Thursday, June 14, 2012

Casanova Without The Super Lover

Back in the days, I used to go to the music stores each week and look for any new hip-hop cassingles (new tapes hit the shelves on Tuesdays). When I saw a hip-hop single but didn't recognize the artist, I'd always check out the credits to look for recognizable names. I'd still be doing that to this day, I'm sure, if music stores existed today like they did back then. It's what lead me to pick up these seemingly random cassette singles by artists who never released anything else... T-Roc and Pop Megga.

Both these tapes debuted the same week in 1996 on Profile Records. Again, I had no idea who either artists was (although I knew Miss Jones, who guest stars on the T-Roc single, because she was just blowing up as a solo R&B singer after leaving The New Get Fresh Crew). But I immediately recognized one of the names who appeared on the back credits of both singles, so out of curiosity, I had to pick 'em both up.

That name, of course, was Casanova Rud, famous for making some super dope records with Super Lover Cee in the late 80's. The pair of them had last appeared on the scene with a comeback EP on Wild Pitch in 1993; but here he was, three years later.  I'm guessing he scored some kind of producer deal with Profile and these were the artists he brought to the label; or maybe he was just brought on as an in-house producer, and the label found these guys. Either way, he was paired up with somebody named Spunk Khadafi, and together they produced these two singles, and apparently nothing else ever again.Neither single mentions a "forthcoming album" either, which is unusual.  ...So let's see what my haul yielded.

Pop Megga's A-side is "Ghetto News." Despite it's decidedly topical sounding title, it's all freestyle raps. He even assures us at the opening of the song that it's all off the top of the dome. And I believe him, because it's very free-form and natural sounding. To the point where it's not even terribly impressive. But the beat here is pretty cool. It's dark, with deep bass notes and a sparse piano loop with random-sounding notes (which was in vogue at the time, following hits like Jeru's "D Original").

Then he stops and the beat is completely replaced with an all new one. Suddenly it's a full, polished song. It's got a very Duck Down-type bass rhythm (actually, the exact bassline's been notably used before - I wanna say Mobb Deep? - but I can't think of which song it's from at the moment*), but the rest of the music's a little lighter.  I'm really impressed with the production here, in fact.  And this is the one with the message, with pop telling us the kind of ghetto news we can probably already imagine just from seeing the title: crooked cops, hookers, drug dealers... Not bad, but you've heard it before and better.

His B-side is "Raw." Just from the title, you know what this is about. Megga sounds good here, though his lyrics aren't anything special. The instrumental is a little more disparate, but Megga's flow holds it together. He's got a good voice, too.  All in all, it's a nice single, but Pop Megga doesn't come off as a particularly compelling artist.  I'd've checked for a follow-up, though.

Next up is T-Roc. His A-side, "Citi Never Sleeps," almost feels like a Miss Jones song featuring T-Roc than the other way around. The music is very up and R&Bish, and Jones is all over this, stealing all the attention. Like Pop Megga, he has a nice (though higher) voice and engaging flow, but the lyrics are pretty simple and unimpressive. This is a pretty soft, radio-pandering joint. So maybe the B-side will be more compelling for us heads...

Well, "Mirages" is definitely more hip-hop and raw. Again, the beat is pretty nice and original, flipping samples and sounds I've never heard elsewhere. And despite the title, he's just spitting raw and angry. It's pretty nice; but neither MC here comes off as a noteworthy lyricist. And considering this was the time of Natural Elements, Wake Up Show freestyles, Chino XL and everyone's attention being devoted to the cleverness of the rhymes, these guys were destined to get lost in the wash.

That's kind of a shame, because these guys were sort of generic, but they also both proved they were capable of making worthwhile records. I'm glad to have both of these in my collection, and I recommend 'em if you see them around cheap. But the production is what really shines across all four very different songs, and the real shame is that Casanova Rud didn't get more momentum out of this. A compilation album of tracks like this would've been hot, or if he'd just gone on to produce for more artists. I'm sure he could've racked up a couple hit singles over time. But as it stands, it's an interesting little footnote in his career, that at least showed he had more in him than just his Paul C-assisted classics.

*Update 6/15/12: Yes, it was Mobb Deep (see the comments - thanks, step one).  Specifically, "Back At You" from the Sunset Park soundtrack, which also dropped in 1996.


  1. Really like that Pop Mega track. Mobb Deep used the same sample a few months earlier on 'Back At You' (which I think was off the 'Sunset Park' OST).
    Theres a version of 'Ghetto News' on the 12" which has bit more of a social commentary in the lyrics. Im at work right now so cant check but I think there was a 'freestyle mix' which I guess is the one you described.

    1. Ah yeah, that's the one! Been a while since I spun the Sunset Park soundtrack...

  2. Superlover Cee and Casanova Rud were dope