On the exterior Pudgee The Phat Bastard may be more “Prince Markie Dee” (remember him?) than “Sticky Fingaz”, but don’t get it twisted, with punchlines and metaphors for days this baby-faced emcee was quit to spit a verbal jab in a “New York minute”. In what was a somewhat refreshing debut, void of all the “iggedy-isms” and “gat-bussin” (that was soo commonplace in East Coast Hip-Hop during the mid-nineties), Pudgee delivered a solid debut that would have headz checkin’ for a follow-up that would never come to fruition (“King Of New York”). After one listen to “Give Em’ The Finger” it’s evident that Pudgee was no “new jack” to Hip-Hop, years of lyrical sparring obviously played a huge part in not only Pudgee’s delivery but his cock-sure approach to “microphone holdin” as well. Matter of fact, around the time of it’s release I can remember that there was a bit of a buzz surrounding this album, even though it really never picked up a full head of steam and today it’s one of the most slept-on efforts from 1993.
Lyrically, Pudgee sticks to what he knows best….braggin’ and boastin’. The majority of his lyrical content is fueled with bravado and battle rhymes that may have been better suited for the “cypher” rather than as a “theme” for your debut album. Not to say that Pudgee is wack by any means (see the Kool G Rap featured “This Is How We Fu*k It Up”), however, the constant theme of bravado does become repetitive by album’s end. When Pudgee does step outside of his comfort zone is when he’s at his finest, peep “Checkin’ Out The Ave.” where Pudgee delivers on-point social commentary backed by the overused (but still very effective) “Substitution” break and funky horns courtesy of the “then little known” Trackmasterz production team. The Trackmasterz also improved their cause on the MC Lyte assisted “Lady In My Life” where Pudgee crafts a tribute to Ma Dukes. Besides who doesn’t want to hear another “Dear Mama” track, right? The real sick sh*t can be found on “Mommy Dearest”, on this track Pudgee delivers an ill tale of….get this….”incest is best” or “closer the kin, further it goes in”, where a dude is actually dickin’ down his own Mother. Crazy, right?
On the production tip, the majority of the beats on “Give Em’ The Finger” were handled by the Trackmasterz along with a beat or two from the hugely slept-on Tony Dofat (who also did on helluva’ job on Heavy D’s “Blue Funk” & Latifah’s “Black Reign”). While most of the musical patterns are a given, characteristic of 1993 Hip Hop, the thumping bass lines, swirling synth effects and the occasional trumpet echo (Pete Rock oughta’ be receiving a check for every one of these used on record) match up well with Pudgee’s hardcore yet appealing delivery. Peep “Give Em’ Tha Finger”, a solid effort that offered the best of both words, hardcore lyrics coupled with a hint of commercial appeal.
Tell me that this doesn’t make for an odd equation, Motown Records + Hip Hop = A quality album? Wow! In a valiant attempt to stake their claim in Hip Hop, Motown Records (“Trendz” was actually released on “Mad Sounds”, a subsidiary of the parent label,Motown) jumped back into the rap game with an impressive debut from a Harlem trio that were all equal parts of style, substance and skill. Members M.O.L., Grapevine and Nastee were a pleasing combination of Old School delivery, jazzy loops and hardcore drums, but just like many of their peers feel short in the end due to lack of originality.
While Trendz Of Culture may have caused a little stir with their debut single, the “Blind Alley”-sampled “Off & On” (which also sounded VERY similar to the “Scenario” remix), it was their second release “Valley Of The Skinz” that really established this trio in the Hip Hop underground. Nothing short of “breezy”, “Skinz..” had the potential to be one of ’93′s true summer, jeep anthems. Dedicated to everyone’s favorite pastime….sex, the emcees proved that raunchy lyrics could be delivered with class, skill and distinction. With solid drums, soft piano keys and a weird synth effect “Skinz” was a winner just as a “strictly” instrumental joint. The album itself is “self-produced” and the end result was very impressive. Again, following in the ’93 sprit the majority of the loops are jazzy and the drums are knockin’. However, as an added “bonus” the Lord Finesse remixes of the two aforementioned singles (“Valley Of The Skinz” & “Off & On”) were tweaked to include Finesse’s trademark booming bass and distorted horns.
Overall, “Trendz…” was a really, really good album that anyone who professes to be an educated “golden age” listener should have within arm’s length (or at least own). Surprisingly, the album has withstood the test of time, even though it doesn’t light a match to say….”Enta Da Stage” or “93 Til’ Infinity”. However, part of me wishes that this trio could have dropped another album which would have truly proved if Trendz Of Culture had “what it takes” to have fruitful careers in Hip Hop. Sadly, “Trendz” would fall victim to whatever knocked so many East Coast artists off the map between ’93-’95. Damn, who was signing all these cats like “hotcakes” anyway?
Losing the “new jack” image and picking up an ideology that was better known as the Nation of Gods and Earths, Redhead Kingpin reappeared in 1993 (along with a few of his homies) with hopes of rejuvenating his career. As far as I’m concerned, he did a pretty fair job of doing so judging from the quality displayed between “React Like Ya’ Knew” and his solo outings. The improvement with the beats and lyrics is drastic. The beats bump, the hooks are catchy and the album re-worked a few old-school samples that provided just the right vintage atmosphere to a dope effort that was widely “passed-up” due to the perception of Redhead from his previous two efforts. So let’s get down to business. To set sh*t off nicely, “That’s What It Is”, a track that sampled a bit of the Jungle Brothers’ “Jimbrowski” along with the bass line that made Masta Ace’s “Music Man” a New York anthem, established a nice identity to the Private Investigators as they proved that this album was not to be mistaken for another “New Jack Swing”.
Next up is “She’s Not My G”, and for all you youngsters out there, “G” was a widespread phrase that basically stood for “girlfriend”, popularized by Flavor Flav on “Meet The G That Killed Me” (from “Fear Of A Black Planet”). Then you have “Walk On”, which to me, sounded eerily reminiscent of the Pharcyde classic, “Passing Me By” (topic-wise anyway) and “Damn It Feels Good”, which is appropriately titled due to it’s heavy drum kick and deep bass line along with horns sampled from the Tenor Saw classic, “Ring The Alarm”. Also of note is “On The Rise” which is centered around the same loop that propelled Black Moon to underground stardom.
Honestly, the album works largely due to it’s dope production, which was mostly handled by Redhead. The catchy hooks, and the fact that Red had definitely spent a little extra time in the both between the release of his solo albums and “React Like Ya’ Knew” is very noticeable. For cats that favor the lyrical aspect of Hip Hop, this album may not be up your alley because the lyrics…at times….seem monotone and redundant. At any rate this album is definitely listenable anywhere a dope sound system can be found
What happens when you blend together a hint of Das Efx, a dash of the Fu-Schnicks and a smidgeon of Yaggfu Front? My best guess would be Capital Tax, who delivered a real nice piece of work in 1993 with the cleverly titled “The Swoll Package”. It’s a difficult task to find any prominent info regarding this four-man crew on the ‘net, but whatever the case, you had to appreciate Capital Tax’ no-frills approach to makin’ music. In what’s most surprising, judging from Capital Tax’ heavy East Coast influence, one would guess that the crew hailed from New York…..however, they were actually from Oakland. Comprised of DJ Cool Al, TMD (Total Mind Devastator, who also handled the majority of the emceein’), Bozie, and Scruff, Capital Tax would also be another group to fall amongst the likes of “one and done” albums in ’93.
Capital Tax comes across happy, friendly, and not menacing, they rap about the good ole’ times, chilling with friends, and there’s quite a few funny nonsensical verses in there too. All of the emcees are similar in style and delivery, they also have very similar voices and none stands out as better than the other. Still, throughout “The Swoll Package” they display a great chemistry. The production is nice. The soundscapes are constantly upbeat and bouncy, there’s fast bass and hooks to every song….think the production of a B-rated Marley Marl. There’s some jazzy saxophones on almost every song too, the horn instrumentation accounts for a real nice touch, this is a characteristic I loved regarding the ’93 sound. The beats are consistent, so none really stand out, and some of them run together, which is somewhat expecting due to the sole producer being DJ Smooth G. They’re not nearly as nice as the fairly similar beats you’d find from Marley or Pete Rock during this time period, but it’s still fairly impressive.
The first song (after the five-second intro) is “Mista Wonka.” This song is corny as hell but still catchy, the fairly nonsensical verses and loopy beat make for a nice start to the album. “Make a Move Y’all” follows with some basic freestyle rhymes over a decent beat. After a short freestyle interlude, “I Can’t Believe It,” a track where the verses recount childhood stories, it’s lyrically and musically solid, the organ and sax instrumentation are especially dope. “The Masha” is a definite highlight, the beat is excellent, vibey and funky, and the rhymes are extremely entertaining. There’s also supposedly a nice remix of “The Masha” floating around out there somewhere, although I’ve never heard it. A nice short musical interlude precedes probably my favorite song on “The Swoll Package”, “Givin’ It Back.” This song features some of the best production on the album, and the lyrics advocate generosity and paying dues, suggesting to remember where you came from. “Styles I Manifest” is okay, and “Make Some Cash” is fun as well. “Poet Treeman” and “Treetop Connection” are two of the best songs, both heavy on the jazzy sax, the later of the two being the standard posse cut.
I think it would have been hard for Capital Tax to deliver another album, their sound drew a lot from the 1993 jazzy vibe and didn’t have much originality, and within a few years it would sound fairly dated. But this album is a great listen, but it’s just not as good as similar works from the same time period by Black Moon, Lords of the Underground, or the Hiero camp who easily overshadowed it in ’93. “The Swoll Package” reflects a great time period for hip hop music, a time where originality, performance, and jazziness were at an all-time high. I recommend this album to fans of those groups, listeners will find that it draws a lot from the sound they love. Capital Tax didn’t bring much new to the table, but they continued on with an already established sound which makes this album very interesting to say the least.
1. “C.R.E.A.M”-Wu Tang Clan
2. “Buck Em’ Down”-Black Moon
3. “Devil’s Son”-Big L
4. “Come Clean”-Jeru The Damaja
6. “Hostile”-Erick Sermon f. Keith Murray
7. “The Bomb”-Akinyele
8. “Area”-De La Soul
9. “You Can’t Tell Me Shit”-The Alkaholiks
10. “Higher Level”-KRS One
11. “Kaught In Da Ak”-Das Efx
12. “Top Notch”-Kurious
13. “Tell Me Who Profits”-Souls Of Mischief
14. “Keep It Rollin”-A.T.C.Q. f. Large Professor