Hip Hop in the 90′s was a rather brutal affair. Labels were snatching up acts as fast as they could, then spitting them faster than they signed them. Now we wish artist’s would be “one and done” more often then they are. There were several reasons for this happening at a high frequency in those days. Labels, meaning the majors, didn’t know how to market hip hop and they were still learning the ropes. Labels like East/West, a subsidiary of Elektra is a PRIME example of that type of thing. They shelved more potentially great albums (Omniscience anyone?) than they put out. Basically, although hip hop seemed to be a fairly big thing, with artists like MC Hammer, Tone Loc, Young MC, Vanilla Ice, all getting large amount of radio play, radio wasn’t going to support much outside those limits. It was quite sad actually.
Therefore, there are many groups that we only got to hear one album from, then *poof* they were gone, never to be heard from again. It’s unfortunate in many ways. Even albums that didn’t make my top five list, such as Mad Flava, Trendz of Culture, and others, dropped good enough albums that I wanted to hear more from them. It just wasn’t to be for a lot of them. None the less, here are five of my favorite “One and Done” artists and their one time in the spotlight.
1. Son Of Bazerk Feat No Self Control & The Band – Bazerk, Bazerk, Bazerk
Released: May 14, 1991
Son Of Bazerk was a “group” of sorts coming straight outta Strong Island, backed in it’s sonic soundscape by the almighty Bomb Squad. Bazerk was the lead MC, backed by No Self Control & The Band, which according to the inner liner notes, consisted of MC Halfpint, Almighty Jahwell, Daddy Rawe, and Sandman, all which pop up through all the album. As much as the group dynamic is strong and adds to the album, the main reason this album grabbed my attention was the crazy, crazy noise, provided by The Bomb Squad.
In 1991, The Bomb Squad was THE Squad on the production tip. They made music out of noise. A prime example being Public Enemy’s It Takes A Nation Of Millions, but as much as that album was finely produced, Bazerk Bazerk Bazerk was created out of chaos and took it a step further. It was pure, unadulterated noise and it was beautiful. The Bomb Squad was known for it’s twisting of samples and making them almost unrecognizable, and this album was no different. Driving bass lines dominate tracks, heavy scratching, driving synths and looped guitar riffs that help add to the absolute craziness of the album. It’s as if someone had a bucket full of musical concepts and threw it at a canvas and this is what came out of it. I love albums like this, and there is a reason The Bomb Squad is my second favorite producers, this album just adds to the legacy.
As far as the lyrics, SOB has enough style and vocal presence to not detract from the flurry of sounds coming at the listener. On some tracks such as What Could Be Better Bitch Bazerk actually is the main focus of the track, which doesn’t happen much on the album. On other tracks such as the single Change The Style, he even adds to the chaos on the track. His half shouted/half sang flow suites the tracks fine. With his crew splattered through out the album, it comes off as kind of a 60′s funk/soul album half the time. Sure, some concepts on the album fall short to keep it from being a certified classic, but the tracks that standout are more than enough to make up for any short comings.
The groups first single, “Change The Style” would be in rotation on “Yo! MTV Raps”, and I would I get in line to purchase the album when it dropped that spring. Being somewhat fond of different genres of music, the mesh of musical concepts in the song always appealed to me. The second video would be “The Band Gets Swivey on the Wheels”, which probably is my favorite track on the album (with J Dubs Theme right behind it). Son of Bazerk would also show up on the Juice Soundtrack with “What Could Be Better, Bitch“. This track would attract some of my less hip hop inclined friends, being the snot nosed 17,18 and 19 years we were back then. I’m sure some people will think I’m crazy mentioning this in the greatness of so many classic albums, but this album got constant play from me for a year or two (at least until Masta Ace INC’s Slaughtahouse dropped in 93′) and the production makes it one of my top 10 favorite produced albums of all-time. I wasn’t the only person that screams about the brilliancy that is “Bazerk, Bazerk, Bazerk”
Oh man. Talk about a brilliant record. The public wasnt ready for that. They were barely ready for Public Enemy, so Bazerk was just ahead of its time. Still is. I recently met Hank Shocklee and had him sign the sealed CD longbox I have, haha. I don’t think any producer can duplicate that. Ever. I’m a fanatic for details and noise and throwaway sounds, and even I was like “how the fuck did they do that?” Even my pops loves that album.
The MC wasn’t no Rakim, but he was perfect for that project. Guys like him, Tim Dog, Too $hort, Eazy-E. I looked up to them as MCs. Cause they may not have been the best, but they were entertaining, didnt take themselves so serious and knew how to rhyme in the scope of making a successful song. People overlook that for the sake of skills. I’d rather hear a dude that can rap or produce in the context of a cohesive project than some hack that can “spit” 90 bars of ill punchlines on a mixtape or a producer that makes banger after banger but can’t define his own sound and work within a concept scope. There have been better albums than Bazerk beatwise, but in terms of total production and sound, there has never been a better rap album. Ever.
Interesting interview from last year with 1/2Pint of No Self Control.
Someone PLEASE hook me up with that unreleased track. If the unreleased album is out there, I’d love to hear that as well. A guy can dream can’t he?
2. Fake Hair Wearin’ Bitch – No Face, 2 Live Crew
3. At the Movies
4. Socially Speaking
6. Spanish Fly
7. Under the Subway
8. Half – BWP, No Face
9. Stole My Shit
10. Your System
Someone once said ignorance is bliss, well this here album is full of bliss then. I’m not even going to lie and say this is one quality album, cause it’s not. But when you are a snot nosed Junior/Senior in high school, this was some quality filth to blast in your Volkswagen Jetta with two 12″s in the trunk and get all the girls go “ewwwwww” when you drove by. Somethings just stick with you all the way through your journey through life. This was my favorite Ig’nant album in High School, more so than even 2 Live Crew (I’ve always strived to move away from the masses, and I even enjoyed Poison Clan’s 2 Low Life Muthas even more than most of the 2 Live stuff as well). This was one of those albums that got a lot of play during parties and in the car crusin. Pure ignorance in all it’s bliss.
Most albums of this type are not high on quality music. I’m not saying this album is totally devoid of any musical value. It had some killer 808 kicks (Your System) that could rattle a trunk. I kind of thought of it as a cross between the Miami Bass of that era and NY music with some New Jack Swing thrown into the pot for some mainstream value (Half). It used humor (Xactly & Stole My Shit) and straight up sex rhymes (Wake Your Daughter Up). It had something for everybody, even cussing women out (Fake Hair Wearin’ Bitch) a joint I still listen to when a chick pisses me off.
As I said, this will never go down as the most lyrical, the best beats, or any socially redeeming values, but in the realm of Ig’nant albums, this is a straight up classic. This bad boy is going for a pretty high price by the hipsters on amazon, so this might be a better idea to download this and sit back and just not care about shit.
No Face reportedly did another album, on Interscope, but it’s never seen the light of day and I’ve never seen it grace the ‘net even. They did release a single featuring Shock G, “No Brothas Allowed”, which encompasses a much different sound than found on any song that was on Wake Your Daughter Up. Might have been interesting to see where they would have went with it.
3. Greyson & Jasun – Sweatin’ Me Wet (Atlantic) Released: July 9th, 1991
Upon looking at the cover, I’m sure visions of dancing, new jack swing kicking, r&b rhythms fill your head and you put the album back down in the dollar bin that you found it in and moved on. You would be making a mistake, because “Sweatin’ Me Wet” by Greyson & Jasun, while not a classic in any sense of the word, is a solid release. The albums first single would come in the form of “Get Bizzy”, featuring one of my all-time favorite MC’s Slick Rick. It was a straight up party joint that was produced by Vance Wright, who did the whole album. At first, it was Slick Rick’s verse that hooked me. Rick comes with one of the most pompus, arrogant, cocky verses I’ve heard from him, and that is saying a lot, but I loved it:
“They call me Slick Rick, Rickey D, Rickey Ricardo get it through your mind that your a played out retardo truth child, follow, shield your pic (?) there is no competition, (cuz they are all on his dick) So shoo number 2 you crumb cause your a bum You are all going real dumb when I’m on You could screamed “Rick” from way back in the past so now you want to kiss Rick’s ass cause I blast? Save it and let me whip things thorough I run through every county state town and borough So don’t try to step to me and say is he “Dizzy” why? Cause I’m about to get bizzy”
It was about this time when I started calling people “crumbs” for the summer. The rest of the album had some slammin’ cuts, such as the title track, “Livin’ Like A Troopa”, “Laura” and the ever so dope “Hard As They Come”. So why didn’t this album make much noise? This was about the time hip hop was starting to make a change. The Daisey Age/Native Tongue flavor was starting. NWA and the west coast was starting to make noise. Hip Hop was evolving, and this album sounded like it really could have been released in ’88 and it would have fit right in. It was built on the break beats, James Brown samples and other fairly common samples of the day, not the obscure samples found on Black Sheep’s album or Prince Paul’s Turtles sampels. Then of course, Atlantic had no CLUE how to promote hip hop back in those days. See what happened to K-Solo, Hard 2 Obtain and Original Flavor.
4. Groove B Chill – Starting From Zero (A&M Records)
Released: October 5th, 1990
ef=”http://bp3.blogger.com/_dQVuEa3en7I/R5bfzGuLgxI/AAAAAAAACLQ/5HmOPsNuSNs/s1600-h/GBC.jpg”>Don’t let the fruity cover fool you. Despite seeing some flack about this album on other sites, I’ve always held Groove B Chill’s “Starting At Zero” in high regard. It’s not going to win any awards for the greatest production, although it does feature VERY early Pete Rock production and also contains some Prince Paul material. The lyrics are not mind blowing in the least and even down right simple in some cases, but the lead MC, Chill aka Chill E Dawg, contained a certain charisma, which is probably why him, along with fellow members Groovy Groove and B, were on Kid N Play’s “House Party” motion picture. Out of the ten tracks contained on this album, seven are quality in my book, two more are decent and the one sorry attempt at a love song pretty much sucked.
Groove is dancing at the first part of the clip and Chill is in the back with the funny hat.
My introduction to the album would be through the lead single, “Hip Hop Music” that got play very early in ’90 on”Yo!”. The video version is the same version that would appear on the 12 inch single released earlier in the year as a remix, which was done by Hitman Howie Tee. Many people say the remix of “Hip Hop Music” is much better and I tend to agree. I remember buying the tape the day it came out. It got quite a bit of play that fall of my senior year, but I would lose it fairly quick and the album would be one of those long lost favorites of my early memories until the internet came into play.
A young Pete Rock would produce the albums first two cuts. Don’t expect the typical Pete Rock horns or sound that would become popular a few years later, Pete was still getting his producing feet wet with this. The lead off song, “Starting From Zero” showcases Pete playing it fairly safe and staying to a commonly tried formula of fairly simple music and recognizable samples. In fact, the second track, “There It Is” following the same ideas, using a commonly used live bassline and those keys found on other tracks such as Redhead Kingpin and others. Some of the other music found on “Starting From Zero” was some what “experimental”, in the same way some considered “3 Feet High and Rising”, maybe it was the Prince Paul association. Paul produces my personal favorite track on the album, “Top Of The Hill”. With a beat that sounds like it wasn’t good enough for “De La Soul Is Dead”, the crew sing a variation of “On Top Of Ol’ Smokey” for the hook.
While this isn’t any lost treasure, “Starting From Zero” isn’t bad as some of the reviews I’ve seen for it. If you are down with some of the light hearted rap in those days, like Kwame, Kid N Play, Special Ed and others, this was right in line with those releases and worth the cheap purchase just to witness the birth of Pete Rock.
Finally, we come with one of my favorite crews in the history of hip hop, the almighty Hit Squad (circa pre EPMD break-up). As even the most novice hip hop head knows, the Hit Squad consisted of : EPMD, Das EFX, Redman, and K Solo, but what a lot of people don’t know there was a group of two white boys that repped the Hit Squad that never got their time in the spotlight, the Knucklehedz.
The Knucklehedz were from L.I. along with E Double and Pee and consisted of Tom J and Steve Austin. For some reason they didn’t appear on a lot of the earlier Hit Squad stuff, although it was rumored they were life long friends with Sermon. They first appeared in a small part in EPMD’s “Hit Squad Heist”, while Tom J also had a small part on K-Solo’s first album. They joined PMD’s “Shuma Managment” and got signed by East/West recordings….see where this is going? Yeah, like Omniscience, Supernatural and others, they never got the album released, and were eventually dropped by the label that has dropped more balls than a Denver Broncos wide receiver.
Musically, it has a smorgas board of Hit Squad affiliates behind the boards, with Charilie Marotta doing the majority of the album. You might be familiar with Charlie on some of the Das Efx albums along with a couple PMD solo joints, one of the EPMD albums and some joints on Top Quality’s “Magnum Opus” LP. Both Parrish and Erick did three tracks apiece with Erick Sermon’s “All She Wanted” being the gem of the bunch. Think of the first two Redman albums and Keith Murray’s first album and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Some funk for the trunk that sounds funkier than three week old socks. Lyrically, they basically sound like EPMD. Slow, methodical rhymes. They fit the tracks good, but are by no means lyrical geniuses. The album jumps off with “Hed Rush” which to me is the best track on the album. Some lazy horn riding a deep bass line. Some songs come off as stuff you’ve heard one too many times. By no means is the album a lost classic (like say the “Resident
Alien” or the “Omniscience”) but if you were a fan of the early 90′s hip hop scene or better yet, the HIT SQUAD, you should definitely check this album out.
Not even sure if this completely falls within the rules of “one & done”, since this never officially made it out, as far as I know, but we’ll count it, cause it’s full of that Hit Squad goodness.
tracks 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 & 8 produced by Charlie (MacGyver) Marotta
tracks 4, 9 & 11 produced by Parrish Smith
tracks 7, 10 & 12 produced by Erick Sermon
tracks 2, 6, 7, 9 & 12 co-produced by Knucklehedz
(thanks to Jaz for the production credits)