The title of “Bootlegs & B-Sides” is a lie, straight up. After “Operation Stackola” succeeded beyond all expectations thanks to the viral spread of “I Got 5 On It,” their old label C-Note Records repackaged a 1994 EP released under the name LuniTunes to cash in on Yukmouth and Numskull’s popularity. In fact if not for a legal threat from Warner Bros. they probably would have continued as the LuniTunes, but the bottom line is that these songs are neither “bootlegs” nor “B-sides.” They already existed in a public and commercial form, even if the rappers involved were a regional duo from Oakland who hadn’t broken out in a major way.

You don’t have to dig very far into the album for proof. On “Doin’ Dirt” they both shout out the year (“nine-fo’ beotch”) and say their original name in the first four seconds. So it’s a blatant cash in, coming over two years after “I Got 5 On It” blew up, and I’m still going to give it a pass. Why? Item #1 — they used the exact same Southside Movement loop here as Scarface’s “PD Roll ‘Em” and Cormega’s “American Beauty” among others. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t taken some samples to task for being recycled too often, but this is one I never tired of. Item #2 — the guest appearance of Dru Down makes this a very “town shit” song, the kind that wears Oakland on its vest like a badge of pride (as well it should). The same can be said of The Click’s own Suga T appearing on the song “Scandalous,” which she later released on her own album under the title “Hoes.”

Familiar samples much? I immediately think of EPMD’s “Manslaughter” when I hear it, and once again I don’t mind it. I think that’s in part due to the charm Yuk and Num already had even at this early point in their rap careers. The topics certainly aren’t deep or profound. “Scope” (which should be pronounced “Scoop”) is all about getting some trim any way you can, and revels in its misogyny to a nearly transcendent level, going beyond sounding malicious to just being a casual conversation about “a fat ass … I’m thinking about banging.” These brothers are so thirsty they are “spilling hella Kool-Aid” all over the place.

And if you think that lack of finesse was just a one off, you should listen to “Stupid,” where the bars openly brag about driving with no license and blowing money on weed and women. “That’s why I cain’t fuck with it/if it feel good I never had luck with it.” It’s that very down to earth attitude that informed their success with “I Got 5 On It,” a song which beyond its catchy hook was actually a tale about being broke as fuck. Think about it — if you need to pitch in a fiver for some weed, you couldn’t afford to buy it solo.

Despite the misleading name (and the fact it’s been re-issued several more times under more variations) “Bootlegs & B-Sides” is actually a cool EP. It’s not a deep Luniz album, nor is it any hidden gems or obscure soundtrack cuts, but it’s just the earliest indication of how big they’d soon become. The fact it was originally released in 1994 and sounded as good as anything they’d do afterward shows that the Luniz were on the cusp of their big break. They even coined the phrase “Operation Stackola” on the song “Doin’ Dirty,” so all the seeds for their future success were planted right here.

Luniz :: Bootlegs & B-Sides
7Overall Score