March 12, 2014

A Reader's Gut Reaction: Low Profile - We're In This Together (1989)

(Today's Reader Review comes from Standos, who wrote about West Coast duo Low Profile's debut (and only) album, We're In This Together. Low Profile is considered a footnote in the hip hop history books today merely because Cali stalwart WC was a part of the duo. Leave your thoughts for Standos below.)


Low Profile is a duo made up of West Coast veteran WC (of Maad Circle and Westside Connection fame) and his partner, DJ Aladdin, who would go on to produce for Ice-T and Lord Finesse, of all people, before pursuing a career in visual art. The easiest way for me to describe Low Profile is by calling them the West Coast version of Lord Finesse (coincidence?) & DJ Mike Smooth. But before the inevitable barrage of comments claiming that WC is a better rapper than Finesse or vice versa come in, just know that I’m not comparing the two emcees and their respective levels of skill: it’s just the fact that both duos broke up as soon as their debut albums dropped, and both rappers of each group went on to become legends while their deejays faded into anonymity.

The real star Low Profile's lone album, We're In This Together, is obviously WC, who is generally considered a West Coast legend (and if not, that had better fucking change). I’ll admit, up until discovering this a few months ago, I had no clue that the mighty WC was actually in a group before his Maad Circle days. WC’s been around for quite a while, releasing his first single with Low Profile in 1987 before dropping We’re In This Together two years later, with production provided by DJ Aladdin.

However, unlike Lord Finesse's Funky Technician, We’re In This Together contained no guest appearances, which is strange considering WC and Aladdin were already hanging out with the likes of Ice-T at the time. Nevertheless, Low Profile’s debut album is probably one of the most lesser-known West Coast albums to come out of the late 1980’s, and it didn’t really sell all that well, probably because it was released right after N.W.A.'s seminal Straight Outta Compton, an era when everything that wasn't straight gangsta rap was bound to go unnoticed.

Here’s WC’s official debut.

1. FUNKY SONG
Whoever did the sequencing for We’re In This Together deserves a fucking medal for putting this song first. DJ Aladdin’s beat instantly takes you back to 1989, a time where most all hip hop music released was actually good (there were better quality control standards back in those days), and this song is certainly no exception, using a string sample from Jackie Robinson’s “Pussyfooter”, of all things, to great effect, making the song sound…well, funky. WC raps like he was starving his entire life right up until now, and as a result, rips this beat the fuck apart, lyrically destroying all of Low Profile’s imaginary foes. Everything about this song is essential; even the scratches seem mandatory when you try to imagine “Funky Song” without them on the chorus.

2. THAT’S Y THEY DO IT
The start of this song is kind of shitty: I’ve always imagined it as a low-budget, faster version of the instrumental to Ice Cube’s “You Can’t Fade Me” (which is by far the better track). Aladdin’s instrumental does eventually get better, although it still seems kind of ordinary. WC’s lyrics, however, are pretty damn excellent: he sounds pretty damn convinced that young kids today are fucked up (and that phrase has lost no relevance over the years). Not as good as “Funky Song”, but still a decent effort nonetheless.

3. PAID YA DUES
I’m not sure which Low Profile single was more popular, “Funky Song” or this track. Rocking the same sample as The Pharcyde’s “4 Better Or 4 Worse” (you know, the song featuring that one Fatlip performance everyone remembers), WC shifts his focus from drug dealers and crackheads to up-and-coming rappers who “ain’t paid dues”. This song is certainly a product of his time: during the third verse, WC seems to imply that real tight jeans and leather jackets (so is that like a subtle dis to Run-DMC or…?) aren't clothes that a straight man would wear, but nowadays it’s a growing trend in hip hop to wear that shit. Nevertheless, I remember liking this song, and nothing’s changed. I especially liked that bit during the third verse where WC details the transformation of a mama’s boy into a wannabe gangster.

4. EASY MONEY
To appease that one guy who thinks I sound too much like Max: Meh.

5. KEEP ‘EM FLOWIN
WC’s flow is Raekwon-sleepy on here, but I’m guessing that’s intentional, as it kind of suits Aladdin’s smooth-flowing beat, going through dismissal of wack rappers on the radio and other subjects covered to a large extent by just about every rapper who emerged in the late 1980’s. The instrumental isn’t anything special, but just like some of the beats of Ras Kass’s Soul On Ice, it serves its purpose in staying out of the way of WC’s lyrics. Which, to be honest, weren’t as quotable as on “Paid Ya Dues” or “Funky Song”, but still.

6. ALADDIN’S ON A RAMPAGE
Upon first glance at the title, you would assumed this was a deejay cut and would probably have skipped it (don’t pretend that you wouldn't have). I actually almost did that, since deejay cuts aren't my thing (except for the one on Gang Starr's No More Mr. Nice Guy). However, WC pulls a fast one and throws in three verses onto a rather in-your-face, hard-hitting (at least when compared to the last track) instrumental. Aladdin uses samples from just about every hip-hop song that had ever been released up until 1989 to compliment WC’s verses, which can seem distracting at first but is something you slowly get used to. This was actually pretty nice.

7. HOW YA LIVIN’
This one is essentially another public service announcement by WC, but is much more effective due to a better beat, using a sax sample from “Soul Power 74” by legendary saxophonist Maceo Parker. WC goes back to targeting drug users and the like, but also goes after those involved in gang violence. The third verse, once again, is the most interesting, with WC detailing the life of a drug addict named Booby, whose mother must have been on drugs to write that fucking name on his birth certificate (either that, or he was really shit at coming up with nicknames). I honestly don’t remember WC’s storytelling skills being this refined (and at such an early point in his career, as well).

8. COMIN’ STRAIGHT FROM THE HEART
Aladdin’s instrumental sounds a bit too much like his work on “Aladdin’s On A Rampage”, so that was a bit of a turnoff, especially since it drowns out WC’s lyrics (and don’t you want to hear WC threaten to eat you up like Apple Jacks?). I love how, back in 1989, every verse in most hip hop songs simply had to end with the song title.

9. WE’RE IN THIS TOGETHER
This was much better. Over a beat that could easily act as a substitute for the music on “Funky Song” (a good thing in my book), WC rips this title track apart. The man’s lyrics don’t really deviate from the norm: more than half of the content here is just talking shit about other rappers, but it sounds so entertaining coming out of the mighty WC’s mouth that you really just don’t care. He also manages to shout-out a bunch of people at the end of the track, including Ice-T (which was kind of obvious), Coolio (who would later be a part of Maad Circle), DJ Crazy Toones (WC’s little brother), and even his label, Priority Records.

10. MAKE ROOM FOR THE DUB.B.U
I honestly don’t remember very much about this song. Maybe it's because it pales in comparison to what came before. However, I’ve noticed that a lot of Aladdin’s beats here rely on guitar samples. That’s pretty much all I’ve got.

11. NO MERCY
This one doesn’t fare much better, as it’s difficult to differentiate between Aladdin’s beat here and the track before, but WC fares much better lyrically. This is still overshadowed by the ineffective beat, though, and considering what else appeared on here, this was kind of a weak way to end the album.

THE LAST WORD: We're In This Together is a fun and nostalgic trip back to 1989, which surprisingly holds up much more than I had expected. WC’s always been one of my favorite emcees from the West Coast, so there’s no surprise that his verses are consistently entertaining throughout, whereas nowadays most rappers can’t even stay interesting for the length of one song. DJ Aladdin’s beats are definitely a product of their time, but they accompany the mighty Dub’s lyrics well enough, and even though some of them kind of blend together, there’s enough good music here to make this an altogether enjoyable experience. I think it's worthy of a purchase: it's not all that expensive these days, and nobody actually buys WC albums anyway, so help the guy out and spend your money on something worthwhile.

-Standos

(Questions? Comments? Concerns? Leave your thoughts below.)

10 comments:

  1. Hmm I'll check this out

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is an alright album. This was before WC really developed his crazy flow, but his delivery is still fantastic

    ReplyDelete
  3. intriguing review, but ive never really been a fan of hip hop before 1992, besides a tribe called quest, so i probably won't check this out. but i might take a look at WC. besides all of that, Freddie Gibbs & Madlib-Cocaine Pinata is worthy of a Max review :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Argh I preordered it and absolutely can't wait :D

      Delete
  4. Weird, I just discovered this the other day. Good review, though.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Replies
    1. Boosie Bieber

      Delete
  6. AnonymousMay 25, 2014

    Now That Whodinis Inside the Joint, Eric B make 'em Clap to this, The House that Cee built, DJ Nabs Break...pretty decent dj tracks...
    not a fan of pre 92 hip hop? wipeyahmoufkid
    shittin' calico turds on a Grammer Nazzi...but the phrase "probably one of the most lesser-known" fuckx my medz all the way up

    ReplyDelete
  7. AnonymousJune 09, 2014

    Arguably one of the best albums of 89' if you dont know about this your missin out!!

    ReplyDelete