Monday, January 26, 2015

Sweet Tee's Bad Girl Posse

The Poizon Posse is a group that was just on the periphery of my radar back in '93. I'm sure I saw ads in The Source and their tape in the stores, but I always just passed over and ignored 'em because they looked corny and irrelevant. But as it turns out, they were actually corny and relevant! The Poizon Posse was an all girl rap group signed to Chemistry/Mercury Records for one album. Not quite so young that I'd call them a kiddie rap act like Kriss Kross or Another Bad Creation, but I guess they're pretty close. Maybe like da Youngstas, but by the time of their third or fourth album when they got taller.

So who cares, right? I didn't. But then I came across this 12" for 75 cents, And I thought for that price, I'll willingly get burned on a wack record just for the learning experience. I mean, hey, it's got a picture cover. I've made worse hip-hop buying decisions.

So "This Is It, Y'all" is their one single off of their one album, Stompin'.  And I guess there's no reason in trying to draw out any suspense because it's in the post's title, but it turns out this is actually Sweet Tee's band of proteges. She wrote, she produced, she mixed... I think it's safe to assume she managed them. She's even their stylist. I mean, she officially gets billed that way on the back cover credits, meaning Mercury probably cut her a check for that, too.  So I think Sweet Tee did alright on this project even if it didn't float commercially.

So, Sweet Tee isn't an actual member of the group. The official line-up is: Ro Ro, Aishah*, Lisa Lisa (obviously not the Cult Jam one) and Keisha. But Tee does rap with them on this introductory track, to bring in her fan to this group. She also featured on another track or two on the full album, and the very first words on the A-side are Sweet Tee saying, "Sweet Tee;" so they're definitely not downplaying it. She's posing with the group on the picture cover. If they'd gone that one extra step and labeled the album: The Poizon Posse featuring Sweet Tee, I'm sure I would've bought it in '93, but there it is. I'm not regretful or anything; I'm not writing this post to tell you it's some kind of slept on masterpiece.

The production is at least nice and hardcore. It doesn't have any stand-out samples (though it's cool when "UFO" fades into it later in the song), so it's no must-have track, but it'll get your head nodding. Where they come up short is lyrically. The point of the song is just to introduce themselves, so there's no real concept for them to follow other than "make sure you get your name in the track as much as possible," which they do. But otherwise they have literally nothing to say, and they don't say anything in a clever or interesting way. Except Aisha's verse is kinda cool; but that comes towards the end - too little, too late.

And they all sound alike. Granted. the Wu-Tang Clan (who pretty much came out the same way in the same year, after all) occasionally took things to cartoonish extremes in establishing their individual personalities. So I'm happy to see other groups dial that down a few (thousand) notches. But these girls take it too far, where they're completely indistinguishable and you can't even tell that they've passed the mic except that they're calling themselves by a different name. Two of them also look a lot like Sweet Tee (and they have the same haircuts!), so I wonder if they're related.

On the other hand, at least none of them say anything stupid or embarrassing (hey, you can't say that for many of today's young rappers) and it's kinda cool to see Sweet Tee make the transition from "Let's Dance" to the early 90's hardcore vibe. Combine that with a decent track and it's a pretty decent listen if your don't hold your standards too high.

After "This Is It, Y'all" comes "This Is Really It," a 12" exclusive not on the album. It's not really a whole other song with a similar title, but a remix. Lyrically it's all the same, and the instrumental has a lot of the same elements, but it's more broken down, has a funkier bassline and a few extra samples... even some understated live guitar. simply put: it's better, and I really don't understand why they didn't just discard "This Is It, "Y'all" and make this the version for the album, video, etc. It's not that different, it's just a cooler, catchier variation of the same song.

Finally you get both instrumentals and the album's title track "Stompin'." It's got some nice scratching on it, by someone named Boo the Barber (who's apparently still around). But once the distinctive "Misdemeanor" sample kicks in and you realize it's the same beat as The D.O.C.'s "Funky Enough," chopped the exact same way, it just makes you realize you're listening to a drastically inferior "Funky Enough." If you'd never heard "Funky Enough" before hearing this, you'd probably enjoy this more. It's at least highly energetic with near constant cutting behind all the verses, and this time the MCs are saying more than just their names on repeat. One of them tells the story of going to court after beating up another woman in a playground, and one of the others talks about how she owns a laundromat and is also a runner who could have gone to the Olympics, but she chose to "kick phat rhymes on beats" instead. I have to admit, I didn't expect them to suddenly get this interesting so late in the single.

This record is definitely of its time, and I don't necessarily mean that in a good way. But it's got some elements, at least, that work - maybe they're not quite as corny as my first impression. The Posse might've actually been a little stronger if they didn't have a major label behind them. But if you're interested in hip-hop history, this is a record you should at least check it out once. I wonder what their story is... All I know is that Keisha also appeared on this record (not he infamous posse cut remix, but the regular one).

*And I guess they were well aware that people like me would be making the ABC connection, because when it's time to say her name, the other girls sing it in the background in the key and style of "Iesha."

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