November 27, 2008

Heltah Skeltah - Magnum Force (October 13, 1998)


At this point you may be damn near comatose from all of the turkey and trimmings, but you should at least try to finish reading this extra post before passing out on your keyboard. Enjoy!

Ruck and Rock of Heltah Skeltah sold about a quarter of a million copies of their debut, Nocturnal, which is an amazing number for East Coast underground rap (and is probably an inaccurate figure anyway, but you never know). These two soldiers from the Boot Camp Clik were praised for their skills, wordplay, and dark-as-shit production (provided mostly by Da Beatminerz), so after hooking up with the rest of their brethren for the collaborative effort For The People, Heltah Skeltah released their second effort, Magnum Force, in 1998.

Surprisingly, Magnum Force failed miserably with the critics, and music fans voted by using their money on coke and whores instead. Even with a first single, "I Ain't Havin' That", which was a moderate hit, Magnum Force topped out at about twelve copies sold, eleven of them purchased by the duo's parents, and internal pressures caused Ruck and Rock to break up the band: Da Rockness Monsta would eventually leave the Boot Camp Clik altogether in an attempt to go solo, but after catching a (still pending) charge for attempted murder (while allegedly moonlighting as a pimp (!)), he ended up rejoining the crew, while Ruck, also known as Sean Price, would establish himself as a much-beloved solo artist that may or may not have been offered a deal with Roc-A-Fella Records at one point.

So, what went wrong?

1. WORLDWIDE (ROCK THE WORLD)
Even when you sidestep the fact that this isn't a rap album intro, this shit worked for me, mainly because of the strings. This ended up being the best possible reintroduction to Ruck and Rock, although, for the first time, it's blatantly obvious that Sean Price is the better rapper of the two. Rock isn't a slouch on the mic, but there's something a bit...different about Ruck now.

2. CALL OF THE WILD (FEAT SUPREME, LIDU ROCK, STARANG WONDAH, HARDCORE, & DOC HOLIDAY)
For being only the second song on the motherfucking album, there are waaaay too many weed carriers present. Surprisingly, Starang Wondah also kind of sounds like shit, and Ruck isn't even on this fucking song, but Rock rocking over Self's beat still, well, rocked. And yes, I realize that I just used the same word in three different ways in a single sentence.

3. GUNZ 'N ONEZ (IZ U WIT ME) (FEAT METHOD MAN)
Considering the fact that Raekwon had a guest spot on the Cocoa Brovaz's album The Rude Awakening (on the far superior "Black Trump"), I suppose that a collaboration between the the supergroups that are the Wu-Tang Clan and the Boot Camp Clik shouldn't be surprising. (In fact, why haven't they released a full album together? They could aim for a world record: Most Rappers Ever To Appear On A Single Song Not Related To Charity Work Or A Mixtape Remix Of An Album Track. Or something.) Meth and his gracious hosts sound great, but Smoke's beat sounds like warmed-over ass, which never sounds good: as a result, this song also smells all kinds of terrible.

4. PERFECT JAB (FEAT SUPREME)
I assume Sean Price was in the john when Rock decided to collaborate with Supreme (from The Representativz). It's alright, but it's not real.

5. CALL TYRONE (SKIT)
...

6. CHICKA WOO (FEAT MIKE STWEART)
I can't speak for you, of course, but I know for a fact that I never requested for Sean Price to record a solo breakup anthem, complete with radio-friendly beat and an R&B singer on the hook. At least he alternates between pissed off and depressed, which is semi-realistic, and the title is relevant to nothing, which is just funny.

7. I AIN'T HAVIN' THAT (FEAT DOC HOLIDAY & STARANG WONDAH)
The lead-off single, which beat-jacks A Tribe Called Quest's "Hot Sex" to great effect, still manages to sound good today. Starang Wondah and a very prominent Redman vocal sample complete the package (although the other guest on the song, Doc Holiday, sounds decent as well). This was a different sound than what was expected from Heltah Skeltah, and the initial impressions of this single probably led to folks revolting on the Boot Camp Clik en masse, but I still like this song. I also always appreciated that the duo brought in Reggie Noble to actually appear in the song's clip.

8. 2 KEYS (SKIT)
...

9. BROWNSVILLE II LONG BEACH (FEAT THA DOGG POUND)
Can't say that I saw this collaboration coming in 1998. (Sure, Buckshot recorded a ton of shit with 2Pac, but still.) It doesn't take long for the listener to determine that this was a poorly-conceived concept, though. (Dat N---a) Daz Dillinger and Kurupt sound awkward over Daz's own fucking instrumental, which fails to invoke a West Coast-ish feel. However, Ruck and Rock manage to not sound completely horrible.

10. 2 KEYS II (SKIT)
...

11. MAGNUM FORCE (FEAT RUSTEE JUXX, LIDU ROCK, & SUPREME)
Already there are waaay too many guest stars on Magnum Force (both the song and the album). The hook is pretty goddamn ridiculous on this boring-ass track, and you could throw in twenty more rappers if you wanted to: it won't sound any better, guys.

12. 2 KEYS III (SKIT)
...

13. SEAN WIGGINZ
This short Sean Price solo cut is ruined by an act of self-sabotage midway through, but up until that point, Ruck rips Nod's beat to shreds. Too bad it had to end the way it did.

14. FORGET ME KNOTS
So, Rock, you plan on staying exactly the same until you go triple platinum, eh? Given the weak economy, combined with the way the record industry works today, I guess we'll be expecting you to stay exactly the same.

15. BLACK FONZIRELLIZ
The title itself is pretty funny. Unfortunately, it also calls to mind an image of Ruck and Rock jumping the shark. Given the fact that this song features the two rappers speaking directly to the ladies that wouldn't buy a fucking Heltah Skeltah album if you paid them, that image is probably not that far off.

16. DO THE KNOWLEDGE (SKIT)
...

17. MFC LAWS (FEAT YOUNG NOBLE, STORM, NAPOLEON, & DOC HOLIDAY)
The M.F.C. (which stands for either Magnum Force Crew or Magnum Force Clik, but won't really matter to you, since all of the weed carriers within suck anyway) team up with two members of 2Pac's weed carrier crew Tha Outlawz for a pretty boring song. I wonder if there was a global shortage of potholders for the rest of the rappers in the industry while Magnum Force was being recorded.

18. HOLD YOUR HEAD UP (FEAT ANTHONY HAMILTON)
Originally, I found it hilarious that the guest crooner Anthony Hamilton was stuck in the background, even on his hook, but he gets his time to shine toward the end. I actually thought this shit was pretty good, although nobody buys Heltah Skeltah albums for their serious work.

19. GANG'S ALL HERE (FEAT BOOT CAMP CLIK & M.F.C.)
A 9-minute-plus posse cut featuring every single artist from both the BCC and the M.F.C. (which means you'll be listening to roughly forty-seven shortened verses). With this many collaborators, there is no fucking way that this song can be any good, but there are a few outstanding contributions: unsurprisingly, they come from the Boot Camp Clik members and not from the younger guns.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Magnum Force starts off promisingly, but then the album takes a turn for the bizarre, with ill-conceived radio-friendly attempts for no fucking reason, and collaborations that are completely uncalled for (not to mention the number of weed carriers on some of these tracks - seriously, somebody should have turned off the faucet). As a result, this album isn't as consistent as Nocturnal, and in turn, really really really sucks. When the stars align, this shit rocks, but more often than not, the sky is overcast.

BUY OR BURN? I would only recommend a burn, and even then, only to folks that are interested in tracking Sean Price's progression as a rapper. All others need not apply.

BEST TRACKS: "I Ain't Havin' That"; "Worldwide (Rock The World)"

-Max

RELATED POSTS:
Heltah Skeltah - Nocturnal

4 comments:

  1. the most felonious vocalist in the wide world of showbusinessDecember 01, 2008

    "I Ain't Havin' That" had a great video and got me amped the first 50 or so times I heard it. As for the rest of the album, Ruck's superiority to Rock combined with everyone's little brother (literally) being given mic time make for a very disappointing listening experience. Ruck and Starang Wondah should have formed a duo and left the rest of the Borderline Competent Clik to rot.

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  2. the most felonious vocalist in the wide world of showbusinessDecember 01, 2008

    Oh yeah. Word is Bon Jovi.

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  3. I am the 12th person to buy this album shortly after it came out. And it tells you a lot when the best track on the album is the "Do the Knowledge" skit, where they start talking about how the genitalia of the African American male resembles a Snickers bar. Other than that, it's an album that should have been very good.

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  4. I'm pretty sure P had a verse on that call of the wild track. I actually liked this album a lot, but thats my opinion. Great blog, I actually read certain reviews more than once because of the humor you put into them.

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