It was inevitable that I’d talk about “Nervous Breakdown.” I’m almost contractually obligated to after reviewing the Fu-Schnickens’ debut album “F.U. Don’t Take It Personal.” There’s only so many things you can say about a rap group with a catalogue of two albums and an ill-conceived “Greatest Hits” release that was a clear attempt to squeeze blood from a turnip. It certainly didn’t have to be that way. The title track from “Nervous Breakdown” certainly hinted that the Fu had more in store for us all. Rod “KP” Kirkpatrick gave the track a deep and heavy bass that reminded me of Redman’s “Dare Iz a Darkside” for all the right reasons, and Chip Fu’s manic energy had clearly not dissipated one bit.
Even the music video evoked Redman’s early 90’s vibe, shot in black and white and seemingly filmed at an abandoned rail yard littered with the detritus of an industrial revolution that failed. Long before Miley Cyrus came in like a “Wrecking Ball” the Fu-Schnickens could be seen swinging around this dystopian landscape. Perhaps the sound and the look were a little too ON THE NOSE though, complete with the rappers smashing glass and breaking more stuff than Limp Bizkit. Instead of seeming like they were cut from the same cloth, outsides could have concluded that the Fu was out of ideas and simply jacking their whole swag from Reggie Noble.
If anything “Sum Dum Monkey” only made this perception worse. K-Cut leaned even harder into that gritty Brick City sound on production, and Chip Fu’s whacky lyrical style had started to become self parody. On this song he gasps, wheezes, hiccups, and even pretends to be a broken record. As impressive as his ability to pull off all these vocal tics while spitting a high speed flow is, it also smacks of gimmickry that overshadows his actual lyrical ability. The bigger problem though is how Chip Fu overshadows Poc and Moc even more than Busta Rhymes overshadowed his L.O.N.S. crew. The problem is when Poc says things like “Hey yo, check the flow, clear the way, yo” I’d rather listen to Max Caster spit bars.
The most egregious mistake though may be K-Cut’s inaccurately titled “Fat Track” remix of “What’s Up Doc?” featuring Shaquille O’Neal. This should’ve been an easy cash in since “What’s Up Doc?” wasn’t included on “F.U. Don’t Take It Personal,” but the Main Source producer completely removed all the funk of the original song and replaced it with a much weaker sound. Shaq was a pretty rough rapper at this point, but not without his charm over a fat beat… and all that’s gone here. I would have forgiven it if they included both the original version from Shaq’s album and the remix… but they didn’t.
Instead they included a “Dunkafelic” remix of “Nervous Breakdown” which (again) is not as good as the original, and only further exacerbates the feeling the group is ripping off the Notty-Headed Terror of New Jerusalem. It’s not even a stretch to rearrange the letters of “Dunkafelic” to spell “Funkadelic,” and the samples in the song make it clear this isn’t a coincidence. On an album that’s only 40 minutes and 11 tracks long, this feels like an extreme example of padding out the length just to make it seem like a better value to consumers. It’s unnecessary in the extreme.
Quite frankly that’s true of “Nervous Breakdown” as a whole. Beyond the first two singles there’s almost nothing worth revisiting here. “Visions (20/20)” feels like the crew switched from ripping off Redman to swagger jacking the Gravediggaz. Diamond D hooks up a nice bassline for “Aaahh Ooohhh!” but unintentionally makes them sound like the aforementioned Leaders of the New School in the process. Out of the remainder of what’s left I can only recommend “Sneakin’ Up On Ya,” another Diamond D production but one that saw previous life on the CB4 soundtrack. Ultimately “Nervous Breakdown” does the exact opposite of what it should do — it exposes the group’s weaknesses and hides their strengths instead of the other way around.