The first official studio album from the Boot Camp Clik collective is a case study in how standards change over time. “For the People” was judged to be a commercial failure for only selling 350,000 copies after Priority Records released it in 1997. If you convinced that many people to buy a physical album these days you’d be declared a huge success and rap news outlets would tout you as being the hottest crew in hip-hop. For me at least BCC was one of the hottest when this CD came out. It was a super group consisting of superb groups like Smif-N-Wessun, Heltah Skeltah and Originoo Gunn Clappaz, organized into a collective by their founder and general Buckshot from Black Moon. The lead single “Night Riders” suggested to me Buck’s army was stronger than ever.
Buckshot may have been prophetic when he said “Don’t get mad, you see, change is good — if what you learn don’t change, yourself then why are you learning what you’re learning?” in the song’s outro. If I go back to the time this album was labelled “a commercial failure” by the music industry in my mind’s eye, the “change” Buck speaks of would be a reason why. The first change would be that BCC featured a lot of secondary and tertiary members of the collective fans weren’t eager to hear. “Go For Yours” has an excellent Shawn J. Period instrumental, but complete unknowns The B.T.J.’s rap over it. Let me give you an analogy — it would be like buying a Wu-Tang Clan album expecting to a RZA track with Method Man, Raekwon and Ghostface but you get Shyheim, Solomon Childs and Remedy instead. That doesn’t make it a bad song, but it’s also not what you paid for.
Getting away from Da Beatminerz (specifically Mr. Walt and DJ Evil Dee) may have been too much change. It would be okay to introduce new BCC members if they were combined with the sounds that make albums like “Enta Da Stage” and “Dah Shinin’” revered classics. For reasons only he knows Buck took on a large percentage of the production duties himself alongside Mark “Boogie” Brown. I’ve heard Buckshot produced songs that I enjoyed, but “Blackout” is not one of them. The horns have all the flavor of a wet fart in church and even the bass hits feel muted paired with a weird rim shot heavy percussion. Even though original BCC members are on the song it’s a track I avoid listening to at all costs.
“For the People” ends up being an album I have incredibly mixed feelings about. It features a lot of people I had tremendous respect for then and still do now, including the late great Sean Price, but it’s not an album I routinely revisit. There are individual songs that stand out though. “Ohkeedoke” is more or less a Smif-N-Wessun track featuring Starang Wondah and MS, and it has a great minimalistic backdrop courtesy of EZ Elpee. “Headz Are Reddee Pt. II” is a fine sequel even though I prefer the original. Tony Touch gave the entire collective a wonderfully throwback early 1980’s track for “Down By Law.” It’s like the entire crew turned into the Sugarhill Gang or the Treacherous Three and it’s lovely (and hilarious).
The flipside of that is songs like “Rag Time” that are slow and boring. It feels like everybody showed up for the studio session, smoked a few blunts, went through the motions and left. There’s no passion to it. I get that Buckshot was trying to go for some positive vibes on the closer “Last Time” but it feels so out of place compared to the grimy gritty music that suits him best. I don’t want the BDI Thug to take me to church and join the gospel choir you know? Self-titled tracks like “Illa Noyz” produced by Shawn J. Period are fine, but I don’t know who Squia is and I never care to hear him or Twanie Ranks again after “Rugged Terrain.” It’s almost bipolar how this album switches from highs to lows.
Here’s what I would have said to Buckshot back when “For the People” came out and I stand by it today. Yes, change is often good, but change simply for change’s sake is NOT good. 350,000 dedicated BCC enthusiasts including me bought this CD, but we deserved more than he gave us here.