Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Chubb Rock & The G-Man

I hate to be cynical, but laying out the money to buy a guest verse from a better known rapper works. When I first saw G-Man's debut single in stores, I had no idea who he was. I didn't even realize he was a singer, not a rapper. But I saw "feat. Chubb Rock" written on the label, and I bought it, without even any idea of what it sounded like. It was a good time to have Rock, since it came out in 1996, when Chubb when the buzz was just amping up for his fifth album, which was then going to be called Clear the Decks. So heads were aching to hear some Chubb Rock, and boom here was this in the store. Who was G-Man, who cares? Doesn't matter. And I doubt G-Man actually had to pay for this cameo, since they were labelmates on Select Records, and this was surely an early step in marketing Chubb Rock's return.

So yeah, I was a little disappointed to learn G-Man was a singer, and so this song was R&B with a guest verse rather than a full-out hip-hop song. But what the hell, I would've bought it anyway had I known. It's Chubb Rock. The song was called "Treat Me Right," and it's probably meant to reference Chubb Rock's biggest hit, "Treat 'Em Right," but they don't mention it at all in the actual content of the song. It starts out with the "Corsa Ave. Mix," a cool, moody hip-hop track produced by Chubb himself, and the vocals open with Chubb rapping. He comes pretty nice, definitely putting in the effort to be creative and original, though it veers dangerously close to corniness a couple of times. After his verse, things get kind of dull, with a long repetitive hook and neither G-Man nor the instrumental bothering to do anything to separate it from his verses. It's all alright, but G-Man doesn't have a powerful voice either, opting instead for kind of a hip, low-key delivery with a kind of nasally voice. As cool as the track is, it really drags, until Chubb Rock finally comes back for one more short verse at the end of the song. And as good as Rock sounds, it's not really his top shelf stuff lyrically. Still, if you were to edit out the sleepy middle of the song, this could be a pretty neat, very short Chubb Rock song with a sung hook.

Then there's a couple remixes, mostly also produced by Chubb and using the same basic beat. The Hip Piano Vocal version is almost identical, except it has an extra sample loop over the top of it that sounds more like a guitar than a piano. It was better without it. Then there's the G-Man Vocal mix, which is the same as the Corsa Ave. Mix minus Chubb Rock's vocals. And finally, besides a couple instrumentals, there's the Uptempo Vocal Mix, produced by somebody named James Dowe. Not bad, it is genuinely more uptempo which helps G-Man's performance, and features some extra instrumentation like a piano loop that actually sounds like a piano and multiple samples from "Treat 'Em Right." Chubb Rock also has a new verse on this one, where he very definitely does reference his own record. It's kinda cool, but still drags with G-Man's flat singing left to carry 90% of the song.

So, overall, it was just okay. Not mad at it, but mostly just happy for a little Chubb Rock fix, especially since his album was taking forever to come out. Release dates were announced and not met; there still wasn't even a single. Eventually, in 1997, I spotted G-Man's second single in stores and I thought, nah, I'm done with that guy. Unless you've got Chubb Rock on your record again, I don't even wanna know about it. Then I flipped it over, and oh, look who's on the B-side. Chubb Rock, and also guest verses by AG and some protege of Chubb's named Freeze A. Luv. Alright, fine; I bought it.

This single's called "Runnin' 2 U," and again, there are a couple versions. The main version just features AG, but is again produced by Chubb Rock. I kinda thought hey, maybe we'd already have Clear the Decks by now if he'd stop fooling around with these side projects. But whatever, let's hear what we've got. It's a little more traditional, in terms of R&B, with G-Man on more of a Jodeci tip. The beat has a lot of instrumental flourish, but it's backed by the beat for Mobb Deep's "Shook Ones pt II," which is quite cool. When we finally get to AG's part, hearing him over "Shook Ones" is dope; but his verse is too short, just there really to support G-Man, who admittedly sounds more engaging this second time around.

Like the last single, there's another mix, called Original Sauce, which is the same as the main vocal version but minus the guest rapper, and there's an instrumental. There's also a remix, simply called the Street Mix, which replaces the "Shook Ones" for the "DWYCK" beat. AG's verse is back on it, so it's kinda cool. Still basically an unexciting R&B song for the most part, though.

But finally there's the Secret Recipe Remix. This features all three of the MCs over a new instrumental with faux horns and some phat snare. AG switches his verse for harder hip-hop subject matter, and G-Man is relegated to the hook. Unfortunately, he doesn't change what he's singing, and his "Runnin' 2 U" chorus doesn't really fit this song. But still, it's a pretty tight song that's really a hip-hop track this time, with some good MCs, and Chubb Rock takes a pretty random shot at DJ Clue. I'd like it better without the hook, but it's still a dope track that's worth having overall if you're a fan of Chubb or AG.

And eventually, later that year, Rock's album, now titled The Mind, limped out to stores, with all of its marketing and promotion finished a year prior. Most people I talked to who had been fans of Chubb Rock and were waiting for the album didn't even know it had dropped. I had to bring in my copy to work one day to prove to one of the guys at The Source that it actually existed and I had it.

Ultimately, it wasn't his best but still pretty good and enough to keep me happy as a fan. I remember him giving an interview early on that he was going back to high energy dance tracks and hard vocals (like his biggest hits "Ya Bad Chubbs" and "Treat 'Em Right") for his new album, and ultimately there was really only one song like that on The Mind, which makes me think Select Records' vaults are full of Chubb Rock songs from 1995-1996 that we never got to hear. Oh well. I'm not mad at what we did get; it was dope, just to bad it wound up being his final album.

And guess who sang a hook on that album? Of course, G-Man, on a song called "The Man." It's good but very R&Bish, and not just because of the hook. The instrumental by Elliot Ness is pure late night BET R&B. Chubb Rock's voice and flow sounds great on it, but he's clearly not on the same page as G-Man. He's rapping about adulthood and serious social issues ("I heard black men, I mean boys, saying they beat their queens. That type rush can't paint the scene, dissipates the dream of black kings"), but G-Man's singing about romance ("whenever you need good lovin', you gotta understand, it takes a man, a man, to keep you satisfied"). Though I guess they're both on the general theme of men and women coming together and what-not. It's more a mismatch of tone than concept.

Our G-Man.
And that seems to be the end of G-Man's story. Chubb Rock came back with another single post-Select Records, and eventually did stuff online and for the Wet Hot American Summer soundtrack. But I haven't heard G-Man on any more of his stuff. discogs links another guy named G-Man*, a member of a South Central crew The Mobsters, to this G-Man's page like they're the same person, but they're not. The 1997 single "What Kinda Nigga Is U?" is by the one from The Mobsters, not our guy. But if Chubb Rock ever comes back for a sixth album, and I still hope he will, I wouldn't be mad at another hook by G-Man. He could sound good if utilized properly.

*In fact, there are over fifty artists named G-Man listed on discogs(!).

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