My introduction to Godfather Don in the early 1990’s was his appearances on the slept on Ultramagnetic MC’s album “The Four Horsemen.” Little did a young Flash know that Don had actually made his debut two years earlier with a full length album called “Hazardous” on Select Records. I’m baffled to think that the same label that released albums by Chubb Rock, Kid ‘n Play and AMG dropped a full length LP that went completely under the radar for me. I could blame the fact that I grew up in a relatively isolated part of the Midwest, but I was already subscribed to The Source and posting on Usenet newsgroups, so I wasn’t exactly out of the loop. Regardless I don’t remember anybody talking about Don back then.
The album’s cover highlights three songs worthy of your attention, but to call them “singles” seems ludicrous. Not only a radio programmer of the era unlikely to put a song named “Homicide” on the air, the song starts with Don immediately proclaiming “WHAT THE FUCK?” in the very first bar. Now if satellite radio had existed back then none of this would’ve been a problem, but Don’s violent and antagonistic ode to “street knowledge” had no chance even with a radio edit. The Guru sample from “Just to Get a Rep” makes me smile though as does the Bomb Squad style production.
“On and On” had a better chance to advance. The beat and the vocals sound like a lost K.M.D. track, and he doesn’t spit a single profane word. The entire point of the track seems to be an exercise in how many words Don can spit without having to draw a breath, befitting the song’s name and Chuck D samples. If there had been a music video and a little bit of a push behind this one it could have been a modest hit for Select, but from where I stand it doesn’t feel like they even tried. It’s almost like they released “Hazardous” out of contractual obligation and dropped Don immediately afterward.
The style of Don’s rap on “Losers” bares little resemblance to the manic scattershot delivery he’d bust out on Ultramagnetic tracks like “Raise It Up.” Instead he’s “dropping science like a can of Napalm” on rap heads, while simultaneously dismissing those who drop out of school or abuse drugs. I’d almost call this “Edutainment” based on how sincere Don is in his desire to set a positive example. It’s certainly the polar opposite of “Homicide” in almost every respect, but maybe that’s indicative of the problem Select had marketing Godfather Don. He was a versatile rapper who could fit into almost any style of the era, but when you’ve already got the commercial appeal of Kid ‘n Play and Chubb Rock, Don ends up being an afterthought. Godfather Chubb? Not necessary. Kid Don? Nah. He was out of luck.
“Hazardous” is filled with interesting tracks that deserved a larger audience in its era. Don gets “a little deep” on “Full Circle” kicking flavor to the people over an uptempo beat. His rapid fire delivery on “Sleepin’ With the Enemy” rivaled any speedy spitter of the time, and the Chuck D samples (a recurring refrain) were played at 78 RPM just to keep up. “Black Time” features the same Roy Ayers “We Live in Brooklyn, Baby” sample as “Home Sweet Home” by Smif-N-Wessun and “Reality” by Black Moon among others. It’s one of those loops that never gets old to me, and it’s as Afrocentric and pro black as the most fervent X-Clan or Poor Righteous Teachers track. Speaking of familiar loops, you’ll hear the drum break from “The Assembly Line in “Read the Lines” too.
I’m going to bottom line this and say you should buy “Hazardous” and not just because Godfather Don got the shaft in ’91. Even if the album had been given the marketing push it deserved, it still would have aged well over the years as a fine example of New York/East coast rap styles from the era. I’d love to know the backstory of who signed Don and who dropped the ball on promoting him properly, but at least the album got pressed and released. That’s slightly more fair than the innumerable amount of rappers who recorded entire albums that never saw the light of day due to shady music industry politics.