November 19, 2008

Ultramagnetic MC's - Funk Your Head Up (March 17, 1992)


After releasing their debut album, Critical Beatdown, on Next Plateau Records in 1988, the Ultramagnetic MC's, made up of Kool Keith, Ced Gee, Moe Love, and TR Love, were awash in critical acclaim. They quickly started up work on a second album, but then apparently broke up, leaving their work incomplete and unreleased (until much later, anyway). In 1992, they reunited, signed up with a new label (Mercury Records), and set about recording a brand new second album, Funk Your Head Up.

The direction they were given by the label was to make Critical Beatdown 2, essentially. As the crew had already done a Critical Beatdown, they opted to do the exact opposite, recording subliminal disses and street anthems to funkier beats (which were still heavily reliant on multiple layers of samples). Unlike with the crew's experience with their last record label, Mercury Records granted them no creative control: in fact, once the album was complete, the label took the masters and had them remixed by outside producers and engineers, so that the sound would appeal to a more mainstream audience. As a result, Funk Your Head Up is technically an Untramagnetic MC's album, but the version we have is not the one that was intended to be heard.

The release was universally panned: thanks to the label's interference, Funk Your Head Up sounded almost nothing like what people actually wanted to hear Ultra perform. The only hit single spawned from a remix of an album track, "Poppa Large", which was not included on the official release (way to drop the ball there, Mercury). After leaving their fans wanting more for four years, the Ultramagnetic MC's found themselves losing their audience, and although the record has seen a retroactive spike in activity, there's no way to hide the fact that it was a disappointment on every level.

But how bad could it possibly be?

1. INTRODUCTION TO THE FUNK
"The most funkiest album ever made in the galaxy"? I'll be the judge of that.

2. INTRO
A rap album intro immediately following another rap album intro? I think my head just exploded. Kool Keith's brand pimping of the Ultramagnetic name is pretty funny, though.

3. M.C. CHAMPION
Considering that both Keith and Ced Gee rhyme on this track, shouldn't the song title be presented in its plural form? It's not like it's ever really explained that they're supposed to compete with each other, either. Aside from those ridiculous comments, the song itself is alright, but not memorable.

4. GO 4 YOURS
Keith sounds aggressive as hell during the song's intro, but then comes off as if he's on some sort of medication when his verse starts. There's a lot going on with the multi-layered beat, but as I didn't like the music very much, I didn't bother trying to analyze it.

5. BLAST FROM THE PAST
I thought this interlude was interesting, since it plays short clips from a bunch of the Critical Beatdown tracks, but unfortunately, it draws attention to the fact that, so far, the debut disc sounds better. Funk Your Head Up is nowhere near complete, though, so there's plenty of time for me to possibly change my mind.

6. FUNK RADIO
This song is pretty awesome, and TR Love, who did not appear anywhere on Critical Beatdown other than on the album cover, sounds pretty decent himself. But this is ultimately Kool Keith's song: insulting somebody by calling them a "small cauliflower" is pretty inspired.

7. MESSAGE FROM THE BOSS
I didn't care for this song.

8. PLUCKIN' CARDS
This Kool Keith solo offering is notable for dissing pretty much every other rapper in existence, both symbolically and blatantly. A lot of diss tracks seem to have derived from the blueprint Keith laid out, so on that note alone, this song is pretty good. You're prevented from becoming fully engaged, though, by the beat, which is just much too much.

9. INTERMISSION
Plays out exactly as it reads.

10. STOP JOCKIN' ME
"You played yourself like a big time toy from Mattel"? That's a pretty obtuse insult. I actually really liked this track, and the chorus is fucking hilarious to boot.

11. DOLLY AND THE RAT TRAP
More of an incomplete thought than the Kool Keith solo track it's supposed to be, but it sounds okay.

12. THE OLD SCHOOL
Skit...

13. BUST THE FACTS
Not bad, but not great.

14. MURDER AND HOMICIDE
Skit...

15. YOU AIN'T REAL
The lyrics were passable, but I couldn't get past what is supposed to be the "hook".

16. MAKE IT HAPPEN
Sounds the most like a Critical Beatdown leftover than anything presented so far, but I mean that in the best possible way.

17. I LIKE YOUR STYLE
The singing on the hook worked on "Stop Jockin' Me", as that song was already ridiculous to begin with, but this hook sounds like the generic love rap that most artists feel compelled to add to their albums to attract the female demographic. Walk on by, my two readers.

18. BILINGUAL TEACHINGS
Skit...

19. POPPA LARGE
Good, but really really short. Followers of Kool Keith may be more accustomed to the "Poppa Large" remixes (both East and West Coast variations), but if you're intrigued, here's the original. The remixes (specifically the East Coast one by Da Beatminerz) are heavily preferred, though.

20. MOE LOVE ON THE 1 AND 2
An altogether pleasant deejay cut, which serves as a pretty good interlude.

21. PORNO STAR (FEAT TIM DOG)
Keith's contribution sounds like a precursor to essentially every solo album he has ever released, thanks to his well-documented obsession with pornography. TR Love is downright embarrassing, but special guest star Tim Dog somehow manages to sound like a halfway decent rapper. I'm not sure how that happened, but it doesn't matter, as the song still sucks.

22. THE P.R.M.C. ID
Skit...

23. CHORUS LINE PT. 2 (FEAT TIM DOG)
I know that a lot of hip hop fans may consider this to be an Ultra classic, but I didn't care for it at all. And Tim Dog went right back to sucking. So, at least all is right with the world once again.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Funk Your Head Up is much darker than its predecessor, but it definitely didn't need to be, since the themes presented are exactly the same as what was discussed on Critical Beatdown. Kool Keith Thornton is still very much the star of the crew, a fact made that much more apparent with the inclusion of a third rapper, TR Love, whose function seems to be to make sure Keith sounds good on every song (Ced Gee manages to do well for himself, though). Beat-wise, it doesn't really matter, as we'll never get the opportunity to ever hear what the songs were supposed to sound like, but at least a handful of instrumentals take some rewarding chances, making some of the songs entertaining as hell. However, as a whole, this second group effort comes nowhere near the levels that Critical Beatdown reached. At twenty-three tracks deep, it's way too long for a listener from today's audience to invest their time into.

BUY OR BURN? As this title is out of print, you're not going to find it in stores anyway, but I don't think you should bother to burn this album either, unless you're either the world's biggest Kool Keith fan (in which case you'd already own this fucking thing) or just a collector of bad sophomore efforts. The Ultramagnetic MC's crawl too far up their own collective ass for the music to be consistently enjoyable, and the label's interference clearly didn't do them any favors.

BEST TRACKS: "Poppa Large"; "Stop Jockin' Me"; "Make It Happen"; "Funk Radio"

-Max

RELATED POSTS:
Ultramagnetic MC's - Critical Beatdown

4 comments:

  1. Go fuck a cow you salad tossing bastard. It's worth the buy. Get it on ebay, you can all find it. Max is a cock eating whore.

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  2. I'd say this was probably one of the better albums they did. The production certainly stands up better nowadays than 'Critical Beatdown' which although its a classic, sounds very much of its time. 'The Four Horsemen' was a poor follow up as Ced Gee's new rapping style coupled with a muddy production pretty much ruined the majority of tracks on it (for me at least). The best unofficial release (and there were plenty) would be 'Moe Loves Basement Tapes'(there was another bootleg just called 'The Basement Tapes' - not this one!) ... these could be the original 'F.Y.H.U' sessions you're on about ... I haven't listened to it in a while so I can't be sure, but there's the "Original" version of Poppa Large that even pre-dates the one on 'F.Y.H.U'. 'Funk your head up' is not an album to be slept on ... some pretty creative sampling on it at times and has a similar vibe to 'Penicillin on Wax' which was prob recorded around the same time ..

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  3. amazing album, you don't know shit if you honestly don't think this is a good album. This is CLASSIC underground hip-hop, you ain't real is fanastic...

    I mean granted this is all subjective but Ultrmagnetic MC's are one of the godfather's of underground.

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  4. AnonymousJuly 06, 2010

    what samples are used on porn star? lorddreg at youtube

    ReplyDelete