Sunday, November 8, 2009

Ed O. G & da Bulldogs Week, Day 4 - Laster

Ok. So Ed O. G made a dope comeback EP in '96 (and a cameo on a Big Shug single), but was that it? Was it a last hurrah? Would Ed O. be interested in staying in the game with no major label support, or like so many artists, would he give up when his indie record didn't make him a superstar?

Well, for almost two years, it looked like the latter was true. Ed O. came back, made a flash in the pan, and was out. But finally, at the tail end of '97, a new artist appeared. An artist named Laster, who nobody knew crap about... but his debut, indie 12" on his own starter label, Dark Records, featured a prominent guest appearance by none other than Ed O. G, so everybody checked it out.

And oh shit, it was a KILLER! "Off Balance" featured one of those ominous, atmospheric, banging indie tracks that really served to define the decade. Produced by Madsol-Desar; it features a familiar boom-bap drum track, but is dominated by this sort of science-fictiony industrial sounding sample that serves serves as both a bassline and a string section as it shifts pitch. There's also a fresh horn sample that sounds like it was taken from some Marvel superhero cartoon show when the DJ starts cutting up the phrase "knock-knock-knock you off balance" on the hook. In fact, it sounds an awful lot like the early God Complex stuff that was getting a lot of buzz at the time, which Madsol also just so happened to produce.

What-the-fuck ever, it certainly worked. It helped that Ed O. and Laster both brought their A-game, spitting a pair of nice verses (Laster coming in a little mellower, and as a consequence, less dynamic; but both come off admirably). And soon this record was everywhere in the indie-rap scene. It was even included on DJ Premiere's classic New York Reality Check major label mixtape, which pretty much solidified every song on there as a 90's staple.

There's two more cuts from Laster on the B-side, which are also not to be slept on. Laster does alright on the solo tip with a serious song about hard times on "Misery," but he's eclipsed by another killer instrumental (this time produced by Dialek). Finally, he enlisted another MC named Deplus to spit with him on "Da Outro," where they take turns freestyling over another Madsol beat, with a gripping piano sample.

So, Laster had a genuinely great 12" on his hands, but were audiences truly interested in Laster, or just the return of Ed O. G? Would his next record take off like his first with the partnership of one of Boston's biggest names? Well, Laster answered that question by playing it smart, and heeded all the demand for a remix of his hit. In 1998, Laster was back with two brand new tracks and his ace in the hole: "Off Balance (RMX)." And, to play it extra safe, the original "Off Balance" is included on the cassette version of this single (pictured - unlike the 12", it comes in a PC so you can actually see what he looks like).

To Laster's credit, it may've been a smart commercial move; but from a head's perspective, he didn't need to play it so cautious. His new tracks are dope. Laster sounds a little more confident on the mic this time around, and thankfully producers Dialek and Madsol each return for a track. And the "RMX" is pretty good - it's by Madsol again - with a similar (the same) drum pattern, but a new sample that sounds like it's taken off a classic Hollywood soundtrack. Most notably, though, is that it's a vocal remix. Laster kicks several all-new (and more dynamic) verses, this time on the solo tip. That's right, Ed O. G's not featured on this single... except the cassingle, which as I said, includes the original "Off Balance."

Well, I'm not sure how much credit goes to the break out success of this single (some at least, I'm sure) and how much was already in the works behind the scenes. But, while Laster never came back with another single (boo! Why?), "Off Balance" turned out to be just the tip of the iceberg for Ed O. G, who began a string of guest appearances and compilation tracks after '98. His return wasn't just a cheap one-off, he was back.

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