Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Fat Boy Back In Effect

In 1991, when FS Effect came out, I had no idea who they were or what their music sounded like. But I bought their album anyway. Why? Because this was after The Fat Boys had broken up. Prince Markie Dee said he was tired of being in a group people looked on as a joke. Also, he really wasn't so fat, at least compared to the other two - if he lost anymore weight, he was gonna stick out... but that probably wasn't so much on his mind. Anyway, he left, and we fans were left wondering what was he going to do now... We eventually found out that he was going to become a surprisingly successful, R&B-fused producer who'd even score a couple solo hits, more suited for Video LP ("kiss it or diss it?") than Rap City.  But this was in that void, between The Fat Boys and The Soul Convention. He made his first appearance doing a guest verse on FS Effect's debut album.

Well, the group turned out to be a decent but fairly generic new jack swing group; and the reason Markie Dee chose to start his comeback here is pretty easy to guess. He was producing them. He didn't do their whole album, but he did several tracks, including their lead single and, of course, the song he appears on. I found out years later that I could've just bought the single, because Markie Dee's guest verse is the B-side. Oh well. Here it is now.

So the A-side is "Your Luvin'." It was also the first song on the album. They did have a second single ("I Wanna Be Your Lover," which features Christopher Williams singing circles around them) and a some exposure on the New Jack City soundtrack, but you can really tell Giant Records figured all of FS Effect was predicated on this one song. The full-length, So Deep It's Bottomless, was really just a formality to make the single more official. If this song was a hit, then maybe they'd put some more money into these guys and maybe stick with 'em for a while. But it wasn't, and their story's a pretty short one.

So how is it already? It's not bad. It's certainly well produced, with a lot of keyboards and smoothed out funk guitars played over a solid break beat. And there's some really nice R&B vocals for the hook, which all blends together seamlessly. I mean, a lot of heads are going to outright hate this just for being a new jack rap/R&B hybrid; but if you're open to the style, it's certainly a well put together example of it. Really, the only weak spot is the rapping. But that's a pretty big weak point, because all the MCs have super simple, stilted deliveries, and weak, contrived rhymes: "I like to think back to the days when I used to be trippin' about bein' engaged at a tender age. That made me remember the stage of years, when I was still wet behind the ears." They're clearly all trying to be Father MCs (who Markie Dee would also successfully produce for), but they just can't do it like he could.

But none of that shit's what we're here for, anyway. Flip this over to the B-side and we get "Mentally Stable." It's the album's hardcore track (think of the title track to Father MC's Father's Day), and it's the one where Markie Dee shows all these FS Effect guys how to rap. If you're interested, by the way, there were four guys: Joeseph Brim, Rich Love, Amery Ware and Carmel DJ EZ Lee. Yeah, surprisingly, they had a DJ, and he was probably the best part of the group. Certainly, his scratching on "I Wanna Be Your Lover" was the highlight of that single.

So yeah, think "Father's Day." It's hardcore, but not "Protect Ya Neck" hardcore. It's hardcore within the parameters of new jack swing: rolling piano loop, funky horn stabs, plenty of scratching by their DJ. Everybody says "motherfucker" at least once in their verse. And Markie Dee grabs the mic first to kill it. True Fat Boys aficionados will know that Markie Dee was always the beast of the trio in terms of rhyming. Granted, times have changed, bars have been raised... this surely isn't as impressive to fresh ears as it was back in '91, corny references stand out more now that everybody isn't doing them quite so much; but it was a genuinely exciting verse at the time. It was also still genuinely shocking to hear one of the Fat Boys declare "I'll kick your fuckin' ass" on a record. And the FS Effect guys... well, Markie clearly left them in the dust, but they do manage to pull their own weight at least enough to fill up the song without having it feel like it's hit any lulls or soft spots.

Now, the 12" features several mixes of both tracks, with promising titles like the Down Low Mix, Hip Hop Show or DK EZ Lee's Jeep Style... but, disappointingly, they're just overly fanciful ways to describe really basic radio, street and instrumental mixes. I was excited to hear the Bald Head version of "Mentally Stable" when I first brought this 12" home, but oh well. The song itself is still worth having, and the 12" single at least saves you the trouble of getting the whole album, which I'd reserve exclusively for die-hard new jack swing fans. Though if you like that kinda stuff, there are some well-sung hooks, fresh cutting and old school samples on there.

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