Four years had passed between this, the (Cella) Dwellas follow-up “The Last Shall Be First”, and the duo’s well-received debut (at least in underground circles), “Realms N Reality”. Over time, the duo of Phantasm and U.G. emerged from the “Cella” (pun intended) to rechristen themselves simply as the “Dwellas”. Also gone were the dreaded horror-flick references that may have held them back in favor of their vivid street rhymes and scenarios. In case you’ve never peeped the Dwellas’ debut, “Realms N Reality”, or if the duo’s lone video for “Land Of The Lost” may have initially fooled you, U.G. and Phantasm brought some hot sh*t with joints like “Advance to Boardwalk”, “Recognize ‘n Realize” and “Good Dwellas” on “Realms…”.
With “The Last Shall…”, the Dwellas didn’t really rely on any gimmicks or obvious radio attmepts, joints like “Launch A Rocket” and “Leakage” were ample cuts that caught the attention of anyone within earshot. On “Dwellas”, Phan spit venom over an ill piano loop with lines like: “Alot of rappin’ acts with their platinum plaques/Ain’t never packed a gat/Verbally attacked a track/Spit facts/Time to get back to that”. Guest appearances were abound on “The Last Shall…”, yet they surprisingly the invitees never “Eminemed” Jay-Z on “Renegade”. Inspectah Deck blazed his way through the appropriately titled, “Verbal Slaughter”, while the legendary Large Pro came outta’ nowhere to bless “BQE”. Meanwhile, DV Alias Khrist brought his signature sound to the table with “Ready To Rock” and a reunited Organized Konfusion delivered even more “mind-bending” lyrics on “Ill Collabo”.
Alot of cats seem to forget the production line-up on this album was pretty serious. Rockwilder (who was killin’ sh*t around the time of this release), the aforementioned Large Professor and Nick Wiz all delivered heat. Between, this, their sophomore follow-up and their debut the Dwellas stepped up their sound a bit. However, the content of this album rarely strayed from your customary braggin, playalistic ventures and street dreamin’. When it was all said and done, “The Last Shall Be First” was an album made strictly for the underground heads and it failed to reach outside of the East Coast and the Dwellas just didn’t bring enough versatility and depth to set them venture outside of their comfort zone.
As a key member of Brand Nubian, assessing Dotty X’s skills on this six-cut EP, “The State Of New York vs. Derek Murphy” is difficult when you consider whether or Sadat has abandoned the political platform showcased on the Brand Nubian albums in favor of the usual blunts, brews, guns and bit*hes format. Plus, anytime Sadat X in thrown into the mix it’s either one of two things: you either adore his scratchy, nasal flow or you find it hard to stomach while it tugs your nerves. First off, let’s talk about the good ‘ish, the Diamond D laced “X-Man” will provide you with a head-nod or two as Sadat offers commentary regarding the uncalled for gunplay that has claimed so many young lives. Likewise, “Low Maintenance, High Wear” pushed forth Sadat’s convincing anti-floss campaign. However, that is where the social commentary that you’ve grown to expect from one of Now Rule’s finest ended.
“Cock It Back” flied in the face of the aforementioned pleas for peace as Sadat rambled on about bustin’ off shots, “gun trigger” samples included. The real problem arose with Sadat’s inclusion of guest emcee, Hy Tymes. When the duo teamed up to wax poetic about cash, hoes and greenery over Minnesota’s uncommon mediocre production, the results were less than stellar. On “Ka-Ching” Hy Tymes dropped lyrical gems (not really) like this: That’s why I fu*k ‘em, duck ‘em, leave ‘em/Then act like I don’t need ‘em”, while addressing all the money-hungry pigeons. Unlike Hy Tymes, Lord Jamar’s mellow God-speak and Puba’s ill diction always worked very well when supplementing Sadat’s flow. When your sophomore release (it’s bad enough that it was only an EP) sounds thematically thinner than your debut, “Wild Cowboys”, some changes needed to be made.
Thankfully, another Diamond D number nearly saved the day. On “You Can’t Deny” (which has always reminded me of “Lump Lump”), Sadat freaked a slick guitar mixed in with a catchy R & B sample that made you almost forget that he was rapping about a failed relationship. But when you’re affiliated with Brand Nubian and the best joint on your EP is about an R & B-flavored relationship, your EP “The State of New York…” kinda’ flew right over the heads of Brand Nubian’s “All For One” audience.
There’s a fine line between “real” Hip Hop and real, official Hip Hop!! That’s a line that M.O.P. walks on the day to day. Loved by not only backpackers, but the ghetto-fabulous, 50 Cent, Lil Weezy adoring fans as well, Billy Danz and Lil’ Fame have refused to follow the current trends that have plagued the Hip Hop culture. They don’t “bounce”, “floss”, and they sure as hell don’t give a damn about keeping it over-lyrical. For those same reasons, M.O.P. has gained the respect from Hip Hop’s true school. Some, on the other hand, can’t stomach the continuous guntalk or the mounting death tolls over their usual ear-jarring production. Still, it’s considered by purists to be real Hip Hop sh*t, and that’s exactly what the Mash Out Posse brought to the table with their opus, “Warriorz”.
Joints like “G-Building”, “On Tha’ Front Line” and “Downtown Swinga” satisfy even the most loyal M.O.P. fan. But it’s the duo’s reunion with producer DR Period on “Ante Up” that showed that M.O.P. could appeal to an even broader market beyond New York. While the elements that made M.O.P. notorious are still there, the progression on “Warriorz” was very evident. “Everyday” was a delightful change from the norm over an upbeat DJ Premier track, even though it seemed far from what M.O.P. usually brought to the table. There’s also improvement in M.O.P.’s adrenaline-laced sound. Surprisingly, the two hottest joints weren’t even produced by the ingenious mind of Preemo but rather Fizzy Womack himself. The haunting beat juggling he does on “Calm Down” is clearly one of M.O.P.’s best tracks ever. However, it’s the sped up sample of Foreigner’s “Cold As Ice” that takes the cake as one of the hardest raps songs ever laid on wax.
Though the so-so production of “Nigotiate” and the cluttered “Background Nig*as” do nothing to help the album, “Warriorz” is probably M.O.P.’s best album to date. While they may never sell a ridiculous amount of records, they sure as hell are gonna’ be around for even many more years to come.