Tag Archives: Priority Records

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.

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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.


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.