It might seem like Redhead Kingpin disappeared after two albums, but that’s not strictly true. There’s a third Redhead Kingpin release, although from the name alone you might not know it. Private Investigators’ “Re-Act Like Ya Knew” has a name that might fool you, but he’s right there on the cover and it’s on the Virgin/EMI Records imprint. What’s going on here? I don’t have any concrete proof, but I have a theory that I’d like to share. After Kingpin’s sophomore effort “The Album with No Name” tanked, the label said to him “We’re going to give you one more chance, but you’re not the featured artist any more. You’ll be repackaged under the name Private Investigators with a new sound. We’re going HARD for the 90’s.”
The new lineup would shift the focus away from Redhead Kingpin and share it with Gicci Brown, Knowledge and DJ Wildstyle. The single “Mash Up the Mic” sounds like every rap trend of NYC rap in ’93 in one song. Crispy drums, Jamaican patois, and a sample of “Top Billin'” combine together for a song that makes you feel like throwing elbows. It’s energetic, it’s tough, and it’s nothing like the crossover market Kingpin was squarely aimed at before. They move even CLOSER to an Onyx sound on the track “Who Am I? (God).” Props where it’s due to Redhead on the production. It’s as boom bap as anything from the era, and whistling bird sounds add to the animal energy of the track. They aren’t “slamming” like Onyx though — they’re attacking whack emcees with an air of Five Percenter values wafting through the cut.
The production is surprisingly tight throughout this release. Will Nice could be confused for Evil Dee for “On the Rise” and Pete Rock with “Mom Dukes.” Success breeds imitation, but imitation is also flattering, and Nice knows who does good work and pays respect to them. Mark-A-Spark’s resume seems to start and end with this CD, but “Walk On” in particular suggests he could and should have done more. “But She’s Not My G” is another case of flattery through mimicry for Spark, sounding just like a DJ Muggs or Lethal track for House of Pain. Kingpin uses the name Dawüd Nurrid-Diyn as a producer, but his contributions there may be more valuable than as a rapper. Check out “The Stuff Ya Love to Bang Ya Head To” and tell me this doesn’t belong on a Heavy D album.
Now we have a conundrum. This album is better than Kingpin’s second album musically and lyrically, even though he’s less prominently featured. To make matters worse for him, this release has become even more obscure than the effort that preceded it. Whatever lofty intentions Virgin/EMI may have had in the beginning when they released “Re-Act Like Ya Knew” flew out the window for one important reason — nobody cared. Sometimes you just can’t force a rap group on the public no matter how hard you try, and the singles had middling success while the album itself had far less. This is also just a theory but I think the label made this a self-fulfilling prophecy. “We had a budget for two videos, but this shit isn’t selling, so we’re going to stop spending money and see if it catches on organically.” Guess what? IT DIDN’T. It’s entirely fair to say Redhead got screwed here, although at least he benefited from being less of the focal point of Private Investigators, so they’d all have to take a share of the fall instead of it all being on him. Nas asked “where are they now” but only asked about the Kingpin. He didn’t care about P.I. or ask what happened to them, knahmean?