Monday, November 29, 2010

(New) 2 Live Freestyle

The 2 Live Crew went through some turbulent times in the 90's... breaking up, reforming, members quitting and rejoining. And at one point during all of that, Luke realized he had lost too high a percentage of its members to act like nothing had happened. So he added a new member, made himself an official member and with remaining original member Fresh Kid Ice, released an album by a crew he dubbed The New 2 Live Crew. It was to be a short-lived experiment, as Back At Your Ass For the Nine 4 was this iteration's only album.

But it was an interesting experiment. The new guy, Verb, had a real east coast sensibility and was focused on lyrical skills in pretty much the exact opposite way the 2 Live Crew had been up 'till then. And Fresh Kid Ice was doing some interesting things (see my review on Hip Hop Isn't Dead to learn about that) at the time with his production company ICP (not that ICP), working with the very underrated duo Balli and Fat Daddy, who were recently featured on the Diggers With Gratitude mixtape.

But unfortunately it was also a failed experiment, It featured way too much Luke, doing his "I can't rap so I just filibuster on records" shout and call songs, some lame crap where they rip off the hook to Barney the Dinosaur's theme, and a bunch of skits, which unfortunately wound up being the most memorable part of the album, as they featured Dolemite.

There were a few decent moments, but only one really good song.

Thankfully, the released it as a single.

"2 Live Freestyle" came out on Luke Records in 1994. Promisingly, the album credits say this features Fat Daddy (though they spell his name "Phat Daddy" here), and the 12" mentions him, too. But disappointingly, he's not on here. I guess maybe his voice can be heard if you stick your ear to the speaker during the hook? But he doesn't get a verse (it goes Verb, Ice, and Verb again), which is a seriously missed opportunity.

But, putting aside what we don't get, we do get a hot beat, which they credit to The New 2 Live Crew themselves. Personally, I suspect that might really mean the ICP, which would also explain why Fat Daddy's voice would be on the track if they didn't bother to give him a verse. I also don't imagine Luke, Vern or Fresh Kid Ice are doing those scratches. But, whatever; it's dope and certainly not typical 2 Live Crew. It's more Bomb Squad or something with it's squealing horns and hard bass. Lyrically, Verb is just okay, but his delivery and this beat are great. And Ice at least treads water and manages not to ruin the song.

The 12", as you can see, comes in a dope picture cover done by Society (yes, that Society). More importantly, it also features a pretty dope remix by DJ Spin. It's not quite as good as the original... it's a little lower in energy, going for a darker, subtler vibe (sort of like a Buckwild does, but yaknow... I'm not saying it's exactly on par with a Buckwild remix). There are also radio edits for both mixes, if anybody cares.

There was one more single off Back At Your Ass with a similar picture cover and a couple exclusive remixes. But this is the only one worth your time. The New 2 Live Crew went on to do a couple more worthwhile songs on Luke's last solo album and the delightful holiday-themed compilation album, Christmas At Luke's Sex Shop; and then it was a wrap. Fresh Kid Ice followed Marquis and Mr. Mixx out the door, and the The Live Crew re-formed with no connection to Luke on Joey Boy Records. Verb was apparently meant to go on to a solo career, but that never quite materialized (see my video here for his "lost" songs).

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