“When the streets are full of smoke, and the sound of the roaring guns, they’ll say to you ‘Do you think we’re really brave, or just lacking in imagination?’ Well – they’ve been warned, that the testing days are ahead. Of the past months, they may well say, we’ve lived a life – not an apology. And of the future, I think most of them would say, we shall live hard, but we shall live.” – Edward R. Murrow
Those words echo down the corridors of time from World War II to the present day, where they wind up scratched into the intro of the song “B.A.P.” by DJ Premier and Bumpy Knuckles, a fitting acronym for a boom bap hip-hop song. That’s not the only thing fitting though – the title of “KoleXXXion” references both the nature of this collaboration (a collection of Primo’s best beats and Bumpy’s best raps) and gives a sly hint back to the “Konexion” album from 2003, back when Bumpy was better known as Freddie Foxxx. Coincidentally I’m the one who authored that review nearly a decade ago, so my own words echo to me across the years as I read what I wrote in the summary: “The great songs on this album can carry the listener through the mediocre ones.” I’ve always loved the passion of Bumpy’s lyrical delivery, but he hasn’t always had production to match. The brassy horns and clever scratches of “B.A.P.” are exactly what “Konexion” needed back then – but better late than never!!
“How come so many people wanna hear me and the Preem?
Cause that’s that boom bap killer supreme
Niggas get scared and they run to Preem
Can you please ask Bumpy to release the team?
Come on goon in the booth; now you all quiet
cause you know you in the room with the truth
I don’t give a fuck about your gun, I got one son
But the difference is, I pop, like gum
You Run, like Rev, no diss
Just real metaphorically sick, with my shit
Because I put time into the rhyme style quality moments in the booth
I write down truth, and spit it
Salute my nigga Gifted Unlimited Rhymes”
SALUTE. We must also note a hint of irony here – so many artists have tried to pick up Keith Elam’s torch since his passing (including many he worked with while alive) but by creating an entire album of thumping hip-hop with Primo the Long Island native just lapped them all in the race. I’m not trying to be sacrilegious by declaring “KoleXXXion” the spiritual successor to GangStarr, but if Primo and Foxxx aren’t then WHO IS? This is the album Guru would make with Primo if he were alive today to reunite and collaborate, although Guru’s voice would have to get a lot more gravelly and angry. That’s one reason Bumpy/Freddie has remained a fan favorite an amazing four decade span – he has a POWERFUL vocal presence. Guru once rapped that it was “mostly the voice, that gets you up” and Freddie does it with a verbal ferocity that grabs you by the throat and refuses to let go. When he says “deep down you really a BITCH” on “Evreebodee,” he’s not joking:
“Everybody wanna be angry! (Why you mad?)
Where was y’all at when Bumpy was angry?! (“The Shakedown”)
Everybody wanna be a deejay
Lot of y’all suck at bein deejays! (Word!)
Everybody wanna be rappers
Bars be corny as shit!
A lot of y’all sideline clappers!
Know y’all bein phony and shit!
My voice so nice over Primo style
Penmanship through kicks and snares
Bumpy ’bout to get another Run in the rap game
like, me and D.M.C done paired
I still like rippin mics, cause that’s what emcees do
Preem on the one and two
I’m one of few, that could stand before boom bap greatness
and body shit like I do! True”
This album sounds like the pent up rage I feel when listening to one mediocre rapper after another on Shade 45 talk about absolutely NOTHING whatsoever. “Diamonds – flawless, shining – not this fake shit that niggaz wear rhyming!” Bumpy rails against the phony on “The Life” and if you have a pulse beating in your hip-hop heart, you’ll be pumped up by his war cry. The song makes you want to Hulk out, flip cars over, and go out to find the highest soapbox you can stand on and yell until the public hears “the hardcore truth” and emcees get back “the publishing that people done stole” over the last 35 years. This is the sound of a MMA fighter who doesn’t smile and hug his opponent and apologize for trash talking when the fight is over. Bumpy Knuckles would look him in the face, spit on the ground and go “FUCK YOU, I still don’t like you. And WHAT?!” The song “Greatness” may embody it all, over a beat Bumpy declares “that next level Primo niggaz ain’t even up on”:
“These bitch ass niggaz said I stepped my game up
I said y’all just started listenin
‘Caiuse I’ve been spittin niggaz a path to walk, real talk
The microphone’s on I’m rippin it
So what it B to the U, M-P-Y
It’s no beef with y’all niggaz, when y’all die
Six foot one inch, thirteen size
with a gap in my teeth, and Chinese eyes
Tell your mama stop flirtin boy I’m not a good step pop
I interrupt your little session, and wreck shop
New legends no time in the game
And the label done bought you a hit like a dope fiend
Shit! (Word up) This is what it is
over dope, Preme, spit – GRRRRR!!!
With them second grade rhymes, Cat In The Hat
Bring it on stage and get cracked with a bat”
There are only two collaborations on this album, which is fine by me, because I don’t want anybody getting in the way of Bumpy’s aggressive flow. Still Flavor Flav providing the hook on “Shake the Room” is fun and is a reminder of just how deep both of them are in the game. The other collab’ may cause even the most hardrock of hip-hop heads to bust a nut, as a truly legendary meeting of the minds occurs over Primo’s patented smooth melodies – Freddie Foxx and NASIR JONES. How this didn’t happen 20 years ago is a total fucking mystery. “Turn Up the Mic” already!
Nas: “I’m Nasty, buttfuck bitches, handcuff snitches
Feed they nuts to pit bulls and plan more business
Got sluts on leashes walkin on all fours
Have ’em eatin from dog bowls pettin’ they heads
Cause they love playin that role they sexy in bed
Smokin bud’ I’m outta control wish death on the feds
Cup spills with Grey Goose watchin snuff films
Laughin with dykes that wear patent leather with spikes”
Knux: “My bubble goose is stocked with double truth
for you old-assed gangsters and you troubled youth
Knowin – I hate cops and niggaz with cop friends
They still by weight in the hood they drop ends
with little marks on ’em scratched by the eye
You hand me a twenty, you must wanna die nigga!
I won’t remake a Pac record or say a Biggie verse
And I shoot you without smokin a Ziggy Marley first”
I wish I could pick out something I don’t like about the 19 tracks of “KoleXXXion” so that this review doesn’t come across like an unapologetic fan letter, but as Freddie Foxxx might say himself “MOTHERFUCK APOLOGIZING, R&B, AND ALL YOU PHONY FUCKS.” He’s here to bring the “P.A.I.N.E.” and addicted to blowing shit up on Primo beats.
“It’s the +SmackDown+! Fuck +The Rock+ and all that
I smack niggaz down, who think they all that
All you rap niggaz cat fightin just wanna be seen
In the magazine lip twisted, lookin all mean
I got a heart like Mean Joe Green
And I run niggaz down and got paid for it, since sixteen
I’m a addict B, this thug shit is like nicotine
And I can’t stop smokin, I can’t stop smokin
I’m like Rakim with muscles +No Jokin+
If niggas tried to disrespect +My Melody+
I’m gunnin for the felony”
There’s no moment during the first listen of “KoleXXXion” I didn’t mark out at some scratch or sample Primo dropped, some beat he flipped, some punchline or metaphor Bumpy spit, or ALL OF THE ABOVE. Freddie may be borderline psychotic, vowing “you’ll never seen me cry (like) these emotional-ass rap motherfuckers” on “D’lah,” but WHO CARES? Let him be the angriest rapper in rap – with beats like this there are few things that sound better. In fact the only thing that would probably be better than this is if Lil’ Fame and Billy Danze were rapping with him. That would be a supergroup so angry it might cause a nuclear explosion. Even if Primo chills it out a little on a song like “More Level” or “Ownit” Bumpy still has a deadly menacing edge on the mic that’s hype to listen to. And here’s the bottom line on why this works, straight from the latter song:
“To say you started it is whack shit, the flow is classic
You know if you was diggin through them discount baskets
Jewelry is just a dressing
Let’s strip it down to raw skills, purify the lesson
A lot of niggaz think cause they rhyme on Premo that could validate your skill
Yeah but we know, that that’s not the real scenario
Like Milo, Dinco and Brown, on stage without Busta
Now that’s not the real +Scenario+”
If you were a fan of either Primo or Freddie Foxx before this album, you’ll love it; if you were IGUARANTEE you won’t put this one down any time soon.