RR writer Pedro ‘DJ Complejo’ Hernandez offered a thoughtful and insightful review of Mr. Sche’s album “It’s Going Down” in 2007, so it seems wise to open this new review with a few of his words and thus help readers who don’t recognize or know the name get some insight into Sche right at the start.

“Sche’s music stays true to his Memphis roots [but] it never comes off as mere imitation. Sche’s beats are dark and buck because that’s the music Sche came up on and he’s not going to change that just to try and score a hit. Sche’s raps are about the same gangsters, pimps, and hustlers that have inhabited Memphis’ streets for years, but they are HIS raps about HIS experiences.”

Well said Pedro, thank you. Sche (pronounced Ski) may seem like an anomaly on his label, as the Tennessee thug stands shoulder to shoulder with New York legends like Kool Keith and FOK (Friends Of Keith) like Marc Live and DJ Junkaz Lou. In fairness though Keith is himself an eclectic, changing personas like Alberto Del Rio changes luxury autos, so one really wouldn’t be all that surprised if Keith did a gangster rap song with Sche on “Underground Forever.” It’s slightly disappointing there’s no such song on the CD.

“X-Box ass nigga, we ain’t playin no games!
Pussy nigga get dealt with tryin to test these

Oh that’s right – we haven’t mentioned the Immortal Lowlife crew yet. Mr. Sche is a member of this group, but as Pedro mentioned in his own review, the permanent membership of this group seems variable. What’s not variable is their appearance on almost this entire album. From track 5 through track 18 there are only three songs which don’t credit them as a featured guest, and I suspect the other three are just individual members of the crew. That means if you really want to get the uncut dope on Sche, you have to get it in the opening quarter of this album, and “I Have Come” is as good an example track of his style as any. If there’s a quantifiable rap dialect that can be called “the Memphis accent” then Sche has it, to such a great degree that you might occasionally confuse him for DJ Paul from Three Six Mafia. The beats of the song also reflect the Memphis crunk, but Sche is a LITTLE different when it comes to gangster swag:

“I be the last, but I guarantee that I’m not the first
nigga from Memphis, you no hear me, this is the rebirth
So many times I hear the streets screamin for a leader
But I refuse, I’d rather hit the streets as teacher
The power of man – and no man shall ever hinder me
Look to the skies for protection whenever I’m in need
I hear the cries, I see my brothers dyin to survive
I see the struggles but no longer do I ask God why
God is in me – and I’ve been anointed to leave this porch
to reach the people to truly show ’em there’s another choice”

Now you may get the mistaken impression he’s a Christian rapper from that verse, but it’s actually part of the bigger picture that Sche offers, and his faith is just one of his aspects. I’ve long been an admirer of the Memphis sound, even if many of the rappers who represent it so ardently only refer to the gangster in their life. Sche can be just as hard on his grind as any other Memphis rapper on songs like “We Can Get It” and just as ruthless in his fight on “A Dirty World,” but there’s an unexpected morality to his tales that’s not always heard from his compatriots. It’s not that he won’t take a life, it’s that he regrets being backed into a corner where he has no other choice – and wishes that all those around him could rise up to a higher state of living. It makes Sche a complex and conflicted emcee who offers a little more than the average rapper.

Ultimately that leads to frustration on “Underground Forever” though, because so much of the album features rappers who are not Sche’s equal, who don’t have the same inner conflict about the struggle to survive versus the choice to step on someone else’s life to do it. They seem to revel in the violence instead of questioning it, and they keep the more intellectual side of this album from coming through as loudly as it could. That said some of the songs are unapologetically fun. “Dark Buck & Crunk” is just as fast and hard as any trunk rattling Three 6 song.

There’s a lot of enjoyable material on “Underground Forever.” The country swang and deep bass of “I’ll Always Be a Real Nigga” takes a N.W.A sample at the open and goes on “a lyrical driveby” from North to South Memphis. Al Kapone joins him slabbin’ on “Still Ridin Clean” and the minimalistic beat of “Full Time Hustle” could just as easily have come from the Bay Area. “Nigga you ever get so high you start seein shit?” That’s the question posed on “Smokin That Weed,” a song with a familiar topic for hip-hop but a dark sound only a Memphis emcee could hit it with. Ultimately though the listener can’t help but wonder after such a strong start by Sche if he isn’t being held down for the next 60+ minutes of the album. I’d like to hear what he could do entirely on his own.

Mr. Sche :: Underground Forever
6Overall Score