As a rap fan my personal preferences have always gravitated towards rappers who were just a little bit different. Unusual, unique MC's who to anybody with an ear for rap can never be just faces in the crowd. Too $hort. Lord Finesse. MC Lyte. Scarface. MC Shan. Aceyalone. MC Eiht. PMD. Richie Rich. Chubb Rock. B-Real. WC. Edo.G. Sadat X. Trugoy. Brother Ali. Spice 1. Big Mike. Guru. Sir Mix-A-Lot. King Tee. This - to everyone else surely completely arbitrary - selection may reflect my own desire to be one of a kind, and it probably also hints at a vague feeling of being chronically underestimated as I have denied access to that exclusive circle to other rappers who share the same qualities but have been embraced by much more people (Snoop, Nas, Busta, Pac, Jay). Be that as it may, essentially people like the aforementioned to me represent one of the cornerstones of hip-hop philosophy - to be original. Although all undeniably skilled at what they do, I would not necessarily select all of them for an emceeing dream team, but they are my hip-hop heroes. They kept my passion going when my patience was running out. At the very least I value them just as much as the certified rap gods. MC Breed was one of them.
Throughout the '90s MC Breed put out the kind of records you'd like to slap suckers with who lack the basic tools of the trade - breath control, flow variation, vocal distinction. Breed was a natural from day one, setting himself apart with a highly distinct style. With a guttural, well-timed flow he mastered what later young bucks had to earn the hard way - grown man talk. His official debut is marked as 1991, but the self-titled album by MC Breed & DFC almost certainly contains material that dates back to the '80s as several tracks stem from rap's pre-sampling era. The production is credited to MC Breed and DJ Flash Technology, but Breed repeatedly shouts out Redbone for his work on the beats. To complete personel issues, Breed is the only vocalist here, DFC describing the foursome of Breed, Flash, Redbone and Cash T, and alternatively standing for Def Force Connection or Dope Force Connection.
The opening "Underground Slang," while influenced by Ice-T circa "Rhyme Pays," also quotes Kool G Rap & DJ Polo's "Road to the Riches" and is one of the very first tracks to explicitly mention the possible career transition from crack game to rap game:
"Big city lights, big city name
where the only thing you know is the dope-dealin' game
Makin' that money just as fast as you can
And there's pride and joy in bein' a (dopeman)
Rollin' big cars and carryin' big knots
Niggas pushin' Benzes with the drop-tops
Bitches all around, all over the place
eyes open wide for a sap to chase
They just lookin' for a fool to pay the rent
but bitch, you're dead wrong, you won't get a cent
Girlies out there, they don't know my name
MC Breed and that's me and that's one and the same
I went from pushin' ki's of pure D caine
to writin' def lyrics for the Underground Slang"
"Underground Slang" soon trails off into fiction as Breed and the DFC end up killing 20 cops to avoid getting caught riding dirty. All the more surprising is the following "Job Corp," where the Michigan MC muses laid-back over Johnny 'Guitar' Watson's "Superman Lover" about the benefits of federally funded vocational training, where you "earn while you learn at government expense / to be the man who completin' with a GED / like Breed to succeed in society / to turn out to be who you wanna be." While many rappers who came after would flaunt their alleged rap sheet, young Breed was proud to have avoided incarceration and endorses Job Corps in a way hardrocks can relate to:
"Now you figure you're ready, you're rugged and rough
And if you can't make it here you ain't strong enough
I'ma kick back, cool out and lead the pack
And I be goddamned if I turn back
to what I did before, rode the wrong train
What's understood need not to be explained
because you did it, admit it, you knew you had to quit it
You askin' me to hit it? Nah dog, I ain't with it
But that's where I was headed; this where I'm at now
and I'd be lyin' if I told you I don't know how
Hardcore, steppin' through the door
and I went to Job Corp"
Next up is "That's Life," a collection of cautionary street tales over a fragile incorporation of a "Black Caesar" sample most popularly used shortly after by Das EFX. Breed stars in it himself, again as a reformed drug dealer. In the outro he points out that he "ain't speakin' on Compton, LA, Detroit, NYC," but that the setting is Flint, MI, described in the prior verses with "The city was slow, and the game was fast / and the route that he was takin', he would not last". That's why Eric Breed took another, more reliable route. Breed may not have been a model conscious rap artist, but that only placed him closer to being a complete rap artist. "Black for Black," the album's most socially aware song, stressed that the motivation to get out the game should not just be personal but that it's also an act of shouldering social responsibility. Promoting black unity, he vehemently declares, "I ain't sellin' no crack, leave me the hell alone." He also blasts the stereotypes that rap was already in the progress of perpetuating: "To make money is a way of life / Brothers sell, rob and kill (Man, I know that's right) / They live by the sword and die by the knife / and if you let them tell it, it's the black way of life." "More Power" has a slightly more political bent but also argues on a street level, again cautioning against rock cocaine.
Another, less harmful drug gets Breed's full approval on "Guanja," a refreshing (if a little long) dubby break. From around the same time dates "I Will Excell," a bare-bone, sample-free composition where Breed voices the artistic vision "The beats and rhymes together, we will excel." We learn about his beginnings in the mid-'80s when he established himself as a local beatboxer and about an early group ("but with a bullshit manager it flopped of course"), before he lays down his current plans: "Keep servin' 'em suckers, got a story to tell / I ain't never been to jail and Breed will excel." "Get Loose" has Breed accompanying himself with beatboxing elements as he prepares knuckle sandwiches. "Better Terms" hosts an aggressive 18-year old Breed, but here the intimidation takes on the form of battle raps, set to frantic scratches sampled from Public Enemy and cuts added by DJ Flash Technology (who nowadays irregularly pops up as a producer for everyone from Tech N9ne to Ciara).
These tracks so far present a confident and competent rapper who's vocally fully built, "barkin' like a pit with an attitude," who can come hard, who can come funky, who can flip his flow, and is sure about his place in the ever-expanding hip-hop landscape. But they are not the reason MC Breed became a hip-hop icon with more than a dozen releases under his belt. That credit belongs to one specific song.
"Ain't No Future in Yo' Frontin'" is one of those records that sum rap music in its essence. It almost sounds preposterous, but the song contains in a nutshell many of the tried and true topics rap is known to occupy itself with. The rapper acting as a master of ceremony at a social event where people come to dance. His playful way with words. His artistic aspirations. His hunger for fame. His hometown pride. His gritty social background. Him standing his ground against an opponent. Him being able to call on back-up if needed. Him describing situations where he defies the odds. Him thinking about the world and his place in it. Him being dead serious about his craft. Tough talk and threats. Street smarts and scholarly knowledge. Rhetorical finesse and grammatical inconsistencies. Making political statements and pointing out stereotypes. Right down to the listener (at least this reviewer) not always being able to decipher everything being said - it's all there, in little more than 4 minutes. Despite using samples that have been seeked out plenty of times, the marriage of the Ohio Players' "Funky Worm" and Zapp's "More Bounce to the Ounce" is uncanny, with the Flavor Flav quotes clearly identifying it as a hip-hop (not a funk) track. But it's Breed who turns the song into an everlasting anthem with his universal rhymes and by laying down one of our music's most charismatic performances ever. Bottomline, it doesn't get more hip-hop than "Ain't No Future in Yo' Frontin'":
"This sound hard, somethin' funky people gon' dance to
give the record a second and a chance to
hittin' people like a scene of amazement
While they slippin' back my feet is planted in the pavement
Crumble I could never do
So now I'm lookin' dead at you
What are you gonna do?
You listen to the knowledge of a scholar
You say 'Hi Breed,' tell 'em how I holler
I'm the E Double, and I proclaim my name
Straight up good game, peeps all game
I'm like a rhino runnin' through the roughest pack
They figure I'm a trigga-happy nigga, so they step back
Breed, the microphonist
Boot last the longest
the noose's the strongest
It ain't a game, it's plain to see
You listen to the sounds of Breed (and the DFC)
I never got caught with a kilo
And if you ever do, yo, it'll never be with me, yo
Never have to worry 'bout my posse gettin' jumped
Cause if we ever do, yo TB, pop the trunk
Cause we don't go for playin'; wanna play, go grab a ball
When I'm on the mic I ain't for playin', not at all
Suckers causin' static cause they still be disagreein'
I don't give a - cause I'm from F-l-i-n-t'n
A city where pity runs low
If you ever shoot through my city, now you know
Cause we are strictly business and we also got our pride
And if you don't like it, I suggest you break wide
Suckers steady lookin' for the m-o-n-e-y'n
Thinkin' that illegal is the best way, so they dyin'
I ain't got time to see a fiend fiend out
to give up all his money, and he givin' what he got
That's the way I am, MC Breed cannot be different
Never change my ways for the world or the government
If I was the President, then I would state facts
You leave it up to me, I paint the White House black
Put my name Breed on everything I own
And when I get my Jeep I'm puttin' 'Breed' on the chrome
Shine it up good, kickin' through my neighborhood
Motorola phone, fat rims and a Kenwood
Quick to get around it, and then I'll have it drop
Simply cause I'm ridin' people think I'm sellin' rocks
but ain't no future in yo' frontin'"
The single deservedly went gold, became a hip-hop classic and continues to be MC Breed's most known song. The rest of his debut pales in comparison, either lyrically, musically, or both. The extra-smooth "Just Kickin' It" comes close to being just as an exemplary song (albeit in a musically different department), but it remains average where "Ain't No Future in Yo' Frontin'" excels. Yet even with one outstanding track overshadowing the rest, "MC Breed & DFC" is a very solid regional release that as a whole has aged quite well.
Music Vibes: 7.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7.5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7.5 of 10
Originally posted: January 13, 2009