November 26, 2008

M.O.P. - Firing Squad (October 22, 1996)


The Mash Out Posse (M.O.P. for those that love acronyms), the rap duo who were most likely to have teenagers severely injure themselves in mosh pits of their own creation, took about three years between their debut album, To The Death, and their sophomore effort, Firing Squad. During that time, Lil' Fame and Billy Danze adapted the best way they could to a musical genre that had seen many changes since "How About Some Hardcore?" hit the streets.

In an attempt to secure better marketing, M.O.P. switched record labels, moving from Select Records to Relativity. They also opted for some different production: instead of D.R. Period, who produced the vast majority of To The Death, they went with DJ Premier (who produced seven songs) and self-produced the rest (with help from frequent collaborator Laze E. Laze), leaving a couple of scraps for some outside artists. However, they kept their aggressively entertaining flow intact. This time around, they even accepted some guest help. M.O.P. even went the traditional "guest spot on someone else's album" route to promote themselves, appearing on Heather B.'s well-received "My Kinda N---a".

Although Firing Squad was also well-received and sold enough copies to justify the label holding on to them for a bit, the artists involved didn't have the opportunity to enjoy their success, as both Lil' Fame and Billy Danze lost their respective mothers during the recording process. A skit and its following song toward the end of Firing Squad are both dedicated to their memory.

1. INTRO
No new ground is broken here, but at least it's short.

2. FIRING SQUAD (SKIT)
A skit immediately following a rap album intro? The boys in M.O.P. are trying my fucking patience already, and none of the actual music has kicked in yet.

3. FIRING SQUAD (FEAT TEFLON)
What M.O.P. normally does well is their patent-pending shout-rapping over very subdued instrumentals, offering the listener a sharp contrast in sounds. In this case, the experiment doesn't really work, even with the Primo production, but this song marks the first appearance of M.O.P. associate/weed carrier Teflon, which should count for something.

4. NEW JACK CITY (FEAT TEFLON)
This isn't bad. Primo's beat is much more melodic than anything from To The Death, and its short length is perfect for my attention span and, I'd bet, the attention span of some of the younger readers out there.

5. STICK TO YA GUNZ (FEAT KOOL G. RAP)
DJ Premier swoops in and changes up the sound of Firing Squad thus far (even though he's been the only producer to appear up until this point, but whatever), with a simple loop that sounds fantastic in his hands. Billy Danze and Lil' Fame sound downright thrilled to spit alongside Kool G. Rap, who rightfully outshines them both.

6. ANTICIPATION
This is actually really boring.

7. BORN 2 KILL
Big Jaz, Shawn Carter's old mentor, provides a beat that creeps along a bit too slowly for my liking, but otherwise, this song isn't bad. I especially liked Lil' Fame's verse. The outro was overkill, though: it's just a song, guys.

8. BROWNSVILLE
Primo's beat doesn't work as well as it should. The looped "melody" grates on the eardrums, and it intimidates the vocals, making this a song that everybody should skip.

9. SALUTE
However, on this track, I'm loving Primo's instrumental. If you can look past the drums, there is the faintest of melodies that elevates this shit to greatness. I'd always felt that Billy and Fame tend to step their game up whenever Primo is around, and although a few songs above disprove my theory, tracks such as this still make me wish for an all-Primo produced affair.

10. WORLD FAMOUS
Scarface would later utilize the same sample (Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway's "Be Real Black For Me") for his "On My Block", which basically sounds exactly the same as "World Famous". Anyway, this song is downright pleasant to listen to, although M.O.P. refuse to switch up their content to fit the slower groove.

11. DOWNTOWN SWINGA '96
M.O.P.'s relationship with DJ Premier seems to have started when Primo was commissioned to remix their "Rugged Neva Smoove" (from To The Death) for the 12-inch single. Primo also produced an original track for M.O.P., "Downtown Swinga", which was the B-side: this is the remix to that song. And although this is another Primo beat, and although the duo sound dialed down (in a good way), I wasn't feeling this song at all.

12. LIFESTYLES OF A GHETTO CHILD
From the Nicolas Cage film of the same name.

13. REVOLUTION
This is five-plus minutes of your life that you will never get back, and it isn't even a real song!

14. ILLSIDE OF TOWN
M.O.P. and Laze E. Laze's inclusion of a female vocalist was a nice touch. This one isn't bad at all.

15. NOTHIN' 2 LOSE
Meh.

16. DEDICATION
This interlude leads nicely into the next song, but the sound effects are pretty damn annoying.

17. DEAD & GONE (FEAT BATTLE)
The duo dedicate an entire song to the very serious topic of death. It's unnerving at first to hear Billy Danze and Lil' Fame not shouting, but they wax eloquently on the subject, proving that there is some actual lyricism underneath those shells.

18. BORN 2 KILL (JAZZ MIX)
Essentially the exact same song as the one that appeared earlier, with most of the hook deleted and a couple of newer (and allegedly "jazzier") elements replacing what's missing. The beat is still too slow, but otherwise, my opinion of this track is exactly the same as it was before.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Firing Squad (barely) expands upon the theme first introduced on To The Death, and as a result, M.O.P. sound about the same as before, although that's not a bad thing. The beats have made a gigantic leap forward, especially the DJ Premier tracks, which gives the project an aura of class that it may not have achieved on its own. Listening to Firing Squad can be exhausting at times, and not every moment works as it should, but the high points greatly outweigh the questionable ones. And besides, there are no collaborations with fucking L.F.O. on this album.

BUY OR BURN? You should probably burn this one, as M.O.P. is an acquired taste, but for those that are interested, the tracks listed below are a must-hear. The great Primo songs inadvertently make the rest of the disc sound empty and incomplete in comparison.

BEST TRACKS: "Stick To Ya Gunz"; "World Famous"; "Illside Of Town"; "Salute"

-Max

RELATED POSTS:
M.O.P. - To The Death

5 comments:

  1. Good review Max...though Primo's original version of stick to ya gunz is dope as fuck, I think the Pete Rock remix is even better

    peace

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  2. and no onyx reviews..

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  3. I hope you choke on your turkey leg and when they find it, they discover you also choked on all the dick you been eating you bitch ass nigger! This album is greeeat!

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

    Thanks for the Nicolas Cage revival. I'm still too poor for the internet which explains the lack of my groupie level commenting. Thanks for all your hard work. The stunt blogging is always appreciated.

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  5. You went to hard on an album, Max. Jazz mix is cool too, female singing added for a good measure and sure it's not "exactly the same". Agree on Salute, among the finest Primo works.

    A definite buy.

    ReplyDelete