November 3, 2011

Remedy - The Genuine Article (April 17, 2001)


At this point, you two have undoubtedly figured out the theme to this current stunt month, so let me get this guy out of the way, just so you two don't have to sit on pins and needles wondering just when I would somehow shoehorn a Wu-Tang Clan affiliate into the proceedings.

Ross Fuller, who performs in both a rapper and a producer capacity as Remedy, hails from Staten Island.  Although it has been rumored that the only reason he scored an affiliation with Staten Island's most well known rap group and their friends (over twelve hundred strong and counting!) is because his father was The RZA's lawyer, it turns out that this isn't entirely true.  His dad only helped Prince Rakeem purchase the Wu Mansion.  So that's what you get for jumping to conclusions.  Also, the dude is fucking loaded.

I feel that should probably extrapolate on that last sentence.  It seems that Remedy comes from a wealthy, well-educated family with political ties overseas, which is why it makes perfect sense that the guy attempted to live a harder life by selling drugs and writing rhymes.  Pure teenage angst, rebelling against parental authority, and all of that kind of shit that doesn't really matter because the dude is fucking loaded.

His love of hip hop isn't manufactured, though: the guy knows his shit.  As I mentioned above, he acts as both a rapper and a producer, oftentimes manning the boards for his own performances.  (He didn't even just study under the guiding hand of the Wu, though: one of his earliest mentors was, get this, Erick Sermon.)  He underwent the same Staten Island rite of passage that all rookies did: he somehow passed his demo along to The RZA without getting beat down.  Unlike most of his peers, though, Ross stood out from the crowd, and not just because of his skin color: Remedy became known as the first Jewish artist in the Clan thanks to the pride and honesty evident in his lyrics, and also the harrowing tale he acted out on his Holocaust song "Never Again", which The RZA liked so much that he included it on a Wu-Tang Killa Bees compilation, The Swarm, back in 1998.

Testing the waters, Remedy released a twelve-inch single, "Seen It All" b/w "Everything Is Real", in 1997, to mild critical acclaim.  He unleashed an EP, simply named Remedy, in 2000, that not only didn't feature those tracks, it also didn't include anything that he wanted fans to hear on his proper debut The Genuine Article, which was distributed by Fifth Angel Records a year after that.  (Actually, that's not entirely true: "Never Again" appears on both projects.)  He handled nearly all of the production himself, and even convinced two of the more well-known Wu affiliates of the time (Cappadonna and Solomon Childs) to make multiple guest appearances, somehow turning his debut project into more of an obvious Clan effort than some of U-God's own albums.

But is it any good?  Not really.

1. EDUCATION (FEAT. THE RZA & CHILDREN OF THE WORLD)
Foregoing the rap album intro cliché, Remedy decides to kick off The Genuine Article with an actual song, albeit one he doesn't quite discover the theme of until the final verse. “Education” wants to be a criticism of the public school system and its not-at-all inclusive manner of selecting information to teach to the children, but Ross uses his first verse to talk about how much fun he used to have skipping classes and banging out beats on lunchroom tables, so when The RZA stops by for his obligatory cameo, hearing his serious (if a bit shout-y) performance (which was later reused for Masta Killa's “School”, a far more successful take on the same subject matter) is akin to a slap in the face. All in all, this song just wasn't very interesting (RZA's verse sounded better on the other track), but the Pink Floyd-aping chorus (unsurprisingly, “Another Brick In The Wall”) just killed it for me. Completely.

2. FALLEN ANGELS
I'm not at all convinced that Ross had any real way to work the concept of “Fallen Angels” into a song with the same title: I'm pretty sure he thought the title sounded cool (which, admittedly, it does) and ran with it. The result is three verses of braggadocio that make very little sense within the context of The Genuine Article: at this point, all we know about Remedy is that he likes math (thanks to “Education”, so his attempt at sounding worldly and wise beyond his years falls the fuck flat. His instrumental isn't that bad, though, and during the bonus minute at the end of uninterrupted music he even goes a bit experimental (are those crickets I hear?), but overall, this track did nothing for me. And I have eleven more songs of this shit?

3. THE AMBUSH (FEAT. CAPPADONNA & SOLOMON CHILDS)
Although this track ultimately isn't all that great either, in a perfect world where I can manipulate things as trivial as album tracklistings, I would place “The Ambush” in “Education”'s slot, since Remedy's beat is aggressive and introductory (yes, that somehow makes sense), and his lead-off verse both promises an entertaining album and reaffirms his ties to the Wu-Tang Clan. (One would think having Prince Rakeem on your song would have a similar effect, but The RZA never actually said Remedy's name during his verse, unlike his invited guests on here, who at least appear to have shared the same planet as our host.) Both Ross and Solomon Childs sound decent enough over the production, but the flyest gypsy cab driver in New York fucks everyone's shit up with an awful chorus and an excruciatingly unbearable performance. And yet, this is still the best that The Genuine Article has offered thus far. Huh.

4. WHITEBOY
Remedy takes the bull by the horns and directly addresses the issue of his race over a simple-yet-interesting-enough instrumental that a better emcee would have been brought up on first degree murder charges for. The problem is that the (really fucking stupid) chorus seems to be celebrating the fact that Remedy is white, which is either a really ballsy move or a fucking retarded one, given the history of our chosen genre, and the verses, which are far from memorable, don't seem to deny this. The only other white rapper who played up his whiteness to such a degree was Vanilla Ice on “Play That Funky Music” (probably not-so-coincidentally, “Whiteboy” samples from the same source material that Robbie Van Winkle's tune did). The fuck?

5. WORDS TO LIVE BY
This wasn't that bad, actually: in fact, Remedy's instrumental goes a long way toward helping this track become tolerable for Wu stans. But it is awfully exhausting to listen to. Not because the song is overly ambitious or challenging of because Ross Fuller's flow is lightning-quick, though: it's tiresome to hear our host tackle all three verses on “Words To Live By” without any guest accompaniment. Remedy isn't bad behind the mic (although his words betray the fact that there isn't any conviction behind his voice, there is a bit of potential to be found), but not every single rapper in the world deserves a solo track, let alone a solo album. Just like in the movies, hip hop needs its supporting players just as badly. Unlike Hollywood, though, everyone in our chosen genre seems to believe themselves to be a star.

6. CALM BUT DEADLY (FEAT. SOLOMON CHILDS)
Six songs in, and Ross finally resorts to integrating a sample from a kung fu flick into the proceedings? What the hell kind of Wu affiliate are you? Anyway, this collaboration with Solomon Childs (who Remedy forgets to credit in the liner notes) is actually pretty interesting, further proving my theory that remedy works best in smaller doses. His beat, which is slow and damn near melancholy, is also really fucking good, interrupting the entire flow of The Genuine Article in the best possible way. These two actually have some pretty decent chemistry behind the mic: they should costar in a shitty Katherine Heigl-led romantic comedy as the best friends of the leads who hate each other at first, but later conspire to get their friends back together, all the while falling in love in the process.

7. REUVEN BEN MENACHUM (FEAT. THE RZA)
Although you two shouldn't get so excited about the guest list (Prince Rakeem, who isn't properly credited, only introduces the track, in full-on Bobby Digital mode at that), “Reuven Ben Menachum”, named after Remedy's original rap moniker (which he apparently shared with the co-founder and chief executive officer of Fundtech, a leader in global transaction banking, which made this a really fucking weird Google search), was still strangely enjoyable, and I say “strangely” because, even though this uses the exact same formula as “Words To Live By” (three verses, no guests, simplistic instrumental), it isn't nearly as exhausting, thanks to Remedy's beat, which sounds like something The RZA would either have crafted himself or would have stolen from True Master in exchange for a dime bag and a fried Twinkie. Ross fills in the empty space with bars that prove that he may have actually had talent behind the mic, albeit not without the Wu affiliation, which would have still been a necessary requirement for anyone to give a damn about him.

8. U DON'T CARE (FEAT. SWEETLEAF)
Well, so much for that hot streak. This dull excursion into a domestic dispute, punctuated by some Sweetleaf vocals that are flatter than white girl asses back in the early 1990s, aims for the gold standard set by Ghostface Killah's “Wildflower” or The RZA's “Domestic Violence” (with its immortal line, “Bitch, to be a nurse, you got to go to school first!”, which has nothing to do with this write-up, I just wanted to write it down), but instead stumbles drunkenly into the house and hits its head on an open cabinet door while accidentally pissing on the dog. Ross sounds far from convincing with his strained pleas, which amount to him saying, “No, wait, don't go, I love you” while sounding like he's reading those words from a teleprompter, and his beat not only doesn't fit the theme, it's also one of the worst ones on The Genuine Article. No wonder I don't care.

9. GIRLFRIEND (FEAT. CAPPADONNA)
“U Don't Care” ends with a brief skit in which our host gets into an altercation with the brother of the girl he claims to still love, and a single gunshot is heard. Then this song starts, irrespective of what just fucking happened, and Cappadonna joins our host in chastising women for either being too easy of for not “giving their shit up”. I'm sure Ross regrets this song's placement on The Genuine Article today, since, regardless of it having a decent beat, it's relatively socially irresponsible, and not just because he allows Cappa to sing the chorus long after the real song is over. I actually liked this back in the day, when Wu-Tang Clan websites were promoting it as a Cappadonna track featuring Remedy (which makes sense, as our host barely registers aside from his verse), but today it left me feeling hollow. The dramatic stabs at the end were also unnecessary, but I had forgotten they even existed, so kudos for freaking me the fuck out, Remedy.

10. HIP HOP MUSIC (FEAT. CHILDREN OF THE WORLD)
If you're a rap artist who came up in the late 1990s or the first part of the millennium, you are, apparently, legally obligated to pay your respects to the old school rappers who paved the way for you to exist. (This rule doesn't apply to today's group of artists, who are all pretty much assholes, which is why hip hop sucks today.) Remedy is no exception, as he uses this track to prove to the audience who remains that he knows his history and is not doomed to repeat it. Too bad the track isn't very good. The beat is simple, the lyrics even more so, and the hook is so fucking cheesy that you won't even be able to stare at your iPod, computer monitor, or car stereo without wincing, it's that awkward. And I say that even though the hook actually agrees with the title of this blog. (At least before Remedy becomes selfish toward the end, anyway.)

11. CAN CAN (FEAT. LOUNGE LO & CLOCKA)
Remedy held off until nearly the end of The Genuine Article to unleash a posse cut with his weed carriers, so I should applaud him for his restraint. Well, maybe that description isn't entirely accurate: Lounge Lo (or “LoungeLoe”, as he is referred to in the liner notes) is actually a member of the sometime Wu-affiliated crew Otherized F.A.M., named as such because spellcheck isn't hardcore enough for their antics. Remedy's beat is okay, but every artist on here, our host included, comes across as weak: this is a freestyle cypher that you would cross over to the other side of the street just to avoid. Also, the hook is horrible. Although he claimed to take our chosen genre seriously on the previous song, Remedy sure seems to have crafted a parody of posse cuts on here. Unfortunately, nobody is laughing.

12. NEVER AGAIN
“Never Again” is Remedy's signature song, the one whose verses will be inscribed on his tombstone, the one Wu stans will remember him for long after he's given up this harsh mistress for a job catering children's birthday parties at a petting zoo in Dayton. (He likes this song so much that it even pops up again on everything else the man has ever released.) It's a dark, depressing historical journey through the Holocaust, as seen through the eyes of those who lived through the horror and uncertainty of the time, and, appropriately, it contains our host's most visceral lyrics ever, as the subject matter demands nothing less. No, Kanye, this song is “something like The Holocaust”, except less offensively so, but more terrifying. This track has surprisingly retained its power ten years after The Genuine Article's release date (or thirteen years after The Swarm dropped), which makes this Remedy's Citizen Kane.

13. WARNING (FEAT. CLOCKA, SWEETLEAF, & SOLOMON CHILDS)
Curiously, The Genuine Article ends with a song that wasn't produced by our host (4th Disciple handles board duties on here), and the artists involved spend an awful lot of time shouting out Remedy's next album Code: Red. (After the extended sound bite from The Prisoner plays through, anyway.) Our host decided to end this shit not with a punch to the gut (“Never Again”) but with the slap of a bitch, as this collaboration with “ is not only dull, it's formatted really fucking strangely, especially toward the end, when an uncredited Solomon Childs starts his verse by kicking a bar, and then stops to allow Remedy to interrupt him before eventually getting back to his shit. That was one of the weirdest things I've ever fucking heard, and I've listened to Macho Man Randy Savage try to rap. May he rest in peace. Anyway, this sucked.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Remedy's The Genuine Article is a technically competent hip hop album, but that isn't a compliment: this was annoying as hell to actually listen to. Ross Fuller has a clear appreciation of our chosen genre, but that doesn't mean that the guy should ever rap again. His lyrical performance on most of his debut album is that of a child writing out what he thinks the Wu-Tang Clan's various members are actually saying and entirely missing the overall idea. At no point does the listener ever truly believe that Remedy struggled at any phase of his life, and his skin color has nothing to do with it: there is just no adversity to overcome present on any of these songs...save for “Never Again”, which really is his masterpiece, and should have been the only rap song the dude ever wrote, because the rest of The Genuine Article dilutes its potency. Behind the boards, though, Remedy succeeds more often than not, so I personally feel that any continuation of his career in the music industry will be directly proportionate to how often he shuts the fuck up and simply produces beats, because as a member of the Wu family, he certainly has a lot of talented folks to draw inspiration from. As a rapper, though, Remedy simply has nothing to say, and what's worse, he doesn't yet seem to realize it. I just noticed that this closing paragraph sounds much more harsh than I had intended, so I'll just end it now.

BUY OR BURN? Since you can easily hear “Never Again” on at least two projects different from this one, I don't feel that you have to do either one. Trust me, nobody's losing sleep from ignoring Remedy's entrance into the full-length album cause.

BEST TRACKS: “Never Again”

-Max

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9 comments:

  1. White rappers eh.. didn't see that one coming. I'd love to give you some more thoughts on the actual album but as I've never heard it and now don't have any desire too, I'm at a loss of words

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  2. do i sense a vanilla ice review

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  3. @ rey - Been there, done that.

    http://hiphopisntdead.blogspot.com/2008/04/vanilla-ice-to-extreme-october-16-1990.html

    Besides, this month is about reviewing artists who never had a proper showcase on the blog before, so, thankfully, I have no reason to return to THAT well.

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  4. 3rd bass - the cactus album, best white boy album ever

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  5. Derek ClaptonSeptember 12, 2012

    Literally bought this album yesterday for 50 cents.

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    Replies
    1. I think you might have overpaid.

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  6. Love is Love- Remedy is the truth.
    He eats your hate for breakfast.
    U obviously don't know your HipHop

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    Replies
    1. I'm fairly confident that you're the only person on the planet that feels that way about Remedy, and I;m counting his parents.

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  7. Remedy huh... well he certainly isn't ill that's for sure

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