From coast to coast, Tracey Lee’s first single “The Theme”, with it’s catchy hook and squeaky scratches had turned empty dance floors into a sea of gyrating hips and sweaty feet. But the question remained “would Tracey strictly be a “One Hit Wonder” or a legitimate artist”? Sad to say, it turned out to be the later. From the beginning of “Many Facez” you could sense that Tracey was on some other sh*t lyrically. The title track opened you up to his split personality and found Tracey and featured various persona’s over a fairly average drum track. Clearly not the illest lyricist, throughout “Many Facez” Lee’s strong suit was his vibrant vocal delivery and clever punchlines. At times, Tracey breathed new light into tired themes such as hard times (“On The Edge”), loyalty to your homies (“Who’s Crew?”) and boy-girl relationships (“Give It Up Baby”), by injecting clever twists that changed the lyrical direction of each aforementioned track. However, the downfall of the album is it’s bland production that remained faceless, hampering things throughout the disc’s entirety. Who knows, with the right production line-up Tracey may have avoided the “One Hit Wonder” tag that caused him to fade into obscurity. Although, didn’t I just hear him on a 9th Wonder track a few years ago?
With an alias like Questionmark Asylum, and a breezy first single (“Hey Lookaway”) these Pharcyde knock-offs gained a little notoriety with their debut “The Album” in some areas in the North-East. However, the happy-go-lucky sound of their debut single wore thin just minutes into the album. The album’s production, believe it or not, was actually fairly good throughout. Lots of instruments, keys, horns and guitars, were used to carve out an original sound for Q.A.’s tracks that generally displayed a “live” easy-going feel. For instance, “Love, Peace & Soul” brought back the essence of a live jazz band backing the group as they unleash their lyrics on a dark, smoke-filled stage. Some of the “computerized” sounds on the album almost sound more fit for today’s production techniques rather than those of 1995. Now for the bad, the lyrics on the album typically were on point, as the group reflected on everything from sex to spousal abuse to…..well..ho’s. Oh, and throw in a track about fatherless children for good measure, so essentially your typical run-of-the-mill topics in Hip Hop were all touched upon with “The Album”. Even with good production and varied subject matter, Questionmark Asylum’s debut (with the exception of “Hey Lookaway”) lacked any real “stand-outs”. While their “care-free” style was refreshing, it was too close to the style that The Pharcyde and Souls Of Mischief had already developed and thrived on. In the end, the groups inability to seperate themselves from the pack really gave the album a black eye and halted any real “head of steam” that the group had picked up with the success of their first single. Damn, Dallas Austin had his dealings with his fair share of “One Hit Wonders” (see below), but he made up for them all with Da King & I.
Ya’ll So Stupid’s first and only LP managed to intertwine numerous elements of Jazz, Funk and Hip Hop into a good, but ultimately, uninspired album. Emcees Unkle Buk, H-2-O and Logic along with DJ Sha Boogie, tried to capitalize on the buzz that surrounded Atlanta during the mid-nineties but a lack of direction seemed to get in their way. However, with some half-decent production they managed to salvage the LP and craft a few standouts along the way, the first being “Bootleg Beatdown”, which dealt with the all-too-common theme of the rampant bootlegging and the problems that come along with it for any aspiring emcee. Also of note, there’s “Introduce Me”, which fittingly starts the album off with a bang, thanks to a funky drum track and a nice lyrical performance from the aforementioned emcees. And who can forget the remix”85 South”, which also served as the album’s first single. Production-wise, producer Spearhead X (the infamous Dallas Austin was the executive producer) does an above-average job of laying the groundwork for Ya’ll So Stupid with his easily identifiable samples and breakbeats that walk the fine line of being “overused”. The biggest beef that I had with this album was it’s semi-repetitive nature. For instance, the phone conversations that fill nearly every interlude can be very bothersome and annoying. Ya’ll So Stupid really gets “lost in the sauce” when they try to be overly socially conscious on “The Plant” and “Monkey Off My Back”, their messages are often undecipherable amongst their at-times “rushed” flows and lyrics that lack any real structure. Ya’ll So Stupid’s valiant attempt to cater to the mainstream didn’t quite go according to Rowdy’s plans and the final result was an album that became to complicated while trying to please too many listening audiences at once.