Prince Markie Dee and the Soul Convention :: Free :: Columbia Records
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

Hip-Hop trivia question - what do Prince Markie Dee of the Fat Boys and Positive K have in common?

Answer - "Rescue Me" by A Taste of Honey.

Perhaps it was just bad timing on Prince Markie Dee's part. Seeking to break "Free" from his long-time association with the Fat Boys, Dee released his debut solo album in August of 1992. The album opens with a cheerful upbeat song in keeping with the persona Markie Dee had created as part of rap's (literally) biggest trio called "So Very Happy."

"Hey little girl take a hold of my hand
And let me tickle your G, until you can't withstand
It was once said, a brother like me couldn't whip ya
But daddy got deep, now your head's gonna trip
A real all true man, Markie Dee's the freak one
who stay in your back - shh - don't even speak hon
I know you wanted it from your first look at me
(I'll make you so, very happy)"

While the album's opening track was a fresh disco bop with tons (no pun) of crossover potential, it was quickly overshadowed by the lead single off Positive K's album "The Skills Dat Pay Da Bills" in November of the same year. Few people remember "So Very Happy" these days but even the most ardent of rap's haters will remember the chart-topping single "I Got a Man" with its catchy male to female interplay chorus: "What's your man got to do with me? (I got a man!) I'm not tryin to hear that see." Each song used exactly the same sample from A Taste of Honey, but only one went on to top the Billboard Charts and become a staple of hip-hop. Even though Prince Markie Dee had the idea first, he gets none of the credit.

The news isn't all bad for the former Fat Boy though. While "So Very Happy" never had a chance to become the huge hit "I Got a Man" did, Dee did manage to score some chart success of his own with the single "Typical Reasons (Swing My Way)." Listening to the song you can't help but think of Bobby Brown, Teddy Riley and Keith Sweat - it's classic 1990's new jack swing all the way. Given the contentious relationship between Chris Brown and Rihanna, the lyrics from the suave and seductive Markie Dee seem apt even today.

"Mistreated you like a towel
And when he gets busted he thinks that he's an owl
Your eye is puffy, your jaw is swollen
You shouldn't be smacked, you're made to cuddle and hold and
caress and snuggle, like a teddy bear
His attitude's changed, begin to put fear
in your heart, but you depart from bein afraid
Many thoughts of leaving were crushed so you stayed
Saying what he did before he won't do again
He wants more of a lover and less of a friend
Catch my drift? You're put to the test so
You refuse and get struck with a left blow
He tells you in a grand way
"That's what you get for rejectin your man" Hey
Now you're crying on the floor
Your man's no damn good - need I say more?"

Even with this chart success it still seems ironic that the large and in charge Prince Markie Dee was largely overshadowed by the hip-hop scene in 1992 and '93. "Free" comes with a parental advisory sticker that seems wholly unnecessary and more like an attempt to fit into the rap section next to the 2 Live Crew, N.W.A. and Public Enemy albums of the day. Dee is a lover, not a fighter, and even when he goes "Back to Brooklyn" it's a fairly tame tale with most of the foul language erased.

"Champion hoodie, saggin-ass Levi's and my Timbs
Brooklyn hat pulled low, chewin on a peppermint stem stick
Kickin {shit} with the head gassed hoes
They wanna piece of this and so do my foes, yeah
I gotta watch my back, when I walk the streets at night
And on my nine my hand grips tight
Really don't trust nobody, to the point
that if I get a little lip I will reach for my joint
You wanna head up, nah son, my hands ain't gotta feel
No need to show my skills, blast and I'm outta here
So save you cryin for the boys in blue
Get your story straight chump, even if it's true
It'll all be changed when you get to the precinct
Your case is history, worth about three cents
So if you don't want beef, you better stop lookin
Cause I'ma take your ass back to Brooklyn"

As dope as the song is it's just impossible to picture Prince Markie Dee as coming back harder than he did on "Coming Back Hard Again" when the Fat Boys wanted nothing more than to do "The Twist." Still Markie Dee put together a solid album here which ironically was very reminiscent of another Overweight Lover whose last name was D - Heavy D. The commercial failure of "Free" may have been more than bad timing musically, it may have been largely viewed as unnecessary in an environment already dominated by the man from money-earnin' Mt. Vernon who made it acceptable to be big, loveable and huggable while still maintaining legit respect from the hip-hop set. It was fine to sleep on Prince Markie Dee in 1992 as a result but in '09 "Free" is worth another look.

Music Vibes: 7 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 6.5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7 of 10

Originally posted: March 17, 2009