Sunday, August 13, 2017

Did You Know Urban Dance Squad Recorded a Tribute To Scott La Rock?

Hey, did you guys know the Urban Dance Squad recorded a tribute to Scott La Rock?  I sure didn't; I just found it now.  That's largely because I never really listened to them.  The only real impression they made on me was back in 1990, when their video for "Deeper Shade Of Soul" used to play on Yo! MTV Raps constantly.  Lots of skateboarding in a swimming pool, the guitarist mugging to the camera, and a DJ shown doing scratches you didn't actually hear in the music.  That's what I remember.  It was a catchy sample, and they made major use of it; but I never liked the rapping even as a kid, so I never bought their album.

For me and most of us in the US, they were a little one hit wonder act that released one album on Arista and then disappeared.  But they're actually a Dutch band (they popped up on Cheez Steez vol. 1), and they apparently they were big over there, releasing six or seven major label albums on Virgin Records throughout the 90s.  Rudeboy's the MC, and the other guys are drummer Magic Stick, DJ DNA, and guitarists Silly Sil & Tres Manos.  The only other memory I have of them was back when I was working at The Source, and we were making an online database of every Hip-Hop artist.  Dave Mays sent a memo saying he looked at it and three artists on the list weren't actually Hip-Hop and should be taken off: Marky Mark & the Funky Bunch, 7L & Esoteric and the Urban Dance Squad.  I replied that if we're just taking off artists because they're wack then we'd have to remove the Made Men, too, and I never heard back about it and all the artists stayed.  ...The only other time I got a memo from Mays was when he sent one to correct me that "Super Rappin'" wasn't a Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five song, so I had to fax him a scan of the record label showing him that it was.

Anyway, the point is, I'd never listened to their one album that really sold here in the US, Mental Floss for the Mind.  That title's another thing that put me off it.  ...Never listened to it until this week.  And it's mostly what I expected.  Hip-Hop mixed with live rock music, which isn't bad, though all the live drums and guitars feels a little sloppy for a guy used to loops.  It definitely has a rock and roll vibe to it that doesn't appeal to me, and I still don't like the rapper.  There are some cool samples, like, the first song heavily uses the instrumental from "Strong Island," which sounds good, but guess what?  The JVC Force song is still a ton better, so why bother with this one?  That's kind of the album in a nutshell, and most of the best bits are front-loaded to the beginning of the album, so it gets weaker as it goes on.  But apparently they later really embraced the 90s rap/ rock thing on their later albums, and Mental Floss at least has a funkier vibe to it.

Anyway anyway, near the end of the tape, I was surprised to hear them suddenly rapping about Scott La Rock.  And there's no question that they mean the Scott La Rock.  They specifically go out of their way to sample "South Bronx" right after they say his name for the first time.

The song's called "Famous When You're Dead," and the whole thing isn't really about him.  They start out rapping about themselves, "our aim: we entertain to gain a place, maybe, in a hall of fame.  And If we don't reach this, the world's to blame."  And they slowly get to the overall concept of the song: tragically, a lot of great artists don't become famous until they're dead, "the people and the critics in the biz are impressed 'till my death, so make an album: 'The Best of Rudeboy's Raps.'  Yeah, twice as much money behind my back, now that's lame; too late to get, yeah, you're famous when you're dead. ... Now they fake it, when they try to weep.  Like a family scene, they all just wish it: to bury your body; they won't miss it. like a wife who is wicked.  She inherit, then you know her real spirit."  So there you go; if Rudeboy turns up dead, the police know who to look at.

But then the rest of the song suddenly becomes about Scott La Rock, starting out, "9 AM again, I wake up.  A cold shower, breakfast, time for pop.  Then I be in the mood for some lyrical rock.  I pop in a tape in my deck: Scott La Rock."  Because that's what Scott La Rock's known for... his lyrical rock.  I guess "rap" wouldn't have rhymed as well with "Rock" as "rock" does.  And yeah, he did actually rap at least once or twice in his career, but wouldn't it make more sense to reference his cuts or production rather than his lyrics?

He continues, "superstar status he never lacked, but the words of mouth were final on wax.  The extravagant life came to an end, a nine millimeter and a glock went bang."  Get it?  Because BDP had a song called "9mm Goes Bang," so they're imagining that the gun that shot him was a 9mm.  I'm not sure that's in such great taste.  And again, more about his "words" on wax.  I know they're not from New York, but they had to know Krs-One was the vocalist, right?  It's kinda weird.  The whole song's kinda weird.  Rudeboy keeps mispronouncing words, which makes his verses hard to decipher (he turns "recognition" into a six or seven syllable word); I'm guessing English was not his first language.  And instrumentally, they loop a sample of Biz Markie beat-boxing then pack it with electric guitars.  In fact, the first thirty or so seconds is just a guitar and drum warm-up/ noise jam before the song starts proper.  Then they end it with an electric guitar riffing the famous opening notes to Chopin's "Piano Sonata No. 2" funeral march.

Plus, I'm not sure how much the song's premise even applies to Scott.  Like, his records were big when he was alive; "The Bridge Is Over" was a monster when it dropped.  And since his passing, Hip-Hop purists have been keeping his name alive, none more so than Krs himself.  But it's not like anything he did went on to become a mainstream, crossover success after he died.  Teenage girls around the globe didn't flock to "P Is Free" once they about him on the news.

So, I don't know.  I'm not really knocking it; it's a good thing that they're honoring Scott.  In fact, for me, it's kind of the best moment on the second half of the album.  And when he says, "some act like they were his best friends. those hypocrites, they make me mad!"  That sounds like a real sentiment; that's a good song-writing moment.  It's just an interesting little discovery I thought I'd share, because I'd bet a lot of heads had no idea this was a moment in our history.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Even More Elusive Mr. Voodoo Demos From Our Heroes At Chopped Herring Records

Two years ago, I wrote about a tight Chopped Herring EP of unreleased Mr. Voodoo demo tracks.  Well, this summer, they're re-releasing New York Straight Talk: The Elusive Demos on CD.  But what's interesting about it is that the track-listing's different.  And I don't just mean that the songs are in a different order, although that's a little true, too.  But the original vinyl EP was seven tracks long, and this one's nine.  So, two new bonus tracks?  No, three in fact, because one song has been taken off.  And all three of these new tracks are previously unreleased; they didn't just throw "Come Off Hard" on here to fill up space or something.

So the track that isn't here is "Betta Duck," which kind of makes sense, since it was labeled as a "bonus track" on the 2015 version.  It was still dope, but far from the best song on there and was newer than all the vintage '94-'95 era stuff that comprised the rest of the EP.  And this way I guess vinyl heads don't feel burned, because their original EP still has something exclusive.  But, really the big question is what's new on the 2017 version?

1. Live It Up (Original Version) - This one's interesting, because "Live It Up" was a Natural Elements song from their stint on Tommy Boy; it was even on the Black Mask soundtrack.  But this one here is a Mr. Voo solo track, and he doesn't even kick his bars from the Tommy Boy version (or "Live It Up Part 2").  But this does have a rough, solo version of the same chorus, so I guess this is where they took the concept from.  It has a much slower, calmer feel, with Voo basically rhyming over the instrumental to Red Hot Lover Tone's "#1 Player," with some deeper bass.  On the one hand, it's definitely not as dynamic as the Tommy Boy version, but on the other hand, it's basically an all new song, not just like a demo version with a different drum track or something.

2. Unknown Demo - Yup, I don't know what this is either.  It sounds more like 2000's material than 90's material, though.  I guess "Betta Duck" and all three of these new tracks are essentially more modern bonus tracks, as opposed to their classic era material.  It's a kind of basic but respectable, slower NY street beat kind of track, and Mr. Voodoo comes off well like he always does, with some nice rhymes and a pointed Special Ed reference; but he doesn't use the sick, staccato flow his fans love him for.  The hook is just an extra instrumental sample, so it doesn't give you much to even guess at a title.

3. Let the World Know (Demo Version) - Now, this is one of those Mr. Voodoo demos we've all been waiting for.  "Let the World Know," of course, is the title track of his 2004 EP, and it's okay.  But there's always been a rough sounding (presumably a radio rip) of a tighter original version over Nas's "On the Real" beat.  And this is it.  Longer and in restored sound quality, finally sounding like a proper song.  Why is it longer?  Well, comparing them now, it's obvious the leaked version was clumsily chopping out the hook and other little sections (maybe for one of those old NE mixtapes?).  Uncut, the Chopped Herring version restores about two minutes.  So that's great to finally get, and the most exciting of the three.  It sounds a little slow, though?  I pitched it up a little bit, and it sounded better to my eat, but maybe I'm just forcing it to match the pitch of those old demo rips that could well have been wrong to begin with.  Either way though, I recommend experimenting with speeding it up and see what you think.

Update 8/13/17: Thanks to KayeMPee for pointing this out in the comments! There's another nice bonus to this CD: the track "Pen Hits the Paper," which is on both the vinyl and CD, is a little longer and restored on the CD.  On the old rips that we've had for ages, it's a three verse song (the last verse starts, "when my pen hits the paper, MCs disappear into vapor..."), but every version I've ever cut stops abruptly at the last word, before the hook can start again, cut off.  And I guess the source material CH had to work with had the same problem, so they faded out after the second verse like that was the end of the song.  Well, this CD version restores that last verse, but still fades out around where the other rips "break."  The sound quality is immensely improved (on both the vinyl and CD), so they're obviously working with a much better source than those rips, but that source must be damaged, too.  To be clear, this CD ends awkwardly, too, cutting off the very end of the song... but still restoring the third verse missing from the vinyl.  So it's not perfect, but it's a big improvement.

So yes, this CD is definitely good news.  And now you know, even if you bought the 2015 record, don't think there's no reason to scoop this up, too.  We just got three more lost demo tracks restored, which is also a nice sign that the well still isn't dry and there's still hope for more material, that we both have and haven't heard of before, coming to light.  Right on.  Every time Chopped Herring recovers another lost Natural Elements track, an angel gets its wings.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Yole Boys Number Zero

So, a couple years ago, I wrote about a killer album by Luke Sick's Gurp City Crew, collectively known as The Yole BoysOwe. Reep. Out. was a limited cassette-only album that came out in 2011.  But there was actually something before that album.  Not a previous album, or even a single or EP, but a sort of prelude tape.  Yolemagmix #1 and 2.  It's also, by the way, the very first release on the Megakut label, prominently labeled Megakut #1 on its spine.

Before anyone gets too excited or disappointed, let me just tell you know, this is an entirely instrumental tape.  So no crazy Gingerbread Man verses here, sorry folks.  But it's not just the instrumental version of Owe or anything.  The tape consists of two, roughly twelve and a half minute long megamixes, produced by the Boys' own Fatees, and furiously cut up by DJ Quest.  There are a few ad-libs, including a chant of "too gurp to get in," at the beginning of side 2, plus plenty of choice vocal samples to set the decadent mood; but this is strictly a DJ mix tape.  And it's a killer.

Expect anything between old school references to cocaine and Quest cutting up Biz Markie's "Pickin' Boogers" over a deep, throwback mix of what the Boys fittingly call "Bay-ami Bass."  Classic bass loops mixed with electro samples and a tougher, Philly edge; this tape has a hyper, higher energy than Owe, thanks in part to Quest's quick cuts, but also just in the beats they select.  Owe had a number of slower jams, but here, not so much.  There's one moment where I did feel they let a single beat ride unvaried a bit too long, but apart from that, it's all a great, little ride.

Still, this is an old and quite limited release with only 250 copies (mine has #144 lightly penciled inside the J-card) having been created six years ago... which is still considerably more than the Owe tape, which only saw a miserly 100 pressed (but, unless it's an error, it still seems to be available direct from Megakut!?).  And let's face it, that vocal album is definitely the one you want to track down if you have to choose.  But if you're a fan of these guys - and you should be - than it's worth keeping an eye out for both.  And as of this writing, there are still copies up on discogs, so it's not a hopeless scenario or anything.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Big L Grail On Record Store Day

(This past Record Store Day, we got one killer release, with some very long-awaited music by the great Big L.  Youtube version is here.)

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Return Of Silver Fox, and a New Label Enters the Ring

(Kool G. Rap's mentor and O.G. member of The Fantasy Three. Silver Fox, returns with an all new single.  His debut.  Youtube version is here.)

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Wernski Is Rockin' On the Radiooooo

Hey, folks, I was just a guest on the Newt Podcast, a Hip-Hop podcast hosted by comic James Mascuilli that you can listen to here or on ITunes, Podbay, or wherever you like getting your podcasts from.  So you know, if you're the sort of person who finds yourself visiting this blog, maybe it's something you'd be interested in checking out.  My episode and another one interviewing DJ Mighty Mi were both posted on the same day.  Remember "Mighty Mi For Your Stereo System?"  That was fresh.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Death City Boyz Vs. The Bopsey Twins

Sometimes you just talk about a good record.  This is a one shot single by a group called the Death City Boyz out of Clinton, NY, better known as Hell's Kitchen.  "The Bopsey Twins" came out in 1985 on Snowflake Records, the same label as DJ Polo's original group, The Terminators, and it's just a solid record all around.  Yeah, it's a record about girls (we'll come back to them in a minute), but the rapping by the three Boyz: Nasty Prince B, KMG and Johnny Rock is pretty strong.  But the real hook of this record is the phat production with super big beat, deep bassline, and very catchy electro elements, including cuts by their DJ Professor Paul.

Now, if the name "Bopsey Twins" sounds familiar, it's because it comes from a long running series of children's books called The Bobbsey Twins.  Seriously, there've been hundreds of them, going back to the early 1900s.  It was a boy and a girl and I think they solved mysteries... I never actually read them.  This record doesn't really have anything to do with those characters, though, it's just referring to "Bobbsey/ Bopsey twins" as a nickname for any two inseparable friends.  In fact, in this song, they're literal identical twins, two hot girls named Katie and Kim - one sexy, one shy - who each of the Death City Boyz have romantic run-ins with, and of course it's a misadventure, mistaking one for the other ("Now hold up, man, now it's me to do the dissin'.  I was goin' out with Kim, but it was Katie I was kissin'!").  I'm not quite sure if it's meant to be funny, but it's not really the story-telling aspect of this record that works.  The Boyz have great voices and flows for 1985, and high energy interplay with each other.  And again, they sound kind of hardcore for such a fluff topic, which goes great with the electro production, mixed by DJ Frankie Bones.

There are a couple mixes on the 12": Long Version, Short Version, Dub and X-Rated Version.  Despite the name, the lyrical differences between the X-Rated and other versions are pretty slim, and it really doesn't live up to its "X-Rated" name.  But it is a little more sexual, starting with the second verse, where the line, "found Katie in my house, in a nightgown" becomes "found Katie on my bed, without a blouse."  And at the end of the verse on the original, he brags "we did it mid-town style!"  But he says "doggie style" on the X-Rated.  Later, they call Katie a "ho," but on the original they say "she's so low."  Finally, in the last verse, Katie is either "the one I screwed" or "not the one for you," and she either got "horny" or "hot."  And the biggest difference is a whole extra couple of lines in the final verse, "yes, we hopped into the sack and she was ready to work.  And I thought in my mind I was Kimmie's first, because she started to scream, and she started to shout, and now the whole East Side knows that I busted her out," is only on the X-Rated Version.

Actually, I've been calling the Long Version the "original," but it's probably more likely they wrote the X-Rated version first, and the label asked them to rewrite those lines for radio.  Anyway, as you can see, the X-Rated version isn't exactly a Blowfly record; they probably thought the X-Rated was clean enough when they wrote it.  So, lyrically, I'd definitely say just go with the "X-Rated" version, because it sounds more natural, although the long version does also have some extra, funky instrumentation.

So, like I said, this was a one-off record for the Death City Boyz, meaning it was their only song.  But Prince B and KMG continued working with Frankie Bones and formed a singing group called Spirit Matter.  I'd say they were better rappers than singers, but they still had some solid, electro-style production, and released a couple respectable freestyle records, particularly 1989's "Betrayal."  But none of it was as dope as "The Bopsey Twins."

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Really Hidden Jewels

Here's a really obscure and interesting one.  The name, Hidden Jewels, turns out to be quite apt.  On the surface, it's just a compilation album of old, common funk records from the 70s... some James Brown, Funkadelic, Roy Ayers and a lot of War.  There's one Beastie Boys joint in the mix, which is a little random.  But otherwise, it seems pretty straight forward.  It's a 1998 mix CD, meant to sell you on buying a bunch of Polygram vinyl reissues.  "CLAIM YOUR VINYL JEWELS TODAY CALL NOW!" it says in the CD booklet, and there's a bunch of phone and fax numbers for "interested jewel buyers."  And so in a way, it's as much of an advertisement as a mix.

Or should I say, three mixes: the sapphire group, the diamond group and the ruby group.  This gets into some ridiculously corny shit that fits perfectly with the goofy, tacky album cover above.  On the inside, we learn that the Ruby Mix is funded by "Milk-crates," and Diamond Mix's religion is "Baptist."  And it's all laid out over a map of Sherwood Forrest.  lolwhut?  But, here's the first hint that this album might actually be worth looking at.  Each of those three mixes is by a different DJ... an actual, credible talented and established DJ.  These are mixes by DJ Rhettmatic, Mr. Len and DJ Drez/ Dr. EZ.

So, it's not just a compilation of these old songs, it's a mix, with scratching, beat juggling and interesting things like that.  So, okay, kinda cool.  But still, the CD was made first and foremost to sell these old records, so the DJ's can't too much musical transformation with these 12"s.  They still largely wind up having to let each song play out unaltered for long stretches at a time.

But there's still more, and here's why this CD (and yes, it's a CD only release) is actually worth tracking down.  At the end of each mix, each DJ gets a posse cut with their crew.  So, at the end of Rhettmatic's mix, there's a big Visionaries posse cut.  And it's not just one or two of them, whoever wasn't busy that day, it's the full line-up: Key Kool, 2Mex, LMNO, Zen and Dannu.  Mr. Len's mix ends with Dujeous? (I know, we were all hoping for The Indelibles; but you can't front on their Wax Poetics EP), and DJ Drez has the whole Living Legends gang (both Mystik Journeymen, Murs, Eligh, Aesop and The Grouch).  And they don't come off like just quick, mixtape freestyles.  The verses feel written with hooks and the tracks feel professionally produced, like proper songs.  And because they're rocking over loops of these classic, 70s funk breaks, they're actually better than a lot of these guys' other records.

So, overall, the mixes are decent.  They are solid records, and the DJs are talented.  But nothing to go out of your way for.  But the posse cuts?  Yeah, if you're a fan of any of those crews (and odds are, if you like one, you think all three are dope, because they're all kind of in the same wheelhouse), you want these tracks.  Keep an eye out for this one in your local dollar bins, because I don't think anybody's going to recognize this as a keeper, but it sure is.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Rough House Survivers' Long Lost Second Album

(Man, if you don't know, the Rough House Survivers [sic] were dope.  So how come they only made one album?  Or... didn't they?  Youtube version is here.)

Monday, June 12, 2017

Schoolly D's Secret Girl Group

How many records did Schoolly D and Luke Skyywalker collaborate on?  Um, I'm pretty sure just this one: Peters Posse, the compilation album of Steve Peters' Peters Records label from 1990.  It features an entire roster of unknowns except for one: Captain Sky.  And yes, Schoolly and Luke worked on it.  This is a real head scratcher of a record, so let's just dive right in.

Let's start with Captain Sky.  Captain Sky was a funk/ disco guy most famous for "Super Sporm."  He wasn't a rapper, though he did rap once on a song called "Station Brake" in 1982, and maybe one other time.  But he was a singer, and known for wearing crazy disco outfits.  However, this right here is his last record after a hiatus of several years, and his return to rapping.  It's called "Thank You," and it's a rap remake of Sly and the Family Stone's classic "Thank You."  It really liberally uses the music from Sly's version and he kicks lyrics like, "I got the beat, to move your feet."  How or why they dragged him out of retirement to be a rapper for this project is anybody's guess.

But here's what we do know.  The liner notes brag about assembling their posse "from the four corners of the land, from NY, LA, Chicago, Miami, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Jacksonville, FL."  Peters Records itself is straight out of Miami, and at least a portion of this album was recorded in Skyywalker Studios with Luther Campbell.

The album starts off with a pretty decent song by Queen D.  I'm pretty sure she's the Jacksonville one, and she's not bad.  I mean, her song "Queen D's World" is definitely on a poppy dance tip, closer to The Real Roxanne than MC Lyte.  It's got a DJ cutting up a bunch of records like "Don't Want To Lose Your Love," James Brown, UTFO's "Bite It" and a liberal dose of "Tell Me Something Good" on the hook.  It's one of the stand out tracks, and it even came out on 12" single with an extended mix and a disappointing B-side called "Rock It To Me Faster."

In fact, a bunch of these songs got 12" singles.  News 4 You's "Good Times," which is actually a crappy R&B song, b/w "She's a Lady," which is more of a catchy new jack swing song at least, but still pretty weak.  Then there was a corny rap duo named 2 La Jit.  Their 12" said it was from the album Having Fun, but that never happened.  Kenny B Devine is the only one to go on to a couple more records on other labels, as well as another Peters Records 12".  He was from Miami, but all his stuff was pretty weak. There's a song by Money D and Wayne, which is a big improvement, although I can't decide if it's actually good, or just feels good by comparison.  Finally a group called GQ Tab that combined R&B and rap had a corny anti-drug song on this album called "Stop the Pusher," and came out with a love song called "Teen Emotion" on a Peters Records 12".

So yeah, most of this album's pretty bad.  A group called Satin does a Hip-Hop version of "The Name Game," which hits a terrible low, with all of the lyrics literally from the children's song.  But there are some interesting moments.  A song by 2-Real is rather listenable, with a couple interesting samples and a harder edge.

And Schoolly D's contribution?  Yeah, he produced a song by a Philly girl group called Northside Alliance.  Actually, it's just one MC, but I guess she had a DJ or someone to justify the "Alliance" name.  Anyway, the song's called "Give My Regards To Broadstreet" and is unquestionably the jewel of the album.  The title's kind of a pun, because Give My Regards To Broadstreet was a famous Paul McCartney film, but Broad Street is also a major urban boulevard in Philly.  It's a hot track with a killer break, sick horn samples and a cut up Krs-One vocal sample for the hook.  It's too bad this never got a 12", because I would definitely recommend it and it's the only song to really deserve it (although I'm actually pretty happy with my Queen D single).

So this album is still kind of a weird mystery.  Someone (I guess Peters) sunk a lot of money into this lost cause.  Not just this album but the whole label.  They put out six 12" singles, five from this album plus another News 4 You single.  But I recommend the compilation just for the Northside Alliance song.  I've searched and have never been able to find out more about this group, which is a shame because an album of this would be fantastic.  But take what you can get; this is hot.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Thoughts On Kool G Rap's Latest Album... Is It Too Late To Return Return Of the Don?

Well, this is disappointing.  I mean, I know a lot of naysayers have been down on Kool G Rap since he left Cold Chillin', talking about how he's only spitting gangsta raps now.  Does it count for nothing that his gangsta raps are incredible?  But tonight, hearing Return Of the Don... Oh jeez.  And it's not that G Rap can't rap anymore or is spitting weak verses.  He still sounds great.  But I knew we were in trouble when they announced his track-listing, and nine out of eleven songs had guest rappers on them.  And one of those two remaining solo songs is an introduction where he just drops one quick verse.  So this is unfortunately one of those guest-on-his-own-album deals like Thy Kingdom Come, only even more so.  He only strings two verses together once on the entire album!

So if you don't know, the vinyl doesn't drop until August 25th, because these NY guys always release the vinyl months later for some reason, but that's another gripe.  The CD's out now, and they've officially put the album up for streaming.  And you guys know, I would blind-buy any G Rap album; but this stream might've just saved me some money.  ...But honestly, I'm still on the fence.  It's not terrible, and I'm not sure I can go through life missing a G Rap album.  Maybe I'll just wait for a sale.

Because this is definitely a wait for a sale record: weak, but still has its moments.  The whole album's produced by Moss, and you could do a lot worse; but man, he just plays it so safe.  Like, he's got that Premier Jr. formula down and he's not gonna stray from it.  Think of all the classic G Rap songs that got you hyped, from "Road To the Riches" to "Letters."  Well, nothing on this album comes close to giving you that feel.  For the most part, it's pretty low energy.  "Mack Lean" almost turns into a spoken word piece.

And yeah, there's far too many guest spots.  On the other hand, that doesn't mean somebody like Raekwon wasn't a worthy inclusion.  I was excited to hear their joint together (though ultimately, it was a little boring).  But yeah, guys like Crooked I sound good.  Or take "Wise Guys;" that's one of the album's highlights with an energetic beat and Kool G Rap and M.O.P. sounding strong together, but they should've just gone: G Rap verse, M.O.P. verse and hook, second G Rap verse.  But instead they also throw Freeway on at the end of the song, and he definitely doesn't live up to everyone that preceded him, with lines that would've been junk even in the 90s like, "you must be a dyke because you've been abroad."  Who let him take up space?  And the same with "Popped Off."  Having G Rap duet with Sean Price (R.I.P.)?  Great!  But why is there also some guy named Ransom on there?

Who decided we needed verses from virtual unknowns like Manolo Rose, Willie the Kid, Pearl Gates (who delivers what is possibly rap's very worst hook to date), Westside Gun, or Conway the Machine?  I mean, to be fair, having those last two dudes on "Rest In Peace" actually kind of worked.  It reminded me of G Rap bringing out Papoose and Jinx da Juvy on a trio track back in the day.  I mean, none of these guys kill it like Jinx used to kill it, but they tread water well enough, and it's one of the few moments where Moss takes a chance production wise.  But yeah, if they really want to put the next generation on, maybe cram them all into one posse cut; but don't give them more collective mic time than G Rap himself.

Not that most of the veterans impress much more.  Saigon attempts to revive the phrase "ba-dunka-dunk," Termanology gets overly dramatic rapping about sluts and Satan and Sheek Louch just adds some filler.  Only Cormega, N.O.R.E., Raekwon, M.O.P. and Sean Price really belong on here.  They're the only ones genuinely enhancing the album with their contributions.  And five artists?  That's enough guests for an album.  Especially when it's not one of those 23-song packed mix CDs.  Everyone else is dead weight.  Again, Kool G Rap only has one full solo song on here.  It's pretty good, though.  And yeah, he does have some nice verses on the other songs.  But there's so much filler, it's like a surprise whenever he gets on the mic again, like oh yeah, this is a G Rap album!

And here's a question.  In several songs (including "Wise Guys" and "Criminal Outfit") he references being part of The Five Family Click.  What?  Are these just fifteen year-old acappellas that Moss patched together to mock up an album?  Is this another Half a Klip situation??  I'll tell you this much, Half a Klip might actually be a more satisfying album.  He wasn't sidelined this much on the Click Of Respect, and he was supposed to be just one guy in a group there.  Again, it's not all bad.  Like listening to him start rapping on "Capitol Hill," I'm getting excited to have the new Kool G Rap album I've been waiting for.  But then this annoying hook comes on and the rest of the song belongs to a bunch of other guys.  Listening to Return Of the Don all the way through is a drag.