Tag Archives: East-coast hiphop

Run-D.M.C. – King of Rock

Run-D.M.C.
King Of Rock
January 21, 1985
Profile RecordsArista Records/ SME
070/100
RUN-DMC - King of Rock

1.Rock The House // 2. King Of Rock // 3. You Talk Too Much // 4. Jam-Master Jammin’ // 5. Roots, Rock, Reggae // 6. Can You Rock It Like This // 7. You’re Blind // 8. It’s Not Funny // 9. Daryll And Joe (Krush Groove 3)

It’s 1985 and Run DMC releases its second album. The first album brought a whole new sound to the fledgling Hip-Hop genre. The eponymous debut was the first real Hip Hop album (as opposed to singles and compilations that were released prior) and so there were certain expectations for their sophomore album. Would the group still have its big beats, loud MC-ing, guitars and Jam Master Jay on the wheels of steel? Would Run DMC still have that edgy sound? Or would they switch up their style and once again revolutionise the genre, like they did last time around?

At the time of release this album became a commercial hit but that doesn’t answer any of these questions.

After repeated listens I did manage to find some answers.

Rock The House, announces itself with the expected big beats, accompanied by subtle rhythmic patterns. The MCs introduce themselves while the sparse sound is impressive. This track sounds fresh.

King Of Rock is the title track and filled with big beats, guitars, rhyming and has a rock-sound that slightly awakens my inner head banger. This track sounds so righteous in the description Rock-Rap. As I’m writing this track is on repeat for the third time in a row. DMC brags “And I even make the devil sell me his soul” and makes it sound believeable. So far this album is pretty bad-ass and meets the expections one has of Run DMC. The urge to play air guitar on the ending of this track helps make it a guilty pleasure. Seriously, give me a guitar!

You Talk Too Much is the third track and kind of brings the momentum to a halt.

Peep the chorus:

You talk too much.
You never shut up.
You talk too much.
You never shut up.

Guess what this track is about? Seriously this poppy sounding rapping over a typical instrumental, dissing people who talk too much after Rock-Rap awesomeness is part of the album? I’d rather read an entire phonebook than ever listening to this one again, less boring and repetitive. Apparently the song was a success in the 1985, but so were glow-in-the-dark spandex pants. Jam-Master Jammin picks up the pace again. Beats and samples with rock guitars shredding, sounding more enjoyable. Some rhyming by Run and Daryll and all is all good again, for now at least.

Roots, Rap, Reggae follows the raw beat driven sound with relaxing beats and a positive message. Yes alcohol and drugs are dangerous. Tell me something I don’t know… Can You Rock It Like This starts off sounding very poppy. A synthesizer, guitar and drum machine support the MCs in a track that rants about fame and being in the public eye. Lyrically this track is very interesting. Added bonus, you can dance the robot to it! Instrumentally this track is remarkable. It sounds Pop, has a disco feel with a Rock edge and manages to be is both catchy and lyrically meaningful. I’m slightly stunned by the awesomeness

You’re Blind is a soft-rocker with raw beat driven sound. The title should warn you but basically Run and Daryll talk about how people on the wrong path of life are “blind”. The epitome of preachy on this album.

It’s Not Funny, follows. It’s basically about dealing with setbacks in daily life. A preachy and bland low point, yet not so bad that you can’t practice your street dancing moves to it, if you ask me. Jam Master Jay’s productions is quite comical though. At least the humour isn’t lost in the sample.

Daryll And Joe closes the album. It’s a good closer since the lyrics are less preachy and more down to earth than what comes before it. Daryll: “I’ve got more hats than the mad hatter”. Instrumentally “Daryll And Joe” is a slow jam, groovy with some exceptional samples that give an epic feel to the overall sound.

Jam Master Jay made something special of this track.

After a few listens the album grew on me, even if though it is a mixed bag. The first two tracks are great. Jam-Master Jammin up to “Can You Rock It Like This” are good listens too. You Talk Too Much is godawful.  The preaching continues with You’re Blind and It’s Not Funny and Daryll And Joe are a good closing round. Basically their sound hasn’t changed at all, Run and DMC are still loudmouths. And the when Jay summons guitars there is a pleasant rock edge present.

The lyrics are still mostly preaching nursery-rhyming and rapping, and sometimes the duo overdoes it to its own disadvantage bordering on self-parody. I get the Sesame Street feel with the childish You Talk Too Much which makes me understand why some people don’t take this old school trio serious as lyricists and call Run DMC ‘party’ rap. I tend to disagree because  Jam Master Jay’s skills behind the boards are taken out of the equation in that way, which should elevate the group to a higher status. He made some changes to his sound on this album: more variation in the samples, more intertwining rhythm patters, more layered cuts. If anything, I’m amazed by his skills on albums from almost thirty years back and it is mostly his show.

Best tracks
Rock The House
King Of Rock
Can You Rock It Like This
Daryll And Joe

Recommended
Considerably less good than the debut, still consistently listenable with some gems of stand-out tracks. Yes.

My regards,

Rura88

 


Ja Rule – The Last Temptation

Ja Rule
The Last Temptation
November 19, 2002
Murder Inc. Records/ Def Jam Recordings/ UMG
050/100
Ja Rule - The Last Temptation

1. Intro // 2. Thug Lovin’ (feat. Bobby Brown) // 3. Mesmerize (feat. Ashanti) // 4. Pop Niggas (feat. Pharrell) // 5. The Pledge [Remix] (feat. NaS, Ashanti & 2pac) // 6. Murder Reigns // 7. Murder Me (feat. Caddilac Tah & Alexi) // 8. The Warning // 9. Connected (feat. Eastwood, Crooked I & Chink Santana) // 10. Emerica (feat. Young Life & Chink Santana) // 11. Rock Star // 12. Destiny [Outro]

Ja Rule hadn’t really had any major backlashes in his career up until the gruff-voiced reincarnation of Luther Vandross released The Last Temptation. Sure, that Fiddy guy didn’t like him too much and his old homeboy DMX had said some less than complementary things about him on record, but his first three albums had all been multi platinum sellers and booty bumping with J-Lo on I’m Real [Remix] and Ain’t It Funny [Remix] sure had been fun. It also seemed that because of How to Rob nobody in the hiphop community liked mr. Cent, and his debut album had been shelved, and he himself had been dropped from his record label, making him not a force to be reckoned with in the rap game.

Then Curtis Jackson got signed again, arguably to the biggest powerhouse label in hip-hop: Eminem’s Shady Records. He was talking shit again, about how Jeffrey was a sellout R&B artist and a 2pac imitating wanksta, and this time the world listened and nodded. So The Last Temptation desperately needed to re-establish Ja’s credibility.

At the same time Ja’s previous album had him and Irv Gotti finding a winning formula: Ja posturing grimily over hella slick beats with Ashanti singing a hook. This had sold Ja boatloads of albums and a stack of hit singles. He also had an audience to satisfy. And audience that wanted him to reprise Always on Time a couple of times.

These two contradictory ideas that stand at the foundation of The Last Temptation, a fascinatingly schizofrenic listen with a lot of truly mystifying choices being made.

After a rant of an intro things start off well enough with Thug lovin’which pick Whitney Houston’s then-hubby Bobby Brown out of the crack rocks moth balls to aid Jeffrey in a smoothed-out song of rugged romance. Mesmerize is a decent sequel to Always on Time that samples, ironically enough, the same source material as Ghetto Qu’ran, the song that allegedly got F. Cent shot nine times. No surprises there, musically or lyrically.

Then Ja remembers the streets all of a sudden and invites Pharrell over for a DMX/Fiddy Cent disfest. Not much worth mentioning here except for that it raises the question whether or not Skateboard P willingly helped create a 50/X dis, or was simply asked for a beat and e-mailed his most generic, never even remembering the fact and being hella surprised when the Murder Inc. paycheck came in the mail.

Murder Reigns samples Toto’s Africa of all things and has Ja going all 2pac/martyr on the listener. Speaking of the man, his disembodied voice can be heard on the outro of The Pledge [Remix], which also samples his own So Many Tears, for the beat. That’s fucking blasphemous, and I’m not even really that much of a Pac fan. The fuck NaS!? Were you threatened with grievous bodily harm into participating with this ridiculous horseshit? It would seem that there’s even a subliminal Snoop Dogg-diss in Ja’s verse, this was most likely instigated by Suge who gets a shout-out.

The title track had Irv Gotti breaking out a Rappers Delight-esque faux disco beat, and features the Notorious B.I.G.’s one-time dip on the side Charlie Baltimore dueting Jeffrey, who reverts back to his old constipated Barry White with laryngitis tricks on the hook, making the song unlistenable even though Baltimore actually sounds pretty good.

Murder Me draws inspiration from Anniversary by Tony! Toni! Toné!, and has Ja breaking out some of the worst sex lyrics The Last Temptation‘s side of Pretty Ricky’s Your BodyThe Last Temptation is by far hip-hop’s largest, most decadent waste of a sampling budget since Puff Diddy reigned over the charts. But apparently they saved the money on guest appearances, because except for Pharrell’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance on Pop Niggaz and Nasir’s verse, there’s no one on here who wouldn’t work for food. One has to wonder whether Gotti ever truly considered releasing albums by the likes of Caddilac Tah and Young Life.

Because Suge cleared the 2pac raping-and-pillageing that was Pain on Pain is Love and The Pledge [Remix] on here, two Death Row records get to spit alongside Jeffrey on Connected. It’s a highlight, what with Chink Santana’s Nate Dogg-esque vocals on the hook and his Dat Nigga Daz aping beat and Crooked I and Eastwood providing the best verses on this project, bar NaS. Emerica is another ecstasy anthem and Ja’s worst one yet.

Rock Star goes for the tried-and-true throw-some-rock-guitars-on-a-hip-hop-song-and-hope-for-crossover-appeal gimmick. Fans of both genres should hang their heads in shame.

The outro is a pretty decent machine gun funk beat, and Jeffrey certainly does his best with it, but ultimately it’s too little, too late.

Ja Rule actually held the advantage in the 50 Cent thing, up to this point, having sold milions of records and with nobody knowing who Curtis was. With this album however he more or less killed his own career before 50’s practice round was even over and his first real blow, in the form of Get Rich or Die Trying was even delt by at the same time trying to please everyone and being so self important that he creates music that borders on self-parody.

Best tracks
Thug Lovin’
Mesmerize
Connected
Destiny [Outro]

Recommedations
The above songs are some fanstastic naughties nostalgia, but the rest of this album is a total waste of time and money, and needs not be touched with a ten foot pole.


NaS – Illmatic

NaS
Illmatic
April 19, 1994
Columbia Records/ SME
095/100

Nas - Illmatic
1. The Genesis (feat. AZ) // 2. N.Y. State of Mind // 3. Life’s a Bitch (feat. AZ & Olu Dara) // 4. The World Is Yours (feat. Pete Rock) // 5. Halftime // 6. Memory Lane (Sittin’ in the Park) // 7. One Love (feat. Q-Tip) // 8. One Time for Your Mind // 9. Represent // 10. It Ain’t Hard to Tell

As an album of original songs to listen to all the way through without skipping this is about as close to perfection the hiphop will ever get. It consists of ten tracks overall with not a single blatant attempts at getting pop/R&B-airplay. The intro is pretty useless, but after that there’s nine songs worth of uncut dope. Off course some songs are better than others, but nothing fits the “shitty” or even the “mediocre” label. In fact, if you like your hiphop not fused with other genres, well produced, with acrobatic flows, meaningful lyrics and clever punchlines NaS’ Illmatic will make your jaw drop. Hiphop greats like DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Large Professor and Q-Tip produce some of that music that just isn’t made any more today. It would seem that these guys have plundered a vinyl store and subsequently sliced up a lot of music in order to create dusty, booming, ominous audio collages for NaS to showcase his perfect breath control, intricate wordplay, deft imagery, storytelling abilities and funny punchlines over, with NaS taking full advantage of the opportunity.

After the intro nearly derails the entire listening experience by putting you to sleep NaS wakes you the fuck up by yelling “Straight out the fucking dungeons of rap, where fake niggaz don’t make it back.” after which he unleashes a nearly endless stream of punchlines over DJ Premier’s suspenseful percussive piano-based instrumental. Nearly everyone of them is a quotable and has been quoted since this album’s release in ’94. After that classic NaS mellows out with friend and future group mate AZ on the L.E.S. produced Life’s a Bitch to talk about the gathering of wealth and the moral issues that come with it. The song ends in a trumpet solo by NaS’ father and jazz musician Olu Dara.

The World Is Yours references Slick Rick’s Hey Young World and features the legendary Pete Rock, who also produced the soulful instrumental, on the hook, and pays homage to the film Scarface. NaS’ line “I’m out for dead presidents to represent me.” would later spark Nasir’s beef with Jay-Z, after the latter sampled it for his for the hook after his Dead Presidents track on his ’96 debut, which is all sorts of ironic since Halftime which follows The World is Yours samples Jaz-O’s 1989 single Hawaiian Sophie, on which the Jiggaman made one of his earliest appearances. Ah good times not only for rap lovers but pop-trivia enthusiasts as well…

Memory Lane has NaS reminiscing on his childhood over a fittingly nostalgic, organ-laced DJ Premier instrumental and One Love is a letter put in rhyme to an inprisoned friend about recent events in Nasir’s neighbourhood over a great xylophone-rocking Q-Tip beat. One Time For Your Mind is all about what NaS does in his spare time and Represent is another punchliner that was sampled in a Jigga song.

It Ain’t Hard to Tell is the last song, the most accessible and in my opinion the best one, what with it’s Human Nature sampling Large professor beat and NaS being half-man, half amazing.

Yep, NaS ran a home run here. Or a hole in one might be a better simile. Unfortunately NaS switched management after this album from MC Serch, who undoubtedly helped the rookie get some aid by all these hiphop heavyweights, to Steve Stoute who got NaS in touch with the Trackmasters for making some 80’s music sampling commercial blingy hiphop, and got hit in the head with a champagne bottle by Puff Diddy, off all people, after the man suddenly remembered  he was a Roman Catholic and wasn’t supposed to appear crucified in a hiphop video, and Stoute accidentally forgot to have that scene edited out of the Hate Me Now video before airing it, more on that in due time. For now suffice to say Illmatic is golden and all the NaS dickriding fanboy praise is actually justified.

Best track
NY State of Mind, Life’s a Bitch, The World Is Yours, One Love, It Ain’t Hard to Tell

Recommedations
Buy this album.