Tuesday, October 25, 2016

A Little Bit Frustrating, A Little Bit Awesome

Here's a dope record you've probably never heard of!  Ironclad's Ghetto Life, The Album from 2001.  Except, it's not really the album like it says right there on the cover.  But that's just a taste of the slightly confusing and frustrating aspects of this mysterious little EP.  What's more frustrating about it than the misinformation on the front cover?  How about the misinformation on the back cover, which lists all the guest artists appearing on this project, including Kool G Rap, Big Daddy Kane, Akinyele, Mark the 45 King, Shaqueen, Triple Seis, Davy DMX, DR Period, Kangol of UTFO, Clark Kent, BGF (who I'm guessing = G Rap's Black Guerilla Fam), Clark Kent and a bunch of artists I've never heard of.  Well, out of those, guess who's on this record?  Yeah, pretty much just the artists you've never heard of.  Except Big Daddy Kane, he's actually on here.  And to be fair, since the labels don't include production credits, I'm not sure about the producers.  Maybe one or two of them really did make a track on this.  But yeah, you see this record at the store (or online) and see all the artists promised, then take it home, put it on the turntable, and find out it's all lies.  What's up with that?

Well, to start with, Ironclad aren't exactly the artist on this record, though they sort of are.  It looks that way, certainly, from the cover, with "IRONCLAD" in all caps on the front and back cover.  And I'm clearly not the only dude who got that impression, since it's listed that way on discogs and by most sellers on EBay, etc.  But Ironclad, besides being the label, Ironclad Entertainment, is more of the extended posse.  You know how Killarmy is part of the extended Wu Fam, but a Killarmy album isn't really a Wu-Tang Clan album?  Ironclad, which is a bunch of young MCs who know, you're not supposed to have heard of, are all over this record, but they're more like the Killarmy to the main stars, Boriquaz 4 Life.  See that circular logo on the top left?  You're supposed to notice that more than the giant "IRONCLAD," I guess.  And I know, you haven't heard of Boriquaz 4 Life either.  There's a lot to unpack here, but I promise it will be worth it.

So, why do I say this isn't Ghetto Life, The Album, even though it quite clearly says it is?  Because I've heard a good chunk of the album, including the song with Kool G Rap, which is dope and remains unreleased!  Like the title says, both frustrating and awesome.  So the album was recorded, but only some tracks have made it online.  So Ghetto Life, The Album is an actual (if shelved) full length album; and what we have here is the only thing that was actually released, a 6-song sampler EP.  But this sampler is the only way to even get six of those cuts, and there's some really great material on here, so it's definitely worth picking up, even though almost none of those awesome artists listed are on it.

Plus, you actually have heard of Boriquaz 4 Life!  Don't shake your head at me.  It's true, because Boriquaz 4 Life is made up of two previously established artists.  You know those Next Plateau 12"s by a guy named The Microphone Prince that're in every hip-hop bargain bin ever, but you check out because Marley Marl is credited on one?  Yeah, he's one of them.  And the other guy's an even bigger deal: The Devastating Tito from the original Fearless Four!  Yeah, I've been doing these posts lately about what Peso's been up to, but here's what Tito was doing in the 2000s.  And no offense to Peso, but Tito's comeback definitely wins.  It's actually really surprising how he's able to rock the mic here; he's killing it and not at all in an old school, throwback way.  In fact, I honestly didn't believe he was one of the cats rapping here until I did some research and confirmed it multiple times over.

Yeah, Tito and TMP are ill lyrically, and their Ironclad guys, who are basically all younger artists they were managing and raising up under their wing, are too.  I think they're making a concerted effort to channel Big Pun, and that's always a good thing.  Like some of the best, indie NY hardcore random rap from the 90s vinyl days.  I mean, one of the dudes whose flow was clearly heavily inspired by Mystikal named Blue I is a little corny; but overall this is an EP of mostly posse cuts where everybody kills it.  "We At War" features a non-stop line-up of who knows, but they all sound great.  "All out Warfare," "Flow 4 the Streets," and "We Ballin'" are all along the same lines except without quite so many MCs, and are all hot.  A couple moments of nice scratching, too.  "Floss Game" is the one with Big Daddy Kane, and he kicks a really slick, high speed verse.  That song's just him, Tito and TMP, plus some girl named Boo Styles on the hook.  Unfortunately, production-wise, it doesn't live up to the MCs or the previous songs.  It could really use a remix, but it's still good.

The other song on here is the title cut, "Ghetto Life," which is more of a serious "The Message"-style track.  Tito comes off particularly well, but the production is annoying with a driving xylophone loop and Lil Tito, Tito's eleven year-old son, singing a terrible hook.  A remix could really turn this one around, too.  But even as it is, the lyrics raise it to at least "good."  Nothing on here is wack; and most of it is surprisingly impressive.  Especially when you look at the corny photo montage cover and the generic names doing so much of the heavy lifting.  Oh, and besides the 6 songs, you also get radio edits of two of the tracks, "We Ballin" and "Flow 4 the Streets."
Check out these two promotional images I was able to scare up online for the lost full-length.  Yeah, more ugly graphics work, but they make it clearer that TMP and Tito are the primary artists.  Oh, and look at that: Cormega was apparently on it as well.  It's really a shame that it never came out, but don't sleep on the EP.  The Devastating Tito in 2001, who knew?


  1. i'm a huge fan of that microphone prince 12" you mentioned, that marley marl beat is still insane to me. Trunk
    of Funk. I guess any song derailing "booty emcees" has to be great.
    Will peep this ep if i see it though, thanks as always for the info.

  2. This is going to go down as one of the best articles/posts of 2020 for me. I never thought I'd see the day when another human being knew who Ironclad is/was. I still have the DJ Doo Wop mixtape that debuted this group. There are 2 tracks and thats it! I heard the bars over some "Y2K" beats and was hooked. I miss this era, but was excited to see you're post. A lot of fun to read for sure! Thank you!