Thumbing through a stack of 25 cent CD’s at the local CD Warehouse, I stumbled across an album that caught my eye: Big Mello’s “Wegonefunkwichamind.” As a fan of first the Geto Boys and eventually Rap-A-Lot Records in the early to mid 90’s, I tried as best I could to keep up on the name and title of as many affiliated releases as possible. Of course, that wasn’t necessarily hard. Every time I visited my favorite music store Co-Op Records in Ames, IA (sadly it’s no longer there, it got replaced by a military recruitment office) the owner would hand me a fat stack of promotional flats from the label. Flats, you ask? Well they look like the cover of an album, but they’re a little thicker than a few sheets of paper and usually have the name of the first (or hottest) single on the flipside. Indie stores were supposed to put these up when they got their shipments, but Dean (the owner) used very few of them and generally gave away the rest to anyone interested, particularly regular customers.
Needless to say, the walls of my dorm room in college were plastered with a lot of “flats” for Rap-A-Lot releases. That classically twisted Geto Boys album cover with Bushwick Bill coming out the hospital sans one eye. Scarface and his enemies aiming more shotguns than a Michigan Militia at each other. But beyond the Geto Boys family were a lot of artists that few outside their core fanbase knew about or ever heard. The Terrorists. Convicts. Ganksta N-I-P. Raheem. Choice. Blac Monks. Odd Squad. Big Mello. Who? My wall knew them all. Unfortunately being a college student of little means and few connections meant I had to pick and choose which ones I would get, so I tended to stick with Geto Boys affiliated rappers first and only get the others when I could buy promo or cut-out copies.
Big Mello is one of the ones I slept on. “Wegonefunkwichamind” has a copyright date of 1994, placing it somwhere between “Til Death Do Us Part” by the Geto Boys and Bushwick Bill’s “Phantom of the Rapra.” Who is he? Where is he from? Mayne, I wish I could tell you. I can only assume he’s from Houston given the recurring references to H-Town throughout the CD, and that’s about it. Mello handles a lot of his own production, but you’ll also find Mike Dean and Crazy C lacing beats. What’s on the album you ask? That’s a lot easier to answer. Before the rise of Big Moe, DJ Screw, Lil’ Keke and Z-Ro, Big Mello was riding hard for Texas. He sounds similar to Scarface at times, although not as strident; and at times like the laconically cool Devin the Dude, but he’s also capable of flipping with the tongue as fast as Twista when he chooses to. For the most part though Mello lives up to his name – even when violent, he’s very suave and relaxed. Take a song whose title Silkk the Shocker would go on to borrow later – “Charge it 2 Da Game”:
“I gots no love for the motherfucker
(Man fuck that nigga Curtis, it ain’t even worth it)
Yo, I gotta buck him
He didn’t have to take my nigga out behind the dope
Because I know he woulda gave the motherfuckers what they want
And now a part of my life is, dead and gone
So now I gots to take it dere, to his motherfuckin dome
Lay deep in the cut and watch this nigga’s every move
Cause I know this motherfucker, is packin a pistol too
We don’t wanna put the laws in this, so we don’t talk our biz-ness
Because a scary nigga’s known to snitch
One deep on the solo creep, I haven’t slept in weeks
I’m smokin fry back to motherfuckin back G
Crazy, call it what you want
I want blood from his fuckin brain in a motherfuckin cup”
Excessively violent? Perhaps. But it’s curious how totally unphased he is. It’s not just that Big is Mello, it’s his self-produced track that sounds like vintage Dr. Dre “The Chronic” era G-Funk – complete with a slow-riding bassline, some whining synthesizer funk, and a fat beat. Maybe it’s perverse to like a man rapping about incredibly violent acts with the detached demeanor of a pothead, but then you could level the same criticism at Snoop Dogg, B-Real, and even Ice-T. Instead of criticism then, it becomes praise, because Big Mello fits aptly into their categories. Their “laid back cool,” especially in the eras when they rose to fame, had the worldview that even though life was fucked up there was no reason to stress out about it. And when you hear Mello rap the words, “life ain’t nothin’ but bitches and money/and when the shit hits the fan the whole room gets funky” on his title track, he’s epitomizing that ideal to a tee. Perhaps it’s not so perverse after all. One could argue it’s an entirely rational and natural response to life’s hard knocks. Stressing too much causes a heart attack, but being mellow (pun intended) keeps you alive.
Sadly, none of the A-List members of the Rap-A-Lot family, or even the B-List members, showed up to lend Big Mello any support. Mello proves himself capable of holding down almost the entire album himself, except for a few cameo appearances by artists like Nina Ross, Lil Marcus, Vikta Blak and Baby-J. Who? They don’t even make the album’s back cover, you can only find them in the liner notes. In fact the only guests listed are Sister Krystal and the Reverand Jew Don Boney, who have a pro-black political interlude coming halfway through the album. Yes, I’m saying “WHO?!” right along with you – they’re even more obscure than the roster of artists in this review’s second paragraph. Nevertheless there’s a lot of funky rap to go around here. The raunchy “Highschool Kat,” the incredibly smooth rider’s anthem “Dat Killa,” the retro-soul throwback “Afro’s & 84’s,” the uptempo and bouncy “No Hidin Place,” the list goes on and on. In fact if I may be so bold, I dare say Mello may have unfairly gotten the shaft not only by the hip-hop nation at large, but his own Southern peers. Who have you heard give love to Big Mello? Props to Big Mello? Recognize Big Mello for his contributions to hip-hop? Somebody should. Over a decade ago, this rapper/producer released a solo album which is contemporary to any “G-Funk” or “Reality Rap” album to come out in oh-three, and probably a damn sight better than a lot to be released in oh-four. Is this album worth the price of admission to a game of Pac-Man? Hell no. It’s worth a LOT more. If you see “Wegonefunkwichamind” in stores and you’re a fan of anyone from Warren G to Willie D, you should give it a chance.