Black Sheep :: A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing :: Mercury
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **
as reviewed by DJ Fatboy

Their name came about because of their standing in the Native Tongue family: There was De La, the daddies of the whole thing, the deep thinkers; Tribe, the sensitive, younger, more party prone version; Jungle Bros, the crazy, experimental ones. And then there was Black Sheep from North Carolina. Dres the MC and Mista Lawnge the DJ. The Smart-Asses.

So naturally, they're endearing. You can't help but to like an album where the intro track tells the listener to "head for the hills....and hide your hoes" and then launches into an over the top parody of the early 90's gangster era, where our protagonist kills his sister for using his toothbrush before going downstairs to wreak havoc on the parents: "Ma! You broke my fuckin EGG YOLK!"/ Jumped on her face, kicked her in her teeth."

But then Black Sheep steps back from the pure comedy and drops what was their signature style at the time: Jazzy little breaks over loud drums at midtempo. Sure, they deviated now and then, but the majority of tracks on here ("Butt in the Meantime," "Have U.N.E. Pull," "Gimme the Finga," for example) stick pretty close.

The standouts? Theres, of course, the single hits at the time. "Flavor of the Month," is a smooth slice of funk, and the monster "The Choice is Yours" and it's remix blew up dance floors like crazy. Still does, as a matter of fact. I mean, watch the reaction of any head when he hears the rising volume of "Engine engine, number nine/on the New York transit line/If my train goes off the tracks/ pick it up, pick it up PICK IT UP!"

But those aren't the only gems on this album. "Similak Child" sports a eccentric, but still bangin beat, complete with slinky, seductive guitar line, coupled with (of all things) a rhythmic pattern of dog barking. Yes. Dog barking. Yet it still works. "La Menage" is the prerequisite sex track, featuring Q-Tip, who it seems was testing out his present day persona on the track: "Lawnge plus hoes plus Tip equals wet cheeks" "Butt in the Meantime" is a perfect introduction to the unique voice and flow of Dres and his own slang. ("Cest La poo-poo," "Van-daaam" "flam") and also sports probably the only use of "Goonie-Goo Goo" in a rhyme. Oh yeah, and the beat is pretty fuckin fat, too. "Pass the 40" is a nice group cut, too, featuring some Chi-Ali in a cipher setting. "Strobelite Ho" is a funny track with a smooth ass beat, documenting Dres adventures at a club when the strobelight starts fuckin with his vision.

The one instrumental track, "For Doz that Slept" is a definite gem. Production is fat as hell, building on itself continuously, switching up, dropping elements only to throw them all back in again. Oh yeah, and there's an operatic chorus constantly singing "F-FUCK YOU!" over and over again. As the Sheep themselves would say, "Van Daam, that's slamming"

There's a couple missteps, of course. The skit disease struck this album, and while most are entertaining at first, they get tired pretty quick...well, all of em except "L.A.S.M." which stands for "Ladies Against Sexist Motherfuckers" Dres and Lawnge get to have it both ways, playing the nonchalant pimps, and at the same time skewering the whole image. Also, some of their tracks go too far into the eccentric side, and end up more mildly annoying than interestingly dope. Also, Dres' smarmy, wink-and-a-smirk style tends to wear just a tad thin over an entire album.

The Sheep set a playful, sarcastic, laid back easy going mood on their initial effort. Reward yourself by picking up this solid debut. You won't be hitting the fast forward button too many times, and more often than not, you'll be sporting your own sly grin and dismissing people with "I said...Layter, maan."

Music Vibes: 7 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7 of 10

Originally posted: June 12, 2000