Just to get the point across clear, "Babygrande" is by no means the name of an artist - although it definitely may be the name of an artform. Conceived by Gadfly Communications as a series of mixtapes that in their own words "promote the work of DJ's and artists we love," this first installment in the series is mixed by DJ E-Love. E-Love definitely lends credibility to the project, as a spinner well known to fans of the underground at small hip-hop spots, and her bio also says she's been profiled in Timeout Magazine (I for one have never heard of it).
Anyway, it's all about the music, and the music starts out with Mos Def crooning on the song "California." Yes, as in "California - knows how to party," an old school phrase Tupac breathed new life into, and which Mos seems to be inspired by. Inspiration is a good thing, but Mos Def keeps on getting Less Def with these songs where his inner R&B child screams to get out over a bunch of slow, slurry, sloppy singing. Whatever happened to "Universal Magnetic?" Let's bring it back to that new school rap.
Thankfully, legit songstress Jill Scott shows up to bless the beat from the Eric B. & Rakim classic "In the Ghetto" on the song "High Post Brother," which features a cameo by Common. This is a track where you can't be mad at either, and it's only a shame we didn't hear more raps like this from Com on that "Electric Circus" madness. Keeping the soul theme going is Soultice, who flows over a DJ Spinna remix of "The Reason."
Before things drift too far afield into urban contemporary, J. Soze reels us in with "If You Only Knew." This one blends the beat from Pharcyde's "Passin' Me By" with a rap flow that's eerily (and pleasantly) reminiscent of Jean Grae:
"If I told you what I think, would it scare you for long? (what if)
Could you handle all the pressure of bein love's icon
I dedicate my life to you and I don't even know why
Don't know my name or my game, all that shit aside (yo fuck that shit)
Your voice coursin through my veins like heron, quick get high and get gone
Get lost in you like Rawls, endlessly loving you
Next lifetime I'll be your lifeline, take my time
I'll make you mine, you don't know you will in due time (I will have you)"
Hopefully this is just a taste of the flavor Soze has to offer, because this small sample of the funky stuff ain't enough. The album again sticks to themes, blessing us with the talents of females like Chia Ses on "Deep Blue Sea" and the more well known Mystic on "The Life." Hi-Tek's track "Hi-Teknology" breaks things up a bit, although Tek is really better when he plays the background as opposed to rapping in the foreground - and calling himself "best kept secret since Diamond D" is a stretch. Afterward you can either drift through R&B ballads like Lina's "It Ain't Me" (taking big beat swing into new school trash talking) and Dawn Robinson's "Envious" (taking En Vogue into places no one cares about) or skip ahead to get to "The Whole World" by OutKast. I recommend the latter.
Coming just after the halfway point of the album is Cherrywine's "16th Minute." You may recognize the artist as Ishmael from the group Digable Planets, and he's still got the same nice flow although his beat boogie background is now a hard rock sound. It's a good lead into the less talented Shabaam Sahdeeq's "Bubblin'" though, the perennial New York underground MC who always seems to get on and never seems to get over. Obviously hoping for some Fabolous or P. Diddy love with the title and the subject matter, one hates to dissapoint Sahdeeq and say that it's never going to happen. It's reminiscent of when Royce Da 5'9" tried to blow up with Willa Ford on "I Wanna Be Bad" and nearly sabotaged his whole career - except Sahdeeq doesn't have a career to begin with.
Fortunately, Skillz (for no comprehensible reason he dropped "Mad" from in front of his name) brings the flavor with a rap called "Ya Favorite Joints" that many people downloaded last year as the "Ugly Freestyle" set to the Bubba Sparxxx song of the same name. For those who haven't heard it, the punchline comedy king doesn't fail to dissapoint while naming ya favorite joints from last year in a spontaneous train of thought chain:
"Got Skillz, and that's no doubt
You could ('Put Ya Hands Up'), you might as well ('Knock Yourself Out')
That's the damn amthem, raps taste like candy
But y'all won't see me like Suge in Miami
And - I'm.. gon'.. make.. it
Half of y'all get on TV and fake it
Cause see after the show, I'ma start the thuggin
And hit a Lil' Mo and get a 'Superwoman'
Then ('ANTE UP!'), man I told dem hoes
Girls, shake it fast when I ('throw dem bows')"
The nearly invisible Mic Geronimo comes out of the files of seminal hip-hop to rebuild his career on "Shit Still Real" with DMX. Ironic that five years ago DMX would have been the no-name and Geronimo the NY underground hero, but most people will probably check this track for D's cameo in 2002. Followed up by the Capone-N-Noreaga remix of Kool G Rap's "My Life," and Snoop Dogg track titled "Hot Pursuit," the tape is building to a hot finish. Bad Seed & Boogieman do a remake of "Brooklyn's Finest" I'm not mad at, and then to make it brutal at the end we hear the Nas diss of Jay-Z "Ether" and Jigga's "Superugly" response. For those who didn't catch the latter track, this is a treat:
"I don't gotta two-way you gays
This is not beef this is rap homie, I don't have a scratch on me
You feel Jay soft? Rip Jay off
Damn I'm only worth over a hundred million
Look, I got beef with like a hundred children
Niggaz with pink suits (faggot) tryin to get cute
You a little out of line homey, don't let the nine homey
put you out your mind homey - just rhyme homey
Kick your little lies, I kick my real facts
Like you sneakin out the back of the Source Soundlab"
It gets more vicious than that, but if you don't already know the M.O. cop the Babygrande "Volume One" and you can hear the ish for yourself. Sure you could download it somewhere, but with over 66 minutes worth of tracks and a higher quality of material overall than you'll hear on most so-called mixtapes these days, this CD is definitely the one to cop for some of 2K2's best, both well known and otherwise.
Music Vibes: 7.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7.5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7.5 of 10
Originally posted: March 18, 2003