Saturday, December 17, 2016

Mr. Complex Week, Day 3: He Rocks the Mic Right

So Mr. Complex's stint with Raw Shack was over after that one single, and he came back on his own label, Core Records, but this time with a little help from Seven Heads Entertainment.  Now we've got a fancy picture cover and you could see Mr. Complex was on the rise.  1998 was a big year, it brought us not only this record, but a split 12" with Old World Disorder on Mary Joy and the first single with his super-group, Polyrhythm Addicts., which was another smash underground success.  Mr. Complex was a name to pay attention to now, and so I like that he still kept things grounded here.  He didn't go out and try to wrangle the highest profile guest star he can afford, and he didn't try to assemble the largest posse cut the streets have ever seen.  He just made a simple Mr. Complex record for people who like Mr. Complex records.

We start out with "Imakillit," and its title tells yo all you need to know about the song's concept.  He's just gonna kick some slick written freestyle rhymes for the fun of it.  He's got DJ Crossphader providing some really nice cuts to a Richard Pryor vocal sample for the hook, and it all takes place of a chunky, head-nodding piano sample.  It reminds me of those classic, late 80s smooth freestyle joints like "The Rhythm," "We Rock the Mic Right" or even "Smooth Operator," but definitely updated with Mr. Complex's playful, word-twisting style.

Then you've got the instrumental, which lets you hear a little more of the stand-up routine they made their hook out of, and a Live@TheCooler version, which is just what it claims to be.  Fellow addict Apani B can be heard as the audience hypeman, but she doesn't kick a verse or anything.  It's the same instrumental and verses, and it fades out before the song is over, so it's more of an interesting, bonus curiosity piece than anything essential.  But hey, I'll take it.

Next up is something a little different for Mr. Complex; it's not an upbeat freestyle joint, although his trademark sense of humor and wordplay definitely come through.  I guess it's closer to "Visualize," but it's not like that song either.  It slows things down with a really moody sample that Abstract Tribe Unique used on their first EP.  The concept sounds like a typical rap song idea, he's going to rap three verses about people who've fronted on him; but each one has a very different tone, which is what makes it odd.  The middle verse sounds like what you'd expect: "I don't have it to get everybody in free.  It's only five dollars.  You don't have it?  Well here's three; so all you have to do is two.  Oh, you want me to pick you up, too?  I-ight, 'round eight or a quarter to."

But then listen to how it starts out, "Many years ago, my sister Candy ran in cryin', she said' 'I've been hit with a rock,' shocked, 'stop lyin'.'  Door out I'm flying."  It's like, whoa, what kinda heavy shit is he laying on us?  The point of that verse, I guess, is that he didn't front when it came to being a big brother; but it's a dark way to start a Mr. Complex song.  And then the third verse takes it in the opposite direction, getting silly, almost like Special Ed's "On a Mission:" "We lined up for the bus and intertwined like a braid. In the cut we laid, then came the parade. No, the raid.  And yo, it stayed on the bus with mad men throwing eggs... I said I know a little karate, and plus I got a blade.  Just then they got the gun.  You should've seen my homeboy Lemonade run."  It's so strangely all over the place, but the music does the Herculean task of holding it all together so it kinda works.  Oh, and if you want your regular Organized Konfusion connection this song credits "additional chorus and ambiance" to Pharoahe Monche.  Again of course, no verse.

You also get the instrumental of that, and a third song, which I'd call more of a throwaway bonus cut, titled "I Think I Wanna Sing."  Do you remember Dana Dane's "Makes Me Wanna Sing?"  It's like that, where Dane, or in this case Complex, gets caught up in the music and decides to sing... terribly.  Dana Dane made the song work by having the group 4 Play do most of the actual singing until the end.  Complex makes it work by having the song only last for a minute and a half and let's the sample do most of the driving.  So it's okay, but kind of just a joke song.

I have a demo tape of this one, too, by the way.  Unlike the "I'm Rhymin'" tape from Day 1, though, this contains only the two songs written on the label.  So no exclusive, long lost B-sides or remixes or anything; it doesn't even have the third song from the 12".  It's just a little extra sliver of Mr. Complex history.  Overall, this is a good record that still holds up.  You know, it's no classic; Illmatic and "The Symphony" can sleep peacefully at night.  But if you like rap and want something to listen to that you'll enjoy, this is it.

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