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Eric's Top 100 Tuesday's(31-40) words by Rasul

by Eric on April 17, 2007

31. Scarface-Mr. Scarface Is Back

Scarface along with Andre 3000 has the paved the way for strong lyricism hailing from the South. Following the immense success of Geto Boys’ “We Can’t Be Stopped” in 1991, Rap-A-Lot dropped Scarface his debut in the same year (only three months later!???) and unfortunately, this album went largely unnoticed. Now every one of us can put two and two together, especially after being breast-fed with information in the confinements of cyber-space and the traffic of unworthy news of marketing agendas; the Geto Boys were still reaping all the benefits and riding on a horse called “My Mind’s Playing Tricks On Me” when somebody had the bright idea to put out “Mr. Scarface Is Back” and let it fade to oblivion ( it took the album almost two years to go gold!). It couldn’t work and it didn’t work. I know a lot of people who would welcome Scarface to the Hall Of Fame, but nine times out of ten, the same people had to come back and revisit this album. Joints like “Murder By Reason Of Insanity” and “Diary Of A Madman” were beyond average and “A Minute To Pray And A Second To Die” ( He chose the wrong way and that’s the route he took / Born and brought up as an angel but he died as a crook) reality-rap at its purest form. I don’t know what my man Eric has in store for you guys as far as Scarface records are concerned- I could name you at least two albums that are better than this one- but I understand his choice and fully appreciate it since this composition is more than solid. Maybe that was a romantic pick, who knows… -words by Rasul

32. The Beatnuts-Street Level

Ju Ju and Les are one of the coolest cats you’ll ever meet in the industry. I met those guys around my times with Square One and was fortunate enough to do a couple of shows with them. We clicked and every time the Nuts came down to Europe, me and my boys spent some quality time with them (you don’t really want to know the details) and “bonded”. Besides tenacious conversations about God’s various gifts to men, we touched on their earlier affiliation with Q-Tip and the Native Tongue family, their first real “job” for Monie Love or their widely unrecognized production for Chi-Ali or Common’s “Can I Borrow A Dollar”- not to forget Kurious George. Now that I remember, Ju Ju still owes me a beat (shout out to his mother for being patient with a guy calling from Germany)!!! But all of these memories would never describe my deep appreciation for the Beatnuts as ingenious beatsmiths with an incredible ear for music. Their first EP “Intoxicated Demons” came literally out of nowhere and took me by storm and trust me, everybody was waiting for a full-length album. “Street Level” is a classic by all means: Every single note on this album is masterfully orchestrated, every track a lesson on what production is supposed to sound like and every interlude a bold reflection of connecting the dots. “Props Over Here” is an adroit creation (Ju Ju’s line “I gotta a lot of things to do, a lot of money to make / I got no time for you and all the moves you fake” couldn’t be beat in its honesty), “Are You Ready” an anthem of no comparison and “Lick The P*ssy” peculiarly sexy. When Fashion left the group I didn’t miss him a bit, although he was the strongest MC and that might have been their problem in their first place!? But anyway, this is another huge pick by my man Eric and I don’t see how anybody could ignore this as one of the best albums of all time. Enjoy…-words by Rasul

33. Cypress Hill-Self Titled

Sorry but you’re asking the wrong guy! I have never, and I sincerely mean never, been a fan of these guys and hopefully, I’m able to expound on my reasons: For once, B-Real’s voice sounded like the screeching of fingernails on a blackboard to my ears. Mellow Man Ace was one of the first west-coast artists I thoroughly embraced and I felt Sen Dog and his disturbing screaming didn’t do his brother no justice (yes, they were brothers!). Besides, I never heard Muggs publicly declare his prior association with California legends 7A3 and it bothered me. What irritated me the most was how Cypress Hill became instantly synonymous with smoking weed and how all of a sudden, every freaking basshead was compelled to listen to their album because “it was hip”. But your man knows a good record when he hears one and without the shadow of a doubt, the self-titled debut of these guys was ground breaking on many dimensions. Muggs with his dark sound waves, had managed to create a niche of his own: He combined cleverly arranged drum-patterns with scarce soul blends; a formula a rapper named Prince Rakeem espoused a few years later, putting his own stamp on it and henceforth conquered the world with(just read it again, you’ll get the idea). Besides the rowdy “How I Could Just Kill A Man” and the strangely kinetic “Phunky Feel One”, my favorite’s been the chaotic head-banger “Real Estate”. Overall, Cypress Hill’s chemistry worked on many levels and this is the reason they could successfully cross over to new heights. A good choice but like I said, I’ve never been a fan…-words by Rasul

34. Da King & I-Contemporary Jeep Music…possibly the MOST underrated album EVER!

One of the most underrated and overlooked albums of all time!!! The King & I came literally out of nowhere releasing “Contemporary Jeep Music” on Dallas Austin’s label Rowdy Records. Now the Dallas Austin of 1993 was not any different than the Dallas Austin of today. He was largely known for mixing it up with TLC and Boyz 2 Men and although I’m not sure if he was offered sex for beats back then (I recently read an article where he claims Christina Aguilera and Joss Stone have offered him the art of lovemaking in exchange for beats), he wasn’t necessarily known for putting out Brooklyn-bred Hip Hop with a touch of jazz. Back then I considered this particular album to be more than perfect. The MC Izzy Ice and the DJ / Producer Majesty somehow followed the footsteps of Pete Rock and CL displaying clever, impeccable and to a certain degree complex lyrics over upbeat, engaging and gritty music. They didn’t reinvent the whole ish but they did sound refreshing. Songs like “Krak da Weazel” (please check the Remix: It’s huge!!!), “Tears”, “What’s Up Doc” or the catchy “Represent” were unexpectedly dope. But what made this a masterpiece was the simple fact that it was actually an album! You could put the record on and let it play from the beginning to the end and every time you felt slightly uneasy or grew a bit tired, an interlude wo

uld come to your rescue and steal the damn show. Now I know how the “Golden Age Of Hip Hop”- whenever that was- would produce classic materials and how intermissions or skits were widely cultivated at that time; but trust me on this one, those 4 interludes on this album were probably the most innovative and precisely-placed in the history of the Boom Bap. If you never had the opportunity to listen to this, thank my man Eric a thousand times. This one is a monster…-words by Rasul

35. Group Home-Livin’ Proof

I’m not going to bore you guys with another piece of writing about Premo’s luxuriant production skills, his enormous influence on music in general or his maintenance of artistic integrity in times of big pimping and rolling on 22s! When all is said and done, the man will go down as one of the greatest of all time and all the Gangstarr and Gangstarr-Related albums (Eric, I’m pitching you ideas here!) are fundamental testaments to that- point blank. After the release of “The Sun Rises In The East” in ’94 and the hailing of a prophet Jeru later on failed to be, the release of “Livin’ Proof” felt well-planned and like a mere continuation of a legacy Guru and Premiere had jump-started in the late 80′s. Now, I have played shows with these guys a couple of times. I used to live in the notorious Bedford-Stuyvesant not far from Lil’ Dap’s East New York and you could say, I have developed a certain understanding for their choice of words and contents, even the lame delivery at times. But then again, this only applies to my man Lil’ Dap (who I was a fan of since his first introduction on Gangstarr’s “I’m The Man” off their “Daily Operation” LP). Melachi the Nutcracker on the other hand sounded plain ignorant! I’m not saying that to disgrace the man, I just always felt that he was literally ignorant in terms of not knowing any better (I sincerely think he even misspelled his own name). “Yo I rock on the block with the real Hip Hop / As you start to clock, and jock / Yo, I’m comin’ off with mad rage / Eighteen, and hittin’ the real stage” is not necessarily an equivalent to lyrical prowess and sublime wordplay. Despite all of this, this was another banger from the beginning to the end and somehow you stopped caring about the two MC’s short-comings: From the simplicity of “Inna Citi Life” to the mellow madness of “Suspended In Time”, “Up Against The Wall” or “2 Thousand” (I’m leaving the singles out here on purpose!), this is the most profound example of how good beats can save mediocre rappers. After Group Home started to abandon Preme, the die-hard fans and eventually “luck” abandoned Group Home and sadly, they never found their way back to the hearts of men! I guess I have to end this one with something you’ve heard or read a billion times: DJ Premier is the man…-words by Rasul

36. Nice & Smooth-Ain’t A Damn Thing Changed

Coming off their self-titled debut on the Sleeping Bag label in 1989 that contained a few good contributions (most noticeable “Funky For You” and “More and More Hits”), Greg Nice and Smooth B signed to the power house Def Jam and released “Ain’t A Damn Thing Changed” in ’91. For once, I don’t recall any tag-team in the history of mankind that was so different in style and flow than these two gentlemen- please remind me if you know of any! The original Ying Yang Twins combined a touch of old school routines with a sing-songy twist (they called it harmonizing) and, for the most part, light-hearted symphonies backed with heavy drum-loops. Now all of this might sound familiar to you but back in 1991, they somehow originated a trend that developed a life of its own and carried into the new millennium (just ask Puffy and Irv Gotti!?). This wasn’t by far a masterpiece of an album! It had its lackluster attempts here and there but it although introduced some insanely huge records. “Hip Hop Junkies” was a regular at any club, “Cake & Eat It Too” felt just right and “Sometimes I Rhyme” with its Tracy Chapman sample and the memorable verse of Smooth B (Time went on I started noticing weight loss / Then I had to ask her was she riding the white horse / At first she said no, then she said yo, Smooth I’m sorry but I keep having visions of snow / I need blow…) a monster that crept under your skin. I always felt Smooth B was the better rapper until I saw them perform live together. Now Craig Nice has never made any sense to me- literally, he never makes sense with what he spits- but the man is a wild bundle of energy on stage. Talking about stealing the show, well, he would probably steal the show on any of your favorite rappers (you should see the man move!?). Anyway, this is another great pick by my man Eric because it changed the face of Hip Hop music in many ways. Go figure it out…-words by Rasul

37. 3rd Bass-The Cactus Album

Sorry to disappoint the die-hard 3rd Bass fans but this group was although put together. Serch was more or less a local MC you would always meet at block-parties and underground clubs and had already built up a reputation with his independently released single “Hey Boy”. Prime Minister Pete Nice had his own show on WKCR’s college radio and that’s where he had met the groups DJ Daddy Rich. Now here’s the story: The Beastie Boys were rumored to walk out of their contract with Def Jam and consequently, Def Jam was panicking, looking to replace the interactive success of white boys who could rap. In comes the legendary producer Sam Sever with strong ties to the A&R-Department of Def Jam (he later on released his own remarkable album as Downtown Science), convincing the three to put heir heads together and form a group. In my opinion, The Cactus Album is the closest thing to “Three Feet High And Rising”! Not necessarily because Prince Paul lend his genius to produce a couple of joints and interludes (so did Sam Sever and the mastermind’s of the Bomb Squad); it was the in-depth detail found on this album, captivating the true essence of legends like the “Fearless Four” or the “Cold Crush Brothers” and transforming the magic into 1989, combined with mind-blowing bass, that made this so compelling and unique. From the infamous “Gas Face” where they introduced KMD, to the incredible tune of “Monte Hall” (Pete Nice said, “Soulfully smooth, she slithered to a solo / Spot to drop her bass and I’ll follow / Fiend on a focus, I spoke this figure of speech / Supposed to sway those who seek “- just read again and you’ll get it!) or the highly energetic “Triple Stage Darkness”, this album stayed challenging and in many strange ways uplifting. I admit, Serch doing the running-man in their videos felt somehow annoying (Beastie Boys threw out some lyrical jabs at 3 rd Bass on their song “Professor Booty”, addressing exactly that) and Pete Nice would every now and then lose you with his verbal excursions, but the chemistry between those two guys along with the masterful production make this a magnificent album and one of my favorites

of all time. It’s hard to believe, but the sophomore effort “Derelicts Of Dialect” was even better…-words by Rasul

38. Tha Alkaholiks-21 & Over

I first heard the Alkaholiks back in the beginning of ’93 on King Tee’s “Tha Triflin’ Album” on the track “Got It Bad Yall”. I admit I wasn’t overly impressed; all I thought was, damn they make King Tee look bad (I know it’s not hard to outshine the man on the lyrical tip!). With all the hype surrounding the launch of Loud Records and the promotional machinery Steve Rifkin had already mastered to perfection, the expectations were semi-high and directed towards the new phenomena of left-coast artists mimicking New York’s recipe of sample-heavy and hard-hitting Boom Bap underlining tales of bragging-rights. Well, “21 And Over” was exactly what you expected! This was far from conceptual lyricism and intricate rhyme-schemes. More than anything, this trio recited a no-holds-barred attitude, having a whole lot of fun (the effects of alcohol!?) recording songs like their first single “Make Room”, the enticing “Likwit” or their ode to marijuana on “Mary Jane”. My favorite stand-out was and still is the outlandish “Only When I’m Drunk” with memorable lines like ” Yeah I’m good, I’m bad, I’m dope, I’m freaky fresh / I make hip hop fans say yes yes / The Liks coming through, you know we gonna blow up / Hold up, hold up, I think I gotta…(throw up)”. There isn’t much I can personally add to this: I have never been a huge fan of the group but their first two offerings (Coast To Coast included) were more than enjoyable and cornerstones in our culture’s history, alongside The Pharcyde and Souls Of Mischief with their similar approach. Good choice by my man Eric…-words by Rasul

39. Brand Nubian-One For All

To me, this is one of the greatest Hip Hop albums of all time! Now, I have been a strong follower of artists like the Poor Righteous Teachers, King Sun, X-Clan and Lakim Shabazz, absorbing the socially aware (and 5%er) teachings and over-the-edge formulas and Brand Nubian easily fell under this category and from the very first day, I embraced them wholeheartedly. The MC’s Grand Puba (who had already released an album with the group “Masters Of Ceremony”), Saddat X and Lord Jamar (he remains my favorite- I know how the whole world thought Puba would stand out but Lord J had something majestic about his flow, reminiscent of Kane and Rakim) displayed a certain amount of balance among each other, juggling impeccable lines back and forth. The atmosphere of this masterpiece was compelling, in a sense funky (that’s something you would not expect from a conscience-group) and extremely fun to listen to. “One For All” was pure chemistry, “Slow Down” a stimulating testimony and “Wake Up (Reprise In the Sunshine)” with its Roy Ayres’ sample, a bright and refreshing sound piece. The package worked for me in many ways and therefore, it is one of the all time classic. You know, a couple of years later, I heard how Dante Ross (the A&R that had signed them to Electra- before that, he was the A&R at Tommy Boy and responsible for the signings of De La Soul and Queen Latifah) say that the group was more or less put together: He was handed a demo by Saddat and Jamar and had previously worked with Puba and felt, these three guys with their similar approach would make a perfect match (don’t ask me where Alamo, their DJ, came from!?). Maybe that is the reason Puba left the ensemble after their success and went off to seek stardom on its own. Either way (Puba’s “Reel To Reel” was great, so was Brand Nubian’s “In God We Trust”), this very offering is untouched and a perfect example of how a record can be entertaining and educating at the same time. Do the knowledge…-words by Rasul

40. The Roots-Illadelph Halflife

The Roots will forever be consociated with their predicament of outcasts who’ll hardly receive the recognition they deserve! From their first baby-steps to independently release “Organix” in ’93 (I actually got a hold of it years later) to their gypsy-like locomotion across low class venues all across Europe (trust me, I’ve seen those guys play in the shittiest locations) and passing on a jewel with their EP “From the Ground Up” on the world-renown British record label Talkin’ Loud that was mostly praised for its extravagant and alternative urban music, off to their return to the States and signing a big contract with Geffen, The Roots always felt overly misplaced in our defunct world of Hip Hop. Their first introduction to the masses “Do You Want More?!!!??!” went unnoticed although a song like “Silent Treatment” was meant for eternity. They basically captured the mastery they had perfected on the stage and therefore, that album felt very much live (and that was the reason they didn’t get the props they deserved)! “Illadelph” felt different: If you didn’t know the history of the “band”, you couldn’t tell of a mastermind named Questlove playing live-drums or a guy named Kamal orchestrating keys of life. This time around they had created an auditory sensation, very generic if you will, that sounded very much Hip Hop in terms of 1997. Black Thought unleashed a beast on tracks like “Respond / React”, “Universe at War” (along my man Common) and No Great Pretender (Fuck your back talk, I watch niggaz cat-walk / Over my pit of venom and send’em to the asphalt). Plus, they introduced a hungry Dice Raw on the first single “Clones” (to this day my standard on how drums are supposed to sound like, although Questlove didn’t play them: They were programmed with the SP 1200!). I’m pretty sure every one has the hilarious images of their video to “What They Do” buried in their memories and more than anything, this was the reflection of their mind-state and their code of conduct. I somehow “lost” The Roots after “Things Fall Apart” and never found a connection back to their later releases, but “Illadelph Halflife” remains untouched as a milestone. – words by Rasul

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Hugo April 18, 2007 at 3:56 am

man i’ve been looking for that Da King & I album for quite some time now…. AWESOME!

Anonymous October 23, 2007 at 4:13 pm

Man Would it be a problem to repost Mr. Scarface Is Back?

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