Thursday, 3 May 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #160 - Above The Law, "Livin' Like Hustlers"

Back to the Peel Archive again. I just can't drag my ears and eyes away from it. Released in 1990, hot with the first burst of West Coast rap and still excitedly flicking through record crates, there's a very good chance I was listening to tracks from this very album that very year - 1990: my annis mirabilis.

It's completely woven into its time and space. The opening track "Murder Rap" has sizeable chunks of "Straight Outta Compton" and "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos" running through it as if to prove the point. Second track "Untouchable" has a piano line that I can only identify as Boulevard of Broken Dreams, but that may be completely wrong. It's not as raw as NWA though for all the talk about murder and hustlery. I think these guys are keen to enjoy themselves and the tunes and delivery have a picaresque sense of the cartoon wolf, one step removed from the streets.

Apparently they were as much a part of the creation of G-Funk as Dre and they collaborated together more than once. This album is definitely drawing from the blaxploitation genre: even the cover has fake blaxploitation novels on the front. Not as heavily-laced with weed as "The Chronic", I'd say, but definitely imagining themselves in the same movies.

"Another Execution"!! I've definitely heard this before now. I'm sure if I dig through tapes of radio recordings I'll come across it amongst the ferric oxide fumblings trying to put together an idea of what my music was. It has proto-Cypress Hill paranoid, looping of bluesy R&B drums and aggressively simple guitar line. "Menace 2 Society" has a Bomb Squad/Public Enemy feel of ringing bells, dense layers of jazzy samples and funky noise they brung. Lyrically, it's bragging a little light: not so much substance; but the production is carrying some heft.

"Freedom of Speech" has the shoots of another conscious rap flower studding out. James Brown drum breaks (the Funky Drummer itself), Jazzmatazz-type trumpets. There's doesn't seem to much bitch this or gat that or nigga whom on the album. Maybe that's why it doesn't seem as harsh as the other G-Funk apostles. This is the "University of South Central". The last track has that whistle sound from NWA's "Express Yourself" while Dre spits a little about his dick making an invasion and Eazy E spreads some more bad-tempered stuff. The difference between NWA and ATL is underlined.

So glad this was pointed out to me by Providence.

Rating: Hustlery out of Golden Age

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