Halfway through this ludicrous countdown of rap’s finest duo’s catalogue, here’s #150-126:
150. “Welcome to Brownsville”
Album: Warriorz (2000)
“I’m from B.R.O.W.N.S.V.I. double L. E
What the fuck you gon’ tell me?” – Lil’ Fame
Kicking off their best album, “Welcome to Brownsville” is the perfect introduction to a new M.O.P. album (after DJ Premier’s “intro”) and feels like a big step up from “First Family 4 Life”. The production is crisp, the adlibs pack more weight and that’s got to be down to the superior engineering from Premier and Eddie Sancho. The fact Teflon kicks off the verses is a nice touch too.
149. “The Money Got Lost”
Album: Marxmen Cinema (2004)“
A brief yet light-hearted moment where money gets lost and Fame’s attempt at storytelling just ends in a gunfight. Sean Price did something similar with the “Bag of Shit” track that managed to be so stupid, yet never lost that sense of authenticity. Sure, we can laugh about money getting lost NOW, but this is actually serious. That classic dark M.O.P. humour.
148. “A Serious Problem”
Artist: Amadeus360 The Beat King feat. M.O.P. & Teflon
“When I was broke I used to rub cologne from magazines on my shirt” – Lil’ Fame
Amadeus isn’t much of an emcee but has M.O.P. on a couple of new tracks with full videos. The track “Yah Done” is adlibbing for a hook but this gem is Billy, Fame and Teflon spitting together. Fame’s jab at SnitchN9ne is worth noting, an emcee never afraid to name names.
Artist: M.O.P. feat. Teflon
Album: St. Marxmen (2004), Ghetto Warfare (2006)
“Fuck the yappin’ and the rappin’ back and forth” – Lil’ Fame
Occasionally Fame and Billy turn it up to eleven when they enter the booth and Fame sounds like he’s foaming at the mouth on “Instigator”. It’s a frank attack on emcees beefing on record and throwing subliminals, with Fame stating it should be settled in the street if that’s how an artist portrays themselves on their records and videos.
146. “That Time”
Artist: Billy Danze feat. Lil’ Fame
Album: We Busy (2021)
“How you got four watches and can’t do time?” – Lil’ Fame
The newest song on this list, a rare moment where Billy featured Fame on a solo track. This is from the new Billy Danze album, and while I’m still to be convinced of their ability alone to hold down a whole project, new music from either is always welcome. The production from TooBusy is excellent and feels different to their previous work (aka. it’s not reliant on horns and pianos).
145. “That’s All We Know”
Album: Underground Legends mixtape (2007)
“I’ve got a low tolerance level and I’m off-balance” – Billy Danze
This fucking beat!!! J-Love interrupts it with his loud production tag and the quality of the available MP3s is disappointing, but this is a hidden gem as far as M.O.P. mixtape cuts go. Taking money and fucking bitches is supposedly all they know, but Fame takes ignorance to new levels with his trip through hell.
144. “Off Wit His Head”
Album: The Return of the Warriorz mixtape (2007)
Not unlike Pun’s song of the same name, this rare mixtape entry is a bullet-ridden showcase for Billy Danze. It’s a typical street track you’d find on a New York mixtape in the early 2000s, but where a Jadakiss or 50 Cent would use charisma and wit to get their superiority over, Billy bulldozes the listener with “BOOM”s and “KRRKRRRAOOOWW”s. Fame is similarly raucous, and when the gunshots go off at the end of the track, it might be the most natural use of the “gunSFX.wav” in music history.
143. “Street Certified”
Artist: M.O.P. feat. Mobb Deep
Album: Street Certified (2014)
“Every DJ with a Serato know my motto” – Lil’ Fame
A rare case of a M.O.P. track sounding like the featured artist’s catalogue instead of the other way round. Prodigy is up first and delivers an underwhelming verse that just peters out before it reaches the hook, saved by a fiery Fame performance and the ludicrous moment Billy Danze says he knows the “n**** sat next to Obama”.
142. “To the Death”
Album: To the Death (1994)
With that haunting synth immediately generating an image of New York housing projects in the early 90s, this title track from M.O.P.’s debut is one of the few times their older work excels. It’s raw, but it’s not an aesthetic here, more a feeling. The snares sound like Havoc ones, in fact there’s a distinct Mobb Deep feel to “To the Death”, from its sonic influences to its grim, constant fear of death.
141. “I Luv”
Artist: M.O.P. feat. Bumpy Knuckles
Album: First Family 4 Life (1998)
“It’s a luxury to see me emcee” – Bumpy Knuckles
Freddie Foxxx has great chemistry with Billy and Fame – it’s a shame they haven’t worked together more. While it’s not one of Premier’s stronger offerings, Bumpy highlights just how talented he is with his “rapped hook” approach. Something many overlooked on 2012’s “Kolexxxion” album where he transformed discarded Primo beats into a great full-length. Between 1998 and 2002, Bumpy was on fire and “I Luv” is similar in premise to his classic “Part of My Life”, as the musclebound emcee shares some of the things he loves (clue: it includes beating down emcees).
Artist: Screwball feat. M.O.P.
Album: Loyalty (2001)
Blaq Poet’s crew were blessed with excellent production credits on both their albums “Y2K” and “Loyalty”, and M.O.P. briefly appear on this Lee Stone track stating some methods of torture that lack the creativity of the classic Wu-Tang skit. It’s fairly generic, to be honest, but as you’re slapped over the head with a rapid-fire chain of bars and a sinister beat, it’s hard not to nod your head to it.
139. “Down 4 Whateva”
Artist: M.O.P. feat. O.C.
Album: First Family 4 Life (1998)
M.O.P. and OC? OK! You can tell this is 1998 as OC has that flow he had on the Jewelz CD the previous year (one of the tidiest in rap, may I add). As a song, “Down 4 Whateva” is as nonchalant as the title, but benefits from some classy scratches lending it a Primo feel. I just love the way Fame says “rapper duuuude”.
Album: Warriorz (2000)
“We’ll shit in the middle of your show like a horse at the circus” – Lil’ Fame
The lone R&B moment on 2000’s “Warriorz” sits at track 3 and can easily be construed as one for the ladies, that Billy and Fame want to get out of the way. Except, it’s not slow and is as romantic as a kick in the teeth. M.O.P. have always included soul in their beats, but rarely collaborate with actual R&B singers, but Product G&B complement the track nicely and even embrace the nastiness of “Warriorz” with their lyrics “Everyday we keep it gangsta, livin’ thug life, so what you motherfuckers want to do?” It’s generic as fuck, but it knocks!
137. “Stress Y’all”
Album: n/a (2001)
“Good evening, you contaminated semen” – Billy Danze
A guitar-driven B-side to “Cold as Ice”, this turned up later on the Mash Out Posse album (M.O.P. verses remixed with heavy metal). The irony of Billy and Fame saying “Don’t stress y’all” in between hyped verbal assaults (and threats of physical assaults) is not lost on me, but is part of a long line of ironic tracks in their history (see: “Stop Pushin'” and “Calm Down”).
136. “One in the Chamba”
Album: Return of the Warriorz mixtape (2007)
“I feel like getting ill with steel like Mr Larry Davis” – Billy Danze
A revision of Almighty RSO’s classic ’92 single “One in the Chamber”, this features a cleaner beat and both Cocoa Brovaz (formerly Smif-N-Wessun) and M.O.P. – two duos on an upward trajectory. It’s quintessential east coast hip hop of its time, with Billy and Fame “pulling a Tupac” and name dropping the song title at the end of their verse. Well worth digging out.
135. “Operation Lockdown”
Album: Warriorz (2000)
“I’ve suffered a lot of setbacks and I accept that” – Billy Danze
A song you’d expect to see in 2020, this might be the only record to use the Morse code in a beat. Similar to Bumpy Knuckles’ “Industry Shakedown” in theme, a fairly ordinary melody comes alive thanks to a rip-roaring hook that simply states M.O.P. are going to “burn this motherfucker down”.
134. “Doin’ This For Years”
Artist: Smooth B & DJ Oshow feat. M.O.P.
Album: 12″ (2003)
The one song I don’t have, I’m slotting this in here based on NOTHING. It looks like a Japanese vinyl exclusive, and features on DJ Oshow’s “Vinyl Puzzle” compilation a few years later, which considering he’s a Japanese DJ, means it probably is only available in Japan. If anyone does have a rip of this, please send it my way!
133. “Born 2 Kill”
Album: Firing Squad (1996)
Even by 1996, “Firing Squad” felt like a record from the early 1990s. The stripped-back production and rallying cries that formed much of “To the Death” are more refined here and add potency to their sophomore, which includes two versions of “Born 2 Kill”. The original is morbid enough but a “Jazz Mix” adds some haunting vocal effects and a bloke saying “homiciiiiide, homiciiiide”. Hardly jazz, but also not enough to differentiate it from the original.
132. “Transition of Power”
Album: Decalogue (2009)“
Jedi Mind Tricks had the underground on lock in the 2000s but the star of the show was always Stoupe the Enemy of Mankind. His production continues to be overlooked, given he’s been quiet lately and the JMT brand isn’t the juggernaut it once was, yet his solo album “Decalogue” showcased that he could deliver with other artists too. “Transition of Power” is a strange song, because it’s SUCH a Jedi Mind Tricks beat that it almost overshadows the verses. Billy sounds better than Fame as his voice has more punch, but the Stoupe beat manages to steal the shine.
131. “Extended Family”
Artist: Journalist feat. M.O.P.
Album: Scribes of Life (2002)
Remember Journalist? He had the excellent “Scribes of Life” album and had some buzz back in the early 2000s. The song title is completely irrelevant, as it’s all about each emcee making a name, as Billy Danze states he’ll “burn this bitch down” on the hook. Another case of a M.O.P. track featuring on another artist’s project, highlighting just how much adulation emcees have for the M.O.P. style. If you’re getting Billy and Fame on a track, then it needs to sound like a M.O.P. song, essentially. And yes, it is produced by Fame, but it’s still a huge compliment to the duo.
130. “Break ’em”
Album: Sparta (2011)
“They’ll study my faeces” – Lil’ Fame
From the moment a jet flies over dropping off Billy and Fame, it’s on! You’re more likely to hear the boys getting busy over horns rather than pianos, so there’s an inherent West Coast feel to this Snowgoons track but it genuinely works. Violence ensues but Fame keeps it interesting with references to Waka Flocka, Manny Pacquiao and Count Basey. An eclectic fella is Fame.
129. “G Boy Stance”
Album: Marxmen Cinema (2004)
“You know better…
Than to try that ol’ bullshit from Def Jam Vendetta” – Lil’ Fame
A play on the B-Boy stance breakdancers do, this is an intense slice of brash attitude with a bunch of throwback references, loosely tying together the old school influences M.O.P. regularly pay respect to. The verses are largely superior to the hook, so it feels less like a fully-fledged song, hence why it appeared on the Marxmen Cinema CD.
128. “Brooklyn/Jersey Get Wild”
Artist: M.O.P. feat. Treach
Album: First Family 4 Life (1998)
Rarely do M.O.P. represent another area of the United States, but they join Treach for a joint effort that blends the style of Naughty by Nature’s friendlier approach to crafting anthems. Granted, this never lit the world on fire, but as an album cut from 1998 it’s held up well and reminds us all why Treach is so highly regarded by peers and fans alike.
Artist: Wyclef Jean feat. M.O.P., Bumpy Knuckles & Miri Ben-Ari
Album: Masquerade (2002)
“You don’t want to ride with us, we’ve got road rage!” – Lil’ Fame
While Wyclef rapping angrily should feel forced, this is a strong collaboration that sounds great in 2020. Wyclef’s albums have aged really well, and the decision to drop a single with Billy, Fame and Bumpy lends Clef some respect with rap fans and manages to sound completely natural too. The first minute is just the beat though, which is odd. Maybe Teflon missed his studio slot.
Artist: Black Moon feat. M.O.P.
Album: War Zone (1998)
No doubt following in “4 Alarm Blaze”‘s mould, this ominous cipher with Teflon, Buckshot and 5 FT does feel like annihilation is taking place, but it lacks the identity of either M.O.P. or Black Moon’s best work. Still, two of the great NY crews throwing down some bars is always a treat.