Ed O.G., who is probably the most easily identifiable rapper to emerge from the Roxbury section of Boston behind GangStarr’s Guru has always thrived more so as a story-teller than a pure rhymer. Stylistically, there’s never been anything that has set him up apart from the tons of other rhyme-spitters to don the tag “emcee”. However, IMO Ed O’s delivery and narrative tales have always given him that extra push that doesseparate him from the pack. Whether it’s the profound lines from the sax-laced CLASSIC “I Got To Have It”, or the heart-felt message within “Be A Father To Your Child”, Ed’s lyrics have always had a way of sticking in your medulla. Many of the tracks that appeared on Ed’s sophomore effort followed that very same blueprint. Backed by crazy dope production (think lots of funky horn riffs and knockin’ drums) courtesy of the Awesome Two, Diamond D and others, “Roxbury 02119″ is smooth like butter, a pure concoction of traditional hip-hop sounds and vivid realism. The album’s highlights feature a combination of top-notch production and honest rhymes. One of my all-time favorites, “Love Comes & Goes” with it’s soulful chorus and additive guitar riff worked simply on the basis of Ed’s sincerity. The mellow background music underscored a chilling autobiographical narrative in which Ed spoke on all the people that left him, from good friends to his very own father. The album’s first single “Skinny Dip” and “I Thought Ya’ Knew” were appealing not so much for the rhymes, but rather the horn-laden Pete Rock-esque production. The album’s best song is delivered courtesy of “Less Than Zero” (see my “Top 25 Beats Of All Time”) and is the only cut that came anywhere close to eclipsing “I Got To Have It”. The album’s only serious misstep was the corny, R & B rip-off “Try Me”, but hey…who didn’t have a corny R & B cut on their album in ’94? Overall, “Roxbury 02119″ was far from disappointing as the funky production, well-thought out lyrics and overall level of cohesion made this record an even more mature effort than his debut, ”Life Of A Kid In The Ghetto”.
At one point in time, an immensely talented and skillful emcee, Spice 1 followed up his 1992 gold debut with an album that picked up right where he left off. Despite all the controversy that regarded Spice being a so-called “studio gansta’” and what not, he once again pulled you into his war zone that is, East Oakland. This time around Spice added a woman’s touch to the mix as the “gangstress” better known as Boss, dropped by for a visit on “Don’t Ring The Alarm”-an attempt to capitalize on the success of Cube & Yo-Yo’s “Bonnie & Clyde”. However, it was the album’s first single “Dumpin’ Em’ In Ditches” that was the true highlight of “187 He Wrote”. “Dumpin…”, freaked the beat to DJ Quik’s “Only Fo’ The Money” as Spice and his 187 Fac disposed of cats who claimed that he wasn’t “real”. I always enjoyed the “dancehall” influence that Spice incorporated into many of his tracks, a prime example of this could be found on the album’s title track. On “187 He Wrote” Spice spit venom over a Mad Cobra “Flex-like” beat that looped a fat piano riff over a laid-back gangsta beat. Other tracks that may have also grabbed your attention were “Runnin’ Out The Crackhouse”, “380 On That Ass” and “R.I.P”. On the down-slide, while the album’s first five or so tracks were straight-up dope, portions of the album left a bit to be desired. Aside from the beats, there wasn’t quite enough lyrical innovations to elevate “187….” to the next level. The subject matter was there, as were the beats, but it was the exact same Spice 1 from ’92. Meanwhile, everyone else made it a point to catch up on the breakthroughs that Spice made with his debut. But aside from that, Spice gave his core audience exactly what they were searching for.
“No Mercy” was indeed Da Youngtas’ third album, damn, tell me that doesn’t make you feel old as shit? It’s always been argued that the significant problem with young emcees is that they often rhyme about experiences that they’ve yet to endure. However, Da Youngstas enjoyed the luxury of growing up with the guidance of Naughty’s Treach, the stage maiming of Krs-One, the board skills of Pete Rock, The Beatnuts, Marley Marl and K-Def. With “No Mercy” Da Youngstas were no longer “youngsters” but rather, “Da Adolescents”. Quickly, you came to the realization that the trio from Philly were no longer young, the moment the sex joint, “Put Me On” hit your headphones. “No Mercy” also took you for a “Hip Hop Ride” and Marley Marl’s dope remix conjured vivid memories and really made you recognize each and every name mentioned on this “who’s who” in Hip-Hop rundown. While most everyone else was banging on the lunchroom tables of their youth, Da Youngstas could counter, “Well, we had three album’s out already”. Q-Ball, Taji and Tarik flow nicest on both the Marley-freaked title track and K-Def’s creation, “Mad Props”. Though the phrase “mad props” was slightly overused by the time “No Mercy” dropped, K-Def was successful in finding a moving, atmospheric hip-hop loop that many other producers have still been searching for over the years. K-Def even cuts the LL hook so coldly that you almost expected Uncle L to emerge fresh off the ’87 Def Jam Tour. However, even though Da Youngstas wrote their own lyrics and displayed a vast improvement over three albums, at moments, they still sounded like your average run-of-the-skill rappers. And while sparsely poignant beats blared in the background, the hardly believable lyrics started to wear thin near the album’s close. Still, if you peep “No Mercy” or not, K-Def & Marley’s beats on this joint were phenomenal. Hmmm, I wonder if there’s an instrumental version of “No Mercy” floating around out there?