Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Last Nite's Dope

Here's a release from my period of having to buy everything on Young Black Brotha Records. It came from discovering Mac Dre when his What's Really Going On? EP. That was actually on Strictly Business Records, but that was essentially the same label, which gracefully morphed into YBBR. Mac Dre followed up What's Really Going On? with a long full-length that featured some tracks from What's, called Young Black Brotha; and then before you knew it, that Young Black Brotha was the label, with the same roster and owner. So, on top of fiending to get all Mac Dre's other stuff, my friends and I were getting releases by Mac Mall and Ray Luv just by virtue of their being on the same label. The blind buying paid off, largely thanks to the fact that they all featured the music of producer Khayree, who was also said label owner.

Now, "Last Nite" was kind of the mainstream debut of Ray Luv in 1994. He'd already had an earlier, rarer EP on Strictly Business, but this was his first single on YBBR, set to introduce him to world at large. It featured a track from his upcoming YBBR full-length debut, Forever Hustlin', and one from his debut EP, Who Can Be Trusted?

This was really the big push for Ray - they even got 2Pac to direct the video for it. And the lyrics are all about establishing just who Ray Luv is. Sure, ostensibly, it's a laid back cut about "last night," a smooth, universally relate-able song where we reflect on the party and drama of the previous night. But Ray's craftily using that framework to lay the groundwork of his own identity: "Last night, somethin' about the sky being overcast, and the doja had me thinking bout the past, let me see, when was all cool? April fifteenth, nineteen seventy-two. That's when Izza gave birth to me, and life gave the whole damn Earth to me..."

See? Just two sentences in and he's already spilling his origin story. And when he's not telling us that, he's laying down his ethos... and at the same time, expertly dropping in atmospheric portrayal of what life's become today; so you can bob your head to a descriptive account of an authentic kick back without even realizing you're being told anything of substance. You can just take it completely on surface level, as a slightly less hedonistic version of DJ Quik's "Tonite" (I suspect the similar misspelling may have been an intentional association), and it works perfectly thanks to the subtle yet lush musical backdrop by Khayree, one of the most under-appreciated masters of the kind of G-funk that didn't rely on heavy-handed P-funk samples, but just smooth instrumentation. There's a simple - unimpressive but effective - hook sung by Steffany Miller; but it's really all about track. As the liner notes make a point of saying, "No Samples Nuttin But Real Black Music."

The song from his old EP is "Smokin Indo." A short and funky little first-person story that quickly turns into a gangstas and guns-style tale before concluding with a surprisingly strong message about "the result of black on black violence," when Ray himself gets shot and killed. Ray Luv later remade this song into a fuller track (the original is just a single verse) called "Still Smokin' Indo;" but there's something more compelling about this rawer, short version.

But still, if you've got Ray Luv's albums, you've got those songs, right? Wouldn't an exclusive B-side be just the thing? Well, that's on here, too! It's called "Mo Careful," and it's an even harder track, with a (small) appearance by Mac Dre. It's still got some Dre-style whistling keyboards in the background; but the real driving force here are some big, "Atomic Dog"-type drums and tough scratches. Yeah, these guys had scratches; DJ Cee was a key member of the YBBR family; and he lent them some serious hip-hop authenticity - and just good music. He was killed (apparently in a tragic case of mistaken identity - see here) in 1995. And while Khayree has certainly able to keep pumping out quality music throughout the years since, and of course Mac Dre's biggest years were still ahead of him; YBBR never quite had the same feel after the his loss.

The A-side concludes with "Mo Dope On da Way," a skit detailing future releases on YBBR. It's interesting to note that the track and the liner notes announce Ray's upcoming album as Nuttin Move But da Money, rather than the title it actually became. Anyway, as you see, it's a pretty full single; and it's also got the instrumentals on the flip (even for the skit), which is nice because there's a reason producer Khayree gets credit right up there on the front picture cover. Not that Ray Luv doesn't hold up his end - he certainly does, with smooth flows that merge seamlessly into the grooves. But it's all thanks to the beautiful production that kids like me could safely buy anything on his label before even knowing who the artists were.

1 comment:

  1. The track on that single "MO CAREFUL" was a great one as well! a sleeper for sure.

    I swear the RAY LUV "FOREVER HUSTLIN" album was the greatest ever