Sunday G-Funk #4: Ice Cube – Death Certificate

Ice Cube - Death Certificate

 

This album right here is a classic.  Few albums represent West Coast Gangster Rap as well as this collection of tracks did.  Not even Cube’s other classic album, AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted represented quite like this one.  

It was because of how real he made it sound.  The violent ideas strung throughout the songs are commonplace these days, with many Hip-Hop artists leaning on gangster influences to make catchy music.  But back in this time, it made an impact.  The raw stories of street life, such as the drug dealing tale on “A Bird In the Hand” was too frightening for many mainstream music fans.  So naturally, Death Certificate became controversial, very similar to what happened to his debut album.

What it lacks in single power, the album makes up for in creativity and cohesiveness.  While violent and controversial at times, Cube’s writing is also meant to teach and inspire.  His method involves showing the bad to teach about the positive.  As he explains himself during the intro, the album is split into two sides: the Death, and the Life.

Ice Cube must have been inspired to change the Hip-Hop game, and himself at the same time.  I mention personal change because of his actions in his past N.W.A. days, a time full of angst and motivation to prove the law, or anyone else telling him what to do, wrong.  That attitude carries into AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, all the way until Death Certificate.  What could have been the major difference is Ice Cube’s involvement in the game growing rapidly, including his appearance on (the heavily Hip-Hop influenced) Boyz N’ Da Hood.  A view from the other side of the screen, as well as an increase in age and maturity gave him a different perspective.  

nwa

 

Whatever it was, it worked.  Death Certificate went Platinum the same year it dropped, and also years later received accolades as being one of the best Hip-Hop albums of all time from countless sources.  MTV, The Source, About.com, and Vibe are all included.

Wait, You Mean Ice Cube the Family Movie Actor, Right?

Yes it is true.  Ice Cube has come a very long way since 1991.  He spends most of his time picking up movie roles and being a family man.  But hey, the man is an OG.  Nobody can rap forever, you have to start doing something else at some point.  The irony is still quite goofy, though.

-Ronzo

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Sunday G-Funk #5: Kurupt – Tha Streetz Iz a Mutha

kurupt_-_tha_streetz_iz_a_mutha-front

 

I’ve got a bevvy of updates for you this week, so stay tuned! I know it’s been awhile since I did Sunday G-Funk, but here I am finally back at it.  Apologies, been quite busy lately.

The top 5 is reserved especially for the best G-Funk West Coast abums history has brought us. Tha Streetz Iz a Mutha fits perfectly into that category, as Kurupt’s first critically revered solo release.  His previous release, Kuruption! reached gold status but failed to meet the lofty expectations certainly brought on by his past success as a feature artist on classic Death Row records.  Streetz reached gold status as well, but once again failed to meet sales expectations.  Losing distribution from A&M Records due to corporate mergers contributed heavily to the sales problem.

But hey, sales aren’t everything right? Because the abum is incredible regardless.  Kurupt’s lyricism throughout stays intelligent and creative while still giving off the laid-back West Coast Gangsta vibe.  Who can forget that “Xxplosive” verse from Chronic 2001?  This talent was rare among Death Row, as the majority of the roster featured Hip-Hop artists who were more suited for groovy Gangster Rap with no requirement for complex lyricism.  My favorite track, “Streetz Iz a Mutha” (which I previously mentioned in a Monday Grooves post) is quite a great jewel on this album and features exactly the kind of hardcore complex lyricism I’m talking about.

One of the biggest questions when Kurupt went solo, as is the biggest question with many group artists who go solo, is if they can succeed off their own musical ability.  There’s not exactly an abundant number of artists throughout history who did this, especially in Hip-Hop music, so I can imagine expectations were lofty and the sky was the limit.

While there’s no question Kurupt sounds the best when he’s over a Daz Dillinger beat, the most talented lyricists, in the end, need to prove their versatility over different styles of production.  Some may hate it, some may love it, but spectators of all sorts definitely respect a talented musician.  Soopafly, Bink!, Dr. Dre, and Organized Noize all provided sound for the project, producing many dope beats along the way

Sticking with his roots, Tha Streetz Iz a Mutha features not one, not two, but six Daz beats.  Even with 18 tracks on a project, that is still quite a large number from one producer.  After the collapse of Death Row and the murder of 2Pac, the heavy involvement between the two artists was surely encouraging to Dogg Pound fans everywhere.

“Trylogy”, “Ya Can’t Trust Nobody”, and the posse cut featuring Snoop Dogg, and Daz Dillinger (among others) “Represent Dat G.C.” are other classic cuts off the album.  

One last thing to mention is Kurupt’s love for calling out whack rappers in the industry and starting beef with them.  Starting from his foray into the East Coast – West Coast rivalry with Tha Dogg Pound’s “New York, New York”, Kurupt was designed for battle.  Streetz is no exception, as the final track “Calling Out Names” sends shots to the frequently disliked Ja Rule, and DMX.  Poor Ja Rule, I’ll never understand why he inspires so much hatred.

-Ronzo

Sunday G-Funk #6: The Game – The Documentary

The Game - The Documentary

 

While Dr. Dre has backed a fair share of artists that did not achieve expected expectations, it’s hard to say that the guy does not have a tendency to understand where talent comes from.  Especially when it comes to talent from his own town, Compton.

After recovering from a brutal shooting in 2001, The Game began to work towards a rap career.  His first mixtape was created after his participation in a freestyle session hosted by Russell Simmons.  After gaining buzz in the streets, his mixtape eventually made it to Dr. Dre, who immediately signed him to Aftermath through G-Unit Records.

Game began working with another Dre signee, 50 Cent and his G-Unit crew shortly after.  Aftermath’s initial plan was to advertise him in a package deal with 50 Cent, in order to get his name out quick and easy.  Through many appearances in various ad campaigns and high-profile G-Unit songs, The Game began to build a name for himself.

dr. dre the game

 

G-Unit Involvement

50 Cent has a large presence on The Documentary, appearing on 3 songs.  What’s even more significant are that all 3 songs ended up being arguably the biggest singles from the album.  “Hate it or Love it”, one of the aforementioned tracks, is a fantastic victory lap for the arrival of The Game’s rap career.  Even though 50 steals much of the shine with a strong verse, Game more than holds his own. This effort, and the later track that featured Eminem, showed that he was ready to go toe-to-toe with any rapper in the game (I think he does just fine on “We Ain’t”, even if he constantly talks about how Eminem bodied him).

The relationship with G-Unit did not last as long as expected, as the two artists had disagreements that built tension between the group.  This ended up being a smart move for The Game, as his solo career allowed him to blossom freely.  Staying with G-Unit would have limited him, as he was also in line with Young Buck and Lloyd Banks.

 

Production, Production, Production

There is almost nothing more important in the Hip-Hop industry than good production.  The best production can make even the worst rapper you’ve ever heard sound like a god-send.  At the same time, there have been many a consistently dope lyricist to meet his end of relevancy due to lackluster production (ask Nas, I’m sure he regrets his production choice on I Am…).

One of the things that make The Documentary stand out from so many other projects are the fantastic line of producers brought on board.  Kanye West, Just Blaze, Havoc, Timbaland, and Buckwild are all prime examples of the top-notch production on the album.  Dr. Dre, of course, also adds to the project with mixing and original production of his own.

Good production and quality features have always been a major positive for The Game.  Whether it’s because of Dr. Dre or Game’s own hustle, the music is always memorable regardless.

 

Boy, Do I Love This Song

 

Now, Remember…

While The Game is not exactly what you would consider classic G-Funk sound, there are many elements that harken back to the good old days of high synths and funky basslines.  “Where I’m From” takes you back to the late 90s, even featuring the “King of Hooks”, Nate Dogg.

If there’s anyone that represents the Golden Age of West Coast Hip-Hop G-Funk sound, it’s The Game.  

-Ronzo

Sunday G-Funk #7: Jay Rock – Follow Me Home

Jay Rock - Follow Me Home

 

While being lost in the middle of the wave of football that is the beginning of fall, here’s another way you can spend your Sunday; with some laid-back G-Funk sound (especially if you had a bad Fantasy Football week like I did).

This week, I bring to you one of the torchbearers of West Coast Hip-Hop, Jay Rock (of recent “Money Tree” feature verse fame).  While he may not be the biggest name in the Black Hippy crew, he does have a claim as being one of the first members of Top Dawg, as well as a major influence for Kendrick, Q, Soul, and himself to form their group.  His album Follow Me Home, released with the help of Strange Music, featured everything you could want from a classic West Coast album.  Big feature names are littered throughout, including Tech N9ne, Rick Ross, Chris Brown, Lil Wayne, and more.  Plus, the production has a new-age traditional feel, with beats from top notch producers such as, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, and Tha Bizness.  

Black Hippy Involvement

The most impressive aspect of the album has to do with the unity of the Black Hippy crew.  In a time where the other members were still in a rising phase with no major releases, this project served as a stepping stone for the group’s advancement as a whole.

Not only do all the members step into the booth for the posse cut (and one of very few Black Hippy tracks), “Say Wassup”, each artist’s adlib vocals are scattered throughout the album.  Kendrick’s hook on “They Be On It”, Schoolboy Q providing one line on “Bout That”, Ab-Soul on “No Joke”, the list goes on and on.  The cohesiveness is highly apparent, and Follow Me Home is the closest thing to a Black Hippy album released as of yet.

(Similar methods are used on the more recent “The Heart Pt. 3”, by Kendrick Lamar, with features from Jay Rock and Ab-Soul)

The Singles

While Jay Rock himself declared that the album is “strictly for the ghetto”, it still has its share of catchy radio-worthy singles.  Songs like “No Joke” and “Westside ft. Chris Brown” have infectious hooks, while “Hood Gone Love It ft. Kendrick Lamar” hosts the most impressive feature verse of the whole album.

Follow Me Home serves as an incredible start for Jay Rock, and the buzz will only continue to grow as Black Hippy increases in popularity.  Here’s to the leaders of the new generation.

-Ronzo

Sunday G-Funk #8: Funkdoobiest – Brothas Doobie

funkdoobiest brothas doobie

 

While Funkdoobiest may not be a huge or widely recognized Hip-Hop artists associated with the classic G-Funk movement, their styles and flows were new and different.  Their relaxed and easy-going personalities penetrated the underground and brought a different perspective to how the West Coast sound should be interpreted.  In fact, their song “Rock On” is one of my favorite tracks (shouts to the homie Moses Manuel), and a previous Monday Grooves pick.

Their sound mainly resembles another classic West Coast Hip-Hop group, Cypress Hill.  This is understandable of course, as the great DJ Muggs served as one of the innovators and mentors to the group.  His production covers this entire album, as well as their first project, Which Doobie U B?

Funkdoobiest

 

Long live Son Doobie and his quirky raps about how he “likes his sex X-rated like he likes his funk”, or his interlude telling a bartender he’s “dummin” because the drinks are too pricey.  Funkdoobiest, with their  humor and easy-going styles, should always be remembered for creating their own niche in Hip-Hop history.

-Ronzo

Sunday G-Funk #9: Tha Dogg Pound – Dogg Food

dogg food

As the beginning of the semester starts for most of you out there, what better way to enjoy the first Sunday with a little bit of G-Funk. Continuing the latest series, let’s take a look at the classic album Dogg Food by Tha Dogg Pound.

There is plenty that can be said about one of the signature records of the Death Row era.  The album has since gone 2x Patinum and remains one of Hip-Hop’s classics.  Kurupt’s flow and lyricism were both at a level above many other artists in the industry at the time, and Daz Dillinger was making a name as a signature West Coast producer alongside Dr. Dre.  However, controversy tended to come along with the talent at this time in their careers.

With Tha Dogg Pound brand being born in a time where the East Coast vs. West Coast battle was at it’s peak, Dogg Food served as a great medium to deliver a message.  On the song “New York, New York”, and especially in the video, where Snoop Dogg can be seen crushing New York buidings, the message of West Coast supremacy was very prevalent.  While the song may not have been as direct as 2Pac’s “Hit Em Up”, it was still enough to rile up a couple artists on the East Coast.

Capone-n-Noreaga, Tragedy Khadafi, and Mobb Deep responded with a track called “L.A., L.A.”, including a video with an equal amount of insulting visuals.

Snoop Dogg has actually said recently that he has always had love for the East, and wasn’t trying to be as involved in the rivalry as some of the other artists; but when his intentions were read wrong and still displayed to a wider audience, it was harder to convince anyone otherwise (not to mention his controversial speech at The Source Awards).

However, through all of the controversy (including other lyrics on the project aimed at Eazy-E), Dogg Food still remains an amazing body of work. Daz’s work on the keys was a major factor for a G-Funk Movement that was already in full force.  Songs like “Do What I Feel” and “Respect” are perfect examples of the signature DPGC sound.

-Ronzo

Sunday G-Funk #10: Dru Down – Can You Feel Me

Dru Down - Can You Feel Me

Today I introduce a new segment, called Sunday G-Funk.  Over the next couple months, Ronzo’s Word will be showing you our 10 favorite G-Funk records.  Join us as we dig through a number of classic records, representing the dominance of this influential West Coast style of Hip-Hop throughout the late 80’s and 90’s.

Starting off at number 10, we have an Oakland native by the name of Dru Down.  Besides the title track from his highly enjoyable Can You Feel Me album, his biggest claim to fame may be his appearance on 2Pac’s “All About You”.  In the rap game, that is.  He has also made a couple film appearances, such as his portrayal of “Kayo” in the movie Original Gangstas.

Being a huge fan of Luniz  (who are frequent collaborators with Dru Down as well as fellow Oakland rappers), I was surprised at how little I knew of the rapper.  His classic West Coast stylings are surprisingly vintage for an album made in 1996, mostly due to the late G-Funk golden age-sounding beats scattered throughout the project.

The production is handled by 10+ producers, with mostly lesser-known names receiving credit.  Among the more recognizable names are Battlecat (concert DJ for Snoop Dogg) and Soopafly (member of DPGC).  The album’s production remains incredibly cohesive throughout, even with the myriad of names involved.

Dru Down

Dru Down’s topics mainly revolve around the life of a pimp, and the various women he deals with.  “Playa Fo Real” is my personal favorite off the album, featuring the classic high synth synonymous with the G-Funk Era.

With classic material like this, it’s hard for me to understand why Oakland Hip-Hop has never truly evolved beyond underground acts.  Besides the classic Bay artists such as E-40 and Mac Dre, the subgenre has mainly been more of a local phenomenon.

If you’re a fan of classic Hip-Hop, and want a great album to smoke during, or bump in the car, Can You Feel Me is the perfect project for you.  Be sure to play it on a nice day to get the full effect.

-Ronzo