Either a publicist working for Papa Chuk or the artist himself wrote his Discogs bio, because it’s completely over-the-top in a way I haven’t seen in a fortnight. “Born in Oakland and raised in the Cen-Tex area, there has never been a more intellectual or cleverly aggressive MC.” WOW. I guess that was a wrap for the rap game way back in 1994. Every rapper on the scene should have just hung up their mic, and every aspiring rapper should have put their pen and pad away and quit writing rhymes. Papa Chuk was the pinnacle of all rappers and nobody would ever be able to compete… right?

Five tracks into “The Badlands” I was incredibly skeptical of that premise, especially when I heard The Moore Foundation use the same sample as Main Source’s “Fakin’ the Funk” while asking the question “How many ways can we flip the shit?” Apparently more than one, but still not as well as K-Cut and Sir Scratch did it. It probably doesn’t help that this song in particular is a posse track that makes one dig even deeper to figure out who is who than you were doing for the already obscure Papa Chuk. Let’s give him another chance on the only single I’m aware of that got even a minute of exposure, and that would be “Trunk of Funk.”

For someone billed as the most intellectual and aggressive emcee in all of rap history, the song is remarkably pedestrian. The samples of Bob James or Sly and the Family Stone aren’t that unique. Rapping an entire ode to the shapely posteriors of females had already been perfected by Sir Mix-A-Lot. The wordplay comes tinged with an extra hint of entitlement and misogyny. “Put some clothes on if you don’t want to be touched.” Oh so just because she’s showing some curves means you’re automatically given permission to commit sexual harassment? “They know not what they’re doin/but get mad when a brother starts pursuin’.” Well maybe they got mad because you’re being a creeper who won’t leave them alone. “I just don’t know how to act.” Well that’s clear Chuk. If we’re being fair though this is par for the course for rappers in the 1990’s. Respecting women wasn’t a top priority.

The problem with Papa Chuk’s “The Badlands” is that every time I try to give him a chance to live up to the lofty standards he or his publicist set for this album, I wind up feeling that he fell incredibly short. If he were throwing darts trying to hit the bullseye, these tracks wouldn’t just be in the outer circle — they’d smack into the wall and clatter to the floor. You can’t really profess to be an intellectual when you make a song called “Nigguz Will Be Nigguz” where you essentially shrug your shoulders at having no standards for yourself or others. It probably wouldn’t bother me as much if he wasn’t rapping it over the exact same sample as “Butter” by A Tribe Called Quest, but once again the MENSA mind is shown up by somebody else flipping the shit better than he did.

One of the few true highlights for me is the Tony Dofat produced “Down ‘N Dirty” featuring Champ MC. She’s relatively obscure herself but I at least remember her as part of the Wu-Tang affiliated Deadly Venoms crew. She’s not doing anything here but proving she can be just as rugged as Chuk, but at least that provides for an interesting moment on an otherwise banal album. At least… it’s banal most of the time. When it grabs my attention on a song like “Show Some ID” it’s for the wrong reasons. Papa Chuk seems to have an EDP445 level problem with going after underage women, so he’s putting the onus of proving they’re grown on them, as if his eye for whom he’s attracted to “like steel to a magnet” plays no part whatsoever.

Let’s get down to brass tacks here — “The Badlands” would probably have skated had Papa Chuk himself not been billed like the second coming of Christ. He’s not Muhammad Ali. He’s not Tom Brady. He’s not Michael Jordan. Look folks, he’s not even a Pro Bowl selection or a candidate for most valuable sixth man. Chuk isn’t a terrible rapper, but there’s nothing special or unique about him either. He simply can’t hold up against the expectations that were set by his introduction, and instead of raising the bar when you try to give him a chance, he grabs it with both hands and shoves it further down. It really doesn’t surprise me that the “greatest of all time” had a one album career and quietly disappeared.

Papa Chuk :: The Badlands
5Overall Score