Thursday, February 23, 2023

Blackface In the Crates

This is the kind of shit I don't write enough about.  What I have for us today is a tape I'd long forgotten about until I was just aimlessly perusing my own collection.  It's a single I bought in the 90's for a pretty simple reason: Fat Joe and Showbiz's names on the cover, especially since this was back before Joe started doing all those jiggy club records in the 2000s.  In fact, flipping it over, we see that Showbiz produced their track, too.  So okay, I had no idea who this Blackface was, but it was still a no brainer.  At least back then.  I wouldn't buy a tape (or record or CD) for just a guest spot now, as a wise and wizened adult.  But I was more reckless and naive back in the 90s.

Anyway, it worked out, because Blackface is pretty dope.  He's actually a Florida artist (his label here, Backstage Records, is based in Miami) who had an album and a couple singles through the late 90s.  But somehow he wound up connecting with the DITC guys enough to get a feature on his debut 1996 single ("from the South Bronx to South Beach").  They didn't do anything else with him.  The rest of his album and other singles all seem to be by the one producer, Hugo Boss, who also did the A-side, "Cornbread."  But dude is definitely on the NY tip; this isn't like if Showbiz and Joe teamed up with Dem Boiz to perform another "How Much Boodie."

But let's start with "Cornbread," because it is the A-side, after all.  On the album, the title is extended to "Cornbread Style," and it's just a colorful way to announce he's from the South, coming "cornbread style, collard greens style."  Still, though, he's got that NY style, and Boss provides him a pretty unique, head nodding sample to rock over.  This really sets you up for something like Down South's "Southern Comfort," but it's just hardcore battle rhymes with some pretty clever rhyme schemes:

"I have you all leapin' like frogs.  I'm sayin', dog, why ya got to be a playa hater?  Let me be a playa now, and nigga, hate me later.  I'm a greater nominator with bites of an alligator.  You need some seasonin', playa, your style got no flavor.  I thought you woulda followed that recipe that I gave ya, ya non-writin' rhymer, ya damn two timer.  I'ma beat ya bad, beat ya bad, beat ya when I find ya.  This flow is for my shitty niggas that understand.  If you don't like it, I don't give a jigga-jigga-damn.  Slammin' punk niggas on the hard concrete.  I got more rhymes than the whole world got crimes.  I break mics, rappers, bones and even back spines.  A nigga's gettin' paid and it's about time."

I seriously was not expecting this guy to come that nice.

So now let's hear him rockin' over some Showbiz.  On the album, by the way, "Sessions" title is shortened to just "Session."  Anyway, it turns out the front cover is a little misleading.  Showbiz doesn't feature on "Sessions;" it's just Joe and Black.  Although yes, he does produce.  It's got some nice drums and a simple but catchy piano sample.  Blackface handles most of the verses, with Joe coming nice and hard on the hook ("yo, black, pass me the motherfuckin' heat!") just the way he sounds best.  He talks some crime stuff and even a bit of a serious message, "ain't no secret I won't tell about night fall, the black ski mask I keep is raw.  Like creepy critters huntin' for food in the dark, gun shots ignite the flame the metal sparks, like fireworks, but it's not the fourth of July.  Every second, every minute, one of my peoples die."  But Fat Joe comes in at the end to kick a solid, tough verse repping Terror Squad and "New York, New York, the big city of dreams."  Lyrically, Black owns this song, too, but Joe's voice sounds great on this track, so I'm glad he showed up for more than the hook in the end.

Together, both tracks add up to a surprisingly dope single.  Now, as you can see, I have the cassingle.  There is a proper 12" that comes in a full color picture cover with a couple additional versions: Instrumentals, a Radio Edit, even a remix of "Session."  That's the preferable version for sure.  But I'm good with the Showbiz version of "Session," so I've never bothered to upgrade.  But going back to this tape does have me wanting to cop his album and maybe some of his later singles.  I can see why Blackface never got much recognition, coming out of left field like he did, and without a major label to push him into everybody's face.  But it's too bad, because if that happened, I think a lot more people would've started checking for this guy.  Blackface did not get his due.

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