Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Sirius XM Commute: The Lox, Mase & Mobb Deep

During my last few months on the full-time music beat at Machine Gun Funk, I began an infrequent piece called "The XM Commute". Every morning, after dropping Jalen off at school, it's just me and my satellite radio. Roughly six-and-a-half miles of surface streets and stoplights allow me the opportunity to hear at least three songs in their entirety.

Sirius XM Channel: "Backspin" (Old-school hip hop)

Some links may be NSFW, so click with caution…

The Lox featuring Lil' Kim and DMX
Money, Power & Respect: The Lox (Jadakiss, Sheek Louch and Styles P.) are casually more known for their highly publicized falling out with former boss, Puff Daddy. In January 1998, they released their debut album with this as the title track. Depending on whom you ask, the single greatest year for rap music is 1988, 1994 or 1998. If you're picking '98, THIS track had better make your mixtape. I never bought the contention that The Lox had sold their soul (or their sound) for Puffy's shiny suit conglomerate. I'd heard their underground stuff from earlier in the '90s and they kill it here. Great chemistry, combustible lyricism ("I sneeze on tracks and bless YOU.") with effective cameos from Lil' Kim and DMX. I've bashed Kim for years, but her sultry hook and undeniable sex appeal fit the vibe, while DMX – at his peak – might be the least appreciated great mainstream rapper of all time.

Feel So Good: Now, here's an act who was watered down under Puffy's occasionally oppressive production. Mase's early 1990s association with Cam'ron and the late underground legend Big L didn't exactly portend samples of Kool and the Gang's "Hollywood Swinging" or Miami Sound Machine, someday. Mase has been retroactively vilified by those who've forgotten how HUGE he was in 1997. After several years featuring an increasingly gritty industry sound – to say nothing of the whole bi-coastal claptrap – rap fans were ready for recess. Mase's mumbling monotone gets a lift from the familiar beat, while the video – at the time – was a visual confectionary. I'd completely forgotten that this was the first single of Mase's 4x platinum Harlem World album. 4x platinum! This guy!

Mobb Deep
Drop a Gem on 'Em: Tupac Shakur's feud with the entire east coast rap scene didn't result in a whole lot of listenable music (exceptions include the incendiary "Hit 'Em Up" and much more languid "California Love"), but this ultra-rare diss track from the east coast lives up to its title. Havoc and Prodigy take aim at Shakur – without mentioning him by name – as well as the tired west coast gangsta subject matter of the era:

Over the projects, your game – I'm above it
It's combat, gats, bangers and all that
You'se a small cat, whatever you on…get off that.

Mobb Deep later fans the flames of the rumors that 'Pac was sexually assaulted while at Rikers Island and that Biggie's "Who Shot Ya" track was actually a subliminal shot at Shakur. After Tupac died in September 1996, the east coast declared victory a de facto truce and never responded, en masse, to the ranting and ravings of Tupac's final days.

For the most part.


SHough610 said...

I started listening to rap at the height of the shiny suit era (late '97, early '98) and the first rapper that I LOVED was DMX. I've always been of the belief that "It's Dark and Hell is Hot" and "Flesh of my Flesh, Blood of my Blood" was a double-album that got split up. I didn't love ... And then there was X" but did love "The Great Depression" (School Street is a track I still blast when I work out). The problem is X never seemed to grow as an MC.

That Bootleg Guy said...

Embarassed to say that I wasn't a huge DMX fan during his heyday. I liked his collabo stuff, but the solo albums were all 1000 mph and hard to get thru more than a little bit at a time.

Looking back, he was a helluva lot deeper than I'd given him credit for.

Shough610 said...

He was the first aggressive MC I heard at the time. I actually prefer some of his non-single tracks (Ruff Ryders anthem is overplayed for me and why I'd forgive you for not thinking he was deep). I don't know if you've heard "Stop Being Greedy" but it's a great flow over a sick beat. I'm usually not a slow jams kind of guy so maybe that's why I liked X so much.

Joe said...

I remember I bought "It's Dark and Hell is Hot" strictly for the Def Jam: Survival of the Illest CD (think that was either the one with LL Cool J's "Ripper Strikes Back" or Def Squad's "Full Cooperation") that came with it. Ended up really liking DMX, but I'm not one for X's slow songs either.

I did cry a little inside to hear that The LOX, Mase, and DMX are now considered old school... I hear the word old school and I think Biz Marke, Public Enemy, EPMD, Run DMC. Dang, that means I'm now old.

old azz nicka said...

DMX, MAse, MObb Deep....sigh