"Now growin' up as a kid in the ghetto
there wasn't no horses, no lake or no meadow
And I bet you'd find it hard for you to settle
In the house I was Edward, on the streets my name was Edo"
It's a mere detail, but to give you an example of how quickly rappers get stereotyped, I remember a press notice from the early '90s that announced the arrival of a "hardcore" rap group from Boston by the name of Ed O.G. & Da Bulldogs. The tone of the article implied that another crew of hardrocks had gotten lucky simply because one more major label tried to get a piece of the pie. It was only years later that we found out that said label mistakingly had tagged the rapper with the West Coast seal of approval O.G. ('Original Gangster'), turning Edo.G into Ed O.G., leading many to expect another gun-busting gangbanger. In reality Edward Anderson had been recording as Edo(-Rock) since he was a member of Roxbury's Fresh to Impress crew in the mid-'80s. Consequently, there were no drug raids and driveby's on "Life of a Kid in the Ghetto," just episodes in the life of a young man who knew his calling:
"I don't wanna stand on a corner, I'm emceein'
Call me a goody-two-shoes who's in the right shoes, bee
I don't have to pump jumb's to clock g's"
To be precise, Ed did relate a couple of incidents that involved drugs and gangs on the album's title track, but he portrayed them as sobering experiences that prompted the kid to get his grown man on for good.
As a rapper, Ed was quick to secure his place in history. "Life of a Kid in the Ghetto" made him the first national Boston representative. As he said himself on the Kreators' "Home" years later: "No one knew Boston could rap / till Ed put this shit on the map." His debut produced two successful singles who get recognized to this day. "I Got to Have It" still thumps like new, the playful and soulful piano sample harmonizing perfectly with the drum machine adding extra pep, as the Bostonite introduces himself to the world:
"I stay hard like an erection
I'm burnin' suckers, so wear protection
Now who's next when Ed's flexin'?
I'm the bread, and you are just a crumb off
Jerkin' your jimmy but you still can't come off
I'm from Roxbury, the 'Bury, but not the fruit, y'all
Don't make me act like where I come from cause it's brutal
Hold my bone in a zone that's neutral
Soon to be large, the whole nine yards, but I ain't souped, y'all
Suckers be swearin' that their starin' is gonna scare me
Look but don't touch, and if you do, be prepared, gee
to go out, just like your first day off punishment
Da Bulldogs, Roxbury and Boston is what I represent
Da Black United Leaders Living Directly On Grooving Sounds
At first you didn't know us, but now it's like, 'Yo, put me down'
We didn't get in there so you can get in with us
You wasn't down when we was ridin' the bus
So put on your Adidas and step off
I got to have it"
2Pac quoted from it for "Young Black Male," Aceyalone paid tribute to it with "I Got to Have it Too," and Diddy jacked the beat for Mary J. Blige's "Ooh!" So many years later, it's hard to imagine a single reaching the top of Billboard's Hot Rap Singles charts that talks about the ills of the world and still manages to become a party anthem:
"Crack is more contagious than rabies
Baseheads broads are havin' basehead babies
Now how that sound? Not profound
Black people unite and let's all get down
I got to have it"
But Edo.G's biggest legacy in song form remains "Be a Father to Your Child." There's no measuring the importance of that song. It didn't change the course of hip-hop history, but it's a commentary so substantial and much-needed that it counters years and years of derogatory remarks and selfish talk so prevalent in rap music. Its message is self-explanatory once you hear the title, but the way Ed tackles the subject from different angles, always in the same reasonable but urging manner over the soulful, but never sugary track with its excellent incorporation of a saxophone, makes "Be a Father to Your Child" an all-time highlight in hip-hop. If this song doesn't hit home, it's hard to think of any other who will. No need to quote, you all heard the song. And if you didn't, call your local hip-hop station. Cause that one never plays out.
This timeless tune aside, "Life of a Kid in the Ghetto" shows its age. We're talking about a time when a rapper could shout out David Mays ("Go-Go Dave writes The Source") without provoking tirades about 'The Sauce' and Benzino. A time when rappers didn't just claim to be different, but actually were different. It's no coincidence the album starts off with "I'm Different," a point well made in spite of (the sampled) Big Daddy Kane first laying claim to being "different, so don't compare me to another." Ed too would have no comparisons: "I'm not like anyone else, so don't you think about makin' suggestions / 'He rap like so-and-so' - Hey yo, you know that's out of the question." He may have dared "thee to compare me to a soft-hearted sucker," but by today's standards Edo.G wasn't exactly hard. The worst names he would call you were "sap" and "sucker". Come to think of it, these were tame words even in 1991. That may have been as much due to Edo's conciliatory character as to his peripheral place of origin. Maybe Bostonites didn't realize the potential corniness of lines like "She wasn't like a radio, so I couldn't turn her down," "Get funky on you suckers like a gym sweat sock," "I'ma show this girl the meaning of my dick-tionary" and "Givin' me the cold shoulder, and it ain't winter?"
But not to make these times past appear slow-moving. In the late '80s, Boston native Guru's only option to further his career was to move to the Big Apple. Only a few years later, a Boston resident was signed to a major label. However, it's safe to assume that the participation of New York's famed radio duo Awesome 2 opened doors for Edo. Special K and Teddy Tedd produced the album in its entirety, assisted by Joe Mansfield (later a member of the Vinyl Reanimators). As long as they kept it simple, piecing together a couple of nice breaks, "Life of a Kid in the Ghetto" offers everything you look for when you're diggin' in the crates for some funky hip-hop ("I Got to Have It," "Bug-A-Boo"). Some cuts ("Feel Like a Nut") could be a tad bit rougher around the edges. And if you're familiar with Snoop's "Gz and Hustlas", "She Said it Was Great" (which uses the same sample) will sound strangely lethargic. The rap/R&B hybrid known as swingbeat interferes twice - "Gotta Have Money (If You Ain't Got Money, You Ain't Got Jack)" contains just the right dose (courtesy of vocal group Pure Blend), while "Let Me Tickle Your Fancy" (again featuring Pure Blend) suffers from cheesy keyboard layers, which also affect the otherwise energetic "I'm Different". "Stop (Think For a Moment)" sounds more like an experiment in sampling than a finished track.
But when it all falls into place, "Life of a Kid in the Ghetto" is a worthy representative of hip-hop's sampling heydays. The title track isn't as spectacular as some of the rest but nonetheless great, dripping with soul, jazz and funk. A highlight in every aspect is "Speak Upon It." Splicing black power speeches into a mixture of piano miniatures could actually be the uncredited work of Def Jef, who also contributes a verse to this examination of a justice system that is far from colorblind, where Ed and guests Ace & Quan comment on local homicides and how different they're viewed by the authorities and the public depending on the race of the murderer.
Ed also embarks on a couple of sexual escapades ("Feel Like a Nut," "Let Me Tickle Your Fancy," "She Said it Was Great"), but comes off decidedly stronger when he reflects on situations, for instance relationships. The sentiment of "Gotta Have Money" may have been nothing new, but today it's kind of refreshing to hear Ed mock the gangster myth:
"It seems girls' dreams is the money and the jeeps
And all the foul fellas get the flyest of the freaks
They like the guys with the gold that's mackin' right in check
And they love it when they're locked up callin' 'em collect
And when a righteous brother like me takes a step and walks up
it's like, 'Do you have a boyfriend?' - 'Yeah, but he's locked up'
I say, 'How can you have a boyfriend if he's locked up?
He's probably somebody's girlfriend and he's gettin' knocked up'
But that's how the '90s is, it is wack
If you ain't got no money, then you ain't got jack"
That's the difference between then and now right there. Then rappers had the courage to criticize certain aspects of society, now they're doing their best to blend in. There may be no better example than "Dedicated to the Right Wingers," where Ed calls out Florida's overzealous officials for trying to shut down the 2 Live Crew. It's a plea for free speech as clear as any rap music has produced, and it's funny to boot:
"The problem's not race, it's anything that's steamy
They arrested white people for wearin' bikinis
They said they're showin' too much, I don't see how y'all can take it
But when I go to Florida, I'm goin' naked
and swearin', and rappin', and talkin' 'bout sex
Full of Olde E, from my feet to my neck
I'll be the main attraction on the news at 8
since drugs and murder don't affect that state"
By now it should be evident that Edo.G (who's still recording these days), introduced himself as a highly versatile rapper, flipping syllables at breakneck speed one minute, putting forth compelling arguments the next, being familiar with many forms of rap expression, from biographical accounts à la Intelligent Hoodlum, to Fresh Prince-like fun and games, to the common sense approach of an Ice-T, to Big Daddy Kane's boasting and bragging. True, some of it sounded dated even back then ("I'm too elite to defeat, step off cause you're soft" etc.), but that matters less now than it did then, sort of. Needless to say that these days you have to look long and hard for such a charismatic and original freshman. And the game wasn't as nearly as crowded as it is today. In 1991, "Life of a Kid in the Ghetto" proved that between NY and LA, there were many places who had their own story to tell. In that regard, Ed repped the 'Bury and Boston to the fullest.
Music Vibes: 7.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7.5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7.5 of 10
Originally posted: March 15, 2005