Tag Archives: New Jack Swing

Christopher Williams – Adventures In Paradise

Christopher Williams
Adventures in Paradise
July 25, 1989
Geffen RecordsUMG
060/100
Christopher Williams - Adventures In Paradise
1. Talk to Myself // 2. Sexy Sex // 3. Never Let Our Love Die // 4. (Lift You Up) Turn You Around // 5. Paradise // 6. Promises, Promises // 7. One Girl // 8. If That’s What You Want // 9. I’m Your Present // 10. Always & Forever // 11. Lover Come Back // 12. Sweet Memories

The onslaught of high-quality, moderate length R&B albums coming from Uptown records couldn’t last forever. And while Christopher Williams’ debut album Adventures In Paradise isn’t an outright failiure, and at times showcases some fairly pleasant R&B music it doesn’t have the same amout of highlights that for instance In Effect Mode and Guy had, and it runs fifteen to twently minutes longer than either of those classics, which kind of means it runs fifteen minutes too long. Besides that Williams doesn’t have Al B. Sure!’s lithe and Guy’s… well Guy’s Teddy Riley throwing him beats. (On the other hand Timmy Gatling produces three songs on here. Guess it is nice to know het got at least one more Uptown/MCA paycheque after quitting Guy right before the group dropped a platinum album and started making money.) So while this album may not exactly be where it all turnt to shit it certainly is on of the less essential recordings from the ‘New Jack Swing’ era.

Williams sounds like a more relaxedly singing Johnny Gill, which is to say he’s a fine soul singer. It is also to say he is a little bland since, hate it or love it, Gill’s strenuously ferocious vocal stylings are what set him apart from the pack more than anything else.
But Williams certainly sounds like he could be a compelling singer given the right collaborators. Teddy Riley, Babyface & L.A. Reid and Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis come to mind.
Timmy Gatling, Nick Martinelli, Nick Matkosky, Robert Brookins, Nevelle, Joel Davis, DJ Eddie F and some guy who goes by the moniker of Wokie are what he works with here in stead. Although Andre Harrell did sign off on Gerald Levert providing a couple of songs before he left for a holiday trip to the Bahamas for the duration of this album’s recording (his name is nowhere to be found in the liner notes.) [EDIT: Which is because Adventures In Paradise  apparently was not released on Uptown Records. Apparently Williams only signed over to the label after releasing his debut to release his sophomore album Changes there. Oh well.]
To be fair this group of relative no-names and Levert churn out some perfectly adequate, impeccably produced late ’80s urban soul. There are a couple of dance numbers but Williams is mostly in quiet storm mode steering clear of hip-hop territory most of the time, which given the horrendous raps of the Guy-aping, Gatling-produced opening track Talk to Myself, which manage to rhyme ‘departed’ with ‘retarded’ may be a huge blessing. Still, for the most part the album fails to grab the listeners attention. This may make it perfect background noise for shopping malls and the like but it also makes it seriously unfit for keeping in a music collection.

Although Adventures In Paradise may not be very exciting there surely is a market for it. I can imagine your Freddie Jackson loving, fifty year old aunt just melting away listening to this album. If her birthday is coming up you might as well throw a couple of nickels over the counter at the used CD shop may you come across this there (I can’t image too many copies lying around in other places).
But for all other intents and purposes this album is probably rather useless. These days you probably couldn’t even get laid to songs like Sexy Sex anymore (Unless you’re into hotel elevator hookups). There’s nothing remotely memorable about Adventures In Paradise. I should know, I just listened to the thing and besides that sucky amateur rap at the beginning I can’t remember a specific thing about it.

Best tracks
Talk to Myself is quite good, even if the rap bits are cringeworthy. It really makes one wonder how big Timmy Gatling’s roll was in producing Guy. It must’ve been bigger than everyone thought because Talk to Myself sounds exactly like a Guy song. Either Timmy was as important to Guy as Teddy was or he decided to take one of Teddy’s spare beats with him to sell before storming out of the band’s back door never to return and that beat became Talk to MyselfThat theory was more interesting than the entirety of this album unfortunately.

Recommendations
Don’t buy this album. Or do buy it. Whatever, I don’t care. It’s your elevator.

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Bobby Brown – Don’t Be Cruel

Bobby Brown
Don’t Be Cruel
June 20, 1988
MCA RecordsUMG
080/100Bobby Brown - Don't Be Cruel

1. Cruel Prelude // 2. Don’t Be Cruel // 3. My Prerogative // 4. Roni // 5. Rock Wit’cha // 6. Every Little Step // 7. I’ll Be Good to You // 8. Take It Slow // 9. All Day All Night //10. I Really Love You Girl // 11. Cruel Reprise

Bobby Brown was once more than an ex-New Edition member and Whitney Houston’s ex-hubby (a faulty marriage well documented because Brown and Houston are ex-reality tv. stars as well as recording artists).
He was at one point R&B’s brightest young star as well as the archetypical boy band bad boy, that point was following the release of his sophomore album Don’t Be Cruel. When Robbie Williams gave Take That and Nigel Martin-Smith the finger to find bigger success solo than the group had ever had collectively he was basically following Bob’s career trajectory. When Donnie Wahlberg tried to set fire to a hotel with a Molotov cocktail… well I don’t think Bobby ever did something that fucked up, but the man has had plenty of lewd and laviscous content, driving under influence, police chase, resisting arrest and drug posession arrests on his name as well as the public image of a crackhead wifebeater. To each former teen heartthrob his own way of shedding the bubblegum pop image. Word to Justin Bieber.

Don’t Be Cruel was released at the height of the New Jack Swing era which supposedly blends old-fashioned R&B soul with old school hip-hop although acts like Guy, Al B. Sure! and Keith Sweat are simply soul singers with more electronic production than was usual in the ’80s backing them in my book with little to no hip-hop influences being noticeable, but that is just my opinion so you can ignore that if you want to.
Brown however did blur the line between soul and hip-hop rapping as much as he sings on the title track and doing an LL Cool J-esque rap on the ballad Roni and busting out a verse at the end of the video edit of Every Little Step adding hip-hop swagger to his rhythm and blues.

The producers involved L.A. Reid, Babyface and Teddy Riley had all had moderate success in the music business before Cruel (Teddy working on all those Uptown records and L.A. and Face as in-house producers for Dick Griffey’s SOLAR records.) but were to completely own mainstream contemporary R&B in the decade that was to follow this album’s release. It’s not difficult to see why, their work on this album is excellent. One could say that they kickstarted the ’90s with this and it wouldn’t be much of an overstatement.

If the first five songs following the intro aren’t the best five-song-run on an R&B album ever they’re up there with the best of them. From the title track’s slinky, sinister funk through My Prerogative‘s brassy middle-fingerfest. Roni‘s B-boy romanticism, Rock Wit’cha‘s more mature sexy business and Every Little Step‘s puppy love and pop ‘n’ lock groove. This is some terrific music making, with Bob’s charismatically gruff Rick James/James Brown-ish tenor locking tightly into the groove of the somersaulting drum machine clatter. He isn’t the best technical singer out there, having a rather limited vocal range, but he knows well how to stay in it while at the same time making full use of everything he’s got and is a born entertainer. What’s more is that his sense of rhythm is excellent and he appears to really enjoy singing these catchy songs with a natural charisma that allows him to come across as both badass and as a fun individual, a loveable rascal. It is one rather engaging, catchy affair. These songs were all in the top three of the US R&B charts, in the top ten of the US pop charts with three of them hitting #1 in the former and one, namely My Prerogative, hitting #1 on the latter and copping a Grammy. And well deserved.

If this album consisted of only these five songs Don’t Be Cruel would be a perfect ten. Following them however are four well meaning but forgettable cuts. I’ll Be Good to You is standard fare late-’80s Teddy Riley-funk. It’s not bad but it absolutely pales in comparison to his other contribution My Prerogative, the album’s biggest pop-hit and a Grammy winner. (A little bit of trivia: Boy George’s 1989 Teddy Riley-produced, hit-single Don’t Take My Mind On a Trip was originally slated to appear on Don’t Be Cruel. It’s easy to imagine Bobby perform it. I would love to hear Bob’s version if any of you readers has it on a hard drive somewhere.) And closing the album are three rather forgettable slow jams Bob himself co-produced with Cameo-frontman and King of Stage-producer Larry White that require more technical singing than Bob has to offer to bring them to life.

In short Don’t Be Cruel has a fan-fucking-tastic opening run but slightly falls apart at the end. But overall it still is a really good but somewhat forgotten album that packs more hits and more punch than you can shake a stick at and proving just why he was a thing once. It is the best New Edition album, solo or otherwise. For that it derserves to be aknowledged and revisited.

Best tracks
Don’t Be Cruel
My Prerogative
Roni
Rock Wit’cha
Every Little Step

Recommendations
Pick this up.


Guy – Guy

Guy
Guy
June 13, 1988
Uptown Records/ MCA RecordsUMG
080/100
Guy - Guy1. Groove Me // 2. Teddy’s Jam // 3. Don’t Clap… Just Dance // 4. You Can Call Me Crazy (feat. Timmy Gatling & Al B. Sure!) // 5. Piece of My Love // 6. I Like // 7. ’round and ’round (Merry Go ’round of Love) // 8. Spend the Night // 9. Goodbye Love // 10. My Business (feat. Timmy Gatling)

Teddy’s late ’80s drum machine-‘n’-synth beats aren’t the most sophisticated instrumentals ever made and Aaron’s third rate Stevie-isms are far from original way of singing R&B music, but put them together and the resulting album is an album far funkier than it has any right to be. Guy is one of those things greater than the sum of its parts.

Guy was the brainchild of producer Teddy Riley and his childhood friend Timmy Gatling. They recruited singer Aaron Hall to join them and Guy started recording their epinomous debut album for Andre Harrell’s Uptown Records under the guidance of manager Gene Griffin who is also credited as co-producer of every track of this album. Apparently Hall and Riley didn’t get along in person despite their on-wax chemistry because right before Guy was released Gatling was so sick of their animosity he got the hell out of dodge.
It is for this reason he sings lead vocals on two of the album’s tracks and gets eight songwriting credits even though when the album dropped he was no longer officially considered a part of the group and is nowhere to be found on the album’s cover. (The guy who was called in as Gatling’s last-minute replacement for a tour Guy did with New Edition was Aaron’s brother Damion who is on the cover but did zilch in creating the music.)

Changing line-ups would be recurring thing in Teddy Riley’s performing career, especially in his second group BLACKstreet.

One thing that sets apart Guy from the other completely Riley-produced LP we had so far, Keith Sweat’s Make It Last Forever, is that the majority of the songs are uptempo where Sweat was mostly about slow jams.
Another thing that sets apart Keith Sweat and Aaron Hall is that Aaron has a far more fiery, gospel-infused vocal style.
Who says that New Jack Swing artists were passed through cookie cutter and were indistinct of one another? (Many music critics do.)

Guy marries soul vocal stylings with hip-hop production stylings the way no complete album had done before it. It also follows some hip-hop conventions of the time. For instance it has a DJ cut in the form of Teddy’s Jam.

Teddy  really did his thing with these lo fi synths and drum machines creating a slightly overcrowded, machanical variety of the funk. Hall, Gatling and Riley himself when he sings lead on Spend the Night are the humanising components. Back in 1988 this must’ve sounded pretty futuristic but today the vibe is mostly quaintly old school (or vintage as some would call it..).

Groove Me and ’round and ’round (Merry Go Round of Love) are the best things on here. They’re ballsy party jams that a lot of club DJs would do well to revisit.
Teddy’s Jam also fits that bill although because of it’s relative lack of vocals one might run the risk of partygoers believing they put on some backing music from a primitive video game.
Piece of My Love and Spend the Night aren’t the best New Jack Swing ballads by any stretch of the imagination, but they’re not bad and their inclusion helps prevent the monotony of nothing but pistoning dance beats that otherwise would’ve occured.

Overall Guy is a pretty good flagship release for the New Jack Swing genre, being pretty representative of its dance music side, with a few ballads thrown in for good measure.
The production, despite of (or because of) being rather dated, is pretty cool and Aaron Hall is a charismatic frontman who performs these songs with enough gusto to make up for his minor lackings as a singer. It’s too bad that short, high-quality R&B releases such as this, Make It Last Forever and In Effect Mode (among others) would soon be a thing of the past after the ascent of the CD and the possibility it created for artists to make their album’s twice as long as they could be in the vinyl/ cassette era (Guy’s 1990 sophomore album The Future is 72:02 minutes long compared to this one’s 44:42 which means as much as that a shitload of watered down, unfocused filler made the cut) but that makes one only appreciate releases like this that much more. Good stuff.

Best tracks
Groove Me
Teddy’s Jam
’round and ’round (Merry Go ’round of Love)
Piece of My Love

Recommendations
Buy this album.


Keith Sweat – Make It Last Forever

Keith Sweat
Make It Last Forever
November 24, 1987
Vintertainment/ Elektra RecordsWMG
080/100
Keith Sweat - Make It Last Forever
1. Something Just Ain’t Right // 2. Right and a Wrong Way // 3. Tell Me It’s Me You Want // 4. I Want Her // 5. Make It Last Forever (feat. Jacci McGhee) // 6. In the Rain // 7. How Deep Is Your Love // 8. Don’t Stop Your Love (feat. Jacci McGhee)

Keith Sweat’s Make It Last Forever is often seen as the startingj point of New Jack Swing, the musical genre that first succesfully blended soul-styled vocals with hip-hop styled beats, but that’s only because Teddy Riley is behind the boards. This album is in fact simply a quiet storm album on which nobody plays actual instrument beyond Teddy and the off keyboard. The only thing that ties this to the hip-hop of 1987 is the use of the same tinny drum machine clatter and the same sparkly keyboards one might find on a Heavy D album, only this time around they’re used to create something for the ladies, not the B-boys.

With that said, it is a really good quiet storm album. Keith’s yearning tenor is a terrific instrument and blends well with Riley’s beats which go back-and-forth between ballads (Right and a Wrong Way, Tell Me It’s Me That You Want, Make It Last ForeverIn the RainHow Deep Is Your Love) and midtempo funk numbers (Something Just Ain’t RightI Want HerDon’t Stop Your Love).

Make It Last Forever is instantly datable to 1987, but not in a corny or bad manner. The songwriting may be a little too earnest and lacking in the four letter word and house beats-departments for many a modern R&B aficianado but its old fashioned charm may just be what Chris Brown’s output is lacking for others.

The guest appearances are kept to a minimum (no rappers here) so these fourty minutes, divided into eight tracks are quite sufficient to get to know Keith and watch him drop a couple of classics in the mean time, most notably the title track and I Want Her.
Keeping the album brief has the advantage of making you want even more when the album is done spinning, and isn’t that what a guy called Keith Sweat should strive to achieve?

Best tracks
Make It Last Forever
Don’t Stop Your Love

Recommendations
Pick this one up.


R. Kelly & Public Announcement – Born Into the 90’s

R. Kelly & Public Announcement
Born Into the 90’s
January 14, 1992
Jive Records/ SME
055/100
R. Kelly & Public Announcement - Born into the 90's
1. She’s Loving Me // 2. She’s Got That Vibe // 3. Definition Of a Hotti // 4. I Know What You Need // 5. Keep It Street // 6. Born Into the 90’s // 7. Slow Dance (Hey Mr. DJ) // 8. Dedicated // 9. Honey Love // 10. Hangin’ Out // 11. Hey Love (Mr. Lee feat. R. Kelly)

These days in the post-I Believe I Can Fly, post-Ignition [Remix]-world R. Kelly, songer, songwriter, producer, millionaire, playboy, extraordinaire, really needs no introduction (although with some people for less positive reasons than with others, both related to his music and his private life) but in early 1992 when his completely self-produced debut album Born into the 90’s dropped he was just another new jack on the scene, the very last to succesfully ride the coattails of Teddy Riley’s new jack swing movement.

For those not around in the late ’80s/early ’90s, New Jack Swing was urban dance-pop that married traditional R&B/soul vocals with the minimal, melody-lacking, pistoning, pumping hip-hop and dance music beats of the era, and this phase in pop music was instrumental in making sure that every R&B album released since featured at least half a dozen hip-hop verses and every hip-hop album released since has at least half a dozen R&B hooks on the quest for crossover appeal, leading to both really good and really bad music being made.

Being that the urban music world was already moving away from NJS in ’92  there was also another sound to be heard on this album. Also a mixture of hip-hop and R&B, but far mellower, more melodic, pioneered by the group JoDeCi on their ’91 release Forever My Lady, closer to the R&B/ soul sound of the late ’70s/ early ’80s. This sound can be heard on the ballads, two of which tellingly hit #01 on the US R&B charts, which none of the up-tempo numbers did.

The album is credited to R. Kelly & Public Announcement, but if anyone but Robert Kelly can be heard so much as sneezing anywhere on this album I’ll be damned. The lead- and background-singing, the rapping, the random talking-interjections and the voiceover thing that occasionally replies to said talking bits all seem to be the R., making these three gentlemen (I counted the people on the album cover that weren’t mr. Kelly) the most useless “band members” since Andrew Ridgely “played guitar” in Wham!

Most of the songs on Born Into the 90’s sound extremely dated (I suppose that this album’s title should provide ample warning) but for what they are they don’t sound bad. R. Kelly certainly doesn’t do NJS any worse than the style’s originators (Keith Sweat and a trio called Guy). She’s Loving MeShe’s Got That Vibe and I Know What You Need are probably as good as this obsolete genre gets (bar a couple of classic Bobby Brown, New Edition, Keith Sweat and Guy singles) but that doesn’t mean that anyone who didn’t grew up during this era and doesn’t get nostalgic feelings from this type of music, needs to hear them.

The ballads Slow dance (Hey Mr. DJ)Dedicated and Honey Love fare a lot better, go a long way in introducing R. Kelly’s signature PB&J vocals and his signature syruppy slow jam instrumentals (all that’s missing this first time around is the raindrops embedded in the rhythm section) to the masses, and were the only big hits off this album. it should be noted that Kells doesn’t drop any of his now-patented wacky sexual metaphores anywhere here. There’s no sexosaurus, he doesn’t compare his member to a remote control and on Slow Dance (Hey Mr. DJ) he seems to literally be talking about slow dancing (how cute!) so either he hadn’t come op with his signature lyric writing yet, or he just didn’t dare hitting the music listening audiences with them just yet on his debut album.

The only songs that outright suck are the ones on which R. Kelly shows off his rap skills on the majority of the track, such as Definition of a Hotti and the title track.
In 1992 nobody had come up with putting melody in a rap flow and harmonising along like BTNH or Ja Rule so Kells raps in flat voice, and while he know how to construct a flow and stay on beat he does sound horribly generic whenever he does it (He doesn’t quite go into MC Hammer territory, but he comes dangerously close. It also doesn’t help matters that everybody and their grandmother has sampled Patrice Rushen’s Remind Me for a R&B/hip-hop song, and that the title-track has to compete with much better songs using the same instrumental.)

There are two surprises on here, both on the tail-end of the disc.
Hangin’ Out pairs a rather vanilla midtempo NJS beat with a saucy sax and rather than bumpin’ and mackin’ his way through it, or making overly dramatic declarations of everlasting love, he goes for a nostalgic block party vibe and does a pretty terrific job with it.
Hey Love, a cover of the Stevie Wonder song and a duet with Chigaco rapper/ hip-hop/ house DJ Mr. Lee, that doesn’t really sound good but does have Robert sound almost exactly like Stevie himself, which is an impressive feat for any vocalist.

All in all Born Into the 90’s is a promising debut that was probably hot when it came out but hasn’t aged well at all. While it is interesting to hear Robert succumbing to long forgotten musical trends and finding his voice, this stuff won’t be of interest all but hardcore R. Kelly fans or those people who are nostalgic for the New Jack Swing era.

Best tracks
She’s Loving Me
Slow Dance (Hey Mr. DJ)
Honey Love
Hangin’ Out

Recommendations
Buy the above four songs off iTunes, they are fairly entertaining. Leave the rest of this stuff alone, it’s not wack per se but it’s not that good either.


Jamie Foxx – Peep This

Jamie Foxx
Peep This
July 19, 1994

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

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

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

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

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

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

You try telling the two singles Experiment and Infatuation apart.

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

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

Peep This is merely alright.

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

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


the Genius – Words From the Genius, volume 1

the Genius
Words from the Genius, volume 1
Februari 19, 1991
Cold Chillin’ Records/ Reprise Records/ Warner Bros. Records/ WMG
060/100
the Genius - Words From the Genius

1. Come Do Me // 2. Phony As Ya Wanna Be // 3. True Fresh M.C. // 4. The Genius Is Slammin’ // 5. Words From a Genius // 6. Who’s Your Rhymin’ Hero // 7. Feel the Pain // 8. Those Were the Days // 9. Life of a Drug Dealer // 10. Stop the Nonsense // 11.  Living Foul // 12. Drama // 13. Stay Out of Bars // 14. What Silly Girls Are Made Of // 15.  Superfreak

The story of the Wu-Tang clan is a long one. One that, god willingly, will take this blog and any uneventful reader through a stack of 214 albums – and counting – released the group as a whole, its members, its affiliates and even through soundtracks of films the group’s leader, the RZA, scored.

The obvious starting point would be Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) since it is the album that actually started the movement. Fate however would have it that one of the ten core members of the clan; Gary “GZA/Genius” Grice actually had released an abum before the Clan existed. Words from the Genius is that album.

Released on the Juice Crew’s record label Cold Chillin’ Records in februari of 1991 and produced by Big Daddy Kane’s beatmaker Easy Mo Bee doesn’t show a trace of RZA, Meth, Rae, Ghost, Deck, U-God or ODB, which isn’t strange considering where and when this was released. What is strage is that there are no assists from Big Daddy Kane, Biz Markie, MC Shan or Marley Marl. Considering that he was signed to their label and was a complete unknown at the moment one would think that a guest verse by at least one of these legends would both be a major selling point and something that shouldn’t be too difficult to arrange.

But no, this is just Easy and GZA and the occasional no-name producer for the entirety of Words from the Genius with zero guest appearances, which in today’s rap music landscape is almost unthinkable.

Words From the Genius‘ instrumentals shouldn’t be compared to the dark cinematic instrumentals the RZA would serve up on Enter the Wu-Tang. Easy Mo Bee’s classic old school beats have little to do with Prince Rakeem, in stead one should put it toe-to-toe with albums by the aforementioned Kane and Biz Markie, classic, swinging and a bit simplistic but still comfortably above the old school average. Still this album released at the end of the period in which this style of rap was popular doesn’t add much to Cold Chillin’ Records’ list of achievements as Kane and Biz had done just about everything there was to do with this particular style of rap. Also since nobody purchased it it didn’t earn anybody a gold plaque.

As for GZA himself, sounds exactly how he would on subsequent releases, which is to say he’s in fine form, all that’s different this time around is the beats. Lyrical themes include GZA’s mic superiority over other rappers (Genius is Slammin’), nostalgia (Those Were the Days) and the dangers of pubs (Don’t Go Into bars).

As a whole Words is pleasant, jazzy oldschool affair that’s fine when it is on but evaporates immediately from the listener’s conscience when it stops spinning. It’s a pretty consistent release, the only song that outright sucks is the Wu-jack swing opener Come Do Me. The rest is just fine, but nothing special.

Best tracks
Those Were the Days
Drama
Genius Is Slammin’
Stay Out of Bars

Recommendations
If you’re a fan of the Cold Chillin’ records brand of rap music and you haven’t yet heard this you should definitely give this a spin. Fans of the Wu needn’t really bother.