10. MF Grimm-The Hunt for the Gingerbread Man (Review)
26. Boot Camp Clik-Casualties of War
There’s not much more I can write about MF Grimm’s “concept” album, The Hunt for the Gingerbread Man. My glowing review said enough, and my feelings about the record have only improved since I wrote it.
The Hunt for Gingerbread Man-MF Grimm
But as for Boot Camp Clik, they’re a group I’ve been trying to push on my readers for several years now. And now I’m going to do a huge post to try once again to get you to listen to them. (Much of their stuff can be got on the cheap at emusic.)
Vastly underappreciated in mainstream rap media, Brooklyn crew contains a group of guys who, in most cases, have had success as solo acts—much like Wu Tang Clan. There’s Buckshot who, as half of the duo Black Moon, has recorded some of the best streetfighting rhymes I’ve ever heard. There’s Smif-N-Wessun, a.k.a. Cocoa Brovaz, a.k.a. Tek and Steele, a pair of extraordinary gangsta rappers. There’s Heltah Skeltah (a.k.a. Sean Price), who brings a bit of dancehall into many of his songs. And then there’s the subgroup Original (a.k.a. Originoo) Gunn Clappaz, consisting of
Starang Wondah, Top Dog, and Louieville Sluggah. Yeah, it’s a huge collective—the Broken Social Scene of Brooklyn street anthems—but it’s remarkable when you look up their successes on Billboard. Although they’ve never had a number one hit either together or individually, many of their solo efforts have charted in the top 100 or top 40. That’s the essential difference between BCC and Wu Tang: Commercial success. I’m not saying that the band produces music that is better than the Wu, but it is at least comparable. Here’s some f’rinstances:
1. Enta Da Stage, by Black Moon. Black Moon (whose name stands for “Brothers who Lyrically Act and Combine Kickin Music Out On Nations”), made up of Boot Camp Clik member Buckshot, as well as 5ft and DJ Evil Dee (of Da Beatminerz), released this, their first album, in 1993, and it hit #33 on the R&B/Hip-Hop chart, largely due to the catchy single, “Who Got Da Props?” It also featured one of the first recordings by Havoc (of Mobb Deep) and introduced Smif-n-Wessun. Lots of folks, including me, think that Wu Tang’s 36 Chambers would have been a very different album if it hadn’t been able to draw influences from Black Moon. After this album, the group broke up until Buckshot got his own label, Duck Down Records. Which is part of what makes BCC so cool: They’re indie! Oh, and don’t look for more Black Moon any time soon: In 2004, 5ft began a state bid for drug dealing. Street cred! Must hear: “Who Got Da Props?”; “I Got Cha Open
(remix);” “How Many MC’s?”
Who Got Da Props?
2. Dah Shinin’, by Smif-n-Wessun, produced by Da Beatminerz. Released in 1995, this album actually hit #59 on the top 100. Smif n’ Wessun (a group, not a duo, consisting of Tek and Steele) have had more aliases than Prince, but it was under this name that the duo recorded their classic contributions to Black Moon’s Enta da Stage ( “Black Smif-n-Wessun” and “U Da Man”). Dah Shinin’ debuted at number 5 on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, and got them so famous that they were sued by Smith & Wesson firearms company, leading to their first name change (to Cocoa Brovaz). A true street classic: All guns and drugs, no bling. Must hear: “Bucktown;” “Sound Bwoy Bureill;” “Wrekonize.”
3. Nocturnal, by Heltah Skeltah. A 1996 release that included the jaw-dropping single “Leflaur Leflah Eshkoshka,” originally recorded under the name The Fab 5 (which were Heltah Skeltah and Originoo Gun Clappaz). Production by greats like Beatminerz, Lord Jamar (of Brand Nubian), Shawn J. Period, and E-Swift (of Tha Alkaholiks). Must hear: “Leflah;” “Operation Lock Down.”
Leflah (you tube video).
4. One Nation-2Pac. This unreleased project recorded in 1996 consisted of Tupac, Buckshot, Dru-Ha (co-founder of Duck Down records), Tek and Steele, and was intended to form a bridge between the East Coast (repped by the Clik members) and West Coast (Pac). Tupac was killed before the album could be completed, but “Military Mindz” was ultimately included on of Deadpac’s releases. Underground leaks are available, but hard to find, and any and all of them are highly recommended.
Brothaz At Arms Tupac and Buckshot.
5. The Chosen Few, by Boot Camp Clik. Between about 1998 and the early double ohs, BCC as a collective and each of its individual groups and each of those groups’ members didn’t have a ton of success. There were some minor hits, like Black Moon’s 1999 album, War Zone (featuring the single “Two Turntables and a Mic”); Black Moon’s compilation-only track “Jump Up;” and Cocoa Brovaz single, “Get Up.” Then came The Chosen Few, in 2002, which may be their greatest record ever. It’s got Beatminerz, Hi-Tek, and Alchemist behind the boards and some great singles. Must hear: “And So;” “Think Back.”
Welcome To Bucktown USA w/Supreme and Scratch
6. Chemistry, by Buckshot and 9th Wonder. Wonder, the brainchild producer behind Little Brother and many successful North Carolina acts, teamed up on this 2005 release that is one of my favorite East Coast rap albums ever. The juxtaposition of Buck’s intensely grimey verses against 9th Wonder’s typically light-as-air production is deep. Must hear: All of it, but in particular, “That’s Whats Up” (a tale of nostalgia for the days of street boxing).
There’s so much more I could recommend to you, but if you’ve listened to the tracks above and are still interested, you’re going to be motivated to discover Smif ‘N’ Wessun: Reloaded and The Last Stand on your own. Which brings us to 2007’s Casualties of War. It’s not their best, but it’s far from their worst, and it is the 26th best release of 2007.
Casualties of War (title track from the 26th best album of 2007)