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 II 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 would 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…-Rasul
“Can’t we just all get along? So I can put hickeys on your chest like Little Shawn?” I’m sure everyone remembers the lyric that made Little Shawn famous by Biggie on “Party & Bulls**t” from the “Who’s The Man?” soundtrack. The first time I heard Little Shawn on wax was on Special Ed’s classic posse cut “5 men & a mic” (which is one of the most overlooked and under-appreciated posse cuts ever) from Ed’s sophomore LP “Legal”. On the strength of his appearance on “5 Men..” I began searching for his 1992 debut on Capital Records shortly thereafter. I actually picked this up in Ocean City, MD at a dingy “hole in the wall” record store (that reeked of a musky, salt-water scent) where I also picked up “Daily Operation” and Heavy D’s “Peaceful Journey” ca-single that featured “You Can’t See What I Can See” on the B-Side. I can remember my cousin and I bumpin’ this (“Voice In The Mirror”) along with GangStarr’s “Take It Personal” out of our boom box on the beach while mackin’ all the fly skivies in my purple and turquoise Nike windbreaker…..remember them shits?! Damn, the clothes we put on back in those days. Anyway, with harmless yet sometimes clever rhymes and Howie Tee on the boards this album has always been a guilty pleasure of mine. You cant’ go wrong with “Hickeys On Your Chest” or “Tanya’s Freakin’ Me”, however, I did become a bit weary towards the end of this album when Little Shawn starting talkin’ about “Killing Rappers At Close Range”. Or, what about “I Made Love (4 Da’ Very First Time)? which flipped the notorious W.A.R. sample that Nice & Smooth made famous with their monster smash “Funky 4 You”. At his worst this Brooklyn bred emcee is pretty cheezey, as witnessed on the Color Me Badd assisted “Come Back (2 Me)”….at his best Little Shawn shows glimpses of a young Ladies Love Cool J in his prime. Once you get past all the fluff, this album is actually fairly decent…well worth the $1.85 I shelled over for it at Amazon…-Eric
Poor Nas..admit it, you had to be disappointed when you first listened to “It Was Written”. Why? think about it, will there ever be another “Illmatic“….I sure hope so, but I doubt it. I guess what I’m trying to convey here is that the Nas hating actually began shortly after the release of “It Was Written” including a fair dose from yours truly. The Trackmasters were hot, coming off their intoxicating production on LL’s reincarnation “Mr. Smith”, so Nas scooped up Poke & Tone with hopes of equalling or possibly surpassing the success he attained with “Illmatic“. Let’s be real here, if you were anything like me you hated the commercialization of “If I Ruled The World” featuring Mrs. Marley errrr…Lauryn Hill (who was also “hot” at the moment). Worse yet, the R. Kelly assisted “Street Dreams” was just another thorn in my side as I tried to cope with losing the raw, visual, metaphoric Nas that captivated my eardrums on “Illmatic“. OOOH, and has Dr. Dre ever let you down more with his lame production on “Nas Is Coming”? (damn, how generic was the hook on that joint?) and keep in mind this was following Dre’s debacle “Presents The Aftermath”. Arrrrgghhhhh! I thought after the first few listens to “It Was Written”. How could Nas do this to me?
So where do I stand with “It Was Written” today? Why is this record in my “Top 100″? I’ll tell you plain and simple, take away the three aforementioned tracks (admittedly, “If I Ruled The World” has grown on me a bit over the years) and it’s a CLASSIC in my eyes. I figure, “Okay Nas, I get it! You accomplished your initial intent, C’mon kid, you sold 3 million copies worldwide! Although, “Illmatic” deserved to far exceed those numbers….face it, it ain’t happening (BTW, what has “Illmatic” done in numbers thus far?). As mad I was at the Trackmasters for turnin‘ Nas‘ beats out, I couldn’t resist the subtle chords and strings on “The Message”. Look at the vividness of “I Gave You Power”…Nas + Primo, need I say more? (although, Nas may have listened to O.K.’s “Stray Bullet” a time or two before it was time for the final cut of “It Was Written”). “The Set Up” along with “Live Ni**a Rap” finds Havoc lacing Nas with typical Mobb Deep-like, haunting production while “Suspect” is just a pure creeper…it actually makes me want to throw on my Carhartt hoodie, lace up my suede timbs slide into the Jeep and do a driveby. Too bad I’m sittin‘ here in my suit minus the jacket and my daughter is winding down for the evening, watchin‘ an episode of “Baby Einstein” or I swear…..ha, ha. My favorite cut still from “It Was Written” remains to be the posse cut “Affirmative Action” featuring the Firm minus Cormega. So as much as this album frustrated me in 1995, I’ve grown to appreciate it that much more as time has passed. Of course, when you are subjected to “Nastradamus” and Nas‘ most recent opus “Hip Hop Is Dead” (which should have appropriately titled “Nas Is Dead”…you owe us for that sh*t Nas, C’mon Man!) you sure do come to appreciate things a hell of alot more. You don’t know what you got till’ it’s gone! Hopefully, the forthcoming “N+#ga’ is Nas’ return back to his glory days and his newest single “Remember The Times” is a step in the right direction…-Eric