Tuesday, May 8, 2007
Style Master Generals AKA The Originators (The Emcee Edition) Part 4 Of 4
Black Thought (The Roots):
Black Thought is one of the greatest emcees of our era, not only does he have the voice, charisma, and every possible skill and trait necessary to be a great emcee (including ridiculous breath control which allows him to rhyme non stop on record and live where the Roots really earned their reputation and fanbase), but he’s has so many classic verses and songs over the span of 15 years that we as Hip Hop listeners and Rap fan have pretty much taken BT for granted. After Malik B. bounced, it was all about Black Thought (actually, it always was...Malik B. didn’t tour so guess who had to do Malik’s verses on top of his own?) and BT delivered time and time again, album after album. He wasn’t solid every album, he was GREAT every album. If MCA hadn’t droped the ball on his “Masterpiece Theatre” solo album back in the days, maybe more people would recognize exactly how great of an emcee, lyricist andperformer he is...I guess all we have to go on are those 8 albums he recorded as the frontman of the greatest Hip Hop band evar (sorry, Stetsasonic).
Young Zee (Outsidaz):
“I battle rappers and when I get bored/I start ta whoop a nigga’s ass with extension cords”, these were the first lyrics I ever heard from an old Young Zee solo recording (I’d heard him previously on the song “Cowboys” from The Fugees “The Score” LP). I was in college at Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD and one of my boys had a friend that worked at Perspective/A & M Records. He had two tapes, one white label promo (“Everybody Get”/”Milk (People Call Me)”/”Juice”) with 3 songs on it and another one of demos and freestyles all from this dude from Newark, NJ that was on Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis’ label. On the “demo” tape was a song called “Problems” that ended up getting a video and a strange song by Solo, the “Heaven (Hip Hop Remix)” that featured Pudgee The Phat Bastard, Rufus Blaq and Young Zee...after hearing that song I knew the label had no idea what the hell they were doing and it might be in trouble. I was feeling the Young Zee joints, especially the way he could take a simple line, stretch it out and accentuate the punchlines and similes so you catch that what he said. Plus, he used this cartoonish voice so he could say some of the foulest shit possible but due to the style he used to delivery it, it sounded funny as opposed to threatening...but it was still an ill insult or punchline. I thought that was genius, but I was sure his label was gonna fuck up promoting his album. I saw a video for “Problems” come on around 6 times and the album ended up being shelved. Supposedly, the label execs heard the finished product and hated it so much that they decided to never release it. Fast forward to 1998, Young Zee, Pace Won, Slang Ton and the rest of the Outsidaz are tearing the industry apart. They’re doing guest appearances on independent 12”s, popping up on major label albums, winning freestyle battles both sponsored and unsponsored left and right, and Rah Digga and Pace Won both got deals with majors. Even then, Young Zee was still the head when they formed Voltron as evidenced by the “Night Life” EP and “The Bricks” LP. Eventually, the deals fell through and Slang Ton passed away (Rest In Eternal Peace, Slang) in a tragic occurence right when the Outsidaz name was the hottest. When heads look back at the indie boom/freestyle battle rap era, Young Zee and the Outsidaz dominated it.
El-P AKA El Producto (Company Flow/The Weathermen/Def Jux):
Company Flow’s music was completely unlistenable to the vast majority of music fans. The beats sounded weird, the rappers rapped too fast and they had these fucked up patterns and rhyme schemes...it sounded like they were just making up words as they went along, none of their songs made sense (not even the titles)..What the fuck is a LUNE TNS? He’s just saying random words, names and numbers for like 3 straight minutes on that song! This album sucks and it’s going in the garbage! *Thunk!* I, however, LOVED it. I played the shit out of “Funcrusher Plus”, I had all of the singles on vinyl, I had the Rawkus T shirt (I didn’t buy the Rawkus record bag because I thought that was taking shit a bit far, though...Dickrider/Stan< >Fan. I was gonna keep right of this equation. After the overwhelming success of Company Flow’s CD and their vinyl sales, they ended up becoming the poster boys of underground Hip Hop. I was half surprised that “Independent As Fuck” didn’t become a T shirt slogan due to how it was being tossed around like Karrine Steffans at a video shoot circa 1999 (ouch!). Ultimately, Bigg Jus decided to leave the group, meaning that El-P became the main producer and lone emcee. The first solo EL-P Company Flow song was “Patriotism” from Soundbombing 2...here’s a sample of some of the lyrics from the beginning of the 2nd verse:
I'm America arrogant!! Terminus verbal curfew murders/
You either purchase my products or you're worthless, that's my service!/
Don't look into the oculars of a daylight saver Eraser/
City-headed momument defacer comprising of patriot droids/
Sent into the void with lead linings/
Employed by the bureaucrats of automatic twisted rhyme timing/
You're guaranteed nothing but my fat little finger/
that lingers one inch off of the big button -- Let’s start this!/
I'm Sarin gas, hiding in your apartments/
I'm stealth like a robot hidden in the fat asshole of Cartman/
I’ll give you a crippling fuck like sand sharkskin condom to your apparent vaginal problem/
The hottest shit on Soundbombing!/
Does that^ look anything like lyrics from what you’d typically think is an ill song? If I was to play you the instrumental that El-P produced and ask you to flow to it using these lyrics (and you’ve never heard the finished product before) you’d probably make a hilarious face. El-P did this all throughout his “Fantastic Damage” solo album and most recently with his “I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead” LP. He’s built Def Jux into one of the biggest and most successful indie Hip Hop labels around with a long catalogue of classics...I remember back when I first heard “Last Good Sleep” and I thought to myself “Too bad this dude’s style is so weird that people will never really appreciate it.”. I’m glad I was wrong (Who’d’ve thunk THIS dude would have biters, too?).
Sonny Cheeba & Geechi Suede (Camp Lo):
Once I was in a car with my friend and the Camp Lo song “Krystal Karrington” came on (Yeah, it was a long time ago...and yes, we were listening to a college station) we both started rhymin’ along to the song. We realized after the first verse that we didn’t know all of the words...or what they meant...or what/who they were referring to...or the context (it doesn’t matter, it’s still type ill). Camp Lo’s “Uptown Saturday Night” is one of the dopest debut Hip Hop albums to drop in the last 10 years. Their unique style, flow, rhyme patterns, schemes, concepts and delivery makes them one of the most slept on crews in recent history. I have every joint they ever dropped (including the Short Eyes EP) . Plus they have two new joints coming out this summer for the diehards. Damn, the Dymond Crooks are takin’ over.
T3 (Slum Village):
Slum Village was easily one of the most slept on Hip Hop groups (due to their debut album, Fantastic Vol. 1 being shelved by A & M Records). They had a completely unique style. While most groups were trying to cram the most complex and creative lyrics with next generation flows on record and breaking their neck to compete with the innovative shit that the “backpackers” were putting out, Slum Village just did them. Sometimes, their songs were just 2 minutes of an instrumentals and a chant. Sometimes, they’d do a whole song where they’d all spit a line and leave out the last word so it didn’t rhyme. They’d make a whole song where they’d just sing the whole joint and let the beat rock for a minute at the end without saying anything. T3 had this style where he’d start and stop/it. T3’d make the beat and drop/it. They asked if he’d make a prof/it. I dunno but y’all motherfuckers cannot stop/it. You can’t fuck with the S/V! Can’t fuck with the (uh, uh!) (If you don’t get any of the shit I just wrote than find Slum Village’s “Fantastic Vol. 1”, “Fantastic Vol. 2” and “Trinity” immeadiately...then it will all make (uh!). The Slum Village style was greatly influenced by T3, a producer and emcee who really doesn’t receive anywhere near the credit he deserved for his contributions to Hip Hop. Check out his solo project “Olio: The Mixtape”.
Mystikal AKA Mystikal Mike:
The first time I ever heard Mystikal was on his debut single on Jive Records “Y’all Ain’t Ready Yet” . His flow was ill, his style and delivery were on some next shit, but his voice was what got people. I remember one line that got me:
“Now I’m the number one phe-nom-en-on/I’ve been dope since I was rockin’ Osh-Kosh-B’-Gosh/”
Apparently, people WERE ready. He went Gold and made some guest appearances on a couple of No Limit Records projects before Master P convinced him that he needed to get down with them. He left Jive and immeadiately began making a string of hits on No Limit, helped them to acheive Platinum fame (you don’t really think that Master P, Silkk The Shocker, and C Murder were pulling in new fans by the droves, do you?). His albums “Unpredictable” and “Ghetto Fabulous” won him even more fans and once the No Limit reign ended he became a pop star after dropping the LP’s “Let’s Get Ready” and “Tarantula” which contained his biggest hits, ‘Shake Ya Ass” and “Danger”. He is currently incarcerated (we all know why) and he’s up for parole soon. In the immortal words of Mystikal “We ain’t gonna fall for no banana in the tailpipe!”
Sticky Fingaz (Onyx):
Onyx was a bunch of dudes that originally had a deal with Profile Records back in 1990. They put out a single called “Ah, And We Do It Like This” (Guess what the chorus was...C’mon guess!) that ultimately went nowhere. They fell back to Queens and worked in a barbershop while working on demos in their downtime. They came into contact with Run DMC (who were they’re labelmates) and ultimately Jam Master Jay got them a deal at Def Jam...only now instead of the fades and blond dye jobs they had back when they were on Profile now they were crazy baldheads that screamed on every single track. They called it the “Grimee Style”, when the single “Throw Ya Gunz” hit the mixtapes and radio it exploded. The video got banned on MTV and required a lot of blurring when it was played on BET’s “Rap City” (although it ran for a good 3 weeks before anyone began censoring it so everyone had already taped the original). The star of the group’s name? Stick Fingaz. He claimed he’d rip his heart out of his chest and put it right into a rhyme...we believed him. We did have a few Onyx rip offs (The Hoodratz, Cutthroats, etc.) and mad people began shaving their heads bald, including Run DMC and Da Youngstas. If Sticky Fingaz wasn’t a dope emcee, it would’ve been easy to write his style off as a gimmick...except that he’s still around today. Check the resume: “Bacdafucup”, “All We Got Iz Us”, “Shut ‘Em Down ”, and the unreleased classic “Black Trash, The Autobiography Of Kirk Jones”. Sticky is currently a successful actor and he’s still recording...but wait, it get’s worse!
Aceyalone (Freestyle Fellowship/Project Blowed/Haiku D’ Etat):
I don’t even think I need to write a long treatise on why Aceyalone is on my list. If you haven’t heard Freestyle Fellowship’s “To Whom It May Concern...” or “Innercity Griots” or missed out on Aceyalone’s solo joints “All Balls Don’t Bounce”, “A Book Of Human Language”, “Accepted Eclectic”, “Hip Hop And The World We Live In”, “Love & Hate”, “Grade A”, “Grand Imperial”, “Magnificent City” or ANY of his numerous guest appearances on other projects then I honestly am at a loss for words. No wait, I got some: Aceyalone is one of the best, most profilic, most influencial and creative emcees of the last 15 years. Now do like Clinton Sparks and get familiar (or Google one of the thousands of pieces already floating around the internet that praise Acey’s skills).
Del AKA The Funkee Homosapien (Hieroglyphics):
This dude and Aceyalone are in the same boat as far as I’m concerned. They were always lumped into the category of “West Coast emcees that Hip Hop fans with an East Coast Bias love” which isn’t entirely fair (but not too far from the sad truth). The albums “I Wished My Brother George Was Here” and “No Need For Alarm” led the way for the invasion of one of the greatest teams in Hip Hop history, Hieroglyphics Crew. His albums “Both Sides Of The Brain” and “Future Development” helped to establish Hiero Imperium as a force among indie Hip Hop labels . Del’s appearances on side projects like the Gorillaz, Handsome Boy Modeling School and Deltron 3030 helped to gain him a wide cross section of fans. When I hear a Del track I often find myself whylin’ out worse than the assembled Hiero crew members in the “Catch A Bad One” video. Del, rock, rock on.
Saafir AKA The Saucee Nomad AKA Mr. No No (Hobo Junction/Golden State Warriors):
This dude created a sensation that rippled throughout the Hip Hop world...and he did it in less than a minute. It was a damn guest appearance on Casual’s “Fear Itself” LP and he didn’t even spit that long! Everybody and their mother was talking about the “schizophrenic tenant” dude. I was confused because apparently they didn’t hear Saafir tear shit down all over the Digital Underground “The Body Hat Syndrome” tape (why do people continue to shit on this album?). They were now paying attention, and when the “Light Sleeper/Battle Drill” 12” dropped you couldn’t front, you knew it had you open. The LP “Boxcar Sessions” failed to do well commercially, though (big surprise). Saafir’s unorthodox delivery and rhyme style wasn’t going to take the mainstream by strorm but he was being recognized as one of the nicest in the game. His legend was cemented after his part in the legendary Hobo Junction/Hieroglyphics battle at KMEL, his numerous guest appearances and his solo projects “Boxcar Sessions”, “Trigonometry”, “The Hit List” and “Good Game: The Transition”. The Golden State Warriors project was never released but Saafir is still riding with his Hobo Junction crew ‘til the end...I wouldn’t expect anything less from Cousin Harold.
Chino XL (Art Of Origin):
Chino XL made his reputation on spitting the most vile, disrespectful, shocking shit in his rhymes. Nothing and no one was off limits. No subject was too taboo. I would make a list of the foulest lines he ever spit going back to his old demos with his old groups but why would I do that when I sure that someone else has beat me to it already? (That plus I got hella more of these things to write). He has punchlines, metaphors, similes and sick flows for days, problem is that he puts out an album every five years. Go and listen to “Here To Save You All”, “I Told You So” and “Poison Pen” to hear the man that influenced damn near every underground punchline/battle rapper over the last 10+ years (Yes, that includes Eminem).
Willie D (Geto Boys):
Back when Robbie from Unkut.com had a guest blogger spot on XXLmag.com, he wrote an audio blog about Willie D and called him “The Clean Up Man”. I always wanted to do a write up on Willie D, but honestly where was I gonna put it? In the middle of one of my “poisonous paragraphs” extolling the virtues of some song that Sir Menelik made back in 1998? I had to wait for an appropriate time and place, to quote Onyx the place is here and the time is now. In Geto Boys, Scarface was the superstar, Bushwhick Bill /Big Mike were the X factors, but dammit, Willie D was the soul of the group. Willie D’s solo albums “Controversy”, “I’m Goin’ Out Like A Soldier”, “Play Witcha Mama” and “Loved By Few, Hated By Many” are all considered classics. While I was always on the lookout for the newest lyrically innovators and the freshest up and coming emcees, I couldn’t write off Willie D or his solo material, like these classic lines:
One day rolling up the cut/
I seen this fiend, pants all in her butt/
I'm thinking to myself that's a shame/
I stopped at the light, she called out my real name/
Stuck her head in my window said she needed help/
I looked it was Jackie “What you did to yourself?”/
The devil ain't nothing but crack/
That bitch small as a tic tac/
What you know about that?
Lil’ Fame AKA Fizzy Womack & Billy Danzenie (M.O.P.):
The first time we ever heard Lil’ Fame AKA Lil’ Malice was on the compilation “The Hill That’s Real” back in 1992, he appeared on the songs “Bring The Rukus”, “Crew Full Of Shorties”, “The Hill That’s Real” and “Neighborhood Hood”. The first time we ever heard the crew M.O.P. was “How About Some Hardcore” which also became the closing theme of “House Party 3”. The group spit some hard rhymes over a large beat, screaming death threats and lyrics of fury of fury that no one would soon forget. The follow up and the remix would bring more of the same, “Rugged Neva Smooth” was bangin’ in headphones all over the place. Both gritty black and white videos became instant staples on BET’s Rap City, the album “To The Death” was a classic but failed to move units. For their next album they made the move to Relativity Records to release their reup “Firing Squad”. After several label moves and near misses at stardom (“First Family 4 Life”, “Warriorz” & “Ghetto Warfare”), this crew is poised to release a new album on G Unit/Interscope Records (last I read, the release date was this month?). The violent imagery and raw aggressiveness of their deliveries doesn’t mar the fact that they are one of the best and most underrappreciated Hip Hop crews that ever did it. Bluckka! Bluccka! Blaow! Salute.
Catashtrophe AKA Tash & J-Ro (The Alkaholiks):
They made “21 & Over”, “Coast II Coast”, “Likwidation”, and “The X.O. Experience” (Tash also dropped the slept on solo LP “Rap Life”)...four classic Hip Hop albums over the span of 8 years. They never achieved superstar status or mainstream fame but they were always heralded as one of the greatest groups of their times. If I was to start writing about the running inside jokes in their albums (“Twwoooos”) and J-Ro and Tash’s constant back and forth punchline battles during tracks this shit would be 2 pages long (Lord knows that’s the LAST thing the readers want). At the height of their popularity, they released the home video “X.O. The Movie Experience”...they released their final album as group last year entitled “Firewater”. Here’s a toast to the careers of the original Hip Hop drunkies...It’s Tha Liks, baby! It’s Tha Liks!
Jadakiss (The LOX):
He once proclaimed that he was “Top 5 dead or alive, and that’s off of one LP”. Jadakiss first popped up on the scene around 1996 with The LOX and started appearing on mixtapes kicking these crazy verses and dropping deadly punchlines all over the place. Within a year Jadakiss’ entire style, flow and delivery became one of the most copied in recent Rap history. There were copycat Jada’s recording singles and making mixtape appearances all over the place. Jadkiss remains an in demand ghostwriter and a feature rapper for guest spots. His group albums (“Money, Power, & Respect” and “We Are The Streets”) and his solo projects (“Kiss Tha Game Goodbye” and “Kiss Of Death”) have been extremely successful. At one point his popularity rivaled another super lyrical hardcore emcee that people emulated on the mixtape circuit as well. His name is..
Beanie Sigel AKA The Broad Street Bully:
His first appearance was on the track “Reservoir Dogs” from Jay-Z’s “ Vol. 2..Hard Knock Life” album. His next appearance was on “Adrenaline” from the classic Roots album “Things Fall Apart”. After releasing “What A Thug About” and “In The Club” it was time to concentrate on Beanie’s album. “The Truth” dropped and it was a wrap..Beanie Sigel ws one of the nicest new emcees in the game. Running with the Roc A Fella team made it easy for the reign to continue. When it was finally over, Beanie Sigel had appeared on several albums that got him plaques for his wall and released “The Truth”, “The Reason” and “The B. Coming”. The man’s flow was being heard all over the radio and his style was being imitated by up and comers on every damn mixtape released between 1999-2004. Everybody either sounded like Jay-Z, Beanie Sigel, Jadakiss or Fabolous (no, Fab did NOT make the list) during that whole era...Currently, Beans is tied up in red tape but he’s on Roc A Fella records now working on a new album called “The Solution”...allegedly.
Cee Lo Green (Goodie Mob/Gnarls Barkley):
The first verse we ever heard him spit on was on OutKast’s “Git Up, Get Out” (which got him the Hip Hop Quotable in The Source fro Dopest Rhyme Of The Month) and “Call Of Da Wild” from their debut album. Next up, he shined all over Goodie Mob’s “Soul Food” LP. His sing song flow and distinct voice made him a star. He also arranged and sang so he was versatile in a studio and recording capacity (He appeared on TLC’s “CrazySexyCool” as well), he took on more of the production duties for the follow up album “Still Standing”. Cee Lo was becoming a sought after commodity in the industry. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when Goodie Mob decided to follow in the Kast’s footsteps and blow...the result was the abysmal “World Party” CD. Cee Lo left the group after that project to persue solo interests. What interests you ask? He produced the Platinum hit “Don’t Cha” for the Pussycat Dolls and is half of the Platinum group Gnarls Barkley. I guess he’s doing alright for himself.
Pusha T AKA Terrar & Malice (The Clipse):
The first time I ever heard The Clipse was a promo 12” of their 1st single called “The Funeral” that I got from work at Tower Records (R.I.P.). I thought the song was dope when I played it on my boys turntables but the song didn’t really come to life until I saw the video. The beat combined with the lyrics and visuals were straight up bananas, I started looking around for more of their material..none was forthcoming. They were dropped from the label and the album wasn’t coming out, something I found quite odd because The Source reviewed it in their last issue. I decided to wait for a promo copy to show up at a used record store...after about 6 months I stopped looking for a copy of “Exclusive Audio Footage”. The next time I heard a member of The Clipse spit was on Kelis’ “Kaleidoscope” album. After a couple of years and sparse appearances on Neptunes produced tracks , The Clipse came back on the scene with their guest spots on N.E.R.D’s “In Search Of..” LP. Eventually, “Grindin’” came out and it was a wrap. You couldn’t go anywhere without hearing that song. Once “Lord Willin’” dropped 5 years ago, the floodgates opened and they had hit single after hit single. Label woes marred their new album, so they simply put out 2 of the most popular mixtapes series in the past 5 years with Clinton Sparks “We Got It For Cheap Vols. 1 & 2”. Now there isn’t a soul that doesn’t know what “coke rap” is. After a long ass delay, The Clipse’s 2nd album “Hell Hath No Fury” finally dropped and saw dissapointing sales (but everybodies heard it!)...apparently everyone that copped got on the internet and “got it for cheap”.
Breezly Brewin AKA Breeze (Juggaknots/Indelible MC’s):
This is one of the most underrated emcees of the past 10 years (I’m sick of writing it but it’s so damn true in his case). As part of the legendary Juggaknots and one of the Indelible MC’s, Breeze has blessed very few projects with his signature non stop flow and unorthodox rhyme patterns. The albums “Clear Blue Skies”, “The Love Deluxe Movement” EP and last years “Use Your Confusion” are the only long players for fans to have to go on. Breeze appeared on Prince Paul’s “Prince Amongst Thieves” and has a string of standout guest appearances to check out for the uninitiated here...his style has wack emcees shook, like Fuzzy Zoeller at The Rucker.
I had to leave mad heads out due to time constraints...I may add on at a later date. One.