Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Escaping Back Into Da Nuthouse

It's common knowledge that as a NJ Hip-Hop blogger, if you don't write about Da Nuthouse within your first ten years, you can get your license revoked.  And going over my records, I see that I've been living on borrowed time!  So, come one, let's hustle!

Da Nuthouse were three MCs from South Jersey: Az-Iz a.k.a. Dave Ghetto, DJ Nex Millen/ Retrospective (who also produced a lot of their stuff) and Fel "The Enigma" Sweetenburg.  And this is their 1998 debut single on a label that introduced a lot of hot indie acts to the world, Bobbito's Fondle 'Em Records.  Of course, Fondle 'Em wasn't really a long-term home for anyone (as opposed to signing acts, I believe it lived solely on one-time deals made per individual record), and they quickly moved on to Goodvibes (such an underrated label) for their album.  And then their third and final record, a 2005 single on Counterflow, claimed to be "taken from the forthcoming Nuthouse album 'Mentally Ill'," which obviously never surfaced, but all three guys have gone on to extensive solo careers.  They've consistently been clever, able MCs who I'd be down to hear on a project right up to today.

But in terms of songs where you hear it and say to yourself, "I need to have it on vinyl," they really, unfortunately, peaked here.  It's all decent material... I always at least liked everything they put out, and I remember hearing a really cool mp3-only song about Camden by Fel like five or six years ago.  Good luck finding that today.  But anyway, "A Luv Supream" is it.  That might say more about the work of producer Jahee than anything else, because the MCs sound great on it, but it's the instrumental that really grabs you.  Looking this Jahee guy up on discogs, I don't see that he's done anything else other than a few other songs for Da Nuthouse and a single by a group named Danger-I 5000; but maybe he worked under a different name/ alternate spelling?  I hope so, because someone who made a record this great shouldn't disappear so quickly; but hey, it happens.

It's a perfect chopping of John Coltrane's original "A Love Supreme," with the delicate cymbals sounding almost like aged dirt in the record grooves.  Sparse piano notes over drums, almost like a mellow "The Symphony," and a broken pitched horn riff on the hook.  And you could do worse than declaring your love for our genre as your opening salvo.  And each MC gets on the smooth, slow track to kick their distinctive voices and styles, so they immediately hit you as artists you should know.  There's punchlines, complex wordplay and yes, some slang that even sounded dated at the time (a lot of MCs tried, but "the buttas" was never gonna gain long term traction), but also genuine emotion comes through.  Paired with that perfect instrumental, you can see why this has a become a song that outlasts the rest of their catalog.  The bummer is that we only get Radio Vocal and Instrumental versions of this song, and they curse on it a bunch, even in the hook.  So it's full of annoying backwards edits, and this song was never reissued on any of their follow-up releases, so this clean version is all we get in perpetuity.

We do get two B-sides.  "Synapsis" is a weird blend of futuristic sci-fi sounds and another jazzy piano loop.  It's all about being multi-syllabic outer space rap geniuses, which maybe sounds like I'm making fun of it.  But while it does sound dated and maybe a little corny, with predictable lines referring to their "verbal ejaculation" and "mental alertness" spanning "multiple dimensions," it's still genuinely impressive listening to it today, and some energetic cuts by a turntablist named DJ Active go a long way towards bolstering the proceedings.  It's backpackery in a way that younger audiences would reject, but these guys were unquestionably good at it.  We also get the Instrumental for this one, and nothing on the B-side is censored like "Luv Supream."

The other B-side is "Very Vocabulary," and it's listed as a Bonus Cut.  They use the classic loop from Ultramagnetics' "Funky" and EPMD's "Knick Knack Paddy Wack."  Can never be mad at this beat popping up again anytime, anyplace.  And they just flex on it, but it's mastered like a proper song and the rhymes are carefully written, it's not simply a casual freestyle slapped on at the end or something.  In fact, it's really dope, and rewards careful listening, like a tight posse cut, except ironically, this is the single's solo cut, with Nex going for self over the whole song.  See, I'm not trying to say "A Luv Supream" was their only good song - they've done a lot of hot stuff like this over the years.  That's just their masterpiece, and it's maybe a little awkward that it came first.

1 comment:

  1. whattup werner. This Fel song right here is also pretty great, imo: