(Today's Reader Review is brought to you by Andrew W., who tackled the debut album from Compton's Most Wanted, a crew that seems to have been lost in the shuffle of hip hop today, even on this very blog, since the only other piece I've ran on the group was a different Reader Review several years back. The album is called It's A Compton Thang; leave your thoughts for Andrew W. below.)
Compton's Most Wanted's debut album, It's A Compton Thang, was recorded in Los Angeles and mastered in Queens back in 1990. Around this time, the beef the group (made up, at the time, of MCs Eiht and Chill, along with DJ Mike T and producer DJ Slip; The Unknown DJ wasn't technically an official member) had with fellow Compton rapper DJ Quik was just beginning to cook. Word on the street is that their disagreements were the result of some disses Eiht believed were aimed at him on some infamous underground red mixtape. Who knows, but it led to a few years of mildly entertaining insults being slung back and forth between the two.
I am as old as a hieroglyph, so I picked this album up when it dropped on cassette, but I'll be reviewing it on vinyl. I viewed/view this album as the West Coast counterpart to Gang Starr's Step in the Arena, as they both dropped around the same time. Later on, DJ Premier would remix "Def Wish 2" for CMW, and Primo still enjoys a working relationship with MC Eiht to this day, which only reinforces my point.
I was always confused as to who the white boy was on the cover of this album or even if he really was white as he looks Spanish on the back cover. Is he The Unknown DJ? Or is he DJ Slip? Or even DJ Mike T with the funky scratches? I guess it doesn't really matter, since I can tell which guy is MC Eiht, leading me to believe the other guy is Tha Chill MC, both rocking the CMW hats and Nike Varsity jackets to make sure that no one confused them with any other West Coast rappers of the time.
Anyhow, you two readers are here to see what I think of the album. So here we go.
1. ONE TIME GAFFLED EM UP
A very smooth track kicks off the proceedings, as Eiht weaves a tale of life in the Compton streets. Obviously, Eiht was influenced by Slick Rick: they even utilize his vocals for part of the hook. I wish Eiht would have continued with his storytelling over the years, as he is fairly engaging on this. The late 1980s/early 1990s was a time when sampling James Brown wasn't yet played out, so this works for me very well.
2. I'M WIT DAT
Damn. I like this track. A great use of Isaac Hayes, mixed in with some great drum programming. This track features Chill, and I wish he would have stuck around for the years that followed, as he provided a good compliment to Eiht. Straight battle rhymes from both emcees without any super-hyper-violence; just some sprinkling of the bud here and there, and one reference to peeling someone's cap back. The cuts by Mike T work well. Overall, a solid production by Slip & Unknown.
3. FINAL CHAPTER
More James Brown. Listening to it now, I guess it really is boring after hearing this sample (and the original songs) dozens and dozens of times over and over throughout the years. Eiht sounds dull over this track, but there is one saving grace, I suppose: the cuts by Mike T. I am pretty sure I skipped this one back in the day, which you probably should do now.
4. I GIVE UP NUTHIN
Eiht comes through to keep up with the high-tempo, funky sample-filled beat. No hook is requested nor required, and I love it. Just let the music play. It's a much better idea than what Shaq and the Wu-Tang Clan would have years later: chanting "We don't need no hooks" as the actual chorus? Getdafuckouttahere. Everything fires on all cylinders here.
5. THIS IS COMPTON
Some more bragging and boasting from Eiht and Chill. The track is "funky like Lee Dorsey", mostly because that is who Slip and Unknown sampled. The best parts of “This Is Compton” are the samples and cuts by Mike T during the bridge. Overall, this is decent, but nothing amazing, perhaps even a little bit too long when compared to other tracks on the album. But I do like the line alluding to DJ Quik and other "punk-ass perm-wearing pussies" and hearing Eiht laugh immediately after.
6. RHYMES TOO FUNKY PT. 1 (LIVE AT LONZO'S 1988)
Thank goodness there was never a part two. This was bad even back in 1990.
7. DUCK SICK
The first in a series of disses aimed at DJ Quik. The beat works so well for this type of song, allowing Eiht and Chill to drop lines like "'Too Sorry' is the name for your rap" and "you tossed out records - they got tossed right back".
8. GIVE IT UP
Red Hot Lover Tone (the guy from production team The Trackmasters) straight ripped this shit off for his debut album, both the sample and the concept. However, as Guru (R.I.P.) once said, “You don't own no loops”, and as it stands, I actually enjoy both tracks, as they are both completely raunchy in a Blowfly-kind of way. If you are digging these cats and have not heard it yet, then go look for twelve-inch single for “Give It Up” and flip to the B-side, “Whose Is It?”, which features Chill and Eiht being challenged by some of the more promiscuous ladies (“hos”, if you will) in Compton and is pretty entertaining.
9. LATE NITE HYPE
The crown jewel of It's A Compton Thang. The mellow vibe of the track works beautifully with Chill and Eiht's laid-back vocals and respective deliveries. Just listen.
10. I MEAN BIZNEZ
I wish CMW had ended the album with that last track, but they didn't. I always viewed “I Mean Biznez” and the next song as unofficial bonus tracks that weren't really that much of a bonus.
11. IT'S A COMPTON THANG
Wait. Hold up. I bite my tongue. Here comes the title track. I guess this was a smart way to end the album: another funky, mellow-type beat where Eiht explains why it is "soooooooo Compton" (like his boy DJ Quik would do years later on his amazing Book Of David).
FINAL THOUGHTS: After listening to CMW's It's A Compton Thang straight through, I have to say it's pretty enjoyable as a whole. I still rock some of the tracks to this very day. I am a huge fan of the West Coast during the early 1990s, though, so I am fairly biased. Was It's A Compton Thang groundbreaking for the time? No. Was it better than the group's next two efforts? No. But it was still fun to listen to. And there would be no way this could have been better than (CMW's third album) Music 2 Driveby anyway: that project is a masterpiece, as noted in another Reader Review from P_Captain.
BUY OR BURN? Well, you can pay forty-five dollars to get the CD from Amazon, but I wouldn't recommend that. If you can find it for less than ten bucks, pick it up, but burn it if you can't.
BEST TRACKS: "I Give Up Nuthin"; "Late Nite Hype"; "Duck Sick"
(Questions? Comments? Concerns? Leave your thoughts below.)