September 10, 2007

Drink Coasters: John Forte - Poly Sci (July 14, 1998)

Before I start, I just want to thank my many two readers that religiously check for updates. I realize that I'm not being as prolific as I'd like to be, so sorry about that, but hopefully that will all change. Eventually. I'm realistic enough not to say "soon". So, here's a quickie to help me ease back into things.

John Forte, whose debut album Poly Sci is pictured at left, is currently serving time in a federal prison for possession of cocaine. This is clearly worse than his original gig, possessing weed (instead of coke) for The Fugees as their not-exactly-unofficial-fourth-member-but-should-have-placed-higher-up-than-Pras. He's been locked up for about seven years now, which is most definitely not what I expected to say about the last rapper to appear on The Fugees's "Cowboys" posse cut (a song that doesn't get enough love in my opinion). But that's not why I regret to inform you that Poly Sci doesn't hold up nine years later. The true reason is that I really wanted to like this album, and I just couldn't.

It wasn't always this hard. I remember picking this album up from Best Buy the week it dropped, having only heard the first single "Ninety Nine (Flash The Message)" exactly once, because I was going through my "I have to have every single thing from any rapper who is even remotely affiliated with (insert popular rapper here)" phase, which thankfully has stopped since then, or else I'd be pretty fucking broke. (I actually remember getting mad that it was pushed back from its original June release date, but that's probably because I made the trip to Best Buy based on the promises made by their Sunday circular. You would think I was the guy's biggest fan or something.) Back then, I enjoyed the album thoroughly; Forte has a flow like a more nasal Shawn Carter, his own production work (he provides the majority of the album's 14 tracks) wasn't bad, and there was obviously some thought put behind the lyrics. Yeah, none of that matters now since the album sucks.

The production on the majority of the songs sounds, for lack of a better word, old. (I guess dated would have been a better word. Oh well.) It's not that the music is bad overall, but it's instantly forgettable, in the way that you forget that Forte is in the middle of a verse when you reach for the 'skip' button. The two brand name guest spots are borderline ridiculous; Fat Joe and DMX provide cameos for rent-paying reasons only. X sounds okay on "We Got This", as this was around the time he had something to prove and ripped every guest spot that he could; Big Boned Joe, however, has never impressed me, and as such, remains consistent on "They Got Me". "Madina Passage" sounds like a bad posse cut by a gaggle of Wu-Tang B-Teamers, for good reason; loose affiliates Black Rose Kartel pop up on their only true mainstream offering, and then promptly return to the sewers from which they came. And you know that your album listening experience can't be going well when you feel that Pras submits a decent sounding vocal. Pras! Come on, John!

But the true reason this album fails in 2007 is due to a reason that I let slide for unknown reasons in '98. John Forte relies too heavily on the vocals of one Jeni Fujita, which was a terrible mistake. Her thin voice sounds awful over these tracks. The aforementioned "Ninety Nine" (known mostly for its utilization of Nena's "99 Luftballons") actually sounds pretty decent now; it's catchy enough, and it's exactly what you would have expected Wyclef Jean to produce back in 1998. But then Jeni fucks the whole thing up with an awful chorus that beats any of the track's momentum within an inch of its life. She also demolishes both the intro and outro, which share the title "Hot", neither of which were named accurately. I believe she appeared on Canibus's Refugee Camp-approved Can-I-Bus as well, and was probably the reason that album sucked too. It's just bad. I don't know what else to say about this. I'm tired right now, so it's probably not coming out properly in my writing, but I mean this with every fiber of my being; she is baaaaad.

I listened to this album twice before writing this because I wanted to like this album so much, but it was to no avail. I am happy to report, though, that one of my favorite songs from back then, "P.B.E. (Powerful, Beautiful, Excellent)" still sounds pretty good today; hell, I bet that if you put some harder drums on the track, kept the synths, and turned the vocals up a bit, Forte might have had a club banger on his hands. Always good to hear a catchy pop song with a somewhat positive message that's not all about cranking a soldier boy or something. And "God Is Love God Is War" is an interesting listen, especially with the Suzanne Vega-interpolation in the chorus.

Overall, Poly Sci is one of the biggest disappointments that I've heard since starting this blog back in February, so I just cannot recommend in good conscience. It just doesn't work in 2007, and I feel the need to point out to my two readers when they can easily keep their money in their pockets. If you are curious, download "PBE" and leave me a comment is you agree or disagree with me. And hopefully I can get back on a more regular schedule. Thanks for reading!




  1. Excellent writing and incite as always Max.

    - Ivan
    Hip-Hop Is Read

  2. I just wrote a much longer comment here but accidentally deleted it. (Don't ask.) Anyway...first time reader (bookmarked!). I'll have to dig up this album again. I remembered really diggin' it back in the day. I just really loved Forte's voice. He made the album work.

    It's a bummer that he's in jail. It's an even bigger bummer that due to his current association with Carly Simon, he's singing instead of rapping. But maybe it doesn't matter. I have no idea when he's getting out.

    I'll make my way down to your older posts eventually. Until then, I'll be in Trinidad eatin' mangoes with attorneys.

  3. Ivan - thanks for reading!

    Rick - thanks for your comments, and hopefully the rest of the site will be to your liking. I completely forgot that Forte was on that Clef "We Trying To Stay Alive" track until just now...also, I checked out your blog. Nice work!

    And to everybody else - I'm not joking about that Baby Elephant album. As much as I would love to support Curtis Jackson's retirement (even though we ALL know he's not going to follow through), you should give your money to someone who deserves it.


  4. Thanks, Max!

    I've been looking forward to Baby Elephant for awhile now. (Actually, I fiend for anything Prince Paul does.) I'll head out in a minute and spend some money on cd's for the first time in a while. Blue Elephant. Blu & Exile. Kanye, probably (even though I shouldn't, just for Drunk & Hot Girls alone).

  5. hey Max, agree with you on that Cowboys posse cut from the Fugees: that's one great track ( olee, everybody wants to be a cowboy,...)
    don't have an opinion on this album itself, never heard it.
    Do me a favour Max and write a review on "the score" : a few weeks ago i put it in the cd player and found myself listening to it the whole day, it's still as good today as it was 10 years ago,... if not better !
    Curious about your opinion on that masterpiece
    Greetings from the Teech ( back in school or as EPMD used to say Back in business )

  6. I kept meaning to bring up that Baby elephant to you. they had a pretty cool spread in last months remix magazine. Looking forward to checking it out. Welcome back. Now I have to do something. Great. thanks...

  7. i couldn't agree more on your review. i just listened to this not to long ago and felt the same way.


  8. I would rather listen to a cow taking a shit! Who is responsible for releasing this grade A piece of crap? This is one album that deserves to be used as a frisbee. I seriously doubt that John went to jail for drugs. I think he went to jail for releasing this album!

  9. how can i download this album ??

  10. Max, I am with you when you say that "I wanted to like this album". John Forte was dope on the Fugees projects yet somehow his solo did not quite manage. I remember even trying to get into the single in HS and couldn't. I looked to see if there was a Pras post yet, and I don't see one but I think Pras album might be more listenable than this even from what I remember(yeah I said it). If there ever is a Fugees reunion(maybe after Detox drops) I hope this man is featured on every cut still. He is like the OJ of rap, no matter what wrong he conceived I still believe in his innocence.

  11. @ Justa - This is still one of those reviews that disappointed me overall, because I really wanted to like this album. I'm with you: I genuinely like the guy and am convinced that he was innocent even though everything proves otherwise, especially the man himself. I'd still look out for anything the man releases, though; there's an EP of his that came out in 2010 that I haven't yet gotten to, but I may soon.

  12. In a curious way his album cover photos look a lot like mug shots for someone caught with coke. Foreshadowing? I don't think old John was innocent, sorry (of course, neither was OJ).

    I too admit that I am a fan of John's talent. But I agree with this review with every fiber of my being.