Saturday, December 8, 2012

Don't Sleep On the REAL I.C.P.

This is an album that flew so under the radar, it probably managed to hide itself from 90% of its core audience, thus becoming a failure. Which is a shame, because it's good stuff. See, it looks like just another generic bass compilation of marginal bass hits we've all heard a million times before, probably all owned by the same label. Masters Of the Bass, on Joey Boy Records. What a bland title, and look at that generic cover - another boring compilation you wouldn't even bother to focus your eyes on when you saw it your local Sam Goody's.

But it's actually an original album of all new music by the ICP crew. No, not the Insane Clown Posse. I'm talking about Ice Cold Productions, Fresh Kid Ice's team, probably best known for encompassing Balli and the Fat Daddy. The year between their Master Plan album, and Ice's solo debut, The Chinaman (an album I gave a surprising recommendation for as a guest post on Hip Hop Isn't Dead), they released this crew album, like The Juice Crew's In Control Volume 1 or First Priority Music Family's Basement Flavors. I mean, okay, it's not as incredible as those two albums, but it's good stuff.

In my Chinaman write-up, I talk about their compelling display of their proficiency in all types of production styles: classic old school (even disco era) throwback, traditional bass styles, metal influences, and even some pop themes. This album doesn't really go for any of that, it's a lot more street. It has some bass elements to it, especially in a couple songs; but most of it's just gritty and hardcore stuff. This isn't the lost prequel to The Chinaman; it's just a showcase for all their artists, most of whom got too little chance to shine elsewhere.

There are three songs generally billed as being by I.C.P.; then the rest are specifically credited to the individual artists who perform them. You might expect that means these are some sweet posse cuts, but no. These are Fresh Kid Ice's solo songs. I assume they're only labeled this way because Ice was still signed exclusively to Luke Records at the time. Anyway, not surprisingly, these are pretty much the worst songs on the album. The ICP were able to elevate Ice to levels on The Chinaman that he doesn't reach here.

Don't get me wrong - they're not bad. Despite its title, "Dick In Ya Mouth" features a surprisingly tough, gangster beat. Seriously, it would make a hot NWA track. Unfortunately, once Ice starts rhyming, it sounds... like you'd expect a single member of The 2 Live Crew to sound on his own. Tired, cliched sex raps, even recycling some of his lines from past songs that weren't appealing the first time ("nibble on this dick like a rat does cheese"). Damn it, I want to hear Fat Daddy on this cut! Oh well...

"Hey Ho" is a more traditional Miami bass song with lots of "Planet Rock," and a shout and call chorus. More cuts would've helped, but it's still a solid Miami staple. "Ice Cold," then, has Ice trying his hand at harder, freestyle rhymes more in line with the rest of the album. He's still the weakest MC here, but he manages to just squeak by. The instrumental is awesome enough. And there actually is another MC on the mic with Ice on these cuts, but Ice gets the majority of the mic time. More importantly, they sound pretty similar and lyrically they're interchangeable.

Actually (disappointingly), Fat Daddy doesn't rhyme at all on this album. He was definitely down with ICP at the time - he's even listed as being on their roster in the liner notes - but for some reason he doesn't check in. No, the real star of this album is Shake G. He's tied with Ice for having the most songs on this album (three), and they're pretty much the three best. We heard Shake G on The Chinaman, too; but not like this. He's on some Willie D meets JT Money roughneck gangsta shit on here. And the production matches - like "Dick In Ya Mouth," "Grand Larceny" and "Niggas From da Crib" are some seriously hard shit with banging beats and wailing sirens, except this time the vocal tracks live up to the instrumentals. Think "Do It Like a G.O." Good shit! And "Fuck You" is some lighter, bugged out shit, that still actually sounds the most Willie D-ish. Damn, why didn't Shake G ever get an album?

Who else is on here? There's a crew called Underground Regulators, featuring an opening verse by an MC from one of Dem Boyz (or "Dem Boiz," as they spelled it on their Critique single), which is pretty funky yet tough. A group called Da Big Boyz has a song called "Smokin Head." It's got heavy bass and the deep voiced MC from "Christmas Freestyle" on Luke's Christmas album - it's a bit ridiculous, but still dope. An MC named Top Rank closes the show, coming with a hardcore delivery and early 90's backpacker rhymes (expect to hear a lot of words like "electromagnetic" and "ninety-degree angles") on "Immortal." He brings a different style, welcome to the album, but the lyrics haven't aged so well. I remember him being impressive in '91, but listening to him now, he's pretty corny. It's still enjoyable, though. Again, the production raises it to a higher level than it perhaps otherwise deserves.

Oh, and there's one more song on here. I lamented the lack of Fat Daddy on this album, but his partner Balli has a solo joint. It's a dance track called "The Overtown Hop." This came out the same year as Eerk and Jerk's single, "The Overtown Hop," and it's not the same instrumental, but they're definitely in the same lane. I bet there's a story there. Anyway, the two are definitely similar enough that if you liked E&J's "Overtown Hop," you'll like this one; but they're different enough that you don't feel like you're just listening to a minor variation of the same song. Balli sounds nice on the mic (and a little Larry Larr-like), and there are some nice cuts.

Seriously, do yourself a favor and track down a copy of this sleeper. You'll be surprised.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks W....definately going after this one now. Kinda rare I guess....Discogs isn't even selling one at this point.

    Chriz the Wiz