September 24, 2007

Phife Dawg - Ventilation: Da LP (September 26, 2000)



I found this CD in my boxes and thought it would make a nice counterpoint to the Q-Tip review. After the breakup of A Tribe Called Quest, Phife Dawg, birth name Malik Taylor, decided to do two things: continue to rhyme, and start up a career in sports management. I'm not sure how the second one either is going or went (I think I remember reading somewhere that Phife was pretty successful at it), but to appease the first goal, he released his only solo album to date, Ventilation: Da LP.

The title alone seems to indicate some resentment toward the disbanding of arguably one of the Best Rap Groups Of All Time, which makes sense, since I believe the group broke up mainly because of Q-Tip, kind of like how Beyonce wanted to do something by herself and effectively ended Destiny's Child, even though there were two other people in the goddamn group. Tip's Amplified had already been out for nearly a year, and was club-banger heavy, a reality that apparently annoyed the hell out of the self-professed Five Foot Assassin. Ventilation: Da LP is a response to Q-Tip's commercial aspirations, and was intended to appeal to Tribe fans who were outright shocked at Kamaal's new direction.

Ventilation: Da LP went on to sell zero copies, and garnered some pretty harsh criticism, and Phife hasn't really been heard from since. You would think the backpackers would have snatched it up, at least, due to the participation of Hi-Tek, Pete Rock, Supa Dave West, and, hilariously enough, J Dilla (also known as the Amplified craftsman) behind the boards. I'm not sure what I'm trying to accomplish with this write-up; since Tribe is one of my favorites of all time, I was incredibly disappointed by most of Tip's solo album, so maybe I'm trying to salvage my Tribe memories while being too lazy to just grab my actual Tribe Called Quest albums.

Here goes.

1. INTRO (FEAT JUS)
When I first heard this album in 2000, my reaction was similar to what I'm thinking right now: "Acoustic guitar intro? Didn't see this coming." Not great, but I've heard worse.

2. FLAWLESS
One of the bounciest Hi-Tek beats I've ever heard. It's a weird experience to hear Phife alone on a record, but other than the fact that he sounds like he's forcing it at times, he actually sounds pretty good. "Flawless" won't bang in the clubs, but does a great job of sounding like a parody of Tip's "Breathe & Stop", which may or may not be the point.

3. ALPHABET SOUP
The hook is weak, but this beat sounds like Reflection Eternal leftovers; you half expect Talib Kweli to open the door to the recording booth and shove Phife into the glass. Just like Tip, Phife tries to differentiate his solo career from his time in the Tribe by cursing like a motherfucker.

4. MISCELLANEOUS
Some De La Soul Stakes Is High-type beat, which sounds refreshing compared to what I was forced to listen to on the radio this afternoon. Hooks aren't Phife Dawg's friend, though.

5. D.R.U.G.S. (FEAT HI-TEK)
I'm surprised by Phife's ear for beats on Ventilation: Da LP; these songs sound freaking great. Why didn't this album sell any copies again?

6. THE CLUB HOPPA
Oh, this may be why.

7. LEMME FIND OUT (FEAT PETE ROCK)
Great slow-building Peter J. Rockafeller instrumental; you may believe that the beat is better than what Phife may deserve, and you'd be about half right. Let's be honest; Q-Tip was always the rapper with more accolades (notice how I didn't write that he was better), but Phife isn't horrible. Final question: why did Tribe let The Ummah produce the entirety of their last two albums, instead of outsourcing some of the music? Pete's treats may have sounded great on The Love Movement. Oh well, hindsight and all that.

8. BEN DOVA
It sounds like J Dilla took Q-Tip's "Let's Ride" beat, kept the drums but tweaked everything else, and gave the track to Phife, who actually rips it up. The prolonged skit before the song starts is completely skippable, though.

9. BEATS, RHYMES, & PHIFE (FEAT SUPA DAVE WEST)
Meh.

10. VENTILATION
Not great. Fredwreck should probably stick with the West Coast artists, but I commend him for branching out.

11. 4 HORSEMEN (192'N IT) (FEAT NO NAME)
The melody in the beat comes out of nowhere, considering this is just a weak posse cut; sadly, the song is not redeemed.

12. MELODY ADONIS
Probably the more "traditional" Pete Rock production offered here, and it sounds pretty great, but at this point, I'm feeling that Phife should have released an EP and left it at that.

13. OUTRO (FEAT JUS)
Outro to the intro. Not bad, not good, just...there.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Ventilation: Da LP earned most of its criticism for not being an instrumental album. However, for it to accomplish that goal, Phife would have had to remove his name from the disc, which would have defeated its purpose. Seven years later (almost to the day! Great timing, huh?), I feel that Phife Dawg's solo rap career was killed prematurely. He's not the best, but he's nowhere near the worst; I can throw a dart at the Billboard Top Rap Tracks and come up with literally gajillions of rappers that should vacate their spots for the Five Foot Assassin. Respect is due.

BUY OR BURN? I think you should buy this one immediately (I know, I'm surprised too), even if it's only because you'll be shocked how good most of the beats are on this. I never thought I would recommend a Phife Dawg solo album above anything released by Q-Tip, but there you go: it's pretty good. Hopefully, whatever petty bullshit is keeping the group apart will be done away with in 2008, since hip hop needs more Tribe and less, say, Kanye West (although if he got a track on a new Tribe album, I wouldn't be mad).

BEST TRACKS: "Flawless"; "Melody Adonis"; "Lemme Find Out"; "Alphabet Soup"

-Max

RELATED POSTS:
Q-Tip - Amplified

10 comments:

  1. I'm starting to think we have the same box of old cd's. (Or we're both just hip hop junkies.) I'll have to pull this out again and give it a go. If I recall correctly, I didn't spin it too many times. (But more times that Tip's solo.) Thanks for the reminder.

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  2. Well Max, know-a-days a recommendation from you goes a long way. I visit a little record shop in Baltimore and there are two used copies of this CD on the same shelf. It's been there for months. I'll sacrifice the 7.99 and pick it up.

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  3. the most felonious vocalist in the wide world of showbusinessSeptember 26, 2007

    Phifey had heart that's for sure. I'm gonna have to check this out again. Can you imagine what would have happened if Q-Tip rhymed over these beats on his solo debut? Also, great point about Tribe using only Ummah beats on their last two albums. Nothing like uniform blandness to handicap an album's listenability. That's right, listenability.

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  4. Rick - Nothing wrong with being a hip hop junkie. I read your blog, though, and my wife has a question: What do, or did, you do on Ugly Betty?

    rlstokey - glad my recommendations hold so much weight with you! It's an honor and a privilege. However, I don't know if I would spend eight bucks on the Phife Dawg CD; maybe five? Maybe you can get a discount for some reason.

    Most Felonious - definitely, check it out again and tell me what you think, I honestly didn't remember the beats sounding that good.

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  5. I thought this LP got some harsh criticism. Yeah, its no better than decent, but its still fairly enjoyable for the most part without being great.

    ps. 'you half expect Talib Kweli to open the door to the recording booth and shove Phife into the glass' - great image. The sheer thought of Talib pushing someone seems silly though. Talib Kweli is probably the least hard rapper ever. Without exception (oh actually, MC Paul Barman maybe, but...)

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  6. Phil Watts, jr.June 11, 2008

    "4 Horsemen" is actually hilarious. The aptly-named NO-NAME rappers soud pathetic you can't help but laugh at them. One of them starts the song off with this: "A lot of muthafuckas like to spit that shit/and a lot of muthafucks that just talk shit!" Brilliant wordplay, moron. And like you said, hooks are not Phife's friend: "Time to hold it down for niggaz like WHAT/ here to live life without givin' a fuck/here to get the paper--nevermind these sluts/ they ain't going no where cuz we always get butt!" OUCH.

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  7. THIS ALBUM IS GARBAGE FROM A TO Z. INCLUDING BEATS. THE HATE FOR THIS ALBUM IS SO GREAT I HAD TO POP A CAP INTO.

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  8. this album was PAIN to listen.

    flawless, miscellaneous: these "beats" are nothing but horrible

    4 horsemen is the only track i have kept in my library, thanks to Dilla ;)

    we have totally different music preferences but anyway i enjoy this blog ;)

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  9. I did a review on this too on my blog. i even have the final thoughts thing... and i've never seen this blog. coincidence. check out mine.

    http://hiphoproute.blogspot.com/2010/05/old-school-review-ventilation-da-lp.html

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  10. RIP, man. Damn, I miss him. His new Dilla track did not help matters.

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