July 16, 2008

M.O.P. - To The Death (April 7, 1994)



Wikipedia sometimes makes me laugh out loud. In their entry for M.O.P., they categorize the New York rap duo as "an American hardcore rap duo" that is known for their "loudly aggressive delivery". That's understating it quite a bit, isn't it? What M.O.P. does is shout. A lot. And they tend to do it well.

The Mash Out Posse is comprised of rappers Billy Danz and Lil Fame, who also uses the alias Fizzy Womack, primarily when he produces songs for other artists. They burst onto the scene in 1993 with "How About Some Hardcore", which apparently appeared on the soundtrack to House Party 3, which is freaking hilarious to me. The duo's energetic shouting, ranting, and raving, all to the tune of a DR Period instrumental, won them a small group of fans (as did the song's video, which was directed by a then-unknown Hype Williams in an atypical smaller scale than his lauded later works), and earned them a deal with Select Records to release a full-length debut, To The Death, in 1994.

To The Death was a dark and grimy album, punctuated by the timely chants of Billy Danz and Lil Fame, whose energy levels were infectious. While most (good) rap songs made you want to sing along to the track (an involuntary response that has gotten many a white person in trouble), M.O.P.'s tracks made you want to scream, and then kick an old man down the up escalator, just so you can kick him again in about ten seconds. It gets the heart rate pumping, and probably should be utilized in most exercise workouts. It also scores a quiet evening alone with your girl quite nicely.

To The Death didn't sell billions of copies, but the few that it did move off of the shelves helped build word of mouth among hip hop fans, including folks within the industry, such as DJ Premier, famed producer for Gangstarr and hip hop production visionary. And even though some of their business moves have been suspect throughout their long career, To The Death showcases the duo in their purest form.

And away we go.

1. CRIMETIME 1-718
DR Period's production for this otherwise useless rap album intro is the sound of walking cautiously on the mean streets of Brooklyn, by way of Miami Vice. I actually kinds dug it. To the duo's credit, though, they just repeat the word "Crooklyn!" over and over, instead of trying to convince you that their album will blow your mind or anything.

2. RUGGED NEVA SMOOVE
The first actual song on To The Death features a DR Period beat that sounds like a primer for Smoothe Da Hustler's Once Upon A Time In America album. Which leads me to wonder exactly why Smoothe and M.O.P. haven't actually linked up, since they are similar in a lot of ways. The shouting on here is limited to the hook, leaving the artists to come up with actual lyrics, and while neither one will ever be in the running for Best Rapper Alive, their rhymes actually complement each other very well. Not bad.

3. RING DING
The hook (and the song's title) is asinine, in that it makes me hungry for some chocolate snack cakes instead of wanting to hear random acts of violence set to music. The beat comes off as an Onyx reject, but in all seriousness, the instrumental is the only thing this track has going for it.

4. HEISTMASTERS
I assume Heistmasters is kind of like Toastmasters, holding conventions and seminars in hotels nationwide regarding the fine art of the robbery. The fact that the duo chants "Ante up!" during what passes for the chorus amused me to no end: the two readers that are more familiar with New York rap will understand why. I found this track to be proof that Lil Fame and Billy Danz could tell a story with their rhymes if they wanted to.

5. BLUE STEEL
This song will make you laugh your ass off if you imagine Derek Zoolander every time Fame or Billy say "Blue Steel". DR Period's beat is pretty damn effective, though, so you can probably appreciate the song on its own merits, as well.

6. WHO IS M.O.P.?
Skit...

7. TO THE DEATH
The most polished song on To The Death, and, consequently, the least appealing.

8. BIG MAL
A skit that also doubles as a quick shout-out to the late Big Mal, Lil Fame's older brother that helped originate the Mash Out Posse before his untimely passing prior to To The Death's recording sessions.

9. TOP OF THE LINE
This is actually the dopest cut on the entire album. The dark, bottom-heavy beat is the perfect soundtrack for the next time you want to hang out in the hood with all of your boys. It would be even better if it was one of those rare black-and-white days, though: that would make things especially photogenic.

10. THIS IS YOUR BRAIN
Skit...

11. DRAMA LORD
This sounds exactly like some of the other tracks on To The Death. Even though I'm criticizing this song for being pretty boring, though, I am thankful that M.O.P. didn't feel the need to include a song for the ladies on their debut album. Although if you do come across a female that loves her some M.O.P., run as fast as you can in the other direction.

12. F.A.G. (FAKE ASS GANGSTA)
The beat is appropriately eerie, but I'm more intrigued by the fact that the song is truly about confronting fake ass gangstas and is not actually homophobic, although it's easy to interpret either way.

13. HOW ABOUT SOME HARDCORE
The first single, and the only one I ever remember hearing. Lil Fame and Billy Danz came out of the gate knowing exactly what kind of rap artists they wanted to be: the type that created songs that fans would love to chant at their live shows. Hearing this today, though, this song isn't nearly as hardcore as I remember: I can actually hear some traces of a melody. It still sounds alright, I suppose.

14. POSITIVE INFLUENCES
Skit...

15. GUNS N ROSES
Laze E Laze, who would later become the primary producer for M.O.P. following To The Death, co-produces the only track on the album that DR Period didn't have anything to do with (the duo themselves fill in the production blanks). As expected, this song sounds the most like their future output, but as a result, it doesn't truly fit the sound of the rest of the disc.

FINAL THOUGHTS: To The Death is a pretty good blueprint of the style that M.O.P. would later perfect, but as an album it's only passable. The production by DR Period is consistently engaging, but lyrically the disc stays stuck in park. Although, what am I saying? Nobody buys an M.O.P. album for the lyricism. All in all, it sounds like one very long song, and that tactic doesn't work for any artist.

BUY OR BURN? If this type of hip hop floats your boat, you should burn this disc. Everyone else should probably just move on to the nest review, as this album isn't for every taste.

BEST TRACKS: "Top Of The Line"; "Rugged Neva Smoove"

-Max

13 comments:

  1. reader 2.0.1.July 16, 2008

    Hey Max ... what about a list of the albums in terms of must have, acquired taste, burn, drink coaster - or something along those lines. Your 2 readers might like to watch the official standings. Anyways as usual, great reviews

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  2. I'm starting to feel the rage that at times is seen in some of the comments.

    This album is classic '94 hip-hop, and much better than you make it sound.

    It's like a blender full of red bull mixed with rockstar.

    Are you actually listening to the whole album or just listening to the first couple minutes of songs and hitting fast forward?

    Heistmasters is a great song.

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  3. the most felonious vocalist in the wide world of showbusinessJuly 16, 2008

    I couldn't agree with you more. Some people love these guys but you definitely have to be predisposed to aggressive, adrenaline-driven music in order to enjoy them. I'm mostly in it for the lyrics so M.O.P. just never did it for me. They've always struck me as a Jock Jams type of outfit.

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  4. AnonymousJuly 16, 2008

    Sorry, but I'm gonna have to make the opposite argument. Max was too lenient on this one. Nothing stands out in comparison to other better loudass rappers like Onyx or Dmx. Boring cookie cutter lyrics, annoying delivery .. .

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  5. DJ Premier wishes to this very day that he could have replaced Group Home with M.O.P. This album encompasses the raw sound and feel of '93/'94 very well.

    Vincent
    thimk.wordpress.com

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  6. These guys definitely have cultivated a style that's unique to them and them only. Actually, Onyx comes to mind, too, but I prefer M.O.P hands down.

    I'd love to see these guys live, would love to see crowd chants!

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  7. I don't think M.O.P. have ever before , or will ever again be described as "cookie cutter."

    That's just an abomination.

    It's like calling Thomas Edison a "cookie cutter" inventor.

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  8. Onyx was a fake gimmick made up to sell records(don't get me wrong, I like the first two albums).

    M.O.P. are the real deal. What you see is what you get. And they care more about making records they want to make rather than records that sell, which is why two of their subsequent albums are done over rock beats, just because they wanted to mash out like that.

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  9. the most felonious vocalist in the wide world of showbusinessJuly 21, 2008

    Yeah, jammq. Rapping over rock beats is proof positive that said rappers are completely oblivious to what's taking over the charts. I mean guys like Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit and Kid Rock never sold any records. I can't believe anybody even tries it anymore after Run-DMC and Aerosmith combined for that colossal failure called Walk This Way. Nothing personal but I'm not quite sold on the idea that M.O.P. featured rock beats on a couple albums just because they wanted to mash out like that.

    Also, being the real deal and what you see is what you get are not synonymous with talented. Those are a part of "all the little things." Talent is the big thing. An unpretentious lousy rapper who comes straight from the heart with everything is still a lousy rapper. I might buy a used car from somebody because they have those qualities but not a rap album.

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  10. Now M.O.P. are being compared to Linkin' Park?

    What the hell is going on here?

    Maybe it's an NYC thing, but M.O.P. always have and always will get mad props.

    Always.

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  11. MOP have some real great lyrics, but they got evolved after the first album. I like their humbleness though. I fiend for a Scarface/MOP track

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  12. hey!..im kurious why is the logo of onyx crossed in the video of m.o.p. - rugged neva smooth?

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  13. This Review Is WRONG. PERIOD.

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