Troublesome selections like the cream rap/R&B abused “Take It To The Streets” (f. Billy Lawrence) and the overworked Cameo-sounding funk of “We Getz Down” were tracks that came off as overly arranged and artificially constructed, and are also cuts that stick in everyone’s mind who has ever heard Rampage’s debut album. Topping it all off, Rampage’s ill-advised cover of Public Enemy’s classic “Public Enemy #1″ only added to the tasteless streak of popularized Hip-Hop remakes during 1997…not the best year for the artform. It’s at those instances where “Scout’s Honor…” became hard to swallow, with it’s contrived attempts at fulfilling the hot trends of the “jiggy” era. However, this freshman LP and it’s various conceptual “no-no’s” were somewhat redeemed by the remainder of the surprisingly well-produced and well-executed tracks. The pleasing “Talk Of The Town”, with sparse piano sprinkles and rumbling bass knocks, the adrenaline laced posse cut “Flipmode Is Da Squad” and the spacey “Get Da Money & Dip” saved “Scout’s Honor” from the dark doldrums of complete wackness. Still none of the aforementioned songs hold a candle to the blazing B-Side “Wild For Da Night” where Rampage complements the charismatic animation of his cousin Busta to near perfection. Despite his passion and the album’s mostly melodic beats, Rampage’s “Scout’s Honor…” fell short of satisfying all the hungry listeners. Though it may have been sub-par to today’s “Golden Era” standards, this was actually a pretty solid effort when in comparison to the majority of “jiggy” Hip Hop being released in ’97.
As the least high-profile members of BK’s Boot Camp Click, OGC’s inaugural LP, “Da Storm” may have been the equivalent to Tito Jackson’s solo album. Though not as charismatic as Buckshot, as venomous as Smif-N-Wessun, or as combustible as Heltah Skeltah….Starang, Louieville Sluggah and Top Dog nonetheless delivered their own brand of Crooklyn chemistry that exceeded the expectations of typical “been there, done that” East Coast worshipping rap fans (ahh hem!). Make no mistakes, it’s not that the OGC’s went very far against the grain. But, why should they have? While nothing here quite matched the heights of Fab Five’s “Leflah, Leflaur, Eshkoshka” in terms of catchiness, the Boot Camp formula (somewhat abandoned on Heltah Skeltah’s “Nocturnal”) made a fine return to form on tracks like the potent first single “No Fear”, the hilarious homage to exploitative record execs, “Gunn Clap” and the bell-ringing title track. Guest even got in on the action with “Wild Cowboys In Bucktown”, which featured Sadat X and Sean Black. Meanwhile, the posse-protege throwdown “Elite Fleet” made room for the younger guns, namely the Representativz. Naturally, all the East Coast conservatism was bound to run aground at some point, and with the lyrical depth generally only going so far as “motherf&*kers better act like they know”, things got a little too generic by the time “Flippin” rolled around. Yet despite these minor diversions of unfulfilled hot air, “Da Storm” calmy did damage in a consistently satisfying fashion that no one could have realistically forecasted. OGC’s debut may not have blown away any of Hip Hop’s foundations or conventions, but it sure as hell made your head nod vigorously and I wasn’t mad at all!
Shyheim, a/k/a the Rugged Child, the youngest of the Wu Spawn, who represented well with both “On & On” and “Pass It Off” a little more than a year before the release of “The Lost Generation”, has been popping up on various blogs much in part due to a recent YouTube mini-documentary detailing many of the trials of a “rough life as a shorty” in Hip Hop. Though the production on his debut was mediocre at best, Shyheim held his own with lyrical skills that allowed him to make his mark on the East Coast scene. Shyheim released “The Lost Generation on Noo Trybe, a 13 track sophomore effort orchestrated by himself, the RZA and a host of other Shaolin hopefulls. Aside from a little more puberty inclined bass in his voice, the Rugged Child ripped it with the same rhymes about soul-survival in the mean city streets as he did on his debut. “Shaolin” used a Method Man vocal slice and the beat from Anotha Level’s “What’s That Cha Say” to produce a classic shout-out to Staten Island. Lyrical greatness was displayed with the help of the Gladiator Posse and Smoothe Da Hustler on “What Makes The World Go Around” (produced by DR Period) and “Dear God” took a long and precise look at human mortality in the inner city and the evils of trying to survive in a system designed to wear and tear on you. But, unfortunately, Shyheim added a few new elements on “The Lost Generation”, with not all of them being so welcome. Commercialism and catchphrases, from Alize to Moet to creepin’ in Montero jeeps and singing in breaks on too many tracks this album was brought back to earth, just too many crossover elements for the average keep-it-realer. The format wasn’t as raw as his first effort, but more of just another expression of the frustration, disillusionment and materialism that dominated the generation that many indeed called “Lost”. But nonetheless, there’s a message to be heard, and if we had listened, compared to what Shyheim has endured (per the mini-documentary) crossing over might have not been as important.