August 30, 2009

M.O.P. - First Family 4 Life (March 24, 1998)


First Family 4 Life was the Mash Out Posse's third full-length album, released two months after their Handle Ur Bizness EP. Now, Billy Danze and Lil' Fame don't appear to be the kind of artists that a record label would justify spending money on twice within the same tax year, especially with two releases so close to each other, but 1998 was a different time in hip hop, and Relativity Records was banking on the fact that the duo's rabid fans were highly anticipating their first album-length release since 1996's Firing Squad.

M.O.P. understandably stacked the deck this time around, hiring on DJ Premier to executive-produce the project alongside their longtime collaborator Laze E Laze. Both also produce many tracks on First Family 4 Life, as do M.O.P. themselves. They also called on more guests than they ever had before, aligning themselves with some of the better-regarded underground acts, in hopes that some of that goodwill would rub off on them. They were even somehow able to swing getting one of the biggest rappers in the game (both then and currently) to appear on a track, which Relativity, for obvious reasons, quickly marketed as a single to radio and B.E.T.

First Family 4 Life ultimately didn't make much of a dent in the Billboard charts, but it's not as if that was why M.O.P. made music in the first place or anything. They merely enjoyed getting their point across by any means necessary, elevating their hyped-up flows to the level of performance art. However, Relativity Records was in the business of actually making money, so M.O.P. soon found themselves switching label homes.

1. BILLY SKIT
It's called a “skit”, but this is really yet another rap album intro. Insert dead-eyed penetrating stare here.

2. BREAKIN' THE RULES (FEAT DJ PREMIER)
Fame and Billy boost the energy level tremendously with the first actual song on First Family 4 Life, and the image of running with guns and “bust[ing] them off like John Woo” is such a great visual that it's no fucking wonder why so many rappers love The Killer and Hard Boiled. However, I just could not get into Primo's beat. Nor did I think it was a good idea to have Primo perform on the hook. Sigh...

3. 4 ALARM BLAZE (FEAT TEFLON & JAY-Z)
Rips off Reinterprets Survivor's “Eye Of The Tiger” to hilarious effect, and there's even a “Fuck Giuliani!” thrown in for good measure. This track is pretty amped, and even special guest star Shawn Carter brings his A-game to the table. Before “Ante Up (Robbin Hoodz Theory)” was even a twinkle in the eyes of its parents, this song was the definition of pure unadulterated Mash Out Posse.

4. BLOOD SWEAT AND TEARS
I don't really like Laze E Laze's calm beat, but I found Fame and Danze stepping up their lyrical game to a more visceral level. This shit was actually impressive, as nobody ever listens to M.O.P. expecting to hear fucking Shakespeare.

5. DOWN 4 WHATEVA (FEAT O.C.)
A collaboration between M.O.P. and O.C. wasn't something I was expecting (and not just because we now have too many acronyms on here), but then again, Jay-Z appeared two tracks ago, so why the fuck not? I have to say, though, I enjoyed the lyrics much more so than the Mash Out Posse's own beat, which is so corny that I almost gave up on the track entirely. Almost.

6. FACING OFF
I don't know what I hated more about this song: the quiet-storm R&B-ish beat during the first verse, or the calling out of “rap dudes!” at the very beginning. It's cool that they tried something different, and the second beat (when Billy starts to rhyme) is much better, but I don't feel the need to ever listen to this one again.

7. MY KINDA N---A PART II (FEAT HEATHER B.)
This sequel to Heather B.'s original track (which also featured M.O.P.) takes on a much sparser sound (provided by Da Beatminerz), and, as a result, is boring as shit. This wasn't what I wanted to hear from them at all. This should have been left on the cutting room floor, unless it was always intended to be a bathroom break for the listener.

8. I LUV (FEAT FREDDIE FOXXX)
The Mash Out Posse team up with Bumpy Knuckles to describe the different things that they love (spoiler alert: for the most part, they love it when others underestimate them; also, weaponry) over a subdued DJ Premier instrumental that transcends mere boom-bap. Foxxx received a Hip Hop Quotable in The Source for his “The Militia”-esque verse, but Lil' Fame and Billy Danze leave the constant shouting behind for more coherent wordplay, making this track one of the best in their overall catalog.

9. SALUTE PART II (FEAT GANG STARR)
Technically, this should just say “featuring Guru”, since DJ Premier keeps to himself behind the boards, but whatever. Primo takes a short string sample and loops it around some medium-size drums, not unlike a young child tying their shoes with extra care, while Fame and Billy continue their decaffeinated flow from “I Luv”. Guru also does his thing, but that's to be expected over Primo beats, unless we're talking about The Ownerz, but I'll get to that shit at a later date.

10. RIDE WITH US
I didn't care for this song.

11. HANDLE UR BIZNESS (DJ PREMIER REMIX)
I wrote about this remix during the write-up for the Handle Ur Bizness EP. It still pales in comparison to the original song, and this remix doesn't really work within the context of this album, either.

12. FLY N---A HILL FIGGA
M.O.P. seem to be rhyming to a completely different beat than what we get to hear, which isn't fair. I'm pretty sure this unnecessary track is the same one that also appeared on the Roc-A-Fella Records Streets Is Watching soundtrack (under a slightly altered name, “My N---a Hill Figga”, for some reason) several years before they signed to that label. So M.O.P. and Jay-Z had been laying the groundwork for quite a while, you see.

13. WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS
This song is all kinds of depressing, but at least Lil' Fame and Billy Danze are being realistic. Lyrically, M.O.P. actually have something to say. Musically, their beat is really really really boring, so the Mash Out Posse's message may not even make it through your ears. Groan.

14. DOWNTOWN SWINGA' '98
It's weird that DJ Premier has done grade-A work with M.O.P. in the past, but with the exception of two songs on here, all of Primo's beats on First Family 4 Life suck balls. This song just sounds lazy. The rhymes don't really help matters, though.

15. FAME SKIT
At least they each got one of their very own.

16. BROOKLYN/JERSEY GET WILD (FEAT TREACH)
His cameo may look strange on paper, but having Treach (from Naughty By Nature) rhyme alongside M.O.P. is actually an inspired idea, as his high energy on tracks like “O.P.P.” translates well into the Mash Out Posse's world. Laze E Laze's beat is much to calm to contain the artists involved, though, so this could have been much better. But Billy's line “All disrespect intended” was pretty funny, I have to say.

17. NEW YORK SALUTE
Not to be confused with either “Salute” (from Firing Squad) or “Salute Part II” from earlier in the tracklisting. (M.O.P. just love to salute, that's all.) This anthem to their home state ultimately fails, as it isn't inspiring enough to make the listener go there nor threatening enough to make the listener stay away: you're left simply not giving a fuck. This left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

FINAL THOUGHTS: First Family 4 Life has an unfortunately high amount of meh songs, owing to a service disconnect between the energetic deliveries of both Lil' Fame and Billy Danze and the beats which are provided for them. They hijack Survivor's “Eye Of The Tiger” well, in a dignified and yet cheesy-as-hell manner, but when that song also happens to be one of the best on the disc, your album has other issues that it won't be able to overcome. For their part, Fame and Danze try to branch out into more serious reflections on life, but this time around their production fails them. Sorry, but it is what it is.

BUY OR BURN? Nothing more than a burn here. You should listen to the four tracks listed below, but as for the rest of the disc, hell, it's your funeral.

BEST TRACKS: “I Luv”; “Salute Part II”; “4 Alarm Blaze”; “Blood Sweat & Tears”

-Max

RELATED POSTS:
Other M.O.P. efforts are being discussed here.

13 comments:

  1. It's like you've been reading my mind; first Restless, now this.

    Kinda sad with the overall outcome. I agree that the disc gets a bit boring towards the end, but I won't regret purchasing this. 'Blood Sweat and Tears' is just inspiring, and the first time I heard '4 Alarm Blaze', I immediately set off to watch Rocky III again.
    Your review is understandable though.

    Now do Warriorz.

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  2. when i listen to MOP, i listen to two dudes yelling at me, seriously i tried to get into them but they were killin my ears

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  3. Good review. Gotta disagree with you on the Down 4 Whateva beat though... I fucking love that. Although I'd always thought that one was one of Premier's...

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  4. another shit review - this is a great album and premos beat are dope

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  5. sometimes i get very confused as to why people like a certain rapper/group

    MOP falls under that category

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  6. People like listening to MOP becuase they're not pussies like Protofag

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  7. Primo's tracks were sick. you suck balls>

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  8. lol at all the comments... I am die hard MOP fan, and can't get why people dont like it.. but whatever... I actually liked the review, even though I disagreed, it was at least justified.

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  9. lol whatever max, you go on and ignore this album and call preemo's beats wack while we listen to some hardcore hip hop shit, your missing the fun

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  10. people like listening to mop because they are rugged and cool. lil fames voice and flow is one of a kind, he's hard as fuck.

    4 alarm blaze though. shit that beat was corny as hell.

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  11. I'm a loyal M.O.P. fan, I guess that's the reason I hate Max's reviews on their albums, and I would recommend a lot more songs than that. I think First Family 4 Life never gets boring, all the songs are great, I just don't like "My Kinda Nigga Part 2" and "I Luv".

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  12. This album came out the day I was born lol I like it, I luv is a top 5 MOP song

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  13. Seriously, dude. Fuck Jay-Z and fuck your fandom of his.

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