Ever since hip-hop evolved into pop music, you're not supposed to show empathy or even sympathy for someone who doesn't really stand out from the crowd. Rappers always have to go over the top in their efforts to reach the top. I guess that's the American way of entertaining people. I may be old fashioned, but I still love hip-hop crews for the simple fact that they +do+ hip-hop. They don't even have to go to lenghts about how much they love that shit and how real they keep it. Just hit me with some decent beats and rhymes, that's it. I bet most crews would love to do just that, but very soon 'politics' will come into play: Do we need outside producers, are we aiming for airplay, are we going for a certain look, are some of the questions often asked by record label employees. I'm sure some of these things went into consideration when Street Connect began recording their debut album. But who really is to blame that they sound like some cats out of Queens? They +are+ from Queens, dammit. South Jamaica, Queens, New York, to be exact.
Queens has always been a good place to check out some hip-hop. As a matter of fact, some of rap music's biggest names call the New York borough their home: Nas, Mobb Deep, Ja Rule, The Beatnuts, L.L. Cool J, Run-D.M.C., etc. But just because the Queens city lights are shining bright on the hip-hop map does not mean that there's not hundreds of hungry artists trying to get some shine themselves. Here to introduce their borough's low and high spirits to the world are Street Connect, consisting of members Struc, B.O.B., E.T., and Meyerlanski. Four young men in their early twenties joining forces to achieve what none of them individually might be able to achieve. Oh you didn't know hip-hop was a team sport? Looking for a comparison in major league rap, Street Connect could be described as a group that incorporates Mobb Deep's street grit, the Lost Boyz' energy and enthusiasm and any rookie's ambition and determination. After a few singles Street Connect together with their producer Phil Rust took their game to the next level and recorded an album: "Here's how it's goin' down, time to step up / laid low for a while but we kept the rep up / four-deep hot niggas from Queens that's all out / Shit's crazy, know by all means it's all out / Prepare for a long ride that might end short / like a nigga with a ounce of coke that got caught / Get used to us, we ain't goin' nowhere / this time we spreadin' no more love, it's warfare."
"We Here", the first cut, is the perfect introduction with its atmosphere similar to the opening themes heard at sports events. The beat bounces up and down while the rappers interact with the backing melody, rendering the song extremely catchy. I'm caught by another pleasant surprise as soon as "Jamaica Chicks" kicks in. Lost Boy Mr. Cheeks returns the favor they did him with their apperance on "LB IV Life"'s "Only Live Once". Thanks to his presence the song could pass for a nice ode to all the around the way girls. Street Connect themselves get maybe a little too sexually explicit, but considering today's standards, the song would fit into any DJ set next to R. Kelly's "Fiesta" remix:
"Hen in the Coke, puffin on a blend of the choke
I keep it real, baby, tell you off the top that I'm broke
Ain't got no time to tell the truth, see, you get nothin but lies
It's somethin this size, bend it over, nut on her thighs
They say they got a man, but not behind a closed door
Full-blown whores and they fuckin us all four
Don't blame me if you don't see her till the followin' day
I put you on, yo, your girl said she swallow away
So don't be kissin on her till she be doin' it right
Had to admit it, son, she knew just what to do with the pipe
Had it all on tape, strawberry to grape
Keep the camcorder, bitches out here screamin out 'rape'
I ain't tryin' to catch a Tyson or a Tupac charge
"Listen To Your Man", a single out by Chico Debarge
I see you, do you see me? It's all in the game
Heard they best friend was diamonds, but they all in the chain"
Next up is their answer to wanna-be-thug rappers, "I Don't Wanna Hear It". That's one that could easily turn against them. But still, they do it convincingly, supported by a musical backdrop that's meant to go to war. But Street Connect are not really looking for trouble. They'd rather hit it rich ("Rich"). They might very well achieve their goal with the uptempo "Shoutin' Out" which is very hard to resist. The first third is almost up, and Street Connect and Phil Rust make sure they win this one with the superb "Hi Music". This slow-mo banger will have you tripping out for real.
Unfortunately it's slowly downhill from here. They obviously put their best efforts first. Neither the producer nor the rappers manage to resume their duties they fulfilled so bravely at the beginning of this CD. None of the remaining tracks feel right. They lack identity and intensity. Listening to songs like "Crazy", "Ghetto", "I See U", "Endangered", "2 Die 4", "Rhyme Inventors", "Hood Nigga" I'm reminded of lumps of rock whose ore has yet to be retrieved. "Soul For Real" is musical but sounds too much like something Havoc or RZA would have done a few years ago. As evidenced by "It's Cool (The Way I Be)", Street Connect are at their best when they display their own brand of brashness over an anthemic track.
It seems like in order for you to get recognized in hip-hop nowadays, your style has to be extremely attractive or the exact opposite. The regulars kinda fall between. That's part of the devilish deal hip-hop has made to be allowed into the pop pantheon. But not everybody gets admittance. Street Connect aren't 'pop' yet, they're 'hip-hop', four young rappers out of Queens trying to chase this dream. So if you love hip-hop, let the pop market make Ja Rule a millionaire and invest in some futures like Street Connect. Their self-titled debut album is available through Landspeed Distribution.
Music Vibes: 6 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 4 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 5 of 10
Originally posted: October 20, 2001