Lynise 'Queen Pen' Walters only has two albums in her discography, and we've already covered one thanks to Matt Jost. Being that it's "Women's Week" at RapReviews I felt that it fell on me to go Back to the Lab and cover the other. Mr. Jost was decidedly not a fan of her sophomore release, but my hazy memories of Pen from 15 years ago were that (1.) she was a decent lyricist who scored a few hits as Teddy Riley's protege and (2.) that she had a very snotty feud with Foxy Brown over the release of the song "Girlfriend." Apparently Ms. Marchand would be welcomed at a Westboro Church social - she felt that Walters was promoting homosexuality and (whether she was or not) that this was EVIL. That attitude seems so out of date in 2014, but let's look at the song anyway.
"Now how you just gon' be playa hatin on me
Cause I got mad bitches just wantin me
And I got mad niggaz just checkin for me see
I got more stock than you ever see - I be...
the one that your main squeeze be diggin
Pull you out yo' closet, sex so wicked
It's my business of what I do
Him or her, he or she, if I choose
So while you be yappin and talkin to yo' friends...
She slid the number, what you gettin mad at me fo'
She said she was single when she closed my car do'"
Pen would eventually deny that she was a lesbian or bisexual, not likely because she felt the need to identify as straight but to put an end to being constantly asked about it due to Foxy Brown's diss songs. The song itself is really a footnote to "My Melody" though, an album produced largely by Teddy Riley with assistance from Kaseem Coleman and William Stewart among others. Riley's influence shines through on pop friendly songs that blew up in the mainstream and Billboard charts, such as "Party Ain't a Party" featuring Mr. Cheeks and his Lost Boyz contemporary Freaky Tah (R.I.P.). There's no doubt that if you went to a club in 1998 you were dancing to this one.
She also charted with the song "Man Behind the Music," which as you might from the name was a little more about Teddy Riley than Queen Pen. Her tribute to Mr. Riley seems heartfelt though and undoubtedly was given that he blew her career up with a cameo on the BlackSTREET smash hit "No Diggity."
The one song that didn't blow up as a pop hit that both Riley and Pen undoubtedly expected would was "It's True" - sampling liberally from the pop hit "True" by Spandau Ballet. P.M. Dawn beat her to it by six years with "Set Adrift on Memory Bliss," but I'll take Pen's version over his.
"Chicks is on the bench still gossipin, who's she slidin in
Who's she slidin with, outside partyin
Old timers in the back playin dominoes
Kids freestylin, all kinds of flows
Girls flow through, with designer clothes
It's day now but you know how night time goes
And how it's gon' play out I don't have a clue
All I know is this much is true... TRUE"
How does Pen hold up as an emcee overall? It's clear that she benefits from Riley's production and from being labeled as his "protege," but by 1990's standards she certainly compared favorably to arch-rival Foxy Brown. Occasionally her flow is a little stilted and lacks fluidity, but on songs like the title track of "My Melody" you can tell she takes her craft seriously. The song itself is an allusion to Rakim, and his catchphrase is referenced throughout, but the key to the presentation is that her story about a boo who is HER melody holds it all together. Under other circumstances and with another crew her loyalty would define her as a "Ryde or Die Chick."
"So he be knowin how I'm down by law
Plus his knowledge of self be havin his mentality raw
He gets first dibs when I'm blowin in from tour
His sex is respected behind closed doors - listen
He the bomb, I can't tell you different
It's a fact how he mystify me like Keyser Soze
Uh, it feels good to know how others wish they could be loved
In the clubs bitches screwin up they mugs because
they envious to how my boo is true to this
Gold diggin bitches always be disputin shit
that don't even concern them..."
So while Queen Pen got a reputation fair or otherwise as a pop female rapper who was using Teddy Riley to rise to fame, he was just as clearly using her as he tried to make his "Lil' Man" record label a rival to moguls like Sean 'Puff Daddy' Combs and his Bad Boy empire. Riley had a fair shot, and Queen Pen was a better than fair answer to Lil' Kim, but Riley's acumen as a producer was not the same as a budding entrepreneur, and the imprint hasn't been heard from since 2003's "Best of BlackSTREET" compilation. Pen had her brief and heady rise to fame, but the fall doesn't seem to have hurt her at all - she left behind the music biz to be a writer and her son is now an aspiring rapper all his own. Pen certainly won't go down as the greatest female emcee of all time, but on "My Melody" she could hang with the stars of her day and not be outshined.
Music Vibes: 7.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 6 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 6.5 of 10
Originally posted: December 16th, 2014