Saturday, March 21, 2020

Anybody Remember Illa-Dapted?

Illa-Dapted was a cutting edge Bay Area group from the 90s and early 2000s.  It consisted of MCs Elyoptics (who also released a couple solo projects), Tendai, Pic Riley a.k.a. Pic-Vicious, DJ BullShit and producer Froilan Ramos.  A bio on their long-dead website contains a particularly apt description, "While their urban contemporaries comment on the harsh realities  of inner-city life and provide escape through “ghetto fabulous” fantasies, Illa-dapted comments on the emotional vacancy and shallowness of mid-American life and capitalism." And what I've got for us today is a 2-song promo tape of theirs from around late '99, early 2000.

The first cut is "Unfortunately," as in: "unfortunately, the world's full of people like me - frightening!  We live with no apologies!"  And while most of their music was produced "in house" by Froilan, this particular one was produced by Anticon's Matth.  The instrumental is dominated by a metal guitar riff; but the loop is so short, it no longer resembles a rock song and plays more like a gritty bassline.  The drums are being smashed as hard as they can, and it's all off-set by a subtle, repeating ringtone-like sound.  And the lyrics are pretty slick.  "Who could get us in?  I'm with the right crowd right now; I could get us in and no shame, we're perfectly sane.  I could get us some ill shit to smoke for the ride down, and I could get us out the small frame we're stuck in.  Fuck it, I could get us through the flames without burning our brains.  I could get us all paid without workin' all day.  I could get us to get and stop gettin' words in the way; and I could get us livin' when it's all gray.  But I think we're paranoid..."  Finally BullShit gets on at the end for some swift flare scratches.

The B-side is called "Mainy," and it's definitely calmer with Ramos back behind the boards and a decidedly more west coast feel.  Even the accents sound more pronounced.  "It's lookin' lovely; it's lookin' ugly.  Got my mind on somethin' mainy, somethin' mainy on my mind."  It's a bit of a nostalgic trip just to hear the term "mainy" being used on a record again.  This one's got a smoothed out playalistic vibe to it, though lyrically, of course, they're up to something deeper.  "It's good to suffer every now and then, 'cause taken in moderation, pain is a medicine.  And since I know the pain, and Hip-Hop's my Novocaine, see rainbows every day as I walk in that acid rain.  I rap for fame with the mentality of a dick, I'm here to fuck the world since life is just a bitch.  I must admit my clinical depression's in my cynical expression with subliminal suggestions."  I think they were looking to take some mainstream heads by surprise with this one.

Illa-dapted were pretty prolific for a while there, but it's been a good fifteen years since we've heard anything from them.  I think they were pretty well respected in their scene but never really broke out to audiences outside their niche.  Anyway, this is a pretty rare tape, but if you feel you must have this, don't stress.  Both songs wound up being included on their 2002 album, Youthful Indiscretion, with a bunch of other great songs, including one produced by Vrse Murphy.  "Mainy," was even pressed as a vinyl single.  And both of those are much easier to come by, so if you missed out on these guys the first time around, it's not too late.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

ATL To the 2nd Power

I'm in a nostalgic mood tonight, so I went digging through my tape collection to find something I haven't listened to in ages.  Preferably something that never gets written about online either, so I'd also have something good to blog about.  And I landed on 2nd Power's sole album, Da Soul Man from 1991 on WRAP/ Ichiban Records.  Their whole history's been pretty much slept on... perfect!  This'll be fun and educational.

Like I said, this album came out in 1991, but you know WRAP/ Ichiban.  They liked to scoop up indie artists that are already making noise and give them broader distribution.  They weren't great about marketing and pushing their artists into the big leagues, but they'd buy some half-page Source ads and get your tape stocked across the malls of America.

So yeah, then as you can guess, 2nd Power first came out with an indie single.  It was called "Don't Rush My Beat" on a little label in Georgia called So Low Records in 1989.  That's the one with the orange label.  So Low repressed it with a yellow label in 1990.  Either way, it's a fun, hype bass track with an MC named Boxx getting busy with his DJ Reggie Reg.  It had fast, but stripped down 808 beats, energetic MCing and some nice cuts.

I think (though I'm just guessing) they were called 2nd Power because there was two of them, but by the time they came out with their Soul Man album, you can see their roster expanded.  One of them is a second rapper named Hype-One... and I believe the other two are the dancers T-Rock and B-Rock.  We'll circle back to them later, because on this album, I don't think they do much besides contribute to some shouty background vocals.  In fact, I'd say the group is still mainly the original pair, since Boxx gets sole writing credit on every single song and is clearly doing the bulk of the rapping on this album.  But Hype-One does pop up to kick some verses and he manages to keep up on some high bpm tracks, so let's not sell him too short.

Their production's pretty tight, too.  I suppose credit is to be shared between 2nd Power themselves and a trio called Ain't It Bunky Productions, made up of Rock, G-Man and La Paco.  Their liner notes are a little unclear about exactly who did what, but Bunky and Power were working together before WRAP/ Ichiban and continued on with each other after, so I like to imagine it was a fairly loose, family affair.

Now, I don't know if it was the group's idea to try and prove their versatility, or (more likely IMHO) the label pushing them to expand in more commercial directions, but Da Soul Man weakens itself by trying to offer a little bit of everything.  They delve into street tales on "Livin' Like a Gangsta" and "People B Trippin," and sexy/ sappy love balladry on "Private Freak."  And every time they try that, they come up short.  Like the beat to "Livin' Like a Gangsta" is still okay, but these guys don't exactly stack up alongside the masters like CMW.  Songs like "Make It Fonkay" and the title cut have some fresh break-downs but the lyrics just feel like they were written to fill the space.

But fortunately, there's more material that sticks to their core strengths.  "Get Busy" has the two MCs exchanging verses on a hype track with Reggie Reg stealing the show with some slick turntablism, and "Funkay Drunk Ghetto Bass" relies a little too heavily on Luke-style shout & call responses for my tastes, but it lives up to its title.  They only came out with one more single through WRAP/ Ichiban, "People," which doesn't quite click, mixing P-Funk with smoother new jack swing vibes and unengaging rhymes.

And that was it for 2nd Power... technically.  But in 1993, an Atlanta group called Zone 4 dropped a single called "Drop That Pussy" on Pot Belly Records.  Who were Zone 4?  Why just Boxx, T-Rock and B-Rock with DJ Reggie Reg and co-production from Ain't It Bunky's Rock.  Plus a new guy called Money Mose.  It's presumably inspired by "Pop That Pussy," but this one's a little harder.  Then, in 1995, Boxx changed his handle to T-Mac (not to be confused with the T-Mac that's down with Indo G), and dropped another album with Ichiban called T-Mac and the P-Squad.  This time it's more blandly generic booty music; they that single "Jig-A-Loosie:" "come on, come one, come on, jig-a-loosie!  Come on, come one, come on, jig-a-loosie!  Come on, come one, come on, jig-a-loosie!  Git git git jig-a-loosie!"  And it's noteworthy that the squad seemed to consist primarily of a new partner named Krazy T and, you guessed it, DJ Reggie Reg.

So, yeah.  Even though there was just the one 2nd Power album, their legacy continued.  Reggie Reg also produced a couple other ATL artists, like Creep Dog and the G Boyz.  Anyway, Da Soul Man's pretty decent.  It's something you're probably going to want to skip around rather than play all the way through, but there's some really fun stuff on here.  I enjoyed my evening diving back in.