“Runaway Slave” LP-Showbiz & AG
Purchase “Runaway Slave” HERE
In 1992, the D.I.T.C. (Diggin’ In The Crates) Crew blasted out of the starting gains and gained quite a following within the NY circuit. More importantly, Show and AG didn’t fit into the category of “gangsters” or hippies”, their beats and lyrics were hard but not overboard, conscious but not too soft. They didn’t buy into unrealistic optimism, nor were they over-cynical. Instead they offered up a sort of “dudes from the corner” everyday street feel, I mean even check the cover photo, does it get any more real than that?. No pretense there. No colorful tie dye tee shirts or gat brandishing, just two guys stoop sitting. How does “Runaway Slave” hit you? Quite simply the album was refreshing as hell, very comparable to fellow D.I.T.C. alumni Diamond D’s “Stunts, Blunts & Hip Hop” in terms of playability and quality.
In Hip Hop, you either dedicate so much time either in dark ideals or rose tinted ones, yet at times, your best bet is to just take what life gives you sometimes. Show & AG weren’t trying to please anyone but themselves with this album, the album flows effortlessly, seamlessly blending one classic cut into another. The production of Showbiz reflects all of this as well, it exhibits the jazzy angle of the “alternative rap” of this particular time frame, but also takes some of the pounding boom bap of hardcore rap. The fusion of the two makes for some delicious raw jazz rap that almost distantly starts to signal the roots of the yet to be birthed Noir Rap genre. Though East Coast heads were soon turned onto Pete Rock & CL and Das EFX, the next big thing in the rap genre, peeps like the DITC and Kool G Rap were busy building something else entirely. I ain’t mad at ‘em one bit. “Runaway Slave” yet another classic that 1992 blessed us with.
“Don’t Sweat The Technique”-Eric B & Rakim
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“Don’t Sweat The Technique”, the most disappointing album in your Eric B & Rakim collection, right? That’s the resounding sentiment that most people share, yet I’m still trying to find what’s just so disappointing about it. Sure, you may not find as many classics as with “Paid In Full” or even “Follow the Leader”, but “Don’t Sweat the Technique” definitely packed much heat. The opening track “What’s on Your Mind” (also featured on Kid N Play’s “House Party”) is probably the softest substance that Rakim released up until then, yet it’s always been a personal favorite (kind of an uptempo version of “Mahogany” if you ask me). Lyrically Rakim was still on point, and this album found Rakim going into other directions with tracks like “Teach the Children” & “Causalities of War”.
The credits on “..Technique” state that production is handled by Eric B & Rakim (ahem!) and the beats are constantly dope with a rugged, hard edge, straight up East Coast ‘ish. The only surefire classic track on the album is “Know the Ledge” (also see: “Juice” OST) but with it’s recent placement in those damn Target commercials the title track isn’t lagging too far behind. This album also served as Eric B & Ra’s last work together, and “…Technique” was still a great way to go out for the legendary duo. If you’re a Rakim fan you definitely need this album in your life, and even if you’re not, I still wouldn’t pass this album over.
“Blue Funk”-Heavy D & The Boyz
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While never releasing albums that where all that high on my list in terms of “repeatability”, Heavy D remained very high atop the charts nearly every time he dropped product. You gotta’ give it up for the “overweight lover”, he truly knew how to craft those hits without lacing his tracks with violence or any hint of profanity. What’s very intriguing with Heavy’s catalog is that the albums he released in the ’90′s where blessed with some of the best producers during that era.
The production of “Blue Funk” is it’s saving grace. The production on this album isn’t just “good” it is freakin’ marvelous! On “Blue Funk” Heavy had three contributions from the legendary (and my all-time favorite prouducer) Pete Rock, two joint from another legend, DJ Premier, and also a total of six jawns between two highly overlooked producers of their era, Tony Dofat and Jesse West. And while Heavy D is not a lyrical giant by any means, his style was always simple and a little corny at times, but you couldn’t help but love the guy. On this effort, his fourth LP, Hev boasted an “edgier, rougher” style that surprisingly worked. Besides, the production of this album didn’t really leave him with any other choice. I mean, the photo-shoots for this album were comprised of butter leather jacks, black jeans and Timbs. Blue Funk is one of the most consistent, if not best, Heavy D album, and I gotta’ admit…”Blue Funk” is easily one of my favorite albums of all-time. Aside from the weak “Girl” there isn’t a song that’s truly horrible, and at worst “Girl” is still very listenable. A major improvement over “A Peaceful Journey”, the album comes to a fitting end with the great posse cut “A Bunch Of Ni#$as” which features many hip hop legends, to include the late (man, feels weird sayin’ that) Guru and B.I.G. While “Blue Funk” may not be as high on your list of favorite LPs as it is mine, you gotta’ peep this to peep Heavy in his finest hour.
“Fu*k All Ya’ll”-Troubleneck Brothers
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Yet another crew whom hailed from New York that never really received their due props was the Troubleneck Brothers, who released the overshadowed “Fu*k All Ya’ll” in 1992. I don’t remember EVER seeing this cassette sitting on shelves, but I’m sure with the album title that they had, it was for good reason. Sporting signature hardcore, gritty production, the Troubleneck Brothers did very little lyrically so separate them from the remainder of the pack. Each of the emcees were far from dismal, but I can remember having a helluva’ time differentiating just who was who. Their lyrics are generic, basic “braggadocio” with an added dose of “hardcore” thrown into the mix.
If there is a definitive highlight to “Fu*k All Ya’ll” it would have to be the production (as with most early-’90 albums). The drums are knocking, meshed murky basslines but the album lacked that “it” factor and no one single track seems to stand out from the remainder of the LP. The Troubleneck Brothers never really made it big, they released a few singles and an EP afterward but never got to record another full-length after this LP.
“Return Of The Product”-MC Search (1992, Def Jam)
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After the much publicized demise of 3rd Bass, MC Serch wasted no time whatsoever in 1992, delivering his first solo LP on Def Jam, the unbalanced “Return Of The Product”. The first difference that you will notice between this and Serch’s work as 1/3 of 3rd Bass is the variance in production styles. Sam Sever (see: Downtown Science) and Pete Nice laced much of 3rd Bass’ output with stellar productions, yet on his debut, Serch opted to work with a then unheard of T-Ray and Wolf and Epic, who prior to “Return Of The Product” most notably produced some tracks for MC Lyte. And to be blunt, the inclusion of Wolf and Epic accounted for the album’s more house, danceable feel and it may have been forward thinking at the time, but it just didn’t pan out to well. However, T-Ray fared much better on his productions, yet Serch just wasn’t ripping ‘ish he did on “The Cactus Album” or “Derelicts Of Dialect”.
I say “Return Of The Product” and what is the one single track that immediately comes to mind? Yep, that’s what I thought, “Back To The Grill Again” aka our second exposure to an upstart Nasir Jones. While “Live At The BBQ” gets all the fame and glory, I personally preferred the good ol’ pass-the-mic bounce of this gem that also found verses from Red Hot Lover Tone and Chubb Rock to be equally impressive as Nasty Nas’. Serch would later bring together much of the production for Nas’ “Illmatic” so if that is attributed to “Back To The Grill Again”, I’m all for it.
Serch’s rapping career took a huge dive after the release of “Return Of The Product”. Widely recognized as a “flop”, today Serch has gained more notoriety as the host of the now-defuct “White Rapper Show” on VH1. Kinda’ sad actually when you sit back and reflect on just how huge a group like 3rd Bass could have been….