Artists like the Brooklyn-Uptown duo of Ill Al Skratch will never win any awards for lyrical insight, but at least their noteworthy smashes, “Where My Homiez” and “I’ll Take Her”, packed enough Easy Mo Bee funk and like-able hooks to remind us that unfortunately (in most instances) these kind of artists are what made the Hip Hop world go ’round. However, the dislike for Ill & Al began to arise when the hook’s became monotonous on the group’s debut LP, but more like an “EP”, “Creep With Me”. Is it just me or does it feel like every track title and hook had the word “homiez” incorporated somewhere within? As subtle versions of their first single “Where My Homiez” where re-upped and presented as “full” songs our adoration of this duo quickly began to where thin, despite the catchiness of “Homiez” and the Brian McKnight featured follow-up, “I’ll Take Her”. Thankfully, the duo’s follow-up “Keep It Movin” aimed to deliver something more….original, although Hip Hop purists may have questioned what exactly that was in this instance. Could it have been Group Home’s Melachi the Nutrcracker’s freestyle intro? Or maybe even the over-used “Enter The Dragon” sample (used by both tha Liks and Scarface) for “Me And The Click”? Or perhaps it may have been the syrupy, sing-songy hooks that appeared on much of the LP’s tracks?
While “Keep It Movin” suffered from questionable song placement, the LP actually had it’s moments. Despite it’s uncreative sample selection, “Me And The Click” benefited from a strong chemistry between Ill Al Skratch and guest emcee, Nice & Smooth’s Greg Nice. The melodic grooves of “Dance With Me” and the lame-duck titled “Get Your Swerve On” (Stuart Scott would be so proud!) provided pretty dope background music, while “Get Down” was fairly decent due to Big Ill’s knocks on “imposters” and cats rockin’ “Khakis and tennis shoes”. Predictable? Yes, “Keep It Movin” was absent of any depth whatsoever. And even though the harmless production and catchy hooks may have been part of their initial charm, it would also be Ill & Al’s downfall. By comparison, the crew had a track that appeared on the New Jersey Drive O.S.T. titled “Don’t Shut Down On A Player”, thankfully they shut down themselves before anyone else could with a lackluster album like this.
In 2001, it had been nearly a decade since we first heard a young Reggie Noble “blow up the spot” on the EPMD classic, “Hardcore”. Over those 10 years, along with Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Red became the poster boy for “wildness” in Hip Hop. Of course, he also delivered classic albums such as “Whut? Thee Album”, “Dare Iz A Darkside” and “Muddy Waters”, all of which found themselves as major chapters in Hip Hop. Yet even with seven albums (I count “Blackout” and “El Nino” as well) under his belt, even to this day, Red has his moments where he still sounds like the same cat who destroyed “Headbanger”. Plain and simple Reggie Noble defines “rawness” at it’s finest.
Now, let’s git down ta’ bidness, “Malpractice” begins with “Diggy Doc”, which is essentially a trimmed-down remake of the D.O.C. classic “No One Can Do It Better”. On this all-too-short cut, Reggie takes the you an a simile-driven ride, solidifying his master of the one-liner status. Much like his prior releases, Red once again played “Slick Rick” with the continuation of his “Superman Lover” series on “Pt.V”. However, this time around, Red hit the sky in search of a blonde haired, blue-eyed culprit who stole his “mojo”. What puzzled me was the inclusion of the Redm…errr, Christina Aguillera hit “Let’s Get Dirty”, which made Red seem more “poppy” and mainstream, and they he went and made it the album’s first single? WTF? Joints like the gothic, “Smash Sumthin” and “Enjoy Da Ride” or even the George Clinton featured “J.U.M.P.” would have all been better selections to introduce the album to the masses. Though, at times, the album was extra heavy on the skits and gimmicky hooks (i.e, “Muh Fuka” and “Doggz”), “Malpractice” proved that Red still maintained his spot of one of Rap’s elite emcees. “Malpractice” though not stocked to the rim with overwhelming tracks, made Red a little more “radio-friendly” than he had been on his earlier releases.
As a card-carrying member of the elite Juice Crew, the late ’80′s All-Star line-up comprised of Biz Markie, Big Daddy Kane, Craig G and KoolG Rap, Ace didn’t quite receive all of the “shine” that many of the aforementioned emcees did over the years. Choosing rather to “fall back” from the limelite, Ace is better known as the underrated songwriter with the “off-beat, on-beat” flow that has released the creative masterpieces, “Take A Look Around”, “A Long Hot Summer”, “Slaughtahouse” and “Sittin’ On Chrome”. The same humor and story-structure applied on 2001′s “Disposable Arts” aka the only Ace album I’ve EVER slept-on.
With “Disposable..”, Ace shines on gems like the funky “P.T.A.”, where Ace takes a trip “back to Cali” to talk materialism with tha Liks J-Ro and Cali legend King-T, and “Unfriendly Game” which revisits the Main Source classic, “Just A Friendly Game Of Baseball”. Also noteworthy is “Dear Diary”, a track that I found to be very similar structure-wise to Eminem’s “Stan”. Much like Mr. Mathers, Ace doesn’t shy away from confrontation with the diss aimed at High & Mighty on “Acknowledge”. Much to Ace’s credit, “Disposable Arts” wasn’t a comeback album where the emcee spends much of his time on the album discussing his past accolades and accomplishments. With “Disposable..”, Ace came back with brand new bag of tricks and dope production such as the beats on the Greg Nice featured “Don’t Understand” and the street drama of “Take A Walk”. What truly makes this album so engaging is the well thought out skits and song sequencing, along with all the appearances from an abundance of “cast members” (ToneDeff, Young Zee, Jean Grae, Punchline, Wordsworth and even…Paul Barman?). Plain and simple, “Disposable Arts” follows a long line of Ace classics that are truly originals. Masta Ace a true underground legend, like Kane said “nuff respect due”!.