Sunday, June 7, 2009

Los Harmless

When Haiku De' Tat formed, it seemed like a perfect matched based on unspoken but inherent understanding between the artists and their audiences. We were gonna get the live music and rhythms of Abstract Rude combined with the lyrical wizardry of Aceyalone, and the result would be a west coast mainstay. But in the end, only one half of the pairing held up their end, as we see here on their first single.

See, unfortunately, this was just about the time Acey went from being the wild freestyle MC whose audience was outraged that Book of Human Language only got 2 Mics to the MC who could phone it in because he'd already "proven himself," and whose records immediately found their way to the discount bin. I mean really, the lead track tells the whole, depressing story.

"Los Dangerous." This was their attention-getting 1997 debut. They're rocking over the Dre and Snoop's infamous "Deep Cover" groove... the same infamous bassline, the same drums but weaker drums.* Abstract replaces the piano stabs with a sick saxophone sample and a sing-song hook that blends perfectly with the track - it's like they were originally written together. Ab also kicks the first verse, which is ok... heavy on cliche and sort of exactly what you'd expect from any west coast rapper flowing over "Deep Cover." And finally Acey comes on to drop a quick few, mediocre bars. The hook is sung about fifty more times, and we're done, ball decidedly dropped.

It's not that Ace's verse sucked so much (although it was kinda lame), but that this should've been where they excelled. When you take what's already become one of the most beloved gangsta rap beats in history, you know you're not going to blow anyone's mind with the music - we've already got that single! So taking a beat like that, it's like you're saying, "well, sure, you've heard this before, but wait till you here what WE gon' do with it," and come with something next level. This should have been underground hip-hop's answer to the mainstream, "oh you like your big time Snoop Doggy Dogg, huh? Well, you won't believe how much more talented true, underground MCs are!" But instead they just kinda fart around on the track for a couple minutes, and you're left thinking, "well, ok I guess; but I'd rather hear Snoop's verse now, please." Pretty fucking underwhelming. I wonder if this isn't what inspired Big Pun to record "Twinz" (also 1997), like, "you dummies; this is how you do it!" ...That, or Haiku bit the concept of rhyming over "Deep Cover" from him. Frankly, either is possible.

Oh well, at least they included the instrumental on this single, so you can get "Deep Cover" with the sax sample, and you can rap your own, better version. ;)

That's one of two exclusives on this. The other is the B-side, "Kaya (Extended Version)." On the album, "Kaya" is a short, little 2-minute number with a nice groove, a simple hook, and that's about it. Here, it's extended to a full-length song, mainly by repeating the hook about a thousand more times. They did also add a quick verse from Acey to this mix, but I mean like two to three setences quick. Otherwise, it's all about them saying the word "Kaya" as many times as they possibly can, "got to have Kaya, now, Kaya, Kaya. Got to have Kaya, yeah; Kaya, Kaya. Kaya Kaya kaya kayakayakayakayakayakayakayakayakaya!!!!!"** Ahhh!

Oh yeah, the hook is also a direct lift from Bob Marley. And to be fair, the original album version isn't too bad for a cover. Instrumentally, they do something different with it and create their own little groove. If you just take it as a throw-away tune used as album filler with low expectations attached to it, it's kinda cool. But sadly, this is just another testament to Ab Rude doing something and Acey letting a good opportunity flounder. This beat with some ill rhymes would've been dope. But, sadly I have to report that the shorter album version is actually the more definitive version of this song; because all the extended version has to offer is repetition.

Finally, the single rounds itself out with "Still Rappin'," another album track. Again, there's some decent instrumentation, but generally it's a pretty boring song. And if the title led you to believe "finally, this is where Acey is gonna shine," well, it isn't. It's mostly Ab singing, and he sounds good... And Mikah 9 makes a guest appearance here, but it's basically thrown away, since he and Acey both direct their energies towards singing like Rude. Plus the subject matter is boring (they are underground rappers who stay true to rapping underground), and like with the other tracks, the hook takes up a good 50% of the song. Again, it was okay as album filler, but it really didn't need to be pulled out and highlighted on a single.

And that's it. I don't know. I was thinking about pulling out my copy of the full album and relistening to it after this; but now I don't think I'll bother. That's usually not the effect you want your lead single to have, is it?

*Update 9/14/11 - As has been pointed out in the comments; they're not the same drums. It's not even difficult to notice the difference, so shame on me. These drums are played live and seriously overuse the cymbal. They're softer and more roll-y and just generally aren't as good.

**Ok, that might be a slight exaggeration.


  1. hahaha very funny ,dude.
    its funny how you compare
    this 2 songs.
    first ,yes haiku de'tat
    used the same bassline sample
    like dre but not the same drums!!!
    as you can see on the flipside of
    the haiku record there are
    a lot of people mentioned there
    as musicians that might gives you
    a hint this was all made with a
    band so all was played live
    with real instruments also
    the bassline !!!thats unique!!!
    although i dont like live
    produced bands like the roots
    for example(mostly there're sounding too jazzy or too funky)
    besides that their rhymes are
    way more clever intelligent and
    skillfully than dr dre & snoop ever could be.
    just compare the labelcover:
    the haiku record was made by love
    the lettering of the name
    the ocean floor logo the funny 33.333 infinity
    almost everything.
    by the way mikah 9 was part
    from day 1 and will ever be.
    i have also to admit
    i dont really like the rest of their music.
    but this record is the bomb.
    if you wanna discuss this thing out

  2. Good call. You're right that the drums and all are different - I just went back and corrected the post. :)

    I think this version falls under the "too jazzy" description you mention to some degree. I still love the sax and Ab's hook on this, but the beats here just don't match Dre's hard production.

    I'd agree that Acey's verses can often be more intelligent and clever than Dre and/or Snoop's, but I don't think they are here. Lyrically, it feels he and Ab phoned it on on this one - compare Ab's storytelling in the first verse compared to Snoop's on "Deep Cover," and it's not even close IMHO.