Sunday, October 08, 2006

Posse Up

If it's true that Hip-Hop took a nosedive at the end of the 90's, that there have been very few quality posse cuts since is understandable. What once used to be a staple in rap music, the joining together of a handful of MC's over one beat with a single mission, over time has been replaced by the likes the rap / rock collaboration, the club banger, and the R&B first single. And while there have been a few notable exceptions in recent years (Scarface's Southern Nigga, Kanye West's We Can Make It Better, Federation's Hyphy remix, etc.), the posse cut has mostly suffered the same fate of Busta Rhyme's recent Touch It remix: poorly conceived, poorly executed, jumbled, and contrived.

In discussion here of these Hip-Hop hallmarks, it's then fitting that Nas' name was made off of one of the finest, Main Source's Live at the Barbeque. After this introduction, Nas went on to grace a number of other gems, everything from Back to the Grill to the Affirmative Action remix. He even was featured on 2004's Grand Finale, a nod to The D.O.C. / N.W.A. classic of the same name. In honor, tonight's entry reflects an attempt to spotlight ten great posse cuts, without being too cliché however, i.e. we all know about the likes of The Symphony and Scenario and Self Destruction, Wu-Tang to the Boot Camp Clik, but what else?

01.3 Strikes
Askari X featuring Seagram, 3xKrazy, Bad-N-Fluenz, Mr. Ill, The Delinquents, Mike Mike Ansar Moe
BEST VERSE: Ant Diddley Dog

While The Bay's appearance on a list such as this usually begins and ends with the Bay Ballers remix of 5 On It, 3 Strikes says different. Not only does this 1995 sleeper feature a pre-fame Keak Da Sneak (3xKrazy), but all of the rappers were brought together in a timely protest against California's Proposition 184, the then-recently-enacted three strikes law.

02.4 My Peeps
Red Hot Lover Tone f/ Notorious B.I.G., Prince Poetry, & M.O.P.
BEST VERSE: Notorious B.I.G.

Although Red Hot Lover Tone became better known as one half of The Trackmasters, during his MC days, he was able to serve as host for this Brooklyn-Queens connection. 4 My Peeps offers production a bit more hard-hitting than Tone's latter work, allowing, for example, Biggie to ooze authority all over drums just as brash as his rhymes ever were.

03.Don't Curse
Heavy D f/ Kool G. Rap, Grand Puba, CL Smooth, Big Daddy Kane, Pete Rock, Q-Tip

Yes, Don't Curse came with a music video, a Pete Rock beat, and a lineup including both G Rap and Kane, but it's been ignored too often in the fifteen years since its first release. Proof of its greatness, though you'd think with a guest list this deep there'd be a lot of chest-pumping and ego all over, the truly fun end result, where each MC plays into his own strength without overdoing it, says otherwise.

04.Got My Mind Made Up
2Pac f/ Daz, Kurupt, Method Man, Redman
BEST VERSE: Method Man

2Pac may not have always had the kindest of words for certain East Coast rappers, but his coastal feuds were usually exaggerated, as evidenced by inviting the team of Mef 'n Red along for his '96 double album, All Eyez On Me. And while Redman had previously left his mark on the similarly classic Headbanger, in the midst of a mid-90's Tical and Kurupt, two then-undeniable MC's, he gets lapped sufficiently.

05.I Shot Ya (remix)
LL Cool J f/ Fat Joe, Foxy Brown, Keith Murray, Prodigy
BEST VERSE: Keith Murray

The mid-90s New York remix posse cut honor typically goes to Craig Mack's Flava In Ya Ear. However, I Shot Ya provides a more consistent roster of rappers and an at least comprehensible verse from LL Cool J. The Mr. Smith remix as well includes the back-story of Keith Murray and Prodigy supposedly firing subliminals at one another on the very same song.

06.Peruvian Cocaine
Immortal Technique f/ C-Rayz Walz, Diabolic, Loucipher, Poison Pen, Pumpkinhead, Tonedeff
BEST VERSE: Diabolic

Even as a couple of the cuts listed thus far have also fit into the "concept" category, Immortal Technique's Peruvian Cocaine ups the ante just a little more. Not only does the track track the path cocaine takes to reach America's urban cities, but each MC acts as a voice of the trade's many players. This includes every actor from the South American laborer to the corner pusher.

07.Show and Prove
Big Daddy Kane f/ Scoob, Sauce Money, Shyheim, Jay-Z, Ol Dirty Bastard
BEST VERSE: Big Daddy Kane

Usually the leadoff spot on a posse cut is of utmost importance, as the rapper placed here can set the tone and even become show-stealer; and although Scoob, in this role, doesn't ruin the mood, Show and Prove is known more for the crew that follows, such as two top-ten worthy MC's, Big Daddy Kane and Jay-Z, and a legend in his own right, Ol' Dirty Bastard. The funny thing is that even still with these heavy-hitters around, the also-included Shyiem more than holds weight, however kid-sized it was at the time.

08.Two To The Head
Kool G Rap and DJ Polo f/ Geto Boys, Ice Cube

Since the Geto Boys, Ice Cube, and Kool G Rap represent some of the darkest, most brutal music Hip-Hop has ever produced, it is therefore appropriate that this closing track to 92's Live and Let Die provides a healthy serving of the slaughterhouse style of rap, over cellar-dwelling percussion and an eerie vocal sample. And even though the Texas boys and Compton's own don't disappoint, you had to know G Rap wasn't going to be outdone on his own album.

09.Usual Suspects
Mic Geronimo f/ DMX, Ja Rule, The Lox, Tragedy Khadafi

Two different versions of Usual Suspects exist (the second exchanging Tragedy with Cormega, The Lox with Fatal Hussein). However, the Kiss-Styles sendup is highlighed to recall a time when The Lox were known less for contract disputes and more for being quality posse cut staples themselves, e.g. Banned from TV, Jada on John Blaze. Along with these two examples, Usual Suspects stands as one of the last great New York entries in the subgenre.

10.Watch For The Hook
Cool Breeze f/ OutKast, Goodie Mob, Witchdoctor
BEST VERSE: Witchdoctor

With its energetic use of Merry Clayton's Southern Man and an Olympic-like passing of mics, Watch for the Hook could probably move the pulse of a casket full of cadavers. In fact, off this song alone, many were moved to buy Cool Breeze's debut, for better or worse. Highlights include Andre's repetition of "somebody let me hold a number two pencil 'cause they testin'" and the Goodie Mob back and forth.

Lil Jon f/ Bun B, Ice Cube, Jadakiss, Nas, T.I.: Grand Finale
BONUS: The D.O.C. f/ N.W.A.: Grand Finale


Blogger neo said...

When you hear songs like these you wonder what happened?

October 09, 2006 2:44 PM  
Anonymous Colin said...

It's weird that posse cuts have become rarer (and worse) since the hip-hop music industry is so single driven. The quality of albums is no longer a concern, as long as the single is hot. And you'd think that by getting some of the hottest rappers together more often that would really help out that aspect of things.

Either way good choices, I was just talking to someone the other day about how Shyheim wrecked on "Show And Prove". I'd also like to mention the remix of "Simon Says" with Pharoahe Monch (of course), Method Man, Redman, Lady Luck, Shabam Sadeeq, and Busta Rhymes. And slightly more recently the "Why" remix was alright.

October 09, 2006 5:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

6 minutes by Cassidy feat. Fabolous, Lil' Wayne was actually pretty good. Not sure if it "qualifies" as a posse cut. Oh and John Blaze was fire; Jadakiss, Raekwon, Nas, Fat Joe, Big Pun...C'mon man!!!---Esco

October 10, 2006 5:39 AM  
Blogger Game Theory said...

Wow, listening to that Biggie verse on '4 My Peeps', I don't think anyone knows that the Nas hook from 'Last Real Nigga Alive' is from that verse. I know I didn't.

October 11, 2006 10:25 PM  
Blogger Fletch said...

Yeah, I actually brought up the 4 My Peeps-LRNA connection in an old entry (last paragraph), but figured since that post was done early on, that I could repeat myself without losing anybody. In a song all about the history Nas had with other NY Rappers, some known, some music, and some not, it's interesting that the chorus would end up like that, "but I borrowed from both them niggas."

October 12, 2006 9:13 AM  
Anonymous Ill E said...

Another Nas posse cut that I like is the OTHER "Grand Finale" from Belly's Soundtrack. Ja could of been left off, but DMX, Meth and Esco all had nice verses... and it was cool how they were all saying X's saying "Dog's for's for life" before their verses... and the video was cool too.

October 14, 2006 9:12 AM  

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