“Trendz”-Trends of Culture
Dropped: (August 1993, via Motown)
Purchase “Trendz” HERE
Tell me that this doesn’t make for an odd equation, Motown Records + Hip Hop = A quality album? Wow! In a valiant attempt to stake their claim in Hip Hop, Motown Records (”Trendz” was actually released on “Mad Sounds”, a subsidiary of the parent label,Motown) jumped back into the rap game with an impressive debut from a Harlem trio that were all equal parts of style, substance and skill. Members M.O.L., Grapevine and Nastee were a pleasing combination of Old School delivery, jazzy loops and hardcore drums, but just like many of their peers feel short in the end due to lack of originality (i.e, to much of a L.O.N.S. “vibe”).
While Trendz Of Culture may have caused a little stir with their debut single, the “Blind Alley”-sampled “Off & On” (which also sounded VERY similar to the “Scenario” remix), it was their second release “Valley Of The Skinz” that really established this trio in the Hip Hop underground. Nothing short of “breezy”, “Skinz..” had the potential to be one of ’93’s true summer, jeep anthems. Dedicated to everyone’s favorite pastime….sex, the emcees proved that raunchy lyrics could be delivered with class, skill and distinction. With solid drums, soft piano keys and a weird synth effect “Skinz” was a winner just as a “strictly” instrumental joint.
The album itself is “self-produced” and the end result was very impressive. Again, following in the ‘93 spirit the majority of the loops are jazzy and the drums are knockin’. However, as an added “bonus” the Lord Finesse remixes of the two aforementioned singles (”Valley Of The Skinz” & “Off & On”) were tweaked to include Finesse’s trademark booming bass and distorted horns.
Overall, “Trendz…” was a really, really good album that anyone who professes to be an educated “golden age” listener should have within arm’s length (or at least own). Surprisingly, the album has withstood the test of time, even though it doesn’t light a match to say….”Enta Da Stage” or “93 Til’ Infinity”. However, part of me wishes that this trio could have dropped another album which would have truly proved if Trendz Of Culture had “what it takes” to have fruitful careers in Hip Hop. Sadly, “Trendz” would fall victim to whatever knocked so many East Coast artists off the map between ‘93-’95. Damn, who was signing all these cats like “hotcakes” anyway?
Annnnnnnnd, in this corner:
“Ism & Blues” – Hard 2 Obtain
Dropped: July 1994, via Atlantic
Purchase “Ism & Blues” HERE
By now, I’m sure that the majority of you devout Hip-Hop fanatics have either heard the first single released from “Ism and Blues”, “L.I. Groove” or can at least remember the video from back in the nine-quad. I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t extremely impressed with the debut track from the album, especially when you considered that the trio of Taste, DL and Six Seven all hailed from Strong Island, which at the time was home to the likes of De La Soul, Leaders Of The New School and Public Enemy,to name a few. So any crew that emerged from Long Island had to be on some ol’ next iddish. Sadly, Hard 2 Obtain were well above average lyricists, but not exactly “ground-breakers” by any means.
However, at least they had good taste in production-the Stimulated Dummies or “SD50’s) were eminently on “some ol’ next sh*t” for sure! Unfortunately, the majority of the album’s cuts all sounded distinctly similar, due to the repetitive choruses, production and gravel-voiced flows. Yet, throughout the LP, there are a few tracks that are sure to reach out and pull you in, namely “Heels Without Souls” which was an eloquent diss aimed at the proverbial “bad seed”, the dude who always acted out of place until he was locked up or killed. Be sure to peep the Monk Higgin’s “Black Fox” loop on the track as well. The DJ Nastee produced banger, “Ghetto Diamond” was another sure-fire standout cut about all the dips who inhabited the “12 Block” (H20’s dwelling). Bouncing lyrics back and forth, the emcees even stole a page from the Minnie Ripperton classic, “Lovin You”. Plus, the strictly freestyle joint, “Babble On”, added a much needed sugary dessert to your ears. But, in the end, the album just contained a bit much “filler”.
It seemed historically unusual that talented lyricists, who sold their souls to a major label, would deliver an LP with mediocre tracks that outweighed the “good stuff”, even when representing the Strong Isle. I guess it’s like Rakim stated best, “It ain’t where you’re from/it’s where you’re at”.
The whole “premise” of this post was to create some distance between a lot of releases that tend to “blend” together, at least in my mind. The idea of sorts, was birthed in a week in which I listened to the two albums included in this post, along with the debut album from the Nonce and the B.U.M.S. “Lyfe & Tyme”, four albums that are extremely similar, in both substance and structure. However, let’s just stick to these two albums first. I gotta’ give the nod to Hard 2 Obtain’s “Ism & Blues”. The SD50 production influence and contributions are just too much for “Trendz”. While “Ism & Blues” is a longer LP and some tracks do seemingly favor one another, the bouncy production and lyrical chemistry is too overpowering for the brief output from Trends of Culture. Hit the comments to offer up your take on the two LPs.