Tag Archives: EMI

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.


Arabian Prince – Brother Arab

Arabian Prince
Brother Arab
September 1, 1989
Orpheus RecordsEMI
055/100
Arabian Prince - Brother Arab
1. Sound Check // 2. She’s Got a Big Posse // 3. Get On Up // 4. Let the Good Times Roll (Nickel Bag) // 5. Never Caught Slippin’ // 6. I Got a Big Bonus Beat// 7. Situation Critical // 8. It’s a Dope Thang // 9. It’s Time to Bone // 10. Now You Have to Understand // 11. Getting Down 

Arabian Prince is mostly known for having been part of seminal gangsta rap group N.W.A, recording with them on N.W.A and the Posse and (allegedly) Straight Outta Compton, (allegedly) getting his vocals stripped from all but one song in post-production, the song he was still on essentially being a bonus track, tacked onto the album as an afterthought (and oft-cited as the reason Straight Outta Compton isn’t the perfect album it could have been), after the boys from Compton had decided that they didn’t really want to be an electro-funk dance outfit but the world’s most dangerous group in stead (Up until then Dre, Ren Eazy, Cube and Yella had been in a severe identity crisis, and when they had made-up their mind Arabian Prince got kicked out for what essentially constitutes “creative differences”.).

Keeping this in mind it is funny that Arabian Prince, for whom unlike Michel’le (another witness to Dr. Dre’s shady electro past) apparently there wasn’t even room as a solo-artist on Ruthless Records, comissioned an album cover that makes it seem as though he’s still very much part of the world’s most dangerous music franchise. What with the blood-red font in which his name is written, the dark shades and Raiders cap he sports and his gold rope-chain.

Despite what Brother Arab and/ or the people at Orpheus Records would have you believe, this is not N.W.A-offshoot. Not only as a matter of fact, but also in spirit.
Prince, who is all by himself here in the vocal booth, doesn’t drop the N-word anywhere, or any other curse word for that matter. This isn’t a problem in and by itself, profanity-free music can work (maybe even profanity-free gangsta rap) but it is is odd for a man from a gang called Niggaz With Attitude, coming straight out of Compton. And Brother Arab doesn’t quite pull it off lyrically, dropping some pretty pedestrian, clunky and unappropriately clean raps about achetypical gangsta rap subjects about violence, drugs and [bleep]ing your girl.

The beats all sound derivative, be it with jazz influence (Let the Good Times Roll (Nickel Back)I Got a Big Bonus Beat), like Compton Dre made them while on ritalin (She’s Got a Big PosseGet On UpNever Caught Slippin‘, Situation Critical) (This apparent lack of urgency may not be the beats fault, it may be just because unlike his former homeboys Arabian Prince doesn’t come across as remotely scary or violent) or the electronic dance-music N.W.A made in the form of Panic Zone and Something to Dance To (It’s a Dope ThingTime to BoneGettin’ Down)

It would seem that Dre, Cube, Ren, Eazy and Yella may have had a good reason for cutting Arabian Prince loose. Dude doesn’t have Cube or Ren’s rhymes, Eazy’s charisma or Dre and Yella’s beats (although the album cover does show that the man had some of that Suge Knight business sense). One is hard-pressed to see this guy contribute anything substantial to Straight Outta Compton, and he didn’t deliver the goods with his solo-debut either, which helped make his irrelevance and obscurity complete.

Best tracks
Get On Up
Let the Good Times Roll (Nickel Bag)

Recommendations
Don’t buy this album.


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.


Sauce Money – Middle Finger U

Sauce Money
Middle Finger U
May 23, 2000
Priority Records/ EMI
080/100
Sauce Money - Middle Finger U
1. Intro // 2. We Gonna Rock // 3. Love & War // 4. For My Hustlaz // 5. Middle Finger U // 6. Do You See (feat. Diddy & Pam) // 7. Face-Off 2000 (feat. Jay-Z) // 8. What’s That, Fuck That // 9. Chart Climbin’ // 10. Crime Skit // 11. Intruder Alert // 12. C My First (feat. Bam-Blue)// 13. Pre-Game (feat. Jay-Z)  // 14. Say Uncle // 15. Section 53, Row 78 (feat. Maverick) // 16. What’s My Name // 17. V1 [Skit] // 18. What We Do (feat. Memphis Bleek)

Sauce Money, a Jay-Z affiliate, and the guy who penned P. Daddy’s Notorious B.I.G. tribute “song” (and earnt a grammy for it years before he had his own album) by all means should’ve released his debut album on Roc-a-Fella Records (he was at some point signed to the label but never got more than a couple of singles released, all of ’em with Primo beats, all of ’em terrific.) If Memph Bleek’s album went gold solely because of Jigga’s marketing machine (and do not kid yourself, it did) then Sauce could’ve been a best-selling monster, especially because he actually has some talent behind the mic.

Sorry Bleek!

This in and by itself may have been the trouble between Sauce and Jigga, the guy had proven that he could at the very lease write a hit song, and unlike most Roc-a-Fella interns (said Bleek, Amil, da Ranjahs, Kanye West) Sauce actually rivaled the Jiggaman in terms of rapping skill, so he might become too powerful to control, if he were ever to fullfill his potential, something Shawn Carter never had to worry about before or since, even with his most talented subordinate so far; Beanie Sigel. (Well maybe Kanye, but he’s not so much a rapper as a pop star.) But perhaps Sauce may just not have wanted his friendly and artistic relationship with Jay to turn into a business one, since being on your friends’ payroll can be a bitch. I don’t expect Jigga to drop any clues about this particular subject and with Sauce’s face being on New York milkcartons I doubt we’ll ever hear the truth, the whole truth and nothing  but the truth on this subject. It must be said that I’ve never heard of Jay-Z and Sauce Money beefing. In stead of going out like that Sauce’s career sory goes: Did guest verses on each of Jay-Z’s first three albums, dropped Middle Finger U without even his mother picking up a copy, proceeded to disappear off the face of the earth.

Enough with the hip-hop conspiracy theories, Sauce got signed to Priority Records, which may not have been the up and coming Roc-a-Fella but also wasn’t the crumbling Bad Boy Records, and recorded and released his debut album, today still his only album in existence; Middle Finger U to an audience of tumbleweeds, in may 2000. Apparently, most Puff Diddy fans do not actually read liner notes, because Middle Finger U certainly didn’t do I’ll Be Missing You numbers (luckily it doesn’t sound anything like that mawkish piece of fuckery either) Jay-Z’s fans apparently didn’t run to the stores to pick it up either, and that‘s a bloody shame because it’s in fact a pretty good, well-rounded album that has something to offer to most demographics without sounding forcedly over the map, not unlike most Jay-Z albums.

Sauce raps conversationally, much like his much more famous fellow Marcy Projects inhabitant. Unlike billionaire icy playboy Jay-Z however Sauce is a funny guy, cracking jokes and throwing humourous threats and punchlines to the listener throughout Middle Finger U. The mood varies from celebratory on the Frank Stallone-sampling For My Hustaz, to mournful on Section 53 Row 78, an euology of his late mother, with everything sounding good enough and making sense.

It would seem that Sauce mostly had the streets in mind rather than the pop-charts, which isn’t to say that this album is inaccessible or hard core, but the R&B hooks and the poppy beats are kept to a minimum, and when they do pop up they’re accompanied by a guest, such as Do You See which is actually more of a Sean Combs joint featuring Sauce, immediately following it is Face off 2000 a poppy, light-footed duet with Jay-Z about bagging chicks, that is a sequel to Face Off off In My Lifetime, vol. 1.

The production is being handled by Jay-Z veterans such as DJ Premier, Super DJ Clark Kent, Big Jaz, Bad Boy hitmen Prestige and Puff Diddy, old school legend Marley Marl and relative unknowns Spencer Bellamy and Mr. Rapture who all knock out serviceable backing tracks for Sauce to flow over, and he doesn’t put ’em to waste. Off course Puff and Jay pop up to provide guest verses, so does Memphis Bleek. But this is undoubtably Sauce’s show, not only taking up almost all of the mic time but keeping up with Jigga and destroying P. Daddy and Memph Bleek on impact (no surprises there.)

Chart Climbin’ has a Big Jaz instrumental consisting of some rhythmic piano keys and some funky organs that are driven in on the chorus. Intruder Alert is Sauce’s take on the Notorious B.I.G. Warning, and although it’s not quite as good as that classic song it comes close. What’s My Name could actually go toe-to-toe with the better NaS/ DJ Premier, Jay-Z/ DJ Premier and B.I.G./ DJ Premier collabo’s. (Even if it is apparently produced by Mr. Rapture who doesn’t appear to have ever worked outside of this album, apparently Middle Finger U is the soundtrack to more than one career ending prematurely.)

On Section 53 Row 78 Mr. Rapture jacks the instrumental of 2pac’s Pain off the cassette version of the Death Row released soundtrack of Above the Rim for Sauce to talk about his late mother to great effect, creating what sounds like one of the the moody contemplative tracks Jay-Z used to close his albums with.

As much greatness is to be found here there are some songs that miss the mark.

What’s That, Fuck That sounds like a Resevoir Dogs-aping instrumental (the Jay-Z song off the In My Lifetime, vol. 3 on which Sauce, as well as the LOX and Beanie Sigel appeared, not the the Tarantino movie) courtesy of legendary producer Marley Marl, who weaves a Jay-Z vocal sample into the beat that’ll have you hanging on to your seat, but not in a good way since it is placed so that you’ll constantly believe Jigga is about to drop in for a verse (which never happens.) and it is so goddamn distracting it renders the whole song unlistenable. C My 1s has Sauce dueting female rapper Bam-Bue (yeay, me neither) over a terrible Spencer Bellamy beat in such an aggravating manner that it makes this reviewer wish the people at EMI would’ve saved this song for her imaginary debut album. The Prestige/ P. Diddy produced Do You See? which features the shiny suit man himself and Pam from Bad Boy records R&B group Total has a beat that is so bland, soulless and high-gloss that it’s a miracle that Sauce doesn’t slip off the beat, if not off the song entirely (not Puffy though, he’s kinda in his comfort zone here).

Middle Finger is the album we would’ve had if Jay followed In My Lifetime, vol. 1 with more of the same stuff we got to hear on his first two albums rather than hook up with Timbaland and Swizzy for the hit-or-miss experimental production of Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life. This is far from surprising since Sauce seems to have dusted off some of the producers that Jigga stopped working on on Vol. 2 and Vol. 3 such as Clark Kent, DJ Premier, Big Jaz and Puff Daddy (where the fuck is DJ Ski?). Middle Finger U is an overlooked classic that should be revisited by those who enjoy the mid-to-late ’90s hip-hop sound. This dated-at-the-time-of-its release-but-vintage-today sound also helps explain why, despite being of high quality it never became that popular; By 2000 hip-hop as a whole, not the least Jay-Z himself, had moved on to other, more electronic sounds and Middle Finger U may have sounded like the aural equivalent of dinosaur to contemporary pop and rap audiences. Also, only one single was released, which is pretty poor marketing and puts this album in the we-have-no-follow-up-plans-for-this-guy’s-carreer-so-let’s-release-this- record-as tax-write-off category.

Hence: If it were released one to three years sooner, and promoted better upon release, it would be quite likely for Sauce Money to become a household name with one or several platinum plaques under his belt.

Alas, he wasn’t ment to be a star, or even to have a lukewarm indie-label career (meaning putting out shitty releases every year gobbled up by a small but loyal cult following.) But that doesn’t change a damn thing about the fact that Sauce Money and his album Middle Finger U are uncut dope.

Best tracks
For My Hustlaz
Middle Finger
Face Off 2000
Chart Climbin’
Intruder Alert
Section 53 Row 78
What’s My Name

Recommendations
Buy this album.


Eazy-E – Eazy-Duz-It

Eazy-E
Eazy-Duz-It
September 12, 1988
Ruthless Records/Priority RecordsEMI
085/100
Eazy-E - Eazy-Duz-It

1. [Prelude] Still Talkin’  // 2. Nobody Move // 3. Ruthless Villain (feat. MC Ren) // 4. 2 Hard Mutha’s  (feat. MC Ren) // 5.  Boyz-n-the-Hood [Remix] // 6. Eazy-duz-It // 7. We Want Eazy (feat. MC Ren & Dr. Dre) // 8. Eazy-er Said than Dunn // 9. Radio // 10. No More ?’s // 11.  I’mma Break It Down // 12. Eazy Chapter 8 Verse 10

Eazy-Duz-It is the first album by retired crack dealer turned Ruthless label boss/rapper Eric “Eazy-E” Wright, as well as the first N.W.A offshoot. Eazy-E’s debut album follows Straight Outta Compton a month after its release.  By the logic of the music industry Eazy-Duz-It should’ve been pushed far into 1989 as to not hurt Straight Outta Compton‘s record sales. But  on the always unconventional Ruthless Records no such consideration seems to have been made here.

On with the review, Dre and Yella’s beats are dense, dusty and funky as they were the last time around and Eazy recites Cube, Ren and D.O.C.’s writings over them with the mischievous joy of a street-smart man-child. His high-pitched wine is best described as a thugged-out version of Sam Cooke and the mixture of boasting and threatning is over-the-top enough for anyone but the C. Delores Tuckers and the Bill O’Reilly’s of the world (or however may have filled his shoes back in ’88) to get the joke, or at the very least get that there’s a joke being made. As usual; Joke’s on Bill.

A major difference between Straight Outta Compton and Eazy-Duz-It is that since technically Eazy is the worst rapper in the world’s most dangerous group, but also the biggest character; he does best setting the mood rather than discussing serious shit, and that’s probably why are no profound statements being made such as on Fuck the Police or Express Yourself. Basically Eazy-Duz-It is Eric Wright taking no shit but talking a lot himself for twelve tracks long and it’s all the better for it.

There’s party-starters such as We Want EazyEazy-Er Said than Dunn, there’s conceptual raps No More ?’s which takes place in an interview-setting, and Nobody Move which is about performing stick-ups. There’s even a profanity-free song for the radio titled Radio (One thing you can’t accuse N.W.A of is hiding their intentions or mislabeling their songs.) And it all forms an exciting, never boring and well-rounded album.

Finally Eazy-Duz-It makes N.W.A and the Posse completely obsolete by taking the one song that actually sounded good that wasn’t on Straight Outta Compton already. That would be Boyz In da Hood.

Eazy-Duz-It isn’t for the faint-hearted, drugs, misogyny, guns and other street shit is being glorified and Eazy is willfully immoral throughout, but if you don’t take this album too seriously you can have a lot of fun with it. What keeps these staple-subjects of hip-hop interesting is Eazy’s undeniable charisma and his distictive delivery. It’s a shame he wouldn’t put out another full-length solo-album before his untimely death in 1995.

Best tracks
Nobody Move
Boyz-n-the-Hood [Remix]
We Want Eazy
Eazy-Er Said than Dunn
Radio
No More ?’s

Recommendations
Buy this album.


N.W.A – Straight Outta Compton

N.W.A
Straight Outta Compton
August 8, 1988
Ruthless Records/Priority Records/ EMI
090/100

N.W.A - Straight Outta Compton

1. Straight Outta Compton // 2. Fuck the Police (feat. the D.O.C.) // 3. Gangsta, Gangsta // 4. If It Ain’t Ruff // 5. Parental Discretion iz Advised (feat. the D.O.C.) // 6. 8 Ball [Remix] // 7. Something Like That // 8. Express Yourself // 9. Compton’s N the House [Remix] // 10. I Ain’t tha 1 // 11. Dope Man [Remix] // 12. Quiet on tha Set // 13. Something 2 Dance 2 (feat. Arabian Prince)

N.W.A and the Posse may not be a very good album, but its selling of 500 thousand+ copies made it known to record labels that there was an audience for Eazy-E, Ice Cube, MC Ren, Dr. Dre and DJ Yella, even though their lyrics contained more than a bit of profanity. What it didn’t do however, was prepare the world for gangsta rap crossing over to the mainstream.

Which is exactly what happened following the release of N.W.A’s real debut album: Straight outta Compton.

Funky and mischievous, well produced and accessible yet uncompromising in its creators’ beliefs and opinions N.W.A’s true debut Straight Outta Compton is gangsta rap at its very best.

With wall-to-wall production by Dr. Dre, aided by DJ Yella and with raps written by Ice Cube, MC Ren and the D.O.C. and performed by Cube, Ren, Dre and the alpha male in a group that consists of nothing but alpha males; Eazy-E, Straight Outta Compton may not have been gangsta rap’s starting point (at least Schooly D and Ice T and perhaps more rappers preceeded it)  but it is the album that singlehandedly brought the rap subgenre to the masses without the aid of Radio/MTV airplay (Raegan era media weren’t to keen on airing  cursing and references to sex, drugs and violence), as white suburban kids found it perfect for pissing off their parents.

That’s not to say controversy is all it has going for it. Far from it, Dre and Yella’s dense funky beats never fail to make one’s foot tap and are the perfect backdrops for Eazy, Cube, Ren and Dre to go rampant over. Although it’s dated because of how goddamn monumental it is, today, 24+ years after its august ’88 release it still sounds completely fresh.

Off course not everything has aged equally well. Fuck the Police is still a fine rap song as ever and the subject of corrupt racist pighead policemen is current still, but the controversy it stirred up upon release, the motherfucking FBI even sent this rap group a letter requesting them to tone it down, is hard to imagine today, taking away at least some of the impact this once had.

Other subjects than bad experiences with racist police include, but aren’t limited to representing your hometown (the title track and Compton’s N The House), the poor quality of the recording output of unnamed rivaling hip-hop groups (Something Like That), free speech (Express Yourself) and Eazy-E’s favourite beverage (8-Ball).

Unlike on follow-up albums the vibe is rowdy but good-natured throughout because although a shitload of threats and bragging get put to wax, it is all nonspecific enough to not dis any of the listeners personally. (Well maybe except for cops listening to Fuck the Police.)

Eazy’s high-pitched whine is irresistable as ever throughout, Ice Cube records one of the first Gold Digger songs ever and Ren proves he is a criminally underrated rapper on his solo-shot If It Ain’t Ruff.

This album beats the life out of N.W.A and the Posse, shits on it and runs off with its valuables 8ball and Dope Man, after which Eazy-E’s solo debut follows suit and cleans up by including Boys in da Hood.

The only track that doesn’t work is the Panic Zone reprise late ’80s electro-funk-rap Something 2 Dance 2, which isn’t because it sucks completely, but rather because it sounds completely out-of-place.

Straight Outta Compton is some really great stuff for those who like unadultered rap music which likes to pretend the radio doesn’t exist.

Best tracks
Straight Outta Compton
Fuck the Police
8 Ball [Remix]
Dope Man [Remix]

But the rest doesn’t fall far behind. Straight Outta Compton is rather consistent.

Recommendations
Buy this album, even if you aren’t inclined to like rap music, chances are you will like this album.


Lykke Li – Youth Novels

Lykke Li
Youth Novels
30 January, 2008
LL Recordings/Warner Bros. RecordsWMG
090/100
Lykke Li - Youth Novels

1.Melodies&Desires // 2.Dance, Dance, Dance // 3.I’m Good I ‘m Gone // 4.Let It Fall // 5.My Love // 6.Tonight // 7.Little Bit // 8.Hanging High // 9.This Trumpet In My Head // 10.Complaint Department // 11.Breaking It Up // 12.Everybody But Me // 13.Time Flies // 14.Window Blues

2008 is the year of this album. Before Lykke Li Zachrisson became popular she was already busy in the early 2k years on Myspace. Björn Yttling also producer of Peter, Bjorn and John started working with Lykke Li and her songs combined with Björn’s quirky dance sound found ears on Swedish MTV. In 2007 the LP Little Bit gained popularity and after TV-appearances on MTV her first album saw the light. Sales figures? I don’t know but but apparently they were good enough for a second album to be released in 2011. The live footage of her acoustic performances is enough of an indication of her success for me…

The first track is a spoken word composition with melody driven sounds. There is a romantic influence which reminds me of Yann Tiersen and Eric Satie. I will not explain too much given the title says it all, Melodies & Desires. Dance, Dance, Dance picks up the pace gently with a quirky song about, how obvious, dancing. The context of the lyrics though is more playful than the title indicates. I’m Good I’m Gone is one of the best Pop tracks I have heard in ages. The arrangements are poppy but the vocals and lyrics sound very original. This track in particular brings me back to the better stand-up-for-yourself-Soul.

Let It Fall is slower and more stripped of instruments and a girlish song about expressing oneself. From tears to love My Love makes its entrance and more frail and girlish vocals enter my ears. The song is quite lovely and the lyrics tell about a girl waiting for her love. Tonight is a childishly romantic guilty pleasure that can be explained by this line: “Don’t you let me go, let me go tonight…” The instrumentals, stripped yet clear are very effective.

Little Bit picks up the pace again. The electronic groove is more present. This song is a little gem with lyrics about ‘little’ relations. Girlish vocals with mature lyrics. Hanging High sounds like a sweet cross-breed between Pop and Country with a slow pace and a present piano. Lyrically it is about needing comfort in a manner vague and clear at the same time . This Trumpet In My Head is a short intermezzo starting with an acoustic guitar ending with a trumpet in your head making way for Complaint Department. The song is about disappointment with a darker electronic undertone yet the effective arrangements still sound bare. Basically a “shit happens” song and quite a good one at that.

Breaking It Up starts noisy and continues as an Indie Pop song with bare arrangements and the frail and girlish vocals. I almost get the sense that here vocals reach a limit here but it works for the song. Even the back-up choir sound stressed to the limit. Everybody But Me is a slower song, more electronic about not feeling at ease and not wanting anything. Time Flies follows and lets you hear Lykke Li on the tops of her voice with predominantly the piano to guide the song. The frailty of her voice and the romantic lyrics combined are very effective. Window Blues closes the album. It is a bluesy song about keeping your loved one close. The undertone is heavy, melancholic and the vocals sound more nasal yet determined. The Youth Novels end here…

Youth Novels takes you down a trip of love affairs, life and disappoint to come back at the bluesy side of it. The instrumentals rarely sound too loud and the bare compositions don’t give me the feeling I am missing out on anything. The vocals are remarkably effective and work with the album even if Lykke Li doesn’t have the reach of Alicia Keys. Besides that the lyrics are sometimes so well thought out that I can only admire the song craft of this album.

Best Tracks
Dance, Dance, Dance
I’m Good I’m Gone
Little Bit
Complaint Department
Window Blues

Recommendations
This album has become a favourite of mine. In my opinion there is no real filler on this album, just good music for people who want to try something different which is still within the pop-genre. I recommend this album, which is particularly pleasant to listen to on a good sound system. The musical arrangements are a pleasure…

My regards,

Rura88


Datarock – Red

Datarock
Red
2009
Young Aspiring Professionals/ Nettwerk Music Group/ EMI
070/100

Datarock - Red

1.The Blog // 2.Give It Up // 3.True Stories // 4.Dance! // 5.Molly // 6.Do It Your Way // 7.In The Red // 8.Fear Of Death // 9.Amarillion // 10.The Pretender // 11.Back In The Seventies // 12.Not Me // 13.New Days Dawn

Fast forward to 2009. The second album by the Norwegian band Datarock is released. Is there a difference compared to the first album? Yes and no and yes my opinion will include comments about music.

The Blog grabs you by the technological throat by treating the evolution and the importance of the internet and world wide web in a fuzzy almost industrial approach to the music combined with samples and distortion. Either way the opener sucks you into the album right away. Give It Up continues the fast pace yet is lighter on lyrical content with its Romeo & Juliet plot on a typical eighties Pop track à la Michael Jackson/Quincy Jones. True Stories slows down the pace with a modest bass groove and playful percussion while referring to the many eighties influences of Datarock (Talking Heads among others). After which Dance! picks up the pace again with a disco groove that forces you to move while the vocalist keeps planting the word “Dance” in your head. I guess you understand by now.

Molly is a more moody song about childhood love with a typical eighties sound combining synthesizers and guitar with screeching vocals for. I quite like the song actually. Do It Your Way and In The Red follow and I would categorize both tracks almost as filler. Thing is the rushed and distorted Do It Your Way combined with the relaxing “In The Red” which simply sounds clean and gives away the Doors left their mark on this band and I like hearing that. In The Red is completely instrumental and therefore very welcome for varieties sake at least. The synthesizer sounds take me back to the early eighties.

Fear Of Death is lovely song about death and love with a bit of fuzzy guitar and synthesizer melodies. The understated drumming keeps impressing me. The gem of the album, the ultimate ode to the eighties called “Amarillion” follows. What can I add, this song makes me smile and yes it is one big wink to the seventies and eighties with unexpected references over a very smooth and groovy instrumental, nothing sounds overdone. Allow me to wallow in the pleasure, this song brings me back and words are severely insufficient. The Pretender increases the pace again over a catchy disco groove with hilarious lyrics about all of us with a repetitious yet catchy lyrics. Back In The Seventies says it all with a turn to a Ska groove turning into an organ driven Disco track. The harp sample alone. Right after 2.20 the synthesizer solo takes this song to unprecedented highs. Not Me follows with a heavy synthesizer groove and jumpy beats with a shouty refrain accompanied by a jarring guitar unlike anywhere else on this album. The ‘fuzz’ is back while the guitar gets the lead role. From fuzz to tranquil grooving the last song gives you something to slowly ponder about while you chill out over a more soulful track about endings and new beginnings. New Days Dawn is the stand-out closer.

I guess it is clear I like this album. In some ways it resembles their first effort. The opening and closing tracks share typical similarities while the eclectic influences keep the variation in the listening experience. “Red” is more driven by danceable rhythms though.

Best Tracks
True Stories, Dance, Amarillion, Back In The Seventies

Recommendations
My recommendation stays the same. If you don’t have that weak spot for the seventies and eighties this album might not be your cup of tea, sorry. For now “Amarillion” is on repeat.

My regards,

Rura88

P.S. Bonkers, sorry for the delay.


AZ – Doe or Die

AZ
Doe or Die
October 10, 1995
EMI
075/100
AZ - Doe or Die

1. Intro (feat. NaS) // 2. Uncut Raw // 3. Gimme Yours (feat. NaS) // 4. Ho Happy Jackie // 5. Rather Unique // 6. I Feel For You (feat. Erica Scott) // 7. Sugar Hill (feat. Miss Jones) // 8. Mo Money, Mo Murder, Mo Homicide (feat. NaS) // 9. Doe or Die // 10. We Can’t Win (feat. Amar Pep) // 11. Your World Don’t Stop // 12. Sugar Hill [Remix]

Making your recording debut on an instant undeniable classic album can be a mixed blessing. It happened to Brooklyn rapper Anthony “AZ” Cruz. His first bars the world actually got to hear were on the NaS song Life’s a Bitch off Illmatic. Since instantaneously became a thing in the hiphop-genre and AZ assisted him Anthony was seen as Nasir’s sidekick back in the day. Worse still, today he is mostly seen as “that guy who used to be NaS sidekick”. Life’s a Bitch, ain’t it?

On the plus side, since that particular guest-appearance was well received Anthony got to record a rap album that had his name and face on the front cover. What’s more. Because everyone in hiphop had heard Life’s a Bitch and liked it the album was heavily anticipated. When it dropped Doe or Die was hyped as being the next thing in the Illmatic franchise, which was supposed to be a good thing. In part this is true since some of Illmatic‘s personnel such as producers Pete Rock and L.E.S. as well as NaS himself are involved in Doe or Die‘s creation and tracks such as Rather Unique or the non-included, less polished, original version of Your World Don’t Stop definitely sound like NaS debut has inspired them.

On the other hand hiphop hadn’t stopped evolving during the 17 month gap between Illmatic and Doe or Die. There was Wu-Tang rapper Raekwon who had taken the gun-toting thug that had been gangster rap’s archetype ever since Str8 Outta Compton had taken the world by storm and replaced his 40OZ with a glass of Dom Perignon and his Dickies suit with a Versace one. Mafioso rap was born. On the other the Notorious B.I.G. had made it acceptable for hard-ass gangstas to make songs that sounded a lot like *gulp* R&B.

So Doe or Die, being in line with these trends, is trying to be a more expensive-ass sounding gangsta rap record, as if it were recorded by a cocaine kingpin, rather than a small time crack dealer, and it doesn’t shy away from pop sounds. This album as such wasn’t as much Illmatic‘s sequel as it was It Was Written‘s prequel. Keeping record sales in mind isn’t always a bad thing and Sugar Hill, the single that sold Doe or Die is a prime piece of R&B rap with L.E.S.  smooth mellow beat, R&B singer Miss Jones’ melodious hook and AZ’s lyrics about dreaming of having shiploads of money and kicking it all blending wonderfully and it did go gold for a reason (Today this shit wouldn’t have had a ghost of a chance of making it as a hit single, since, disregarding this day’s different production values, lyrical rap doesn’t have a place on either the radio or video channels. And I am convinced that there are people ou there that would consider Sugar Hill both old school and hardcore… Groan…)

The album’s other attempt at radio song featuring R&B chick: I Feel For You doesn’t fare so well. Oh well, at least AZ had one good  commercial hit-single in him.

A lot of the other songs contain some pretty worn out hiphop clichés, such as Uncut Raw which is about drug trafficking, Ho Happy Jackie which is about promiscuous women, Gimme Yours and Sugar Hill which are about getting money by any means and the illuminati who are discussed on We Can’t Win. Although it might seem that AZ goes through a checklist of standard hiphop subjects on Doe or Die he doesn’t run out of ideas or ever sound uninspired. His trademark flow and high-toned smooth voice remain interesting to listen to throughout this album’s 45 minutes. It just that you do get some bullshit and nonsense with AZ’s clever wordplay. Catchy bullshit and nonsense, but bullshit and nonsense nonetheless. Nowhere does Anthony spit such a flawless salvo as Nasir does on Halftime.

The instrumentals are also quite good. Pete Rock rocks some dirty drums and an angelic harp on Gimme Yours and some minimal melody on Rather Unique. Buckwild loops a horn-hit on Ho Happy Jackieand N.O. Joe produces some G-funk lite on the title track. However good the beats may be here there’s nothing as grand as N.Y. State of Mind, Life’s a Bitch or It Ain’t Hard to Tell‘s beats.

NaS pops up some three times but doesn’t overpower our host anywhere. In fact his dialogue on the intro and his singing on Gimme Yours‘s hook is lame as fuck. And when they do rhyme together on Mo Money, Mo Murder, Mo Homicide they sound equally good as they did on Life’s a Bitch.

In short: Doe or Die is pretty good stuff. AZ and Doe or Die couldn’t really compete with Nas and Illmatic if they wanted to, but it doesn’t seem that this is what the people who created this were trying to do. In fact Doe or Die is very much its own creature. And it’s a quite enjoyable one at that.

Best tracks
Gimme Yours, Rather Unique, Sugar Hill, Doe or Die, *Your World Don’t Stop [Original Version]

*Not on any incarnation of the Doe or Die album, still well worth the 5 seconds it takes to find it on the internet as the less-polished original version version of Your World Don’t Stop sounds hella better than the version that ended up on Doe or Die because of the inclusion of a sax sample and less annoying backing vocals, and it definitely would’ve pushed Doe Or Die over the 80, were it included on the album. Damn you hindsight, right?

Recommendations
Buy this album.


Jay-Z – Reasonable Doubt

Jay-Z
Reasonable Doubt
June 25, 1996
Roc-A-Fella Records/ Priority Records/ EMI
085/100

1. Can’t Knock The Hustle (feat. Mary J.Blige) // 2. Politics As Usual // 3. Brooklyn’s Finest (feat. The Notorious B.I.G. & DJ Clark Kent) // 4. Dead Presidents II // 5. Feelin’ It (feat. Mecca) // 6. D’Evils // 7. 22 Two’s // 8. Can I Live // 9. Ain’t No Nigga (feat. Foxy Brown) // 10. Friend or Foe // 11. Coming of Age (feat. Memphis Bleek) // 12. Cashmere Thoughts // 13. Bring It On (feat. Sauce Money & Big Jaz) // 14. Regrets

Whenever the pointless debate about who is the best rapper ever rears it head, and the discusion doesn’t end in a face-off between two dead guys; Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter is oft brought up. From what music he produces these days the average hardcore hiphop head wouldn’t draw the conclusion that he is one of the best ever. Obviously he and his collaborators are, even today, way above average in creating bearable radio music, but that doesn’t get you the props the Jiggaman recieves on a daily basis from the people who love rap. Unlike what is the case with Lil’ Wayne there are quite a few people other than the man himself who think that he is the best to ever have tried his hand talking over beats in a rhythmnic manner. Therefore the reasons for his widespread acclaim lie, for the better part, in his past.

In 1996 to be exact. After having spent years under the wing of his mentor Jaz-O a.k.a. Big Jaz, and appearing on songs by artists such as Big L and Big Daddy Kane Jay still didn’t have a record deal. Hence he and two of his friends; Dame Dash and Kareem Biggs, started their own record label Roc-a-Fella records, named after J.D. Rockefeller, because that guy was filthy fucking rich during his lifetime, which was one of Shawn’s goals. (Although, if you are prone to buy gangster rap shtick then you believe mr. Carter to have been loaded with cash already when this album came out because of cocaine trafficing career.) Now he had a label he proceeded to record Reasonable Doubt. After it’s release it became clear why Jay never got a record deal before, as the Major labels were ostensibly right about the marketability of what he was doing at the time. The album never hit higher than #23 on the billboard top 100 and while this in and by itself was not bad for a rap album at the time, it is telling that it took until 2002 (that’s six years) for the album to go platinum. So the crouds initially did not go apeshit over it, causing our host to panick over the profitability of his career and have his sophomore album In My Lifetime, vol. 1 to be overseen by rap’s at the time midas touch producer, P. Daddy, resulting in a couple of really embarassing singles.

But back to the matter at hand, the critics did thoroughly enjoy Reasonable Doubt, applauding the combination of Shawn’s mafioso raps (which were in part modeled after what Raekwon had done on his ‘94 solo debut Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…) and the characteristically East Coast production by such respected veterans as DJ Premier (Gang Starr, NaS, the Notorious B.I.G.) , Ski (Camp Lo) and Super DJ Clark Kent (Dana Dane, the Notorious B.I.G., Slick Rick, Rakim). Critics like it so much that the album is still seen as one of the finest efforts the hiphop genre has produced since it came to exist in the late ‘70s.

Listening to it today one must conclude that this album has its faults. Some of the songs, such as the album’s biggest single Can’t Knock the Hustle, are plain boring. Some of the guests (Memphis Bleek and Foxy Brown to be exact) deliver dreadfully mediocre performances on otherwise good songs, giving the listener the idea that the only concievable logical reason for their inclusion is to make our host sound even better by comparison. (This would in and by itself explain perfectly why Jay left Sauce Money in a ditch somewhere in the late ‘90s, but kept Memphis Bleek around for guest performances, until he left his entire Roc-a-Fella boutique label to rot, in order to start his new boutique label; Roc Nation, in 2008) And some of the instrumentals are dated in a manner that inspires meh. (actually only the last track Regrets, fits that bill)

With that said, it comes as close to perfection as any other textbook classic rap album. (Reasonable Doubt is most definitely on par with the likes Ready To Die, the Chronic or Straight Out Of Compton. The only comparable album that I can think of, that is significantly better is NaS’ Illmatic, because it has only one questionable inclusion, compared to this album’s four. And you could even rightfully argue that, because Reasonable Doubt is four tracks longer than Illmatic they contain the same amount of classic material.)  because all the other songs on here are fucking bonkers.  After the lengthy, pseudo-ambient yawn inducer-slash-album opener that is Can’t Knock the Hustle the album picks up steam with, what should have been the the first song, Politics as Usual. Over a Ski instrumental that is pleasant enough to keep ones attention, but remains sufficiently in the background so that the spotlight is on Jay’s performance, the man puts his conversational flow to use and tells the listener about his experiences in the streets selling drugs and what not. Whether or not he really lived this life is not up for debate here and is irrelevant. His tone, which one might use on an old friend one hasn’t seen in a long time, updating him about current events, makes it sound credible enough. It also helps that he rhymes his ass off here, providing punchlines for days. Following that treat comes Brooklyn’s Finest, a twilight of rap gods where Jay holds his own against the Notorious B.I.G., whom is considered by many, including yours truly, the best rapper ever. Again, these MC ranking lists are bullshit, but this collabo leads to a very specific comparison that simply demands your respect for Lil’ Jaz. He stands toe to toe with the then current king of New York. Therefor, at the very least, the man makes a case for that he was next in line for succession. And this lyrical sparring match leads results in a flawless duet. Other people who provide some impressive rhyming are Sauce Money and Big Jaz on the DJ Premier-produced Bring It On. In turn, them holding their own against Jay-Z,  gives an unfulfilled promise of brilliantly succesful careers of their own to come. Alas, Jay had more faith in Bleek. Or they simply weren’t prepared to shut up and hold Shawn’s pot for him, like Bleek was.

Another highlight is Feelin’ It, which is a mellow ass weed-inspired song-slash-boastfest that has a piano based DJ Ski instrumental that is just perfect to zone-out to when you’ve smoked a bowl and some awe-inspiring raps in the conversational style that earned Shawn a fanbase. Whether he’s boasting, threatning or introspective; he makes it seem as if he’s talking to you specifically. That is his most distinctive feature, both as a rapper and as a lyricist.

What y’all ain’t heard that nigga Jay high?
The Cristals they keep me wet like Baywatch
I keep it tight for all the nights my mom prayed I’d stop
Said she had dreams a sniper hit me with a fatal shot
Those nightmares ma
Those dreams you say you got give me the chills
But these mills make me hot y’all don’t feel me
Enough to stop the illin right?
But at the same time these dimes keep me feelin tight
I’m so confused
OK I’m gettin weeded now I know I’m contradicting myself
Look I don’t need that now

There’s so much highlight here that it is impossible to give them each the attention they deserve. The very best and most vivid of them all might be the DJ Premier produced Friend or Foe, which clocks under a minute and a half. Some of these songs just make one wish that Jiggaman wouldn’t have diluted his style on his follow-up to find platinum sales with Puff Daddy, Timbaland and the Neptunes. Off course nobody would’ve benifited from a stack of nearly identical albums, and club bangers have their place and time. Some of the work Jay has done later on with the likes of Pharrell is top notch, and no one can rightfully claim that Shawn cannot put together a good radio song. But the fact that the fantastic, ominous, Ski-produced Dead Presidents was this album’s first single and failed to make much of an impact on the charts, forcing mr. Carter to change his direction, makes a hiphop head dream of an alternate universe where the mainstream would’ve been down with more edgy stuff and facilitated the creation of more of it.

I’d rather die enormous than live dormant that’s how we on it
Live at the main event, I bet a trip to Maui on it
Presidential suites my resedential for the weekend
Confidentially speakin in codes since I sense you peekin
The NSX rental, don’t be fooled my game is mental
We both out of town dog, what you tryin to get into?
Viva, Las Vegas, see ya, later at the crap tables
meet me by the one that starts a G up
This way no fraud Willie’s present gam-b-ling they re-up
And we can have a pleasant time, sippin margaritas
Ge-ge-geyeahhh, can I live?
Can I live?

This verse, taken from the brilliant Irv Gotti produced Can I Live shows off an ambition that perfectly explains the artistic direction he would take after Reasonable Doubt made him a hood champion, but not the superstar he fancied himself being. And no-one can blame him for following and producing a lot of music that was and a lot better than what his peers brought to the table and still bring to the table today. Even if it did take the edge off a bit.

However, before the big hits, the major label presidency, the booty-bumping with Beyoncé and the constant recycling of the Notorious B.I.G.’s lines in “tribute” there was Reasonable Doubt, an album that after its first and worst track is finished playing, likes to pretend the radio didn’t exist and that presented the listener with something that is an interesting, entertaining piece of fiction backed by some well put-together music.

Best tracks:
Politics As Usual, Brooklyn’s Finest, Dead Presidents II, Feelin’ It, Can I Live, Friend or Foe, Bring It On

Recommendation:
Buy this album.