Fans of Devin might have come across last year's Coughee Brothaz "Collector's Edition" prerelease copy. These days, the Coughee Brothaz seem to comprise an extended network of rhyme sayers and beat makers. In 1994, the brothers Coughee were Devin, Rob Quest, and Jugg Mugg, professionally known as the Odd Squad. Having moved to Texas while in elementary school, the Florida-born Devin first hooked up with Rob while preparing for a talent show at Texas Southern University in the late '80s. Some years later, the crew, now a trio, cut a demo, which featured a certain DJ Screw on the turntables, who passed the tape on to James A. Smith of Rap-A-Lot Records, who signed them in 1992. One year later they could be heard on the 8-minute showcase "Bring it On" featured on the Geto Boys album "Till Death Do Us Part."
"Fadanuf fa Erybody," released yet another year later, carries strains of a typical Rap-A-Lot record and at the same time yields to the particular preferences of some or all Odd Squad members. Rob Quest formed the production team Mad Flava Productions (no relation to the '94 Priority signing Mad Flava) with DJ Styles. For their group's debut, the duo got assistance from Rap-A-Lot in-house producers N.O. Joe and Mike Dean. This resulted in an album that in sound was distinctly more East Coast than any other '90s Rap-A-Lot release. "Here to Say a Lil' Somethin'" prominently places KRS-One over jazz samples. "Jazz Rendition" gives us Rob Quest with an energetic performance accompanied by hard, syncopated drums and sidekick support from a choir of hypemen, while he closes things down shouting out Gang Starr and DJ Premier.
"I let you know that I'm the shit
with a 40 ounce of brew and a 10-pack of floppy discs
Sittin' in the booth makin' beats all day
Like my man Showbiz we be Diggin' In The Crates
Styles finds a break, then we scoop it
lay it down on the EPS and loop it"
Though a teamplayer, Rob Quest still finds the time to drop production-related comments, making it evident how dear the topic is to him. To express himself through music might have held a special meaning to the rapper/producer who's also known as Blind Rob. He starts off the solo venture "I Can't See It" enigmatically with "If you could only hear what I see, then you might understand where I'm comin' from." The great thing about "I Can't See It" is that it's more than a poetical piece from a blind musician who "got the light" because he "got the mic," it is also a very straightforward song demanding respect. The following words are delivered with a raspy but young voice that conveys emotional investment as well the indifference necessary to get somewhere in life:
"It's the chubby, curly-haired kid from HTX
Nasty like unsafe sex, you best step when I flex
Knockin' peons out the box and smokin' niggas like Sweets
Y'all talk loud but say nothing, that's why I still can't heed it
Talkin' 'bout, 'I know that ain't that blind kid rappin'...'
Comin' up to me talkin' 'bout, 'Hey yo, yo, yo cuz, what happened?'
But that's for me to know and you to find out
Let me break it down right here, so you know what I'm talkin' about
I get a check every month and it makes me independent
So muthafuck you and that hand that you're lendin'
Cause I don't need your funky-ass sympathy
just the pussy and any money that you're givin' me
I am who I am, so you can take it or leave it
You play me for anything less, bitch, I can't see it"
The unapologetic attitude doesn't prevent Rob from accepting his potential role model status and ending the song encouraging folks with whatever shortcomings to believe in themselves. For the rest of the album, the tone of the album is decidedly less earnest, although the trio manages to make certain situations they find themselves in seem quite serious. The bluesy "Fa Sho'" sees them weighing the pros and cons of promiscuity. In Devin's words: "When you're fuckin' over yo fo sho' pussy / tryin' to get some mo' pussy / you'll end up with no pussy." If that sounds familiar, you've either been there yourself or heard the remixed version on The Dude's second album "Just Tryin' ta Live."
Like Snoop before him, Devin went solo on that ass but was still the same. If you already know his steelo (with or without the airplay), you know he gives it to you raw and at the same time laces his verses with narrative and poetic extras. On "Coughee" he admits to addiction with choice lines like "I roll big ol' horse dicks to keep you blowed higher than giraffe nut / I spend my last 10 even if I need a haircut" and "Since I'm unemployed and every day is my off-day / I kick off my shoes and I booze and I choose to drink coughee." In short, "Fadanuf fa Erybody" is full of vintage Devin The Dude material:
"I know your breath get stank, your throat get dry
But I like gettin' high, bitch, I'm blowed right now
I got a brew in my hand, Lil' James can't understand
why we stumblin' through the studio - drunk again
Drinkin' coughee, eyes red, tight and shiny
When the laws get behind me, yo, my nuts don't get tiny
I just reach up under my seat and get my heat and get 'em off me
cause they took my driver's license but them bitches can't have my coughee"
His Brothers offer emotional support on the "Save Their Souls"-lit "Smokin' Dat Weed," the feelgood vibe best reflected by Jugg reasoning "Besides, the shit, it really does me no harm / it's better than me havin' needle marks in my arms." Quite a different story is "Your Pussy's Like Dope," where Devin shows all the symptoms of being strung out. The Mad Flava track leaves the rapper trailing a slow, coldly trickling shower, whispering voices fading in and out while he finds himself on the other level of being pussy-whipped: "Makes me give you money, I take you out to dinner / No joke, I'm goin' broke just to keep my dick up in ya / But shhh - dont tell everybody about it / cause it's mine and I wanna be the only one that's got it."
"Fadanuf fa Erybody" is one of those albums that make you ponder the phrase 'For mature audiences only.' Given its sexual content, most parents would probably not want their underaged offspring exposed to it. At the same time a certain amount of immaturity might be needed to appreciate the way the adult content is addressed. While both "Fa Sho'" and "Your Pussy's Like Dope" have psychological depth, it's hard to find any such quality in "Put Cha Lips," which may at times be comical ("Every time I ask for neck work I get the lip smack") but ultimately reeks of plain pornography. Thankfully, the boys are countered by a female guest who pays them back in their own coin.
By the time "Fadanuf fa Erybody" dropped, Rap-A-Lot Records had acquired quite a rep with bizarre rap acts (Ganksta NIP, Too Much Trouble, Bushwick Bill). Living up to its name, the Odd Squad definitely had its moments of bad taste, but the oddness was displayed playfully and devoid of the usual violence. Even without Devin on their side, Rob and Jugg were up to par, as evidenced by "Hoes Wit Babies," a hilarious sketch about the hassles of hooking up with a - to use modern English - MILF: "Got a rubber in your pocket thinkin' you'se the pussy-getter / but when you come inside you end up the baby-sitter."
Scarface reportedly crowned this album the best ever full-length release on Rap-A-Lot. There are several factors that make this indeed an exceptional recording. Quest and Styles' "Mad Flava with a touch of that Gumbo [Funk]" was the perfect backdrop for the Squad's raunchy rhymes, a smooth take on the blunted funk that can be heard on Face's "The World Is Yours," enriched with traditional musical styles and a dash of East Coast flavor. Lyrically, all three rappers see the comical value in everyday situations. Vocally, the flows and voices fit their attitude to a tee. Though not always a hundred percent effective, they aspire to be a unique act that doesn't model itself after the latest fads. As Rob says on the opening "Da Squad": "This ain't no gang or a crew or a high-clappin' click / No combat boots or baggy pants, dreadlocks, none of that shit." They were, according to Jugg Mugg, "just some down muthafuckas / whoever possess the cess, yo, we share it with each other." It's hard to complain when a rap group produces a solo star as precious as Devin The Dude, but revisiting "Fadanuf fa Erybody" will definitely leave you with a feeling of regret that the Odd Squad as a collective has since remained silent.
Music Vibes: 8.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 8 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8.5 of 10
Originally posted: February 27, 2007