*I’ve received more than a few e-mails in the passing weeks stating that I don’t post enough albums outside of the East Coast, so here you go:
While DJ Quik’s production has always remained at a high level of quality, the most surprising aspect of Quik’s sophomore release “Way 2 Fonky” (Profile, 1992) was the improvement of his lyrics and delivery. Somehow between recording his debut “Quik Is The Name” and this release, Quik actually learned how to rap, allowing him to keep up with the crisp production on his tracks. With the “funk sh*t” safely tucked in his trunk, and all new rhyme skills under his belt, Quik’s lyrics once again reflected the lighter side of Compton life. On “Way 2 Fonky” Quik was still gettin’ drunk, still smoking the reefer, and still chasin’ skinz as much as the day is long. On “Mo’ Pu*sy” he flipped a fat chorus over an ill funk production: “Just ’cause I didn’t say that I wanted to fu*ck, don’t mean that I don’t want to”…..lyrical genius, right? He also had a little fun with his homies, Sexy Leroy & The Chocolate Lovelitez, on “Let Me Rip Tonite”, a parody that poked fun at R & B with a double dose of soul incorporated for good measure. Quik then scooped up 2nd II None, AMG and Hi-C on “Ni*gaz Still Trippin” and even showcased some of his freestyling skills on “No BullSh*t”. On the song’s bass-fueled title track Quik declared war and responded to everyone that ever dissed him on record, namely Tim Dog: “This is ’92/And yes your style is through/And if your record ain’t sellin’/Fool I thought you knew/That it’s the straight Bronx killa/Straight Bronx murderer/Your city’s a dump, and fool, your shit don’t bump”……Damn….vicious! Quik also scored a winner with the instrumental showcase “Quik’s Groove II (For U 2 Rip 2)”. Not only was “Way 2 Fonky” a vast improvement on his debut, but it also earned him a few hundred thousand extra fans who yearned for his superior production (including myself) along the way.
Nearly twenty (20!!!) years ago, Scarface’s fiery voice, along with the “care-free” rantings of original partners Bushwick Bill & Willie D, were one of the first to be heard from the South during a time-frame when the national spotlight on Hip Hop had just begun to intensify. The Geto Boys crafted music so provocative and so disturbing that it literally scared the sh*t outta’ white corporate America. All throughout the outlandish cries of censorship and the turmoil that surrounded the group, Scarface’s role in Hip Hop developed into that of a highly respected pillar within the music. The fact that he was still a teen when he joined the Geto Boys, and die-hard fans have watched ‘Face develop in the often one-dimensional genre known as gangsta rap, only has added more luster to his considerable multi-platinum accomplishments. By far the most successful solo act of the trio, Scarface dropped his fourth disc, “The Untouchable”, in 1997. A project that was no small feat to create. Along with the added responsibility of carrying his troop, Face Mob, ‘Face also aimed to confront the innovations of his past. In a bold move that paid off, the veteran rapper reinvented this trademark flow on the breakthrough single, “I Never Seen A Man Cry”, with stunning results. Not only that, he accomplished something even more demanding by replenishing the exhausted “reality rap” genre with meaningful lyricism that went far beyond your usual modern gunplay, adding his speculation on the afterlife and exploring an emotional rage that broke beyond the mere category of anger. So how did Scarface top himself when he just topped yourself on his prior record, “The Diary”?
The answer “The Untouchable” provided was more in tune with the philosophy of the present rap era: go for the sure thing. As consumers respond more and more positively to rehashed concepts from a not-too-distant past, the consensus was…and still is, “be predictable but dope”. That almost sums up “The Untouchable” to a certain extent. Far less risky than his previous efforts, this LP flourished because of it’s overall restraint. simplified doesn’t always mean inferior in Hip Hop. On the contrary, when it’s conducted effectively, basic beats and rhymes equal some of the dopest and hottest sh*t..hell…look at Mobb Deep! The title track on “The Untouchable” is proof in the pudding. An unforgiving bassline that “sub” merges ears while a synthesizer smoothly swirls underneath a sparse pummeling drum beat was what ‘Face needed to prove that indeed, “the killer instinct never left me”. Slightly more up-tempo the posse cut “Money Makes The World Go ‘Round” employed a feel-good track that nevertheless resonated with a strange sting of melancholy. The song shines mainly because it acknowledges the empty happiness that “clockin’ dollars” can bring, something few, if any, hip hop songs do these days. Most refreshing by far, however, was “Smartz” the unexpected funky as hell parable on racism. With “The Untouchable”, Scarface re-emerged as a don, whose power is still felt whenever he steps away from the music scene for a bit. Now, here he is, 20 years deep hitting us over the head with his newest LP, “Made”, still sounding just as fresh as he did on “Mind Playin’ Tricks On Me”. Scarface, a TRUE legend in Hip Hop whose been as real as they come!
The Wascals chose the wrong name. The funky four-Buc Whead,, A.L.Phie, St. Imey and Spit-anky-plus one, producer J Swift could have just as easily beat the Lost Boyz to the punch, sharing a moniker that seems more applicable to the shelved release of The Wascals “Greatest Hits” LP. In a career that was held back more than once, these L.A. youngsters, at one time, appeared to be destined for greatness. Buckwhead shined twice on The Pharcyde’s “Bizzare Ride 2 The Pharcyde” debut, kickin’ memorable verses on “On The DL”, and after their “delay of game”, the fellas even dropped their own single, “Dips”, a few years thereafter. But then, unfortunately, The Wascals also dropped…..off the face of Hip Hop. However, this year, like loose change in the cushions of your couch came the aptly titled “The Wascals Greatest Hits”. Rather than an introspection about coming up in the rap game, this tardy album is simply the joint that should have come out years ago but didn’t. This all seems painfully ironic when considering that The Pharcyde’s other buddy, TV actor Brian Austin Green (Beverly Hills 90210) released his own full-length in 1996. The majority of the material found on “..Greatest Hits” sounds outdated judging by references to “Liquid TV” and “Jeffry Dahmer”. Notables such as “Big Booty Rap” sampled Fat Lip’s “I dig dips who got hips that are gigantic” line from “Soul Power” and deals with the subject of nice round derrieres. “Doggy Style” utilizes the Isley’s “Between The Sheets” and features J Swift on the mic and also deals with the aforementioned subject of…..what else…..phat assess. Musically and content-wise there’s not much variety either. Risky winning moves such as Swift’s integration of big band sounds on “Hard Rhymes” are few and far between. And minus the intro, a remix and a reprise, the album really isn’t that long. Ultimately, “…Greatest Hits” plays like an album that may have had a chance to shine had it been released on it’s actual “release” date. Still, a great collector’s item to possess for the avid underground Hip Hop listener.