Most of artwork from “Colouz Uv Sound” on eBay seems to have a notch cut out, typical for promotional copies sent to deejays and radio stations. If the Wikipedia entry for Simplé E’s album is anything to go by, they may be the only people who ever got it. Also just to get this out of the way now, there is an accent over the é in her name, because it’s pronounced “Simply E” and not “Simple E.” Her real name is Erica Williams, so she’s simply E — get it? Okay. I’m just going to refer to her as E going forward.
E came to my attention in the 1990’s when her song “Play My Funk” was featured on the Sugar Hill soundtrack and received a music video to support its release as a single. Fox Records had good reason to believe they had something here. The jazzy bass funk and E’s in your face delivery distinguished her from other female rappers of the era, as did her no nonsense presentation as a rap artist. The only other female I can compare her look to in this era is The Lady of Rage, but she obviously doesn’t have “Afro Puffs” in her video. Still her attire is more akin to a thug than to a temptress, which befit the movie her song was featured in as well. It’s a largely forgotten Wesley Snipes vehicle about two brothers unable to escape the traps they grew up in. I won’t spoil too much if you haven’t seen it but the “happy ending” leaves one of the two partially paralyzed. It’s dark.
I enjoyed the film and its single more than most people, but “Colouz Uv Sound” didn’t seem to be able to follow up on E’s vibe. The other single “Blue Jeans” is to put it kindly regrettable. She goes from being reminiscent of Rage to outright cloning her delivery and demeanor, then makes the questionable decision to sing a soft hook to go with it, creating one of the weirdest attempts to crossover to pop radio I can think of. Every part of the song seems incredibly disconnected from every other part. None of it works together, none of it makes sense, and the jazzy but nasty vibe of “Play My Funk” is completely destroyed. Would there be any hope for the rest of the album after such an ill-conceived follow up?
No. E’s a capable rapper and her flow on songs like “De Abyss” reminds me of the likes of Bahamadia and Shorty No Mas. The singing doesn’t do it for me though and weird raps like “Wu-Tang wrote a book about me” don’t either. When she croons “Who cares? Who gives a shit?” it’s like she was writing her own epitaph. I wish E could have taken that one back. Throughout the album Walker seems to be struggling to find her identity. It’s as though she can’t decide whether to be a conscious rapper, a cool seductress, a hardcore thug or a R&B singer. The results is confused songs like “Kinke Reggae” where she’s trying to be all of them at the same time.
The biggest drawback for E is the lackluster production. Even when she seems to find a comfortable groove lyrically on songs like “Neck Work” the backdrop is an uninspired snare and kick drum with an occasional Roger Troutman sample thrown in. The shocker here is that her album was produced by D’wayne Wiggins. Yes, THAT D’wayne Wiggins. That makes the mediocrity of the music on E’s album completely inexcusable in every way.
As much as I wanted to like E when “Play My Funk” came out, her album proves that it was ultimately a one hit wonder, and that “hit” never peaked higher than No. 72 on the Billboard Hot 100. Maybe that’s why Wiggins turned in such a subpar effort musically and E seemed so unable to capture lightning in a bottle again. They put their best foot forward on the Sugar Hill soundtrack, and after that the car ran out of gas and stalled on the highway. It’s a minor miracle that “Colouz Uv Sound” came out at all, but this isn’t an album you need to seek out, much like Sugar Hill isn’t a movie you have to go out of your way to see. It’s decent but far from a classic, although I’d rather watch it again than listen to E’s album again, and you can thank Wesley Snipes, Michael Wright and Abe Vigoda for that.