Camden, New Jersey. Sewage drain of both Philadelphia and New York. Local families call their steel-barred homes â€˜birdcages.’ 90.000 inhabitants and 11.000 annual arrests on average . Camden ranked fifth on a 2006 list of â€˜America’s Most Dangerous Cities’ last year. According to other statistics New Jersey’s dirtiest little secret, aka The Badlands, is the most dangerous city in the country.
Growing up in a place like that must be tough love. Job prospects are nearly zilch. It’s either flipping Woppers or slinging dope. Sitting in the front of a delivery truck or the back of a patrol car. Az-Iz, frontman MC for Camden’s Nuthouse crew was introduced to a different path by his family. His older brothers were the first on his block to get turntables, and introduced him to hip-hop culture up close and personal.
“Introducing us, the Nuts, we be in the house
Causing the world’s greatest MC ever to have doubts
Just an ounce of this raw uncut strikes like an uppercut
Nothing but the stuff that you lust, but can’t touch
We a hundred percent from the clutch
Hushing all fuss, back up off us
Get tossed up, trying to cross us”
This excerpt from “Proceed To Build,” taken off the “Deez Nuts EP,” probably wouldn’t have been recorded if it wasn’t for Bobbito Garcia. In the late nineties, this New York radio host/sneaker fiend/hip-hop octopus was one of the few people who gave underground talent a chance on his Fondle â€˜Em label imprint. Bobbito heard a demo from the Camden crew, signed them on the spot, and the “A Luv Supreem” twelve inch record was released soon after. The gritty boombap ode to hip-hop and John Coltrane is one of the more sought after Fondle â€˜Em releases. I am happy to say I own two copies.
The relative success of “A Luv Supreem” outside of Badlands city limits allowed Az-Iz, Fel the Enignma and DJ Nex Millen to take a next step towards nationwide recognition. Instead of referencing their birth grounds to garner street status, the three chose to represent universal hip-hop purism.
Vicious but technical battle rhymes with focus on wordplay. The title “Deez Nutz,” both a popular joke and a song on Dr Dre’s opus “The Chronic,” is a good example of that. Dirty boombap beats with Jeru samples (“Correct Technic”), rattling spraycans (“Tagz, Throw Ups & Pieces”), blue keys (“Interlude #1”), and heavy horns, like on the ode to NY attitude:
“Growing up off crack peddling: forget about it
For wack contracts we never setlling: forget about it
Disregarding the four elements: forget about it
Acting hard when you really feminine: forget about it”
Az-Iz, who now goes by the name Dave Ghetto, spits his syllables at times as fast as a circus knife thrower, throwing darts at his lovely assistant during his â€˜fifty blades combo throw’ act. Fel the Enigma, now Fel Sweetenberg, acts as equipped sidekick with his slower, nasal flow to counterbalance Az-Iz.
Due to the lack of success, Da Nuthouse temporarily disbanded. Az-Iz opened up a record company across from the street he grew up in, and has moderate success under his new artist name Dave Ghetto. DJ Nex Millen toured with the Digable Planets camp and is involved with production project Beat Society. Fel, lastly, will be joining his Camden fam to record new Nuthouse material in the near future.
This EP stands for the values of old school New York hip-hop, even though the artists responsible grew up more than a few stones throws of the Bronx. It was made in a period where hip-hop already moved on to a new plane, no matter how many artists still long for the golden days. It is nothing more than that. If you are looking for some hard-hitting nostalgia, dig this one up in a second-hand record store.