Sunday, October 27, 2013

Album Review: "Blah, Blah, Blah" - Blahzay Blahzay (1996)


So here's what I know about Blahzay Blahzay: they were a Long Island, New York duo comprised of producer DJ PF Cuttin and rapper MC Out Loud and dropped one album, the title of which could accurately describe what rappers have to say nowadays (Blah, Blah, Blah).

Blahzay Blahzay burst upon the scene in 1995 when they released their hit single "Danger," and in '96, their debut album hit the shelves. After that, though, they were never heard from as a duo again.

PF Cuttin still produces (he is actually tight with Sean Price), and I'm sure Out Loud is doing some rapping somewhere. However, as far as Blahzay Blahzay is concerned, the group is defunct (or, at the very least, in a very, very long period of dormancy).

I won't pretend to know anything else about this duo, because, well, I don't. Still, Blah, Blah, Blah has been hailed as an underground gem by some.

Let's see how much weight that praise holds.


1. Intro
Well, there's that.

2. Blah, Blah, Blah
The first actual song on the album freaking knocks. PF Cuttin's beat consists of some banging drums and a sparse piano sample, and Out Loud does a fine job ripping it, especially with his "females feel it in their ovaries" line. The instrumental carries on by itself for the final minute-and-a-half or so, and while I normally cringe when that happens, I actually didn't mind it this time. This title track is just an all-around great record.

3. Medina's In The House
This short skit, which utilizes Dr. Dre's "Nuthin' But a G Thang" beat for all of 14 seconds, was kind of a West Coast diss. Too bad Blahzay Blahzay didn't have enough of a following for it to make any sort of dent.

4. Danger Part 2
The sequel to the aforementioned hit single. I'm not sure why this comes before the original in the tracklisting, but who cares? This absolutely bangs. You've gotta love PF Cuttin's dusty drums, and the light sample is awesome. Trigger Tha Gambler, Dark Man (who, contrary to popular belief, is not La The Darkman; just listen to his verse, for God's sake; sounds nothing like La) and Smoothe Da Hustler all drop by to apply guest verses. They all tear it to bits, too, with Smoothe walking away the victor. This is fantastic.

5. Don't Let This Rap Shit Fool You
The first misstep. The organ sample that PF Cuttin utilizes just isn't all that palatable, and not even a solid performance on the mic by Out Loud can save it. It doesn't help that this runs nearly six freaking minutes long, either.

6. Pain I Feel
Ah, back on the right track. Much like the first two actual cuts on Blah, Blah, Blah, "Pain I Feel" (which was the album's second single) rocks. PF Cuttin's production is both hard and soulful at the same time, and Out Loud absolutely shreds it, even if he doesn't actually talk about the pain he feels at any point of the song (unless I missed something).

7. Posse Jumpa
The first thing I noticed about this track is how guest artist Mental Magician sounds like a combination of Smoothe Da Hustler and Top Dog from Originoo Gunn Clappaz. Anyway, the PF Cuttin beat is a bit repetitive, but it isn't bad, and Out Loud, Mental Magician and Dark Man (once again, not La) all do it justice. Decent record, even if it runs a bit too long.

8. Maniac Cop

9. Good Cop/Bad Cop
One thing you'll notice about PF Cuttin's instrumentals is how consistently dusty his drums are, and that's always a positive. He integrates some pretty dope vocal samples into his productions, too, which is also a plus. Out Loud engages in some pretty vivid storytelling here, showcasing his versatility as a rapper and making you wonder why his career never really took off.

10. Sendin' Dem Back
This cut just isn't able to match the energy level of much of the rest of the album. That's all I've got.

11. Long Winded
Mental Magician (who I really like) is here again, and Verbal Fist (who also sounds like Top Dog; what the hell is going on here?) and Verbal Hoods join him and Out Loud over the simple PF Cuttin beat. In the end, "Long Winded" just isn't all that impressive and is exactly what its title says.

12. Jackpot
Believe it or not, "Jackpot" is the first song on Blah, Blah, Blah that clocks in at under four minutes long. That doesn't mean it's any good, though, as this is nothing more than average. It's more boring than anything else, but hey; it's short, so that counts for something.

13. Danger
The aforementioned single, and I can definitely see why it was such a hit: it's entertaining as hell. Oddly enough, this wasn't produced by PF Cuttin. Domingo is on the boards here, and his instrumental (which contains a vocal sample from Jeru The Damaja's famous track "Come Clean") is actually somewhat goofy while still being extremely effective, and Out Loud blesses it properly. Even if I do like the sequel better, "Danger" is still pretty freaking good.


Blah, Blah, Blah isn't a classic album, as there are too many dull songs on it for me to give it that label. Still, this was a fairly entertaining listen, and like I say about a lot of other overlooked '90s projects, the best tracks on here are really good.

You will likely be impressed with MC Out Loud's ability on the mic; he sounds like Superman in the booth on quite a few of these records. He is able to easily match his delivery to the flow of PF Cuttin's beats, and he is actually a very solid lyricist on top of that.

Many of you will also find a lot to like in PF Cuttin's instrumentals, especially if you're a fan of artists like the Wu-Tang Clan. As I said numerous times in the review, his drums are very dusty and grimy, and his samples are generally sparse enough where they don't interfere with the rapping.

That being said, quite a few of PF Cuttin's productions on Blah, Blah, Blah were rather boring, and the worst part about that is the fact that most of them were also really long. There was absolutely no reason why some of the cuts on this album had to be over five minutes long, especially when the final two minutes or so of the songs consisted of the beat playing out until the end.

All things considered, this is a solid piece of work that absolutely deserves a listen. Out Loud warrants some attention as an MC, and PF Cuttin is certainly worthy of some praise as a producer, even if he laid some clunkers on here.


1. Danger Part 2
2. Pain I Feel
3. Blah, Blah, Blah
4. Danger
5. Posse Jumpa

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Album Review: "Life's a 50/50 Gamble" - Trigger Tha Gambler (1998)


Trigger Tha Gambler's rap career started in 1996 when he appeared on Once Upon a Time In America (which I reviewed here), the debut album of his brother, Smoothe Da Hustler. Trigger teamed up with Smoothe for four songs, with "Broken Language" and "My Brother My Ace" being the two biggest "hits." Def Jam liked his performance so much that they signed him to a deal.

Little did Trigger Tha Gambler know that he was about to be screwed over (a record label screwing over an artist? Never).

His first single, "My Crew Can't Go For That" (which featured Smoothe Da Hustler), actually garnered some radio airplay and reaffirmed Def Jam's faith in their decision to sign the man. However, that faith quickly dissipated once they heard Trigger's finished product, Life's a 50/50 Gamble.

The label shelved the album, and it was never officially released. I guess it wasn't "radio-friendly" enough, and let's remember that 1998 represented a time where we were beginning to see a shift in hip-hop, a shift that would ultimately destroy the genre and result in the type of garbage that we hear permeating the airwaves today.

Trigger Tha Gambler would never be heard from as a solo artist again. He made a few guest appearances here and there, but that was it. My guess is that he became so disgusted with the industry that he simply chose to give up and pursue other interests, but who knows what really happened?

Anyway, Life's a 50/50 Gamble is produced entirely by DR Period, the man who also produced most of Once Upon a Time In America. So, obviously, you'd expect the two projects to sound very similar.

I am actually not sure how similar this LP sounds to Smoothe's debut disc, however, for the mere fact that this will be my first time listening to it. Yep; that's right. Life's a 50/50 Gamble will be a new experience for what I assume to be all of us.

Let's see how right or wrong of a decision Def Jam made.


1. Intro
A standard intro? Well, so far I'm siding with Def Jam.

2. Hitman
Well, not anymore. Trigger Tha Gambler gets things off to an awesome start with the first actual song on the album. DR Period's beat knocks, and D.V. Alias Khrist comes through and puts down an outstanding guest appearance much like he did on Smoothe Da Hustler's "Dollar Bill." It also helps that Trigger freaking rips this.

3. My Crew Can't Go For That
The aforementioned first single by Trigger Tha Gambler. D.V. Alias Khrist is here again, and not surprisingly, he delivers, although this isn't as good as some of his other guest spots. Smoothe Da Hustler also makes his first of many appearances on Life's a 50/50 Gamble, and as you're listening to his verses on this track, you'll have to remind yourself that this is not Once Upon a Time In America. The overall verdict for "My Crew Can't Go For That"? It's decent, but DR Period's instrumental leaves a little to be desired.

4. Broken Language Pt. 2
The sequel to Once Upon a Time In America's "Broken Language." To be perfectly honest, this sounds strikingly similar to the original. I do like Trigger's performance on this better than the former, however. That's all I've got.

5. Nickel Plated Nine
DR Period certainly likes using piano-laden samples; that's for sure. This is pretty boring overall.

6. Nothing Can Stop Me
I actually like this quite a bit. DR Period's production is thoroughly engaging, and Case adds a nice element to the record with his crooning on the hook. Plus, Wu-Tang affiliate Rhyme Recka comes through and drops a couple of pretty tight verses to complement Trigger Tha Gambler's satisfactory output.

7. 50/50 Gamble
I really like Trigger as an MC. He takes what is nothing more than a decent beat on "50/50 Gamble" and makes it infinitely listenable with an extremely dope performance on the mic. Smoothe Da Hustler is on this cut as well, but he only does the hook. That's a good thing, too, because it would have been a shame if he interrupted this scintillating showing by his brother.

8. Smoothe Da Hustler Interlude

9. Welcome To The World
This is alright. DR Period's beat is kind of bland, and while Trigger Tha Gambler is once again solid, this time, his raps just aren't enough to overcome the repetitive instrumental. Also, this album may as well have been called Once Upon a Time In America Pt. 2.

10. Bust
What the hell is that on DR Period's production? A freaking orgasm? This is absolutely awful. Good God. Not even D.V. Alias Khrist is able to save this song from its utter awfulness, and Smoothe Da Hustler sounds incredibly out of his element on the fast-paced production.

11. Rugged
DR Period's beat sounds like something RZA would have made when he was 12. Still, anything that resembles a prime RZA instrumental is passable in my book. I'm not sure what purpose Foxy Brown's contribution served, though. At the very least, this is a hell of a lot better than "Bust," although I suppose that is not much of an accomplishment.

12. Can U Feel It
Alright. This album is really starting to get boring.

13. Meetcha Maker
Keith Murray stops by here, and appropriately, DR Period's production sounds very Erick Sermon-ish. Albeit, it's more of a poor man's Erick Sermon beat, but it works, nonetheless. Murray steals the show, although Trigger is able to remain in the same ballpark.

14. Scandalous
Rhyme Recka, who actually sounds quite a bit like Redman, makes his second appearance on Life's a 50/50 Gamble here, and he does a great job over a solid beat. Trigger Tha Gambler comes correct, as well. The only downside to "Scandalous" is the fact that D.V. Alias Khrist comes with what is probably his weakest (and most useless) performance.

15. Make a Move
I like this one a lot. DR Period's instrumental is almost J Dilla-like with a touch of Da Beatminerz, and Trigger rips it. D.V. Alias Khrist drops a pretty awesome verse, too. This is a great way to end the album, which really picked up some much-needed momentum at its conclusion.


Life's a 50/50 Gamble is a decent album that absolutely (and not surprisingly) parallels Smoothe Da Hustler's Once Upon a Time In America. Trigger Tha Gambler is thoroughly entertaining throughout, and although some of DR Period's beats are pretty bland, enough of them work to make this listenable.

As you can tell, there are quite a bit of guest appearances on this project, and while that is usually frowned upon, they predominantly work here. Rhyme Recka shines twice, and D.V. Alias Khrist adds a nice element to most of the songs he is on. That dude really should have blown up. I'm not sure why he didn't.

So, did Def Jam make a mistake in shelving this?

Well, yes and no.

Yes in the fact that Life's a 50/50 Gamble is certainly a competent LP that would have been looked favorably upon by hip-hop critics, and no because it sounded far too much like Once Upon a Time In America and probably would not have moved too many units.

Is that necessarily fair? No, because there has been plenty of trash released on Def Jam, but let's be honest: in 1998, we were beginning to reach a point where actual quality did not matter as much. Hip-hop had fallen off dramatically after '96, and much of that blame falls on the record labels.

Anyway, if you liked Once Upon a Time In America, you should definitely give this a spin. Everyone else can just pick and choose your favorite tracks from here and put those onto your iPod.


1. Hitman
2. Make a Move
3. Nothing Can Stop Me
4. 50/50 Gamble
5. Scandalous

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Album Review: "Between a Rock and a Hard Place" - Artifacts (1994)


The Artifacts are a hip-hop group from Newark that released two critically acclaimed albums in the '90s, the first being the subject of this review, Between a Rock and a Hard Place.

There are three members: El Da Sensei, Tame One (Redman's cousin) and DJ Kaos. Due to some internal differences within the group, the trio broke up after their 1997 release, That's Them, but they resurfaced in 2010 and apparently have a third album in the works. God only knows whether they will actually complete it, though.

Artifacts first gained popularity with their single, "Wrong Side of Da Tracks," which is one of the more well-known graffiti songs in hip-hop. In case you were wondering, yes; Artifacts are graffiti artists themselves.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place is considered an underground classic, consisting of some production by Buckwild, Rockwilder and Redman (no surprise there). However, most of the beats are predominantly handled by T-Ray, who also did some work with Cypress Hill.

I don't really know much else about the Artifacts, so let's just jump into the review, shall we?


1. Drama (Mortal Combat Facility)
Artifacts sure wasted a pretty dope beat (not to mention a pretty dope song title) on an album intro.

2. C'mon Wit Da Git Down
Buckwild is on the boards here, and like I've said numerous times on this blog: not many producers are seeing a prime Buckwild. This freaking knocks and was a great choice for a single. Well, back in '94, anyway. If this song were to be released as a single today, it wouldn't even see the light of day on even the grimiest of grimy underground radio stations.

3. Wrong Side of Da Tracks
The aforementioned "breakthrough" single for the Artifacts. You've gotta love the melody of T-Ray's beat, and it's cool to hear this type of content considering you absolutely never hear it anymore. Between a Rock and a Hard Place is certainly off to a great start; that's for damn sure.

4. Heavy Ammunition
This may very well be the best track here so far. This bangs, right from the T-Ray instrumental to the choice of vocal samples on the hook. It also helps that Tame One and El Da Sensei rip this. El Da Sensei's performance was particularly impressive.

5. Attack of New Jeruzalem
Another Buckwild production. Not surprisingly, it's engaging as hell. Both Artifacts rappers tear it to shreds, but it's guest rapper Jay Burnz who steals the show and absolutely, positively demolishes this. Also, for those of you who may not know, "New Jerusalem" is a nickname for the state of New Jersey. I'm not necessarily sure how Jersey relates to Jerusalem, but hey; I didn't invent the moniker.

6. Notty Headed Nigguhz
The only aspect of 2013 hip-hop that is superior to golden era hip-hop is spelling. I'm not sure why just about every '90s artist felt it was necessary to butcher 90 percent of their song titles, but whatever; this knocks regardless, which is becoming a rather common theme on this album.

7. Whayback
This is the first track on Between a Rock and a Hard Place that doesn't truly "knock." That's not to say this isn't solid, though, because T-Ray's beat is decent enough and both El Da Sensei and Tame One do well for themselves. Still, this ultimately ends up running a bit too long.

8. Flexi Wit Da Tech (Nique)
Well, this record is proof that the Artifacts aren't invincible. This is really boring and actually ends up sounding more something like a West Coast group such as Hieroglyphics would do. That's not to say that Hieroglyphics are boring, because they are certainly not, but this is East Coast hip-hop.

9. Cummin' Through Ya Block
Why in the world the Artifacts had to spell the word "coming" like that, I have no idea. Anyway, this is the cut that Redman produced. He makes an appearance here, too, but don't get too excited: it's just on the hook. Lame; I know. Also, Reggie's bassline is far too overwhelming, as it simply overpowers the instrumental and the rappers. Perhaps this song would have been better if Redman dropped an actual verse. Probably not, though, because the production just isn't all that good.

10. Lower Da Boom
This is a weed track, which is kind of weird, because I don't see how the title has anything to do with smoking, but whatever. This record is okay, but I am actually starting to lose some interest in this album thanks to the sheer mediocrity of these last four cuts. There is absolutely no reason why "Lower Da Boom" needed to be over five minutes long, either.

11. What Goes On?
Yet another song that has very little replay value, and this was actually produced by my boy Buckwild. Seriously; what the heck happened to this album after track No. 6?

12. Dynamite Soul
And we're finally back on the right track. This is pretty freaking good, especially the vocal sample on the hook. The horns that are scattered throughout the record add a nice touch, too. T-Ray's drums could have been a tad stronger, though.

13. Whassup Now Muthafucka?
This absolutely bangs and was a great way for Artifacts to close out Between a Rock and a Hard Place. It was too short, though. Seriously guys; of all songs to make under three minutes long, you chose this one?


Thanks to the start of the album (and, to a lesser extent, its conclusion), I can safely say that Between a Rock and a Hard Place is somewhat deserving of the "classic" label that has been thrown upon it by some. It's not one of the best albums of all-time or anything, but as a whole, it's still pretty damn good.

What I like about the Artifacts is that El Da Sensei and Tame One are equally skilled as rappers; neither one outshines the other like in just about every other duo or group known to mankind. Both are extremely effective on the mic, bringing great energy, infinitely listenable voices and solid lyricism and delivery.

I also think it's pretty interesting how both rappers can kind of pass for West Coast guys. Like I said in "Flexi Wit Da Tech (Nique)"; they do have a Hieroglyphics-like cadence at times. That probably means that fans of that type of West Coast hip-hop will gravitate toward these dudes, and that's great, because it means that the Artifacts' fanbase is potentially nationwide.

As far as the beats, save for that four-track lull in the middle of the project, most of them freaking bang, making me wonder why T-Ray didn't really blow up as a producer and get any calls elsewhere. Seriously; Redman couldn't hit this dude up for a couple of beats? Maybe he did. If I am wrong, let me know, but I don't recall ever seeing T-Ray's name in the liner notes of any of Reggie's albums.

Overall, I'd definitely recommend Between a Rock and a Hard Place no matter what type of hip-hop you prefer. Yes, there are a few songs on here that are pretty skippable, but the album holds up well as a whole.


1. Heavy Ammunition
2. C'mon Wit Da Git Down
3. Attack of New Jeruzalem
4. Whassup Now Muthafuckas?
5. Wrong Side of Da Tracks

Friday, October 4, 2013

Album Review: "Bacdafucup" - Onyx (1993)


When you think of raw, grimy and uninhibited hip-hop (wow; try saying "uninhibited hip-hop" 10 times fast), one of the first groups that should come to your mind is Onyx.

Onyx was originally comprised of four members: Sticky Fingaz (being the most well-known member of the group), Fredro Starr, Suavé (who would later change his name to "Sonsee") and the late Big DS, who left after Onyx's debut album and the subject of this writeup, Bacdafucup.

Onyx formed in 1988 without Sticky Fingaz (yes; believe it or not, he was the last member to join, which is funny because he became the only one out of the group to forge a successful solo career). In 1990, they released their first song called "Ah, and We Do It Like This." Two years later, after Sticky had jumped aboard, Onyx dropped "Throw Ya Gunz," a track that would end up being the first single off of Bacdafucup.

Bacdafucup enjoyed both critical and commercial success, thanks much in part to the hit record "Slam" which became a staple in hip-hop (seriously; do you know anyone who hasn't heard that song before?). The album achieved platinum status just seven months after its release.

Featuring production mostly from Chyskillz and the late Jam Master Jay (yes; of Run-DMC), Bacdafucup has been praised for its gritty, hardcore sound that is considered some of the best pump-up music that hip-hop has to offer.

Is Bacdafucup a classic?

Well, let's get to it. You know the drill.


1. Bacdafucup
Oddly enough, I haven't seen many intros or skits named after the album title. This is one rare example. It's really disappointing that the beat for this 48-second intro absolutely knocks. Onyx should have used it for an actual song rather than waste it on a freaking skit (a huge pet-peeve of mine).

2. Bichasniguz
The horrendous spelling of the title notwithstanding (get used to it), the first real track on Bacdafucup bangs. The instrumental by Chyskillz and Jam Master Jay is awesome, and each Onyx member tears it to shreds. It's really cool how well all four dudes sound together, as they possess very similar voices and deliveries. Also doesn't the hook ("bitch ass niggas I'ma have to pull your skirt up") apply to so many "rappers" in the game today?

3. Throw Ya Gunz
The aforementioned first single. The Chyskillz production freaking knocks, and Suavé, Fredro Starr and Sticky Fingaz rip it up. You'll probably notice that Fredro Starr's first line in his verse is the vocal sample that is used in Jeru The Damaja's "Come Clean." Also, one of Sticky Fingaz's bars was sampled in Chino XL's "Riiiot!" Obviously, other artists respect what a dope record "Throw Ya Gunz" is.

4. Here 'n' Now
This isn't bad, but it's not on the same level as the two-headed monster that Bacdafucup opened with. That's all I've got.

5. Bust Dat Ass
This is a skit, but you know what? It's really freaking catchy. This is the first time I have ever complimented a skit, and it will almost surely be the last.

6. Atak of Da Bal-Hedz
I don't think it's possible to butcher the spelling of this cut any worse than Onyx did, but hey; I'm not here to judge their English. The energy level is extremely high here, but I found myself lamenting the fact that Fredro Starr (who is my favorite Onyx member, by the way) isn't on this song.

7. Da Mad Face Invasion

8. Blac Vagina Finda
I find it pretty funny how "vagina' is one of the only words Onyx chose to spell correctly on Bacdafucup, but then again, is there a way to spell that differently (and incorrectly) without completely changing the pronunciation? Wow, who am I kidding? I'm sure Onyx could have found a way. Anyway, despite the goofy title and unbelievably questionable (and grossly misogynistic) content, this bangs thanks to the beat by Chyskillz and Jam Master Jay.

9. Da Bounce Nigga
Okay; the volume of these skits is getting irritating, and by "volume," I don't mean how loud they are, which is actually pretty ironic given how loud the dudes in Onyx actually rap.

10. Nigga Bridges
This is probably the worst track here so far, so, naturally, it's the second-longest record on the album. Interpolating "London Bridge" on the chorus is pretty humorous, though.

11. Onyx Is Here
And we're back on the right track. This absolutely bangs, and Fredro actually sounds convincing in saying "Onyx is the antidote for all of your problems." The best part of "Onyx Is Here," however, is easily the hook. The horns and the chanting by Onyx will make your blood boil.

12. Slam
I'll say it again: who hasn't heard this song? If you watch the NBA at all, chances are, you've definitely heard it, as it was the background music for a Vince Carter commercial back in the day (I'm sure some of you at least vaguely remember that). Anyway, "Slam" dropped back in a period where the most radio-friendly record on an album could also be its best cut, unlike today where it is laughable piffle 99.9 percent of the time. This will always knock, and if you disagree, then maybe you should go listen to EDM or something. Or you can monitor the ever-interesting life of Kanye, Kanye West.

13. Stik 'n' Move
"Stik 'n' Move" contains what is probably the most playful beat on Bacdafucup. You can decide for yourself whether that is a good thing or a bad thing. 

14. Bichasbootleguz
Skit No. 568.

15. Shifftee
This was actually the third and final single off of the album. While it's not "Throw Ya Gunz" or "Slam," it's still pretty freaking great. The hook in particular is awesome, and Fredro Starr absolutely eats up the dark-as-hell beat by Chyskillz and Jam Master Jay. "Shifftee" also carries the distinction of being the longest track on Bacdafucup.

16. Phat ('N' All Dat)
I know Onyx is supposed to be loud, but on this record, their voices just overpower the instrumental to the point where it is barely even audible. I feel like this cut is more filler than anything else.

17. Da Nex Niguz
This song just does not fit within the context of the album. At all. Not only that, but it just isn't very good.

18. Getdafucout
You know, instead of wasting dope-ass beats on both the intro and the outro, why not make an actual song out of at least one of them?


Bacdafucup is definitely an entertaining listen; there is no doubt about that. Each and every member of the group is a good MC, and that even includes the late Big DS who doesn't rap nearly as often as the other three. Plus, a lot of the production on here knocks.

When you first hear Onyx, the first thought that probably pops into your mind is, "Okay; I can definitely listen to a couple of their songs, but a whole album would be overkill." It's not a baseless expectation either, as I can definitely see why their constant shouting could seem off-putting. That being said, Bacdafucup holds up surprisingly well from start-to-finish.

Perhaps what is most impressive about Onyx is their ability to reach various audiences without compromising their style. "Slam" is not only a radio hit that is one of the few hip-hop songs that still receives rotation in clubs, but it is also a grimy, abrasive track that stays true to the Onyx formula.

Yes, there are a few missteps on here, but the good outweighs the bad. Bacdafucup deserves the classic label that it has been given, and in the sing-songy state that hip-hop is currently in, it's a refreshing breath of fresh air. Give this a listen, and you'll know exactly what I'm talking about.

That's really all I've got on this album. There really isn't much to criticize about it, and I think it's safe to say that the project--and its intention--is fairly self-explanatory.


1. Slam
2. Onyx Is Here
3. Throw Ya Gunz
4. Bichasniguz
5. Shifftee

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Album Review: "Legal Drug Money" - Lost Boyz (1996)


The Lost Boyz were one of those groups of the '90s that dropped a couple of hits and then vanished.

Comprised of Mr. Cheeks (the main rapper in the group), Freaky Tah (the hypeman who occasionally raps), Pretty Lou (who doesn't really do anything) and DJ Spigg Nice, Lost Boyz came onto the scene in 1995 when they dropped their debut single, "Lifestyles of The Rich & Shameless." That song landed them a deal with Uptown Records, and soon after, they released the hit track "Renée."

"Renée," which achieved gold status in 1996, led to the group's first LP, Legal Drug Money. Consisting of production from the likes of Easy Mo Bee and Pete Rock, the album was certified gold in the same year it was released. 

Almost exactly a year later, Lost Boyz put out their second project, Love, Peace & Nappiness, off the strength of their hit single "Me and My Crazy World." Although it wasn't nearly as critically acclaimed as Legal Drug Money (and rightfully so), Love, Peace & Nappiness also reached gold status.

That was when things spun out of control for Lost Boyz, and it wasn't due to any internal conflict or anything of that nature. No; this went far beyond music.

In 1999, six months before Lost Boyz put out their third and final full-length album, LB IV Life, Freaky Tah was tragically gunned down at Mr. Cheeks' birthday party. So, after LB IV Life, Lost Boyz split, and they were never to be heard from as a group again.

DJ Spigg Nice made the news in 2004, however, as he was sentenced to 37 years in prison after being convicted of several bank robberies.

Talk about things unraveling, huh?

Rest assured, Lost Boyz were still able to put out some good music when they were active, and many consider Legal Drug Money to be a golden era classic.

Are those people right in saying so?


1. Intro
Exactly like it sounds.

2. The Yearn
Pete Rock is on the board for the first actual song on Legal Drug Money, and not surprisingly, the beat freaking knocks. Not only that, but on another version of the track, Pete actually drops a verse (track that version down if you're interested in hearing his effort). "The Yearn" is an all-around winner, and it's tracks like this that make you wish Freaky Tah would have rapped more often instead of primarily being a hypeman.

3. Music Makes Me High
The energy level takes a rather significant dip here. Charles Suitt and Mr. Sex (no; seriously) lay down a pretty lackluster instrumental on what was one of the album's five singles, and Mr. Cheeks isn't exactly able to elevate it to sounding like anything worthwhile. There is a remix of this record featuring Canibus and Tha Dogg Pound. Check that out if you're willing.

4. Jeeps, Lex Coups, Bimaz & Benz
This was the second single off of the album, and it sounds really freaking good. Easy Mo Bee crafts the production, and you'll be able to tell as soon as the beat starts, as it has his fingerprints all over it (you can just hear The Notorious B.I.G. flowing over this). There really isn't much not to like about this cut, as Mr. Cheeks rips it, too.

5. Lifestyles of The Rich & Shameless
The aforementioned first single and the second straight Easy Mo Bee-laced song. It isn't as awesome as "Jeeps, Lex Coups, Bimaz & Benz," but it's still pretty damn good. I really like the hook on this track in particular, and Easy's instrumental is solid.

6. Renée
"Renée," Legal Drug Money's third single and arguably Lost Boyz's most popular record, is actually a very touching cut about a female friend of Mr. Cheeks that was shot and killed. Mr. Sex's beat is really good, and Mr. Cheeks' storytelling is outstanding. The way he ends the song by saying "I'm from the ghetto, so listen this is how I shed my tears" puts the cherry on top. Great track.

7. All Right
To say Big Dex's instrumental is "unorthodox" on "All Right" would be an understatement (it sounds like he put the sample in reverse). Still, somehow, it works. This record isn't half-bad, and Freaky Tah's verse makes it that much better, as simplistic as it may be. All in all, this was a bit better than just "all right," even if it may have run a bit too long for its own good. Big Dex drops a verse too, by the way.

8. Legal Drug Money
The beat at the beginning of this cut sounds really awesome. Unfortunately, it's not the beat that Lost Boyz used for this title track. The instrumental that Big Dex ultimately ends up laying down pales in comparison. It isn't terrible, but it certainly could have used some stronger drums. Side note: Freaky Tah's "don't know who wants to kill me, don't know who wants to love me" line just sounds spooky today given what ended up being his fate.

9. Get Up
This was Legal Drug Money's fifth and final single. You may recognize the Stephanie Mills sample as the same one that would eventually be used for DMX's "When I'm Nothing." Unfortunately, "Get Up" isn't nearly as good as that DMX track.

10. Is This Da Part
Another Easy Mo Bee joint. "Is This Da Part" is pretty nice, even if the hook is fairly lame. That's all I've got.

11. Straight From Da Ghetto
This record, which was produced by "Buttnaked" Tim Dawg (the hell?) and Big Dex, isn't really anything spectacular. The beat is decent, if not a bit bland, and Mr. Cheeks' verses are pretty straightforward. All things considered, "Straight From Da Ghetto" felt a bit forced, especially taking into account how "Renée" already flawlessly covered the ghetto topic.

12. Keep It Real
Unfortunately, this isn't nearly as good as Miilkbone's "Keep It Real," but fortunately, it still sounds really freaking good (no; that statement is not contradictory). The Big Dex instrumental is pleasing, and Freaky Tah's chanting in the background adds a nice element to the cut overall. It helps that Mr. Cheeks really kills this, too.

13. Channel Zero
The first thing I think of when I see the title "Channel Zero" is the Canibus song, which is funny, because Lost Boyz and Canibus were tight back in the '90s and Mr. Cheeks actually appeared on the hook of that joint. My feelings on this track are ambivalent, however. I can't really decide if I like it or not. I guess that's not a bad thing, but it's not exactly an endorsement, either.

14. Da Game
Either I'm just getting lazy, or Legal Drug Money if full of records that I don't have much of an opinion on either way. I will say that "Da Game" is superior to "Channel Zero," so take that for what it's worth. Plus, this is under four minutes in length, and that's usually always a good thing.

15. 1, 2, 3
Is it weird that the best cut on the album is a Freaky Tah solo? Well, honestly, I don't really care, because this song freaking bangs. Bangs. The production by Dwarf The Black Prince absolutely rocks and is simultaneously soulful and raw as hell, and Tah's grimy voice brings "1, 2, 3" to another level of awesome. The chorus is also great; I don't care how simplistic it is. Well done, fellas. Well freaking done.

16. Lifestyles of The Rich & Shameless (Remix)
Unlike most remixes, this is a completely different song than the original. That being said, "Lifestyles of The Rich & Shameless" really didn't need to be remixed. That should tell you all you need to know about how I feel about this version.


Like many other albums that I have reviewed, Legal Drug Money has way too many clunkers for me to label it a classic. That isn't to say this isn't a good project though, because numerous songs on here work really well, and it holds up rather well in 2013.

Mr. Cheeks is a solid MC, but his biggest weakness is his voice. It's not bad, but over the course of a full-length LP, it can get old pretty quickly. That is one of two key drawbacks on Legal Drug Money, the other being the fact that some of the beats are nothing better than average.

I also really wish Freaky Tah would have gotten more shine on this album. I understand he is the hypeman and that hearing his voice over 16 tracks may become a bit tiresome, but he is not a bad rapper at all, and I don't think it's any coincidence that his solo joint ("1, 2, 3") is the best record on Legal Drug Money.

Due to the fact that this project was released during arguably the greatest year in hip-hop history, it tends to be forgotten, and that isn't necessarily fair. While it certainly doesn't hold a candle to some of the best albums of 1996, it is still a fine piece of work, one that may have been looked upon more favorably had it been released a couple of years later when rap was going downhill.

I guess I'd recommend that you give Legal Drug Money a spin. At the very least, you need to add "1, 2, 3" to your iPod. It is one of my favorite songs of all-time, and nothing is going to change that.

Rest in peace, Freaky Tah.


1. 1, 2, 3
2. Jeeps, Lex Coups, Bimaz & Benz
3. The Yearn
4. Renée
5. Keep It Real