Taken From: “Street Level”-The Beatnuts (1994, Relativity)
Is there any doubt that the Beatnuts “Street Level” is one of the best produced albums in Hip Hop? I mean, c’mon…I dare you to point out one “less-than-stellar” track on this CLASSIC. Not only is this one of the best produced albums ever, but the first full-length outing (being that 93′s “Intoxicated Demons” was an EP release) from Psycho Les, JuJu & Fashion also served as the most cohesive piece of work from this Corona, Queens trio. True, the Beatnuts scored their biggest smash on 1997′s “Stone Crazy” with the Big Pun/Cuban Link (shit, where is that dude these days?) featured “Off Books”, but there’s no doubt that “Street Level”, when all is said and done will go down as the album the Beatnuts are most revered for.
Sampling Hugo Montenegro’s “Again”, the Beatnuts touched new grounds with the last joint on side A of “Street Level”, the Miss Jones-assisted, “Rik’s Joint”. Although, I’m not quite sure where the title to this smooth-ass track originates, the Beatnuts definitely went “outside their comfort zone” with this self-produced jam for astounding results. Yes, once again we have yet another track that features “buttery vocals” on the hook courtesy of the now-infamous radio personality, while the Beatnuts stick to their guys, sh*t talkin’ with the best of ‘em! The track reeks of the ‘Nuts signature sounds: bass that rattles your ribcage, swift drums and clever sample utilization. Damn, after listening to this track once more, does anyone else yearn for another Beatnuts album featuring all three original members?
Taken From: “Bitch Betta’ Have My Money”-AMG (1992, Select)
Believe it or not, AMG’s overlooked gem, “Jiggable Pie” was the first time I experienced the usage of the Emotions “Blind Alley”. Don’t get it twisted, “Jiggable..” isn’t just all about the music either. AMG’s “Bitch Betta..” was a pretty hefty serving of sex, misogyny, blatant sample jerking and clever one-liners, pretty much everything I looked for in a record at the age of 16, HaHa! With the A-side of the cassette labeled as “On Top”, and the B-Side “On Bottom”, you could pretty much get the gist of the album’s subject matter just by glancing at the album’s insert. A fairly decent debut (although, 1995′s “Ballin’ Outta’ Control” contained much less filler), “Bitch..” will not only be remembered for the album’s title cut, but also tracks like the Boss-featured “Mai Sista Izza Bitch”, the Funky Worm-laced “Vertical Joyride”.
“Jiggable Pie” was also self-produced by AMG, who blessed the cut with classic lines such as: “I try to get a head when I get behind”, “Fe Fi Fo Fum I spread the jam for the ho-hums” and “would you let me smack it up, flip it an rub it down to the bone/Call me when your Moms ain’t home”..not the most mind-blowing lyricism on paper, but the true genius of the record lies within the content (if that makes any sense at all?). Sort of a more-lyrically advanced Too Short, AMG’s “Jiggable Pie” was one of the funkiest, most neck-snapping odes to sex to ever hit airwaves.
Taken From: “Prince Of Darkness”-Big Daddy Kane (1991, Cold Chillin’)
The title of this selection could have just as well been “Best Song from an album that sucked”, being that “Prince Of Darkness” didn’t really improve on an album that started the decline of Big Daddy Kane’s career (“Taste Of Chocolate”). Even though the album may have featured tracks such as the Q-Tip & Busta Rhymes featured “Come On Down” and a pretty dope title cut, it’s a pretty fair judgment to think that “Prince Of Darkness” is an album that the man who’s responsible for “Ain’t No Half-Steppin” would like to forget. To solidify my previous statement, just take on listen to “I’m Not Ashamed” from the album and get back at me.
However, “Prince Of Darkness” wasn’t a complete bomb…just really, really close to it. The standout cut from the album was without a doubt, “Brother, Brother”, a fitting title since the track also featured Big Daddy’s little brother, Little Daddy Shane (C’mon, you gotta’ be more original that that!). Borrowing from Barry White’s “I’m Gonna’ Love You Just A Little More, Babe” and Lee Dorsey’s infamous drums from”Get Out Of My Life, Woman”, “Brother, Brother” is a pass the mic, freestyle fest a la Erick and Parrish, without the lisp, of course. It’s hard not to nod your head to a sample selection(s) that always seems to work, thrown in classic Kane lines like: “I keep a fleet of women, probably one of them’s your moms” and you have a dose of vintage Big Daddy.
Taken From: “Straight Up Sewaside”-Das Efx (1993, East/West)
Now, some would argue that after many years Das Efx’ sophomore album, the sans-iggedy, diggedy “Straight Up Sewaside” may very well be a more solid effort than the duo’s CLASSIC debut, “They Want Efx”. Truthfully, I’m not really seein’ it…if anything, I’d place “Straight Up..” as Das’ 3rd best release, behind 95′s “Hold It Down” (and if they would’ve trimmed a few tracks off of “Hold It..”, it would have been something REALLY special!). I can recall being extremely let down after purchasing this album the same day as Queen Latifah’s “Black Reign” (which I consider to be the best female release EVER), “They Want Efx” was original, mind-blowing and charismatic….this was just “blah” to me as Das where truly victims of their own style being jocked to death.
However, “Check It Out” will always hold a special place in my heart (awwww, how nice). Yep, this along with Queen La’s “4 The DJs”, Redman’s “Time 4 Sum Aksion” (obligatory) and Pete & CL’s “Mecca & The Soul Brother” (single) served as “warm-up music” for my High School B-Ball games. You shoulda’ tried pause-taping the cusses outta’ those joints, that was a task in itself! Underrated as well, the duo of Solid Scheme unleash the most prominent example of groggy funk this side of EPMD, a perfect extension of the wizardry found on Das’ debut. Drayz and Scoob may have been overly comedic on “They Want If Efx”, but they make it plain and simple on “Check It Out” that they’re not out to play games on what may be the hardest track they ever blessed.
Taken From: “Hi-Teknology 2: The Chip” (2006, BabyGrande)
Keeping up with more recent times, I have decided to shed light on one of my most favorite cuts over the last few years, Hi-Tek’s “Keep It Moving”, from an album that received a less than favorable response when compared to it’s predeccesor (“Hi-Teknology”). Hi-Tek’s sophomore album did have it’s fair share of highlights (see: the J-Dilla ode “Music For Life”, “Let It Go” and “Where It All Started At”), but also had more than a handful of flops (specifically “The Chip” & “Baby We Can Do It”). However, this average LP was less then expected from an above average producer.
Now, the good: featuring a somewhat…um, odd (?) pairing of Q-Tip & Kurupt, on paper “Keep It Moving” has “failure” written all over it. Much to my surprise, this track worked beautifully! The unforeseen highlight of this track was the vocal performance from crooner, Dion (see Game’s “Runnin” from “The Documentary”), who also lent his lungs for two additional cuts on the “Hi-Teknology 2″ (“Where It All Started” and “Let It Go”) to mixed results. I don’t know if dude ever plans on dropping a solo joint, if he does I’m buyin’!! An “uplifting” track to say the least, Hi-Tek’s production on this joint is a mixture of sparse drums and a haunting sample that nearly gives you goosebumps. A sure-fire recipe for a memorable track, no doubt.