July 19, 2010
Reader Review: Terror Squad - The Album (September 21, 1999)
(Today's Reader Review is for the Terror Squad's debut group album, called, appropriately enough, The Album. The Grinch provides the insight; leave some notes for him below.)
If you are a hip hop head, and you prefer the genre in its purest form, then chances are you have heard of Big Pun, the late Puerto Rican Bronx-bred emcee who is one of the most missed legends in the game, even though we all know damn well that he would actually be collaborating with the likes of T-Pain and Lil' Wayne if he were still with us today, having sold his soul to remain relevant in then fickle music industry. Regardless, due to the man's popularity and the fact that he finally put East Coast Latino rappers on the map in a way that nobody else had before (or since; he's been the most successful one) (because Pitbull doesn't count), it wasn't surprising to see that his crew, the Terror Squad (made up of Cuban Link, Prospect, Triple Seis, Armageddon, and the tag team, buffet-clearing duo of Fat Joe and Pun himself), release their own album, conveniently titled The Album, in 1999.
Terror Squad began life as a group that called themselves the Full-A-Clips Crew; only Pun, Cuban, Triple Seis, and Prospect were among its ranks. Seeing dollar signs in his eyes after having paired up with Big Punisher, Fat Joe added himself and Armageddon (the only guy to stand by Joe after Pun passed away), and gently persuaded them to change the name to the far more generic Terror Squad (which sounds like a league of evil-doers in a horrible comic book series). The Album would end up being the only album released under this particular regime, although other Terror Squad projects exist, thanks once again to Joey Crack's greed.
As a New York-born, Hispanic Hip-Hop head, I've always been annoyed to see that the people who represent our culture, to the point that the average American thinks that they are standard examples, are as follows: the Taco Bell chihuahua; the young Cuban gardener who is the secret sexual fantasy of at least one married woman in every television series or movie (at least the ones showcasing suburban melancholy); and one of the millions of maids who panic and scream "¡Ay dios mio!” whenever something, anything happens on her Telemundo telenovela. So when I discovered this old Terror Squad album, I was pleased that these six guys showcased more than just mere stereotypes, and putting my pride aside, I was just glad that these guys were damn good lyricists. (However, I am now disappointed and angry that I used up my “personal story” paragraph to talk about the Taco Bell dog.)
Upon the release of The Album, the average hip hop head fluctuated between one of two opinions: (1) "Haha lol doze duds copy pun's style, soooee lame" (yes, some rap fans are smart!), and (2) "Big Pun wrote the whole album". Now let me set things straight: I am a die-hard Big Punisher stan. The guy was one of probably three rappers in the entire industry who lived a true and humble life, and his talent is matched by no other. (The other notoriously fat guy is out there sucking on your daddy's dick because you look so good.) That said, The Album marked the beginning of the end. Pun rhymes throughout the entire project as though he had Twinkie filling pumping through his veins (and more importantly, in his mouth). Because of this fact, the true highlight of The Album are all of the other guys who stood in the spotlight for the first (and only) time of their lives; this disc contains the only studio-released examples of somebody spanking Big Pun on wax. Now how could Big Pun write every single verse and still manage to sound a level below his chauffeurs? Next you'll probably tell me that Twilight is actually a good movie.
I can't say anything else here without revealing my final thoughts on The Album, so please, take a seat (because you have, obviously, been riding a horse this entire time), grab a Kit-Kat bar, turn on your “good hip hop” radar, and picture Big Punisher naked. Great; no matter what, this album will sound much better than that image.
1. IN FOR LIFE
Skipping the mandatory rap album intro and jumping straight into an opening Pun verse is the perfect way to kick The Album off. This is the type of track that makes you want to dance with some ugly dead dude while trapped in the morgue. Triple Seis (the guy standing in the rear on the album cover who looks like Master Splinter) sounds boring, but thank God the two guys who follow are Prospect (who delivers some damn good lines) and Cuban Link, whose flow is incredible. The chorus is meh, and Fat Joe pops out at the end to say...nothing. Yay.
2. PASS THE GLOCK
The "Terror Squad!" sound bite looped in the background is (surprise!) annoying as hell, but thankfully it doesn't stick around during the actual rhymes. Triple Seis earns his wings back, Cuban Link slaps you in the face (I'll tell you now, he's the best thing on the entire album), Prospect sounds pretty hot (but I'm straight, so don't get any ideas), and Big Pun is, well, Big Pun. But the biggest shock on her comes from Fat Joe, who isn't good, but he manages to keep your finger off the "fast-forward" button. Overall, this was a good track.
3. '99 LIVE
Once the beat kicks in, you'll immediately find this song to be lame. It also happens to be Prospect's solo effort, and since it's nothing special, I suggest that you all simply pass. Which is too bad, as Prospect isn't bad or anything; he just sounds boring.
4. WHAT'CHA GON' DO?
Big Punisher's solo track, and it is awful. This the only single which the Terror Squad shot a video for (where I got to watch my favorite rapper pretend to be a hobo on a bench. Thank you, Pun!), which probably explains why The Album didn't sell enough copied to go gold. Christopher Rios doesn't spit in his trademarked lightning-quick way; instead, he kind of sings along to the track. You should both skip this track and feel bad for those closed-minded hip hop heads who judged Big Pun's role in our chosen genre based on this lone song.
5. TRIPLE THREAT
I should have warned you: the choruses are one of the biggest problems on The Album, and this track is no exception. So we have to look to the verses themselves to find anything enjoyable. Cuban Link provides the awesome line, "Fucking with this Latin Assassin / Better get ya head examined", which, if you happen to be Latino, should make you punch your chest in pride.
Do you have some chores to do? Kids to pick up? Homework? If so, this would be the time.
7. BRING IT ON
Once I realized that this was Fat Joe's solo, I questioned why I had to even listen to this. Then again, I'm writing a review of The Album; that doesn't necessarily mean that you need to suffer as I did.
8. AS THE WORLD TURNS (FEAT TONY SUNSHINE)
Wow, another "My life was hard, I lived in the ghetto, some of my friends died, and I sold crack" song. Hip hop really needs more of these. Cuban Link bends the concept on his ear by introducing the “I am an illegal” technique. Lucky for them, this is actually a good song, and Tony Sunshine (who would later become a full-fledged Terror Squad member after Pun's passing) helps out on what is the only track with a good hook. Triple Seis and Prospect both spit some good stuff. and they lived happily ever after.
9. GIMMIE DAT
Armageddon's solo. He's not without talent, and the beat isn't bad, but this just isn't that great of a song. And what was with the cheap gun sound effects? They sounded like slamming doors.
10. FEELIN' THIS
This was over four minutes of my life that I'll never get back. I've also noticed that all the guys in Terror Squad seem to feel comfortable talking about are guns. (Well, that, and running trains on promiscuous women.) I understand that rappers growing up these days didn't have the same kind of issues as the artists of olde, but these guys make gratuitous violence sound really boring.
11. ALL AROUND THE WORLD
Cuban Link's solo, and it sucks. Terrible chorus, awful instrumental, and when compared to his other contributions to The Album, he doesn't even have anything interesting to say.
12. TELL ME WHAT U WANT (FEAT TONY SUNSHINE)
Here's a great idea: placing one radio-friendly song for the ladies immediately after another radio-friendly song for the ladies. Bravo. At least Cuban Link regains my trust by dropping some nice bars and speaking a little Spanish for good measure.
13. RUDEBOY SALUTE (FEAT BUJU BANTON)
This could have been a great song, but unfortunately, Fat Joe exists. Also, I don't understand what the hell guest star Buju Banton is saying, but that's probably just because I don't follow reggae music much: he still contributes only positive things. Bug Punisher steals the show entirely, though. This song proves that simple beats can be effective. At the end, Fat Joe decides to adopt a Jamaican accent, which is a straight fail, although you won't be surprised when you realize that he has jumped on almost every single trend that hip hop has thrown at him throughout his career.
14. MY KINDA GIRLS (FEAT TONY SUNSHINE)
Somehow, Tony Sunshine received the equivalent of a solo track, even though he isn't in the group yet; as a concession, Cuban Link also pops up, but even he can't save you.
15. PAYIN' DUES (FEAT KEITH NUT)
After the tsunami of shit from the past few songs, we get...this. I feel annoyed, because the good songs were at the beginning of The Album, and Keith Nut puts the last ten tracks to shame with his first verse. Armageddon also sounds pretty good himself, but I feel this song is half an hour too late. Groan.
16. WWW.THATSMYSHIT.COM (FEAT THE BLEACH BROTHERS)
Criminally retarded name aside, this was a good song. Once again, the first verse is a killer, and the line "You little bitch / I have you screaming for real" comes out as smooth as a toothpick stuck into a cake just out of the oven. Oh, and Triple Seis appears on here, too.
FINAL THOUGHTS: If you've been reading my review of Terror Squad's The Album since the beginning, and not just looking for some discrete porn website link, you've noticed that my enthusiasm slowly died during the writing process. (Oh, and also, it's 4 in the morningas I'm writing this) I did double-check my work, and I still felt what were the few actual good songs, and while you cannot deny that these guys were (sometimes) more talented than the artists who were more popular at the time, the sad fact is that The Album is full of flaws. There is much more bad than good over here, and that description goes toward all of the participants equally, especially the late Big Punisher. (Side note: by re-reading this entire review (Thank you, third grade teacher!), I couldn't help but notice how often I say Cuban Link is the best thing on this track or that song, which makes me believe that you two will think that I am actually Cuban Link in disguise, or at least his significant other. I'm not. He really does sound good, and he's on my list of rappers who keep lyricism alive (or at least until he dropped his solo album), joining the likes of Chino XL & Immortal Technique as one of those Latin rappers who smack the shit (on wax) out of your favorite rapper, but are simply overlooked. (Back then, anyway; nowadays, all of the rappers I listed suck.))
BUY OR BURN?: Burn, unless you manage to find this in a flea market somewhere. Some of these tracks are worth listening to, but it isn't worth more than four bucks.
BEST TRACKS:"In For Life"; "Pass The Glock"; "As The World Turns"; "Rudeboy Salute"; "Payin' Dues"
(Questions? Comments? Concerns? Leave your comments below.)