April 7, 2009

Sauce Money - Middle Finger U (November 2, 1999)

Todd Gathier, who endorses all of his checks as Sauce Money but is then surprised when the bank won't cash them, is a Brooklyn rapper (and ghostwriter) who is best known as the most talented rapper that Jay-Z ditched entirely when he became famous. In a way, their rap careers started off in much the same way: both men were actually in the game for several years prior to Jay's Reasonable Doubt, appearing alongside the likes of Big Jaz, Original Flavor, and, most notably, Big Daddy Kane (both men were featured on "Show & Prove", that bizarre posse cut that also featured Ol' Dirty Bastard).

Todd even appeared alongside Shawn for the first three Jay-Z albums, often contributing to one of the best tracks on each respective CD. Sauce Money was actually signed to Roc-A-Fella Records at one point, and even released a single, "Actions", which, unexpectedly, sounded fucking terrible and managed to convince nobody to play it on the radio outside of the greater New York area. (A video for "Actions", paired up with ".38 Special", another awful Sauce song, can be found on Youtube rather easily, if you're curious.) However, in a sure sign of things to come, Sauce Money made the move to Priority Records to record his debut, Middle Finger U, with minimal Roc-A-Fella involvement, while Jay-Z was busy creating his Dynasty team of himself, Memphis Bleek, Beanie Sigel, and female rapper Amil, who was so nice to me at Target the other day that I had to give her manager some kudos.

What went wrong? Sauce Money is clearly more gifted than any of the artists that I just listed above. This motherfucker even won a Grammy before even getting his record deal. (More on that accolade below.) For those of you that don't hate Jay-Z with a passion, can you not imagine how much better some of his more recent projects would have sounded if Sauce Money was featured on at least one song? To be honest, I think that was the problem: when you listen to Middle Finger U, you can't help but imagine it to be an alternate-universe Jay-Z album, and not just because Hova himself appears on two tracks. Shawn has this tendency to surround himself with inferior rappers (yeah, I included Beanie Sigel in that list) to boost his own ego: the only guy on his record label that can (and has) dominate a track when standing alongside him is Nasir Jones, and even that pairing will be short-lived: once Hova turns in The Blueprint 3 and jumps ship from Def Jam to LiveNation, do you really think Nas will miraculously appear on a Jay-Z album again?

Sorry, I got off on a tangent. Middle Finger U was released in 1999, sold almost zero copies, and somehow buried Sauce Money's career before it ever really took off. Since then, the man has appeared sporadically on mixtapes, but there is no second album to be found. After reading this write-up, I challenge you two to either come up with a list of great unreleased or rare Sauce Money tracks for others to track down for extra credit, or, if for some reason one of you is in a position to do so, somebody please sign this guy to a one-off deal, so he can get a second chance. The guy deserves it: he's been through a lot. Wouldn't you be depressed as shit, too, if your friend left you by the wayside to hang out with Memphis fucking Bleek?

Be sure to do all of that after you read the write-up, though.

What could have been yet another bullshit rap album intro is salvaged by the verse that Todd kicks. While it's not the best, it sets the album up rather nicely.

The beat sounds a little off (never more so than in the middle of Sauce's second verse, when an attempt at a breakdown fails miserably), and the hook is pretty bad, but Todd's lyricism is skillful enough to almost make up the difference. Besides, his line "Be sure to call me Dad, too, because I'm a motherfucker" is pretty funny, regardless of the backdrop.

I actually liked Omonte Ward's beat (his only other production credit seems to be in a co-producer capacity on Saafir's "Watch How Daddy Ball", which would be terrible song title even if he recorded it for the Baby Loves Hip Hop series), and Todd comes off rather nicely as well. But the two aforementioned elements do not mesh together. At all. Sauce Money sounds awkward as fuck over this particular instrumental: with a different musical backdrop (not a better one, but a different one), his verses may have popped, but as is, this track is only alright.

The first (and to my knowledge, only) single, one of many Mr. Rapture production efforts on Middle Finger U (his other production credits seem to only include other songs on Middle Finger U). It samples Frank Stallone's "Far From Over", from the Staying Alive soundtrack (no, seriously, I'm not kidding), but don't hold that against it: the song itself still sounds pretty good, radio friendly without the typical pandering that usually goes with it.

Even with that title, DJ Clark Kent's beat aims for the Billboard charts. Thankfully, Sauce Money shoots down any ideas of commercial acceptability with an endless stream of punchlines and humorous threats that wouldn't have sounded out of place on Reasonable Doubt. His final line on this track even leads nicely into the following song.

Puffy appears on Middle Finger U because of Sauce Money's gratitude: that Grammy award that Todd frequently brags about copping before the album dropped was for writing Puffy's "I'll Be Missing You", his ode to the late Notorious B.I.G. Diddy does his best to sabotage the project with his poor recitation of Sauce's lyrics, miserable ad-libs, and the horrible horrible horrible hook, but when Todd is left to his own devices, he isn't bad.

Ostensibly a sequel to the original "Face/Off", from Jay-Z's In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 (which featured Sauce Money), except this track features a much worse beat. Shawn sounds okay, but this is clearly a Sauce Money song, through and through. It's impossible to look past that shitty beat, though.

I liked this track upon Middle Finger U's original release, and hearing it today, it still sounds pretty good. However, the way that producer Marley Marl works in a Jay-Z vocal sample into the beat (making it appear as if Hova is waiting in the wings to drop a verse) is pretty fucking annoying, I have to admit.

Big Jaz's instrumental, which will remind Wu-Tang fans of "Did You Say That", a Gza/Genius track from Legend Of The Liquid Sword, takes a weird turn during the chorus, but otherwise, it's simple and effective. Sauce's rhymes are fucking hilarious (especially when he shouts the word "bitches" in a high pitch - it looks bad now that I write it out, but trust me, in context, it's funny), so of course it makes complete sense that Shawn Carter opted to back the defective horse known as Memphis Bleek: Todd could hone his craft and become a better rapper than Jigga, and we couldn't have that, now, could we?


DJ Premier provides the backdrop for Todd's amalgamation of Biggie's "Warning" and Jay's "Friend Or Foe", with fantastic results. Sauce's conversational flow can only be compared to that of his boy Shawn Carter: when he goes off on a tangent and then brings the tale back around by simply stating "That's neither here nor there", I don't know why, but I laughed out loud.

Naah. The hook is too weak to overlook.

This is the same Jay-Z/Sauce Money collaboration that appeared on the soundtrack to Belly. Hova runs laps around his boy, especially since, at the time, his line "What your album lacks is more Jay-Z" was entirely justified. (Probably not so much today, though.) If you find yourself with an extra five minutes in your day, doing a quick search on the Interweb will bring up a longer version of this song featuring an additional verse from Todd. (Some websites purport that the extended version of this song actually appears on their copy of Middle Finger U, but I didn't have such luck.)

What the fuck is it with hip hop and shitty hooks? They seem to go together like peanut butter and three-month-old congealed grape jelly: technically, it would seem like the two ingredients would work, but it tastes fucking gross.

This ode to Sauce Money's late mother is actually touching. Over the same beat that 2Pac used for his "Pain" (one of my favorite underrated Pac joints ever), Todd waxes poetically about how's he's coped with the loss, with fantastic results. The only weak link on the song is the hook, which comes off as a parody of itself, but don't let that distract you too much.

Catchy, but I find it odd that the chorus, which consists of a series of sound bites from Jay-Z and Memphis Bleek, makes multiple references to "Pre-Game", the song from three goddamn tracks ago, either due to Bleek's name-checking of a song that is infinitely better than anything he has ever done, or to the blatant jacking of one of Hova's lines from the actual song. Weird. Otherwise, this isn't bad at all.

17. V1 SKIT

A bland way to end your album. But at least they held off on featuring Memphis Bleek until the very end of the album, so I'm thankful for that.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Middle Finger U actually sounds pretty good today, ten years removed from its release date. As an emcee, Sauce Money is very engaging: unlike a lot of rappers today, you look forward to hearing his next punchline. A few of the beats are weak, but the majority of them click, creating a thoroughly enjoyable listening experience. Hopefully this post will attract more attention to Middle Finger U, possibly providing the justification an underground label would need to sign Sauce Money and get him to release a second album already, as opposed to these random mixtape tracks he's been doing off and on for the past decade.

BUY OR BURN? If you can actually find a physical copy of this album, you should definitely pick it up. Sauce Money is just as good as Jay-Z, and is actually an even funnier rapper: he just never received the same opportunities as Hova, even with his Grammy. Be the first on your block to correct that mistake.

BEST TRACKS: "Pre-Game"; "For My Hustlaz"; "Middle FInger U"; "Section 53, Row 78"; "Intruder Alert"; "What's My Name"; "Chart Climbing"; "What's That, Fuck That"

B-SIDE TO LOOK FOR: Sauce Money actually has a gaggle of tracks floating around out there, but one of my favorites is "Against The Grain", a DJ Premier-produced banger from the Soul In The Hole soundtrack. Actually, that entire soundtrack isn't that bad, now that I think about it. I may have to look through my crates now.



  1. Good reveiw. i nver knew he came out with an album. gotta check it out.

  2. you dont have crates

  3. The world needs your thoughts on "We Made You," Max. Does it suck, or really suck?

  4. Scotty MacApril 07, 2009

    I didn't know there was a Sauce Money album either... thanks for your support during Sauce Money Awareness Week.

    The only Sauce tracks I can think of are:

    Marcy to Hollywood - Jay-Z ft Sauce & M. Bleek
    Get off my Dick - Sauce ft Jay-Z (or vice versa? From back in the Jay-Z Chipmunk days)
    some Freestyle where he says "I thought you were Chinese the way you Duck Sauce"

    Don't know where any of the songs are from though

  5. ... Trolling isn't past some people.

    As a self-confessed HOVA hater, I really wished this guy would have blown up. Would've made the last decade more bareable.

  6. Come visit Novablast.blogspot.com

  7. he really killed the bring it on cut from reasonable doubt but this album lacked in beats

  8. This album already looks pretty good, but when I saw that comment about "That's neither here nor there" I knew - I have to get this

  9. nothing to do with sauce money just didnt feel like typing an email
    thoughts on buggin out 2009 by j period and kid cuddi?

  10. sauce money is a way better lyricist than jay z

  11. Thank you for another excellent article. The place else may
    just anybody get that type of information in such
    a perfect method of writing? I've a presentation next week,
    and I'm on the look for such information.

    Also visit my web-site :: buy twitter followers