When pre-teen musical acts hit puberty, the transition to adulthood is as painful emotionally as it is musically. Kris Kross had already reached the peak of success by going four times platinum on “Totally Krossed Out,” but their maturing voices required a more mature follow up on “Da Bomb.” This was immediately problematic because nobody at Ruffhouse or Columbia Records wanted to give up the family friendly appeal that allowed their debut to be sold worldwide without a parental advisory, so “Da Bomb” tried to have it both ways on songs like “It Don’t Stop (Hip Hop Classic).”
First of all the song’s title is inaccurate in terms of the song itself being a classic. They do reference an actual classic in the verses and samples, Run-D.M.C.’s “Here We Go (Live at the Funhouse),” but bars like “I’m the real deal like Coke is it” don’t age well unless you’re old enough to remember the New Coke controversy. It doesn’t even if you are that old. Furthermore since Kris Kross can’t actually swear because they’d get that parental advisory sticker, they get around it with “hard” lines like Daddy Mac saying “My rock is hard, you can not pull my card/I’m a shining star, shining near and far/Shining like the sun, shooting like a gun/Booyaka bookyaka so you niggaz better run!” Yes ma, the kids grew up because they can say “nigga” and talk about shooting weapons now. That’s prove they matured… right?
“Alright” is an even more blatant example of Kris Kross trying to have it both ways. Using the same “Just a Touch of Love” sample looped by everyone from De La Soul to D-Shot, Jermaine Dupri tried to give his young Atlanta proteges that adult swing. The chattah by Super Cat on the hook is nice, the instrumental is incredibly smooth, but they still can’t resist referencing their old hits by saying “Warm it up Chris! (That’s what I was born to do!)” If it’s not entirely obvious yet what the problem is with this otherwise enjoyable song, just check out the music video and see Mac Daddy and Daddy Mac doing their best to look, walk, talk and act like Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. Once you’ve seen it you can’t ever UN-see it. Dupri even samples Calvin Broadus on the hook of “I’m Real.”
The end result on “Da Bomb” is Kris Kross has a credibility problem. It’s not like we didn’t already know they were Jermaine Dupri’s hand picked creation, shaped and molded for rap music stardom, but on this sophomore effort we realized just how malleable the clay was. “Two niggaz puttin it down/for all the real niggaz around” quips Dupri on the outro. Oh really? What’s real about it? You made them a pop rap kiddie act, then did a complete 180 and tried to make them West coast G-funk emcees, so it wasn’t hard to dismiss them as not having an original thought of their own. If they had come along in the 1980’s they would have had an Afrocentric phase and a beatnik hippie-hop album too.
The most notable thing about their album may be the fact the title track introduced the world to Da Brat, who in short order would supplant Kris Kross as Jermaine Dupri’s “mature” act. She could rap harder and faster than either of them, and he gave her a soul sample for “Funkdafied” that had already worked (and would continue to) for a million other emcees — the Isley Brothers’ “Between the Sheets.” Try mixing Biggie’s “Big Poppa” with “Funkdafied” and you’ll see what I mean right away.
Riding the wave of momentum that began with “Totally Krossed Out” this album managed to go platinum too — but certainly not because of mediocre attempts to show how hard they were like “Take Um Out.” The returns would only continue to diminish as their third release just barely went gold, but that’s another story for another day.
As with all of these retrospective Kris Kross reviews though I want to say Rest In Power to Chris “Mac Daddy” Kelly, a young man who was chewed up and spit out by the entertainment industry once they no longer enjoyed his flavor. There’s a reason it’s dangerous to have pre-teens and teens become successful actors and musicians. I’m not saying you can’t grow up well adjusted if it’s managed carefully, but it’s never a surprise when it leads to depression, drug abuse or both. It’s too much pressure to put on someone so young, and the same can be said of Jermaine Dupri trying to remake them into loc’d out West coast gangsters on “Da Bomb.” It was a terrible, terrible idea.