Sunday, December 4, 2016

Little Shawn Featuring Biggie But Not Big Daddy Kane

I wrote a while ago about Little Shawn's lesser known first record, but something about his last record fascinates me.  This one's not rare or obscure; it's probably actually his best known record.  But there's just so many curious little details about this record, there's no way I wasn't going to cover it sooner or later, so here we go.  1995's "Dom Perignon" on MCA Records.

Like I said, it's kind of his biggest hit (although "Hickeys On Your Chest" may've charted higher), so why is it his last record?  Who quits a musical career at its peak?  Well, technically he didn't.  He changed his name to Shawn Pen (oof, that pun!) and has continued to ghostwrite and do guest verses.  But still, why not follow up "Dom Perignon?"  The label mentions that the "[o]riginal version appears on the forthcoming Little Shawn album," so clearly the intention was there.  That late in the game, I wonder if it wasn't recorded and if there aren't maybe even promo tapes or something floating around out there of a lost Little Shawn album #2.

It may've had something to do with his, er, business outside of the musical industry.  If you read his bio on discogs, wikipedia, etc, they all point out the fact that he did a five-year bid from 1998-2003 for drug trafficking.  Of course, 1998's a good three years after 1995, but how long had he been caught up with that, and how much did it conflict with his music career?  That could explain it.  After all, me being the hip-hop nerd I've always been, I already had Shawn's Voice In the Mirror album and was into a lot of the stuff he wrote and appeared on.  But this time around the video was getting rotation and my friends were even talking about this single.  It was also included on the New York Undercover soundtrack, a reasonably successful Fox show at the time.  If you want to talk about "buzz," this record had it.

Here's another interesting thing you'll read in those bios: they all mention "'Dom Perignon' featuring The Notorious B.I.G." When I first saw that I thought maybe there was a remix I didn't know about.  I grew up with the cassingle, where they curiously abbreviate his name to Lil' Shawn[right] and didn't pick up the 12" until a couple of years ago when I got it cheap with a bunch of other stuff.  But no, there's nothing on the 12" that's not on the cassette except an Instrumental and Acappella version.  The only thing this has to do with Biggie is that it has a vocal sample of him on the hook.  It's a line from "Party & Bullshit," where he says, "can't we just all get along, so I can put hickies on her chest like Little Shawn? Get her pissy drunk off of Dom Pérignon, and it's on, and I'm gone."  They chop it so he's saying, "get her pissy drunk off of Dom Pérignon, so I can put hickies on her chest like Little Shawn?" It's kind of clever, and of course Shawn had to point out that his name and record had been used as a line by Biggie when he was at the pinnacle of success.  He didn't actually appear and record anything for the record, though they did get him to appear in the video, which apparently convinced a lot of people that he performed the hook.  Every listing on Youtube etc says the song is featuring Biggie, even playing him up more than Shawn.  But yeah, nobody who remembers "Party & Bullshit" should be fooled.

Another interesting thing about this record is the beat.  It makes for a great summertime record, produced by Red Hot Lover Tone just his Trackmasterz were blowing up.  That's cool and all, but a year before this came out, a New Jersey rapper on the rise named Milkbone had a substantial debut with "Keep It Real."  He followed that up in 1995 with a single called "Where'z da Party At?" produced by Kay Gee of Naughty By Nature, which flipped the exact same Kool & the Gang sample pretty much the exact same way, and I think both records would've blown up more if the other hadn't come out and split audiences.  Later that year, Coolio would also use it for his single, "Too Hot," but by then it was played out.  Typical Coolio.

This single has a B-side, by the way, called "Check It Out Y'all" (it's on the cassette, too), and that instrumental is the real reason DJs and fans should still be adding this record to their crates.  It's produced by Easy Moe Bee and it's another smooth, R&B-influenced cut (and yes, the 12" has an instrumental for this one, too).  Little Shawn's career was dovetailing nicely with the whole Bad Boy/ R&B explosion before he dropped out.  But it's just so tight, and with some nice scratching even.  It helps that the full song is more about Shawn's freestyling than some kind of sappy relationship rap.

Overall, Shawn's rhymes are interesting here, though never really stand-out impressive.  He's always been versatile, but versatility in Hip-Hop typically equates to "Master of None."  His topics here blend in and out of girls, rhyme skills and shooting people all in the same verse: "I won't run; I'm coming with a mask and gun. I'm blasting son.  I'm with ya girlfriend and it's on; 'cause I got her pissy drunk off the Dom."  Like, that's an abrupt transition, but okay.  He came a little harder on a compilation years later after he changed his name to Shawn Pen, where he's fully into a crime narrative, and that was more impressive.  It may've been why he changed his name, because he was worried nobody would buy gritty street raps from the Voice In the Mirror kid, because this was years before Rick Ross tested the possibility of being a simultaneous gangster rapper/ real life police officer.  But I think he already un-pigeon holed himself enough with this single.

So yeah, I like this one.  Always have, and I'm sure I'm not alone in that.  So if you missed it, check it out.  Oh, and the B-side features a vocal sample for a hook, too.  It's Big Daddy Kane from "Just Rhymin' Wit Biz" saying "check it out y'all; keep on."  But for some reason nobody describes that one as "featuring Big Daddy Kane."  Is consistency too much to ask?  😛


  1. Didn't Miilkbone Wherez The Party At also use a Party & Bullshit sample and claim to feature BIG? The coincidence rubs way deeper.

    What other songs billed focal samples as features? Cru - Just another case ft Slick Rick, shyheim - Shaolin style ft method man

  2. Rick has a verse on the cru single

  3. Wassup Werner! You can find a pretty nice (guilty pleasure) Little Shawn track from 97/98 on this Lazy K mixtape: - utilising the same Rebbie Jackson sample Brand Nubian used around the same time.