Thursday, September 20, 2012

Royal Renegades Week, Day 5 - Final Blows

So MC Madness came back with a second and final album in 1994, called Drop the Bass (Death of a Bass Head) (three guesses whose severed head he's holding on the album cover there). Ocean Records was already through, so this time he was on Isaam's own Black Eye Records (Jan Hrkach is still the mixer and engineer. and Fred Held is still at least named in the shout-outs), but broadly distributed by Ichiban, so it got much better distribution, but still not a lot of marketing.  In other words, you probably just randomly stumbled across this in music stores, and either you recognized MC Madness's name from "Dynamic Duo" or you didn't.

Now, I mentioned already that MC Boo performed the original "Drop the Bass" with DJ Magic Mike on the first Royal Posse album, right? Well, if you were thinking, "that's funny... I kinda remember MC Madness doing that," that's because Boo left the Posse early (years before everybody jumped over to Ocean), and it was one of Mike's biggest hits. So he remade it for his second album, Bass Is the Name Of the Game, with the exact same instrumental, but vocals by MC Madness instead of Boo. "Drop the Bass Part 2" was also included on Vicious Bass (which, again, was Madness, DJ Lace and Magic Mike)'s debut album. And it was even released as a single two times - originally credited to Boo and Mike, then a second time by Vicious Base.

So, what Madness has done here is re-record "Drop the Bass" again, with the same instrumental, but with new vocals by himself and no cuts by Magic Mike (or anybody else, kinda making this the worst version). He made it the title track and the single (where he named it "Drop the Bass Part 1994")... and hey, it's a good song in any version, though the older ones are definitely preferable. One interesting thing the 12" single did was include a couple remixes, including a Miami Mix and an Atlanta Mix. Less interesting is that he also included both of these versions on the album, which just feels like repetitive padding.

And that's just the tip of the repetitive padding iceberg. If "Come Get This Money Honey" sounds familiar, that's probably because it was on his last album. Hell, it was the title cut of his last album. And "Don't Touch 'Dem Dirty Hoes?" Yeah, that was on his last album and the single from that album. If you got the CD version, then there's also an instrumental called "Let the Bass Go" which is actually taken from MC Boo's album! Hell, it was even his single's B-side. That's how unrelated MC Boo was to all those fricking instrumental tracks - you could take them right off his album, stick them on somebody else's, and none's the wiser.

So, take all of that into consideration, plus the fact that a bunch of the tracks on here are just skits, and you start to recognize this as a half-assed half of an album. And, unfortunately, the remaining half is way too influenced by the fads of the time: G-funk type shit. There are a couple, generic high bpm dance tracks which are never compelling, but at least they manage to work because they're Madness's specialty. And there's a track called "Madness Is On the Mic," which is pretty hype and harks back to his best work with Magic Mike. Oh, and you know how I said I was more impressed with Boo's DJ than the DJ on Madness's first album? Well, he must've agreed, because DJ Ray Swift of Boo's Crew handles all the scratching on this album.

So, if you take it as an EP rather than an LP, it's not bad. Just a lot of fat that could've, should've been trimmed. But what about the beef? Does he continue it?

Of course he does! Look at the album title again! Most of the skits are directed at Magic... If you've come here from Day 4, you should know what "Represent What" is about, and I already told you about the skit "Madness Speaks To Ya" in Day 1. And on "Madness Is On the Mic," he throws in a few shots like "if you bought Represent, I know ya pissed." It's basically a bragging autobiography of his career, so most of it is just about his successes, but he does take a quick jab when the subject comes up, like, "Now I'm rollin' with Cheetah, or CheatYa, 'cause they're out to beat ya," "got the funk for your trunk, and dissin' that square-ass punk" and "but the scene got tired, so Mike got fired. Things just wasn't right."

But, like I've done with this post, they've mostly saved the dissing for the end.

The last song (except for the shout outs) is called "Fake Is the Name Of the Game" (a reference to the title of Mike's second album), where he rounds up his boys to make a very specific, direct response to The Royal Posse's "(OK Nigga) Here We Go." By his boys, I specifically mean Drum Major and Konyak. T. Isaam doesn't rhyme on this album at all, though he's still on board as executive producer. Drum Major is one of his new producers (along with Jolly Stompers and Booty Clappers, who might be pseudonyms, 'cause I've never heard of 'em before or since), and Konyak is MD from the last album now operating under a new alias.

They've got the song structured so that each MC retorts a verse from one of the MCs on the original: Konyak responds to Infinite J, Drum Major goes at Daddy Rae and of course Madness comes in at the end to deliver the verse we've all been waiting for at Mike. The disappointing aspect, and it's not a small one, is that the previously mentioned G-funk influence is here, and it really sucks a lot of potential energy out of what should be a fun, if trashy guilty pleasure, listening experience. But, still, it's not bad by slow gangsta rap standards, and it's got a nice reggae hook. So here we go:

Konyak's verse is the weakest. His whole point is that, unlike anybody from the Royal Posse, he's a real gangster: "while you niggas make records, I got a real record. Finger prints took 'cause real G's gettin' booked." Believe me, I understand glorifying crime and the outlaw life, but I'm not sure anybody really values getting arrested over making albums in the music business. That's like going to your high school reunion and going, "what are you? Doctor, lawyer, famous actor? Me, I don't have a job, but I'm hooked on meth and I once pawned my mother's television, so now she won't let me back in the house!" No wonder nobody from the Royal Posse felt the need to get on wax to contest these claims. Anyway, he continues, "Wanna be real, when ya don't pack steel? 'Pop pop pop' goes my glock, and it's always cocked. So don't be shocked when I drop on ya block. ...Fake ass niggas, get ya caps peeled." To be fair, Infinite J also had some phoney gun talk in his verse. Anyway, let's move on.

Anyway, Drum Major comes with something more interesting for Daddy Rae, "you say you took my nigga's job, see that's cool. 'Cause he left yo' ass workin' for Ebeneezer Scrooge." He then accuses Rae of dissing "the whole South East," which, uh, I've got all his appearances on all of the Magic Mike albums, and I don't know when he's supposed to have done that, but for argument's sake, let's just take his word for it. Anyway, apparently they have some previously unknown history together, "Surprise, nigga, a blast from your past! I tracked you through Atlanta so you had to make a dash. Maybe you don't remember me, ho, but I bet you'll never forget the day I threw ya through a window at Jellybean's, our local skating rink. Ask your momma, Gloria, about filing a Chapter 13." So yeah. He sounds pretty convincing to me.

And finally, it's Madness to talk about Mike! And it's... lame. He fucking sounds like a Shaq knock-off with his flow on this track, and he doesn't seem to have much left to say. He calls Mike's mom an alcoholic, something about his girlfriend getting an abortion and that they can't be hardcore because they did a love song once. It feels like he's grasping at straws to say anything petty he can come up with. He really should've left it at "Final Words." Listening to this song, and hell, thiis whole mess of an album was like watching him limp, defeated, off of a battlefield.

So, nobody from the Royal Posse ever bothered to respond. Ocean Records never had another release, and pretty much none of these guys ever worked again: T. Isaam, MC Boo, not even Jan Hrkach. MC Madness just barely did... he followed one of his producers, Shake G, to ICP Productions, and wound up doing a 12" single on Vision Records with Fresh Kid Ice, where he just did the hook. Kind of a shame, because Madness had a voice and presence. We had some interesting diss tracks and a handful of decent solo songs, but I wonder how much better the music would've been - for Magic Mike's camp, too - if this conflict hadn't happened. Of course, the Royal Posse members who remained loyal wound up with even less output than Ocean's roster, so I guess things aren't much happier in that parallel dimension.

It's especially sad to report that MC Madness passed in 2009, apparently in an auto accident. Magic Mike, on the other hand, is still putting out albums. His latest is mp3-only (blah) and called Beyond the Magic. Check out his website here.

1 comment:

  1. 'T. Isaam doesn't rhyme on this album at all.'

    Isn't Konyak the same person as T-Isaam (aka 'MC Toneye-B')? Listen to the lyric from Fake Is The Name Of The Game: 'It's Konyak and as a matter of fact, it's still Isaam...' The voice sounds the same as well.