Friday, February 16, 2024

Father MC Or Die

Another new year, another new Father MC write-up.  You think I've run out of material, no not yet.  In fact, this is arguably one of the most important songs in his discography, the fulcrum point of his public image and lyrical direction, from Mr. "Live Life Lovely, Love the Ladies, Live Life Correct" to the aggressively sexual "I put my milkshake on ya tummy."  The legend goes that Andre Harrell pushed Father MC in the romantic direction.  We've already seen he started out on a fresher tip with his First Fleet Crew; but he blew up making records like "I'll Do For You" and "Lisa Baby" with The Soul Convention.  But for his third album, he changed.  Now he was working with Buttnaked Tim Dawg and had a much tougher, more aggressive image.  Not that he went full NWA or anything.  But gone were the button down shirts and flat top with the blond peak; now it was leather jackets and Timbs.  But there's an even more precise point in between those albums where that switch happened: on the Who's the Man soundtrack.

Who's the Man's a pretty interesting soundtrack anyway.  The Ed Lover & Doctor Dre movie directed by Johnathan Demme's nephew, Ted Demme, and packed with rapper cameos naturally had to have some big songs on it, including BIG's debut single and Erick Sermon's debut solo venture.  Somebody else vying for attention with a bit of a career move was Father MC.  The song is called "Pimp Die," so yeah, the new direction is pretty hard to miss.  If it wasn't obvious enough, though, it opens with the album's only skit, where Dawg is a WBUTT FM radio DJ announcing, "that was Father MC featuring Jodeci, 'Treat Them Like They Want To Be Treated.'  Well, Radio Land, I wonder what he has in store for '93.  Maybe he'll take it to the streets."  So yeah, the intention's perfectly clear.

It's got a much grittier, 90's track with rumbling bass, wailing horns, big drums and a shout chorus: "what's the law? Pimp or die!  What's the law?!  Pimp or die!!"  It's not actually produced by Dawg, but by T West and Kool Chris.  They were working under his wing for Dawghouse Entertainment at the time.  They also did an unreleased track for The Lost Boyz' debut album, which Dawg also worked on.  So that helps explain why "lyrics and rap" co-writing credit goes to one Cocheeks.  That's Mr. Cheeks, a couple years before the Boyz broke out with their first single.

But there's a seemingly even bigger name in the writing credits here.  J.Z.  As in Jay-Z!?  1993, this would put him in his post-Jaz sidekick, pre-Reasonable Doubt solo artist period, the same year he did "Can I Get Open" with Original Flavor, when he was really going "next level" with the lyrics.  So does Jay take Father to the next level?

Well, disappointingly, not so much in the crazy way Jay was flipping it in '93.  You know, it's kind of run of the mill game talk, "I'm the man, that's how I get down.  I find recruits, knock the boots and then I got to skip town.  I get money on the regular; every day on the highway honeys are calling on my cellular.  I got a team From Brooklyn, Bronx and Queens; a bald head, leather jacket, and baggy jeans."  We're really just cementing the new image here.  Yes, he name-checks his Timberlands,  But later in the song, he gets more into old school pimp talk, which is pretty fun, "taste the caramel sweet chocolate.  One taste of my love makes your heart drip.  Mister Man, sisters never diss the program; before I kick 'em out, I kiss ya hand.  ...I get my nails done, baby, you won't be bitter.  Dip my hands in the bowl and watch my rocks glitter.  That's how pimply I am; pimpin' ain't hard, it's just a job, and ya really don't understand."

But a lot of it's just tepid, generic rhymes, too, like, "I'm gettin' money on the real, nothing's funny.  Every day seems sunny when I'm chilling with my main honey."  Half of this feels like typical Father MC album filler, and I'm thinking Jay-Z maybe just suggested a couple individual lines.  And Cheeks?  Well, there's a very animated hype-man backing up Father's lyrics.  His voice doesn't sound as scratchy as we all know Cheeks to be.  I'd actually guess it's Tim Dawg doing it himself.  But maybe in '93, Cheeks' voice sounded fresher and he's getting writing credit for improving his adlibs?  That's a long shot, but it's possible.  I mean, we're forced to do a lot of speculation here.  Maybe J.Z. isn't even Jay-Z after all.  Discogs connects them, but they don't have a perfect track record with this like that.  And it's not like the credits say "Jay-Z."

Also, it's interesting to note that on the Uptown Unplugged album, Father only got to perform the single solo song, "One Night Stand."  But if you watch the full live show, you see they cut out his second song, which he introduces as "a change for the better," suggesting his heart was no longer in the lovey-dovey stuff, if it ever was.  Because yes, it's "Pimp Or Die."  Tim Dawg gets on the stage with him to help with the hook, and it's a very different instrumental, with the band playing completely new horn riffs, and going heavy on the piano.

Anyway, "Pimp or Die" isn't perfect, but it does the job.  And it's better than most of the stuff that wound up on Sex Is Law, including the singles.


  1. If you look in the ASCAP writer credits for the song it includes Shawn Carter so it is THAT Jay-Z (and also Terrance Kelly AKA Mr Cheeks):

    1. Ah, nicely found! I'd love to see an interviewer ask Jay about this some day.