As reliant on data as music streaming platforms are these days, I’m always partial to discrepancies and quirks that result in humorous moments for fans, and potential confusion for new listeners. A very specific example of this is M.O.P.’s Spotify page, which includes the record “Something About Your Awesomeness”. Supposedly an M.O.P. track featuring Kenny Lumpkin, it’s actually a piece of Christian gospel about wanting to worship God. To be fair, if Billy and Fame got their hands on Mr. Lumpkin, he would be praying to the heavens for daring to sully their brand of battlefield-barking beats and rhymes. The song itself is lifted from the Kenny Lumpkin & M.O.P. EP “Free Yourself”, itself a far cry from 1998’s “Handle Ur Bizness EP” – yet, the very idea of someone having the balls to use the M.O.P. name for something so positive would have any churchgoing rap fan rolling in the aisles. Fame himself has his own imposter on Spotify, releasing a single this year called “Richey Flow” which has none of the personality, memorability, or, ironically, the flow of Fizzy Womack. It’s trash, but it’s giving Fame some streams (presumably).
Where am I going with this? Well, listening to Meeco’s Spotify gives a similarly random musical output, but there’s no imposters here. You’ll find his earlier albums are proper jazz, with collaborations alongside genuine legends of the scene; bassist Ron Carter (Miles Davis), flutist Hubert Laws (Stevie Wonder), trumpeter Eddie Henderson (Herbie Hancock). A decade producing acclaimed jazz albums would hold anyone in good stead for a shift into hip-hop, and Meeco has managed it effortlessly, albeit in a different direction to how you might expect. This one’s been brewing for a couple of years, with some superb singles rolled out in 2021 and 2022 that impressed me more than the largely slept-on “We Out Here” album he dropped in 2020.
Given Meeco’s European heritage (he’s Franco-German), there’s a very European feel to his production style that possesses the heft of German outfits such as Snowgoons and Roccwell, but he seems to cater his beats to each emcee he uses. The best tracks from “We Out Here” had DJ guests (Grazzhoppa, Skizz, Stylewarz) and the decision to use the popular DJ Access for this album was a wise move because it elevates this from stereotypical Euro-boom bap into something more memorable.
Hearing Termanology claim to be a “Certified Legend” is as predictable as it is deluded, but the production plays into my weakness – strings and scratches. Where Meeco succeeds is he’s not mimicking DJ Premier, nor are his drums as crisp as Marco Polo’s, but the way he chops up beats does show a Meeco-ness. Access ties it all together.
The first track sees Onyx’s Fredro Starr combine with the aforementioned Lil’ Fame of M.O.P. for a rare teaser of the canceled album the two anarchic crews never ended up finishing with Snowgoons. Meeco starts strong with a beat that will have you throwing your guns, your drinks, and probably your children too. Fame drops another standout verse dripping in humor:
“I’ll put your face on a brand-new shirt
YOU ALREADY KNOW MY REPERTOIRE – the man do dirt
YOU DON’T WANNA GET YOURSELF INVOLVED – the man do work
Leave your old ass stiff up in a brand-new church
I ain’t screamin’ I’m the king of New York
But I’ve been down, I’ve been round
I walk around this bitch with a big crown
Watch how I get down (COME ON)
Tear this shit down
BLUCKA BLUCKA BLUCKA BLA-BLUCKA BLA-BLAOW
N**** sit down
Never settle, I’m just doing what I have to do
I’m heavy metal, this is ghetto international
Get your face sliced like a Sicilian
You n****s playin’ dice with a real one
It’s Brooklyn, we’re Brownsville first
I’ll turn your block into a motion picture like Steven Spielberg
I make music for gun boys and warriors
I’m so glorious, YOU DON’T WANT A WAR WITH US!”
It’s a great way to kick off an album written in capital letters, and the clean scratching ties it all together just lovely. It’s a common theme throughout, with all your favorites involved to varying degrees of success. The title track featuring Mobb Deep’s Havoc alongside Ras Kass doesn’t really work, with the former kicking a forgettable verse, but Ras Kass always has something interesting in his writing. The problem here is that emcees end up delivering EIGHT bar verses for the most part, and without DJ Access involved this would be quite a barebones release.
There’s a dope track from Inspectah Deck and Fashawn called “Hard Press” that I simply wanted more of. The same can be said of Skyzoo’s “ME”, which may be the best of the bunch. Two brief 8-bar verses, despite scratches of DJ Premier’s “we bring you much more” from De La Soul’s “Much More” – it’s either deeply ironic or blatantly teasing the listener. What it does mean is that I’m bringing it back for repeated listens, so Meeco may be designing these tracks around streaming algorithms.
Elzhi’s “Back in the Days” is your typical nostalgic theme, but with Detroit’s finest wordsmith not named Eminem, you’re hard-pressed not to hang on to each word when the beat Meeco’s provided is as good as this. It’s more melody-driven than the chopped-up samples he’s working with elsewhere, but it fits Elzhi like a glove given he often raps elegantly over thumping instrumentals. Aficionados will also delight at hearing Rasco delivering a rare song, on “First Cut the Check”. If you like the Cali Agents material he did with Planet Asia, and frankly, only a lunatic doesn’t, this is a modern addition to that style that says little but says it supremely well.
Meeco and DJ Access are very good at what they do, but this album is hindered by its formulaic approach to hip-hop. Two verses and scratched hooks loosely tying them together, with the more unknown names like Aobie and Dyce Payne offering little additional value, I often yearned for a mixed version of this album, with Access juggling and blending songs together a la the Beat Junkies classic compilations. This would extend the song lengths, emphasize what is here, and offer something you rarely hear in 2023. It’s evident Meeco operates at a superior level to the usual Euro-boom bap that’s served up by aging New Yorkers that collaborate across the continents, but “WE RUN SHIT” still slips into generic territory too much to truly stand up to the greats it references. Meeco and DJ Access did their thing regardless, and the best tracks here prove Meeco’s ability to apply his musical chops to hip-hop, with “ME” and “Back in the Days” in particular, proving incredibly moreish to any self-respecting fan.