Continuing with the Boot Camp Clik theme, I think it's time to take a look at another 90s classic, Dah Shinin', Smif-N-Wessun's debut album, a project produced entirely by Da Beatminerz.
For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Smif-N-Wessun, they are a two-man group, much like Heltah Skeltah, consisting of rappers Tek and Steele. They are known for their both violent and laid-back lyrics and are considered by many to be one of the better hip-hop duos ever. Like Originoo Gunn Clappaz, Smif-N-Wessun sometimes incorporates reggae-ish elements into their songs, as both members of the group display the capability to change up their flows to portray a Jamaican-like style.
Dah Shinin' is not considered to be on the same level as Enta Da Stage, but it occasionally finds itself on top 100 lists and is generally a staple in the collections of true hip-hop heads.
There really isn't much more to say, so let's get that review going.
1. Timz N Hood Check
Like I said; this album is produced solely by Da Beatminerz, so expect an unlimited amount of dusty drums with little in the way of background instruments. Don't take that as a bad thing, either, because the beats on Dah Shinin' knock, and "Timz N Hood Chek" is a perfect example of that, as booming, dusty kicks are backed by similarly booming and dusty hats and snares. This track doesn't have much in the way of lyrics, as it consists of Tek and Steele talking about how rough they are, but it bangs, nevertheless. DJ Evil Dee is the member of Da Beatminerz who produced this cut.
The kicks on "Wrektime," produced by Mr. Walt, are not as blatant as on "Timz N Hood Chek," but the hats and snares pick up the slack. Plus, it's the sick hook that makes this track, as Tek and Steele both trade small bars back and forth in a hypnotizing fashion. A siren-type sound surfaces on the hook, as well, making it that much more enjoyable.
While I am not exactly sure what the heck either "Wrektime" or "Wontime" exactly means, both songs work. Hard-hitting kicks return here, even more pronounced than they were on the album's lead track. Rock of Heltah Skeltah is featured here, but he doesn't drop a verse. He does, however, rap another ill hook for Dah Shinin'. Also, this time, Tek and Steele spit some good lines, like these bars by Steele, for instance: "I got one in store for hardcore fanatics, bangin' from basement to attic put static if ya got dramatics." This record is nails, and I have a feeling I'm going to be saying that a lot the rest of the way. Oh, and this was another Mr. Walt production.
The snares on this are crazy, but this time, the hook doesn't really work for Smif-N-Wessun. Tek and Steele go back and forth on it like they did on "Wrektime," but on this occasion, it sounds forced, and it actually sounds like they are out of breath as they are doing it. Still, Baby Paul's instrumental knocks. P.S.: Did Tek and Steele miss a couple of sessions in English class? I mean, "Wrektime?" "Wrekonize?" Seriously?
5. Sound Bwoy Bureil
This reggae-flavored track (it uses a sample of the reggae cut "Dust Out a Sound Bwoy" by Super Beagle on the hook) is one of Dah Shinin's most popular tracks, and for good reason. Mr. Walt and DJ Evil Dee team up to produce this cut, and while the beat is ridiculously simple (it is probably the simplest beat I've ever heard; seriously), it is so damn good. O.G.C. members Starang Wondah and Top Dog are featured here, and both them and Tek and Steele adopt reggae-ish flows to accommodate the sample. Sick, sick cut.
'K.I.M." possesses what is, by far, the "busiest" beat on the album thus far. Blaring horns appear throughout the record, and standard kicks, snares, and hats abound. The hook on this is definitely a winner. Nice track. Mr. Walt is on the boards. Also, for those of you who may be curious, "K.I.M." stands for "Keep It Moving."
Like "K.I.M.," "Bucktown" features horns throughout, but these horns are much more subdued. The hook on this is a bit peculiar, though, as it features Steele rapping, "Bucktown, home of the Originoo Gunn Clappaz," eight times. Is it just me, or are the Originoo Gunn Clappaz not even present on this song? That aside, this cut, co-produced by Mr. Walt and DJ Evil Dee, is pretty nice.
8. Stand Strong
DJ Evil Dee incorporates a sample of Isaac Hayes' "The Look of Love" on "Stand Strong" to form one of the best beats on Dah Shinin', and Smif-N-Wessun once again takes on a reggae-style delivery during different parts of the track. Really strong record here (no pun intended).
9. Next Shit
Mr. Walt lays down an unbelievably chill beat for Tek and Steele here, using a soft piano and some other light instruments to back the banging drums. Smif-N-Wessun drops some nice bars. In his first verse, Steele raps: "Pressures be buildin' in my mind sometimes and ways, that have me countin' the many reasons why crime pays, I think about the hustlin' games, should I maintain, or flip and then shift to the fast lane?" Buckshot is featured on this cut, as he continuously raps the line, "Stoned is the way of the walk, stoned is the way of the walk" toward the end. One of the album's best records.
10. Cession At Da Doghillee
I'll ignore the fact that I have absolutely no clue what the hell "Cession At Da Doghillee" actually means and just focus on the song itself. Guest artists abound, as this track features Heltah Skeltah, Originoo Gunn Clappaz, and Buckshot (who does the hook). Ruck leads things off, and man does he sound different than he did on Nocturnal (keep in mind that Dah Shinin' was released a year before, so Ruck was still a neophyte at this point). He still puts down some solid lines, though: "Do we, have to result to fisticuffs? See I get swift with myself, that's when the Ruck erupts." DJ Evil Dee lays down a crawling, relaxing beat for everyone to rap over, but "Cession At Da Doghillee," spanning five minutes and twenty-six seconds, runs too long for its own good, as the production becomes rather boring after a while.
Putting two five-and-a-half-minute songs back-to-back on an album is never a good idea, and that's what happens here. "Hellucination" isn't bad, but after hearing "Cession At Da Doghillee" drag on for nearly six minutes, you certainly aren't in the mood to hear this cut do the same thing.
12. Home Sweet Home
Baby Paul produces what is probably the darkest beat on Dah Shinin' for "Home Sweet Home," but the sample just doesn't too good. Every time it pops up, it sounds like it cuts off far too abruptly. This isn't a very good stretch of the album.
13. Wipe Ya Mouf
Ah, now we're out of the woods. Baby Paul gets the production for "Wipe Ya Mouf," too, but this time, he comes to play, as his sample fits in perfectly with his drums (which sound a lot like they do on "Leflaur Leflah Eshkoshka," and that's a great, great thing). The hook here is simple, as it is simply a part of Top Dog's verse from "Sound Bwoy Bureil," but it's sick. Outstanding track.
14. Let's Git It On
This is another dark beat, but this go around, it works. Mr. Walt and DJ Evil Dee once again team up to make this cut, and Tek and Steele just sound vicious on it. "Let's Git It On" also contains yet another great hook from the duo. Love it.
To me, it's fairly clear by now that Steele is the superior MC of the duo, and that notion is thoroughly verified on "P.N.C." (That stands for Partners 'N Crime, by the way.) While Tek decides to spend most of this cut talking about guns, Steele gets his introspective side on, discussing his partnership with Tek and paying homage to those who have fallen. DJ Evil Dee lays down a less than stellar beat for the duo to rap over, but Steele's content is enough to overcome that...almost.
If I had to use one word to describe Dah Shinin', I would say that it is consistent. Very consistent. The production is fairly uniform throughout, as it consists mainly of those dusty, banging drums I alluded to earlier supported by the occasional light instruments. Smif-N-Wessun's subject matter remains virtually the same on all 15 tracks, too, as they mainly talk about their life on the streets and puffing...you know.
While I don't think Dah Shinin' is as good as Nocturnal or Enta Da Stage, it certainly has its place in hip-hop history, as Da Beatminerz lay down some of the best simple beats (if that makes sense) I've ever heard. This is the quintessential album to listen to when you just feel like laying back and clearing your head.
If you're looking for deep lyricism, Dah Shinin' probably isn't the way to go. Tek and Steele are not great lyricists. They do, however, possess outstanding mic presence and phenomenal flow and versatility. Few rappers can switch up their delivery right in the the middle of the track like Tek and Steele can; it is an art that they have mastered.
I think it's pretty obvious that Smif-N-Wessun's debut would not hold up all that well in today's market. There are no club bangers on this, and, for the most part, the production is relatively subdued. Still, that does not mean it isn't a classic that should be a part of any rap fan's musical assortment.
TOP FIVE TRACKS
1. Next Shit
2. Let's Git It On
3. Wipe Ya Mouf
4. Stand Strong
5. Sound Bwoy Bureil