When I first heard of The Outlaw Posse's lost album finally getting released, my first thought was: I don't even know who these guys were! But then I realized this is the original name of the duo Brothers Like Outlaw, who were out on Gee Street in the early 90s. They were a UK group who never really broke into the US market, so even still I didn't know 'em too well. But I at least remembered their video for "Trapped Into Darkness" and having one or two of their older songs, which I recall being fairly well produced, on a compilation album from back in the day.
So yeah, their story in short is that it's two guys: MC Bello B and producer K-Gee (not actual brothers). They had a couple 12"s first, but their debut album was My Afro's On Fire!, which I don't think was ever released stateside. Their second and last album, The Oneness Of II Minds In Unison, at least made it into US stores. But it was one of those tapes you'd see on the shelf and just leave there because you didn't really know who they were. So anyway, they broke up after that, K-Gee went on to produce for other artists (like Me Phi Me and K7, then later expanding out of Hip-Hop to guys like All Saints, George Michael and Rod Stewart) and Bello was that guy who rapped on The KLF's techno hit "What Time Is Love."
Well, they had one last, third album together, which they'd recorded back in 1993; but Gee Street never put it out. So in 2018, they released My Afro's On Fire Vol. 2 digitally, and even pressed up a 7" single of two of the tracks. And now in 2019, they're finally making the whole LP available on wax (including those two songs from last year's 7") via Hip Hop Be Bop, that label who's been putting out those SilverFox and Sugar Bear singles. It's available on black, white (white) or orange vinyl, all in a slick picture cover with stickers; or on a CD, which includes a bonus track called "Funk It Up."
So, if you're not already a fan, you might be looking at the above credits I listed and thinking, Me Phi Me, K7, The KLF... not the most alluring track record. I mean, Me Phi Me actually wasn't so bad; he just needed to ditch that twangy acoustic guitar. And K7 had some interesting production... But you know what I mean. You don't want to hear an album by the "What Time Is Love" rapper, right? But this is doesn't sound like all that. It doesn't even sound like the Brothers Like Outlaw album; it's better. It's almost hard to reconcile that these are the same dudes.
A couple songs, like "Ghetto Child," sound like the kind of stuff they were doing for Gee Street at the time. And that's not a criticism; it's got some creative, smooth but jazzy production with samples you won't recognize right away. But most of the album sounds like some Hip-Hop purist stuff that I never would've expected from these guys in '93. Although, now with the power of hindsight and google, I realize it does match up more with their first UK album, that was more on that tighter tip. So it makes perfect sense they've called this My Afro's On Fire Vol. 2.
The production does outshine the vocals a little bit. The only criticism you could give the poor true school sounding material here is that you will recognize a ton of the samples. The only "Yeah Ha Ha" uses the same funky bassline as Kid 'N Play's "Bounce," though had this album come out when it was supposed to, they would've beaten them to that punch. "In Trouble" sounds fantastic, but no better than all the other Hip-Hop records that looped up "Nautilus" the same way, like DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince's "Jazzy's Groove," Lord Shafiyq's "My Mic Is On Fire," PRT's "Word Is Bond" or even Soul II Soul's "Jazzie's Groove." But usually, when you've heard the samples, you haven't heard them like this. "Hey Mr Officer" uses CMW's classic "This Is Compton" piano roll and drums, but transforms it by adding very different musical elements. "Ready 4 Action"uses the same Marvin Gaye loop from Scarface's classic "A Minute To Pray," and many others, but here he turns it into a high energy with some upbeat horns and really fresh cuts. In fact, K-Gee's slick incorporation of the turntables may be this album's secret weapon.
The MCing on the other hand won't threaten anybody's Top 5. But don't get it twisted; if you've only heard him on "What Time Is Love," he definitely sounds more nimble here than that. He has a healthy versatility that's able to leave the clunkiness of that song behind and adapt to a variety of tracks, be it playful freestyles or substantive songs with a message. At his worst, he's a little stiff, but still able to slip into some earnest feeling and nuance into his delivery. On "Enforce the Positive," he slips into a style reminiscent of Master Ace's "I Got Ta," but then on "Freestyle Poetry" he's surprisingly able to step up to the plate and live up to skill flexing style of the time.
It helps that there are no skits or filler here. And we're not being overrun with a pack of guests. "Freestyle Poetry" features MCM from Caveman, and that's it. It's just ten solid, well produced songs that probably would've garnered them some new fans if this had managed to come out when it was supposed to. So it's nice to get this now, but I'm kind of bummed to've miss the chance to catch this material naturally when it was supposed to have come out. I'm sure it would've inspired me to go on the hunt for Vol. 1 ...which, remember, wouldn't've been easy in the US before the internet.
Now here's a rapper I haven't thought about in a super long time: Str8-G. I copped his album on cassette in '94, played it some back then, and then that's kinda been it. But just this week Ben on Twitter suggested I talk about his stuff with Tragedy, and it all flashed back for me: oh yeah, Tragedy was on that album!
Str8-G, for those who missed out, was an LA/ Compton rapper very much in the vein of the early DJ Quik crew, which is what sold me on him back in the day. He had a high pitched voice, laying in the cut between more traditional gangsta rap and light-hearted sex rap stuff with plenty of post-Chronic G-Funk influence. His first record was a shameless knock-off of AMG's "Jiggable Pie," with a couple more serious B-sides. And that's what got him signed to a major for his one album. He even got Quik to do a remix of his single, "Bring the Funk," which turned out to be his career peak. You could tell he was really patterning himself off these guys and aspired to roll with them, and honestly, he had a nice flow that would've sound really good on Quik's albums if that had ever blossomed. But he was a little let down by slightly flatter production by Dazzie Dee and some generic studio house producers.
So with all this west coast talk, who's the last guy you'd expect to turn up in the album credits? The man who dubbed Queensbridge the new Kuwait, Tragedy. But yeah, he's got two songs on Str8's album, as a producer, writer and vocals, including the original version of "Bring the Funk" that Quik remixed for the single and video. It's actually pretty interesting, with a dark, East coast sounding core vibe, including deep bass and "Skull Snap" drums. They also make great use of a Humpty Hump vocal sample. But then they lay this syrupy Troutman/ Dre G-funk electronic whistle thing over it, which really hasn't aged well. But yeah, it's produced and written by Trag, and just in case you might be thinking this might be some other random dude calling himself Tragedy, he speaks on the intro of the song. This is definitely our Juice Crew Allstar.
And their other collaboration is even more interesting. Once again, it's written and produced by Tragedy, and vocally he contributes a bit more, though he never kicks a proper verse. No, this one's called "Drama" and it's a pure East coast sounding-track with squealing horns, a screeching Prince vocal sample (the same one Esham used to use) and a dark street vibe. Sonically, this would've sounded right at home on Black Rage. But lyrically it's a narrative on some LA Boyz N da Hood shit, except instead of a proper gang it's Str8-G and his boys, and Trag.
"Three oh-motherfuckin' clock in the mornin'; I'm lookin' at my nigga Tragedy and he's yawnin'. I'm puttin' on my dickies and yo Trag, it's on. (Went into the drawer and got the motherfuckin' chrome!)"
...The parenthetical bits being performed by Trag himself. In the song, they get in their Caddy, pick up their boys and do a drive-by. "I said 'oh shit, what you doin'?" And Trag says, "man, that's some nigga my bitch was screwin'!" And it's all about this gun fight that's gotten out of control. "And now I'm lookin' for Trag 'cause he's not on my ass, thinkin' about the niggas that's blast - in' on me. No, it's not me, 'cause the niggas never can see Str8-G. And no I'm not from they set, and now them niggas don't look at me in a 'vette, 'cause I'm creepin' like a motherfucker. And I don't give a fuck because I'm not a fuckin' sucker." This is definitely not the kind of song you expect to hear The Intelligent Hoodlum on, though I guess it ends with his kind of moral, since Str8's character gets shot, and I think we're supposed to conclude that they never should've gotten involved in that drama. But even for Str8-G, this is pretty hardcore, as a guy who seemed much more comfortable doing songs like "Pussy Time" and "Everything's Fine (In the Summertime)."
And of course it's all the more ironic because the very next record Tragedy would release is "LA, LA," where he rallied his Queens based against the west. But if you're wondering how these two got together, I think the answer's disappointingly simple. Str8-G was signed to Tuff Break Records, which was a short-lived division of A&M Records, which was Tragedy's label. In fact, this was the last thing he did before splitting with them and going indie. And Str8's only other single was a remix (that leaned much further into the G-funk sound) of his title track with Barry White singing the chorus... Barry was also briefly signed to A&M at that time; so clearly they were just shoving all their artists into studios together. In fact, that big sticker you see on the cassette case is advertising Barry's appearance, because A&M didn't know enough to be putting DJ Quik's name in big letters on the front instead, even though that's who we were really excited to hear in '94.
But yeah, that was about it for Trag and Str8-G's involvement with A&M, a label which never seemed comfortable with the Hip-Hop genre. Str8-G pretty well disappeared after that one album. There's a new guy calling himself Str8 G, but it's a totally different person. Poking around discogs, I noticed that the real Str8-G did come back to do one song with B-Low O of The Mackadelics in 2007, and he actually came off really nice on there. It's a shame he didn't get to do a little more with Quik and those guys, but oh well.
Besides that Baby Chill reissue, P-Quest Revivals has an even more interesting new release. When I first heard they were putting out unreleased music by R.A.S. Posse, a.k.a. Riddem and Soul, the name rang a bell, but I couldn't place it. They're from the House Party 3 soundtrack! And they performed in the movie itself. Well, outside of that, these Brooklyn cats just had one indie 12", the self titled "R.A.S. Posse" on Kid Entertainment Records. Yep, as in thatKid, because he was genuinely managing them, just like they said in the movie. Unfortunately, Kid 'N Play were having their own problems transitioning into the 90s, so R.A.S.'s stuff got left on the shelf. That is until now that P-Quest got a hold of their archives, a whole collection of material recorded between 1992 and 1993.
The Posse consists of rugged reggae MC Bigga Don, Soul G, a.k.a. Easy G or ZG of The Undefeated Three (Funkmaster Wizard Wiz's old group) who kicks a distinctly playful American style ("I'm quick with the giz-nift of gab, the vocab, I smoke ya like a spliz-niff") and also produces, plus a singer named Robbie Irie who's on so many songs, he should at least qualify as an ancillary member.
The tone here is really interesting. The production is rich and varied. Sometimes you'll recognize some loops, but they're either paired with some other unexpected samples or just used in a very different type of song. My favorite example of this has got to be "Lazy Body," that uses the signature music from Special Ed's "I'm the Magnificent" for some funny raps dunking on their lazy girlfriends, like an even catchier version of UTFO's under-appreciated "Beef Pattie." To put it in terms of rap blogs, this is Wake Your Daughter Up music, not Unkut music. And that's not a bad thing; I wish more unreleased stuff that wasn't strictly purist would get rescued from the vaults. A couple songs, like "We Are the Teachers" and Money, Weed, Hoes" are a little rougher and definitely incorporate more hardcore elements from their time, like screeching horns and shouted hooks. But, you know. Think The UMCs' second album, not 36 Chambers.
Their actual House Party 3 song itself is left off of here, but instead we get an unreleased demo version. The only really noticeable difference is that the final version fades the bassline from Ed O. G's "Bug-A-Boo" in and out of the mix, though, which the demo version doesn't really bother with. That bass sounded really good, so I'd say the House Party 3 version is easily the preferable one, but since that's already out and easily accessible, it's cool to get this version instead as a historical artifact if nothing else.
Their Kid Entertainment "R.A.S. Posse" song is on here, too; though dedicated fans will still want to track down that original 12", since they left off the B-side, a pure reggae (as opposed to Ragga Hip-Hop, with G's rapping and their usual Hip-Hop beats) love song called "Love Me." But I can see why they left it off; that's really an outlier for the crew, who I'd definitely described as Hip-Hop with a Reggae Twist, as opposed to Reggae with a Hip-Hop twist. The only "pure reggae" song on this collection is the Dancehall Remix of a song called "Well Run Dry," which is quite different from the main Hip-Hop version that's also on here.
Yeah, there's one or two remixes on here. The whole album is 21 tracks, with the first being a quick intro (a snippet from House Party 3 where Kid talks about the Posse), and one specifically demarcated as a bonus track. So basically 18 songs and two additional remixes, and those "Well Run Dry" mixes are practically two entirely different songs. The other remixed track here is "The Posse" (not to be confused with "R.A.S. Posse"), which is a pretty tight track that uses a sample you'll recognize from Pete Rock's killer remix of Da Youngsta's "Pass the Mic." The other mix is the Freestyle Version, which sounds just like you'd think, alternate off-the-head lyrics roughly recorded in one pass, as opposed the more polished professional mix. So it's basically just a fun lyrical remix.
And that bonus track? It's an unreleased Cool Supreme (also of the Undefeated Three, and the classic "B Boys Style") song that features Bigga Don. It has a similar production style, and Cool's flow and humor is just like Soul's with just a slightly deeper voice. So it's just like another R.A.S. song; you probably wouldn't even catch the difference if it wasn't labeled.
So this is another very limited CD, restricted to only 100 copies. It's brand new for 2019, but P-Quest already put out an equally limited (yes, 100 copies) vinyl EP of highlights in 2017. That's a sticker cover pressed on green vinyl, and as of this writing, copies of both are still available from the label. All six songs from the vinyl are on this CD, plus of course, 16 more. I don't know if these recordings were taken from DATs, cassettes or what, but the sound quality is very clear and strong. None of these are "sorry, these were ripped from low quality tapes but that's all that exists" like we sometimes have to settle for on projects like these. I hope this projects succeeds, because Hip-Hop's an awesomely broad scene, and I'd love to see more diverse artists from different periods get their unreleased brought back. And when they do, I'd like to see bigger runs than just 100. In fact, my next post is going to get a little deeper in that.
And speaking of Jersey Hip-Hop, here's a recent, slept on release. It's an unreleased B-Fyne album called looked If Lookz Could Kill from P-Quest Revivals and Nustalgic Records. B-Fyne is the guy from Blaque Spurm/ The Funk Family and other projects I've covered on this blog. But this is his first solo project, an album recorded from 1996-1997 with Joe The Butcher when he was working at RuffNation Records.
It's entirely produced by Tony D, except for one song by YZ, and jumps in with an immediate head nodder that you'll want to put on repeat. This sets up a tight, unified tone of somewhat smooth, modern-sounding beats across the whole album. Some of the punchlines ("flows hard like silicone titties," "suffering from WackMCitis") could've been left behind in the 90s, but for the most part, the lyricism is still appealing. There are some lines just for us New Jerseyians, like "find me in NJ, the Turnpike way, stay off Exit 8, one before Great Adventure, what you get into if you choose to enter my zone." We'll make the immediate "Exit 7A = Great Adventure" association, but nobody else will. "Real Kadeal" starts off sounding pretty flat, but once the hook stops and he starts flowing over the track, and then the cuts come in, it really takes off.
The album does start to run out of steam a little bit in the second half. "Plot Thickens" is kind of a silly sex narrative rap, along the lines of Cella Dwellas' "Perfect Match" or an early Fresh Princerecord without the wit. "Pretty MF With the Dread" also suffers from a clunky hook, despite having a really fresh track which makes great use of "Who Got the Props" and a jazzy sax sample. And it's not like the other half is bereft of highlights; "Buttascotch" is a tight duet with his little brother, Baby Chill. And speaking of guest verses, the next track features YZ and Blaque Spurm fellow Papa Doc.
This is a CD-only release right now, though I can't help but notice that the slightly short track-listing (nine songs, and one's a short outro) feels ideal for a single LP. Like all of P-Quest's Revivals, it's a properly pressed CD, though, not a CD-R. It's limited to only 100 copies, the first 20 of which came with a promo card; but those are long gone, so if you're interested, don't wait too long.
Although that's not to say there are never any second chances. You may remember I wrote about Baby Chill's unreleased album Wake Up Call coming from P-Quest and Nustalgic in 2016. That was limited to 100 CDs, too, and sold out ages ago. But now it's back, reissued in 2019 with new artwork and three additional bonus tracks. Two of them are just radio freestyles, which aren't as exciting as complete songs, but still pretty cool. He definitely impresses with his calm yet confident flow over "My Mind's Playing Tricks On Me" and Nas's "Halftime."
But the third bonus track is a complete, never heard before song, produced by Tony D in the early 90s. It's called "Nut Junkie," and yes, it means what you think it does: a bit of a reference to his Secret Squirrels thing, but mostly it's about nuts of the busted variety. It's a tight, busy track, with two sung hooks, one by a female R&B singer, and then a reggae guy chanting about being a "junkie, a junkie, a punanny junkie. Me no thing for sensei, 'cause me a punanny junkie." As you can guess, it's pretty all pretty irreverent and honestly one of the best songs on the album.
This one's also limited to a 100 CDs. I don't know if the bonus tracks make it worth double-dipping if you already copped the 2016 edition. But they definitely take the sting out of being stuck with a second pressing if you missed the first one; and the important thing is that more music is being restored and finally released to the fans.
It's common knowledge that as a NJ Hip-Hop blogger, if you don't write about Da Nuthouse within your first ten years, you can get your license revoked. And going over my records, I see that I've been living on borrowed time! So, come one, let's hustle!
Da Nuthouse were three MCs from South Jersey: Az-Iz a.k.a. Dave Ghetto, DJ Nex Millen/ Retrospective (who also produced a lot of their stuff) and Fel "The Enigma" Sweetenburg. And this is their 1998 debut single on a label that introduced a lot of hot indie acts to the world, Bobbito's Fondle 'Em Records. Of course, Fondle 'Em wasn't really a long-term home for anyone (as opposed to signing acts, I believe it lived solely on one-time deals made per individual record), and they quickly moved on to Goodvibes (such an underrated label) for their album. And then their third and final record, a 2005 single on Counterflow, claimed to be "taken from the forthcoming Nuthouse album 'Mentally Ill'," which obviously never surfaced, but all three guys have gone on to extensive solo careers. They've consistently been clever, able MCs who I'd be down to hear on a project right up to today.
But in terms of songs where you hear it and say to yourself, "I need to have it on vinyl," they really, unfortunately, peaked here. It's all decent material... I always at least liked everything they put out, and I remember hearing a really cool mp3-only song about Camden by Fel like five or six years ago. Good luck finding that today. But anyway, "A Luv Supream" is it. That might say more about the work of producer Jahee than anything else, because the MCs sound great on it, but it's the instrumental that really grabs you. Looking this Jahee guy up on discogs, I don't see that he's done anything else other than a few other songs for Da Nuthouse and a single by a group named Danger-I 5000; but maybe he worked under a different name/ alternate spelling? I hope so, because someone who made a record this great shouldn't disappear so quickly; but hey, it happens.
It's a perfect chopping of John Coltrane's original "A Love Supreme," with the delicate cymbals sounding almost like aged dirt in the record grooves. Sparse piano notes over drums, almost like a mellow "The Symphony," and a broken pitched horn riff on the hook. And you could do worse than declaring your love for our genre as your opening salvo. And each MC gets on the smooth, slow track to kick their distinctive voices and styles, so they immediately hit you as artists you should know. There's punchlines, complex wordplay and yes, some slang that even sounded dated at the time (a lot of MCs tried, but "the buttas" was never gonna gain long term traction), but also genuine emotion comes through. Paired with that perfect instrumental, you can see why this has a become a song that outlasts the rest of their catalog. The bummer is that we only get Radio Vocal and Instrumental versions of this song, and they curse on it a bunch, even in the hook. So it's full of annoying backwards edits, and this song was never reissued on any of their follow-up releases, so this clean version is all we get in perpetuity.
We do get two B-sides. "Synapsis" is a weird blend of futuristic sci-fi sounds and another jazzy piano loop. It's all about being multi-syllabic outer space rap geniuses, which maybe sounds like I'm making fun of it. But while it does sound dated and maybe a little corny, with predictable lines referring to their "verbal ejaculation" and "mental alertness" spanning "multiple dimensions," it's still genuinely impressive listening to it today, and some energetic cuts by a turntablist named DJ Active go a long way towards bolstering the proceedings. It's backpackery in a way that younger audiences would reject, but these guys were unquestionably good at it. We also get the Instrumental for this one, and nothing on the B-side is censored like "Luv Supream."
The other B-side is "Very Vocabulary," and it's listed as a Bonus Cut. They use the classic loop from Ultramagnetics' "Funky" and EPMD's "Knick Knack Paddy Wack." Can never be mad at this beat popping up again anytime, anyplace. And they just flex on it, but it's mastered like a proper song and the rhymes are carefully written, it's not simply a casual freestyle slapped on at the end or something. In fact, it's really dope, and rewards careful listening, like a tight posse cut, except ironically, this is the single's solo cut, with Nex going for self over the whole song. See, I'm not trying to say "A Luv Supream" was their only good song - they've done a lot of hot stuff like this over the years. That's just their masterpiece, and it's maybe a little awkward that it came first.