Highlighting a peaking time of creativity and artistic freedom in hip-hop. WARNING: Might include ramblings & tantrums.
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It"s another Soul Assassins post, and we still ain"t scratched the surface of how beloved and respected this crew was. For example, back in their heyday, inter-regional acceptance was a pretty big accomplishment. Seeing as there wasn"t no social media to speak of, only way you knew that Snoop Dogg was feeling Nas" output, for instance, was through radio or TV interviews. However, there was always a way more impactful and traceable method: Actually workwith the mufucca you tryna big up! And while East Coast luminaries were always known to appear on albums from the West Coast, vice-versa there really wasn"t a lot of people besides Ice Cube. But as influential as Cube was, his appeal on the East Coast didn"t really last as much as his buddies/frenemies the Soul Assassins crew, consisting of Cypress Hill, Funkdoobiest & our hosts today House Of Pain. Because, let me tell y"all something: When that senseless crap between the East & West was going down, everyone from this crew still had safe passage and made a gangof records with the East. Not only that, but a figure like Mr. Lorenzo Cavassi aka Lawrence Muggerud bka the criminally-underrated DJ Muggs (originally hailing from Queens, NY) had so much sway on the East Coast that he helped other mufuccas from the West discover their musical calling on the other side. Enough about that for now: How about we get into where his Irish/Polish crewmates were up to by then, eh?Because let there be no confusion: The trio of Erik "Everlast" Schrody, Daniel "Danny Boy" O" Connor & Leor "DJ Lethal" Dimant had one of the biggest smash hits in musical history on their hands, no joke. The Muggs-produced debut single Jump Around blew up so friggin" big that every other industry related to entertainment wanted in on the action. Hell, the Stale Cheeto In Charge grabbed it for his horseshit presidential candidacy campaign. Thank God, E turned out to be one of the good ones and shut that embarrassment down with a quick cease and desist accompanied with the healthiest of middle fingers. Enough political discourse, though.
As a direct result, the debut albumFine Malt Lyricsfollowed its gargantuan lead single into platinum status. Good thing, too, because it was a bar-room-brawl-anthem-chugging-machine. Soul Assassins’ in-house producers Muggs and his two protégés Lethal and DJ Ralph M from Funkdoobiest set the standard for future albums from the camp with their blunted funk sound, while Everlast shone on punchline duties while establishing an infectious chemistry with Danny Boy and providing the public with the only album to date where the 3 lead MCs from the camp appear on the same album, duetting with Son Doobie and B-Real (best verse on the album, that) separately. Suffice to say, Fine Malt Lyrics was a success.Naturally, the assfaces at Tommy Ain"t My Motherfucking Boy (Shoutouts to De La Soul. We hold y"alldownover here.) wanted now more than ever to squeeze as much money as they could outta the trio. They even shoved E into that Ed Lover/Dr. Dre vehicle Who"s The Man? (Shoutouts to Guru"s cameo in that. RIP.) and the Judgment Night flick nobody saw, which resulted in at least two House Of Pain songs apiece for each soundtrack. We"ll get to those later as one of them appears on the album we"re discussing today. Safe to assume that the pressure was on House Of Pain by the abovementioned assfaces to recreate the debut"s success.Now, before I delve into the fact that Same As It Ever Was sold five hundred thousand units stateside within three months after its release, I must say that nobody was checking for its DJ-Lethal-helmed lead single On Point. It smelled forced, as if the label desperately wanted it to be Jump Around 2: The Jumping of Arounds. I"m not saying it"s a bad song... yet. Nevertheless, half of the fanbase cultivated by Fine Malt Lyrics returned for a second helping. That"s got to be a good sign.Right?Same As It Ever Was, boy/girl (pick one):
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BACK FROM THE DEADDJ Muggs backs E once again with the jumpiest blues horn sample I ever heard in life, that"s on GOD. I"m telling you, it"s something about when these two work together that brings the extra fonky samples outta this dude Muggs" beats. I believe the industry term for that is chemistry. A concept so abundantly cared for these days in mainstream hip hop. What you mean, I"m delusional?! Oh, y"all wanted to hear about E"s performance? (Yes, E"s back for dolo. He"s been doing that since the prior album, get over it.) I"m glad to report that this display y"all listening to is a damn fine punchline reinvention on wax: Dude stepped his bars and delivery up noticeably, signaling how much he was a student of dudes like Grand Puba & Lord Finesse. No lie, I replayed this around 583 times in a row once. It’s thatinfectious.I"M A SWING ITLethal is back on the boards, successfully winding down from the previous offering while still continuing the festive mood with a relentlessly dope bass loop, while E&D tag team the beat and give it a punchline fatality. D, far from being E’s lyrical equal, does amp up the overall energy present. I also found the fact that he"s introduced way earlier on this album than on Fine Malt Lyrics very welcome indeed. So far this album is 2/2.ALL THAT (INTERLUDE)Lethal lets his Juice Crew-themed instrumental go uninterrupted as the jazz sax sampled throughout is begging for E to jump on and cripple.Because you always gets what you want, that never happens as the beat simply fades away.ON POINTThe lead single. As I said earlier, this was incorrectly marketed as the successor to Jump Around, even though the trio managed to build a song that"s straight up fun. On top of providing the grimy jazz-infused beat, Lethal actually drops a short 8-bar verse (his lone lyrical foray to date) mashed with D"s own contribution while E bookends the song with bars that are emphasized that much more by his psychotic delivery. Side note: Lethal"s brief entry contains yet another "the Biter" shot at producer & Ruffhouse CEO Joe "the Butcher" Nicolo, whom E previously dissed at the end of Jump Around, establishing that the bad blood between them wasn"t close to being over. Then again, this was a quarter of a century ago, so who knows how these people feel about each other now. Like I said, though: This remains an enjoyable song when one removes the forced Jump Around association.RUNNIN" UP ON YAMuggs reenters the fray, armed with a meanbassline loop complimented with a left-field horn byte that actually completes the beat instead of derailing it, something Muggs hasmasteredaround this time. E brings you yet another healthy lyrical dose of fight mode and, trust me, he stepped up his flow game something lovely for this one. Icing on the cake is when he ends his third verse with a Nirvana interpolation that, no joke, made me laugh my ass off because of how random it was. All in all, go ahead and beat somebody up after hearing this. Preferably your asshole of a boss. You"ll feel truly alive. (I"m OBVIOUSLYjoking, and I"m stating this fact explicitly because you neverknow with the internet. Not that I have that big of a pull but just in case.)OVER THERE SHITThe grimy blues funk is strong with this Muggs composition, which propels E further into his zany rhymes with one hell of an infectious performance. Props to E actually shouting out Milk Dee prior to the popular Audio Two sample. On paper, this might sound like a repeat of the previous song, but the drum break somehow finds E continuing to upgrade his flow, which is a rare thing to see in a hip hop album. Matter of fact, he"s actually been impressively consistent throughout the album so far!WORD IS BOND (FEATURING DIAMOND D)Remember how I pointed out that the Soul Assassins had a enduring following in the East? Songs like this are a big reason why. Y"know, when one overlooks the production school that Muggs introduced. Anyways, how is this place still called urbanbreathnyc.com if I"ve only justgotten to mentioning the legendary Diggin" In The Crates Crew again after four goddamnyears?! Top it off, I"ve only talked about Diamond D three timesin four years. I"m really disappointed in myself. Time for some reparations: Joseph Kirkland bka DITC co-founder Diamond D is your favorite producer to the tenth power. Please believe that if it wasn"t for producers like him, our genre would not sonically be what it is today. Also, please believe that he"ll stomp that ass on the mic, as he"s right up there with the best punchline rappers to ever collide into the game. This is actually the song that put me on to Diam and his innovative usage of sound period, as he turns the sampled Pete Rock & CL Smooth record into an effing instrument atop asoothing blues mesh, including one of the most inventive utilizations of a vocal sample I"ve ever heard in our beloved genre. And even though the beat is one effective calmer when compared with the rest of the album so far, you can just hear E"s excitement at working with a revered figure in his verses. And credit to Diam as well for returning his host"s enthusiasm, resulting in a hella fine collaboration. I"m saying, Word Is Bond is so dope it could"ve fit snugly on Diam"s debutStunts, Blunts & Hip Hop. Not saying this album is inferior but... You know what I mean, bruh.KEEP IT COMIN"Muggs really just sat there and watched as E called himself the N word... Aside from that, the first two verses were a rare change of pace as E gets personal with his rhymes, airing out his insecurities over Muggs dingy blues bass loop. Then, E mutter"s that he thinks he"s having a breakdown to which Muggs inserts a drum break that intentionally disrupts the fuckoutta the experience. Then, as if his brain is damaged beyond repair, E spends the 3rd versespitting empty threats and boasts the way he"s been doing all album, but not before shouting: "Free John Gotti!" outta goddamn nowhere. This was awesome!INTERLUDESo, DJ Lethal finallyreappears on his own group"s album! Too bad, it"s an interlude. Shame nobody rhymes on this one, neither, because this jazz sample clearly gives the horns on Back From The Dead a run for their money in terms of jumpiness. Oh well...SAME AS IT EVER WASDanny Boy decides to jump back in the game, as well. And this time he"s opening up the track as E hypes him up?! Someone"s feeling their nuts! Anyway, the energy on the album returns to group"s comfort zone of bar-room-brawl levels as Muggs composes this beat from an energetic mesh of funk & rock. By this point, I"m surprised you"resurprised that he can pull this off so effortlessly. Songs like this have effectively highlighted the House Of Pain signature sound, as D and E always sound like they"re having the time of their lives getting wooden chairs smashed on their heads and returning the favor in their pub of choice. And E"s hook is a tribute to the Beastie Boys. What more can you want? I love this song!IT AIN"T A CRIMEMuggs bows out of the album as he and Lethal combine forces to hand E, back for dolo, a rambunctious instrumental so he can wreck with some BNB. He does a 180 and provides my favorite rhymes on this here album: A tale of a juvenile gone wild. Honestly, the tale is fairly tall but you won"t care if the shit"s fun. Songs like this are where you point any stuck up douche who comes at you with the old "Everlast doesn"t know how to rhyme about anything besides fighting in bars". This here bangs.WHERE I"M FROMLethal takes the helm from here as he provides E with a jazzy tune, to which E spits a heartfelt dedication to his friends. A lotta names get mentioned here: His HOP crewmates, underground Brooklyn legend Divine Styler, ragga legend Cokni O"Dire among others. The 3rd verse interests me, though, because he bemoans the lack of communication between them and even disses one at the end. That went south quick. This is an enjoyable song, though.STILL GOT A LOTTA LOVEThe sequel to the closing track on the debut. Over a smooth DJ Lethal bass loop, E simply spits one verse where he shouts out a bunch of people, some whom you might"ve heard of and some not. My favorite shoutout was the last one, because it"s true: Ultramagnetic MCs never really got enough credit.WHO"S THE MANTold you I was coming back to this. The song that opens up the abovementioned flick, DJ Lethal really steps up with the beat provided here as he swirls an evil drum break around around a nasty bass sample and lets it breathe, even taking a page from DJ Muggs" book by inserting an interlude mid-beat, while E & D kick stories of being lowlifes in the hood. Both rappers sound like this was recorded shortly after Fine Malt Lyrics was released. Side note: My first inclination was to disbelieve every single word being spit on here, until I found out that E & D actually had a little rep before they got put on. I remain unconvinced E would shank someone in prison, though. All in all, I fux with this.ON POINT (LETHAL DOSE REMIX)Basically the exact same rhymes as the original, but Lethal switches up the mood with a far more darker & spacey instrumental. Some might prefer the original, saying its chaotic nature is a better fit for the lyrics, and some might edge out the remix saying it gives the lyrics more space to breathe. It"s on you to decide which camp you wanna follow.FINAL THOUGHTSFirst off, lemme just point out the fact that for all the bullshit labels like Tommy Ain"t My Motherfucking Boy give artists to produce albums quickly, they sure took their time releasing our trio"s sophomore into the public. Because Same As It Ever Was would"ve surely made muchmore noise had they done their fucking jobs and released it a year prior. However, we are still talking about Tom Silverman"s vanity front and from all the bad press currently circulating about him, it"s apparent & clear that the conniving bastardNEVERcared about the culture, let alone its purveyors. Anywhat, the focus should remain Everlast, Danny Boy, DJ Lethal and their collaborators on this album: I am very pleased to report that this is a vastly superior album to their debut, even if no song on here is bigger than Jump Around. DJ Muggs brought the vast growth he experienced to the table, and Lethal met him blow for blow every step of the way, while E clearly elevated his bar game. Danny was never that type of rapper but his energy was always palpable, which is perfect for projects like this. Bringing in Diamond D was a masterstroke, as well, because it exposed House Of Pain to a crowd that might"ve never heard of them prior. Well done, you Irish hoodlums and you Polish asshole. This will bump properin your system.WORTH IT?Get to this yesterdayor go shovel Post Malone into your brain somewhere else.TRACKS TO TRACK DOWNLEGENDIt"s baffling to me that Tommy Boy would release an EP priorto Same As It Ever Was that house songs made afterthe shit. Kinda defeats the purpose of hyping the album, don"tchathink? This is the EP"s title track, released as a single and given the video treatment nonetheless. Utterly baffling. Never mind these details as Lethal commissions a somber mesh of piano and electric key samples that drag you to the bowels of E"s mind as he mixes some BNB with chilling observations about the age-old dilemma of fame-seeking. Had this been on the proper album, it would"ve dethroned It Ain"t A Crime as my favorite song thereon, but here we are.WORD IS BOND (REMIX)Alsooff the Legend EP. At this point, I’m like: You know what, Tommy Boy? I"m so glad Treach did what he did to y’all asshats. Diamond D must"ve caught on to how good Pete Rock was with them xylophone samples, so I guess felt he had to prove he was just as good. Hey, "tis the rules of the trade. You shouldn"t trip, though, because a motivated Diamond D is a geniusDiamond D. Not only does he freak a vastly superior remix to his original production, he also obliteratesE on his own shit. To be fair, E never stood a chance with the verse he gave. It is what it is.JUST ANOTHER VICTIMOff the Judgment Night OST is yet another metal/rap mashup where our trio collaborate with alternative metal band Helmet. More like it’s two minutes of Helmet thrashing away until the last two minutes where Lethal takes control of the beat and directs the band and crewmate Everlast into performing a much more effectivemetal hip hop mashup. And we all know by now how comfortable E is at delivering threats and highlighting insecurities. Shit is wild.