Monday, October 13, 2014

The Almighty Arrogant - What's Out There?

The Almighty Arrogant isn't just one of the most exciting, compelling and respected underground rappers from the 90s, he's also one of the most elusive. He's like a cross between Young Zee and Ras Kass: from the west coast but all about a crazy delivery of ill one-liner-packed battle rhymes mixed with some serious, dark ish. And thanks to industry politics, he's managed to release practically no music. I remember, years ago, getting excited over an online discussion because somebody had found an old article (I think it was in Rap Sheet) that mentioned an Arrogant song I'd never heard of: "Fed Up." Well, being the hardcore completist you guys know me to be, I've finally found "Fed Up;" and in this post I'm assembling everything I've been able to find by this guy for you now.

I don't know a whole lot else about him, really. I know he was signed to Perspective Records... so he doesn't just have a lot in common with Young Zee stylistically, but they were label-mates who recorded together. And I *think* he was briefly a member of The Hobo Junction. He was never (unfortunately) featured on any of their albums, but he did appear more than once alongside Saafir, and I have vague memories of a Hobo Junction t-shirt for sale online back in their heyday which listed all the members on the back, including him. It's a fuzzy memory, though, so I won't swear to it.

Oh, and to make matters more confusing, there's another rapper, who I think is from Chicago, named Arrogant. He's got some underground albums (The Misconception, Darwin's Theory) and has been around for a while now, but is a totally different guy.

So what music is actually out there by the real Arrogant? Well, let's start with the most obvious, the vinyl releases, as I break down everything I know of.

Lay Tight (One For the Money) - This is the only official Arrogant record out there. It's a 12" single on Perspective from 1996, taken from the soundtrack to the 90s movie Kazaam... yes, the movie where Shaq played a genie. It's alright, but probably his weakest song, mostly due to gimmicky, bleepy bloopy-sounding beat and R&B vocals, which makes it all the more frustrating that it's his only record. It's the sort of song you'd expect to find on a label run by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, I guess. You can get it on the soundtrack album, but the 12" also includes the instrumental and acapella.

Heavenly, The Hip-Hop Joint - I already did a video about this one.  "Heavenly" was a single by Perspective R&B group Solo, and this was a remix where Perspective showed off their hip-hop line-up by getting Arrogant, Young Zee, Pudgee and Mr. Blaq to take over the song, pretty much removing Solo completely (especially the version where they have Zee sing the hook). Dope stuff.

Handle the Truth - This is a long coveted demo I recently blogged about since Dope Folks Records revived it and released it on wax for the first time this year, as part of Ras Kass's Pre-Soul On Ice Demos EP. Arrogant rhymes with not only Ras Kass, but Saafir and the moody track's producer, Vooodu. Very awesome to finally get this one on wax.

Wake Up Show Free Styles vol 2 - Some of Arrogant's most memorable performances and what turned a lot of us heads into fans back in the days, A virtually unknown Arrogant kills it on a couple freestyle rhymes alongside the industry's best, including one recording which pairs him up with Mykill Myers (who was also amazing on that album).

So that's it for the what's on vinyl and the stuff his fans should already know about.  Now let's get into the rare, unreleased stuff from Perspective Records promo tapes.

Arrogant Wayz - Taken from the Perspective Is Everything '96 sampler tape. I also have it titled as "The Almighty Way" on another tape, called The Perspective Experience Vol. 1, but it's the same song. The sample heavy track has a real hot, blaxploitation feel to it - I want to say Big Daddy Kane rocked over this same loop, but I can't think of the specific song [update 10/14/14: I found it; it's "Lyrical Gymnastics" from Daddy's Home, 1994] - which makes for a nice contrast to Arrogant's nontraditional style. It's topped off with an R&B chorus, which gives the song a big production feel.


Come On - Only a snippet was released, unfortunately, on the Perspective Is Everything '96 tape. It's Arrogant getting busy over a traditional funk break. It's nice to see Arrogant showing such versatility, even over just a handful of scattered tracks. It's got another sung hook, this time by a male group, which lends a cool, old school vibe to it all.

Toxic Urb - Like "Come On," I first found this as a snippet on Perspective Is Everything '96. But, fortunately, it was also released in full on another snippet tape, called Perspective Records '96 College Rap Sampler, so fuck a snippet. It's obvious what this song's about from its title, and Arrogant's vocals might be mixed a little too loud over the instrumental, but otherwise it's a nice, liquidy track and Arrogant is refreshingly free of his battle-mode tendencies here. Heads would have liked his album.

Arrogant Wayz (Remix) - There's another version of "Arrogant Wayz," but it's another one I've only been able to track down as a snippet, from the College Sampler tape. The big difference between this and the original is that it's way more smoothed out. with more of a DJ Quik-like sound, and a slick vocoder hook. In fact, now that I say that, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that they did hire Quik to do this mix. East coast heads may well prefer the original mix, but this is real cool.

Fed Up - Didn't I say I'd tracked down "Fed Up?" Yeah, I've got it in full on The Perspective Experience Vol. 1. When I first heard this tape, I was disappointed because it's got Big Kap screaming over it in typically obnoxious mixtape DJ fashion. But that's only on side A, flip it over and all the same songs repeat, without Kap over them, so you've "Fed Up" in full and unspoiled. It's more of a jazzy, east coast track with Arrogant flipping the kind of raps you'd expect after hearing his freestyles.

Red Rain - I've found one more full Arrogant song on one of these tapes, this time on one called P-Street Sampler from 1995, a little earlier than all the rest (everything else was 1996). This is deeply atmospheric, almost horrorcore, except his lyrics are horror-themed but still on some rap shit, the title referring to "the bloodshed of MCs."

And, because the status of an underground legend not just to me but a lot of heads, the internet has been on a similar quest and turned up a couple more Arrogant songs, which have been posted online, but I'm not entirely sure where they came from (but I would guess another promo tape or two).

Mindstate Hades - Another track in the vein of "Red Rain," with a choice Masta Ace vocal sample for a hook. I liked "Red Rain" better, and lyrically it might be more interesting if all the dark references weren't just the most obvious "I'm killing bad rappers" similes; but it's nice to have some darkness to off-set the other stuff.

Arrogant SOB - Great samples, Arrogant in top arrogant form, and a properly cut up hook. Maybe the punchline style of his writing feels a little dated, but it's still pretty great. I love it.

Universal Travel - Arrogant was so high when he wrote this, you'll get a contact high just listening to it. He talks about floating through space, being bullet proof, and of course other rappers not measuring up to his greatness (you might say he runs that theme into the ground, but his name is Arrogant after all). It's got a terrifically trippy Redman vocal sample for a hook ("I travel the Milky Way and the stars of the Gods!") and I'm sure would've been a fan favorite had it ever come out.

Time To Scheme - You might recognize some of these rhymes from his Wake Up Show freestyle. And that's the only way it sounds like a freestyle rhyme, it feels very low-fi and cheaply produced & recorded. It has a hook and all, so it's not a full song, not just a radio freestyle. But I bet this is from a self-made demo tape or something. But make no mistake, it's almost more impressive for all that. It's a got a real nice, underground vibe, unlike some of the glossier Perspective stuff, hinting that even if he had released his album, he would've still had better stuff hidden away in his vaults.

Real Niggaz - Featuring label-mate Mr. Blaq. I'm not sure the collaboration really flatters either MC; they both feel a little out of their element. It's not as bad as those Too $hort / Def Squad east-should-never-have-met-west deals; but it does come off as a bit of a compromise on both of their parts. On the plus side, though, it does feel like a genuine meeting between two real, credible street artists who've found themselves on a commercial label that doesn't deserve them.

...Plus, "Come On" has also been posted online in full-length form (remember, the version I've located is a snippet only).

So, some of those songs on vinyl (most obviously the freestyles) were probably never meant for Arrogant's album. "Handle the Truth," and "Lay Tight," who knows? But I doubt it. Even "Real Niggaz" sounds like it might be him guesting on a Rufus Blaq project, not the other way around. But if adding together all the songs I've compiled with all the ones you other internet detectives have tracked down, that's probably almost his entire shelved album. One or two tracks might still be missing, but I suspect that's basically it. It would be great to see this on a nice, remastered slab of wax (hint hint, limited labels!), and it would be extra great if we could ever find Arrogant, hear his story and whatever happened to him. You shouldn't be all quiet and shy about your artistic output with a name like Arrogant, after all.

6 comments:

  1. Nice work. Been trying to hunt this guy for a few years now, since kev beacham shared that demo tape at phila. Then I think nobs shared a longer version of the demo. Anyways, I think red rain and fed up are probably my favorites. Would really love to get his demos properly remastered and get it vinylized on heavyjewelz with some dope artwork and whatever else we can come up with.

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    1. Yeah, that would be awesome. Somebody's gotta know where dude's hiding out!

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    2. Great review, got all the tracks, except "Toxic Herb" and "Arrogant Ways(original and remix)", never heard those, but his work is great.....

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  2. I had two full albums dubbed from a friend in LA around 1999/2000

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  3. Hey man I produced the remix to Almighty Wayz.. do you want it? also two other cutz from jimmy and terry's label perspective..the album was a/r'd by a guy name JR Regisford..i can get you an Interview if yo want! YES HE WS A DOPE MC still is....slept on and shelved!

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