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Skeptic Tank!

--- --- --- ---- ---- CCCCC OOOOO RRRR EEEE | H | / A \ | R | |D \ C O O R R E |---| |---| |--/ | | C O O RRRR EEEE | | | | | \ | / C O O R R E --- --- --- --- -- -- ---- CCCCC. OOOOO. R R. EEEE. Vol. 2, Issue 5 September, 1994 The electronic magazine of hip-hop music and culture Brought to you as a service of the Committee of Rap Excellence Section 1 - ONE ***A*** Table of Contents Sect. Contents Author ----- -------- ------ 001 The introduction A Da 411 - table of contents juonstevenja@bvc.edu B Da 411 - HardC.O.R.E. juonstevenja@bvc.edu C YO! We want your demos. dwarner@cybernetics.net D iMpulse teams with HardCORE dwarner@cybernetics.net 002 What's up in Hip Hop A In Defense of CDs juonstevenja@bvc.edu B Return of the Pimp? smcneal@bigcat.missouri.edu C KRS-ONE's "Break The Chain" dwarner@cybernetics.net D Roots-N-Rap rapotter@colby.edu E Swift Strokes smcneal@bigcat.missouri.edu F The Atlanta Scene bright@america.net (Martay) G The future of Public Enemy? juonstevenja@bvc.edu H Lyric of the Month Public Enemy I Interview with Chuck D. rapotter@colby.edu J Feature Review: isbell@ai.mit.edu Public Enemy, "Muse Sick N Hour Mess Age" 003 The Official HardC.O.R.E. Album Review Section A The Beatnuts ollie@uclink.berkeley.edu B Big Mike juonstevenja@bvc.edu C Blac Monks rmacmich@s850.mwc.edu D Coolio juonstevenja@bvc.edu E Da Brat dwarner@cybernetics.net F Da Bush Babees dwarner@cybernetics.net G Down South ollie@uclink.berkeley.edu H MC Eiht juonsteveja@bvc.edu I Extra Prolific ollie@uclink.berkeley.edu J Fugees dwarner@cybernetics.net K Grand Daddy I.U. dwarner@cybernetics.net L Gravediggaz rapotter@colby.edu M House of Pain dwarner@cybernetics.net N Jaz B. Lat'n juonstevenja@bvc.edu O The Legion juonstevenja@bvc.edu P Lyrical Prophets dwarner@cybernetics.net Q Nice And Smooth juonstevenja@bvc.edu R Organized Konfusion juonstevenja@bvc.edu S The Roots dwarner@cybernetics.net T Schooly D. rawlson.king@ablelink.org ***B*** The C.O.R.E. creed We at C.O.R.E. support underground hip-hop (none of that crossover bullshucks). That means we also support the 1st Amendment and the right to uncensored music. The C.O.R.E. anthems How About Some HardC.O.R.E. M.O.P. We In There (remix) Boogie Down Productions Feel the Vibe, Feel the Beat Boogie Down Productions Come Clean Jeru the Damaja Hip-Hop vs. Rap KRS-One Straighten It Out Pete Rock and CL Smooth It's Not a Game Pete Rock and CL Smooth Don't Believe The Hype Public Enemy Fight the Power Public Enemy "Leave your nines at home and bring your skills to the battle" - Jeru Asalaam alaikum from Flash (juonstevenja@bvc.edu) ***C*** A'ight, let's say you got a demo that you've been trying to shop around. A few people like it, but nobody with some clout is buying. Or let's say you know someone who's got some skills, but you don't know what you can do to help 'em get on. Suppose even further, that you've got an internet account (chances are you do, else you wouldn't be reading this), and want to give you and your friends' efforts a little pub. Have we got a deal for you. HardC.O.R.E.'s review section isn't just for the major labels. We don't even GET anything from major labels. In fact, some of us would much rather review what the independent folks are making, since they aren't affected by the A&R and high level decisions of major labels. So we want to hear what you guys are making. A few groups are getting their demos reviewed here among the likes of Gangstarr, Heavy D. and the Boys, Terminator X and Arrested Development. Who knows? You might even hear bigger and better things from The Mo'Fessionals, DOA, Raw Produce, and Union of Authority before you know it. With all the people subscribing to HardCORE (not to mention the number of people reading HardCORE via FTP and Gopher), you never know who might want to hear your music. Give us a shout. You can e-mail me at dwarner@cybernetics.net or Flash at juonstevenja@bvc.edu, and we'll let you know where you can send your tape. Keep in mind that we're pretty honest with our reviews (if we think your shit is wack, we'll say so to your face), but if you think you got what it takes, you'll see a review from us before you know it. All you have to lose is a tape, right? L8A... David J. ***D*** HardC.O.R.E. is pleased to annouce its new alliance with iMpulse a new music fanzine on the internet that covers all forms of music. In future issues of iMpulse, Flash, our esteemed Chief Editor, will provide summaries of HardC.O.R.E.'s hip-hop album reviews as well as information on how to subscribe to HardC.O.R.E. and read it on the internet. If you would like more information on iMpulse, send an e-mail message to impulse@dsigroup.com with the subject SUBSCRIBE IMPULSE. Section 2 - TWO ***A*** Flash ----- IN DEFENSE OF COMPACT DISCS A rebuttal of David J's column, "The CD Counter-Revolution." Am I crazy? Some might say, but I think CDs are fabulous. I also think vinyl is fabulous. They each have their own merits. To dismiss one because it is 'killing hip-hop' is senseless, since they BOTH benefit our culture. Let me explain: Besides being a hip-hop artist and activist, I am also a DJ and the Music Director of KBVC 98.9 FM. This means I have the opportunity to access all types of music, in all forms. Some are more convient for me to use as a DJ than others. Check the categories: Ease of song selection: 1. CD 2. vinyl 3. cassette With compact discs, you can start at any song on the disc you want. Most radio stations have professional CD machines that will auto-cue your songs, and allow you to do editing tricks. With vinyl, you have much the same benefits, minus only a slightly lesser musical quality. Tapes just outright SUCK. Who wants to rewind and fastforward all the time? And auto-cueing??! Forget about it!. Ease of song manipulation: 1. vinyl 2. CD 3. cassette Obviously, you can't do scratching with a CD or a cassette. CD's do allow you to pinpoint specific parts of a song easily though, which can be hard with a record. Once again, casettes are in the shit tray. You can't do EITHER. Cost of production: 1. CD 2. cassette 3. vinyl Here is where the hip-hop nation benefits most from CDs. Harry Allen said it best on his new P.E. track, travelling down the interactive highway. :> Compact discs are cheap to produce, and the equipment to produce music is moving away from corporate control and into the hands of the masses. This can only benefit us. Music distribution and production becomes decentralized, and the hip-hop nation bumrushes the system. Cassettes are cheap but shitty, and vinyl is expensive. Obviously we need to continue to support vinyl as a vital part of hip-hop music, but that doesn't mean we have to beat up on the CD. As a DJ they are fabulous for me. I can mix back and forth between CDs and records with the greatest of ease. Perhaps we should learn to work with both technologies instead of trying to put them at war. Peace. ***B*** Stephanie McNeal ---------------- RETURN OF THE PIMP? Generations are delineated in 20-year increments. Those of us born after the assassinations (Bobby, Malcolm, and Martin) have been given the moniker Generation X, as if there was nothing significant about our birth our our existence -- while whose who have so graciously given us our title are only known for their parents' over- active sex drives ("Baby Boomers"). But I digress. Generations are also noted for their recycling of old trends -- in music, fashion, and other forms of pop culture. We have, with the help of the rap industry, brought back the persona of the badass gangster with a vengeance. Many of us were barely out of the womb when Superfly and Shaft were playing in our neighborhood theaters. They packed big guns, big dicks, and big attitudes. They were the neighborhood enforcers. They commanded respect because they took shit from nobody. They were lusted after by women becase they were bad and they knew it. And if they did something slightly shady, most folks accepted it because they were good men deep down inside and the situation demanded something drastic. Our country was just emerging from social upheaval, and the Black community wanted some larger-than-life characters to relate to because real life was sometimes all too scary. So from the mind of Hollywood came these "heroes", and we laughed and cheered and wished that we had one in our lives to chase the demons away. Now, in the 90's, we find ourselves fighting bigger monsters. AIDS, growing homelessness, drug addictions, unemployment ... and the list keeps growing. We're still looking for heroes, for somebody with some influence and power to step in and save us from ourselves. It's almost poetic that our generation's rap artists have chosen to emulate those same pimps and players who made us smile 20 years ago. Some part of you might not agree with the image of a cocksure brother with women at his beck and call and lethal weapons at his disposal to be the proper image for a revolutionary. Others of you may take exception to these men and their constant disrespect for the women that help sustain them. But everyone who has ever seen one of these films should be able to identify that these men were leaders, and though they may not have asked for the title, they made some small effort to create a sense of equity in their community. They took what they thought was due them. They eliminated who they identified to be the root of their problems. There was always a sense of necessity to whatever actions they found themselves taking. And that is what makes today's pimp movement so unlike their predecessors. What we must begin to ask ourselves is how much do Snoop, Tupac, Too Short, Big Daddy Kane and the rest of the current pimps and players know about what it is they wish to imitate. Are they aware that though these men were indeed tough, they fought for a reason and chose their battles wisely? Do they know the older generation did not promote their substance abuse and suggest that others join in? Do they know these "heroes" may have been noted for their sexuality, but ultimately one woman was the fuel behind their mission, or that these men did not wish to preserve the conditions of the ghetto, but instead create some sort of buffer between what you are and what the streets make you? We can only hope that as these men of our generation come of age, they will learn that just because you fit the costume, it doesn't mean that you are fully capable of acting the part. ***C*** David J. -------- KRS-ONE vs. X-MEN??? Not exactly. He's not battling Wolverine and taking his shit, but the leader of the BDP posse is taking his Edutainment message to another medium -- and another level. The message that KRS-ONE delivered in BDP's 1990 album "Edutainment" didn't get through to his audience like he had hoped, mostly because of the lack of phat beats to go with his phat rhymes. The whispers began that BDP was starting to fall off. They cooled off a little with the 1992 single release of "Duck Down," followed by "Sex and Violence," and they disappeared for good with the ultra-dope "Return of the Boom Bap." The messages, however, weren't nearly as prevalent in those albums as they were in "Edutainment," and with fans just looking for a beat to rock and wack MC's trying to step up, Mr. Parker returned to the battle drill and just slipped in a message once in a while to see if his audience was listening. Thanks to the efforts of Marvel Comics and their master artist Kyle Baker, fans can now look AND listen. KRS-ONE is the featured voice in a new line of comics from Marvel called "Break The Chain," which is the first in a line of "Psychosonic Comics," which includes a tape you can play as you're reading along. KRS is the voice of Big Joe Krash, a large (and conscious) MC from N.Y.C. The first comic introduces us to Krash, his sister Minasha (which is the name of an Italian vegetable soup -- go figure), her high school pal Malcolm, and a shortie named Bo, who opens the comic by drawing some large, city-eating monster you might find in other Marvel Comics and picking on Krash's "jurassic" boom box. "All y'all got is these super bass walkmans," replies Krash, angrily grabbing Bo's tape and putting it in his box. "I mean, they a'ight, but if you really want the hip-hop bass, you gotta have a BOOM BOX, man!" The story unfolds that Minasha has been skipping school and has plans to become a singer. "Singer? You better learn to READ!", replies older brother Krash on the lookout. "You gotta learn something. At least start with your culture!" When Minasha starts rattling off names without thinking, Krash goes off on her *and* Malcolm, who seems to remember all of Malcolm X's catch phrases, but not who he was. "Look, look, look, look, look!", says Krash, "Knowing your culture isn't about a few names of a few famous black people1 It's about knowing the truth about where you come from and who you are." What follows is a trip to the house of Malcolm's grandmother (played by BDP vet Rebekah Foster), where everyone learns a little more than they thought. The artwork is excellent (you don't expect much less from Kyle Baker), but the tape is what gets you. It adds a few nice touches (every time you hear "Word!", you turn the page), and gives you the feel of actually being on the streets of New York with Big Joe and friends. On top of that, KRS does three new and original tracks as Krash, speaking out with all the consciousness of "Edutainment." This time, though, he's got the phat beats behind him. Check out this snippet from "Break The Chain": "You cannot walk around town like you an idiot, livin' it with some boyz in the hood as your affiliate. That's simply ignorant, really that's the enemy. Train your brain to obtain your identity. Self-construction, not self-destruction. If you're trying to be a gangsta, YA BUGGIN! If you're not moving ahead, yo, YA BUGGIN! You got to look at yourself and try to change somethin'. So check out the animation for the nation. I'm not funny. My name is Krash, I'm way liver than Bugs Bunny. This is the underground way to put knowledge in your brain, but first we gotta break the chain..." Grandma thinks it's loud ("How y'all expect to learn with all that boom boom boom goin' on?"), but we know the deal, right? What's more, there's a drawing on the back of the comic that says "COMING NEXT ISSUE!", so it looks like KRS is in this to stay. It's a good move, because it'll open up a new audience for him and for his Edutainment message, which needs to get out even more today than before. So be on the lookout for Big Joe Krash in your local comic book shop. While he ain't leaping over buildings in a single bound, he's filling a void that nobody else can. And he's fresh, too. ***D*** Professa R.A.P. --------------- ROOTS-N-RAP Prince Buster, Ska, and Hip-Hop History New York City The place where it all came from And also part of the West Indies Roots! Yes, de Yardman start it Yes! It came from the roots, the Island... -- DJ Kool Herc The question of hip-hop's relationship to Afro-Caribbean music has been given too little attention. Aside from a chapter in Dick Hebdige's _Cut-n-Mix_ and a brief article in the New York Times, most critics have preferred to pursue the roots of rap in funk, soul, and rhythm and blues. Yet in many ways both the narrative and musical connection between hip-hop and Caribbean music is the most central to its musical identity. For one, the production of an indigenous music out of materials originally intended for consumption (as records) was certainly practiced in Jamaica long before it reached the South Bronx. Jamaicans, living within listening distance of U.S. radio stations, heard the rhythm-and-blues music of the 40's, 50's and early 60's and liked what they heard. Yet on account of their poverty, much of the population had little access to the musical instruments, amplifiers, and other sound equipment necessary to make such music on their own. The pioneers of ska took American R&B records, especially instrumentals, and play them over amplified sound systems at parties, mixing in shouts of encouragement to the dancers. Later, when the first recording outfits were set up by sound system men such as Prince Buster, their recordings reflected these heteroglot beginnings; over a chorus of upbeat horns playing a slowed New Orleans-style shuffle, Buster boasted and cajoled, calling out challenges to his rivals on Kingston's music row: Man, stand up and fight if you're right! Earthquake on Orange Street! Buster was one of the first sound-system men to go into the recording studio; while the older DJ's like Duke Reid still valued imported American R&B singles, Buster and the new generation of producers made their own records, subtly altering the rhythmic emphasis, flattening the jump beat into more of a shuffle, and intermixing the 'burru' rhythms of Rasta drummers like Count Ossie. The earliest Jamaican-produced records were mostly 'specials' -- discs pressed in very small quantities for the exclusive use of the sound system men who had footed the bill for their recording. It was only later that these records were commercially distributed, mostly through licensing arrangements that enriched the producers (though not necessarily the performers). Yet even as these records moved back from the place of production and were re-marketed for popular consumption, they returned again as sites for production, through the 'talk-over' or dub records that were produced from the late sixties onwards. These records featured b-sides with only the instrumental tracks, b-sides that could in turn be used as the basis for new recordings, talked-over at system parties or on the radio, or as the soundtrack by the new school of dub poets such as Linton Kwesi Johnson. And, while the toasts of the early sound system men had consisted primarily of topical rhymes or exhortations to the dancers, the lyrics from the mid-sixties onwards, along with the poetry of the dub poets, voiced social protest and suffering. By the time ska began to shift over to the more thoroughly Afro-Caribbean forms of rock-steady and 'reggae,' the music had become thoroughly identified with the "concrete jungles" and other impoverished areas of Jamaica, an identification which singers such as Bob Marley helped create, and used as the basis for creating a global voice for the disenfranchised in the 1970's. That much has been widely known, but what is less often noted is the strong similarity between the rhetorical and narrative conventions of ska and reggae with those of hip-hop. Of particular significance is the early "rude boy" style, which glorified the angry, young, tough-living kids of West Kingston; there are striking similarities, both cultural and musical, between the 'rude boys' of ska and the 'gangstas' of hip-hop. A case in point in Prince Buster's well-known series of songs on the "Judge Dread" theme. Each song contains a courtroom vignette narrated by Prince Buster as Judge Dread; before him come a number of 'rude boys' who plead their crimes. In the first of several 'sequel' songs, when a rude boy brings "a barrister from Europe," Judge Dread is particularly incensed, dealing out as harsh a sentence to the barrister as to the defendant; one unlucky rude boy is sentenced to 'four thousand years imprisonment.' The next song in the sequence (all of which share the same upbeat horn riffs), "Judge Dread Dance," uses the courtroom drama as the pretext for a new witness, who turns out to be the horn soloist who plays the dance's theme. Buster finished the series up with his "Barrister Pardon," in which Judge Dread releases the prisoners, followed by a celebratory ska dance; there are also a number of answer records, including Derrick Morgan's "Tougher Than Tough" (produced by Buster's arch-rival Leslie Kong), and Lee "Scratch" Perry's "Set Them Free,' in which Perry comes before Judge Dread, mentions the defendants by name, and makes a lengthy plea for mercy based on their poverty and lack of education; this record runs out, however, before the Judge can offer a reduced sentence. Even before the 'rude boy' craze, Prince Buster had injected gangster machismo into his mixes; in one early cut, "Al Capone," Buster tells his listeners "Don't call me Scarface! My name is Kerpown-C-A-P-O-N-E Kerpown!" In another Buster cut ("Dallas Texas"), recorded gunshots are followed by Buster's unforgettable shouts of "Stick 'em Up! This is a Holdup!" As the poverty and oppression of Kingston's slums increased, so did the gangster/rude boy ethos, which eventually laid part of the foundation for Marley's political reggae of the later 60's. Compare all this with the courtroom drama which N.W.A. stages in "Fuck tha Police": The courtroom opens with "Judge Dre in full effect," and the various "niggaz" in the court step forth one by one to give their "testimony." Not only is "Dre" an accurate dialect spelling for the Jamaican patois equivalent of "dred," but the rude boys, now gangstaz, have effectively turned the tables; this Judge, like Lee Perry, is on their side, and the trial ends with the white cop being dragged off cursing his accusers. I don't mean to suggest here that Dr. Dre took his name or the song from obscure old ska recordings, though he well might have -- even the courtroom drama has other analogs in popular song -- but only to observe that the narrative framing of power relations via music adapted remarkably similar strategies in both hip-hop and in the early days of ska. Part of this similarity may be due to similar social inequities, but it is also clear that many of the influences at work here came via the Jamaica-New York-Los Angeles connection. U Roy, Big Youth, and other Reggae talkers produced major hits in Jamaica in the early-to-mid 70's, delivering a powerful message with tracks such as U Roy's "Wake the Town" (1970). DJ Kool Herc, one of the pioneering DJ's of hip-hop, came to New York from Jamaica, where as a child he had heard and seen the system men. In fact, the Jamaican connection is hip-hop's strongest claim to specifically African roots, since not only the narratives and the basic technology, and the concept of talking over recorded music arrive via this route, but also the rhythmic, cut'n'mix sound that is at the very heart of the hip-hop aesthetic. Jamaican music continues to be a central influence on hip-hop, particularly through the faster and more insistent "dancehall" sounds that have come to dominate the scene since Marley's death. Some artists, such as KRS-ONE, used Jamaican-style rhythms in their raps (listen to his chorus, "Wa da da dang, wa da da da dang / Listen to my nine millimeter go bang" on BDP's early cut "Nine Millimeter"); other rappers brought in dancehall collaborators to add some ragga flava to their hip-hop mix. KRS-ONE (himself no newcomer to dancehall-style rhymes) cut a single with Shabba Ranks, and similar collaborations took place in the early 90's between Queen Latifah and Scringer Ranks, Ice-T and Daddy Nitro, Q-Tip and Tiger, and Patra and Yo-Yo. In the mid-90's, many hip-hop crews literally embody the black Atlantic continuum; groups such as Mad Kap, the Fugees, and the Fu- Schnickens have a dancehall or "ragamuffin" rapper as one of their lead members, and one, "Worl-a-Girl," includes women from Jamaica, the U.S., and the U.K. When Patra remakes Lyn Collins' seminal "Think (About It)," or Worl-a-Girl cuts a new version of Prince Buster's "Ten Commandments" (reversing the terms and listing the "ten commandments of 'oman to man" rather than Buster's "ten commandments of man to 'oman"), the cultural phonelines of the black Atlantic are 'ringing off the hook,' and the odds are that this connection will remain open. DISCOGRAPHICAL NOTE: Prince Buster's music can be heard on the Sequel Records compilation _Prince Buster FABulous Hits_. While this UK import is hard to find in stores, I was able to order a copy via the internet at cdconnection.com. Buster has been coming out of retirement recently; in 1993 he recorded a remake of his 1960's smash "Madness" with former Two-Tone group The Selecter. In 1994, he was at one point slated to give a live concert in New York, his first in some time, but the show was cancelled at the last moment. ***E*** Stephanie McNeal ---------------- SWIFT STROKES Over the last five years, the world of performance poetry has made a dramatic comeback. Children of those who were boppin' in the 50's and 60's are dusting off their parents' Last Poets and Gil Scott- Heron albums and trading in their guns for a more skilled weapon --- the pen. Coffeehouses, jazz joints, and dance clubs all around the country are now playing host to weekly poetry readings and poetry slams, drawing in a wider clientele and reestablishing the legacy of spoken word performance. Today's poets are capturing some of the thoughtful community reflection and activism that was rampant during the 60's and adding to it a street flavor and language that marks their own childhood and young adult experiences. These artists are rewriting their own histories with tales of spiritual awakening, cultural awareness, sexual discovery, and ancestral praise. Readings often draw crowds of all ages and backgrounds, proving that these issues touch a large percentage of the American public and do not deserve to go unnoticed. Many of the performances have a featured reader, and an open reading for the rest of the audience follows. New talent is being discovered daily, and poetry publications are now experiencing a boost in readership due to the popularity of these events. If you are interested in experiencing and evening of performance poetry, most metropolitan areas have city papers which include listings for upcoming poetry readings in their Events section. Many cities also have organized groups to compete in national Poetry Slam competitions, or writers' groups which help develop the technical aspects of poetry writing and critique. For you couch potato types, try the latest albums by Gil Scott-Heron or Reg E. Gaines or listen to anything by Bob Marley. There is so much being said. Are you listening? ***F*** Martay The hip-hop Wiz ---------------------- THE ATLANTA REPORT Madlanta is on the rise, yo. Although the transformation into the new music Mecca is taking longer than expected, Atlanta is definitely becoming a force to reckon with these days, even on the hip hop tip. Here's the rundown. By now, everybody has heard Outkast's new joint on the Atlanta- based LaFace Records. The production team behind Outkast, Organized Noize, is also responsible for the LP by Parental Advisory on Savvy/MCA, another Atlanta-based label. Everybody's favorite alternative/hip-hop crew Arrested Development dropped the second single, "United Front", from their highly anticipated second album "Zingalamaduni" and recent hit town with Peter Gabriel on his world music show's tour. Ichiban, the infamous indie label with one of the longest rap rosters around (though longer doesn't necessarily mean listenable), has released LP's from numerous Atlanta artists: MC Shy- D, "True to the Game"; Kilo, "Get Wit Tha Program"; and Ghetto Mafia, "Draw the Line." Their next resurrection attempt release is none other than the legendary Doctor Ice (formerly of UTFO, of course), and I sincerely hope that he has better luck than the recent Treacherous Three project, "Old School Flava." Speaking of legendary, the infamous group Reigh of Terror apparently has risen from a two-year hiatus and have some brand new material. On the bass/dance tip, L.A. Sno (of Deuce) is releasing "Georgia Bounce" from a group whose name escapes me at the moment on his own record label. As for the underground, I have yet to find out any confirmed reports for releases from Native Nutz or anything new from Guest Shot/Salsoul artists Too Krazy. In fact, the phone number that I had for Guest Shot is disconnected -- could be trouble. B- Right is working busily on completing his new LP, which should be out soon. Last month, the hosts of WRAS's "Rhythm and Vibes" show, Randall Moore and Talib Shabazz, finally held a party to celebrate their Gavin nomination for best hip-hop station. It was a smooth little show with Speech from A.D. dropping by to peep the flavas. DJ Dose and Talib were spinnin', The Chronicle featuring Little John on drums came by for a live set, topped off by JOI joining them to perform her current single "Sunshine and The Rain," and Fourtie performing his underground hit "Shawn." Of course, there were mad local crews on hand to freestyle, but unfortunately I only remember 50% Zoo and Nexx Phase (from Marley Marl's "In Control, Vol. II"). Nuff respect to Talib & Randall and G-Wiz for keepin' up the good work every week. Of course, I'm sure y'all know by now that Jermaine Dupri is at it again with Da Brat -- "Funkdafied" blew up as a top ten smash. Of course, nobody blew up here in Atlanta quite like Left Eye, know what I'm sayin'? Peace, I'm out for now... ***G*** Flash ----- WHAT'S THE FUTURE OF PUBLIC ENEMY? None of your Goddamn business! {Author's note: This article was written Wednesday, July 20, 1994 -- approximately one month before the release of Public Enemy's "Muse Sick in Hour Mess Age". Please bear in mind that I was stating an opinion and making an educated guess about their new album without having heard it, and that my current opinion of the album having heard it is substantially changed from this article.} The war is on in the media. Do you Believe the Hype? The lines of battle are clearly drawn. On one side, we have RapPages and Vibe, and on the other, Rolling Stone and The Source. Somewhere between the reviews the two sides have grenade launched at us is the truth -- but they've so muddied the waters reading them alone can't discern it. At stake is the future of the new Public Enemy album "Muse Sick N Hour Mess Age" (for the clueless, read as "Music in our Message"). Depending on what side you believe, it's either the best and most innovative P.E. album to date (RapPages and Vibe) or the biggest piece of shit to hit the fan since the "new" Hammer (Stone covered with moss and the unreSourceful). I have my own way of sorting out the confusion these magazines present. To me, back in the days you could predict the future of Our Heroes(tm) by song title -- a helluva lot more accurate than reading tea leaves at least. More often than not, the titles of singles and songs represented the political attitude and tone of each album. Peep it -- on their debut album "Yo! Bum Rush the Show" it breaks down like this. "My Uzi Weighs a Ton" -- militant. "Public Enemy #1" -- striving to achieve hip-hop success. "You're Gonna Get Yours" -- fierce and braggadocious. On their second (and best, IMO) album "It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold us Back", both the music and the song titles got tighter. Chuck, Flav, X, and the S1W's were sending us a message loud and clear, in their music. "Black Steel in the Hours of Chaos" -- militant political revolution. "Don't Believe the Hype" -- discredit media deception. "Rebel Without a Pause" -- crazier than James Dean and MUCH funkier. This newfound direction seemed to confirm the everlasting presence of P.E. on their third album, aptly titled "Fear of a Black Planet". For this crew the revolution had skipped being televised and was now beamed live into your boombox and WalkMan. "Brothers Gonna Work It Out" -- unite, revolution. "Fight the Power" -- self- explanitory. "911 is a Joke" -- the system is flawed and corrupt. "Welcome to the Terrordome" -- once again it's on. To me, this entire trend peaked with "Apocalypse '91 -- The Enemy Strikes Black" and then began a sad descent into chaos. This album is still the shit though. The slide has yet to occur on this joint. "Can't Truss It" -- Don't Believe the Hype, pt. II. "By the Time I Get to Arizona" -- action, revolution. "How to Kill a Radio Consultant" -- self-explanitory. However, the trend is emerging. This P.E. album more than any other seems to be...well, less focused. "Greatest Misses" is where we went absolutely haywire. The concept was skewed to begin with; nobody except diehard P.E. fans cared about the new remixes, and only six new songs satisfied NOBODY (five actually, if you consider that "Get Off My Back" was already on the Mo' Money soundtrack). What happened? "Gotta Do What I Gotta Do" -- Do what? "Hit the Road Jack" -- Who? Racists? "Tie Goes to the Runner" -- ????? They perhaps came closest with "Hazy Shade of Criminal", but even that pales title-wise and musically next to Public Enemy's greatest HITS. Now it's '94, and what are we left with? A decayed crew and an uninspiring song -- "Give It Up". Give up what? The immediate connotation for hip-hop fans is of course to give props. But P.E. needs no props, they long since earned them in the hip-hop community. Perhaps Flavor Flav needs to give up crack? Or perhaps the title is even more apt than they know. Perhaps Public Enemy needs to "Give It Up". The song does have gems that spark of past Public Enemy brilliance -- "Mad tense mad tense brothers know The blunts in the back got the black behind and that's wack" "I never did represent to a dumb shit Some gangsta lying -- I'd rather diss Presidents" But unfortunately it is drowned in a see of mediocrity unworthy of the legendary group we know and love -- "Pump pump pump pu-pump pump it up! A mad rhyme, for mad times, that's what's up" "I'm coming with a rhyme, I'm letting go a rhyme I gotta get a rhyme through the rough and crazy times" Chuck D seems obsessed with rhyming about rhymes, perhaps subconciously realizing he has run out of them. We are told that times are rough and crazy, but it used to be they'd tell us WHY (socio- economic conditions of the ghetto) and WHAT (alcohol, drugs, education) in specific terms. They seem to have become a parody of themselves, with vague allusions to political power and presence but lacking in substance. Even though "Bedlam 13:13" sounds somehwat annoying (especially the chorus) it does show a glimmer of hope, as does "Give It Up", this song though has better lyrics. "Smart enough to know no indoe threw it out the window along with the Super Nintendo" And what of the other new Public Enemy songs? "Live and Undrugged Pt. 2" -- cute, but who gives a fuck? Although I think that Harry Allen's trip down the interactive highway is interesting (a phone message he left for Chuck D set to a hard beat) it's not the kind of bonus song from P.E. we've come to expect. The remix of "Give It Up" is worthless. They should've called Pete Rock. Now, if I was to ask Flavor Flav the future of Public Enemy, I'm sure he would tell me "None of your god damn business", just as he did on Apocalypse '91. And do I really know what the future is? No. Do I really know if the new album will be good or wack? No. But judge the facts presented, just as I have. Examine the lyrics of "Give It Up" and decide for yourself. They are enclosed here for your own inspection, as a supplement to this article. I personally believe I know where P.E. is headed, because I read the future in their song- titles. I may be no more accurate than the Psychic Soul Connection. After all, as my friend Charles Isbell would say, "That's just one man's opinion. What's yours?" {Author's note: I do believe that my opinion for the most part was correct. The new Public Enemy album is good, in fact better than I had perceived, but still not comparable to their previous work, and the only P.E. album it beats hands down is "Greatest Misses". Read futher for Isbell's 411 in this issue of HardC.O.R.E. Peace.} ***H*** Public Enemy (transcribed by Flash) ---------------------- Public Enemy - Give It Up [Flavor Flav vocals in these brackets] {crowd chant vocals in these brackets] Intro: Chuck D, Flavor Flav Aight {aight}, aight, aight {aight}, aight {aight} I'm aight if you aight {I'm aight} I be better - get some of that bass {word, give it up} aight, yeah [Rinkin twinkin body shakin Nuff attackin brain's a rackin Clock tockin Chuck shockin Flavor Flav ain't never shavin] (one, two, three four) Verse One: Chuck D It's another record, check it, mad methods To put my brothers and sisters on a deathbed You know he cheated, took what he wanted but now you blunted Suckin up to the devil steppin down a level It's who they fear is you Who protects us from us and you from you Yes and it counts [fuck the fourty ounce] I sued them bastards, yeah they got bounce I did em like a demo {threw em out the window} I took a 98 cause I never liked a limo But pump pump pump pu-pump pump it up A mad rhyme, for mad times, that's what's up Some ain't gonna change, I got em in a range I gotta rearrange, so I'm buildin back your brain Wreckin records with funky stuff Am I loud enough? {yeah} You got ta give it up Chorus: Flavor Flav Give it up, give it up, give it up yo \ repeat Give it up, give it up, gotta give it up / 4 times repeat #2 -- (occasional) Chuck D vocal yeah you gots ta give it up now Verse Two: Chuck D Come again with the same old bounce I'm calling a foul and once again it counts Mad tense mad tense brothers know The blunts in the back got the black behind and that's wack [And once again it's on!] Hey Jimmy cracked corn cracker singin "I don't care", it's on I'm comin with a rhyme [what?] I'm lettin go a rhyme [yeah!] I gotta get a rhyme through the rough and crazy times Call me a Hannibal lecture, yes I checked her They don't hear me though, so here I go I'm sick and tired so Sly'll take ya higher When I'm takin his sound to bring you down Rappers rippin a lyrical kickin finger-lickin But to the rhythm I'm givin but never cotton pickin Like James Brown I'm sayin it loud Am I loud enough? Huh, you got ta give it up [Some ain't gonna change, some ain't gonna change Some ain't gonna never ever change Some ain't gonna change, some ain't gonna change Some ain't gonna NEVER EVER change!] Chorus [1/2X] Interlude: Chuck D, Flavor Flav And when I'm coming, some young dumb and fulla cum Some second guessing my lessons about saving young Some don't know like Run said so here we go Where it is inside, whoop there it is {aaaaaaah} There it is [There it is, damn right My man X is a bad mother {shut your mouth) I'm talking about Terminator, he's the man] There it is, can you hit me off with another one Chorus I never did represent doing dumb shit Some gangsta lying - I'd rather diss Presidents Dead or alive, bring em and I'll swing em I vocalize, I just rap, I don't sing em Flick em, and I fling em, you can go with em Hall of Fame for the game for the points I Dave Bing em Go Grandmama, close but no cigar I got mine, for I'm using my rhyme The flow go wherever I want, and that's clever Give a piece of my time, to prevent some crime And who behind puttin the guns to the young ones The ones that make em is the ones that take em Rugged for no reason, down in duck season I don't want my mama, on the street wearing armor So check yaself before ya wreck yaself Respect yaself, hah, you got ta give it up Chorus [4X] (fades out) ***I*** Professa R.A.P. ----------------- Interview with Chuck D, conducted at Colby College in September of 1993. Contents copyright (c) Russell A. Potter; any re-distribution must include this notice; no redistribution for profit without prior permission. After trying to track Chuck down for an interview for over a year, trading faxes with Harry Allen and hoping at best to arrange a phone interview, I was fortunate to have the chance to interview him in person. Kebba Tolbert, a student at Colby College (where I teach), got together funding to invite Chuck to Colby to speak, and last September I went down to the local Holiday Inn to pick him up and drive him to campus. There was something surreal as I stood waiting in the lobby, where a group of dull-looking businessmen had gathered to chat over the _Wall Street Journal_ and coffee, wondering what to expect. Eventually, Chuck came on down the hallway, looking a bit jet- lagged. He told me later that he just came from giving a lecture at another college, where he was also invited to student meetings, taken out to dinner and then a football game. He looked tired, and I felt tongue-tied -- after all, when you get to talk with Chuck D, what do you say?. Arriving at campus, we walked up to my office relatively unnoticed by students (that's Maine for you). I asked Chuck about PE's next album, and he said that part of it was recorded, but they were still working on it, and it would probably not be out until sometime in 1994. After settling down in a chair, and checking out my wall posters (I suddenly realized I had no PE poster up there with Paris or Ice-T), Chuck seemed to get a second wind; by a few minutes into our interview, he was warmed up, and soon we were having a wide-ranging conversation, especially about the ins and outs of the music business, label deals, artist rosters, and the past and future of hip-hop. After talking for about forty minutes, Chuck had to move on to get ready for his lecture, which amplified his message about the necessity of re- investing black capital in black communities. Since Chuck, unlike some rappers, has been in one aspect or another of the music for over twelve years, and because of his position as one of its most respected artists, his message has the kind of depth and knowledge that commands attention, and by taking it to college audiences he gets it out directly in an academic setting. Chuck talked for over an hour, took questions for forty minutes, and still took time to sign autographs for students, including several dozen local high school students who had been given the morning off for this educational experience. Thanks are due to Chuck for generously granting the interview, and to Kebba Tolbert for making it happen. C = Chuck D R = Russell Potter R: One question I had is, since as you say, you're touring twice -- you're doing hip-hop, and that's educational, but then you're talking to an audience, you know, just talking -- is there anything different that goes through your head, in terms of how you prepare? C: Yeah, there's two different preparations. When you do a concert, I work more with my team. It's a team type thing, you know, fourteen individuals, all in synch, one operation. You know that you have an audience that's hyped for the music, which means that you have a lot of people that are there for the music, and you have a lot of people that are there for the point of view; people know what to expect, they wanna hear some songs, and my dialogue to the audience is short bursts of, y'know, you know the music, go with the music. But when it comes down to doing a lecture it's sort of more like an individual point of view, and I know I'm not really here to give my personal point of view all the time, but I also pretty much lay a lot of things on the table and have people pick and choose and use their own opinions, and pretty much explain the thrust and the aura around hip-hop, and this thing that we call rap music and stuff like that. I try to get some definitions clear and straight, and I try not to have people just leading on to the vibe of the moment without having some facts straight about the past. R: Yeah, I think that's really important, I mean history, you don't get a whole lot of it, or you get the old account of history, the standardized whitewashed account of history. C: Well, I think, you know a lot of things, like in this music, they might have covered guys that did the music in the early days, but just because they did the music doesn't mean that what they did was actual fact, or defined in terms, y'know. Like for example I say that hip- hop is the culture, I mean, even Mingus could've been hip-hop, you know. Hip-hop is the culture of whatever black people create and do. Grandmama . . . you see Larry Johnson in commercials, that's hip-hop. Rap music is clearly definable, right there, it's like rap is a vocal, it's the use of a vocal; the reason it's so strong 'cause it's one of the few vocals ever created, you know, for recorded music -- you know you have talking, you have singing -- rap borders that in-between; you have to talk about another vocal you have to talk about maybe humming -- but, I mean it's rap, singing, and there's talking, and along that spectrum; and when people talk about, will rap music ever die, you're talking actually, they're stupid, it's like saying will the vocal ever die, it's like the silliest thing -- when will all this singing just stop [laughter] Y'know what I mean. So it's a vocal. And rap music means a vocal over music, you know; it started as an overdub, it always will be an overdub, it always will be a vocal music. That's why, you know, rap can use rock'n'roll, jazz, fusions of rhythm & blues and different aspects of different musics that it hasn't even gotten to yet. So rap music actually is a vocal over borrowed music, or fusions of music -- so it's not goin' anywhere, because it's a vocal. So those are the types of things that I kinda set the table with to make people have a clearer understanding on where this form of music is going. R: So say if someone like Greg Osby, say if he does an instrumental, it's still hip-hop. C: It's hip-hop yeah. It's not rap music. It's hip-hop. It has a slice of rap music in it -- but rap music is not really a music, like I said, it's hip-hop. R: Well it's like -- what was that thing you did about Charlie Parker, that was really cool. C: Thanks. R: That was a totally different stylistic type of thing. C: Yeah, I don't know what to call it. R: Bop? C: Maybe it was, like you said, bop, I mean you can call it hip-hop because you had a hip-hop vocalist on it, or a rap vocalist on it, but it was hip-hop just because it was created out of two black organic things -- a rap vocalist and a jazzist. R: That was a good project. An Jazzmatazz? What did you think of that? C: Yeah, that was a great experiment in sound and fusion, you know what I'm sayin? Any time something is done for the first time I'm a big fan of it -- it doesn't mean it had to blow up. It just means that it was done, it was experimented with, it was fucked with, and you know, here it is, you know? R: Yeah it's back, I mean in some ways maybe it's like stealing it back. C: Uh-huh. I mean, I'm always a fan of things being done and experimented with for the first time, for example, the RUN-D.M.C.- Aerosmith thing . . . R: Yeah, that had to be the first. C: '86 R: Although weren't people using rock-n-roll for breakbeats and stuff? C: Of course. That's what I mean by rap being an overdub thing. Back in the late 70's you had guys like Grandmaster Flash and people like that, getting a Billy Squier record, Thin Lizzy, and cuttin' the beats in it. Because the rock guys gave the beats up, y'know, they would have the beats. I remember one time, I wanted to get this record by Jeff Beck, "Blow by Blow," 'cause he had this bass line in the middle, I was like, ohhh . . . R: Yeah, you're listening differently when you're looking for something to cut up . . . C: It's almost like, y'know, you goin' to a turkey, knowing that you only want the stuffing. You don't want any of the meat . . . R: Yeah. That brings up another question. I'm kinda curious -- I think there is a real continuum, that's one of the things I'm arguing for in my book is that it's not like hip-hop arrived yesterday, it's continuous with the whole black tradition. You look back to, like, talking blues . . . C: Yeah R: Laquan even samples Robert Johnson, reaches back into the thirties, and it seems to work. So do you think -- I'm just tryin' to think back to the first time, even before hip-hop was breakin' out, y'know, the first time when you were growin' up and you're hearin' these tunes, before the idea of cutting them up is there, is that where the continuity is? I mean, what are some of the first things that you remember? C: I'm a old guy. I'm like, thirty-three, so . . . R: That's the same age as me. C: Y'know, so what caught my fancy was this black music, y'know, and also I liked a lot of the rock music in the early 70's, because that's what was played in my area, WABC, y'know, it's a top-40 station, they played everything. I always liked the drum beat, and y'know the rock guys gave up a good beat too. Sometimes, y'know, if I wanted to hear a drumbeat, I just didn't want to hear anything else, I didn't want to hear vocal on top, or guitar or anything like that. But the beat is what always made me go and move. But I first started really getting into the rap music aspect of it, the hip-hop side of it, because of the technology of two turntables, that really caught my interest . . . R: Yeah, I remember in one interview you said you were at a basketball game or something, there were people with two turntables, and the first time you saw them you wondered, what, do they need a backup? Why do they have two turntables? C: [Laughs] That definitely caught my attention. It was this technical aspect that first got me hooked into it. R: And you did radio, didn't you, before . . . C: I did radio in the early 80's; rap records came out in '79, and I got involved with college radio in 1981, actually. Back then, all I wanted to do was promote rap music from all other angles, other than performing. So, that was interesting, for me, you know, to really pick up on the vibe, you know, thrusting records into the market, and getting feedback. I did that for about five or six years. R: Wow. So what do you think now -- it seems the '80's have been a pretty productive decade, and suddenly now, you've got people -- Cypress Hill, Ice Cube, Public Enemy, topping the charts, the record companies are churning out new acts every other week, the audience is a lot broader. Does that . . . C: Do I think that hurts? R: Well, yeah, it seems like it gets displaced in some ways. There was this article in the New Republic, by David Samuels, and the cover showed a white kid with headphones, with the caption "The Real Face of Rap." And Samuels argues that rap is just catering to white stereotypes. I don't agree with that, but I hear that argument again and again in the press these days. C: Yeah, well the press, they have their little slice of information, and not all their facts are correct. You could have just as big a black audience for the music than you have for whites; the difference is maybe the blacks wouldn't purchase it, they don't have the purchasing power, but they're still an audience of it, they still support it some sort of way, where the white audience will support it monetarily by going to the mall, and finding out that that tape is at Trax or Sam Goody's or Record World or Strawberries, or wherever, and purchase that tape, whereas the black kid, pretty much, is surrounded by it, you know what I'm sayin'? Every day, homeboy drives up in a car, he got a tape or something, you know, it's like the black kids is in an environment where he can go anywhere and hear it, or really experience it in a lot of cases, where the white kid has to purchase it. So the audiences might be just as big, compared to each other, but as far as the statistics read, you know, it might lean to the white side. These guys, these journalists crack me up, because, you know, you can only do so much sittin' in a chair at a desk with your computer or word- processor, and you know, it takes a little bit more than that. On your way to work, you'll ask a couple of people and then come up with your own evaluation, and go right to your story, I mean, maybe it takes some years at a time, and it takes experiencing it in a lot of places. One thing I've been fortunate about Public Enemy is that I've been around the world four times, I been to more countries than any other rapper, thirty-six of 'em, and I've been to every continent, all in the name of rap. R: Wow, that's great. C: I've seen kids in Brazil who are now forcing themselves to learn English because of rap. Where, you know, if you talk about Portuguese, and what they speak down there, and English, you know, it's like night and day, it seems to be such a difficult hurdle that kids wouldn't even bother goin' for it. But with rap music, I mean goin' down there, I remember them playing Too $hort and Biz Markie and PE; they're rap fanatics, and actually, you know, tryin' to learn the black lingo. R: Wow. That's wild. Well, on the other side, you know, there's the influence of dancehall in the United States. I mean, I know a lot of kids that are just tryin' to get that ragamuffin style, and pick up on that lingo. C: That lingo, you know, is definitely a different type of thing, it's similar to rap, hip-hop, you know, it's hip-hop. R: So I'm curious now, what's the future look like now? C: Oh, I don't make any predictions about the future, I only make predictions of the future of, like I mean, life, you know, like how things be leadin' to, I think black America is in a panic-button, a crisis. If we don't have certain controls over certain aspects of our situation, it's gonna be mayhem. I mean, it's gonna just be worse than it is now. R: What about right on the level of communities? There are the overall economic question, I know youve talked about this a lot, where does the profit from the music go? And now a lot of people are going independent, you have Paris with Scarface records, Ice-T with Rhyme Syndicate, you've got Flavor Unit Records now . . . do you think we need more of that? C: I think you need more of that , because rappers have to set their own standards. I mean, the business, I'm caught up in a situation now, I had a project with a major, and I was told, you know, that if it doesn't do 470,000 units, I don't stand a chance to gain anything -- 470,000 units! But I've been in another situations where, you know, I have a situation with another distributor down south where all I have to do is get up to 75,000 units on a project, even get a little bit of input into the project, and I actually gain a profit, you know, because I have full control of the whole thing. R: So you don't have all these middlemen, and warehousers . . . C: All that crap. So the industry is trying to set a standard for rap, and you see somebody like, a major artist come along, and they do, like for example Kool G. Rap and Polo or Brand Nubian, and they clock about 300,000, 250,000, and the record company says they're a failure, you know, it raises attention to how lopsided the business is and how much is being taken as the business stands. I always say it's all dollars and cents, point blank, you have to count how many people are in the middle. Because you know, like CD's wholesale, go for 9, for an estimate, wholesale cassettes, most of the retail outlets are 5 dollars, so I take a common figure of 7 dollars, and I multiply it by 200,000, let's say an album does 200,000, right there's 1.4 million dollars, now even if the record label gave them a 250,000 advance, they still recoup. Even though, if you add 250,000 -- which are high figures, they're not giving up those figures -- 250,000 promotion and video, whatnot, that's 500,000 dollars, you know 1.4 million, you know, and you can say this and that, this and that. And you know the argument is made that 200,000 copies in rap actually makes money for the major, it's just that the artist doesn't get it, not till 450,000. And that's where the independent situation comes through, you know Paris sells 250,000, and he's actually in the money, or Ice-T sells 500,000. R: You ever think of going independent? Or are you gonna stick with Columbia? C: I got partners, I don't think they would want me to go independent. And then again you got to understand, Columbia's not my label, Sony's my label. So with the agreements I made with Sony, I got cassettes, Walkmen, earphones, stuff like that, I try to do my best to stick 'em. I say, well, they're the ones to stick up more than anybody. Sony? So I consider myself in a fortunate sitauation. I mean, Sony/Columbia is a different situation from a lot of artists, 'cause they've kept their artists for a long time, there's some artists that've been there -- I mean let's look at the case of Fishbone. Fishbone has been a group that haven't been commercially successful, but they've been there since '85, '84, you know what I'm sayin', and in any other situation that's not dealing in music so strongly, or point of view in music, they'd have been let go a long time ago. They've had artists that have done 6 or 7 albums. So Columbia has been more of a music label. I'm not proppin' em, y'know, I'm not proppin' em, they made race records back in the 20s, so... R: Yeah, that's a long history there. But I guess with a label like that, you're carrying. I mean if you sell X million, that goes to an organization that in a sense is sticking with artists that don't sell as much ... I've read statistics that say that the bulk of rap sales are the top few acts, and that some in the industry see them as carrying the rest of the acts, where in a lot of cases they say they're taking a fall. C: They haven't taken a fall, it's like I told you, they haven't taken a fall. You're not takin' a fall with 150,000 units sold. R: Not if you've got control . . . . that's not bad C: Of course. You know, so somebody's gotta get into the nitty-gritty of that information, and just be able to reveal it, and let it go at that. Plus, these guys are also making a nice nickel off of singles now. Singles were x-ed out of the market for about 2 or 3 years, once they stopped makin' the 45 vinyl. I remember, when "Don't Believe the Hype" came out, and it was actually my last 45, and my first cassette single. So, that was the era right there, where, you know, people weren't rushing to buy the cassette singles, and they'd stopped pickin' up the 45's, so the reason that you seen a lot of rap albums goin' gold and platinum in that 1988-89 period, is cause a young kid would come up, an, let's say like "It Takes Two" by Rob Base would come into the store, they'd look on the racks, and they'd want "It Takes Two," but Profile did not supply the single, you know what I'm sayin', and the kid had no other choice but to buy the album for $9.99. And this happened to a lot of rap albums in that period. If you look at the rate of rap gold and platinum in '88-'89, it's not that the music peaked, it's just the business supplied the audience with only one configuration, so you had to get the album. R: That makes sense to me now. C: See these are the facts that I try to lay out there, people will say, oh, I didn't know that. Whereas some journalist may say, well, you know, rap peaked here, and now today ... the stats, you know, just like in sports, the stats can give you a number, but it's not gonna give you the actual play. R: Well, what about when they switched to that automated system that actually polled the registers. C: Sound Scan? R: Yeah, that was kind of an eye-opener, 'cause before then the industry kept on pretending that the real movers and shakers were geriatric rockers, like the Rolling Stones or Paul McCartney, or whoever, and suddenly they were forced to deal with real sales figures. C: Well, see, they dealt with real sales figures cause they felt that it was about time to do so, once they figured that a lot of companies had a lock on rap, I mean, why not, I mean, of course we can say that Cypress Hill is number one, because we own it. Right now what's goin' on through rap music, is, sign anybody you can find, and throw it up on the wall, and what sticks sticks, and what doesn't will slide off into obscurity. R: Yeah. Some places now, like I watch out for Epic, they've got a hyperactive A&R department, they'll put out anything. C: Yeah, they're the worst, Epic is just horrible. One thing about, maybe hopefully, with the Flavor Unit situation, maybe they'll be something. But you gotta understand, with the major labels, all these label deals inside the major, are designed to fail, eventually. There's no upside on it. Maybe Russell Simmons will do it, RUSH associated labels, he's trying to become that David Geffen -- do volume, do incredible, and then get out in time and be self- sustaining. But they're having a hard time, I'm telling you, they're having a hard time even with Onyx, platinum album, and Boss, they're having a hard time sustaining, so you can imagine anybody else that does not have those figures. R: So what is it that gets them? Is it overhead? C: Overhead, and over-ambitious. And, like I say, the best situations, are like, what you see with Paris or Ice-T. Not to say that those are easy situations, but they're situations that they don't try to get over-ambitious, they can keep it to one or two groups, three groups, you know -- three groups at the most. That's something that might last for twelve, fourteen, fifteen years. Def Jam has been around, going into their tenth year, but now it's like, it's grown to a size where they have to do it. Whereas somebody like Sony or Columbia is backed by so much positioning and power, they're like, well, maybe we'll get it or maybe not, you know, but Def Jam can't afford to have a Fishbone. R: That's wild. 'Cause I always think of DefJam as a big organization, one of the first, on-the-spot labels, there from the start. C: It's like the brontosaurus in the last days, you know? I mean, big motherfuckin' dinosaur, but there ain't too much to eat! It's a quiet motherfucker. I mean, I'm tellin' you, I've been with the organization for seven years, and you know the artist roster, the amount of money -- you know it's a joint venture with Sony -- the amount of money that has to go in it just to sustain, to staff it, as well as the artists, and the promotion. If you don't downscale, if you don't continue to make cuts, like drop this person, drop that, and always add on somebody new, and always keep, like, a dream team number, of like, you got ten artists, that's your dream team number. That's what label deals should do, with majors. I love Latifah and everybody, but I foresee that the Epic situation is just gonna run them ragged. 'Cause you gotta understand, all the groups on the compilation come out with an album, then they gotta do their second album, and that's when it gets tough. They gotta do their second album, you know, the deal's cross-collateralized, or whatever, so it becomes a big mess when you deal with more than a one-two-three situation. ***J*** Charles Isbell -------------- Rap is a contact sport This time: _Muse Sick-N-Hour Mess Age_ by Public Enemy Next time: _Zingalamaduni_ by Arrested Development _Black Business_ by Poor Righteous Teachers Last time: _Illmatic_ by Nas _Hard To Earn_ by Gang Starr _Be Bop or Be Dead_ by Umar Bin Hassan _Plantation Lullabies_ by Me'Shell NdegeOcello Catch Ups: _Tricks of The Shade_ by The Goats _Enta Da Wu Tang (36 Chambers)_ by Wu Tang Clan _Cypress Hill_ by Cypress Hill -------------------------------------------------------------------------- Distinctiveness: Oh, that's for sure. Dopeness Rating: Well, there are some extremely weak cuts on this album--like maybe two--but damn, I don't know what folks have been talkin' about. This album is SLAMMIN'. It has some weaknesses that I'll explore below, but in the meantime, it's still gets Phat+. Don't believe the hype. Buy it. Rap Part: Some very long lyrical pipe. This is a slightly new-sounding PE in many ways, but it's still all good. Sounds: It's the organized noise of _Nations_ but there's so much more of it this time, that every once in a while one isn't sure just how organized it actually is. At it's worst it just sounds like noise. But that's rare. Plus, thrown in along with the PE Whine(tm), we gets lots of really nice bits. Predictions: They'll do a'ight. Those that listen to it six time in a row will slowly come to realize just how good it is... those that only listen to it two times in a row might miss out. The question is: how many will listen to it six times in a row? Rotation Weight: If you follow the six-times-in-a-row formula, you'll end up givin' it heavy rotation. Message: Do you have to ask? -------------------------------------------------------------------------- Tracks: 21 at 72:04 Label: Def Jam Producers: No Bomb Squad this time: Gary G Wiz, Kerwin Young, Larry Walford, Studdah Man, Easy Moe Bee, & Flavor Flav Profanity: Yes, thankfully. I was really annoyed with that beepin' stuff last time. I mean, if you don't want to curse, then DON'T WRITE RHYMES WITH CURSE WORDS. Writing them that way then beepin' them out is stoopid. -------------------------------------------------------------------------- Public Enemy. Has beens? On a comeback? What's up? Obilgatory history for those born after 1993: Public Enemy is Chuck D The Rhyme Animal, Flavor Flav The Sparkplug, Terminator X The Cut Xecutioner, The Security of the First World and The Interrogators. Got that? They made Hip-Hop history in 1988 with their second album, _It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back_. _Nations_ is thought by many to be the best hip-hop album of all time. And even those who don't buy *that* will admit to it being one of the top five at least and *everyone* who knows *anything* realizes that it helped to shape Hip-Hop and push it in a different direction. With that album, Public Enemy guaranteed themselves a place among Hip-Hop and music legends. But that was then. Lately, it has become fashionable to dis PE. Athough many enjoyed their two follow-up albums _Fear of a Black Planet_ and _Apocalypse '91: The Enemy Strikes Black_, the consensus seems to be that they just didn't measure up the _Nations_. And of course, a lot of people were unhappy with _Greatest Misses_, a collection of remixes and a few new tracks. The fear is that PE has become irrelevant, or worse, has just fallen off. So, it was with a bit of trepidation that The Underground(tm) has waited for _Muse Sick-N-Hour Mess Age_. The early signs were not good: the July 4/5th drop date became August 23 (and, yes, it was Devo Spice, tjr0868@ritvax.isc.rit.edu, who predicted that way back in April); the first track seemed to lack the PE power punch (and Chuck even says "Whoomp! There it is" once); and before the new album dropped, it got dissed by just about every major magazine in the biz. So, I waited along with everyone else. I bought it. I listened to it. Twice. Three times. Four times. Five times. Six times. I don't know what everyone is talking about: this is louder than a bomb. Sure there are two songs that should have just been dropped from the final cut. Sure, Chuck's voice and the muzak aren't always tied together in the best way. And, of course, as is often the case with PE, you have to listen to it six times before you can feel the beat (I actually think _Nations_ was like that: so different that it took a while to realize that you were hearing a classic). But, dammit, there are some slammin' cuts on this album and the lyrical pipe on it is long. The muzak is different than what PE has done before, but different isn't a bad thing, and especially not in this case. In many ways, in fact, it's just the organized noise of _It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back_ done noiser and a little less organized: an improvisation of bits and pieces of soundz. Taken all at once, this is a solid PE effort and defintely worth a Phat+. Easily. In fact I'd even go so far as to say that _Muse Sick-N-Hour Mess Age_ has some of the best stuff they've ever done on it. So why are folks dissin' the album? I think they're on crack. Let's get started, shall we? "Whole Lotta Love Goin on in the Middle of Hell" starts off just the way one might like it: a nice collage of sound bites, speeches, and muzak. It takes us almost two minutes before Chuck and Flav step up to the mic. "Rap is a contact sport Can I get support when I hum to the maximum?" And this is pretty much a short preview of how the rest of the album comes off. There are snatches of speeches, music bits, random sounds and PE Whines(tm) fighting for airtime with stentorian Chuck D lyrical riffs and energizer bunny Flavor Flav hi-jinks. In some ways, it's very much old-style Public Enemy... but more of it. "So my boys get iller than Illinois... Back to tha noise" On the other hand, this album is replete with very sudden changes in the music, sounds and tempo. It manages both to give the impression that the producing squad lacked focus *and* to make one wonder if the sudden cuts and changes in mood weren't just a bit overplanned. It's directionless sound and organized noise all at once. "I'd rather fall off than fall victim of crime and a low percentage rhyme If I go down then they goin' down wit me So y'all come get me" I can deal with that. "Theatrical Parts" acts as a twenty-five second intro to "Give It Up," the first release from this album. This song, by the way, "contains a an interpolation of 'Opus De Soul' (A. Isbell/M. Thomas)" so I'm required to like it. "Mad rhymes for mad times That's what's up" Now, this is a song that's really managed to grow on me over the last several weeks with that duh-duh-DUN groove--plus I think mass@mit.edu is right about the fact that seeing the video helps--but that's not very useful since it's not representative of the rest of the album. "Call me a Hannibal lecture Yes I checked ya Ya didn't here me tho' so here it go" It's very relaxed and smoothed-out for one thing. Now, this is not a bad thing, but if you're thinking of buying or not buying this album based on the sounds of this first release, I'm not sure that'd be too wise. The rest of the album just doesn't sound like this. And while the rest of the album sounds a little bit more like "What Side Ya On?," this doesn't really capture the rest of _Muse Sick) either. "I'm on that psycho analytical tip if politics sticks to the mix like tricks" It does tend to remind one of some early PE with that omnipresent whine, but it's missing the contact-sportness of the rest of _Muse Sick_. "Some say 'damn all that political sh*t But wanna get paid when their brains in a low grade" That's Nathaniel Townsley III on drums by the way. So, this brings us "Bedlam 13:13" a truly slammin' piece of hip-hop, complete with The PE Whine(tm) and some great lines. "With my main man Harry not Connick Rather rap my Black ass off Get ya hooked on phonics" And a nice chorus. "C'mon, give a damn Confrontational man is what I am is what I am I'm tearin' down the hose that Jack built" "I was told that oil and water don't mix but the new world order got a disorder so I diss.. cuss my disgust if I must" Now, *this* is more like the rest of the album. And that good 'cause even down to the screaming folks in the background this is all *that* and just a little bit more. Dap, dap, dap. Dap. Say... was that really about the environment? Nah. "Stop In The Name" hits us with about a minute and twenty seconds of Chuck D seriousness... "Full fledgin' never sat on my legend no shuffle or shoulder shruggin' Uncle Tommin' nickel & dime rhymin'" ...as if to point out to us just how different Flavor Flav really is on "What Kind of Power We Got?" "Yo, another day, another forty nine cents" A very nice Chi-Lites sample. "Some seek stardom and forgot all about Harlem" You know, I really kinda like this track. I can just *see* Flav and Chuck on stage in concert rockin' this one: "Wave your hands in the air!" Hmmmmm. Yes, well, let's move on to "So Whatcha Gone Do Now?" This is another phat track. It's a little bit different since it has little hint of the solid-wall-of-sound approach, but phat is phat. "A gun is a gun is a motherf*ckin' gun But an organized side keep a sellout nigga on the run What you gonna do to get paid? Step on the rest of the hood till the drug raid See you runnin' like roaches Black gangstas need track coaches" This one is *very* nice. Nice muzak. Nice lyrics. Nice delivery. "I'm 'bout ready to bounce Trouble on the corner of Blunt Ave and 40 Ounce Mad uncivilized lifestyles 30 year bids for kids Now that's wild" What else can you ask for? "Too much don't give a f*ck or a damn thing But choose what the other man bring I sing a song 'cause I see wrong G*ddamn right I'm not down with the fee-fi-foe Where I come from see the brothers ain't dumb" Not much. " A nigga kills a White man that's murder one! A White man kills a nigga Thasssss... self-defense But if a nigga kills a nigga then that's just another dead nigga" "White Heaven/Black Hell" is a very short, very well-done piece of sound. "Black police--White judges Black business--White accountants Black record company--White distribution" It's rather suddenly interrupted by "Race Against Time" "Germs they spread it Warfare I read it Quote me on this again and I said it Bet it A bigger damage than the trigger and glocks Mass murder in mass from a blanket full of small pox No guarantees gettin' lesser fees Tuskegee had us goin' out wit disease Please (check tha time) C'mon (check the rhyme) Tribe of mine killed by the swine (Who) crossed the line? (Who) did the crime?" It's a fine interruptions, too. Nice track. Good energy, good sound. "They Used To Call It Dope" is another short, well-done track. "Alan freed the waves as much as Lincoln freed the slaves" And for the thirty seconds it's makin' noise in the speakers, it manages to really impress with the background soundz. I wouldn't mind hearing an expanded version of this with the music tracks cranked up a little. Anyway, "Aintnuttin Buttersong" (as in the Star Spangled Banner ain't nothin' but a song) is quite a bit longer than thirty seconds and it delivers for every second that it plays out. "We got so much soul you can damn near see it" "Strangled tangled caught in a spangled banner Got 'em on dat camera Stars I'm seein' from a beatdown in the slammer" Nice sounds on the chorus. "Land of the free Home of the brave And hell with us niggas, we slaves That shoulda been the last line of a song that's wrong from the get So when everybody stands I sit" "The red is for the blood that we shed as a people The blue is for those sad-ass songs we be singin' in church The blues while the White man's heaven is the Black man's hell The stars is what we saw when our ass got beat Stripes is for the whip marks on our backs The white is for the obvious Ain't no black in that flag" Nice track. Nice, nice track. This brings us to "Live and Undrugged (Part I and Part II)". I keep vasillating. Sometimes I like it but mostly it just doesn't do it for me. I mean, I like the muzak. I like the lines. I even like the chorus. "It's just a matter of mind over matter I don't mind and it don't matter" I just don't always like how they sound *together*. I mean there are some very nice touches here and there. "I ain't pushin' up or drivin' no daises" Very nice... but, well, it just doesn't always come together for me. It all sort of becomes noise. I can listen to it, but I probably won't. I dunno what else to say here. Now I *do* have a better feel for what's wrong with "Thin Line Between Love and Rape": it doesn't sound good. Chuck's delivery just does *not* fit the muzak. No, no, no. "Run ya over with my rack and pinion Never stop the engine" Enough of that. Anyway, we take a sudden turn for the better with Flavor Flav's "I Ain't Mad At All". "First there was Superfly Flava's got more style You can't tell 'cause you're crackin up" And, no it doesn't make any sense. But, it doesn't really matter. It's Flav. "I don't pollute So why should I give a hoot?" Besides all that, it sounds good. Back to reality with "Death of a Carjacka," two minutes of a nice soundtrack and some straightforward lyrics. "This automobile will self-destruct in five seconds" Not too bad. Which brings us to track #17, "I Stand Accused". Another one of those jams that sounds just fine with me. "I can dig it with a shovel I never did dirt with the devil Instead on that other level But I took time to reach down to help the Black and the Brown" "They say I'm fallin' off Yeah, they better call it off and get muscle and find another hustle quick" Of course, it does sound just a *little* bitter. "F*ck a critic F*ck, f*ck a critic" A tiiiiny bit. Oh, well, I can take it and it does sound nice. Next up is "Godd Complexx", a Flava Flav style cover of the (c)1971 single. Umar Bin Hassan (late of The Last Poets, of course, and with the recent _Be Bop or Be Dead_) shows up for some background. "Tellin' niggas screamin' for help (help me, help me, help me, help me) Nigga, go make your own help" Works for me. Someone needed to remake it. "Ah baby needs a new pair of shoes Ah poppa's got the funky blues Ah mama plays the crosswords in the news Snake eyes Sorry nigga, you lose" And this one sounds good. Nice one. That about does it, bringing us to "Hitler Day". Now this is a nice way to wind things down. "How can you call a takeover a discovery?" Hmmmm, this has a bit of that 1988 PE-stylin'. "Some thanks for the givin' when times are hard and some got the nerve to pray to God" Hardcore PE. Nice lyrics. Nice muzak. Just nice. So, what's left? Well, Harry Allen pontificates on an answering machine on the next track "Harry Allen's Interactive Super Highway Phone Call to Chuck D." Won't be dancin' to that one in the clubs much. And, finally, we come to a remix of "Living In A Zoo." Why not? "Skills to kill and fill a hole we roll deep with a frown that's down low in the middle of jeep beets" It's a fairly straightforward track. It's just PE being PE. "I ain't sittin' on the dock of the bay wastin' time in a crime with a nine Rather find another brutal rhyme" And that's that. Bottom line? First, don't believe magazine reviewers (well, not paper magazine reviewers... and, now, of course, if some such magazine were to pay *me* to review things--even just in free CDs--you could still believe me). Second, buy this album. As Chuck says, "Hopefully, after the packaging, the marketing and the glitz is done, this album will add balance to what's out there, challenge foul-at-the-root institutions and inspire those that have it in them to make change real before the task to save ourselves becomes impossible." No dance music is this (but then how often does that happen with PE?). No too-too laid back rhythms and super smooth production. It's just straight up Hip hop. Rough and rugged, that's for sure. Rap *is* a contact sport. So, packaging, marketing and glitz aside, this is worth buying. As a matter of overall jams in an album, it's not their best necessarily--_Nations_ will still be on top for most folks I would guess--but this surely isn't their worst and, damn, if you think about what that means for a minute... you've got to buy it. On the other hand, this is one of those albums that really works well as an album. The pieces tend to fit together pretty well with the exception of a few interruptions here and there. And finally, thinking of this as a series of tracks instead of as a whole album, some of these cuts really do represent PE at their absolute best... and that's going way back to _Yo! Bum Rush The Show_ and right thru _It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back_. What's left to say? Buy this. Listen to it six times straight and let it grow on you the way PE does and come to the obvious and inescapable conclusion: this is butter... with all the taste and none of the cholesterol. Why are you still reading this? Go! But that's just one Black man's opinion--what's yours? (C) Copyright 1994, Charles L Isbell, Jr. (Charles Isbell's New Jack Hip Hop reviews are available on the World Wide Web. Use the URL: http://www.ai.mit.edu/~isbell/isbell.html and follow the pointers.) (Editor's Note: I will be married to Madeline Wood before I ever see Charles Isbell review The Goats' "Tricks of the Shade." Say, isn't their *second* album coming out soon?) Section 3 - THREE **************THE OFFICIAL HARDC.O.R.E. REVIEW SECTION*************** HardC.O.R.E. pH scale 6/pHat - EE-YOW! A hip-hop Classic! 5/pHunky - Definitely worth the price of admission. 4/pHine - Solid. Few weaknesses here. 3/pHair - Some potential, but not fully realized 2/pHlat - Falls well short of a quality product 1/pHukkit - Get that Vanilla Lice shit OUTTA HERE! ********************************************************************* ***A*** Oliver S. Wang -------------- THE BEATNUTS, "The Beatnuts" (Relativity) Let's face it. The Beatnuts have neared the noteriety that Pete Rock now shares for making beats...in excess. Nowadays, a Beatnuts remix is as recognizable as Kool G's lisp. Check out their latest sh*t for Kid N Play, Down South (to some extent) and Lin Que. Not that their use of bass lines and horns isn't fat, but after a while, you want something a lil' more. So it wasn't without a little skepticism that I picked up their LP at the store and flipped it on. I'll say this now: This is one of the best _sounding_ albums out of New York since Nas, and honestly, I'd go back to ATCQ mainly b/c Nas' sh*t wasn't as consistent. Lyrically, there ain't nothing much new here. It's still the intoxicated demons basically. But their flow ain't that wack even if their subject matter gets a bit redundant. But before we get too far... I have this theory about producers: they save their best sh*t for their own tracks. Compare some of Diamond D's, Premier's (Come Clean excepted), Large Professor's and the Beatnuts remixes for other artists with their own tracks. Unlike a rash of the Beatnuts recent remixes, this stuff was original, and diverse without sounding too disjointed. The jazzier side of the Beatnuts really came out on the LP. Their sampling loops draws heavily on pianos, jazz guitars and vibes. Their harder stuff is jazzy too, just on a different vibe. A couple of cuts, like "Fried Chicken" goes for a more bare bones approach, but for the most part, the tracks are musically thick, very muzaky but far, far from wack. The first and best thing about "Super Bad" is the bass line. Anyone with any kind of speakers can't miss it. It's a very mellow, laid back bass but perfect for bobbin' too. "Let Off a Couple" is under 2 minutes long, but IMO, it's easily the best sample of the whole album. Jazzy as hell with the illest piano loop I've heard since Premier's "93 Interlude". This is the sh*t to vibe the hell out to. I just wish it was longer. "Chk chk BAM! Let off a couple, one for the beef, two for the treble, three for my ni**as that are ready to set it...world famous, man, forget it." Ill! In "Rik's Joint," who's Rik? Was that KRS at the intro? I think so, but I'm not sure. In any case, this is another track on the laid back tip, very muzaky and musically dense. There's a jazz guitar, subtle bass in the background and lots of noise. It's only 82 BPM so not exactly one for the dance floor but the chorus is smoooooth. "It's like that ya'll..." "Get Funky" is one of the simpler tracks but one of the best. It has two elements: a Roy Ayers jazz guitar loop and a snappy, crisp drum hit. But damn this f-in track sings. The loop makes this track...you got to hear it to know what I mean. The next track, "Hit Me With That," is also dope. It's got a playful loop composed of soft synthesizers and a xylophone loop plus horns. Another slow track (84 BPM) it's just a pleasure to listen to. And once again, the chorus is dope: "Hardcore, comin' with the beats and rhymes...got ya hummin, now ya wanna press rewind...Beatnuts combine, going line for line, yo (Fashion) hit me with that sh*t one time." Yeah... Lyrically speaking, the subject matter is pretty simple: sex, drinking, getting zoned and dusting off MCs. None of these tracks are going to have MCs like Supernatural, Casual, Del, Buckshot or Jeru running in terror, but I can't dis their flow. It works well with the tracks. The only things that could improve it are a radio clean version (there's a hell of a lot of profanity thrown around that makes playing this album on the radio tough), and double vinyl. C'mon, Beatnuts, ya'll are DJs. What the f- is this 17 track album on single vinyl? I guess I could probably blame Relativity instead, but even still... pH Level - 5/pHunky ***B*** Flash ----- BIG MIKE, "Somethin Serious" (Rap-A-Lot) The subgenre of hip-hop known as "Gangsta" or "Reality" rap is experiencing a much needed revival. Two great albums have come out recently which show that it can still express reality, be funky, and not get played by all the weak "shoot, kill, die" phony MC's in the industry. MC Eiht feat. CMW is one of the two, and Big Mike is the other. Big Mike has been representing the town of New Orleans ever since the days he was in The Convicts. His former potnah 3-2 (now in the Blac Monks) surfaces in the cut "Fire" here. Although Convicts ripped shit, they were slept on in a big way. Big Mike however, blew up large when he appeared in lieu of ex-Geto Boy Willie D. He stunned the hip-hop nation with his tight flow and lyrics. On "Somethin Serious," you get nothin' but more of the same. The production is varied, from Crazy C on "Smoke Em and Choke Em" to Rap-a-Lot's own Bido on "On Da Real". Most of the album though is done by N.O. Joe for Gumbo Funk productions. Regardless of who is behind the boards, it all sounds good....thick with that deep-South gangsta-funk the Geto Boys made (in)famous. The opening track lets you know that Big Mike is "Comin From the Swamp". He kicks his deep-voiced rugged flow over a fat beat, with lyrix like "All the niggaz in the hood still got game / and it just goes to show you, ain't a damn thing changed... ah one-two, you know I gots ta / three-fo', break you off proper." Basically the theme is, he's hard, and he's real. It works. "Smoke Em and Choke Em" will within thirty seconds have you singin "All on My Nut Sac". Yep, it's that same horn loop Da Lench Mob freaked, but this song lowers it down and lays on some g-funk ends to good effect, all mixed with a Snoop Doggy Dogg sample from "Stranded on Death Row". More realism here. Step up to Big Mike and get played. "World of Mine" is a slow, thought-provoking joint. Part of it reflects the suicidal tendencies of Scarface, but it is mixed with an examination of the sad ghetto reality surrounding him. "We can't check a peckerwood / if we can't treat our own fucking people good. / We wanna pick the fruit, but the fruit ain't ripe, yeah". He's checkin out the people, "some doin good, others doin evil". He even says that the President is an overseer and the White House a watch tower. So I give him nuff props on the political tip. He flips it like that again on "Daddy's Home", featuring Scarface. Basically, it says 1.) It takes a man to make a child, 2.) It takes a man to take care of one, 3.) If you make em and don't take care of em, you aren't a real man. It's been said by many before but this duo give it a funk poignancy and hard-edged Southern realism never heard before. This album is full of phat cuts, from the funky ode to relationships "Ghetto Love" to the massive posse cut "On Da 1". This album kicks a political-tip with a tight fuck-with-me-and-get-your-ass- dropped edge, and the like has not been seen since the heyday of Ice Cube. Defintely worth the ducats. pH Level - 5/pHunky ***C*** Laze ---- BLAC MONKS, "Secrets of the Hidden Temple" (Rap-A-Lot) What are the secrets of the hidden temple? Rugged rhyme delivery. Spooky, haunting Bido-1 beats. And lyrics to tear a fool apart. It's gotten to the point that "Rap-A-Lot" has become synonomous with "oh God, not another one". Fact is, Texas rap has slipped pretty badly. In the last three years, the only truly worthwhile Rap-A-Lot album was Raheem's "The Invincible". But, finally, the Blac Monks got some of that classic flavor that should bump in the jeeps coast to coast and everywhere in between. Lyrically, these kids may seem like they're coming off as gangster rappers. Far from it, actually. I guess they're more "tell- it-like-we-see-it-anti-violence-pro-unity-but-don't-let-yourself-get- dissed" rappers. They step strong several times, especially on the title track: it takes Confuscianism and breaks it down to street level, 'cause "you're never too clever to be outsmarted by the next fucking fellow". James Bido's production is right on point. It thumps with thick, but not overpowering, bass. The drums are tight, and the loops are simple, but extremely effective. With guitars or eerie Halloween samples, Bido-1 came correct. The top track (and the whole reason I gave this disc a chance in the first place) is "Monks in the Jungle", a hard, driving track featuring yet another amazing showing by Raheem. It loops the Masta Ase "bass drum jungle music" clip. The one annoying thing about this album is that after the first cut, the song list on the back is all fucked up. Apparently, they included a couple of the short skits as separate tracks on the listing, but not on the disc itself. In any event, this is straight-up Texas skunk funk the way it should be done. pH Level - 4/pHine ***D*** Flash ----- COOLIO, "It Takes a Thief" (Tommy Boy) Come along and ride on a Fantastic Voyage, with the MC known as Coolio. You may remember him from the crew WC and the Madd Circle, if you've been following west coast hip-hop. Well they have since ceased working together (WC has appearead on the Ice Cube b-side "My Skin is a Sin"), but Coolio has gone ahead solo, seeking fame and fortune. Here are the results. Most of the album's music has an enjoyable, bouncy, Parliament- Funkadelic type feel to it. The second single "Fantastic Voyage" is no exception. (I'm sure y'all remember the first single, "County Line"... it's pretty phat too.) It's basically braggadocious fun with the homies, tinged with doses of ghetto reality -- "I'm tryin to find a place where I can live my life and / maybe eat some steak with my beans and rice a / place where my kids can play outside without living in fear of a driveby". This is definetly on point, and mad heads who aren't already bumping the single will jump on the wagon. "Mama, I'm in Love with a Gangsta" is a duet with former Tommy Boy labelmate LeShaun. The two work together well, and the smooth music and lyrics reflect it -- "I'm behind these bars, and it's burning like nitro / I might go psycho / the man on the tower got a rifle / oh shit, there the lights go". Then LeShaun comes on and freaks the rhymes: "The kids keep asking where's poppa / I had to tell 'em daddy got caught by the coppers / It's time for me to raise 'em up proper by myself / it's a goddamn struggle when a bitch ain't got no help. / Now everybody tellin me you ain't shit black..." yet like Paradise, she's still down for her nigga. This one will rock the quiet storm and the hardcore both. Perhaps the best song of the album is "Can-O-Corn", which we learn at times is all he had to eat. Coolio kicks his somewhat high pitched west coast flavor and wraps the listener in a tightly constructed tale: "Times was rough and I didn't have a plan. / I was barely on the edge of my life as a man. / It's really fucked up when there's dope in the crib / no food in the kitchen for the motherfuckin' kids". The nearly sing-song voice and smooth music will take ya to that other level, with no turbulence. The album is pretty tightly focused. Each song has a theme and lyrics which represent it well. Coolio may not be the cleverest rhymer, but he does his shit tight. "Bring Back Somethin to da Hood", "County Line", and "Sticky Fingers" are all good examples. J-Ro of the Alkaholiks makes a guest appeareance on the song "I Remember". He comes off, but what did you expect? "Playin Galaga, Space Invaders, eatin Reese's / I had all the women cause my tough skins had creases / and it's been that way since day one / girls of the world ain't nuthin' but fun". It's a back in the day type joint that we all know Ahmad wishes he was in on. Overall, I can't front. The music, the lyrics, the guest MC's are all tight, but Coolio just does not blow me away as an MC. He's good, above average, but none of the rhymes are the stop and rewind to catch it again type. If you like good home-cooked funk and songs with focused lyrics that tell a good story, then this Can-O-Corn is for you. pH Level - 4/pHine ***E*** David J. ------- DA BRAT, "Funkdafied" (SoSoDef/Columbia) You gotta hand it to Jermaine Dupri -- he knows what sells. After taking one look at the success of Dr. Dre's multi-platinum LP "The Chronic," he molded his kiddie money makers Kris Kross into Snoop Dogg's little brothers and put out his own version of "Doggystyle" before Death Row had the chance. A dope little guest appearance by a new female M.C. named Da Brat stole the show, though, and that set the stage for this EP...er, album. (At under 32 minutes, it might as well be an EP.) Da Brat may represent Chicago (the six-oh-six-foh-foh to which she refers in the title cut), but she's merely another in Dupri's "Death Row East" machine, turning Atlanta into his own version of Long Beach for the commercial market -- and if this isn't a commercial album, *nothing* is. Though she proved herself as a solid lyricist in her Cameo on "Da Bomb," Da Brat seems content to rhyme on the same ol' same ol' here -- hittin' switches, kickin' funk, smokin' blunts, etc. "Fire It Up" seems below what Da Brat is capable of, but if the bud fits, she's ready to smoke it. There isn't much beyond that. In fact, there isn't too much beyond the first single "Funkdafied." The whole album isn't much more than variations on a theme, the theme being "This track is funky, so let's just kick what Dre and Snoop were kickin' on their track." There are more Dogg bites here than I've heard anywhere else, whether it be Snoop's sing-song style or his tendency to over use his most famous lyrics. "Ain't No Thang" took one line from "Funkdafied" and made the same song again. Most of the songs here are the same songs, and while that might be a plus for an album with only nine songs and one skit, the "Death Row East" style Dupri uses here doesn't quite do it. Most of the time Da Brat ends up sounding like Rage's sister. Hell, if she had Afro Puffs and a more staccato delivery, she could be Rage herself. I guess you can't fault success, though. "Funkdafied" is a top ten single, so it's obviously selling. By going with what sells, though, Dupri is robbing his artists of the capacity to create quality material that will stand the test of time (and the constant airplay of eMpTyV). Unless either he or Da Brat decides to flip the script and come out with something that will step to the next level, SoSoDef will continue to bear mediocre albums such as this. If Dupri is happy with the money it brings in, that's fine, but his artists will definitely need to think about when they're outta here. pH Level - 3/pHair ***F*** David J. ------- DA BUSH BABEES, "Ambushed" (Reprise) Upon first listen to this Brooklyn group's debut single "Swing It," I immediately thought to myself, "Man, this sounds like Romye from the Pharcyde and Roseanne Arnold had a kid or something." The high-pitched screaming and nasal tone almost seemed to much to bear. Then came the remix. Something about that nice, jazzy little beat made these screamy-mimies worth listening to. So with that in mind, I stepped into the jungle and checked at Da Bush Babees. First and foremost, you have to admit their gimmick is original -- being the last surviving children of the jungle and doing whatever they want to do, because it is you who walks into their realm. That opens up the door for a little more creativity that you usually see in most of these copycat albums that invade hip-hop these days, and Mr. Man, Kaos and Y-Tee do have a little originality. Their reggae influence is prevalent throughout the album as well. Y-Tee is the group's dancehall styler, and he provides a nice contrast to Mr. Man and Kaos' loudmouthed lyrical onslaught. He can also set a mood or two just with his voice, especially in the mellow, "Remember We," a track about all the kids that dissed the group because they had no deal and weren't hard enough, and "Original," a testament to their heritage. Those voices of Kaos and Mr. Man, though. They can grate on you if you let 'em. The best comparison I've heard for 'em is "Gilbert Goddfried with mic skills." That pretty much sums it up. Just imagine the short, caffinated comedian rhyming over some danceable beats with a dash of reggae in 'em. Now imagine two of them and a reggae DJ on the side. That's Da Bush Babees in a nutshell. Add in a nice cameo from "Da Ignorant No It All," and there's your album That doesn't mean they aren't worth a good listen. There's some talent here, and it's all in good fun (it would have to be with interludes like "Bleu Buttaflyze" and "Ya Mammy"). If you can get past those voices, you might just find yourself a sleeper. pH Level - 4/pHine ***G*** Oliver S. Wang -------------- DOWN SOUTH, "Lost In Brooklyn" (Big Beat) Down South's first single "Southern Comfort" caught my attention based on the Charlie Parker "Cool Blues" sample that lights up the intro and the fact that it uses the same Roy Ayers track that Da King and I had used for "Tears." But whereas "Tears" went nowhere, "Southern Comfort" had some good back-in-the-day styled lyrics and a jazzy track. When the album dropped, I didn't know quite what the expect, but a quick look over the production revealed some important facts: Mainly, T-Ray drops two cuts, and The Beatnuts come in with three. Hmm ... Intriguing. When I first heard the album, I was pleasantly surprised. Musically, the main producer Shawn J. likes horn loops. Long ones. In this case, it was a good choice. He's got a good ear for nice soulful, jazzy loops and blends them well into the album. T-Ray's cuts were ... well, forgettable. Sorry, my man, but I just couldn't get into it. The Beatnuts had some flavor tracks though, and only one of them followed their "formula". For the most part, the album is well put together on a musical level b/c most of the tracks contain the same similar elements. Horn loops tend to be on the long side. The bass line's are more subtle. They act as a foundation, but don't drive the track. Unfortunately, not all the tracks are butter and b/c of this, it's harder to appreciate the cohesion of the album. Still, the Exectuive Producers deserve credit to keeping the sounds well packaged. Lyrically...well...hmm...uh...let's say that they're not bad. They're just not all that. Some tracks, like "Big Wheels" is on the same theme that every MF rapper seems to be on: the back-in-the-day motif. In fact, those words power the chorus, "Back in the Day, we used ride on our big wheels..." Ok, kids, it's been done. It's fair and some cuts are cool to swing with, but overall, it's nothing better than other artists out there. Two of Shawn J.'s tracks are my favorites. There's a killer organ sample on "Spin Da Boddle" that reminds me of the energy from the Alkaholiks "Make Room". Not that they sound anything alike, but the effect on the listener's ear is similiar. This is a posse jam, featuring the Funkaholic and Bobbito of many shout outs fame. It's funny, but this is one of the most energetic tracks yet one of the slower ones, clocking in at 88 BPM (same as "Come Clean") It's a perfect track to scream "Ho!!! Ho!!!" to. "Sitting Here" is definitely my favorite track, though. It's got a jazzy, soulful quality that makes this perfect to just chill to. The Eric Mercury horn loop simply soars through the track, and the bass line compliments it perfectly. It's the same concept that "Southern Comfort" set down, but this track perfects it. Lyrically, it's kind of a laid back braggadocio rap, and it works well. Overall, the album's decent, surpisingly good considering how little people heard about Down South prior. I think it's a good album for people looking for a jazzy, mid tempo album that avoids trying to get too cerebral or go off too hard. And though every track doesn't sing, it's a well put together album. Hopefully, some upcoming 12"s will have some good remix flavor to 'em. Oh yeah, and the vinyl's milk white, which is cute, but annoying to try to find track splits on. At least it's double vinyl. pH Level - 4/pHine ***H*** Flash ----- MC EIHT (feat. COMPTON'S MOST WANTED), "We Come Strapped" (Epic) Geeyeah. It's a compton thang, and once again it's on. Since the shakeup and breakup of N.W.A, the Most Wanted crew in Compton have established that their name ain't no bullshit. Not only do they have the C-P-T on lockdown, they've got brothers from coast to coast bumping their trademark funk. After 'nuff years of paying dues, it's time to reap the rewards with their best album to date. If you didn't already know Eiht from such classics as, "It's a Compton Thang", "Growin Up in The Hood", "Def Wish II", and the incredible Menace II Society cut "Streiht Up Menace" (not to mention his mind-blowing appearance as A-Wax in the flick) this is your wake up call! (Note: If you did sleep on "Streiht Up Menace", don't expect to find it here. You're shit outta luck.) This album will give you your money's worth and then some. Not only do they come strapped, but they come phat with 15 tracks. One is an intro, but we can excuse that. Three are "endoludes", but they are so smoove we can excuse that too. On the other 11 joints it's nothing but pure funk. Unlike other gangsta rappers (or, if you prefer, REALITY rap) with their tired formulaic cliche, MC Eiht has just gotten stronger with time. His voice breathes chronic and his metaphors and rhymes are on point. Eiht Hype and DJ Slip bring together 1/2 Oz. Productions and the result is simply incredible. Not since EPMD dropped the saga of Jane on sucessive albums has such a strong group of sequels appeared on the scene. "Def Wish III" keeps things in stride, with rhymes like "Come meet the night- creeper / the grim reaper / like Boss it's deeper / can't escape the street sweeper" and other murderism that keeps his foes and hoes in check. "You don't want to see me / DJ Quik in a khaki bikini." "All For the Money" boasts the same loop as the Beatnuts "Lick the Pussy", but 1/2 Oz. Productions gives it that West Coast gangsta creep you can't front on. MC Eiht comes through again -- "One more point that got scored for the hood / up to no damn good / understood?" If you by some Rip Van Miracle haven't heard his flow, you just can't now how much flavor Eiht adds to these lyrics. You could call it a cross between Domino and Buckshot Shorty, but it's better than that. "Niggaz Make The Hood Go Round" has more of that trademark production. Basically they mix low ends with very orchestral flavas, like organs, violins, and it creates a very high-end G-Funk that Warren G couldn't fuck with. I'd call it "ghetto drama" music. Peep this drama -- "Damn, the hood is kinda hot. / One of the fuckin homies got shot / and we don't need it cause of some shit that we just went through / at Martin Luther King guess who we ran into / the enemy, no friend of me. Homies brought they straps / in the waiting room it's time to peel some caps". Eiht has that G Rap essence which draws you in and makes you feel like you're right there. "Nuthin But the Gangsta" will have even the hardest of the East coast hardrocks bumping this cut in their jeeps. It features what has already been dubbed "the unholy trio" of Eiht, Spice 1, and the funkadelic relic Redman. Whoever thought of it is a genius. Redman drops some punk smoove shit and steals the show like he always does. "Oh my God! / I destroy cities like the Blob / droppin' trunks of funk and I'm blastin a punk from here to Cape Cod. / Fuck a job / my organization runs like the mob. / The original Joe Pex Flex, / Redman, bitch, you better ask somebod." That's just a small sample of four dope songs from the album, but you better believe the rest of this production has just as much flavor. This is an album you can drop in from start to finish and not skip a song. It's that good. With this one album Eiht and DJ Slip breath new life into a nearly played form of hip-hop expression. If this one doesn't go gold, then blame Epic for not promoting it right, cause all the essentials are here. It's political in that it represents the hard reality of the hood on the daily, and as such it works for me ... not too mention the TIGHT music. pH Level - 5/pHunky ***I*** Oliver S. Wang -------------- EXTRA PROLIFIC, "Like It Should Be" (Jive) Yo, major props to Kool Kim and D-Mad for hooking me up with the dub of this album. This is a good album. This is a very good album, even compared to the other albums by the Hieroglyphics. This would be a great album if it wasn't for one thing: Snupe does the pimp daddy mack thing one, two, four too many times. For those who don't know, Extra Prolific is the latest talented crew from Hieroglyphics (East Bay in the MF house y'all!!!) to get a record contract (on Jive, surprise, surprise). Extra P. is made up off the rhymer and producer Snupe (not the Doggy Dogg) and his sidekick Mike P. who doesn't rhyme, produce or DJ. Just what he does, I'm not too sure. Maybe "Snupe" just didn't sound suave enough so they went for Extra Prolific. Anyway, if Del is the father/provider/protector against "wack MCs", and if Casual is the BattleMaster, and if the Souls of Mischief are the part time jesters, full time scientists of the Hieros, then Snupe is the pimp of the crew. Check this out, no joke: On side A alone, four of the tracks are on the same topic: Snupe's sexual prowess. And let me tell you, the sh*t gets tired reaaaalll quickly, especially because the quality of the beats aren't as good as they are on other non-sexual tracks. This is the main and sole weakness in the album. Snupe is a great lyricst, establishing his own style that doesn't seem as "Hiero" as other artists in the family have been accused of. Plus, the production on this album is typically fat. I don't know the production credits, but Kool Kim says that Snupe does the majority and he has a good ear for bass lines and vibes. Outstanding Tracks: (They're almost all on the B-side which saves this album from mediocrity). "Never Changing" and "First Sermon" both basically follow the same production concept: fat bass line plus a short one-two note vibe hit that accents the bass line. It's simple, but works beautifully making deep tracks that you feel waaay down in the soul. Plus, Snupe has thoughtful and reflective rhymes that seem a world away from the A- side content. Two of the best tracks on the album. "Go Back To School" is more upbeat, powered by a combination of shrill horns and synthesizer hits that melt down into another fat bass line. It's an interesting combo that goes from energetic jazziness to laid back fatness. Pep Love guest rhymes on this one and he and Snupe rip sh*t. "Cash Money", my favorite A-side track is ironically enough the shortest, probably no longer than 2 minutes. The intro drum loop sounds like it was recorded live, which is nice, then the track just bounces into high gear with some vicious wah-wah guitar licks and a foggy vibe loop. Snupe and Casual go off, catching wreck like Jason Kidd on I-80. Why couldn't it be longer? Worst Track: "Sweet Potato Pie" Don't ask. It just is. Hmm...in comparison to other albums, Hiero and otherwise, I've made the following conclusions: The best B-side of an album since "Midnight Marauders." The worst A-side, coupled with a fat B-side since I can't remember. Better than Casual's LP, but not Del's or Souls. Buy it, it's worth the price just for the B-side gems alone and maybe some of ya'll will like the mack mode stuff. Snupe has got 'nuff skills, and I'm predicting a good future for this latest star out of the Hiero stables. pH Level - 5/pHunky ***J*** David J. ------- FUGEES (TRANZLATOR CREW), "Blunted On Reality" (Ruffhouse/Columbia) Sometimes, all it takes is a little push for a new group to blow up everywhere. Take the Fugees (pronounced "FOO--jeez"), for example. This Haitian group put heads to sleep with their first single "Boof Baf," which isn't the best way to break on to the scene. Quietly, this debut LP hit the shelves and was met with wholehearted apathy. Just who *are* these folks, anyway? What a difference a remix makes. Now, everybody (including myself) is singing or humming, "Yo, Mona Lisa, can I get a date on Friday?" and the Tranzlator Crew found itself with the top-selling 12" single in the land and more airplay on radio stations than Warren G.'s first single had on eMpTyV. So, naturally, this remix is on every new pressing of this debut album. So if you find an old one, you might want to hold on to it. It may be worth a little more before it's all over. The copy I have is an older one without the remix (but I got the 12", so it really doesn't matter), so that separates the hype from the material itself, which can change face quickly. Just listen to the introduction, where it sounds like Wyclef (the bald-headed rude boy of the bunch) is being tortured into revealing the people bringing forth the next great prophecy. Then all of the sudden, the scene fades to black, and Lauryn Hill steps out of the shadow and brings it all down to earth. "White sheets make you sing? Afraid you gonna hang? Ahhhh, now THAT'S a black thang. Boy, you scared of me. BOO!" What follows is a lyrical onslaught that jumps on everything from the hypocrisy of blunt-smoking advocates to the problems of male- female relationships in the inner city to the respect deserved by the old school. The beats produced by the group are loaded with crisp drums and straight-forward instrumental licks with a touch of the islands -- both Haitian and Strong Island. Lauryn flexes some impressive skills in this debut (though she doesn't really rhyme enough, even with a solo on "Some Seek Stardom"), and Wyclef and Prakazrael both step up front with both lyrics and production. Wyclef plays all the guitars on "Vocab," which had no drums, just the guitars effectively delivering the rhythm for group to rhyme over, and it works quite well. This is really a breath of fresh air in hip-hop. Take a listen to it. Even without the remix of "Nappy Heads," you just might like what you hear. pH Level - 5/pHunky ***K*** David J. ------- GRAND DADDY I.U., "Lead Pipe" (Cold Chillin'/Epic) Okay, I'll admit it. I slept on Grand Daddy I.U.'s first album, mostly because I took a listen to "Sugar Free" and heard nothing that made me want to listen to anything else. The advent of "Represent," Daddy U's overtly commercial but still appealing first single from this album, and the improvement of Cold Chillin's distribution power (they switched from Warner to Epic after controversy over Kool G. Rap's "Live And Let Die" LP) has sparked some new interest in the Grand man, so I decided to sit down and give this one a listen. God only knows how I lasted through it. If you're expecting more of what Grand Daddy and Kay Cee brought forth on "Represent" and "Don't Stress Me," the second single, you may be in for a big disappointment. This album goes out of its way to prove that the ol' gangsta/pimp genre of big guns, big tits and big explosions, especially big police car explosions, haven't gone out of style yet. As a result, it falls flat on its violent face. Lyrically, Grand Daddy can paint a decent picture, but his picturess aren't be worth the black velvet on which they're painted. One listen to the highly glamorized vision of a drug lord in "Slingin' Bass" had me reaching for the fast forward button before the last bullet reached its destination. Didn't that storyline go out in 1990? On top of that, Daddy U seems obsessed with big guns. Tracks like "We Got The Gats," "Wet 'Em Up," and "Dead Men Don't Talk" seem to focus on nothing more than pulling triggers and killing -- almost literally. There isn't even any imaginative metaphor flipping here, just one shot after another aiming for someone elses head. On top of this, Daddy U can't decide on a style to save his life. One minute he's screaming like Onyx ("We Got The Gats"), the next he's doing this smooth R&B vocal ("As I Flow On"), and the next he enters this dreadful dancehall stylee ("Boom Wha Dat") that's so gravelly it's almost cartoonish. There's nothing wrong with lyrical versatility on an album, but this is the flattest attempt I've heard and using different styles to date. First and foremost, though, this is the perfect example of another M.C. refusing to take any responsibility for what he writes. I could swear I heard KRS-ONE in the background saying, "Who you kiddin'? You're only trying to rock a party. You ain't really down to shoot nobody." The only thing Grand Daddy I.U. is shooting with this album is himself -- in the foot. If you like the singles, go ahead and get 'em. Two songs, however, don't make a good album, and here, they drown in a sea of wackness. pH Level - 2/pHlat ***L*** Professa R.A.P. --------------- GRAVEDIGGAZ, "6 Feet Deep" (Gee Street/Island) So you call yourselves the Gravediggaz, huh? Well, y'all can grab a shovel and start diggin'. You'd better hurry, because the grave is yours, and the coffin looks an awful lot like a cut-out bin. Not that they didn't have some skills when they were alive. Fruitkwan, under the alias The Gatekeeper, drops the best rhymes on this record (makes you start thinkin' about a Stetsasonic reunion), but what brought him on board this funeral procession is beyond me. Prince Paul whips up some wild production, but it sounds like there's only one groove in his graveyard. The rest of this crew of the living dead shoulda stayed in the grave, especially the Grym Reaper (formerly known as Too Poetic), with his demented rap cackling, and The Rzarector (Prince Rakeem -- what are you doing in this tomb of an album??). Lesson to be learned: Throwing a bunch of rappers together in graveyard suits does not make a group. Those in the industry -- including The Source -- who have climed aboard the "horror core" bandwagon ought to be embarassed; instead of taking hip-hop to another level, you're just repackaging the same old same old. If a group's got the skills, I don't care if they wear polka-dot pajamas. If they don't have the skills, all the oversize hoodies, pickaxes, and knives in the work won't help 'em. Yet I do have to say there are a few solid tracks on this record -- not enough to be worth my $12.99, but enough for a solid EP. "Defective Trip (Trippin)," with guest spots from the Biz and MC Serch, is a slick, cacthy piece of work. Trouble is, like many other tracks on this disc, its "horror" element ain't all that horrifying -- sounds like some old Led Zep rifs, with a few chords from the soundtrack to _Edward Scissorhands_. Prince Paul pulls it off on at least one cut, "1-800 SUICIDE", which has a phat NY style beat, a cool KRS loop, Fruitkwan and Prince Rakeem's best rhymes, and a wild, progress-of-elimation procession of wrist-slashing, self-combustion, hanging, and poisoning. Each verse ups the ante; by the time it gets to Rakeem, he's ready for all (under)takers: "Six fuckin' devils stepped up playing brave guard Had the fuckin' nerve to try to enter my graveyard. I'm the Rzarector, be my sacrifice. Commit suicide, and I bring ya back to life. The first was convinced. Stuck a water hose in his mouth and blast, so his head can explode. Second one said "hmm, that was good but I can top it." Put a axe to his head, and then he chopped it. Blood shot out in every direction. The rest didn't know what to do, I made suggestions. Put a slug in your mug, overdose on a drug. Wet your hands, put your knife in the plug. Or play like Richard Pryor, set your balls on fire Better yet, go hang yourself with a barbed wire..." It's all in good fun (though you kinda wonder how long it will be before a lawsuit from some distraught parent who wants to blame their kid's suicide on this track makes the headlines), and with Prince Paul at the wheels, it glides ominously along like a hearse in reverse. There are a few other memorable cuts -- "Diary of A Madman" has some kick and a courtroom-drama tale to tell, though the abrupt ending leaves you wondering if the tape ran out. "Nowhere to Run, Nowhere to Hide" has a nice, dank funkiness that gives you an idea of where this project *might* have gone if it had stayed on track (although it also makes you think that there oughta be a ban on any more "Jagger the Dagger" loops). But the rest of the CD is a sorry collage of clunky skits, third-rate headbanger retread, and snippets of brothers sittin' around in the studio puffin' on blunts. It's got a theme, but no stylistic center -- by the last few flavorless tracks, you're ready to kill these guys before they kill you. On the strength of the single, this CD is riding the charts right now, but my advice would be to wait, stick with the single or buy a used DJ copy, but don't put out $12.95 for $6 worth of rap retreads. pH Level - 3/pHair ***M*** David J. -------- HOUSE OF PAIN, "Same As It Ever Was" (Tommy Boy) "Erase my name from off the tombstone..." Yes, the reports of Everlast's death have been greatly exaggerated, and he wants to make sure of that from the top. For those of you that missed it, lots of kids who jumped on the "Jump Around" bandwagon started the rumor that HOP's frontman overdosed on some bad heroin and bought the hip-hop farm. Obviously, with the release of "Same As It Ever Was", that ain't true. Everlast was on lockdown at his own crib for a few, but he got out just in time to make a new video with Irish mates Danny Boy and DJ Lethal, and with the first single "On Point" sounding like "Jump Around, Part 2" and the title of this LP being what it is, even Forrest Gump could tell you what this album will sound like. And he'd be right, too. HOP hit a winning formula with their last album (though a lot of that album didn't live up to the singles), and if it works, why ruin a good thing? Everlast's voice is a little rougher, and there are a few extra producers this time around (the Baka Boyz and Diamond D. join Monsieur Muggerud), but for the most part, HOP hasn't changed much from the last LP. This, of course, brings the good with the bad. When Muggs is on with a beat("Runnin' Up On Ya", "Back From The Dead"), he's *really* on, but when he's off ("Keep It Comin'", "It Ain't A Crime"), it sounds as bad as the worst moments from "Black Sunday." In fact, the best music comes from Diamond D. for "Word Is Bond," a scathing attack from Everlast on all the heads that said HOP sold out. There still aren't enough rhymes from Danny Boy on this album, and I'd really like to know who gave DJ Lethal a microphone; the man needs to stick to turntable work. The Irish pride gimmick is less utilized and even more of a gimmick this time around, perhaps because the group realizes they don't need to rely on it as much anymore. The shoutouts on "Still Got A Lotta Love" are a nice touch, and "Who's The Man", the cut from the Ed Lover/Doctor Dre movie of the same name, is included. Overall, it's not a bad album, and if you liked HOP's previous stuff, this album will suit you. Be sure you get your hands on an uncensored copy of the album, though, because tracks like "Same As It Ever Was" sound *horrible* when edited for radio. Perhaps Tommy Boy wants to make this one a little more radio accesible, but to do this on mainstream copies of the album is ridiculous. There's no point in dodging the parental advisory sticker, because it's a catch-22 -- even if they can't buy something with the sticker on it, kids aren't going to buy an edited copy of an LP. pH Level - 4/pHine ***N*** Flash ----- JAZ B. LAT'N, "Street Gamins" (Mercury) "I'm stunning when I'm shittin on MC's" No, you're not. Introducing the crew Jaz B. Lat'n, signed to Mercury. This six song EP comes across to me like a demo. Considering the talent measured herein, one wonders how ANYBODY could get signed to Mercury with a demo like this. The first song is entitled "Set It Off". It is the only track on the album which could justifiably be called phat, but the lyrics 'offset' any benefit to be gained by the dope piano loop and bassline. The similies and metaphors of the lead MC are incredibly pathetic: "I shove MC's on blunts and light em once I smoke em, I smoke em, I smoke em till they done" "Bust ya head like John Travolta" "Abstract as a Sycamore tree" I really gotta take beef with that last one. When you hear a dope MC like Q-Tip, Posdunos, or A-Plus get abstract, there is always a hidden meaning. If you evaluate the lyrics, it's like digging up treasure chests from the depths. But if you were to dig up the lyrics of this crew, you'd find sand and mud. Come on, abstract as a Sycamore tree? That's some meaningless bullshit. If these guys think they are mental and 'abstract' they are sadly mistaken. The next song, "Check Your System", is pathetic. Without a semi-decent track, these guys are worthless. The lead MC's squeaky nasal voice is not dope like Be Real or cool like Common Sense -- it's just plain annoying. "You don't know, so I'ma act like Bo." That is the CLOSEST he gets to having a dope lyric on this EP. The only good thing about this song is the FunkDoobiest sample. Let's just sum up the rest of this album in a Mr. Subliminal fashion. The next cut it called "The Spliff" (bandwagon ride to weedrapsville). On the B-side we have "Boombatta" (genetic splice KRS and Afrika for meaningless song title). After that is "Dirt and Grime" (cause they're hard) and the "Demo Mix" of "Set It Off" (makes the remix sound MILLIONS better in comparison). The only reason I can't give these guys a pH of 1 is that no matter how wack this shit is, it's still better than Gerardo and Hammer in comparison. Mercury, I have to ask, WHY?! Why did you sign this no-talent crew and waste the time and money to have them do a demo? Who the hell is your A&R? There are plenty of groups who shoulda gotten the call WAY AHEAD of them. That's all I got to say on the Jaz B. Lat'ns. pH Level - 2/pHlat ***O*** Flash ----- THE LEGION, "The Legion" (One Love/Mercury) Jingle Jangle, weak rappers really shouldn't tangle, with this funky trio. Coming out of the heart of New York is the crew who first made noise via shoutouts from Dres and cameos on ShowBiz and A.G. (which as you'll see later produced amazing results). Dres then made a guest appearance on their debut single "Jingle Jangle", which made noise on the East but never really rocked the nation. Now the crew has stepped back up to bat with an impressive full-length album, and unlike so many of their East coast counterparts of late, full-length MEANS full-length, not 8 songs and 2 skits. The promo tape I have received is 20 tracks deep -- 14 songs, 6 skits -- with the majority of songs clocking in at over 4 minutes. For that ALONE they get some props. Besides that, these heads display some impressive mic control. The crew is Molecules AKA Cule, Celo AKA The Dice Man (also 4-5-6), and Chuckie Smash AKA Chuck Luck. Each can rip it credibly when the mic is passed -- no member stands out either in dopeness or wackness. They work together nicely, complementing each other and swingin an edge finely honed by years of underground dues-paying. None are gifted on the level of Organized Konfusion, but they aren't soft like Warren G either (no offense to his fans, but I really think that his rhymes are garbage even if the music IS slamming). I mentioned earlier that they caught a lil fame on Showbiz and A.G.'s full length album "Runaway Slave" -- in fact, their skit appears before the song of the same name. Showbiz, already an East coast legend for his finely honed tracks and respectable mic control, has crafted a hip-hop gem on the par of DJ Premier's transformation of "93 Interlude" into Heavy D's "Yes Y'all". The skit is stretched into the outstanding "Who's It On (part 1)", featuring guest appearances from (who else?) Showbiz and A.G. As if that wasn't enough, "Who's It On (part 2)" comes back with the same chorus, new piano licks, and rhymes from Black Sheep and Chi-Ali ("Admit it, you slept on this lil' nigga"). If these were the only two dope songs on the album, I'd have STILL paid money for this debut. But as I said, The Legion represents credibly throughout the majority of this nugget. "Jingle Jangle" still rocks hard, as do the cuts "It's Thorough", "New Niggas", "Legion Groove", "Step to the Stage", and more. Most of the album is hardcore East coast rhyme flipping ala Black Moon and M.O.P., but they display their political edge on "New Niggas." With the accompanying skits, it becomes perhaps the deepest science on the word nigga ever put on wax. So would I recommend this album? Absolutely, especially if you like hardcore East coast beats and rhymes. I think even G-Funk hardrocks could get down with the impressive skills they display. If their next album were to come back even tighter, they'd have the whole nation on lockdown. No contest. pH Level - 4/pHine ***P*** David J. -------- LYRICAL PROPHETS, "Dig This" (Unsigned Artist Review) This is the fifth demo from the Jersey-based crew of two, Lazy B. and Quik-Cut, and the third demo I've heard from them to date. Their previous demo, "I.D.G.A.F. (I Don't Give A F...)", was reviewed back in December of '93 in hc202, and for those who don't feel like diggin' through the FTP site to find it, it received a 4. At the time, the Prophets still had a little way to go, but they improved a great deal from their previous effort, "Armed And Dangerous", and looked like they could be up-and-comers at any time. I really wish I could say the same about "Dig This", their latest and seemingly longest effort to date, but there's something missing from this full-length demo. It's not that the Prophets are cutting back on their expenses ("I.D.G.A.F" looked a little more professional with its cassette insert and imprinting, though the labels on the tape don't make much difference at all), but rather that they put more tracks on this tape and, as a result, sacrificed the quality of the tracks for the numbers. The last demo had 7 cuts and 2 skits, which is fine for a demo, while this one has 14 tracks (!!!) and 5 skits, which quite frankly is overkill for an unsigned artist. In addition, some of these tracks feel a little rushed. Laze still packs some microphone skills, as is evident on "Styles Upon Styles" and "Num Bawon" (which uses a nice sample of Saafir's cameo on Casual's "Fear Itself"), and his freestyling ability continues to improve ("Laze, Live At The Prom" is the best example of this, even if you can barely hear him"), but when he experiments with some different styles, like on the title cut and "Get A Groove On" (our introduction to "Lazy Ranks," a parody of scratchy-voiced dancehall DJ's), he doesn't quite come off like he should, and that leaves the listener scratching his head instead of bobbing it. It's the production, however, that keeps this tape from being as good as it could be. While Quik-Cut has improved on the wheels of steel, he and Laze have several problems synchronizing the beats with the samples. Too often you hear samples that don't come in when they should and end up off-beat, sometimes distinctively so. The live instruments used on some tracks don't prevent this, either, which is a shame, since they could have been used more effectively. The "garage jam session remix" of "Styles Upon Styles" sounds like just that, which may work for some, but ultimately, it's fast-forward material here. There are plenty of bright spots here. The guest appearance by Hawaii's B. Versatile on "So Damn Tough" is smoove, and "Quik's Cut" is above par for a turntable track. In fact, that track is one of the few cuts in which there aren't any production problems. Plus, I can't find fault with the fact that both Flash and I get shouts out on "Everybody Wants To Be A Prophet." But even with that, I'd have to say that I'm a little disappointed here. The experiments that the Prophets try on this tape don't always pan out, and the production is not as good as their previous effort. Obviously, with five tapes in the can, they've proven that they've got a repertoire, but expanding it by this much at the expense of the quality of the tracks isn't worth it. Next time, a few less tracks and more detail to the overall sound of the album may help them in the long run. For now, though, the Lyrical Prophets need to focus more on the musical to improve their efforts in the future. pH Level - 3/pHair (For more information on the Lyrical Prophetsand On The Reel Productions, e-mail Lazy B. at rmacmich@s850.mwc.edu and Quik-Cut at dsvy85a@prodigy.com.) ***Q*** Flash ----- NICE AND SMOOTH, "Jewel of the Nile" (Def Jam/Polygram) It's dissapointing when so many of hip-hop's established "stars" put out such mediocre albums. We all now they are capable of much more than they display, yet for some reason wack shit ensues. Nice and Smooth is our latest victim. If you are expecting to hear another "Funky For You", "Sometimes I Rhyme Slow", or even "DWYCK", you better look elsewhere. Even an excellent song they did for the mediocre Poetic Justice soundtrack ("Cash in my Hands") somehow skipped inclusion on this volume. "I mean they're gonna have to rewrite the mackin book, baby! Cause I'ma be the new king! (I hear ya daddy) I mean they gonna be talkin bout us like they been talkin bout Jesus!" And that is the intro to this album and the first song "Return of the Hip-Hop Freaks". This is one of the better songs on the tape, despite an overused loop which makes up most of the song. Greg Nice freaks it with his "Five plus five/equals ten/jet black hair/butter soft skin" trademark lyrics, and the Smooth one Bee segues into his smooth flow, which is as funky as ever. From there it slides downhill. The next three songs can't touch even the LEAST funky of jams on their last album. "The Sky's the Limit" is symptomatic of this album's problems -- tired samples and lyrics which don't seem to touch on anything new. In fact the lyrics themself lack any focus or direction. "I'm happy to be alive/never took a dive/used to hang out with this king who had fourty- three wives" raps Smooth B. Nothing ever gets deeper than "It seems sometimes like negativity surrounds you -- things could be worse." The stylings of Slick Rick on "Let's All Get Down" are worth the time, but couldn't they have given him something better to work with? It only makes you want to hear a new Slick Rick single or album, and it doesn't really do anything for Nice and Smooth. "Do Whatcha Gotta" is probably my favorite track on this album. Featuring the semi-sensical chorus "Do whatcha gotta do, do whatcha gotta, international, do the lambada", it does indeed have a lambada/latin type flavor which KICKS. As with most of this album's songs the lyrics seem unfocused, but the funky track makes it come together this ONCE. And where did the focus go? Last time out they had songs about the "Paranoia" of a high, and the low of a relationship "Sometimes I Rhyme Slow". Now it's all about smoking "Blunts" to see if you can "Get Fucked Up". Maybe with the invasion of Chronic rhymes and G-Funk beats, they think this is all we want (or that it will appeal to the mainstream, same difference). This album is a waste of $7.99 on cassette and even MORE so for $12.99 on CD. We've all complained about how Jeru and Nas put out albums with only 10 or 12 songs, but at least those 10 or 12 songs were worth hearing. These aren't. Other than the fact that the crew is Nice and Smooth and I've loved their shit for ages, this album would've gotten a lower rating. The beats are average, the rhymes aren't tight, and the album is TOO DAMN SHORT. pH Level - 3/pHair ***R*** Flash ----- ORGANIZED KONFUSION, "Stress (The Extinction Agenda)" (Hollywood Basic) More lyrical than Nas, more scientific than Jeru, funkier than George Clinton, harder than Ice Cube, phatter than Heavy D.... You'll have to forgive me. Whenever I talk about Organized Konfusion, I can't help but rave about their SUPREME dopeness. I quite honestly think (and have often said) that they are perhaps THE most underrated, unrespected, self-produced props-deserving MC's on the planet. Their first time out was hailed as a critical success by music magazines and b-boys alike, but it failed to translate into radio play, video airplay, or sales. Mad kids loved the debut single "Who Stole My Last Piece of Chicken" and it became an underground classic, soon followed by "Fudge Pudge", featuring O.C. (NOT the 3rd member of Organized, though it'd be nice if he was) and "Walk Into the Sun", which had an incredible remix with all new lyrics. Now, after a long delay (due to sample clearance and label bullshit), they return with a heavily-sweated sophomore debut. This time they seem poised to take the nation by storm, and they are taking advantage of the buzz with an incredible debut single and video, "Stress". "Why must you believe that something is phat Just because it's played on the radio, 25 times per day? My perception of poetical injection is ejaculation The immaculate conception." The delivery by Prince Poetry and Pharoahe Monch is simply incredible. They string together mad amounts of words in a rhyme and a breath, coming so complex that you can't help but ride on their nuts. In the cut "Bring It On", Prince Po executes a rapid-fire series of lyrical styles in less than one verse and 30 seconds, going from himself, to Trendz of Culture, to Freestyle Fellowship, to a stuttering Spice 1, and never losing coherence. Fucking incredible! There are plenty of phat jams on this 13 cut chumpie. "Stray Bullet" uses a new version of "Wind Parade" and a metaphsyical transformation into a ghetto nightmare which leaves you on the edge of your seat. "The Extinction Agenda" sounds straight lifted from the self-titled debut, and kicks much ass. "Black Sunday" kicks their struggles with getting signed and getting their due, and how they maintained throughout. Speaking of "Maintain", that's a phat cut too, in the vein of Nas when he "Represent[s]". So you are saying to yourself, "It sounds good but it's probably just an East coast record". Fuck that! If you like dope lyrics and dope beats it doesn't matter where it's from or where you are from. At $7.99 on tape, $9.99 on wax, or $12.99 on CD it's a bargain. It's worth at least twice that. Pick up a copy and boom it in your jeep from the 'hood to the 'burbs. pH Level - 6/pHat ***S*** David J. ------- THE ROOTS, "From The Ground Up" (promo EP) (Geffen) Live bands in hip-hop have been an enigma for the most part. A few of them have come off well (Stetsasonic, Smokin' Suckaz Wit Logic, The Mo'Fessionals), and a few experiments with live music (BNH's "Heavy Rhyme Experience", Guru's "Jazzmatazz", Greg Osby's "3-D Lifestyles", Beastie Boys' last 2 LPs) have been met with mixed reviews. The main problem with most live acts on record traditionally has been that they've been unable to duplicate the feel of hip-hop -- the sound of the phat loops and drums that make for exciting hip-hop cuts. That is about to change with the introduction of the London- based band The Roots. I got a chance to preview some tracks from their upcoming album "Do You Want More?", which will be out in September, on a promotional EP entitled "The Roots From The Ground Up." This may be, quite possibly, the best merging of hip-hop and live music I've ever heard. The musical backdrop is fairly simple -- crisp drums, deep bassline, keyboards, occasional horns -- but the end result in pure unadulterated funk worthy of any breakbeat album. Hell, these guys did the impossible and made BAGPIPES sound funky. In addition, The Roots add some static to a few background tracks, most notably "Distortion To Static" to give their music the feel of an old break loop rotating in an SP1200. Unlike SSL, nobody's on a turntable in the roots, but with music as phat as this, you hardly notice. What about the lyrics, you say? Say no more. Philadelphia's Black Thought and Malik B. carry the microphone with loads of skills, especially on the freestyle tip. They pass the mic back an forth effortlessly on "Mellow My Man" and show off a little singing in their lyrical style with "Dat Scat." They bring a couple of guest MC's into the fold on "Worldwide (London Groove)", which combines a head-nodding drumbeat reminiscient of Quest's "Award Tour" with absolutely wicked Hammond Organ music in the background. B.R.O.THER.? and Melissa both hold their own and then some, but Black Thought steps up to the mic and won't let go of it, freestyling for at least two minutes straight with finesse that most MC's could only DREAM of matching. "Worldwide" is definitely my favorite cut from this preview EP, as I've been chatting the chorus all day. "The Roots are now here, so now the group is worldwide..." If this promo EP is any indication, they'll be getting props worldwide in no time. Any band that can pump smooth, jazzed-up funk like this deserves props throughout the solar system. As soon as the band started shouting "Do You Want More?" on the last track, I just stood up and said, "Hell, yeah!" So be on the lookout for The Roots to wreck shop in your local rec shop. It doesn't get much phatter than this. pH Level - 6/pHat ***T*** Rawlson King ------------ SCHOOLY D, "Welcome To America" (Ruffhouse/Columbia) Are all ya searching for a dangerous album? If you are, I suggest that you pick up "Welcome To America." This album, another bomb dropped by Schooly D is one of the hardest albums I have ever heard from the east coast in recent years. According to The New Republic, by 1988, the conscious manipulation of racial stereotypes had become rap's leading edge, a trend best exemplified by the rise to stardom of Schooly D, a Philadelphia rapper, formerly on the Jive label who sold more than 500,000 records with little mainstream notice. It was not that the media had never heard of Schooly D: white critics and fans, for the first time, were simply at a loss for words. His voice, fierce and deeply textured, could alone frighten listeners. He used it as rhythmic device that made no concessions to pop-song form, talking even about smoking crack and using women for sex, proclaiming his blackness, accusing other rappers of not being black enough. What Schooly D meant by blackness was abundantly clear: Schooly D was a misogynist and a thug. If listening to Public Enemy was like eavesdropping on a conversation, Schooly D was like getting mugged. This, aficionados agreed, was what they had been waiting for: a rapper from whom you would flee in abject terror if you saw him walking toward you late at night. Even though Schooly's now on Ruff House, it doesn't mean his style has changed. The intro is a fierce declaration of his dedication to hardcore old school styles with its backbeats and scratches. "I Wanna Get Dusted," is Schooly's second track, in which he drops a nasty little sing-song about ghetto life: "Jump out the ride and proceed the kickin' First thing I kick is my motherfuckin' name Schooly D, bitch, you know what? I'm a winner I'll get ya hi, take yo ass out to dinner Talk about the g rim Talk about the black It's '93 and the bitch smokes crack Took her to the crib, first thing that I did Kick dat ass, and I fucked her on the bed I pulled the gat Popped two in her dome Yo my nigga cause its on.... Same old blood in the nightmare thriller Schooly D... I'm a crack bitch killer" Followed by the chorus, dropped by D, probably when he was hitting the blunts? I don't know. The album consists of rough socio-economic commentary about inner city Afro-American life backed by rugged rock-inspired beats with hard bass and guitar wrecked by the infamous DJ Code Money. Another track to watch is "Niggas Like Me," displaying Schooly's respect for women. This is an insightful peak into the harder side of east coast, without evoking post-Ice Cube N.W.A. sell- out styles. A slab of vinyl worth rackin'. pH Level - 5/pHunky ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Whew! That one took a little while. We were hoping to get this one out a lot sooner, but we had to wait for PE, since PE's people didn't feel like helping us. Then I had to pack up and move all my stuff to North Carolina and re-establish myself on the net from here, and a number of other little things... We won't dwell on the past, though. We're looking forward to the future. Be on the lookout for HardC.O.R.E. on the World Wide Web soon, courtesy of our homies at Vibe magazine. They're setting up their WWW site and putting us on as we speak, so stay tuned for more details. In the meantime, Flash will be resuming duties as Chief Editor of this zine starting next issue, and I'll be taking care of just the mailing list and a few articles from here on out. We all hope you'll continue to check out HardC.O.R.E. and keep in touch with us and what we got to say. Until then, we out.... PEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank