Thursday, April 19, 2012

Tuff and TL Back To Yell

The Tuff Crew's reign ended in the early 90's. They released their fourth album, Still Dangerous, with only three members remaining in 1991 - one of whom was a new addition (Smooth K). And by 1993, Ice Dog (one of the two remaining)'s solo 12" dubbed him "Formerly Of Tuff Crew." Two of the core members conspicuously absent from the Still Dangerous line-up were Tone Love the Teacher and probably the biggest draw of the crew, DJ Too Tuff. It turns out, they were off working n their own project in '1991, as the mostly unreleased Danger Zone Mobb Sqwad.

The Danger Zone Mobb Sqwad were preparing their debut album, TL Back To Yell. It was never finished. But they did release a very rare, cassette only (essentially... I'll come back to that) single on Sure Shot Records. And that single has just been pressed on vinyl and released in 2012 by Dope Folks Records.

What we have here is two versions apiece of two tracks. The rhymes and production are handled by TL and Mac-G (who also produced the TL tracks on the recent Remember? EP on Solid Ground, the label which, interestingly enough, first announced this release), and the cuts are of course by DJ Too Tuff.

"Flp'n Keeloz" is a pretty solid track, with a lot of seriously in-depth talk about the drug trade. Seriously, there have been thousands upon thousands of rap songs about drug dealing, but after having heard them all, you're still gonna feel like you're learning a lot from this one. The hook consists of a lot of well-selected Scarface (the DePalma version, of course) vocal samples, and the beat consists of a nice break, funk guitar riff, and a very effective kettle drum. Still, it definitely fits in a lot better with their less compelling 90's material, than they're seriously banging 80's stuff, where the Crew really excelled. Too Tuff having no scratches on the track is a part of it, but the whole thing just has that less exciting, 90's vibe to it. It's a good song, but disappointing considering the Crew's track record and the reputation the Mobb Sqwad single has.

That reputation is earned much more on the other track, though, which features a lot more energy, freestyle rhymes, banging drums, a fast rolling bassline, and yes, scratches by Too Tuff. I can see why they chose this for their title track, and I suspect, even if the album was finished, this would've been one of the best songs on it. There's no real breakdown or anything where Tuff really gets busy, though - he's just providing very clean, choice cuts on the hook and back-up, making a strong song even stronger. I was way more excited by this song from the opening seconds, but when the horns came in, it totally took me back to the best Tuff Crew moments. "Flip'n Keeloz" is a cool song to have, too; but "TL Back To Yell" is exactly what we're hoping for anytime we fans pick up a Tuff Crew release.

And didn't I mention there were two versions of each song? Yup.

The Montana Mix of "Flip'n Keeloz" isn't too wildly different from the Straight YaYo Mix. It's the same rhymes over the same instrumental with the same vocal samples for the chorus. The Montana runs a few seconds longer, but the main difference is that, on the hook when they play Scarface clips, they also switch to an instrumental piece from the Scarface soundtrack, whereas on the Straight YaYo Mix, they keep the same beat going through it. And during the final breakdown, they take another synth line from the original film and lay it over their track. Personally, I prefer the Montana Mix... the bulk of the instrumental is unchanged, so you don't feel like you're losing anything from the Straight YaYo Mix, and yet the Montana Mix feels richer, and the drama of the narrative is more engrossing, with these other musical elements from the film. This B-side remix raises my opinion of the song a lot and makes it feel like a more worthy companion to "TL Back To Yell."

The differences between the "TL Back To Yell"s are more obvious: The Come Back Mix is a dub/TV version of the Strong Mix.

Now, I said I'd come back to the original release being cassette-only. That's because there is actually a super, incredibly rare promo-only 12" version. If discogs is to be believed, there are only 5 copies in existence. So, realistically, we don't have one and we're not going to get one. Making this Dope Folks release practically the sole vinyl version available. And even if you did own one of those 5 copies, that 12" is missing the Montana Mix of "Flip'n Keeloz" (the better version!) and the Come Back Mix of "TL Back To Yell," so you'll want to pick this up anyway. As always, the Dope Folks 12" is limited to 300 copies, sells for $20, and can be ordered directly from their site.

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