I can’t do a short post so why even try? My installment of our new Bloggerhouse segment “The Return Of The Shelved Album” will feature three releases, namely Knucklehedz “Stricktly Savage”, INI “Center Of Attention” and Large Professor “The LP”. While the last two projects were leaked and eventually released in a variety of different ways the first only saw the light of day via the internet. I will now weave three wondrous tales regarding the backstories of these ill fated projects.
Following the release of EPMD’s highly successful “Business Never Personal” album the Hit Squad (Das EFX, Redman & K-Solo) was commanding top dollar in Hip Hop circles. Das EFX’s “Dead Serious” went platinum, K-Solo’s “Time’s Up” yielded the hits “Can’t Hold It Back” & “Letterman”, EPMD’s “Crossover”crossed over then “Head Banger” blew up and Redman’s “Whut! Thee Album” went supernova. EPMD had Shuma Management, a production team called Solid Scheme in addition to DJ Scratch (the proclaimed “Jesus Christ of two turntables”) and several other acts in the wings waiting. The two next projects were Knucklehedz, Tom J & Steve Austin who were produced mainly by Solid Scheme (Das Efx) and Hurricane G (loria) who eventually became involved with Erick Sermon and was an associate of Redman’s.
Knucklehedz were signed to EastWest Records, same label as Das Efx and they had the same main producers as Das Efx. The key factor being that they were something that was sorely missing in Hip Hop @ the time, a hardcore White Rap group with a serious pedigree. The lead single “All She Wanted”/”Hed Rush” made some noise and caught the back page of The Source but never really caught on at radio while the video for “All She Wanted” didn’t get much burn on BET and next to none on MTV. After the first wave of Hit Squad releases were about to die down in early 1993, then EPMD could focus their energies on pushing and promoting Knucklehedz “Stricktly Savage” release upcoming in Spring 1993 on EastWest. Just one problem, EPMD suddenly broke up in January thereby dismantling the prestigious Hit Squad in one fell swoop.
Due to the internal issues concerning Paricken Music (ASCAP) & production being billed as EPMD regardless of if Erick or Parish produced it in addition to Parrish having ownership of Shuma Management (which managed the entirety of the Hit Squad at the time), group relations were strained beyond repair. While Erick & Parrish each had individual production credits on “Stricktly Savage” the Hit Squad breakup ultimately killed the project. Solid Scheme and Das EFX would side with PMD. Erick would take Redman & Hurricane G with him. K-Solo would self organize and leave others true to his rap name acronym. Tom J The Savage (no B Legit) and Steve Austin simply had no value to the label anymore. How do you put out a Hit Squad project with no Hit Squad? EastWest shelved the album and Knucklehedz were a wrap.
The album materialized on the internet via the burgeoning Hip Hop blog movement sometime between 2005 and 2006. If you’d like to hear this unreleased gem from 1993 then do so here. Next tale…
Large Professor left Main Source due to the fact their management were screwing him out of money. For those that are unaware, Sir Scratch & K Cut’s mother managed Main Source and the live guy with glasses eventually got sick of the bullshit and bounced. Large Professor signed a solo deal with Geffen Records and he readied “The LP” for the masses. While Large Professor was focused on making an album for his core audience and purveyors of fine Hip Hop the world over, his label was looking for hits and big sales numbers. We were still entrenched in a Hip Hop Golden Era. “I Jusswannachill” did well on the Backpack Rap circuit but didn’t blow up sales or chartswise. The next single could potentially produce a hit and create serious buzz for the album, though.
Large Professor dropped “The Mad Scientist” single and it generated enough buzz that people thought the album was just around the corner. It wasn’t. “The Mad Scientist” got played significantly more than “I Jusswannachill” did but the video never caught on and it didn’t become what could be termed a “hit” in any respect. Geffen wanted a home run and Large Professor was strictly on some Rod Carew/Wade Boggs batting for average shit. I really wish I’d known that this album wasn’t gonna come out when I went to the record release party for it in Baltimore when I went to Morgan State. True story. I heard “Spacey”, “Listen”, “Hard”, “Queens Lounge” and “The Mad Scientist” remix in addition to the previous singles. I saw what I thought was the album cover. Guess not.
As the summer of 1996 drew to a close it was becoming painfully clear that already seriously delayed project ‘The LP” wasn’t forthcoming. Large Professor and Geffen began the process of getting him released from his deal. In the following years quite a few songs from “The LP” would surface on tape and vinyl from overseas. The sound quality was lacking and oftentimes the songs sounded like they hadn’t been mixed or mastered. By 1999, you could hit up peer-to-peer music sites like Napster, LimeWire, Kazaa, SoulSeek and the like to cull together your own version of “The LP” with terrible sound quality. Bootleg versions of “The LP” appeared on white label vinyl, all with differing tracks of varying sound quality circa 2000.
Large Professor dropped sporadic solo singles over the years on different indie labels but he signed with Matador Records to drop his debut (?) solo LP “1st Class”. In Fall 2002, Large Pro blessed his fans with a treat if you pre-ordered his album or copped it from Sandbox Automatic, he’d throw in a free CDQ version of “The LP” along with “1st Class”. I was one of the fans that copped it. I was confused because at least two or or three songs I’d heard at the original “album release party” back in Baltimore in ’96 weren’t on the free 13 track no frills CD-R version of “The LP” I received. Large Pro later revealed that he had ALL of the tracks he intended to put on the original project and he was going to remaster, mix and resequence them then release it as it was originally intended to be released. Only took almost another 7 years for that to happen.
On July 1st, 2009, 13 years after I’d first attended it’s release party I finally copped Large Professor’s 18 track revamped version of “The LP” from Amazon. It felt good to finally have an excellent quality version of “Queens Lounge”, “Spacey”, “One Plus One” and “Dancing Girl”. If you’re a diehard Hip Hop head you’ll appreciate it as much as I did. Now for my final entry…
Back in the spring months of 1996, InI (Grap Luva, Rob O, Marco Polo, Ras G , I Love H.I.M. & DJ Boodakhan) dropped their lead single for their upcoming “Center Of Attention” project on Elektra Records titled “Fakin’ Jax”. The Soul Brother imprint deal began to go sour shortly after the single dropped. I actually copped the maxi CD single version with the bonus track “Step Up Time” on it (which is oddly enough nowhere to be found on Discogs even though I have one right in front of me). After three months there was no follow up single forthcoming and the deal was dead by 1997. Being that Pete Rock has a rabid fan base there was no way this album wasn’t going to surface in the coming years.
One day in 2001, I was at Tower Records flipping though a new issue of HHC (Hip Hop Connection) when the weirdest thing happened. I saw InI’s “Centre Of Attention” on sale for £18.99 via HMV in an ad. I was in shock so I checked the store computer and it was nowhere in their system. I went down the street to see if it was in the system at Newbury Comics out of curiosity. It turns out it was but I didn’t have to special order it because 3 copies were already coming to the store in the coming weeks. I went back there about 10 days later and 3 UK import CD’s of InI’s “Centre Of Attention” were in the store for $33.88. Fuck that shit! As much as I really wanted that CD there was no way I was gonna buy it for that much. I only made $7.50 an hour back then!
Oddly enough, about 6 months later InI’s LP popped up on Sandbox Automatic for $18. I copped it and when it showed up in the mail it had a big ass “Made In England” sticker on it. I still own the same exact copy I bought almost 10 years ago. It said “Center Of Attention” on it as opposed to the British spelling, too. I noticed that there was no official label on my copy. This version and facsimiles of it thereof were released over the next few years with varied signage on the cover art (like the one a few paragraphs above). In 2003, BBE/Rapster Records announced they’d be releasing an official version of “Center Of Attention” via Pete Rock himself in addition to Deda’s “The Original Baby Pa” LP. Huh? What? © Joeski Love
In November 2003, an official Pete Rock endorsed limited edition version of “Center Of Attention” dropped with Deda’s “The Original Baby Pa” LP as the second CD on BBE/Rapster Records. It only took 7 years after the project was originally shelved for both jawns to see the light of day. Deda’s album was supposed to be the second project to drop on Pete Rock’s Soul Brother/Elektra imprint after InI’s dropped in the summer of 1996. In September 2006, a 10th anniversary edition of “Center Of Attention” dropped via Rapster Records. You can get it here. As for the old version I have? It goes for a fair amount of dough online. That’s all I have folks. Thanks for reading.