The Legion – “Theme + Echo = Krill” (1994, Mercury/555 Recordings)
Cop “Theme..” HERE
Capitalizing off their loose affiliation with Black Sheep, the Bronx trio The Legion released their one and only album, the oddly titled “Theme + Echo = Krill” in 1994. Boasting heavy East Coast production, provided by the likes of the Black Sheep (Dres & Mista Lawnge) and Showbiz, yet the majority of the beats on “Theme..” were surprisingly laced “in house” by the three-man crew. The obvious Pete Rock and Q-Tip influences run a muck, and thankfully so, as the lyricism that can be found on this debut was very mediocre, at best.
Yet again, the Legion fell into your typical trap, that affected many of the acts that emerged from this era. Even though, at the time, when the album received 3 outta’ 5 mics from The Source, I considered the estimation of the magazine to be somewhat flawed. Listening to the LP, just recently, 3 mics was somewhat generous, considering the generic lyrics that lacked any real substance. At best, this album is an entertaining listen on the basis of the “sound” production, but nothing is very memorable (aside from the Biz Markie-laced hook that fueled “Zootie Bang”) with the exception of the album’s length (almost 80 minutes). If you really love that sound it might be worth a shot.
Top Quality-“Magnum Opus” (1994, RCA)
Purchase “Magnum Opus” HERE
There was a moment in time when EPMD’s extended family had New York on lock. While E-Double’s Def Squad collective scored early and often, with Keith Murray and Reggie Noble leading the pack, Pee’s Hit Squad counted on matching the success of Das Efx with the release of Top Quality’s “Magnum Opus” in ’94.
Packed to the gills with Philly Blunt references, delivered, in what it seemed like at times, pig Latin, “Magnum Opus” was an overflow of cliches straight from the mouth of yet another “hard” emcee. With lyrical versatility seldom heard on one single album, Top Quality pulled out all the stops in a valiant attempt to outshine production handled by the likes of Solid Scheme and Jesse West. The title cut from this album has proved to also be it’s most famous for it’s creative sampling.
The least successful to branch from the EPMD root, Top Quality failed to attain the popularity enjoyed by Das, Red, Keith Murry and don’t forget about K-Solo! Even Parrish Smith’s (PMD) executive-production and oversight of this release couldn’t save it from slipping to the depths of “one-hit wonder” status.
Yaggfu Front-“Action Packed Adventure” (1994, Mercury)
Purchase “Action Packed..” HERE
Hailing from North Carolina, the jazzy trio of Jingle Bel, Spin 4th and D’ranged and Damaged dropped on overlooked gem in the shape of “Action Packed Adventure” on the famed Mercury imprint in the winter months of ’94. As the years have passed since it’s initial release “Action Packed..” has turned even more heads and gained somewhat of a cult following in hip hop’s underground for it’s strange, yet irresistible, fun-loving lyrical stylings and neck-snapping breaks.
Yaggfu’s overall “sound” (fu*k, I hate the way I exhaust the usage of that word) lies somewhere between that of the Fu-Schnickens, the Pharcyde and Das Efx, yet they’ve carved out their own unique niche. On cuts like “Frontline” the trio relate the having of glamor and glitz to attract the girls and then there’s “Left Field” that finds each member taken on a different lyrical persona. Both tracks attempt to solve the theory of “just why Yaggfu can’t bag the honeys”. All in all, this album is a DEFINITE must have/peep/download, etc. While not the most daring or even original offering, you can tell that these cats had an absolute blast during the making of “Action Packed Adventure”.
Cop “No Mercy” HERE
What most cats fail to realize is that during the makings of Da Youngsta’s ’93 effort “The Aftermath” the trio’s vocals still hadn’t yet fully developed, which accounted for a few scratchy moments. The problem was magnified even more when Da Youngsta’s tough-talked there way through the majority of the LP. Yet, to this day, “The Aftermath” is probably my favorite example of kiddie-rap gone “right”. By 1994, the crackling voices were absent, on the crew’s 3rd album, “No Mercy” a much more mature album than their previous efforts.
Without a shadow of a doubt, “No Mercy” was much more genuine than “The Aftermath”, blending tales of the ghetto romance (“Put Me On”), celebrations of growing up in the shi*ty inna’ city and hip-hop life, in general. Boasting more of a flow and consistent sound, thanks in part to the production contributions of the legendary Marley Marl and K-Def. Even though it was a blow to loose the production talents of DJ Premier and Pete Rock (whom both contributed to “The Aftermath”), the duo of Marl and Def create an exquisite, jazzy underground aesthetic that blends the grit with the chill, a sound that lends itself to the more measured, timely approach of Da Youngsta’s this go ’round. The music on this LP is less commercial as a result of the shift of tone and intent, but it made for an all around better album.
Don Jagwarr-“Faded” (1994, Priority)
Purchase “Faded” HERE
Who is Don Jagwarr? Well….first & foremost, most of you will remember Don Jagwarr from his “appearance” on Ice Cube’s “Wicked” from Cube’s 3rd album “The Predator”. Jagwarr also appeared on releases from Anotha Level (“Let Me Take Ya”) & MC Ren (“One False Move”) as well, around the same time frame as “Wicked”. This album was picked up on yet another one of those “new release Tuesday’s” when there really wasn’t anything else notable released and I had $40.00 (which was always my limit) about to burn a hole in my pocket. I figured what the hell, he was on Cube’s sh*t…so why not give “Faded” a shot? Needless to say, I picked up “Faded” that day along with Black Sheep affiliates (see above) The Legion’s “Theme + Echo = Krill” (weren’t they backed by the Orlando Magic’s Dennis Scott?) and was soon on my merry way.
Now listening to “Faded” today, it isn’t nearly as “flavorful” as it was in 1995. The majority of the beats contained on “Faded” were entertaining but definitely didn’t age very well. I rarely break this album out, but when I do it’s usually to give “Skank Wit’ U” featuring 2Pac a listen (don’t ask me what the title means). Be prepared, as Don Jagwarr’s flow may take a little getting used to, he’s somewhat of a mix between Supercat, The Hoodratz & well…you get the picture. The production on “Faded” was initially pretty dope though, the majority of it resembles that mid-90′s West Coast flavor of Sir Jinx. Quicy Jones’ son QDIII & Ice Cube produced one track apiece and the rest of the beats were handled by prevalent West Coast beat maker Brian G & Lay Law. Even still, this album is pretty hard to find on the net’ (I had to pick this one up on Amazon for about $8.00) and it’s also a pretty nice addition to your collection that not so many cats may recall.