Another pick from Wild Pitch Records! All through the years (and by now you should know that this has been one of my favorite topics to discuss with friends and associates- specially with new people I meet), I’ve come across a chosen few of true music-lovers who knew about “School Of Hard Knocks” and surprisingly, we shared the same appreciation for this masterpiece. Those who haven’t had heard about them were bound to hear my praise forever and ever. I know how I wrote earlier that this list is composed in no particular order but if I ever had one single pick to make, this album would be the ultimate and utmost “slept-on” of all times. I’ve been passionate about every single aspect of this joint: The full twelve songs (touching street narratives with socially conscious rhymes) the lyrical artillery (my man was somewhere between Rakim and Kane, but he was way more “street”), the beats (perfect balance) and the appropriate artwork that showcased a certain honesty, humility and maybe even integrity. The only problem was that nobody besides me at that time seemed to really care about that album and I LOVED IT! I somehow created a romantic bond to this chef-d’oeuvre and now that I think about it, this should have made my list of all-time classics. In a more than confused time (1991 ’till 1992 when the album dropped) where everybody was openly dooming the usage of the “N-Word” (who am I to judge anyway?), Hard Knock’s first single “Nigga For Hire” seemed bold and challenging, criticizing the social system designed in the United States to keep minorities in check. The song “Thoughts Of A Negro” gave a more detailed explanation of my man’s state of mind as it opens with the soundbite: “problem with ‘negro’ was not the word itself, It was that a stereotype had been attached to that word ‘negro’ and that people were forced to live in accords to that stereotype”. My favorite cut on the album “Ghetto Love” was a benign gesture of affection for your friends. Now I know how we’ve been force-fed with mediocre attempts to romanticize the rapper’s willingness to “always ride” for his Homies, but I have never heard a “real” love-song to underline that besides “Ghetto Love”. I will not quote anything from this song (you really have to listen to the whole song) or I will kindly ask everyone to hit up ohhla.com and read the lyrics to this joint to understand what I’m trying to say. Regardless, this is my ish people because it was / still is a perfect album…-Rasul
My first encounter with Three Times Dope from Philly was back in 1988 when I heard their well-received single “Funky Dividends”, a song I instantly fell in love with and have held dear until now. I pretty much liked their album “Original Stylin” of the same year: It wasn’t overly surprising (I guess the type of beats and contents you could expect from a ’88-Release) but it had its unforgettable moments of joy. They went on to seek greater fame and stardom signing with Arista Records to record their highly-anticipated follow-up “Live From Acknickulous Land” in 1990 and unfortunately, the masses didn’t embrace it!? For the most part, it was criticized for its broader, more accessible approach with songs like “(Peace) Ya’ Self”, “Weak at the Knees” (“Girl you inspire, me to perspire / Lost in the force of Earth Wind & Fire /”) and “I Ain’t Trying 2 Hear It”. Well, I don’t know what the world expected back then but signing to a R&B power-house like Arista wasn’t necessarily the equivalent to hardcore “I’ll smack you with a baseball-bat”-type of episodes. Still, you couldn’t tell me nothing: The album worked more than well for me ’cause it demonstrated a rare to find balance within an album. They managed to appeal to everyone, even the shorties (trust me, I know what I’m talking about: Let’s just say this album served me well). EST’s delivery has always been dope and inspiring (and I think he was kind of decent on the recent “Where Are They Now” Remix) and the production sounded heavy. I recently pumped that album again and I was amazed how the “sound”- the mixing and mastering” could hold up to our current pro tools-standards! “Mr. Sandman” had me after approximately 20 seconds, “Mellow But Smooth” was an outstanding ode to bragging-rights and “10 Lil’ Sucka Emceez” featuring the crew’s Larry Lar was simply fun. Even by the unspoken rules of conduct manifested in the “golden era”, it was hard to find a piece of musical expertise with thirteen songs working together in nearly spotless harmony. “Live From Acknickulous Land” did! I lost touch to the group’s further achievements in the following years to come and found out a couple of months ago, how they released their third installment “Da Sequel” (due to drop in ’92 or ’93) in 1998!? What happened? I don’t know and I do not care. This album was an amazing ride, but sadly slept-on…-Rasul
What ya know about that? OK, this album came out in 1991 and you have to rewind and recheck what albums, groups or songs you were listening to at that time. I know a lot of you guys weren’t even listening to Hip Hop back then but truth is, not a lot of people really dug the first “Organized” album. See Pharoahe is one of my favorites of all time! Knowing him for so long (and the man has an impressive catalogue to display), I have always admired the way he kept his integrity by not changing- or compromising- his formula of style that he had introduced the world to on “Organized’s” first album. Not a lot of MCs can rhyme and flow like him. Not a lot of MCs have this enormous depth in their lyrics. And not a lot of MCs throw a little singing in there to lighten things up- at least nobody did it with class like my man. Please excuse my short-coming on Prince Po but I’m just too deep into Pharoahe’s level of skill, that I might not find the right kudos for his partner in crime. I liked that album when it first hit the stores. They had chosen “Fudge Pudge” (introducing O.C) as their single and although the joint did not convince me of their talent (plus the album came out on a label- I think it was called Hollywood- that I only knew from the ensemble “Lifers Group”), I bought the album. I must say, the album was good but it didn’t blow me away. I embraced songs like “Releasing Hypnotical Gases ” [I threw a-rock (Iraq) and I-ran (Iran)/ cause I couldn't stand anymore within the depths of the sand/ So don't ask me who's sane (Hussain) / cause the hypnotical gases are eating my brain], “Prisoners Of War”, “Open Your Eyes” and “Organized Konfusion”. I couldn’t really feel the rest of their songs on that level and it took me a couple of years to profoundly understand their whole concept. See, they released “Stress- The Extinction Agenda” in ’94 and they had everybody going nuts.
That album was indeed mind-blowing and to this day one of my all time greats. On that note, I went back and listened to their first album again, only to understand the full profundity of it: How they mixed light-hearted joints with insanely masterful lyricism. Even the production was amazing. You should check for the samples they used back then- ’cause a lot of cats went and jacked their beats if you will. With this album, they paved their way of a great career and me included, a lot of people slept on them…-Rasul