Tag Archives: Rubbabandz

GP Wu – Don’t Go Against the Grain

GP Wu
Don’t Go Against the Grain
January 21, 1997
MCA RecordsUMG
060/100
GP Wu - Grain Rar
1. Smoking // 2. 1st Thing First // 3. Two Gats Up // 4. Blow Up // 5. Party People // 6. If You Only Knew // 7. Hit Me With That Shit // 8. Hip Hop // 9. Chamber Danger // 10. Underground Emperor // 11. Life Bid // 12. Don’t Go Against the Grain // 13. Things Ain’t What They Used to Be // 14. Black on Black Crime

GP Wu are considered by most rap aficianados who’ve heard of them affiliates of the Wu-Tang Clan, but other than having members Pop the Brown Hornet and Down Low Recka namechecked by Wu ringleader RZA on the intro of classic song Clan in da Front alongside a myriad of other then-no-name people they never got much out of it. Especially in the way of musical collaborations with people who were actually in the Clan. The closest any one of the guys got before the release of Don’t Go Against the Grain was Rubbabandz his appearance on the RZA produced Young Godz off Shyheim’s sophomore album The Lost Generation.
Child rapper Shyheim is the artist the people in GP Wu are most associated with being that they provided the most guest verses on his first two albums. Shy and GP member Pop the Brown Hornet are both cousins of Clan member Ghostface Killah and possibly each other so that helps explain that connection. Oddly enough neither Shy nor Ghost show up on this album, nor could RZA be bothered to throw a leftover beat their way.
Perhaps MCA Records spent the entire budget for Don’t Go Against the Grain, which can’t have been that much, on securing the Bomb Squad’s Hank Shocklee as the album’s executive producer, even though his presence isn’t actually felt one way or another.
You could therefore if you were uninformed listen to this album thinking these guys are some sort store brand imitations of the Wu Tang Clan with no connection with the actual group whatsoever, which is serious problem for a group that actually has Wu in its name. Wu fans are known to pick up anything remotely Wu-attached but they usually will check for a good guest appearance on the back-cover before deciding to purchase or not.
Speaking of the now defunct demographic of record store customers: What’s up with that artwork? It looks like Don’t Go Against the Grain is a metal album or something… (It most certainly is not.)
That sort of mislabeling product on several levels can be potentially disastrous sales figures of your album, and perhaps it did contribute to this one flopping harder than it necessarily needed to. Although lack of any sort of hit single was also a most definitely a contributing factor.

The fact that the album went aluminum is unfortunate because while Pop the Brown Hornet, June Luva, Rubbabandz, Down Low Recka and producer RNS aren’t as virtuous as the actual Wu-Tang Clan they do adequately recreate their sound without going so over the top with it that they could be considered biters (No kung fu movie dialogue samples, no sped-up soul vocals and not too much in the way of five percenter islam-inspired lyrics). And their guest appearances on Shyheim’s albums must’ve gotten some folks to notice them.
It isn’t unthinkable that this could’ve gone gold with some assistance by Ghost, Shy, RZA or anyone else in the Clan or if they included a song produced by Puff Diddy and featuring Ma$e, and released it as a single with a video directed by Hype Williams shot on Times Square.

This album is consistently entertaining in a rather conventional 1997 New York hard core thug rap kind of way. None of the guys spit anything that hasn’t been heard better before or since, but they’re all competent rappers and because they all have distinct voices they’re all fairly easy to tell apart which helps the medicine go down.
The subject matter is all fairly standard. Substance abuse (Smoking), fire arms (Two Gats Up), hedonism and boasting of superior rap skills (Party People), the sexual prowess of GP with women who are already taken (If You Only Knew), the state of the genre (Hip Hop), the state of society (Things Ain’t The Same and Black on Black Crime) and nothing in particular (Hit Me With That Shit).
The same can be said of the productions courtesy of group member Down Low Recka and RNS. They tend to have a sese of urgency and dramatic minimalism not unlike RZA’s beats, but less spacy and less artisan. Blow Up and Hit Me With That Shit have a sort of jazzy feel because of its incorporation of minimal trumpet hits, Party People is suitably jiggy, Life Bid mixes cheesy ’80s rock synths with old school horror movie organs, Black on Black Crime features some mournful strings. The beats all perfectly nice when they’re on but appear to be satisfied with slipping from ones conscience when they’re done playing.

While there isn’t actually much to complain about here it makes sense that this album didn’t go gold, even if it easily could have with proper promotion and a better radio single. It might even have been for the better that this album was both the beginning and end of the Gladiator Posse discography. It’s not like they had that much content here, nor did they have that interesting a way of talking about their non-content. A sophomore release might’ve taken them beyond exhaustion of their subject matter, beats and rhymes. I’m not suggesting that I wish all of them should’ve stopped working after dropping this one, but perhaps their talents were better spent on the occasional guest verse here and there, especially Pop the Brown Hornet and his distinct-sounding voice.
Anyway Don’t Go Against the Grain is alright, but merely alright.

Best tracks
Smoking
Blow Up
Hit Me With That Shit
Life Bid
Party People
Black On Black Crime

Recommendations
If you are a fan of the Wu of olde and can find this for cheap in the used bin of your local record store (If there is still a thing such as a local record stores) you can pick this up. You’ll probably get a few good spins out of it.

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Shyheim – The Lost Generation

Shyheim
The Lost Generation
May 28, 1996
Noo Trybe/Virgin Records/EMIUMG
055/100
The Lost Generation--Front
1. Shit Iz Real (feat. DeLouie Avant Jr.) // 2. Dear God (feat. Pop The Brown Hornet, June Lover & Nikki Williams) // 3. Jiggy Comin’ // 4. 5 Elements (feat. Down Low Reka, June Lover, Pop the Brown Hornet & Rubbabandz) // 5. Shaolin Style (feat. Squigg Trust) // 6. Real Bad Boys // 7. What Makes the World Go Round (feat. Rubbabandz, Smoothe Da Hustler, Trigger & Dzalias Christ) // 8. Can You Feel It (feat. June Lover & King Just) // 9. Life As a Shorty // 10. Don’t Front/ Let’s Chill (feat. 702) // 11. Things Happen // 12. See What I See (feat. Dzalias Christ) // 13. Still There (feat. DeLouie Avant Jr.) //14. Young Gods (feat. Killa Sin, Madman, Rubbabands, Raekwon & RZA)

Wu-tang affiliate Shyheim’s first album sold enough copies for Virgin record to allow him a second studio album (although nothing can be found online about any sort of gold certification). And by the time it dropped in may ’96 the guy still would have to cross the border to Canada or Mejico to legally buy a beer because he was barely eighteen by that time.
For The Lost Generation he mostly worked with the same people that made AKA the Rugged Child such a moderate success: Producer RNS, who according to Discogs was at one point Wu-svengali RZA’s mentor, (although no other interwebs source can confirm this in a satisfactory manner) and members of the sorta, kinda Wu-affiliated GP Wu which supplied most of the guest vocals.
Like on AKA the Rugged Child RZA supplies but one beat, but unlike the last time around his contribution lasts for over two minutes and features some actual Wu-involvement in the vocal department, because the hook is performed by Prince Rakeem himself and Raekwon the Chef (although a would-be-much-appreciated verse from either official Wu-member is missing, sadly). M.O.P.-producer DR Period and NaS-veteran L.E.S. also get to provide beats for Shy to rock over.

Oddly enough Shyheim seems to actually have become less mature-sounding since recording AKA the Rugged Child. A simple and logical explanation would be that on that album he didn’t write his own lyrics, leaving that to an older rapper, whereas on this one he did everything himself.
Shy’s juvenile, irreverent style isn’t without merit and sort of fits him him on occasion. Quips like God help me out nigga would certainly lose their charm coming from an older rapper but work just fine on Dear God, a song about ghetto hardship and desparantion and a definite highlight with a bleak yet smackin’ and smooth RNS beat and Pop da Brown Hornet paying hommage to Snoop Dogg’s Murder Was the Case on the hook. Unfortunately for Shyheim Dear God is a rare highlight on an album filled with mediocracy.
Shit Is Real, the album opener, is supposed to establish Shy’s street cred, but it’s subject matter and backing music are a straight mismatch, although it would no doubt have sucked too even without its wimpy R&B instrumental.
Jiggy Comin’ is about Shyheim’s trouble with the police, which is all well but he sounds like the type of kid that was taken to his mother by the law enforcement for nicking a candy bar rather than being sent to the penitentiary for anything serious, and talks shit to his boys blowing the story up via this track.
Shaolin Style flips an already overused Patrice Rushen sample and manages to add nothing of value to the well-known melody, the Method Man samples on the hook be damned.
The Lost Generation also has an introspective song and a joint for the ladies, Don’t Front/Let’s Chill and Still There For Me respectively. Both of them fall flat on their faces because Shy’s persona isn’t developed enough to to them justice and he fills them with gangsta clichés in stead, and they are made worse by having rather shitty R&B guest appearances accompanying him.

That’s not to say The Lost Generation is all shit though. But the moments that do work aren’t working because of Shyheim and would’ve sounded equally well, if not better, with another rapper taking his place or do sound good because there actually isn’t much Shyheim on them to speak of. Can You Feel It works because of it’s bouncy disco production combined with the spacy vocal distortion. See What I See has a eerie, pounding, percussive piano based instrumental by DR Period with a catchy, sung chorus courtesy of studio singer Dzalias Christ, 5 Elements and What Makes the World Go Round work well enough but mostly because GP Wu take over the track and are backed by RNS productions that sounds like someone from the actual clan might rock over them, had they had the opportunity. As does Young Gods, but that’s because it it’s a RZA creation, because it has minimal vocal involvement by Rae and RZA himself and because quite possibly was offered to someone from the actual Clan before ending up here.

Life as a Shorty is the only moment on the record where Shy regains the lyrical momentum he had on Dear God, sounding convincing and credible enough in his roll as a young hoodlum and unique enough to justify him having a rap career. This unfortunately doesn’t happen a lot on The Lost Generation. An album that sees Shy probably having his first attempts at writing his own lyrics. As such we shouldn’t be too hard on the guy. But the person who fired his ghostwriter may have been premature doing so because the Shyheim we hear on this album for the most part sounds like he has just heard gangsta rap for the first time and then decided to dive head-first into recording an album which is never a good thing.
Let that however not be interpreted as an outright and complete dismissal of Shyheim as a rapper. His debut AKA the Rugged Child is pretty good, as are the songs listed below and his follow-up work may very well be too because he still had a lot of growing up to do at this point.

Best tracks
Dear God
5 Elements
Can You Feel It
What Makes the World Go Round
See What I See
Young Gods

Recommendations
Download the above tracks off iTunes or Amazon, or pick this album up if you find it for really cheap.


Shyheim – AKA the Rugged Child

Shyheim
AKA the Rugged Child
February 22, 1994
Virgin Records/ EMI
070/100
Shyheim - AKA the Rugged Child
1. Here Come the Hits // 2. On and On (feat. June Luva & Milk D) // 3. Pass It Off (feat. Rubbabandz, Down Low Recka & K-Tez) // 4. Never Say Never [Interlude] // 5. One’s 4 Da Money // 6. Here I Am (feat. Down Low Recka) // 7. Move It Over Here (feat. Pop Da Brown Hornet) // 8. Buckwylyn // 9. You Da Man (feat. Down Low Recka) // 10. Napsack // 11. The Rugged Onez (feat. June Luva, Prophet & Quasi) // 12. Little Rascals // 13. 4 The Headpiece [Interlude] // 14. Party’s Going On // 15. Shouts on the Outs

Following the classic that was Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) the first thing to come out of the Wu-camp was strangely enough not a solo album by one of the group’s actual members, but the debut album by Ghostface Killah’s fourteen year old cousin Shyheim. One would assume that music buyers would be more interested in a solo-album by, for instance, Ghostface Killah himself.

But then Shyheim’s link to the Wu, besides his family relation, is rather indirect. No one from the actual clan throws a verse in Shy’s direction, only loose affiliates GP Wu appear. The only indication that the original Clan has actually ever heard of Shy (besides him getting a shout-out by RZA on the intro of Clan In da Front off 36 Chambers) is one lone RZA instrumental on Little Rascals. The rest of the beats are provided by rumoured Prince Rakeem mentor RNS. It is therefor reasonable to assume that AKA the Rugged Child wasn’t part of RZA’s five year plan, unlike 36 ChambersTicalReturn to the 36 Chambers, Only Built 4 Cuban LinxLiquid SwordsIronman and that Inspectah Deck album that almost literally got flushed. Not surprising considering that Shy was never a card-carrying member of the Clan, but worth mentioning considering how often Shyheim and the occasional GP Wu member mention their affiliation with the Clan, as though no-one would give half a fuck about any of them if it weren’t for their more famous friends, who quite possibly could give half a fuck about any of them, but not really.

Let that not be an automatic dismissal of AKA the Rugged Child, a solid album to say the least, by a rapper with more skill than you can shake a stick at. The only thing that gives away his tender age is his prepubescent voice. It’s not entirely clear who wrote all these tight rhymes (one would be hard-pressed to believe it was Shy himself, although it remains a possibility), but what is clear is that Shy recites them very well. Shyheim may have been fourteen years old when AKA the Rugged Child dropped, but this certainly isn’t child-friendly rap. Go listen to Will Smith’s back catalogue if that’s your thing. This is a straight-up East-Coast gangsta rap album. And although it is especially unlikely that Shy commited any crime beyond shoplifting a candy bar, at least he raps about these subjects with gusto. And besides, what rapper do you know that beyond a shadow of a doubt lived the gangsta lifestyle, that’s alive, out of prison and doing well?

The boy comes in swinging with the mildy jazzy album-opener Here Come the Hits, on which he’s literally promising a succesful string of hit singles. (Unfortunately nineteen years later the man has yet to deliver on that promise, but his youthful optimism is engaging.) On On and On June Luva, as well as Audio Two’s Milk D lend a hand on the hook which is a reprise of Audio Two’s signature song Top Billin‘.  On Pass It Off our host outrhymes everyone of his older fellow Wu B-teamers in the GP.
On One’s 4 the Money the boy has the audacity to ambiguously dis 2pac, Kris Kross and you girlfriend over a beat that wouldn’t sound out of place on 36 Chambers. Shyheim doesn’t suffer from a lack of confidence, what with 2pac’s notoriously short temper. It marks the second time of the night that Top Billin’ is being referenced.
Little Rascals has the lone RZA-produced beat, and it sounds pretty good even though clocking just over two minutes it’s too short to make much of an impact.
Move It Over There has a fantastic dark RNS beat put to good use by Shy, and Pop da Brown Hornet who only appears in ad-lib capacity.

There are some minor complaints about some of the tracks.
On the posse-song The Rugged Onez the man of the hour fails to catch up with his invited guests, which is the only time that happens on this album.
Here I Am once again stresses the Clan-affiation thing too much, with the refrain being “It’s a Wu-thing”.
Buckwylyn is all graphic violence and no substance, and on You da Man the Down Low Recka and our host are kissing each other’s ass Coming of Age-style (a Jay-Z song off Reasonable Doubt on which Shy was allegedly supposed to appear before he was replaced by fucking Memphis Bleek) and it’s not very interesting to listen to.
Napsack is an ode to Shyheim’s beloved backpack, in which he claims to carry around a gun, which is just a silly concept, since he wouldn’t be very quick on the draw if shit went down, that way.
Party’s Goin’ On has our host performing a misogynic sex rap, which no ammount of goodwill, nor a sample of the Clan’s Tearz can fix or even distract from.

Even these songs aren’t outright failiures because RNS keeps bringing the banging beats, makes one wonder just why the man appears to never have gotten any work, besides on Shyheim’s first two albums and GP Wu’s lone album.

All in all AKA the Rugged Child is a surprisingly entertaining album. Sure, the little homie makes some beginners mistakes (some songs aren’t that well thought-through) but -and this is surprising- not as many as most rappers aged twenty and over usually do on their debuts. The Wu-Tang Clan gets namechecked more often than it should, especially since there wasn’t much of a working relation to speak of, but a talentless associate the boy most definitely is not. With all but one of the tracks being produced by RNS the album has a unified sound, and a good one at that. And Shy has enough talent to take advantage of this.

Best tracks
Here Come the Hits
On and On
Pass It Off
One’s 4 the Money
Move It Over There

Recommendations
Buy this album.