Here’s a fun fact to start out this review! When I covered Jamal’s solo debut “Last Chance, No Breaks” I noted that due to a failure to chart and poor record sales, copies of his CD could fetch over $20 through online resellers. Little did I know that first print run editions of his former group Illegal’s “The Untold Truth” were going for almost $1,000! Modern day reprints can be had for $9.00 so I’m not sure why you’d want to pay for one over the other, but you’ll definitely have to buy it physically either way as Amazon doesn’t appear to be distributing it digitally.
Illegal owes its existence to affiliation with the Hit Squad formed by Parrish Smith and Erick Sermon, something made clear by the latter producing and appearing on their single “We Getz Busy.” It was the second of three songs from their album but stood head and shoulders above the rest. Not only did the thumping bassline and funk make for a guaranteed head nodder, the lyrics from Malik were an unrepentant diss of Kris Kross. Illegal’s parental advisory should have already been an indication they weren’t playing, but I still laugh hearing Malik talk shit about a similarly youthful rap group.
“Yeah, and I’m still the boss
Cause I’m a straight up nigga, ain’t nothin bout me Kris Kross…
… you little rejects
I have the intellect to get respect, I’m gettin wreck
Don’t even try to scare, because you’re no threat to me
Can’t write your own rhymes, sellin Jermaine’s life stories”
OUCH. True, but OUCH. As far as the non-single album exclusives, there are some hidden gems sprinkled throughout “The Untold Truth,” such as the Lord Finesse produced “On Da M.I.C.” that features DITC bars from both him and A.G. “Even Ray Charles can see clown rappers don’t have a chance.” There’s something about a Finesse punchline that always guarantees a smile from me. If a la carte MP3 purchases were a choice, I’d definitely recommend spending $0.99 to pick this one up.
And even though it makes me shed a tear these days to hear Biz Markie intro the track he produced (noticing a pattern here), I have to recommend “If U Want It” too. One could call it a coincidence that Biz and Cool V looped the same Grover Washington Jr. sample (“Hydra”) that EPMD did on “Underground,” but let’s face facts that during this era of rap EVERYBODY used that sample. My favorite is still Black Moon’s “How Many MC’s” but this one’s pretty good too. RIP to Eric ‘Eazy-E’ Wright as he’s sampled too.
While Malik and Jamal’s “The Untold Truth” as a duo fared better than Jamal did as a solo artist, it wasn’t a HUGE success either, managing to climb no further than #119 on the Billboard Top 200. Even though it’s fun to hear little kids talk shit like the big boys and clown other pre-teen rappers, I’m sure the perception at the time was “Oh great — more rappers who haven’t even busted their first nut yet.” They were also taking shots at NON youth groups too, making their disrespect for Das EFX clear on the Dallas Austin produced “Ban Da Iggidy” with lines like “you sound like a jiggidy joke.” Austin misfired on the production here though.
Production is all over the map in general. Sometimes it slams hard, like Diamond D’s beat on “Illegal Will Rock.” Sometimes it just sounds like a generic forgettable Onyx track, like Spearhead X’s beat for “Lights, Camera, Action.” I could swear Jamal and Malik are even TRYING to sound like Onyx on the song, yelling and growling their bars into the microphone. It’s not a good look to diss other people for being unoriginal when you rip off somebody yourself, right? Since the good tracks are fun and even the bad tracks are “okay” I can give “The Untold Truth” a cautious thumbs up, but please don’t go buying that first print edition for a thousand bucks.