Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Beatnuts Meet da Lench Mob

Ice Cube's official "weed carrier" group, Da Lench Mob, actually date all the way back to his very pre-NWA beginnings as The CIA Crew. And, just like Ice Cube himself; they were pretty dope when they were on the raw hardcore tip... you know, before smoothed-out, watered-down cross-over g-funk[send more hyphens!] became the order of the day. You could be forgiven for sleeping on their debut album, 1992's Guerillas In the Mist, at the time (especially if you were from NY). We were spoiled then; Who knew that twenty years later, we'd be begging for unreleased scraps from groups that came as hard as everybody we took for granted in the 90's? And, anyway, these guys still lacked the punch of a classic Ice Cube solo track. They just needed a little something extra to make that truly hot, enduring record - maybe a hot remix?

Well, this remix 12" brought it. Dropping in 1993, it was their third and final single off their debut album, and their last release before they swapped J-Dee with Maulkie, and generally softened up. You've got four mixes, including the LP Mix, and a green or red sticker cover, depending on whether you have a promo or commercial copy [mine, pictured, is the latter].

So, let's start with the album version. Even though it's actually the last to come up on the single, it's the one we were all already familiar with from the previous year. Like all versions, it features Cypress Hill's own B-Real, who lends his voice for the hook and back-up ad-libs, but - thankfully - not a verse. And you know who else doesn't rap on here? Ice Cube. Or K-Dee, or any of the Lench Mob except J-Dee. Yup, this is actually a solo song. It's one of those message songs that only hardcore hip-hop could do... because in the twentieth century, kids weren't falling for corny message raps like "Don't Talk To Strangers" by Mr. T. But a group like Da Lench Mob were expert in making a song so hard, raw and vulgar that they could actually impart some pretty seriously heavy-handed social commentary and guides for proper behavior and have them go over with their audience. And J-Dee is lyricist enough to make it a genuinely artistic endeavor, too. It's some serious shit.

It starts out with J-Dee just dissing on some girl for being an easy slut. All us rotten little preteens could get into that. Then it gets more serious as it turns out she's a drug addict and stealing money to pay her rent. Turns out she's a single mom, "so you can sell his shit, and go get you a hit, when you need to be at home with your goddamn children. That's why your landlord wants you out the buildin'." Oh shit, this got serious fast. "Went into my pockets, and got a twenty dollar bill. I said, 'go buy your motherfuckin' kids a Happy Meal;' and followed her to Mickey D's and made sure she bought the shit. And if she wouldn'ta, man, I swear to God I woulda hurt the bitch." Real talk, but edgy and excessive enough that his audience isn't dismissing a corny moral but hanging on every word. And by the end of the song, it turns out this girl he started out dissing and wound up physically threatening and planning to kill ("now I gotta do her with a slug!") was his own mom. Damn.

The beat's pretty rugged but busy and sorta fast, kept up with some jazzy elements mixed with dirty beats and a rugged bassline. It's produced by Ice Cube himself, and I've gotta say I'm pretty impressed. I didn't know he was capable of creating stuff like this - it's very reminiscent of Eric B & Rakim's fourth album. Still, though, the mix is pretty muddy and no individual parts of the instrumental really stand out and grab the listener. As dope as it is, I can still see why they felt the need to remix it for the single.

So we come to the first remix on the single, the one they used for the music video and everything. By The Beatnuts, right? I know, you read the title of this blog; but don't get ahead of me. No, this is actually a remix by Da Lench Mob's own T-Bone. Surprisingly, they didn't use the 'Nuts mix. Still, you can see why they did choose this one. It's got a catchy, old blues guitar riff and choice vocal sample in the loop. The backwater blues vibe makes the proceedings feel slower, but if nothing in the LP Mix grabbed the listener, something sure does here. You could play this song, nodding your head to the beat and feeling the soulful loop and realize by the end of it that you didn't even notice the lyrics. It's that gripping. Of course, an audience missing the lyrics isn't really a good thing, especially on a song like this with a lot to say; but that's what repeat listenings are for. And this mix surely inspired a lot of repeat listenings.

Okay, so now we come to The Beatnuts mix? No, not quite. next we get Night Stawka's Remix. Who's that? Ya got me - I've never seen his name pop up anywhere else. But if he only has one credit to his name, at least it's a good one. It's dark and got lots of deep, ominous bass and wailing guitar stabs. It's not gonna be anybody's favorite anything - the elements all sound a little overly familiar - but it's a good, solid mix and a good listen. This is one of those singles where you can just play it end to end, like an album.

Finally, the Beatnuts Remix is pure, Beatnuts funk. They add their own ad-libs on top of the pre-existing ones, so that gets a bit crowded. But who cares? It's all about the funky beat with the groovy bassline and snazzy horns. And they add a killer breakdown; smooth but with personality - this is what you hire the Beatnuts for. And unlike the other mixes, it doesn't distract from the rhymes. In fact, the opposite - it really brings attention to the narrative. I could see someone who was listening to Guerillas for a full year and just realizing when he heard the Beatnuts version that he was rapping about his mom.

If you only own on Lench Mob record... well, it should probably be "Freedom Got an AK" or something that showcases more than just one member. But this is pretty must have, too. And try and pick up the promo version if you can. Partially because you also get two instrumentals - Beatnuts and the T-Bone (video) ones, exactly the two most desirable instrumentals. And more importantly, because - even though the label doesn't say so - all four versions on the main (green) label 12" are radio edits! Gah! And there's a lot of cursing integral to the lyrics, so it's a little more obscure, but promo all the way if you can do it. Even if you can't, though, the commercial's worth picking up, because the remixes are hot in any condition.


  1. I actually just ran across this CD single today in a record store. Sadly all the remixes are all radio edits, which does really take away from the track. However, all 3 beats (the CD only includes the LP, Beatnuts, & T-Bone)are hot, and its a cool little side piece. Nice write up and what a weird example of serendipity!

  2. Great review, this 12" is a forgotten gem from the era. And it makes me nostalgic for the glory days of major label 12-inches. The final single from an album always seemed to have multiple remixes and/or a b-side.