that sounds a lot better and more complete.)

The rest hower… It is what it is, which is to say it isn’t very good or very bad, it merely exists.

Best tracks
Nappy Heads
Vocab [Refugees Hip-Hop Remix] (video version)*
Recharge

*Not actually included on the album.

Recommendations
I recommend this album only to 50 Cent who claims “[He] used to listen to Lauryn Hill, and tap [his] feet. Then the bitch put out a CD and didn’t have no beats”. The rest of you can just pluck the above songs off iTunes and move on to The Score already.


Sparks 950 & Timbo King – United We Slam

Sparks 950 & Timbo King
United We Slam
1994
Street Life Records/ Scotti Brothers Records/ All American Communications/ SME
069/100
Sparks 950 & Timbo King - United We Slam
1. Intro (performed by Kay Zee) // 2. Nuff Ruffness // 3. Definition of a Nigga [Skit] (performed by Crew) // 4. Nigga Be Nasty // 5. Mc’s Are Fallin Off [Skit] // 6. Hood Times // 7. WEFM [Skit] (performed by Darkman the Mad African & Crew) // 8. Ice Cream Flavour // 9. Bust the Party [Skit] (performed by Darkman the Mad African, Crew & Kay Zee) // 10. Bust the Style // 11. United We Slam

The Wu-Tang Clan has many core members for a hip-hop group, nine to be exact. That number however pales in comparison to its number of its army of affiliates. The number of Wu associated albums, compilations and EPs on my to do-list is 214 and counting.

Timbo King probably wasn’t technically a Wu-affiliate yet when he dropped the United We Slam EP with producer Sparks 950, but in 1995 a Wu-Tang off-shoot group called Royal Fam dropped a 12″ single with two songs; Summin’ Gotz Ta Give and I Declare War that made some noise. That group allegedly counted such anonymous Wu friends as Dreddy Krueger, Stoneface, Q-Base, Mighty Jarrett, and Dark Denim and producer Y-Kim (yeah, me neither), as well as Timbo King amongst its ranks. The single got some critical acclaim from the Source magazine, which had a lot of credibility pre-Benzinogate and the crew got scooped up by Capitol Records, the one time home of such illustrious names as Nat King Cole, Dean Martin en Frank Sinatra.
Unfortunately that’s all we would ever hear from them. Their debut album Black Castle, which was slated for a 1995 release-date, got shelved for reasons unknown. And besides a couple of leaked songs nobody really knew what it sounded like. Apparently everyone was destined to remain curious what the album sounded like, because in 2005 the album was announced to be released by indie label Nature Sounds, but got put back on the shelve again, for reasons unknown again, although a couple of promotional copies had been sent to magazines. (You can now buy one of these promos for much dinero on the internet or illegally snatch one from a file-sharing site, it’s not difficult to find or anything. I don’t think Timbo King would get upset with you either since he never saw, nor will he see a dime from the work he put into recording Black Castle.)
That’s Timbo’s life story in a nutshell. I’d tell you about Sparks 950 if I could find anything about the man. But unfortunately the internet doesn’t provide any clues that the man did anything beyond produce this release. Maybe he changed his nome de guerre and continued to work in music, maybe he started a promising career in retail after United We Slam dropped. Anyone who knows anything about Sparks 950 can leave a comment. And Timbo King, if you’re reading this, that includes you too, and Sparks, if you’re reading and have put in more work than this please have someone update your discogs entry.

Back to ’94. United We Slam dropped on Street Life Records, Scotti Brothers Records urban sublabel and sold 75,000 copies, which is nothing to write home about, making this EP a Wu-fanboy cult favourite at best. And even amongst harcore Wu-stans there’s bound to be a lot of folks who don’t know anything about this beyond its existence, which is a shame because to fans of the 36 Chambers-sound this has plenty to offer. That’s not to say that this is a slept on 36 Chambers, Timbo isn’t a Rae or Ghost-caliber MC, let alone comparing Sparks’ creations to mid-1990s RZA beats. But like AKA the Rugged Child United We Slam lies comfortably above industry average, it probably even did in 1994 back when the industry average was actually quite good because not every wannabe rapper and his grandmother had a medium to release music to the masses. But I digress.

Nuff Ruffness adapts Above the Law’s Murder Rap instrumental for the East Coast for Tim to go rampant over. Spittin entertainingly violent nonsense and boasting.
Nigga Be Nasty has a smokey jazz lounge-hop instrumental. Hood Times brings to mind Dr. Dre’s Stranded on Death Row, but manages to be something fresh because it sounds both dustier and dirtier.
Ice Cream Flavour is either the silliest song on here or a song about drug dealing with metaphores I couldn’t decode.
Bust the Style is the funkiest thing on here and is fast-paced enough to dance to.
The title track marries an eerie, plodding beat with Timbo’s urgent flow and street metaphores, as well as a chanting hook, and is hands down the best song on the EP.

Those are all the songs on here which goes to show United We Slam‘s biggest problem. There’s five corny-ass skits on here, which means that just over half of the tracks are actual music. It’s not a huge part of the EP’s running time, but it does mess up the flow of the album somewhat and is completely unnecessary. Some restraint would’ve benefitted matters very much.

Still United We Slam has some vintage banging beats for the streets and hard-hitting gangsta raps that are both more than competent (if a bit unimaginative). And clocking around thirty minutes it won’t take away much of your precious time from bumping old albums by actual Wu-members.

Best tracks
Nuff Ruffness
Nigga Be Nasty
Hood Times
United We Slam

Recommendations
Pick this one up. But only if you find it for a reasonable fee. After all it’s got approximately twentyfive minutes of music on it.


Aaliyah – Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number

Aaliyah
Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number
May 24, 1994
Blackground Records/ Jive Records/ SME
070/100
Aaliyah - Age Ain't Nothing But a Number
1. Intro // 2. Throw Your Hands Up (feat. Second Chapter) // 3. Back and Forth (feat. R. Kelly) // 4. Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number // 5. Down With the Clique (feat. R. Kelly) // 6. At Your Best (You Are Love) // 7. No One Knows How to Love Me Quite Like You Do (feat. Second Chapter & R. Kelly) // 8. I’m So Into You (feat. Second Chapter) // 9. Street Thing // 10. Young Nation // 11. Old School (feat. R. Kelly) // 12. I’m Down // 13. Thing I Like // 14. Back and Forth [Mr. Lee & R. Kelly’s Remix] (feat. R. Kelly)

I wonder if R. Kelly regretted that album title any time during his career, like around february 2002 for instance.

Aaliyah Kelly (née Haughton) was singing for most of her life when she was signed to Blackground Records, her uncle Barry Hankerson’s Jive-distributed boutique label, by her uncle (who besides running an urban music label also managed succesful R&B singers Toni Braxton and R. Kelly at the time.) It is through her uncle that Robert got to mentor her and write and produce most of her debut album when she started recording in september 1993.

Age was a commercial success, maintaining a charts presence, spawning several hit singles, and selling five million copies worldwide by 2001 (according to wikipedia). And all was good until rumors spread that Robert and Aaliyah were maintaining a more-than-professional, more-than-friendly relationship while she was fifteen and he was twenty-seven (which is reason for scandal in America apparently.)

This would be irrelevant to the quality of this album’s music, if its content didn’t shamelessly hint at these rumors being true. Besides that title, which was supposed to be a statement of Aaliyah’s maturity for her age, R. Kelly maintains a presence on a couple of the songs in ad-lib capacity that feels as though he was breathing in her neck for the duration of the recordings. (Also allegedly a marriage certificate exists with Robert and our hostess of tonight’s names on it, and Aalyah’s contemporary age supposedly being eighteen. Getting married with a fake I.D. huh? Yeah, ain’t no way anybody is going to find out about that shit. Smart thinking Kells.)

In the interest of fairness though these suspect, conspicuous circumstances surrounding this album’s creation are going to be ignored for the remainder of the review.

Compared to R. Kelly’s latest release at the time 12 Play Age is a far more consistent, far less juvenile album. There are some ridiculous R. Kelly-isms to be found (“Now if you not down with my clique,
you can just doo-doo on a stick” – Down With the Clicque) but not a so much of them the album suffers as a whole.

On the faster cuts such as Throw Your Hands Up and No One Knows How to Love Me Quite Like You Do (long-ass song-title..) Robert supplies the same bump ‘n’ groove production that he sported on 12 Play‘s midtempo jams, but since it’s Aaliyah’s silky singing on them, rather than Robert’s blah rapped odes to your crotch, they don’t sound as wasted here. There is some wack rapping on here, courtesy of female rapper Second Chapter, who appears to have fallen off the face of the earth after recording her contributions to this album, but again it’s a lot less prominent than on 12 Play. These uptempo grooves have the girl riding these ‘beats for the jeeps’ comfortably and expertly.
On the slow jams he doesn’t seem to have learnt any new production tricks either breaking out the same nocturnal summer-breeze sound that made Your Body’s Calling such a smash hit the year before, but Aaliyah isn’t remotely a female version of Robert either vocally or persona wise, so everything is a lot less explicitly sexual than on the average R. Kelly record, while she still has her way with his production sound, on Old School and Young Nation for instance.

Aaliyah’s singing is excellent throughout. Seductive and restrained, not trying to hit every note on the ladder like poor man’s Mariah Carey or [enter your favourite the Voice candidate here], but just singing the damn songs already, putting her in the post-Sade cathegory od R&B singers rather than post-Whitney and making Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number a pleasure to the ear.

The best song on here is At Your Best (You Are Love), a song originally recorded by the Isley Brothers, affectionately and faithfully performed by Aaliyah who obviously respected the legendary group a lot (she also gives them a nod on Old School by mimicking the vocal melody of their classic song Between the Sheets and namechecks them on Young Nation, and since she covered an Isley Brothers song on her 100% R. Kelly-free sophomore we can safely assume it wasn’t just Robert trying to add some old school flava to this album, but something Aaliyah was genuinely comitted to doing).

As pleasant as Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number is, it is a rather vanilla, by-the-book post New Jack Swing urban soul record, in the vein of Mary J. Blige’s What’s the 411? doing very little to push the genre forward. And while there’s nothing wrong in particular with that, especially when it is this well executed, one would be right in believing that her best days were ahead of her and would come about only if she were paired with a more adventurous producer (Timbaland).
Still this is a satisfactory album that anyone who appreciates vintage R&B sounds should check out.

Best tracks
Throw Your Hands Up
Back and Forth
Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number
At Your Best (You Are Love)
No One Knows To Love Me Quite Like You Do
Young Nation
Old School

Recommendations
Buy this album.


Method Man – Tical

Method Man
Tical
November 15, 1994
Def Jam RecordingsBMGSME
080/100
Method Man - Tical
1. Tical // 2. Biscuits // 3. Bring the Pain // 4. All I Need // 5. What the Blood Clot // 6. Meth vs. Chef (feat. Raekwon) // 7. Sub Crazy // 8. Release Yo’ Delf (feat. Blue Raspberry) // 9. P.L.O. Style (feat. Carlton Fisk) // 10. I Get My Thang In Action // 11. Mr. Sandman (feat. RZA, Inspectah Deck, Streetlife, Carlton Fisk & Blue Raspberry) // 12. Stimulation // 13. Method Man [Remix]

Considering that Shyheim wasn’t a Clan-member and that AKA the Rugged Child didn’t really have that much Wu-involvement, and that Words from a Genius and Ooh I Love You Rakeem were released before the Clan even existed, Method Man’s solo debut Tical gets the honour of being the first Wu-offshoot project. An honour indeed since the Wu’s debut album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) was instrumental in bringing the focus of the hip-hop community back to the east-coast after the west had dominated for a while, and helped to redefine the east coast hardcore sound for the mid-’90s (and went platinum to boot).

Off course these are the kinds of critical acclaims that create unreasonably high expectations for subsequent work, expectations that are impossible to fulfill, even if more material of the exact same quality is dropped. (If an artist sticks to the sounds of his last album he’s accused of not going along with his time and if he chooses to emply new sounds he’s oft accused of not catering to his own fanbase, or even worse; selling out.) But with the aid of hindsight it is safe to say that Tical, while falling short of 36 Chambers‘ greatness is in all likelyhood as good as it could’ve been, and most definitely a must-listen for those who loved that album.

Due to the Clan’s contract, which signed them to Loud records, every individual Clan-member was able to get signed to whatever record label they wanted, Meth chose Def Jam.

RZA produces every track on here, and supplies more of the same minimalistic, ominous beats that made 36 Chambers such a critical and commercial success. Meth puts them to good use, and brings the ruckus with his unmistakable husky, low, cotton mouthed vocals delivering his grimy street-raps.

A Raekwon duet, allegedly created as a friendly rap-battle over who got to keep the RZA beat for his own album, (which would imply that Meth won) brings some of the lyrical chemistry to Tical that made 36 Chambers  a texbook classic, as does the posse cut Mr. Sandman with RZA, Deck and Clan affiliates Carlton Fisk and Streetlife.

But most of these songs consist of only Meth’s rhymes and RZA’s beats, making this album mostly a two-man show, which is a mixed blessing. On the one hand it was the group’s vocal chemistry that was a considerable amount of their appeal, and perhaps an ODB verse on for instance I Get My Thang In Action could’ve made the proceedings even more enjoyable than they already are. Tical shares this aspect with the first solo-album by an N.W.A member: Eazy-E’s Eazy-Duz-It.)

“What if”-bullshit aside though, Method Man gets to hold his own really well over the course of these thirteen tracks, with or without company and create a true solo-album, which is something for instance Raekwon never got to do since his textbook classic album Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… has so much Ghostface Killah on it that Pretty Toney gets “guest starring” billing on the front-cover. RZA and Meth made a choice there how to go about with Tical and this decision has its merits. Also Tical is a solid effort that gives Wu-fans exactly what they wanted to hear sonically (as opposed to pushing the boundaries and introducing new sounds, again this is not a straightforward criticism, like the paragraph about few guests being included, this is just a reviewer noticing a choice having been made, which is a necessary thing to do in order to create good, succesful music.)

Meth shines particular on Bring the Pain, the album’s lead single, Method Man’s signature song and a classic hip-hop song in general, with his inescapable hook and RZA’s eerie beat.

All I Need is a ghetto lovesong that needs nothing but a hardcore RZA beat and Meth’s rhymes to get by (although it most certainly did need a Puff Daddy/ Trackmasters polish and an added Mary J. Blige contribution on the hook to make it one of the best-selling hip-hop singles of all time, the kind that has such an universal appeal your parents could dance to it on a fucking wedding party.)

Release Yo’ Delf manages to interpolate Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive while almost completely bypassing the queso, which is an admirable feat in any genre, let alone hip-hop, keeping in mind the direction the genre would go into a few years later with the rise of P. Daddy and Ma¢e.

Tical is a grimy, thugged-out release from start to finish from a bygone era in which there was an actual demand for non-gimicky street-rap undiluted by genre mixing. That’s not an automatic dismissal of whatever came after its late-’94 release date. Even Puff Diddy and Nelly have their moments, and when one is in the club one wants to hear club-bangers, but nevertheless one doesn’t have to be a hip-hop purist to start feeling nostalgic listening to it, the mid-’90s were golden years for hip-hop and Tical is a jewel.

Best tracks
Bring the Pain
All I Need
Meth Vs. Chef
Release Yo’ Delf
I Get My Thang In Action
Mr. Sandman
Stimulation

Recommendations
Buy this album, and find the single version of All I Need titled I’ll Be There for You/You’re All I Need to Get By off iTunes. It would be a horrible fit if it were included on this album what with it’s shiny, radio friendly sound, but it didn’t sell all those copies and win a grammy without a good reason. Judged out of Tical‘s context, it is not only accessible, but pretty good as well.


Shyheim – AKA the Rugged Child

Shyheim
AKA the Rugged Child
February 22, 1994
Virgin Records/ EMI
070/100
Shyheim - AKA the Rugged Child
1. Here Come the Hits // 2. On and On (feat. June Luva & Milk D) // 3. Pass It Off (feat. Rubbabandz, Down Low Recka & K-Tez) // 4. Never Say Never [Interlude] // 5. One’s 4 Da Money // 6. Here I Am (feat. Down Low Recka) // 7. Move It Over Here (feat. Pop Da Brown Hornet) // 8. Buckwylyn // 9. You Da Man (feat. Down Low Recka) // 10. Napsack // 11. The Rugged Onez (feat. June Luva, Prophet & Quasi) // 12. Little Rascals // 13. 4 The Headpiece [Interlude] // 14. Party’s Going On // 15. Shouts on the Outs

Following the classic that was Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) the first thing to come out of the Wu-camp was strangely enough not a solo album by one of the group’s actual members, but the debut album by Ghostface Killah’s fourteen year old cousin Shyheim. One would assume that music buyers would be more interested in a solo-album by, for instance, Ghostface Killah himself.

But then Shyheim’s link to the Wu, besides his family relation, is rather indirect. No one from the actual clan throws a verse in Shy’s direction, only loose affiliates GP Wu appear. The only indication that the original Clan has actually ever heard of Shy (besides him getting a shout-out by RZA on the intro of Clan In da Front off 36 Chambers) is one lone RZA instrumental on Little Rascals. The rest of the beats are provided by rumoured Prince Rakeem mentor RNS. It is therefor reasonable to assume that AKA the Rugged Child wasn’t part of RZA’s five year plan, unlike 36 ChambersTicalReturn to the 36 Chambers, Only Built 4 Cuban LinxLiquid SwordsIronman and that Inspectah Deck album that almost literally got flushed. Not surprising considering that Shy was never a card-carrying member of the Clan, but worth mentioning considering how often Shyheim and the occasional GP Wu member mention their affiliation with the Clan, as though no-one would give half a fuck about any of them if it weren’t for their more famous friends, who quite possibly could give half a fuck about any of them, but not really.

Let that not be an automatic dismissal of AKA the Rugged Child, a solid album to say the least, by a rapper with more skill than you can shake a stick at. The only thing that gives away his tender age is his prepubescent voice. It’s not entirely clear who wrote all these tight rhymes (one would be hard-pressed to believe it was Shy himself, although it remains a possibility), but what is clear is that Shy recites them very well. Shyheim may have been fourteen years old when AKA the Rugged Child dropped, but this certainly isn’t child-friendly rap. Go listen to Will Smith’s back catalogue if that’s your thing. This is a straight-up East-Coast gangsta rap album. And although it is especially unlikely that Shy commited any crime beyond shoplifting a candy bar, at least he raps about these subjects with gusto. And besides, what rapper do you know that beyond a shadow of a doubt lived the gangsta lifestyle, that’s alive, out of prison and doing well?

The boy comes in swinging with the mildy jazzy album-opener Here Come the Hits, on which he’s literally promising a succesful string of hit singles. (Unfortunately nineteen years later the man has yet to deliver on that promise, but his youthful optimism is engaging.) On On and On June Luva, as well as Audio Two’s Milk D lend a hand on the hook which is a reprise of Audio Two’s signature song Top Billin‘.  On Pass It Off our host outrhymes everyone of his older fellow Wu B-teamers in the GP.
On One’s 4 the Money the boy has the audacity to ambiguously dis 2pac, Kris Kross and you girlfriend over a beat that wouldn’t sound out of place on 36 Chambers. Shyheim doesn’t suffer from a lack of confidence, what with 2pac’s notoriously short temper. It marks the second time of the night that Top Billin’ is being referenced.
Little Rascals has the lone RZA-produced beat, and it sounds pretty good even though clocking just over two minutes it’s too short to make much of an impact.
Move It Over There has a fantastic dark RNS beat put to good use by Shy, and Pop da Brown Hornet who only appears in ad-lib capacity.

There are some minor complaints about some of the tracks.
On the posse-song The Rugged Onez the man of the hour fails to catch up with his invited guests, which is the only time that happens on this album.
Here I Am once again stresses the Clan-affiation thing too much, with the refrain being “It’s a Wu-thing”.
Buckwylyn is all graphic violence and no substance, and on You da Man the Down Low Recka and our host are kissing each other’s ass Coming of Age-style (a Jay-Z song off Reasonable Doubt on which Shy was allegedly supposed to appear before he was replaced by fucking Memphis Bleek) and it’s not very interesting to listen to.
Napsack is an ode to Shyheim’s beloved backpack, in which he claims to carry around a gun, which is just a silly concept, since he wouldn’t be very quick on the draw if shit went down, that way.
Party’s Goin’ On has our host performing a misogynic sex rap, which no ammount of goodwill, nor a sample of the Clan’s Tearz can fix or even distract from.

Even these songs aren’t outright failiures because RNS keeps bringing the banging beats, makes one wonder just why the man appears to never have gotten any work, besides on Shyheim’s first two albums and GP Wu’s lone album.

All in all AKA the Rugged Child is a surprisingly entertaining album. Sure, the little homie makes some beginners mistakes (some songs aren’t that well thought-through) but -and this is surprising- not as many as most rappers aged twenty and over usually do on their debuts. The Wu-Tang Clan gets namechecked more often than it should, especially since there wasn’t much of a working relation to speak of, but a talentless associate the boy most definitely is not. With all but one of the tracks being produced by RNS the album has a unified sound, and a good one at that. And Shy has enough talent to take advantage of this.

Best tracks
Here Come the Hits
On and On
Pass It Off
One’s 4 the Money
Move It Over There

Recommendations
Buy this album.


Jamie Foxx – Peep This

Jamie Foxx
Peep This
July 19, 1994

20th Century Fox Records/ UMG
059/100
Jamie Foxx - Peep This

1. Peep This // 2. Experiment // 3. Miss You // 4. Dogg House (feat. The Poetess) // 5. Infatuation // 6. Baby Don’t Cry // 7. Precious // 8. Your Love // 9. Summertime // 10. If You Don’t Love Me // 11. Don’t Let the Sun (Go Down on Our Love) // 12. Peep This Out // 13. Light a Candle

“Why you signed Jamie Foxx?”, “Is this a comedy album?”, “Ain’t that that brother from the living colour?”

The opening track has soundbites of people questioning the legitimacy of this album, which makes sense because in 1994 Jamie Foxx was known as a comedian and an actor, but few knew the man can sing. Also novelty albums by people who only record music because they’re famous, but have no real business doing so are one of those Hollywood things that unfortunately never seem to die out. (Word to Paris Hilton)

To his credit Jamie is, as we the post-Gold Digger music audiences know, in fact a pretty good singer. On Peep This he works his way through thirteen mostly self-written and self-produced songs and considering mainstream R&B was what he was going for and the year was ’94 one has to admit that the album at least sounds authentic enough.

The album is a bit too heavy on the overly dramatic soft rocking Boyz II Men/ Jodeci inspired slow jams, so when Foxx finds some room for mid- and uptempo new jack swingers like he does on Miss You, Precious and Your Love it’s a breath of fresh air. Dog House is another standout track about Jamie being forced to spend the night in the Dog House after being caught cheating by his girl (So this is a comedy album after all) and Don’t Let the Sun Go Down (On Our Love) has our hero singing and accopanying himself on the piano and showcases his vocal talents wonderfully. Foxx is an effective singer in the tradition of Brian McKnight, but with an voice of his own, although not a very distinct production sound. But that’s not very surpising as McKnight owns that middle of the road R&B sound, and all you have to do in order to sound like him is conform to trends and be likeable. Unlike many a contemporary Jamie doesn’t engage in useless melisma, so kudo’s for that. Unfortunately there’s an a lot of repetitive, mawkish material, too much shlock.

You try telling the two singles Experiment and Infatuation apart.

“Girl, Jamie got it goin’ on”, “I didn’t know he could sing!”
Peep This Out ends the album pretty much on the same note Peep This kicked it off, except for that people are now convinced he’s a talented singer. He certainly convinced me of this fact, but apparently not record buying audiences in ’94, considering nobody seems to own this or has even heard of this album (well except maybe Kanye West). Many of Foxx’s music fans seem to believe 2005’s Unpredictable is his debut. Not to say that it deserved much better since it’s mostly not a very interesting effort, but it is a bit puzzling considering what music was actually popular at that time. In ’94 almost every song off Peep This would’ve fit seemlessly onto R&B radio.

Because this singing business didn’t turn out to be very profitable it does make sense the man waited eleven years to record another album (he had other shit to do, you know), and chose to let Kanye and Timbaland as well as a myriad of others produce it the next time around, it also makes for more interesting listening experience than this one could even dream of being.

Peep This is merely alright.

Best tracks
Miss You
Precious
Your Love
Dog House
Don’t Let the Sun Go Down (On Our Love)

Recommendations
Except for Dog House, which could be an R. Kelly reject, Peep This plays like a long lost brian McKnight album. Which is to say a rather vanilla strain of ’90s R&B. If that’s your thing, go for it. The rest of you needs not bother.