Just to get this out of the way at the beginning, Blak Czer is pronounced “Black Caesar.” Having never listened to “Tales From Da Blak Side” before this review, I was under the mistaken impression it was “Black Sear.” I should have realized it was more like Lil’ Cease. I have no idea where I got sear from other than perhaps Lord Sear from The Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Show, which coincidentally enough is probably the only place you would have ever heard Blak Czer’s music. To say this Braddock, PA rapper is obscure could be the understatement of the decade and it’s only 2022.
I think there’s a small chance I might have heard “The Hood” in 1994, but I don’t have the single in the crates nor do I own a physical copy of “Tales.” Thankfully the internet is good at solving such problems and the entire album is available to stream on YouTube. The single is produced by Smash Money and also features the talents of Admiral Dee and Dubb, but Czer is clearly the star of the show. His gruff delivery reminds me of Onyx and a quick look online says that I’m not the only one. To put it succinctly B.C. is pretty nice on the mic. I can see why Relativity Records signed him, and why they at least thought enough of him to get out one single and video. “Who Got the Glock” apparently dropped too but I can’t find any clip for that one other than audio.
It’s hard to imagine this would have gotten spins other than college radio, because the gunshot sounds and the content wouldn’t have found a home on FM radio. Frankly I’m not opposed to him going to a Klan rally to handle business, and I like the Geto Boys (“Here they come, just like I figured/I got my hand on the motherfuckin trigger”), Snoop Dogg (“Kickin dust as I bust, fuck peace, and the motherfuckin punk police”) and Slick Rick (“because that’s our mission”) samples. The Battlecat cat production is gritty and makes the Pennsylvania rapper sound like a West coast G, and not surprisingly the same thing happens when he laces “Just Another Day.” If you didn’t know better you’d think Blak Czer was from Long Beach.
I suspect that might have been the problem marketing B.C., given that Battlecat did 11 out of 15 tracks. For me this is an incredibly appealing combination given that Battlecat is a certified West coast beat banger who I think is both underrated and deserving of way more props than he gets. In 1994 the rivalry between the East and the West coasts was getting hotter by the day though, and Blak Czer was probably the right rapper at precisely the wrong time. Czer clearly didn’t care about having to choose a producer closer than home just for the artifice of “keeping it real,” but it’s likely that NYC heads thought he was too Cali, while Cali heads wondered why this PA rapper was rolling with the Cat. The days of Ice Cube being produced by the Bomb Squad were well behind us. Battlecat didn’t care though, and he sounds just as good sampling “We Live in Brooklyn, Baby” as anyone else.
And he rolls right from Roy Ayers into Funkadelic on “Sick As a Bitch.”
It may also be that Blak Czer was too hard to get too far. Let’s face it, the album cover is a body outlined in chalk (even though they don’t really do that at crime scenes) and as previously mentioned none of the singles on “Tales From Da Blak Side” stood a chance in hell of mainstream radio play. Even Snoop Dogg had radio edits and censored versions, and while I give Battlecat his props (and you should do) Dr. Dre’s ear for what the public wanted to hear was second to none back then. He single-handedly carried the Death Row sound on his back and it wasn’t surprising that things fell apart when he left. Anyway this is a sleeper album that surprised me and made me wish I had picked it up back in college, and if I find a used copy (even though that seems unlikely) I’m definitely adding it to the archives.