Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Purple Tape... On No Limit Records

Apparently, when you crazy kids today talk about "the purple tape," you're thinking of some funky ol' Raekwon thing glued together out of left over Cella Dwellas plastic. But I'm an old school cat. When I hear "purple tape," I go back even a little further... to Sonya C's Married To the Mob.

Married To the Mob dropped in 1993 (two years before OB4CL2 if you're keeping score) on In-A-Minute Records. No Limit, at that time, was really more of an imprint that went through In-A-Minute for the distribution, 'cause they could get albums like these out on CD and (purple) tape into stores all across the country when No Limit was just up and coming.

Sonya C, it's worth noting, is really the first female rapper on No Limit. Apparently, Mia X likes to make that claim, but she didn't drop anything on No Limit until much later. And while Mia was a member of TRU for a while, Sonya is a founding member from back in the days when they were still going by their full-length name, The Real Untouchables. This is back when No Limit was representing CA before signing all those New Orleans acts; and Sonya was all over their debut album in 1992, Understanding the Criminal Mind.

And even before the TRU album, she'd appeared on Master P's very first albums, Mama's Bad Boy, Get Away Clean, The Ghetto's Trying To Kill Me... She wasn't just a member of his crew, in fact. She was his wife. Yes, that means she's also the mother of Lil Romeo and Young V. In fact, I'd just like to take a moment to point out that she named her three sons Percy Jr, Vercy and Hercey, which is downright silly.

So, anyway, what about this album? Well, since it's still in No Limit's CA days, the majority of it is produced by EA Ski & CMT, with a few tracks produced by Master P himself.

In fact, the first song (after an intro) is produced by P and it's the strongest. It sounds great because it heavily, heavily samples Betty Wright's "No Pain, No Gain" - not just the break, but the vocals and everything. They use Betty's crooning as an excellent backdrop for Sonya to slow it down and give a somber, autobiographical story about her own life. Unfortunately, on the other hand, Sonya's flow is pretty horrible on this, kicking the kind of rudimentary delivery, struggling to stay on beat, that gave No Limit such a bad name on the east coast. It almost feels like one of those stories you used to see on television where some chintzy producer would got to a halfway house in an inner city and get them all rapping as a exercise in self esteem. But damn if the music isn't effective. Couple that with how earnest Sonya sounds, and you've got an effective song that's managed to stick with me since high school - analytical criticism be damned.

The rest of the album is, thankfully, substantially harder and Sonya's flow - while never amazing - gets stronger along with it. Following a skit where a bunch of guys see Sonya and approach her on the street, "yo, Sonya, what's up?" "This what's up, mother fuckers!" she yells and it ends in machine gun sound effects. And EA Ski and CMT are acknowledged masters of gangsta rap production. There's a host of recognizable, funky samples, which help a lot - the groove of "Bitches Die In the Dope Game" is great, and the clever collection of vocal samples on the hook are really fresh. The Untouchables also drop in a couple appearances, most notably on the posse cut finale, "I Ain't To Be Fucked With," but not so many that they overshadow Sonya's solo endeavor.

Unfortunately, one downside is that this album feels like an EP they stretched out to full LP length. Half the songs on this album are skits, and one of the tightest beats on this album, "Gankers," is just an instrumental. A full-length instrumental song might fit in on a DJ Shadow album or something, but on a gangsta rap tape? It feels like the engineer just lost the vocal track. You also get two versions of the title cut, "Married To the Mob Part 1" and "Married To the Mob Part 2," but really "Part 2" is just a radio edit of "Part 1." You really only get six proper, full songs; the rest is all filler.

Bottom line, this is a dope tape if you like these kinda albums, but if you think all that No Limit-type shit is straight garbage, nothing here's gonna change your mind. These are not the kind of MCs who were ever going to elevate the art form or flex freestyle skills. But if you just want to shed your backpack and listen to some pure early 90's gangsta rap, this tape delivers. And it's purple.

P.s. - If you can't quite make out that message written underneath the Parental Advisory sticker on the album cover, it reads, "This Album is Proof, it's no honeymoon being married To The Mob. Cause Sonya C is quick to get the gat peel your cap, Miss Alcapone."


  1. That's great, it was purple. But it wasn't THE purple tape.

  2. Sonya's tape was "the purple tape" before OB4CL was even a dirty thought in Raekwon's loins. Err... so to speak. ;-)

  3. I agree with the other comment. In sports terms there have been lots of catches in the NFL, but when someone references THE Catch you know they are talking about Montana to Clark. This is outstanding for trivia purposes, but OB4CL is and forever will be THE Purple Tape.