2. As I Flow On
3. We Got da Gats
4. I Can Do Dat
5. Don’t Stress Me
6. Real Mack
7. Boom Wha Dat
8. Blast a New Asshole
9. Slinging Bass
10. Wet ‘Em Up
11. Dead Men Don’t Talk
12. Take It from da Top
13. Time to Die
14. Low Key
15. Shout Outs
16. Represent [The Grinch & Hill Remix]
Grand Daddy I.U. – Lead Pipe: In Which Polarity Recycles An Old Review He Had to Write to Pass College…
If you’ve perused the used hip hop section of your local record store recently, there’s a high chance you’ve seen a copy of Lead Pipe (or maybe even a few copies) sitting there gathering dust. Albums with such a ubiquitous presence in the second hand racks can generally be thrown onto one of two piles. In the first are the overlooked gems that have never gotten their due respect (Brand Nubian’s Foundation, for instance). In the second, the junk which surely no sane listener could ever want polluting their music collection (atrocious kiddie Miami Bass rappers The Puppies anyone?) So where in the spectrum does Lead Pipe fall?
Grand Daddy I.U. was one of the last members of the Juice Crew / Cold Chillin’ empire to release an album, dropping the superb Biz Markie-produced Smooth Assassin in 1990. For whatever reason, his sophomore effort Lead Pipe didn’t come out until four years later, by which time the laid-back suit-wearing pimp attitude that personified Smooth Assassin had been succeeded by rowdy thugs rocking jeans, hoodies and Timberlands.
In an attempt to compete with the Black Moons, Onyxes, Biggies and Wu Tang Clans running the east coast scene in 1994, Daddy completely switched up his steez. Whereas on his debut he was dappered in silk suits and lyrically outmacking contemporaries such as Big Daddy Kane and King Sun, here he’s tipping back forty ounces, swinging the eponymous lead pipe (with his name painted on it!) and cooking up creative song titles such as ‘We Got Da Gats’ and ‘Represent’.
The success of Grand Daddy’s attempts at mid-nineties style ruggedness are mixed. The aforementioned ‘Represent’ features a predictably shouty hook before the beat (self-produced, like the majority of the album) breaks down to a smoother horn-tinged instrumental that is well suited to I.U.’s vocal tone. Unfortunately, lyrics such as ‘The only remains is blood stains, spilt brains and broke bones / You step in my face with the gauge you get smoked homes’ are far from convincing, especially when followed by thoroughly preposterous lines like ‘My skills are nastier than a fart after eatin’ a raw egg’ (?!)
On the record’s nadir ‘We Got Da Gats’, Daddy does his ‘best’ impersonation of Onyx, switching his voice and pulling overused lyrics like ‘I smoke so many niggas my gun got cancer’ out of his cliché cache. ‘Dead Men Don’t Talk’, meanwhile, is memorable only for biting both Kool G Rap and Das EFX in a single verse.
Lead Pipe does have its moments though, and occasionally recaptures the magic of Smooth Assassin. ‘As I Flow On’, ‘Don’t Stress Me’ and ‘Da Real Mack’ are all smooth jams that veer just on the right side of cheesiness as I.U. flexes his ‘vocal tone that’s smooth just like Barry White’. The contrast of songs like these against junk like ‘We Got Da Gats’ and ‘Slinging Bass’ just goes to highlight the shortcomings of the majority of the album.
The only skippable song on Smooth Assassin was ‘Gals Dem So Hot’ an ill-advised attempt at ragga. I guess no-one told I.U. his singing sucks, because Lead Pipe features not one but two similarly wretched Jamaican crossovers, ‘Boom Wha Dat’ and ‘Time To Die’ which further dilute the potency an already mediocre album.
In other words, there’s a reason why 95% of the copies of Lead Pipe manufactured are dying a slow death in used music stores around the world. With the exception of a handful of tracks, this album sucks, and rightfully flopped commercially. I.U. kept a real low profile for the next 10 years, producing a couple of tracks on Heltah Skeltah’s equally horrific sophomore slump Magnum Force in 1998 and not much else. However, despite the played-out title, his ‘I Be Thuggin’ b/w ‘Mack of the Year’ single released last year was a very fine return to form and is hopefully indicative of good things for the future.
Two Pairs of Panties Out of Five.