In the early 90's, the misogynistic and violent reality rap that was coming out of California was at an all-time high. In addition to the veterans like Too Short, Ice-T, and Ice Cube, it seemed like there was an influx of new rappers with rhymes to kick and stories to tell. Snoop Dogg was one of those rappers. DJ Quik was one of those rappers. Not as famous but just as revered was a rapper that was discovered by Too Short that went by the name of Spice 1. His first full length release was the self-titled "Spice 1" in May of 1992, which peaked at #82 on the Billboard 200 and featured two prominent singles, "In My Neighborhood" and "Welcome To The Ghetto". The following year, Spice was featured on the soundtrack to the coming-to-age film, "Menace II Society" with his song "Nigga Gots No Heart". A few short months later, Spiggedy Spice Wiggedy One was set to release his sophomore effort, "187 He Wrote".
Spice's debut album did an excellent job of depicting several aspects of a society in despair, but for some reason it seemed like Spice wasn't fully satisfied. This time out, Spice got in the listener's face...literally, as the album cover shows Spice pointing either a .9mm or a .380 towards a would-be victim. You see, this time around, Spice was taking no prisoners and leaving no witnesses after unloading the clip. With fourteen in the clip and one in the chamber, it should be a foregone conclusion that he is indeed the fuckin' murderer, which just happens to be the name of the album's first shot.
"Murder" kills (no pun intended) any expectation that Spiceberg would be changing up his style. At the most, I would equate it to a shot in the arm. It goes through, does damage, but isn't necessarily life threatening. Having survived the first shot, the victim tries to get up and run, but Spice keeps dumping bullets. He just misses with the Too Short produced "Gas Chamber" but "Dumpin' Em In Ditches" hits the mark in the leg slowing the victim down just a bit. The slow drums, piano, and horns of "Don't Ring The Alarm (The Heist)" set the perfect backdrop for Spice and featured guest, Boss to narrate the story of a bank robbery gone awry. One of the deadliest shots comes in the form of a hollow point bullet disguised as the album's title track. "187 He Wrote" aims for vital organs as he depicts the paranoia, hopelessness, and remorse associated with the things that he's been through or done himself as he raps:
"I'm tryin to keep my aces and my deuces all together
I'm thinkin of self-murder I know I won't live forever
This chronic got me noid I need to get a job
but instead I wanna sell dope hang on a rope and steady mob
I'm wakin up in the morning thinkin of death as I break out in a cold sweat
I'm havin dreams of a whole family put to rest
Visions of a dead man body bags
and all the youngsters gettin their cap peeled over colored rags
I write about murder and death cause thats all in the hood
comin up strong while in crack yo G its all good
Describin a way of life that they don't understand G
So Imma keep breakin it down until dey understand me
You see its real G and jealousy it roam my block
Thats why I'm never leavin the house without my plastic glock
Cause if they want it they'll take it and kill for it
And if its worth sumptin then blood gettin spilled for it
My mother thinks I'm goin crazy
And when I leave the house she just stares out the window
I think I'm being followed everytime I leave my home
Havin these fatal thoughts of gettin chrome to my dome"
The Ant Banks produced "Clip & The Trigga" and "Smoke 'Em Like a Blunt" don't hit nearly as hard. The former has a funk feel to it, while the latter has a heavy reggae sound that Spice would incorporate into many of his songs. "The Murda Show" was produced by and featured MC Eiht, the first of what would be many collaborations between the two. Many people paired them as an unofficial duo for many years, and they would finally do an album together in 2004 ("Pioneers") and once more in 2006 ("Keep It Gangsta"). Their back and forth flow makes for great entertainment and it seems to come together so effortlessly. By the time the clip is halfway empty, the damage has been done, so the flesh wounds left by songs like "380 On That Ass" and "Mo Mail" can be overlooked. The latter features the Ambassador of the Bay, none other than E-40 Fonzarelli. The E-A-Ski produced "Runnin Out Da Crackhouse" is a vivid tale of a shootout between rivals that results in an arrest by some crooked cops that want a cut of the action. Spice refuses and spits in the face of one of the officers, prompting him to release the dogs and eventually take Spice into custody, all while still stashing the rocks in his mouth. E-A-Ski also produces the cleaned up, and in my opinion, better version of "Nigga Gots No Heart" from the "Menace II Society" soundtrack. Repackaged as "Trigga Gots No Heart", to me it sounds like the radio friendly (well, maybe not friendly...but acceptable) substitutions help the song flow better and Spice seems to stay on beat a bit more as he raps:
"I'm sick up in this game
I'll take no secondary shorts and
Slam dunk these riddles up in yo' chest like Jordan
Menace II Society mad man killer
Just call me the East Bay Gangsta neighborhood drug dealer
Quick to make decisions & I'm quick to get my blast on
Do a 187 with this bloody Jason mask on
Rollin' up out the cut deeper than Atlantis
Tore his chest apart left his heart on the canvas
Now I gots mo' mail than the rest of the pushers
Rat a tat tat tat came my Tec from the bushes
I blast with no heart 'cause I'm heartless in nine-trey
A-K blast on that ass if in my way
Gangsta...slangin' 'Cola since the very very start
much love for this game so the trigga gots no heart"
The last three shots are "Trigga Happy", "RIP", and "All He Wrote". "Trigga Happy" is a song that brings weapons to life through personification. He seems to enjoy the lyrical exercise, as he's done it twice before on "187 Proof" (with alcohol) and "187 Pure" (with various drugs). "Trigga" is entertaining, but it doesn't come across as well as the other two songs. "RIP" contains the same sample of Gwen McCrae's "90% Of Me Is You" that Boss' "Deeper" samples. As one might expect, the song is all about paying respect to "dead niggas on the wall". The last song, "All He Wrote" is essentially a list of thank you's put to a beat. It's equivalent to a bullet that grazes the target, but doesn't do any real damage.
Many years have passed since this album first hit the streets and it still retains the ability to be played from start to finish without feeling the need to skip tracks. Spice has released a slew of albums following this one. Many critics point to his third release, "Amerikkka's Nightmare" as his magnum opus, but the raw imagery and hard hitting beats of "187 He Wrote" help to give it the edge in my opinion. I was a youngster when this album was released. The cover art was menacing and captured my imagination. In listening to it, I was taken into that vicious world. By the end of my journey, I was a witness to a shooting, fifteen shots to be specific, and they certainly hit the mark. That was all he wrote. R.I.P.
Music Vibes: 9 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 8 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8.5 of 10
Originally posted: October 13, 2009