Friday, May 4, 2007
Style Master Generals AKA The Originators (The Emcee Edition) Part 2 Of 4
This cat here was off the damn wall. He was introduced into the game as one of the members of Ice T’s Rhyme Syndicate and first appeared on the scene in 1988 with his “Ain’t Sayin’ Nothin’” EP. This was followed the heavily slept on LP “Word Power” in 1989. Divine Styler sounded like a new breed of rapper. He was part battle emcee with just the right hint of consciousness and some humor thrown in for good measure. He also had a unique style of flowing and placing his bars and syllables in a verse that was considered abstract and groundbreaking at the time. He was gaining a reputation as an innovator and a dedicated fanbase (especially overseas) but feeling unfufilled, he left the game to go find himself. Divine Styler disappeared from the scene for almost 3 years before he returned with a new album called “Spiral Walls Containing Autumns Of Light”...the album was universally panned and regarded as unlistenable by the average rap fan. Others said that the abum wasn’t even Hip Hop and they wrote Divine Styler off as some weirdo that tried to make some odd hybrid type of music (if you listen to that album nowadays, you couldn’t fathom what it would be like to have it playing after Redman, EPMD, DJ Quik, Das Efx, Ice Cube or A Tribe Called Quest circa 1992’s material). Divine Styler reappeared on the West Coast in 1998 and got up with his old homie Everlast (think he’s on the list?) from the Rhyme Syndicate days and ex co producer Bilal Bashir and got back into the booth. He was back to rhyming sort of like he did in 1988 but with an updated flow and diverse subject matter dealing with everything from nature, energy and religion. He made some guest appearances on tracks that induced some rubbernecking from his old school fans and made several new ones with his “Wordpower 2: Directrix” LP during the indie hip hop boom...it turned out that he was so ahead of his time he just had to wait 6 or 7 years for the rest of the world to catch up to him.
They call Brooklyn “The Planet”...Chubb Rock is from Brooklyn. Do you know how many great emcees came from/come from Brooklyn? Chubb Rock is also Jamaican. Do you know how many Jamaicans there are in Hip Hop already? Chubb Rock is a large man (some might go as far as to say fat). Do you know how many other fat dudes there have been in Hip Hop? So what the hell did Chubb Rock do that other cats didn’t? For one, he didn’t use his size as a gimmick, he wanted to be judged by his skill and creativity on the mic instead of relying on a hook. Chubb Rock was also backed by the legendary Hitman Howie Tee. He rhymed with intelligence, addressing social issues without being preachy. He used humor and kicked the occasional story rhyme. He could also flow nonstop to a fast beat and get the party live. He’d sing parts of verses if he felt it. He had lyrics, delivery, an ill flow and plus when he rhymed he sounded like an old gumshoe from a 1940’s detective movie. Hewas talking about the Grammy’s slighting Hip Hop artists on his “And The Winner Is...” LP. On his first ever 12” he recorded a song called “Rock N’ Roll Dude” and part of it became Terminator X’s signature scratch on the classic song “Terminator X To The Edge Of Panic”. His first taste of stardom came from the hit “Ya Bad, Chubbs” in 1989 but he became a star the next year with the release of his “Treat ‘Em Right EP”. The joint “Treat ‘Em Right” set up Chubb’s breakout LP “The One” and helped put the Trackmasters on the map as hip hop producers. The versatile emcee named Chubb Rock was on record extolling the virtues of going to college, getting a degree and staying drug free in the underground/hardcore “40 And A Blunt” Era as well (much to the dismay of Cypress Hill). Chubb Rock always had to address some issues on his albums, the single “Lost In The Storm” addressed the LA Riots and he made his “I Gotta Get Mine, Yo!” album in two weeks because he didn’t want to have to have the exorbitant studio recording costs to count against him recouping on the project and he had his first child on the way. In 1995, he returned to the game to spit on “Crooklyn Dodgers 2” and in 1997 he addressed the East/West Coast feud with his comeback album “The Miind”. The last time Chubb Rock spit on a joint was Prince Paul’s “Prince Amongst Thieves” (with Biz Markie on the beatbox) when he claimed his website URL was “www.I’m the shit.com"...It’s the Chubbster. Word Up.
Grand Puba AKA Grand Puba Maxwell (Brand Nubian/Masters Of Ceremony):
The emcee/producer Maxwell Dixon’s first foray into the rap world were the 12”s “Crime” and “Sexy” with his crew Masters Of Ceremony. It wasn’t until they recorded the classic joint “Cracked Out” that Masters Of Ceremony began making real noise. The LP “Dynamite” was well received but the crew didn’t blow (pun) due to issues within the group and problems with the label. They disbanded and Grand Puba went off producing for various acts (Positive K, MC Lyte, etc.) while trying to get back on the mic and show his considerable skills. He hooked up with some Gods from Now Rule (New Rochelle, NY) and formed Brand Nubian. In 1989, they dropped the 12” “Brand Nubian/Feels So Good” with Stimulated Dummies Dante Ross behind the boards on the masses. Grand Puba ripped through his verses on the mind blowing “One For All” LP. He seamlessly rhymed about being righteous, fly and baggin’ skinz all on the same album and didn’t sound contrived at all. Grand Puba’s perfect combination of consciousness, skill, humor and intricate wordplay made him the shining star of the LP. Unfortunately, he had a falling out with his Brand Nubian brothers and he left the group. He just got a solo deal and made the classic solo album “Reel To Reel”. With this album, he managed to make Tommy Hilfiger gear, backpacks and Mary J. Blige hot in the hood all at the same time. The album is a production and rhyming masterpiece from beginning to end. He was sought out for guest spots on several projects as his name became hot from constantly tearing it down due to his easy, laid back conversational style. He sounded almost like he was freestyling because his flow was nonstop but the punchlines and references he dropped let you know that he did in fact write his verse. He later contributed verses for Pete Rock to spit on the “Mecca & The Soul Brother” LP. He recorded several more solo projects and even got back up with his Brand Nubian brothers for a couple more go rounds. As far as biters go, some tried to copy but they just couldn’t sketch it. Some tried to follow but they just couldn’t catch it. Puba still spits that heat and he has an album due to drop this summer.
Sadat X (Don’t ever call him Derrick cuz that’s not his righteous name) & Lord Jamar (Brand Nubian):
Brand Nubian is dope, period. Sadat X’s style is unfuckwittable, he can rhyme for 24 bars and start and stop at odd intervals during the verse then go the next 8 bars without rhyming and finish the last 8 bars rhyming with the line he ended on with the first 24 bars and it would be the dopest verse on the track (Listen to “Nubian Jam” off of the “Everything Is Everything” LP..he doesn’t even rhyme!). Lord Jamar would rhyme slow and make sure you retain his knowledge and wisdom. In his mind what good is it for me to kick this knowledge to heads if they can’t understand it or lose the jewels contained within the song? What other rap group can you name that’s this dope who regularly used phrases like “Emphatically, no” and said shit like “perhaps” in their lines? After Grand Puba went solo, they recorded the classic offerings “In God We Trust” and “Everything Is Everything”. Shortly afterwards, Sadat X went on to cement his legacy as one of the most original emcees in the game by recording the albums “Wild Cowboys”, “The State Of New York Vs. Derrick Murphy”, “Experience & Education” and “Black October”. Lord Jamar recently recorded “The 5% Album”...don’t sleep on the Gods.
Prime Minister Pete Nice (3rd Bass):
Some of you may be asking why this dude is on this list. To those of you that ask that question all I have to do is tell you to go and listen to 3rd Bass’ “The Cactus Album” and “Derelicts Of Dialect” and then listen to Prime Minister Pete Nice & Daddy Rich’s “Dust To Dust” LP. What the hell is Pete Nice even talkin’ about half of the time? He makes references to odd shit at strange intervals throughout the verse, calls white folks “caucasoids” and walked around with a cane as if he were 30 years older than he really was. Pete Nice was an English major in college and a big fan of the beat poets and other writers of that mold. He completely created another persona and style that fell largely on deaf (or def?) ears after 3rd Bass broke up and the divorce split up the crew and led to the realignment of the original Constipated Monkey crew (CM Fam). Just go back and listen to those three LP’s and tell me Pete Nice wasn’t on some completely OTHER shit from everyone else. They called him nice for a reason...don’t forget that.
Ski AKA Will Ski (Original Flavor):
Here’s another name that’ll have some folks asking questions...The former Bizzie Boy first jumped on the scene back in 1988 with the “Dope/Hype Time” 12” but he didn’t make noise until the next year and the classic jam “Droppin’ It” that was well received on rap radio nationwide. The Bizzie Boyz recorded an LP in 1990 on Dallas’ Yo! Records but few folks heard it. Ski bounced from the crew and went to New York to find his fortune as an emcee and a producer. He hooked up with Clark Kent, a dude named Suave and DJ Chubby Chubb to form Original Flavor. Ski came up with a style that defined the early 90’s Hip Hop scene...he would imitate the sound a DJ makes by scratching in his verses. He would shout out quotes from TV shows and movies during his lines. He’d use random interjections and onomatopoeia while rhyming at a breakneck pace in a high pitched voice. If you’ve never heard Original Flavor’s “This Is How It Is” or their “Beyond Flavor” LP then find them and do so. Another memorable appearance of his that I can never erase from my mind is his guest spot on a joint he produced for Kap Kirk called “Uptown Style”...If I could find it I’d provide a link to it here and this case would be closed. Of course, around 1994, cats weren’t rhyming all crazy anymore and Ski relaxed his technique up.
Lord Finesse AKA The Funky Man (D.I.T.C.):
The first time we ever heard Lord Finesse spit was over a crazy ass DJ Premier track called “Baby, You Nasty”. It was 1989 and the first Golden Era of Hip Hop was coming to an end. Lord Finesse was known as a nice ass DJ and an ill lyricists with metaphors, punchlines, similies and slick disses for days. How do you fuck with a dude who can clown you on the mic, tear your ass out the frame on the decks, produce a classic beat from scratch AND then steal your girl? Lord Finesse had skill, style, flow, confidence, a sense of humor and a laid back smoothness to his delivery that was hard to deal with. He was versatile as well. He could make a hard track, a track for the ladies and a straight up conscious joint all back to back without missing a beat or experiencing any drop off in his songwriting (His style’s tricky...like spelling Mississippi). Lord Finesse was ahead of his time in every aspect of the game and someone you weren’t trying to see. He helped to influence several great emcees over the years including his own D.I.T.C. brethren.
Tragedy AKA Tragedy Khadafi:
Tragedy was a lyrical mastermind at the age of 13. He was the future of Queensbridge...Shit, he was the future of Hip Hop! At age 13, he made the masterpiece called “The Tragedy” and spit rhymes that emcees 5 years his senior had problems composing over an early Marley Marl beat. He ended up getting incarcerated for a while but resurfaced on Marley Marl’s 1988 “In Control Vol. 1” LP to shine on “The Rebel” and “Live Motivator”. He was only 16 years old and his rhymes were being recited all over the world by Hip Hop fans. He reemerged as the Intelligent Hoodlum in 1990 and crafted a solo masterpiece that still stands the test of time today. He had just turned 18 years old yet he rhymed with more introspection and understanding of how the world worked then most other emcees in the game. He coined the phrase “Illmatical” and helped Queensbridge retain the title as the official housing development of Hip Hop. Unfortunately, Tragedy could never keep the momentum from his releases and propel himself into solo superstardom due to shady business deals and problems with the law. Eventually, another lyrical wunderkind from Queensbridge would be crowned as the Second Coming...his name was Nasir Jones. Don’t forget that there once was a kid named Percy Chapman from Queensbridge that was bestowed with that same moniker back in 1985 when Nia Records recorded that first Superkids record.
Treach (Naughty By Nature):
Anyone that heard The New Style’s “Independent Leaders” LP in 1989 wouldn’t believe that they’d come back again in 1991 and the dude known as Treach would transform into the lyrical beast that he’s regarded as today. The lead single “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright (Ghetto Bastard)/O.P.P.” failed to properly warn the listener what they were in for when they heard the LP. The haunting opening notes of “Yoke The Joker” served as an ominous foreshadow of the lyrical storm that would soon come. I remember rewinding the hell out of that album. “Yoke The Joker”, “Let The Ho’s Go”, “Everyday All Day”, “Pin The Tail On The Donkey”, “1, 2, 3”, “Wickedest Man Alive”, “Rhyme’ll Shine On”, “Guard Your Grill” and “Thanx For Sleepwalking” all had cats making the stinkface and had their heads bobbin’ cuz their necks knew. All of a sudden cats started poppin’ up sounding like him all over the place. After the 2nd Naughty By Nature LP “19 Naughty III” it was clear that Treach’s style was one of the illest in recent Hip Hop history. His versatility was even scarier, he could write hits for other emcees and groups (Queen Latifah, Da Youngstas, Run DMC), make a crossover hit single with Naughty By Nature or make a gutter, street or battle joint with ease. His lines were relentless and layered, his flow patterns and sense of timing went perfectly with Kay Gee’s production. Treach was without a doubt one of the illest and most original emcees of the last 15+ years.
Big L (D.I.T.C./Children Of The Corn):
Lamont Coleman was taken from us way too soon. By age 24, he was already one of the most original, dynamic and creative emcees in the game and he was on the verge of superstardom. He took inspiration from Big Daddy Kane, Lord Finesse, and Rakim then combined them with his experiences living in Harlem. He worked tirelessly on his craft, every line had to make you go “Ooooh!”. He assembled punchlines, metaphors and similes and strung them together with the world of the streets to create the persona of the lyrical street cat. He was head and shoulders above most of his peers on the mic and he worked to leave them there but simultaneously make music that would appeal to the masses. His “Lifestylez Ov Da Poor & Dangerous” album didn’t do the numbers he expected and he was focused on making the world recognize his talent. He started Flamboyant Entertainment and released the 12”s “Ebonics (Criminal Slang) /Size 'Em Up” and “We Got This/The Heist/Day One ‘99 (Live)”. Record labels were rushing to sign him and his name was as hot as it’s ever been in the streets at the time he returned to the Essence. All we have to remember him by are his classic recordings and his legacy lives on in current lyrical street cats like Saigon and Papoose. Rest In Eternal Peace, Big L.
MF Doom AKA Zev Love X (K.M.D./Monster Island Czars):
What can I write about this dude that hasn’t already been written? What can I say about his unorthodox style that hasn’t already been said? How could I make a list like this and NOT include him? The answer is I couldn’t. When he first guest appeared on 3rd Bass’ “Gas Face” single there was no way to know that nearly 20 years later he’d not only be the best known cat on that track, but the lone one to remain relevant and have a rabid fanbase worldwide. The story goes that K.M.D. was given a then record $100,000 advance by Elektra when they signed their deal...The “Mr. Hood” album sold approximately 100,000 units on the strength of the “Gas Face Refill”, “Peachfuzz” and “Who Me” singles. He persevered through depression following the death of his brother, Subroc. He bounced back from being dropped from Elektra before his 2nd LP “Black Bastards” could be released by dropping a string of great 12”s through Bobbito Garcia’s Fondle ‘Em label before dropping the opus “Operation: Doomsday”. Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last 10 years, you know the rest of story (he started wearing a mask, drinking a lot and recording and producing mad albums under different names until he eventually became rich).
Mellow Man Ace:
Who? Why is he on the list? This cat is known as the Godfather of Latin Hip Hop and his career goes back 20 years to 1987 when he recorded the single “”Do This” in English and Spanish. He continued to work on his craft until he got signed by Capitol Records and recorded the often overlooked classic “Escape From Havana” LP. The album featured production by the legendary Tony G, The Dust Brothers, DJ Muggs and Def Jef. He dissed Eazy E on “Rhyme Fighter”, spit some of the best Spanish rhymes on “Rap Guanco”, “En La Casa”, “Encuentren Amor” and the bomb “Mas Pingon”. He spit heat in English on “River Cubano”, “Hip Hop Creature” and “Gettin’ Stupid”. His breakout Spanglish hit was “Mentirosa” which got him on the Arsenio Hall Show and earned him a Gold plaque from the RIAA. His younger brother Senen and his friend Louis formed a group with DJ Muggs and called themselves Cypress Hill. His follow up LP “The Brother With Two Tounges” was also slept on heavily. Most other Latin emcees at the time were either okay in English and nice in Spanish or nice in English and okay in Spanish. Mellow Man Ace was the first to be nice both ways...ever heard “Me La Pelas” or "Hypest From Cypress" before? He laid the groundwork for groups like Messanjarz Of Funk, Jazz B. Latin, and Powerule.
Craig Mack AKA MC EZ:
They didn’t understand him on that Mary joint...They didn’t know that was him on “Get Retarded” back in the days. They didn’t know that he used to chill with EPMD back in the days. They didn’t know that he could produce his own tracks. All they knew was when they heard “Flava In Ya Ear” it was some dope shit they couldn’t front on. The album “Project: Funk Da World” became a hit and Craig Mack was popping up all over the place doing guest appearances as he was heavily in demand. He was the most off the wall emcee since Busta Rhymes first hit the feature circuit. He left Bad Boy Entertainment over monetary issues to sign with Scotti Bros./Street Life Records and fade into relative obscurity in 1997...Too bad because tracks like “What I Need” and “Jockin’ My Style” could’ve made noise if they were promoted properly. Craig Mack would spring back up on the scene from time to time over the years to remind fools that he had a wild style, he even signed back with Bad Boy in 2003 after some successful indie singles. Anyone heard a release date on that new Craig Mack yet?
Chip Fu (Fu-Schnickens):
He rhymed so fast that it was hard to understand what the fuck he was saying. It was a mix between speed rap, reggae chatting and toasting that made him sound like he was a Jamaican auctioneer. When you could make out what he was saying you realized that he was actually merkin’ shit lyrically. He was so crazy on the mic that his fellow Fu-Schnickens were pretty much written off as sidekicks due to his constant overshining. Every Chip Fu verse on the LP’s “F.U. Don’t Take It Personal’ and “Nervous Breakdown” had the potential make you rewind until you killed your Walkman motor. His guest appearances on “Roll With The Flavor” and Whitey Don’s “Article” were legendary. Chip’s still nice with it and he has an album coming out soon.
Pharoahe Monch & Prince Poetry (Organized Konfusion):
Organized Konfusion were so ahead of their times and advanced lyrically that they became victims of their own dopeness. Ever heard “Releasing Hypnotical Gases”? “Prisoners Of War”? “Fudge Pudge” (featuring a young Omar Credle)? “Audience Pleasers?” How in the hell were they supposed to blow when they were so far above everyones heads? I remember listening to these dudes black out on tracks and feeling as if I were under audio attack..like I was being bombarded with words, rhyme patterns and flows relentlessly and the only way for it to stop was for the beat to fade out. Just to have the next beat come on and Monch and Po once again continue their game of lyrical one upmanship. Then these motherfuckers come back with their second album “ Stress: The Extinction Agenda” only now, they mastered the art of the concept song and the concept album and made it into one cohesive work as opposed to just individual rhyme bombs. For their final album they made the underappreciated concept LP “The Equinox”. There was nothing else they could do as a unit. They had to go their separate ways. The world was really never ready for what they brought to the table as a group. I just listen to their old albums and shake my head in awe at what I’m hearing.
Redman (Hit Squad/Def Squad):
The first time we heard him spit was on EPMD’s “Business As Usual” LP on the tracks “Hardcore” and “Brothers On My Jock”. When his first single “Blow Your Mind” came out we didn’t know HOW dope “Whut? Thee Album” was gonna be. We didn’t realize this would be the debut album of a dude that would one day go down as one of the greats of the rap game. Redman has somehow managed to be a great emcee that is respected by people in the mainstream and underground simultaneously. This Brick City veteran has a catalogue, style and flow that refused to fade or rust as the years go on. It’s been 16 years now and he’s still killin’ shit...he might even freak it in Korean!
Skoob & Krayz Drayz (Das EFX):
And you thought people bit Treach hard? These dudes got bit so hard that they STOPPED rapping in their own style, preferring to wait for people to stop imitating them or for it to die out naturally. Their first three LP’s “Dead Serious”, “Straight Up Sewaside” and “Hold It Down” are easily among the greatest first three Hip Hop group albums of the last 20 years. Every facet of their styles got bit..Their flows, slang, gear, videos, everything. They also were one of the most successful Rap groups of the 2nd Golden Era of Hip Hop (1992-1996), check the RIAA/Billboard site for proof. Who thought some diggedy dudes with dreads who riggedy rocked Army fatigues and Timbos year ‘round would ever become crossover superstars?
This is FAR from over...I may even go to 4 parts because it’s getting that serious. One.