I’ll be dead honest with all of you — the one and only reason I still remember Father MC over a quarter of a century later is seeing the video for “I’ll Do 4 U” on an episode of Pump It Up, one that not so coincidentally also featured Sista D interviewing him at a “pajama jammy jam.” It’s a generic new jack swing rap song from the early 1990’s, but thanks to a good Cheryl Lynn sample and an early appearance from hip-hop songbird Mary J. Blige, the song still holds up as listenable today.

It was pretty clear from the beginning that Uptown Records and the late Andre Harrell wanted to position Timothy Brown as a sex symbol to rival Big Daddy Kane. Rap videos often play to the male gaze with women shaking their assets, but Father MC was showing off his dance moves and leaving just enough of his shirt open to show off his toned physique. This was actually muted compared to where the label and the man they hoped would be their flagship star would go. By his third album he was blatantly declaring “Sex Is Law” and when his commercial hopes were waning it was hoped a Playgirl spread would revive his career. (Spoiler alert — it didn’t.)

For me the title track of the album only serves to remind me of three songs I’m much more fond of — Eric B. & Rakim’s “Paid In Full,” Junior M.A.F.I.A.’s “Get Money (Remix)” and 2Pac’s “Hit ‘Em Up” dissing both Notorious B.I.G. and his comrades. You don’t really have to look far in hip-hop to find hundreds of “Don’t Look Any Further” samples, but the normally reliable Clark Kent is not even in the top ten for his use here. Father MC also sounds desperate to convince listeners of all genders of his prowess, and I’m not just talking about the cornball chorus. “Ladies I’m single/yes I want to mingle/cause I’m getting to unwrinkle and sprinkle/All that said I’m a Casanova/a black bulldozer.” He might as well have started comparing his genitalia to a horse.

Overdone samples and overly horny raps are the norm for this album. I’m not sure what’s more infuriating about “I Beeped You” — Father MC’s sense of entitlement about getting some trim, or how lame the song is compared to Kris Kross. Dead up. DJ Eddie J couldn’t do a better sample of the Jackson 5 than Jermaine Dupri did for a prepubescent rap group on “Jump.” If that doesn’t suit your fancy then take what Kanye did for Shawn Carter on “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” instead. Either one is preferable to hearing this song. To finally hear some sampling done right here I had to turn to Pete Rock.
While the title of “R&B Swinger” once again betrays what Uptown Records was aiming for with Father MC’s career, the song benefits from that Peter O. Phillips touch in a major way. I can’t say “The Payback” isn’t an overused sample too, but the layered approach to production both blends it in and somehow brings it out at the same time. You notice James Brown, but he doesn’t overpower the sound. Hearing Pete Rock’s occasional interjections vocally on the mix is like a warm cup of coffee on a cold winter’s day. Harrell’s protege Sean Combs should have taken notes on how to cameo on your rap star’s songs without overdoing it.
On such a hyper masculine sexually charged album, it’s weird to hear Father MC do a slow somber song like “For the Brothers Who Ain’t Here.” It almost comes off as parody when he talks about “passing the Old Gold” and “doing the knowledge,” but I will take him as sincere when he raps about being fed up with black-on-black crime. The problem is he doesn’t even carry the weight of the song. The now largely forgotten Little Shawn is the true star lyrically. Remember “Hickies On Your Neck?” That Little Shawn. If you don’t I don’t blame you.
Clark Kent and Ski do a fine job on “The Wiggle,” but the song manages to be simultaneously absurd and excessively sexual. “Eff what you heard, let’s both get nude.” Hey Father, you had a parental advisory sticker here. You couldn’t say “fuck” instead? This is the very dichotomy that resulted in Father MC getting played out. They wanted him to be appealing to the ladies without pissing off the dudes. They wanted him to be friendly for the radio while being hardcore for the streets. Father MC, his label and his producers were all trying to serve too many masters and wound up serving none.

I don’t really hate “Sex Is Law.” There’s a slew of above average producers lacing the tracks, and even if they don’t all do their best work, none are even close to doing their worst. Father MC isn’t a star no matter how badly Timothy Brown and Andre Harrell wanted him to be, but he’s not a mush mouthed tongue-tied incompetent rapper on the mic. He has all the essential qualities of mic presence, breath control and pleasant vocal tone that should have launched his career to another level. The problem here is that “I’ll Do 4 U” was the only Father MC song to ever make a major impact commercially and everybody involved seemed increasingly hard-pressed to duplicate that success. Listeners aren’t stupid. They can smell desperation and shy away from it no matter how well packaged it might be.

Father MC :: Sex Is Law
6Overall Score