Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Only Deadly Venom You'll Ever Need

Putting together an official, all-girl version of the Wu-Tang Clan sounds like a cheap, lame cash-in idea. And it is. I'm surprised they didn't follow this up with an Wu Jr group full of pre-teenagers... though did get Shyhiem, which was blatant enough.  But, still, the idea could work. Especially if you do it in the 90s (an all-female Wu of the 2010s? ugh), helm them with a solid Wu-alliterated producer (Storm might not be the crowd pleaser that RZA would've been; but he proves himself here) and some established, credible MCs. And for a brief moment, it did work.

Most of you reading this are probably familiar with said MCs, but let me go over the Deadly Venoms line-up real quick. You had Champ MC, who was one of the many artists caught out there in Elektra''s East/ West hip-hop purge of the mid 90s, where a ton of artists had their albums shelved. You had Finesse, formerly of Finesse and Synquis, an Uptown duo who put out a bunch of records in the 80s When the Venoms shrunk down to just three members, Finesse is the one who took off. She's the old schooler of the crew, the Fru Kwan to their Gravediggaz. You had new jack J-Boo, who I liked less once I found out her name was an acronym for Justified Beauty Over Others. And you had N-Tyce, who had a couple singles out on Wild Pitch. I was never into her stuff, though "Black To the Point" was kinda nice. Just would've been nicer with a different MC.  Anyway, she was already sorta Wu-affiliated and working with Storm, which is how the Venoms project first came about.

Oh, and you briefly had LinQue. She was in the group very briefly, but never appeared on any of their records. It's too bad, because she probably would've been the strongest; but it just never happened. I have a DV demo tape, and she's not on there either.  Some people mistakenly thought she was on their first single, which is what I'm covering today; but she's actually only in the video. Her voice isn't on the record. And her cutting out also kinda messed up the group's name, because they were meant to be known as the Five Deadly Venoms, taking their name from the famous kung-fu movie, just like the Wu took theirs from one. Each of them even had a Venom alias, where J-Boo was Viper,  Champ was Scorpion, N-Tyce was Poison and Finesse was Chameleon. But so they wound up coming out as just the Deadly Venoms. Or, as we see on their original debut 12", just Venom.

So the Venoms have had a rough time of it. They recorded their debut album for Arista, and then they dumped them without releasing it. Then they recorded a second album in the 2000s for Dreamworks, who also dumped them and shelved that album. By the time they released their third, debut and to date latest album, they were down to three members. And let's face it, a lot of what we did get wasn't too exciting anyway. Soft, commercial kinda stuff with boring collaborations (including three with Kurupt!), and above all, not terribly Wu-like.

But this debut 12" was very Wu-like. It's got a great sound and is really on point with everything you'd have wanted out of a female Wu group in 1997. It's "Bomb Threat" b/w "Boulevard" (Arista would later release "Bomb Threat" on vinyl again, as the B-side to "One More To Go;" but it started here). And an interesting thing to note is that if you compare my copy, pictured, it looks different to all the other pictures you see online, including discogs. My copy is missing the standard Echo logo, UPC, etc. Perhaps mine is an earlier, more limited run? I'm not sure. The track-listing is the same on both versions, anyway, and even sports the same catalog number.

Anyway, this 12" nicely captures the feeling of the original "Protect Ya Neck" 12". Partially, I'm sure, because it actually has "Protect Ya Neck" written on it; but it's really the whole single. There's just a raw, street vibe to the whole thing, and unlike most of the Venoms' stuff, the production here feels like classic, street Wu music, with the MCs just spitting as hard as they can on it. You think of this, the original Sunz of Man 12"... it's just a shame the Wu couldn't keep the crossover elements out of their later work, because their earliest 12"s are always killers.

The B-side is another banger. "Boulevard" uses the same loop Army of the Pharaohs would hook up a year later for their classic 12" cut "War Ensemble" Yes, Venom had it first; and it sounds as good here as it does there, though the hook isn't as compelling. But, still, some of the verses here to feel a bit weak. The way they're laid out, with the MCs passing the mic mid verse sounds dope, and their voices sound great over some sick, understated production. But lyrically... well, you get the feeling that maybe Deadly Venoms should've been a really good one-off project that began and ended with this single; because it works well enough here but they don't really feel like they could carry multiple albums and a long, varied career. After all, "hey, let's make an all-girl version of our hit group!" is still a terrible, tacky idea. But this 12" by itself proved doubters wrong. Everything afterwards, not so much.



  2. And heres an interview with them -