Sunday, April 1, 2012

The South Central Cartel Does Vanilla Ice Liberace Style!

You know how die-hard hip-hop fans had been screaming for someone to make a sequel to Vanilla Ice's hit, "Ice, Ice Baby," since it dropped in 1990? Yeah, me either. Actually, something like that would probably go over much better today, in hip-hop's current hipsterish, irony-drenched scene, where it's understood that every public move any musician makes is a marketing gimmick. Now, heads are pretty far removed from the the genuine animosity Ice's antics inspired; and nobody's surprised to find out Rick Ross is really a prison guard, etc. But back in those days, associating somebody's name with Ice's was a grave insult. In 2002, Charli Baltimore leaked an update of "Ice, Ice Baby" and it turned out to be a big fiasco. People couldn't stop talking about whether it was a bold, brazen move or insanely stupid - time proved it to be the latter: a final nail in the coffin, burying her chances to ever get an album out.* So, it was definitely a surprise to me in 2000, two years earlier, when a promo copy of Self Made Legend: It's My Time To Shine!, the solo debut of South Central Cartel's own Hava Rochie featured a sequel called "Millenium Ice."

Just to be clear... there are two rappers who's names are based on the word "havoc" in the South Central Cartel. There's Havikk the Rhime Son, who put out two solo albums in 2008. And there's Havoc da Mouthpiece, who put out three albums with fellow SCC member Prodeje throughout the 90's. And no, Havoc and Prodeje are no relation to Havoc and Prodigy, the duo that makes up Mobb Deep. And, while we're at it, Prodeje and Young Prodeje are two different people... both members of the SCC, but not the same guy. It's all a bit ridiculous.

So Hava Rochie is Havoc da Mouthpiece. And to add to the ridiculousness, the name Hava Rochie was crafted to rhyme with Liberace, because this is Havoc's new identity, created in homage to Liberace, the famously flamboyant pianist. This was his new image for 2000, where he hung up the street gangbanger image for the rich, flossin' bling style that was popping at the time. As he explained it in his press sheet, "Hava’Rochie’ is Havoc Da Mouthpiece reincarnated for the new millenium. It’s a new approach and new style for the new era. Hava’ Rochie bites from Liberace, giving you flash and entertainment on a grand scale... The gangsta grit of SCC is gone, bling blinging the way for tracks like the single release." So... I guess it all adds up that he'd wind up making a sequel to "Ice, Ice Baby" on this album, and it even makes since that he's doing what Puffy's camp (Charli and Mase) would wind up doing two years later.

His press sheet also explains that, "Self Made Legend is 18 tracks strong with Hava’Rochie doing what Havoc Da Mouthpiece never did. That is rap." That's right, you knew Havoc didn't rap, right? And no, he's not one of the DJs or producers either. Prodeje produced a lot, but Havoc... well, he got the occasional co-production credit. But basically, he never did much of anything. If SCC were Public Enemy, Havoc would be Griff, just getting on the occasional track to say a few words. Think back to their big single, "Gang Stories," when Havoc got on mid-song and said, "South Central LA is the gang capital of the world where brothers walk around strapped daily and won't hesitate to smoke yo' ass in a minute. Take it from da Mouthpiece, this is just another gang story." And then another MC gets on to spit a real verse. Yeah. That's pretty much all he does.

So this album is the group's hype man rapping for the first time and channeling Liberace to embrace the east coast crossover fad of the day. You may not believe me when I tell you this, but most of this album's not very good. The raps are lame and the production is often surprisingly amateurish. He does pack in a bunch of the usual guest appearances by his crew and friends (including The Jungle Crooks, who have an album advertised as coming soon on the back of this disc that never materialized), which gives the album some salvageable moments providing some better verses and beats. But, just listening to the opening, title track, I was stunned that his SCC crew allowed him to come this bad.

And "Millennium Ice?" Well, it's definitely all about Vanilla Ice's original. They even use the whispered "ice, ice baby" for the hook. I suspect instead of using the same sample, they've replayed it (so they wouldn't have to clear it), but it's the same or very similar drums and of course the super famous bassline riff. But the music goes back and forth, alternately bringing in a bunch of new elements, church bells and stuff, which do liven up the proceedings. Havoc is joined by an uncredited guest rapper (sounds like they're saying "JM"), who definitely comes nicer that his host; but his verse is still pretty unexceptional. Havoc does an awkward kind of shout-rap style, spitting bars like,

"I'm a Rockerfeller,
In it for the cheddar.
It makes me feel better.
That's when I jet-ah
Get me to the jewelry store,
Buy me some more
Of the stuff that I adore!
There's something about it;
I can't live without it.
Ever since I laid my eyes on it,
I've been on the hustle,
Like Russell Simmons,
To leave my mark in rap history."

It's quite upbeat and the new musical elements are interesting. I think it could make for an enjoyable listen (unlike a lot of the album) if you're specifically in the mood to listen to something stupid, and nobody's around to hear the music you're playing. But it's pretty terrible. And neither Havoc nor his guest come anywhere close to performing on the level Vanilla Ice did on the original in 1990. Now that's an April Fool's!

*I get what she was going for, but she was just the wrong MC to attempt that. If someone with more unquestionable integrity had reclaimed that beat, like I dunno... Sadat X, it would've gotten a big, positive buzz. After all, it is a tight loop. But since Charli was already seen both as 1) Biggie's ex shamelessly cashing in on his media attention and 2) a model trying to parlay her looks and image into an undeserved music career, her critics just took it as further proof of what they already felt about her: she was as corny as Vanilla Ice.

No comments:

Post a Comment