Here’s a little disclaimer for this CD: if you see a TV ad or hear a radio spot claiming this is “the long awaited, first ever solo album from Timbo King” that’s only about half true – maybe even 25%. While it wasn’t actually a solo album per se, Spark 950 & Timbo King did an album called “United We Slam” in 1994. I point this out because despite being labelled as a tandem, all 950 did besides take top billing was provide the hooks and the beats. Timbo King did the yeoman’s work as a rapper. I’m not saying this isn’t an obscure album that even die hard Wu-Tang fans wouldn’t remember 17 years later, but I did, so promoting “From Babylon to Timbuk2” as “the long awaited, first ever solo album” is stretching the truth a bit.
If there’s one thing you can glean from that opening paragraph besides my stubborn refusal to ignore the facts, it’s that Timbo King has been around the hip-hop scene for a fuckin’ LONG time. By virtue of his association with the Wu-Tang Clan, he’s wound up a member of several different spin-off groups including Black Market Militia and Royal Fam, and he’s made too many cameo appearances on first or second generation Wu Familia albums to list here. I actually wouldn’t fault people for thinking he’s part of the Clan itself, given he’s been around nearly as long as they have. As the years have gone by he’s evolved from a somewhat generic East coast braggart into a more thoughtful and complex artist who now sounds vocally and stylistically similar to Killah Priest. It’s not at all surprising that the two collaborate frequently, such as on the aforementioned Black Market supergroup. “From Babylon to Timbuk2” may not be his first album on his own, but it’s definitely a chance for him to establish a niche OF his own.
“Ink to literature, scriptures poems turned into cinemas
Images from large to miniatures
We killin your senators, with shots from cylinders
Even innocent ministers, for lyin as cynicists
Invading your premesis since the beginning of Genesis
Global warming temperatures is strokin my penmanship
My throne made of hard labor in God’s favor
Calmly written respect thy neighbor, you slave trader, Uncle Tom hater
Great debater on both sides of the equator
Makers of the Black Market Militia layer
I build pyramids and spit prayers
To my felons in in the upper tiers, send kites, use the atmosphere”
“Bar Exam” might seem like a hip-hop double entendre from its title, but the key word is “bars” and he has at least two minutes straight worth. Timbo King is as verbal as he is biblical, and his lyrics often seem to hint at prophecies and conspiracies. Here’s one you might not have known about though – Tim’s last name is Drayton, and if that sounds familiar it’s because he’s William Drayton’s cousin, better known as Flavor Flav. One might wonder how in the incredibly nepotistic business of hip-hop, cuz-o Flavor never gave Timbo a helping hand, but as the Lil’ Fame produced “Autobiography of Timothy Drayton” illustrates, he had to fight his way out of a drug-infested impoverished neighborhood to make it on his own:
“I was raised by a ladies man, Reagan era, 80’s scam
Old school slow jams, pops drinkin out of cans
His Matty son, the oldest one, just like his father
Baby sister named Shaliqa always under momma
A young scientist, 12, look at Tim Tim
I had the remedies, way back then
It was BLS and KISS FM
Full Force, Chaka Khan, I have to mention them
Used to go to block parties, hear the DJ spin
Uncle Pru put me on to a DJ blend
First time seen a shootout, that party had to end
That’s when crack hit the hood, drug dealers, kingpins
Got rid of weak men, for position and power
Smoke fiends overdosed, track marks in her arms
Homicide traced the block, that’s was somebody moms
Left her baby cryin cold on the stop of the steps”
One won’t mistake Timbo King for a happy-go-lucky East coast rapper in 2011. In fact Vinny Idol produced tracks like “Wardance” featuring RZA are the polar opposite – they’re angry, defiant, loud and banging. Speaking of loud and angry, the unusual tandem of R.A. the Rugged Man and Timbo King rap together over the horny horn backdrop of “High Ranking.” Other guest appearances include Hell Razah and Junior Reid on the appropriately Jamaican sounding “Rebellion,” Akir and Vision over the wailing Keisha vocals and spooky pianos of “Brain Food,” and the not unexpected appearance by Killah Priest on “Outside Intelligence.” FWIW a rapper named Beazy also drops in on the latter track.
Timbo King’s “From Babylon to Timbuk2” will undoubtedly be promoted as an album two decades in the making. That’s fair in some respects, as he wouldn’t have been capable of an album this somber before now, nor one that was inspired by a serious history book like “From Babylon to Timbuktu: A History of the Ancient Black Races Including the Black Hebrews” by Rudolph R. Windsor. That’s a lengthy title, and some of Timbo’s songs are lengthy too – half clocking in at 3:15 or longer. There’s nearly an hour’s worth of material to digest in total, and it’s not something that’s going to go down easy. Timbo King doesn’t mind if he alienates a few people on his journey “From Babylon to Timbuk2” as long as the people who do go along for the ride take the time to appreciate the heavy mental state that he’s in.