Saturday, July 21, 2007

Ant "D" Revisited: Part 1 - The Music

I got a couple questions after posting my last 2-part blog entry on Disco Rick (click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2), mainly about The Dogs' member Ant "D." It's been a almost ten years since I wrote the article, and I kind of breezed over Ant D's album, and of course his horrible crime... Ant "D" was mainly just a tangent in a piece focused on Disco Rick. But it's damned interesting tangent (in a very morbid kind of way), so I thought I'd go back now and take a look back at the music... and the murders.

Disco Rick and The Dogs was always really a solo act... the Dogs were just the name of whoever he toured with: hypemen, DJ, etc. But when Disco Rock left Joey Boy Records for a new label (Luke Records) and a new crew (The Wolfpack), Joey Boy decided to keep the Dogs' highly successful/ marketable name alive by giving it to Rick's dancers, Ant "D" and the Amazing Peanut, who suddenly got promoted to rappers. So, given that dubious origin, Ant "D"'s 1993 solo album featuring The Puppies, Top Dog, is surprisingly not too terrible.

Like most of the Joey Boy releases at that time, it's produced entirely by in-house producers Calvin Mills II and Carlton Mills, which is a good thing. After all, Ant "D" (by the way, if you're wondering why the "D" is in quotes, I don't know - it just is) has the approximate rapping skills of a professional athlete, so if he works, he works because he's essentially an in-studio creation. ...That said, to his credit, he does apparently write all his own lyrics here - at least according to the liner notes. Of course, it says, "all lyrics by Labrant Dennis [Ant's real name]," which would mean all the guest MCs' verses as well... so I'm guessing the album credits aren't telling the whole story here. Heck, they don't even name the guest MCs... but more on that later.

So, the album begins and ends with forgettable skits about two guys very excited to have the new Top Dog tape. But once we're past that we get right into one of the nicest (not "next level" exceptional or anything, but just really engaging and fun) Miami bass beats you're likely to hear, called "We Wanna Party." Perhaps the best thing about this album is that Ant "D" raps through the entire thing. It isn't 50% "shout and call" tracks, or long instrumental fillers devoted solely to car stereo system testing baslines. Don't get me wrong, this album does have the low frequency prolonged, programmed rumble you'd expect from a Miami-bassed artist at this time; but on this album it's clearly secondary; an afterthought to making enjoyable songs anybody can listen to without a jeep full of coffin-sized woofers.

Next up is the prerequisite track based off of Planet Patrol's "Play At Your Own Risk" (hey, I said this was a solid entry into the Miami bass music genre, not that it was revolutionary), followed by the first of only two songs to actually feature The Puppies. The other is the single, "Break It Down," with Ant "D" and Big Boy sharing the mic - Tamara is name-checked, but never rhymes. You've got a few other typical dance tracks, like "Work It" and "Get It Get It," and one ultra-corny love song called "Good Thing," where Ant slows it down almost to a spoken word piece. The first verse is about being true to a good relationship when you find it (something we know came from the heart and his real life experiences), and the second is more of a "do what your parents tell you to do" "Hey Young World"-type thing.

By and large, Top Dog is a collection of nothing but upbeat, fun party rhymes making for a fast-moving (the whole album just barely tops half an hour, since almost all the songs are just 3 minutes long), family friendly experience. Not what you'd expect, really, from a member of The Dogs, and certainly not when you consider what we now know he'd go on to do later...

Even on the hardcore posse cut (and only song with explicit lyrics), "Here Come Them J-Boys" (the chorus is "Here come them Joey Boys"), which features... well, I don't know. I'm gonna guess Ace the Bulldog and at least one of the Miami Boyz. They do name check themselves, but except for Ant, the MCs seem to have difficulty with ennunciation. So what you wind up with is a lot of really violent, realy slurred lyrics, like:

"I'm the Bulldog;
I've got the heart of steel
On the real,
These gangstas love to kill.

[something] from the knife wound,
Then I'ma drink your blood with a spoon!
Grabbed my nine
And shot a girl in the chest.

Now that was real messed up and hated.
Step to me, girl,
And even God couldn't save ya.
So, lay low before I pull ya card;
Don't snitch on the boulevard.
I told you once;
You didn't follow example.
Now your family must be dismantled!"

Another one of the MCs directs his verse towards Disco Rick:

"Let me talk about this cat
That tried to diss Ant D;

But you know that you gots to come clean.
I'm not even gonna say your name,
'Cause, punk, you don't deserve that kind of fame.
Tryin' to make girls jiggle;
I heard at the store, 'Wiggle, Wiggle.'"

But, yeah. What I was saying... even on this track, Ant D leaves the curses, violence and dissing to his guests, and keeps his verse relatively clean and non-threatening. Like Jose Armada, Jr. of Joey Boy Records said, "It really shocked me because he was a quiet guy, not that violent at all. But I hadn't seen him in three years. I guess a lot can happen in that time."*

The only other non-party song, "Ya Gotta 'Go'" (I don't know why the word "Go" is in quotes either... I guess Ant "D" just has a thing for quotation marks), takes on a disturbing new subtext when you listen to it now, knowing what happened. It's about Ant dealing with a cheating girlfriend. He decides to video-tape her in a gangbang (classy all the way), but the infidelity still gets him so mad "I was so mad, I just pulled out my glock." But in the end, he thinks better of it all, and just tells her, "you gotta go." Tragically, he didn't have those second thoughts in real life.

[Continued in a follow-up post being added immediately.]

* Taken from a 1996 article titled "Business is Booming," by John Floyd. Most of it has nothing to do with Ant D, but he does also say, "[The Dogs'] stuff has always sold steady... It's sad to say, but it's really picked up [since Dennis's arrest]. The whole thing is just crazy."

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