The High & Mighty are a deejay/rapper combination who hail from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They are best known for not being 7L & Esoteric.
Mr. Eon (Eric Meltzer) and DJ Mighty Mi (Milo Berger) came together during the heyday of East Coast underground rap in the late 1990s. Milo had formed an independent label, Eastern Conference Records, which had entered into friendly competition with other similar companies in the New York area, specifically Fondle 'Em Records and the eventual big dog Rawkus Records. After releasing a slew of singles, The High & Mighty found themselves in the midst of a distribution deal with Rawkus, which first resulted in placement of their single "B-Boy Document '99" on their Soundbombing II label sampler, and then finally with the duo's debut project, Home Field Advantage.
Home Field Advantage marries Eon and Milo's collective appreciation for hip hop with their other obsessions, specifically sex and sports, topics that seem to come up for discussion on alternating tracks. Thanks to their growing credibility in the underground scene, The High & Mighty were able to convince an all-star group of artists bubbling under the radar to contribute to their debut: the tracklist features names such as Skillz, Wordsworth, Cage, and Kool Keith, and, inadvertently, also features cameo appearances from two rappers who would soon move into hip hop's A-list, Mos Def and, of all people, motherfucking Eminem, who would absolutely never do anything like that today.
Although all of that sounds impressive (as does the fact that Home Field Advantage was a bit of a success for both Eastern Conference and Rawkus), none of it matters if the music doesn't hold up.
And it doesn't hold up.
1. TIP OFF TIME
Standard rap album intro stuff. Next!
2. DIRTY DECIBELS (FEAT. PHAROAHE MONCH)
Don't get super excited, folks: Pharoahe Monch only provides the (overly wordy) chorus. Which means that listeners get the opportunity to get used to Mr. Eon's flow over the course of three verses, which may be a take-it-or-leave-it proposition, depending on how much you two can tolerate Eon's "Busta Rhymes on Ambien" (apparently that was a direct quote lifted from a previous review where I was talking about The High & Mighty) delivery. Although this song isn't really much (it's standard rap album not-an-intro-but-really-an-intro shit), it's okay for what it is, and Mighty Mi's instrumental is simple enough to get stuck in your head, if you're into that sort of thing.
3. TOP PROSPECTS (FEAT. DEFARI & EVIDENCE)
There isn't anything on here that shouted "Top Prospects" to me before I played this track again: throughout the life of the blog, I've had a history of not caring for Defari guest appearances, and every time the Dilated Peoples are brought up into the discussion, I've always made a not-so-subtle dis and then glossed over it by claiming that I really just need to write them up already, so having Evidence also pop up on here didn't sound all that promising. The good news is that The Alchemist provides a moving instrumental that builds dramatic tension effectively. You'll notice that I didn't say anything about the actual verses, though.
4. DICK STARBUCK "PORNO DETECTIVE"
Mr. Eon takes a break from the traditional shit-talking subject matter most underground rappers immediately turn to in favor of an actual story, told from the point of view from his alter ego Dick Starbuck, and he doesn't do that bad a job with it. The whole "Porno Detective" thing doesn't really come up the way you would expect it to, as the tangled tale he weaves is pretty much about a girl he meets, fucks, and then discovers later that she's plotting against him: he doesn't even snoop around for pornography or anything! But Mighty Milo's beat facilitates the storytelling aspects, and for the first track on Home Field Advantage, I felt that Mr. Eon had some potential behind the mic. It isn't a perfect story, but they usually aren't.
5. B-BOY DOCUMENT '99 (FEAT. MAD SKILLZ & MOS DEF)
This is the same song that appeared on the Soundbombing II compilation earlier in 1999. As this track was relatively well-known by the time Home Field Advantage finally dropped, it makes sense why The High & Mighty elected to include it on the album, but the fact that you two will already know what it sounds like may cause you to gloss over it and not pay any attention to the context it's now presented in. For the record, the artist formerly known as Mad Skillz and the artist who now wishes to be known as Yaslin still sound fantastic over the bouncy Mighty Mi instrumental, and Mr. Eon's verse, while still the worst of the three, is entertaining nonetheless. Still, I kind of wish that the duo saw fit to put a remix on the album or maybe coerce the guests into providing new verses, since I don't really like seeing the exact same song appear on two different Rawkus projects.
6. THE LAST HIT (FEAT. EMINEM)
Back in 1999, there were dueling Marshal Matherses in the music industry: Eminem, the battle rhyme spitter who lucked into a contract with Dr. Dre's major label, Aftermath Records, and ended up selling millions of albums worldwide, and Slim Shady, the underground act with homicidal tendencies, connected with both D-12 and Tha Outsidaz, and who was set to align himself with Rawkus Records before the Dr. Dre money started rolling in. "The Last Hit" features Slim Shady, and let me just say, if you're only familiar with Marshall's work today, you'll be blown the fuck away by his flow on here, which is so jarringly different that it's pretty much night and day. (Marshall was also on a shitload of drugs back in 1999, which may help explain some of the discrepancies.) However, his contribution isn't exactly what I would call "good": it's middle of the road at best, and I say that even as a fan of his Slim Shady persona. Mr. Eon keeps the pace with his invited guest admirably, and Milo's instrumental wasn't bad at all, but I ultimately just didn't feel this track. I have a bad feeling about the rest of Home Field Advantage.
7. AY YO (SKIT)
8. HOT SPITTABLE
Nothing on this track was "hot", nor was any of it "spittable". All of it does suck balls, though. Eon delivers his verses, chock-full of unearned braggadocio, with the conviction of a four-year-old lying to his parents about breaking the vase on the coffee table when the fucking thing didn't shatter itself, and the chorus is incorrigible. Mighty Milo doesn't help matters with his shitty beat contribution, which will make you want to skip this track immediately. This was bad, folks.
9. THE MEANING
10. IN-OUTS (FEAT. CAGE)
The High & Mighty team up with their Smut Peddlers cohort Chris Palko, better known as underground rapper Cage, and the result is this boring-as-fuck pairing that makes you question how most rappers make their creative decisions. Nothing on this song would make anybody run out to pick up a full-length project from these guys, and yet, they recorded one anyway. I'm more impressed with the fact that both Cage and Eminem appear on Home Field Advantage, albeit on different tracks, considering the fact that they fucking hated each other at the time. Most hip hop heads forget that Marshall actually threw a potshot Cage's way on The Slim Shady LP's "Role Model": you had better believe that Chris Palko is the furthest thing from the man's mind today.
11. PAPERS PLEASE (SKIT)
12. SHAQUAN & EON (FEAT. MAD SKILLZ)
Skillz returns to Home Field Advantage for a new collaboration with Mr. Eon, and once again, he destroys his host behind the mic, as he is prone to do, since he always seems to rhyme as though his kids were being held hostage in the studio next door and their lives literally depended on him impressing their captors with his bars. Eon's contribution to his own song wasn't really all that memorable, although I do recall a reference to killing Kenny from South Park, which actually made he shake my head in front of my monitor and think, "Really?". Anyway...
13. THE HALF
Producer Reef lends Home Field Advantage a level of energy and interest that Mighty Mi hasn't been able to reach over multiple attempts. Lyrically, Eon doesn't take full advantage of what he's been given: as such, his verses disappoint as though you still had some lofty level of expectations for them by now. But the beat was good.
14. HANDS ON EXPERIENCE PT. II (FEAT. KOOL KEITH, WHAT? WHAT?, & BOBBITO)
This ode to masturbation, a sequel to a track found on the Eastern Conference All Stars compilation from 1998, has one of the strangest guest lists I've come across in a while. Kool Keith is a known freak, as I've documented in the past, so he actually makes sense, but Bobbito, founder of the late underground label Fondle 'Em (who also appeared on the first installment, alongside Company Flow's El-P, of all people), pops up with an okay verse, and female rapper What? What?, better known today as Jean fucking Grae, brags about fingering herself and not having gone blind, which is kind of hilarious. Eon bats cleanup and, to his credit, sounds much better than everybody else on here, which is how it should be. Milo's instrumental wouldn't have been my first choice to use for a song about pleasuring yourself, but that's why I'm not a rapper.
Reef's work behind the boards for "The Half" was pretty damn good, but his beat for "Weed" sounds like a generic rip-off of Nas's "Dr. Knockboots". Never has smoking pot sounded so goddamn unappealing: all Eon had to do was cough loudly directly into your ears and we'd be set.
16. NEWMAN (SKIT)
17. OPEN MIC NIGHT REMIX (FEAT. THIRSTIN HOWL III & WORDSWORTH)
On the Eastern Conference All Stars compilation, there's a track called "Open Mic Night" featuring production from The Alchemist and guest spots from rappers Baby Blak and Rasheed. Although this may have been good enough for an independent compilation that nobody bought, Rawkus Records had their own ideas for The High & Mighty, and as a result, the "Open Mic Night" that appears on Home Field Advantage features the same Al Maman beat now being assaulted by two different guests, both of whom also appeared on their Lyricist Lounge, Volume One compilation released in 1998. Coincidence? Insert shrug here. At least Eon saw fit to provide a different verse for this remix, which actually wasn't half bad: Wordsworth is much more interesting behind the mic than his former Punch-N-Words partner Punchline will ever be, and Thirstin Howl III's gruff delivery makes for a sharp contrast to, I don't know, the entirety of Home Field Advantage. At least they're still trying this late in the game.
18. MIND, SOUL & BODY
None of those components of your psyche will give a fuck about this shit. Trust me.
19. FRIENDLY GAME OF FOOTBALL
Home Field Advantage ends with a song fully devoted to an extended football metaphor that isn't so much a "metaphor" as it is a song about Mr. Eon pretending that he's actually playing football right this second. I don't fault Eon for his love of the sport, but you would think that Milo's instrumental would be a little more hard-hitting, unless he was taking the title literally and imagined that this friendly game was being played by some pussies who believe even flag football is too confrontational. As a Wu stan, I'm obligated to say that I appreciated the vocal sample taken from the Wu's "Shame On A N---a", but as a hip hop head, I need to inform you two that I'm simply glad this shit is finally over.
FINAL THOUGHTS: I can now clearly remember why I stopped listening to The High & Mighty's Home Field Advantage: it isn't any good. This nineteen-track opus is far too long for any artist to reasonably expect their fanbase to enjoy: Mr. Eon and DJ Mighty Mi apparently felt that they would never have the opportunity to release another project, and decided to cram every single idea, concept, and sports reference they could think of onto Home Field Advantage, context be damned. Clearly, this was not a good idea, as the end result is a dull, throbbing headache. Mighty Mi's beats all sound as though they were crafted after learning how to produce a song by watching a YouTube video teaching that very subject (which I realize was impossible at the time, but still), and Mr. Eon allows his vocal style to do most of the dirty work, masking the fact that he doesn't bring anything new to the table. Home Field Advantage has its fans, and back in 1999 The High & Mighty had a fair number of fans, but in these trying times, this shit doesn't cut it. Home Field Advantage sounds like paint-by-numbers underground rap, but Eon and Milo forgot to actually care about what they were doing, and that lack of focus translates to the big screen.
BUY OR BURN? You don't need to do either fucking one.
BEST TRACKS: "Open Mic Night Remix"; "B-Boy Document '99"