Before there was the Wu, there was the Rhyme Syndicate. Around 1987 or so, Ice-T got a group of artists together, in an attempt to bring unity among the masses (among other reasons, I’m sure). And not only was it west coast artists, the east was represented as well, which was only natural since Ice spent a lot of time back east and cats such as Donald D, Afrika Islam, Bronx Style Bob were all originally from the east coast. Artists such as WC (as part of Low Profile), Everlast (in his dapper threads before he became the Irish hooligan in HOP), and Lord Finesse got their “start” as part of the Rhyme Syndicate.
In 1988, around the time that Ice-T was starting get his name out there, he decided to release a Rhyme Syndicate project. It consisted of some of Ice’s known cohorts, such as Donald D and Evil Dee and Henry G. It would also be the first (and maybe last) for a slew of new talent, such as Bango, Nat The Cat, and T.D.F.
Myself, I was a big Ice-T fan by this time after picking up a Rhyme Pays bootleg tape at the state fair the year previously. I was even part of the “Rhyme Syndicate Fan Club”, which I had to send away to be apart of. I think you sent them cash, then they sent you a black baseball hat with a white SYNDICATE (or maybe it was SYNDICATION, I can’t remember) and a pair of cheap rip off “Locs”, which were totally uncomfortable to wear. Both the hat and glasses rested a Mickey Mouse piggy bank I had.
Anyway, I remember my neighbor when I was a kid and myself took off to the local record store one Sunday afternoon. It was this neighbor that was responsible for my introduction to hip hop (something he’ll deny today, since he is a God fearing, conservative republican, FBI agent), and he was old enough to drive, so we’d go hit up the “tape stores” as we used to call them. It was this Sunday that we found this unexpected gem. I want to say it was after Yo! MTV Raps had started running full time, but this was completely unheard of by this time. I had heard some of the names found on the tape, since I was an avid reader of liner notes. I had heard of Donald D, Toddy Tee, and Bronxstyle Bob. I knew what the Rhyme Syndicate was as well, but I never knew this compilation existed. Since my buddy was a cheapskate back then, I would buy most things, and he would dub them, so I quickly grabbed this unheard of jewel, paid for it and out the door we went. We played the tape while we drove around and we thought it was the best shit we had ever heard.
Looking back on it now, it’s not the greatest album of all-time, but I still break it out form time to time and give it some spins. As I stated already, a lot of these artists never really saw much time past this project. Maybe a 12 inch here, a guest appearance on an Ice-T album there, but besides Everlast, Donald D, Toddy Tee, and Low Profile which was W.C., DJ Aladdin (minus the third member who was only found on this song and I can’t even remember his name), the rest didn’t do much. For the longest time, before the internet, I never heard much about the Rhyme Syndicate project. I was actually convinced for the longest time that I had something pretty rare on my hands. I realize now that it’s not all that hard to find, although the CD version, which I have never seen, goes for a large sum on Amazon.com, but you can get the vinyl on discogs.com for a reasonable price. Myself, I still own the original tape that I bought some 20 plus years ago.
01 Ice-T – Rhyme Syndicate Comin’ Through 2:45
02 Low Profile – Think You Can Hang? 5:48
03 Spin Masters, The – Bustin’ Loose 4:38
04 Everlast – Syndication 3:39
05 Domination – You Haven’t Heard Nothing 4:39
06 T.D.F. – T.D.F. Connection 4:05
07 Bango & Mixmaster Quick – Ghettoish 4:45
08 Toddy Tee – I Need A Rolex 3:48
09 Nat The Cat – While You’ve Been Waiting 4:38
10 Donald D – Name Of The Game 5:02
The music isn’t even close to your run of the mill west coast gangster tales that would soon become the norm only a few short years later. I can’t recall anyone getting shot the fuck up, no drugs being dealt, and not one drive by. Instead, it’s all straight up braggadocios rhymes with some talk of Rolexes thrown in here and there for good measure.
As I mentioned, none of the joints could be considered a “classic”. I did have my favorites though. Bango (the B-boy Outlaw) out of Cleveland, which at the time was unheard of, dropped a cut that really set things off in my little ’82 Jetta I had in the days. Listening to him now, I forget that this was in ’88, as he quite at home behind the mic and showed more complexity than a lot of emcees at the time. The production was done by Bango himself and Daddy-O of Stetsasonic fame gets credit for it as well. I’m not sure of the story behind his involvement in the beat, but if I remember right, Bango was in one (or more) of The New Music Seminar and lost a questionable decision to Grandmaster Caz. I’m guessing the Daddy-O tie lies somewhere in there, but I’m only guessing.
Everlast’s “Syndication” was a good year or two before he would drop his Rhyme Syndicate/WB solo debut, so this was his debut on wax as far as I know. I loved this song back in the day, the funky guitar sample that was produced by Bilal Bashir (a slept on producer in his own damn right) always got my blood going. The version found on this is slightly different than the one that would appear a couple years later on his solo album. As an emcee, I guess he leaves something to be desired, but as a snotty nosed 9th grader, I saw nothing wrong with him. It’s still a song that will be among my personal classics
My favorite cut from the album though, lies in Nat The Cat’s “While You’ve Been Waiting”. Nat’s been up there with Joe Sinistr and Celo as cats that dropped one song only to disappear forever. Yes true, Nat the Cat does show up on some Ice-T albums (OG and Iceberg), but as far as
I know, he never released anther solo song, which is a shame. The drums on this track are on some crazy, uber hard, smack-a-bum upside the head with a garbage can type of shit. The horn sample blares out the coming of Nat the Cat. All this and Nat has a unique sound and style on the microphone, one that caused me to still the know the words to this cut some twenty plus years later.