Monday, January 20, 2014

Big Daddy Kane Dominates the Unda-Ground

Jesse West is one of those hip-hop artists that's been doing it in the music industry for a long ass time, but has never commanded the spotlight. Hailing from the Bronx, he dropped an album on Motown as far back as 1989, changed his name to 3rd Eye in the 90s to drop some indie 12"s, and even became one of Puffy's Hit Men. He formed a group with Nine called 24/7 that had a couple underground singles but no album. He's probably worked with more artists behind the scenes than we'll ever know; but then again, he seems to have managed to leak an awful lot of it out to the world over the years.

This white label is one such example. "Survival Of the Fittest" is credited to Big Daddy Kane (in big letters) & Jesse West (in small letters), but I suspect this was recorded for an unreleased Jesse West album that never came out (I mean, look at the label scan, even the catalog numbers tell you this is first adn foremost a Jesse West project). Unda-Ground Records was a short lived white label run that released a few white label 12"s in 2000, including a second 12" by Jesse West with more big name collaborations. So I think some album got shelved, but Unda-Ground salvaged all the noteworthy cameos.

Anyway, 3rd Eye's alright; some of his indie 12"s are cool and he can hold his own with the big names. But of course I bought this because of Big Daddy Kane. And it doesn't disappoint. Kane comes off nice. Jesse is a producer as well as an MC, and he's made a cool, tough yet subtle track for Kane and Jesse to flow over.  They're constantly going back and forth, passing the mic over and over for short, tight verses. Amazingly, there is no hook at all. They just keep passing the mic and kicking verses for the whole song. Jesse has a nice, mumbley street-style kind of flow; but Kane easily steals the show his flawless delivery and edgy rhymes. "You can't compare me to another, word to mother, ain't no other. When I smother, run for cover from a brother who's kickin' those skills you can't get enough of. Damage I cause on the mics that I be touchin' got niggas wantin' to remake 'Self Destruction.' You fuckin' kiddin' me?" This is stronger than a lot of records put out under his own billing.

This song is... mostly uncensored.  All the curses are left intact. But at one point, Kane takes a shot at somebody at the end of one of his verses, and the name is cut out. I've listened to it a couple times and I can't figure out who it's supposed to be. It's surprising they cut it out since it's a white label - it's not like it Motown made the call. I'd love to find out find out, or even get a completely uncut version some day, because this is a hot track. But again, that little clip is the only editing done to the song.

So, also on this 12" is the instrumental, which is okay but basically just a single, constant loop. Its not one of those strong instrumentals that holds out on its own even without the MCs on top of it.

And flip it over and we get another Jesse West collaboration (and also a sloppy dub mix) called "Nights Like This" with Xzibit. This one uses the same samples and basically remakes the instrumental to The Outsidaz' "Rah Rah," only it's a little softer and watered down. So, it's the same thing only not as good, although it at least brings in different horns on the hook. X rocks pretty hard on this track; but I just can't get past the fact that this isn't as good as the Outz track - it just lacks the punch of their instrumental and the energy of their style. It's so similar I can't stop thinking about it; but comparatively, it's weaker. If you've never heard "The Rah Rah," you'd probably dig this track more; it's pretty decent on its own.

So, anyway, I'm not a huge Jesse/ 3rd Eye fan; but all of his material is at least decent. I've got some of his indie 12S and stuff; but I'm not sure I'd go out of my way to recommend any of them to you guys. But this 12" is the exception; because Big Daddy Kane owns it. Unda-Ground had the right idea giving him the big letters.  ;)


  1. I'm the biggest Kane fan, but I've never heard this track. Is there way you could share it with me? I'd love to hear it! Thanks!

  2. Can you up that joint? Peace