Sunday, September 6, 2009

Natural Elements "EP" - What Is It, Exactly?

The last Natural Elements release (at least as a collective unit), wasn't even a legit release. It was a 2005 EP, actually titled EP, on Word of Mouth Records, which is a pure, illegitimate bootleg label. So you could be commended for staying away from it altogether... but six previously unreleased Natural Elements cuts on vinyl? Let's face it, we're not staying away.

Now, it's commonly understood that these are 6 tracks from their unreleased Tommy Boy LP (but hopefully not unreleased for much longer, right Traffic? ::wink, wink::), but that's only... mostly true. So, as part of my continued efforts to dispel all mystery surrounding Natural Elements' material, let's compare our EP with the "never mixed down" "pre-production" "album that people have:"

We start out with the inconspicuously titled "Intro." It's essentially a fresh hook, repeated, freestyled and riffed on over and over, by the three members over a fresh beat. It sounds good, if a bit repetitious. And, yes, it's the same introductory track that's featured on the LP... except it's about thirty seconds shorter. Most of the lines are the same, and the instrumental's essentially the same, but I'd say it's been completely re-performed. Where the beat breaks down is different, some of the lines are different. Check the endings, for instance... the EP version has them saying "word up" and stuff, and you hear L and A pretty prominently. But the LP version ends with Mr. Voodoo declaring, "time's up, baby! We back, motherfuckers!" It really sounds like, though they're performing the same song, that it's an entirely different recording session on each release.

Track two is "Definitely;'" this was the last song on the LP. Then side A wraps up with "Second Hand Smoke" (track 7 on the LP). They're some smooth tracks, especially "Second Hand," but both are the same on the EP as they are on the LP.

But now here's where things really get interesting: The first song on side B, "Survival," isn't from the Tommy Boy LP at all. Remember that Natural Elements snippet tape I referenced in my last Fear Of the Rap! column for HHC? It's on there! That means this is actually some of their earliest material (though on the snippet tape, Fortress titles it "Survive").

Then we get to "Paper Chase 2005." Despite the extra five years Word of Mouth tried to bless it with in their titling, this is the same "Paper Chase" remix that was on the LP. It's pretty fuckin' slick, though.

Finally we hit the "Free Style Outro." The LP didn't have an outro... what is this? Well, this is actually "NE Angels," the last song on L-Swift's 2003 mix-CD, Cross Country; the only song that featured A and Voo. This is also the only song here that had actually seen a pretty legit release beforehand.

So, all in all, EP is an interesting, more-varied-than-you-probably-would've-guessed mix... pretty much a must-have for any NE fan who can abide a bootleg. A couple of these tracks have never been heard before or since, even within the context of the unreleased music that's been floating around amongst the fans; and the ones that have were never available on vinyl before... and sadly, I'm not too optimistic about the prospect of Traffic's upcoming release dropping on anything but CD. So this isn't an alternative to the soon-to-be-released LP so much as a companion piece.


  1. NE is my favorite crew of all time, without a doubt.
    Good write up in that HHC column.
    Of course, I'm gonna have to point out stuff I think isn't totally correct.
    First off, "What My Crew Do To You" had two mixes. Only slight differences, but noticeable.

    Secondly, they had a few more promos that most consider songs, than what was listed.

    Good job breaking the tons of stuff they did down to 9 songs, though. Lol
    JK, man. It's nice to see these guys get more shine. Good shit.

  2. Two mixes of "What My Crew?" 0_o I'm definitely gonna go back and check out for that.

    What promos are you thinking of? I'm leaving out stuff that're clearly like Stretch & Bobbito freestyles or stuff like that; but if you have any other leads, definitely drop 'em here. 8)

    This is labelled "be like that", I always called it,"dust in a pan" cause that's the last thing he says in the hook. L Swift solo, though, so I guess you can count this one out. :)
    Someone mentioned the other version,"What My Crew Do To You" in this thread in T.R.O.Y., and I remembered it when reading. I believe it's only minor differences on the hook.

    Then there's this, one of my favorites. It was a promo, I think, only played on 89.1.Labeled NY Live promo, but much more than just that-

    Okay, so you may be right, I just remember hearing so much NE stuff back then that never came out. :)

    Funny how people label stuff, though. Feat. Chino XL?! I think they thought that because Dante Pachino starts his verse off,"Chino the Enforcer brings the torture, mad money extorter". And what was the deal with that guy anyway? He wasn't on much NE stuff.
    And, damn, KA was great. I wonder what happened to him, too.

  4. Hello, if you still have any of the Natural Elements material, it would be really appreciated if you could put up some download links