Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Hen-Gee, Evil-E & Krs-One

"Lil Trig" is the lead single (followed only by a forgettable love song - what were these labels thinking?) from Hen-Gee & Evil-E's sole album, Brothers, on Pendulum Records in 1991. You could be forgiven for thinking of them as just one of many forgettable, failed hip-hop acts that came and went with the quickness as labels signed them, released an album, and then dropped them when audiences didn't embrace them. But these guys actually have some history to them. Evil-E was Ice-T's DJ for a long time; and the pair of them were active members of The Rhyme Syndicate. They were putting out records back in the 80's, too; only then they were known as The Spin Masters. They were better back then - their take on "Bustin' Loose" was hot - 'cause along with the name change they adopted pretty much all the big fads of the time, creating a weird new jack swing/ gangsta rap hybrid style.

A quick perusal of their album and it's easy to see why audiences didn't embrace them. There's lots of synth production (all by Carlos Alomar, a regular collaborator of David Bowie's, and Hen himself) and sappy love songs, heavy-handed messages... they even included their old 1985 single, "Brothers" (yes, Hen and Evil are brothers, by the way) and made it the title track of their '91 album. Yeah, they remixed it to update it, but... that just ruined what was originally a fun song.

But, damn it, I liked "Lil Trig" as a kid and looked forward to this video popping up in regular rotation on Yo! MTV Raps. And even today, it's really not that bad. Yeah, the production is all drawn out keyboard notes and an R&B chorus; but this is the song on the album where that formula pays off the best. The notes sound cool over a deep, funky bassline, and the hook's actually damn catchy, yet still soulful. You can see why they picked it as the single.

Lyric-wise, it's a narrative of an inner city youth (Lil Trig) who gets caught up in a life of crime, culminating in his own death. But while many of the messages on this album miss their mark, here he avoids getting preachy and just lays down the tragic story and asks us, "what made Lil Trig that way?" Maybe a little simplistic, but by and large it holds up as a serious song tackling real issues in a meaningful way.

So I bet heads were pleasantly surprised to see the 12", where the commercial production was stripped away in favor of a brand new remix by Krs-One, ey?

But wait. Before we get to that, we have Hen and Carlos's own remix on the A-side, the Funk-U-Up Mix. Well... it is funkier. The bassline and percussion are really funky, and it's got a bunch of hard horns and other tough samples. Instrumental versus instrumental, it's easily superior - in fact, it's quite dope. But it doesn't totally jive with the narrative-style of the vocals, and it especially clashes with the chorus, which the instrumental almost seems intentionally trying to drown out.

Then we come to Krs One's Fat Mix. You sure don't have to read the label to know that this is a BDP remix - it uses the same signature horn stabs as "South Bronx" and then rolls into a bassy reggae groove. The beat keeps changing, which is cool, though that means some of the beats are decidedly better than others. A couple are a little weak, and they all sound like they were stolen from Just-Ice. If the Funk-U-Up Mix clashed with the original song, this one speeds full throttle into a head-on collision with it. There are some nice cuts, beats and horn samples that sound really fresh on on here, but the song as a whole... is wack.

It's like if you're a DJ going up to the decks, picking out two songs you know everyone in the room loves - let's say Gangstarr's "Just To Get a Rep" and Wu-Tang's "Protect Ya Neck" - and decide, "these songs are so good... the only thing that could be better is to play them both at the same time!" I know hip-hop can be tough and abrasive compared to light jazz and shit, but music just doesn't work like that. It just overlaps into obnoxious noise.

Remember last week, in my Jibri Wise One review, where I actually recommended the crossover-attempting new jack swing version by Ear Candy Record's in-house producers rather than The 45 King remix? Well, writing that is what brought this record to mind, because it's really the only other example I can think of where the same principle applies. The remix instrumentals are cool, and thankfully their both presented here as well, albeit with the hook awkwardly left in; but the one to stick with is the original, which remains the best and definitive version despite being the corniest. Because it's the only one that fits the song.


  1. Hi Werner!
    Digging deep witht his one! I had this 12" super rare, I don't remember a BDP mix, would be curious to hear it. Hen G & Evil E are originally from NY, Brooklyn I think, like the 7A3, although their DJ/Producer Mixmaster Muggs (K-Day, House of Pain, Cypress Hill, Soul Assasins) was from Queens. They like a lot of the major label signings in L.A. were re-located East Coasters. Ice-T originally from NJ and fellow Rhyme Syndicate members Donald D & Afrika Islam are also from NY.

  2. “Evil-E, he’s down with us”—BDP “I’m Still #1”, 1987

  3. my heart will always ache for lil trig :(