August 6, 2009

The Beatnuts - Stone Crazy (June 24, 1997)


The Beatnuts were down to two members when their third project (and second full-length album), Stone Crazy, was released in 1997. Kool Fashion, who has worked alongside Psycho Les and Juju since the beginning (and supplied the first two albums with some of their best verses), left the crew on good terms, changed his rap name to Al Tariq, became a devout Muslim, and went on to a solo career, albeit one that sees him still rounding the wagons around the Beatnuts camp from time to time.

So Psycho Les and Juju were left to their own devices, and they used the opportunity to configure their hard-to-find samples into bouncier, slightly more engaging instrumentals than what they were known for. Stone Crazy sounds like a fucking overdose of Prozac when compared to Intoxicated Demons and Street Level, which is surprising, since lyrically the guys are as violent and masochistic as ever.

Stone Crazy is notable because the duo started to garner more radio airplay with the singles from this project (mainly "Do You Believe" and "Off The Books"), but not because they intentionally went commercial: they took advantage of the fact that hip hop radio was turning into what resembled more of an oldies channel (thanks to the dominance of Puff Daddy and the Trackmasters at the time), so heads were fiending for something that sounded even a little bit different.

Hence, this.

1. WORLD FAMOUS
Just an instrumental intro with a vocal sample repeating the phrase "world's famous". Could be better, but it could also be a lot worse.

2. BLESS THE M.I.C. (FEAT GAB GACHA)
I first heard this song as the b-side to the "Off The Books" single, so it threw me off when I found out that this was the first actual song on Stone Crazy. This couldn't sound more different than "Off The Books", but I still loved this posse cut back in the day, and that fact hasn't changed. Juju and Gag Gacha are the most impressive rhyme-wise, but everyone still does a great fucking job.

3. INTERMISSION
Already? The hell?

4. HERE'S A DRINK
You would think that a song with a title like that would be more fun and upbeat, but you would be wrong. This track is boring as shit. Next!

5. OFF THE BOOKS (FEAT BIG PUNISHER & CUBAN LINK)
This song is the shit. Big Punisher's first real mainstream appearance does not disappoint: even when I hear this today, I'm amazed at the guy's breath control and his goofiness behind the mic (ending his verse with "That's it!" is fucking hilarious). Cuban Link, Psycho Les, and Juju all have the unenviable task of following the man, but they manage to also sound terrific over the bouncy chimes on the beat. This is easily one of the best songs that The Beatnuts have ever recorded, and you get the feeling that they knew that during the recording session.

6. BE PROUD / INTERLUDE
...

7. DO YOU BELIEVE
I think this may have been the first single off of Stone Crazy (at least, the first one specifically marketing Stone Crazy, as I'll explain in a bit) , and it's a doozy: "Do You Believe" announces a new era in the career of The Beatnuts by managing to sound nothing like their first two albums. Juju's opening verse also rocks accordingly, and the hook, which begins with "Do you believe in God? You do? Tell him to save you" sounds much better within the context of the track than when I write it out, but it's all still really goddamn good.

8. FINGER SMOKE
This is just an interlude. And an annoying one, at that.

9. STONE CRAZY
This track did nothing for me. It is neither stone nor crazy: in fact, it's damn near conventional. Which is not what I look for in my dealings with the Nuts. Moving on...

10. N----Z KNOW
Uses the same sample ("General Confessional" from The Electric Prunes) as Rampage's "Flipmode Iz Da Squad" (a posse cut from the unfortunately titled Scout's Honor...By Way Of Blood, which implies that The Last Boy Scout is a serial killer who specializes in slaughtering children to take all of their cookies), and I can't believe that I'm writing this, but Rampage did a better job with it. Yeah, I'm just as surprised as you. My expectations were just too high, I suppose, after reading that brilliantly original and creative song title.

11. HORNY HORNS
Yet another interlude, although this one isn't half bad. It's still completely skippable, but if you were to let it ride out, you wouldn't mind too much.

12. FIND THAT
This was the first actual single released from Stone Crazy, although it was used to market a label sampler, so it may not actually count. I don't remember caring for this song back in the day, but if I were to come across my past self now, I would slap the shit out of him, as this has matured into quite the track. In fact, Juju's lyrical contributions are among the best he has ever done. The instrumental, simple as it is, moves along like an Amtrak train, and the song is much better for it.

13. SUPA SUPREME
The beat sounds like something that could have inspired J-Zone for his later work, and I mean that in a good way. The lyrics were instantly forgettable, but, once again, nobody buys a Beatnuts album for the articles.

14. THINKIN' 'BOUT CASH (FEAT BLAQ POET & HOSTYLE OF SCREWBALL)
This collaboration between the Nuts and half of the now-defunct crew Screwball was a bit of a shock, but the true surprise on here is how much Juju doesn't fit in on the track. Everyone else adopts a calm, cool demeanor, whereas Junkyard Juju sounds like an unhinged flunky who is hired to finish the job by any means necessary. Other than his input, this song wasn't bad.

15. UNCIVILIZED (FEAT DON GOBBI)
Meh.

16. GIVE ME THA ASS
A goofy sample (Patrice Rushen's "Forget Me Nots", or for you younger readers out there, Will Smith's "Men In Black") leads one to believe that this shit may have been produced by either Puff Daddy or the Trackmasters. It's clear that Juju and Psycho Les were having a laugh at the sheer audacity of the sample and at the industry at the time, but they should have picked a more obscure track: the source material is so well known that it distracts the listener from the joke.

17. STROKES (FEAT HORNY MAN)
It wouldn't be a Beatnuts project without a sex rap. These are the type of songs that Psycho Lester excels at (indeed, Juju doesn't rap on here at all), as he seems the most comfortable rhyming about the pleasures of the opposite sex. However, this song is still pretty awful, due to a weak instrumental and a chorus that leaves you feeling truly ashamed that you let Stone Crazy play beyond the already-strange "Give Me Tha Ass". Groan.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Stone Crazy is hit and miss, which isn't surprising when you consider that The Beatnuts themselves could be described in the same fashion (no pun intended). Psycho Les and Juju weer on a mission to prove to listeners that they could still entertain even without one of their own in the midst, and in that respect, they do an okay job. The album features songs that are absolute fucking bangers, tracks which are relatively forgettable, and interludes that try one's patience. Lyrically, Juju stepped his game up tremendously, as if he alone were trying to make for the loss of Kool Fashion, whereas Psycho Les sounds exactly the same. The great songs may draw in new fans, but they also showcase a different sound that may alienate Beatnuts purists. All in all, Stone Crazy is a wash.

BUY OR BURN? The songs listed below are leagues better than the rest of the album (with the exception of "Thinkin' 'Bout Cash", which is good, save for Juju's verse, which is so bad that it brings the track down several notches), but they elevate the overall feel of this project to such a degree that you should probably just pick this one up if you happen upon it. (Didn't see that one coming, did you?)

BEST TRACKS: "Off The Books"; "Do You Believe"; "Find That"; "Bless The M.I.C."

- Max

RELATED POSTS:
Other Beatnuts album write-ups can be found here.

4 comments:

  1. to me these guys are better off making raw beats instead of rhyming, leave that to pete rock, large professor and RZA

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  2. Here's a drink has a crazy beat man....

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  3. I like the Nuts, but i don't love the Nuts. Nuts

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  4. Juju's verse on Thinkin Bout Cash is hilarious!! He sounds pissed off.

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