When the Wu dropped in ’93, shit was crazy. They were like nothing anyone had really seen at the time, at least on a large scale, and as a complete unit. In simple man terms, the blew the fuck up. Everybody was on the to coat tails of the mighty Wu-Tang Clan. You had eight strong lyricists all moving in one direction as one entity. It was an amazing thing at the time. Everyone had their own favorite member. Some dudes were all about the crazy lyrical style of Ol’ Dirty Bastard, others thought the technical lyrical approach of the Genius made him one of the best MC’s in the game. Others such as myself were sucked into the total package of lyrics, delivery and charisma of Method Man.
The Source ran a little blurb about the Wu when they were still putting out “Protect Ya Neck” out by themselves. Something about eight dudes combining in one group kind piqued my interest. Eventually I would track down the cassette single of “Protect Ya Neck” when Loud released it and while I thought the track was pretty dope, it was the b-side that snagged my interest, which was the Method Man solo track. The dude was amazing on the mic. I just dug his whole style. From then on out, Meth would be my favorite Wu member. After the meteoritic rise of the Wu, it was announced that members would be getting their own solo deals and releasing albums. Good news for the fans, but people were wondering who would be first to drop. The RZA made the smart move and went with the artist with the most potential for super stardom, Method Man. He would drop his solo debut album, Tical, that fall. That fall was FULL of dope releases. Ever week it seemed like I was picking up some killer release. This album was no different.
I’m sure some heads will say that Meth has never truly lived up to his potential, which might be true in some ways, but I still say “Tical” is a dope album overall. As mentioned, this was the first of the solo Wu projects, and it set shit off proper like. The first single from the album would be “Bring The Pain”, a dope track, that I’ve always felt like it was somewhat overlooked in the dopeness that was ’94. The RZA, who produced the entire album, drops a beat that makes you wonder what the fuck happened to him. The bassline is supplemented with a vocal humming sample that gives the track a dark and gritty feel. You throw the video that was released with the album, and you have a classic track. The video shows a scary lookin’ Meth (rumor was he was dusted during the video shoot) basically being Meth, ride a bus across a dark and dingy city.
The year of ’94 was personally one of my favorite years of my life. I have many memories from the year and this album was just one of the soundtracks I had going that year. I remember grabbing this album the day it dropped because I had been eagerly anticipating this for awhile. The first joint was the title track, “Tical”. Just the way it started off gave me goosebumps (sorry D). It was a classic RZA track, full of the kung-fu samples and dusty drums. Method drops memorable line after memorable line. “Biscuits” was one of my personal favorite tracks. It was kind of strange with the way it started out, with the keys but then the bassline drops and shit got to thumpin’. This track would rattle in Jimmy back in the day. “Meth Vs. Chef” is a dope collabo with Raekwon and made for an interesting concept as the two went back and forth at each other. “Sub Crazy” was another ill bass track and Method just flowed on this track, which demonstrates that when Meth is on top of his game, dude has one of the best flows in the game. “PLO Style” was another track might have gotten slept on by some people, I always pumped it regularly. The guest appearance of Carlton Fisk is another one of those debut guest appearances that I found incredibly ill. You still hear Carlton Fisk every once in awhile, but I truly expected bigger things from him at the time. The posse cut of “Mr. Sandman” is ill in the fact that they used Blue Raspberry for the vocals and everyone comes off incredibly nice with their verses.
Then of course the album version of “All I Need” was overshadowed by the remixes on the single. It just seemed to be lacking the same energy that some of the other tracks. The only track I didn’t really care for was “I Get My Thang In Action”, which wasn’t really lacking anything other than it just wasn’t on the same level as the other tracks.
When asking people what the best solo Wu release, you won’t hear anyone say “Tical”, and for good reason. The first three Ghost releases, Raekwon’s “Only Built..”, and GZA’s “Liquid Swords” are all better albums, but “Tical” will always be among my all-time favorites just because of the time in my life it came out. It will always be associated with the good times in my life. The album is nothing to sneeze at. As of right now, it’s the best overall complete release from Method, but if any of his recent performances are any indications, we might be seeing another banger from Johnny Blaze in the near future.
Shadz Of Lingo – A View To A Kill
Released: Febuary 8th, 1994
1. Different Stylez (Prod. By Diamond D)
2. Mad Flavaz (Prod. Erick Sermon)
3. Ill & Get Clowned (Prod. Diamond D)
4. Wherez Da Steel (Prod. Dallas “That Ain’t Weed” Austin)
5. Psychopathic Interlude (Prod. Madness 4 Real)
6. View To A Kill (Prod. Madness 4 Real)
7. Think I Give A F–K (Prod. Diamond D
8. Don’t Test Da Skillz (Prod. Diamond D)
9. Crossfade Flow
10. I Step 2 U Den (Prod. Madness 4 Real)
11. Alwayz Stylin (Prod. Dallas Austin)
First for the year 1994, is a release from an Atlanta via Richmond, Virgina group Shadz Of Lingo. Shadz consisted of two MC’s, Lingo M & Kolorado, and DJ Rocko. My first experience, as I think anyone’s that heard them during this time, was on Erick Sermon’s debut solo LP, No Pressure (another personal favorite of mine) on the track Lil’ Crazy that dropped in 93′, that if you read last weeks reviews of 1993, you would have read already (there will be a quiz after this year, ha). In 94′ they dropped their debut and only LP, A View To A Kill. It would have moderate commercial success, but I’ve always thought of it as one of the better over looked hip hop albums from a year, and era for that matter, that was packed with classics.
By no means was this a classic album in the general consensus, but for me, it got a lot of play. Both beats and MC’s attracted me to this release. With Diamond D lending his hand to four tracks on the LP, that alone was almost worth the price of admission. If
I need to remind you what Diamond was doing during this era, then there is a little LP called Stunts, Blunts & Hip Hop released two years prior to this by Diamond that might give you an idea what kind of quality these four tracks are. The album kicks off with a Diamond beat on Different Stylez that gets the listener into the mood of some dope hip hop. With it’s jazzy sax sample and vocal loop, this is one of the better Diamond beats I’ve heard and that’s saying a lot. Erick Sermon produced only one track, the lead single Mad Flavaz, which sounds like most of the Funk Lords tracks during this time. E Double also drops the only guest appearance on the whole album on the track. Dallas Austin, who executive produced the album, also drops two tracks, both of which are surprisingly good. Wherez Da Steel is an Austin banger that utilizes a nice scream sample on the chorus that adds to the spazzed out track. The track though is highlighted by the dope flow Lingo M posses.
It’s no secret that there were a lot of gimmicks being kicked around on the majority of hip hop releases in the 90′s and Shadz were no exception. The dropped the “crossfade flow” to the world. It’s not that they used it extensively on the album, but Lingo M drops it on numerous tracks on the album. It’s nothing more than having his voice bounce back in forth in the listeners headphones. It gives kind of a weird listening experience and some might find annoying, but I’ve grown used to it over the years. Lingo M seems to get the most shine on the album. He has one of the better voices and flow that I’ve heard, very unique in the grand scheme of things. He also has the presence on the mic to grab the listeners attention. This is evident on the short Psychopathic Interlude that I used to know word by word, and is populated with some great one liners. Lingo M is definitely the better MC, but Kolorado plays Phife to Lingo’s Q-Tip. He’s not bad by any of the sense of the imagination, but tends to get over shadowed by his rhyme partner.
As I said, the album isn’t a classic by any means. It does have a few wink links here and there. Step 2 U Den is a jam for the honeys that is strictly filler. Ill & Get Clowned is kind of juvenile with it’s approach and kind of a waste of a good Diamond beat. But tracks like Different Stylez, Mad Flavaz, Wherez Da Steel, Think I Give A F–K, Don’t Test Da Skillz and Alwayz Stylin. It’s a must in any heads collection and it’s still fairly easy to find (I used to see qu ite a few in my neck of the woods) and fairly inexpensive, going for anywhere from 4-6 bucks for the CD and around 8-9 bucks on for the wax and can be found on E-bay.
Released: June 21st, 1994
2. As I Flow On
3. We Got da Gats
4. I Can Do Dat
5. Don’t Stress Me
6. Real Mack
7. Boom Wha Dat
8. Blast a New Asshole
9. Slinging Bass
10. Wet ‘Em Up
11. Dead Men Don’t Talk
12. Take It from da Top
13. Time to Die
14. Low Key
15. Shout Outs
16. Represent [The Grinch & Hill Remix]
Grand Daddy I.U. – Lead Pipe: In Which Polarity Recycles An Old Review He Had to Write to Pass College…(and Travis is strapped for time, so it gets more recycled time)
If you’ve perused the used hip hop section of your local record store recently, there’s a high chance you’ve seen a copy of Lead Pipe (or maybe even a few copies) sitting there gathering dust. Albums with such a ubiquitous presence in the second hand racks can generally be thrown onto one of two piles. In the first are the overlooked gems that have never gotten their due respect (Brand Nubian’s Foundation, for instance). In the second, the junk which surely no sane listener could ever want polluting their music collection (atrocious kiddie Miami Bass rappers The Puppies anyone?) So where in the spectrum does Lead Pipe fall?
Grand Daddy I.U. was one of the last members of the Juice Crew / Cold Chillin’ empire to release an album, dropping the superb Biz Markie-produced Smooth Assassin in 1990. For whatever reason, his sophomore effort Lead Pipe didn’t come out until four years later, by which time the laid-back suit-wearing pimp attitude that personified Smooth Assassin had been succeeded by rowdy thugs rocking jeans, hoodies and Timberlands.
In an attempt to compete with the Black Moons, Onyxes, Biggies and Wu Tang Clans running the east coast scene in 1994, Daddy completely switched up his steez. Whereas on his debut he was dappered in silk suits and lyrically outmacking contemporaries such as Big Daddy Kane and King Sun, here he’s tipping back forty ounces, swinging the eponymous lead pipe (with his name painted on it!) and cooking up creative song titles such as ‘We Got Da Gats’ and ‘Represent’.
The success of Grand Daddy’s attempts at mid-nineties style ruggedness are mixed. The aforementioned ‘Represent’ features a predictably shouty hook before the beat (self-produced, like the majority of the album) breaks down to a smoother horn-tinged instrumental that is well suited to I.U.’s vocal tone. Unfortunately, lyrics such as ‘The only remains is blood stains, spilt brains and broke bones / You step in my face with the gauge you get smoked homes’ are far from convincing, especially when followed by thoroughly preposterous lines like ‘My skills are nastier than a fart after eatin’ a raw egg’ (?!)
On the record’s nadir ‘We Got Da Gats’, Daddy does his ‘best’ impersonation of Onyx, switching his voice and pulling overused lyrics like ‘I smoke so many niggas my gun got cancer’ out of his cliché cache. ‘Dead Men Don’t Talk’, meanwhile, is memorable only for biting both Kool G Rap and Das EFX in a single verse.
Lead Pipe does have its moments though, and occasionally recaptures the magic of Smooth Assassin. ‘As I Flow On’, ‘Don’t Stress Me’ and ‘Da Real Mack’ are all smooth jams that veer just on the right side of cheesiness as I.U. flexes his ‘vocal tone that’s smooth just like Barry White’. The contrast of songs like these against junk like ‘We Got Da Gats’ and ‘Slinging Bass’ just goes to highlight the shortcomings of the majority of the album.
The only skippable song on Smooth Assassin was ‘Gals Dem So Hot’ an ill-advised attempt at ragga. I guess no-one told I.U. his singing sucks, because Lead Pipe features not one but two similarly wretched Jamaican crossovers, ‘Boom Wha Dat’ and ‘Time To Die’ which further dilute the potency an already mediocre album.
In other words, there’s a reason why 95% of the copies of Lead Pipe manufactured are dying a slow death in used music stores around the world. With the exception of a handful of tracks, this album sucks, and rightfully flopped commercially. I.U. kept a real low profile for the next 10 years, producing a couple of tracks on Heltah Skeltah’s equally horrific sophomore slump Magnum Force in 1998 and not much else. However, despite the played-out title, his ‘I Be Thuggin’ b/w ‘Mack of the Year’ single released last year was a very fine return to form and is hopefully
indicative of good things for the future.
Trav’s 2 Cents: He is pretty much right on, nothing great on this. I’m sure Po would want it to be known that Grand Daddy’s “Stick To The Script” is an excellent album and well worth checking out, which we wanted people to know since it seems to be unnoticed as of late.
Words from Polarity
Mad Flava – From The Ground Unda (Priority)
Released: April 12th, 1994
While the early 90′s was full of innovation and creativity, for every new style, there was ten other MC’s riding the jock. Look no further than the diggidy iggidy craze after Das came on the scene. Even Ice Cube was bitin’ their style. It was a problem then, it’s a problem now and it’ll probably always be a problem. I lump the Dallas Texas group, Mad Flava into a carbon copy phase as well. The group consisted of Cold Chris the Soulman, Don Kasaan, DJ Baby G the Cut Selectah and producer Erich “Hype Dawg” KrauseIf you listen to the production, you would swear that DJ Muggs are DJ Lethal of the Soul Assassins produced these tracks and that either Everlast or one of the cats from Young Black Teenagers. With that said, I can’t just brush this album to the side. In those days when this was dropped, I didn’t really know any better, and I really dug the album. It’s kind of stuck on me since then.
If you are going to bite someones style, then the Soul Assassin flava of that era was a good one to bite. Lots of raw bassliness, horns and crazy sirens, which if you know me, I’m a sucka for. The production is busy and has a lot going on it, which attracted me to the album almost immediately. Interestingly enough, the album is produced by Total Track, better known as Courtney Branch and Tracey Kendrick, who are somewhat unheralded legends in the West Coast hip hop scene. They first showed up in ’85 on the LA Dream Team song “Rockberry Jam” and have been involved with other west coast artists such as AMG, DJ Quik, and Slyk Smoov. There are lots of interesting beats on this album, with the single “Feel The Flava” probably stealing the declaration of the best from me. This very “House of Pain-ish” sounding track is equipped with a loud siren and some buzzing with some sprinkin’ of piano keys and a hard drum track was the first single that I heard from them (they did have a couple independent singles the year before in ’93) and the first from the album.
Lyrically, I don’t think Cold Chris, who held most of the rhyming responsibility was anything special or incredible, but he handled his duties well enough. A lot of the tracks sound like something you have heard somewhere else, whether it be the topics or the concepts of the songs. “Bump Ya Head” sounds like something I’ve heard on an Ali Dee project, “I Like 2 Smoke Weed & Listen 2 Hip Hop” sounds like something that would be included on a Young Black Teenagers album. There are plenty of other examples, but I’ll save it.
Chances are if you are listening to this album for the first time, you’ll probably end up writing it off fairly quickly. Listening to it while doing this write up, I’m not really sure what I saw in it, but it does contain some intriguing aspects which while keep this little jewel in my collection. I’m not really sure why, but this album is going for fifty bucks and more on Amazon.com. I was lucky enough to pick this up in Denver for seven bucks. I was happy to find it then, but it’s certainly not worth fifty bucks.