Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Thy Kingdom Conspicuously Absent

So, most of you probably remember the hype when Compton's largest veteran King Tee (who shortened his name to "King T" for the move) signed to Dr. Dre's Aftermath Records, originally appearing on Dre's '96 Aftermath compilation. That song - "Str-8 Gone," produced by Bud'da - was even released as a less publicized single. And you surely remember the anticipation of his fifth album, Thy Kingdom Come, which was meant to be produced chiefly by Dr. Dre and released in 1997... and then 1998 (hey, we all know Dre likes to work slow). And you probably remember that album eventually getting shelved and King T(ee) never again recording another album.

And some of the more serious fans among you probably remember the album eventually being released independently by a label called Greedy Green in the early 2000s with a ridiculous cover of a turkey wearing bling(??), which doesn't at all match the art direction Aftermath had been using. It first turned up on Sandbox, and then a few other places. Critical reception was not-so-hot... it had so many guest features (even Shaq was on there!), it felt more like a King Tee-sponsored compilation than a fifth King Tee album. And while there's no doubt that many, if not all, of those tracks were recorded for Tee's Aftermath album, I wonder if the "Turkey CD" is really the Kingdom Aftermath was planning to deliver. I suspect that all the tracks with guest MCs were chosen to get as much "celebrity cameo value" as possible by the label that was clearly just throwing this out there for the careless quick buck (it's not like they marketed the thing at all), and a more sophisiticated album, with a different track-listing, remains in Aftermath's legendarily deep vaults. Two Kingdom promotional 12" prereleases on Aftermath Records support my theory.

Exhibit A is the album's lead single, "Got It Locked." Flat out, the lead single from the album is not on the album. That lays out a pretty decent, circumstantial case just by itself... And just to hammer home the point, click the label scan to enlarge the print at the bottom which reads, "From the forthcoming Aftermath/Interscope release Thy Kingdom Come," or the sticker which reads, in decidedly bigger letters, "the first single from the forthcoming album Thy Kingdom Come." And if you still need convincing that this was meant to be on the album, and not just work as some kind of prelude, it's mentioned by name and quoted lyrically in The Source's September '98 review of Thy Kingdom Come. Again, the fact that this song has no guest MCs follows my theory. Interestingly, the 12" only features the Extended Mix (well, besides the Instrumental and Acapella)... a promo CDS on discogs, though, shows us that the album version was meant to be 4:02, so we know the Extended version has added 32 seconds of basically just letting the beat ride at the end. Nothing to write home about there. There's no production credits here, but again we can refer to discogs' CD single to see that it's produced by Dr. Dre himself. For a Dre beat, it's pretty underwhelming... Tee gives some basic "this is who I am; this is what I do"-type lyrics clearly meant to lay the groundworks for what was to come. It's nothing amazing - remember, nothing we've heard from any version of Thy Kingdom Come suggests it wouldn't've have been anything but his weakest effort - but it still seems crazy to leave off the album (a Dre beat in '98 was like a bucket of guaranteed money)... it is better than a lot of the stuff we did get.

So the fact that we're hearing the album without the lead single tells me we've been given a compromised product. But we still have Exhibit B: a four-track promotional EP of, as the sticker clearly states, "Selections from the forthcoming album Thy Kingdom Come" (and, yes, it's printed on the label again as well). Well, three of these selections did make it onto the "Turkey disc," but there's still a glaring ommission entitled "That's Drama." Opening (and closing) with a vocal sample from Fear of a Black Hat about Rappers Against Violence being pushed into violence, Tee comes with an angry diss track... although it's never quite clear just who he's talking about. From the lyrics, though, we know it's someone who lies about what he's done and the set he claims and stayed home doing something sexual while Tee was out squashing beef. Once again, it's a Tee solo track, but his hostility makes it one of his most compelling. And if there was ever any doubt that T was true to his roots (though, of course, there's never been), this track was produced by Chris "The Glove" Taylor.

So, like I said... there's really no way around this being Tee's weakest release; but it wasn't bad and quite possibly could've been better than the Greedy Green version we've heard. Only an excavation of Dre's vaults would tell us for sure. If nothing else, there's a couple 12"'s for completists to track down and get a little closer to the truth.

It also bears pointing out that another underground album from Tee surfaced in 2004 called The Ruthless Chronicles, which features a lot of songs (more than half) from Thy Kingdom Come. Could the "new" tracks actually just be the other unreleased tracks from Aftermath? It's definitely possible, but "Got It Locked" and "That's Drama" aren't included there either. So who knows?

And finally, yes, King Tee does have a myspace. And interestingly, his player is still filled with Thy Kingdom Come tracks.


  1. Here's a link to an interview where he actually says that the "Turkey Disc" was not the intended release, so your theory seems to be correct!


  2. Woo! Sweet vindication! haha
    That was done in 2005, though; so unfortunately it sounds like his plans to re-issue the original version were put on hold.

  3. werner, have you ever come across the boss up vol. 1 mixtape that king t put out a couple years ago? i've been on the search for it for a while and can't find it anywhere. i just heard he has a new album due out this year called 'tha krown' and it reminded me of the mixtape. thanks for any help. love the blog, by the way!