If you ever wondered where the song “B-Boy Document 99” got its name from, you’re about to get your answer.
That’s one part of The Krown Rulers claim to fame. Royal Rocker and Grand-Pubah (no not that one) hailed from Camden, NJ and were discovered by the Tuff Crew from Philadelphia, PA. Said discovery led them to be signed to Soo Deff Records (no not that one) and have two tracks featured on what’s largely a Tuff Crew album. “B-Boy Document” is definitely worthy of the sequel it got. It’s old school in all the right ways — amped up attitude, fly lyrical boasts (“On a one to ten scale I’ve been labelled a 12″), drums that kick a hole in your speaker, and an aura so powerful you can picture them standing in front of you with leather jackets and fat gold rope chains. Arms folded, of course. This “B-Boy Document” needs a b-boy stance.
The success of their debut lead The Krown Rules to release an album of their own that’s considered a seminal rap classic. What about the Tuff Crew though, the very people who put them on with “Phanjam?” By all accounts the Philly rappers did fine. They released four albums, they’re considered pioneers for the city on the level of Schoolly D and Steady B, but I’m struck by just how much “Art of Love” sounds like yet another 1980’s act trying to achieve the crossover success of LL Cool J’s “I Need Love.” No matter how much people want to knock James Todd Smith for it, you only need to go back and listen to how badly his contemporaries wanted a piece of the pie. The weirdest part is how one of the Crew sounds like a Schoolly D clone.
“Girl you make me wonder why you won’t be mine/You said to wait but I think it’s time, for you to/realize, your full potential/I’ll give you what you want, what you need was essential.” All that’s missing is for him to say “Schoolly School man, how the fuck did you get so cool, man?” If you told me they were twins I’d believe you. I get that coming into “Phanjam” the Tuff Crew were the more established group with the connections, but songs like “So Ridiculous” live up to their title. The sing-song delivery, the Beverly Hillbillies references, it’s nowhere near as hard as The Krown Rulers. It’s whimsical and charming in a novelty hit kind of way though.
Tuff Crew is arguably better known for songs like “Get Smart” and “Philly Style” but they aren’t featured on this “Phanjam.” Instead we’ve got weird songs like “Techno-Tuff” where the Tuff Crew seem once again to want a piece of someone else’s cake, and this time they’re cribbing from Mantronix.
It’s a bit strange to recommend an album for the 25% that’s interesting while ignoring the 75% that’s not as good. Given the math I can’t in all honesty recommend you buy “Phanjam.” I can at least tell you The Krown Rulers showed the potential that would lead them to greater hip-hop heights, even if both “crews” are equally obscure by modern day standards. As a slice of time from 1987 it’s definitely an interesting artifact — or should we say a “b-boy document.” Yeah, I couldn’t resist.