October 8, 2007

Drink Coasters: Rampage - Scout's Honor...By Way Of Blood (July 29, 1997)

To your left, I present to you a bizarre sight: a grown-ass man seemingly trying to eat his way out of an enormous latex condom. In order to make sense of this grotesque visual, it helps to understand that the condom represents a "shell", and Rampage, who may or may not be the guy in the picture, is trying to eat his way out of his shell, and doing a piss-poor job of it, kind of like an older Ninja Turtle without his dentures. It also helps to realize that the above metaphor is a complete fabrication, that the album cover for Scout's Honor...By Way Of Blood doesn't really stand for anything artistically, except as proof that rappers truly need to have more "no" men than "yes" men in their entourages.

Rampage, whose birth name is Rampage The Last Boy Scout but uses as a rap alias Roger McNair, has exactly one claim to fame in his fabled career: he just happens to be Busta Rhymes's cousin, which can do more for you than you realize. Because of his blood ties, Rampage has signed record deals, both with and without his Flipmode Squad brethren; he's made cameos on high-profile projects (such as the fan-freaking-tastic remix to Craig Mack's "Flava In Your Ear", which also featured a young Notorious B.I.G., Busta himself, a flirtatious housekeeper named LL Cool J, and...um...Craig Mack); he's received discounts from Starbucks, which have helped support his twelve-Frappuchino-a-day habit; he somehow persuaded Durex to sponsor his album cover; and he convinced Elektra Records (home of two of the most combustible acts in hip hop history, Busta and Ol' Dirty Bastard) that Scout's Honor...By Way Of Blood would be a great title for his debut release, a concept that can be disproved in the two seconds it would take you to read the title.

Scout's Honor... is one of those albums that only exists because Rapper A is friends/cousins/brothers/shares a weed carrier with Rapper B, a trend that exists in all musical genres, but seems all too prevalent in hip hop. The beautiful minds at Elektra found Rampage's guest spots on Busta Rhymes's The Coming to be transcendent, and felt the best outlet for that energy would be on a plastic shiny disc. To be fair, I loved Busta's "Abandon Ship"; I felt that the cousins bounced off of one another with a tandem that couldn't be matched back in 1996. That, and the first single, "Wild For The Night", which (surprise!) featured Mr. Rhymes, are what compelled me to pick up the album back in 1997, back when I apparently had money to burn. It turns out that I would have been better off throwing my money into a wood chipper.

Listening today, I still like "Wild For The Night", but that's only because the beat (provided by Backspin) sounds like an outtake from The Coming. It also happens to be the only song where Rampage doesn't actively try to sound as manic as his more successful predecessor; his calm delivery, while lyrically elementary, sounds great over the piano loop, and Busta's hype/calm/hype/calm hook is an exercise in subtlety. After listening, though, you actually feel cheated, since you want to hear Busta spit a verse, or maybe even Q-Tip (who is seen nodding his head with approval in the video). Not surprisingly, this is the only song worth listening to; the rest of Scout's Honor... suffers from Z-grade production, highly questionable songs for the ladies, bizarre samples, and Rampage's lack of dexterity behind the mic.

After the usual annoying rap album intro, "Flipmode Iz Da Squad" introduces listeners to whoever was in the Squad back in 1997 (read: no Rah Digga), including Serious, an artist who was apparently kicked to the curb by Busta after his appearances on this CD. Serious, which is a terrible name for a rapper anyway, has a voice that shrieks every syllable out, and it wears thin quickly; still, even he comes off better than Rampage on this track. (Lord Have Mercy just beats out Busta for the best verse.) "Da Night B4 My Shit Drop", his ode to having a new toilet installed in his home, starts off with a bizarre Max Headroom-esque vocal effect that never works, not even on Max Headroom. "Talk Of The Town" includes a reference to anal sex at the end of the first verse that comes off as forced, not even as boastful, funny, or threatening; it brings a tear to your eye, knowing how beautiful it could have been.

"Flipmode Enemy #1" makes the mistake of sampling Public Enemy's original track wholesale; Rampage can't keep up with the beat, and as sad as it is for me to type this, he actually sounds worse than Puff Daddy, who also sampled this song in 1999 on his "P.E. 2000". "Take It To The Streets", the club "banger", features vocalist Billy Lawrence, whose claim to fame seems to be that she appeared on the hook for this godawful song, and then retreated to the background, writing hits for the likes of TLC and Blaque. And "N----z Iz Bad" is about as awful as the so-called "n----z" it tries, but fails, to describe.

Scout's Honor...By Way Of Blood is a terrible way to capitalize from the Busta Rhymes movement. The Flipmode Squad wasn't without talent, which is more than can be said about rap crews today; however, they made the wrong move when they decided to start with Roger. You can try to find "Wild For The Night" if you must, but otherwise, you should save your pennies, and your valuable time, for an album that's worth a crap.

-Max

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Busta Rhymes - The Coming

10 comments:

  1. Rampage was always a pretty bog-standard rapper. Its totally spot-on that he only got a record out because he is close to Busta. I thought the beats on this album were pretty decent for the most part, mainly because he's mates with DJ Scratch.

    And yeah, Wild For Da Night is brilliant just for the beat too. I seem to remember Onyx using that beat for a freestyle to better effect though.

    All this has nothing to with Rampage though, who ends up being the weakest part of his own album.

    Good review, mate, I pretty much have the same opinion as you on this one.

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  2. Billy Lawrence also was part of Prince Markie D's Soul Convention, which was a convention of soul that he made a record with. She's also pretty hot so who cares about talent. I wish I had something funny or nice or mean to say about Rampage, being as it's his post, but I don't and I won't, even if it is.

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  3. the most felonious vocalist in the wide world of showbusinessOctober 09, 2007

    Oh Word somewhat recently described a poor CD as being Only Built 4 Humid Drinks. That is fuckin' literature, son.

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  4. spot on.
    i was worried for a bit...you had a slight hiatus there

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  5. This album was worse than the album when Father MC decided to write his own rhymes.

    Never again.

    One.

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  6. I was listening to this today (boredom), and without the hate I had for Ramp clouding my judgement (like in the late 90s), the beats on this were dope. Every beat on here i enjoyed except Take it 2 The Streetz & Niggaz iz Bad which are just bad. DJ Scratch did his thing.
    Theres nothing good to say about Rampage as an emcee except he has a strong voice...

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  7. I'm like ENIG MUE. I found the beats to be pretty dope (and that's not counting Wild For Da Night) just everything else is lackluster. It's one of those albums I put on every once and awhile for background music cause the beats are the only worthwhile of this.

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  8. this cd introduced me to LORD HAVE MERCY, just for that is tops, but Flipmode iz da squad has got to be one of my favorite crew songs ever, i just can't put the volume high enough. cd is fat has been since it's release, didn't care for Busta after the coming and this was brutal feeling that Busta's the coming had you know before he went pop'ish. but I'm from that era so...

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  9. I bet ya'll didn't know Da Night B4 My Shit Drop was for The Red Octoba but it got shelved. and it's hard to find on the internet.

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  10. I can't believe what I'm reading here, this album was DOPE! It was far from a classic, but I enjoyed many of the songs on here. I thought this review was sad and the attempts at humor were indeed laughable.

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