When “The Natural” dropped around the winter of 1995 on the now defunct Blunt Recordings, it quickly became the soundtrack that accompanied me through countless hours of shoveling snow and detailing cars (a little side business that I had at the time) throughout another cold-ass East Coast winter. And you know what is the funniest (and now, most embarrassing) sh*t ever? Get this, I was driving a blue GEO Tracker at the time, and playing the bass heavy cuts on “The Natural” used to distort the hell outta’ those factory speakers!! Shhhhhh!..quiet on the Tracker sh*t, I don’t even think my wife knows about that yet..she may not have married me if that was the case. Anyway, this was the pre -”Vendetta” Mic Geronimo that came fresh out the gate, raw as hell on some ol’ East Coast “groggy bassline, hard lyrics” madness. Mic had a hell of a production team to assist him with the beats on “The Natural”…just peep the lineup: Mark Sparks (damn, I forgot about him!) 4 tracks, Da Beatminerz – 2 cuts, Buckwild – 3 tracks, let’s not forget about the man everyone loves to hate DJ Irv (Irv Gotti)-3 tracks, Chyskillz (produced alot of Onyx’ earlier stuff) also dropped by with the beats for “Man Of My Own”. It’s very interesting hearing the lineup on “Time To Build” featuring Jay-Z, Ja Rule & DMX and realize that they got their early “shine” on Mic’s behalf. Now, those dudes need to be helping out Mic with the rent and the car note…there’s been a sh*tload of money made between those three (Jay, Ja & X) over the years. Mic Geronimo, well at least to me..had a voice that was sorta’ reminiscent of an early Rakim and…..damn, why did dude have to go and put out “Vendetta” (his HORRIBLE sophomore slump)!! This album showed so much promise, I thought Mic would have been good for at least a solid four or so album stretch. Damn, enough already (shaking head), I’m done bitchin’…I just can’t get over how he dropped something soo dope and just completely put out some bullsh*t for the remainder of his recording career!!! I guess that’s what dropping a follow up in 1997 (the beginning of the “jiggy” era) will do to a brother!
Intricately abstract like an “Illmatic”-Nas, Mic Geronimo not only displayed a rhyme cadence that resembled that of Nasir Jones but he also delivered an expressive delivery that shined on cuts such as the classic “Masta I.C.”. The follow-up to Mic’s first single, “Shit’s Real”, “Masta I.C.” was fueled by a melodic xylophone texture that chimed in and out over a heavy bassline. Not only was the production on “Masta I.C.” top notch, but the track also featured one of the simplest, yet most addictive hooks ever..”I’m so high/you so high/I be gettin’ money till the day that I die..” Also, don’t sleep on the Lost Boyz featured remix of “Masta..” that featured totally different dimensions than the original, to include a phat guitar lick and some smooth female vocals on the hook. Throughout much of “The Natural” Mic relies on simple “call and response” hooks that seem to work for the most part, without becoming monotonous. Other tracks of note include, “Three Stories High”, “Sharane” (which is essentially a song detailing the perils of coming up in the ghetto as a single female) and the crew banger “Men vs. Many” which also featured the lyrically competent duo of O.C. and Royal Flush. Sadly though, “The Natural” will forever remain as Mic’s high point in Hip-Hop, somewhat of a disappointment when considering the talent that this cat possessed.
Hailing from the “South Bronx, South, South Bronx” dropping lyrics with a touch of Latino Flavor was the widely unnoticed Main One. With his debut, Main One made it clear that the Bouricuas that helped pave the way in Hip-Hop received their due props. Shining with the ability to eloquently deliver punchlines throughout “The Birth Of The Ghetto Child”, Main One blessed you with a Spanglish flow that is sooo widespread on record nowadays. Main One also had the knack to create highly visual cuts that placed you as Q-Tip would say “right smack dab in the middle” of the ghetto struggle. For Main One the “rap game definitely reminded him of the rap game” as many of the tracks on the album included descriptive tales of fast money, quick fame and a dead end in the streets.
Yet another Select Records release that gained little notoriety upon it’s release in 1995, Main One dropped a fairly decent album with “Birth Of The Ghetto Child”. I really wasn’t expecting all that much quality-wise when I picked this up along with The Clockers OST (hmmm….wonder why I picked that one up?!) and Fat Joe’s second LP “Jealous One’s Envy”, but much to my surprise “Birth..” is filled with 19..well, actually 17 (two of the tracks are “skits”) cuts that will definitely satisfy anyone out there looking for what is missing in today’s Hip Hop….at least beat-wise. Lyrically, Main One won’t make anyone hit the rewind button like…”Damn, what did money say? Rewind That! Rewind That!”…but, he does just enough to get by with production from a selection of East Coast “Heavyweights” to include Ski, Domingo & Buckwild. Peep Ski’s production on “Check Da Skillz” (damn, everyone had Skillz back in the day, huh?) which sounds eerily similar to his production on Bahamadia’s “Uknowhowedo“..hell, even the chourus is a blatant rip-off. Also, there are guest appearances galore on “Birth..” as Fat Joe, Kurious, Prince (from Powerule) and Fatal (of “Live At The BBQ” fame) all drop by for the boom bap smash of “El Gran Combo” (damn, just sayin‘ that makes me wanna’ hit the drive through at Taco Bell!). Something that I remember being quite interesting, Main One released the single “Bring the Gramma” with O.C. plus the single “Bring the Drama” with Chino XL later that same year. Thank God, Main One left it up to Method Man to “Bring The Pain”….uhh, damn that was corny Eric. Anyway, my internet is kickin‘ me on & off the net…so, do yourself a favor a peep Main One’s “Birth Of The Ghetto Child” one of the more obscure albums you’ll find here on When They Reminiscej, since I’m not know for droppin’ enough “rare” albums.
In 1992 an ill, crazy innovative duo emerged sporting a distinctive style and flow that basically took the Hip Hop world (well, at least much of the East Coast) by storm. However, soon following, a host of biters and far less talented emcees copped their style. So much in fact, to the point were it was labeled as “tired” or “boring”. Sensitive to over-saturation, the aforementioned duo dropped a sophomore effort that completely abandoned the style and flow that made them a household name. The decision along with plodding, uninspired production brought about an album (“Straight Up Sewaside”) that paled in comparison to their debut (“Dead Serious”). A tragic result that can be chalked up to “biters” and a fickle fan-base that wanted more of the “iggidyisms” from the originators of the style. Needless to say, the pressure to drop a dope album was at it’s boiling point prior to the release of Das Efx’ third venture, “Hold It Down”. Thankfully, for the most part, the duo of Drazy and Bookz came off much more relaxed and at ease on this offering. Even at times revisiting the the sound that was first unveiled on their phenomenal debut.
With “Hold It Down” Das returned, with a lesser extent, to the stuttered delivery and off-the-wall pop culture references that helped Das Efx and their rise to popularity. Beat-wise, “Hold It Down” was heads and shoulders above the production on “Straight Up Sewaside”. Beatmasters such as DJ Premier and Easy Mo Bee were obviously beneficial , especially when providing the dusty drums and creeping basslines, the horn textures, crisp hi-hats and ridiculous bottom on tracks like “No Diggedy” and “Hold It Down”. But, maybe the greatest benefit may have been the regained confidence, swagger and self-assurance from both of the unique emcees. “Hold It Down’s” consistency, however, was also plagued by it’s lengthiness…..nearly outlasting both “Dead Serious” and “Straight Up…” in total tracks. Nineteen joints on an album doesn’t necessarily equate to a more attractive picture for the consumer dropping his or her hard-earned dollar. Not everyone has a “Mecca & The Soul Brother” under their belt. With large volume, mediocrity has a tendency to set in. Had Das maybe trimmed down the album to say….12 cuts or so, they would have definitely produced a sharper, more potent piece of work. Nevertheless, “Hold It Down” hoisted Das back to the forefront of Hip Hop, and they transformed into the stylistic mic wielders that we first fell in love with in the nine-deuce.
I gotta’ keep it real with you for a minute. After rocking Show & A.G.’s “Soul Clap” EP & their classic “Runaway Slave” till “the tape popped”, I have to admit I wasn’t really feelin’ the duo’s sophomore effort “Goodfellas” upon the first few listens to the album. Hell….more like the first few years to be quite honest. From it’s release on Payday records in 1995 to mmmm….I’d say about 2002, I may have listened to this album a grand total of 10 times and that’s being generous! I mean, this album dropped in the summer of 95′ and if my memory serves me correct this was around the same time that Raekwon’s “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx”, Mobb Deep’s “The Infamous” & The Pharcyde’s “Labcabincalifornia” dropped…so, I think you can see where I’m going with this.
Strangely enough, in 2002 came along this white rapper with the bleach blonde do’, armed with a sharp tongue and lyrical wit for days with his little movie entitled “8 Mile”. You may have heard of the movie? Anyway, near the movie’s end this “white rapper” can be found freestyling over beats such as O.C.’s “Time’s Up”, “Last Dayz” from Onyx (you can’t tell me you don’t get goosebumps when Em murdered dude over the eerie Onyx production), Mobb Deep’s “Shook Ones Pt. II” and lastly a DJ Premier remix of Showbiz & A.G.’s “Next Level”that had appeared on this long lost “Goodfellas” cassette that was buried amongst the other tapes that I’d stacked in an old Wal-Mart plastic clothing bin. After hearing the track blare throughout the movie theater speakers while catching a glimpse of “8 Mile” with my then girlfriend-now Wife, I immediately turned to her and said “oh shit, I forgot about that joint!”. Needless to say, I copped the CD on-line that same night. To hell with that everynight booty you get when you first start dating! I had to get my hands on Show & A.G.’s “Goodfellas” and see just what I’d missed out on during the first few listens of the album.
Nowadays, “Goodfellas” stays in frequent rotation, it’s almost as if every six months or so I find a new “gem” that captivates my ear until I frequent it almost to the point of boredom. First it was the Nyte Time mix of “Next Level” produced by Primo. Then, I sort of drifted towards the original Showbiz produced version of “Next Level”. About two months ago, thanks to Dan Love of the new and improved From Da Bricks.com (damn, what’s up with all these big shots and their “dot coms”? Haha, keep doin’ it big Dan!) and his “Top 25 Beats” I was reintroduced to “You Want It” (damn, those horns are serious!) now I’ve been bumpin’ that to death. While A.G. is solid on the mic, I’ve never been a big fan of his flow or delivery but he’s still well above average…however, Showbiz’ production is just SICK! The production from one of D.I.T.C.’s finest on “Runaway Slave” and “Goodfellas” may be some of the best displayed on back to back efforts in the 90′s….or hell, EVER! Don’t sleep like I did, for an overdose of slick production and an undeniable chemistry between a beatsmith and an emcee peep “Goodfellas” for unmatched results.
Believe it or not, I placed Grand Puba’s 1995 release “2000″ ahead of his solo debut “Reel To Reel” on my “Top 100″. The reasoning behind this is fairly simple, the growth that Puba displayed between “Reel To Reel” and “200o” was quite evident. I mean, we all loved “Reel To Reel” but face it….the production was far from polished, but the dusty samples and sparse drum kicks were all part of the attraction. With “2000″ is was clear that Puba packed a few rounds in his holster attempting to crack the urban charts. The most radio friendly track on “Reel To Reel” was more than likely “360 (What Goes Around)”..on “2000″ there are several recognizable instances. For example, let’s take the summer anthem “I Like It” armed with a nice, lighthearted, uptempo beat courtesy of Mark Sparks and a breezy, soulful chorus this track should have actually received more play and received more attention than it actually did. Another notable track would have to be the opener “Very Special” which is yet another Mark Sparks head-nodder..why didn’t this one hit the urban radio charts?…I don’t know.
Overall, the album is much better as a whole than Puba’s previous release. Remember when Treach of Naughty By Nature stated that Puba was “one of the fiercest emcees” on Naughty’s self titled debut? Well, that fierceness is toned down a bit on “2000″ for the listener who’s first exposure to Puba is this sophomore effort. I can remember this album dropped around the time Ace’s “Sittin‘ On Chrome” hit and that was almost anything you heard bumpin‘ out of Jeep Wranglers and Pathfinders during those warm summer months of 1995. The highlight of “2000″ for me is the Minnesota blessed “Amazing”, utilizing the same sample O.C.’s jerked for “Far From Yours” and most recently underground up & comer Danny! supplied it for “Fly” on his third album “Charm”, this track will damn near have you in a neckbrace till’ it’s all said and done. I know it’s gotta’ be difficult for the die hard Puba, Brand Nubian fan to admit “2000″ was a far better album than “Reel To Reel” but face it…..the lyrics were still there and the beats where leaps and bounds ahead of those heard on “Reel…”. Just let it go man!!!!
Man, I should kick myself square in the ass for leaving “Soul Food” off of my “Top 100″ list, I don’t know how I overlooked this classic which….along with Kast’s “SoutherPlayalistic….” opened the floodgates for soo many artists South of the Mason Dixon. Upon first listen to “Soul Food” the dominant emcees, Cee-Lo and Big Gipp are placed on Front Street, their sheer personalities are the clear-cut definition of “originality”. I was first introduced to this Atlanta foursome via Outkast’s debut on “Git Up, Git Out” which was followed soon thereafter by Goodie Mob’s very successful and unique first single “Cell Therapy” (dun..du, dun, dun, dun). Fueled by gospel piano riffs, each of the emcees conveyed their individual take on the New World Order that was occurring at the time in ATL’s communities. On the flipside of “Cell Therapy” they may have “one-upped” themselves with the B-Side banger “Soul Food”. Inspired by the Staple Singers’ “I’ll Take You There” the track is a clever take on the conspiracy of fast food and collard greens. Thank God, that “Soul Food” dropped prior to the indie-documentary “Supersize Me” ….sh*t, Cee-Lo would have had a field day with that! The only minor beef that I had with the album in general was Cee-Lo’s “preacher-in-training” dialogue and his lengthy verses that sometimes took many listens to decipher. In the end, “Soul Food” was a nourishment for the spirit and Hip Hop in general.
Goodie Mob’s thought provoking lyricism intertwined with the dope production courtesy of Organized Noize was a fresh sound that awoke Hip Hop’s dead in 1995. Loaded with social commentary from the South and a positive message aimed at the Black youth, “Soul Food” played with such a rhythmic consistency that many “conscious” albums before this outstanding debut lacked.
I have a huge amount of respect for Ace! Ever since his first offerings on the ever so notorious “The Symphony” alongside giants like G. Rap and Kane, his eclectic debut “Take A Look Around” in 1990, to his frank attempts to gain relevancy in a money-driven industry with “Disposable Arts” and “A Long Hot Summer”, the man managed a considerable balance between “nostalgia” (what a reference- Eric is going to love me for this one) and “underground bravado”. “Sittin’ On Chrome” was the follow-up to Ace his sophomore release from ‘93, “The Slaughtahouse”, an extremely dark album that had clearly abandoned the popular Marley Marl formula, introducing The I.N.C as his crew (by the way, what happened to Eyceurokk???). I remember a bitter Ace prior to “Slaughtahouse”, someone who sounded obviously tired and reluctant to accept the state of gangsters taking charge and thugs ruling the airwaves and henceforth, he took all of the aforementioned to his slaughterhouse and dealt with them in his own ways.
“Sittin’…” had a mysterious concept behind it: His cousin from L.A was coming down to N.Y to pay him a visit over the summer and the album was trying to capture that vibe! Now I’m going to be a little brave and maybe, and in case you never heard this joint before, you guys would have to play this album again and give it a thought to understand where I’m coming from: Ace played himself with this album (and let’s face it: his career went down the drain afterwards- he sold a lot of singles but the album went wood and he was eventually dropped)! Listen to the choice of samples (a lot of smooth soul and funk, read less jazzy, read less East Coast); listen to the way almost every drum sound is programmed (read very simple with the emphasis on the bass-drum, a lot of rim-shots and less hard hitting snares), and listen how the 808 and the Moog were incorporated and above all, listen to Ace switching to a more sing-songy style using a lot more melody within his rhyme patterns (and the fact that he was less lyrical)! Does it ring a bell? Well, let’s say the influence of Dre and Snoop are all over this composition and his well woven “concept” (his cousin from L.A. is coming to visit) couldn’t hide the simple fact that Masta Ace was trying to gain more mass appeal.
By far, this is still a good album (too many good songs to handpick a few for you guys) with various enjoyable moments besides the world famous “Born To Roll”, but I somehow could never surpass my impression of him neglecting his roots. I guess this is a very solid album done by the wrong artist…-Rasul
“Big L Rest In Peace!….DUN, da,dun,dun,dun…uh, uh, uh, uh”! Funny thing, I’ve seen Big L’s debut “Lifestylez Ov Da Poor & Dangerous” labeled as CLASSIC…..just as I’ve seen Big Pun’s debut, Dilla’s “Donuts” and basically everything in Pac’s discography tagged the same as well. No disrespect to Hip Hop’s fallen soldiers, but if these artists were still crankin‘ out albums today…..well, would the aforementioned releases be indeed considered as CLASSICS? I highly doubt it, but what is most evident with “Lifestylez Ov Da Poor & Dangerous” is an extremely impressive rookie effort from a very talented lyricist with endless possibilities who’s untimely death has left alot of us fiendin‘ for more from the “Most Valuable Poet on the M-I-C”. Also, it doesn’t hurt to have the bulk (9/10) of your album produced by the infamous Diggin‘ In The Crates crew.
Hmmmm, where shall I begin?? If I can recall “Put It On” feat. Kid Capri was actually the first single and video that Big L dropped. I also considered “Put It On” as the album’s shining moment, so in my opinion it was an obvious “good choice” for a first single….too bad it just never really garnered any type of national exposure, but it did make a few waves on the East Coast. Big L has always been one of my favorite artists lyrically, as well as he was to many others in the industry….remember the so called “bidding war” on L right before the time of his passing. Rumor even has it that L was close to inking a deal with Rocafella…hmmm, that would have been an interesting turn of events. Anyway, the horns courtesy of Lord Finesse make “Fed Up With The Bullshit” another notable highlight of “Lifestyles….” along with the Showbiz produced “No Endz No Skinz” which provides a nice change of pace from Big L while at the same time showcases his well rounded lyrical abilities. Something else of note, it’s pretty intriguing to hear a pubescent Camron on the posse cut “8 Iz Enuff” and even more interesting is Jay-Z’s appearance on “Da Graveyard” which is another posse cut that solidifies the fact that Jay-Z has come full circle as a lyricist….what I mean, Jay-Z is what he is now as what he was then (uhh, does that make any sense?)…”Glimpes of briallance intertwined with corniness”. In closing, if you’ve never peeped Big L’s beware…after listening you’ll be left wondering what the future really had in store from this lyrical dynamo…R.I.P.
Many people will recall the Mad Skillz that destroyed his competition during showcases such as those infamous New Music Seminar battles (especially the battles with Supernatural), but I’m sure a few of you youngsters will remember the name from Skillz’ long-running series of “Rap-Up’s” that re-cap the year’s activities in Hip-Hop (If I’m not mistaken, he’s been killing those for over 5 years now…). However, on Skillz’ Big Beat debut, “From Where???”, Skillz made no secret that it was his primary intent to place his stomping grounds, Richmond, VA on the map….even though his production and rhyme style sounded as if he was straight outta’ N.Y.
There’s no mistaking Skillz strong suit, clever wordplay and distinct metaphors that account for endless gems and “one-liners” to keep you reaching for the “Rewind” button. To start things off correct, “Doin’ Time In The Cypha” was a solid bass and drum track that offered a description of the true test for all aspiring emcees….as told from the point of view of a battle-tested freestyle wizard whose been in the trenches. My favorite cut on “From Where???”, was and always will be “Get Your Groove On” (corny title and all). “Get Your Groove On” is a party jam detailing a weekend of club-hopping laced with vivid storytelling rhymes and a catchy hook to keep you humming along. Also, don’t sleep on “Inherit The World” where Skillz can be found tracing the loss of the positive influences in his life.
While it’s no surprise that Skillz was tight, lyrically, the production on the album also knocked for days and is worthy of mention. On “Skillz In ’95″ the infamous Large Professor hooked up the same head-bobbin’ jingle bells that set off Nas’ “Halftime” properly. Also, the album’s most notorious single “The Nod Factor” featured a funky guitar loop courtesy of The Beatnuts’ Psycho Les. The only problem that I ever ran into with “From Where???” was the occasional formulaic redundancy displayed on some of the tracks. The later portion of the album tends to drag out a bit on cuts like “Street Rules” and “Unseen World” due to their less than stellar production and Skillz’ lazy, monotone flow. But, all in all, the album (at least 3/4′s of it) is extremely dope, and Skillz dropped a very good debut that found him truly living up to his name.
For those that aren’t quite familiar with Mad Lion, he was the gravelly-voiced, rude-bwoy Jamaican DJ that delivered Reggae influenced tracks with a hardcore Hip Hop twist. Rather than chatting over your traditional dancehall riddims (I see you Sister Nancy), Mad Lion chose to rely on pure, undiluted, pulsing Hip-Hop beats. And unlike soo many other attempts to crossover, either from Reggae to Hip-Hop or vice versa, “Real Ting” managed to successfully intertwine the two very distinct styles. All massives were satisfied.
Eighteen tracks deep, “Real Ting” clearly had some bangers…but there were also a few “not so hot” choices as well. First up to bat, Mad Lion’s HUGE first single “Take It Easy” (remember when this opened up an episode of Fox’s “New York Undercover”?) was laced with ill lyrics, riddims and beats, and it still stands as “Real Ting’s” top selection. The best of the rest included “See A Man Face”, “Baby Father” and the bouncy “Double Trouble”. The aforementioned selections not only sounded dope, but Mad Lion made a few valid points on them as well. Other tracks, such as “Stop Dat Shit” came off as one big freestyle session…similar to another Mad Lion classic, “Shoot To Kill”.
The overall attempt was a sound that worked for Mad Lion, primarily because it was so different in the ’95. Due to his unique sound, Mad Lion gained some well deserved props, especially in the clubs. However, there were a few tracks that just didn’t match up to teh quality delivered on tracks like ”Double Trouble”, “Shoot To Kill” or “Take It Easy”…but hey….what can you expect from an 18-track Hip Hop/Reggae mash-up? In the end, there was plenty of good ‘ish to make “Real Ting” worth your time, especially because Mad Lion stayed true to his roots rather than “crossing over” and sounding awkward over authentic Hip-Hop tracks provided by the Blastmaster Krs-One.
1. “Situation: Grimm”-Mista Grimm
2. “Supa Star”-Group Home
3. “Playaz Don’t Fall”-Indo G & Lil’ Blunt
4. “Put It On”-Big L
5. “Mad Ism”-Channel Live f. Krs-One
6. “Kalifornia”-Above The Law
7. “You Bring Me Joy”-Mary J. Blige
8. “Do You Have What…”-Craig Mack
9. “D’voidofpop…Megamix”-Ice Cube
10. “Hellbound” (remix)-Almighty RSO
11. “Funk Soul Sensation”-Jemini the Gifted One
12. “Paystyle”-Too Short
13. “Comewiddit”-Ras Kass, Ahmad & Saafir
14. “El Gran Combo”-Main One