Tag Archives: 1996

Shyheim – The Lost Generation

Shyheim
The Lost Generation
May 28, 1996
Noo Trybe/Virgin Records/EMIUMG
055/100
The Lost Generation--Front
1. Shit Iz Real (feat. DeLouie Avant Jr.) // 2. Dear God (feat. Pop The Brown Hornet, June Lover & Nikki Williams) // 3. Jiggy Comin’ // 4. 5 Elements (feat. Down Low Reka, June Lover, Pop the Brown Hornet & Rubbabandz) // 5. Shaolin Style (feat. Squigg Trust) // 6. Real Bad Boys // 7. What Makes the World Go Round (feat. Rubbabandz, Smoothe Da Hustler, Trigger & Dzalias Christ) // 8. Can You Feel It (feat. June Lover & King Just) // 9. Life As a Shorty // 10. Don’t Front/ Let’s Chill (feat. 702) // 11. Things Happen // 12. See What I See (feat. Dzalias Christ) // 13. Still There (feat. DeLouie Avant Jr.) //14. Young Gods (feat. Killa Sin, Madman, Rubbabands, Raekwon & RZA)

Wu-tang affiliate Shyheim’s first album sold enough copies for Virgin record to allow him a second studio album (although nothing can be found online about any sort of gold certification). And by the time it dropped in may ’96 the guy still would have to cross the border to Canada or Mejico to legally buy a beer because he was barely eighteen by that time.
For The Lost Generation he mostly worked with the same people that made AKA the Rugged Child such a moderate success: Producer RNS, who according to Discogs was at one point Wu-svengali RZA’s mentor, (although no other interwebs source can confirm this in a satisfactory manner) and members of the sorta, kinda Wu-affiliated GP Wu which supplied most of the guest vocals.
Like on AKA the Rugged Child RZA supplies but one beat, but unlike the last time around his contribution lasts for over two minutes and features some actual Wu-involvement in the vocal department, because the hook is performed by Prince Rakeem himself and Raekwon the Chef (although a would-be-much-appreciated verse from either official Wu-member is missing, sadly). M.O.P.-producer DR Period and NaS-veteran L.E.S. also get to provide beats for Shy to rock over.

Oddly enough Shyheim seems to actually have become less mature-sounding since recording AKA the Rugged Child. A simple and logical explanation would be that on that album he didn’t write his own lyrics, leaving that to an older rapper, whereas on this one he did everything himself.
Shy’s juvenile, irreverent style isn’t without merit and sort of fits him him on occasion. Quips like God help me out nigga would certainly lose their charm coming from an older rapper but work just fine on Dear God, a song about ghetto hardship and desparantion and a definite highlight with a bleak yet smackin’ and smooth RNS beat and Pop da Brown Hornet paying hommage to Snoop Dogg’s Murder Was the Case on the hook. Unfortunately for Shyheim Dear God is a rare highlight on an album filled with mediocracy.
Shit Is Real, the album opener, is supposed to establish Shy’s street cred, but it’s subject matter and backing music are a straight mismatch, although it would no doubt have sucked too even without its wimpy R&B instrumental.
Jiggy Comin’ is about Shyheim’s trouble with the police, which is all well but he sounds like the type of kid that was taken to his mother by the law enforcement for nicking a candy bar rather than being sent to the penitentiary for anything serious, and talks shit to his boys blowing the story up via this track.
Shaolin Style flips an already overused Patrice Rushen sample and manages to add nothing of value to the well-known melody, the Method Man samples on the hook be damned.
The Lost Generation also has an introspective song and a joint for the ladies, Don’t Front/Let’s Chill and Still There For Me respectively. Both of them fall flat on their faces because Shy’s persona isn’t developed enough to to them justice and he fills them with gangsta clichés in stead, and they are made worse by having rather shitty R&B guest appearances accompanying him.

That’s not to say The Lost Generation is all shit though. But the moments that do work aren’t working because of Shyheim and would’ve sounded equally well, if not better, with another rapper taking his place or do sound good because there actually isn’t much Shyheim on them to speak of. Can You Feel It works because of it’s bouncy disco production combined with the spacy vocal distortion. See What I See has a eerie, pounding, percussive piano based instrumental by DR Period with a catchy, sung chorus courtesy of studio singer Dzalias Christ, 5 Elements and What Makes the World Go Round work well enough but mostly because GP Wu take over the track and are backed by RNS productions that sounds like someone from the actual clan might rock over them, had they had the opportunity. As does Young Gods, but that’s because it it’s a RZA creation, because it has minimal vocal involvement by Rae and RZA himself and because quite possibly was offered to someone from the actual Clan before ending up here.

Life as a Shorty is the only moment on the record where Shy regains the lyrical momentum he had on Dear God, sounding convincing and credible enough in his roll as a young hoodlum and unique enough to justify him having a rap career. This unfortunately doesn’t happen a lot on The Lost Generation. An album that sees Shy probably having his first attempts at writing his own lyrics. As such we shouldn’t be too hard on the guy. But the person who fired his ghostwriter may have been premature doing so because the Shyheim we hear on this album for the most part sounds like he has just heard gangsta rap for the first time and then decided to dive head-first into recording an album which is never a good thing.
Let that however not be interpreted as an outright and complete dismissal of Shyheim as a rapper. His debut AKA the Rugged Child is pretty good, as are the songs listed below and his follow-up work may very well be too because he still had a lot of growing up to do at this point.

Best tracks
Dear God
5 Elements
Can You Feel It
What Makes the World Go Round
See What I See
Young Gods

Recommendations
Download the above tracks off iTunes or Amazon, or pick this album up if you find it for really cheap.


Daft Punk – Homework

Daft Punk
Homework
20 January 1997
Virgin Records
UMG
090/100

Daft Punk - Homework

1. Daftendirekt // 2. Wdpk 83.7 fm // 3. Revolution 909 // 4. Da Funk // 5. Phoenix // 6. Fresh // 7. Around The World // 8. Rollin’& Scratching // 9. Teachers // 10. High Fidelity // 11. Rock’n Roll // 12. Oh Yeah // 13. Burnin’ // 14. Indo Silver Club // 15. Alive // 16. Funk Ad

Daft Punk is a team up of two DJs who became popular in the early nineties. They were influenced by Funk, early electronic music, Techno and eighties Pop à la Roxy Music. Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter a.k.a. Daft Punk were part of a new generation of so-called Dance artists like Basement Jaxx, Moby and Armand van Helden just to name a few. Continuing the list: Junkie XL, Air, The Chemical Brothers and you understand how fertile that period was for electronic music.

In 1996 their album Homework was released in Europe. In the U.S.A release followed in 1997. It was an immense success that put them on the map of the music world we know today. Their sound of Funk and Disco infected House and Techno still seduces unsuspecting people to shuffle their feet. I grew up in the nineties and Daft Punk’s work was part of the mainstream music channels like TMF and MTV (before reality TV took over what still calls itself Music TeleVision).

One presses play and Daftendirekt begins. A low voice makes its presence and after 35 seconds the beat starts. “Da funk back to the time, come on” is repeated and slowly the track unveils its full mix. Wdpk 83.7 fm is basically the radio promo that officially starts the album.

Revolution 909 starts with a thumping beat and sirens that introduces an infectious House tune. The samples have a retro sound to it. After 3:10 a short Techno interlude mixes up the sound after which the Disco infused House continues. Da Funk is a personal favourite track of mine on this album. The break-beat intro is so effective in luring one into the raw electronic groove. Big beats and break-beats are in a rare harmony that aren’t often heard. The electronic soloing in the middle of the track really gives this track a unique vibe.

Phoenix starts with dry beats, high hats follow and step by step the sounds make their introduction. Daft Punk want to lure you into their sound and successfully so, I am practically dancing on my chair. Fresh like water on a beach. Electric keys, beats and groove introduce me to Fresh. Again the layers of sounds just lure you in. This is more of a chill-out House track to which you can still dance or just read a book. The fade out, water on a beach…

Around The World changed many things. The video of for this track changed the world of music forever. The sound of this track was a groovy revelation in its time. This track gets people exited to boogie like MJ’s Blame It On The Boogie can do it. What’s left to add? 7 full minutes of pure electronic funky ecstasy. Rollin’& Scratchin’ is different. A repetitive dry beat becomes louder and louder while the samples slowly come together. If this track had screaming vocals and wailing guitars it would be Industrial, it is brutal yet listenable. Instead it is noisy Techno. It has a strange appeal one has to be in the mood for.

Teachers, the title tells you enough. Daft Punk mentions the names of those who inspired them. Over a break beat with a vocal sample so one can take notes before you start searching.
High Fidelity, back to beats and samples. A sample is looped and cut over one beat in various beats throughout the entire track. This results in a funky House track that remains remarkably fun to listen to.

Beats and hand claps introduce Rock’n Roll. Slowly an electronic noise repeats itself more and more. If Hard Rock would be turned into electronic music this somewhat matches my imagined outcome. A strange electronic sound wails like a lead guitar over the beats. Just like Rollin’& Scratching this track is brutal yet listenable. Oh Yeah follows as groove and a slow beat with a vocal samples slow down the pace. This track is a short transition to the last part of the album. But as a separate track it still stands on its own.

Slow beats, a strange noise and an old sample start Burnin’. This track is cool for its subtle effect while you are lured into another House groove. Daft Punk really know how to immerse the listener into the music. Even the most reluctant party goer cannot resist the urge to just dance. Indo Silver Club’s intro starts softly. After that the funky House groove takes you away. This is one of those tracks that immediately hits or misses. It sounds shy of bland but its hook can catch anyone off guard. I happen to have a weak spot for this track.

Alive starts and futuristic bombastic sounds enter make their entrance. The sounds come in one by one and at 2:08 the futuristic eighties Disco groove just takes the listener to another place entirely. This music could easily be a soundtrack for a chase in a Sci-Fi film from the eighties. This track is simply epic. Funk Ad closes the album. The outro for the album is a slow groove that slowly fades out with the sound of Da Funk…

Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter produced this album to have a particular sound. When listening through headphones, AKG K500s I initially thought the album sounded slightly loud. Not brick walled just more emphasized lows and highs for a more exiting sound. On this album it works. Just be careful with the listening volume. A part from that you can hear the craftsmanship both DJs put in this album. But there’s one think I would like to know from you, if you can spare a moment: why the name Daft Punk?

Best Tracks
Da Funk
Phoenix
Around The World
Rock’n Roll
Indo Silver Club
Alive

Recommendations
This album, gives one the feeling of listening to a freshly copied bootleg of a Daft Punk gig. There is no filler to speak of, everything works and when one stops thinking the music takes over. Also, in its own way this album marked a new era of electronic music a.k.a. Dance. Even today this album still sounds fresh and different. Highly recommended…

My regards,

Rura88


Foxy Brown – Ill Na Na

Foxy Brown
Ill Na Na
November 19, 1996
Violator EntertainmentDef Jam Recordings/ BMGSME
050/100
Foxy Brown Ill Na Na
1. Intro… Chicken Coop // 2. (Holy Matrimony) Letter to the Firm // 3. Foxy’s Bells // 4. Get Me Home (feat. Blackstreet) // 5. The Promise (feat. Havoc) // 6. Interlude… The Set Up // 7. The Chase // 9.  Ill Na Na (feat. Method Man) // 10. No None’s //11. Fox Boogie (feat. Kid Kapri) // 12. I’ll Be (feat. Jay-Z) //13. Outro

Ill Na Na if not Foxy Brown’s entire career exists solely because of horny teenagers and because, allegedly, unfoundedly and unprovenly, she used to do the nasty with both NaS and Jigga, not unlike how Lil’ Kim fucked her way up the rap game via the Notorious B.I.G. Difference is that Kimberley is a gifted if limited rapper whereas Foxy couldn’t rap her way out of a paper bag. Her flow is abominable and her ghostwritten rhymes replace substance with references to her pussy and boobs. Nothing against pussy and boobs per se, but rather than hearing a full album of this shit I’d rather watch porn or something, has more substance and leaves one with a less hollow feeling.

Foxy’s Bells jacks an LL Cool J song (guess which one!) pretty straightforwardly and poorly, Get Me Home has either the whole of Teddy Riley’s R&B ensemble Blackstreet fucking our hostess, or just one of ’em while the rest cheers sings backing vocals. Fox Boogie has DJ Kid Kapri trying to make people say ughhh again, jacking an already sucky hook wholesale. Jay-Z ghostwrites most of this project and appears on Ill Be, cashing amost as many cheques as the Trackmasters while NaS off all people, who was about to get in a supergroup with Foxy, couldn’t be bothered to fart in the booth, let alone record a guest appearance. None of the other Firm-members; AZ, Nature or Cormega seemed to  have time to contribute either, inspiring the theory that the Firm only included Foxy because of commercial considerations inspired by her being conventionally attractive.

Unlucky victims whose record labels forced the chores of appearing on Fox’ songs upon them include Havoc of Mobb Deep and Method Man. Production is handled by the Trackmasters and wannabe Trackmasters. This shit sucks balls, avoid this album if you have any affinity with good music. It is disappointing, it is embarassing, it is a waste of plastic/ harddrive space.

Best tracks
The Promise
I’ll Be

Recommendations
Go to hell.


NaS – It Was Written

NaS
It Was Written
July 2, 1996
Columbia RecordsSME
080/100
NaS It Was Written

1. Album Intro // 2. The Message // 3. Street Dreams // 4. I Gave You Power // 5. Watch Dem Niggaz (feat. Foxy Brown) // 6. Take It In Blood // 7. NaS Is Coming (feat. Dr. Dre) // 8. Affirmitive Action (feat. AZ, Foxy Brown & Cormega) // 9. The Set Up (feat. Havoc) // 10.  Black Girl Lost (feat. JoJo) // 11. Suspect // 12. Shootouts // 13. Live Nigga Rap  (feat. Mobb Deep) // 14. If I Ruled the World (Imagine That) (feat. Lauryn Hill)

No hip-hop album has inspired the concept of the sophomore slump the way It Was Written has. There’s quite literally no hip-hop head who will claim that his debut album is merely alright while It Was Written is the shit. Basically hip-hop heads used to have a disregard for today’s album because it wasn’t another Illmatic, one of the most critically acclaimed hip-hop albums ever. But, as usual, snobby opinions by over-analysing critics don’t seem to be much in line with what the man in the street thinks, because even today, seventeen years post its release, it’s still Nasir’s best-selling album out of his eleven solo releases.

Now that the smoke has cleared and people have finally gotten the fuck over the fact that NaS will not release another Illmatic ever  contemporary reviews have been becoming increasingly positive. Just compare the original ’96 review of this album with the december ’12 revisit, both on RapReviews.com and marvel at the attitude change, which is pretty representative for the view of the community as a whole on It Was Written, both then and now.

Back to ’96. It Was Written was bound to disappoint. Illmatic was a masterpiece and nobody bought it upon release, leading to both unreasonable expectations from those who did buy it, impossible to fulfill even if Nasir would’ve reused the Illmatic producers and lyrical themes, and also leading to NaS shifting his musical directions into something more (sigh) pop/commercial sending him on a collision course with his fanbase. Whether this change in sound was forced upon him by his money hungry label, instigated by a money hungry NaS or was NaS legitimately interested in trying some new sounds is unknown to me, here are the facts though: NaS switched his management from MC Serch, a well-known rap legend his his own right, as well as one of Illmatic‘s architects, to Steve Stoute, who managed Mary J. Blige at that time. Stoute and/or NaS chose not to invite over Illmatic producers Q-Tip, Large Professor and Pete Rock, but kept DJ Premier and L.E.S. around, presumably as to not completely let the existing fanbase go. To produce the rest of It Was Written they brought in the Trackmasters who had produced prior hits for Kool G Rap, LL Cool J, Mary J. Blige and Method Man and do half of the tracks, as well as fellow Queensbridge hip-hop artists Mobb Deep, both to spit guest verses and to produce. Also recent Death Row Records refugee and West-Coast legend Dr. Dre produces one track. NaS’ debut album had exactly one guest verse; AZ’s on Life’s a Bitch. His sophomore featured the priously mentioned Mobb Deep and AZ as well as Foxy Brown, Cormega and R&B singers JoJo and Lauryn Hill. Final difference noticeable without actually listening to the album: Illmatic had but nine songs whereas It Was Written has thirteen (not counting intros). Basically one can correctly guess how this album differs from its predecessor and how this negatively impacts its sound before pressing play, different beats and not all of ’em as good as the last time around, more guests and not all of ’em being able to keep up and more songs than the last time around, not all of ’em warrant inclusion.

Luckily most of these things don’t turn out as problematic as they could have.

Under the influence of Wu-Tang Clan member Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… album, as well as those following, including Jay-Z and AZ NaS started to parttake in a subgenre of gangster rap called mafioso rap. No longer was he Nasty NaS, the street thug running from police, selling drugs, drinking 40 oz.’s, robbing foreigners and ripping their green cards. This time he was NaS Escobar (named after the Columbian cocain kingpin Pablo Escobar) a moniker that was meant to indicate he had moven up in the world of crime, no longer having to do dirt but having people to do this for him. In a sense this new, more sophisticated thuggery warranted the more expensive, glossy sounds the Trackmasters brought to the table.

The opening track the Message could certainly go toe-to-toe with anything off Illmatic what with its Sting-sampling Trackmasters instrumental, NaS’ rant about his supremacy over the rap game taking subliminal shots at Biggie and 2pac and DJ Kid Kapri’s scratched-in hook consisting of lines from N.Y. State of Mind and Halftime. It’s not only as good as his previous work but it also shows NaS to be quite malleable, being able to adapt to fresh new sounds. If I Ruled the World (Imagine That) has the Fugee’s Lauryn Hill re-singing the hook of Kurtis Blow’s song of the same title over a Trackmasters re-creation of an old Whodini beat while NaS describes his utopia of racial equity, equal distribution of wealth and freedom in general. It may be more radio friendly than anything off his debut, but it’s every bit as anthemic as It Ain’t Hard to Tell. With these songs NaS succesfully combined street crediblity with pop acessablity, something at which the pop mutations from Jay-Z’s In My Lifetime, Vol. 1; such as (Always Be My) Sunshine and The City Is Mine failed at miserably. (From this point Jay would only get better at them while NaS, well… Nas wouldn’t.) The only single that is slightly embarassing is Street Dreams, and only because Nas decides to interpolate (horribly re-sing) the hook of the Eurythmics Sweet Dreams, otherwise it’s fine, if a bit unspectacular.

There’s also some really good street cuts to be found here. The DJ Premier production I Gave You Power is a narrative told from the point of view of a gun and it is one of NaS’ signature songs for a reason. The two Mobb Deep collabos The Set Up and Live Nigga Rap, the former featuring only Havoc, the latter Prodigy as well, are also well on point. The same goes for the posse cut Affirmitive Action, featuring the original the Firm line-up: NaS, Foxy, Mega and AZ, So far so good.

Unlike Illmatic though this disc has some pretty mediocre stuff too: Black Girl Lost featuring Jodeci’s JoJo throws some social commentary into an album that’s mostly all about our host’s crimes and money, but unlike If I Ruled the World this track is preachy as fuck and falls flat because of it. Leave that shit to Pac, yo. Watch Them Niggas samples Bob James’ the Sponge and has a beat a little too dreamy for a song all about vigilance and back spabbers. Suspects and Shootouts are also unmemorable. Most disappointing of all is the Dr. Dre produced NaS Is Coming, with its boring-ass beat and NaS sleepwalking over it. It’s a blatant attempt at fan crossover, but that shit only works if some chemistry is on display, which here it is most certainly not.

While nothing (except for maybe NaS Is Coming because of how underwhelmingly disappointing it is) will make you want to break It Was Written in half and slit your wrists with it the bad songs do show exactly why this isn’t considered to be on par with Illmatic. It’s not as focused as that album was, and on most of these tracks the man seems distanced from his lyrics and performance. On his debut he at least sounded like he had lived everything he rapped about for the entire duration of the album whereas here, only on the lesser tracks, it would seem he tells tales he himself has heard second hand and doesn’t care that much about. Still the good songs are really good and there are a couple of classics to be found on here. And although this can’t fuck with its predecessor, that’s alright, most album’s can’t hold a candle to that one. And although I mentioned it all the fucking time throughout this review (it’s part of reviewing this particular album) one is best to see them completely seperately, even if Nas or Columbia Records may have somewhat called this comparison upon him by lazily reprising Illmatic‘s album cover.

Best Tracks
The Message
I Gave You Power
Affirmitive Action
The Set Up
Live Nigga Rap

Recommendations
Pick this one up.


Eminem – Infinite

Eminem
Infinite
November 12, 1996
Web Entertainment

055/100

1. Infinite // 2. Wego [Interlude] (feat DJ Head & Proof) // 3. It’s Okay (feat. Eye-Kyu)// 4. Tonite / / 5. 313 (feat. Eye-Kyu)// 6. Maxine (feat. 3 & Denaun Porter)// 7. Open Mic (feat. Thyme)// 8. Never Far // 9. Searchin’ // 10. Backstabber // 11. Jealousy Woes II

Eminem’s cultural impact hardly needs to be put in writing at this point. Being one of the few caucasian rappers to achieve both hiphop credibilty and career longevity. Selling 50 million albums in the USA alone. Racking up controversy. Making a lot of hits by squeezing vile punchlines and catchy hooks into one winning formula. Having had a haircut like a golden retriever’s ass. Racking up controversy. Rolling with Dre. Putting 50 Cent on the map. Disappearing from the spotlight in 2004 in order to kick his prescription medicine addiction and returning five years later without his trademark bleach blonde hair and with a brand new sound which is best described as deaf emo drillsergeant. And racking up controversy.

Before Marshall Bruce Mathers III did all of these things however he was a struggling Detroit underground rapper who was releasing his debut album Infinite on the complete non-entity Web entertainment, ran by frequent collaborators the Bass brothers, hoping that he’d sell some albums.

The Eminem you hear on Infinite is a far cry from the rapper who took the world by storm in 1999. Slim Shady, his vile sociopathic alter-ego for the uninitiated, is nowhere to be found. Allegedly he tried to be a more radio-friendly creature in order to get airplay on Detroit radiostations. Although the attemp obviously failed since no-one ever listened to Infinite until after Em blew up this most likely true since the air of tongue-in-cheek mysoginy, homophobia, self-hatred and suicidal tendencies that hang around a major label Eminem album are almost completely missing here. It’s Okay is about positivity in hard times. Never Far is a sky’s the limit-self help anthem, and a good one at that. Tonite has an unironic good times party vibe that Eminem would never do again. And Searchin’ is an ode to Kim that in fact doesn’t end in Em killing her. Also missing are the the expensive-ass Dr. Dre beats or the mostly boring-ass Marshall Mathers marching band productions his Interscope output is known for sporting. So in the place of Slim Shady and Dr. Dre we get a someone more competent version of AZ and budget east coast instrumentals courtesy of future D12 member Denaun Porter.

Although Em’s content is completely different from what we’re used to hearing from him his multisyllabic rhymes and internal rhyme scheme had already been fully developed on Infinite.  Although this version of Marshall pales in comparison to Slim Shady when it’s entertainment value that’s concerned, he is still miles ahead of whoever is on the radio at the moment. Eminem isn’t at fault for the album’s failiure. Denaun Porter, who allegedly produced all of Infinite, produces some impeccable but not very interesting imitations of what was popular in hiphop in ’96. Some east coast boom-bap, some west coast g-funk and even some TLC-styled faux-R&B on Tonite.

Nothing on here is unpleasant to listen to, nor is there anything that warrants many repeated listens. Everything is everything and lack of consistency certainly isn’t Infinite’s issue. I recommend this album to Marshall Mathers die hard fans only.

Best track
Never 2 Far

Recommendations
Marshall Mathers fanatics should check this out to get a glimpse of a younger Eminem who hadn’t quite found his voice yet. Casual music fans are best to skip this chapter of his career entirely. Although it isn’t entirely horrible it’s not exactly good either.


Spice Girls – Spice

Spice Girls

Spice

11-4-1996

Virgin Records

This album sold approximately thirty-three million copies worldwide. Shit, that’s a lot. Thirty three million is over twice the current number of inhabitants of my native country. It is highly unlikely that anyone will ever do those kinds of numbers again in this time of iTunes and μtorrent, let alone top Michael’s one hundred and ten million copies for Thriller so basically for better or worse this kind of omnipresent culture phenomenon of an album has died out already.

So, the Spice Girls were truly a cultural phenomenon. Like the Beatles, like Madonna, like Elvis, like motherfucking Michael. That’s not to say they’re in the same league musically as these folks because I don’t feel capable of passing judgment on that so I won’t try, but that they were as much a part of public consciousness in ’96 as the artists listed above were in their heyday is simply a matter of fact. They came with their own iconic items, such as Geri Halliwell’s Union Jack-dress and have one song which everybody and their grandmother knows, which is included on Spice. Why, today, are they held in such low regard then? Yes manufactured, yes mediocre singing, yes sterile… but… I don’t know. The Beatles came up singing simplistic love songs and any critic who’d dare shit on them for some obvious flaws (such as their less than fantastic singing and ditto instrument-playing) instantaneously loses his bitching credentials. It’s likely that the general negative consensus on the girls and ‘90s music in general is because 1996 isn’t that long ago and we all still remember the excessive, now outdated, silliness but it has just been long for all of us to move on to bigger and better things. I do however predict that eventually a lot of ‘90s artists, among which Spice, in the near future will be held in the same regard as ABBA is today, which isn’t enviable or some shit since nobody respects ABBA and dares admit it. But that does mean that Spice might get a musical in tribute of them, with other people singing their songs within the frame of an incoherent “story” which nobody, nobody, nobody could give half a shit about, everybody involved in making the musical included, which people will visit to “ironically” sing along to.

Right.

So the Girls, consisting of Victoria Adams (later Beckham, somebody certainly preventive married out of tabloid irrelevance), Geri Halliwell, Melanie Brown, Melanie Chisholm and Emma Bunton, were put together by a management company who were probably looking to put together the female Take That (who were in turn were assembled to become the British NKOTB) or the white, European En Vogue or some shit, in 1994. The five members were given the following fictitious distinct personalities: Scary Spice, Baby Spice, Ginger Spice, Posh Spice and Sporty Spice (I could not for the life of me find out who is supposed to be who, and the music itself didn’t provide any clues) so girls around the world could each relate to one of them which is fucking brilliant from a marketing point of view because if you wanted the record buying audience, at the time when there was such a thing, (young girls) to go pay for your stuff you had to make them believe it’s specifically about them (not as hard as it sounds). Also there was their promotion girl power. Yes girl power, the idea you can be both (A) feminist and (B) female. No more fucking bra burning and unshavenness or shit like that. Rather outperform those chauvinist pigs at their own games while you distract them with your sexy girliness, at least that is what I think they meant… And what girl doesn’t want to do that!? Anyway, they promoted their catchy ass songs with glittery but rowdy music videos and a full length movie, about which I can’t say shit as I haven’t seen it. After three years they broke up to only to successfully reunite for a new single, a greatest hits album and a successful tour in 2007, which they only did in the first place because their solo careers hadn’t gone as well as planned off course. That’s their story in a nutshell.

Now as for the music.

1. Wannabe

Wouldn’t know where to start with explaining how influential this song was and still is, really, but then do I really need to? It’s amazing how “I won’t be hasty, I’ll give you a try. If you really bug me then I’ll say goodbye.” are both moronically simplistic and canonical lyrics all the same. As a song that exist only to be catchy it works, makes one really, really, really want to zig-a-zig ahhh whatever that may be. Also, it was this song which merged want, to and be into one word to be used in everyday speech for the rest of eternity. (P.s.: Matt Rowe, the guy who helped write and produce this, would end up producing for Amy Winehouse of all people…)

2. Say You’ll Be There

Hiphop heads, take notice. This instrumental sounds like it was lifted off Snoop’s 1993 Doggystyle album, well… with a little added make-up off course. The fact that the union of Spice and G-Funk does not sound optimally awkward goes to show that the producers active in the teen pop genre were a lot more intelligent and creative than they were given credit for. But, uhm… the girls’ confident performances and overt Britishness (how often do you hear a succesful British singer who doesn’t sing with an American accent?) help hide the overall confusion in the lyrics pretty effectively and as catchy girl-n-boy group pop fluff this is pretty much perfection. This is probably the 1996 equivalent of Rihanna incorporating dubstep in her music and it probably pissed off a lot of Snoop’s fans. Poor Gz and hustlas. I don’t think anyone of them could imagine back then what would happen in the years after this, as their beloved genre being bastardized is concerned.

3. 2 Become 1

And suddenly the fun vibe is beaten flat with this Walter Afanasieff-like adult contemporary yawn inducer. This is Céline Dion stuff, and a relatively poor variety at that. And this would be where it’d hit you hard that the girls aren’t actually good singers. For the safe-sex promotion the Girls do deserve a pat on the back (no pun intended) so there’s that.

4. Love Thing

And we’re back! This instrumentation is deliciously mid-‘90s. These splashy keys and hiphop-y horn-ish hits help date this, and for me, being a child of this era, in a thoroughly enjoyable way. The rap in the middle is also screams 1996, because, you see kids, at that time hiphop was a “trend” which one had to follow in order to be hip, and quickly at that, before the next thing came along. Well something had more staying power in the mainstream than anyone could’ve expected and it damn sure weren’t the Spice girls.

5. Last Time Lover

There is an extremely small chance that one of the lyrics is “do you want to be molested baby?” Unfortunately that would be the most interesting thing about this plastic-y wannabe funk song. See what I did right there? Clevar, huh?

6. Mama

I cannot think of a person who doesn’t have a love-hate relationship with either parent but grows more understanding for those fuckers, and remorseful for previously shown disrespect, while he/she grows older, so yeah, for a saccharine ballad this one is not without meaning, and not terrible either.

7. Who Do You Think You Are?

I generally tend to like these Jamiroquai-ish ‘70s disco throwbacks but the vocals on this one are just too goddamn giddy, especially on the verses. And also the lyrics are over the top nonsensical, especially on the hook. And no I haven’t forgotten what album I am currently listening to, thank you very much.

8. Something Kinda Funny

Whereas this wannabe disco song is sort of, kind of jive, actually.

9. Naked

Ah, finally!, the generic saccharine mid ‘90s ballad with an acoustic guitar and a percussion which sounds like a wet cat repeatedly being smacked onto a wall. Well that’s a relief, I was starting to worry. This one even has non-sung dialogue à la Madonna’s Justify My Love. As a matter of fact this is a pretty misguided attempt at Madge-y sexuality… funny, that.

10. If U Can’t Dance

Well, more raps over instrumentals which you can correctly date from a mile off, while wearing earplugs. The Spice Girls aren’t very good at rapping or singing but in this particular facet of the music diamond most effort is put into the cuteness of the performance rather than the quality anyway. Wait! Come back! There’s more gimmicks! Spanish language lyrics even!

Best tracks

Wannabe, Say You’ll Be There, Love Thing.

Conclusions
Well, Spice holds up surprisingly well for something which was created fifteen years ago, exclusively in order to get 8-year-old girls to coerce their parents into buying it. The reason this aged better than Take That and Party did is because even though it too is little but a pastiche of hip and retro musical styles manufactured with making money in mind rather than artistical merit, it doesn’t lose fun vibe in the process, and not just for young children and gay club visitors (and yes those demographics are similar when it’s music that’s concerned) but also, it seems, for the artists involved in its creation, and (I’m using the term artist liberally.) The reason of this probably that the girls each had a hand in writing each of these songs. A byproduct of that is, off course, some terrible, clumsy songwriting. But poetic, cohesive lyrics are besides the point, after all it is not some pretentious motherfuckers like U2 you’re listening to on Spice. Anyway, it also holds up better than Wham!’s Fantastic because the producers at work here seem to be studio professionals rather than teenagers trying to take the piss out of their audiences. In other words Spice seems to be one of those anomalies. A teen pop album with some shelf life. A Bacardi breezer that just won’t go stale goddamnit. Off course that could be just my nostalgia taking over my sense of reason. It is likely that anyone born after this album was released just won’t get it and will only hear cheese and they have a valid point too, more valid than mine maybe. So for us who grew up in the 1990’s Spice is best to be seen as an inside joke. Either way, Wannabe and Say You’ll Be There are undisputable pop classics in my book and considering the ‘80s revival which is coming to an end on at the moment the Spice Girls are going to be completely fucking hip soon as the ‘90s nostalgia kicks in. Remember, you read it here first! I’m just glad I got to ‘em before the hipsters did, in the name of a fair review.

Recommendations
Tricky one. While I personally as a ‘90s culture junkie had fun a plenty hearing this one, I can almost guarantee that anyone who was older than twelve, maybe nine even, at the time of Spice’s release will not think anything of it other than “Cheesy bullshit”. But ladies, if you remember these songs from your younger years and think you might have a copy of this album lying around you should go look it up, dust it off and pop it into your computer. It’ll take you back to an easier simpler time in your life and It’ll help you understand what the fuck is wrong with your parents and why they choose to never cease bumping those terrible, terrible ABBA songs… Guys, unless you’re music critics I suggest you stay clear of this. Go revisit your Power Rangers tapes or some shit (although unfortunately those won’t pop into your computer, life is unfair.) Lest someone catches you in the act of actually listening to this because that’d possibly be worse than being caught in the act of enjoying transsexual horse lover-porn. Oh well, nowadays you can always take the hipster route and say you were doing it ironically, I guess… and I meant listening to this album, not the porn thing.