Purchase “Stress..” HERE
Sometimes, Hip Hop groups just complete the near impossible feat and improve upon their debut album greatly, albeit avoiding the dreaded “sophomore slump”. That’s what Organized Konfusion did in 1994 with their 2nd LP, “Stress: The Extinction Agenda”. Even though some herald O.K.’s debut as a classic, it was a complete disaster sales-wise, yet they still had the fortune of not getting dropped from the label (Hollywood Basic). If so, we wouldn’t have been blessed with this oft-forgotten masterpiece.
Once again on this outing the lyrically inclined duo of Pharoahe Monch and Prince Po absolutely go off. Perhaps, with “Stress..” they aren’t as much ahead of their time as they were in 1991, but still “Stress” served as one of the best overall showings of 1994. Let’s not front, Pharoahe Monch is a tiny notch above Prince Po with the lyrics, but that doesn’t stop Prince Po from wrecking lyrical havoc in every last one of his verses. Yet, you must take into consideration that the forward-thinking, open-minded, Monch is one of the most flawless MC’s to ever grace the microphone, as Po served as Pippen to Monch’s Jordan. Nearly every rhyme of this album delivered via Monch is a Hip-Hop quotable and he delivers his lyrics in such a rapid-fire, thought-provoking manner that is sometimes over your head, but definitely all deserving of a “rewind”.
The production featured on “Stress..” is also top-notch, sort of a post-”Enta Da Stage”/”36 Chambers” vibe that doesn’t stray too far away from the tried and true East Coast sound, thanks to the contributions of Buckwild. In his true signature fashion Buckwilld’s contributions: “Stress, “Why” and “Thirteen” are in other words, the 3 “Ds”, “Dark, Dreary and Dope. Every single cut on this album is just stellar, I can’t seem to conjure up one single negative word to say in regards to “Stress..” It’s simply a MUST have/copable album for all fans of vintage hip hop. And me being a true realist, this album is even waay ahead of the majority of the ‘ish that’s dropping in this day and age, talk about keeping up with the times!?
Purchase “Resurrection” HERE
Resurrection!! Did Common display the most improvement from one album to the next with his progression between the release of his debut, “Can I Borrow A Dollar?” and this seminal release? I’d have to say it’s right at the cusp with the best of ‘em, and when asked, this is the example that first comes to mind in most instances. “Resurrection” had barely anything in “common” with Common’s debut, which often found the young, upstart lyricist making an overabundance of crazy, pig noises. Oh, don’t get it confused, it’s not that I don’t like/love “Can I Borrow a Dollar?”, it’s really quite a fun album, but it just doesn’t compare to this one since Common Sense evolved into such a better rapper.
Most people will tell you that this is one of the best lyrical performances found on record of all-time and I’d have a hard time disputing the fact. You want metaphors? Common beefs up every line with ‘em and he just refuses to stop the bumrush. “Resurrection” is truly one of those albums that you really need to learn and “take in” all the lyrics to appreciate it fully. The production on this release also improved upon “Can I Borrow A Dollar?”. The producer found on Common’s first offering, who named himself Immenslope (whom also handled approximately half of the beats on “Can I..”) would re-emerge on “Resurrection”, this time with the alias of No I.D. (did you know he produced the Rick Ross/Cee-Lo cut that just leaked? Wow!). It’s also of note that it was indeed No I.D. who laced Common with all of the soundscapes on this LP but two (with “Sum Shit I Wrote” and “Chapter 13″ being the only omissions)
The beats that fuel “Resurrection” all share the “Midnight Marauders” influence and offer your preferred audio set-up a nice cardio workout. The production is somewhat simple, yet thumping which permits Common from being overshadowed. All this makes “Resurrection” a classic LP, without a doubt, there’s nothing quite like this album as it served as the soundtrack to countless drunken summer night during my senior year of H.S.. I’ve always had a difficult time choosing between this one and “Like Water for Chocolate” as my to which is my favorite Common album. Yet, if you ask me today, I’m pretty sure of my pick and I’m rolling with “Chocolate” mainly due to the Soulquarians’ production which makes it a much more complete album than these simple mid-’90′s beats. Still there is minimal fault with “Resurrection”, it’s definitely an essential album to have for all the hip hop heads out there.
Purchase “Criminal” HERE
Man, count me in as a “sleeper”!! I honestly probably never had heard of this album until late 2003-early 2004 when I downloaded “Criminal” off of SoulSeek. Even more to my surprise was learning of his inclusion in the “Bulldogs”, aka Ed. O.G.’s posse that went along for the ride on early Ed O.G. releases such as “Like Of A Kid In The Ghetto” and “Roxbury 02119″. Someone help me out here, I can’t tell if that’s Scientifik that appears alongside Ed O.G. on the cover art for “Roxbury….” or not. Anyway, supposedly released on the Definite label imprint in 1994 “Criminal” has become somewhat of a myth and has been hyped to monstrous proportions due to in large part to it’s all-star production cast. Hmmm, “Ego Trip” states that Scientifik died in a car accident in 1998, but I also recall reading somewhere recently that he shot his wife/girlfriend and then turned the gun on himself. Don’t ask me, I’m just judging by hearsay.
Sadly, this album has basically been subjected to download based on the limited distribution of the album (if there was any at all). Although, “Criminal” was actually re-released by Traffic Entertainment Group in 2006….the dude who I imagine would really be able to hip you to the saga of Scientifik would almost have to be fellow Bostonian Dart Adams. I would consider “Criminal” to be “slept-on” no doubt…but, the album at 10 tracks deep is nowhere near “classic” status. I’d give it a solid 7/10 no more, no less. The Jeru sampled “Jungles Of Da‘ East” is hard not to like with it’s soulful yet bouncy production that would’ve no doubt rocked mixtapes up and down the East Coast border had the album received it’s proper due in 94′. The Diamond D assisted “I Got Planz” is another banger that leans to Diamond’s quality production featured on “Stunts, Blunts & Hip Hop” rather than his lazy production from his follow-up “Hatred, Passions & Infedility“. All in all, I’ve enjoyed this album enough to purchase it which speaks volumes about this overlooked release from yet another emcee that left us way to soon.
Purchase “Nervous Breakdown” HERE
Boy did I LOVE the Fu-Schnickens first album!!! Three different MCs with three different complimentary styles, various comic references to TV-Shows and cartoons and many exhilarating quotations about Kung-Fu flicks; Sounds familiar? Do the math! But when you release your first album in ’92, your sophomore in ’94 and your record company (though Jive never displayed any prowess when it came to Hip Hop) decides to put out a best of album in ’96, something must have went totally wrong.
Enter “Nervous Breakdown”: Their lyrical formula had not changed dramatically; I just missed Ali Shaheed Muhammad, his snare, the jazzy atmosphere that came to your rescue, whenever you felt tired of Chip’s fast flow. But like I said, this was the first album. On “Nervous Breakdown” everything seemed a bit confusing: You had the Eric Sermon influenced “Breakdown”, the Lord Finesse influenced “Visions” and the DJ Muggs influenced “Sneakin’ Up On Ya” aligned back to back, causing a lack of identification and corresponding style. You never knew what to expect and that wasn’t necessarily a good thing coming off their success with the first album “F.U- Don’t Take It Personal”. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a bad record, a lot of good things happen here, but I was a little bit disappointed with them, trying to reinvent themselves…
“Blowout Comb”-Digable Planets
Purchase “Blowout Comb” HERE
The Digable Planets’ sophmore album “Blowout Comb” may not have been as popular or recognizable as their debut “Reachin..”, but it is twice as good. Not that there is anything unfavorable with “Reachin’”, it’s an excellent record, but on this outing they really pushed their sound forward. “Blowout Comb” is soo ahead of its time that it could easily pass off as a 2010 release, the production has really up to today’s standards, even if it was released a mere 16 years ago. One of the elements that pushed their sound to another pedestal was the addition of actual jazz musicians on top of the sampled drums. This ranges from bass, guitar, cello, vibes, keyboards, saxophones and all of this gives the album tons of rich details to digest.
The legendary Guru might have originated this concept with his Jazzmatazz in 1993 with flying colors, but the Planets just take the same idea and birthed a complete masterpiece. One of the other things I really loved about “Blowout Comb” is it’s thick, dragging drums, they just sound so crisp and tight, yet never really screwed with the mellow vibe of the record. Again the Planets all possess a laid-back, conversational delivery, and while they might not be the most gifted lyricists, their style meshes perfectly with their production. I have nothing but positive things to say about this album, it’s an under-appreciated classic that’s somehow is overlooked due to the success of their debut album (which is due to the commercial success of “Cool Like Dat”). Highly recommended and arguably the apex of the jazz-rap sound.