Category Archives: RARE & COLLECTIBLE

Rare and collectible hip hop albums. Images, descriptions and reviews of classic and out of print rap albums.

O.C. – Word Life/Jewelz – Limited Edition Box Set

Here we have the 2 most acclaimed OC albums, Word…life and Jewelz brought together in a ‘limited edition’ collectors box set.

First, a little back-history of how this album box set came about. I had a brief online chat with O.C. a few months back and he revealed that it was in fact an “unofficial” release from a label based out in Australia in which he never actually received any royalties from. The label in question is called “Grindin”, a subsidiary of Central Station Records, whose aim (so they claim) is to get quality hip hop music from both local and overseas artists released in Australia and across the globe. If that wasn’t enough, the Box set was also released in Europe under another subsidiary label known as Altered Ego who’s parent company is Pickwick Group Ltd.

Although the box set was a semi bootleg released in limited numbers, it was available for purchase in all the major retailers at the time of distribution in 2008. The fact that the box set was not official doesn’t really detract from the music contained on within, and if I’m being honest the whole package was given some of the highest quality presentation treatment I’ve seen. The discs themselves are stamped with O.C’s iconic crown logo in a high gloss finish and the packaging contains some linear notes about O.C. himself. It’s clear this set was put together by someone who has respect for both the artist and the art form. Financial and compensatory matters aside I’m sure even Omar himself would be proud of the finished product.

As for the CD content, the first disc contains the full 14 track Word…life album with the addition of 5 extra bonus tracks including 2 “Time’s Up” remixes by Katalyst and DJ Eclipse, an un-credited “Snakes” track, and a demo version of “Ozone”.

Disc two, contains the original 15 track Jewelz album but with the additional bonus tracks;  “Dangerously Making Money” Featuring – Fatman Scoop, Lord Tariq & Peter Gunz, the Buckwild produced “Burn Me Slow “, “Champagne Thoughts”, and Bonafide
Featuring – Jay-Z. All in all it’s a win win for any O.C. D.I.T.C fans.

Those who know me personally can attest that O.C. places high on my all “time greatest” list! Any serious hip hop head who owns just one of these albums will understand why.

Revered by many among hip hops elite, Omar “OC” Credle or O-Cizzle (as he is also known by in close circles) is an artist that I consider to be an “emcees mc”, meaning other rappers can only hope to aspire to his level of lyrical mastery. This is some achievement when you consider that his most successful spell was during the 90s when hip hop had no shortage of talent and great albums littered the shelves at record stores.

The D.I.T.C native has dropped so many gems and featured with so many heavyweight emcees’ that I could dedicate a whole book! There isn’t really very much for me to say about these 2 classic albums that hasn’t already been said a thousand times before. Check my previous Jewelz review for more on that joint. I might do a stand alone review of Word Life in the future. But for now just know that both are equally impressive testimonies to that golden era New York sound that the 90’s was so famous for.

Have you got a favourite O.C. album?

Tell us in the comments below ⇓ ⇓ ⇓

 

Ill Al Skratch – Creep Wit’ Me (RARE 1994 OOP)

What started off as a song by Ill Al Skratch on “Where My Homiez? (Come Around My Way)” soon spawned in to an entire album (of sorts). Released August 2, 1994, Creep Wit’ Me, was an LP that had some appeal with the mainstream as well as the underground heads. They were both smooth, yet rugged! Pimps, but ghetto!

Ill Al Skratch

“Chill With That” and “The Brooklyn Uptown Connection” are tag team efforts that highlight the duo’s chemistry and have a rougher sound. The album also contains 2 solo joints,  Ill’s “Classic Shit” and Al’s “Summertime,” with Al Skratch’s raspy flow being the stand out of the two.

The problem I find with this album is that tracks seem to interlink as if they are remixes of each other, as many songs use similar ear lines and hooks. “I’ll Take Her” featuring Brian McKnight, has a smooth feel and deserves a star all its own but was it really necessary to add yet another remix version? Then we come to “Where My Homiez? (Dub Version) which is basically 6 minutes of pointless instrumental filler.

The production by The LG Experience & Lowrider is decent enough and worthy of recognition but the album overall doesn’t hold enough substance to make it a true classic. Having said that “Wheres My Homiez” will always be a hip hop anthem.

RATING:

Craig Mack – Project Funk Da World (1994)

Many will probably look at Craig Mack as a one hit wonder for the remix of “Flava In Ya Ear” featuring Notorious BIG, Rampage, LL Cool J, and Busta Rhymes, and for the most part they would be right as Mack’s popularity rapidly declined soon after. I actually prefer the original album cut of Flava in your ear which really highlighted the lyrical prowess that we all knew Craig Mack was capable of. That song has to be one of the most memorable 90’s rap classics in history. Unfortunately after being sold by that track I was disappointed with how the album turned out overall.

 “the biggest irony of Craig’s short lived career at Bad Boy was the line “You Won’t Be Around Next Year….”

To me, Project Funk Da World is one of those albums that you hear many different opinions about. In my opinion most are too hasty in giving it ‘classic album status’ as I feel the album falls way short of this. To be critical of an album containing such a 90’s east coast rap anthem may seem like heresy but I can’t just love it based off one record. Looking back now it’s clear why Project Funk Da World failed to move me in a way I hoped it would. Easy Mo Bee takes care of the majority of production with a few shining moments like Get Down and Judgement Day, but it’s hard not to notice the obvious similarities between tracks as they tend to sound like regurgitation’s of Flava In Ya Ear. Craig himself delivers some decent flows but by the second half of the album it all gets a bit stale.

craig mack mcdonalds ad bad boy promoThe fact that Biggie dropped Ready To Die only a week before didn’t help matters either, as his momentous debut delivered so much more on every level. With Biggie’s joint you had depth and versatility that kept you coming back but Project Funk Da World got old and repetitive all too quickly.  I believe Craig Mack was one of Bad Boy’s better acts, but I felt Bad Boy records was the wrong fit for Craig’s style and image. Puff Daddy’s cheesie McDonalds “Big Mack” promo ads were a gimmick that should have been left well alone. Perhaps the biggest irony of Craig’s short lived career at Bad Boy was the line “You Won’t Be Around Next Year….” from the Flava In Ya Ear track.

Project Funk Da World is currently back in print at the time of writing, and the prices of second hand 1st edition copies on discogs/Amazon etc are reasonable, so if you see it go ahead and pick one up. It may not be on my all time favourites list but it still has enough rugged and raw beats to make it an enjoyable experience.

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O.G. STYLE – I Know How To Play Em

“I Know How To Play Em” was the debut release from the Houston group formally known as “OG STYLE”, which consisted of Eric “The Original E” Woods and DJ Boss. It may surprise some to know that this album has got a ton of east coast flavour regardless of it’s southern roots. It’s also one of the few early Rap-A-Lot albums that doesn’t heavily rely on the in house production team. Not long after the album dropped the duo split with Eric “The Original E” Woods keeping the name OG Style for himself, while DJ Boss went on to form a new crew called 4Deep with KooRod and Klas One. Tragically both members of the group have since passed away but their impact and legacy on the Houston hip hop scene lives on. R.I.P

O.G. STYLE CATCH EM SLIPPIN CASSETTE

 

MC Ren – Shock Of The Hour (1993)

Cast your mind back over 2 decades to a time when gangsta rap was the most popular sub genre in hip hop, and N.W.A. where arguably the most influential gangsta rap group of them all. With their highly controversial lyrics, ice cool personas and “don’t give a f**k” attitudes, every teenage rap fan across the world was bumping “fuck the police” whilst somehow managing to keep the music from reaching the ears of their parents.

After reaching the highest heights of rap stardom the group eventually disbanded, with Ice Cube and Dre going on to have huge solo success while Yella traded music production for porn production. It was the villain MC Ren that would continue to carry the torch for Ruthless records even after Eazy E’s passing in 1994. After the initial success of his platinum selling debut EP “Kizz My Black Azz” in 1992, the rest of Ren’s Ruthless catalogue seemed to pass by relatively unnoticed, including his 1993 classic “Shock Of The Hour”.

Not long after “Kizz My Black Azz” dropped, Ren began working on a highly anticipated follow up project called “Life Sentence”, but this was later scrapped while he converted to the Nation of Islam. Armed with a new philosophy, the Life Sentence project morphed into “Shock of the Hour” which dropped late 1993. Shock Of The Hour plays out in a very similar fashion to that of RBX’s 1995 debut “The RBX Files“. The first half of the album is standard MC Ren. “Same Old Shit”, All Bullshit Aside” and “You Wanna F**k Her” are all reminiscent of the hard edged gangster lyrics that he pioneered in his N.W.A days, but as you progress to the second half of the CD (or side 2 for those of us who owned the original cassette tape) you can quite clearly hear the influences of his new found faith.

“The album may have isolated a large demographic of fans who where just not ready for this new radical incarnation of MC Ren”

Back in 1993 as a teenage white boy from the north of England, the albums concept and militant lyrics where a little difficult to comprehend. It sounded nice musically but it all felt a bit surreal that I was buying an album that called for an all out war on white people. Ironically it was the second half of the album with it’s NOI theology, apocalyptic imagery and scriptural references that I grew to love the most and as time passed and my understanding of world affairs deepened so too did my understanding of the concepts behind tracks like “Attack On Babylon” and the urgency to bring down the Babylonian system that enslaves all who are blinded by it diseased ideology. It is my belief (for the reasons stated above), that this album may have sparked a sudden decline in Ren’s popularity. My theory is that Ren undoubtedly had a huge fanbase and of that fanbase I estimate at least half were of the Caucasian persuasion and that’s just a modest estimate when you take in to account the massive European hip hop scene. I feel that the album may have isolated a large demographic of fans who where just not ready for a radical new incarnation of Ren. Even with all the follow up albums with titles that hinted heavily at a return of the original Ren (“The Villain in Black, Ruthless for Life and Reincarnated) it was always going to be hard to regain the momentum.

In my opinion, Shock Of The Hour is the greatest of all Ren’s solo work and it’s the album that I always regularly return to. Everything on it sounds classic. Production is mint with the bulk of it coming from Tootie and Dr Jam who really manage to create a dark apocolyptic backdrop for Ren to get down on. In terms of guest appearances Ren pretty much handles the album himself but there are a couple of great posse cuts, “One False Move” with Dollar Bill, Da Konvicted Felon, and Don Jaguar and one my favourite tracks on the album “Mr Fuck Up” that has the Villain teaming up with ‘The Whole Click’.

Like many other early 90’s Ruthless albums, including; “Above The Law – Uncle Sams Curse” and “Kokane – Funk Upon A Rhyme“, Shock Of The Hour is also one of the hardest Ren albums to come by with prices fluctuating wildly. When you see one listed for anything less than £25 you can be pretty confident it’s a bootleg or a Japanese re-press.

To sum it up, “Shock of the Hour” is a strong effort from one of rap’s more underappreciated contributors.

DMG – Rigormortiz – (1993) – Rare-OOP

Rigormortiz, the debut album from DetriMental Ganxsta– DMG was released at a time when solid albums seemed to be dropping routinely every other week. Rigormortiz was one of those tapes that I remember seeing sat proudly in a lot of peoples collections but was rarely talked about. It just kinda seemed to get lost in the noise of other big industry releases that same year, including label mates Geto Boys “Till Death Do Us Part”. In terms of sales it managed to reach a respectable #40 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. This was in spite of the album having the usual poor promotion that Rap-A-Lot has become known for. 1993 was also a time when the hysteria of west coast gangster rap was in full swing, with Snoop, Spice 1, Ice Cube to name a few all dropping phenomenal albums. Over on the east coast Wu Tang fever was taking effect and would soon change the rap game completely.  Add to all this the fact DMG sounds similar to his mentor Scarface and it’s a miracle Rigormortiz got the chance to shine at all. 21 years on and the album has become somewhat of an enigma mostly due to the scarcity of this now long “out of print” Rap-A-Lot classic. DMG

Like so many Rap-A-Lot artists from the early 90’s, there isn’t a lot of background info on DMG.  I once heard that he was the younger brother of Scarface, but I think this rumor was born out of the fact that DMG as already mentioned above, sounds similar to his mentor Brad Jordan aka Mr Scarface. I still occasionally come across Scarface fans who have not heard the Rigormortiz album and are completely unaware that the track “You Don’t Hear Me Doe”, first used on Face’s “The World Is Yours” album was actually performed by DMG. Generally speaking, two rappers sounding so similar would be enough to kill the deal for me, but to be honest after a couple of listens the differences in voice and style become more and more obvious to the point that you wonder how you were ever fooled in the first place. “Rigormortiz” is a raw and potent product cooked up by the Rap-A-Lot camp at a time when it was at it’s glorious best and DMG fits right in with the hardcore gangster element that has made the label what it is…….was.

Listening to “Rigormortiz” you would think every element came straight out of Houston Texas, as many people erroneously assume  DMG is a Houston native when he actually hails from St. Paul, Minnesota. However, the production is mostly handled by Texas mainstay, N.O. Joe, the man behind many of the classic U.G.K tracks. what you get is pure bass loaded gangsta funk. Lyrically, Rigormortiz is full of guns, murder, and all the usual gangster type shit that you would expect from a Rap-A-Lot artist of the era. “Prelude To A Murdah,” Feat; Cozy-K, uses the same sample used on “Gangsta’s Paradise,” (Stevie Wonder’s-Pastime Paradise) 2 years before Coolio had the smash hit.  “One in tha Chamba” has a reggae inspired beat with a hook that is reminiscent of Spice 1 when he sometimes rhymes in a Jamaican patois style in parts of his tracks. Former Geto Boys member Big Mike lends a verse on “Rest In Peace,” a deep and powerful tribute to some of the fallen homies from the block. Then Mike reappears for the biggest collab on the album “Buck Em Down,” along with Scarface, 5th Ward Boyz, 2 Low and and fellow Convicts partner Mr. 3-2. Perhaps my favourite track on the album apart from the excellent and hard hitting opener “You Don’t Hear Me Doe”, is the mellow flow and silky smooth production found on “I ain’t Bullshitting”. Scarface fans who haven’t heard the album will be familiar with the beat as it’s the same one used on the intro to scarface’s “The World Is Yours – Face II Face” album.

Since the album dropped all those years ago output for DMG has been very scarce. Apart from his Facemob appearances, the only other albums to his name are a 2003 Rap-A-Lot release called Black Roulette and a 2007 album  Chek.  “Rigormortiz” is long out of print and sells for ridiculous prices on Ebay and discogs. For the hardcore Geto Boys and Rap-A-Lot fans I highly recommend the album as it’s actually one of my favourites out of the many I own. If you can get it for a reasonable price then dive on it quick. It’s a very well-done album that still holds its weight even after all these years. The production is excellent and among the finest of this era of Rap-A-Lot albums, with tons of slow rolling bass, woozy synths, and funky instrumentals.

[dropshadowbox align=”none” effect=”lifted-both” width=”100%” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]INTERESTING FACT: Next time you watch the movie Jasons Lyric, keep an eye out for the DMG – Rigormortiz poster featured on the bedroom wall in one of the scenes. [/dropshadowbox]

Willie D – Controversy – (1989 Rare – OOP)

In 1988, Rap-A-Lot Records founder James Prince decided to invest his full budget and attention towards the Ghetto Boys, as he saw them as the most promising music-act on his label.

After the criticism and commercial failure of the original group’s debut album “Making Trouble”,  J. Prince felt that the Ghetto Boys, and ultimately “the Rap-A-Lot brand” needed to go in a different direction and so a line-up change was decided. Jukeboxx left the group while DJ Ready Red and Bushwick stayed on with Prince Johnny C stepping back into a production based role. Prince felt that the original groups rapping styles where too similar to artists from New York and this was something he wanted to move away from in favour of a more hard edged sound.

Willie D (known then as Willie Dee), was already signed to Rap-A-Lot as a solo artist, but was added to the group at the request of J Prince. Willie would later reveal that he was initially reluctant to join the fold as he wanted to make a solo album. Willie did eventually get his wish, releasing his debut album Controversy in December of 1989.

Controversy contains an original version of “Do It Like it G.O,” featuring Prince Johnny C and Sire Jukeboxx. It was later re-recorded and featured on the Geto Boys’ 1989 album, Grip It! On That Other Level, with Scarface and Bushwick Bill replacing the lines of Johnny C and Jukeboxx.

Controversy is somewhat of a Rap-A-Lot collectors item. The very first pressings are extremely rare and can be identified by the slight title text differences on the albums cover. The original reads: “Featuring The Ghetto Boys” while the reissue has the more well known “Geto Boys” spelling. However the reissues are still pretty rare and fetch a decent price.

EXECUTIVE  PRODUCER: Lil James Prince
PRODUCERS: Ready Red / Prince Johny C
ENGINEER: Doug King
MIXED BY: Cliff Blodget

 

Geto Boys – Grip It! On That Other Level – (Ghetto Boys – Rare OOP)

Grip It! On That Other Level is the second studio album by the Houston hip hop group, Geto Boys (then known as Ghetto Boys), released on March 12, 1989 on Rap-A-Lot Records. Following the disappointing results of the group’s first album, Rap-A-Lot CEO James Prince replaced two of the group members with Scarface (then known as Akshen) and Willie D, who joined original members Bushwick Bill and DJ Ready Red. Recording for the album began in 1988, and finished in early 1989. The majority of the album’s tracks were produced by DJ Ready Red, and much of the album’s lyrical content deals with violent and misogynistic topics, which would later be credited for pioneering the horrorcore hip hop sub-genre.

hip hop-elitist

Upon its 1989 release, Grip It! On That Other Level reached number 166 on the Billboard 200 chart, and number 19 on the Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums chart. The song “Do it Like it G.O.” was the album’s only single used for promotion. Grip It! was well received in the hip hop community, and was considered to be the group’s breakout album, as it gave them national exposure and eventually sold 500,000 copies. A year after its release, super-producer Rick Rubin remixed 10 of its tracks for the 1990 remix album The Geto Boys. In 1998, The Source magazine included Grip It! On That Other Level on their 100 Best Albums list, and in 2002, they gave it the perfect five mic’ rating.

The very first pressings of the album featured the original and grammatically correct spelling of the groups name “Ghetto Boys” which would later be changed to the more familiar “Geto Boys” spelling.

ghetto-boys-grip-it
[dropshadowbox align=”none” effect=”lifted-both” width=”100%” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]ALBUM FACT: The bottom of the album cover contains the message – “Dedicated to the memory of NC Trahan”. NC was a friend of the groups who was shot and killed outside a gas station during the video shoot for Raheems “Dance Floor”.[/dropshadowbox]

 

“ULTRA RARE” First Ever Scarface Solo Release! (12″ Vinyl – Short Stop Records 1989)

The first ever 12 inch ‘maxi-vinyl’ solo release from Geto Boys’ member Scarface, then known as DJ Akshun.

This EP from 1989 is on the Short Stop Records label and came just before Face joined Rap-A-Lot to become a full Geto Boys member. 

Side A, contains the very first blueprint of the “Scarface” anthem that would later be remixed for the Geto Boys Grip It! On That Other Level album released that same year. The track became so synonymous with Brad Jordan that he adopted the “Scarface” title permanently. 

Side B has the track “Another Head Put To Rest

 I recently saw this listed on Ebay for £660 ($1000 USD) !!!!

TRACKLIST

A1Scarface
A2Scarface (Disco Version)
B1Another Head Put To Rest
B2Another Head Put To Rest (Disco Version)

CREDITS

  • Co-producerSamuel Harris, Jr.
  • EngineerDavid Donaldson 
  • Mastered ByRichard Simpson
  • Mixed By“Def Jam Blaster” Will Ross*
  • ProducerTroy Birklett
  • ScratchesMix Master “B” Bruce Rhodes*

[dropshadowbox align=”none” effect=”lifted-both” width=”100%” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]RAP FACT: Short Stop Records was owned by “Troy Lane Birklett” better known as Houston rapper “Lil’ Troy” who had a platinum album back in 1998.[/dropshadowbox]

 

Notorious B.I.G – Ready To Die – (OOP 1994 1st Press)

The debut album of The Notorious B.I.G., Ready to Die” was released on September 13, 1994 – which also, rather disturbingly – happened to be the same date that 2Pac died! It was recorded in two stages between 1993 and 1994. In 1993 Biggie was signed to Uptown Records label by Sean “Puffy” Combs who was an A&R there. The following year Biggie started recording his debut album mainly at The Hit Factory but also partly at D&D Studios, New York. This was the time when most of the albums darker tracks where also recorded.

Puff Daddy was eventually fired from Uptown and this caused Biggie’s career to be put on hold, as the album was only partially completed. Biggie returned to the studio the following year when Combs’ set up his Bad Boy Records label. In this stage, the more commercial-sounding tracks of the album were recorded, including the singles. 

The album was released with  the now iconic cover depicting an infant resembling the artist, though sporting an afro, which pertains to the album’s concept of the artist’s life from birth to his death. The album was also the first release on Puffy’s new Bad Boy label and features production from Easy Mo Bee, Chucky Thompson, DJ Premier, and Lord Finesse, among others.

Since the albums first release in 1994 it has since had many additional re-issues and special edition releases.

Below: UK and US original 1994 1st pressings. The UK and European version was released under “Puff Daddy Records”.

Ready To Die Discs

 

 Below: Ready to Die Promo disc and a remastered version from 2004
promo-biggie