July 14, 2007

The Nonce - World Ultimate (February 28, 1995)

I found this CD in one of my boxes the other day and thought I'd give it a spin. I don't have a lot of information about The Nonce, except for what is in the album booklet and the little info found on the Interweb. The Nonce is a duo made up of Nouka Basetype (now better known as Sach, from the Project Blowed collective) and the late Yusef Afloat, who passed away in 2000. I know that they released at least two singles, "Mix Tapes" and "Bus Stops". I know that World Ultimate was their first full-length album, released on Rick Rubin's American Recordings label, which would seemingly put The Nonce in the good company of the late Johnny Cash.

The Nonce could be considered the West Coast's answer to A Tribe Called Quest. (When I said this to my wife, she told me that she wasn't aware that the East Coast had asked the question.) This is mainly due to the dynamic of the two rappers, whose rhymes do not include references to fucking bitches and/or everyday gunplay. In fact, for a duo from Los Angeles, World Ultimate sounds a lot like a rap album from the East Coast, with tight beats that were uncharacteristic from the Left Coast at the time. World Ultimate proves that not every rapper from Cali had to show and prove over G-Funked instrumentals. As such, it is considered an underground classic, but as we all know, that doesn't mean shit to me.

Before I get into the write-up, I need to dispel an Interweb rumor. There seems to be many questions as to whether Erick Sermon produced any songs on World Ultimate (specifically, "Good To Go"). Looking at the liner notes, I can see how someone would believe this, as an 'E. Sermon' appears as a writer on the song. However, as anyone with even the least possible amount of knowledge of hip hop would notice, a 'P. Smith' is credited right next to 'E. Sermon', as in Parrish Smith, as in Erick Sermon's partner in EPMD. So, all Erick Sermon ever did was write some lyrics that would later be interpolated by The Nonce. Yusef and Nouka produced their entire debut album and should be praised for their consistent sound.

Anyway...

1. ON THE AIR
No rap album intro here (to their credit). A slower, jazzy-type song to introduce the album with. Not bad, but you realize that Nouka and Yusef were never the best rappers.

2. KEEP IT ON
The drums shake the shit out of you on this track. Yusef, who's nasally voice could be compared to a higher-pitched Q-Tip, comes out hard on here. Nouka, who sounds a little bit like Aceyalone, sounds like he's having a good time in the booth, rhyming but knowing that he's not the best there is.

3. BUS STOPS (FEAT ACEYALONE)
The second Nonce song I had heard. I love the beat to this day, and this song still sounds great while driving around aimlessly. I always found it odd that Aceyalone was limited to a goofy interlude within the song, though.

4. THE WEST IS... (FEAT BUTTA B & MEEN GREEN)
A darker track for Nonce & Co. to spit over. This shit sounds goooood.

5. MIX TAPES
If "Bus Stops" is The Nonce's "Electric Relaxation", then "Mix Tapes" has to be their "Award Tour". I'm sure I'm not the only person that has made that comparison. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if it turned out that Tribe's Midnight Marauders was their favoritest album ever. Of course, this is not a bad thing, since this song still sounds pretty good today.

6. TESTING
An instrumental interlude. It doesn't last very long, so I have no comment.

7. WORLD ULTIMATE
Jazzy production, not unlike Tribe's The Low End Theory. My Tribe comparisons will stop........now.

8. GOOD TO GO
Very souled-out track, with some piano notes that sound like they were lifted from the Wu's "Protect Ya Neck". Don't let that be detrimental to your enjoyment of this song, though.

9. ON THE ROAD AGAIN (FEAT FIGURES OF SPEECH)
Your mandatory "rap song with R&B hook" requirement is meat with this song. For what it is, though, it sounds pretty good.

10. HOODS LIKE TO PLAY
Yusef and Nouka rhyme over a De La Soul sample to passable effect. I'll use this opportunity to bring up the only flaw of World Ultimate: these songs, while great to listen to, aren't very memorable. That would probably be due to Nouka and Yusef's personas as journeyman rappers, the type who loved to rhyme but weren't really caught up with all of the glamour and glitz.

11. J TO THE I
More of the same. Sounds good, etc.

12. EIGHTY FIVE
The vocal echo effect gets very annoying. Probably would have been better off as a shorter interlude or outro.

13. MIX TAPES (1926 SATURDAY NIGHT REMIX)
Unnecessary remix. The original is much much better.

FINAL THOUGHTS: World Ultimate is an enjoyable listen. Nouka Basetype was not that great of a rapper back in 1995 (I haven't heard his later output, so for all I know he got much better), and Yusef's voice is a pleasant contrast to every beat presented here. I wouldn't say that this album is a classic, since that word is thrown out as often as last night's garbage, but World Ultimate is worth your eartime. However, don't be surprised if you can't remember any of the songs an hour later.

BUY OR BURN? I read a review for World Ultimate where the writer admitted that he still bumps the shit out of his promo copy, since the real thing is so rare that he's afraid to open it up. I checked my copy, and realized that I, too, have a promotional version. I guess that proves that World Ultimate is super fucking rare. I bought my promo from Half.com, and maybe there's someone else who's willing to part with their copy. I would recommend a purchase if you can find it.

BEST TRACKS: "Bus Stops"; "The West Is..."; "Mix Tapes"; "Keep It On"

(Agree/disagree with the above review? Leave some comments below! Make your opinions known!)

-Max

THE TEASER:

9 comments:

  1. the most felonious vocalist in the wide world of showbusinessJuly 15, 2007

    Who? As the subterranean era continues on Hip-Hop Isn't Dead, I found it interesting that something like this completely evaded my detection. I'm hopelessly compelled into at least listening to anything referred to as an East Coast sounding West Coast record. Blame it on Ras Kass I guess. My ignorance of Nonce's existence (apart from being a result of my policy to eschew the review of most hipper-than-thou bloggers and music magazines) is a testament to how the internet has really changed the industry. Nowadays, when people like Black Milk and The Blue Scholars put out good material people hear it because they can do so for free. This results in 3/4 of the internet being overrun with odes to their greatness. The internet is almost like a college radio station that we all have access to. Good thing, too. Commercial "Hip-Hop and R & B" radio sounds like a never ending loop of Now That's What I Call Music! Vol. 1480. Anyway, I'm gonna go steal from Yusef and Nouka now.

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  2. Sounds dope. I heard Mix Tapes and really liked.
    Nice review.

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  3. AnonymousJuly 31, 2007

    World Ultimate IS a classic !

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  4. i thought they were from Chigago.

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  5. AnonymousMay 14, 2008

    ... 'I'm the mellow/ fellow/ the one that likes to say /hello/ to a fly girl that's good to go'... Is a line Parrish Smith spits on 'Strictly Business'... Yousef Afloat (The Nonce) used it as the hook on 'Good to Go'... The Nonce, giving EPMD two thumbs up...

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  6. Dope album, just diggin it as we speak. I think Aceyalone features on it too if im not mistaken.
    A hidden gem if ever there was one.

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  7. With hundreds of gigs of music on my hard drive, this album is still one of my favorites.

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  8. I guess these chaps never performed in the UK, their name on a flyer wouldn't look good considering what it means over here.

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  9. Amazing re-issue on hhv available in november 2014: http://www.hhv.de/shop/de/specials/sach-the-nonce

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