Earning his stripes by producing hits for the likes of diverse groups such as the Poor Righteous Teachers, Kwest The Madd Lad, YZ and King Sun, Tony D aka Don Nots, aka Grand Poobah, aka Harvey Wallbanger is widely considered as the funkiest white boy to ever lay a finger on the SP 1200. Not to mention a solo album of his own, “Droppin’ Funky Verses” under his belt, Tony D was no “new jack” when his collaborative effort with Rahzi Hightower (you may remember him from P.R.T.’s “Selah”) and Be-Fyne aka The Crusaders For Real Hip Hop hit tapedecks nationwide. If Tony D ever had a crowning moment it had to be his contributions to P.R.T.’s debut classic “Holy Intellect”. However, maybe Tony’s most controversial moment came thanks to the popularity of Naughty By Nature’s “O.P.P.”.
It is believed that Tony D’s “Adam’s Nightmare” (from Tony’s independently released breakbeat LP, “Music Makes You Move”) was the source for the backdrop to Naughty’s biggest selling hit to date. Plain and simple, Tony believes that Kay Gee “stole his sh*t”. In a February ‘92 issue of “The Source” (the Geto Boys “Mind Playin’ Tricks On Ya” cover) Tony D had this to say about the so-called “jack”:
“They sampled my loop! I ain’t gonna’ beef about it ’cause I’ll use anybody’s beat. I just want people to be aware of who actually hooked it up first. Any record store in New York who had my breakbeat album (”Music Makes You Move”), they’re like “Yo, what about O.P.P. using your stuff?, everywhere I go. Having a big beef over it and to do something radical or dumb is not the case. I just want people to be aware that I hooked the sh*t up first!”
Of course, Kaygee, the producer behind the Naughty smash maintained his innocence: ” I never heard his record…”O.P.P.” has flavor, our album has flavor. Tony D just put out an album that was garbage” (editor’s note: I’m assuming that Kay is referring to Tony’s debut on 4th & Broadway, “Droppin’ Funky Verses”). Finally, Kay Gee summed it up like this: “Yo Tone, get off our jocks!”. By the way, is it just me or is some of the writing in the older Source magazines absolutely atrocious?
Anyway, let’s get back to Tony’s follow up, “Deja Vu, It’s 82″. I have to say I’d never even heard this record until this past year, after having passed it over countless times throughout my “tape shopping” days. Needless to say, I’m impressed, not so much lyrically…but on the boards Tony is definitely nice with his! The first track that really caught my ear was “Funky Uptown”, on which many of you will recognize the sample used for this track from Group Home’s “Serious Rap Shit”, which I believe was the only track on “Livin’ Proof” that Guru produced. Even the hook on “Funky…” is catchy as hell: “Grab a Funky Uptown/And I’ll show you a brother/Tappin’ it HARD on the SP”, and Rahzi Hightower sings/chants a verse with his Reggae flavor that also made P.R.T.’s “Selah” one of my favorite tracks from P.R.T.’s “Black Business”. Also, the two other tracks that really stood out were “Ultimate Reality” and “May I Continue”. The aforementioned “Ultimate Reality” has one of the funkiest yet simplest hooks I’ve ever heard, the vocal sample “Ultimate Reality” is speed up, repeated again and again over the infamous “Substitution” break (although I think this sample is actually from Ultramagnetic, not 100% sure though). There’s even a bit of “beat-boxing” thrown in for good measure, and “May I Continue” has that rugged “93-94″ flavor, heavy drums and dope horn sample which really became a “standard” for East Coast Hip Hop during that time-frame.
Ultimately, “Deja Vu, It’s ‘82″ still sounds fly, nearly 16 years later. I’m pretty sure that most of you’ll will enjoy this album and it’s a fairly decent representation of the quality that emerged from New Jersey during the early 90’s. However, it’s quite clear that Tony D saved some of his best production for much of Poor Righteous Teachers’ work.
Thanks to Jaz of “Cold Rock Da’ Spot” and his infamous “Fat Tapes” segment for puttin’ me on to this record. Little is known, or can be found on the ‘net regarding this 1992 release from the Cleveland trio better known as Strugglin’ Souls. Matter of fact, if I’m not mistaken, this was actually a “cassette only” release (however, I did see that it’s now available on Amazon.Com for prettty cheap)….similar to Shazzy’s long-lost follow-up, “Ghettosburg Address”. “Manic Depression” was distributed by an under the radar label, “Crazy Vibe”, which was also a subsidiary to the home of artists such as MC Breed and Insane Poetry, “Ichiban Records”. Whereas, Cleveland’s Bone Thugs N Harmony’s style was more “West Coast than East Coast”, it definitely made Ohio more than just a blip on the Hip Hop radar. However, Strugglin’ Souls album comes off more “East Coast” based. So much in fact, that it’s hard not to mistake this trio as another New York group that’s heavily reliant on that ol’ boom-bap flavor. “Manic Depression” evokes shades of E.S.P.’s “Valoompadoom Pink”, which I reviewed earlier in the year. Even though this was the trio’s only album, it was dope enough to at least warrant a follow-up EP or maybe even a few 12″ singles. Sadly, “Manic Depression” feel into the rut that similar early 90’s crews such as Capital Tax, Brokin English Klick and the Hoodratz fell victim to. In a nutshell, dope East Coast flavor, yet it lacked “punch” and never really stood out. Hell, amidst my many “shoppin’ for tapes” visits, I really don’t even remember seeing this album on shelves.
While Strugglin’ Souls do choose to concentrate on social “ills” within their music, they don’t come across overly “hardcore”, choosing rather to let the lyrics speak for themselves over East Coast tinged production courtesy of Lay-Low. The majority of the beats on the album are funky enough to keep you dialed in throughout “Manic Depression”. The obvious highlight of the album for me was the bouncy production of “Betta Dayz”, an uplifting yet extremely funky track. If you had been sleeping on this crew just as I did….wake up, it’s overall a fairly decent effort that sports a heavy East-Coast flavor.