80. “S.K.I.T.S”-Lord Finesse
I gotta’ tell ya’, coming up as a youngster back in the mid-nineties, I was fairly hip to much of the releases that dropped every Tuesday. Yet, one of the artists that I slept on most was Lord Finesse, it wasn’t that I was unaware of the dopeness that was being dropped from criminally underrated producer/emcee (or you could argue “emcee/producer”) as I was particularly fond of Finesse’s contribution to the “Trespass” OST, “You Know What I’m About”, but I admittedly never picked up “Return Of The Funky Man” or “Funky Technician” until much later in my adult life. Believe it or not, Finesse’s 1996 release “The Awakening” would be my first official purchase from the D.I.T.C. card-carrying member.
Recently, I’ve taken a particular liking to “S.K.I.T.S” (Shorties Kaught In The System), but after hearing it on numerous occasions over the last half-decade or so, it was somewhat of a chore to figure out “just where in the hell did I hear that around ’95?” After much searching, I realized that “S.K.I.T.S” was included on the “State Of Emergency” compilation (which included, most notably, the Pharcyde & Ice T), which coincidentally I can vividly recall picking up on one of those Tuesday’s where the new releases where kinda’ slim. Produced by Finesse, “S.K.I.T.S” is not only one of the most overlooked productions from the Lord himself, but on this track you will also find him during one of his more introspective, socially conscious moments. Also, the remix to this track, while rougher around the edges, is something to keep your ear out for as well as Finesse injects the track with a heavy dose of piercing horns.
79. “Money Talks”-Double X (Double XX Posse)
Let’s keep this “Lord Finesse” theme running, shall we? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…if I ever make a movie this song will be the opener. The folks who did the score for “The Boiler Room” where sleepin’ when they skipped over this Lord Finesse-produced banger. By the way, would anyone else argue that “Money Talks” could darn well be the high point of Finesse’s production career? As soon as the horns kick in on “Money Talks” it’s a wrap!! I’d slept on this beat until late 2000, but since then it’s mandatory listening to get my day started on the right foot, and being in the business that I’m in, “Money Talks” has been my personal anthem for the last three years or so. Also, don’t sleep on Sugar Ray lyrically. Maan, I wish this cat was still makin’ records! Taken from Double X (formerly Double XX Posse, whom also are responsible for the classic “Not Gonna’ Be Able To Do It”) slept-on gem from 1995, “Ruff, Rugged & Raw”.
With 95% of the production duties handled by Double X themselves on “Ruff, Rugged & Raw” (why am I thinking that T-Ray had a heavy involvement in the production as well?) , the album is loaded with East Coast flava‘ from beginning to end. Reliant on echoed horn loops, murky drums and rolling basslines “Ruff….” is one of the golden era’s most slept-on and overlooked gems to ever come outta’ New York. I can remember digging for this one for quite some time in PA, I don’t know if Big Beat distributed very few copies of the album or what, but I had a hard to getting my hands on a copy for the longest. On the mic, Sugar Ray is easily distinguishable and carries most of the workload on this one, with BK providing back up from time to time. Sugar Ray was always a dope emcee in my eyes, his lyrics where never “top notch” but his delivery and presence more than compromised his lyrical downside. If you love that “ol New York rap” here’s anotha‘ gem for you…..but why in the hell did I always think that Double X hailed from Jersey?
78. “5 Men & A Mic”-Special Ed
Damn, they just don’t make posse cuts the way that they used ta’!! One of my favorite cuts of all time, the Special Ed classic “5 Men and A Mic” appeared on Ed’s sophomore LP, “Legal” (1990, Profile). With help from cohorts 40-Love , Akshun , Coolie Man and Little Shawn (which also, I believe served as his first appearance on wax?) and production backing from what I assume is Ed’s brother, Wayne Archer, “5 Men..” wins with simplicity. Featuring the bare bones and heavily utilized “Substitution” breakbeat as a backdrop, each of the five emcees catch lyrical wreck over this bouncy, bass-heavy gem that still sounds as fresh today as it did nearly two decades ago! You could make a valid argument as to just what was Special Ed’s finest album “Youngest In Charge” or “Legal”, yet don’t sleep on 1995′s “Revelations” as it featured some lovely production from the likes of Mark Sparks (see: Mic Geronimo’s “The Natural” for more of the same).
77. “Still Standing Strong”-Cocoa Brovaz
Of course, everyone can recall the small bump in the road that Smif-N-Wessun aka Coca Brovaz ran into following the release of their Duck Down debut-”Da’ Shinin”, they immediately ran into interference from Smith & Wesson firearms, resulting in a three-year legal battle which ended with the adoption of the name Cocoa Brovaz; under that moniker, they issued “The Rude Awakening” in 1998 to coincide with Duck Down’s merger with Priority Records. While “Dah Shinin” is still probably one of my top 10 albums of all-time, the release of the duo’s sophomore LP “The Rude Awakening” didn’t nearly generate the same vibes and emotions from me that their debut did. The album received moderate reviews and sales, with the biggest hit to date from the LP being the Raekwon-featured “Black Trump”.
Yet, there was just one particular cut that truly captured the essence and feel of their classic debut, the appropriately titled “Still Standing Strong”. One listen to the opening guitar sequence which paved way for the skull-crushing drums and you’re immediately reeled in. But what’s most surprising about “Still Standing..”, even though it sounds like a signature Beatminerz production (whom are responsible for the production on “Dah Shinin”), it was actually 1/2 of Cocoa Brovaz, Steele who laid the groundwork for this exhilarating anthem that makes you wanna’ wake up and hit the ground running in the AM.
76. “Formula” (House Party)-K-Solo
K-Solo was stuck between a rock and a hard place in ’92. With the emergence of gangsta rap on the West Coast and alternative/”hippy” rap on the East Coast, versatile old school emcees such as Solo were fading quickly. Throw in the pending breakup of his mentors EPMD, K-S-O-L-O would soon lack the affiliation so critical to success in the rap game. With the odds stacking up against him, it’s amazing his sophomore LP “Time’s Up” was so damn efficient. While it’s certainly not the most exciting rap album ever released, it’s one of those LPs that you just can’t seem to forget. The only flaw anyone might mention is that it sounds a bit familiar, almost to identical production-wise to Das Efx’ “Dead Serious”. This shit was simply East Coast Hip Hop it’s finest!
“The Formula” takes you to the center of the house party, from bumrushing the doorways to stealing the microphone and goin’ for yours. Couple that with the groggy, dragging production from Parrish Smith (PMD) and you have a surefire classic that was fairly original when it arrived by in ’92. Put “The Formula” in your system and it feels as if you’re actually there!!