Tag Archives: Gangsta Rap

Digital Underground – The Body-Hat Syndrome

Digital Underground
The Body-Hat Syndrome
October 5, 1993
Tommy Boy RecordsWarner Bros. RecordsWMG
080/100
Digital Underground - The Body Hat Syndrome
1. Return of the Crazy One // 2. Doo Woo You // 3. Holly Wanstaho // 4. Bran Nu Swetta // 5. The Humpty Dance Awards (feat. 2pac) // 6. Body-Hats [Part I] // 7. Dope-a-Delic (Do-U-B-leeve-in-d-Flo?) // 8. Intermission // 9. Wussup wit the Luv (feat. 2pac) // 10. Digital Lover // 11. Carry the Way (Along Time) // 12. Body-Hats, [Part II] // 13. Circus Entrance // 14. Jerkit Circus // 15. Circus Exit (The After Nut) // 16. Shake and Break // 17. Body Hats [Part III] // 18. Do Ya Like It Dirty? // 19. Bran Nu Sweat This Beat // 20. Wheee!

Outside of their small but dedicated fanbase Digital Underground is mostly known for being 2pac’s first vehicle on the road to stardom, for those too young to remember Humpty Dance being a mild hit anyway. That’s a shame because their post-Sex Packets discography is some terrific stuff. And despite sporting two Shakur guest appearances (one of which is on a skit) Digital Underground’s brand of party rap has little to do with 2pac’s blend of consious gangsta rap, Keep Your Head Up, and not-so-consious gangsta rap, I Get Around.
Even if the latter is produced by the Underground Railroad and features Money B and Shock G. The song has both rappers adjusting to 2pac’s stylo, and Pac even wrote both their verses. 2pac’s lone musical guest appearance on Wassup With the Luv? finds the DU in a similar situation recording what is essentially a 2pac song, a sort of less hopeful, more pissed off variation of what Marvin talked about on What’s Going On. But other than that the Underground remains less seriously, determinedly political on their third full length studio album than Shakur. This essentially a return to the good natured party music that was their debut, after dissing an unnamed celebrity for trying and succeeding at looking whiter to sell records on No Nose Job off their sophomore album Sons of the P.

Dr. Dre maybe known as George Clinton’s hip-hop heir, but Shock G and Money B would be much more fitting pretenders to the throne (No-one can truly succeed the George, especially considering the man is still alive and still active in music.)
Where Dre took George’s sound (as well as lots of blaxploitation, which no other critic ever seems to aknowledge) and mixed it with hip-hop, but completely ignored the P funk state of mind, in stead maintaining the gangsta rap lyrical themes, and the posturing that comes with it, that were the rivers and the lakes he was used to from his time in N.W.A.
Shock G however embraced the P with all of its silliness. Dre describes himself “looking like [he] robbed Liberace.” while Shock G once described himself as “[looking] like MC Hammer on crack”, which is pretty representative for the difference in mood between Death Row Records and the DU. It is probably for this reason that the DU was nowhere to be found on any Pac’s Death Row output, while they were all over his Insterscope albums.

On with the review: The Body Hat Syndrome, the concept the three title tracks revolves around, is every bit as silly as the Sex Packets of their debut. If the cover hasn’t given it away; It’s about a body-sized condom that protects the body and mind from brainwashing, mind impregnation, maleducation, the media and other, less abstract things such as the KKK, HIV, the LAPD, crack cocaine and television. Off course there is a serious, political message in there but that message is hidden behind/ diluted with the DU’s trippy fun. That’s the biggest difference between Shock G and Pac: Shock has his tongue planted firmly up his cheek most of the time while Pac is usually either discussing some depressing, dead earnest shit or having some juvenile gangsta fun (often both over the course of the same song. Pac wasn’t one for sticking to a subject most of the time. Especially on his later output)

The Body Hat Syndrome is a mellow, groovy, funky, flirty, sleazy, bacchian booze orgy that doesn’t take itself too serious but is bursting with confidence and is the perfect soundtrack of a house party with a bunch of kinda high, kinda drunk folks. It doesn’t demand much of the listener. In fact the less attention you pay to it the better it sounds. That’s not to say it’s bad, in fact it’s some great stuff. But it does mean that rappers Shock G a.k.a. Humpty Hump, Money B and new member Saafir aren’t lyrical rappers. They’re not about telling stories or dropping knowledge and in stead more about putting stuff that sounds cool or ridiculous in a loose, funky flow. Putting it under a magnifying glass is therefor somewhat of an exercise in futility as this album , except Wussup Wit the Luv isn’t about individual lines, verses or songs even. It’s about setting the mood. And that it does with verve.

It is too bad that the Underground never became as succesful as their most famous protégé 2pac. Arguably their music, while a little too off, psychedelic and funky to be called poppy, is a lot more accessible than 2pac’s activism and tough guy posturing. I guess that the fact that the DU and Pac are entirely different musical creatures helps explain why 2pac’s sizeable fanbase never ran out to pick up Sex Packets, Sons of the P or The Body-Hat Syndrome.
Oh well, I guess one can find consololation that their talent and hard work didn’t leave them entirely penniless, though nothing can be found on the interwebs about any gold or platinum certification they pretty much have to have some copies of their previous albums to be granted a third album by Tommy Boy records (although by that logic they must’ve sold null copies of The Body-Hat Syndrome because they parted ways with the label after this one droppd) and I’m sure their work on 2pacalypse NowStrictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. and Me Against the World really brought in the revenue. But today they are all but forgotten and it’s time to give their own albums some time and attention. Shock G, Money B and now Saafir, as well as their myriad of backing musicians should be better known and more acclaimed than they are today. Especially since this would be the kind of hip-hop that people who generally claim not to like hip-hop usually find quite enjoyable.
If you find a copy of The Body-Hat Syndrome or of any of their previous releases (even This Is an EP Release, though that one should be lowest on your list of DU priorities) you should take it home. It is well worth the cash. Also I’m sure Humpty Hump will apreciate it.

Best tracks
Wussup With the Luv
The Return of the Crazy One

Recommendations
Pick this one up.

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State Property – State Property

Various Artists
State Property (OST)
January 29, 2002
Roc-a-Fella RecordsDef Jam RecordingsUMG
075/100
State Property - State Property OST
1. Roc the Mic (Freeway & Beanie Sigel) // 2. Sun Don’t Shine (Young Chris, Oschino, Freeway & Neef) // 3. It’s Not Right (Freeway, Young Chris, Omilio Sparks & Beanie Sigel) // 4. Do You Want Me (Young Chris, Omilio Sparks & Oschino) // 5. Sing My Song (Omilio Sparks & Oschino) // 6. No Glory (Beanie Sigel) // 7. Bitch Niggas (Beanie Sigel & Omilio Sparks) // 8. Why Must I (Beanie Sigel & Omilio Sparks) // 9. International Hustler (Freeway) // 10. Hood I Know (Beanie Sigel, Freeway, Young Chris, Omilio Sparks & Oschino) // 11. Got Nowhere… (Beanie Sigel & Freeway) // 12. Trouble Man (Beanie Sigel, Omilio Sparks & Oschino) // 13. Don’t Realise (Beanie Sigel & Rell)

You know when a franchise is on a roll when it’s B-teamers get to ink their boys a deal and record an album with them. Off course calling Sigel a b-teamer wouldn’t be because of any sort percievable of lack of talent, mind you. Sigel is a B-teamer only because despite him doing alright for himself his albums never did Kanye West or Jay-Z numbers either because he wasn’t as likeable and hence markerable as either of those two superstar artists. Because he didn’t want to taint his gangsta rap albums with pop songs or probably both. The thing then that Beans brought to the table was raw street credibility. Just when Jay would lean a bit too far in the pop direction for hip-hop heads’ tastes Beans would bring out a cold hard gangsta rap album to keep Roc-a-fella Records’ street audiences happy.

It would be safe to say then that the records this guy did sell were sold to a small but dedicated fanbase who had no interest in compromising pop records, and that the same could be expected by an album coming from his protégés Freeway, Peedi Peedi, Young Chris, Neef, Omilio Sparks & Oschino. Catering to these expectations is exactly what State Property has done for their self-titled debut that also doubled as the soundtrack for Beanie Sigel & Co.’s movie debut, also called State Property (Had Beans learned nothing from Ma$e’s Harlem World, the group he named after his debut and how well that shit worked out?)
Now I personally haven’t seen this movie yet (and I have no immediate plans of doing so) but at least one person must have, because according to Wikipedia State Property (the movie) currently, twelve years following its release is still the reigning number one movie when it comes to utterences of the word ‘fuck’ per minute (bar a documentary on the word ‘fuck’ itself.) “Fuck is spoken 3.65 times per minute or 321 times in 88 minutes.” Wow. That should tell you exactly how much Beanie Mac cares about giving the media something they can play without giving their censors a burn out in in the process of preparing it for American mainsteam consumption.
This would also mean that the amout of ‘fucks’ uttered in the movie greatly exceeds that of the gangsta rap album that serves as its soundtrack. This is quite the achievement!
This in turn would mean that after shooting the movie the guys started to record the album but were *wait for it* literally out of fucks to give.

The opposite of this cornball-ass joke appears to have been the case. While every movie critic who saw it State Property (the movie) hated, hated, hated it, music critics actually took a liking to the album. And while not even Beanie Sigel’s mother could be convinced to buy a ticket for the film, State Property (the album) had a fairly healthy charts presence and could arguably be called succesful in its mission of launching the careers of Beans’ Philedelphia friends. Especially Freeway and the duo of Young Chris and Neef Buck who together record under the name Young Gunz. Both of these acts have had gold albums, which is good for them, but not necessarily good for Beans because when Beans left Roc-a-Fella Records to sign with Dame Dash’s new label and a beef between the Jiggaman and Mac ensued, most of State Property stuck with Jay-Z, apparently against his wishes.

Oh well, at least at the time when this album came out it was all good.. sorta. The fact that the album did so much better than the movie could be explained by the fact that State Property had been rapping for a while because they were rappers and this z-grade attempt at recording a b-movie was completely new to them.

The album kicks off with a club jam with Freeway handling the first and final verse, Sigel providing the creamy centre and both of them going back-and-forth on the hook. It’s a catchy song, but not your little sister’s birthday party kind of hip-hop song. Just Blaze’s beat is bouncy and a sparse kind of way and Sigel’s verse is all about the Notorious B.I.G. and firearms. It was the only single released of the album and sounds a lot more consise than that version with Murphy Lee and Nelly on it that appeared on Nellyville.
Following it is Sun Don’t Shine, a song about getting cornholed hardship in the hood with a crappy pseudo Neptunes instrumental backing up everyone but Sigel and Sparks. Speaking of Sparks: One would think that he’d have Pharrell’s phone number after helping to create the hook of I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me) so that he could arrange a real Neptunes beat. It is almost as though with these first two songs State Property tried to lure potential buyers into believing that this album was going to be a sequel of sorts to The Dynasty: ROC la Familia.

From there on however it is away with the pop and in with gloomy soul-sampling beats. It’s Not Right sounds a lot like a sequel to This Can’t Be Life, except with Jay and Scarface being replaced by Beans his boys. Matter of fact, Roc-a-Fella in-house R&B singer Rell notwithstanding, there are go guest appearances by non-State Property members, ROC or otherwise. Whether this was Jay giving Beans a vote of confidence that him and his boys could record a perfectly good album without his help and an apology for having the balls to include one of his own solo-songs on Beans’ solo-debut album the Truth for absolutely no reason at all or simply because Beyoncé’s bootylicious booty had just started keeping occupied to record music, and also because he was spending the lion’s share of State Property’s album budget with her in Mexico recording the ’03 Bonnie And Clyde video is not entirely clear to me. Apparently he did executive this album with his boys Dame Dash and Kareem Biggs. Which probably means that the triumvirate removed Memphis Bleek from the studio he was occupying to make room for the guys. But the result of this is that Sigel, Free and company get to run their own show and  that there’s no famous guest’s appearances to skip forward to, which means they have my full attention.

State Property keeps it grimy throughout. Even the come-on number for the ladies Do You Want Me, which has Chris, Sparks and Oschino on it, has the sort of creepy-ass beat, courtesy of Rick Rock, that suggests something else than hot romance. The fact that they guys all seem to be hollering at the same chick doesn’t really help. Moving on.
Sing My Song has Omilio singing his song poorly (but not poorly enough to grate on the ears) over a bluesy beat made by some cat called Zukhan, and dueting Oschino talking all sorts of ‘profound’ stuff about the ghetto life, and managing quite well to entertain.No Glory has the kind of beat that blends mafioso movie music with blaxploitation movie music and lets Sigel go rampant over it by his goddamn self spouting all kinds of violent nonsense but sounding as good and pissed off as ever. The beat even tricks you into believing it’ll switch up somewhere in the middle but it doesn’t. Tense.
Bitch Niggas is the anti-snitch that is mandatory on this type of album with Sparks and Sigel going for broke with it, not adding much to this particular sub-genre of gangsta rap, but sounding pretty awesome nevertheless, not in a small part thanks to it’s fine instrumental.
Why Must I jacks a George Clinton hook via Snoop’s What’s My Name and fails miserbly at doing anything good with it, mostly because this sort of thing has been done by every rapper ever since Jesus and his posse recorded the New Testament, and also because the first shitty beat since Sun Don’t Shine nearly derailed this entire listening experience.
International Hustler pairs Freeway with M.O.P.-producer DR Period for a rowdy excercise in gangsta non sequitors. It’s clear why after Beans Freeway would be the most succesful guy out of the crew.
Hood I Know, which has everyone in the crew except Neef on it, is a clunker again because of it’s car-commercial beat that is too glossy to be underground and too incomplete to succesfully be pop.
Got Nowhere… is Kanye’s only production contribution and it’s not bad a beat for Sigel and Freeway to duet over, although one would expect more from the billionaire, playboy, philantropist, artiste extraordinaire we know today. But then again back then he was only a ‘humble’ producer.
Trouble Man takes on a remorseful vibe and has Sparks, Sigel and Oschino wonder why they’ve so unfortunate in life early on. Yeah… Me neither, but it does sound good. And hey substance isn’t what this album is for.
The final track Don’t Realise pairs the albums biggest star Beanie Sigel with R&B singer Rell, a guy who to my knowledge had been signed to the Roc from the beginning but never was allowed near the studio when Jay was recording. It’s a nice upbeat way to end the evening.

Best tracks
Roc the Mic
It’s Not Right
No Glory
Bitch Niggas
International Hustler
Got Nowhere…
Don’t Realise

State Property is actually as good as Beanie Sigel’s then-latest album The Reason, which was good news for not only him, his fans, and these guys but also Jay-Z who went on to make a pretty penny off having these guys to his label. (And even though the movie allegedly sucked balls Beans got to create a State Property 2 as well, and got sent to prison so soon after that it can hardly be called a coincidence) But we’ll get to that when we will. For now to lovers of uncompromising but professionally made gangsta rap I recommend a purchase of this album.


Fugees – Blunted on Reality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Not actually included on the album.

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


Chef Raekwon Guest starring Tony Starks (Ghostface Killah) – Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…

Chef Raekwon Guest Starring Tony Starks (Ghostface Killah)
Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…
August 1, 1995
Loud Records/ RCA Records/ BMG Music Group/ SME
090/100
Only Built Cover
1. Striving For Protection (feat. Ghostface Killah) // 2. Knuckleheadz (feat. Ghostface Killah & U-God) // 3. Knowledge God // 4. Criminology (feat. Ghostface Killah) // 5. Incarcerated Scarfaces // 6. Rainy Dayz (feat. Ghostface Killah & Blue Raspberry) // 7. Guillotine (Swordz) (feat. Inspectah Deck, Ghostface Killah & GZA) // 8. Can It All Be So Simple [Remix] (feat. Ghostface Killah) // 9. Shark Niggas (Biters) (feat. Ghostface Kilah) // 10. Ice Water (feat. Ghostface Killah & Cappadonna) // 11. Glaciers of Ice (feat. Masta Killah, Ghostface Killah, Blue Raspberry & 60 Seconds Assasin) // 12. Verbal Intercourse (feat. NaS & Ghostface Killah) // 13. Wisdom Body (performed by Ghostface Killah) // 14. Spot Rusherz (feat. Ghostface Killah) // 15. Ice Cream (feat. Ghostface Killah, Cappadonna & Method Man) // 16. Wu Gambinos (feat. Method Man, RZA, Masta Killah & Ghostface Killah) // 17. Heaven & Hell (feat. Ghostface Killah & Blue Raspberry) // 18. North Star (Jewels) (feat. Popa Wu)

That album cover leads one to believe two things.

1.) Ghostface Killah wasn’t originally intended to be featured as often on what originally was, and eventually sort of still is, supposed to be a Raekwon solo-album.

2.) They only made the decision to change the billing to “Raekwon Guest Starring Tony Starks (Ghostface Killah)” last minute after taking a glance at the overall package and discovering that this in fact was not a Rae solo-album, by default, when it was too late already to change it to something more truthful like Ghostface Killah featuring Raekwon Rae & Ghost, because it wasn’t as easy to digitally process images in 1995 as it is today. And since they were at it anyway they added the word “Chef” for the hell of making things longer and wordier.

Now I realise that one could say the same thing about Dr. Dre’s “solo” debut the Chronic, and its copious employment of “guest rapper” Snoop Doggy Dogg, but Dre produced that album wall-to-wall making him at the very least the undeniable ringleader of that crowded party, which sort of justifies calling it a Dr. Dre solo album. RZA fulfills that role here, which means Rae is is definitely only a part of the OB4CL equation.

At least it would seem that they made an honest but half-assed attempt at rectifying that shit, so they do earn some honest but half-assed praise for that. Someone should really get on that…

On with the review: Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… sold less copies than either Tical or Return to the 36 Chambers did, which makes sense since it’s not as fit for fraternity parties as those two albums are, but it recieved more praise by critics, a tradition that we of this blog are happy to continue. This discrepancy between how consumers rated it and how critics rated it makes it somewhat similar to NaS’ Illmatic (although unlike Illmatic OB4CL did go gold the year it was released). Besides the critics liking this album Rae and Ghost’s fellow hip-hop recording artists took notice. Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt and NaS’ It Was Written, as well as the Notorious B.I.G.’s Life After Death all showing its influences. Gangsta rap before OB4CL was a bunch of gun-toting rebels without a cause, after this album dropped for a while it became all about cinematically depicting organised crime in rhymes. 40 oz. bottles of malt licquor were traded in for bottles of Christal, Moët and Dom Perignon. And Dickies pants and Jerseys were traded in for tailored suits. (This must‘ve pissed off Rae immensely since he riffs a bit about rappers jacking other rappers style on Shark Niggas (Biters), a mid-album skit, which is kind of ironic since that whole mafia-rap thing was originally Kool G Rap’s idea.) This mobster movie thing is another explanation of why Ghost is credited as a guest star, although by that logic RZA should be somewhere on that same cover as the “director”.
One thing that sets apart this album from a lot of its derivatives is the fact that it actually has a story line that runs across all of the songs. As RZA put it in a XXL Magazine interview on the making of this album: “The theme of the album is two guys that had enough of the negative life and was ready to move on, but had one more sting to pull off. They’re tired of doing what they doing, but they’re trying to make this last quarter million. That’s a lot of money in the streets. We gonna retire and see our grandbabies and get our lives together.”
One thing that sets apart this album from a lot of other hip-hop concept albums is that everyone involved appears to take it seriously enough to put in some effort and that it doesn’t suck balls because of it or seem far-fetched.

As good as Tical and Return to the 36 Chambers were, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… was the first Wu-solo album to actually live up to the original 36 Chambers‘ hype. It may very well be the only Wu-solo album, and one of the few hip-hop albums in existence to actually be equally good, even if it is essentially a completely different creature.
Rae and Ghost’s emotion-filled first person narratives of lucrative narcotics trade and Afro-American drug kingpins living large of these dope deals, rising and falling, do have a cinematic quality to them that could be compared to the similarly themed Godfather Trilogy. RZA’s instrumentals can be compared musically with a mob movie score and definitely serve the same purpose of setting the mood for these stories being told, whether reflective, anxious, raucous, menacing or otherwise. If Return to the 36 Chambers didn’t convince one that RZA was well capable of adjusting his signature sound to his collaborators (I’m guilty as charged) this album doesn’t leave a shadow of a doubt. It’s not as dusty or as 36 Chambers or Tical, it’s not as batshit insane or chaotic as Return or 36 Chambers (although I still choose to believe that the craziness was mostly contained in Ol’ Dirty) and the sounds are a bit richer, with string sections and more melody than we were accustomed to hearing from him, while maintaining RZA’s typical less is more-attitude to music making.

Another thing that helps cement Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… classic status is the chemistry between Rae and his co-star Ghostface Killah. They both have a similar dense rhyme style, but Rae has a low to mid range voice and a cool mastermind delivery while Ghost has the higher voice and the exuberance. The two mesh well enough to sound like natural partners in crime rhyming together, yet they sound distinct enough to each be instantly indentifyable. In other words: They’re a perfect combination, not unimportant considering that OB4CL is a de facto 75 minute duet between the two.

It is rather difficult to choose any highlights when everything is this good and flows this seamlessly (As is usual with the Wu a lot of the songs here are tied together with dialogue from kung-fu movies like Shaolin Vs Lama, crime movies such as Scarface, The MackCarlito’s Way, and John Woo’s The Killer, which is both.)
KnuckleheadzKnowledge GodCriminology are classic crime tales, Rainy Dayz and Heaven and Hell offers a glimpse into the minds of young poor people in the big city, the difficulties of making it in life and what makes them resort to crime. (Unlike a lot of the albums that follow it in its creative direction this one can never be said to glorify crime or ghetto life.)
Verbal Intercourse has Nasir Jones, still hot of Illmatic, recieving the honourable distinction of being the first non-Wu rapper to appear on a Wu-project and not wasting the opportunity.
Ice Cream is the one song that isn’t reall about the cocain bricks and the money stacks and is an ode Rae, Ghost, Meth and Cappadonna’s type of ladies, comparing different races to ice cream flavours, and does so without compromising the Wu-sound.
Wu Gambinos is the song that lead every rapper and his weedcarriers to create an alternative rap name for their alter ego (Nas – Escobar, 2pac – Makaveli, Eminem – Slim Shady, Notorious B.I.G. – Frank White etc.) with Method Man, RZA, Masta Killah and Ghostface Killah each taking a mob-related alias for themselves.
These songs are all notable, but they’re not much better than the rest of what’s contained in this album, which is quite impressive for an album over seventy minutes long.

Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… is one of the genre’s undeniable high points, it has vision, it has Rae and Ghost rhyming their asses off, it has RZA producing some of the best, if not the best, beats of his career. It’s a landmark album for Rae, Ghost, RZA, the Wu, the East-Coast, the Hip-hop community and, dare I say it, music in general. It stands out as essential amongs the required listening even.

Best tracks
Knuckleheadz
Knowedge God
Criminology
Rainy Dayz
Verbal Intercourse
Incarcerates Scarfaces
Ice Cream
Wu Gambinos
Heaven and Hell

Recommendations
What do you think!?


King Just – Mystics of the God, The Sex, Money, Cess, and the Blas’e Blah

King Just
Mystics of the God, The Sex, Money, Cess, and the Blas’e Blah
May 26, 1995
Select Records/ Blackfist
065/100
King Just - Mystics Of The God 1995
1. Mystics of the God // 2. Shaolin Soldiers // 3. Skit // 4. Warrior’s Drum [Westside Remix] // 5. Leave Now (feat. Shaolin Soldiers) // 6. No Flows On the Rodeo // 7. Round ‘Em Up // 8. Skit // 9. Can I Get Some? // 10. Skit // 12. Move on ‘Em Stomp [Remix] (feat. Shaolin Soldiers) // 13. Escape From the Zoo // 14. Skit // 15. Warrior’s Drum // 16. Boom Bow! // 17. Hassan Chop

The list of Wu-Tang affiliates is nearly inexhaustible, but I will cover the entire boatload of albums or die trying.

King Just is a rapper from Staten Island who is said to be of native American descent. He was at some point in is career a member of the collective the Hillside Scramblers, which was affiliated with U-God, the Wu-Tang Clan’s least popular individual member who always gets hated on by hip-hop critics and hardcore Wu-fans (though since U-God dropped his third solo-album Dopium all the hate has mysteriously turnt to praise, which must mean that he has sold his soul to the devil or some shit.)
Before that group became a thing however King Just was a guy an undefined affiliation with the Clan with a debut he unsuccessfully tried to sell to the general public making his career very similar to a similarly named artist who goes by the name Timbo King.

For his debut album he got RNS (the fabled mentor of the RZA and the main producer of Shyheim’s eponymous debut album) and Easy Mo Bee (known for producing such legends as Big Daddy Kane and the Notorious B.I.G., as well as the pre-clan debut album by Wu-member GZA), as well as West Coast producer and Alkaholiks member E-Swift to provide the beats, which is a pretty good team to run with. He signed with Select Records, an independent label that’s not so independent inking a deal with it means committing career suicide, and Mystics of the God is the result. Like Shyheim and United We SlamMystics of the God contains no vocals by any actual Wu-members, which is mystifying since even if the big boys were busy recording their debuts at least U-God must’ve been available or some shit.
In the place of Wu-guest verses there are Wu-esquely named group Shaolin soldiers, a group of which King Just himself may or may not have been a member, who pop up on two tracks.

Mystics of da God, despite its obvious lack of involvement of the franchise it’s ambiguously trying to convince you it’s a part of, is an alright substitute for the real thing. That not to say it’s as good as anything by those who are an actual part of the Clan; this King Just person is a competent gangsta rapper, with a nice urgent, agressive flow, slightly reminiscent of what ODB might sound like if he put down the crack pipe and started taking his medication, who knows how not to embarrass himself on the mic.
But he too is unimaginative to really stand out in a crowd of his peers, let alone be in the same league as rap’s equivalent of the Beatles. There’s no outstandingly quotable rhymes on the entire album.

Still, fans of mid-’90s East-coast hip-hop who haven’t heard this yet should definitely give it a spin once. If the guy isn’t much better than generic then he’s certainly no worse. And some of these beats, especially the Easy Mo Bee contributions No Flow on the Rodeo and Can I Get Some really knock, and it’s easy to imagine Ready to Die-era Notorious B.I.G. or Me Against the World-era 2pac (It’s really the same era…) rhyme over them, mostly because Easy contributed beats to those two classic albums as well.

RNS, E-Swift, and even more anonymous producers such as Marcus Peake, Victor Flowers and MZA (Huh? MZA!? The fuck!? What kind of producer name is that!? Word to upcoming hip-hop producers, do not under any circumstances make your artist name a consonant with “ZA” added, this will irrevokably have blog hipsters such as myself draw unfavourable comparisons.) also come correct with their contributions, such as Shaolin Soldiers, which confusingly doesn’t feature the Shaolin soldiers, but does have a Kung-fu sample and a RZA-aping beat.

The best thing on here is probably Warrior’s Drum, which has an RNS beat that switches up occasionally and should get any fan of the second golden age of hip-hop nod to nod his/her head and pimps Just’s alleged native American heritage in a not-too-offensive manner.
Conversely the weakest shit on here is the Westside Remix of the song that inexplicably apperas earlier in the album’s tracklist than the original version does, and tries to fit the song in the G-funk format that was popular on the other side of the USA, and does so in the most boring manner imaginable.

Everything else rests comfortably on 1995’s industry average.

Best tracks
No Flow On The Rodeo
Can I Get Some
Warrior’s Drum
Round Em Up

Recommendations
It’s hard to either outright dismiss or rabidly recommend Mystics of the God to anyone. I’m sure since 1995 Select Record has gone bankrupt three times over and Mystics of the God has been out of print for most of the time following its release and that there’s some people on the internet asking copious amounts of cash for a used copy (This is a recurring thing with many things Wu-related). It’s not worth a small fortune so either you should buy the above songs of iTunes or Spotify or pick up a used copy if you can find it for under $5.- on Amazon.com or a used cd store.


Ol’ Dirty Bastard – Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version

Ol’ Dirty Bastard
Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version
March 28, 1995
Elektra RecordsWMG
080/100
ODB - Return to the 36 Chambers the Dirty Version

1. Intro // 2. Shimmy Shimmy Ya // 3. Baby, C’mon // 4. Brooklyn Zoo // 5. Hippa to the Hoppa // 6. Raw Hide (feat. Raekwon & Method Man) // 7. Damage (feat. GZA) // 8. U Don’t Know (feat. Killah Priest) // 9. The Stomp // 10. Goin’ Down // 11. Drunk Game (Sweet Sugar Pie) // 12. Snakes (feat. Killah Priest) // 13. Brooklyn Zoo II (Tiger Crane) (feat. Ghostface Killah) // 14. Protect Ya Neck II The Zoo (feat. Brooklyn Zu, Prodigal Sunn, Killah Priest & 60 Seconds Assassin) // 15. Cuttin’ Headz (feat. RZA)

bonus tracks
16. Dirty Dancin’ (feat. Method Man) // 17. Harlem world

The album that marks Ol’ Dirty’s alleged return to the 36 Chambers marks the post that marks my return to the blog. Hi, I hope you all have been doing well in my absence, though I am sure you’ve managed to get by without me.

One thing is for sure: If any rapper in the clan had the charisma of nine men rolled up in one, evoking memories of the Wu’s collaborative debut’s messy charm by him self it was Old Dirty Bastard, the man born as Russell Jones. ODB’s debut was the second solo album by a Wu member following the clan’s own debut, and because every member could choose what label to sign their individual solo-deals with, mr. Jones didn’t end up on Loud which the Clan was signed to, or with Meth on Def Jam but inked a deal for himself with Elektra, home of the likes of Busta Rhymes.

Every well balanced hip-hop crew has tends to a member that stands out because of his kinetic energy and wild mic presence rather than his tight rhymes or flows.
N.W.A’s least lyrical member (not in the last place because he didn’t write his own lyrics) Eazy-E got by rapping, and ended up having the most pop appeal to boot, because of his charismatic, high pitched wine of a voice. Public Enemy’s Flava Flav didn’t even do much rapping beyond the occasional throwaway verse, he simply talked some shit alongside Chuck D, but talked shit so well helped make shit undoubtably sound fresher than it would’ve sounded without him.
The Wu-Tang’s very own ODB follows that tradition, and goes into overdrive with it with his rhymes that where nonsensical, grotesque, incoherent or two or more of these things and may not do much for anyone when written down, beyond raising the occasional eyebrow (Burn me, I get into shit, I let it out like diarrhea. Got burnt once, but that was only gonorrhea – Ol’ Dirty Bastard on the Wu-Tang’s Shame on a Nigga), but when delivered in Ol’ Dirty’s unique rhyme style, which appeared to be inspired by a psychosis of sorts (a style to which according to Method Man there wasn’t a father), they could be intriguing. And his contributions to the Wu’s posse album certainly are a part of why that album was so good. The Clan will never be the same with the Bastard gone. He is missed, even if he wasn’t just the worst rapper in the Clan from a technical point of view, but technically one of the worst rappers of all time bar none (he was).

Could be intriguing. Like the likes of Eazy or Flav (and every rapper on the planet if we’re being entirely truthful) the Bastard relied a lot on his collaborators and most on his producer (and cousin) RZA. After all madness becomes unpleasant to listen to without some sort of method and RZA’s dusty basement beats help give The Return to the 36 Chambers: the Dirty Version some much needed structure and cohesion, and although shitty beats have never done any musician, rap or otherwise, any favours ODB in particular is known to have sucked spectacularly when paired with the wrong beat (*caughGhetto Superstar *caugh*) Also, though a supporter of the man I am, the guest rappers do help make this album a lot easier to digest than it would be without them. If this were sixty six minutes of pure uncut ODB then I doubt even the most ardent Wu/ODB fan would ever play this in its entirety. Although he’s hardly unique in that perspective, and this is essentially why guest appearances have been invented. Anyway; his Wu-brethren Rae, Meth, RZA, GZA, Ghost and their interns Brooklyn Zu, Killah Priest, Bhudda Monk, Prodigal Sunn and 60 Second Assassin help break this album up in digestible pieces, but they don’t overpower the main attraction, although you’d probably need a team of Busta Rhymes, DMX, MOP and Mystikal to marginalise Ol’ Dirty on a track, but I digress. The guest appearances are just right in numbers and well placed.

RZA, who produces all but three tracks on here, he does his mid-’90s RZA thing: dusty drums and basslines and lo-fi piano keys that form a distinctive sound but always leave room for a rapper to showcase himself. It has been said that this album has sloppier beats than for instance Tical has, I couldn’t tell you whether that’s Prince Rakeem adjusting to his collaborator or the beats sounding different only because they happen to be in ODB’s gravity field. Oddly enough the best beat, the one on Brooklyn Zoo isn’t his, it’s done by one of his lieutenants, True Master and the Bastard himself. (An even wierder realisation is that Jermaine Dupri pretty much jacked it verbatim for that Alicia Keys song Girlfriend he produced, and how unawkward either song sounds in spite of each others existence.)

As for ODB himself, he is most definitely one of the most weirdly charming characters the hip-hop world has ever known. His vocals couldn’t be accurately described as either rapping or singing. It’s some weird hybrid, and not like Ja Rule or Eminem trying to save money on hook-singers. It’s almost as though the Bastard can’t stay in his limited range, like a drunk person pulled over, walking the line but failing, yet somehow that is supposed to be somewhat positive. This man was oddly funky. And listening to the Return it’s difficult to explain why he was one of the Clan’s most successful, but it makes sense. I’m sure no-one, including ODB understood it but everybody got it.

Highlights include the catchy-as-fuck, but inexplicable smash hits Brooklyn Zoo and Shimmy Shimmy YaDrunk Game on the first half of which he sounds the calmest he does anywhere on the album (until he starts faking an orgasm, go figure), the sinister Rae-ODB-Meth triple threat Raw Hide, the RZA/ODB duet Cuttin’ Headz, which has the balls to reverse the Clan in da Front-beat for its instrumental and still comes off as dope and the minimalistic but funky Meth-duet Dirty Dancin’ (featured as a bonus track). Though the Bastard tends to sound better when dueting other Wu-members, he has an especially good chemistry with Meth. Meth’s smooth sandpapered voice and Dirt McGirt’s insanity mesh really, really well.

There’s the cliché of somethings being perfectly inperfect, or rather suck so much they’re kinda good. This sort of applies to The Dirty Version, an album by a rapper who prides himself in not only sounding but also living old and dirty, but that doesn’t really cut it. In stead of being so bad it’s kinda good, it’s so fucking horrible it’s perfect, and it’s good quality isn’t well explained by the negative times negative equals positive because the man was literally incalculable and too incomparable to equate to anything. And I’ll be the first to admit that the grade really is a shot in the dark. You could give this a 30 and you could explain yourself very well arguing that this isn’t very good musically, but you’d probably feel that there’s something not right about your judgement. You could give this the full 100 from the bottom of your heart, but not have a leg to stand on. Love him or hate him, he was the rockstar from mars with the substance abuse problems, the illegitimate offspring, the legal troubles and the charm that Charlie Sheen wished he was. When his music is on ODB has your attention to the degree that it’s hard to look away, and more often than not that sort of confusion of being mesmerised by a mixture of raw reality and alientaing surreality that drops you right in the middle of the uncanny valley could be a sign of your senses being stimulated by high art. Unlike most people said to make high art however ODB would ironically enough seem the kind of person to be blissfully oblivious to such a pretentious qualification because all he wants is pussy and drugs. ODB was pure, honest, raw and out of his mind, and there doesn’t exist a better example of the inimitable artist or the weird and wonderful human being he was than this album. May he rest in peace.

Best tracks
Shimmy Shimmy Ya
Brooklyn Zoo
Snakes
Raw Hide
Cuttin’ Headz
Dirty Dancin’

Recommendations
You should probably give this a spin on grooveshark or spotify before making up your mind buying this or not. ODB is not for everyone, and it’s quite alright not to enjoy him. If you do however cop the album, please do not play it in front of your little hipster friends. This shit is so intrinsically weird they will on impact irrevokably feel the need to try to understand and worse yet interpret this, which will lead to some undoubtably ghastly, daft psychoanalytic ideas, where there in reality is nothing but flesh and bone, so proceed with caution.


Sparks 950 & Timbo King – United We Slam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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