If they had done nothing else in their entire career, Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock would always be remembered for “It Takes Two.” The song perfectly captured a party vibe in 1988 and shot straight up every musical chart wherever it got played. The single went platinum in its era and can still instantly put a Kool-Aid smile on faces over 30 years later. The official video for the song didn’t wind up on YouTube until 2013 and has still done over 50 million views. Are you feeling where I’m coming from yet? “It Takes Two” was LARGE. It’s the kind of song that makes such a huge cultural impact it can overshadow everything else that you do no matter how hard you try.
Unfortunately that’s exactly what happened. Robert Ginyard a/k/a Rob Base tried to go solo off the strength of this success, and the public wasn’t the least bit interested in what he had to say. Having been dropped by Profile Records and left adrift in the sea of rap music, he made the only decision you could have expected him to make — reunite with E-Z Rock for a new album. “Break of Dawn” came in 1994, far too late to pump life back into the career of the duo. The rap world had completely passed their lighthearted party vibe by, and owing to a lack of interest from the industry, Ginyard had to put the album out on his own Funky Base Records. This did not bode well for the album, nor did the fact every song ripped off someone else’s sound.
The title track is the ten millionth song to sample “Between the Sheets,” but it’s either funny or ironic that “Break of Dawn” dropped the exact same day as Notorious B.I.G.’s “Ready to Die.” Maybe if the album had been on a major label or come out a few months earlier it might have stood a chance, but it pales in comparison to “Big Poppa” in every way. “Run Things” is more egregious to me though because in one song it manages to be inferior to MULTIPLE rap songs. Eric B. & Rakim’s “Let the Rhythm Hit ‘Em,” Ice Cube’s “No Vaseline,” Run-D.M.C.’s “Beats to the Rhyme,” Big Daddy Kane’s “Set It Off” just to name a few. It’s as though Base and co-producer Dapper Dan said “Let’s take every good sample someone else had a better idea for and drop them all into one song.”
That might be preferable to “Are You With Me?” though, which is one of the most corny “back in the day” rap songs imaginable. I haven’t often had cause to describe a rap song as pandering but this is certainly the one. It screams of desperation to be played on the radio. Wilbert Hart and The Delfonics are plaintively begging “we’ve got to leave the drugs and the guns alone” to an audience that was firmly entrenched in gangster rap by 1994. In a vacuum the song might be better, but it’s cornball now and in the context of the times it was absolutely laughable.
“I’m Comin’, I’m Comin’, I Came” is pathetic for entirely different reasons. The song’s title might be among the worst in rap history. The bars and the delivery scream that Rob Base was trying (and failing) to create “It Takes Two, Part 2.” The patois chatter of Steve “Yahkelsnach” Romeo was a misguided attempt to fit into the dominant trend of the time to mix rap and roughneck reggae together. When Rob begs to be passed 40’s and blunts by the homies, I don’t believe him. “I leave you messed up like a fifth Bacardi/I like to party.” Uh-huh. “I’m hated by mo’ niggaz than the Ku Klux Klan.” Yeah that line didn’t age well either. Overly familiar samples? Check. It’s all lame.
Rob Base just isn’t convincing uttering empty threats like “I gotta get paid/anyway conflict in my way, is getting slayed.” I suppose that’s what happens when you’re best known for saying “I like the Whopper, fuck the Big Mac.” Where do you go from there? Obscurity. This album didn’t chart collectively as a unit nor did any singles from it. Oddly enough “Break of Dawn” benefits from being so unoriginal that it actually sounds like an artifact of the 80’s stepped out of a time machine straight to the present day. What Rob Base was doing in 1994 was played the hell out, but now it has taken on a nostalgic vibe it simply didn’t have at the time. It doesn’t make Rob’s bars any less corny, nor the unnecessary and frequent interludes any less annoying, but to my immense surprise it aged well. Perhaps it aged like a really funky block of blue cheese, which means to a lot of people it stinks, but somehow this is just right/ripe with age. RIP to DJ E-Z Rock.