Saturday, December 3, 2022

The Time Culture Freedom Escaped To Philly

Today's record is a tight little Philly EP, notable for featuring the lone solo outing for Poor Righteous Teachers' Culture Freedom.  Obviously, Wise Intelligent is the famous front man of the crew who's gone on to release a whole line of solo projects.  But here on Nailah Records' Hand To Hand Combat Volume 1 we see that in 2003, Culture Freedom took a stab, too.  It's just this one song, but who knows, if this label had taken off (and the "Volume 1" of the title certainly suggests future intentions) perhaps it would have lead to a whole album and solo career.  If what we hear on this EP is any indication, it would've been pretty tight.  The only other release from that label was a 12" by NAME, their final one.  It's pretty dope, too, in no small part thanks to some impressive guests including Schoolly D, The Mountain Brothers and - oh, look at that - PRT.  So that explains this NJ/ PA connection.

If the name NAME[sorry; couldn't help myself] doesn't ring a bell, that's Grand Agent's old group before he went solo.  He has a song on this EP as well.  Another artist on this EP, Ozzie Jones, was in NAME, too, then known as Old Man.  NAME's Mr. Cisum also produced two of the tracks here.  So this EP and Nailah Records as a whole seems to be their thing.  But they let CF get on and do his own thing with "Get Ya Mind Right."

Although, strictly speaking, Culture Freedom isn't 100% solo on here.  He does the bulk of the rapping, the hook and his own production, but he has a guy named Devaughn Williams playing the Jay-Z to his Jaz.  He's pretty nice on the mic, too.  The instrumental is a smooth and slightly layered head-nodder, with a funky little sitar sound, but not a big attention getter.  It's perfect to support fun back-and-forth freestyle rhymes, but it's not hit record material.  Fortunately, CF and Devaughn are perfectly suited to the task this track lays down, and as you'd expect from a Poor Righteous Teacher, it's got a strong vibe of spirituality and positive self upliftment.  Though Devaughn mixes the Christian spiritual aspect with game spitting in a pretty unique way, "I done made the devil mad because he can't get me, but I'ma move this here weight like Freeway Ricky."  Ha ha  Okay.  Maybe he meant "weight" metaphorically?  Like the knowledge he's imparting is his kind of weight, but he doesn't actually say that.  Anyway, Culture Freedom is a little more consistent in his messaging:

"'Ey yo, peep this,
While we do this, I'm gonna freak this;
Blow the devil apart in one million pieces.
Where you lack, in fact, that's where the beast is.
Givin' food for thought, so all y'all can eat this."

One detail to point out: the track-listing on the label is a little incorrect.  Grand Agent's is actually the last song on side A, not B, and Mel Ink's second track is in its place.  More disappointing is that this EP is made up of Radio Edits, with all the curse words censored.  It doesn't matter on the Culture Freedom song where he doesn't curse anyway, but that Grand Agent track is full of 'em.  And no, these songs weren't released on any other albums or singles; so it's censored or nothing.

All the songs on here are solid.  Ozzie Jones' is catchy.  But the real surprise is actually Mel Ink and DJ Razor Ramon.  Their two songs here are both killers!  And googling around, it looks like Mel Ink has recorded a few guest spots here and there (including one for Ozzie Jones' EP and a 2016 Grand Agent mp3-only album).  But god damn, this material should have lead directly to a major label record deal.  Mel is killing it, the production is brilliant, and Razor goes wild on the turntables.  Somebody needs to find and release their unreleased demos immediately.

All told, this EP has five songs, all of which are worth your time.  Grand Agent's is probably the weakest, but maybe I'd be able to get into it more if it wasn't hacked to pieces.  Ozzie and CF's songs are both nice, and again, those Ink and Razor songs need to be rediscovered.  We also get three of the instrumentals, including "Get Ya Mind Right" and one of the Mel Inks.  But it's a little frustrating, because it leaves you pining for projects that might've been but never were.

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